In September 1938, he was appointed to head the National Defense Section (L Section) while also serving as deputy chief of the Operations Staff of the recently created Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, Armed Forces High Command). Adolf Hitler was supreme commander of the armed forces, Wilhelm Keitel was chief of staff, and Alfred Jodl was the chief of the OKW Operations Staff. Warlimont became chief of the Operations Staff when Jodl was transferred to a command position in October 1938. Keitel ordered Jodl's return to the OKW in August 1939, thereby restoring Warlimont to his former post (still remaining head of L Section).
During World War II, Warlimont was promoted to Generalmajor (U.S. equiv. brigadier general) in August 1940, Generalleutnant (U.S. equiv. major general) in April 1942, and General der Artillerie (U.S. equiv. lieutenant general) in April 1944. His importance lay in the fact that he attended most of the major command conferences and drafted the bulk of the principal operational plans and directives. The latter included the infamous Commissar Order; despite the fact that he was able to reduce its severity, his role in regard to this document was held against him after the war. Warlimont also drafted papers on Spain, Gibraltar, and Malta, and in November 1940, he went to France to discuss methods to strengthen Vichy France against the influences of the Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle. The talks moved slowly, and planning for Operation barbarossa soon surpassed discussion of the Mediterranean angle.
Warlimont was injured in the 20 July 1944 bomb plot against Hitler. He remained on duty, but by September 1944, he was diagnosed with a serious concussion. He was transferred to the Führer Reserve of general officers and never recalled to duty, though he eventually recovered from the injury.
Warlimont was a cautious and reserved officer, nicknamed "Fox" by some because of his reserve, and he was not trusted by Hitler. He was held in low esteem by certain field commanders because of his lack of combat experience in World War II (though he had served in combat capacities throughout World War I). Warlimont was arrested by the Americans in 1945, tried at Nuremberg for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was reduced in 1951, and he was released six years later.
During his incarceration and after his release, Warlimont worked on historical projects, including his major work, Inside Hitler's Headquarters, 1939–1945, first published in 1962. In the summer of 1945, he began a voluntary and voluminous contribution to the German Military History Program. His Nuremberg testimony and his "Interpretations and Comments on the Jodl Diaries" are of great historical interest. Warlimont was uniquely placed and qualified to comment on the inner workings of the military. He died on 9 October 1976 in Kreuth, Wiesbach, Upper Bavaria, Germany.
Jon D. Berlin
Görlitz, Walter. "Keitel, Jodl, and Warlimont." In Correlli Barnett, ed., Hitler's Generals, 139–169. New York: William Morrow, 1989.; Institute for Military History (Germany). Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 3, The Mediterranean, South-East Europe and North Africa, 1939–1941. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.; Warlimont, Walter. Inside Hitler's Headquarters, 1939–1945. Trans. R. H. Barry. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1990.