Erwin Rommel Jr. was born on November 15, 1891 in Swabian. His father Erwin Rommel Sr., was a schoolmaster in Heidenheim in Wurttemberg , and Rommel’s mother was Helene von Luz was a daughter of the local Regierungs-President.
As a child, he was even tempered and was unremarkable academically and athletically. After high school, Rommel Jr. was thinking of applying to the Zeppelin works at
Friederichshafen, but his father, an ex-artillery officer, advised him to go to the army instead. In July, 1910, Rommel became a cadet with the 124th Wurttemberg Infantry Regiment in the 26th Infantry Division of the German Imperial Infantry. He served as cadet in the Army until March 1911. Then he attended the prestigious military academy Konigliche Kriegsschule in Danzig and he left the academy in November of 1911. During Rommel’s stay he also met the love of his life, Lucy Mollin, whom he would write to everyday during both World Wars, he raised to Lieutenant: Corporal in October and Sergeant at the end of the year.
Rommel first showed his courage and intellect during World War 1 when a group of 15 to 20 French soldiers were spotted by him and his reconnaissance of three other men. Rommel opened fire and dropped 10 members of the group with regular rifles. His second encounter was 800 yards northeast of Bleid, at freshly dug French trenches. He charged and repulsed all French with only few parts of his regiment, Then Rommel with two other men drove off a whole French column. After this, Rommel passed out from lack of sleep. When he awakened, a confused firefight had begun. He immediately rallied his men and repulsed the French attack. The battle of Longwy resulted in a loss of 15% of Rommel’s men and 25% of his officers. After the battle, medical doctors informed Rommel that he was suffering from food poisoning, but Rommel would not leave the field. In his first action as Battalion Adjutant, Rommel and a group of 13 men repulsed a charge of 2 French companies and dropped 30 French, capturing 12. Then on September 9, his outfit was ordered to begin digging trenches. On September 10, they were ordered to charge. Rommel lost 4 officers and 40 men dead, and 160 men wounded, and 8 missing.
On September 22, Rommel was again ordered to attack, but this time he consulted his commander with better plans. The result was 50 Frenchmen, 7 machine guns, 10
Ammunition limbers, and a full kitchen captured, with only 4 killed and 11 wounded. Then Rommel reorganized another confused company, and started to return to his own unit. On the way, 5 French soldiers appeared ahead of him. Rommel opened fire and dropped two of them, only to run out of ammunition. Rommel quickly fixed his bayonet and charged only to be wounded with a fist sized exit wound
and to be rewarded with an Iron Cross and Second Class for bravery. Also before World War 1 ended Rommel received a Pour le Merite. Rommel’s son, Manfred was born in December 1928, on Christmas Eve.
In September 1934, Rommel first met Hitler. Rommel was devoted to Hitler because of Hitler’s acceptance of the army over the SA. Rommel thought Hitler was a good man, and he was swept up in the patriotic pride that now ran rampant throughout Germany. Hitler was just as impressed with Rommel, and Rommel’s character soon gained him the position of Major-General of Hitler’s Special Guard, a very
prestigious honor. Soon Rommel and Hitler became close friends. Hitler consulted with Rommel on where he would like to go from there. Rommel told him he would like to lead an armored division.
In early February, 1940, Rommel was appointed to command the 7th Panzer Division, now stationed at Godesberg in the west and soon deployed in the nearby valley of the Ahr. He took leave of Hitler and was given an inscribed copy of Mein Kampf as a present.
On May 10, 1940, the beginning elements of Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division began their advance. When Rommel came to the Maginot Line, he came up with an idea. Instead of blowing up or dealing with every fortification in his way, he ordered his tanks to race at full speed past the fortifications while firing at anything that looked hostile. The French were surprised, most of them simply surrendered to the rear guards that came up.
