Guderian Heinz - Panzer leader

Author : Guderian Heinz
Title : Panzer leader
Year : 1952

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Foreword by Captain B. H. Liddell Hart. In this book a man who has made history - on a great scale - gives us his own story of how he shaped it by means of a new idea, and how it led to an end he had not foreseen. Guderian had a tremendous impact on the course of events in our time. Without him, it is probable that Hitler would have met early frustration in his offensive efforts when he embarked on war. For in 1939-40 Germany's forces in general were not sufficient to overcome any major Power. Her opening run of victory in the Second World War was only made possible by the panzer forces that Guderian had created and trained, and by his auda¬cious leading of those forces in disregard of his superiors' caution as well as Hitler's fears. Guderian's break-through at Sedan and lightning drive to the Channel coast virtually decided the issue of the Battle of France. A year later, the drive he led into the East came close to producing the complete collapse of Russia's armies, but this time renewed hesitancy on top imposed a delay that spun out the campaign until winter intervened, and gave the Russians a breathing-space for recovery. Stalin was able to raise fresh armies and develop new arms factories to replace those that had been captured. Russia's strength went on increasing, while Germany was never again as strong as in that first campaign. Hitler's 1942 effort, though dangerous, was a more limited one than in the previous year. After the failure at Stalingrad the decline of the Germans' power became manifest to all, while America's entry into the war definitely ensured their downfall. Thus the victories that Guderian had made possible proved more fatal than if no victory had been gained. Early blossom turned into hitter fruit. He himself had an early foretaste of its juice, since at the end of 1941 he was dismissed for taking a timely step-back instead of pandering to Hitler's illusions. He was recalled to service only when Germany's situation had become desperate, and was eventually made Chief of the General Staff when it had become hopeless. So he was doomed to swallow the full bitterness of the dregs. That retributive sequel to his work, however, does not affect his historical significance - in the molding of history by the application of a new idea, of which he was both the exponent and executant. The conquest of the West did not last, but it changed the shape of Europe and has profoundly affected the future of the whole world. That is clear, although we cannot yet tell what will emerge. Guderian's book is also of great interest as a self-exposition of the specialist mind and how it works. He had far more imagi¬nation than most specialists, but it was exercised almost entirely within the bounds of his professional subject, and burning en¬thusiasm increased the intensity of his concentration. Guderian was a single-minded soldier, professional in the truest sense - the quintessence of the craftsman in the way he devoted himself to the progress of a technique. In that pursuit he showed as little regard for careerist ambition, and the tact which it requires, as for the purpose such technical progress might serve. To understand him one must be capable of under¬standing the passion of pure craftsmanship. ...

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