Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 132

commander in the 1st Cavalry Division. He also served in a variety of staff positions, many of them in Europe, which greatly benefited him in the latter years of his career. During the 1980s and the early 1990s, Galvin served in a succession of commands that were all important in the prosecution of the Cold War. He commanded the 24th Infantry Division, 1981–1983; served as the commanding general of VII Corps, 1983–1985; commanded U.S. Southern Command, 1985–1987; and culminated his career as commanding general of United States European Command and NATO supreme allied commander, Europe, 1987–1992. Those who served in the armed forces during this period know the tremendous effect Galvin had throughout the Cold War. Balck began his service in the German army in 1913. As one might expect, his formative years as an officer were spent on the World War I battlefields. During the Great War, he led soldiers as a platoon leader and company commander, where he earned numerous decorations. His performance clearly impressed his superiors, as he was one of the only four thousand officers selected to continue service in the German army following the war. Balck gained acclaim as a commander during World War II. He began the war as a lieutenant colonel in command of a rifle regiment. By the end of the war, he had risen to the rank of general der panzertruppe (lieutenant general) in command of a German army group. It was on the Eastern Front that Balck developed a reputation as one of his army’s most exceptional battlefield commanders. In fact, some of his own peers—and several U.S. Army general officers—considered Balck the best field commander in the German army. He is one of only twenty-seven German officers to receive the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds (awarded for extreme battlefield bravery or outstanding military leadership). Balck was, unquestionably, one of those aforementioned officers not seeking self-promotion. Following the war, he made no effort to publicly address his battlefield experience or accomplishments. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the U.S. Army was conducting a debriefing program of captured German senior leaders, Balck refused to participate. Finally, from 1979 to 1980, 126 Balck discussed his experiences with representatives of the United States. The results of these discussions were significant; they eventually found their way to the classrooms of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and greatly influenced U.S. Army airland battle doctrine. The stellar military careers of both men call for further study by military historians. Perhaps the recent release of the memoirs of these compelling men by the University of Kentucky Press will serve as the initial step in making further study a reality. The two books share three main characteristics. First, each is superbly written in conversational style. Both authors are highly adept at reliving events and telling stories and vignettes. These characteristics make each book extremely readable and engaging. An interesting note is that neither memoir was crafted with the assistance of a ghost writer, which so many authors use today. Second, each of these memoirs was years in the making. A recent trend I have observed is for senior officers who decide to write their memoirs to publish their reflections soon after retirement. This is clearly not the case with Galvin or Balck. Galvin’s memoir was published some twenty years after his retirement from the U.S. Army, and Balck’s volume was released in Germany in 1981, more than three decades after the end of World War II. And, it was another three and a half decades before Balck’s memoirs were translated into English and published in the United States. Third, both authors include much detail, considering that the events they address took place so long ago. Galvin was able to recall these events through his use of thousands of note cards he accumulated during his service. As events transpired, he would compose his notes on the cards to keep a record he could revisit in the future. For Balck, it was the use of the comprehensive journals he kept during his military career. Perhaps the greatest challenge Balck faced was keeping the journals intact through the years. Before World War II, Balck personally preserved his journals. During World War II, however, he had Ѽ