Erwin Rommel file photo

Erwin Rommel

Born15 Nov 1891
Died14 Oct 1944
CountryGermany
CategoryGround

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel was born in Heidenheim near Ulm in the Duchy of Swabia in the Kingdom of Wüttemberg in southwestern Germany. His father, Erwin Rommel, Sr., was a school master; his mother, Helene von Luz, was the daughter of a local government official. He was the second of four children. The Rommel family had no connection to the military; on top of that, Rommel was pale and often sick as a child, thus no one expected Rommel to become a soldier. His interest was in engineering. At the age of 14, he and a friend built a full-scale box glider; though it only barely flew, one must keep in mind that this was 1906, the first year of powered flight in Europe. In 1907, he enrolled in the local school Realgymnasium. Urged by his father, he joined the army. On 19 Jul 1910, at the rank of Fahnenjunker (officer candidate), he became a member of the Infanterie-Regiment König Wilhelm I (6. Wüttembergisches) Nr. 124 (or, in English, 124th Infantry Regiment of the Wüttemberg Army) based in Weingarten. In Mar 1911, he enrolled in the Royal Officer Cadet School in Danzig, completing the studies on 15 Nov. In Mar 1914, he was posted to the 4. Batterie of Feld-Artillerie-Regiment Nr. 49 (4th Battery of the 49th Artillery Regiment).

During WW1, Rommel first served two years in France. In Sep 1914, while facing three French soldiers alone with an empty rifle, he was wounded by a ricocheting rifle bullet in the left thigh; his actions during this engagement won him the Iron Cross Second Class. In Jan 1915, "he crawled with his riflemen through 100 yards of barbed wire into the main French positions, captured four bunkers, held them against a counterattack by a French battalion and then withdrew before a new attack could develop"; for that action, he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class, and was the first man at the rank of Leutnant to receive this medal. He was injured by shrapnel in one shin in Jul 1915. After recovery, he was posted as the company commander in the mountain infantry battalion Württembergisches Gebirgs-Bataillon. Theodor Werner, a comrade of 1915, recalled Rommel as "slightly built, almost schoolboyish, inspired by a holy zeal, always eager and anxious to act.... [E]verybody was inspired by his initiative, his courage, his dazzling acts of gallantry." With this unit he served in France and Romania until he was injured again in Aug 1917 with a bullet wound to his arm. Upon recovery, he was transferred to Italy, and it was really his time in Italy that transformed him into a great leader. He constantly inspired his men to put forth their best efforts, whether it was to trek through thick fresh snow with full load of equipment on their backs, or it was scaling cliff faces that daunted even the most skilled mountaineer. It was this ability to inspire that allowed him to achieve spectacular victories against the Italians, surprising the enemy from the rear and crushing them even with a smaller force. For example, in Nov 1917 at Longarone, a town in northern Italy that represented the key of the entire Italian mountain defense system in the region, his smaller force braved the raging Piave River and set up a trap that captured 8,000 Italian soldiers in one day. For his achievements including Longarone, he was awarded the Pour le Mérite, the highest Prussian military honor, by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

While on leave briefly during the war, Rommel visited Danzig in Nov 1916 and married Lucia Maria Mollin whom he had met during his years in the Royal Officer Cadet School. He would grow to become emotionally dependent on his strong wife. "It was wonderful to see how much Erwin fussed around her," recalled a friend of Lucie's. He would write her every chance he got when he was away, including during WW2. The letters would later become valuable research material for Rommel biographers and WW2 historians. The couple produced one son, Manfred Rommel, on 24 Dec 1928; Manfred Rommel later became the mayor of the city of Stuttgart between 1974 and 1996.

After WW1, Rommel remained in the small German military. On 1 Oct 1929, upon his battalion commander's recommendation, he was posted to the Infantry School in Dresden as a junior instructor training lieutenants. "I want to teach them first how to save lives.... Shed sweat, not blood." He was a popular instructor to the students, who filled his lectures to get a glimpse of Rommel's gallantry during WW1, who was by no means shy to recite them over and over again to the point that the stories were much romanticized. "He is a towering personality even in a milieu of hand-picked officers.... A genuine leader, inspiring and arousing cheerful confidence in others.... Respected by his colleagues, worshipped by his cadets", wrote the school commandant in Sep 1931. In Oct 1933, he was posted to a battalion command in Goslar, Germany in the Hartz mountains. While at this position, the up-to-now non-political Rommel met Adolf Hitler on 30 Sep 1934. With Hitler's promise for military glory, he, like so many officers, became a stern Nazi supporter. In Oct 1934, Rommel was posted to the Infantry School in Potsdam as an instructor. He was a non-traditional instructor. While the other instructors pushed military theories on the students, Rommel placed more value on the students' own analysis. A student recalled Rommel asking "[n]evermind what [Carl von] Clausewitz thought, what do you think?"

