|Born||17 Jun 1888|
|Died||14 May 1954|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was born in Kulm, West Prussia. He entered the Army in 1907 and was assigned under his father's battalion. During WW1, he was a Signals and General Staff officer. After the war, he remained with the new limited German Army, Reichswehr. During this time, tanks, which were just introduced in the Great War, became a subject of fascination for the few innovative commanders. In France, Charles de Gaulle's theory on mobile warfare was dismissed as crazy, while Britain's Basil Liddell Hart's ideas were regarded as impractical. Guderian had much greater luck in Germany, however. He studied de Gaulle and Liddell Hart's theories, and published his own vision of usage of armor in Achtung-Panzer! in 1937. The book caught the eyes of Adolf Hitler (and people beyond the WW2-era: it is still referred to in some military academies today), who kept Guderian in command for his ideas on mobile warfare even though Guderian had a history of being anti-Nazi.
Guderian commanded the XIX Army Corps during the invasion of Poland and the invasion of France. In both campaigns, he successfully employed his tanks in ways where his forces overran the strongest enemy defensive locations by concentrating his strength at the weakest defensive points, then enveloped and isolated the strong points. "We believe that by attacking with tanks we can achieve a higher rate of movement than has been hitherto obtainable and... that we can keep moving once a breakthrough has been made", he said later. "One hits somebody with his fist and not with fingers spread." In 1941, he commanded Panzergruppe Guderian in Operation Barbarossa in Russia, where he received the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves. His army conquered Smolensk in a short time, and turned south to threaten Kiev, but was relieved of command on 25 Dec 1941 for disobeying an order from Hitler. On 1 Mar 1943, he was appointed Inspector-General of the Armored Troops, then on 21 Jul 1944 the Chief of Staff of the Army. He was dismissed by Hitler on 28 Mar 1945 after an argument, ending his involvement in WW2.
Guderian surrendered himself to the Americans on 10 May 1945. Although he remained a prisoner until 1948, he was not tried for war crimes, though the Polish government protested. At the Battle of Wizna, Guderian threatened to execute Polish POWs if the Polish commander did not surrender; since none were actually executed, the incident was dismissed as a bluff employed by Guderian.
Sources: Armchair Reader World War II, the Last Lion, Wikipedia.
- "One hits somebody with his fist and not with fingers spread."
» On Blitzkrieg philosophy
- "As a result of the cold, the machine-guns were no longer able to fire?. The result of all this was a panic.... The battle worthiness of our infantry is at an end."
» 1 Nov 1941
Heinz Guderian Timeline
|17 Jun 1888||Heinz Guderian was born.|
|5 Sep 1939||Heinz Guderian was awarded Clasp to his Iron Cross Second Class.|
|13 Sep 1939||Heinz Guderian was awarded Clasp to his Iron Cross First Class.|
|27 Oct 1939||Heinz Guderian was awarded the Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross.|
|1 Jun 1940||Heinz Guderian was named the commander of Panzer Group Guderian.|
|19 Jul 1940||Heinz Guderian was promoted to the rank of Generaloberst (Colonel General).|
|16 Nov 1940||Heinz Guderian was named commander of Panzer Group 2.|
|17 Jul 1941||Heinz Guderian was awarded Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.|
|5 Oct 1941||The German Second Panzer Group was reorganized as the Second Panzer Army; Heinz Guderian remained the unit's commanding officer.|
|6 Oct 1941||Heinz Guderian noted in his diary that he had observed snow for the first time in the campaign in the Soviet Union.|
|12 Oct 1941||Heinz Guderian noted in his diary that snow continued to fall amidst the campaign in the Soviet Union.|
|3 Nov 1941||Heinz Guderian noted in his diary that the first cold wave had hit Russia, bringing temperature to the freezing point.|
|7 Nov 1941||Heinz Guderian noted in his diary that his troops were beginning to suffer severe frostbite in Russia.|
|21 Nov 1941||Heinz Guderian wrote Franz Halder from Russia, noting the miserable cold and fierce Soviet resistance.|
|25 Dec 1941||Adolf Hitler sacked Heinz Guderian over conflicting visions on the strategy for war against the Soviet Union.|
|1 Mar 1943||Heinz Guderian was appointed Inspector-General of Armoured Troops.|
|21 Jul 1944||Heinz Guderian was appointed Chief of the Army General Staff.|
|1 Jan 1945||Heinz Guderian requested Adolf Hitler to allow reinforcements to be sent to German units in Hungary and Poland.|
|9 Jan 1945||Heinz Guderian visited Adolf Hitler to personally request reinforcements for the Eastern Front. The two would get into a large argument.|
|25 Jan 1945||Heinz Guderian asked Joachim von Ribbentrop to negotiate peace with the Western Allies. Ribbentrop reported this to Adolf Hitler.|
|27 Jan 1945||In a report written by Heinz Guderian on this date, he referred to the Soviet forces as a "tidal wave".|
|14 May 1954||Heinz Guderian passed away.|
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945