I don't know if I can provide eloquence, but I thought that I'd chime in since I can relate to what both forum members jv and Mike Miller are saying.
Yes, we know already. He was a war criminal. But if he was a lousy field commander, that fact didn't make it into his file, nor into the assessments by his contemporaries (such as his superior Walter Krüger and subordinate Arturs Silgailis). Who is being naive? Specifics, please.
I suppose part of the issue is that its difficult to separate the war criminal/military commander aspects of a Third Reich personage. Limiting ourselves to a discussion on the purely military capabilities of Bruno Streckenbach may at times feel like participating in a discussion on the guitar virtuosity of Charles Manson - Charlie apparently was a master on the axe, but such a conversation can make one feel one is cherry-picking a positive characteristic out of a persona that in toto is much less benign.
It does seem clear that Bruno Streckenbach did not have any formal advanced military training either at a SS Junkerschule or Heer equivalent. That in itself isn't unusual for a high-ranking W-SS divisional officer; "Sepp" Dietrich and "Papa" Eicke certainly are examples of W-SS leaders who achived fame as combat commanders without the benefit of officer or staff training. (Although in Dietrich's case he certainly benefitted from extensive WWI service, particularly in armor)
I would imagine that Bruno Streckenbach's long service in the police, SS, SD and RSHA did play a large part in his career development as an administrator and unit commander. The skills he learned as a paramilitary/security commander must have played a role in how he acted as a military commander in the 8th and 19th SS divisions.
Sometime prior to March 1943, Streckenbach trained in the anti-tank speciality (panzerjäger) of the W-SS. From March 1943 to January 1944 he served as an officer and later commander of the 8th SS division's antitank detatchment. During this time, the 8th SS refitted at Bobruisk, participated in a extended antipartisan sweeps (e.g. Operation WEICHEL I, May 1943) while serving under HSSPF Russland-Süd, and later in the fall was chewed up by the Soviet meat grinder in battles at Bespalowka, Grabovets, and Vassilevka.
Streckenbach served as divisional commander of the 8th SS from January to March of 1944, a time when most of the division was reforming in Croatia, although some parts (e.g. "Kampfgruppe 5/18") remained on the Eastern Front. In March 1944 Kampgruppe Streckenbach (a.k.a. Kampfgruppe "C") played a part in the German occupation of Hungary. In April 1944 Streckenbach was replaced as 8th SS commander by SS-Brigadeführer Joachim Rumohr and appointed commander of the 19th SS division. The former 19th SS division commander, SS-Oberführer Friedrich-Wilhelm Bock, was posted as an artillery commander of the II SS Panzer Korps.
It's not clear to me why Streckenbach replaced Boch - perhaps Boch, whose specialty was artillery (and was also, FYI, another former policeman), was unsuited to divisional command. Was is clear is that Streckenbach would be assuming command of a "Waffen" (sort of a third-string W-SS classification) division of Latvian conscripts and volunteers, many of them former schuma (auxiliary police) battalion troops that was currently in the thick of some pretty serious combat on the Panther line with Army Group North.
What isn't clear to me is why did Himmler and/or the SS-FHA assign Streckenbach to command a unit of non-Germans - was there something in his background that made him suited to command this type of division? Reviewing Streckenbach's command assignments makes me wonder if the SS considered him more of a defensive specialist than an offensive commander. What is clear is that Streckenbach's posting as CO to the 19th SS was clearly a "step up" as a combat assignment and command responsibility.
I don't take full stock in whatever SS-Obergruppenführer Walter Krüger (CO, VI SS Korps [Latvian]) may have written about Streckenbach as a combat commander - Krüger would have had a vested interest in presenting Streckenbach in a good light because it reflected on his own command capabilities. (Plus Krüger killed himself in May 1945, and thus never offered a postwar assessment) In addition, didn't Arturs Sigailis serve as CO of the 34th WGR (Waffen Grenadier Regiment) of the 15th SS Division? I only mention this because Sigailis seems to have served in a sister division of the 19th SS, and so as far as I am aware, wasn't around Streckenbach in a day-to-day fashion to assess his command performance.
Unfortunaltely, there doesn't appear to be a lot published in the USA about the military performance of Streckenbach and the 19th SS Division - or at least - not a lot in my library! Overall, the division seems to have had a mediocre combat record. In the first few months of 1944, the organization of the division proceeded slowly with the divisional cadre Lettische SS-Freiwilligen Brigade constanty being spun off to deal with the Soviet Army crisis du jour and police units like the 272F "Daugavgrlva" Schuma Battalion being rotated in and assimiliated.
By July 1944 the division seems to have suffered not only from unrelenting Soviet attacks and heavy casualties but also a pretty severe desertion problem. In August, troops from the 15th SS were sent to stiffen the spine of the 19th SS. In October the division seems to have fought well at the "Tuckum Positions" between Dzukste and Klapkalnice, but by December 1944 the division was bottled up with the rest of the remmnants of Army Group North, trapped in the Kurland pocket. As I mentioned in an earlier post, around this time the division may have experienced a couple of mutinies (see Stein, "The Waffen-SS" p. 194). The division continued doggedly fighting in the pocket near Frauenberg during the six Soviet offensive Jan-March, but by April 1, 1945, the 19th SS only earned a "sufficient" rating from in the Army Group Commander's report to the OKH (see Werner Haupt, "Army Group North", p.354)
This report is rating significant, for the "sufficient" rating is the second to last rating out of a possible four. One division was considered "very good", 9 divisions were considered "good" - mostly because of citations for "agile leadership" - 7, including the 19th SS, were considered "sufficient" (with no mention of leadership) and the bottom of the barrel was the poor 563rd Infantry Division. Streckenbach's capabilities as a combat commander need to be assessed with that ratings report in mind.
In his campaign history, Werner Haupt, who is not shy in waxing poetic about the combat prowess of various units of Army Group North, devotes much more ink to the exploits of the III SS Panzer Korps than the VI SS Corps in general and the 19th SS in particular.
My assessment of this forum is that it is run by an "alliance" of a handful of people in the USA and UK and others are getting a brief look into the interchange of information by this alliance. Don't let this forum slip into into a "right-click" medium of nice pictures
I can understand jv's frustration - there's always the possibility that the AHF could slide into the picture gallery kitsch of "blond-men-riding-panzers" war porn or be stifled by the tendentious posts about when Gruppenführer So-and-So received his EKII from members who are uninterested (or unwilling) to mention that such an award came from participation in some pretty unspeakable acts. But the AHF is perhaps the best WWII military forum on the net, because it is a place where the specialists and the newbies can rub digital shoulders and hopefully learn from each other. - Rob