Hasso Eccard von Manteuffel, 1897-1978

Hasso Eccard von Manteuffel (1897-1978) was a German general who fought on the Eastern Front, in Tunisia and in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was the most successful German commander.

Manteuffel was born in Potsdam in 1897, into a Prussian aristocratic family with a tradition of army service. He joined the army as a officer cadet in February 1915, was commissioned in April 1916 and earned the Iron Cross First and Second class during the First World War.

After the war Manteuffel joined Freikorps von Oven, before joining the Reichswehr in 1919. For most of the interwar period he served in the cavalry, and became a well known equestrian sportsman, but by 1939 he had transferred to the armoured forces and was serving as an instructor at the Berlin-Krampnitz Panzer School. As a result he missed out on the German victories in Poland and France.

In 1941 Manteuffel requested the command of a motorized infantry battalion, and was appointed to command a battalion in Schuetzen-Regiment 7, 7th Panzer Division. He led this unit in the first months of the invasion of the Soviet Union, before in August he was promoted to command Schuetzen-Regiment 6, also in 7th Panzer. He led this unit during the attempt to capture Moscow, and on 31 December 1941 was awarded the Knight's Cross for capturing an important bridge to the north-west of the city. He was then promoted to command Schuetzen-Brigade 7, the motorized infantry brigade attached to 7th Panzer Division, holding this post until May, when the division was withdrawn to France to recover from the losses suffered in Russia.

In February 1943 Manteuffel was sent to Tunisia to command an improvised 'Manteuffel Division', made up of paratroopers, Panzergrenadiers and Italian Bersaglieri. Although Manteuffel led this command in a successful attack in late February, the Axis situation in North Africa was hopeless, and most of the senior officers left in Tunisia would fall into Allied hands. Manteuffel was fortunate in that he fell ill and was evacuated on the last hospital ship to sail from Tunis.

On 1 May 1943 Manteuffel was promoted to Generalmajor, but he wasn't fit to return to duty for another three months. When he was finally fit he was appointed to command the 7th Panzer Division, which by then had returned to the Eastern Front. He arrived just after Operation Citadel, and during the Soviet offensives that followed that battle. Manteuffel played a major part in a German counterattack that enveloped the Soviet 16th Army, recaptured Zhitomir and perhaps more importantly captured large Soviet supply dumps. On 23 November 1943 he was awarded the Oak-Leaves to the Knight's Cross as a reward for this achievement.

In February 1944 Manteuffel was promoted to Generalleutnant, awarded the Swords to the Knight's Cross and at about the same time he was given command of the Grossdeutschland Division, one of the elite formations of the German army. He led this division in fighting around Kiev, winning the Swords to the Knight's Cross (22 February 1944). The division was then forced back into Romania, before being moved to East Prussia in an attempt to restore the German position there. In August 1944 Manteuffel managed to restore the German line, his last achievement with the division.

On 1 September 1944 the newly promoted General der Panzertruppe was appointed to command the 5th Army, facing the Americans in Lorraine. Manteuffel was pushed back over the next few weeks, before in mid-October his army was pulled out of the line to prepare for the Ardennes offensive. 

His army was reinforced with the Panzer Lehr division, 2nd and 116th Panzer divisions and the 18th, 62nd and 560th Volksgrenadier Divisions. The 5th Army attacked in the centre of the German line, and made good progress, but to its left the 7th Army failed to take Bastogne. On 21 December Manteuffel captured St. Vith, but the Germans were greatly aided by poor weather that grounded most Allied aircraft. When the weather improved after Christmas the Germans were subjected to massive air attacks. They failed to capture essential Allied supplies, and from 9 January 1945 were forced to retreat.

Manteuffel was rewarded for his part in the battle with the Diamonds to the Knight's Cross (18 February 1945). On 10 March 1945 he replaced General Erhard Rauss as commander of the 3rd Panzer Army, based in East Prussia. As the Soviets besieged Berlin he was ordered to attack towards the German capital, but he was aware that these orders were futile, and instead retreated west. Most of his troops surrendered to the British around Mecklenburg, but Manteuffel himself surrendered to the US 8th Infantry Division on 8 May.

Manteuffel was a prisoner of war until September 1947. After the war he began a political career, and was a member of the Bundestag for the Free Democratic Party from 1953-57. His political career ended when he was charged with the execution of a soldier for desertion. He was sentenced to two years' in jail, but this was quashed by the President of Germany. This was only a temporary setback. He lectured at West Point and had an active career in industry as well as making a contribution to military history. He died on holiday in Austria in September 1978.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 November 2011), Hasso Eccard von Manteuffel, 1897-1978 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_manteuffel_hasso.html

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