Army Group North

The German Army Group North was a large military offensive formation of the Wehrmacht used by Germany during the Polish Campaign and Operation Barbarossa, which was the invasion of the Soviet Union, during World War II. For the attack on Poland, in September 1939, Army Group North consisted of the 3rd Army and the 4th Army, plus four reserve divisions (three infantry and one armor), under the command of Fedor von Bock. These units would launch two deep thrusts southwards into Polish territory, with the 3rd Army advancing from northeast Germany and the 4th Army marching from East Prussia.

For Operation Barbarossa, Army Group North was composed of the 16th Army, the 18th Army, and the 4th Panzer Army, plus two signals regiments, under the overall command of Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. With Army Group Center attacking Minsk and Smolensk and Army Group South advancing towards Kiev, Army Group North would strike along a northern corridor, towards Leningrad, with the task of taking that city and securing its port. In September 1941, not being able to capture that Soviet city in the first attack, Army Group North began the long siege of Leningrad. By mid 1942, Army Group South had been divided into two powerful offensive forces: Army Group A and Army Group B, which would attempt to carry out Case Blue (Fall Blau), the German military operation for the conquest of the Baku oil fields in the Caucasus and the territory on the Volga, which included Stalingrad. See “German Forces on the Eastern Front”.

Map showing Army Group North advancing into Poland in two columns (from Northeast Germany and from East Prussia) in September 1939


Map marking the three Army Groups movements into Russian territory in June 1941


Below: a spearhead armor unit of the 4th Panzer Army in 1941


German 9th Army (WW2)

The German 9th Army was a field army deployed by the Wehrmacht during World War II. It was Hitler’s last-ditch defense on the East, against the advancing Zhukov’s communist forces, taking part in the ferocious Battle of Berlin. Created in May 1940, it had been held in reserve, deployed along the Siegfried Line, during the Battle of France and had practically not seen combat action that year. Originally, it was composed of approximately 140,000 men, arranged in three corps, which included infantry and armored divisions, as well as artillery units, with its first commander being General Johannes Albracht Blaskowitz.


The 9th Army’s baptism of fire took place during Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, being part of Army Group Center. Under General Adolf Strauss. Its men fought in the Battles of Bialystok-Minsk and Smolensk, between June and July. However, in December 1941, it suffered heavy losses during the Battle of Moscow, due to extreme cold weather conditions and stiff Soviet resistance. Being reinforced, it kept fighting on the Eatern Front through the remainder of the war, trying to stop the powerful Soviet counter offensives. against the German center defensive lines.

In 1943, the German 9th Army was a 220,000-men-strong unit. Nevertheless, by early 1945, it had been reduced to a battered army of 100,000 war-weary soldiers. In January 1945, they were deployed westward of the Oder River, in the Seelow Heights region, about 90 km east of Berlin. By this time, it was under General Theodor Busse, last commander. After the Battle of the Seelow Heights, the 9th Army was split up, with several units pulling back into the capital of the Third Reich, being destroyed in the final Battle of Berlin as it desperately fought alongside the German 12th Army and the Volkssturm militia.

Volkssturm and 9th Army troops in the Battle of Berlin (Footage)

German 12th Army

The German 12th Army was a Wehrmacht’s major military unit that fought in World War II. It was a field army composed of four corps, each of which included two or three divisions. Created in August, 1939, it would soon participate in the Polish Campaign as part of Army Group South, under Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. Between May and June, 1940, the 12th Army took part in the German invasion of France. In April 1941, it successfully carried out Operation Marita, which was the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece; during this military campaign it was made up of four army corps, one panzer group, and one supplementary Panzerdivision.

The Wehrmacht’s 12th Army did not participate in Operation Barbarossa, which was the invasion of the Soviet Union, but it was deployed in Yugoslavia and Greece, conducting anti-insurgent operations against resistance guerrillas. In 1943, the German 12th Army would be reinforced and temporarily converted into Army Group E, which would be deployed in the southeast, to become the 12th Army again in early 1945, taking part in the Battle of Berlin.

12th Army’s Units in 1941

– XVII Mountain Corps, commanded by General Franz Böhme

– XXX Infantry Corps, led by General Otto Hartmann

– XL Panzer Corps, under Georg Stumme

– L Infantry Corps, commanded by Georg Lindemann

– 1st Panzer Group, under Ewald von Kleist

– 16th Panzerdivision

12th Army’s units in 1945

– XX Corps

– XXXIX Corps

– XLI Corps

– XLVIII Corps


– Wilhelm List (1939-1941)

– Walter Kuntze (1941-1942)

– Alexander Löhr (1942)

– Walther Wenck (1945)

Below, an element of the 16th Panzerdivision of 12th Army in nothern Greece in April 1941


Army Group South

The German Army Group South was a Wehrmacht’s large military structure, which was composed of three or more field armies. It fiercely fought in the Polish Campaign in September 1939, and on the Eastern Front from June 22, 1941, taking part in Operation Barbarossa, during World War II. In the German invasion of Poland, it was commanded by Gerd von Rundstedt, being composed of three field armies: the 14th Army, commanded by Wilhelm List; the 10th Army, under Walter von Reichenau; and the 8th Army led by Johannes Blaskowitz.

