Branch: Kaiserliche Heer/ Reichsheer / Heer
Born: 12 December 1875 in Aschersleben, Germany.
Died: 24 February 1953 in Hannover, Germany.
Generalfeldmarschall 19 July 1940
Generaloberst 1 March 1938
General der Infanterie 1 October 1932
Generalleutnant 1 March 1929
Generalmajor 1 November 1927
Oberst 1 February 1923
Oberstleutnant 1 October 1920
Major 28 November 1914
Hauptmann 24 March 1909
Oberleutnant 12 September 1902
Leutnant 17 June 1893
Boxer Rebellion Service Medal 1902
Iron Cross Second 1914
Prussian Crown Order 4th Class
Bavarian Military Merit Order 4th Class with Swords and Crown 9 August 1915
Prussian Royal House Order of Hohenzollern Knight's Cross with Swords 1917
Saxon Albert Order Knight 1st Class with Swords
Lippe War Merit Cross
Waldeck Merit Cross
Turkish War Medal
Cross of Honor 1934
Schwarzburg Honor Cross 3rd Class
Sudetenland Medal 1938
Order of the Crown of Italy, Grand Cross (1938)
Clasp to the Iron Cross 1939
Knight's Cross 30 September 1939
Romanian Order of Michael the Brave
3rd Class 1941
2nd Class 1941
1st Class 1942
Oak Leaves on 1 July 1944
Swords 18 February 1945
Armed Forces Long Service Award with 40 year Clasp
Takes command on 1 September 1939
Ends command on 1 October 1939
Takes command on 1 October 1939
Ends command on 20 October 1939
Takes command on 25 October 1939
Ends command on 1 October 1940
Takes command on 1 October 1940
Ends command on 10 June 1941
Takes command on 10 June 1941
Ends command on 1 December 1941
Takes command on 15 March 1942
Ends command on 2 July 1944
Takes command on 5 September 1944
Ends command on 9 March 1945
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was born on 12 December 1875 and became a German Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) of the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. Gerd von Rundstedt was born in Aschersleben in the Province of Saxony into an noble Prussian family, and joined the Kaiserliche Heer in 1892, then entered Germany's elite military academy in 1902 an establishment that only accepted only 160 new students each year. During the First World War, Gerd von Rundstedt steadily rose in rank until 1918 when Gerd von Rundstedt promoted to major and was chief of staff of his division.
At the start of the Second World War Gerd von Rundstedt returned as commandant of the Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South) in the Poland campaign. Gerd von Rundstedt retained command of large formations during Fall Gelb and was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall on 19 July 1940. In the Soviet campaign, Gerd von Rundstedt was commandant Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South), responsible for the largest encirclement in history, the Battle of Kiev, capital of the Ukraine. Because of the failure of Operation Barbarossa, Gerd von Rundstedt like so many other commanders was dropped by Adolf Hitler, during 1942 Gerd von Rundstedt was recalled in 1942 as Oberbefehlshaber West (German Army Command in the West). Gerd von Rundstedt maintained this command until his final dismissal in March 1945 by Adolf Hitler.
After the First World War, Gerd von Rundstedt rose steadily in the small 100,000 man army of the Reichswehr and in 1932, was appointed commandant of the 3rd Infantry Division. During July 1932, Gerd von Rundstedt carried out the supposed Rape of Prussia that saw the Reichswehr expel the Social Democratic government of Prussia and allowed the Chancellor Franz von Papen to become the Reich Commissioner of Prussia. Later that year Gerd von Rundstedt threatened to resign when Franz von Papen declared martial law and ordered his troops to eject members of the national socialist party from state government offices. During 1938, Gerd von Rundstedt was appointed commandant of the 2. Armee (2nd Army) that occupied the Sudetenland, but Gerd von Rundstedt retired after it was realised that Werner von Fritsch Commander-in-Chief of the Army was framed by the Gestapo in the Werner von Blomberg-Werner von Fritsch Affair. During Gerd von Rundstedt retirement he was given the honorary appointment of Colonel-in-Chief of the 18th Infantry regiment, Gerd von Rundstedt often wore an infantry colonel's uniform and collar patches with his Generalfeldmarschall shoulder insignia until the end of his career. Occasionally, Gerd von Rundstedt was mistaken for a colonel, but he simply laughed at the opinion.
On 1 September 1939, the Second World War had commenced, and Gerd von Rundstedt was called back to active military service to command Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South) during the successful invasion of Poland. Turning to the West, Gerd von Rundstedt supported Erich von Manstein's armoured fist approach to the invasion of France, and this was finally chosen as Fall Gelb. During the battle Gerd von Rundstedt was in command of seven Panzer divisions, three motorised infantry divisions, and 35 regular infantry divisions.
