German Sixth Army

German Sixth Army

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The 6th Army was a designation for German field armies
Field army
A Field Army, or Area Army, usually referred to simply as an Army, is a term used by many national military forces for a military formation superior to a corps and beneath an army group....

 which saw action in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The 6th Army is best known for fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, during which it became the first entire German field army to be completely destroyed. After the battle of Stalingrad, approximately 107,800 soldiers of the 6th Army entered Soviet captivity; only about 6,000 survived.

World War I


At the outbreak of World War I, command of the army was given to Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern
Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria
Rupprecht or Rupert, Crown Prince of Bavaria was the last Bavarian Crown Prince.His full title was His Royal Highness Rupprecht Maria Luitpold Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Bavaria, Duke of Bavaria, of Franconia and in Swabia, Count Palatine of the Rhine...

. The 6th Army initially consisted of the units of the Bavarian Army
Bavarian army
The Bavarian Army was the army of the Electorate and then Kingdom of Bavaria. It existed from 1682 as the standing army of Bavaria until the merger of the military sovereignty of Bavaria into that of the German State in 1919...

 (which had retained military soveriegnty after the unification of Germany
Unification of Germany
The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state officially occurred on 18 January 1871 at the Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm of the German...

), with some additional Prussian units. During the execution of Plan XVII
Plan XVII
Plan XVII was the name of a "scheme of mobilization and concentration" that was adopted by the French General Staff in 1913, to be put into effect by the French Army in the event of war between France and Germany but was not ‘a prescribed narrative for the campaign’ or battle...

, the 6th Army was stationed in the Central sector, covering Lorraine
Lorraine (province)
The Duchy of Upper Lorraine was an historical duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day northeastern Lorraine region of France, including parts of modern Luxembourg and Germany. The main cities were Metz, Verdun, and the historic capital Nancy....

.

In August 1914, in the Battle of Lorraine, Rupprecht's 6th Army managed to hold against the French offensive, using a feigned withdrawal to lure the advancing armies onto prepared defensive positions.

After the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 turned to stalemate and the opposing forces formed lines of trenches
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

, the 6th Army was based in Northern France. Most of the Bavarian units were gradually dispersed to other commands, with units from outside Bavaria joining the 6th Army. Nevertheless, command of the 6th Army remained with the Bavarian Crown Prince, who would eventually come to be regarded as one of Germany's most able generals.

On 24 September 1915, the 6th Army was the target for the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

's first chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 gas attack of the war. Despite the horrific casualties inflicted, the British offensive became bogged down after several days.

Rupprecht was promoted to the rank of field marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 (Generalfeldmarschall
Generalfeldmarschall
Field Marshal or Generalfeldmarschall in German, was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire; in the Austrian Empire, the rank Feldmarschall was used...

) in July 1916 and assumed command of Army Group Rupprecht on 28 August that year, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th Armies. Following Rupprecht's promotion, command of the 6th Army was given to General Ludwig von Falkenhausen
Ludwig von Falkenhausen
Ludwig Freiherr von Falkenhausen was a German general most notable for his activities during World War I.- Biography :Falkenhausen was born in Guben. His parents were the Prussian Lieutenant-General D...

.

In March 1917, the 6th Army was the target for the assault of the Canadian and British forces at the Battle of Vimy Ridge
Battle of Vimy Ridge
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the Canadian Corps, of four divisions, against three divisions of the German Sixth Army...

. The 6th Army under von Falkenhausen suffered over 20,000 casualties in the ensuing fighting and were pushed back from the ridge by the Canadian Corps
Canadian Corps
The Canadian Corps was a World War I corps formed from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1915 after the arrival of the 2nd Canadian Division in France. The corps was expanded by the addition of the 3rd Canadian Division in December 1915 and the 4th Canadian Division in August 1916...

.

Order of Battle – August 1914, Lorraine

  • Armee-Oberkommando 6
    • Königlich Bayerisches Fußartillerie Brigade-Oberkommando 1
    • Pionier-General 5
    • Königlich Bayerische 5 Gemischte Landwehrbrigade
  • XXI.Armeekorps
    • 31. Infanteriedivision
      31st Division (German Empire)
      The 31st Division was a unit of the Prussian/German Army. It was formed on March 20, 1871, and was headquartered in Straßburg until 1912, and then in Saarbrücken. The division was subordinated in peacetime to the XV Army Corps until 1912, and then to the XXI Army Corps...

