Oberkommando der Wehrmacht

From Academic Kids

The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or OKW (Wehrmacht High Command, Armed Forces High Command) was part of the command structure of the German armed forces during World War II. In theory, it served as the military general staff for Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, coordinating the efforts of the German Army (Heer), Navy (Kriegsmarine), and Air Force (Luftwaffe). In practice, the OKW was only Hitler's military office, that had to translate Hitler's ideas into military orders, and had little real control over the Army, Navy and the Air Force High Commands. Instead, as the war progressed the OKW found itself exercising increasing amounts of direct command authority over military units particularly in the West. This created a situation such that by 1942, the OKW was the defacto command of Western forces while the OKH (the Army High Command) exercised defacto command of the Russian front.

The OKW had been formed in 1938 following the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair which led to the dismissal of Werner von Blomberg and the dissolution of the Reichswehrministerium (Reichs Ministry of War).

There was a rivalry between OKW and the OKH (Army High Command, Oberkommando des Heeres): Because most German operations during World War II were army operations (with air support), the Army High Command demanded the control over the German military forces. Hitler decided against the OKH and in favour of the OKW.

During the war more and more influence moved from the OKH to the OKW. Norway was the first "OKW war theater". More and more theaters came under complete control of the OKW. Finally only the Russian Front stayed under control of the Army High Command.

The OKW ran military operations on the Western front, Africa and in Italy. In the west operations were further split between the OKW and the Oberbefehlshaber West (OBW, Commander in Chief West), who was Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt (later Field Marshal Günther von Kluge).

There was even more fragmentation as naval and air operations had their own commands (Oberkommando der Marine (OKM) and Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL, Hermann Göring)) which, while theoretically subordinate, were largely independent from OKW or the OBW.

The OKW was headed for the entire war by Wilhelm Keitel and reported directly to Hitler, from whom most operational orders actually originated as he had made himself Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht (Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces) and Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (head of the OKH).

Alfred Jodl was Keitel's Chef des Wehrmachtführungsstabes (Chief of Operation Staff), while Walter Warlimont was Deputy Chief.

The OKW was indicted but acquitted of charges during the Nuremberg trials of being a criminal organization. Keitel and Jodl however were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.

See also

fr:Oberkommando der Wehrmacht pl:Oberkommando der Wehrmacht pt:Oberkommando der Wehrmacht

fi:Oberkommando der Wehrmacht


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