On February 6, 1941, Rommel was summoned to Berlin. There he was alerted of the Italians hopeless situation by the army’s Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal von Brauchitsch. They had lost an entire army of ten divisions in North Africa, were checked completely in Greece, on the run in Eritrea, Somaliland, Abyssinia, Libya, and all of North Africa. Hitler had personally selected Rommel to take two divisions-one Panzer (15th Panzer Division), which did not arrive until May, and one light, the 5th Light (totally mechanized but no tanks) division- to help the Italians hold North Africa.
On March 24, 1941, Rommel ordered the 3rd Recon Battalion to attack El Agheila. The attack went unmolested, and the airfield and water supply of El Agheila soon fell in Rommel’s hands. On March 31st, the 5th Light Division advanced on Mersa El Brega. The immediate response was stubborn, but after a north flanking movement by Rommel and his machine gun battalion, the defile fell and a good many vehicles were captured with it. Air recon showed that the British were retreating. On the April 14th, Rommel sent the Italian General Streich on an
attack against Tobruk, and General Streich timidly attacked. Casualties amounted soon due to bombardment, anti-tank fire, and infantry volleys. Field Marshal von Paulus, later to lose an entire Army at Stalingrad, watched the next assault on Tobruk on April 30th. The attack came from the West instead of the South and yielded Ras el Madamer and a good deal of casualties. Despite the gain of Ras el Madamer, von Paulus returned to Berlin and gave a damaging report to OKH headquarters. Meanwhile, the ULTRA decoded German messages had given the British information that the 15th Panzer Div. had not arrived yet and Rommel had been ordered to advance no further. This meant that the time to attack was now, before the tanks arrived. On May 15th, the long awaited British counter-attack began. The first move was by the 7th Armored and 22nd Guards Brigades. Ironically, that morning Rommel had sent forward all thirteen 88 millimeter anti-tank guns and a good deal of mechanized troops. Thus, when the British attacked, the presence of the longer ranging 88’s gave them the impression that the information was false and that the 15th Panzer had indeed arrived. The British consequently withdrew, and actually withdrew passed the easily defendable Halfaya Pass that they had gained through heavy costs.
At the beginning of 1942, Britain had 150 tanks. Rommel had 117 German tanks and 79 Italian models.
He now turned his eyes once more on Tobruk, a strategic port of the Mediterranean. His main tank force of 560 tanks would flank south while a diversionary infantry force under Cruewell attacked along the North and center. The British had 167 of the new American Grant tanks equipped with a 75 mm guns – the hardest hitting gun of any desert tank, and counting these tanks, the British now had 850 tanks. Rommel did have superiority in both airplane numbers and quality.
On June 20th, the apple of Rommel’s eye was finally in reach. That day he watched the first Stuka bombing of Tobruk at 6:00 a.m. At 7:00 a.m., the infantry entered the town from the Southeast while the artillery and tanks rained down shells from high ground. By 6:00 p.m., 21st Panzer Division was inside of the town. At 6:00 a.m. on June 21st, 32,000 men fell into Rommel’s hands along with the vital port of Tobruk. Later that day, Rommel was promoted to Field Marshal. As Germans celebrated on the victory the Allies regrouped.
The British fought back. The British attack was sounded by a heavy barrage of 456 artillery pieces, and headed by 1000 British and American tanks. The British attacked northward on October 29th and overran elements of the 164th German Division and an Italian Bersaglieri battalion. Another extensive barrage heralded the event and the aerial bombardment went on nonstop. Rommel began plans for withdrawal, even though this would be very costly if the enemy commander was aggressive. When Rommel receives a radio message from Hitler to keep fighting, Rommel felt be trade from Hitler and Rommel disobey and retreated.
As Rommel was recovering from his injuries the assassination famous plot to kill Hitler was launched. After the plot crumbled, under torture, one of the conspirators mentioned Rommel’s name, implicating him in the plot. As friends and fellow officers were arrested as conspirators, Rommel realized the end was near. On October 14th, 1944, two generals came to Rommel’s house and gave him an ultimatum. Either takes his own life and be buried with full honors or stand trial and put the future of his wife and son in jeopardy. Rommel said good-bye to his family, went with the two men, and swallowed poison. He was buried with full honors.