Johann Mickl wearing the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
18 April 1893|
Radkersburg, Austro-Hungarian Empire
|Died||10 April 1945
|Years of service||
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Order of the Iron Crown 3rd Class (Austria-Hungary)
Military Merit Cross 3rd Class (Austria-Hungary)
Military Merit Medal for Bravery in Silver and bar (Austria-Hungary)
Johann Mickl (18 April 1893 – 10 April 1945) was an Austrian-born Generalleutnant (lieutenant general) and division commander in the German Army during World War II. He served with Austro-Hungarian forces on the Eastern and Italian Fronts in World War I, and with the Austrian Army until the Anchluss in 1938, when it was absorbed by the Wehrmacht. He fought in the invasion of Poland and Battle of France, then commanded divisions during the German campaigns in North Africa, on the Eastern Front and against the Yugoslav Partisans before dying of wounds inflicted in the last month of the war. He was one of only 882 recipients of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
Early life and career
Mickl was born Johann Mikl in Zelting, Radkersburg, which was part of the Duchy of Styria within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father Mathias was a German farmer from Terbegofzen, and his mother Maria (née Dervarič), was from Zelting, and of at least partially Slovene heritage. Mikl had a twin brother, Alois, who was killed in action in 1915 in Galicia near Lemberg, present-day Lviv in the Ukraine. As a child, Mikl spoke German, Slovene and Hungarian, and remained fluent in all three throughout his life.
After entering a cadet school in Vienna in the Imperial-Royal Landwehr in 1908, he was accepted at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt in 1911. Described as slim and tall, Leutnant Mikl graduated on 1 August 1914 and was posted to the recently mobilised 4th Imperial-Royal Landwehr Infantry Regiment (LIR 4), which formed part of the Imperial-Royal Mountain Troops. LIR 4 was a purely Carinthian regiment, and wore the mountain cap (German: Bergmütze) and the Edelweiss badge. As part of the 22nd Rifle Division, Mikl's regiment entrained for the Eastern Front, were offloaded in Stryj in Galicia and marched into the area of Złoczów to take up a position on the Złota Lipa River. Its baptism of fire was an attack on the Russians during which it received inadequate artillery support and suffered heavy casualties. One of those wounded was Mikl, who was shot in the chest. He remained in a military hospital until 15 April 1915, and was then employed in the regimental replacement battalion as an instructor.
On 1 June 1915, LIR 4 received orders to be transferred to the Southern Front, as Italy had entered the war against the Central Powers the previous month. This order was countermanded the following morning when the Russians launched an offensive in the Kolomea region and the Austrians suffered serious reverses. LIR 4 was immediately committed to the battle. The army commander, General Karl von Pflanzer-Baltin later stated that it was the courage of LIR 4 that had stopped the Russians. Mikl had led from the front during the fighting, especially when his company formed the regimental rear guard during the withdrawal from the Pruth river on 3 June. At one point, Mikl used parts of a damaged train to build a defensive position. He was wounded several times during the fighting, but remained with his soldiers. For his actions and "demonstrated personal bravery", Mikl was awarded the Military Merit Cross 3rd Class with War Decoration (German: Militärverdienstkreuz III. Klasse und Kriegsdekoration).
By late September, LIR 4 had been transferred to the Flitsch valley in the Julian Alps on the Southern Front, and Mikl had been promoted to Oberleutnant and placed in command of the 2nd Company. A fairly quiet winter followed. 
After being wounded again while fighting the Italians on the Southern Front in 1916–17, he was awarded the Silver Medal for Bravery and bar. This was followed by a posting to the regimental replacement battalion as an instructor. In August 1917, Mikl was appointed to command a machine gun company, and served in the Battle of Caporetto and the subsequent advance to the Piave river. In early 1918, Mikl attended a preparatory course for future attendance at the War College (German: Kriegsschule) in Vienna, and when the war ended he was posted to the 54th Rifle Division.
