Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

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xsli
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Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by xsli » 28 Jul 2017 08:51

There was a "best German general" topic but I cannot find one on field marshals - comparing field marshals should be a lot easier and should have less controversies. There is an online "thetoptens" ranking, but it is weird since it includes Guderian in the field marshal list.

Some may think it is a childish and futile exercise but I insist it is neither. Ranking generals has always been a hot topic among amateurs or even some layman. Though it can never been precise, but there should be a great level of consensus among experts and enthusiasts if starting with a easier ranking like field marshals. It would be quite useful to provide certain guidance for beginners or layman.

It is well known that there is a US presidents ranking. Military-wise, less known is there a ranking of top US generals by some West Point academics. So it is a serious business and I would expect a great deal of convergence in a short list like top 5.
Last edited by xsli on 28 Jul 2017 09:45, edited 1 time in total.

xsli
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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by xsli » 28 Jul 2017 09:33

I should add I will put morality/ideology aside and just look at the military side.

Start with mine:
1. Model
2. von Manstein
3. von Rundstedt
4. Rommel
5. von Kluge

A short note (opinion of course):
Model is the only one who had a large impact while consistently maintained great judgment. He had a series of achievements both on the east and the west. Though a bit oblivion in the immediate post-war literature, his fame has been rising in the latest 20 years thanks for favorable opinions from authors.

von Manstein is the old No.1, largely thanks to Liddell Hart's famed book "the other side of the hill". His achievements were well stated. But I found some his judgments on large picture is problematic. He supported Hitler's Stalingrad's hold fast - the order leading to 6A's disaster. He favored Kursk campaign. Later he requested to withdraw to the Dneper line. Lastly about his generalship, his performance at Korsun is certainly not his best.

von Rundstedt is a consistent performer. While it is hard to pinpoint his greatest moment in history, I cannot locate obvious blots in his command. He is also more sanguine than many others in foreseeing the end of 3rd Reich.

Rommel was one used to be extolled by media and books thanks to his tactical prowess, which is indeed matched by few. But some recent books are less compliment - taking too much unnecessary risks and paying too little attention to his logistic problems.

von Kluge is not well liked but somehow I find him having good judgments. One instance is that he supported Hitler's hold fast order in the difficult first Russian winter - besting quite a few high-ranking generals.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by brimmy » 28 Jul 2017 20:48

First of all there are some good choices in your list.

I look forward to being educated by yourself or others if the following comment of mine is incorrect.

Regarding Von Manstein/ Kursk I am not entirely certain that he was in favour and I think he was critical of the date being put back all the time and every day extra that "Citadel" was delayed the least chance it had if succeeding.

I think Manstein's preferred strategy was not to go on the offensive but wait for Russia to attack as I am believe I recall somewhere it being called the back hand approach.

However I am desperate to learn more and I am fully prepared to be corrected as I want to learn more especially from the German viewpoint.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by doogal » 31 Jul 2017 14:12

Firstly there were far to many promotions to the rank of General Field Marshall .... The old categories of creditable action i think were winning a battle taking a fortress and I cant remember the last on the hoof.
As for a list of the best .... What are we judging them by is there a yardstick etc for measuring there competence/performance etc.. so for example.. I have left of von Runstedt owing to the idea for the halt at Dunkirk ...also von Kluge for his inability to control Guderian in the east and for his handling of AGC... Model and Rommel I have left out as I believe that a bit of over promotion happened with both ... Having Model as a Field Marshall took away his ability to influence tactical defenses . And Rommel I leave out as I believe that while his idea of defending the shore line was sound .. Once he was aware that he did not have enough men or machinery to defend the beaches in Normandy properly he should have given up on the idea... he liked to lead from the front to the detriment of the larger picture on a battlefield ..

1) wolfram von richtofen (best air commander in the reich)
2) Albert Kesselring (consistent performer )
3) Eric von Manstein(took a fortress)
4) Fedor von Bock (he led well in France and Russia )
5) von Kleist (he led the armoured group in France so that victory was his)

xsli
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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by xsli » 02 Aug 2017 03:59

Hi, doogal,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts but the title says "heer" - so you might want to make another list?
The idea of limiting to heer field marshals is to make the comparison a bit easier. Honestly, I have trouble to compare Dönitz with Kesselring.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by xsli » 02 Aug 2017 04:40

brimmy wrote:
Regarding Von Manstein/ Kursk I am not entirely certain that he was in favour and I think he was critical of the date being put back all the time and every day extra that "Citadel" was delayed the least chance it had if succeeding.
From p.47 of Chris Laurence's big Kursk book:
...the idea of a Kursk offensive most likely came from von Manstein
There are more information on how Kursk is initiated starting p.47, it is clear Hitler, Zeitzler and von Manstein are the ones conjuring up the idea and putting it into plan.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by doogal » 02 Aug 2017 08:18

Well Kesselring was originally an army officer and he commanded all troops in southern Italy so I thought I could get away with it....
You have a point with von Richthofen...
Ok so two replacements this will take some time ciao

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by sons of anzac » 04 Aug 2017 07:06

