Born November 15th, 1891. Died October 14, 1944.

German general, one of the most brilliant military strategists of his time, and possibly the best tank commander of World War II. Originally rose through the ranks in World War I, after being commended for bravery and earning numerous decorations (including the Iron Cross). He was promoted to General before WWII, took part in the invasion of France, and earned the nickname "The Desert Fox" for his trickery in the North Africa theater. His Afrika Korps rescued the Italians from defeat (temporarily), managing to drive the British back to Egypt, mainly through blitzkrieg style warfare, traps, and misdirection. During this campaign he was promoted to Field Marshall (the youngest ever, at age 50), and given sole command in the African theater.

One of the tactics for which he was most famous was his use of 88mm flak guns (antiaircraft) against enemy tanks. He was forced to use them because he was lacking in antitank weapons for infantry. He used these guns with great success in both France and North Africa. Because the guns were less than ideal for antitank purposes (they lacked wheels and had a very high, visible profile), Rommel had them dug into the sides of dunes to where the barrel was sometimes mere inches above the ground. He then covered them with tan tents to make them appear to be sand dunes. After arranging the guns in a U formation, he lured British tanks into the killing ground using a fake retreat, where they were summarily slaughtered by point-blank 88mm fire.

Another famous tactic that won a major battle for Rommel was to send a few Italian light tanks, followed by trucks, in a flanking maneuver. Behind the trucks were tied bundles of sticks and brush, which drug along the ground and made a massive dust cloud, obscuring the column. This also made the column appear to the British as a full scale German attack. They began to withdraw, but committed their delaying force in the wrong direction, holding the German trucks. Rommel's entire force of main battle tanks then fell upon the confused British force from the other side, turning the battle into a complete rout.

Unfortunately for Rommel, the war elsewhere was not faring well for the Germans at this time, and his supply lines were overextended. The harsh conditions in North Africa exacted a toll in machinery and men, until eventually the exhausted Rommel and his Afrika Corps were defeated decisively by the British at El Alamein, and forced to surrender later when caught between British and American forces.

Summoned back to Germany, Rommel helped prepare defenses against the impending allied invasion. He was wounded in a strafing attack, and while in the hospital, was implicated in a plot that attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was given the choice of quiet suicide, or public execution for treason (along with his family). He chose suicide, and was given a full state funeral as a hero (with the cover story that he died from his wounds in the hospital).

He is one of the few high German officials who was never implicated in any war crimes. Prisoners taken in North Africa were always treated well, even at the expense of water rations for Rommel's own men. His participation in a plot against Hitler would indicate he had little loyalty to the Nazis, fighting for Germany, not Hitler.

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel was the son of a local schoolmaster on November 15, 1891, in the Würtemburg town of Heidenheim near Ulm. He was one of five children.

Rommel's father (Who died in 1912) chose his son to have a military career. So it was that when he was 19 he joined the 124th Infantry Regiment at Weingarten, and in March, 1911 was posted to the War Academy in Danzig. While at the War Academy, he would meet his future wife, Lucie Mollin.

In March 1914 he was attached to the Field Artillery Regiment in Ulm, but on July 31st he was recalled to the 124th, and went off to war the following day. His record in France during World War I was exemplary, and his eagerness to use surprise and bold moves to overcome the enemy would groom him for ever greater achievements. Wounded several times, he was soon promoted to 1st Lieutenant and eventually found himself posted to Austria for intensive training in mountain warfare, and then off to the Rumanian front. During this period he had slipped off to Danzig in November 1916 where he married Lucie. Shortly after, Rommel found himself probing the Italian and Rumanian positions and leading skillful attacks through the enemy lines. His reputation was known throughout the division and his men looked up to him even though he was still a 25 year old who looked even younger because of his stature. For his achievements at Monte Matajur he was awarded the Pour le Mérite which caused much jelaousy among the high ranks of aristocracy in the military. Rommel himself said that they were there was absolutely no feeling of comradeship after winning the medal.

In December 1928 Lucie gave birth to their only child, Manfred. By this time the young captain had caught the attention of his battalion commander, who promptly had him posted as a junior instructor at the Dresden School of Infantry. He was finally promoted to Major in April 1932, and in October of 1933 became a battalion commander with 17th Infantry Regiment at Goslar in the Harz Mountains district.

Shortly after his promotion to battalion commander, Adolf Hitler rose to power. Rommel caught Hitler's attention and until the beginning of World War II, he was promoted to Major General. After the invasion of Poland, he was assigned, unwillingly, to do deskwork and shortly after requested command of a panzer unit. In February 1940 his request was granted and Rommel assumed command of 7th Panzer Division. When the Western offensive opened on May 10th, the 7th Panzer crossed the frontier into Belgium at first light. By June 11th, captured St. Valéry where more than 13,000 POWs including more than a dozen generals were caught. After a short rest the 7th raced to Cherbourg capturing an additional 3000 POWs.

Following the capture and surrender of France, Rommel was sent of to North Africa which is explained quite well above.


Irving, John. On the Trail of the Fox

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