In Sep 1936, Rommel was posted to be one of Hitler's escorts for the Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg. One day Hitler decided to go for a drive, and casually mentioned that no more than six cars should follow him. Rommel counted the number of cars after Hitler, and stopped the rest. The high ranking party leaders who were stopped were furious at the young colonel who dared to stop them. Upon receiving complaints from party leaders that evening, Hitler sent for Rommel and personally congratulated him for his job well done.

In early 1937, Rommel published a book on infantry tactics titled Infanterie greift an; a copy of the book found its way to Adolf Hitler's desk, and the writing highly impressed him. He made handsome amounts of money from the sale of the book, but in order to avoid paying taxes, he told his publisher to pay him only 15,000 Reichsmarks per year, keeping the rest in a bank account, gathering interest. Whether this was tax evasion was not really a topic of investigations, for that he was becoming closer and closer to Hitler. In Feb 1937, he became the army's liaison to the Hitler Youth; Rommel clashed with Hitler Youth's chief Baldur von Schirach and did not particularly enjoy this post.

In Oct 1938, Rommel was the commander of Hitler's personal guards during the German leader's tour of newly annexed Sudetenland (from Czechoslovakia). Twice during Mar 1939, to Prague and then to Memel, Hitler sent for him to command his mobile headquarters. Being exposed to Hitler so regularly turned Rommel into the grasp of Nazism. "While many of his brother officers still hesitated to commit themselves to the Nazi philosophy, Rommel's conversion was undoubtedly complete. Even in private postcards to his friends, he now signed off: "Heil Hitler! Yours, E. Rommel". In Dec 1938, he made the note that "[t]oday's soldier must be political, Because he must always be ready to fight for our new policies". On 25 Aug 1939, he was promoted to the rank of general, and Hitler ordered that the promotion was to be back dated to 1 Jun 1939. Hitler had also begun to confide in Rommel. "I'm together with [Hitler] very often, even in the most intimate discussions", wrote Rommel in a letter to Lucie. "It means so much to me that he confides in me -- far more than being promoted to general." As Polish men were gathered and sent into camps, Rommel brushed off the observations, convinced that they must be guerilla fighters and other prisoners of war. He was so convinced that Hitler was so perfect that it did not occur to him that cruel fates awaited these men. It all began with his belief in the Prussian military tradition. "Soldiers are worth something again", he wrote Lucie happily and innocently in Sep 1939. In Oct 1939, Rommel suggested that he would like to gain field command. The army offered a mountain division, thinking of his infantry instructor experience and his time commanding mountain troops during the inter-war years. Rommel turned it down. He wanted an armor division. With Hitler's influence, he got the Seventh Panzer Division on 10 Oct.

On 12 Feb 1940, Rommel became the commanding officer of the German 7th Panzer Division, which was his first field command; he would become the only divisional commander during the invasion of France and the Low Countries who had no experience during the invasion of Poland. When he first took over the division, he was disappointed to see many of his subordinate officers preferring the "easy life" while some others were described as "floppy". One of his first tasks he embarked upon was to shape these officers so that "they were capable at all times of achieving what I demanded of them." The invasion of France and the Low Countries commenced on 10 May 1940. In Belgium, and then in France, his tanks pushed forward brashly, ignoring risk of enemy counterattacks from the rear because the shock of his rapid advances crushed enemy morale which made calculated counterattacks impossible. Some commanders criticized his carelessness which at times cut off communications between his armor and the main army. In a later writing, Rommel explained that he had acted not carelessly; rather, his bold actions were only committed after careful considerations.

It is my experience that bold decisions give the best promise of success. But one must differentiate between [strategic] and tactical boldness and a military gamble. A bold operation is one in which success is not a certainty but which in case of failure leaves one with sufficient forces in hand to cope with whatever situation may arise. A gamble, on the other hand, is an operation which can lead either to victory or to the complete destruction of one's force. Situations can arise where even gamble may be justified - as, for instance, when in the normal course of events defeat is merely a matter of time, when the gaining of time is therefore pointless and the only chance lies in an operation of great risk.

During the campaign in the Low Countries and France, Rommel's command vehicle was a modified Panzer III tank, and this vehicle was often seen on the front lines; at times, he would also ride with Colonel Karl Rothenburg in a Panzer IV tank, or fly high above in a Storch observation aircraft. Whatever the means of transportation was, he always wanted to be close to the front lines so that he could appraise the situation. On 14 May, his troops reached the Meuse River, but halted while waiting for the engineers to set up a pontoon bridge. Being close to the front lines, Rommel immediately reached the area and personally led a number of tanks to cross the river on ferries to keep up the offensive momentum; his colleague Heinz Guderian, on the other hand, waited, thus giving French troops before him some time to re-organize.

