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Walter Warlimont (* 3 October 1894 Osnabrückmarker, Germany - † 9 October 1976 Kreuthmarker near the Tegernseemarker) was a Germanmarker officer known for his role in the OKW inner circle (deputy chief).

World War I

Just before the start of World War I, in June 1914 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 10th Prussian Foot Artillery Regiment, which was based in Alsacemarker. During World War I he served as an artillery officer and battery commander in Francemarker and later in Italymarker. In late 1918 he served in the Freikorps Land Jäger rifle corps of General Maercker.

Between the Wars

Between the world wars he served in various military duties. In 1922 he served in the 6th Artillery Regiment. In 1926, as a captain, he was the second assistant to Chief of Staff (on the General Staff). In May 1929 he traveled to the United Statesmarker and was attached to the U.S. Army for a year to study U.S. industrial-mobilization theory during wartime. This led to his service between 1930 and 1933 as a major on the staff of the Industrial Mobilization Section of the German Defense Ministry; he served as its Chief in 1935 and 1936.

With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, between August and November 1936, newly promoted Lieutenant-Colonel Warlimont served as the Plenipotentiary Delegate of the Wehrmacht (Reich War Minister, OKH General Staff) to the government of Spanish General Francisco Franco, in Spainmarker. German War Minister Werner von Blomberg directed Warlimont to coordinate German aid in support of General Franco's battle against the Spanish legal Government forces. Before flying to Spain to meet with Franco, Warlimont met various Italian intelligence officials to discuss the Spanish Civil War.

Lieutenant-Colonel Warlimont became known as an up-and-coming staff officer when, in 1937, he wrote the Warlimont Memorandum calling for the reorganization of the German armed forces under one staff unit and one supreme commander. The plan was to limit the power of the high officer caste in favor of the German Führer: Adolf Hitler. On the basis of this memorandum, Hitler developed the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High command of the armed forces), with Hitler as supreme commander. Warlimont was rewarded in 1939 with a post as deputy to General Alfred Jodl.

In 1937 he served as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 34th Artillery Regiment, in Triermarker. In 1938 he was promoted to colonel and became commander of the 26th Artillery Regiment.

World War II

In late 1938 he became Senior Operations Staff Officer to General Wilhelm Keitel.This was a coveted position, and so between September 1939 and September 1944 he served as Deputy Chief of the Operations Staff (Wehrmachtführungsstab: WFSt: Armed Forces Operations Staff). General Jodl was his superior officer, who served as Chief of the Operations Staff, which was responsible for all strategical, executive, and war-operations planning.

While serving on this military operations planning staff, in early 1939 he assisted in developing some of the German military invasion plans of Poland. On 1 September 1939, German military forces invaded Poland, thereby starting World War II.

1940 saw his promotion to Generalmajor, and he assisted in developing the invasion plans of France. In 1941 he continued to assist in developing invasion operations into Russia; this earned his promotion to Generalleutnant in 1942.

His meteoric advancement in rank almost sputtered out on 3 November 1942 when he was relieved of his job when a junior officer failed to timely process a message from Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. However, only five days later he was recalled to duty to visit the French Vichy Government in France to coordinate the defense of their colonial territories from possible occupation by the Allies.

In February 1943 he traveled to Tunismarker to confer with Field Marshal Rommel as to whether or not the Germans should abandon North Africa.

In early 1944 he was promoted to General der Artillerie. As Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff, he continued to give almost daily briefings to Hitler regarding the status of German military operations.

On D-Day, when the Allies invaded at Normandy, France, Warlimont telephoned General Jodl to request that the German tanks in Normandy should be released to attack the Allied invaders. Jodl responded that he did not want to make that decision; they would have to wait until Hitler awoke. Once Hitler awoke and authorized the release of the tanks for a counter-attack, it was too late to blunt the successful Allied invasion. The following day, Hitler sent Warlimont to inspect the German defences in Italymarker.

On 20 July 1944, General Warlimont was wounded during the ill-fated assassination bombing against Hitler in a war-briefing bunker (the "Schwarze Kapelle" in Rastenburgmarker). He suffered a mild head concussion. Later in the day he telephoned Field Marshal Günther von Kluge and convinced him that Hitler was alive; this prompted von Kluge not to continue in the anti-Hitler coup. Even though General Warlimont was wounded alongside Hitler, nonetheless, he was wrongly viewed as possibly having been involved in the anti-Hitler conspiracy. Because of this, he belatedly received the special 20th of July Wound Badge, which was awarded only to those few wounded or killed in the 20 July explosion.

