Hitler's War Service

Compiled by Editor Mike Hanlon

One of the Haunting Photos of the 20th Century
Adolf Hitler (circled) Thrills to the Announcement of War in Munich,
August 1914

The Great War which provides so many inspiring stories also produced one of the most despised tyrants of history, Adolf Hitler. He, too, is part of the heritage of the First World War. Much has been written attempting to down play Hitler's war service on the Western Front. Yet, a close examination shows he was a dedicated and brave frontline trooper. While far from a typical recruit -- Try to imagine hunkering down in a bunker during a bombardment with Hitler ranting about the World Jewish Conspiracy -- his immediate circle of fellow soldiers and officers seem to have uniformly remembered him positively. He later fondly remembered his service in the trenches. In June 1940 after the fall of France, he made a two-day tour of his World War I battlefields.

The importance of Hitler's war service in his rise to power is described by Professor J.S. Stern in his work, Hitler: The Fueher and the People. Stern argues that Hitler used his frontline service to prove his authenticity and win authority to speak for the German people. Having shared the suffering of the frontline soldier, he could stand apart from professional soldiers and politicians, the architects of defeat and the Versailles Treaty. This authenticity gave him a steep advantage in the electoral politics that preceded his seizure of dictatorial power.

For the record, here is a summary of the War Service of Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler:

First World War Service
of Adolf Hitler
20 April 1889 - 30 April 1945


Feb 14 Screened for Austrian Military Service; Found Unfit
Aug 14 Hitler petitions to serve in Bavarian forces despite Austrian Citizenship
16 Aug 14 Hitler volunteers for 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, also known as the List Regiment after its commander
8 Oct 14 Hitler takes oath to King Ludwig III of Bavaria
29 Oct 14 Sees first action 5 miles east of Ypres
Nov 14 Unit near Messines; Assigned war-long role as headquarters messenger
Dec 14 Awarded Iron Cross 2nd Class; Refuses to participate in Christmas Truce
1915 Hitler promoted to Lance Corporal; participates in several actions in Artois Sector
7 Oct 16 Wounded in leg at the Somme; Hitler then spends two months at military hospital in Beelitz near Berlin
Early 17 On light duty after being wounded
1 Mar 17 Returns to Regiment at Front in Picardy
Summer 17 List Regiment returns to Ypres Salient
31 July 17 Battle of Passchendaele begins
Fall 17 Regiment rested in Alsace
Late 17/Early 18 Regiment sent to Oise/Aisne Sector
Mar 18 Operating near Montdidier
Aug 18 Awarded Iron Cross 1st Class for service since 1914 as messenger
28 Sep 18 Incident involving Henry Tandy, VC
Oct 18 Regiment back in Ypres Sector
13 Oct 18 Gassed and temporarily blinded near Wervicq
Oct 18 Recovering his sight at Pasewalk, Germany, Hitler witnesses naval mutineers
11 Nov 18 At news of armistice; Hitler reacts bitterly

Miscellaneous Comments

  • Hitler passed up promotion to full corporal because it would result in his being reassigned from the messenger group.

  • Besides two Iron Crosses, Hitler was awarded the Bavarian Military Medal 3rd class with bar, and later received, as did all wounded soldiers, the Cross of Military Merit.

  • He never faced American forces during the war.

  • The List Regiment and the headquarters messenger group suffered tremendous casualties during the war, but Hitler avoided many close calls and regularly indicated he expected to survive the war.

  • Hitler's life was once spared by a British soldier, Henry Tandey, VC. Read John Godl's article about this incident. Article

Hitler at Langemarck German Cemetery in Flanders, June 1940

Credits and Thanks. My sources are primarily the Encyclopedia Britannica and Robert Payne's biography of Hitler. Professor Stern's book is most strongly recommended.

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Additions and comments on these pages may be directed to: Michael E. Hanlon (medwardh@hotmail.com) regarding content, or to Mike Iavarone (mikei01@execpc.com) regarding form and function. Original artwork & copy; © 1998-2002, TGWS.