On 27 May 1940, at the end of a routine conference with armor commanders, his aid Karl Hanke appeared unexpectedly, announcing "[o]n the Führer's orders I herewith bestow on Herr General the Knight's Cross", making him the first divisional commander to be awarded the Knight's Cross in France. His connections with the Nazi Party in Munich and Berlin probably had much to do with the award, but none could argue against his successes. On that same night of the award, he pushed forward toward Lille, one of the biggest French industrial centers. "Mount up! Start Engines! Advance!" He ordered his armor while other armor commanders were just settling down to get a few hours' sleep. The surprise night attack frustrated the the French and British retreat toward Dunkirk, but it also brought his units in the direct path of German artillery shells which had no idea his armor had already made so much progress; he had no choice but to pull back slightly and let his men rest until the morning. On the next day, he took Lille, earning him a few days' rest. By 5 Jun, he crossed the Somme using two bridges the French had failed to demolish. From there, his armor traveled in a box formation across the French countryside, trampling everything in their path, moving 40 to 50 miles a day. At Thieulloy, he captured a British supply convoy full of chocolate and canned fruit, showing the British were not ready for the Germans to advance so quickly. At Elbeuf, a French woman waved to Rommel, convinced any foreign men this far behind the battle front must be British. By 10 Jun, his units reached the English Channel near Dieppe, the first Germas to do so. On the next day, he surrounded thousands of British and French troops waiting to be evacuated at Saint-Valéry, which surrendered after a terrifying artilery and dive bombing attack. After four days of rest, Rommel started to move again. On 16 Jun his troops crossed the Seine, and on 18 Jun he pushed 220 miles to captured Cherbourg, a major French port city with a garrison 20 times larger than Rommel's numbers. The capture of Cherbourg ended the campaign for Rommel. By this time, he was credited with the capture of 97,000 prisoners of war at the cost of 42 armor and crew.

Rommel's methods were questionable at times however. For example, the German 32nd Division, on Rommel's left flank in France, complained that Rommel had used up not only his own bridging tackle on the first day, but also helped himself to use the 32nd's, which delayed the 32nd Division's timetable. Being a favored commander of Nazi political officers gave him the immunity from much criticism. Some of his peers also complained that Rommel did things his own way and completely disregarded the other divisions. For example, at least one occasion, he commandeered bridging resources originally meant to go to a nearby division which had requested first. When units of the neighboring division arrived to use the bridge that now set up for the 7th Panzer Division instead of their own, Rommel freely commandeered these units' men and equipment as well for his own offensive. Needless to say, as Rommel established his fame as an able commander, he made many opponents as well among his peers.

In one of his later papers on the campaign in France, he wrote the following that provided some insight into his mindset when he pushed his troops forward at such a great pace. "The sole criterion for a commander in carrying out a given operation must be the time he is allowed for it, and he must use all his powers of execution to fulfill the task within that time." He also wrote "[t]he officers of a Panzer Division must learn to think and act independently within the framework of a general plan and not wait until they receive orders", again stressing the importance on rapid movement during offensive operations.

In Feb 1941, Rommel was selected by Hitler to lead the German forces in North Africa. He arrived there on 12 Feb, witnessing a full retreat of the Italian forces toward Tripoli. with his usual willingness to see the front line situations for himself, he jumped into a Heinkel bomber and took off immediately for an observation run. His troops arrived two days later, on 14 Feb. Several days later, his troops staged a parade at Tripoli. To falsify the numbers to the lower ranks in order to boost morale and to any British spy that could be observing, he ordered his armor to circle the block several times. "We've got to keep the enemy guessing about our strength - that is, about our weakness - until the rest of the Fifth Light Division gets here", he said. Meanwhile, to trick British air reconnaissance, he ordered his men to construct fake armor. Some of the fake armor were built atop Volkswagen cars that moved around every so often, while others were stationary wooden ones. Intercepted British messages revealed British warnings of presence of German medium armor, which meant the fake armor had worked.

Once Rommel received adequate equipment, he attacked aggressively, driving the British 8th Army out of Libya and attempted to venture into Egypt. At El Alamein, his aura of invincibility was finally lifted as his supply lines stretched too far. When the Americans landed in North Africa, he turned his attention west, realizing that if the newly arrived troops had the opportunity to meet with the British in his east, the German army would face an even greater challenge. He left the North African theater to meet with Hitler in Berlin on the issues in the theater, and as events would turn out, he would never return to North Africa again.

Rommel's successes in North Africa were respected by friend and foe alike. British general Harold Alexander commented that Rommel "was a very chivalrous enemy", and Allied Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower also held Rommel's capabilities in the utmost regard. American general George Patton, with his colorful and usual expression, symbollically yelled at the German commander, "Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!", perhaps commenting on the impressive works on military maneuvers that Rommel had published. It was in North Africa that Rommel, nicknamed the Desert Fox, made himself known as an extremely capable and innovative leader.

After North Africa, Rommel served briefly in Italy before returning to France to strengthen the coastal defenses there. He was convinced that if the western Allies launched an attack on continental Europe, the Allies must not be given the chance to gain secure footing, otherwise all would be lost. He prepared armor units miles from the beaches, prepared to counterattack any landing attempts on the French coast without risking exposing tanks in transit to Allied air power. His deployment strategy for his tanks fell in line with his belief that air power was the key to winning a modern war. "The future battle on the ground will be preceded by battle in the air", he said. "This will determine which of the contestants has to suffer operational and tactical disadvantages and be forced throughout the battle into adoption compromise solutions."