On 14 May 1940, the armoured divisions led by Heinz Guderian had crossed the river Meuse and had opened up an immense hole in the Allied front lines. General Gerd von Rundstedt had uncertainties about the survivability of these units without infantry support, and called for for a pause, whilst the infantry caught up, the halt order permitted the British to evacuate their military forces from the beaches of Dunkirk. Subsequently Gerd von Rundstedt disallowed an attack on the Dunkirk beachhead, permitting the British forces to fully evacuate. These events has raised eyebrows over the years. Gerd von Rundstedt and other people later on contended that the decision was Adolf Hitler's and stemmed from his belief that Britain would more readily accept a peace if he magnanimously saved what remained of her military force. Nevertheless, this was no more than a face-saving rationalisation. Gerd von Rundstedt had wanted to conserves his mechanised units for the final push to the south to conclude the campaign against the French while Hermann Göring had convinced Adolf Hitler that the Luftwaffe could get the job done.
Gerd von Rundstedt was promoted to Generalfeldmarschall on 19 July 1940 and took part in the planning of Operation Sea Lion (Invasion of Britain). When the invasion was called off, Gerd von Rundstedt took control of occupation forces and was given responsibility to develop the coastal defences in the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
Operation Barbarossa took place during June 1941, Gerd von Rundstedt was commandant of Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South), where he led 52 infantry divisions and 5 Panzer divisions into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Initially Gerd von Rundstedt progress was slow, but in September Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South) captured Kiev in a double encirclement operation made possible by Joseph Stalin's irrational refusal to abandon the city, whilst the river Dnieper had been crossed both north and south of it. The Germans claimed a phenomenal haul of 665,000 Soviet POWs based on the encircled divisions. Subsequently Gerd von Rundstedt moved east to attack Kharkov and Rostov. Gerd von Rundstedt strongly opposed continuing the advance into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during the winter and advised Adolf Hitler to halt the offensive, but his views were disapproved.
During November, Gerd von Rundstedt had a heart attack, but he declined to be hospitalised and persisted in the advance, reaching Rostov on 21 November. A counter-attack forced the Germans back. Whilst Gerd von Rundstedt called for a withdraw, Adolf Hitler became angered and supplanted him with General Walther von Reichenau.
Adolf Hitler recalled Gerd von Rundstedt to duty in March 1942, placing him once again in Oberbefehlshaber West (German Army Command in the West) There he proved complacent, so much so that as late as the autumn of 1943, no fortifications worthy of mention existed along the entire Atlantic shore. It was only after Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel's appointment as Gerd von Rundstedt's ostensible subordinate in November 1943 that fortification work began in earnest. During the debates preceding the landing, Gerd von Rundstedt insisted that the armoured reserves should be held in the operational rear so that they could all be rushed to whatever sector the Allies happened to land in. General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg the armoured commander supported him, but Erwin Rommel insisted that the armoured forces must be deployed very near the shoreline, just beyond the reach of the Allied naval bombardment. Badly affected by his experiences in North Africa, Erwin Rommel believed that Allied air operations would prohibit movement during the day and even at night gravely inhibit movement. But von Gerd von Rundstedt was convinced that a landing as far west as Normandy was out of the question and that very little armour should be committed there. Ultimately, the armoured divisions were dispersed, and only two were spared to the Channel coast west of the Seine with one assigned to the Normandy sector, a deployment that would have disastrous consequences once the invasion began. After the D-Day landings in June 1944, Gerd von Rundstedt urged Adolf Hitler to negotiate a settlement with the Allies, his frustration culminating in his outburst, Make peace, you idiots! Adolf Hitler responded by replacing him with Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge.
Because of the 20 July plot, which angered Gerd von Rundstedt, he agreed to join Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) chief Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Wilhelm Keitel and Heinz Guderian on the Army Court of Honour that drummed out hundreds of officers suspected of being opposed to Adolf Hitler, often on the slightest of evidence. These judgements removed the suspected dissidents from the jurisdiction of the military and turned them over to the Volksgerichtshof (People's Court) and its presiding judge, Roland Freisler. Many of these men were put to death after brief trials.
During the middle of August 1944, Günther von Kluge committed suicide after being implicated in the 20 July Plot and Generalfeldmarschall Walther Model was given command of Oberbefehlshaber West (German Army Command in the West), Walther Model held the post for 18 days before Gerd von Rundstedt was reappointed to command Germany's armed forces in the west. Gerd von Rundstedt mobilised them in time to fight off Operation Market Garden, with Walther Model's Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) at the centre of the German military defence. While Gerd von Rundstedt was in command of the German forces on the Western front throughout Operation Wacht am Rhein (the Battle of the Bulge, a.k.a. the Gerd von Rundstedt Offensive), Gerd von Rundstedt was opposed to that offensive from its beginning, and fundamentally washed his hands of it. Gerd von Rundstedt was relieved of command for the last time in March 1945, after telling Wilhelm Keitel once more that Adolf Hitler should make peace with the Allies, instead of continuing a lost cause.
Gerd von Rundstedt was apprehended by the United States 36th Infantry Division on 1 May 1945. During his captivity, Gerd von Rundstedt suffered another heart attack whilst being interrogated and was subsequently taken to Britain, where he was held in a POW camp in Bridgend, South Wales and at Redgrave, Suffolk, England.
Gerd von Rundstedt was charged with war crimes, but never faced any trial due to his poor health. Gerd von Rundstedt was released from captivity in 1948. Gerd von Rundstedt died in Hanover on 24 February 1953, at the age of 77.
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