Rank: Field Marshal
Fate: Committed suicide 1945, aged 54
Model was from a middle-class family from Saxony in Germany. After entering military school he fought in the First World War as an infantry officer on the Western Front, where he was decorated and seriously wounded, before becoming a staff officer.
In the 1930s Model became known as an outspoken general who embraced both the new doctrine of mobile warfare and the Nazi Party. He served as a staff officer in the Polish and French campaigns, before being given command of 3rd Panzer Division for Operation Barbarossa. He proved to be a relentless and energetic commander, highly respected but not widely liked. His success brought him further promotion, and by 1942 he was commanding the 9th Army with Army Group Centre near Rzhev.
During the Battles of Rzhev in 1942 Model earned a reputation as a master of defensive warfare, who used his reserves shrewdly and was able to drive his subordinates on to heroic feats of resistance. In 1943 his 9th Army was in the vanguard of the Kursk Offensive. But the depth and strength of Soviet defences proved insuperable, and Model was soon forced back to the Dnieper River.
In 1944 Hitler sent Model wherever a crisis loomed, earning him the soubriquet ‘the Fuehrer’s Fireman’. First he shored up Army Groups North’s position in the Baltic, for which he was promoted Field Marshal, then in March he was sent to Ukraine to take over from von Manstein. In July Model went to Byelorussia to try to rescue Army Group Centre from catastrophe as the full weight of Operation Bagration descended upon it. But he was unable to halt the Soviet advance before it had almost reached Warsaw.
In August Model was sent to France to take over from Field Marshal von Kluge after his suicide. But all of Model’s defensive skill was unable to offset the huge material preponderance of the Allied forces. After defeat in the Battle of the Bulge, Model’s forces were cornered in the Ruhr in 1945. Model, wanted for war crimes in the Soviet Union where his scorched earth strategy had left countless villages devastated, shot himself on 21st April 1945.
Rank: Field Marshal