Early 1944, Rommel was approached to participate in the July Plot to assassinate Hitler. It is popularly believed by historians today that Rommel had refused due to his loyalty, but the exact facts are still unknown.

After the western Allies launched the Normandy landings in Jun 1944, Rommel was out of the area and unable to get a clear picture of the situation, and then Hitler hesitated to approve a counterattack by armor until it was too late. Rommel's nightmare came true over the next six weeks as the Allied beachhead strengthened. On 15 Jul, he communicated to Hitler that Germany should seriously consider ending the war on favorable terms when it was still possible; for whatever reason, this letter was delayed in its delivery. When it reached Hitler, it was more than five days later, and the conspirators of the July Plot had made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler. The letter that was brutally honest suddenly carried a traitorous tone. It was soon discovered that Rommel had previously been approached by some of the members of the inner circle who planned the July Plot. While the fiercely loyal Rommel was unlikely to have approved an attempt on Hitler's life (and he might not be informed of such a plan), it was unknown whether Rommel agreed with those who contacted him regarding assuming a leadership role in post-war Germany. Most people understand fairly well that only a small handful of people were respected by Germans and Allies alike, and Rommel topped that list. This characteristic, in the post-July Plot atmosphere, became a threat to Hitler, and Gestapo findings that Rommel was linked to some of the plotters only made Rommel's position worse.

Between Jul and Oct 1944, Rommel largely remained inactive, recovering from head injuries sustained when his car was attacked by Allied aircraft on 17 Jul 1944. He wrote several papers during this time, one of which discussed his vision for the model officer of the modern German Army:

The tactical leader of the future, who will decide the battle - for the main emphasis of future battles will be on the tactical destruction of the enemy's fighting power - will need not only mental gifts of a high order, but also great strength of character if he is to be a match for his task. Because of the great variety of tactical possibilities which motorization offers it will in the future be impossible to make more than a rough forecast of the course of a battle. This being so, the issue will be decided by flexibility of mind, eager acceptance of responsibility, fitting mixture of caution and audacity, and the greater control over the fighting troops.

In Oct 1944, while at home, Rommel received a phone call from Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel in Berlin, asking him to report in person in regards to his next assignment. Rommel was unsure whether he was indeed to receive a new command possibly on the Eastern Front, or if he was destined to be turned over to the Gestapo; even if Keitel had no hidden agenda, traveling to Berlin might be an one-way trip, delivering himself to Nazi agents who might suspect him to be a plotter. Refusing to go to Berlin, using his health condition as an excuse, Keitel agreed that he would send Generals Wilhelm Burgdorf and Ernst Maisel to Rommel's home in southern Germany with details of his next assignment. Rommel knew them as officers in the staff department, and thought perhaps they would indeed bring news of a new position rather than questions regarding the assassination attempt.

Burgdorf and Maisel arrived at Rommel's home on 14 Oct 1944, and Rommel brought them to his study. On this day, Rommel chose to wear his desert uniform. Burgdorf, who did most of the talking as Maisel acted mainly as a witness only, revealed what Rommel had feared: Rommel had been implicated in the July Plot, and was given a choice to face the People's Court or commit suicide. Burgdorf promised that, should he choose the latter, he would be given a state funeral and praised as a hero, while his wife Lucia and son Manfred would be protected. Knowing that he had little chance of success with the People's Court, and knowing that family members of those convicted by the People's Court often suffered as well, Rommel immediately knew he really only had one choice. Dismissing Maisel, Burgdorf secretly produced a cyanide capsule for Rommel, promising that it would kill him within seconds, thus sparing him of unnecessary suffering.

Having already made up his mind, Rommel exited from the study and went upstairs to see his wife, telling her his decision to take his own life. A few minutes later, Rommel revealed the plan to his son Manfred, who initially suggested that they could shoot Burgdorf, Maisel, and their SS driver Heinrich Doose and then make an escape, but Rommel would have none of it, citing that the home was most like surrounded at a distance and the murder of these men would only make matters worse. With his field marshal's baton under his arm and his son Manfred beside him, he walked out into the garden and cooperatively entered the backseat of the car. Manfred Rommel recalled that his father never looked back as the car drove away. Rommel was driven a few miles onto a side road. When the car came to a stop, Burgdorf dismissed Maisel and Doose, and Rommel knew it was time to bite the cyanide capsule. Burgdorf waved Maisel and Doose back about five minutes later. Doose noticed that Rommel's cap had fallen; crying, he picked it up and placed on the field marshal's head. Lucia was informed of the death about ten minutes later.

