The 1st Panzer Army (German: 1.Panzerarmee) was a German tank army that was a large armoured formation within the Wehrmacht Heer field forces during World War II.
Panzer Group Kleist
When formed the 1st Panzer Army was named Panzer Group Kleist (Panzergruppe Kleist) and was activated on November 16, 1940 with Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist in command.
It was deployed in occupied France until 1941. In April 1941, Panzer Group Kleist took part in the invasion of Yugoslavia as part of Field Marshal Maximilian von Weichs's Second Army. Panzer Group Kleist performed brilliantly in Yugoslavia, quickly smashing the Yugoslavian Fifth and Sixth Armies before entering Belgrade.
1st Panzer Group
In May 1941, Panzer Group Kleist became Panzer Group 1 (Panzergruppe 1), which was attached to Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group South at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. At the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, Panzer Group 1 included the III, XIV and XLVIII Army Corps (mot.) with five panzer divisions and four motorized SS divisions equipped with 799 tanks. Panzer Group 1 served on the southern sector of the Eastern Front against the Red Army and was involved the Battle of Brody which involved as many as 1,000 Red Army tanks. On October 6, 1941, Panzer Group 1 was enlarged to the 1st Panzer Army following the fall of Kiev, with von Kleist still in command. After that the First Panzer Army began its thrust on Rostov. Together with the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler led by Oberstgruppenführer Sepp Dietrich, von Kleist reluctantly made the attack on Rostov. His 1st Panzer Army successfully captured the city in November, but the Red Army recaptured it eight days later.
In January 1942, Army Group von Kleist, which consisted of the First Panzer Army along with the Seventeenth Army, was formed with its namesake, von Kleist, in command. Army Group von Kleist played a major role in repulsing the Red Army attack in the Second Battle of Kharkov in May 1942. Army Group von Kleist was disbanded that month. The First Panzer Army, still under von Kleist, which had been attached to Army Group South earlier, became part of Army Group A under Field Marshal Wilhelm List. Army Group A was to lead the thrust into the Caucasus during Operation Blue and capture Grozny and the Baku oilfields (current capital of Azerbaijan). The First Panzer Army was to spearhead the attack. An initially successful attack was led, with Rostov, Maikop, Krasnodar, and the entire Kuban region captured.
However, in September 1942, Army Group A's offensive was stalled in the Caucasus, and List was sacked. After Adolf Hitler briefly took personal control of Army Group A, he appointed von Kleist to command it on November 21, 1942. As von Kleist took command of Army Group A, Colonel-General Eberhard von Mackensen took the reins of the First Panzer Army. In December 1942, as the German Sixth Army was already being crushed in the Battle of Stalingrad, the Red Army launched a successful offensive against Army Group A. The First Panzer Army was evacuated through Rostov in January 1943, before the Soviets could cut it off in the Kuban. By February 1943 it had been withdrawn west of the Don River, and von Kleist withdrew the remains of his forces from the Caucasus into the Kuban area, east of the Strait of Kerch.