The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

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Charlie645
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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by Charlie645 » Sat May 22, 2010 1:02 pm

Hi Manchu19 and Jerry, I am very happy to see that you have picked up the thread I started on Graf Strachwitz. He was an amazing man and is still little known in the West.

Manchu19, I once thought I would try to write an English language biography of the Panzer Count, but my inability to speak German (I read it fairly well) and the great distance between my home on the west coast of the US and Germany convinced me that I could not do it. I should inform you that later I was contacted by another researcher who does not have either of those problems and is also working on a biography of Strachwitz, and I agreed to help him, so you are not alone in this effort.

I completely agree with your review of Fraschka's work. When I contacted the Graf's youngest son he wrote exactly the same thing to me. The Graf himself told his son that while the main points are fairly accurate, nearly all the details are false or exaggerated. Still, it is better than nothing. I am jealous that you were able to speak with Otto Carius. It was his desception of Strachwitz that started my interest in the great soldier. It is interesting to note that even Franz Kurowski did not write about Graf Strachwitz. Maybe that is a good thing . . .

There are three serious obstacles for anyone trying to research Strachwitz's life, especially the World War II portion. First, his basic Wehrmact personnel file--the official document that records his career including all his assignments, ranks and awards--is missing. An exhaustive search of both German and American archives has revealed this. Second, it is too late to speak to any of his family from that time or his important colleagues, they have all died now. For example, Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven, who was a company commader in Strachwitz's panzer battalion during in 1942, died recently. He gives a few stories about Strachwitz in his book "In the Bunker with Hitler", and Antony Beevor quotes him several times in his book "Stalingrad, The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943, but anything else died with him. Finally, Strachwitz's role in the anti-Hitler Resistance is controversial and while some praise him, others disapprove and do not want to help those seeking information about him.

Jerry, in his book "Kursk: The German View" Stephen H. Newton gives a brief description on pages 387-8 of the dispute between Strachwitz and Decker concerning the command and control of the armored units operating within the Grossdeutschalnd Division at the start of Citadel. I have not personally pursued that issue any further. If you learn more, post it here!

Finally for both of you, I like to use every method possible to understand and appreciate the colossal struggle on the Ostfront, including model making and computer wargaming. Together with my colleague George McEwan, I have produced a series of Strachwitz battle scenarios for the game "Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin" sold by battlefront.com. We made every effort to make these scenarios as historically accurate (orders of battle, detailed maps, etc.) as possible. You can download those scenarios for the game at blowtorchscenarios.com This game is not a "first person shooter" -- it is a serious turn-based tactical game featuring individual armored fighting vehicles and infantry at the squad level on maps with a maximum 6 x 4 kikometers. You might enjoy playing those scenarios, even though they are only a game with the inevitable unrealistic elements.

Again, thanks for your interest in this great man and good luck in your research!

Charlie

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by manchu19 » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:24 pm

The Panzer Graf's personnel records were under SS Officer's because of his early affiliation with the Reiter SS. They are available on microfilm at the National Archives and the originals should be with the files of the Berlin Document Center at the former location of the Prussian Military Academy at Gross Lichterfelde (formerly Andrews Barracks) in Berlin. As a cavalryman, accomplished rider, and community leader; he joined the SS riding organziation. He continued his passion for riding while in the Reichwehr. The 7th Cavalry Regiment was notorious for their horsemanship and participation in horse races. One of their best riders was von Mellenthin, author of Panzer Battles (Source: Christian von Luck's 2d Panzer Regimental History).

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by manchu19 » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:34 pm

I have not gotten that far in my research -- I am currently working on his youth, cadet years, and WWI. Next major effort will be the inter war years; then finally WWII. Although I do piddle around with the FEB - MAR 43 timeframe and the Lanz plan to capture/kill Hitler.

I am fighting a losing battle on finding primary sources. I started this quest in 2005, his oldest son (also Hyacinth) died in 2002. I did not know that the last living witness in Hitler's bunker(Bernd von Freytag-Loringhoven) had also served in the 2d Panzer Regiment and had at one time been his adjutant until after he died in February 2007.

I did get to talk to Otto Carius who served under him in Estonia; and I understand the Graf's daughter from his first marriage is still alive (90 years old). She is my first priority in seeking information. The Panzer Graf also has a grand daughter in the US, but she only met him once.

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by Charlie645 » Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:21 pm

Hi Manchu19,

I have the SS file on Strachwitz that you mention, and so does the author I have helped. Perhaps because Strachwitz never served in an SS unit during World War 2, that file is very limited and contains serious gaps in information.

