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How Did Field Marshal Erwin Rommel History Essay

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Europe 1914, a continent at the brink of total war. The British Empire and France had for long been political allies against the newborn German nation. In 1914, this political unrest escalated into bloody war when the Austrian Prince was murdered in Bosnia. The First World War was triggered. And the young Erwin Rommel was quickly ordered to the front. [1] 

Erwin Johannes Rommel was born in Heidenheim, November 15th 1891. As a boy, Erwin was a bold and athletic character. At age 14, Rommel and a friend built a full-scale glider that was able to fly short distances. Rommel even considered becoming an engineer and throughout his life displayed extraordinary technical aptitude. Acceding to his father's wishes, Rommel instead joined the local Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet in 1910 and was sent to the Officer Cadet School in Danzig. He graduated in 1911 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1912. While at Cadet School, Rommel met his future wife, 17-year-old Lucia Maria Mollin (commonly called Lucie). They married on 27 November 1916 in Danzig and few years later they had a son. Throughout the Second World War he wrote letters to his wife sharing with her his experiences. [2] 

During World War I, Rommel fought in France as well as in Romania and Italy, first in the Infantry Regiment, but through most of the war in the Mountain Battalion of the elite Alpenkorps. He gained a reputation for great courage, making quick tactical decisions and taking advantage of enemy confusion. He was wounded three times and awarded the Iron Cross, First and Second Class. Rommel also received Prussia's highest award, the order of Pour le Merite, after fighting in the Battles of the Isonzo in the north-eastern Alps on the Isonzo river front. The award was for the Battle of Longarone and the capture of Mount Matajur and its Italian defenders, which totaled 150 officers, 9 000 men, and 81 artillery pieces. In contrast, Rommel's detachment suffered only 6 dead and 30 wounded during the two engagements, a remarkable achievement. [3] 

Germany surrendered in 1918, all the hard fight was over. However, Rommel among most of the German military felt they had been stabbed in the back. Not by someone from outside, but from the inside. The Allied nations (GB, US and France) created the Versailles Treaty, a set of conditions for Germany which limited all their influential powers and to prevent Germany from starting another war in future.

Since the defeat in 1918, Germany continued under strict rules from the Versailles Treaty. A dramatic change came, when a nation was forced to become a republic. Versailles Treaty was political humiliation that would continue as long as it existed. It left a mood of anger throughout Germany as it was felt that as a nation Germany had been unfairly treated. Above all else, Germany hated the clause blaming her for the cause of the war and the resultant financial penalties the treaty was bound to impose on Germany.

Erwin Rommel continued his career as an instructor in the new German army: Reichwehr. However, it was not easy with anti-military policy the Republic had established. After years with the new Republic the German people wanted change and on January of 1933 that change came in the form Adolf Hitler when he was elected as the new chancellor of Germany. Improvements were immediately performed which made Germany great again. Rommel and the German people cheered happily. Rommel himself was satisfied with the positive economic change that Hitler rule brought. He named Hitler "the new Bismarck" and soon admired him for his efficiency. When Rommel was promoted, he met this new idol. From 1935 to 1938, Rommel held commands in Potsdam War Academy. Rommel later wrote a book and published about infantry strategy (Infantry attacks) which caught Hitler's greatest attention, and cemented the friendship between the two. However in 1934 Hitler did something that broke with Rommel's morals. Night of the Long Knives, Hitler ordered elimination of all political opponents, including communists. Rommel's negative reaction told Hitler that he could never inform Erwin about his war crimes in later years. Rommel never joined the Nazi Party and he did not support Nazi ideals, but he supported Hitler as a strong leader. [4] 

In late 30's, Germany became great again with a powerful army, air force and an effective and flourishing industry. In 1938, Adolf Hitler occupied Austria and the German parts of Czechoslovakia to reclaim the lost German lands. Then in 1939 he was ready to attack Poland in order to expand Germany. Great Britain and France immediately told Hitler, that if he attacked Poland, they would declare war on Germany, Hitler ignored their threat continued on with his plans.

In Poland, Rommel was one of Hitler's staff officers. Rommel was put in command of Adolf Hitler's personal protection battalion, assigned to protect him during his visits to occupied Czechoslovakia and Memel. It was during this period that he met and befriended Joseph Goebbels, the Reich's minister of propaganda. Goebbels became a fervent admirer of Rommel and later ensured that Rommel's exploits were celebrated in the media.

