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Hermann Balck

(1883 - 1982)

Hermann Balck, the son of a general, was born in Danzig-Langfuhr, Germany on December 7, 1893. Balck entered the Hanover Military College in February 1914 and during the First World War served in the German Army on the Western Front.

He remained in the army and became one of Germany's leading advocates of motorized warfare. On the outbreak of the Second World War, Balck was placed in charge of the Rifle Regiment in the 1st Panzer Division. Balck served under Heinz Guderian in France and was awarded the Knight's Cross for seizing and holding a bridge north of Sedan on May 13, 1940.

Promoted to colonel he was sent to Greece on March 5, 1942, and his 3rd Panzer Unit took Salonika on April 9. Given command of the 11th Panzer Division, he fought in the Soviet Union and on December 20, 1942, received the Oakleaves for action in the Caucasus and. in November 1943, was promoted to head of the 48th Panzer Corps.

Moved to the Western Front, Balck fought General George Patton in France before being sent to command the 6th Army in Hungary in December 1944. Balck failed in his attempt to recapture Budapest and was forced to retreat to Austria where he surrendered on May 8, 1945.

After being released from captivity in 1947, Balck retired to Stuttgart. Hermann Balck, described by one military historian, as Germany's greatest field commander, died in 1982.

Sources: Spartacus