366th HomePage   Kesselring, Field Marshal Albrecht, 1885-1960

Kesselring Kesselring is considered one of the half dozen most talented generals of World War II. Like Halder and Jodi he was by origin a Bavarian artillery officer but had transferred in 1933 to the embryo Luftwaffe. He commanded air fleets in the campaigns over Poland and Belgium in 1939 and 1940, and during the Battle of Britain commanded the Luftflotte II which was stationed in northeast France and the Low Countries. His air fleet was on the verge of knocking out Fighter Command when Goering decided that the bombing offensive be diverted to London. Kesselring launched daylight raids on London but aircraft losses were excessive and their failure led to the indefinite postponement of Operation Sealion.

In 1941 Kesselring was sent to Italy and made Commander in Chief South, sharing with Rommel the direction of the North African campaign. In Rome where his headquarters was situated, Kesselring often lost touch with events on the front but his constant theme was the need for more aircraft in the Mediterranean which would have been decisive. The lack of air cover speeded up the withdrawal from North Africa as it became impossible to keep the troops adequately supplied. However, once fighting shifted to Sicily and Italy, Kesselring came into his own and conducted a brilliant defense of the peninsula. Without adequate reserves in Italy he held up the Allies in Sicily by gradually moving his line back into the northeast corner of the isle, thus giving the Allies no room to maneuver. In Italy his persistent defense gave rise to frustration in the Allied camp and even after the eventual breakthrough he was able to halt General Alexander's forces south of the Po.

In March 1945 Hitler transferred him to the west to replace Rundstedt as Commander in Chief but the front there was beyond holding. He eventually negotiated surrender with the Americans but he remained loyal to Hitler until he had news of his death. Imprisoned in Italy after the war he was tried for war crimes. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in 1952 owing to ill health.

Source: The World Almanac of World War II, Peter Young, Editor. ISBN 0-88687-712-1 (1981)

color photoField-Marshal Albrecht Kesselring, who as Supreme Commander "South" or O.B.S. (Oberbefehlshaber Süd), was Rommel's superior. In his dealings with the Italians and the defense of southern Italy he was to prove himself both a diplomat and strategist; but Panzergruppe Afrika was reluctant to acknowledge his supreme authority. He is seen here leaving a Dornier Do 17 on a visit to Luftwaffe units in North Africa.

Field-Marshal Albrecht von Kesselring was born in Bavaria in 1885. He served as a staff officer in the artillery throughout World War I and the 1920's, and in 1933 he was transferred to the air force. He commanded the Luftwaffe in the German invasion of Poland and Belgium, and ordered the bombing of the B.E.F. as it evacuated Dunkirk. He conducted the extremely successful bombing raids on R.A.F. bases in southern England in 1940 and in July of that year he was made a Field-Marshal.

In 1941 he was appointed C.-in-C., South, sharing with Rommel the command of the North African campaign and taking over during Rommel's absence and later during the retreat from Tunisia. In 1943 he was C.-in-C. in Italy, conducting a brilliant campaign despite the indifference of his superiors to his constant pleas for air reinforcements. For over a year he held out against the Allied advance, with a superbly conceived line of defenses behind Cassino.

In 1945 he succeeded the cream of Hitler's generals on the Western Front in a desperate attempt to check the Allied advance, but in March he had to surrender the southern half of the German forces to the Allies. He was sentenced to death by a British military court for executing Italian hostages, but in 1947 his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and in 1952 he was released on the grounds of ill health. He died in 1960.

Source: The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of World War II, Peter Young, Editor. ISBN 0-85685-948-6 (1981)

See also: Wikipedia

Created: 1997-05-28
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