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  The Iron Crosses

History is where you find it, or sometimes, it finds you and you take advantage of the opportunity. Manteuffel Kaserne and Daley Barracks had more than its share of notable people pass through and many of the story lines begin with the first days of the Kaserne and units of the 2nd Panzer Division. Sometimes it took decades for the circle to finally close as American cavalry troopers and those they were destined to meet, finally make contact. Here is the story of three famous German general officers, each with a link to Bad Kissingen, and how one squadron commander came to meet two of them.

Johann Adolf Graf von Kielmansegg: From Cavalry Lances to Nuclear Weapons

The arrival of the 2 Kradschutzen Battalion from Eisenach to Bad Kissingen and subsequent move into the just finished Manteuffel Kaserne was captured by the local photographers and some of the notables are identifiable in the images. There were at least two formal parades in the Luitpold Park, one with the troops dismounted and one, with all the equipment. The battalion adjutant, Captain Johann Adolf Graf von Kielmansegg, can be found in two images from these parades.
  As Germany begins to rearm, these motorcycle infantry men stop for a photo during an exercise. Their officers and tactics found a common theme in the traditions of German horse cavalry.   Captain or Major Kielmansegg in open staff car, seated in rear, back to camera, as the 2 Krad parades in Bad Kissingen shortly after arrival.
--Franz Steinzer

He had entered the Army in 1926 following a cadet period and had proven himself to be both a capable staff officer and commander. Assigned to a high visibility position as the adjutant of the 2 Kradschutzen Battalion, his career continued on a steady upward path. Once the war began, while not highly decorated in combat, he continued though a progression of staff and command positions and survived some of the most furious bombings of Berlin as well as fierce combat on the Eastern Front. He ended the war as a colonel in command of a regiment.

In the post war period, his first thought was publishing but he soon found his way into the circle of influential Germans, known as the" monks", who would help shape the new constitution, independent government and NATO integration of West Germany. Brilliant and free from overt past connection to the Nazi Party or war crimes and from a noted but not particularly affluent aristocratic family, Kielmansegg was an ideal choice for high rank as the Bundeswehr was re - authorized in 1955. By 1966, he was a general officer and Central Commander of NATO Strategic Weapons. Following his retirement, he continued as an influential leader working for German "policy and methods" study groups always seeking to insure that Germany and the liberal West were linked by common goals. On occasion, his name could be found as a senior contributor to the political analysis process on documents written as late as the 1990s.

Without doubt, General Kielmansegg returned to Bad Kissingen in the post war years. We have yet to uncover the US Army contacts he may have had during his visits. His speeches to new generations of military cadets and students of political science would usually begin,

  Kielmansegg seen with saber, closest to camera, at ceremony in 1938.
--Stadtarchiv Bad Kissingen
  General Kielmansegg in the Bundeswehr in the mid 1960s.

"My career has spanned service in the three German Armies of the modern age, the Reichswehr, the Wehrmacht and the Bundeswehr ... my cadet days were spent with the cavalry lance and at the end, I commanded NATO’s nuclear weapons. Through all of this, I have tried to see myself as a man of peace and communication."

Hasso von Manteuffel: the Long Shadow

Hasso von Manteuffel began his military career as a cadet in 1908. From a famous Prussian family noted for both military and political service, when the Second World War ended, he held the grade of Commander in Chief of the 5th Panzer Army. His rise through the ranks, once given a combat command, reflects one of the most spectacular records of any German general of that era.

Interestingly, Manteuffel missed the opening campaigns in Poland and France. An officer of many talents, his significant organizational and teaching abilities had long been recognized by General Guderian and he was posted as a senior staff officer at the Panzer Troops Training School II at Berlin - Krampnitz while his peers were in combat in 1939 and 1940. Not until the preparations for the invasion of Russia in 1941, did Lieutenant Colonel Manteuffel take command of a motorized rifle battalion in the 7th Panzer Division. Once combat against the USSR began, Manteuffel consistently won decisive battles and rapid promotions followed.

  Pre war images of Hasso von Manteuffel are very rare. He is seen here, sometime in the mid 1930s, right - center of frame, back to camera, in a rather formal pose as staff officers and commanders meet during a pause in an FTX. The personnel wearing arm bands or engineer tape on their sleeves or hats, to include Manteuffel, are umpires. True to their cavalry heritage, many of the men pictured wear spurs.   As the 2 Krad parades at the Luitpold park on 1 June 1937 during the opening ceremony for their new barracks, an unknown photographer takes a few images of the assembled dignitaries. Major Hasso von Manteuffel is caught in the scene, standing with an unidentified general, second officer from the right.  --Norbert Ruckel  

His war record includes, battalion and brigade command in Russia and upon promotion to general, service with the Africa Corps against the British, a second tour on the Russian front and combat against the Americans during the Battle of the Bulge. A cavalry officer and then panzer commander, he shared with Guderian the ability to teach tactics in the classroom and boldly execute them in the field. Hasso von Manteuffel was also the shortest German general officer of the war, reports vary but five feet - three inches is a fair height estimate.