Between the wars
The dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was dissolved on 31 October 1918 at the end of World War I. Consequently many new nation states have emerged in the territory formerly belonging to the realm as nationalist movements had called for a greater degree of autonomy and full independence. The Duchy of Styria was divided between the new states of German-Austria and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, but the exact line of the new border was unclear. Mickl's hometown of Radkersburg, an important railway junction point, was of economic importance to both sides. The Slovenes occupied the city on 1 December 1918. In 1919, Mikl served in the Volkswehr militia, and using arms provided by the provincial government of Carinthia, unsuccessfully attempted to recapture the town of Radkersburg from forces of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to ensure it remained part of German-Austria. The provincial government of Styria, which had not supported Mikl's actions, subsequently issued a warrant ordering Mikl's arrest for treason. Despite his failure, his actions were very important in demonstrating to those negotiating the final border that towns along the northern bank of the Mura river were German. When the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was signed later in 1919, the town of Radkersburg was retained within what became the First Austrian Republic.
In 1920, Mikl was accepted by the new Austrian Army (German: Bundesheer), and during 1920–21 was rapidly promoted to Hauptmann (captain) and posted to a cyclist battalion. In 1922, he changed his name to the more Germanised Mickl and married Helene Zischka in Klagenfurt; their only child, Manfred, was born in 1923.[a] In 1928, he was promoted to the rank of Major, and on 26 July 1930, he was appointed an honorary citizen (German: Ehrenbürger) of the town of Radkersburg. He was placed on the general staff officer list in 1935, followed by a posting to the headquarters of the 3rd Division at St. Pölten, and was promoted to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) the following year. After the Anschluss of 1938, he was absorbed at that rank into the German Army. He attended several months training at the Panzertruppenschule II (Armoured Troops School No. 2) in Wünsdorf south of Berlin, before being given command of the 42nd Panzerjäger (anti-tank) Battalion of the 2nd Light Division.
World War II
Poland and France
Mickl commanded the 42nd Panzerjäger Battalion of Generalmajor (brigadier) Georg Stumme's 2nd Light Division during the invasion of Poland, for which he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class. He remained in charge of the battalion during the Battle of France when the division, renamed the 7th Panzer Division, was commanded by Generalmajor Erwin Rommel. Mickl got along well with Rommel, and his battalion fought well but suffered serious casualties during the Battle of Arras while trying to stop the heavily armoured tanks of the British 1st Army Tank Brigade with its 37 mm anti-tank guns. Mickl was promoted to Oberst (colonel) and was also awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class in June 1940. After the French surrender, Mickl was attached to the division's 25th Panzer Regiment to gain more knowledge about armoured tactics, and in December 1940 was appointed to command the 7th Rifle Regiment of the division. He remained in this role during occupation duties in southwestern France, redeployment to Germany, and during the division's preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
In late May 1941, Mickl was suddenly transferred to North Africa at Rommel's request, and was appointed to command the 155th Rifle Regiment of the composite Afrika (Special Purpose) Division. During the North African campaign Mickl and his regiment fought in the Siege of Tobruk and the Battle of Sidi Rezegh, but Mickl was captured by elements of the New Zealand Division on 26 November 1941. Under guard at a temporary collection point, Mickl quickly organised the 800 prisoners of war who overwhelmed the camp guard. The group then escaped across the desert to the west, eventually reaching the German lines. Rommel recommended Mickl for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, which was awarded in December 1941. When his division commander, Generalmajor Max Sümmermann, was killed on 10 December 1941, Mickl was appointed to temporarily command the division for the rest of the month. The harsh conditions of desert warfare had begun to affect Mickl's health, so at the end of December he was sent back to Europe for several weeks' rest.
In March 1942, Mickl was appointed to command the 12th Rifle Brigade of Generalmajor Erpo Freiherr von Bodenhausen's 12th Panzer Division, which was deployed in Reichskommissariat Ostland (today's Estonia), resting and rebuilding after the Red Army Winter Campaign of 1941–42. The division was the main reserve formation of Army Group North, and was soon committed to fighting south of Leningrad, managing to stop Red Army attempts to relieve the city at significant cost. By January 1943, the division was so depleted by losses that it did not need a brigade headquarters to command its infantry regiments, and Mickl's staff was disbanded. He was transferred to the Army Headquarters officers' reserve pool (German: Oberkommando des Heeres Führerreserve), and was promoted to Generalmajor and awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves by Adolf Hitler in March.
