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Armee-Oberkommando 6
German 6th Army
Active 1914 – ?, 1939 – 1945
Country  German Empire
 Nazi Germany
Type Infantry
Engagements World War I

World War II

Insignia
Identification
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6th Army Logo.svg
Identification
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Army insignia

The 6th Army was a designation for German field armies which saw action in World War I and World War II. The term "6th Army" is perhaps best known for its involvement in the Battle of Stalingrad.

Contents

World War I

At the outbreak of WWI, command of the army was given to Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern. During the execution of Plan XVII, it was stationed in the Central sector, covering Lorraine.

In August 1914, in the Battle of Lorraine, Rupprecht's 6th Army managed to hold against the French offensive, using a feigned withdrawal to lure the advancing armies onto prepared defensive positions.

After the Western Front turned to stalemate and the opposing forces formed lines of trenches, the 6th Army was based in Northern France. On 24 September, 1915, the 6th Army was the target for the British Army's first chlorine gas attack of the war. Despite the horrific casualties inflicted, the British offensive became bogged down after several days.

In March 1917, the 6th Army was the target for the assault of the British and Canadian forces at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The 6th Army, now under the command of General Ludwig von Falkenhausen, suffered over 20,000 casualties in the ensuing fighting and were pushed back from the ridge by the Canadian Corps.

Commanders

  • Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern
  • General Ludwig von Falkenhausen

Order of Battle – August 1914, Lorraine

World War II

Western campaigns

Originally numbered as the 10th Army, this combat unit was formed on 10 October 1939 with General Walther von Reichenau in command. Its primary mission was to guard the western defenses of Germany against British and French attacks during the Polish campaign. During the invasion of the Low Countries the 6th Army saw active service linking up with paratroopers and destroying fortifications at Eben Emael, Liège, and Namur during the Battle of Belgium. The 6th Army was then involved in the breakthrough of the Paris defences on 12 June 1940, before acting as a northern flank for German forces along the Normandy coast during the closing stages of the Battle of France.

Eastern campaign

The 6th Army began its involvement in the Russian Campaign as the spearhead of Army Group South. Shortly after being promoted to Field Marshal, von Reichenau died in an aircraft accident while being transported to a hospital after a heart attack in January 1942. He was succeeded by his former chief of staff, General der Panzertruppen Friedrich Paulus. Paulus led the 6th Army to a major victory at the Second Battle of Kharkov during the spring of 1942. This victory sealed the 6th Army's destiny because it was selected by the OKH for the attack on Stalingrad.

The 6th Army failed to obtain a quick victory; winter came and with it Operation Uranus – the massive attack by Soviet forces on the flanks of the German corridor between the Don and Volga rivers 19 to 23 November 1942. The 6th Army was isolated and a major relief operation, (Operation Wintergewitter), which eventually failed, was undertaken by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. Paulus was promoted by Hitler to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall on 31 January 1943 ostensibly in part because until that day no German Field Marshal had ever surrendered. In other words, Adolf Hitler expected Paulus to commit suicide, but Paulus soon surrendered to the Soviet Forces, contrary to orders by his political chief. The remaining forces of the 6th Army, under the independent command of General Karl Strecker, surrendered three days after in the Tractor Factory, at the north of Stalingrad. Although that was not the definitive end of the 6th Army on this occasion, it was one of the worst military disasters in German history. For the first time, an entire German field army had been completely destroyed.

Reformation – Battles in the East

During the last days of the Stalingrad encirclement, Hitler, in denial of events, had one man from every division in the 6th Army flown out in order to 'reconstitute' a new 6th Army (A.O.K. 6). This new formation became active on 5 March 1943, and was commanded by General Karl Adolf Hollidt and based on Army Detachment Hollidt. It later fought in Ukraine and Romania as part of Army Group South and Army Group South Ukraine. The army was again largely destroyed in a large encirclement during the Iassy-Kishinev Operation, but this time the army HQ survived. The 6th Army was the only German army to be encircled and destroyed thrice (including the final capitulation).

Army Group Fretter-Pico

In October 1944, under the command of General of Artillery Maximilian Fretter-Pico, the 6th Army encircled and destroyed three Soviet tank corps of Mobile Group Pliyev under the command of Issa Pliyev in the Battle of Debrecen. During this time, the 6th Army had the Hungarian Second Army placed under its command, and it was known as "Army Group Fretter-Pico" (Armeegruppe Fretter-Pico).

Command passed to General der Panzertruppen Hermann Balck in December 1944. In January 1945, one of the 6th Army's subordinate units, the IX SS Alpine Corps (IX. SS-Gebirgskorps), was encircled in Budapest. SS-Gruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille's IV SS Tank Corps (IV. SS-Panzerkorps) was transferred to the 6th Army's command and a relief attempt, codenamed Operation Konrad, was launched during the 102-day siege of Budapest.

Army Group Balck

After the failure of Konrad III, the 6th Army was made part of "Army Group Balck" (Armeegruppe Balck). This army group fell back to the area near Lake Balaton. Several units, including the III Tank Corps (III.Panzerkorps), were involved in Operation Spring Awakening (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen), while the rest of the Sixth Army provided defence for the left flank of the offensive, in the region near Székesfehérvár. After the failure of the offensive, the Sixth Army held the line until a major Soviet offensive, the Vienna Operation on 15 March, 1945. This offensive tore a gap in the 6th Army between the IV SS Tank Corps (IV. SS-Panzerkorps) and the 3rd Hungarian Army (subordinated to Balck's command), shattering the formation.

By the end of March 1945, the 6th Army was involved in a retreat towards Vienna. The shattered remnants of 6th Army surrendered to the Americans on 9 May, 1945.

Commanders

  • Field Marshal Walther von Reichenau (10 October 1939 – 29 December 1941)
  • Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus (30 December 1941 – 3 February 1943)
  • General Karl Adolf Hollidt (5 March 1943 – 7 April 1944)
  • General Maximilian de Angelis (8 April 1944 – 16 July 1944)
  • General Maximilian Fretter-Pico (17 July 1944 – 22 December 1944)
  • General Hermann Balck (23 December 1944 – 8 May 1945)







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