Von Manstein

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Jul 30, 2011.

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  1. Donkeys years ago, I read Volumes I & II of Paul Carell's 'Hitlers War on Russia'.
    The author was very much of the opinion that Eric Von Manstein was the greatest Military brain of the Hitlers War Machine.
    Now I have a copy of Osprey's book on him in their Command Series.
    The author is not so great a Von Manstein fan.
    Credit for his work on the Sichelschitt plan which lead to Dunkirk and occupation of France, his efforts at Sevastopol, Leningrad and above all the recovery/stabilisation of the front post Stalingrad.
    However Von Manstein is credited with the original idea for the Kursk Battle which I have always understood was the last chance that Germany had to achieve some form of Victory in the East and lead to a great Defeat.
    He certainly had his share of enemies in the German High Command.
    Do people think he was the Best Brain they had or was overrated ?

  2. Grumblegrunt

    Grumblegrunt LE Book Reviewer

    guderians biography has a lot to say on von manstein and von rundstedt, cant remember off hand what the verdict was as they either kept resigning or hitler kept sacking them which made continuity a bitch. the generals kept asking to stop, dig in and rest while equipping with 88s for defense as they got 6 guns for the price and steel of one tank but hitler just wanted tanks and attacks. I know he came up with the france plan after he looked at the polish job so he certainly had the brains for it, he then got to within a hair of taking leningrad. I dont think kurst was his plan as his summer plans were over ruled and there is some speculation whether it would have succeeded. he wanted to pre-empt the big tank build up with a thrust either side of it, I think he was on the naughty step due to not relieving paulus in stalingrad. the way guderian puts it is quite shocking as you see just how crazy hitler was in his interferance and it makes you wonder if they had locked him away early on just how far would they have gone. especially as it was hitler who declared war on the US after pearl when his generals said dont be so fcuking stupid.

    the biggest mistake was probably rejecting the offer of peace put via sweden in summer 43 which would have held the lines as they were. for a while at least. stalin was worried about his position and probably wanted to kill all his general staff off again. like hitler he kept falling out with his commanders even zhukov who was considered a threat and too popular.

    hitler had a nasty habit of seeing paper divisions which were in effective due to lack of or outdated kit and manpower as being full front line modern units of super troopers so millions were slaughtered in offensives which had no teeth but bags of guts.

    what nobody ever mentions though is the part tropper played in hitlers downfall nor indeed which side he was on :)
  3. Manstein's role in the bringing the Red Army's offensive to a halt, without losing more than was lost around Stalingrad, is held as a great example of the operational art by several authors. Whether his, as it turned out, untried proposal to mount a elastic defence in depth would have worked better than what was applied, is unprovable.
    Manstein did seem to be able to come up with innovative plans that concentrated limited assets at a point which brought high returns. When you read accounts of what he did in early 1943 to check the soviets you do get an impression that he was able to pull rabbits from hats at times. But he did this with limited mobile forces, against a Red Army that was reaching the end of its operational reach.
    To take this to another level and imply he could have done it later against a refreshed and refitted Red Army, with admittedly larger German defensive forces available, ignores the reality that most of those forces would have been lacking in mobility compared to those he used in his more limited counter stroke of early 1943. I tend to think that it would have not been able to contain the growing armoured strength of the Red Army's tank forces in later 1943 / early 1944, without prodigious loses in the far less mobile infantry units that did much of the line holding and would have been as incapable of evading the full force of a Soviet offensive in this alternative universe, as they were in the real one.
    Also according to David M. Glantz in Colossus Reborn, the historical German tactics tended to inflict large losses on all the Soviet offensives in the period when they were breaking through the German fixed forward defences. To have moved away from this concept, may have posed other issues to the STAVKA, but it would certainly have resolved the greatest single issue that the Soviets strove to eliminate in the operational / tactical art in 1943/4.
    By 1944 I think the point starts to become mute, as the Soviets had created enough power in their Manoeuvre elements that they would have still been able to achieve their operational ambitions, no mater what the Germans did to check them.

    It should be noted though, that although Manstein did posit the concept of the May 1940 Sickle Cut offensive, it was Franz Halder and the OKH staff, that really brought that idea in to sharp focus, in the form which saw fruition in May/ June 1940.

