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History Feature: Father of the Blitzkrieg: Guderian

History Feature
In other languages: th zh-tw ja

It's no secret that many players prefer using German vehicles in World of Tanks, simply because of their perfect balance of armour, firepower and mobility. The distinguished battle records of German armour troops in WWII also attracted many players, which attributed to the popularity of German tanks in World of Tanks. The famous “Father of the Blitzkrieg”, General Heinz Wilhelm Guderian, is the most important man who created the German armour force.

German forces first used A7V tanks in WWI, but this tank had no turret and was simple and crude. The prevalence of trench warfare in WWI caused millions of casualties, a fact that forced the Germans to develop new tactics. The result of their development was the birth of an armoured unit that excelled in mobility and survivability.

<German A7V tank in WW I>

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was born in Germany in 1888. Like his father, he studied in military schools before joining the army, eventually serving as a staff officer during the First World War.

With the conclusion of WWI, Guderian was assigned to the Reichswehrministerium (The German department of defense) in 1922 as a staff officer of army transport. This marked the turning point of Guderian’s life, as well as the beginning of the development of a modern German armoured force. During his career as a staff officer and even later on, Guderian worked tirelessly to research issues about building and maintaining an armoured and motorized force, as he understood the importance of them.

After WWI, due to the restriction of Treaty of Versailles, the strength of the German military was limited to 100,000 personnel. In the event a war was to break out in the future, Germany will have to rely on them to repel any attacks by potential enemies.

 

Guderian advocated the importance of motorization and mobile warfare. Initially, he faced strong opposition from conservative groups, but his resolve never wavered as he worked harder to develop the weapons, equipment, training and doctrines for his vision of an armoured force. He also wrote a book titled 'Achtung-Panzer!' (Attention, Tank!) which garnered the attention of the German government. Eventually, he managed to establish and organize 3 armoured divisions in 1935. The small tanks which were used for training by these troops were the German tier II Pz.Kpfw . I, which can also be seen in World of Tanks.

In 1938 Guderian was promoted to lieutenant general and appointed as the commander of 16th Corps. The armored troops he established would have the opportunity to perform in the same year. Because of political issues, Nazi regime of Germany annexed Austria and Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. Guderian led his armored troops and participated in both operations. Success was met with little to no hostilities along the way, but Guderian still made sure to test the efficiency of his new military assets, concluding that the formation of an armored force was the correct way.


<German Pz.Kpfw. I tank>

 

At the start of WW II, Guderian assumed control of Germany's newest weapon and used it to great effect, defeating his opponents with such ease and speed that they were left reeling from the assault. During this period, the “Blitzkrieg” strategy shocked everyone around the world. The first to experience its potency was Poland, which promptly surrendered in one month. In May 1940 alone, the German army began an operation against the territories of Western Europe. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France all surrendered to Germany within the space of two months. Finally, German forces descended upon the Balkans in April 1941, where the German mechanized units defeated their enemies with yet another astonishing display of speed and power.

On June 22 1941, the German army began the invasion of the USSR. In the first several months, the might of German armour was unparallelled, roaming freely across the battlefields in the Eastern theatre. But when winter came, the situation became increasingly dire with each passing day, and the German assault slowed to a standstill.

The failure of the German invasion force in defeating the Soviets during this period of time meant that many high ranking German generals were relieved, which included Guderian among them.

At the mid-point of WWII, the strength of German forces was weakened, especially in the Battle of Stalingrad in January 1943. This left their armoured force in a severe condition. This time, Guderian was assigned as Inspector General of Armoured Troops in February 1943, responsible for the production of German tanks as well as the re-organization and development of the armoured force. Guderian held great power in this new position, and harnessed it to recover the strength of the German armored force with his efforts.

Many famous German tanks gained recognition during this period, for example, the Tier 7 medium tank Panther , Tier 7 heavy tank Tiger I, Tier 8 tank destroyer Ferdinand, the heavy tank Tiger II and even the Tier 10 heavy tank Maus, all of which are still very popular choices in World of Tanks. Yet another innovation used during this period was the addition of spaced armor (Schürzen) to German armored vehicles.

   

<Left: Tiger I; Right: Panther>

 

  <Left: Ferdinand; Right: Tiger II>

On July 20 1944, an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made against Hitler. General Guderian was appointed as the chief staff of the German Army on the very next day. On this new assignment, he directed the campaigns on the eastern front until he was dismissed again by Hitler in March 1945. Germany was defeated just one month later, and the legend of the German armored force came to an end. If not for the efforts of General Guderians, many interesting vehicles in World of Tanks might not even have existed!

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