The Second World War had begun and within weeks Poland was occupied thanks to the new "Blitzkrieg" (lighting war) tactic. In 1940, Hitler promoted his new campaign: Invasion of France. Nazi Propaganda claimed that France was the aggressor. Rommel, who was blind to reason due to his admiration to Hitler, believed it. Rommel was put in command of his requested 7th Panzer division. The division later became known as "The Ghost Division" due to the speed with which it executed attacks.

Rommel was first ordered to cross the river Meuse. He led the division with amazing speed and if he encountered any resistance in his way he would order his tanks to charge head on with guns blazing relying on the shock element to break enemy morale and force them to surrender. Once he arrived river Meuse the two bridgeheads were destroyed and the French had entrenched themselves on the other side. Rommel had to find another way to cross the river so he orders his soldiers to use inflatables and cross it during the night. However they were spotted, and were fired upon. The German engineers build ferries which were used to send the tanks over, he then set the French building of fire and used the smoke as cover. When the engineers completed the construction of the bridgeheads, troops were sent over. Rommel succeeded, and continued fighting his way through France with amazing speed. [5] 

On 21 of May, Rommel met tough British tank resistance near Arras. British tanks attacked Rommel to stop the German attempt to trap the Allies near Dunkirk. Rommel, seeing the British counter attack, was able to quickly figure out a plan on how to stop the British tanks. He used unorthodox tactical method. He established two frontlines: one for targeting the light cavalry and one targeting the heavy cavalry. He also used the 88mm to hit tanks instead of airplanes, something that was never done before in World War 2 but later became a very common practice of German commanders. 88's proved to be extremely effective anti-tank weapons, even thou they were designed as anti-air. 88's were destroying British tanks one by one, mostly thanks to the fact that they out ranged the British tanks and were much more powerful. After a while, the British withdrew, and suffered 35 tank casualties. After a brief stop, Rommel continued his advance. [6] 

On 21st of May 1940 the Germans reached the English Channel, and therefore created a pocket in which 400 000 British soldiers and officers were trapped, by June 1940 the French were on their own. After a German offensive, the French front collapsed and so did the army. On June 23 same years, Erwin Rommel walked in the streets of Paris. France was defeated and it is important to note that thanks to Rommel's ability to coordinate air and ground power, as well as his skill, the fall of France was so quick.

By the late 1940, Rommel had captured 97 650 soldiers, 227 field artillery guns, 450 tanks and more. Goebbels immediately used his success for Nazi Propaganda. Because of this, Rommel was suddenly adored by soldiers. Rommel loved the adoration; he even agreed to let Goebbels make a film, glorifying his actions and battles. Thus making him even more popular among German people and parsing him as a national hero and as a patriot to his country. But his success did not end there, Rommel was about step into a battlefield that would define him for generations to come and make him an important historical figure.

Germany was allied to Italy, a nation which wanted to gain domination in the Mediterranean. Mussolini invaded Egypt hoping to throw the British out of North Africa. However the Italian troops were defeated and driven back. In spring 1941, Mussolini called for aid from Hitler, in order to attempt another attack. Hitler plan was to send a German force to Libya only to secure the area from the Allies, not for a demanding campaign. Hitler sent German soldiers south but quickly needed someone to lead them. He had to choose between Manstien and Rommel to command the Afrika korps. He chose Rommel for the task.

Rommel was excited and he immediately departed to Tripoli to talk to the Italian commanders. But up his arrival he discovered they were too passive and so he ignored their devices. Meanwhile, the Allies expected Rommel would wait for the rest of his Afrika korps to arrive to Africa, before Rommel goes on offensive. But Rommel had no plans of waiting, with only 5th German division and two Italian, he started his offensive.

The British, who had been weakened by troops being withdrawn to fight in the Battle of Greece, fell back to Mersa el Brega and started constructing defensive works. Rommel decided to continue the attack against these positions in order to prevent the British from building up the fortifications. After a day of fierce fighting, the Germans prevailed and the advance continued as Rommel. The British Commander General Archibald Wavell, overestimating the strength of the Axis forces ordered a withdrawal from Benghazi in early to avoid being cut off by Rommel's thrust. [7] 

Rommel, seeing the British reluctance to fight a decisive action, decided on a bold move: the seizure of the whole of Cyrenaica despite having only light forces. He ordered the Italian armored division to pursue the retreating British while the 5th Light Division was to move on Benghazi. Division's commander, protested this order on the grounds of the state of his vehicles, but Rommel brushed the objections aside.

