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Theodor Busse (standing, far right) in a meeting with Hitler, March 1945
|Born||15 December 1897
Frankfurt an der Oder
|Died||21 October 1986
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Rank||General der Infanterie|
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Federal Cross of Merit
Busse, a native of Frankfurt (Oder), joined the Imperial German Army as an officer cadet in 1915, and was commissioned in February 1917. He also won the Knights Cross with Swords of the Hohenzollern Order. After the armistice he was accepted as one of 2000 officers into the new Reichswehr where he steadily rose in rank.
Busse was a General Staff officer in April 1939, and prepared a training program which was approved by the Chief of the General Staff in August. The program covered a period from 1 October 1939 to 30 September 1940. Between 1940 and 1942 he served as the Chief of Operations to General (later Field Marshal) Erich von Manstein in the 11th Army on the Eastern Front. He remained serving on von Manstein's staff from 1942 until 1943 as Chief of Operations of Army Group Don and then from 1943 until 1944 he was Chief of Staff of Army Group South, both Army Groups on the Eastern Front. While serving with Army Group South he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on January 30, 1944. He spent a short time in reserve and was then appointed General Officer Commanding German 121st Infantry Division. In July 1944 he commanded I Army Corps.
During the last five months of the war, Busse commanded the 9th Army which was by then part of Army Group Vistula. As the Soviets continued to advance into Germany, he fought to protect the German capital city in the Battle of Berlin. Specifically, Busse commanded the 9th Army during the Battle of Seelow Heights and the Battle of the Oder-Neisse.
While Busse took command of the 9th Army on 21 January 1945, his appointment was never confirmed. It would appear that it was customary for commanders of formations of the status of an Army and higher to be on six months probation before their final appointments as Commanders-in-Chief. Germany surrendered unconditionally before Busse's probationary period expired.
Relief of Berlin
On 22 April 1945, Busse became part of a poorly conceived and incredibly desperate plan that Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl proposed to Adolf Hitler. The plan was proposed to Hitler to mollify him; Hitler was in a rage earlier that day after he discovered that forces under General Felix Steiner would not be coming to his relief in Berlin. The goal of Keitel and Jodl's plan was for the few remaining German forces in central Germany to attack the Soviet forces encircling Berlin. If successful, the German attacks would relieve the city and throw the Soviets forces back. Hitler ordered that the desperate plan be implemented.
The plan called for General Walther Wenck's 12th Army on the Elbe and Mulde fronts to be turned completely around. Wenck's army faced the American forces advancing from the West. The Western Front and the Eastern Front were so close that, by simply turning completely around, Wenck's army would face the Soviet forces advancing from the East. The 12th Army was to attack towards the east and link up just south of Berlin with General Busse’s 9th Army. Then both armies would strike in a northeastern direction towards Potsdam and Berlin. The plan called for the combined armies to mop up the elite Russian troops that they thereby cut off. Wenck’s objective would be the autobahn at Ferch, near Potsdam. The plan also called for an attack from the area northwest of Berlin. The XLI Panzer Corps — commanded by the reliable General Rudolf Holste, an old regimental comrade of Keitel’s — would be brought back across the Elbe. Holste was to counterattack between Spandau and Oranienburg. To give Holste as much punch as possible, Steiner was to turn over his mechanized divisions (the 25th Panzergrenadiers and the 7th Panzer) to Holste.
Wenck's army did make a sudden turn around and, in the general confusion, surprised the Soviets encircling the German capital with an unexpected attack. Wenck's forces attacked towards Berlin in good morale and made some initial progress. But they were halted outside of Potsdam by strong Soviet resistance.
Neither Busse nor Holste made much progress towards Berlin. By the end of the day on 27 April, the Soviet forces encircling Berlin linked up and the forces inside Berlin were completely cut off from the rest of Germany.
Late in the evening of 29 April, from Berlin, Hans Krebs contacted Jodl by radio and made the following demands: "Request immediate report. Firstly of the whereabouts of Wenck's spearheads. Secondly of time intended to attack. Thirdly of the location of the 9th Army. Fourthly of the precise place in which the 9th Army will break through. Fifthly of the whereabouts of Holste's spearhead."
In the early morning of 30 April, Jodl replied to Krebs: "Firstly, Wenck's spearhead bogged down south of Schwielow Lake. Secondly, 12th Army therefore unable to continue attack on Berlin. Thirdly, bulk of 9th Army surrounded. Fourthly, Holste's Corps on the defensive."
This last desperate plan to save Berlin was never fully implemented, never had the manpower nor the equipment it required, never achieved its objectives, and ultimately came to almost nothing. The link up between Wenck and Busse, the Battle of Halbe, did allow a remnant of Busse's army and some German civilians to escape to the West.
At the Nuremberg Trials:
Various witnesses were asked why they took over command of the Army at the end of the war when the situation was already desperate. Busse, for instance, said that he was moved by the sight of miserable groups of countrymen traveling west and wished to protect them from the enemy coming from the East. He said that he followed the example of many other soldiers who have preferred death to surrender.
After the war Busse was West Germany's director of civil defense, and wrote and edited a number of works on the military history of World War II.
Awards and decorations
- Iron Cross (1914)
- 2nd Class (3 November 1916)
- 1st Class (22 August 1917)
- Wound Badge (1914)
- in Black
- Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords (29 July 1918)
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 (5 December 1934)
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award IV. - II. Class (2 October 1936)
- Iron Cross
- 2nd Class (27 May 1940)
- 1st Class (30 May 1940)
- Eastern Front Medal (10 August 1942)
- Order of Michael the Brave
- 3rd Class (8 May 1942)
- Crimea Shield (10 September 1942)
- German Cross in Gold on 24 May 1942 as Oberst im Generalstab in AOK 11
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 30 January 1944 as Generalleutnant and Chief of the Generalstab of Heeresgruppe Süd
- Ärmelband Kurland
- Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (25 January 1966)
Books by Busse
- "Kursk: The German View" by Steven H. Newton. The first part of the book goes to a new translation of a study of Operation Citadel (the great tank battle of Kursk) edited by General Theodor Busse, which offers the perspectives of key tank, infantry, and air commanders.
- 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.
- Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
- Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 42 available from the Avalon Project at the Yale Law School.
- The Generals of WWII Busse Theodor, General of Infantry (1897-1986)
General der Infanterie Helmuth Prieß
|Commander of 121. Infanterie-Division
July 10, 1944-August 1, 1944
Generalleutnant Werner Ranck
Generaloberst Carl Hilpert
|Commander of I. Armeekorps
August 1, 1944-January 9, 1945
General der Infanterie Friedrich Fangohr
General Smilo Freiherr von Lüttwitz
|Commander of 9. Armee
January 20, 1945-May 2, 1945