There is an interesting back story related to Hasso von Manteuffel and his visit to Bad Kissingen in 1968 as recalled by Col ( Ret ) Byers. During a brief stop at Daley Barracks, Manteuffel lectured the officers of the 2/14 ACR on the Battle of the Bulge, a presentation in English he gave many times in retirement. He mentioned he had not previously visited the barracks that bore his family name and in the interest of brevity, he apparently did not elaborate. Given time and inclination, however, Hasso von Manteuffel could have recalled days early in his career and his link to the city beyond the name cut into the stone pillar at the entrance to the old Kaserne. He shared a common past with the first German unit to occupy the barracks, Kradschutzen Battalion #2.

In the mid 1930s, while still stationed in Eisenach, during the first years following conversion of the 2 Krad to a motorcycle infantry unit, Captain Hasso von Manteuffel had been both a company commander and, following promotion to major, the senior staff officer with the unit. Manteuffel’s early career had been as a horse cavalry officer, he was an expert rider and had previously commanded horse cavalry “ squadrons “ - company size units, in the old Reichsheer.

  Manteuffel with staff somewhere in Russia.
--von Schaulen
  ... and fighting in France later in the war.
--von Schaulen

As select cavalry units were motorized during the modernization of the Heer after Hitler came to power, top officers were assigned to the “ fast troop “ units to command, learn and study first hand, the new equipment and tactics. This brought Manteuffel to Eisenach and the 2 Krad.

As the new barracks was being built in Bad Kissingen and Colonel von Apell, commander of the 2 Krad, visited the construction site, Hasso von Manteuffel was at work with the unit staff and missed movement with the battalion to Bad Kissingen by less than a year. 2 Panzer Division commander Guderian had recognized Manteuffel as an exceptional officer and moved him from the 2 Krad to the division staff in 1937. His new position was to oversee training and school assignments of all officer cadets and junior officers within the division. Guderian saw this as a very important task, handed the job to a key subordinate and in all probability, Manteuffel moved from Eisenach to the division HQ in Wurzburg.

Some months later, as Guderian left the division for higher command and supervision of the entire Panzer personnel training system, he brought Manteuffel to Berlin and the Panzer Troops School. Despite these rapid moves, Manteuffel did not forget his connection to the 2nd Panzer Division and the last company he commanded.

On 1 June 1937, as the 2nd Kradschutzen Battalion held the formal parade and opening ceremony for their new barracks, Major Hasso von Mauteuffel traveled from Berlin to watch the proceedings. He stood not on the formal reviewing stand but off to the side, in the crowd of visiting officers and dignitaries. He was captured on film by a local photographer and the image surfaced in a collection purchased by Norbert Ruckel. Manteuffel would have recognized most of the men of the unit as they paraded, there may have been cadets and junior officers present that held his personal interest and perhaps, he felt that had duty and Guderian not called him to Berlin, he would have stood in the lead field car as the battalion commander or senior staff officer of the motorcycle infantry unit as it occupied the barracks on the hill that honored his family name.

  From left, General Clark, General Manteuffel, General Hasbrouck and General McAuliffe recall their roles during the Battle of the Bludge in 1966. Manteuffel was active in German politics, veteran's affairs and was an active lecturer recalling his career in the final years.
--von Schaulen
  General Vaerst, seated near right with soft cap, checks his map as the regiment moves forward.
--Franz Steinzer

In the post war years, following parole, Manteuffel was very active in first local then national German politics and as early as 1950, was loudly calling for an accelerated return of sovereignty to West Germany, partnership with the western allies and rearming of his nation to resist Soviet expansion. His call for at least thirty German divisions raised American and British eyebrows. Of the significant German generals who survived the war and were not tainted by war crimes, Manteuffel maintained the highest profile yet in 1956 as the new German Army was authorized, he was not invited to officially participate.

In his later years, writing his memoirs, veteran’s affairs, the lecture circuit and even assisting Hollywood in movie productions occupied his time. Hasso von Mantueffel died in the lakes region of southern Bavarian in the village of Diessen am Ammersee in 1978.

Col (Ret) John Byers:

"The Kaserne in Bad Kissingen was named Manteuffel Kaserne, after the grandfather of the WWII German general. The elder Manteuffel was a general under Bismarck and achieved some fame in the Franco-Prussian War. The Americans put up a sign for Daley Barracks, but all the Germans kept calling the post Manteuffel Kaserne.

