On the outbreak of World War II, Nehring was a colonel and chief of staff of Guderian's XIX Panzer Corps. He served in that post during the German invasions of Poland in 1939 and France in 1940. Promoted to Generalmajor (U.S. equiv. brigadier general) in August 1940, Nehring took command of the 18th Panzer Division and led it as part of Panzer Group Guderian in the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation barbarossa), winning the Knight's Cross for action around Borissow in July 1941.
Nehring was next promoted to Generalleutnant (U.S. equiv. major general) and given command of the Deutsches Afrika Korps in late May 1942. He promptly launched the envelopment attack on the Gazala Line that destroyed British armor and captured Tobruk. Promoted to General der Panzertruppen (U.S. equiv. lieutenant general) on 1 July, Nehring was chiefly responsible for the fighting during the battle of Alam Halfa, but he was seriously wounded in an air attack on 31 August.
While Nehring was convalescing in Germany, the Allies launched their invasion of northwest Africa, but commander in chief, south Field Marshal Albert Kesselring ordered Nehring to Tunisia on 16 November to form available troops into XC Corps and establish a beachhead while reinforcements arrived from Sicily. Nehring quickly organized the defenses and defeated Allied troops at the critical battle of Medjez-el-Bab. By the end of the month, he had launched a counteroffensive that recaptured Djedeida and halted the Allied "race for Tunis" from the west. Kesselring was impressed with Nehring's performance as a military commander but disliked his outspoken comments about the problems facing the German army in North Africa. Considered an "unhealthy pessimist," Nehring was replaced in December 1942 by General Hans Jürgen von Arnim.
Still highly regarded as a panzer commander, Nehring returned to the Soviet Union on 9 February 1943 to command XXIV Panzer Corps. He then held a sequence of senior commands—Fourth Panzer Army (June to August 1944), XLVIII Panzer Corps (August 1944), and then XXIV Panzer Corps again. He was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross in February 1944 and the Swords in January 1945 for defensive action in Poland. Group Nehring was driven back into Silesia, where Nehring took command of the First Panzer Army on 20 March 1945. He surrendered to U.S. forces on 9 May. After a brief period as a prisoner of war, Nehring spent his retirement quietly in Düsseldorf, where he died on 20 April 1983.
Paul H. Collier
Macksey, Kenneth. Guderian: Creator of the Blitzkrieg. New York: Stein and Day, 1976.; Pitt, Barrie. The Year of Alamein, 1942. New York: Paragon House, 1990.