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Hermann Balck, Greatest German General?

ShortRound

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I read a short article on HistoryNet about Hermann Balck. It got me interested to learn more about him. Anyone who manages to have only 215 men killed in a campaign, while killing about 30,000, has got to be crazy good at their job. Has anyone read the Book, "Order in Chaos: The Memoirs of General of Panzer Troops Hermann Balck"? It is pretty expensive ( at least to my budget) and was wondering if it is worth the cost.

 

HOA_KSOP

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I read somewhere that a German officer said "Balck could out Rommel Rommel". IMO Balck is the best panzer commander Germany produced, and they produced some great ones. I bought and am getting ready to read Panzer Commander Hermann Balck, Germany's Master Tactician by Stephen Robinson. What I really want to find is a cheap copy of Balck's Order in Chaos. So we are in the same boat.

I also understand that during the Cold War the US Army interviewed Balck as they were interested in how he inflicted such heavy losses on the Red Army while preserving his forces. That should tell you everything you need to know about the man's ability.
 

ShortRound

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Thanks for the first book mentioned. Look like I can get the Kindle version for $9.99. I will buy the other one when I get my first Air Force retirement check in about ten months. This guy sounds like "The 300" story!
 
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Lethaface

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I read somewhere that a German officer said "Balck could out Rommel Rommel". IMO Balck is the best panzer commander Germany produced, and they produced some great ones. I bought and am getting ready to read Panzer Commander Hermann Balck, Germany's Master Tactician by Stephen Robinson. What I really want to find is a cheap copy of Balck's Order in Chaos. So we are in the same boat.

I also understand that during the Cold War the US Army interviewed Balck as they were interested in how he inflicted such heavy losses on the Red Army while preserving his forces. That should tell you everything you need to know about the man's ability.

Thanks, still had some credit on bol.com (dutch amazon) and found 'Order in Chaos' paperback for EUR 30 something. Although delivery will take a while (within 60days orso). Amazon has it as well but adds a lot of delivery costs for me.
 

HOA_KSOP

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Thanks for the first book mentioned. Look like I can get the Kindle version for $9.99. I will buy the other one when I get my first Air Force retirement check in about ten months. This guy sounds like "The 300" story!
@ShortRound...The author of Panzer Commander Hermann Balck mentions the book Panzer Battles by Friedrich von Mellenthin. Von Mellenthin served with Rommel in N. Africa and with Balck later and he describes them and their actions very well. I have a copy of the book, you can usually find a paperback copy around for a couple of bucks.
 
Very disappointed to confirm Balck's own book, while it can be found on Amazon, is in hardback only. Price is $34.95 if interested.
The "Panzer Commander Hermann Balck" book, while better than nothing I suppose, has this criticism from a reader:
- "Sadly this book mainly concentrates on his Battles as a Colonel in the conquest of Greece and the ANZAC forces he fought. Much
of his later career is treated as an afterthought..."
Thus, it is not the complete story. However, I confirmed you can get it on Kindle for only $9.99.
So there's that.
p.s. "Panzer Battles" in paperback is available for $13.45 (new).
 
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HOA_KSOP

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Very disappointed to confirm Balck's own book, while it can be found on Amazon, is in hardback only. Price is $34.95 if interested.
The "Panzer Commander Hermann Balck" book, while better than nothing I suppose, has this criticism from a reader:
- "Sadly this book mainly concentrates on his Battles as a Colonel in the conquest of Greece and the ANZAC forces he fought. Much
of his later career is treated as an afterthought..."
Thus, it is not the complete story. However, I confirmed you can get it on Kindle for only $9.99.
So there's that.
p.s. "Panzer Battles" in paperback is available for $13.45 (new).
Umm, the author clearly states in the book's forward that the book only covers through the Chir River battles and even then there is an epilogue that touches on Balck's remaining war time exploits. The synopsis on Amazon also makes that clear, so if the guy bought it without reading the synopsis then he should review the fact that he's a dumbass.

Now, with that said, the hardback is currently ( as of 5 minutes ago) priced on Amazon at $80.00, the paperback is $ 34.95. You can get used hard backs staring at $40.00.
 
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I was merely pointing out the "Panzer Commander" book might be a little bit incomplete for those who were looking for something a tad more comprehensive.
I made a typo with that last post re price. Said hardback when I meant paperback. There are some used hardback copies of Balck's book, used, for only $41.64.
When I was checking the books details I was amazed to find "Order In Chaos The Memoirs of General of Panzer Troops Herman Balck" NOW AVAILABLE on Kindle for $26.49.
Snapped that puppy up darned quick and it now rest comfortably on my Kindle.
Cool.
 

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during the Cold War the US Army interviewed Balck as they were interested in how he inflicted such heavy losses on the Red Army while preserving his forces. That should tell you everything you need to know about the man's ability.

