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Friedrich von Mellenthin

Friedrich Wilhelm von Mellenthin
Born (1904-08-30)August 30, 1904
Breslau, Silesia, German Empire (now Wrocław, Poland)
Died June 28, 1997(1997-06-28) (aged 92)
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Allegiance  Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Reichswehr
Years of service 1924–45
Rank Generalmajor
Unit III Army Corps
197th Infantry Battalion
Second Army
Afrika Korps / Panzer Army Africa
XLVIII Panzer Corps
Army Group G
5th Panzer Army
Commands held 9th Panzer Division

World War II

Awards German Cross in Gold
Other work Author of Panzer Battles, director of Lufthansa in South Africa

Friedrich Wilhelm von Mellenthin (30 August 1904 – 28 June 1997) was a Generalmajor in the German Army during World War II. A participant in most of the major campaigns of the war, he became well-known afterwards for his memoirs Panzer Battles, first published in 1956 and regularly reprinted since then.


  • Early life 1
  • Early war — Poland/France/Balkans/Greece 2
  • Africa 3
  • Eastern Front 4
  • Western Front 5
  • Later life 6

Early life

Mellenthin was born in South African emigrant, in 1932. Although he described himself as "perfectly happy" with regimental life, his superior assigned him to prepare operational reports to divisional headquarters, and these were generally approved of. In recognition of his talents, he was assigned to the Kriegsakademie in 1935, where he took its two-year course for General Staff officers.

Early war — Poland/France/Balkans/Greece

Between 1937 and December 1939, he served as the Third General Staff Officer (Ic-Intelligence) in the III. Armeekorps of the Wehrmacht. He participated in the September 1939 Invasion of Poland, where the III. Armeekorps attacked from Pomerania and pressed along the Vistula River toward Warsaw, cutting off the retreat of Polish units in the Corridor.

From June to August 1940, he was the First General Staff Officer (Ia-Operations) with the 197th Infantry Division during the Battle of France and the preparations for Operation Sea Lion. From September 1940 to February 1941, he was the Third General Staff Officer (Ic-Intelligence) in the First Army, then on occupation duty in northern France. After this quiet period, from March through May 1941, he was the Third General Staff Officer (Ic-Intelligence) with the Second Army during Germany's invasion of the Balkans.


Following this, von Mellenthin was posted to North Africa, where from June 1941 to September 1942 he served as the Third General Staff Officer (Ic-Intelligence) in Generaloberst Erwin Rommel's Deutsches Afrika Korps (which later became Panzer Armee Afrika - PAA). He stayed in this role during the battles of Tobruk, Gazala, and First and Second El Alamein. From July to September 1942 he also served as the Acting Operations Staff Officer to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel at PAA HQ.

On 10 July during First Alamein, PAA HQ came under direct attack by Australian troops who had routed the Italian Sabratha Division. Von Mellenthin formed the HQ personnel into a battle group and held off the Australians until German reserves arrived.

Due to the high stress of these assignments, he spent September and October 1942 in a military hospital at Garmisch, Germany, recovering from exhaustion and amoebic dysentery.

Eastern Front

Upon recovery from his illness, von Mellenthin was assigned as Chief of Staff for the 48th Panzer Corps, on the Eastern Front in Russia. He served with 48th Panzer Corps from November 1942 to May 1944. He participated in the battles following the encirclement of Stalingrad, and was in frequent radio contact with Paulus, the commander at Stalingrad. After the defeat at Stalingrad, von Mellenthin described the German war on the Eastern Front in the following terms: "We are in the position of a man who has seized a wolf by the ears and dare not let him go." (May 14, 1943).

Von Mellenthin continued with 48th Panzer Corps through the Battle of Kursk, the Battle of Kiev and the spring 1944 battles in western Ukraine, including the battle for Tarnopol. During the first days of the Lvov-Sandomierz Operation, in July 1944, 48th Panzer Corps failed to relieve the Brody encirclement.

In August 1944, during the later stages of the battles in western Ukraine and south-eastern Poland, several German commanders were moved; von Mellenthin followed General Hermann Balck when Balck was promoted from 48th Panzer Corps to commander of 4th Panzer Army. During this time Soviet Marshal Konev's forces pressed the German forces behind the San river in south-eastern Poland, creating a bridgehead that became one of the springboards for the Vistula-Oder offensive in January 1945.

Western Front

In September 1944, Balck was promoted to command Army Group G in eastern France, and again von Mellenthin followed. They served there until November 1944, during fighting in Lorraine and Alsace, including the Battle of Nancy, Battle of Metz, and Battle of Arracourt. In early December 1944, Balck was relieved of command by Hitler for "unauthorized retreat", and von Mellenthin was retired to the OKW Officers’ Pool. General Heinz Guderian, then Chief of Staff of the German Army, interceded for him and he was restored to duty in late December.

On December 28, he received command of 9th Panzer Division, whose commander von Elverfeldt had been wounded. 9th Panzer was then engaged in the Battle of the Bulge, fighting just north of Bastogne. Von Mellenthin commanded 9th Panzer through the remainder of the battle, and until February, when von Elverfeldt recovered. This was von Mellenthin's only command assignment in his career.

From March to May 1945 he was chief of staff of 5th Panzer Army under General Hasso von Manteuffel, defending western Germany against US and British forces in the Ruhr region and around Cologne.

During the eastward retreat he was captured by the British at Höxter on the Weser River, on May 3, 1945.

Later life

Von Mellenthin spent 2 12 years in prison, during which

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