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14 January 1899|
Würzburg, German Empire
|Died||30 January 1970
Würzburg, West Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1917–45|
|Commands held||3rd Panzer Division
Panzer Lehr Division
LIII Army Corps
World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords|
Fritz Hermann Michael Bayerlein (14 January 1899 – 30 January 1970) was an officer in the German Army during World War II. He initially served as a staff officer, including with Erwin Rommel in the Afrika Korps. He then commanded the 3rd Panzer Division, the Panzer Lehr Division and LIII Army Corps in the European theatre. Bayerlein was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, awarded by Nazi Germany for extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
World War II
Bayerlein served as a staff officer of General Heinz Guderian for the invasion of Poland and the Battle of France. In Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, during June 1941, Bayerlein was assigned to Guderian's Panzer Group 2 staff. After the Battle of Kiev, Bayerlein was transferred to Generaloberst Erwin Rommel's staff. Bayerlein was moved to the Führerreserve in August 1942, then reassigned to the Afrika Korps as Chief of Staff.
He served as a staff officere under the command of Generalmajor Walter Nehring beginning in March 1942 upon Nehring's transfer to Africa. Later, he served under Erwin Rommel and Wilhelm von Thoma. When Rommel left Tunisia in March 1943 after the failed attack during the Battle of Medenine (Operation Capri), Bayerlein was appointed German liaison officer under the new commander, Italian Giovanni Messe. He was sent to Italy before the German troops in Tunisia surrendered on 12 May 1943. Bayerlein was sent to the Eastern Front in October 1943, to lead the 3rd Panzer Division, which was surrounded at Kirovograd. Bayerlein led a breakout through the Soviet encirclement.
He was reassigned to command the Panzer Lehr Division, which moved to Normandy on June 7. During the Allied Operation Cobra, Allied bombing near Saint-Lô decimated the division. The remnants of the Panzer Lehr Division slipped out of the Falaise pocket and moved east toward Vire in August 1944. The division next took part in the Ardennes Offensive, in December 1944, as part of the XLVII Panzer Corps; Bayerlein was relieved of command following the failed offensive. He took command of the LIII Army Corps in February 1945 and surrendered to the U.S. Army in the Ruhr Pocket on 19 April 1945.
After the war
Bayerlein was a prisoner of war from April 1945 through April 1947. During this time, he and many other generals in Allied captivity wrote the European battle histories for the U.S. Army Historical Division. Bayerlein was released on 2 April 1947. He wrote about military subjects and continued his work for the Historical Division. He died in 1970.
- Iron Cross (1914)
- Iron Cross (1939)
- 1st Class (27 September 1939)
- German Cross in Gold on 23 October 1942 as Oberst in the General Staff in the Deutsches Afrika-Korps
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
- Knight's Cross on 26 December 1941 as Oberstleutnant in the General Staff and Chief of the General Staff of the DAK
- 258th Oak Leaves on 6 July 1943 as Generalmajor and German Chief of Staff of the 1st Italian Army
- 81st Swords on 20 July 1944 as Generalleutnant and commander of the Panzer-Lehr-Division
- Mentioned twice in the Wehrmachtbericht on 11 January 1944 and 26 June 1944.
- Honour Roll Clasp of the Army (5 March 1945)
- Thomas 1997, p. 29.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 29.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 207.
- 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.
- 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.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
- Willmott, H.P. (1984). June 1944. New York, NY: Blandford Press.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
General der Panzertruppe Walther Nehring
|Acting Commander of Afrika Korps
31 August 1942
General der Panzertruppe Gustav von Vaerst
Generalleutnant Franz Westhoven
|Commander of 3. Panzer-Division
25 October 1943 – 5 January 1944
Oberst Rudolf Lang
|Commander of Panzer-Lehr-Division
10 January 1944 – August 1944
Oberst Rudolf Gerhardt
Oberst Paul Freiherr von Hauser
|Commander of Panzer-Lehr-Division
September 1944 – 15 January 1945
Generalmajor Horst Niemack