Kleist, Field Marshal Paul Ewald von, 1881-1954

Kleist was a top Panzer Commander in the German Army. In May 1940 he was in command of the Panzer Arm of the Armies of GUDERIAN and HOTH, which crossed the Meuse at Sedan with such masterful efficiency and speed that it was held as a supreme example of mobile warfare throughout the war. Whenever the German High Command counseled caution, the generals were reminded that had it not been for the speed of the crossing at Sedan, France might not have collapsed so easily. In 1941 KLEIST held the command of First Panzer Group which was part of Army Group South’s advance into the Ukraine. Kleist’s advance was slowed down by tank opposition from KIRPONOS’ forces and had to be speeded up by the diversion of Guderian’s Panzer Group from Army Group Center. The largest encirclement was achieved at Kiev and Uman and some 665,000 men were taken but valuable time was lost and the advance to Moscow was held up. Kleist’s First Panzer Army was given orders in 1942 to take the oilfields in Baku and drive through the Caucasus. Although Kleist’s troops reached Mozdok they ran out of gasoline and were forced to withdraw in a hurry leaving equipment behind because VATUTIN threatened to cut off the German troops in the Caucasus. Kleist was then given command of Army Group A which fought in the long retreat in the southern Ukraine in 1943-44. He was taken prisoner by the Soviets and died in jail. Kleist was a reliable Panzer Commander, without the brilliance of Guderian.

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