War is an human endeavor. The stories of the individual soldiers are the true story of combat.
Here are some that we know:
German Senior Commanders
|Studio photograph of Generaloberst von Leeb
Generaloberst Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb, Commander of Army Group C, 1938-1940. An authority on defensive
warfare, von Leeb was the ideal officer for operations against the permanent fortifications. Under his command,
Army Group C conducted two major offensives to pierce the Maginot Line. For his part in the French Campaign,
von Leeb was promoted to Generalfeldmarschall. After the war, he was captured by the US Army. While in captivity he
helped the European Command Historical Division compile a historical study of German operations in the war.
His personnel file from that period is below:
Post-war personnel file of Generalfeldmarschall von Leeb (pdf)
| Card with Alfred Germer's signature (J Scott Collection)
Oberleutnant Alfred Germer (71st Infantry Division). As the commander of 1st Kompanie, Pionierbataillon 171, Alfred
Germer led the assault on Fort La Ferté (known to the Germans as Panzerwerk 505). On 18 May, Germer's detachment of combat engineers
and infantry attacked and disabled the fort's armored cupolas and turret with explosive charges. The
charges set off secondary detonations inside the turret and started several fires inside the fort. Smoke and fumes from the fires killed the
entire French crew which refused to surrender even though their position was hopeless. La Ferté was the first Maginot Line fort to fall to the German army. For his part in the action
Germer was awarded the Knight's Cross.
During the invasion of Russia, Germer fought at Kiev
in 1941. Afterward, he was assigned to the army engineer school. In spring 1943, Germer returned to the 71st Infantry Division and was appointed commander
of Pionierbataillon 171. He left the 71st Infantry Division in 1944 to attend
general staff training at the war academy. In September 1944, now a major, Germer was assigned to the VI Army Corps, participating
in the retreat to East Prussia. He was reported missing in action at Breslau in March 1945.
Personnel file of Oberleutnant (later Major) Alfred Germer
|Photograph from Franz Netzsch's Soldbuch
Unteroffizier Franz Netzsch (215th Infantry Division). Born in 1913 in Bavaria, Franz Netzsch was a musical instrument
maker by trade. He joined the Wehrmacht as an engineer (pionier) and was called up to the 215th Infantry Division on
26th August 1939. At the time of the 215th Infantry Division’s attack on the Maginot Line, he was a
junior non-commissioned officer (unteroffizier) in 3. Kompanie, Pionierbataillon 204. For his part in the action,
Netzsch received the Iron Cross Second Class (EKII) on 03 July 1940.
In January 1941 Netzsch's unit was transferred
to the 6th Mountain Division where he participated in the invasion of Greece and later served on the Finnish front at
Murmansk and Petsamo. He was awarded the General Assault Badge and Ostmedaille in 1942 and then promoted to sergeant
(feldwebel) on 01 June 1944. When the German Army retreated from Finland, he served in Norway until the end of the war
where his unit surrendered to British Forces. In total, Netzsch served six years in the Wehrmacht and survived
Click here for Unteroffizier Netzsch's view of an attack on the Maginot Line