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Franz Bäke

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by BWilson, May 16, 2009.

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  1. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Not sure where to put this in the forum as it sort of pertains to multiple fronts of the war and really concerns a single individual.

    I've noticed that the service of Franz Bäke seems to be a fairly popular topic among those who are fans of the Panzer troops.

    I don't know a lot about Bäke, but it seems like he was a successful tank leader on the eastern front but less so on the western front. He also rose through the ranks quickly, starting the war as a lieutenant and ending as a brigadier general.

    My question is, just what is it about Bäke that makes him notable -- was it his personal tally of tank kills, leadership, or something else ?

    Thanks.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  2. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    I recall that he led a Tiger unit that was latter upgraded to an ad hoc, almost regiment sized battle group and performed many wonderous feats of arms in the east. However, in the west, he commanded one of the those ill-starred Panzer Brigades and his command was smashed by the 90 ID as part of the prelude to the Battle of Arracourt.
     
  3. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Triple C, thanks for the comment. This pretty much sums up what I've seen about Bäke. I'm guessing he must have been an effective armor leader in some of the E Front battles but I haven't found much besides a lot of generalization thus far, that is, nothing that stands out why he would be remembered over many other German armor leaders.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  4. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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  5. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    He was eventually given divisional command and took the training course for it in early 1945. That's why he was out of action. The article gives his last combat action his failure in the West- which seems to be the only blot on his high record. In the East, he took command of a Panzer division afterward but given mid 1945 standards, it was probably merely a Panzer division in name and probably equipped more like a panzergrenadier outfit.
     
  6. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    This is what I have found to date. The (easily accessible) records concerning him are irritatingly vague.

    I suppose his notability might be because of his holding the Knight's Cross with oakleaves and swords.

    BTW, the division he took over on 9 March 1945 was the FHH (formerly the 13th Panzer).

    Cheers

    BW
     
  7. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    Bake was a commander in General Raus' 6th Panzer, which was a fine division with an outstanding record. Anyway, his wiki kind of sums up why he was prominent. Among that:

    "In January 1944, Bäke commanded his regiment during the battles for the Balabonowka pocket. During the five-day battle, Bäke's regiment was credited with destroying 267 Soviet tanks for the loss of only one Tiger and four Panthers. Bäke single-handedly destroyed three Soviet tanks during the battle with infantry weapons at close range, for which he received three Tank Destruction Badges, worn on his upper right sleeve."
     
  8. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    No doubt Bäke had courage. I've been looking for more on Balabonowka. For such a lopsided battle, I'm not find much about (in terms of detail) it on the internet. Considering the military situation of the Cold War, I would have thought this was exactly the kind of battle the NATO powers would have studied intensely and produced reports and documents about -- i.e., how to beat a Soviet opponent who has more tanks than you do. Most sources point to the Soviet tank loss and the low tank loss of Schwere Panzerregiment Bäke, but don't explain how that result was obtained. Since this happened in the Ukraine, I suspect many of the Soviet tank losses occurred at long range where the cannon of Bäke's Tigers and Panthers were able to strike before the Soviets could effectively return fire. Apparently, this battle is also where Bäke earned his tank destruction badges, so the forces must have closed at some point. What makes little sense to me is, if the tank losses were so lopsided, why did Bäke end up hunting Soviet tanks on the ground with infantry anti-tank rockets ? There is a bit on this battle and Bäke's career at http://www.flamesofwar.com/Portals/0/Documents/Schwere-Panzerregiment-Bake.pdf

    So I feel I'm a little closer to understanding his notability, but not much. He had one (per German sources) wildly successful battle and appears to have been a competent Panzer officer before then (among many in the Wehrmacht). His tactics must have been a product of the eastern front as they apparently completely failed when he met the "Tough 'Ombres" near Aumetz, France. He was a personally courageous man considering the awards he had and was promoted through the ranks very quickly. These two characteristics, while not widespread, were also not unique among the ranks of Panzer officers. Because of this, in part, I still ask, "why is Bäke considered to be so notable?"

    Cheers

    BW
     
  9. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Found more on the claimed tank losses at Balabonowka:

    "While the reported 1 UF losses are heavy, it would be premature to conclude that they support the claim of 267 tanks destroyed by Bäke's regiment (in fact the war diary says 268 destroyed enemy tanks).Keep in mind that the 1 UF losses, as given by the report, pertain to a period twice as long as the action fought by Bäkes regiment. Also, Vatutins front had many more German units to fight against, for example 1. SS-Pz.Div., 16. Pz.Div., 17. Pz.Div., 6. Pz.Div., just to name a few.
    One way to get an impression of the German overclaiming would be to add the claims of the German units in the period. If I recall correctly, it was claimed that operation Watutin resulted in the destruction of 701 Soviet tanks. Furthermore, on 26 January the German VII Corps claimed to have destroyed 82 Soviet tanks on this day alone. Hence, we have 783 Soviet tanks claimed to be destroyed and still many actions fought in the period are not included. Compare this to the overall 1st Ukrainian Front losses of 659 tanks and assault guns over a longer period." - posted by Niklas Zettlering at schweres Panzerregiment Baeke - The Dupuy Institute Forum



    Also, this discussion proved interesting: Axis History Forum • View topic - schweres Panzer-Regiment Bäke


    Cheers


    BW

     
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  10. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    I'm not too familiar with this man, but I do have a book detailing the his brigade's destruction in the West and a short career synopsis from one of those osprey character books I'll check later.

    But is this man not unique? Most of the operations he commanded in the Eastern Front ended in, at the very least, a lopsided fight. Operation Winter Storm, tank battles in the 3rd Battle of Kharkov, Kursk, etc.

    I need to check up on this, but I believe he commanded the Tiger Is in the Kharkov battle that took down many a T-34.
     