Quickly, but after fierce battles, he captured Derna, Benghazi and El Me chili. However the Germans lacked knowledge on how to move in the desert and this caused serious problems for Rommel. Never the less he had shocked the Allies and forced them to retreat to Tobruk.

Tobruk was heavily fortified and guarded by a total of 30 000 determined Australians and British. Tobruck was importante to Rommel for two main reasons:

One, it had natural, deep harbor and huge airfield, making it ideal for supply. Two, It was strategically placed. The only way to make it to Egypt, was through Tobruck.

However, Rommel was convinced that the Allies would flee shortly. There was to be wasted a lot of lives before he would admit his misjudgment.

The first major attack on 13-14th April was repulsed and all following attempts to storm Tobruck were unsuccessful as well. Although Rommel didn't succeed in storming Tobruk, he now surrounded it, hopping to force surrender. The siege stalled for almost 8 months with preparations. Meanwhile, the Allies launched Operation Crusader; to liberate Tobruck. It started with German and Allied tanks smashing together in a tank battle. British tanks were quickly outmaneuvered, soon after they quickly retreated. The Rommel's forces hurried to finish of the withdrawing British, but were confused and spread due to inexperience in desert combat. Several skirmishes broke out in the desert. Rommel was then informed that supplies would be delayed for many weeks. He couldn't possibly carry on without supplies, so he pulled back. It was a bitter retreat for Rommel. The situation was critical, and morale was low. The Germans left land they really struggled to conquer. However, Rommel would not let it end like this. He resumed his desert campaign on January 21, 1942. [8] 

With reinforcements and supplies finally reaching Rommel, he began his new offensive. He hit the Allies hard and recaptured Cyrenaica within days and once again, the road to Tobruck was open. However the Allies had constructed a heavy defense line at Gazala, West of Tobruk. This was Rommel's last chance to push in and succeed. As the battle began, German divisions suddenly appeared behind the Allies. Rommel outflanked them the night before the attack. The Allies tried to outmaneuver Rommel in return, but this was unsuccessful. Rommel found a weak point in the enemy line and consecrated his attack there. By the end of June, the British were lost 50 000 men and 1 800 tanks, while as Rommel lost only 3000 men. Days later, Rommel finally captured Tobruck. This was a fantastic victory for the Axis powers. His Afrika korps had succeeded against all odds. Thanks Rommel's brilliant generalship, he was able to hit Allies were they least expected. He had been so flexible that Allies gave him a nickname. A nickname that would come to define him: The Desert Fox. [9] 

By summer of 1942 Rommel had enjoyed successful, although demanding, campaign. As he progressed, he required more supplies. But supplies were constantly delayed due to unending fight in Russia. And if that was not enough, by this point in time Allies had also decoded the German communication systems. This allowed them to further hinder Rommel by bombing German supply routes. Although promoted Field Marshal, Rommel almost begged Hitler for more supplies but Hitler strictly ignored him. If Rommel could reach the Suez Canal, he would have access unlimited amount of oil from Arabia, which was vital at this point. The Allies knew this, and had therefore concentrated their forces near El Alamein.

Rommel had to face an Allied force of 220 000 infantry, 1000 tanks, 1500 anti-tank guns, 1000 artillery guns and 530 planes, while he only had 116 000 infantry, 500 tanks, 500 anti-tank guns and 350 planes at his disposal. Expecting an attack he deployed 450 000 mines in front of his line, and backed it up with tanks and 88mm guns, expecting an attack. He then ordered his infantry to dig ditches, similar to those of World War 1. Satisfied with his defenses, Rommel left for Europe due to a bad health. A month later Montgomery, the British Commander, opened his attack. [10] 

On the night of 23rd October 1942, 1000 British artillery guns opened fire at German positions, meanwhile British engineers started clearing a way though the German minefields. Germans troops quickly spotted them and opened fire at British engineers and infantry causing heavy casualties. Despite this British engineers were able to clear mine lanes for thousands of men and hundreds of tanks to advance through but once on the other side they met stiff resistance. At dawn, Montgomery's attack began to waiver, while the German positions remained intact. Montgomery then performed a false attack further south to lure the Axis forces and it was successful. Germans were confused and didn't know where the main attack would be coming from.

