Hans von Salmuth

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Hans Eberhard Kurt von Salmuth
Born (1888-11-11)11 November 1888
Metz, Alsace-Lorraine, German Empire now Metz, Lorraine, France
Died 1 January 1962(1962-01-01) (aged 73)
Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany (to 1945)
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1907–45
Rank Generaloberst
Unit Heeresgruppe B
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Hans Eberhard Kurt von Salmuth (11 November 1888 – 1 January 1962) was a German general during World War II. A lifelong professional soldier, he served his country as a junior officer in the First World War, a staff officer in the inter-war period and the early part of the Second World War, and then as an army level commander. General von Salmuth commanded several different armies on the Eastern Front, and his final command was the Fifteenth Army in France during and shortly after the D-Day invasion. After the war he spent five years in prison for war crimes.

Early life, the First World War and the inter-war period

Born in Metz, Alsace-Lorraine, into a Prussian military family, Salmuth joined the German Army on 19 September 1907. He saw active service in the First World War, by the end of which he had risen to the rank of captain (hauptmann).

Salmuth remained in the army after the war. He was promoted to colonel on 1 May 1934 and served as chief of staff of II Corps from 1934 to 1937. On 1 August 1937 he was promoted to brigadier-general. He was assigned as Chief of Staff to the First Army Group Command. In 1938 he was transferred as Chief of Staff to the Second Army. He was promoted to the rank of major-general on 1 August 1939.

The Second World War

In 1939 he was Chief of Staff for Army Group North, commanded by General Fedor von Bock, and served in "Case White" (Fall Weiss), the invasion of Poland.

Salmuth continued as Chief of Staff to General von Bock, when the latter was given command of Army Group B for the next big operation, "Case Yellow" (Fall Gelb), the invasion of Belgium and France, in May 1940. After the defeat of the Allies in Case Yellow and the surrender of France, on 19 July 1940 Salmuth was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. On 1 August 1940, he was promoted to lieutenant-general (General der Infanterie).

In 1941, Salmuth was assigned to the Eastern Front. On 10 May, he was given command of XXX Corps. He participated in Operation Barbarossa and saw service in the Crimea. Under the command of General von Salmuth XXX Corps took part in the Battle of Sevastopol.

In 1942, he was made acting commander of the Seventeenth Army (20 April 1942 to 1 June 1942). For a short time, 6 June 1942 to 15 July 1942, he was assigned to command the Fourth Army, replacing the former commander, Gotthard Heinrici, who went on leave. In mid-July 1942 he was given command of the Second Army.

In January 1943 Salmuth was promoted to full general (Generaloberst, literally "colonel-general", the second highest German officer rank of the Second World War era, the highest being Generalfeldmarschall). At that time, he was faced with the Soviet Voronezh-Kastornensk operation, in which his Second Army was almost destroyed. On 3 February 1943, he had to hand over command of the Second Army to General Walter Weiss, and was again given command of the Fourth Army, while Gotthard Heinrici went on leave, this time until July 1943.

General von Salmuth was then reassigned from the Eastern Front and sent to France, where in August 1943 he was given command of the Fifteenth Army stationed in the Pas-de-Calais area of France. This area was that part of the Atlantic Wall, believed by Adolf Hitler to be where the Allies would carry out the D-Day invasion, and the Fifteenth Army was given 17 divisions, the largest contingent of any German army-sized formation on the Western Front. The Allies did everything in their power to encourage Hitler in his mistaken belief (see Operation Bodyguard) as they had picked Normandy as the site of the invasion, an area defended by the smaller Seventh Army.

The HQ of the 15th Army in Tourcoing (near Lille) is today a museum.

Salmuth was relieved of his command by Hitler, in late August 1944, following the disintegration of the German front line, after the Allied breakout from Normandy (Operation Cobra), and about the same time as the liberation of Paris. He was replaced by General Gustav-Adolf von Zangen. Hans von Salmuth was given no further commands in the war, which ended approximately nine months later, in May 1945.

After the War

After the war, Salmuth was held as a prisoner of war until 1948, when he was one of 185 defendants prosecuted in the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Allied Control Council Law No. 10. He was tried in the High Command Trial and found guilty of war crimes against prisoners of war and enemy belligerents, and also of crimes against humanity involving civilians in occupied countries, and was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. However, in 1953 he was given early release after serving only five years. He died in Heidelberg, West Germany, in 1962, and was buried in the Nordfriedhof cemetery at Wiesbaden.

Service record

Date of rank

(U.S. equivalent officer rank in parenthesis)

  • Oberst - (Colonel) - 1 May 1934
  • Generalmajor - (Brigadier-General) - 1 August 1937
  • Generalleutnant - (Major-General) - 1 August 1939
  • General der Infanterie - (Lieutenant-General) - 1 August 1940
  • Generaloberst - (General) - 1 January 1943

Staff positions

  • Chief of Staff, II Corps - 1934 - 1937
  • Chief of Staff, 1st Army Group Command - 1937 - 1939
  • Chief of Staff, Army Group North - 1939
  • Chief of Staff, Army Group B - 1939 - 1941

Commissions

  • XXX Corps - 10 May 1941 - 27 December 1941
  • Seventeenth Army - 20 April 1942 - 1 June 1942
  • Fourth Army - 6 June 1942 - 15 July 1942
  • Second Army - 15 July 1942 - 3 February 1943
  • Fourth Army - c. June 1943 - 31 July 1943
  • Fifteenth Army - 1 August 1943 - 25 August 1944

Awards and decorations

In popular culture

References

Citations

  1. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 370.
  2. Scherzer 2007, p. 649.

Bibliography

  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links used as references

Military offices
Preceded by
Generaloberst Hermann Hoth
Commander of 17. Armee
April 20, 1942 – May 31, 1942
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Richard Ruoff
Preceded by
Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici
Commander of 4. Armee
June 6, 1942 - July 15, 1942
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici
Preceded by
General Maximilian Reichsfreiherr von Weichs
Commander of 2. Armee
July 14, 1942 - February 3, 1943
Succeeded by
General Walter Weiss
Preceded by
Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici
Commander of 4. Armee
June 1943 - July 31, 1943
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici
Preceded by
General Heinrich von Vietinghoff gennant Scheel
Commander of 15. Armee
August 8, 1943 - August 24, 1944
Succeeded by
General Gustav-Adolf von Zangen