General comment Hitler made way too many field marshals especially in the celebrations after the fall of France. Lets face it, who would refuse? No-one, so we had many promoted and it demeaned the gravitas and authority of the field marshal within the broader political and military circles of Nazi Germany. The Heer still respected them and their authority but politically they held no sway or restraint on the Nazi leadership and policies they fed into the wehrmacht and the heer. Remember Hitler's commented to his entourage something like 'the moment they raise their hands to me in nazi salute they're mere worms to me'. (Cant find full quote and circumstances at this time). Too many of these officers should have gone to the level of generaloberst and no further.
What would we want a field marshal to be able to do? After agreeing with political leaders to a broad goal, plan and direct a strategic level campaign through generalobersts leading army groups. If not in agreement with political leadership, they have sufficient authority and gravitas to force a halt on plans until agreement reached. You need strong will and opinion.
5 officers? I'd pick 6 inc 1 x LW My suggestions not in any order: von Rundstedt, von Manstein, Kesselring (yes I know LW but as earlier stated he was Heer trained), von Reichenau (yes, I know), von Kleist and von Weichs.
I know all of them had failings but every one if them directed large scale strategic level operations and did not hesitate to seek changes to things. Sometimes successfully, mostly not. Usually ending up in dismissal but reinstatement later. I almost included Rommel amd Model but after consdieration think Generaloberst to be a more appropriate level for their tactical skills but somewhat lesser ability to see the bigger picture.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by brimmy » 20 Aug 2017 01:54

Thank you for correcting me and I did say I wanted to be educated.
I appreciate my post was not the best reading it back.
I did not explain myself very well at all but i did think despite von Manstein coming up with the plan for the Kursk offensive he felt longer the delay the least chance it had of succeeding. But am prepared to be wrong and I hold up my hands sorry.
I certainly did not mean to argue he had no input in the plan.
I thought I read somewhere that if it was to work at all they needed to go early and not delay which they ended up doing therefore allowing more time for Russia to organise their defence.
I am mistaken but I thought I read somewhere that he came up with two plans one of which was to step back and allow the enemy to come at them and then counter.
I obviously regret the post wish I would not have bothered but I will hopefully need to study more and pay more attention.
Thank you for correcting me I am always wanting to know more.
But again i stress I am not very eloquent and like I said i am not explaining myself very well.
However I am getting further away from original post and I apologise for that.
I did not mean to go off at a tangent and I always look forward to learn more as I do not possess the intelligence of the likes of yourself and others in these forums. I do embarrass myself from time to time as I am not the brightest.
For what its worth I believe the five choices were very good.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by doogal » 20 Aug 2017 17:58

sons of Anzac wrote - 5 officers? I'd pick 6 inc 1 x LW My suggestions not in any order: von Rundstedt, von Manstein, Kesselring (yes I know LW but as earlier stated he was Heer trained), von Reichenau (yes, I know), von Kleist and von Weichs.
Id like to know what von Weichs and von Reichenau did to get on a list of Great GFM ????

Did they win a battle take a fortress or command a successful campaign???

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by NBrotz » 26 Sep 2017 12:54

doogal wrote:Id like to know what von Weichs and von Reichenau did to get on a list of great GFM ????

Did they win a battle take a fortress or command a successful campaign???
I would like to add my two-cents to this discussion, particularly on those two neglected figures. Firstly, I personally don't see von Weichs or von Reichenau among Hitler's most capable Heer Feldmarschalls as Heeresgruppe C-in-Cs - not taking in account a provisional Armeegruppe, a field Armee (where they both distinguished themselves), not a regional command (were von Weichs shined), and not the OKH or OKW (the latter's precursor, the War Ministry under von Blomberg, was where von Reichenau made his reputation). Under that criteria, my top five would be the following:
  • Erich von Manstein
  • Walter Model
  • Ewald von Kleist
  • Gerd von Rundstedt
  • Ferdinand Schörner
In commentary on this list, I would say the following: Although Model gave a more consistent performance than von Manstein, the fact he never led an independent offensive campaign and failed to achieve any meaningful gains in the two grand offensives he took part in (Kursk and Ardennes) makes it difficult for me to rate him #1. Although there may have been other Generals (such as List or Ritter von Leeb) that might've been more capable under more favorable circumstances, their early dismissal makes it difficult to judge them; one can only wonder how Rommel might've performed had he not been mostly sidelined from 43' onward. Also, as much as I may detest Schörner as a human being, his command record is fairly solid; if this was a moral criteria, von Kleist, Rommel, and von Witzleben would be on the top; Schörner and von Reichenau (the latter for his infamous Severity Order) would be somewhere near the bottom.

Looking back at von Reichenau, his brief command of Heeresgruppe Süd was cut short by his ultimately death makes it difficult to evaluate his capacity to lead at the highest levels. Although he commanded a field army in Poland, French, and Russia, his command was always tightly subordinated to an Army Group and not offered much room to maneuver freely (as opposed to Rommel in North Africa, Von Manstein in the Crimea, von Kleist in the Caucasus, etc.). Furthermore, I cannot name any significant battle or siege were it was the centerpiece (both von Reichenau's 6th and von Weich's 2nd played a supporting role in the Kiev encirclement).