Rommel's body was driven to a nearby hospital for a doctor to certify a time of death. The doctor immediately knew that the cause of death was unnatural, and recommended an autopsy, a suggestion that was rejected by Burgdorf. The German government announced Rommel's death as caused by aneurysm in the brain. A personal correspondence from Keitel to Keitel's wife dated 24 Oct 1944 noted that "Rommel has died after all from the multiple skull injuries he received on a car journey, through a blood-clot." Only later in Keitel's memoirs written in 1945 had he admitted in knowing the truth about Rommel's death. Keitel explained that orders were given to prevent Rommel from shooting himself; instead, poison was offered so that the cause of death could be attributed to injuries suffered in an accident. Rommel was buried as a national hero, receiving a state funeral with full military honors. Lucia received full pensions of a field marshal.

Sources:
Pier Paolo Battistelli, Erwin Rommel
Terry Brighton. Patton, Montgomery, Rommel
Walter Görlitz, In the Service of the Reich
David Irving. The Trail of the Fox

Erwin Rommel Timeline

15 Nov 1891 Erwin Rommel was born in Heidenheim near Ulm in the Duchy of Swabia in the Kingdom of Wüttemberg in southwestern Germany.
19 Jul 1910 Erwin Rommel was given the rank of Fahnenjunker (officer candidate) with the 124th Infantry Regiment of the Wüttemberg Army.
15 Nov 1911 Erwin Rommel graduated from the Royal Officer Cadet School in Danzig.
27 Jan 1912 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Leutnant.
1 Mar 1914 Erwin Rommel was posted to the 4th Battery of the 49th Artillery Regiment of the Wüttemberg Army.
1 Aug 1914 Erwin Rommel was posted to the 124th Infantry Regiment of the Wüttemberg Army.
3 Aug 1914 Erwin Rommel, as a member of the 124th Infantry Regiment of the Wüttemberg Army, departed Germany for the Western Front.
21 Aug 1914 Erwin Rommel saw his first WW1 action in the Meuse Valley on the Western Front.
24 Sep 1914 Erwin Rommel, wielding a rifle without any ammunition, fought three French soldiers, catching a ricocheting bullet in the left thigh.
30 Sep 1914 Erwin Rommel was hospitalized for the thigh wound he sustained in action on 24 Sep. He was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class medal for the action.
29 Jan 1915 Erwin Rommel led the German 9.Kompanie in an attack that broke through French lines, but he soon found his unit surrounded. He broke out and returned to German lines. He would later be awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for this action.
25 Feb 1915 Erwin Rommel received the Württembergische Goldene Verdienstmedaille award.
22 Mar 1915 Erwin Rommel was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class medal for his actions of 29 Jan 1915. He became the first Leutnant in his regiment to win this award.
8 Apr 1915 Erwin Rommel received the Military Merit Order award.
18 Sep 1915 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Oberleutnant.
27 Nov 1916 Erwin Rommel married Lucia Maria Mollin in Danzig.
7 Nov 1917 Erwin Rommel led a small force across the Piave River and set a trap that captured 8,000 Italian soldiers at Longarone, Italy.
10 Dec 1917 Erwin Rommel was awarded the Pour le Mérite.
11 Jan 1918 Erwin Rommel was given a staff position at the headquarters of the German LXIV Armeekorp.
18 Oct 1918 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Hauptmann.
21 Dec 1918 Erwin Rommel was transferred back to the 124th Infantry Regiment of the Wüttemberg Army.
21 Dec 1921 Erwin Rommel joined the post-WW1 German Reichswehr and became the commanding officer of 4th Company of the 13th Infantry Regiment based in Stuttgart.
24 Dec 1928 Erwin Rommel's son Manfred was born in Stuttgart, Germany.
1 Oct 1929 Erwin Rommel became an instructor at the Infantry School in Dresden, Germany.
1 Apr 1932 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Major.
1 Oct 1933 Erwin Rommel was made the commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 17th Infantry Regiment at Goslar, Germany.
30 Sep 1934 Erwin Rommel met Adolf Hitler for the first time.
15 Oct 1934 Erwin Rommel was posted to the Infantry School at Potsdam, Germany as an instructor.
7 Jan 1937 Erwin Rommel was briefly without a position in the German Army.
25 Feb 1937 Erwin Rommel was posted as the War Ministry's liaison to Baldur von Schirach of the Hitler Youth.
1 Oct 1937 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Oberst.
1 Oct 1938 Erwin Rommel became the commander of Hitler's headquarters during his tour of Sudetenland, recently annexed from Czechoslovakia.
10 Nov 1938 Erwin Rommel became the commanding officer of the military academy at Wiener Neustadt in southern Germany.
15 Mar 1939 Erwin Rommel was made the commanding officer of Hitler's headquarters during Hitler's visit of the recently annexed Czechoslovakia.
23 Mar 1939 Erwin Rommel returned to his position as the commanding officer of the military academy at Wiener Neustadt in southern Germany.
1 Aug 1939 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Generalmajor.