    • 42. Infanteriedivision
      42nd Division (German Empire)
      The 42nd Division was a unit of the Prussian/German Army. It was formed on October 1, 1912, and was the last regular division created in the Imperial German Army. It was headquartered in Saarburg in Lothringen . The division was subordinated in peacetime to the XXI Army Corps...

  • I. Königlich Bayerisches Armeekorps
    • 1. Königlich Bayerische Infanteriedivision
      1st Royal Bavarian Division
      The 1st Royal Bavarian Division was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army which served alongside the Prussian Army as part of the Imperial German Army. The division was formed on November 27, 1815 as the Infantry Division of the Munich General Command...

    • 2. Königlich Bayerische Infanteriedivision
      2nd Royal Bavarian Division
      The 2nd Royal Bavarian Division was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army which served alongside the Prussian Army as part of the Imperial German Army. The division was formed on November 27, 1815 as the Infantry Division of the Munich General Command...

  • II.Königlich Bayerisches Armeekorps
    • 3. Königlich Bayerische Infanteriedivision
      3rd Royal Bavarian Division
      The 3rd Royal Bavarian Division was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army which served alongside the Prussian Army as part of the Imperial German Army. The division was formed on November 27, 1815 as an Infantry Division of the Würzburg General Command...

    • 4. Königlich Bayerische Infanteriedivision
      4th Royal Bavarian Division
      The 4th Royal Bavarian Division was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army which served alongside the Prussian Army as part of the Imperial German Army. The division was formed on November 27, 1815 as an Infantry Division of the Würzburg General Command...

  • III.Königlich Bayerisches Armeekorps
    • 5. Königlich Bayerische Infanteriedivision
      5th Royal Bavarian Division
      The 5th Royal Bavarian Division was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army which served alongside the Prussian Army as part of the Imperial German Army. The division was formed on October 1, 1890 in Landau as the 5th Division and swapped division numbers with the Nuremberg-based 3rd Royal Bavarian...

    • 6. Königlich Bayerische Infanteriedivision
      6th Royal Bavarian Division
      The 6th Royal Bavarian Division was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army which served alongside the Prussian Army as part of the Imperial German Army. The division was formed on April 1, 1900 and was headquartered in Regensburg...

  • I.Königlich Bayerisches Reservekorps
    • 1. Königlich Bayerische Reservedivision
      1st Bavarian Reserve Division (German Empire)
      The 1st Bavarian Reserve Division was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army, part of the German Army, in World War I. The division was formed on mobilization of the German Army in August 1914. The division was disbanded in 1919 during the demobilization of the German Army after World War I. The...

    • 5. Königlich Bayerische Reservedivision
      5th Bavarian Reserve Division (German Empire)
      The 5th Bavarian Reserve Division was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army, part of the German Army, in World War I. The division was formed on mobilization of the German Army in August 1914. The division was disbanded in 1919 during the demobilization of the German Army after World War I...


Western campaigns


Originally numbered as the 10th Army, this combat unit was formed on October 10, 1939 with General Walther von Reichenau
Walther von Reichenau
Walter von Reichenau was a German Generalfeldmarschall during World War II.-History:Reichenau was born in Karlsruhe to a Prussian general and joined the German Army in 1903. During World War I he served on the Western Front...

 in command. Its primary mission was to guard the western defenses of Germany against British and French attacks during the Polish campaign. During the invasion of the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

 the 6th Army saw active service linking up with paratroopers and destroying fortifications at Eben Emael, Liège, and Namur
Namur (city)
Namur is a city and municipality in Wallonia, in southern Belgium. It is both the capital of the province of Namur and of Wallonia....

 during the Battle of Belgium
Battle of Belgium
The Battle of Belgium or Belgian Campaign formed part of the greater Battle of France, an offensive campaign by Germany during the Second World War...

. The 6th Army was then involved in the breakthrough of the Paris defences on June 12, 1940, before acting as a northern flank for German forces along the Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 coast during the closing stages of the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

.

Eastern campaign


The 6th Army began its involvement in the Russian Campaign as the spearhead of Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

. Shortly after being promoted to Field Marshal, von Reichenau died in an aircraft accident while being transported to a hospital after a heart attack in January 1942. He was succeeded by his former chief of staff, General der Panzertruppen Friedrich Paulus
Friedrich Paulus
Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus was an officer in the German military from 1910 to 1945. He attained the rank of Generalfeldmarschall during World War II, and is best known for having commanded the Sixth Army's assault on Stalingrad during Operation Blue in 1942...

