Adolf Hitler's Tips and Tricks for Getting Rid of that Annoying Field Marshal
|Berlin's Kroll Opera House, 19 July 1940. Adolf Hitler and his new field marshals.|
There are some unique situations encountered by many in your position which are not adequately covered in the other materials we have included in the packaging. These are legacy issues deriving from obsolete officers for whom updated drivers are unavailable. These officers, typically (but not always) field marshals, can cause irritating operational bottlenecks and seriously hamper the conduct of your campaigns. Even worse, these field marshals can linger in the background, waiting to be activated in nefarious ways by new circumstances when you least expect it - to your detriment. Unless these obstructions are removed pursuant to the proper network protocols, grave damage may be caused to your system.
|The perils of errant field marshals: Erwin von Witzleben (right) joined with the conspirators led by former Chief of the General Staff Ludwig Beck (left). © ABB. AUS DEM BESPR. BAND.|
To address this issue, and illustrate how to handle the Legacy Field Marshal issue, we herewith provide you with our custom guide - courtesy of Adolf Hitler and a few others - "How to Fire A Field Marshal."
Our Case StudiesThere were no active field marshals in the German Army (Wehrmacht) when Adolf Hitler conducted his mass field marshal promotions on 19 July 1940 (aside from several retired officers and Hermann Goering, who is a special case more akin to a Vice President). On that date, Hitler promoted the following individuals to the rank of field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall):
- Wilhelm List
- Walther von Brauchitsch
- Albert Kesselring
- Wilhelm Keitel
- Günther von Kluge
- Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb
- Walther von Reichenau
- Gerd von Rundstedt
- Hugo Sperrle
- Erwin von Witzleben
This is not how the German offensive of 1942 was conducted.
This latter case is essentially the situation faced by our two field marshals, Fedor von Bock, and Wilhelm List.
Von BockFedor von Bock commanded Army Group Center during the first six months of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. During the advance toward Moscow, von Bock commanded his forces well. Many leading commanders in the German Army (Heer) always had preferred the main effort in the direction of Moscow. It was the administrative and transportation center of the entire Soviet Union. Hitler, however, had made clear that he preferred to focus on capturing Leningrad, then work his way south toward Moscow only later. Hitler to one extent or another finally realized that Moscow was important, but only after finding that his forces could not take Leningrad.
|Field Marshal Fedor von Bock on the cover of Time Magazine, 8 December 1941. He became famous worldwide during the failed 1941 drive on Moscow.|
|Adolf Hitler and Fedor von Bock.|
ListDuring the spring of 1941, Field Marshal Siegmund Wilhelm Walther List led the German forces involved in Operation Marita, the conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece. List proved particularly suited to this task. It involved delicate negotiations with the Bulgarians, who were terrified of upsetting the Soviets by allowing Wehrmacht troops on their territory. Given command of 12th Army, List's forces - including four armored divisions and 11 panzer grenadier divisions - swamped both the Yugoslavian and Greek armies. It was the last unalloyed German military success of the war. However, many later historians blame this operation for depriving the main Wehrmacht forces involved in Operation Barbarossa of such a large force during what could have been the decisive opening campaign of the war against the Soviet Union. That wasn't List's fault, he just did what he was told to do, and did it well.
|The 1942 German summer offensive was about one thing and one thing only: oil. Stalingrad was important to the Germans only as a place to block Soviet counterattacks as forces further south - led by Field Marshal List - seized the oil.|
Step 1: Give The Field Marshal a Vague Mission of Huge Importance, But Change the Mission as it Starts to Succeed
Von BockThe blueprint for the advance of Army Group South under Field Marshal von Bock in the summer of 1942 was contained in Fuhrer Directive (Weisung) No. 41, "Case Blue" (the code name later changed due to a security breach, but that is how everyone remembers it). Case Blue projected an offensive in four stages, proceeding from the north (the vicinity of Voronezh) to the south (the Caucasus). The directive contained sweeping objectives which barely took into account Soviet military resistance; successful attainment of the initial objectives, upon which all subsequent operations depended, was simply assumed. In fact, the directive made assumptions about the Soviets, in particular, that they would stand their ground and wait to be encircled southwest of Rostov.
|Field Marshal Fedor von Bock.|
|Field Marshal von Bock expected a battle for Voronezh, and prudently prepared accordingly. Here, 2,/Krad. Btl 4 of 24 Panzer Division reconnoiters Voronezh in early July - and finds virtually no Soviet troops there at all.|
ListField Marshal List spent the first half of 1942 watching the Balkans, where he was the Southeastern Theater commander. Fuhrer Directive 41, which outlined the overall strategy of the summer campaign, was dated 5 April, but not even Army Group South - which it impacted directly - received it until 10 April. On 14 April, the OKH began creating an army group staff for him, but it is unclear when, exactly, he found out that he was going to assume a vital command at the spearhead of the summer offensive.
|Hitler reviewing operations in Poland with Colonel General List. Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl are behind Hitler (Heinrich Hoffmann).|
|The Soviets were retreating, and the Germans were scattered all over the steppe looking for them.|
|The commander of a Panzer III observes the burning oil wells of Maykop. Hitler was obsessed with getting the oil, and indeed his men took the ground - but the oil was unrecoverable (Federal Archive).|
|Winter hits very early along the Caucasus mountain range. List warned that the snow begins there around mid-September. Winter 1942/43 (Poetsch, Federal Archives).|
Step II: Meet with the Field Marshal - and Bamboozle Him
Von BockWith Army Group South advancing rapidly toward the Don River, von Bock swung his forces north in the direction of the only substantial objective north of Stalingrad: Voronezh. A glance at a large-scale map shows that Voronezh stands, very roughly, about midway between Stalingrad and Moscow. With their main force concentrations arrayed to protect Moscow, it was the logical spot for a Soviet stand, particularly as it stood on the far bank of the river. Knowing that the rest of the river line would be relatively easy to occupy once Voronezh was secured, von Bock decided to make sure that he took and, more importantly, held the city.
