Erwin Rommel also known as the German “Desert Fox,” maybe known for the best German general ever. He was known mostly for his brilliant tactics and his ability to anticipate opponents. Even our own American General Winston Churchill said his enemy was very skilled and good.
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel was born in Heidenheim, Wurttemberg, on Nov. 15, 1891. In 1910 as a young boy he wanted to start a career in engineering, but his father disapproved and sent him to join the German army. He enlisted with his local infantry regiment, the 124th Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet. After just three months Rommel was promoted to the rank of Corporal, and then again just three months later became Sergeant. Rommel was climbing up the line of ranks very fast.
Then in 1911 he went to the officers’ military school in Danzig. While Rommel was here he met and feel in love with Lucie Maria Mollin. They got married in 1916 and further had a baby in 1928, named Manfred.
During World War One Rommel saw action at a very young age and did very well. He was a junior officer at France, Italy, and Romania and from this he earned the Iron Cross for his bravery and well fought battles.
In May of 1917, Erwin Rommel was transferred to the Western Front, in the area of Hilsen Ridge. Then in August he moved to the Carpathian Front, where he took part in the assaults on Mount Cosna and Caporetto. For his outstanding action at Caporetto Rommel was awarded the “Pour le Merite” and was promoted to the rank of Captain. Rommel was just one of the few junior officers who had received this reward for it was usually reserved for Generals. For this Rommel was very proud and honored. After this Rommel was sent away to a junior staff appointment, where he remained until the end of the war.
The next few years Rommel went to various sites to lead troops during the war. While he wasn’t fighting at this time he wrote books and instructions of special infantry attacks. He even became an instructor and gave lectures on how to fight. Rommel was always involved with the war, even when he wasn’t fighting.
In 1933 things only started to get better for Rommel. He became well known and started to climb up the ranks even further. He was promoted to Major and was sent to Goslar. In October of 1935, Rommel was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and received the position of the teacher in War Academy in Potsdam. In September of 1939, Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Major General. From here he had the job of being Adolf Hitler’s Bodyguard for the duration of the Polish Campaign.
At the Polish Campaign Hitler allowed Rommel to pick the site where he would like to command. Rommel asked for a Panzer Division, because he realized there he could use the tactics of Blitzkrieg there.
Even without any experience of Panzer warfare Hitler granted him his wish. On February 15, 1940 Rommel received the command of 7th Panzer Division. Rommel adjusted to Panzer warfare and became prepared for war. On May 10th of 1940, Germany invaded the Western Europe. On May 12th, the 7th Panzer Division reached Dinant and on May 13th, after heavy fighting crossed the River Meuse. By May 20th Rommel and his troops had made it to Arleux. From there Rommel’s plans were to by-pass Arras and then turn northwards to the direction of Lille. On May 21st, Rommel reached Arras, where his forward units where counter-attacked by 70 British tanks. Here is where “tank killers” were first used against ground targets. These “tank killers” were very effective in warfare.
The 7th division was such a success in the Battle of France, because they moved very fast and covered large amounts of area. But, during this battle Rommel also did things his staff criticized him for. Rommel fought with his troops on the frontline most of the time. When fighting Rommel didn’t want to be disturbed, so he turned off his radio and lost all communication with other German Divisions. So, from Rommel turning off his radio at times no one knew where the 7th division was. This is where they received the title of the “Ghost/Phantom Division”.
In January of 1941, Rommel was once again promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. Right after this in early February he was ordered to Berlin. There he was given his next assignment, to command Deutsches Afrika Korps (German Africa Corps). Here they were to assist the Italians, because of there struggle against the British.
The first fight was on February 24th where Rommel used the tactics of Blitzkrieg; this took the British by great surprise and resulted in a huge success for the Germans. Rommel and his troops continued to move eastward to capture such cities as Bardia and Salum. The 7th Panzer Division forced British and its allies to retreat to the safety of static defenses around Tobruk. It took Rommel more then once to breach the defense, but finally succeed and captured Tobruk. This is where Rommel gets his nickname “Desert Fox”, because he was constantly using tricks in order to outsmart his enemies. At the same time he received this nickname he also got the name of the youngest German Field Marshall ever, only at the age of 50.
One great method of fighting the Desert Fox created was “The 88 Ambush”. Normally the 88mm stood very tall and had a high profile, but Rommel had the Germans put the 88mm so deep into the ground only 30 to 60cm showed and then put a tent over the gun for even more protection. This made it very hard for the British to see the gun. Rommel would send out dummy tanks for bait for the British. The British would see the easy target and follow the tanks. But, it was a perfect trap, the German tanks would lead the British right into the 88mm’s. The Germans would have a point blank shot at the British. The 88 Ambush fighting tactic was one of Rommel’s most famous.
Rommel led the Afrika Korps for about another year. There wasn’t much success though. He launched many invasions and battles but many were losses and retreats. Rommel requested more troops and materials at many points but usually didn’t get them, because of the location. It was too far and hard to get to. Finally, Rommel became ill and left for Germany to receive medical treatment.
When Rommel felt better he went back to Africa to rejoin his 7th division. But, things had not got much better. He once again tried and tired to fight off the Allied Forces but, couldn’t do much due to the lack of troops and materials. The Germans were moving no where in Africa and were losing men. Rommel then again went back to Germany to try to persuade Hitler to leave North Africa, because it was getting hopeless. Finally, on May 13th of 1943 the Axis forces surrendered all there 200,000 men in North Africa.
In December 1943 Rommel was appointed to start preparing for the Western Europe Invasion. Here Rommel designed yet another fighting tactic called “Rommel-Spargel”.
When the invasion began in July 1944 Rommel began to think the war was hopeless and never going to end. But, before he could help overthrow Hitler, he was injured in a strafing air attack on July 17th of 1944. On August 8th, Rommel was moved from the French Hospital to Herrlingen, where he was under house arrest. Rommel was given the choice of suicide, or to be reported as death from his wounds, as an alternative to execution as a traitor. Then finally on October 14, 1944, Rommel was taken to the hospital at Ulm, where he died by his own hand taking the poison. On October 8th, 1944 Erwin Rommel was buried with military honors. Hitler even made this day a national day of mourning.
Erwin Rommel died a great and honored General. He was and will be remembered for his great war tactics and a well liked general. All enemies respected Rommel not only because he was smart, but not a bad person either. He was never involved in any war crimes and made sure all his prisoners of war had water to drink. Rommel played a huge role in the World Wars, and that is why he climbed the line of ranks so successfully. The Desert Fox will always be remembered.