Heinrich Kurt Alfons Willy Eberbach (24 November 1895 – 13 July 1992) was a German General der Panzertruppe in the German Army of World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, awarded by Nazi Germany to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
World War I and interwar years
Heinrich Eberbach was born on 24 November 1895 in Stuttgart, the German Empire. Eberbach graduated with his Abitur (university-preparatory high school diploma) on 30 June 1914. On 1 July 1914, Eberbach joined the military service of the Imperial German Army. With the outbreak of World War I, Eberbach's unit was deployed on the Western Front. On 16 October 1914, Eberbach was wounded in his thigh by artillery shrapnel. In September 1915, Eberbach was severely wounded, losing his nose, and was taken prisoner of war by French forces. During the 1920s Eberbach was a police officer; in 1935 joined the Wehrmacht. In 1938 be became commander of a Panzer regiment, in the newly formed 4th Panzer Division under Generalmajor Georg-Hans Reinhardt.
World War II
Eberbach participated in the German Invasion of Poland in September 1939 and then in 1940 in the Battle of France. His unit supported General Manteuffel's offensive across the Meuse River in May. Shortly after the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, he was assigned as commander of the 5th Panzer Brigade in Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg's XXIV Panzer Corps.
During Operation Typhoon, Eberbach spearheaded Panzer Group 2's offensive towards Moscow as the commander of a combined-arms kampfgruppe within the 4th Panzer Division. The attack began on September 30 and in only two days of fighting Kampfgruppe Eberbach had achieved a clean breakthrough, advanced over 120 kilometers, and put the entire Soviet Bryansk Front in a disastrous position while suffering negligible losses of its own. Eberbach demonstrated his flexibility as a troop leader by detaching two battalions to assist the 3rd Panzer Division's efforts in the same area of operations near Bryansk, despite serving under a different division. Soviet air attacks and a fuel shortage early on October 2 failed to prevent the kampfgruppe's aggressive combat leaders from advancing on the city of Orel, ending the Soviet industrial relocation efforts there and capturing a key communications hub of the Bryansk Front, on October 3. Kampfgruppe Eberbach's losses had been light: 6 tanks knocked out, 34 men killed and 121 wounded. This was a small price to pay for the complete rupturing of the Soviet lines and the capture of a city of such strategic value. 4th Panzer division had also captured 1,600 Soviet troops, mostly Kampfgruppe Eberbach's work.
In March 1942 he was made commander of the 4th Panzer Division, in the German lines opposite the Russian town of Sukhinichi, roughly 120 miles west of Tula. In late November 1942 Eberbach was appointed commander of the XLVIII Panzer Corps that had just been overrun in the initial days of Operation Uranus. Eberbach was soon wounded and evacuated, remaining hospitalized until February. He then became Inspector of the Armored Troops in the Home Army, was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and promoted to Lieutenant General.
In November 1943 Eberbach became commander of troops around Nikopol and fought in battles around Zhitomir in the Soviet Union. In early 1944 Eberbach was promoted to the rank of General der Panzertruppe. During the Normandy invasion, he fought against the British landings along the 'Juno' and 'Sword' beaches. On 2 July he took command of "Panzer Group West" (5th Panzer Army) when Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg was wounded. On 9 August, this force was divided, with 5th Panzer Army retreating with the most damaged units; the effective units were reorganized as Panzergruppe Eberbach.
Eberbach was directed to lead this force in the counterattack through Mortain toward Avranches that was intended to cut off the Allied forces which had broken out of Normandy. According to Eberbach's post-war memoirs, he had no confidence in the attack. When General Warlimont of OKW arrived at his HQ on 1 August to "get a closer look at the situation", Eberbach told him that "the only possible solution was an immediate retreat to the Seine-Yonne line." However, Warlimont denied Eberbach's request to withdraw, and instead confirmed the order to attack.
The attack failed, and most of Panzergruppe Eberbach and 7th Army was surrounded and destroyed in the Falaise Pocket. Eberbach escaped and was given command of the remnants of 7th Army on 21 August. On 31 August while out on a reconnaissance patrol, Eberbach was captured by British troops at Amiens.
Post World War II
Eberbach was held in a prisoner-of-war camp until 1948. Gersdorff participated in the work of the U.S. Army Historical Division, whereas, under the guidance of Franz Halder, German generals wrote World War II operational studies for the U.S. Army, first as POWs and then as employees. Eberbach was the father of Oberleutnant zur See Heinz-Eugen Eberbach, commander of U-967 and U-230 during World War II.
- Eberbach, Heinrich (1945–1954). Panzer Group Eberbach and the Falaise Encirclement. Karlsruhe, Germany: Historical Division, Headquarters United States Army, Europe, Foreign Military Studies Branch. OCLC 33089881.
- Iron Cross (1914) 2nd Class (12 October 1914) & 1st Class (10 November 1917)
- Wound Badge (1914) in Black (1915)
- Friedrich Order 3 B with Swords (8 June 1917)
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award 2nd Class (2 October 1936)
- The Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 (1937)
- Panzer Badge in Silver (20 June 1940)
- Eastern Front Medal (14 August 1942)
- Honour Roll Clasp of the Army (8 December 1941)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Knight's Cross on 4 July 1940 as Oberstleutnant and commander of Panzer-Regiment 35
- 42nd Oak Leaves on 31 December 1941 as Oberst and commander of the 5. Panzer-Brigade