Military Service in World War I
In 1905, Bock became a battalion adjutant. He became a regimental adjutant in 1907.
In 1908, Bock joined the 'War Academy' in Berlin and studied there for a year. He was then named to the ‘General Staff’ and joined the 'Army League' (''Deutscher Wehrverein''). He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1912. As a captain, he served in World War I in 1914.
Bock served the western and eastern fronts, as a battalion commander, during the war in January and February 1916.
In 1916, he became a major, and in 1918, he received the 'Pour le Mérite,' Germany's highest military honor, for his service in Picardia.
After World War I
After the war ended, Bock joined the 'Realm Defence' (''Reichswehr''), a German military organization. He soon moved up to the rank of “General der Infanterie.”
On September 27, 1923, Major Bruno Ernst Buchrucker ordered the 'Black Reichswehr' soldiers to get ready for a coup. The 'Black Reichswehr' was the paramilitary wing of the German ‘Reichswehr’ army, formed during the Weimar Republic. The wing was infamous for murdering all Germans whom they suspected of working for the 'Allied Control Commission.'
Bock was Buchrucker's point of contact from the 'Reichswehr.' He did not support Buchrucker's idea of violence and condemned his decision to operate a coup without any official order.
However, Buchrucker went ahead with the coup in September 1923, only to fail in the end.
Unfortunately, Bock was accused and tried of being involved in the violence perpetrated by the 'Black Reichswehr.'
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Bock denied any association between the 'Reichswehr' and the 'Black Reichswehr' murders.
In 1929, he became part of the ‘Gruppenkommando’ of the ‘Reichswehr' in Berlin. He became a commander of 'Wehrkreis II' (a system of military districts) in Stettin (presently Szczecin in Poland) in 1931.
Hitler came to power in 1933 and prompted Bock to become neutral toward the newly formed national socialist regime. Hitler removed many officers from their positions during the reorganization of the armed forces before World War II. Bock was not among them.
In 1935, Hitler named him the commander of the 'Third Army Group.'
On March 1, 1938, Bock was promoted to the rank of colonel general. He commanded the ‘8th Army,’ the spearhead of the German army, in the non-violent invasion of Vienna on March 12. The annexation of Austria by ‘Nazi’ Germany initiated the 'Anschluss.'
Later, in October, he commanded the non-violent invasion of Czechoslovakia (1938–1945).
On November 1, 1938, he was appointed as the commander of 'Heeresgruppe 1' in Berlin.
World War II
In World War II, which broke out on September 1939, Bock commanded 'Army Group North,' participating in the invasion of Poland to crush the Polish forces in northern Vistula.
On September 10, Bock ordered his forces to burn the Polish villages. On September 30, 1939, he was decorated with the 'Ritterkreuz' (''Knight's Cross'') for his conduct in the campaign.
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On October 12, 1939, Bock was named the commander of 'Army Group B.' By October 26, over 500 towns and villages across Poland had been destroyed.
The German forces ultimately invaded Poland.
Bock commanded 'Army Group B' during the 'Armistice with France' on June 22, 1940, and launched attacks on France and the “Low Countries.” His forces successfully ended the campaign.
To commemorate the victory over France, Bock participated in the victory parade on June 14, at the 'Arc de Triomphe' in Paris.
During the 1940 'Field Marshal Ceremony,' he was awarded the rank of field marshal.
In October 1940, he was made the military commander of German-occupied Poland.
Bock commanded the 'Heeresgruppe Mitte' ('Army Group Center'), the largest of the three army groups, during the invasion of the Soviet Union. The campaign was codenamed 'Operation Barbarossa' and was launched on June 22, 1941.
Unfortunately, the operation was marred by Bock's constant disagreements with Hitler. He refused to follow the notorious plan devised by the ‘High Command.’
Opposed by Hitler, Bock stuck to his plan of marching directly toward Moscow, passing the Soviet armies. He did not want the forces to waste time fighting the Soviet armies. Instead, he suggested that his forces leave the Soviets behind while they march ahead.
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Hitler, on the other hand, wanted to destroy the Soviet army pocket first and then march toward Vitebsk.
Bock's forces and the Soviet army clashed near Slonim. Though many Soviet soldiers were trapped, most of them managed to escape toward the east.
Bock and his forces soon resumed their march toward the east.
On July 11, Bock moved his headquarters to the Soviet town of Borisov, near the Berezina River. His forces seized Minsk and later reached Smolensk.
When Bock was just 225 miles short of reaching Moscow, Hitler ordered him to divert a fraction of his army toward Leningrad and Kiev.
On September 9, the ‘High Command’ prompted Bock to devise a plan to attack Moscow. Hence, 'Operation Typhoon' came into being.
Bock resumed his march toward Moscow in October.
On October 3, Orel was captured, and this paved their way to Moscow.
As per Bock's plan, Guderian’s forces were supposed to move toward Tula, but the ‘High Command’ reversed the orders. He was thus forced to divert the forces toward Bryansk.
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Bock's forces could have conquered Moscow, but 'Operation Typhoon' failed due to strategic differences between him and Hitler.
In December 1941, the march toward Moscow was halted due to extreme weather conditions, lack of fuel, and poor supply lines. By then, Hitler was desperate to enter Moscow.
Even though they had successfully crushed the Soviet Union counter-attacks, Bock urged Hitler to withdraw their army. Hitler, who was not ready to surrender, asked him to retire on December 12.
Toward the beginning of 1942, Hitler removed Bock from his position and named Gunther von Kluge as the new head of ‘Army Group Center.’ Bock's declining health was cited as the official reason for the removal. Along with him, 40 other commanders, too, were removed after the failure to capture Moscow.
Bock, however, resumed after a month and replaced '1st Guards Field Artillery Regiment' officer Walter von Reichenau, who had had a sudden death on January 17, 1942.
Bock controlled ‘Army Group South’ in the Soviet Union and assumed his duties on January 20, 1942.
In May 1942, he commanded during the Second Battle of Kharkov, defeating the Soviet Union. This campaign, too, saw him clash with Hitler.
Their constant differences prompted Hitler to split 'Army Group South' into 'Army Group A' and 'Army Group B' on July 7. On July 13, he removed Bock from his position as the commander of 'Army Group B.'
Bock spent the remaining years of World War II in seclusion in Bavaria.
In 1944, his nephew, Henning von Tresckow, approached him to join the 'July Plot' against Hitler. Although his nephew had expected him to join readily, considering his past bitter experiences with Hitler, Bock surprised him by declining the offer. He, however, did not inform the ‘Gestapo’ about the secret mission.
After Hitler's death in April 1945, he expressed his wish to serve the Reich government, which was then headed by Dönitz in Flensburg.