|Korvettenkapitan Hermann Ehrhardt|
|GFM Gerd von Rundstedt|
During these years, he was contacted by members of the anti-Nazi resistance who tried to enlist him in their cause but, while he sympathized, he refused to take part, fearing the chaos that would follow the violent overthrow of the regime. Dismissed for clashing with Hitler, he was later reinstated and made commander of the western front, where he disagreed with his subordinate, Field Marshal Rommel, over how best to repel the expected Allied invasion that came in June of 1944 in Normandy. When he remarked that, after the defeat at Normandy, Germany should make peace he was dismissed again but was again recalled later and presided over the defeat of the Allied invasion of The Netherlands known as Operation Market Garden. He was still commander of the western front when the Ardennes offensive was launched (resulting in the Battle of the Bulge) and in the aftermath oversaw the establishment of a new defensive line along the Rhine. However, Hitler was as erratic as ever and von Rundstedt was dismissed again, for the last time, in March of 1945, replaced by Luftwaffe Field Marshal Albert Kesselring.
|GFM Fedor von Bock|
During World War II, von Bock commanded Army Group North in the conquest of Poland and Army Group B in the invasion of France and the Low Countries. When the invasion of the Soviet Union came in 1941 he was part of a bloc of German monarchist commanders on the eastern front. He commanded Army Group Center while on his flanks were Army Group North commanded by monarchist Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb and Army Group South commanded by monarchist Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. He disagreed with Hitler’s meddling in the campaign and favored pressing on to Moscow as rapidly as possible with his panzer divisions, leaving Russian armies to be mopped up by the slower infantry rather than taking the time to encircle and wipe out each enemy force. The constant order to divert his armored forces to the north or south on such errands were, he warned, wasting their resources and slowing down the campaign. When his forces were given the key role in the drive on Moscow (Operation Typhoon) von Bock was shown to have been correct all along. The delays had allowed the Russians to reinforce their positions and the High Command ordered him to dispatch his armored forces under the famous panzer General Heinz Guderian toward Bryansk to encircle more Red Army forces rather than pressing ahead. A combination of stiff Russian resistance, these diversions of resources and increasingly bad weather finally brought the offensive to a halt just short of Moscow.
Field Marshal von Bock was later dismissed by Hitler after continued disagreements over the Fuhrer’s handling of the Russian campaign. Von Bock was also frustrated by the treatment of Russian civilians and Hitler’s opposition to enlisting anti-communist Russians in the Axis cause (the Russian Liberation Army of General Andrei Vlasov). As a known monarchist who opposed the Nazi regime, he was naturally approached by members of the resistance who were plotting Hitler’s assassination. Like von Rundstedt, von Bock sympathized but refused to get involved. He was convinced that the SS were too powerful and that SS Chief Himmler would prevent any coup from being successful even if they did manage to kill Hitler. He remained in retirement until 1945 when Admiral Karl Doenitz took over leadership of the Reich after Hitler’s suicide. Von Bock set out to meet with the new Fuhrer, presumably to take up a military post again but his car was attacked by British aircraft on his way to Kiel. Fedor von Bock thus became the only German Field Marshal of World War II to die by hostile fire.
|GFM Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb|
When World War II broke out, Ritter von Leeb was recalled to duty again for the blitzkrieg in the west, given command of Army Group C. However, he annoyed Hitler again by objecting to the violations of Dutch and Belgian neutrality which Germany had promised to respect. He was a man of honor and integrity but, of course, such values were not always appreciated by the new leadership in Berlin. Nonetheless, he gave his usual service, displaying his expert leadership and for his contribution to the victory over the Allies in the west was awarded the Knights Iron Cross and promoted to Field Marshal. For the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler decided he could not do without him and gave Ritter von Leeb command of Army Group North. His forces performed magnificently, smashing through Soviet resistance and quickly moving to surround the key, historic city of Leningrad. It might have been taken but at that crucial time, he was ordered to divert forces from his command to the south. Leningrad would never be taken but would be the scene of the longest siege in modern military history. When Ritter von Leeb advised staying on the defensive so that Army Group Center could be reinforced and push toward Moscow, Hitler accused him of timidity and blamed his Catholicism, saying that von Leeb would rather pray than fight. Ritter von Leeb was just as disgusted with Hitler’s micromanaging of the war and asked to be relieved of command. Hitler promptly granted his request and he never saw active service again.
|Kapitan zur See Hans Langsdorff|
Captain Langsdorff did his duty brilliantly, sinking nine British ships for a total of 50,000 tons of lost shipping. The British Admiralty was thrown into a panic as resources were diverted from far and wide to hunt down and sink the Graf Spee. However, Captain Langsdorff was no pirate but truly an officer and a gentlemen. He followed all the appropriate rules for war at sea and no one from any of the ships he sunk were killed. The pocket battleship was soon packed full of British prisoners and they were unanimous in attesting to how well treated they were by the German captain. However, the brief, brilliant career of the Graf Spee was soon to come to an end as more British warships moved into the area. Eventually, the pocket battleship was cornered in Montevideo, Uruguay by the Royal Navy. After a brief battle off the Rio de la Plata, Captain Langsdorff was ordered to scuttle his ship rather than see it interned by the Uruguayan authorities. He did so and after seeing to the well being of his crew, Captain Hans Langsdorff dressed in his best uniform, wrapped himself in a German naval ensign and shot himself in the head. It was a tragic, noble end to a promising naval officer. In his death, he also sent a message that strongly suggests that Captain Langsdorff was of monarchist sympathies for the flag he wrapped himself in before taking his own life was not the swastika flag of Nazi Germany, but the ensign of the old Imperial German Navy under which, in service to the King of Prussia and German Kaiser, he had begun his career. In death, he had shown the world what his true loyalties were.