I believe the Graf's daughter from his first marriage died recently, but I am not certain. I'n afraid you are right about losing the battle for primary sources.

Again, I wish you good luck with your research and writing.

Charlie

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by manchu19 » Tue Jun 29, 2010 2:33 pm

This is what popped up in my files concerning Karl Decker -

This from Charlie Meconis:

The last great German strategic offensive in the East, "Operation Citadel", is in its fifth brutal day. The grand German plan to conduct a classic pincers assault to cut off the "bulge" of Soviet forces around the southern Russian city of Kursk has already largely failed in the north in the face of the unprecedented strength and depth of the three-tiered Soviet defences.

For the "Panzer Count", Oberst Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz, the battle has already been marked by bitter controversy and personal tragedy. At the peak of his prowess as a holder of the Knight's Cross with Oakleaves and Swords, and in command of the veteran and fully re-fitted Panzerregiment Grossdeutschland, Strachwitz had prepared for the battle fully aware of the terrible challenge in front of him, but confident that under his dynamic leadership the panzertruppen would prevail.

However, larger forces had conspired to thwart him at the outset. Hitler's almost magical belief in the superiority of German technology had caused him to delay the Kursk offensive until an array of brand new armored fighting vehicles could reach the front.

At the last minute prior to the start of the July 5 assault, an entire regiment of the new Panther tanks, nearly 200 in all, had been attached to Großdeutschland. The tanks were powerful but beset by teething problems, and their crews had had little time to train together or even test their radios.

To make matters worse, at the insistence of General Guderian, at the very last minute Oberst Karl Decker was appointed overall commander of both Grossdeutschland's panzer regiments in a new Panzer Brigade 10, shunting the brilliant and proud Strachwitz into a subordinate role.

Decker, a good commander under normal circumstances, badly bungled the first day of the assault as the nearly 350 tanks under his command became hopelessly tangled in swampy terrain and Soviet minefields, and then were then badly shot up by Soviet defences, with the Panthers taking severe losses.

Furious at this travesty, Strachwitz had gone over the head of his division commander General Hornlein straight to the Korps Commander, General von Knoblesdorff, and demanded that Decker be sidelined and command returned to him. Knoblesdorff acquiesced and as of July 6 Strachwitz regained command of Großdeutschland's panzer forces including the few remaining Panthers, and got the division moving toward Kursk.

But now, on the morning of July 9, with the fall of the heavily fortified town of Verkhopeny'e, the road to Oboyan and beyond to Kursk appeared to be open at last. Before him lay a broad valley with a small village named Novosolevka at the far end, terrain seemingly made to order for another classic cavalry Strachwitz thrust. Was the breakthrough finally at hand? Or had the desperate Vatutin managed to plug the gap with reinforcements during the night?

And this which I downloaded from the internet as only a guide on what to look for - I seek cited material to document the Panzer Graf's life and to refute the misrepresentations in the Fraschka book.

Oberst Karl Decker stood higher than von Strachwitz in the hierarchy and despite his excellent reputation as one of the best tank tactician von Strachwitz reported to Decker. All above factors resulted in stupid mistakes, which were made by inexperienced crew of Panthers. In the brief report one of the observers noted that both battalions moved forward to the attack areas without obtaing operational orders neither from Decker nor from von Lauchert concerning combat situation. Company Commanders were not aware about the assault plans. Since from the very beginning the targets and combat goals were not clearly defined the assault outcome was in question. After hastlily forming up and refueling, the Panther units went to the attack at 0815 hours on 5 July. Engine failures and fires put several Panthers out of action during the approach to the battlefield (six were total losses as a result of engine fires). Moving off from the assembly are Panthers moved across the mine fields, which were under observation of the Russian anti-tank artillery. Having interaction experience only on the platoon level, new tanks suffered their first losses. Oberst Drecker was pushing his troops forward to make up for the delays but that only resulted that his brigade was stuck in the marshy terrain in the critical phase of the offensive. Due to the fact that Panthers spearheaded the assault and their large number was concentrated in the restricted sector, von Strachwitz was not able to bypass them with his battalion of Pz-IV. This led to the fact that the commander of the III Battalion, Panzer-Fusiler Regiment GD was left without tank support. Aas a result his battalion during two hours of combat lost over 150 men without achieving any results.