    It is reputed by several authors, that Manstein was far more highly regarded by his German peers than Rommel was.
  4. Have not long finished reading "Erich von Manstein: Hitler's Master Strategist" by Benoit Lemay. It looks in some detail at the man and his campaigns, and, if it has a fault it tries far too hard to implicate him in every war crime committed in the region. In regards to Kursk it claims that Manstein, among others, was in favour of the battle but tried to distance himself later in his memoirs. The book claims that the loss of resources on a plan that was destined to fail would cost the Germans dearly later in the war.
    In relation to Stalingrad the book maintains that by the time Manstein was ordered to mount a relief operation he had formed the opinion that it was far too late and delayed the operation to ensure that his own troops were not lost for no gain but also to ensure that the Russian forces besieging the 6th Army were kept there rather than reinforcing other forces attacking the southern army.
    However, it is clear that he was a very adaptive general and certainly deserves being considered one of the wars great commanders.
  5. I thought Mungo Melvin had written the definitive military biography? I suspect Manstein and Guderian were both guilty of guilding the defences of their reputations. ;)
  6. "if it has a fault it tries far too hard to implicate him in every war crime committed in the region. In regards to Kursk it claims that Manstein, among others, was in favour of the battle but tried to distance himself later in his memoirs."

    The Osprey book written by a yank keeps mentioning Manstein's involvement in war crimes for which he was tried and served 4 years.
    The book states that the original idea for the Kursk operation was Manstein's, but as with the Sichelschitt Operation it was taken over by the General Staff who took the main decisions.
    I was never aware of the infighting at highest levels of German Army General Staff.
    From what I can gather they split over the Blomberg/Fritsh scandals and Manstein seems to have made long term enemies.
    Is there a Book on the market that deals with high level politics in the High Command at this time ?
    One of the most interesting books I have read is 'Leadership in Battle' by Sir Jack Smyth VC.
    He was taught by, taught with or taught almost all the officers who rose to the top in WW II.
    He was on personal terms with most and the Plots and Schemes are most interesting.

  7. jon, there is such a book and I have it but it is in storage at the moment and I can't remember the name (old age & red wine) but there was considerable infighting, not only between generals but also between the various general staff commands (Hitler with his divide & rule and general distrust of the army command at work again).

    Something to be remembered was that Manstein wasn't a product of the staff college, something that was held against him by others who had. This was accentuated when Hitler saw his Sickle Cut plan for the western offensive and selected it over the plan prepared by general staff. Manstein's plan was nowhere near operational, basically an outline only, and needed extensive working which was done by others, hence the credit was usurped by others.
  8. Where did you get that idea? v Manstein spent most of his long and distinguished pre 1939 career as a staff officer. he attended the kriegs academie in 1913 -14 and ended the Great War as the Ia (SO2 Operations) of the 213rd Infantry Division, havign servbed on Army and Army group staffs. His post war career included DCOS to General Beck as the Chief of Staff of the German Army. in fact he spent very ;little time in any command role with only a short spell as a battalion commander and a few months as a Regimental Commander - and that was after his promotion to Major general.

    It should be remembered that the debate about the sickle cut v revised Schlieffen plans was conducted by two Army group staffs whose comamnders were equally keen to be in the limelight.
  9. You are right. My mistake. I think the point I wanted to make was that he was never considered for head of the army staff. Put it down to late night posting.
  10. I suppose Manstein ought to have been a candidate as CGS OKH. However, if Hitler had appointed v Manstein he would endorsing von mansteion's views for a flexible defence of the Eastern Front in opposition to those of Hitler himself. That was not going to happen and the argument led to Manstein's dissmisal in 1944 from Army Group South.

    Kurt Zeitzler was appointed as CGS OKH from well down the seniority list because Hitler liked his optimistic reports and thought he would be be compliant and malleable.

    Adolf Heusinger stood in for six weeks when Zeitzler became ill until hospitalised by the 20 July bomb. (He is possibly the only senior Wehrmacht officer to undertake the same roile for NATO as the first Inspector General of the Bundeswehr. Interesting career having fought at Verdun and in Flanders in WW1)

    Guderian, another distinguished professional ended up having shouting matches with Hitler until he was dismissed in March 1945.