Hans Kundt ca. 1915
28 February 1869|
|Died||30 August 1939
|Allegiance|| Germany (to 1918)
Bolivia (to 1933)
|Years of service||1888-1933|
|Commands held||Deutsches Heer
|Battles/wars||World War I
Hans Kundt (28 February 1869, Neustrelitz, Mecklenburg-Strelitz – 30 August 1939, Lugano, Switzerland) was a German military officer from a family of military officers. He was the primary military figure of Bolivia during the two decades preceding the Chaco War.
Beginnings and World War I
Kundt was born in 1869 in Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Germany, and was commissioned in 1888 (1889 Fähnrich). In 1902 he served as captain of the Generalstab (General Headquarters).[where?] He arrived in Bolivia in 1908, as head of a German military training mission. He enjoyed an excellent relationship with the Bolivians and acquired a reputation as a great administrator and troop trainer. In 1911, he began the reorganisation of the Bolivian Army, following the pattern of the Prussian Army.
At the start of First World War, Kundt returned to Germany. In 1914 he was commander of a regiment on the Eastern Front and achieved the rank of Generalleutnant. He served as chief of staff on the corps level, and as a brigade commander. After the First World War, Kundt retired at the rank of colonel, although he was conferred the rank of general upon retiring.
Following the First World War, Kundt again returned to Bolivia. There he was offered the posts of Chief of Staff of the Army, and of Minister of War, with the rank of general. Kundt accepted the posts and headed the program of rearming Bolivia during the 1920s, and the planning to occupy the Chaco. He adopted Bolivian citizenship and entered the army as a general. In this post he continued the reorganisation he had begun in 1911, and became very popular as - unlike much of the Bolivian officer corps - he was concerned with the well-being of the troops. In 1923 he was named Minister of War. After the fall of president Hernando Siles Reyes in a coup in 1930, Kundt was exiled for having collaborated with that administration.
Only two years later, Kundt was brought back to direct the Bolivian Army against Paraguay in the Chaco War, as Commander in Chief. However, he failed to utilise Bolivia's superior weaponry, tanks and air force, using futile tactics such as frontal assaults against well-defended positions. He also failed to properly attend to logistics, or keep track of enemy maneuvers. Unit after unit of the Bolivian army were surrounded and destroyed. Kundt was relieved of command by Daniel Salamanca, due to a significant setback suffered in December 1933. He then left the country and returned to Germany.
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Kundt displayed excellent qualities as an administrator and dedicated instructor, and was concerned for the well-being of his men. However, during World War I Kundt demonstrated a mediocre grasp of tactics, preferring frontal assaults in most situations. Despite his knowledge of staff issues, he was not a good strategist. Despite the Bolivian military's focus on the Chaco in the 1920s, Kundt never visited or familiarised himself with the region, and his concept of the war with Paraguay was essentially that of a triumphant, unopposed march across the region by Bolivian troops.
Kundt was reluctant to depend on his Bolivian officers (though many were quite capable), and preferred to supervise military operations directly.