6th Army (Germany)


6th Army (Germany)

The 6th Army was a German field army which saw action in World War I and World War II. It is perhaps best known for its involvement in the Battle of Stalingrad.

World War I

At the outbreak of WWI, command of the army was given to "Kronprinz" Rupprecht von Bayern. During the execution of Plan XVII, it was stationed in the Central sector, covering Lorraine.

In August 1914, in the Battle of Lorraine, Rupprecht's 6th Army managed to hold against the French offensive, using a feigned withdrawal to lure the advancing armies onto prepared defensive positions.

After the Western Front turned to stalemate and the opposing forces formed lines of trenches, the 6th Army was based near Loos in Belgium. On 24 September, 1915, the 6th Army was the target for the British Army's first chlorine gas attack of the war. Despite the horrific casualties inflicted, the British offensive became bogged down after several days.

In March 1917, the 6th Army was the target for the assault of the British and Canadian forces at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The 6th Army, now under the command of General Ludwig von Falkenhausen, suffered over 20,000 casualties in the ensuing fighting and were pushed back from the ridge by the Canadian Corps.

Commanders

* "Kronprinz" Rupprecht von Bayern
* General Ludwig von Falkenhausen

Order of Battle - August 1914, Lorraine

* Armee-Oberkommando 6
** "Königlich Bayerisches" Fußartillerie Brigade-Oberkommando 1
** Pionier-General 5
** "Königlich Bayerische" 5 Gemischte Landwehrbrigade
* XXI.Armeekorps
** 31. Infanteriedivision
** 42. Infanteriedivision
* I. "Königlich Bayerisches" Armeekorps
** 1. "Königlich Bayerische" Infanteriedivision
** 2. "Königlich Bayerische" Infanteriedivision
* II."Königlich Bayerisches" Armeekorps
** 3. "Königlich Bayerische" Infanteriedivision
** 4. "Königlich Bayerische" Infanteriedivision
* III."Königlich Bayerisches" Armeekorps
** 5. "Königlich Bayerische" Infanteriedivision
** 6. "Königlich Bayerische" Infanteriedivision
* I."Königlich Bayerisches" Reservekorps
** 1. "Königlich Bayerische" Reservedivision
** 5. "Königlich Bayerische" Reservedivision

World War II

Western campaigns

Originally numbered as the 10th Army, this combat unit was formed on October 10, 1939 with General Walther von Reichenau in command. Its primary mission was to guard the western defenses of Germany against British and French attacks during the Polish campaign. During the invasion of the Low Countries the 10th Army saw active service linking up with paratroopers and destroying fortifications at Eben Emael, Liège, and Namur. The 10th Army was then involved in the breakthrough of the Paris defences on June 12, 1940, before acting as a northern flank for German forces along the Normandy coast.

Eastern campaign

It began its involvement in the Russian Campaign as the spearhead of Army Group South. Shortly after being promoted to Field Marshal, von Reichenau died in an aircraft accident while being transported to a hospital after a heart attack in January 1942. He was succeeded by his former chief of staff, "General der Panzertruppen" Friedrich Paulus. Paulus led the 6th Army to a major victory at the Second Battle of Kharkov during the spring of 1942. This victory sealed the 6th Army's destiny because it was selected by the OKH for the attack on Stalingrad. The 6th Army failed to obtain a quick victory; winter came and with it Operation Uranus -- the massive attack of Soviet forces on the flanks of the German corridor between the Don and Volga rivers in November 22-23. The 6th Army was isolated and a major relief operation, (Operation Wintergewitter), which eventually failed, was undertaken by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. Paulus was promoted by Hitler to the rank of "Generalfeldmarschall" on January 31 1943 ostensibly in part because until that day no German Field Marshal had ever surrendered. In other words, Adolf Hitler expected Paulus to commit suicide, but Paulus soon surrendered to the Soviet Forces, contrary to orders by his political chief. The remaining forces of the 6th Army, under the independent command of General Karl Strecker, surrendered three days after in the Tractor Factory, at the north of Stalingrad. Although that was not the definitive end of the 6th Army on this occasion, it was one of the worst military disasters in German history. For the first time, an entire German field army had been completely destroyed.

Reformation - Battles in the East

During the last days of the Stalingrad encirclement, Hitler, in denial of events, had one man from every division in the 6th Army flown out in order to 'reconstitute' a new 6th Army (A.O.K. 6). This new formation became active on March 5 1943, and was commanded by General Karl Adolf Hollidt and based on Army Detachment Hollidt. It later fought in Ukraine and Romania as part of Army Group South and Army Group South Ukraine. The army was again largely destroyed in a large encirclement during the Iassy-Kishinev Operation, but this time the army HQ survived. The 6th Army was the only German army to be encircled and destroyed thrice (including the final capitulation).

In October 1944, under the command of General of Artillery Maximilian Fretter-Pico, the 6th Army encircled and destroyed three Soviet tank corps of Mobile Group Pliyev under the command of Issa Pliyev in the Battle of Debrecen. During this time, the 6th Army had the Hungarian Second Army placed under its command, and it was known as Armeegruppe "Fretter-Pico".

Command passed to General der Panzertruppen Hermann Balck in December 1944. In January 1945, one of the 6th Army's subordinate units, the IX. SS-Gebirgskorps, was encircled in Budapest. SS-Gruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille's IV. SS-Panzerkorps was transferred to the 6th Army's command and a relief attempt, codenamed Operation Konrad, was launched.

After the failure of Konrad III, the 6th Army (as part of Armeegruppe Balck) fell back to the area near Lake Balaton, and several units, including the III.Panzerkorps, were involved in Operation Frühlingserwachen, while the rest of the Sixth Army provided defence for the left flank of the offensive, in the region near Stuhlweissenburg. After the failure of the offensive, the Sixth Army held the line until a major Soviet offensive, the Vienna Operation on 15 March, 1945. This offensive tore a gap in the Sixth Army between the IV. SS-Panzerkorps and the 3. Hungarian Army (subordinated to Balck's command), shattering the formation.

By the end of March 1945, the 6th Army was involved in a retreat towards Vienna. The shattered remnants of 6th Army surrendered to the Americans on 9 May, 1945.

Commanders

* Field Marshal Walther von Reichenau (October 10 1939 - December 29 1941)
* Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus (December 30 1941 - February 3 1943)
* General Karl Adolf Hollidt (March 5 1943 - April 7 1944)
* General Maximilian de Angelis (April 8 1944 - July 16 1944)
* General Maximilian Fretter-Pico (July 17 1944 - December 22 1944)
* General Hermann Balck (December 23 1944 - May 8 1945)


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