|Born||24 Jan 1891|
|Died||21 Apr 1945|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseOtto Moritz Walter Model was born in Genthin/Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany to a musician. He entered the German Army in 1909 as a Fahnenjunker with the 52nd Infantry Regiment in Cottbus. In 1910, he was commissioned a second lieutenant after completing officer training. As a company commander of the 52nd Infantry Regiment von Alvensleben in WW1, he earned the Iron Cross 1st Class in 1915. In 1916, he was appointed as a general staff officer. For bravery during battle in 1917, he was awarded the rare Hohenzollernorden with Swords award and was promoted to the rank of captain. He was severely wounded in 1918 in France. After WW1, he remained in the Army despite of the military reductions dictated by the Versailles Treaty. In 1929 he was promoted to the rank of major and by this time he was well known for his capable defensive tactics. In 1934, he was promoted to the rank of colonel. In 1935, he was appointed to Army Headquarters. In 1938, he was promoted to the rank of major general.
ww2dbaseIn Sep 1939 and then in May 1940, in the roles of the chief of staff to a corps then an army, Model participated in the campaigns in Poland and in France.
ww2dbaseIn 1941, Model was appointed the commander of the 3rd Panzer Division Berliner Bärendivision, with which unit he participated in the invasion of Russia. He pushed his forces through Brest-Litowsk, Rogatschew, Baranovici, and Beresina River. He was awarded the Knight's Cross on 9 Jul 1941. After the capturing of Smolensk and Kiev, Model was promoted as the commander of the 41st Panzer Corps in Nov 1941. With the 41st Panzer Corps, he spearheaded Operation Typhoon against Moscow, taking important bridgeheads leading to the Russian capital; the troops that came within 20km of Moscow before being stopped by Russian defenses were under his command. In Jan 1942, he was appointed the commander of the German 9th Army, then on 1 Feb 1942, he was promoted to the rank of colonel general and was awarded Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross. This promotion came merely two weeks after a heated argument between Model and Adolf Hitler over field strategy; Model was able to convince Hitler that the field commander was better able to assess the front lines situation than generals in Berlin leaning over maps. In this rare incident, Hitler gave in to Model, providing him with reinforcements and ability to call the shots from the field. In the subsequent campaign, he successfully defended against many Russian offensives, particularly at Rzhev.
ww2dbaseOn 23 May 1942, Model was wounded by a Russian sniper. With a punctured left lung he was immediately sent under an emergency operation procedure in a field hospital.
ww2dbaseIn Jul 1943 Model commanded the northern pincer during the summer offensive of Operation Citadel. His starting strength of 2,000 armor, 34 divisions, and 1,800 aircraft was powerful, but the numbers wore away against constant Russian pressure. He was criticized for not using this powerful force to aggressively attack the Russian forces; instead, he held back a good deal of his strength in reserves, fighting very conservatively. Georgi Zhukov who opposed him, on the other hand, had the distinct advantage of superior intelligence that halted the German offensive. When he began receiving orders from Berlin to withdraw, he was able to break out of the near envelopment at Oryol. En route, he gave the orders to systematically destroy Russian towns and villages in his path, therefore placing him on the list of German leaders the Allies wished to try as a war criminal.
ww2dbaseIn Jan 1944, Model was appointed commander in chief of Army Group North on the Russian front. In Mar 1944, he was promoted Field Marshal, immediately followed by the appointment to command Army Group Narva on 31 Mar, which was created out of Army Group North. In this new role, he was credited with the organization of a formidable passive defensive line in the face of a strong Russian advance, fighting a delay-action campaign to preserve strength. He was finally able to stop the Russian advance in Aug 1944 along the border of East Prussia; for this achievement he was given Swords to this Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves on 17 Aug 1944.
ww2dbaseThe failure in the face of the Russian offensives did not take way Model's reputation as one of Germany's top tacticians, particularly in defensive situations. He was generally well-liked by the soldiers because he never hesitated to visit the front. In fact, in late 1942 at Rzhev, he once took personal command of an infantry battalion and led a charge against a Russian position, waving his pistol. Berlin respected in a similar degree, allowing him to at times voice disagreement with orders from Berlin, even if they were from Hitler's own mouth. It was a feat not too many German commanders could duplicate without the fear of reprisals. Model lieutenants, though, did not like him as much, describing him as a harsh commander with sometimes unreasonable demands. Politically, he was for the most part neutral; he did not express strongly for or against Nazi policies, although by doing so he allowed the SS to commit atrocities without interference.
ww2dbaseIn Sep 1944 Model was replaced by Gerd von Rundstedt as he moved to the west fight against the Western Allies. The new assignment brought him to Belgium and Holland where he was able to slow the Allied advances effectively with the Army Group B, particularly during the Allied Operation Market Garden. Although he opposed the plan that eventually became the Ardennes Offensive, or the Battle of the Bulge to the Allies, he did what he could when the operation was launched. With his 30 divisions, he was able to make some significant initial progress, but in the end poor execution and the lack of supplies made the overall offensive a failure.
ww2dbaseBy the time the Allies crossed the Rhine, the German fighting spirit was already lost. Believing that a German Field Marshal should not surrender and unwilling to witness the end of Germany, Model committed suicide by putting a bullet to his head in a wooded area now known today as Ratingen. Germany surrendered two weeks later.
ww2dbaseIn 1955, Model's remains were moved to the German military cemetery Soldatenfriedhof Vossenack, Vossenack, Germany, where he now rests in peace.
ww2dbaseSources: Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern, Wikipedia.
Last Major Revision: Apr 2007
Walter Model Timeline
|24 Jan 1891||Walter Model was born.|
|16 Jul 1943||Generaloberst Walter Model, already the commanding officer of the German Ninth Army, assumed a second role as the commander of the Second Panzer Army upon the arrest of Generaloberst Rudolf Schmidt by the Gestapo.|
|17 Aug 1944||Walter Model was appointed the commanding officer of the German Army Group B (Heeresgruppe B), replacing Günther von Kluge.|
|19 Oct 1944||Feldmarschal Model called off the attempts to relieve Aachen, Germany.|
|15 Apr 1945||Field Marshal Model, Commander-in-Chief of German Army Group B, ordered all young soldiers and old soldiers to be discharged from the army. As civilians they were to make their own way home.|
|21 Apr 1945||Feldmarschall Model committed suicide.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945