. Paulus led the 6th Army to a major victory at the Second Battle of Kharkov
Second Battle of Kharkov
The Second Battle of Kharkov, so named by Wilhelm Keitel, was an Axis counter-offensive against the Red Army Izium bridgehead offensive conducted from 12 May to 28 May 1942, on the Eastern Front during World War II. Its objective was to eliminate the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets, or the...

 during the spring of 1942. This victory sealed the 6th Army's destiny because it was selected by the OKH for the attack on Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

.

The 6th Army failed to obtain a quick victory; winter came and with it Operation Uranus
Operation Uranus
Operation Uranus was the codename of the Soviet strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies, and portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, and was...

 – the massive attack by Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 forces on the flanks of the German corridor between the Don and Volga rivers 19 to 23 November 1942. The 6th Army was isolated and a major relief operation, Operation Wintergewitter, which eventually failed, was undertaken by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein was a field marshal in World War II. He became one of the most prominent commanders of Germany's World War II armed forces...

. Paulus was promoted by Hitler to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall on 31 January 1943 ostensibly in part because until that day no German Field Marshal had ever surrendered. In other words, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 expected Paulus to commit suicide, but Paulus soon surrendered to the Soviet Forces, contrary to orders by his political chief. The remaining forces of the 6th Army, under the independent command of General Karl Strecker
Karl Strecker
Karl Strecker was a highly decorated Generaloberst in the Wehrmacht during World War II who commanded several corps....

, surrendered three days after in the Tractor Factory, at the north of Stalingrad. Although that was not the definitive end of the 6th Army on this occasion, it was one of the worst military disasters in German history
History of Germany
The concept of Germany as a distinct region in central Europe can be traced to Roman commander Julius Caesar, who referred to the unconquered area east of the Rhine as Germania, thus distinguishing it from Gaul , which he had conquered. The victory of the Germanic tribes in the Battle of the...

. For the first time, an entire German field army had been completely destroyed.

Reformation – Battles in the East


During the last days of the Stalingrad encirclement, Hitler, in denial of events, had one man from every division in the 6th Army flown out in order to 'reconstitute' a new 6th Army (A.O.K. 6). This new formation became active on 5 March 1943, and was commanded by General Karl-Adolf Hollidt
Karl-Adolf Hollidt
Karl-Adolf Hollidt was a German commander during the Second World War.-Early life:His father was a local secondary school teacher and he was educated in his hometown of Speyer...

 and based on Army Detachment Hollidt. It later fought in Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 as part of Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

 and Army Group South Ukraine
Army Group South Ukraine
Army Group South Ukraine was a German army group on the Eastern Front during World War II.Army Group South Ukraine was created on 31 March 1944...

. The army was again largely destroyed in a large encirclement during the Iassy-Kishinev Operation
Battle of Romania (1944)
The Jassy–Kishinev Operation, named after the two major cities, Iaşi and Chişinău, in the staging area, was a Soviet offensive against Axis forces, which took place in Eastern Romania from 20–29 August 1944...

, but this time the army HQ survived. The 6th Army was the only German army to be encircled and destroyed thrice (including the final capitulation).

Army Group Fretter-Pico


In October 1944, under the command of General of Artillery Maximilian Fretter-Pico
Maximilian Fretter-Pico
Maximilian Fretter-Pico was a German general during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves...

, the 6th Army encircled and destroyed three Soviet tank corps of Mobile Group Pliyev under the command of Issa Pliyev
Issa Pliyev
Issa Alexandrovich Pliyev was a Soviet military commander, Army General , twice Hero of the Soviet Union , Hero of the Mongolian People's Republic . Member of the CPSU since 1926. He was an ethnic Ossetian....

 in the Battle of Debrecen
Battle of Debrecen
The Battle of Debrecen, called by the Red Army the Debrecen Offensive Operation, was conducted by the 2nd Ukrainian Front on the Eastern Front of World War II...

. During this time, the 6th Army had the Hungarian Second Army
Hungarian Second Army
The Hungarian Second Army was one of three field armies raised by the Kingdom of Hungary which saw action during World War II. All three armies were formed on March 1, 1940...

 placed under its command, and it was known as "Army Group Fretter-Pico" (Armeegruppe Fretter-Pico).

Command passed to General der Panzertruppen Hermann Balck
Hermann Balck
Hermann Balck was a career German army officer who served in both World War I and World War II, rising to the rank of General der Panzertruppe. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds...

 in December 1944. In January 1945, one of the 6th Army's subordinate units, the (IX SS Mountain Corps), was encircled in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

. SS-Gruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille
Herbert Otto Gille
Herbert Otto Gille was a German general, and as a winner of the Knight's Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds and of the German Cross in Gold, the most highly decorated member of the Waffen SS during World War II...

