Otto von Below

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Otto von Below
Otto von Below LOC.jpg
Otto von Below
Born(1857-01-18)18 January 1857
Danzig, Kingdom of Prussia, German Confederation
Died15 March 1944(1944-03-15) (aged 87)
Friedland, Nazi Germany
AllegianceFlag of the German Empire.svg  German Empire
Service/branchFlag of the German Empire.svg  Imperial German Army
Years of service1875–1919
Rank General der Infanterie
Commands held
Battles/wars World War I
Eastern Front
Gumbinnen
Tannenberg
1st Masurian Lakes
2nd Masurian Lakes
Macedonian Front
Monastir Offensive
Italian Campaign
Battle of Caporetto
Western Front
Operation Michael
Awards Pour le Mérite with Oakleaves

Otto Ernst Vinzent Leo von [1] Below (18 January 1857 – 15 March 1944) [2] was a Prussian general officer in the Imperial German Army during the First World War. He was most notable for his command, along with the Austro-Hungarian commander Svetozar Borojević, during the victorious Battle of Caporetto.

Kingdom of Prussia Former German state (1701–1918)

The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918. It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in 1871 and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918. Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

A General Officer is an officer of high rank in the army, and in some nations' air forces or marines.

German Army (German Empire) 1871-1919 land warfare branch of the German military

The Imperial German Army was the unified ground and air force of the German Empire. The term Deutsches Heer is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the Bundeswehr. The German Army was formed after the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership in 1871 and dissolved in 1919, after the defeat of the German Empire in World War I.

Contents

Pre-war

Von Below was born in Danzig (now Gdańsk). Before the war broke out, he was promoted Generalmajor in 1909 and Generalleutnant in 1912. He was commanding 2nd Infantry Division immediately prior to the outbreak of war.

Gdańsk City in Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast. With a population of 464,254, Gdańsk is the capital and largest city of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the capital of Kashubia. It is Poland's principal seaport and the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.

Generalmajor, short GenMaj, is a general officer rank in many countries, and is identical to and translated as major general.

Generalleutnant, short GenLt, is the second highest general officer rank in the German Army (Heer) and the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).

First World War

Eastern Front

On 1 August 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, Below was given command of I Reserve Corps as part of 8th Army on the Eastern Front. [3] He led his Corps in the Battles of Gumbinnen, Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes. As a result of his successes, he was promoted to General der Infanterie [4] at the end of August 1914 and to command of 8th Army at the beginning of November. [5]

I Reserve Corps (German Empire) unit of the Imperial German Army during World War I

The I Reserve Corps was a corps level command of the German Army in World War I.

8th Army (German Empire) field army of the German Army in World War I

The 8th Army was an army level command of the German Army in World War I. It was formed on mobilization in August 1914 from the I Army Inspectorate. The army was dissolved on 29 September 1915, but reformed on 30 December 1915. It was finally disbanded in 1919 during demobilization after the war.

Eastern Front (World War I) part of World War I

The Eastern Front or Eastern Theater of World War I was a theatre of operations that encompassed at its greatest extent the entire frontier between the Russian Empire and Romania on one side and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire on the other. It stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, involved most of Eastern Europe and stretched deep into Central Europe as well. The term contrasts with "Western Front", which was being fought in Belgium and France.

Below commanded the 8th Army in the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes (February 1915) and the Army of the Niemen (later renamed 8th Army) in the Courland Offensive (May 1915). His forces advanced into Courland and Lithuania as far as the southern reaches of the Western Dvina River. [2]

Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes A battle in 1915 during the First World War

The Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes, also known as the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes, was the northern part of the Central Powers' offensive on the Eastern Front in the winter of 1915. The offensive was intended to advance beyond the Vistula River and perhaps knock Russia out of the war.

Army of the Niemen

The Army of the Niemen was an army level command of the German Army in World War I.

Courland Place in Latvia

Courland, is one of the historical and cultural regions in western Latvia. The largest city is Liepāja, the third largest city in Latvia. The regions of Semigallia and Selonia are sometimes considered as part of Courland as they were formerly held by the same duke.

Macedonia

In October 1916, Below was appointed to the command of Heeresgruppe Below [6] on the Macedonian Front, consisting of the German 11th Army and the First and Second Bulgarian Armies. [7] In April 1917, he was briefly sent to the Western Front to command 6th Army [8] around Lille. [9]

11th Army (German Empire)

The 11th Army was an army level command of the German Army in World War I. It was formed in March 1915 in Kassel originally to serve on the Western Front but was transported to Galicia for service on the Eastern Front. The army was dissolved on 8 September 1915, but reformed on 23 September 1915 for the Serbian Campaign. It was finally dissolved on 7 January 1919.

The Bulgarian First Army was a Bulgarian field army during the Balkan Wars, World War I and World War II.

The Bulgarian Second Army was a Bulgarian field army during the Balkan Wars, World War I, and World War II.

