Stumme, Georg “Fireball”.

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Stumme, Georg, born 29-07-1886, in Halberstadt, Province of Saxony, Kingdom of Prussia, fought in the First World War and stayed with the Reichswehr  after the war. After the Nazis came to power in 1933 he was promoted to Oberst (Colonel) in 1933 and Generalmajor in 1936. Stumme became commander of 2nd Light Division, a motorized division created in 1938 during the German rearmament.

Stumme had achieved the rank of Generalleutnant by the beginning of the war, and he commanded the 2nd Light Division in the Invasion of Poland in 1939. After the unit was converted into the 7th Panzer Division, also known by its nickname, Ghost Division. on 18 October 1939, he relinquished command of the 7th Panzer Division to then Generalmajor Erwin Rommel in 1940, and was appointed as commander of XL. Armeekorps on 15-02-1940, which became XL Corps (motorized) in September 1940. Georg led this corps in the 1940 Ardennes campaign, being promoted to General der Kavallerie on 01-06-1940. Shortly thereafter he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for bravery during the Battle of France.

Stumme, here with Generalfeldmarschall der Artillerie Walther Heinrich Alfred Hermann von Brauchitsch 

was sent to Bulgaria and participated in the attacks on Yugoslavia and Greece. Stumme led the attack of the right flank of the 12th Army , under command of Generaloberst Wilhelm Sigmund Walther List. His two divisions drove west separately into Yugoslavia and then wheeled south, meeting at Monastir on 9 April. He then participated in the invasion of Greece. He was promoted to General der Panzertruppe.

In Operation Barbarossa Stumme served under Field Marshal Fedor von Bock. Stumme commanded the capture of Mozhaisk. He then participated in Fall Blau (Case Blue) to lead the advance of the 6th Army under command of Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus with his renamed XL. Panzerkorps.

In June 1942 some German plans were captured by Soviet forces. Adolf Hitler blamed Stumme and ordered that he be court-martialled. He was relieved of command on 21-07-1942, was found guilty and was sentenced to five years imprisonment but Bock secured his release. Ulrich von Hassell called it a case of “the grotesque game of tin soldiers which Hitler plays with the Generals” in his diary and commented: “Stumme, commanding General of a tank corps, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment because [of the actions of a divisional staff officer]. He was immediately pardoned, with Hermann Goering promising him a new command and is now being sent to Africa as a substitute for Rommel. An unmilitary, un-Prussian farce”

Stumme joined the Afrika Korps in Egypt in September 1942, which was confronting the British at El Alamein.  Rommel, here with Stumme,   had been relieved due to illness and exhaustion. Stumme arrived on 19 September to be briefed a few days before Rommel departed. He took overall command of Panzerarmee Afrika (combined German and Italian forces), with Ritter Wilhelm Josef von Thoma replacing the wounded Generall der Panzertruppe Walther Josef Nehring as commander of the Afrika Korps.

Death and burial ground of Stumme, Georg.

 

Stumme, here with SS Panzer commander Sepp Dietrich “faithfully followed the plan left by Rommel” for responding to the expected attack. His letters to his superiors indicate he was not optimistic and agreed with Rommel that the only real prospect of success lay in keeping the enemy wrongfooted with attacks, for which he did not have the resources. Just over a month after his arrival the British began their attack on 23 October with a massive bombardment. Stumme prohibited the use of German artillery ammunition to bombard the British forward assembly areas, where the troops were vulnerable, preferring to keep his limited resources in reserve. Historian Reinhard Stumpf called this “a grave mistake that enabled the British to form up for the attack in relative peace”.

Unlike Rommel, Stumme travelled without the protection of an escort and radio car. On 24 October Stumme and Oberst Andreas Büchting, his chief signals officer, drove to the front to review the situation. On the way to the command post, the car came into the open and was attacked. Büchting was killed by a shot in the head. Stumme jumped out of the car and apparently was holding onto the side while the driver drove out of range. He was found dead along the track the next day, with no wound that could be seen. He was known to have high blood pressure and it was thought he had died of a heart attack. He was replaced as commander of Panzerarmee Afrika with the return of Erwin Rommel, while the Afrika Korps was commanded by General der Panzertruppe Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma.

Stumme has been described as a “competent but pleasure-loving general”, who cultivated a convivial relationship with his officers, unlike the hard-driving Rommel. One of his officers, Friedrich von Stauffenberg, no family of Claus von Stauffenberg, said that Stumme created a “congenial” atmosphere while maintaining a “crack, well-officered division”.

The short, good-humored Stumme suffered from chronic high blood pressure that gave his face a permanent flush. The troops called him “Fireball”, and the monocled little general, although old for front line duty even by Wehrmacht standards, had a flair for seizing tactical opportunities.

Rommel had suggested that Generaloberst Heinz Guderian should replace him in North Africa but Guderian was out of favor and his request was refused. Stumme was given the command instead and Rommel had confidence in him as a commander.

General Stumme, Georg “Fireball” is buried at the German Military Cemetery Tobruk, Tobruk, Al Buṭnān, Libya, between his men.

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