On the evening of October 26th, a sick Rommel was back on the battlefield. However, Montgomery still didn't manage to break through. Waves of British soldiers were repulsed. On the same day British tanks performed a major attack on the Italian division, Rommel then understood where the Allies were aiming to break through. Dramatic fighting occurred near Kidney Ridge. Rommel sent the best force at his disposal to stop the breakthrough. At this point Rommel was running out of supplies, and so on November 2nd Montgomery launched the final attack with the rest army. This was too much even for Rommel and his Afrika korps. He asked Hitler for permission to retreat so that he can save his army from annihilation. Hitler denied, stating that they must not retreat even if it means death. Rommel refusing to sacrifice his men in a pointless fight retreated from Egypt, thereby directly ignoring Hitler. Rommel had lost 23 000 men and about 350 tanks. Montgomery had lost 13 000 men with 9000 wounded, and 500 tanks.

With minimal forces, supplies and equipment Rommel had no choice than to keep retreating. It is important to note that was not simply retreating but he was retreating with perfection. The British were unable to engage his retreating forces. Due to extreme lack of supplies and fuel Germans had to abandon fully functional tanks and equipment. Rommel pleaded Hitler constantly for permission to evacuate his forces form Africa, but with no luck. Rommel confides increasingly to his wife about his loss of faith in Hitler's sanity. In 1943 the Americans invaded Morocco and Algerie, left without options forced an evacuation despite Hitler's aggression.

Make the conclusion!

(for conclusion I will just say what Rommel did after, very briefly, and finally finish up with how he died. After I add the usual: "this investigation was able to demonstrate and answer the topic question")

Quotations, not finished:

"We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general" - Winston Churchill about Rommel.

"I chose Rommel because he has the ability to inspire his troops(...).That is a completely essential ability for a man who is to lead a unit which is going to fight in such special climates as in North Africa.(...) An incredibly tough commander.." - Adolf Hitler

"Tobruk must be held to the last drop of blood, without a single thought of retreat!" - Churchill to the British Commander Wavell.

Self-restraint, even chivalry... distinguished the combatants on both sides throughout the North Africa campaign... The leading exemplar of this code was Rommel himself. When orders from Hitler mandated the execution of captured British commandos, Rommel tossed the document in the trash. He insisted that the Allied prisoners receive the same rations he was given. He even wrote a book about the conflict called Krieg ohne Hass (War Without Hate). Memoirs of the North Africa campaign attest that, fierce and brutal as much of the fighting was, relations between individual enemies retained a quality of forbearance that seems, today, almost impossible to imagine. - Steven Pressfield, in

"We have some though days ahead of us. The dead are lucky. For them, it is all finished. Our destiny is in God's hands now. Good bye to you and our little son." - Erwin Rommel in letter to his beloved wife, Lucie Rommel.

"The war (WW2) is lost.(…) We have already lost the battle of Stalingrad and now we are going to be defeated in Africa(…) The only thing Hitler demands is that every soldier either wins or dies. At this moment, there are only one warrior that is able to lead a unified Europe, and that is Churchill." - Rommel to his friend Hans von Luck.

"The experience which I had gained during this advance through Cyrenacia formed the main faundation fo my later operations" - Erwin Rommel The Rommel Papers (p.120)

Text, not finished:

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Source List, not Finished:

YouTube, s. v. "Battle of El Alamein | Generals at War | Battlefield Documentary," accessed June 10, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7cmXUeJMio

YouTube, s. v. "Clash of Warriors- Rommel v Montgomery (El Alamein)," accessed June 17, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpAoDhPmYuc

YouTube, s. v. "Secrets of World War II -- What Really Happened to Rommel," accessed June 18, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC9bDPoiXao

Eye Witness to History, s. v. "Erwin Rommel," accessed June 22, 2012, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/rommel.htm

Jewish Virtual Library, s. v. "Erwin Rommel," accessed June 23, 2012, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Rommel.html

Military History, s. v. "Erwin Rommel," accessed June 26, 2012, http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/1900s/p/rommel.htm

Armchair General, s. v. "Erwin Rommel," accessed June 12, 2012, http://www.armchairgeneral.com/erwin-rommel-roots-of-victory-seeds-of-defeat.htm

Wiki Quote, s. v. "Erwin Rommel," accessed June 14, 2012, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Erwin_Rommel#Quotes_about_Rommel

History Learning Site, s. v. "Erwin Rommel," accessed June 29, 2012, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/erwin_rommel.htm

Encyclopedia Britannica, s. v. "Erwin Rommel," accessed June 9, 2012, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/508989/Erwin-Rommel


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