2nd Panzer Army
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|2nd Panzer Army (2.Panzerarmee)|
Insignia of the 2nd Panzer Group / 2nd Panzer Army
|Active||5 June 1940 – 8 May 1945|
|Engagements||Eastern Front and the Balkans, World War II|
|Generaloberst Heinz Guderian|
Panzer Group Guderian (German: Panzergruppe Guderian) was formed on 5 June 1940 and named after its commander, general Heinz Guderian. In early June 1940, after reaching the English Channel following the breakthrough in the Ardennes, the Panzergruppe Guderian was formed from the XIX Army Corps, and thrust deep into France, cutting off the Maginot Line. In November 1940, it was upgraded into Panzergruppe 2.
The 2nd Panzer Group (German: Panzergruppe 2) was formed in November 1940 from Panzer Group Guderian. In October 1941 it was renamed the 2nd Panzer Army. Panzer Group 2 played a significant role in the early stages of the German invasion of the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 when it was a constituent part of Army Group Centre.
2nd Panzer Group was part of the Army Group Centre during Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army formed the southern pincer while Hoth's 3rd Panzer Army formed the Northern pincer destroying several Soviet armies during the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa. During the battles of Bialystok and Minsk substantial numbers of prisoners were captured and several weapons captured.
Suffering heavy losses in men and equipment, the German forces advanced deeper into the Soviet Union. The rasputitsa season (literally "roadlessness", due to heavy rains and sluggish muddy roads) began to slow down the formation's progress to a few kilometres a day. The rasputitsa was not an unusual phenomenon, but the Wehrmacht did not prepare for this contingency as the German high command had expected the German army to be in Moscow and beyond at this time, with the campaign over before the end of summer. After Minsk, the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Armies captured Smolensk in another successful pincer operation taking around 300,000 prisoners.
Hitler ordered Army Group Center to detach the 2nd Panzer Group, which was to turn southward towards Kiev to form the northern pincer at Kiev. Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army and Kleist's 1st Panzer Army locked in a pincer around Kiev to trap 665,000 Soviet prisoners. After concluding the Kiev encirclement, the German planned for the three Panzer armies to attack Moscow from different directions. 4th Panzer Army in the North around Leningrad would attack southward. Hoth's 3rd Panzer Army would attack eastward towards Moscow, while 2nd Panzer Army would turn northwest and attack Moscow from the south.
The Group's divisions had suffered heavy attrition since the beginning of invasion, and experienced shortages in fuel and ammunition due to the breakdown in logistics. By November, the situation of Guderian's Panzer Group was dire. Nonetheless, expecting the Red Army's resistance to finally collapse and driven by National Socialist military thinking, including the idea that the "will" was key to success, Guderian continued to direct his forces to attack. By early December, the final advance on Moscow failed in the face of stiffening Soviet resistance and due to shortages in men and materiel.
In 1942-43, the 2nd Panzer Army was transferred to occupied Yugoslavia, where it was incorporated into Army Group F and engaged in anti-partisan operations against the Chetniks under Draža Mihailović and the communist Yugoslav Partisans under Josip Broz Tito. Despite engaging in several operations aimed to crush the partisan movement, particularly the communists, no clear victory was gained. Indeed, the partisan movement grew in size and equipment, particularly after the fall of Italian Fascism in the 1943 coup of 25 Luglio led to the mass defection and surrender of Italian units stationed in occupied Bosnia and Montenegro.
Throughout 1943-44, the 2nd Panzer Army was progressively stripped of its heavy armor destined for the war on the Eastern Front, and became a primarily motorized infantry force. It did gain specialized Alpine support from units like the Brandenburgers and 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen divisions. However, endemic guerilla warfare cost the 2nd Panzer Army heavily, and only months after the Raid on Drvar (Operation Rösselsprung) failed to assassinate the communist partisan leadership via airborne assault, the 2nd Panzer Army and all of Army Group F were pushed out of Belgrade in a joint operation by the Partisans and Red Army during the Belgrade Offensive. The 2nd Panzer Army finished the war in disarray in modern Austria.
As all German armies on the Eastern Front, Panzer Group 2 implemented the criminal Commissar Order during Operation Barbarossa. In September 1942, the 2nd Panzer Army took part in war crimes while conducting anti-guerrilla operations in the Soviet Union. These operations killed at least a thousand people, razed entire villages, and deported over 18,500. During these operations, Jews and suspected partisans were murdered by being forced to drag ploughs through minefields.
In August 1943, the army's headquarters was subordinated to Army Group F and transferred to the Balkans for anti-partisan operations. The army became primarily an infantry formation at this point and found itself committed to anti-partisan operations, and personnel were accused postwar of multiple atrocities against civilians and partisans.
After the Belgrade Offensive overtook army headquarters, surviving units of the 2nd Panzer Army were subsequently transferred to Hungary as part of Army Group South in January 1945, holding off Soviet invasion of Austria. 2nd Panzer Army took part in the Battle of the Transdanubian Hills in March 1945 before surrendering at the end of the war to both Soviet and Anglo-American forces.
- Generaloberst Heinz Guderian (October 5, 1941 - December 25, 1941)
- Generaloberst Rudolf Schmidt (December 25, 1941 - April 10, 1943)
- General der Infanterie Heinrich Clößner (April 11, 1943 - August 6, 1943)
- Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model (August 6, 1943 - August 14, 1943)
- Generaloberst Dr Lothar Rendulic (August 14, 1943 - June 24, 1944)
- General der Infanterie Franz Böhme (June 24, 1944 - July 17, 1944)
- General der Artillerie Maximilian de Angelis (July 18, 1944 - May 8, 1945)
Order of battle
Organization of Panzer Group Guderian on 28 May 1940
|Panzer Group Guderian
General der Panzertruppe Heinz Guderian
|XXXIX Army Corps (mot.)
Generalleutnant Rudolf Schmidt
|1st Panzer Division
Generalleutnant Friedrich Kirchner
|2nd Panzer Division
Generalleutnant Rudolf Veiel
|29th Infantry Division (mot.)
Generalmajor Willibald Freiherr von Langermann und Erlencamp
|XXXXI Army Corps
Generalleutnant Georg-Hans Reinhardt
|6th Panzer Division
Generalmajor Werner Kempf
|8th Panzer Division
Generalleutnant Adolf-Friedrich Kuntzen
|20th Infantry Division (mot.)
Generalleutnant Mauritz von Wiktorin