Brandenberger was serving as chief of staff of XXIII Corps at the outbreak of war in September 1939. Promoted to Generalmajor (U.S. equiv. brigadier general) in July 1940, he took over the 8th Panzer Division in February 1941. His unit was part of Colonel General Erich Hoepner's 4th Panzer Group of Army Group North at the commencement of Operation barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. In the first few days of the offensive, Brandenberger's men seized a critical viaduct and then bridges over the Daugava River at Daugavpils.
Promoted to Generalleutnant (U.S. equiv. major general) in August 1942, Brandenberger remained with the 8th Panzer until January 1943 and was engaged in the effort to relieve the pocket at Velikiye Luki. He was promoted to general of panzer troops in August 1943 and then led the XVII and XXIX Corps on the Eastern Front. The latter was active in the southern Ukraine.
Brandenberger took command of Seventh Army in August 1944 under Field Marshal Walter Model, commander of Army Group B. His delaying tactics in the Hürtgen Forest–Eifel Mountains area slowed the U.S. advance, inflicting heavy casualties on the Americans. His defense of this area assured German control of the northern Eifel area, enabling Hitler to launch the Ardennes Campaign with a secure northern flank. Brandenberger's Seventh Army was the southernmost of the three German armies, and his objective was to secure the southern flank to protect the operations of the Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies. He enjoyed some initial success, but in the end, he was forced back by the counterattacks of Lieutenant General George S. Patton's Third Army.
Making the most of the meager resources available to him, Brandenberger mounted effective actions against superior numbers of advancing Allied troops for the remainder of the war. Following the Ardennes Campaign, he fought skillful delaying actions west of the Rhine River against the U.S. First and Third Armies, often recommending withdrawal in the face of overwhelming odds. However, as a result of such actions, his relations with Model were strained, and the latter relieved him of command on 20 February 1945. Brandenberger returned to active duty to command the Nineteenth Army on 25 March 1945, against the French First Army in the Black Forest area. The Nineteenth Army was forced back through southern Germany until surrendering on 5 May 1945 near Innsbruck, Austria.
Brandenberger was interviewed by the Americans during his postwar internment and contributed 10 manuscripts for the German Military History Program. He died in Bonn on 21 June 1955.
Jon D. Berlin
MacDonald, Charles B. The Battle of the Huertgen Forest. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1963.; MacDonald, Charles B. A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge. New York: William Morrow, 1984.; MacDonald, Charles B. The Siegfried Line Campaign. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1993.; Mitcham, Samuel W., Jr. The Panzer Legions: A Guide to the German Army Tank Divisions of World War II and Their Commanders. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001.