Walter Model

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Walter Model I.jpg

Otto Moritz Walter Model (b. 24 January 1891 in Genthin, Saxony-Anhalt; d. 21 April 1945 near Duisburg) was a German officer of the Imperial German Army, the Freikorps, the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, and the youngest Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. He is noted for his defensive battles in the latter half of the war, mostly on the Eastern Front but also in the west, and for his close association with Adolf Hitler, who held him in high regard. Model has been called the Wehrmacht's best defensive tactician.

Life

Model (left) and Heinz Guderian on the front
Death certificate

Early Life

Born in Genthin, 80km west of Berlin, he was the son of a girls' school music teacher, Otto Paul Moritz Model, and his wife Maria Wilhelmine Pauline, née Demmer, a middle class, non-military family. Walther Model was raised in the German Evangelical Church, and initially attended the village school in Genthin, an agricultural town. In 1900 Model's father became a music director in Erfurt, and Walther attended the Gymnasium there for the next six years. At school, Walther took no interest in sports, but joined a literary society and showed an aptitude for Latin, Greek, history and poetry. His family finally settled in Naumburg, a garrison town. In February 1909, Walther was one of 19 students in his Gymnasium who passed the examinations and received their Arbitur. Walther, whose family expected him to enter law school, opted to join the army and entered the army officer cadet school (Kriegsschule) in Neisse in 1908. He was a good student, and was commissioned as a Lieutenant (Leutnant) into the 52nd Infantry Regiment von Alvensleben in August 1910.[1] It is said he made few friends among his fellow officers, and soon became known for his ambition, drive and blunt outspokenness. These were characteristics that would mark his entire career.

World War I

In World War I, the 52nd Infantry formed part of the 5th Division within the German Army, fighting on the Western Front. Model served as the adjutant of his regiment's 1st Battalion. In May 1915 he was severely wounded near Arras, and in October he won the Iron Cross, First Class. His deeds brought him to the attention of his divisional commander, who despite misgivings about his "uncomfortable subordinate", recommended him for a posting to the General Staff. Among other things, this meant that Model took part in only the initial stages of the Battle of Verdun, and escaped the carnage of the Somme, to which his division was committed in his absence.

Service history

  • 1909: Officer cadet training
  • 1910: 52nd Infantry Regiment von Alvensleben
  • 1917: Staff assignments
  • 1925: Commanding officer, 9th Company, 8th Infantry Regiment
  • 1928: Staff officer, 3rd Division, Berlin
  • 1930: Staff officer, Section 4 (Training), Truppenamt, Berlin
  • 1932: Chief of Staff, Reich Kuratorium for Youth Fitness
  • 1933: Battalion commander, 2nd Infantry Regiment
  • 1935: Head of Section 8, General Staff, Berlin
  • 1938: Chief of Staff, IV Corps
  • 1939: Chief of Staff, Sixteenth Army
  • 1940: Commander, 3rd Panzer Division
  • 1941: Commander, XLI Panzer Corps
  • 1942: Commander, Ninth Army
  • January–March 1944: Commander, Army Group North
  • March–June 1944: Commander, Army Group North Ukraine
  • June–August 1944: Commander, Army Group Centre
  • August–September 1944: Commander-in-Chief, OB West
  • August 1944 – April 1945: Commander, Army Group B (e.g. Battle of the Bulge)

Death

In April 1945 under intense pressure, Model's staff tried to persuade him to open surrender talks with the Allies, but he would have none of it. By April 11th Essen had fallen to the US Army and German morale in the West was collapsing. On April 15th American Major-general Matthew Ridgeway sent Model a personal request under a flag of truce to surrender. Model refused to consider the offer. The Ruhr pocket (Heeresgruppe B) fell to the Americans and Model and his squad were now on the run. He had hoped to slip through American lines to reach the Harz Mountains, but this proved impossible. He told his men to go home, that for them the war was over.[2] He had little desire to witness the aftermath of defeat and said to his staffers before dissolving his command:

"Has everything been done to justify our actions in the light of history? What can there be left for a commander in defeat? In antiquity they took poison".

On the morning of April 21 he was alone with Oberstleutnant Roger Michael in the woods near Wedau and told him to "bury me here". He walked alone into the woods, drew his pistol and ended his remarkable 36 year military career with a single shot to the head.[3] The location, between Duisburg and the village of Lintorf, is today part of the city of Ratingen.

Marriage

On 11 May 1921 Hauptmann Walter Model married in Frankfurt-am-Main his fiancée, Herta Huyssen (1892–1985). They had three children: Hella, Christa and Hansgeorg (ᛉ 1. März 1927 in Görlitz) who would later become an officer of the Bundeswehr in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Promotions

  • Fahnenjunker – 27 February 1909
  • Fähnrich – 19 November 1909
  • Leutnant – 22 August 1910
  • Oberleutnant – 25 February 1915
  • Hauptmann – March 1918
  • Major – 1929
  • Oberstleutnant – 1932
  • Oberst – 1 October 1934
  • Generalmajor – 1 March 1938
  • Generalleutnant – 1 April 1940
  • General der Panzertruppe – 26 October 1941
  • Generaloberst – 28 February 1942
  • Generalfeldmarschall – 30 March 1944

Awards and decorations

  • Iron Cross (1914)
    • 2nd Class: 20 September 1914
    • 1st Class: 19 October 1915
  • Military Merit Order, 4th class with Swords (Bavaria, 29 March 1915)
  • Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords (26 February 1917)
  • Military Merit Cross, 2nd class (Mecklenburg-Schwerin, 22 November 1917)
  • Military Merit Cross, 3rd class with War Decoration (Austria-Hungary, 22 November 1917)
  • Ottoman War Medal (Turkish: Harp Madalyası), better known as the "Gallipoli Star" or the "Iron Crescent" (22 November 1917)
  • Wound Badge (1918) Mattweiß (Silver) on 27 August 1918
  • Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 (26 January 1935)
  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award, 4th to 1st Class
  • Spanish Cross or Spanienkreuz in Bronze (31 May 1939)
  • Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd Class: 22 September 1939
    • 1st Class: 2 October 1939
  • Panzer Badge in Silver (29 August 1941)
  • Wound Badge (1939) in Gold (25 May 1942)
  • Eastern Front Medal (15 July 1942)
  • Namentliche Nennung im Wehrmachtbericht (reference in the Wehrmachtbericht) on 21 February 1942, 3 September 1943, 5 August 1944 and 19. April 1945
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
    • Knight's Cross on 9 July 1941 as Generalleutnant and commander of the 3. Panzer-Division
    • 74th Oak Leaves on 17 February 1942 as General der Panzertruppe and commanding general of the XXXXI. Panzerkorps
    • 28th Swords on 2 April 1943 as Generaloberst and commander-in-chief of 9. Armee
    • 17th Diamonds on 17 August 1944 as Generalfeldmarschall and commander-in-chief of Heeresgruppe Mitte

References

  1. Forczyk, Robert, Walther Model, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, U.K., 2011, p.6-7. ISBN: 978-1-84908-357-7
  2. Forczyk, 2011, p.56.
  3. Forczyk, 2011, p.56.