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Erwin Rommel

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

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 to convalesce.

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 achievements.

Verslag/artikel door:
Roel Boons

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