Walther Wenck was born in 1900 in Wittenberg and he was the youngest General in the Nazi Army during the Second World War. He had two brothers but one of them, Helmuth died in the First World War in Russia, whereas the other one, Hans Ulrich was killed in France.
In 1919, Wenck was a member of the Free Corps, but one year later, he joined the Army of the Weimar Republic. Wenck had a good humor. For instance, when he was in France during the invasion, he ordered antiaircraft Flak 88mm gun to be fired, which scared a visiting General who was taking a bath. When he jumped out of the bath and went out, he was dripping wet, but Wenck laughed.
Even though he was the youngest General in the army, also known as The Boy General, Wenck played an important role in the Battle of Berlin. Moreover, he ordered his army to surrender to the forces of the United States, rather to see them getting captured by the Soviets. From 1939 to 1942, young Walther was Chief of Operations for the First Panzer Division under the command of Generallieutenant Walter Kruger. In 1942, he got a position of an instructor for the War Academy, Chief of Staff for the LVII Corps, commanded by General der Panzertruppen Friedrich Kirchner and Chief of Staff for the Third Romanian Army commanded by General Petre Dumitrescu.
Between 1942 and 1943, Wenck was on the Easter Front as the Chief of Staff of “Army Detachment” Karl Hollidt. One year later, he became the Chief of Staff of the First Panzer Army and Chief of Staff of Army Group South Ukraine. It was in the last year of War that Wenck became Quartermaster General I.
He quickly got the command of the German forces that were involved in Operation Solstice on the Eastern Front and this operation was one of the last major German tank offensives in the Second World Warr. The Soviet positions in Pomerania were endangered, but luckily for the Soviets, the operations was poorly planned and organized, ending with the loss for the Germans.
As General of Panzer Troops, Wenck became the commander of the German Twelfth Army just west of Berlin. The Soviets were closing on the German capital and there was not much for Hitler to do. He commanded Felix Steiner to attack the forces led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov, but Steiner declined because it was a certain death with no manpower and lack of tanks. Instead of attacking, his army retreated and for Hitler, there was only Wenck’s Twelfth Army left to save Berlin.
It was planned for Wenck and Rudolf Holste to surprise the Germans with the attack, but Holste’s army consisted mostly of people transferred from Steiner’s units. It was Wenck who surprised the Russians with his newly formed unit but despite the initial progress, they were stopped outside of Potsdam. The Soviets prevailed and encircled Berlin. The forces inside the capital of Nazi Germany were cut off and it was up to Walther Wenck and Theodore Busse to help them out.
However, it was not that easy at all. The Boy General and his Twelfth Army were forced back along the entire front and they couldn’t do anything in the planned counterattack. Meanwhile, Busse’s Ninth Army couldn’t be counted on.
Late in the evening of 29 April, Krebs contacted General Alfred Jodl and said: “Request immediate report. Firstly of the whereabouts of Wenck’s spearheads. Secondly of time intended to attack. Thirdly of the location of the Ninth Army. Fourthly of the precise place in which the Ninth Army will break through. Fifthly of the whereabouts of General Rudolf Holste’s spearhead.”
Early in the morning, Jodl replied: “Firstly, Wenck’s spearhead bogged down south of Schwielow Lake. Secondly, Twelfth Army therefore unable to continue attack on Berlin. Thirdly, bulk of Ninth Army surrounded. Fourthly, Holste’s Corps on the defensive.” But Wenck had one final mission in mind and that is to save people from fighting for the lost cause. “Comrades, you’ve got to go in once more,” Wenck said. “It’s not about Berlin any more, it’s not about the Reich any more.” Wenck was captured by General William Hood Simpson’s Ninth Army and he was a prisoner of war. He got released in 1947.
Walther Wenck, The Boy General died in a car accident on his way to Austria, when he crashed against a tree. He was 81.