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Heinz Guderian: The Background, Strategies, Tactics and Battlefield Experiences of the Greatest Commanders of History [Paperback]

Pier Paolo Battistelli , Adam Hook

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Book Description

10 April 2011 Command (Book 13)
Some consider Guderian to be the founding father of blitzkrieg warfare, and he certainly brought the whole concept to public attention and prominence, chiefly through the publication of his book "Achtung Panzer" in 1937. He commanded the XIX (Motorized) Army Corps in the 1939 Polish campaign, and Panzergruppe Guderian during Operation Barbarossa. In March 1943 he became chief inspector of the Panzer forces, but even the great tank commander could achieve little more than to delay the inevitable defeat of Germany.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing; First Edition edition (10 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849083665
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849083669
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 18 x 0.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 433,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A fascinating and useful reference source --Military Modelcraft International

About the Author

Pier Paolo Battistelli earned his PhD in military history at the University of Padua. A scholar of German and Italian politics and strategy throughout World War II, he is active in Italy and abroad writing titles and essays on military history subjects. A contributor to the Italian Army Historical Office, he is currently revising his PhD thesis for publication: "The War of the Axis: German and Italian Military Partnership in World War Two, 1939-1943."

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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Short Look at the Man Who Wasn't Father of the Panzertruppen 21 May 2011
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Heinz Guderian is one of the few German generals of the Second World War other than Erwin Rommel, whose name is readily recognizable to a fairly large audience. He is widely regarded as the "father" of Germany's panzertruppen (armored units) and therefore, a key player in the Third Reich's early military successes. Yet much of the name-recognition of Guderian is based on his post-war memoirs, which continue to be re-printed, not on objective and scholarly analysis. As historian Pier Paolo Battistelli points out in his volume in Osprey's Command series on this general, the real Guderian and his accomplishments are much less well known. Battistelli's short biography does a fair job of revealing Guderian's actual contributions, which were substantial, but a component of Germany's overall military modernization in the 1930s. The author's narrative is effective at "busting" the mythology surrounding Guderian's name, but makes only modest progress in depicting Guderian's abilities and flaws as a general.

The introductory sections of the volume are quite short and cover the first four decades of Guderian's life in just a couple of pages. Although his service in the First World War was hardly stellar, the single paragraph devoted to Guderian's activities in 1914-18 seems clearly inadequate. Yet it is clear that Guderian spent the war as a junior staff officer and did not have significant command experience. The author then spends 5 pages provided a succinct career history of Guderian from 1934-45, which seems a bit pointless, since this material is gone over again in greater depth in the next section. The `hour of destiny' section (about 30 pages), examines Guderian's role in the creation of the panzertruppen in 1934-39, his leadership of panzer units in Poland, France and Russia in 1939-41, his role as General Inspector of Panzer troops in 1943-44 and his final role as Chief of the German General Staff in 1944-45. This text is supported by 5 maps, three battle scenes by Adam Hook (Kursk, Barbarossa and France 1940). The photos are generally pretty good, except for Guderian himself, who only appears infrequently (and not a single photo prior to 1939).

The author effectively demonstrates that Guderian hyped his own contributions in his post-war memoirs and that the development of Germany's panzer forces is attributable to the efforts of a number of individuals, of whom Guderian was initially only a minor member. It should be remembered that Guderian was first and foremost a signal officer with no real command experience, but he was quick to realize that commanding a panzer unit offered a short-cut to higher-level advancement. He used the circuitous route that Germany took to creating the panzertruppen - through the subterfuge of army motorization and signal units - to his advantage and should be regarded as a consummate military in-fighter. The author also makes the point that Guderian recognized that Hitler's patronage was also useful and used the Fuhrer's interest in panzers to his own advantage as well. Later, Guderian conveniently `forgot' his political machinations and Nazi ties, when they became liabilities.

The narrative is weaker on exposing Guderian's flaws as a commander, which became particularly evident in Russia in 1941. Again and again, Guderian failed to close pockets of encircled troops properly - even when ordered -because he was eager to achieve the glory of reaching Moscow first. Guderian's failure to close the Smolensk and Bryansk pockets quickly were not oversights. Although Guderian had been around tanks for seven years by the time of Barbarossa, he was far more of a general staff rider than a panzer leader and I doubt that he ever really understood tactical armored combat. Guderian's slashing style had worked well in Poland and France but when he ran into serious operations at places like Mtensk or Tula, he was at a loss what to do. However, once Guderian returned to his staff role as panzer inspector, he did help to revitalize Germany's depleted panzer forces in 1943-44, at least briefly. As chief of staff, he was essentially hostage to Hitler's directives. Overall, this is an adequate short biography and provides a good alternative to Guderian's own Panzer Leader, but in too many areas it really only scratches the surface.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very succinct introduction for the layman but unfortunately does not examine uniqueness of Guderian's command style 26 May 2013
By Yoda - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Any review of this book would have to start with stating that it is part of the Osprey "Command" series and hence relatively short. It is only 62 pages in length and about a third of these consist of illustration of one sort or another. Hence any reader expecting an in-depth examination of the man will be disappointed. There are many other books that cover this topic in much greater depth that readers interested in more detail can read. This reviewer recommends John Keegan's biography of Guderian. Although quite old (it was published in the early 1970s) and out of print (used copies can normally still be found at reasonable prices) and dated in some respects (when Keegan wrote the book Guderian was still thought to be the "father" of armored mobile tactics - facts that Dr. Battistelli [author of Guderian book being reviewed here] correctly points out based on newly uncovered evidence is not correct) it still provides a decent analysis and overview of Guderian. The relevant question thus becomes how well does this book cover Guderian considering the limitations of its format? The answer is mixed.