  11. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Unique -- no. Extraordinary -- perhaps. What sources do we have to document the lopsided battles -- even the most famous of these appears to be subject to dispute.

    Also, I would not be surprised about any experienced Tiger commander taking out a lot of T-34's (particularly in the Ukraine) in 1943 / early 1944 -- I'd bet most of the T-34's at that point were still the short 76-mm cannon version and were considerably outgunned. This doesn't mean that Bäke wasn't a good tactician as he had to be able to select fighting positions with which to exploit his unit's capabilities.

    I'm honestly a bit skeptical of him because he is a kind of poster child for the record of the German Panzer forces. In past looks at these kind of individuals, I've found that negative information gets left out, especially on the internet. This discussion is helping me to better understand the "real Bäke" as opposed to the glossy version found in some forums.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  12. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    Who do you think are the best Panzer leaders at the regiment level then?
     
  13. DocCasualty

    DocCasualty Member

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    I really don't know much about Bäke other than his involvement with the 106th Panzer Brigade in Mairy, France on 8 September 1944, where they were spanked badly. This was discussed here in the past http://www.ww2f.com/wwii-general/10194-panzer-division-feldherrnhalle.html#post307945

    I have a source that states "German records reveal that only 9 tanks and assault guns and one-fourth of the men in the 106th Panzer Brigade found their way back to their lines." Ouch!

    Seems his modus operandi in the Ostfront did not pan out so well in the West.
     
  14. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Not to be cute, but I think this question is spot on -- there had to have been quite a few of them and I suspect many of the early crew enjoyed a lot of success after they warmed up in 1939/40 and then plunged into Russia.

    How many others have I heard about ? Zero. I know I'm being skeptical here, perhaps too much so -- but why is Bäke the only one who seems to be considered notable (at least on the 'net) ?

    BTW, Wolfy, don't mind my approach to this question. I realize you're responding to my question and I appreciate the comments. I'm just trying to get a better understanding of Bäke as man and soldier and it is hard to do when so much of the material is somewhat vague. I'm going to have a look in the German official history. There is a slim chance that they might mention his role in the fighting near Korsun in 1944.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  15. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Doc, apparently his brigade greeted the new day with a strung out deployment in the midst of veteran U.S. infantry. Unlike the Red Army, the U.S. troops had effective antitank rockets. Not to mention good morale and aggressive leadership. I think Bäke's outfit hoped the Panzer attack would scatter the U.S. troops but found to their dismay that things didn't work out that way. Apparently, the German high command didn't hold it against Bäke, for he was awarded division command in March 1945.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  16. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    I also remember reading that the particular unit- the Panzer brigade, was a poorly organized ad hoc outfit and those under Bake's command had very much incomplete training .

    Maybe you haven't heard of them because Panzer II/IIIs, 35t/38ts just aren't too sexy.
     
  17. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Certainly not as "sexy" as Panthers and Tigers, eh? I would think, though, that perhaps some of the regiment commanders in France during 1940 or with the Afrika Korps might be somewhat known. Maybe I'll look them up if I can find the information.

    I checked the German official history. Bäke is mentioned twice and his ad hoc regiment is mentioned a few times. The official history mentions the 268 destroyed Soviet tanks quote without mentioning that this figure is disputed. I was hoping that they would have described the regiment's action in more detail, but all the history seems to do is simply repeat the claim of destroyed vehicles much like all the other sources I've seen.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  18. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    I pulled out my copy of "Panzer Aces I/II" *both unread by me due to the turgid writing..* and found out that Franz Bake is the first man discussed with 68 pages of material devoted his career.

    The first 67 pages are about his great France 1940 and East front feats of arms up to May 1944. Very suspicious is the fact that his actions between May 1944-May 1945 are only allocated 1.5 pages.

    I flipped to his disastrous command (Panzer Brigade 106th Feldherrnhalle---55 Panthers, 2500 men) in the West Front Autumn 1944. Here is what the book said about Bake's command in the West:

    "During the course of the defensive fighting in the West, Bake and his Panthers were constantly in action under various commands. Once again, Bake demonstrated his skill in mastering the most difficult situations..."

    I must not forget to add that the description even took a comedic turn:

    "Starting in mid-September *, Dr. Bake and his brigade saw action in the south of Metz...Once again Bake Distinguished himself through the prudent yet decisive leadership of his armored unit."

    *(after the disaster, where Bake lost 30 Panthers, 60 SPW, and 100 vehicles along with 75% of his men in two days, which is completely omitted from the combat bio)


    It's very interesting that the author, in a very dishonest fashion, removed his failure from his combat biography completely.
     
  19. DocCasualty

    DocCasualty Member

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    That seems very disingenuous, indeed!

    I confess my ignorance when it comes to tank warfare and acknowledge both of your comments about poorly trained troops, lack of organization, etc. However, if you read Terry Gardner's post which I linked above, or similary the account in Zaloga's Lorraine: Patton vs. Manteuffel, I believe they clearly show extremely poor planning, which must ultimately rest with Bäke. I can't say that alone would denigrate his entire career but would seem a glaring point to leave out in any discussion about him.

    As far as:
    My only question would be at this point in the war, how many choices did they have? Again, he clearly had quite a distinguished career before this and I'm not trying to dismiss that or minimize his standing.

    Makes me wonder how he did through the rest of the Western campaign? If he was a quick-study and learned that the Western Allies were indeed a different breed and developed new and effective tactics because of this, then that certainly would be much to his credit.
     
  20. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    Dr. Franz Bake other big tally:

    Kursk- 111 Enemy tanks destroyed, 140 A/T guns destroyed

    His East front successes were scattered but frequent: 10 tanks, 20 tanks destroyed here, 30 here, etc.

    Of course, these are claims...
     

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