23 Aug 1939 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of major general and was posted to the Staff of the Adolf Hitler's Headquarters, to be responsible again for Hitler's safety.
12 Feb 1940 Erwin Rommel was named the commanding officer of the 7. Panzer-Division.
15 Feb 1940 Major General Erwin Rommel took command of the 7th Panzer Division.
17 May 1940 Erwin Rommel was awarded the 1939 clasp to his Iron Cross Second Class medal.
21 May 1940 Erwin Rommel was awarded the 1939 clasp to his Iron Cross First Class medal.
27 May 1940 Erwin Rommel was awarded the Knight Cross medal.
3 Feb 1941 General Erwin Rommel was appointed as the head of an unit temporarily named "German Army Troops in Africa"; it would later become the Afrika Korps.
9 Feb 1941 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Generalleutnant.
12 Feb 1941 General Erwin Rommel arrived in Tripoli, Libya, to take command of the Afrika Korps.
13 Mar 1941 Erwin Rommel moved his headquarter to Sirte, Libya.
18 Mar 1941 Erwin Rommel departed North Africa for a meeting with Adolf Hitler.
19 Mar 1941 Erwin Rommel met with Adolf Hitler, Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch, and Chief of Staff General Franz Halder. Rommel was told to expect no reinforcements in Libya until May, when the German 15th Panzer Division would be assigned to him.
20 Mar 1941 Erwin Rommel received Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross.
23 Mar 1941 Erwin Rommel departed Europe for Libya.
24 Mar 1941 Erwin Rommel returned to Libya after a series of meetings in Germany and Italy.
19 Apr 1941 Erwin Rommel personally inspected the front lines in the Libyan-Egyptian border area.
22 Apr 1941 Erwin Rommel received the Gold Medal of Military Valor in Silver.
1 Jul 1941 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of General der Panzertruppe.
15 Jul 1941 Erwin Rommel was officially declared the commanding officer of Panzergruppe Afrika.
10 Jan 1942 Erwin Rommel wrote a letter to his wife, expressing optimism despite Allied success in Operation Crusader, mentioning General Ludwig Cruewell's bout with jaundice, and the cold nights in the desert of North Africa.
20 Jan 1942 Erwin Rommel received Swords to his Knight's Cross medal.
29 Jan 1942 German Army General Rommel arrived at Benghazi, Libya.
30 Jan 1942 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Generaloberst; at the same time, the Panzergruppe Afrika was renamed the Panzerarmee Afrika.
23 Feb 1942 Erwin Rommel was named the commanding officer of Heeresgruppe Afrika.
28 Apr 1942 Erwin Rommel received the Colonial Order of the Star of Italy.
26 May 1942 In Libya, Erwin Rommel released 620 Indian prisoners of war originally from the Indian 3rd Motor Brigade.
22 Jun 1942 Erwin Rommel was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarshall.
23 Sep 1942 Erwin Rommel departed North Africa for a six-week rest in Germany to recover from sinusitis, high blood pressure, and other ailments linked to the North African environment.
25 Oct 1942 Erwin Rommel visited Rome, Italy to press for more supplies for the war in North Africa. He arrived in Egypt to assume command of all Axis units in North Africa by the evening.
9 Mar 1943 Erwin Rommel departed North Africa on account of health reasons.
11 Mar 1943 Erwin Rommel received Diamonds to his Knight's Cross medal.
15 Jul 1943 Erwin Rommel was made the commander of Heeresgruppe B.
21 Jul 1943 Erwin Rommel inspected German defenses in Greece.
21 Nov 1943 Feldmarschall Rommel was placed in command of Atlantikwall defenses in France.
12 Dec 1943 Feldmarschall Rommel was appointed the head of Armeegruppe B based in France.
23 Apr 1944 Erwin Rommel wrote to Alfred Jodl, noting that if given command over the nearby tank formations he would wipe out any Allied landing attempt in France.
19 Jun 1944 In a report to Gerd von Rundstedt, Erwin Rommel predicted that a further Allied landing could be expected on the English Channel coast of France on both sides of Cap Gris Nez or between the Somme and Le Havre. The landing was to coincide with a general offensive from the Normandy Bridgehead.
10 Jul 1944 Erwin Rommel received the Romanian Order of Michael the Brave 3rd Class and 2nd Class.
15 Jul 1944 Rommel communicated to Hitler that Germany should seriously consider ending the war on favorable terms when it was still possible; for a unknown reason, this letter was delayed in its delivery, not reaching Hitler until 20 Jul.
17 Jul 1944 Erwin Rommel was injured when his staff car was attacked by a British fighter in Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery, Calvados, France at 1830 hours. The aircraft was piloted by Squadron-Leader J. J. Le Roux of No. 602 Squadron RAF. Rommel was en route from Bourguébus Ridge to his headquarters at La Roche-Guyon. The unconscious Rommel would be sent to the hospital at Bernay for treatment.
7 Aug 1944 Erwin Rommel received the Wound Badge in Gold.
14 Oct 1944 German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel committed suicide with a cyanide capsule given by General Wilhelm Burgdorf.
18 Oct 1944 Erwin Rommel was given a state funeral.

