Manstein: Hitlers Greatest General

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Severus Snape. It's just a ride James Cameron. The Allies in the West post never over-extended themselves to the point where they faced a similar catastrophe. Say what?! Do you mean the Dyle Plan was not an over-extension that led to catastrophe? I agree with Mungo that no Allied leader was ever tested to the degree that Manstein was, but France would not be one of my supporting examples.

Bill Lawson. Michael Dorosh.

Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General by Mungo Melvin, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

That year he was promoted to major and served with the General Staff at the Reichswehr Ministry in Berlin, visiting other countries to learn about their military facilities and helping to draft mobilisation plans for the army. In violation of the Versailles treaty, the Reichswehr had been secretly re-arming since the s; the new government formally renounced the Treaty and proceeded with large scale German re-armament and expansion of the military.

Manstein was moved back to Berlin as full colonel in February , serving as chief of staff of Wehrkreiskommando III. The incident created a lasting hatred between the two men. He warned the "hostile world" that if it kept erecting "ramparts around Germany to block the way of the German people towards their future", then he would be quite happy to see the world plunged into another world war.

Rundstedt accepted Manstein's plan calling for the concentration of the majority of the army group's armoured units into Walther von Reichenau 's 10th Army , with the objective of a decisive breakthrough which would lead to the encirclement of Polish forces west of the River Vistula.

Privately, Manstein was lukewarm about the Polish campaign, thinking that it would be better to keep Poland as a buffer between Germany and the Soviet Union. He also worried about an Allied attack from the west once the Polish campaign was underway, which would draw Germany into a two-front war. Manstein took part in a conference on 22 August where Hitler underlined to his commanders the need for the physical destruction of Poland as a nation.

After the war, he would state in his memoirs that he did not recognise at the time of this meeting that Hitler was going to pursue a policy of extermination against the Poles. Manstein later faced three charges of war crimes relating to Jewish and civilian deaths in the sectors under his control, and the mistreatment and deaths of prisoners of war.

Launched on 1 September , the invasion began successfully. In Army Group South's area of responsibility under Rundstedt, the 8th, 10th and 14th Armies pursued the retreating Poles. These actions led to the encirclement and defeat of Polish forces in the Radom area on 8—14 September by six German corps.

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Meanwhile, the German Eighth Army was under attack from the north, so elements of the Fourth, Eighth and Tenth Armies were quickly redeployed with air support in an improvised attempt to cut off any Polish break-out back towards Warsaw. The flexibility and agility of the German forces led to the defeat of nine Polish infantry divisions and other units in the resulting Battle of the Bzura 8—19 September , the largest engagement of the war thus far.

Manstein was not satisfied with the plan either, as it focused heavily on the northern wing; he felt an attack from this direction would lack the element of surprise and would expose the German forces to counterattacks from the south. The terrain in Belgium was not well-suited as a base of operations for further attacks on France, so Manstein felt the operation would fail to wipe out the enemy—as it did in the First World War—leading to only partial success and trench warfare. By the end of October Manstein had prepared the outline of a different plan and submitted it to the OKH via his superior, Rundstedt, for whom he was now serving as chief of staff of Army Group A.

Manstein's plan, developed with the informal co-operation of Heinz Guderian , suggested that the Panzer divisions attack through the wooded hills of the Ardennes where no one would expect them, then establish bridgeheads on the River Meuse and rapidly drive to the English Channel. This part of the plan later became known as the Sichelschnitt "sickle cut". Manstein's proposal also included a second thrust outflanking the Maginot Line , which would allow the Wehrmacht to force any future defensive line much further south. The OKH originally rejected the proposal; Halder in particular said the plan was entirely without merit.

However, on 11 November, Hitler ordered the reallocation of the forces needed to make a surprise thrust in Sedan , thus pushing the plan in the direction that Manstein had suggested. But Manstein's superiors, Generals Halder and Brauchitsch, resented Manstein's repeated insistence that his plan be implemented in place of theirs.

His corps helped achieve the first breakthrough east of Amiens during Fall Rot "Case Red" — the second phase of the invasion plan , and was the first to reach and cross the River Seine. The invasion of France was an outstanding military success; Manstein was promoted to full general and awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

He considered the operation risky but necessary. Early studies by various staff officers determined that air superiority was a prerequisite to the planned invasion. His corps was to be shipped across the English Channel from Boulogne to Bexhill as one of four units assigned to the first wave. For the rest of the year, Manstein, with little to do, spent time in Paris and at home. Manstein arrived at the front only six days prior to the launch of the offensive.

Operation Barbarossa commenced on 22 June with a massive German attack along the whole front line. Overextended and well ahead of the rest of the army group, he fended off a number of determined Soviet counterattacks. Again having penetrated deep into the Soviet lines with unprotected flanks, his corps was the target of a Soviet counteroffensive from 15 July at Soltsy by the Soviet 11th Army , commanded by Nikolai Vatutin.

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Manstein's 8th Panzer Division was cut off. Although it was able to fight its way free, it was badly mauled, and the Red Army succeeded in halting Manstein's advance at Luga. The corps regrouped at Dno. The attack on Luga was repeatedly delayed.

The assault on Luga was still underway when Manstein received orders on 10 August that his next task would be to begin the advance toward Leningrad. No sooner had he moved to his new headquarters at Lake Samro than he was told to send his men towards Staraya Russa to relieve the X Corps, which was in danger of being encircled. On 12 August the Red Army had launched an offensive with the 11th and 34th Armies against Army Group North, cutting off three divisions. Frustrated with the loss of the 8th Panzer and the missed opportunity to advance on Leningrad, Manstein returned to Dno.

