Hans von Salmuth

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Hans Eberhard Kurt von Salmuth
Born (1888-11-11)11 November 1888
Metz, Alsace-Lorraine
Died 1 January 1962(1962-01-01) (aged 73)
Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (to 1945)
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1907-1945
Rank Generaloberst
Unit Heeresgruppe B
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
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 World War I, a staff officer in the inter-war period and early World War II, and 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[edit]

Born in Metz, Alsace-Lorraine, into a Prussian military family, he joined the German Army on 19 September 1907. He served in the First World War. By the war's end, he had reached the rank of captain (hauptmann).

He stayed 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 Chief of Staff to 1st Army Group Command. In 1938 he was assigned as Chief of Staff for the Second Army. He was promoted to the rank of major-general on 1 August 1939.

The Second World War[edit]

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 successful invasion of Poland.

von 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 crushing defeat of the Allies in Case Yellow and the surrender of France, von Salmuth was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 19 July 1940. On 1 August 1940, he was promoted to lieutenant-general (general der infanterie).

In 1941, von Salmuth was assigned to the Eastern Front. On 10 May, he was given command of the XXX Corps. Von Salmuth participated in Operation Barbarossa and saw service in the Crimea. The XXX Corps under the command of General von Salmuth successfully 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 command of the Fourth Army, replacing the former commander, Gotthard Heinrici, who went on leave. In mid July 1942, he was made commander of the Second Army.

von Salmuth was promoted to full general (generaloberst, literally "colonel-general", the second highest World War II-era German officer rank, the highest being generalfeldmarschall), in January 1943. On 3 February 1943, he turned 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 important Fifteenth Army stationed in the Pas-de-Calais area of France. The Pas-de-Calais area was that part of the Atlantic Wall believed by Adolf Hitler to be where the Allies would choose for the D-Day invasion, and 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 German Seventh Army.

Hans von Salmuth wrote this anecdote in his diary about the morning of the D-Day invasion, 6 June 1944:

"At 6 A.M., since it had been daylight for an hour and a half, I had my Chief of Staff telephone Seventh Army again to ask if the enemy had landed anywhere yet. The reply was, ‘Fleets of troop transports and warships big and small are lying at various points offshore, with masses of landing craft. But so far no landing has yet taken place.’ Thereupon I went back to sleep with a calm mind, after telling my Chief of Staff ‘—So their invasion has miscarried already!"[citation needed]

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

Von 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 roughly 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 for Germany ended approximately nine months later, in May 1945.

After World War II, Nuremberg trials, and retirement[edit]

After the war, von 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 (ACC) Law No. 10. Von Salmuth was tried in the High Command Trial and found guilty of war crimes against prisoners of war and enemy belligerents, and crimes against humanity involving civilians in occupied countries and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. However, he was released early after serving only five years, in 1953. He died in Heidelberg, West Germany, in 1962. He was buried in the Nordfriedhof cemetery located in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Service record[edit]

Date of rank[edit]

(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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

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 Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 

External links used as references[edit]

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