By von Manstein's prerequisites for a baton, von Reichenau fails, but one may argue he had a lot of potential. In von Reichenau's numerous strategic/political disagreements with Hitler, one can speculate that Hitler might've been ultimately been glad that his generals protested his nomination of von Reichenau as C-in-C of the OKH. Even as a field commander, one also wonders if how von Reichenau might've performed in place of von Bock and later von Weichs during Case Blau.

Von Weichs' performance around Stalingrad makes one wonder whether Hitler rewarded him for not ordering Paulus to breakout, or for resolutely holding the northern flank of German Army's southern wing around Voronezh during that winter. In any case, one may judge von Weichs' command of the 2nd Armee in the invasion of Yugoslavia as a semi-independent campaign (he was directly subordinated to the OKH - unless List had coordinating authority?). When von Weichs returned to the Balkans, the scope and scale of his command as Oberbefehlshaber Südost dwarfed most Heeresgruppen, with nearly a million troops and unified authority (although I cannot say how cooperative the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe actually were). Although he failed to completely liquidate the various partisan groups, particularly Tito's, von Weichs did manage to keep them at bay and conduct a successful withdrawal in advance of the Soviets. The fact that Guderian recommended von Weichs for command of ironically-named Heeresgruppe Weichsel does speak of the regard he was held (even if Hitler vetoed it), along with being one of the few active Generalfeldmarschalls remaining by 1945.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by doogal » 28 Sep 2017 19:33

NBrotz wrote - by von Manstein's prerequisites for a baton.
I believe u will find that while I have echoed the criteria von Manstein mentions in lost battles that they were not his criteria but a simplified version of the pre 1918 Army of the Kaiser and before the unification of Germany those of the Prussian Army.... But I take your point graciously .

I do believe though that some form of larger criterion needs to exist, or a specific framework so that each GFM can be judged consistently..

I do believe Nbrotz that your inclusion of GFM Schörner is extremely brave and illustrates the difficulty in judging such officers .....

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by Lil Pepe » 08 Apr 2018 09:57

1. Guderian
2. v Manstein
3. Rommel
4. v Rundstedt
5. v Kleist

Guderian was the one who developed the panzer into what it was, and also the one who disobeyed orders not to get ahead of the infantry and thereby created the blitzkrieg.

Manstein was the best strategist and tactician.

Rommel the best field commander.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by jpkoch1962 » 24 May 2018 16:16

1) Model. His defense of the Rhezev Salient, and his near perfect fighting withdrawal from it are ignored by most historians. Despite his reputation to the contrary, Model was a far-sighted, realistic commander, who was also a very well trained staff officer. He defeated the Allies at Market Garden, and the Hurtgen Forest. Most of his detractors point to his performance at Kursk and The Battle of the Bulge. At Kursk, Model and his superior, FM von Kluge, were the only senior commanders who recognized the dangers to his northern flank defended by the weak 2A. Their farsighted plans, which allowed them not to get bogged down at Kursk, saved the 2A when the Soviets unleashed a major counter-offensive. The 1944 Ardennes Offensive was doomed from the beginning.

2) GFM von Richthofen: Despite being seriously under-resourced, von Richthofen always seemed to come through to lend important air support. In many ways, it was his efforts to either saved the ground forces or helped them gain tactical success.

3) GFM von Manstein: His Spring Kursk counter offensive, as well as his campaign in Crimea will go down his history was great victories. His plan for the Battle of France to this day goes down in history as a stroke of genius. However, his vanity often got the best to him. It was Hitler who gave one of the fairest accounts of Manstein. Hitler said that if there was one man he'd want to lead an operation, it would be Manstein. But, the FM always had to have things perfect. The moment he runs into trouble he demands more men and material. I think that sums it up. Another knock against Manstein was that he refused to change his tactical methodology with the changing tactical situation. His insistence on going over to mobile warfare after Kursk doomed his command.

4) GFM von Bock. Bock was both a mercurial commander, and a phlegmatic commander. He could be impulsive, but also very practical and open minded. Of all the FM on the Eastern Front, Bock it turned out was the best man to command AG Center. Despite incredible hardships, severe logistical problems, very temperamental commanders (Guderian, von Kluge to name the 2 biggest culprits), von Bock was able to maintain the advance towards Moscow. As CIC AG Center, Bock kept his focus on the mission handed to him, However, failing health, which clouded his judgement for the summer 1942 offensives.

5) GFM Rommel. Without a doubt, Rommel was a tactical genius while serving as a division and corps commander. He discovered that being an AG CIC much more difficult. Like Lee, he just didn't understand that managing logistics wasn't just another guy's problem.

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Re: Best 5 German Heer Field Marshals in WW2

Post by stg 44 » 24 May 2018 19:33

jpkoch1962 wrote: 2) GFM von Richthofen: Despite being seriously under-resourced, von Richthofen always seemed to come through to lend important air support. In many ways, it was his efforts to either saved the ground forces or helped them gain tactical success.
Underresourced?! He got preferential treatment for replacements of men and equipment because of his relationship with Hitler

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