In May 1943, Mickl was appointed as commander of the 11th Panzer Division, which had not yet finished rebuilding after suffering serious losses during the attempted relief of Stalingrad in December 1942 and during the Third Battle of Kharkov in February and March 1943. In July and August 1943, the division was committed to the Battle of Kursk as part of Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Erich von Manstein's Army Group South, and suffered more heavy losses. The severely mauled division was redeployed north, and participated in the Battle of Belgorod in late July and early August. On 8 August, Mickl was relieved of command.
After three weeks leave, Mickl was sent to Austria to train and command the 392nd (Croatian) Infantry Division. Commencing on 17 August 1943, the 392nd was assembled and trained in Austria as the third and last Croatian division raised for service in the Wehrmacht, following its sister divisions the 369th and the 373rd. One infantry regiment and the divisional artillery regiment formed in Döllersheim, the other infantry regiment in Zwettl, the signals battalion in Stockerau and the pioneer battalion in Krems. It was built around a cadre of 3,500 German troops, and 8,500 soldiers of the Croatian Home Guard, the regular army of the Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH). The division was commanded by Germans down to battalion and even company level in nearly all cases, and was commonly referred to as a "legionnaire division". Although originally intended for use on the Eastern Front, the division was never utilised outside the NDH, and returned there in January 1944 to combat the Partisans in the western parts of the puppet state.
Mickl's task was to secure the Adriatic coastline along the Croatian Littoral between Rijeka and Karlobag (including all islands except Krk) and about 60 kilometres (37 mi) inland. This task included securing the crucial supply route between Karlovac and Senj. These areas, and in particular the port of Senj, had been largely dominated by the Partisans since the Italian capitulation in autumn 1943. Mickl and his division were placed under the command of the XV Mountain Corps as part of the 2nd Panzer Army, and he established his headquarters in Karlovac. He also took over responsibility for the security of the Zagreb–Karlovac railway line from the 1st Cossack Division. In April 1944, Mickl was promoted to Generalleutnant. After an inauspicious start, during which some of his Croatian soldiers panicked and their German leaders were quickly wounded, the division was able to relieve some isolated garrisons. The division was subject to constant ambushes and interdiction of supply lines by the Partisans, and a lack of mountain artillery made fighting in the rugged terrain even harder.
Death and legacy
During the last few months of the war, the division was engaged in the defence of the northern Adriatic coast and Lika. Mickl was shot in the head by Partisans near Senj on 9 April 1945, and died in hospital in Rijeka the following day.
In 1967, the Austrian Armed Forces barracks (Mickl-Kaserne) in Bad Radkersburg were named after him, and they were used continuously by the Austrian Armed Forces for 44 years until 30 September 2008.
- Leutnant – 1 August 1914
- Oberleutnant – 1 May 1915
- Hauptmann – 1921
- Major – 1928
- Oberstleutnant – 16 January 1936
- Oberst – 1 June 1940
- Generalmajor – 1 March 1943
- Generalleutnant – 1 April 1944
Awards and decorations
- Military Merit Cross 3rd Class (16 October 1915)
- Order of the Iron Crown 3rd Class (22 March 1916)
- Military Merit Medal for Bravery
- Karl Troop Cross (8 September 1917)
- Wound Medal with 5 Stripes (10 March 1918)
- Special Carinthian Cross for Bravery (3 April 1920)
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Panzer Badge in Bronze (24 September 1940)
- Wound Badge in Black (25 December 1941)
- Infantry Assault Badge (22 July 1942)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Manfred, a Leutnant with the pioneers, and his fiancée, were both killed by an aerial bomb on 25 September 1944 in Vienna, Austria. He had been on his way to see his father to ask for his consent to get married. Mickl's wife, Helene, died in July 1946 of cancer. See: Richter & Kobe 1983, pp. 135, 149.
- According to Von Seemen as leader of Schützen-Regiment 155 Afrika. See: Von Seemen 1976, p. 241.
