General der Panzertruppe Heinz Guderian Guderian was born in Culm, West Prussia, on 17 June 1888. In 1908, at the age of 20, he completed training at the Kriegsschule in Metz, and was commissioned into a Hannoverian Light Infantry Battalion. Having served first as a signals officer and then as a staff officer during World War I, during which time he won both the second and first classes of the Iron Cross, he found himself retained by the post-war Reichswehr. Guderian's speciality was military transport and he quickly developed a strong interest and considerable expertise in tanks. Although his enthusiasm for armour was opposed by the more traditionalist officers in the high command of the German Army, who saw tanks purely as support weapons for the infantry, Guderian had a powerful supporter in Hitler. .After seeing an exercise involving tanks, armoured cars and motorcycles laid on by Guderian to demonstrate a more flexible use of armour, the Fuhrer exclaimed: 'That is what I need!' Guderian was a modern, forward-thinking officer, and a firm believer in the blitzkrieg concept. He often clashed with traditionalist superiors, and did not suffer fools gladly. Guderian also had frequent arguments with Hitler, rarely pulling his punches when expressing opinions on important matters. In 1938, Guderian was appointed Chef der Schnelle Truppen, and made responsible for recruitment and training of armoured and motorised units. By the outbreak of war he had been promoted to the rank of General der Panzertruppen. During the Polish campaign his Panzers (XIX Korps) were used exactly as he had envisaged - fast, spearhead units supported by aircraft and motorised infantry all on a narrow front - and worked almost to perfection. His Panzertruppe smashed their way through Polish resistance all the way to Brest-Litovsk, and as a result Guderian was decorated with the Knight's Cross on 27 October 1939. The attack on France and the Low Countries in 1940 gave Guderian another opportunity to prove the validity of the blitzkrieg concept. His Panzers were constantly at the forefront of the advance, with Guderian right up there with them -at the crossing of the Meuse, at Sedan, and on reaching the Channel coast - and he played a significant part overall in the success of both campaigns. Guderian still had his detractors in the high command of the Army and was ordered to halt his tanks on several occasions to allow following infantry units to catch up, most notably at Dunkirk, where the delay allowed a large part of the BEF to escape. In 1941, Guderian's Panzergruppe II led the advance on Moscow, making excellent progress despite the loss of many tanks through mechanical breakdown: the rapid advance over huge tracts of land placed a great strain on them. The phenomenal successes of his armoured units during the initial phases of Operation BARBAROSSA brought the addition of Oak-Leaves to Guderian's Knight's Cross on 17 July 1941. He was enraged when Hitler diverted his tanks south into the Ukraine, knowing that the success of the drive on Moscow was being put at risk. This resulted in a bitter dispute with Hitler, with Guderian being accused of insubordination as a consequence. It was to be the first of several such conflicts. When the advance on Moscow faltered, as Guderian had predicted it would, he was sacked - one of Hitler's many scapegoats. Guderian was recalled and appointed Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen in 1943. He did much to modernise and improve the tank arm but had regular arguments with Hitler, refusing to become one of Hitler's sycophantic entourage. He was sacked once again in March 1945.