Photographs

Rommel as a cadet at Royal Officer Cadet School, Danzig, circa 1910Adolf Hitler welcomed by a honor guard at Goslar, Germany, 30 Sep 1934; note Captain Erwin Rommel in backgroundMartin Bormann, Adolf Hitler, Erwin Rommel, and Walter von Reichenau in Poland, Sep 1939German Army Lieutenant Colonel Julius von Bernuth and Major General Erwin Rommel, near the Moselle River, Germany, early 1940
See all 133 photographs of Erwin Rommel



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Alan Chanter says:
    29 Sep 2007 02:52:30 AM

    Men are basically smart or dumb and lazy or ambitious. The dumb and ambitious ones are dangerous and I get rid of them. The dumb and lazy ones I give mundane duties. The smart ambitious ones I put on my staff. The smart and lazy ones I make my commanders. (Erwin Rommel)
  2. HARSHAD DAVE says:
    8 Sep 2008 12:04:16 AM

    There are such dynamic and good persons in this world who commits such mistake that Erwin Rommel did. To be dynamic is a potential... a God-given gift to the person. But to have the control to use the dynamic potential for the wise & good cause, behind the justified person/social-body is the moral duty of the dynamic person. FM Erwin Rommel became too late to realize this.

    Harshad Dave.
  3. Anonymous says:
    16 Feb 2009 03:45:29 PM

    Erwin Rommel will forever be connected with the Afrika Corps. He was after all " The Desert Fox". When I was stationed in W. Germany during the 60's I was able to talk with a man, who served in the Afrika Corps. and like my late Uncle, he would say with pride " I served with Rommel"
  4. Anonymous says:
    27 Feb 2009 07:42:32 AM

    Rommel was key to win the vast oil resources in the middle east and africa, that would have give Germany the much needed economic power to boost its wealth production machine. A network of several german cities foundations would have follow to secure properly this new logistic position. Too bad Hitler didnt have a prudent vision of this strategy.
  5. BILL says:
    6 May 2009 12:29:47 PM

    Lili Marlene was a wartime favorite song, of both allied and axis soldiers. Joseph Goebbels banned the song for not being Military enough, but Field Marshal Erwin Rommel requested Radio Belgrade to play Lili Marlene every night for his Africa Korps.
  6. BILL says:
    10 Jun 2009 06:41:16 PM

    "We have a very daring and skillful opponet against us. And may I say across the havoc of war, a great general". Commenting on Rommel
    -Winston Churchill-
  7. BILL says:
    22 Jun 2009 08:27:59 AM

    "Don't fight a battle if you don't gain
    anything by winning."

    -Erwin Rommel, In his book
    "Infanterie greift An", 1937

    "I would be rather more happy had he given
    me one more division."

    Comment after receiving the rank of
    Field Marshal from Hitler, 1942
  8. Bill says:
    30 Mar 2010 06:18:18 PM

    Added information to # 5 May 6, 2009

    The famous wartime tune "LILI MARLENE" was
    composed by Norbert Schultz in twenty minutes
    in 1938.
    Lili Marlene was popular with both Allied and
    German troops. Sung by Lale Anderson, a little known German singer and forgotten until 1941.
    Did you know: that Fraeulein Anderson spent
    time in prison, because she was overheard saying " All I want is to get out of this horrible country ".
  9. Anonymous says:
    19 Apr 2010 03:30:21 PM

    i believe that Rommel was given his wonderful ability from God its a shame he died like that
  10. Bill says:
    15 Jun 2010 11:26:11 AM

    Did you know...

    The Afrika Korps was not made up from elite units, within the German army, they were
    regular troops, shipped to Afrika in 1941 to help out the Italians.
    Although it suffered heavy losses, it fought
    on until the surrender in North Africa in
    May 1943.
    Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Korps are forever
    linked together.
    When I was stationed in West Germany from
    Nov 1966 to Sept 1967 during a conversation with one of the German worker's, he told me
    he was a Veteran of the Afrika Korps he showed me his only photograph of himself, he was drafted and assigned to a supply unit taking care of the horses, getting tired of shoveling horse poop, he saw on the unit
    bulletin board volunteers needed for Afrika.
    He was wounded and captured by the Tommies (British) and thats how he survived WWII. Sounds similar to what I did, to get out of
    West Germany, volunteer for Vietnam, but
    thats another story.
  11. Bill says:
    15 Jun 2010 12:18:45 PM

    Continued from #10

    I will always remember him as Werner,because
    all the other German workers were nicknamed
    Fritz or Hermann.
    Among the other German songs he would whistle
    would be "Lili Marlene", I recognized that
    tune, and stopped to talk with him.
    When another worker passed by, he would say
    in German: We have an educated man here, a
    student of History.

