The Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) was Germany's Army High Command from 1936 to 1945. In theory the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) commanded the OKH. However, the de facto situation after 1941 was that the OKW directly commanded operations on the Western front while the OKH commanded the Eastern front.

There also existed the Oberkommando der Marine (OKM) and the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) for the navy and the air force respectively. These were theoretically subordinate to the OKW, but in actuality acted quite independently.

The Army commanders (Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres, or OBdH for short) of the Wehrmacht were,

Following German tradition the OBdH did not plan operations. This task was left to the General Staff, so actually the most important man in the Army (and the Navy, but less so in the Luftwaffe, which was commanded by Hermann Göring) was the chief of the general staff (Chef des Generalstabs des Heeres, or Chef GenStdH for short). It should be noted that the Heer (army) always has been the leading factor in planning campaigns. Thus there was no such thing as combined planning of the different services. The position of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, which was by definition superior to the OKH, was not intended for that, nor did it have the resources to do so.

Later in the war, the OKH became responsible for fewer and fewer tasks, with Adolf Hitler, assisted by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), taking an increasing role in the planning and running of operations. For example, the invasion of Norway was entirely planned outside the OKH. During the April 1945 allied campaign towards Berlin, the disputes between the OKH and the OKW involving strategic priorities were commonplace. Stemming from the fact that the eastern front was the responsibility of the OKH, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel displayed callous disregard for German failures against the Russians. General Heinz Guderian, then chief of the army high command was more than apathetic towards Keitel for his lack of support in convincing Hitler to emphasize troop increases to counter Russian advances east of the Oder. The executive capabilities of the army general staff were deliberately reduced following the July 20 assassination attempt on Hitler after which he himself assumed more expanded roles for military planning and operations. Although both the OKW and the OKH were headquartered in Zossen during the Third Reich, the functional and operational independence of both establishments were not lost on the respective staff during their tenure. Personnel at the sprawling Zossen compound remarked that even if the OKW (designated Maybach 2) complex was completely destroyed the employees of Maybach 1 would scarcely notice. Both the camouflaged facilities separated physically by a fence also maintained structurally different mindsets towards their objectives. On 28 April 1945 (2 days before his suicide) Hitler placed OKH under OKW giving OKW command of forces on the Eastern Front.[1]

During the Third Reich, the Chiefs of General Staff were,

When Hitler took command of the army on 19 December 1941, the importance of the GenStdH decreased, and Hitler continued to become more and more responsible for operational planning.

The flag for the Commander-In-Chief of the German ArmyEdit

The design of this command flag was very simple. It only displayed the basic German nationalist colors of red, white and a black Iron Cross. For display on a motor vehicle the 30 cm square flag was encased in a metal frame and held in place by a double-sided, clear perspex cover. As the Commander-In-Chief of the German Army inevitably held the rank of a generalfeldmarschall, the vehicle flag for this rank usually was displayed in conjunction with the command flag on the same vehicle.

The flag for the Chief of the German Army General StaffEdit

This special flag was introduced only on 1 September 1944. At this time the office was held by Generaloberst Heinz Guderian. Because of some violent disputes with Hitler he was sent on leave on 28 March 1945, only 38 days before the end of the war. So it came that this flag was closely associated with Guderian. The flag was similar in certain aspects to the flag used by the Commander-In-Chief of the German Army. The differences were that four golden eagles had been added to the corners of the flag. Moreover a white swastika was placed on the Iron Cross in the center of the flag.

See also Edit


  1. Howard D. Grier. Hitler, Dönitz, and the Baltic Sea, Naval Institute Press, 2007, ISBN 1591143454. p. 121

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