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Guderian: Panzer Pioneer or Myth Maker

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by JBark, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. JBark

    JBark Member

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    I'm in the last pages of Russell Hart's Guderian: Panzer Pioneer or Myth Maker. I have to say I am not impressed by Hart. He attacks Guderian relentlessly in a way I would see in a history forum but would not expect from a history professor. In Hart's view Guderian is damned no matter what he did, no matter what path he took or opinion he had. Hart contradicts himself as he tells the reader that Guderian was not "responsible" for the advancement of Germany's armor developement then turns full circle to refer to him as an innovator, doctrinaire and maverick pushing the cause of armor against those in the army (cavalry and artillery) that did not want to see it advance.

    I'm curious about the debate on Guderian. There seems to be two camps on his record; those that want to believe the gist of Guderian's memoirs and those that want to find the holes and "lies" and label Guderian as much less than how many remember him. Anyone here read any of the books about him? Anyone have some views they want to share from the histories on him?
     
  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    This isn't a detailed reply but I'll kick it off as Guderian interests me. He did quite well out of the 'battle of the memoirs' in the 1950s, representing himself as the honourable Army officer constantly at loggerheads with Hitler. This was taken at face value for many years but has recently been challenged with other historians citing Guderian's early enthusiasm for Nazism and his membership of the 'Court Of Honour' after the July 1944 attentat.

    I'm not familiar with Hart's book ; it's curious that, as yet, there has been no fully-referenced, comprehensive biography of Guderian in the English language. Kenneth Macksey's book is quite well-regarded but contains more opinion than references.
     
  3. Black6

    Black6 Member

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    I suggest trying James Corum's "The Roots of Bltzkrieg". You may find that there is another perspective out there as it pertains to doctrinal development between the wars in general and armor and Guderian's role would certainly fit into that. That perspective is simply that there is a cast of thousands involved in German tactical doctrinal changes for all branches (not just armor but the whole combined arms team) and it happend over a number of years and was relatively unique to the Germans. Its not a knock on Guderian or a vote for his popular legacy to look at his contribution in context of the whole and realize that what was developed would have been with or without him, but it was senational with him. The difficult part of the story is for western readership to get itself out of the terrible habit of assuming that change is personality driven, because in this case it was institutional. If there is a case for any single personality driving doctrinal change in Guderian's time it would have to be von Seeckt and the legacy of his leadership driven doctrinal design. Example: I often read on forums of the Germans were first to put radios in every tank. So why not look a little further and make mention about radios in aircraft, artillery units, Infantry units down to platoon level, etc? Every branch was getting small portable wireless capabilities which integrated the combined arms team enabling real time decision making for......? Lower echelon battefield leaders perhaps? The well trained decisive types who run circles around their contemporary foreign counterparts.
    Guderian was smart if not brilliant, but not unreplaceable. His contribution was to one branch that had many advocates and many innovators as well as capable commanders, his was the face and voice for that branch (and there were many capable replacements available).
     
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  4. JBark

    JBark Member

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    I haven't gotten Corum's book yet though I've read a bit of Citino's The Path to Blitzkrieg. There is recognition of Guderian's push for armor and of course recognizes all that was done previously in developing combined arms and mobility in the inter war German military. One thing I keep coming back to is that I don't recall Guderian trying to take sole credit in Panzer Leader. One thing I see in Hart's book is that he recognizes that Guderian was a big voice in what was a fight to establish armor's role, especially against the voices in the cavalry that did not want to relinquish their hold on a critical part of the combined arms team. Hart criticizes Guderian's bluntness in his battles against the cavalry officers and others that did see the worth of armor.
     
  5. scipio

    scipio Member

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    I have read Panzer General and I think Black6 dies a nice job of summing up several dimensions of Guderian.

    He deserves (and has got) credit for pushing through the concept that a combined arms group organised around the tank could break through and act as an independent unit destroying the Enemy's rear. However, this is not a giant step from the combined tank, aircraft, mobile artillery and infantry (with radio as well) that the British were using at the end of 1918. That he succeeded in Germany is paradoxical since at the end of WW1 the Allies had vastly more experience of an embryo Blitzkreig than Germany. Although if my memory is correct, I don't think he included an anti-tank facility in the battle group (but I stand to be corrected)

    After that you have to look how good was he in command of Corp (in France) and a Panzer Army (Russia). He performed very well France but the opposition was poor on the day. In Russia, again, he looked good but this was the easy part of the campaign.

    For me he was always a bit too disobedient and too ready to throw the towel in (eg Moscow).

    Anyway as a battlefield commander, he was spared coming up against excellent Allied commanders, Zukov (except Moscow), Patton and Monty etc and just by chance all his battle were against opponents and soldiers who were learning their trade.

    Then how good was he strategically? Personally I am not sure - he was poor as Chief of Staff but by then Hitler was one man band.

    He was much too close to his old buddies in the Waffen SS and spends a surprisingly large number of pages in Panzer General trying to persuade the reader that the Waffen SS were just soldiers - (in 1940 they were already showing their nasty side and it took a few years for the regular Wehrmacht to descend to that level in my opinion). Surely if Jodl had to face a Nuremburg War trial then Guderian should have - like many of the other Prussian generals his only gripe seems to be that Hitler prevented them from winning. He did a good job of sanitising his own contribution.
     
  6. JBark

    JBark Member

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    I should go on record as saying I don't believe Guderian to be the end all of German genrals, or even a great commander. He had his faults...no doubt. The arguements anti-Guderian that I see are often about his accuracies in his memoirs and stating that he tried to take too much credit for the development of the panzer forces. I did not get this impression from PL and in Hart's book he spends most of his time describing Guderian's efforts to push the independence of the panzer forces and create the model division he felt would work.

    Is that Scipio from History Channel forum of 100 years ago?
     
  7. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Sorry don't quite understand this.


    Do mean my alias - Scipio Africanus (very underated general) or my thoughts? Never heard of History Chanel Forum.
     
  8. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Never heard of HCF? You missed nothing .
     
  9. JBark

    JBark Member

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    Some good stuff went on. LJAd something to consider about Panzer Leader, it appears in the bibliography and recommended reading lists of some prett good historians/experts. I was leafing through Jentz's Panzertruppen and saw that it was a book he recommended. I guess they didn't think it was worthless.
     
  10. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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