The Oberburgermeister of BK (Dr. Hans Weiss ) invited me to attend a dinner at the reunion of the 2nd Panzer Division being held in the city, and I accepted. The main speaker at the banquet was Hasso von Manteuffel who had commanded that division in combat. He gave a very stirring speech and, though he was slight in appearance and stature, he was very obviously a dynamic and forceful leader. After the dinner, I spoke with him and asked if he would like to visit the Kaserne (he had never been there) and address my officers the next day. He agreed, and I hurried back home to get things organized, including alerting COL Gordon Allen, CO 2d ACR, of the impending visit."

CSM (Ret) Jefferies:

"Yes, I recall that very well. LTC Byers asked me to look into the protocol for a visit of this nature and frankly, I had no idea! I certainly knew how to render the correct military honors to a visiting foreign dignitary or an allied senior officer but this seemed way past what I was familiar. I also remember that my older brother had been shot at by those guys is WWII. I guess I figured something out that was small and dignified."

Col (Ret) Byers:

"The next morning (Sunday, as I recall), all my officers assembled in the squadron mess, COL Allen flew in from Nurnberg, General von Manteuffel arrived promptly on schedule, we fell out the guard and the general solemnly inspected them, and then we went to the mess. He spoke in flawless English and reviewed the Battle of the Bulge and the mistakes the Germans made. Then he took questions (and there were lots of them), COL Allen thanked him in German (he sort of preempted me as host), and the general departed after shaking hands with several of the young officers. It was a very impressive event and quite impromptu, and my guys talked about it for weeks.”

Gustav von Vaerst: the Old Lion

Gustav von Vaerst, junior to Manteuffel by a few years but at least in the pre war years, far advanced in terms of command assignments, came from another noted German family; the traditional family estates were located near Meiningen. A solid background in both cavalry and infantry, he saw himself as a "soldier’s - soldier" and enjoyed the competition with his men is all manner of skills. In 1924 he was proud to win a ceremonial saber for carbine shooting skills.

By 1938, he had already commanded a motorized rifle battalion in the 2nd Panzer Division and was being groomed for promotion to colonel and eventual command of the 2nd Schutzen Regiment in Meiningen. A part of this command was the 2nd Krad located in Bad Kissingen. Vaerst successfully led this regiment through fighting in Poland, France and Greece and his departing efficiency report notes "Splendid man of high personal standards. Practical, clear, calm and determined in his leadership and issuance of commands in the face of the enemy! He has proven outstanding and is a Knight’s Cross holder." Vaerst certainly would have known Hasso von Manteuffel, whether or not they were friends is unknown.

Upon leaving the 2nd Panzer Division, Vaerst briefly assumed duty as a staff officer at the School for Mobile Troops before taking command of the 15th Panzer Division in North Africa. Here, he soldiered as both a successful division commander and acting army commander until the final defeat of the force in mid 1943 and his capture by the British. He spent the balance of the war as a POW and following parole in the early 1950s, returned to what remained of his family’s land holdings to live quietly on a hunting lodge in the town of Nordheim, near Fladungen.

  General Vaerst with the Africa Corps shortly before his capture in 1943. His post war activities are currently not known.

Gustav von Vaerest died at the lodge in the early 1970s.

Col ( Ret ) Byers:

“The other general you mentioned was Major General von Vaerst. I don't remember his first name. I heard about this old panzer division general from my BK friends and one day I looked him up. He lived near Mellrichstadt in a hunting lodge that belonged to his family. The von Vaerst line was one of the oldest in Germany. His crest was a gold shield with a thick red horizontal line across it (a bend jules on a shield d'or); nothing more, nothing fancy. Most of his land was in East Germany, with only the hunting lodge and some acreage on our side of the border. He lived simply, with only his wife and a couple of servants for help. He spoke sadly of his ancient line because he had no sons to carry on the von Vaerst name. His daughter kept her name, mostly to please him, he thought, but her children bore their father's name. He had been captured in North Africa and spent much of the war in POW camps in America. After the war, he lectured at CGSC and AWC and was quite familiar with the American Army.

CSM Jeffries and I visited him several times, and I would take some good Franken wine to him."

CSM (Ret) Jeffries:

"I recall those visits with LTC Byers to see the old German general. I remember the wine was very good ."

Col (Ret) Byers:

"When I left the 2/14, I invited him to the change of command ceremony and an unusual thing happened. We had a lot of Germans there, both Bundesgrenschutz and Bundeswehr officers, Zoll Polizei, BK officials, and many friends. They were all milling around, talking, finding seats, etc when this little old man walked in. I was talking to LTC Harms, my successor, when there was a sudden hush; everybody stopped talking and all the Germans, even the ladies, stood up in respect to the little old general. Then, one by one, the German officers came up to him, saluted and spoke quietly to him. Dr Weiss, the BK Oberburgermeister, did the same and later told me he was very surprised to see the general and more surprised that I knew him. My stock with the Germans went up a hundred-fold that day.”


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