Heinrich von Vietinghoff
|Heinrich von Vietinghoff|
6 December 1887|
|Died||23 February 1952
|Years of service||1903 – 1945|
|Commands held||XIII Corps
Army Group Courland
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||See "Military awards" section|
Heinrich Gottfried Otto Richard von Vietinghoff genannt (de: known as) Scheel (December 6, 1887 – February 23, 1952) was a German Colonel-General (Generaloberst) of the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) during the Second World War. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He is best known for commanding the German and Italian troops in German-occupied Italy in 1945.
Early life and family
Vietinghoff was born in Mainz, Grand Duchy of Hesse into a family of Westphalian Uradel. His military career was strongly supported by his parents, Artillery Lt. Gen. Heinrich Otto Konrad von Vietinghoff gen. Scheel (1857–1917) and Leona von Vietinghoff gen. Scheel (nee von Schmettow) (1861–1942). He joined the army at the age of 15, lying about his age in the first few years.
On 24 November 1938, Vietinghoff was appointed commander of the 5th Panzer Division and took part in the invasion of Poland under Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. He was promoted to General in June 1940 after which he led the German XLVI Panzer Corps in the invasion of Yugoslavia. During Operation Barbarossa his Corps was part of Army Group Centre under Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock. In this time, he had an accident after which he got his nickname "Panzerknacker" ("Tank breaker"). Von Vietinghoff also later served with General Heinz Guderian in the German Second Panzer Army.
From December 1941 to August 1943 he was Commander-in-Chief of the German Fifteenth Army in France (The HQ of the 15th Army is today a museum in Tourcoing, near Lille in northern France, Musée du 5 Juin 1944). In Italy from August 1943 onwards he commanded German Tenth Army, which was responsible for the telling delaying actions through the successive defensive lines built across Italy. Notable in this context were the defences on the Winter Line from November 1943 to May 1944 and the fighting in the autumn of 1944 on the Gothic Line. In October 1944 he was temporarily raised to overall command in Italy (Army Group C) when Field Marshal Albert Kesselring was seriously injured in a car crash. In January 1945, on Kesselring's return, he left Italy to command Army Group Courland in East Prussia. When Kesselring was moved in March 1945 to command German Army Command West (OB West) in France, von Vietinghoff returned as the supreme German commander in Italy.
At the end of April 1945, he made contact with the Allied forces and on April 29, his representative General Karl Wolff signed on his behalf at the Royal Palace in Caserta, that he agreed to surrender his troops on May 2, 1945 at noon. Afterwards he spent two and a half years in British captivity at Bridgend Island Farm (Special Camp XI) among numerous other German prisoners of war. He was released in September 1947.
After the war Vietinghoff was a member of the expert group dealing with the question of German rearmament. In October 1950 he wrote the Himmeroder memorandum on behalf of the Adenauer government, on West German contributions to European defence. He died on February 23, 1952 in Pfronten.
- Fähnrich: 6 March 1906
- Leutnant: 27 January 1907 (Patent 14 June 1905)
- Hauptmann: 24 June 1915
- Major: 1 March 1926
- Oberstleutnant: 1 February 1931
- Oberst: 1 April 1933
- Generalmajor: 1 April 1936
- Generalleutnant: 1 March 1938
- General der Panzertruppe: 1 June 1940
- Generaloberst: 1 September 1943 
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross - 24 June 1940
- Oakleaves (No. 456) to the Knight’s Cross - 16 April 1944
- German Cross in Gold - 22 April 1942
- Prussian Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight’s Cross with Swords - 18 April 1918
- Prussian Iron Cross
- 1st Class (1914) - 23 April 1915
- 2nd Class (1914) - 13 September 1914
- 1939 Bar to the Prussian Iron Cross
- 1st Class - 28 September 1939
- 2nd Class - 21 September 1939
- Medal for the Winter Campaign in Russia 1941-1942
- Saxon Albert Order, Knight 2nd Class with Swords
- Mecklenburg-Schwerin Military Merit Cross, 2nd Class
- Cross for Merit in War (Saxe-Meiningen)
- Hanseatic Cross of Lübeck
- Cross of Honor for Combatants 1914-1918
- Armed Forces Long Service Award, 1st Class (25 years)
- Armed Forces Long Service Award, 3rd Class (12 years)
- Austrian Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd Class with War Decoration
- Austrian Military Merit Cross, 3rd Class with War Decoration
- Ottoman War Medal (Iron Crescent)
- Bulgarian Military Merit Order (Officer’s Cross)
- Tank Battle Badge (Silver) (Panzerkampfabzeichen)
- Wound Badge in Black – World War I 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Heinrich Gottfried von Vietinghoff-Scheel.|
- Blaxland, Gregory (1979). Alexander's Generals (the Italian Campaign 1944-1945). London: William Kimber & Co. ISBN 0-7183-0386-5.
- 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.
- Exton, Brett; Bohannon, Shawn (February 2005). "Prisoners held at Special Camp 11: Generaloberst Heinrich-Gottfried von Vietinghoff gen. Scheel". Island Farm Prisoner of War Camp: 198 / Special Camp: XI Bridgend, South Wales (website). Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- Blaxland, p226
- Blaxland, p246
|Commander of 5th Panzer Division
September 2, 1939 - October 8, 1939
Generalleutnant Max von Hartlieb-Walsporn
General Walter von Reichenau
|Commander of 10. Armee
August 15, 1943-February 14, 1945
General Traugott Herr
General Lothar Rendulic
|Commander of Army Group Courland
January 27, 1945-March 10, 1945
General Lothar Rendulic
Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring
March 11, 1945 - May 2, 1945
- Saxe-Meiningen Honor Cross for Merit in War