On the one hand it provides a decent succinct introduction to Guderian's career. The reader learns how Guderian started and moved up the ranks during WWI, between the wars, during the war and the post-war period. Before the war he played a major role in the formation of German armored forces, in particular during the 1938-1940 period as well as in the formulation of German armored warfare doctrine. During the war he was a front line commander but became inspector general of armored forces for most of the war. In that role he was responsible for choosing weapons, preparing training programs, etc. After the war he wrote his memoirs as well as participating in the US Army's Historical Division's `Foreign Military Studies Program' where he wrote a few articles (and in whose participation he may have avoided a prison sentence like so many other high ranking German officers). The reader also learns, through the discussion of new evidence, that contrary to previous consensus among military historians, Guderian was not the "father" of mobile armored warfare forces in Germany - many others played an influence. The reader also learns that Guderian was probably most responsible for creating Germany's armored forces between the 1938-1940 period.

On the negative side, Dr. Battistelli does not tell the reader how Guderian's command was unique. He mentions leading from the front itself but this is really not a revelation. He also states that Guderian was, while inspector general of armored troops optimistic and inflexible in his building of Germany's strategic tank reserves (true) he needs to remember that Guderian also did not have too much control in preventing the squandering of these reserves, for example at Kursk (an event that Guderian describes, in his memoires, as greater military defeat for Germany even though troop losses were considerably lower). Dr. Bastelli also does not discuss the contents and influence of Guderian's "Actung Panzer", a very influential book on German mobile warfare tactics and, just as importantly, responsible to at lesast some extent, for bringing these tactics to the attention of Adolf Hitler where they received a very active and interested patron.

All and all a decent introduction to the those with little knowledge of Guderian but not very enlightening, as a whole (i.e., with a few minor but important points such as the discussion of Guderian not being the father of mobile armored warfare in Germany), for the knowledgeable reader.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Proofreader, please! 25 July 2011
By chcjrbone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I agree with much of what reviewers lordhoot and Forczyk have already said. Some of the photos were unique, but the writing was fairly general.

My advice to Osprey Publishing is, hire a proofreader! Examples: on page 10, it is stated that Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1940 (actually 1941). On page 9, the text states that Guderian's advance in Austria covered 420 miles in two days, but on page 16 it says 435 miles in two days; which is it? The map legend on page 33, covering the German attack on Smolensk, labels the red arrows "French advances" and "French retreat." Oops. And at the top of page 35, it says "More than two years elapsed between Guderian's last field command and his new appointment, on 28 February 1943. . . ." The elapsed time from December 26, 1941 to February 28, 1943 is more than one year, not two.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent biography.... 28 May 2011
By lordhoot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think Robert Forczyk's review above covers the highlights of this book. But I'll give my perception anyway. I thought this book was a decent biography but very shallow (I just finished reading Saladin so my standards were bit high when reading this book). My take on the book was that the author basically traced the development of German panzer forces from the 1930s into World War II with Guderian's name popping up here and there to show his contribution. Most of the military narratives also read this way as well. We don't really get into the meat of the man until the very last part of the book where the author finally analyzed Guderian as a commander. The influences of JFC Fuller and Sir Basil Liddell-Hart was also explained and I thought that was a nice touch. It pretty clear that both Guderian and Liddell-Hart used each other for their respective gains in post war careers.

I think Dr. Forczyk's review did bring up one important factor of Guderian as a field commander. His background as a general staffer did hampered him in Russia when situation became more dangerous and enemy more flexible and capable. His earlier victories against the Poles and western allies were against weaker opponents did spoiled him and to be fair, majority of German generals in 1941. But in Guderian's defense, he did better then most from his career background.

Overall, I thought the book is a decent introductory material on the military career of Heinz Guderian. I doubt that readers like Dr. Forczyk or myself really picked up anything new by reading this book. I thought the research was pretty good but the writing was bit dour. It did come with couple of unremarkable illustrations and all the photos of Guderian in this book were pretty well known ones. I don't understand why on page 57, author chooses to pick a photo from 1940 that shows Hitler and his OKH/OKW staff when there are photos from 1944 onward that also showed Guderian at the table. Weird. Although credited with fixing up the depleted and ruined Panzer organization to a certain point and being promoted to Chief of the General Staff, he was never promoted to field marshal. From other sources, it appears that Guderian and Hitler mixed like water and oil. If Guderian did followed Hitler's lead, he probably realized there wasn't much he can do anyway and may have stay around to mitigate the worst of Hitler's mistakes into little ones. From his own memoirs and others, these Hitler-Guderian confrontations must have been more fierce then the actual shooting war itself. I don't suppose "Stormy Weather" Guderian was too tactful toward his Fuhrer at times. Too bad the book never goes into the elements of Guderian's character and motivations during those years where Guderian reached the apex of his military career. (Bit ironic that the book covered Guderian's career as he rose up in the chain of command but once he got there, its almost says nothing.)
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars 9 July 2014
By Kay W Graves - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
short...good
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