Born in Brunswick, Germany in 1882. After serving in the Great War and in the Freikorps, Keitel rose to the rank of General in 1937 and the following year was made Supreme Commander of the German Armed Forces, effectively replacing Germany's War Minister. In this role, he was successful in persuading the Fuehrer to appoint his friend Walter von Brauchitsch as Head of the Army. He was also partly responsible for persuading Turkey to join the Axis, through his friendship with Azim Gunduz. He failed however to deter the Fuehrer from the invasion of Russia.
Keitel was criticized for his complete subservience to the Fuehrer and for his mishandling of the war, especially his refusal to restrain hard-liners in the SS. When his brother was implicated in the SS coup of July 1944 it became clear that his career was over. His brother was executed by hanging in late 1944. Both Wilhelm Keitel and his Chief of Operations, Alfred Jodl were dismissed.