Strachwitz was furious and his anger got stronger when the mission came to swing the power of tank blow on the right flank to support more successful III Battalion of Panzer-Grenadiers. Two battalions of Oberst Drecker moved so carelessly that they failed not only to reach their target positions and breach Soviet defense but delayed commitment of infantry battalions. Von Strachwitz was not able to see this farse any longer and took command. According to later complaint of Decker to Huderian Strachwitz didn’t answer to the radio communication and acted independently that resulted in loss of 12 Panthers. Strachwitz sent his own complaint and on July 6th von Knobelsdorf dismissed Decker from command for 4 days. However in the conditions of the critical phase of the offensive significant damage was already inflicted.

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by Charlie645 » Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:28 pm

Concerning the Decker-Strachwitz confrontation at Kursk, another useful source can be found on pages 130-131 of Hans-Joachim Jung's book, "Panzer Soldiers for 'God, Honor, Fatherland':The History of Panzerregiment 'Grossdeutschland'". Jung claims to have spoken personally with Strachwitz on the eve of the Kursk attack. He cites a number of factors that contributed to the poor performance of Grossdeutschland's panzer force on July 5, and defends Strachwitz. Jung greatly admired Strachwitz and includes a brief biography of him as an Appendix on pages 424-428.

Charlie

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by manchu19 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 2:36 pm

RE: Decker vs Strachwitz

Take a look at the Great Panther Debate at the Dupuy Institute website. Some interesting leads are there.

http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/ubb/Forum ... 003-2.html

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by Charlie645 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:18 pm

The Dupuy Institute Forum thread is indeed interesting, if inconclusive. Perhaps Lauchert's letters reveal more about the Decker/Strachwitz controversy. Have the translations been published anywhere?

Charlie

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by krichter33 » Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:18 pm

I know this is an old topic, but if there are any TDI people on the board, I was wondering if the Lauchert letters have ever been translated. Most Kursk battle histories seem to side with Strachwitz over Decker. However Nipe's Blood Steel and Myth sides with Decker and is highly critical of Strachwitz. Also I'm curious what is the state of the English bio of Strachwitz that Manchu19 was writing?
Klaus Richter

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by Charlie645 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 4:34 pm

The 2011 publication in German of Han-Joachim Röll's new Strachwitz biography "Generalleutnant der Reserve Hyacinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz: Vom kavallerieoffizier zum Führer gepanzerte Verbände" by Flechsig Verlag may have delayed or shelved Manchu's project. The biography covers Strachwitz's entire life and I think it is quite good. However, in my opinion it does not offer much new in terms of details of the Panzer Count's WW II operations and is very weak in terms of maps. It leaves the Decker controversy still open, so I hope Lauchert's letters see the light of day eventually. There is still plenty of room for a detailed analysis of Strachwitz's WW II military campaigns. Perhaps Manchu or someone else will do that.

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by krichter33 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 4:57 pm

I heard the same about Röll's book. It is supposedly really good but not as detailed as it could be. I hope manchu or someone can complete a real detailed work on his life.
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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by Charlie645 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:03 pm

Röll's book contains a great deal of detail with regard to Strachwitz's life in general. He clearly had the full cooperation of the family and the book contains, for example, many Strachwitz family photos never published before.The book is also very detailed with regard to the Count's early life and education, crucial to understanding him. It is far superior in this regard to Fraschka's 1962 biography. The book also contains a good and sound basic description of Strachwitz's military career in World WarI and World War II, without the inaccurate "legendary" material of the earlier work. So as an overall biography of Strachwitz's life it is probably definitive. However, it doesn not contain a detailed analysis of Strachwitz's World War II military leadership. True, a lot of this is avaialble scattered in various sources, including Nipe's recent "Blood, Steel, and Myth" and as early as Wolfgang Werthen's 1958 "Geschichte der 16. Panzer-Division". What is still lacking is a detailed, documented historical analysis in one book of the title of this thread: the battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz.

I still hope that someone will embark on such a study.

Charlie

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Re: The Battle leadership of Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

Post by krichter33 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:47 pm

I'll buy Röll's book. It sound really good. One day maybe we'll have more of a clarification of the entire Decker affair. In reading what I have read about the Count, he always has struck me as a very good, if not at times, over ambitious armored commander. But like all great commanders, I'm sure he has had his share of mistakes. Nipe seems to illustrate Kursk as being one of the Count's worst moments, though he seemed to recover his tactical acumen later on at Narva and Tuccum. Either way it would be nice to get more of a definitive tactical view of those operations since Strachwitz has always been one of my "favorite" panzer officers, due to his achievements and his 'arrogant' personality!
Klaus Richter

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