Guderian, Colonel General Heinz, 1888-1953

Guderian was the architect of Germany’s Panzer victories in France in May 1940, and in the USSR in June 1941. In 1937 he published a widely acclaimed textbook, Achtung! Panzer! in which he advocated his ideas about highspeed warfare. Most of the other officers in the German Army High Command were skeptical about his ideas; nonetheless he was selected to command XIX Panzer Corps, the vanguard of KLEIST’s Panzer Army. He gave a perfect demonstration of his theory, breaking through at Sedan, crossing the Meuse, and traveling so fast that the German High felt it had to put a brake on him. Guderian led the Second Panzer Army in the invasion of the USSR, which accomplished the encirclement of the Soviet Armies in Kiev and Uman. Guderian’s Army was then assigned to advance on Moscow and approached from the south. Guderian, however, did not see eye to eye with his superior KLUGE, whom he persistently ignored and disobeyed. In December he was dismissed by HITLER in the purge of the eastern Generals for disobeying his orders and making a timely withdrawal. In February 1943 he was recalled to build up the morale of the Panzer Corps and given the honorary title of Inspector General of the Armored troops. He made reforms and reorganized the Panzer Army but what gains he had achieved were squandered at the great tank battle at Kursk in July 1943. On the day after STAUFFENBERG’s Bomb Plot Guderian replaced ZEITZLER as Chief of General Staff but Hitler ignored his advice. Guderian applied pressure on Hitler to withdraw forces to a defensive line round Germany but Hitler would not countenance any withdrawal. On 21 March 1945 Guderian was finally dismissed. Hitler had never fully recognized Guderian’s great gifts as a military Commander and theorist.

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