Rommel as Military Commander

by Ronald Lewin

Book cover for Rommel as Military Commander

"Rommel", exclaimed Winston Churchill at the 1942 Cairo Conference, "Rommel! What else matters but beating him?" There is no doubt about the extent to which the British were obsessed by Rommel during the years of desert warfare. The narrative begins in World War I, when Rommel fought with great success on the Western Front, in Rumania and in Italy. But it is not until the Blitzkrieg of 1940 that Rommel's gifts became fully evident, flowering during the desert campaigns. In the face of supply problems caused by Allied dominance on the sea and in the air; although the African theatre was always a poor second to Russia in the provision of reinforcements; and in spite of undependable Italian support -- with all these drawbacks, and generally with a marked shortage of men and material, Rommel showed his genius for the offensive, his ability to exploit success, and his stubbornness and versatility in defence. Recalled to Europe before the final African debacle, he showed his qualities again, both in his preparations for the Allied invasion and in his suicidal opposition to Hitler's disastrous strategy. This very clear narrative, supported by many maps, is based upon an authoritative familiarity with the sources -- whether living, in the shape of commanders who participated, on both sides, in Rommel's campaigns; or documentary -- the published English, American, German and Italian works. The text is reinforced by photos which illustrate the terrain, the weapons and the men who were Rommel's colleagues. Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, Commander of the Afrika Korps, the "Desert Fox" and later Field-Marshal was an exceptional commander -- for his skills, and for the integrity with which he carried himself. This integrity, admired even by his adversaries, proved fatal. Unafraid to voice his objections to Hitler's military decisions, Rommel was linked to the 1944 plot to kill the dictator. In the wake of the plot's failure, Rommel was forced to take his own life.

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