Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg

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Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg
Geyr von Schweppenburg.jpg
Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg
Born (1886-03-02)2 March 1886
Potsdam, Kingdom of Prussia,
German Empire
Died 27 January 1974(1974-01-27) (aged 87)
Irschenhausen near Munich,
West Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Wehrmacht
Years of service 1904–1945
Rank General der Panzertruppe
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Leo Dietrich Franz Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg[a] (2 March 1886 – 27 January 1974) was a German cavalry officer in World War I and a general during World War II. He was particularly noted for his expertise in armoured warfare and his command of Panzer Group West during the Invasion of Normandy.

Biography[edit]

Geyr was born in Potsdam and joined the German Army in 1904. In World War I he fought on several fronts and rose to the rank of captain. Already known as a very competent officer, he was even praised by Erich Ludendorff for possessing a razor sharp mind. After the war, he remained in the army, becoming an Oberst in 1932, and a Generalmajor in 1935. From 1933 to 1937, he was a military attaché to the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands, residing in London. Returning from London, he was promoted to Generalleutnant upon taking command of the 3rd Panzer (armoured) Division in 1937.

From 1 September – 7 October 1939 Geyr commanded the 3rd Panzer Division in the Polish campaign, where it was the most numerically powerful Panzer Division, with 391 tanks. His performance in Poland won him a personal commendation from Hitler, and promotion to General der Kavallerie of the XXIV Panzer Corps on 15 February 1940. In 1940 he commanded the XXIV Panzer Corps in the Invasion of France. 1941, in the invasion of the Soviet Union, Geyr’s XXIV Panzer Corps was part of General Heinz Guderian’s Second Panzer Army, which spearheaded the advance of Army Group Centre in the drive toward Moscow. On 9 July 1941, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross as General der Panzertruppe. From 9 July – 1 October 1942 he was commanding General of the XL Panzer Corps, taking part in the fighting in the Caucasus.

Geyr remained in service on the Eastern Front, and in early 1943 was moved west with orders to form and train new units to face the expected Allied invasion of France, starting with the LXXVI Army Corps. In the spring of 1943 Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt ordered Geyr to prepare a force of 10 Panzer and motorised infantry divisions. On 19 November 1943 Geyr's command was formalised as Panzer Group West, which had responsibility for the training and formation of all armoured units in the west. This group of armoured divisions near Paris constituted the Germans’ main force of tanks in France. In the event of an Allied landing on the northern French coast, Panzer Group West was expected to counterattack northward and halt the invasion force. The commander of army forces in northern France, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, wanted to station Geyr’s tank divisions as close to the coast as possible, in order to defeat the Allies before they could move inland from the landing beaches. Geyr and Rommel’s own commander, Gerd von Rundstedt, disagreed with this strategy: they wanted to station Panzer Group West well inland, where it could outmaneuver and encircle the Allied army as it advanced eastward toward Paris. Von Rundstedt retained overall control of all armoured units at this point, with Geyr as his advisor. Anticipating an Allied bombing raid against German tank forces in France, prior to their landings, he dispersed the tanks stationed at Mailly-le-Camp, thereby ensuring minimal losses in the ensuing bombing raid that followed on May 3/4.

The Allied invasion of Normandy took place on June 6, 1944. By June 8, Geyr had been able to rush three panzer divisions northward to defend Caen against British and Canadian forces advancing on that city from their beachheads. Geyr planned to launch these divisions in a full-scale counterattack that would drive the British and Canadians back into the sea. On 10 June 1944, Geyr was wounded when Royal Air Force aircraft attacked his newly established headquarters at La Caine in Normandy.[1] Geyr was wounded and many of his staff officers were killed, forcing the cancellation of the counterattack. Geyr’s reinforced tank units managed to prevent the British advance for another month, but he was nevertheless relieved of his command on July 2, after seconding Rundstedt’s request that Adolf Hitler authorize a strategic withdrawal from Caen. Geyr was succeeded by Heinrich Eberbach and then served as Inspector General of Armoured Troops until the closing phase of the war.

Between 1945 and 1947, Geyr was in American captivity. After his release Geyr wrote a memoir of his years in London as a military attaché, Erinnerungen eines Militärattachés, London 1933–1937 (1949), which was translated and published along with additional material covering his life through World War II as The Critical Years (1952).

During the early 1950s Geyr was instrumental in advising how to restructure the newly built German Army (Bundeswehr) of West Germany. [See: Searle's "Wehrmacht Generals."]

He died in Irschenhausen near Munich. His daughter Blanche Freiin Geyr von Schweppenburg (* 24 March 1918; † 21 May 2003) was married to Curt-Christoph von Pfuel (* 2. September 1907, Berlin; † 5. August 2000, Bonn), Prussian assessor, member of the Council of Europe, last Fideikommiss, Lord of Jahnsfelde.

Ranks[edit]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Freiherr was a title, translated as Baron, not a first or middle name. Before 1919 preceding the first name, former titles are with people alive after 1919 dependent parts of the surname, thus preceding the main surname and not to be translated. The female forms are Freifrau and Freiin.

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Searle, Alaric. "Wehrmacht Generals, West German Society, and the Debate on Rearmament, 1949–1959," Praeger Pub., 2003.

Own works[edit]

  • Geyr Von Schweppenburg, Leo. Erinnerungen eines Militarattachés: London 1933–1937. – Stuttgart, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1949
  • Geyr Von Schweppenburg, Leo. Die Verteidigung des Westens. – Frankfurt, Verlag Friedrich Rudl, 1952
  • Geyr Von Schweppenburg, Leo. Die große Frage. – Bernard & Graefe, 1952
  • Geyr Von Schweppenburg, Leo. The Critical Years. – Allan Wingate, London 1952

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalmajor Ernst Feßmann
Commander of 3. Panzer-Division
1 September 1939 – 7 October 1939
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Horst Stumpff