Gunther von Kluge joined the Prussian Army in 1901 and served in the 46th Field Artillery Regiment. During World War I he was a staff officer in the XXI Corps and remained in the Reichswehr after the war.
A Prussian field artillery officer from 1901, von Kluge served as a General Staff officer during World War I and was rapidly promoted, especially after the Nazi rise to power. A Major General in September 1933, promoted to Lieutenant-General in April 1934, von Kluge was given command of Military District VI (Münster) in September of the same year.
During the Polish and French campaigns at the beginning of World War II, von Kluge commanded the Fourth Army and was promoted on 19 July 1940 to the rank of General Field Marshal, following the fall of France. After the invasion of the Soviet Union he was again given command of the Fourth Army, which reached the outskirts of Moscow before being battered by the Russian counter-offensive and forced to retreat in December 1941. In spite of this failure he was promoted to replace von Bock as Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Centre on 16 December 1941. Von Kluge's troops achieved little success on the Russian front during 1942-3 but the pliant, subservient Field Marshal retained the confidence of Hitler. On his sixtieth birthday (30 October 1942) he received a cheque from Hitler to the value of 250,000 marks, half of it to be spent on improving his estate.
It was shortly after this massive bribe that von Kluge first came into contact with members of the German Resistance who beseeched him, for the time being without success, to join in the plot against Hitler.
On 3 July 1944 von Kluge was appointed by the Führer to succeed von Rundstedt as Commander-in-Chief of the western front, but failed to hold the Allied armies. His vacillating character and weak-minded opportunism was revealed by his attitude during the abortive plot of July 1944.
Von Kluge had promised his aid to the conspirators "in the event of the attempt being a success", hut backed out of the rebellion as soon as he learned that Hitler had only been wounded in the assassination attempt. His cowardice, however, did not save him. Relieved of his command on 17 August 1944 for not discovering the plot in time and for his military failures (he was replaced by Walther Model), von Kluge was ordered back to Berlin. Fearing he would be judged and hanged in Germany, von Kluge committed suicide by taking a cyanide pill on 19 August 1944 while travelling between Paris and Metz.
In his letter of farewell he once more proclaimed his admiration for Hitler’s "greatness" and "genius" and his loyalty until death, while calling on the Fuhrer to end the hopeless struggle.