Birthday: January 24, 1891
Died At Age: 54
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Otto Moritz Walter Model
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Genthin, Germany
Famous as: Military Officer
Spouse/Ex-: Herta Huyssen
father: Otto Model
mother: Maria Demmer
children: Christa, Hansgeorg, Hella
Died on: April 21, 1945
place of death: Duisburg, Germany
Cause of Death: Suicide
education: Domgymnasium Naumburg
awards: Iron Cross
Eastern Front Medal
Military Merit Cross
Military Merit Cross
Who was Walter Model?
Walter Model was a German military officer who rose to become field marshal during World War II. He was known as ‘Hitler's Fireman’ for his tact and ability to lead rescue operations. He was best known for his defensive warfare techniques. He gained relative success when he led the retreats of 1941-1942 when he was the commander of the Ninth Army, which shaped his future in the German military. He was regarded as the German and Third Reich's best tactical commander. By 1942, Walter Model was closely associated with Hitler, and his loyalty towards the Nazi regime made him a part of Hitler's inner circle. Hitler regarded Model as one of his best field marshals and tasked him to conduct several rescue operations on the Eastern Front that were deemed irreparable. However, their friendship wore down by the end of World War after the defeat in the Battle of Bulge. Model was surrounded at the Ruhr Pocket, and refusing to surrender, he committed suicide on April 21, 1945.
Childhood & Early Life
Walter Model was born on January 24, 1891, in Genthin, Saxony. Model burnt all his papers at the end of World War II, thus very little is known is about his early life.
He was the son of a music teacher in Genthin, Saxony, and came from a lower-middle-class family with no background in the military.
He attended school at Bürgerschule (public school) in Genthin and obtained his Abitur from the Domgymnasium Naumburg, a humanities-oriented secondary school in 1909.
In 1909, he enrolled in the army officer cadet school known as Kriegsschule in Neisse (modern-day) Nysa, Poland). He showed great potential in the academy and, in 1910, was appointed as the lieutenant in the '52nd Infantry Regiment von Alvensleben'.
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World War I
In 1915, Walter Model's regiment was stationed at the Western Front as a part of the 5th Division and also received the 'Iron Cross, First Class' for his role in the fight in Arras.
He was already gaining popularity among his superiors and was chosen to be a part of the German General Staff. He left his regiment and attended the compulsory staff course.
He returned to the 5th Division where he became the adjutant to the commanding officer of 10th Infantry Brigade. Later on, he was posted as a company commander in the 52nd Infantry Regiment and the 8th Life Grenadiers.
In 1917, he was appointed as the captain and also received the 'House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords' for bravery. He was also a member of the Guard Ersatz Division.
Towards the end of the war, he wanted to be a part of Reichswehr. He had already established himself as a competent officer, and his application was accepted. He was also involved in suppressing the communist revolt in 1920 in Ruhr.
Walter Model served in the elite 3rd Infantry Division in 1925 where he helped test new equipment, and by 1928 he was the staff officer of the division.
He quickly rose up in the military hierarchy and in 1930 was moved to the Truppenamt, which was the cover organization for the German General Staff. He was elevated to lieutenant colonel in 1932 and to colonel in 1934.
He also served as the battalion commander with the 2nd Infantry Regiment and later joined the General Staff in Berlin.
In 1938, he became the chief of staff for IV Corps and in 1939, was promoted to brigadier general during the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 1939.
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World War II
Walter Model was a part of colonel general Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group South and participated in the invasion of Poland.
In April 1940, he was promoted to lieutenant general and was the chief of staff for the Sixteenth Army in the Battle of France in May and June. His leadership was lauded, and he was made the commander of the 3rd Panzer Division.
He propagated the idea of training with arms and championed the use of "kampfgruppen”, meaning "fight group." It was a combat formation with units including infantry, armour, artillery, and tanks.
The Battle of Britain brought about a quiet in the Western Front and his division was sent east to invade the Soviet Union. On June 22, 1941, the 3rd Panzer Division launched the attack and was a part of Second Panzer Group commanded by colonel general Heinz Guderian.
On the Eastern Front
Walter Model's division advanced and by July 4, 1941 reached the Dnieper River. He was awarded the Knight's Cross for the highly successful task.
He defeated the Red Army in Roslavl and moved south to promote German interests in Kiev and by September 16, 1941 he had encircled the city.He was made the general and in-charge of XLI Panzer Corps involved in the Battle of Moscow.
Walter Model reached Kalinin on November 14, 1941 and realized the cold weather had weakened his forces and depleted almost all their supplies. He worked tirelessly to restore the army and advanced 22 miles before stopping due to harsh weather conditions.
The Soviets launched a counterattack on December 5, 1941 and German dorces were forced to retreat from Moscow to Lama River.
Walter Model was recognized for executing skillful defense tactics in 1942 became the commander of the German Ninth Army in Rzhev.
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He was a skilled commander and also helped strengthen the German defence. He also orchestrated attacks and defeated the Soviet 39th army.
In March 1943, Walter Model left Rzhev and did not support the invasion at Kursk and was advised to wait for new supplies and equipment like Panther Tanks.
On the Western Front
Walter Model and his armies arrived in Normandy on June 6, 1944, but the Allied forces defeated the German position in the region.
Model was initially eager to defend their position around Falaise but was eventually encircled by the enemies. Hitler had ordered to hold Paris, but Model told that it was not possible unless the army was reinforced with 200,000 men.
The Allied forces took over on August 25, 1944 and Model was forced to retreat towards the German frontier.
The Army Group B was headquartered at Oosterbeek, Netherlands, and Model squashed the Allied forces during Operation Market-Garden in September, and his men crushed the British 1st Airborne Division near Arnhem.
The Army Group B was attacked by General Omar Bradley's 12th Army Group. They were involved in battle near Hürtgen Forest and Aachen, and the American armies heavily paid as they advanced towards German Siegfried Line (Westwall).
During this time, Hitler wanted to launch a full-scale attack to take over Antwerp and remove the Western Allies out of the war. However, Model and von Rundstedt advised Hitler about the unfeasibility of the plan and offered a more limited offensive approach.
Hitler did not pay heed to his commanders' advice and moved with the launch named 'Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein' (Watch on the Rhine), on December 16, 1944.
The attack began with the Battle of the Bulge, and Model's men ambushed the allied forces and made considerable gains near Ardennes. They fought in bad weather with depleting resources, and the offensive was spent by December 25, 1944.
He continued to attack until January 8, 1945, till he was forced to relinquish the attacks, and in the course of several weeks, the Allied forces also reduced their attacks.
Adolf Hitler was angered at Model's failure to capture Antwerp, and the Allied troops steadily advanced and crossed the Rhine.
Walter Model’s men were surrounded by the Allies and Hitler ordered him to turn the Ruhr region into a fortress, but Model dismissed his orders, and the Army Group B was divided into two by the Allies on April 15. Model was asked to surrender by Major General Matthew Ridgway, but he refused.
Model did not want to surrender to the enemies but dissolved the Army Group B as he did not want to risk the lives of any more of his men. Berlin condemned this dissolution, and they were named traitors.
If captured Model would have been tried for war crimes and on April 21, 1945, he left his headquarters and the same day he shot himself and committed suicide in the woods near Duisburg and Lintorf.
He was initially buried in the same area, but his remains were later moved to the military cemetery in Vossenack in 1955.
Family & Personal Life
In 1921, Walter Model married Herta Huyssen and had three children Christa, Hella, and Hansgeorg. It was said that he disliked recounting war stories at home with his family.