|Von Bock expected Voronezh to be defended by hordes of Soviet units like these Soviet soldiers using PTRS-41 (Simonov) 14.5mm anti-tank rifles. What he found was quite different.|
|Hitler arriving at a typical meeting. He only wanted people around him who admired him and displayed devotion - his pilot, Hans Baur, for instance, called him "our dad" (Unser Vati).|
|The panzers could crush Soviet columns when they encountered them - as here in July 1942. However, getting at them was a problem when there wasn't enough fuel for the tanks. (Baur, Federal Archive).|
ListWith List halfway through the Caucasus mountain range, suddenly things changed: the Soviets stopped running. Instead of abandoning Stalingrad, the Soviet high command (Stavka) decided to mount a major defense of the city. In addition, sufficient forces had retreated to the far side of the Caucasus mountain range for the Soviets to mount a solid defense. It greatly helped them that there were no roads that crossed the mountains - the all at one point or another degenerated into narrow goat paths. The German panzers were useless in the mountains, and the only way to take the coast was over the mountains. The developing problem at Stalingrad hurt List's advance because the attack on the city drew off all of his air support. This turned the fight for the mountains into a pure infantry exercise at which the German army had no particular advantage over the Soviet soldiers. List warned on 26 August that, without substantial reinforcements and the return of his air support, further advances in the mountains before the snows there began in the middle of September were extremely unlikely.
|Field Marshal List.|
|German troops trying to blast their way over the Caucasus mountains, September 1942 (Ang, Federal Archives).|
Step III: Dismiss the Field Marshal with a Peremptory Telegram and Never Speak to Him Again
Von BockAs the Germans headed southeast from Voronezh and other forces headed north toward them, they kept expecting to trap large pockets of Soviet soldiers. By exerting continual pressure, the thinking went, the Soviets would be rounded up like sheep, with Sixth Army pushing them southward into the waiting arms of First Panzer Army. The two German armies would meet at Starobelsk (Starobil's'k), an insignificant administrative center south of Voronezh and east of Kharkov.
|Field Marshal von Bock and General Hermann Hoth, commander of 4th Panzer Army, June/July 1942.|
|Panzer III Auf Js of the 24th Panzer Division crossing the Don River. By the time the panzers were fueled-up and had reached the Don in the vicinity of the Don bend, the fleeing Soviets were long gone.|
|The Soviets were hurrying east and letting nothing stop them. Here, a horse and wagon pass a T-60 tank (N 264 plant production) which has been abandoned by its crew near the Don River in July 1942.|
|Fedor von Bock on the 21 September 1942 cover of Time Magazine. The Germans did not publicize their command changes, so the Allies had no way of knowing that von Bock had been out of any active command for over two months.|
ListThe advance past Rostov to the south had given the Germans possession of large amounts of largely worthless territory. There was plenty of oil there - but the Soviets had wrecked all the equipment and capped the wells. It would take years to get any production flowing, and the Soviets had plenty of other oil resources. The fields near the Don were full of grain, but the Germans did not hold them long enough, nor have the manpower, to get much of that, either. As they had further north, the Soviet troops hadn't bothered trying to defend the open steppes when a clear line of defense lay ahead: the Caucasus mountain range. The Germans took Novorossiysk at the northwestern entry to the coastal region, but there the Soviets blocked any further advance. If the Germans were going to take the coastline and its valuable ports, the only way to do so was over the mountains.
|Russian cavalry in the Caucasus mountains, 1942. If you are wondering, "But why not use the highways?" - you're looking at one.|
|Field Marshal List (left) and OKH Chief of Staff General Halder.|
LessonsThere are many lessons to be learned from this segment of the Russian campaign. Probably the principal takeaway is that Hitler was incorrect - operational command is not something that just "anyone can do." Hitler proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he understood nothing about operational command beyond a few general theories which worked until the Soviets grew wise to his thinking, and beyond those general concepts he was a hopeless amateur. By violating numerous military principles of strategic doctrine, and refusing to consider that anyone else might have better ideas and taking their counsel, Hitler wound up single-handedly ruining an otherwise successful campaign.
|After 1942, Hitler increasingly turned to men like Field Marshal Walter Model (date of rank 30 March 1944), who knew better than to cast the slightest doubt on Hitler's generalship.|
|President Truman and General MacArthur at Wake Island (Trumanlibrary.org). Truman has that look of, "If you only knew what I was really thinking."|
To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, the way to fire a field marshal is to force them, through your wayward decisions and rank amateurism, to challenge your decisions for the good of the country. Then, hold a sham meeting at which you deceive the target into thinking everything is great, and tacitly encourage them to continue down the same path. Once you have managed to do that, a simple telegram or visit by one of your flunkies will suffice.
Anyone who has worked in a bureaucracy knows the drill.
We hope you have found this practical guide on how to fire field marshals useful. As you no doubt noticed, it sets forth how not to conduct a military campaign, along with the steps that you should not take when managing your field marshals. Basically, if you do the opposite of the steps set forth above, your operating system should return to normal function quickly.
To summarize our lessons:
- Listen to the counsel of field marshals who may, even if only occasionally, have an idea or two that would be useful and maybe even better than your own;
|Hitler had been in Landsberg Prison, put there by Army officers for instigating the failed 1923 Putsch.|