The personality of field Marshal Erwin Rommel, called “the desert Fox”, commander of the German African tank corps during the Second world war in our online shop dedicated to design men’s longsleeve “Rommel”.
This article is not intended to justify or sympathize with the ideas of German national socialism during world War II. We wanted to tell you about a really talented commander of this period of history – about Erwin Rommel, who passed a difficult way from a sincere supporter of Hitler’s ideas to his ardent opponent. There are many hypotheses about the death of the General, most of which, as usual, strongly mythologized. But one thing is certain – Rommel paid with his life for his attempt to resist the Fuhrer. We are interested in this character from the point of view of military skills, unusual qualities of the commander and, without exaggeration, effective military of the Third Reich. We will tell you about one of the episodes of his biography-about the operation in the North African desert.
For the Nazi propaganda machine in the summer months of 1940, Rommel was a charismatic leader whose 7th Panzer division swept victoriously through France “like a Ghost fleet.” Propaganda Minister Goebbels admired Rommel and actively used in his work his exploits and successes in the war against the British and French troops. One combat officer wrote about the magical speed and courage of the General:
“He shocked the enemy, surprised him, overtook him, suddenly appeared far behind the enemy, attacked him, flanked him, used his talent and all the skills he possessed, using night and fog, rivers and other obstacles to advance. Thus, his tanks made long bloody cuts on the map of Europe, like a surgeon’s scalpel.”
The French campaign produced many followers in the ranks of the young officers, and their numbers increased markedly throughout the war. You could see hundreds of young soldiers flocking from all over Europe just to see this classic image of a warrior. For these young soldiers, Rommel became a heroic figure. Although the conquest of France brought the General a lot of respect, however, he has not yet become a living legend, which became in early 1941 in North Africa, where he finally consolidated his impressive achievements in battle.
On 6 February 1941, after more than seven months of inactivity, Rommel was summoned to Berlin. He had been told before Hitler that he had been selected to command two small divisions, a Tank division and a Light division, which were to be sent to North Africa to help the Italians. Flipping through the picture magazines, he read with interest: the triumphant March of General Richard Nugent O’connor to Libya. O’connor and his two British divisions advanced 560 miles across the desert to Tobruk and Benghazi, destroying nine Italian divisions, capturing more than 130,000 prisoners, and shooting down 845 guns and 380 tanks. Hitler knew that with the Italians humiliated in the war, Rommel was perhaps the only General capable of successfully leading the African forces. Although Rommel’s ostensibly mission was to study the disposition, he was quite certain, even at this early stage of the war, that it would be the German troops who would actually oppose the British advance, not the Italian.
On that day, more ambitious and determined than ever, Rommel left Berlin with an official document confirming his authority as Commander-in-chief of the German forces in Libya. A few weeks later this document was issued as an order, which later went down in history, as a document for the creation of the German corps Africa.
On 12 February 1941, Rommel boarded his Heinkel bomber and sailed for North Africa for the first time. The heat and inhospitable landscape did not impress the legendary conqueror of France. Nor did he appreciate the fact that the Italians were still retreating to Tripoli and impatiently packing their belongings to sail back to Italy before the British arrived. When E. Rommel arrived in Africa, he dined with General Gariboldi and the Italian chief of the Generalitat Mario Roatta. At the same time that they were talking about the deteriorating military situation of the Italians, the vanguard of the first corps of Afrika Rommel was already crossing the Mediterranean sea, heading for North Africa. Two days later, on 14 February, sailing past the wrecked hospital ship, the first Dak units entered the port of Tripoli. Although these first detachments were small in number, the Afrika Korps was to become a trained and professional elite unit, which Rommel was to make experienced and invincible. Although the British outnumbered the Afrika Korps considerably, the General had serious intentions for his men. Before his officers he spoke frankly of the great victories he intended to win for the sake of a greater Germany. “We will reach the Nile. Then turn right again and win again.” In a draft letter to Berlin, Rommel wrote of his ambitious plans to advance his army fifteen hundred miles East of Tripoli along the coast until the summer heat began to hinder further advances. His first objective was to retake Cyrenaica, and then “my second objective is Northern Egypt and the Suez Canal.”
Rommel was very impressed with the mobile operations of the German army and believed in moving his tanks from the front, or, as he himself said, returning “from the saddle”. In the desert, the General could be found again and again next to the main tank, the leading platoon, or found with the officer of the leading company. As commander, Rommel was not very helpful. Like many German commanders, he could only govern in his own way, the way he learned in the trenches of world War I and then 21 years later in France. The fighting is no doubt imprinted in an unforgettable way on the minds of every soldier under his command. The young soldiers fighting in the desert under Rommel’s command were rapidly developing a sense of belonging and an “element of pride” as significant, cementing components of the combat unit that was to fight in this unbearable climate.