Italy

Below next served on the Italian Front from September 1917. Commanding the Austro-German 14th Army [10] (seven German and 10 Austro-Hungarian divisions) in the Battle of Caporetto, his units were able to break into the Italian front line and rout the Italian army, which had practically no mobile reserves. The battle was a demonstration of the effectiveness of the use of stormtroopers and the infiltration tactics developed in part by Oskar von Hutier. The use of poison gas by the Germans played a key role in the collapse of the Italian Second Army. [11] A breakdown in German logistics brought the battle to a close on the line of the Piave River and the front soon froze again in trench warfare.

14th Army (German Empire) army level command of the German Army in World War I

The 14th Army was an army level command of the German Army in World War I formed in September 1917 in Krainburg for use against Italy. Its Headquarters was located at Vittorio Veneto from 10 November 1917 until the army was disbanded on 22 January 1918. The 14th Army served on the Italian Front throughout its existence.

Austro-Hungarian Army ground force of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy from 1867 to 1918

The Austro-Hungarian Army was the ground force of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy from 1867 to 1918. It was composed of three parts: the joint army, the Imperial Austrian Landwehr, and the Royal Hungarian Honvéd.

Battle of Caporetto battle

The Battle of Caporetto was a battle on the Italian front of World War I. The battle was fought between the Kingdom of Italy and the Central Powers and took place from 24 October to 19 November 1917, near the town of Kobarid. The battle was named after the Italian name of the town.

Western Front

In February 1918, Below was brought back to the Western Front to command the newly formed 17th Army [10] for the Kaiserschlacht Offensive. Below was expected to overrun Arras during March 1918 in a repeat of Caporetto; his inability to do so led to the failure of the German campaign to capture the Somme that same month. [9] Attacking the stronger, better prepared British 3rd Army, he had less success than forces further south facing the British 5th Army.

In January of 1918 he made the following revolutionary proposal to Ludendorff: " Forget about the offensive and shorten the front lines as much as necessary; build Panzers throughout all of 1918 and, with your Panzer squadrons, break through all the way to the Channel coast in the Spring of 1919."

Below briefly commanded the 1st Army. [12] Shortly before the war's end, Below was involved in preparations for a possible final battle on German territory (Home Defense Forces West). [4]

Awards

Below was awarded the Pour le Mérite on 16 February 1915 "for outstanding leadership and distinguished military planning and successful operations", and the Oakleaves (signifying a second award) on 27 April 1917. [13] In addition to the Pour le Mérite, Below was also awarded the Order of the Black Eagle on 1 November 1917 [4] and the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd class.

Post-war

Below retired in 1919. A post-war attempt by the Allies to try him as a war criminal failed. [4] Otto von Below died on 9 March 1944 in Friedland, Lower Saxony.

Family

Below was the cousin of Fritz von Below, another German commander during the war. The two Generals are often confused.

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References

  1. In German personal names, von is a preposition which approximately means of or from and usually denotes some sort of nobility. While von (always lower case) is part of the family name or territorial designation, not a first or middle name, if the noble is referred to by surname alone in English, use Schiller or Clausewitz or Goethe, not von Schiller, etc.
  2. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Below, Otto von"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.
  3. Cron 2002 , pp. 322–326
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Below biography on The Prussian Machine". Archived from the original on 4 December 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  5. Cron 2002 , p. 395
  6. Heeresgruppe or Army Group in the sense of a number of armies under a single commander.
  7. Cron 2002 , p. 60
  8. Cron 2002 , p. 394
  9. 1 2 "Who's Who Fritz von Below" . Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  10. 1 2 Cron 2002 , p. 398
  11. Seth 1965 , p. 147
  12. Cron 2002 , p. 392
  13. "Orden Pour le Mérite" . Retrieved 2 November 2012.

Bibliography

Military offices
Preceded by
New Formation
Commander, I Reserve Corps
2 August 1914 – 7 November 1914
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Kurt von Morgen
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Hermann von François
Commander, 8th Army
7 November 1914 – 26 May 1915
Succeeded by
General der Artillerie Friedrich von Scholtz
Preceded by
New Formation
Commander, Army of the Niemen
26 May – 30 December, 1915
Succeeded by
renamed 8th Army
Preceded by
Army of the Niemen renamed
Commander, 8th Army
30 December 1915 – 5 October 1916
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Max von Fabeck
Preceded by
Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen
Commander, Army Group Below
11 October 1916 – 20 April 1917
Succeeded by
General der Artillerie Friedrich von Scholtz
Preceded by
Generaloberst Ludwig von Falkenhausen
Commander, 6th Army
23 April 1917 – 9 September 1917
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Ferdinand von Quast
Preceded by
New Formation
Commander, 14th Army
9 September 1917 – 22 January 1918
Succeeded by
Dissolved, became 17th Army
Preceded by
Formed from 14th Army
Commander, 17th Army
1 February 1918 – 12 October 1918
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Bruno von Mudra
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Bruno von Mudra
Commander, 1st Army
12 October 1918 – 8 November 1918
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Magnus von Eberhardt