's (IV SS Panzer Corps
IV SS Panzer Corps
The IV.SS-Panzerkorps was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans during World War II.The Panzerkorps was formed in August, 1943 in Poitiers, France...

) was transferred to the 6th Army's command and a relief attempt, codenamed Operation Konrad
Operation Konrad
Operation Konrad was the German-Hungarian effort to relieve the encircled garrison of Budapest during the Battle of Budapest in January 1945. The operation was divided into three parts:...

, was launched during the 46-day long Siege of Budapest.

Army Group Balck


After the failure of Konrad III, the 6th Army was made part of "Army Group Balck" (Armeegruppe Balck). This army group fell back to the area near Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in Central Europe, and one of its foremost tourist destinations. As Hungary is landlocked , Lake Balaton is often affectionately called the "Hungarian Sea"...

. Several units, including the III Tank Corps (III.Panzerkorps), were involved in Operation Spring Awakening
Operation Frühlingserwachen
Operation Frühlingserwachen was the last major German offensive launched during World War II. The offensive was launched in Hungary on the Eastern Front...

 (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen
Operation Frühlingserwachen
Operation Frühlingserwachen was the last major German offensive launched during World War II. The offensive was launched in Hungary on the Eastern Front...

), while the rest of the Sixth Army provided defence for the left flank of the offensive, in the region near Székesfehérvár
Székesfehérvár
Székesfehérvár is a city in central Hungary and is the 9th largest in the country. Located around southwest of Budapest. It is inhabited by 101,973 people , with 136,995 in the Székesfehérvár Subregion. The city is the centre of Fejér county and the regional centre of Central Transdanubia...

. After the failure of the offensive, the Sixth Army held the line until a major Soviet offensive, the Vienna Operation
Vienna Offensive
The Vienna Offensive was launched by the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front in order to capture Vienna, Austria. The offensive lasted from 2–13 April 1945...

 on 15 March 1945. This offensive tore a gap in the 6th Army between the IV SS Tank Corps (IV. SS-Panzerkorps) and the 3rd Hungarian Army
Hungarian Third Army
The Hungarian Third Army was a Hungarian field army which saw action during World War II.-Commanders:* Lieutenant General Elemér Gorondy-Novák from 1 March 1940 to 1 November 1941* Lieutenant General Zoltán Decleva from 1 November 1941 to 1 December 1942...

 (subordinated to Balck's command), shattering the formation.

By the end of March 1945, the 6th Army was involved in a retreat towards Vienna. The shattered remnants of 6th Army surrendered to the Americans on 9 May 1945.

Commanders


The 6th Army was commanded by the Oberkommando der 6. Armee (AOK 6) (English: "Supreme Command of the 6th Army"). Its commanders-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 were:
  • Field Marshal Walther von Reichenau
    Walther von Reichenau
    Walter von Reichenau was a German Generalfeldmarschall during World War II.-History:Reichenau was born in Karlsruhe to a Prussian general and joined the German Army in 1903. During World War I he served on the Western Front...

     (10 October 1939 – 29 December 1941)
  • Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus
    Friedrich Paulus
    Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus was an officer in the German military from 1910 to 1945. He attained the rank of Generalfeldmarschall during World War II, and is best known for having commanded the Sixth Army's assault on Stalingrad during Operation Blue in 1942...

     (30 December 1941 – 3 February 1943)
  • General Karl-Adolf Hollidt
    Karl-Adolf Hollidt
    Karl-Adolf Hollidt was a German commander during the Second World War.-Early life:His father was a local secondary school teacher and he was educated in his hometown of Speyer...

     (5 March 1943 – 7 April 1944)
  • General Maximilian de Angelis (8 April 1944 – 16 July 1944)
  • General Maximilian Fretter-Pico
    Maximilian Fretter-Pico
    Maximilian Fretter-Pico was a German general during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves...

     (17 July 1944 – 22 December 1944)
  • General Hermann Balck
    Hermann Balck
    Hermann Balck was a career German army officer who served in both World War I and World War II, rising to the rank of General der Panzertruppe. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds...

     (23 December 1944 – 8 May 1945)

Chiefs of staff

  • General Arthur Schmidt
    Arthur Schmidt (soldier)
    Arthur Schmidt was an officer in the German military from 1914 to 1943. He attained the rank of Generalleutnant during World War II, and is best known for his role as the Sixth Army's chief of staff in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942–43, during the final stages of which he became its de facto...

    (15 May 1942 – 3 February 1943)