Rommel's father and grandfather were teachers, but he chose a military career for himself, enlisting in the German army as an officer cadet in 1910. He served in World War I as a lieutenant and was decorated for bravery and recognized for his leadership abilities. While other promising officers in his situation sought a wartime place on the general staff, Rommel remained in the infantry as a front-line officer. Between the wars, he taught at various military academies and wrote an important textbook on infantry strategy.
(QUOTES FROM ROMMEL) "Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Never spare
yourself, and let the troops see that you don't in your endurance of fatigue
and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your
subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of
voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to
- Field Marshall Erwin Rommel
"In the absence of orders, go find something and kill it."
- Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
In the First World War he would get his fill of that gunpowder. In his first action, Rommel commanded a platoon in the 2nd Battalion of the 124th Regiment just inside France, near the Belgium border. Sent ahead of his battalion, Rommel found himself with three members of his platoon facing 15 or 20 French soldiers at a farmstead. Instead of retreating or sending for the rest of his squad, Rommel attacked.
He and his men dropped a number of Frenchmen, but were eventually repulsed by fire from other buildings. These tactics reflected how Rommel would fight throughout the war: His idea was always to attack, swiftly and unhesitatingly, to attain a tactical objective and disorient and disrupt the enemy.
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.
After the German troops surrendered to the Allies in North Africa, he was given the responsibility of organizing coastal defenses from Holland to Western France against the expected Allied invasion. Rommel created special anti-landing devices for paratroopers and aircraft, and he set up strategically placed concrete emplacements for machine guns (pillboxes) along the beaches. This defensive system along the coast of France was known as the Atlantic Wall.
Field Marshall Rommel also correctly predicted the location of the D-Day invasion site, Normandy, but his warning was ignored by Hitler, who sent the troops farther south to attack the troops that were supposedly landing there.
Thus the "controversy" remains an episode, a map maneuver in theory before the invasion began. But this had far-reaching consequences. If Rommel's conception was to have had a chance of succeeding, he would have needed 10 to 15 tank divisions positioned along the coast in the Army Group B area alone, and the time and place of landing would have needed to have be known at least 48 hours in Advance...the Normandy landing was in fact a major assault, but patience would have been needed to strike the decisive blow after the three or four days required to concentrate forces.
In 1967, Emilio Faldella, author of numerous books on the Italian military, observed that 'the myth of Rommel was created by English, who preferred to justify their defeats with the presence in the enemy camp of an exceptional general rather than recognize the superior quality of the combatants, German and Italian'...'History will not forget that for two years [Rommel] withstood the weight of the entire British Empire on the only battlefield where it was then engaged, with only two panzer divisions and a handful of other ill-armed and under-nourished forces under his command. He was a twentieth-century Hannibal--there is no doubt of it."
By the beginning of 1943, Rommel's faith in Germany's ability to win the war was crumbling, as was his estimation of Hitler. Touring Germany, Rommel was appalled at the devastation of the Allied bombing raids and the erosion of the peoples' morale. He also learned for the first time of the death camps, slave labor, the extermination of the Jews and the other atrocities of the Nazi regime. Rommel became convinced that victory for Germany was a lost cause and that prolonging the war would lead only to his homeland's devastation. He came in contact with members of a growing conspiracy dedicated to ousting Hitler and establishing a separate peace with the western allies.
Rommel was not involved in the nitty gritty of the assassination attempt. Thus when on 20 July 1944 a bomb exploded in Hitler’s bunker, Rommel never knew anything about it. Hitler survived the bomb attack and vowed to wreak vengeance on the men who had perpetuated the attack.
Interrogation of the suspects revealed to Hitler about the sympathies of Rommel for the plotters. He was shocked, but he could not allow Rommel to get away. So he took a fateful decision. He sent 2 senior generals to meet Rommel who gave him an option of suicide and a hero’s burial or a trial by a people’s court, wher he would be shamed and his family sent to a concentration camp. Rommel chose the first option and swallowed cyanide.
The nickname ‘Desert Fox’ was well deserved. Rommel was highly respected even by the British...Rommel’s fame in the desert rests on his success as a leader and also his uncompromising belief that all prisoners of war should be well looked after and not abused. One story told at the time was that Italian troops took from British POWs’ their watches and other valuables. When Rommel found out, he ordered that they be returned to their owners immediately. To many British ‘Desert Rats’, Rommel epitomised a gentleman’s approach to a deadly issue – war.
As a War College instructor after the war, Rommel began to forge links with the Nazi Party. By 1939 Rommel was a Brigadier General and was at Hitlers H.Q during the Polish Campaign, but in the spring of 1940 Rommel took command of the 7th panzer Division and gained much respect for his abilities in using Blitzkrieg.
Erwin Rommel was given the choice of suicide, to be reported as death from his wounds, as an alternative to execution as a traitor, which would have placed his family and close associates in grave danger. On October 14, 1944, Rommel was taken to the hospital at Ulm, where he died by his own hand taking the poison. On October 18th, Erwin Rommel was buried with full military honors and it was a day of national mourning ordered by Adolf Hitler himself.