Erich von Manstein was born into an aristocratic Prussian family and joined the military at a young age. He saw combat in both World War I and World War II.
Considered by both Allied and Axis powers as one of Germany's best military strategists and field commanders in World War II, von Manstein played a role in many key battles during World War II. However, his ongoing disagreements with Hitler over the way the war was progressing led to his dismissal in March, 1944. He was taken prisoner by the British in August, 1945 and later gave testimony in the Nuremberg Trials in 1946.
In 1949 he was tried for war crimes and convicted on nine of seventeen counts. He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison, a sentence that was first reduced to twelve years, and ultimatley he served only four years before he was released in 1953.
After his release from prison, von Manstein served as an advisor to the West German government and penned a memoir in 1955 entitled Verlorene Siege (Lost Victories). In it he critized Hitler's leadership and focused strictly on the military aspects of the war while ignoring the politcal and ethical aspects. This, and his testimony at the Nuremberg Trials helped to perpetuate the myth of the "clean Wehrmacht"; the belief that German armed forces were not culpable for the atrocities of the Holocaust.
At the time of his death in 1973, he was one of only two surviving German field marshals and was buried with full military honors.