By early March 1941, Rommel had deployed his forces against the British. Within a month, the General’s forces put an end to a string of defeats near Smoking Benghazi. In a letter home, Rommel wrote to his wife, boasting of one of the main Blitzkriegs in the desert and his almost total insubordination: my superiors in Tripoli, Rome, and perhaps Berlin should be in awe. I take risks, go against all orders and instructions, because I was given the opportunity…»
In Berlin the news of the General’s personal exploits in the desert was received with alarm. Although Hitler was pleased with his over-ambitious General, he radioed him to stop his erratic behavior. But Rommel, the master of deception, again ignored the German High Command, telling Italian commander Gariboldi that he had just been given complete freedom of action in the desert.
On April 4, under the shimmering midday sun, Rommel’s combined forces launched their desert offensive. High daytime temperatures and sand getting into the engines of the machines soon caused many tanks to stop. In order to keep the advancing columns moving, Rommel began to personally command and decided to direct the movement from the air or from his small command group of three vehicles. Sometimes on his Storch he flew at low altitudes and threw messages to the column: if you do not depart now, I will descend – Rommel. It was easy to guess what would have happened if his orders had been disobeyed. Everything now mattered for a quick advance. He constantly harassed the column, which was moving too slow or took the wrong direction. With his sudden appearance and” sharp “language, he encouraged, improvised,” galvanized ” every part of his team. In front of a dumbfounded opponent, he displayed complete superiority and arrogant disregard for danger. He ruthlessly and sometimes brutally pushed his soldiers to break through, and they in turn knew that with such competent leadership they had every chance of winning. Over the next few months, Rommel’s superior tactics, coupled with the stubborn resistance of German and Italian troops, brought a number of victories. At home his reputation has risen to new heights with the help of radio Reich, spreading with their “Fox of the Desert”. His victorious campaign on Cyrenaica, which forced some of the most irrepressible allied troops to retreat by the thousands across the desert, was soon known throughout the world. Intoxicated by these impressive victories, Rommel began to dream of the imminent conquest of North Africa. Even when the first reports of the German invasion of Russia reached Rommel, he began to look for ways to capture the heavily defended garrison in Tobruk first, then the goal was to move to the borders of Egypt from the West, while the German army after the capture of the Caucasus will return to conquer Egypt from the East. However, the British were more determined than ever to oppose the Afrika Korps and its invasion of Egypt and advance towards the Nile.
Over the next year in the desert, Rommel continued to stubbornly demonstrate his efforts, trying to beat the British troops. Again and again he showed all the signs of a great General, constantly deceiving and surpassing the bewildered enemy. Every time there was a problem on the battlefield, he could be seen driving his car fearlessly through the desert, shouting orders to keep his army moving. He almost never let his exhausted men stop, and that in turn brought well-deserved victories. Despite the huge disparity, Rommel continued to beat the Allied forces and almost destroyed the 8 th British Army. In June 1942, he pinned his defeated enemies to Tobruk, which he finally took on 21 June. The next day, from Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia, the enthusiastic Fuhrer gave Rommel the rank of field Marshal.
At fifty, Rommel was the youngest field Marshal in the German Army. He celebrated with a glass of trophy whiskey and a slice of pineapple. That night, The field Marshal wrote to his wife:”Hitler made me a field Marshal, but I would have preferred him to give me another division.”
Emboldened by his victories, Rommel now ventured into the unexplored landscape, mounting a broad offensive against the well-defended El Alamein. Throughout July and early August, the Desert Fox “loitered” near El Alamein’s positions, but the Eighth Army repeatedly thwarted Rommel’s attempts to break its powerful defenses. Despite the prepared Dak attacks, the army was tired and the health of the soldiers seriously deteriorated. The harsh environment of the desert caused harm to the health of the field Marshal, he was exhausted and ill. Suffering from health problems, systemic disorders, chronic stomach and bowel problems along with liver disease, he left North Africa to recuperate in a mountain resort near Vienna.
When Erwin Rommel returned to North Africa in late October, the situation in the desert was appalling. Once again, undaunted, more cheerful than ever, he managed to hold the British forces for more than a week at El Alamein. However, by November he was defeated and had to retreat.
El Alamein was a turning point for the DAK, including Rommel’s good relationship with Hitler. After the collapse of the hostilities in North Africa described above, The “desert Fox” was treated in the same way as other high-ranking generals who visited the Fuhrer’s headquarters. During Hitler’s endless conferences, Rommel had to listen to accusations of defeatism and other forms of gratuitous and irrational behavior. During one of the war conferences, Hitler even questioned the courage of the Afrika Korps, after which Rommel got up and left the room.
In North Africa, in addition to a series of defeats beginning with El Alamein, Rommel retreated a thousand kilometers without heavy losses and brought the remnants of his corps to Tunisia in early 1943. Throughout the African campaign, Rommel Erwin was its leading and unifying spirit. His quick understanding of the situation, energy and boldness of ideas made him the greatest commander in history. He was not only a shrewd and practical man, but a realist, too. From the very beginning, as soon as he was on the battlefield, he was brave in attack, fierce in pursuit of the enemy, obsessed in achieving the goal. But by March 1943, he had finally finished his battle and was recalled by the Fuhrer from Africa. The threat of the “Desert Fox” there once and for all disappeared.
The personality of General field Marshal Rommel and the history of his command of the African tank corps inspired the designers of our online store to create a model of male longsleeve “General Rommel”.