His counteroffensive led to a major Soviet defeat when his unit encircled five Soviet divisions, receiving air support for the first time on that front. They captured 12, prisoners and tanks. His opponent, General Kuzma M. Kachanov of the 34th Army, was subsequently court martialed and executed for the defeat. Manstein tried to obtain rest days for his men, who had been constantly fighting in poor terrain and increasingly poor weather since the start of the campaign, but to no avail.

They were ordered to advance to the east on Demyansk.

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On 12 September, when he was near the city, he was informed that he would take over 11th Army of Army Group South in Ukraine. In September Manstein was appointed commander of the 11th Army after its previous commander, Colonel-General Eugen Ritter von Schobert , perished when his plane landed in a Soviet minefield.

The 11th Army was tasked with invading the Crimean Peninsula , capturing Sevastopol , and pursuing enemy forces on the flank of Army Group South during its advance into the Soviet Union. Manstein's forces—mostly infantry—achieved a rapid breakthrough during the first days against heavy Soviet resistance. After most of the neck of the Perekop Isthmus had been taken, his forces were substantially reduced, leaving six German divisions and the Romanian Third Army.

The rest of the Perekop Isthmus was captured slowly and with some difficulty; Manstein complained of a lack of air support to contest Soviet air superiority in the region. He next formed a mobile reconnaissance unit to press down the peninsula, cutting the road between Simferopol and Sevastopol on 31 October. Axis forces captured Simferopol the next day. Meanwhile, the Red Army had evacuated , personnel out of the city by sea. Manstein's first attack on Sevastopol in November failed, and with insufficient forces left for an immediate assault, he ordered an investment of the heavily fortified city.

By 17 December he launched another offensive, which also failed. On 26 December Soviet troops landed on the Kerch Straits to retake Kerch and its peninsula, and on 30 December executed another landing near Feodosiya. Only a hurried withdrawal from the Kerch Peninsula, in contravention of Manstein's orders, by the 46th Infantry Division under General Hans Graf von Sponeck prevented an Axis collapse in the eastern part of the Crimea; the division lost most of its heavy equipment.

Manstein cancelled a planned resumption of the attack and sent most of his forces east to destroy the Soviet bridgehead. The Soviet forces were in a superior position regarding men and materiel as they were able to re-supply by sea; accordingly, Stalin pushed them to conduct further offensives. However, the Soviet troops were unable to capture the critical rail- and road-access points which would have cut the German lines of supply.

The 11th Army was outnumbered on the ground, so Manstein had them feint an attack in the north while the bulk of the force attacked to the south. The Soviet troops soon fled. Manstein recorded in his memoirs the capture of ", prisoners, 1, guns and tanks". The Wehrmacht lost only 8, men. After a month's delay, Manstein turned his attention once more to the capture of Sevastopol, a battle in which Germany used some of the largest guns ever built.

A furious barrage began on the morning of 2 June All of the resources of the Luftwaffe ' s Luftflotte 4 , commanded by Wolfram von Richthofen , were committed; the barrage continued for five days before the ground assault began. The 11th Army gained ground during mid-June, focusing their attention on the northern approaches to the city.

Casualties were high on both sides as the month dragged on.

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The operation was a success; Soviet resistance crumbled. On 1 July German forces entered the city while the Soviet forces conducted a disorganised evacuation, and Hitler promoted Manstein to Generalfeldmarschall the same day. The entire city was in German hands by 4 July. During the Crimean campaign Manstein was indirectly involved in atrocities against the Soviet population, especially those committed by Einsatzgruppe D, one of several Schutzstaffel SS groups that had been tasked with the elimination of the Jews of Europe.

Einsatzgruppe D travelled in the wake of Manstein's 11th Army, and were provided by Manstein's command with vehicles, fuel, and drivers.

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Military police cordoned off areas where the Einsatzgruppe planned to shoot Jews to prevent anyone from escaping. Captain Ulrich Gunzert, shocked to have witnessed Einsatzgruppe D massacre a group of Jewish women and children, went to Manstein to ask him to do something to stop the killings. Gunzert states that Manstein told him to forget what he had seen and to concentrate on fighting the Red Army.

After the capture of Sevastopol, Hitler felt Manstein was the right man to command the forces at Leningrad , which had been under siege since September With elements of the 11th Army, Manstein was transferred to the Leningrad front, arriving on 27 August Manstein again lacked the proper forces to storm the city, so he planned Operation Nordlicht , a bold plan for a thrust to cut off Leningrad's supply line at Lake Ladoga. However, on the day of his arrival, the Red Army launched the Sinyavin Offensive.


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Originally planned as spoiling attack against Georg Lindemann 's 18th Army in the narrow German salient west of Lake Ladoga, the offensive appeared able to break through the German lines, lifting the siege. Hitler, bypassing the usual chain of command, telephoned Manstein directly and ordered him to take offensive action in the area.

After a series of heavy battles, he launched a counterattack on 21 September that cut off the two Soviet armies in the salient. Fighting continued throughout October. Although the Soviet offensive was fended off, the resulting attrition meant that the Wehrmacht could no longer execute a decisive assault on Leningrad, and Nordlicht was put on hold.

In an attempt to resolve their persistent shortage of oil, the Wehrmacht had launched Fall Blau Case Blue , a massive offensive aimed against the Caucasian oilfields, in the summer of His troops, supported by 4th Panzer Army , entered the city on 12 September. Hand-to-hand combat and street fighting ensued. Manstein's initial assessment on 24 November was that the 6th Army, given adequate air support, would be able to hold on. In October , his son, Gero, was killed in battle.

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