Guderian was active in the Freikorps during 1919, in which he served as chief of staff of the "Iron Division." He was later selected to be retained as one of 4,000 officers in the 100,000-man Reichswehr. Guderian was assigned to the transport troops in 1922. Returning to the General Staff in 1927, he became an advocate of mechanization based on British and French theorists. He was given command of an experimental motorized battalion in 1931 with which he demonstrated armored reconnaissance techniques. He was promoted to colonel in 1933, and in October 1935 he took command of the 2nd Panzer Division, one of only three being formed. He was promoted to Generalmajor (U.S. equiv. brigadier general) in August 1936.
In 1937, Guderian published his treatise on armored warfare ( Achtung-Panzer!), which espoused the combination of tanks, dive-bombers, and motorized infantry that is characterized as blitzkrieg (lightning war). Rapid promotion followed as Guderian helped expand Germany's armored forces. He became Generalleutant (U.S. equiv. major general) and participated with his division in the occupation of Austria. In October, Guderian was promoted to general of panzer troops and appointed chief of mobile troops with direct access to Adolf Hitler.
During the invasion of Poland, Guderian commanded the XIX Panzer Corps, demonstrating through aggressive operations the soundness of blitzkrieg. He reached the pinnacle of operational command during the invasion of France in May 1940 when he led his panzer corps across the Meuse River at Sedan and raced to the English Channel to cut Allied forces off in Belgium.
During Operation barbarossa, the June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union, Guderian, now a full general, commanded the 2nd Panzer Group in Army Group Center, where he cooperated with General Hermann Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group to encircle large Soviet forces at Minsk on 10 July. Guderian then was ordered south to assist General Paul L. E. von Kleist's 4th Panzer Group encircle more than 600,000 Russians in the Kiev pocket in September. Guderian's short temper and mercurial disposition toward superiors eventually led him to be relieved of command in December over tactical disputes.
Following a year of inactivity, Guderian was recalled to duty by Hitler as inspector general of armored troops in March 1943. Guderian made great efforts to rebuild the worn panzer forces. After the assassination attempt against Hitler in July 1944, Guderian was appointed chief of the General Staff. He stood up to Hitler on numerous occasions, leading to his dismissal on 28 March 1945. Taken prisoner by U.S. forces at the end of the war, Guderian was not prosecuted for war crimes, although he remained a prisoner until June 1948. Guderian died at Schwengen, Bavaria, on 14 May 1953. A headstrong and aggressive battlefield commander, Guderian turned mechanized theory into practice and established a legacy as the father of blitzkrieg warfare.
Steven J. Rauch
Guderian, Heinz. Achtung-Panzer! The Development of Armoured Forces: Their Tactics and Operational Potential. Trans. Christopher Duffy. London: Arms and Armour Press, 1993.; Guderian, Heinz. Panzer Leader. Trans. Constantine Fitzgibbon. London: Harborough, 1957.; Macksey, Kenneth. Guderian: Creator of the Blitzkrieg. New York: Stein and Day, 1976.