For the invasion of the Soviet Union, Army Group South was composed of the 17th Army, under Carl Heinrich von Stülpnagel, the 11th Army, under Eugen Ritter von Schobert, the 6th Army, led by Walther von Reichenau, 1st Panzer Group, commanded by Ewald von Kleist, and Luftflotte 4 (Air Fleet 4), which provided fire support to the ground forces. Until December 1941, it was also under the command of Gerd von Rundstedt, who was replaced by General Walther von Reichenau. Reinforced by the Romanian 3rd and 4th Armies, Army Group South invaded Ukraine and captured its capital, Kiev, as it encircled 600,000 Russian troops.

By mid 1942, it had been reorganized into Army Group A and Army Group B to conduct Operation Fall Blau to seize the Baku oil fields in the south. Between November 1942 and January 1943, the German 6th Army was destroyed in the Battle of Stalingrad during operation Fall Blau; however, it would be reorganized later on.

By 1944, Army Group South was made up of the German 8th and 6th armies and the Hungarian 2nd and 3rd Armies, under the command of Johannes Friessner.

Position of the Army Group (AG) South during the Russian campaign

German 6th Army

The German 6th Army was a field army which was created after the Franco-Prussian war and the German unification by the second half of the 19th century. The glorious 6th Army had its baptism of fire during World War I and its nemesis during World War II at the hands of the Russian winter, collapsing at the Battle of Stalingrad, for which it is best known. It was mostly composed of infantry elements. As a field army, the German 6th Army was a formation superior to a corps and beneath an army group. It consisted of a headquarters, which usually controlled at least two corps, and a variable number of divisions.


At the outbreak of World War I, the 6th Army was composed of 10 divisions organized around 5 corps; it was commanded by Prince Rupprecht von Bayern. When the French Plan XVII was launched in August 1914, it was deployed in the Central sector that covered Lorraine. In August 1914, in the Battle of Lorraine, Rupprecht’s 6th Army used a feigned withdrawal to lure the advancing armies onto prepared defensive positions and managed to resist the French fierce attack. When the Western Front got bogged down in a stalemate warfare, with the opposing forces forming lines of trenches, the 6th Army was based in Northern France. On September 24, 1915, the 6th Army was the target of the British Army’s first chlorine gas attack of the war. Despite having suffered horrific casualties, the Germans held the line as the British attacks were kept in check.

During World War II, the German 6th Army was reorganized in October 1939, after the Polish Campaign, using elements of the former 10th Army, under the command of Walther von Reichenau. In May 1940, it took part in the invasion of the Low Countries and linked up with the German paratroopers who destroyed the fortifications at Eben Emael, Liège, and fought in the Battle of Belgium. Then the 6th Army participated in the breakthrough of the Paris defenses on June 12, 1940, before acting as a northern flank for German forces along the Normandy coast during the last stages of the Battle of France.

A 6th Army’s reconnaissance unit in France in 1940


When Operation Barbarossa was launched on June 22, 1941, the 6th Army was the spearhead of Army Group South in its drive into Soviet territory. In January, 1942, Friedrich Paulus was appointed commander of the 6th Army, replacing von Reichenau, who had suffered a heart attack. The new commander led the 6th Army during the ferocious Second Battle of Kharkov, which took place in the spring of 1942. The victory at Kharkov sealed the 6th Army’s destiny as it was selected later that year by the German High Command for the attack on Stalingrad. As the German 6th Amry could not capture the city fast, the Russian winter came and the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, which was a Soviet counter-attack by Soviet that surrounded the Germans in a pincers movement from November 19 to November 23, 1942. Thus 6th Army was trapped. A relief operation, called Operation Wintergewitter, conducted by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein failed to provide the Germans with adecuate military and food supply. By January 31, 1943, the 6th Army of Friedrich Paulus had been reduced from 800,000 men to 85,000, and on February 2, Friedrich Paulus surrendered.

Condor Legion

The Condor Legion was a German military unit that fought in the Spanish Civil War. It consisted of an air group, under field marshal Hugo Sperrle, and a ground element, led by Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma, totalling 14,500 troops. The men that made up this unit were Luftwaffe’s pilots and German Army’s soldiers who had volunteered to fight in Spain on General Francisco Franco’s side against the Soviet-backed, leftist, Republican government. Although they were there to provide air and fire support to Franco’s forces, they fought as an independent unit. They operated mostly in Catalonia and the Basque region, where their dive bombers attacked the city of Guernica to ferret out engrained reds. The armored ground battalions of the Legion punched holes in the Bolshevik lines in support of Spanish nationalist units as they fought fiercely until the end of the civil war.


The Condor Legion air element was equipped with 48 bombers (Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, Junkers Ju 52, Heinkel He-111), distributed in 4 bomber squadrons, and 48 fighters (Heinkel He 51 and Messerschmitt Bf 109), also arranged in 4 squadrons; plus a squadron of reconnaissance aircraft. The ground element was armed with Panzer I and II tanks, 3.7-cm Pak 35/36 anti-tank guns, 3.7-cm Flak 36 AA guns, 7.5-cm light infantry guns, 8-cm mortars, MG-34 machine guns, stick grenades, and K98 Mauser rifles.