- Richter 1994, pp. 456–457.
- Mitcham 2007, p. 147.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, pp. 13, 35.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, p. 17.
- Richter 1994, p. 457.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, p. 18.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, p. 21.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, p. 22.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, p. 23.
- Egger 1974, p. 265.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, p. 46.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, p. 42.
- Egger 1974, pp. 265–266.
- Egger 1974, p. 266.
- Glaise von Horstenau 1980, p. 348.
- Richter & Kobe 1983, p. 157.
- Mitcham 2007, p. 150.
- Thomas 1998, p. 81.
- Mitcham 2007, pp. 150–151.
- Mitcham 2007, p. 151.
- Nipe 2011, p. 244.
- Schraml 1962, p. 230.
- Tomasevich 2001, pp. 267–268.
- Tomasevich 2001, p. 267.
- Tomasevich 2001, p. 304.
- Schraml 1962, p. 231.
- Schraml 1962, pp. 242–247.
- Tomasevich 2001, pp. 463 & 771.
- Österreichs Bundesheer 2008.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 311.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 544.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 67.
- Von Seemen 1976, p. 33.
- Egger, R. (1974). "Mickl, Johann (1893–1945), Generalmajor". Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815–1950 [Austrian Biographical Encyclopedia] (in German) 6. Vienna, Austria: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. pp. 265–266. ISBN 978-3-7001-3213-4.
- 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.
- Glaise von Horstenau, Edmund (1980). Broucek, Peter, ed. Ein General im Zwielicht: K.u.k. Generalstabsoffizier und Historiker [A General in the Twilight: K.u.k. General staff officer and historian] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Böhlau Verlag Wien. ISBN 978-3-205-08740-3.
- Mitcham, Samuel W. (2007). Rommel's Lieutenants: The Men Who Served the Desert Fox, France, 1940. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Security International. ISBN 978-0-275-99185-2.
- Nipe, George M. (2011). Blood, Steel, & Myth : The II. SS-Panzer-Korps and the road to Prochorowka, July 1943. Southbury, Connecticut: Newbury. ISBN 978-0-9748389-4-6.
- Richter, Heinz (1994). "Mickl (eigentlich Mikl), Johann". Neue deutsche Biographie, Melander – Moller [New German Biography, Melander – Moller] (in German) 17. Berlin, Germany: Duncker & Humblot. pp. 456–457. ISBN 978-3-428-00286-3.
- Richter, Heinz; Kobe, Gerd (1983). Bei den Gewehren—General Johann Mickl—Ein Soldatenschicksal [To the Guns—General Johann Mickl—A Soldiers Fate] (in German). Bad Radkersburg, Austria: Selbstverlag der Stadt Bad Radkersburg. ASIN B003DKFQUS (12 September 2013).
- Schraml, Franz (1962). Kriegsschauplatz Kroatien die deutsch-kroatischen Legions-Divisionen: 369., 373., 392. Inf.-Div. (kroat.) ihre Ausbildungs- und Ersatzformationen [The Croatian Theatre of War: German-Croatian Legion divisions: the 369th, 373rd and 392nd (Croatian) Infantry Divisions and their Training and Replacement Units] (in German). Neckargemünd, Germany: K. Vowinckel. OCLC 4215438.
- 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.
- Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 : The Knight's Cross Bearers of All the Armed Services, Diamonds, Swords and Oak Leaves Bearers in the Order of Presentation: Appendix with Further Information and Presentation Requirements] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9.
- Tomasevich, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3615-2.
- Österreichs Bundesheer (2008). "Ende der militärischen Nutzung der Mickl-Kaserne" [End of the military use of Mickl Barracks] (in German). Retrieved 6 September 2013.
Generalmajor Max Sümmermann
|Commander of 90th Light Infantry Division
11 December 1941 – 27 December 1941
Generalmajor Richard Veith
General der Infanterie Dietrich von Choltitz
|Commander of 11th Panzer Division
15 May 1943 – 10 August 1943
Generalleutnant Wend von Wietersheim
|Commander of 392nd (Croatian) Infantry Division
17 August 1943 – 10 April 1945