Brandon Slot 8
Erwin Rommel was one of the greatest generals of World War II. His use of strategy, logistics, and natural instincts separated from other generals. He could move his troops and tanks faster and more efficiently than any other Nazi general and he used this skill to make quick and powerful strikes where his enemy would least expect it. This special ability gained him and his divisions nicknames like “Desert Fox” and the “Ghost Division”.
Erwin Rommel was born on November 15, 1891 in Heidenheim, Württemberg. His father was the Headmaster of a secondary school and very strict but fair. Rommel described his childhood in his memoir as passing quite happily. Rommel didn’t have an extensive military background as a child; rather he was a skilled engineer. He liked to build small contraptions and inventions. When he was fourteen he completed a full sized glider, which he could make fly short distances. Rommel wished to go to school and become an engineer, but his father had other ideas. As World War I loomed, his father decided Rommel would be best as a soldier and sent him to the army. He was put into the124th Württemberg Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet in 1910. He was then sent to Officer Cadet School in Danzig where he graduated on November 15th, 1911 and was commissioned as a lieutenant. In 1914 he participated in the campaigns in France and Romania first as a part of the 6th Württemberg Infantry Regiment and later as a part of the Alpenkorps, a mountain division of the German army.
During the First World War he fought on the front lines many times. After being wounded for the first time he had the choice to be sent home and he denied it, wishing to stay and fight. He was wounded twice more during the course of the war and never left. During the war he was also awarded the Iron Cross, first and second-class. His officers throughout the war noticed his bravery and leadership on the battlefield and this gained him a reputation. They also noticed that he knew how to make decisions in a moments notice, where other soldiers would freeze at the opportunity, he would make the most of any tactical advantage. Towards the end of the war Rommel was awarded the Pour le Mérite, the highest award the Prussian Empire awarded, for fighting in the Battles of the Isonzo. He earned it for his participation in the Battle of Longarone where the Mountain Matajur was captured along with its defenders. This included about 160 Italian officers, 9,500 men, and 83 artillery pieces. During the war he spent a few months evading capture behind Italian lines where most of his friends were killed or taken captive. This lead to his contempt of Italian forces which he would have to overcome during the Second World War when they were allied.
When the war ended and the Treaty of Versailles put military limitations on Germany, having a General Staff was banned for Germany. However, the German officers disregarded this and started an underground Officer’s Troop called Truppenamt. He was offered a high position in the group and he turned it down on the grounds that it was illegal and he believed that the group wasn’t necessary in the first place. Instead he took the time in between the two wars writing books based on his experience in the First World War. Two strategy based training books he wrote were called “Combat Tasks for Platoon and Company” and his more famous “Infantry Attacks”. In “Infantry Attacks” he explains a strategy in which whenever you stop you should build foxholes and trenches. This saved many German men from French artillery during the Second World War; the shrapnel from French shells would fly harmlessly over their heads and limit the number of casualties severely. These military textbooks gained the attention of Adolf Hitler who met with Rommel and placed him in charge of the War Ministry contact for the Hitler Youth. He did...