On 22 July, Warlimont traveled to France to meet with Field Marshal Rommel (who had been wounded a week earlier by an Allied airplane attack), and Rommel's naval aide Vice Admiral Friedrich Ruge, to discuss the deteriorating battlefield situation in Normandy.

Even though Hitler (in Wolfsschanzemarker) ordered Warlimont to travel to Paris on 1 August to study the German military situation there with Field Marshal von Kluge, Hitler thought that Warlimont might have been involved in the conspiracy to have him assassinated (an action which Warlimont denied). On 2 August, Warlimont met outside Paris with General Günther Blumentritt and advised him that Hitler wanted the Germans to regain the attack initiative against the Allies through Operation Luttich/Liege. Later, Warlimont urged General Heinrich Eberbach to continue his attacks in the Falaise Pocketmarker region. Although all the German generals informed Warlimont that they believed the attack would fail, he cabled Hitler that the generals were "confident of success".

Even Warlimont's boss, General Jodl, believed similarly of Warlimont's possible untrustworthiness. But Warlimont was not involved with the anti-Hitler movement. Warlimont still carried out Hitler's directives, but he was becoming disillusioned with Hitler and realized that Germany would be defeated.

Despite his doubts about Warlimont's trustworthiness, during September 1944 General Jodl considered making Warlimont his Chief of Staff. However, at Warlimont's request, due to his dizzy spells resulting from the 20 July assassination bombing against Hitler, he was transferred and retired to the OKH Command Pool (the Führer Reserve), and was not further employed during the war. Throughout the war, Warlimont and his boss, General Jodl, had a very strained working relationship.

After the War

Warlimont at the Nuremberg Trials, 1948
With the German defeat in May 1945, Warlimont was held as a prisoner-of-war.

In October 1948, Warlimont was tried as a war criminal before a United Statesmarker military tribunal in the High Command Trial because he passed on Hitler's directive that Allied commandos should be executed instead of being held as prisoners-of-war. Although he argued that he had tried to dilute Hitler's directive, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in 1951 his sentence was reduced to 18 years. In 1957 there was an amnesty for certain prisoners, and he was finally released from Landsberg Prisonmarker. After the war he engaged in writing various war-historical studies.

In 1962 he wrote Inside Hitler's Headquarters 1939 - 1945.

In an appraisal of General Warlimont's military capabilities, German Field Marshall Erich von Manstein wrote:

"Keitel, Jodl and Warlimont had never been in the war....Their lack of fighting experience tended to make them underrate practical difficulties, and encourage Hitler to believe that things could be done that were quite impossible....." (as noted in The Battle of the Bulge: The German View by Parker.


From an Allied perspective, Hugh Thomas (in his The Spanish Civil War) opined:

"Warlimont became renowned, with Keitel and Jodl, as one of the German officers most loyal to Hitler and was accordingly sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment in 1949 as a minor war criminal...."


Warlimont was interviewed for two episodes of The World at War.

Quotes

Had the 20th of July bomb plot against Hitler succeeded there would have been strikes and civil war within Germany... Already there were fanatic National Socialists in the army with ranks of captain and major; in the air force the doctrine was even at the highest levels, and the SS was entirely a party group - a state within a state. There were even divisions among the people who for 12 years had heard the same party line and had been effected [affected?] either favorably or unfavorably from the NSDAP. Out of all this chaos there was not a single person who could have brought these factions together and achieve a peace and a democratic government.


(At a subsequent Nuremberg trial )

References

  • Hitler's Generals: Authoritative Portraits of the Men Who Waged Hitler's War, edited by Correlli Barnett.
  • Inside Hitler's Headquarters: 1939-1945, Walter Warlimont (1962).
  • The Decision in the Mediterranean 1942 by Gen. W. Warlimont in The Decisive Battles of WWII: The German View, edited by H.A. Jacobsen (1965).


Further reading

  • "The Cossack Corps", General der Flieger Hellmuth Felmy and General der Artillerie Walter Warlimont, US Army Historical Division, Hailer Publishing, 2007 http://www.hailerpublishing.com/cossack.html



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