Erwin Rommel

ISBN: 978 1 84603 685 9
Review Date:

Much like Douglas MacArthur, Bernard Montgomery, George Patton, and other leaders in WW2, Erwin Rommel was larger-than-life. These men, with auras of myth shrouding them, could be difficult to study. Titled Erwin Rommel as a part of Osprey Publishing's new "Command" series, through this book the author Pier Paolo Battistelli attempted to objectively evaluate Rommel's strengths and weaknesses by dissecting the rationale for, the execution of, and the outcome of his key strategic and tactical decisions made during WW2. Particular focus was given to his WW1 experience as a junior officer, which was extremely important, for that engagements such as Longarone deeply influenced his leadership style that was characterized by quick thinking and aggressiveness. The key battles in North Africa were presented in fair detail; some were further supported by maps to help readers visualize the engagements, while photographs of Rommel in North Africa gave the readers a glimpse of Rommel, dusty and equipped with his desert goggles, commanding troops near the front. His time as a commander in France in 1944 was also covered, including his idea of a defense on the long coast line against a potential amphibious invasion, which was not fully implemented as it contrasted with that of Adolf Hitler's. Although Battistelli wanted to analyze Rommel as a military leader, he could not avoid discussion the myth. Whether it was the result of German propaganda, British personification of the army that nearly drove them to defeat, or the need for a model professional German soldier who was not a politically-charged Nazi, Rommel was, and always would be, a man of legend.

With the size of the book as a constraint, Battistelli did a great job in providing some understanding of Rommel as a military commander. I did wonder, however, why he set aside a few pages to discuss the Allied generals who opposed him; to me, the handful of pages allotted was not enough to properly reflect how Allied decisions affected Rommel's thinking, and those pages probably could have been better used had the author stayed on topic.

Because Erwin Rommel focused on the field marshal as a military commander, politics was mentioned only fleetingly, even though politics had affected his career and personal life so much. To make up for this, Battistelli cited many titles on Rommel by other authors that cover different areas of his life, including but not limited to German politics. Having read a few titles that he had referred to, such as David Irving's The Trail of the Fox and Terry Brighton's Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War, I did agree with many of his recommendations, and did feel that Battistelli's new work on Rommel would serve as a good complement to the existing titles.

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