There might also be a clue in this line from Wikipedia:

"Balck twice turned down a post in the German General Staff, the normal path for advancing to high rank in the German army, preferring instead to remain a line officer. "
 

HOA_KSOP

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I was merely pointing out the "Panzer Commander" book might be a little bit incomplete for those who were looking for something a tad more comprehensive.
And you are correct. The Amazon review by the one fellow is on the mark. The explanation of the Greek Campaign, although fascinating as I was not really well informed on the conduct of operations in Greece, was more from the Allied perspective and didn't really delve into Balck's conduct to a great degree. The Chir Battles are covered pretty well, with a pretty decent rendition of the elastic mobile tactics Balck used in this battle, but it is not as verbose as the Greek campaign description. The rest of the book kind of summarizes the remainder of Balck's career and his life. One thing I did learn was that the US Army drew heavily on Balck to help create their Airland Battle doctrine and ethos.

Not complaining, because I knew what I was getting when I bought the book, but am going to sell it to the used book store when I go there in the future.
 
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I started "Order in Chaos" and found myself fast forwarding through his early life and everything else he did before getting into the army.
It is a translation and as such the writing style is a bit stilted and dry. I'm hoping it gets more interesting when, well, things get more interesting.
I temporarily left it for the next book in the series "Marching with Caesar," which is terrific by the way.
 

Lethaface

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I started "Order in Chaos" and found myself fast forwarding through his early life and everything else he did before getting into the army.
It is a translation and as such the writing style is a bit stilted and dry. I'm hoping it gets more interesting when, well, things get more interesting.
I temporarily left it for the next book in the series "Marching with Caesar," which is terrific by the way.

Just received my copy in the mail today. I hope German being close to Dutch the translation doesn't affect me as much.
Translations always losing some of the original is the main reason I prefer reading books in their original language, although my German isn't good enough for that.
 

Lethaface

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I restarted this again. Slooow. He's dragging me through his career as a soldier in WWI.
His personal perspective on the War is interesting though. I cannot figure out how he managed to remember such detail.
Didn't I read he kept a detailed diary?

Yeah in the opening pages he states he kept a journal in both WW1 & WW2 which used as a base for the memoirs.
 

Lethaface

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Got halfway through. So far liking it, although the text is indeed a bit dry. I don't really mind though because he basically sums up his journal entries and then add some explanation or current thoughts. I do like to read his perspective on WW1. Social democracy was a strange thing around 1920 for a career (Prussian) military officer. The world and his worldview was rather different. Ofc the usual grain of salt should be applied here and there, and sometimes it is noticeable that he has found some ways to look at the past which can be viewed as mildly apologetic on the part of Germans role in WW2 (on the subject of starting wars of aggression). The translator has put some notes with these paragraphs.

At the same time Versailles was obviously not the best way to create a stable Germany and I guess the loss of German territory wasn't taken well by the average nationalist German. What I do like is that he doesn't try to change his original thinking, or at least states that he has no interest in that. So it is interesting to see that at some point he temporarily thinking that 'national Bolshevism' might be the quickest way to rebuilding Germany ("the workers need to be integrated into society").

Also, as a career officer who lost a son in action in 1941 basically his whole identity came forth from being in the army and the wars he fought. So, obviously psychologically he needs to have a story that combines all together and that not all of it was for evil.

I'm now in 1942, his descriptions of the battles on the Ost Front usually don't go in much detail but give an overview of mainly the front sectors where he fought. He also adds his views and thoughts in hindsight, overall I'm liking the read!
 

Bulletpoint

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Also, as a career officer who lost a son in action in 1941 basically his whole identity came forth from being in the army and the wars he fought. So, obviously psychologically he needs to have a story that combines all together and that not all of it was for evil.
It must be extremely difficult for a man to have fought hard and lost much and then realise that it was not only for nothing, but actually for an evil cause. Your post reminded me of this old video where some German veterans are confronted by a Dutch woman. Their mental gymnastics to defend the German invasion of the Netherlands.

Don't read the comments section.

 

Lethaface

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It must be extremely difficult for a man to have fought hard and lost much and then realise that it was not only for nothing, but actually for an evil cause. Your post reminded me of this old video where some German veterans are confronted by a Dutch woman. Their mental gymnastics to defend the German invasion of the Netherlands.

Don't read the comments section.

Indeed it must be. Saw that clip before, might be from some Dutch program but can't remember. And indeed I think the majority of those man in the clip are still clinging on / living in the past and explain the current world from that view.

Although I think that Balck doesn't have this on the level as the man in this clip; he can see most things in (some) perspective. I think an important disconnect with the average take on things in our time is that (perhaps subconsciously) WW2 for them is mainly the continuation of WW1 (which was a result of the Franco-Prussian wars, etc). Germany didn't yet have the taint it accumulated during WW2. Although I guess they also choose what to remember, to be able to live with oneself.

On that subject one of the more interesting movies from the last decade is perhaps 'Er ist wieder da', I thought it was quite well done and serves as a reminder that the world ins't immune from history repeating itself.
 
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