    "Every man dreams to live long, yet no man
    deserves to be old".
  12. Bill says:
    27 Aug 2010 12:11:38 PM

    Lili Marlene has become a legend of WWII, it
    was one of the top hits of World War II.
    Evernight radio belgrade would play the song
    it became a anthem of both Axis and Allied
    forces.

    Joseph Goebbels the propagenda minister for
    the National-Socialist party didn't like it, and banned the song in Germany (Just think what he would have done to Rock'N'Roll).
    But its did nothing to stop its popularity.
    Field Marshall Rommel even requested
    "Lili Marlene" to be played for his Afrika Korps.

    THE LYRICS:

    Underneath the lantern by the barrack gate,
    Darling I remember the way you used to wait,
    'Twas there that you whispered tenderly'
    That you loved me, you'll always be,
    My Lili of the lamplight, my own Lili Marlene

    Time would come for roll call,time for us to part, Darling I'd caress you and press you
    to my heart,
    And there 'neath that far off lantern light,
    I'd hold you tight,we'd kiss "good-night",
    My Lili of the limplight,My own Lili Marlene

    Orders came for sailing somewhere over there,
    All confined to barracks was more than I
    could bear,I knew you were waiting in the
    street,I heard your feet, but we could not
    meet.
    My Lili of the lamplight,My own Lili Marlene

    When we are marching in the mud and cold,
    And when my pack seems more than I could hold
    My love for you renews my might,
    I'm warm again, my pack is light,

    For Werner and all the Veterans of WWII.
  13. Mattlan says:
    11 Feb 2011 06:45:04 AM

    My Grandfather (Flt Lt Vernon A Lancaster RAAF 453) has log book evidence that he fired on the convoy of Rommell and gave him his injuries. Although he is in his early 90's he is sharp as a tack and it takes a bit of prodding but once you get him talking about his exploits in a Spitfire it is awesome!
  14. Anonymous says:
    10 Sep 2011 09:33:52 AM

    i have pics of his capture and wanted to find out what they are worth
  15. Anonymous says:
    11 Jan 2012 04:37:57 PM

    rommels car was strafed by a canadian pilot in a Spitfire.
    Rommel sustained a serious head injury after his staff car crashed into a tree.
    http://www.spitcrazy.com/rommelunderattackfull.htm

    http://william-silvester.suite101.com/the-man-who-shot-rommel-a74851
  16. Juan Canela says:
    2 Apr 2012 05:53:51 PM

    I have no respect for the man, whoever he is or claims to be, who currently occupies our Whitehouse, however, as an American, a Korean veteran,and someone who has been around the block a few times, I have great respect for Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the great German military genius, and a genuine human being.
  17. John Cinnamond says:
    3 Apr 2012 04:30:03 PM

    I remember quite well at the age of six, the shocking radio news, that the **** had bombed Pearl Harbor. Now at age 78 chronological years, I have learned much, and had my War (Korea 52-53). As an American, a loyal patriot,and supporter of our Constitution, I must say that I have great respect and admiration for Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, far more respect that I could ever have for the current occupant of our Whitehouse, whoever he is,or claims to be, Barry Soetoro, or Hussein Obama II???
  18. Anonymous says:
    26 Sep 2012 07:15:19 AM

    I have heard that Rommel played a dice game with leaders of troops to choose who would lead into battle. Does any one know if this is true and what the game was?
  19. Joe Mastandrea says:
    3 Mar 2013 01:23:13 PM

    Can anyone tell me what kind of vehicle Erwin Rommell was in when he was wounded in 1944.
    Thank you
  20. Alan Chanter says:
    23 May 2014 01:20:43 AM

    Erwin Rommel was born at noon on November 15th, 1891, at Heidenheim, a small town in Würtemburg, near Ulm. His father, also named Erwin, was a schoolmaster and the son of a schoolmaster. Both father and Grandfather were mathematricians of some distinction.

    Herr Professor Rommel was much respected in Heidenheim. In 1886 he married Helena, the eldest daughter of Karl von Luz, the President of the Government of Würtemburg and thereby a prominemt personage in the region. Helena bore the elder Erwin five children; a son, Manfred, who died young, a daughter, Helena, who remained a spinster throughout her life and followed in the family tradition by becoming a school teacher, Erwin Rommel himself and his younger brothers, Karl and Gerhardt. Karl would become almost cripppled after contracting malaria while serving as a pilot in Turkey during the 1914-18 War, and Gerhardt would abandon a career in agriculture to take up his passion to be an opera singer.

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More on Erwin Rommel
Event(s) Participated:
» Invasion of France and the Low Countries
» Operation Sonnenblume
» Siege of Tobruk
» Operation Battleaxe
» Battle of Gazala
» Battle of Mersa Matruh
» First Battle of El Alamein
» Battle of Alam el Halfa
» Second Battle of El Alamein
» Battle of Kasserine Pass
» Battle of Medenine

Related Books:
» Alamein: War Without Hate
» Erwin Rommel
» Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War


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Rommel as a cadet at Royal Officer Cadet School, Danzig, circa 1910
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