Hasso von Manteuffel
|Born||14 Jan 1897|
|Died||24 Sep 1978|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Hasso-Eccard Freiherr (title of Baron) von Manteuffel was born to aristocratic Prussians Hasso and Susanne von Manteuffel in Potsdam, Germany. He graduated from the Senior Cadet Institute at Berlin-Lichterfelde in 1916 and joined the Hussar regiment of the Imperial German Army. He was a veteran of WW1, first with the 6th Prussian Infantry then (after being wounded by shrapnel in Oct 1916) he was posted to the Divisional General Staff. After WW1 he remained in the military, serving in the Freikorps and then the Reichswehr. On 23 Jun 1919, he married Armgard von Kleist, the niece of Ewald von Kleist, and had two children. He saw the quickest growth in his career in the 1930s, and by the end of 1935 he was commanding units at the battalion level for Heinz Guderian's 2nd Panzer Division. It was under Guderian's influence that von Manteuffel truly believed in the capabilities of fast-moving tanks in battle. He became a noted expert in mobile warfare, and served as a professor at the Panzer Troop School II in Berlin between 1939 and 1941.
Von Manteuffel's entrance into WW2 came on 1 May 1941 when he was appointed a battalion commander in the 7th Panzer Division as a part of Operation Barbarossa. He launched the 7th Panzer Division from East Prussia across the Memel River into Lithuania and then into Russia. Six months later, in Russia, he was promoted to the rank of colonel and awarded the Knight's Cross for the capture of a key bridge outside Moscow at Yakhroma. In May 1942, his unit was transferred to France for refitting and much needed rest. In early 1943, he was transferred to North Africa briefly before returning to Germany in Apr for health reasons. He was made a major general on 1 May 1943 for his achievements in conducting a counterattack in the Tunis area.
Von Manteuffel was made the commander of the 7th Panzer Division on 22 Aug 1943, returning to the Russian front. This command was given personally by Adolf Hitler in hopes that the able leader could turn the unfavorable tide on the Eastern Front. Von Manteuffel led the German troops in holding the near-collapsing front in Ukraine, halting the Russian advance after successful campaigns at Kharkov, Belgorod, Dnieper River, and Kiev. His capture of Zhitomir in late Nov 1944 prevented the annihilation of the 8th Panzer Division; for this feat he was awarded Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross on 23 Nov 1943 and made the commander of the elite Panzer Grenadier Gro▀deutschland division on 27 Dec 1943. With the Gro▀deutschland von Manteuffel fought a series of defensive campaigns in northern Romania in early 1944 and East Prussia/Lithuania/Latvia in mid 1944. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general on 1 Feb 1944 and was awarded Swords to his Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves on 22 Feb.
On 1 Sep 1944, von Manteuffel was promoted to General of the Panzer Troops and given command of the 5th Panzer Army on the Western Front. This commission was again given personally by Hitler, at Hitler's headquarters at Rastenburg, specifically with the participation of a large-scale offensive in mind. With the 5th Panzer Army von Manteuffel took part in the Ardennes Offensive, also known as the Battle of the Bulge. Though unable to reach the Meuse River (and take Brussels and Antwerp) as he was originally tasked, his unit achieved the deepest penetration into Allied territory during this offensive; his 2nd Panzer Division under the command of Colonel Meinrad von Lauchert reached the banks of the Meuse before driven back by a combined force of the American 2nd Armored Division and the British 3rd Royal Tank Regiment.
After receiving the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds award on 18 Feb 1945, von Manteuffel returned to the Eastern Front on 10 Mar as the commander of the 3rd Panzer Army. Unable to prevent the Berlin-bound Russian forces at the Oder River with ill-equipped troops, he retreated to Mecklenburg then surrendered his army to the British at Hagenow, Germany on 3 May 1945; he made the effort to surrender to the western Allies in fear of Russian retribution.
During captivity, he wrote a detailed account of his experiences during the Battle of the Bulge for the United States Army Historical Division, assisting in preserving the history of the offensive. After being released as a POW in Sep 1947, von Manteuffel became a successful politician as a parliamentary representative of Germany's Free Democratic Party. His leadership abilities were deeply respected even by his former enemies, best demonstrated by a 1968 invitation from United States Military Academy at West Point for him to lecture to its cadets.
Von Manteuffel died in Reith im Alpbachtal, Tyrol, Austria. He left the legacy of being the 24th of only 27 holders of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds. His ability to leverage the speed of German tanks set a new standard in the doctrines of modern mobile warfare. He published a unit history of the 7th Panzer Division in 1965, a text on modern warfare in 1970, and a photographic history of the 7th Panzer Division in 1978.
Sources: Achtung Panzer, Spartacus Educational, Wikipedia.
Hasso von Manteuffel Timeline
|14 Jan 1897||Hasso von Manteuffel was born.|
|27 Dec 1943||Manteuffel was made the commanding officer of the elite Panzer Grenadier Gro▀deutschland division.|
|24 Sep 1978||Hasso von Manteuffel passed away.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935