The son entered Hanover Military College in February 14 and by 1918 commanded a company on the western front.
Balck left OKH in late Oct 39 to command a motorized infantry regiment, then under Guderian led the 1st Rifle Regt, 1st Pz. Div, through the Ardennes into France. The 47-year-old lieutenant colonel was awarded the RK for seizing and holding a critical bridge just north of Sedan on 13-14 May 1940. He went on to distinguish himself in daring operations, at one point facing de Lattre’s tough 14th Div around Rethel and remnants of the French 3d Armd Div around Juniville. Balck personally captured a set of French regimental colors.
Balck was promoted to full colonel shortly after leaving the Vienna area on 5 Mar 1942 to fight in Greece. His 3d Pz Regt led the 2d Pz Div in turning the Metaxis Line and taking Salonika on 9 Apr 1942. Through mountainous terrain notoriously unsuitcd for armor he led a battle group that outflanked New Zealanders trying to hold the last Allied defensive line near Mount Olympus.
Back to OKH staff duty in July 1941, he served in the department responsible for panzer troops. Favorably impressing Hitler, Oberst Balck was given command of the famous I llh Pz. Div in Russia on 16 May 1942 and promoted 1 Aug 1942. Generalmajor Balck destroyed more than 500 Soviet tanks in his first two months of action. On 20 Dec 1942 he received the Oakleaves for saving the 1 st and 4th Pz Armies from encirclement in the Caucasus, and was promoted 1 Jan 1943 to Generalleutnant. The general left his division on 4 Mar 1943 and was awarded the Swords that day for having surprised and annihilated M. M. Popov’s 5th Shock Army.
Succeeded by von Choltitz, Balck became Gen of Pz Trps on 1 Nov 1943. Briefly replacing Schoerner (12-14 Nov 1943) as commander of the 40th Pz Corps, Balck succeeded Eberbach as head of the 48th Pz Corps on 15 Nov 1943. On 5 Aug 1944 he moved up to head the hard-pressed 4th Pz Army. With what Guderian calls “inexhaustible energy and skill,” Balck immediately counterattacked. By 9 Aug he had reduced the size of the dangerous Baranov bridgehead on the upper Vistula, eliminated another minor one, and had won back some ground at Pulavy. This vigorous action prevented a major German disaster and the front in Poland was temporarily stabilized. Balck's achievement brought him the Diamonds, awarded 31 Aug 1944.
Moved to the western front, he succeeded Blaskowitz in Alsace as head of AG G. reaching Molsheim on the evening of 20 Sep 1944, according to his CofS, F. W. von Mellenthin. Within three months Balck’s “Cinderella among army groups” had been driven back in Lorraine by Patton. But his main enemy was Himmler, who intrigued to have Balck removed. Blaskowitz resumed his former post on 24 Dec and Guderian, by then army CofS, saved Balck for further service by sending him to Hungary (ibid.).
Heading the 6th Army and again without proper military resources, Balck, still in Hiller’s disfavor, Balck failed in a desperate attempt to relieve the German garrison in Budapest. The so-called Army Group Balck soon included Herbert Otto Gille’s 4th SS Pz Corps, which had two divisions. Supported by the 96th Inf Div, the elite panzer corps failed in its heroic efforts to relieve Budapest 2 Jan-7 Feb 1945. Balck subsequently retreated north with AG South into Austria, surrendered 8 May and was released in 1947.
US Army historians “discovered” Balck many years later and were delighted to find him living quietly in Stuttgart. He was brought to America for what turned out to be three long interviews on his experiences as a commander of large combined-arms forces. Three extensive interviews were ordered transcribed by historian Harold C. Deutsch, who made them available to student officers at the US Army War College (personal information). Still not properly recognized as a field commander of large forces, Balck died in 1982.