Erwin Johannes Rommel was born on
in 1891 and he joined the German Army as a cadet in 1910. During World
War I he served as an infantry lieutenant with the German army in
Italy, Romania and France. For his bravery in action during the Battle
of Caporetto he was awarded the highest decoration bestowed by the
forces of Imperial Germany, the Order of the Pour le Merite. In the
years between the world wars, Rommel served as instructor at the Infantry
School at Dresden and later served as Commander of the German War
Academy. It was during this period tha t he wrote "Infantry Attacks"
("Infanterie Greift an"). Though based on his personal experiences,
the book became a seminal work and was incorporated into the training
of military cadets and junior officers.
During the rise of the 3rd Reich,
Rommel found himself singled out to command Hitlers personal bodyguard.
He commanded the 7th Panzer Division as the German blitzkrieg rolled
over France and for his tactical prowers of massing forces of combined
armor and infantry was sent to command the forces in the African
theater. There he earned the nickname the Desert Fox. Rommel's famous
goggles, which he sported in all of his photographs, were actually
the pair taken from British General Richard O'Connor when he was
captured in April 1941, and not German Army issue. As commander
of the Afrika Corps, his unorthodox tactics and his grasp of strategy
sent the British army staggering and nearly drove the British out
of Egypt and put the British empire's lifeline, the Suez Canal in
the hands of the 3rd Reich. Rommel's luck ran out, however, as well
as his supply lines on October 23, 1942 at the Battle of El Alamain.
As Rommel struggled to regain his
momentum, British forces under Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery slammed
into the stalled Afrika Corps with massed ground at tacks and constant
harassment from the air. The Afrika Corps found itself trapped with
its back to the sea. Rommel fought rearguard actions through Benghazi,
Tripoli and finally to the Mareth Line in Southern Tunisia. Even his
eleventh hour victory at the Kasserine Pass in February 1943 could
not stem the Allied onslaught and Rommel was recalled from the African
theater in March 1943 to Italy by Hitler. The Afrika Corps was abandoned
in Tunisia and close to 275,000 Axis soldiers were forced to capitulate.
This blow, following so closely on the heels of the German defeat
at Stalingrad sowed the seed of discontent in Rommel with the German
High Command (OKW) and Hitler's handling of the war.
Following a brief posting to Italy,
Rommel took command of the 7th German Army in Brittany and Normandy,
and began an analysis and strengthening of the already formidable
fortifications of the Atlantic Wall of Hitler's Fortress Europe.
With the inevitable Allied invasion of Western Europe looming, Rommel
hoped to hold any invading force to the beach and use his armor
and mechanized infantry as a mobile reserve to quickly stem any
Allied push and prevent a breakthrough to the hedge country of France.
When the D-Day invasion began, Rommel was back in Germany on leave
for his wife's birthday. Unable to stem the invading tide and with
the OKW reluctant to commit its infantry and panzer reserves to
the Normandy invasion sites, the German Army lost valuable time
as it tried to ascertain whether the landings at Normandy were the
main Allied push or merely a feint. With news of the invasion, Rommel
rushed back to the headquarters of Army Group B by late evening
of June 6th and attempted to push the German counterattack.
Realizing the severity of the situation,
Rommel went directly to Hitler in the hopes of convincing the Furher
that the situation in Normandy was untenable and to have the German
army pull back to defensive positions on the Seine. Hitler's outright
rejection of any strategic retreat affected Rommel so greatly that
he discussed with other high-ranking German officers the idea of opening
secret talks with the Allies. The believed that by removing Hitler
from power a negotiated truce might be possible. On July 16, 1944,
these hopes were dashed when Rommel was severely wounded when his
staff car was strafed by Allied aircraft. His injuries were severe
enough to remove him from command of the forces in Normandy. On July
20, 1944, a bomb detonated during a conference between Hitler and
his top advisors in his headquarters on the Eastern Prussia, the "Wolfschanze."
Though the bomb failed to kill
Hitler, Rommel, along with some of the highest officers in the German
military, was implicated for his part in the assassination attempt.
Facing a propaganda nightmare Hitler himself ordered Rommel to commit
suicide. With Hitler using the safety of Rommel's family as leverage,
Rommel poisoned himself on Oct. 14, 1944, while publicly he was
said to have died in an automobile accident. Not able to afford
to lose Rommel's prestige before the German people Hitler had Rommel
buried with full military honors and Rommel's complicity in the
20th of July Plot was never made public.
ERWIN ROMMEL, (1891-1944), German
general, known as the "Desert Fox for his brilliant military exploits
in WORLD WAR II battles in North Africa.
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel was born
in Heidenheim, Wurttemberg, on Nov. 15, 1891. He joined the 124th Infantry
Regiment as an officer cadet in 1910, and two years later was commissioned
a 2d lieutenant. During World War I he served in France and on the Romanian
and Italian fronts. After the war he held regimental commands and was
instructor at the Dresden Infantry School (1929-1933) and the Potsdam
War Academy (1935-1938). His textbook on tactics, Infanterie greift
an, was published in 1937.
In 1938, Colonel Rommel was appointed
commandant of the War Academy at Wiener Neustadt. Shortly thereafter he
was placed in command of the battalion responsible for Adolf HITLER's
safety during the march into the Sudetenland and the entry into Prague.
Promoted major general on the eve of World War II, he was again responsible
for Hitler's safety during the invasion of Poland.
In 1940 he commanded the 7th Panzer Division
in the advance into France. In 1941, with the rank of lieutenant general,
he was given command of the German troops in Libya. On June 21, 1942,
he was made a field marshal, the youngest in the German Army, in recognition
of his success in forcing the British back from Cyrenaica into Egypt as
far as El Alamein. However, he was unable to advance to capture Alexandria.
In the months that followed, during which he commanded all Italo-German
troops in North Africa, he was driven back into Cyrenaica and across Tripolitania
into Tunisia, where he encountered fresh Allied forces. After the battle
at Medenine on March 5, 1943, he returned to Germany because of ill health.
In July he was given command of Army
Group B in northern Italy, and in November he was ordered to report on
the coastal defense in the west, from the Skagerrak to the Spanish frontier.
He was made commander in chief of all German armies from the Netherlands
to the Loire River in January 1944. Despite his great efforts, the Germans
were unable to prevent the Allies from landing in Normandy in the following
June. On July 17, while Rommel was motoring near Livarot, he was severely
wounded by fire from Allied aircraft, and he returned to his home in Germany
Never a member of the Nazi party, he
had become increasingly outspoken in his criticism of Hitler's leadership.
On Oct. 14, 1944, he was visited by two German generals investigating
the cases of officers suspected of complicity in the July 20 plot against
Hitler's life. He was given, on orders from Hitler, the choice between
taking poison and having his death reported as resulting from his wounds,
or facing trial by the People's Court. He elected the former course, ending
his life in the generals' automobile near Ulm, Germany, on Oct. 14, 1944.
Hitler ordered national mourning, and
Rommel was buried with full military honors. A man of the greatest personal
bravery, he earned the deep respect of his adversaries for his brilliant