Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rommel: The End of a Legend by Ralf Georg Reuth

Just like the majority of those new to WWII, years ago, I thought that Rommel was an excellent commander, tactician, strategist, etc. It was only when I began to delve into details and talking with authors that I realized the myths built up around Rommel, and many other Generals, were finally coming down. This book actually does an excellent job in showing Rommel's tactical knowledge and expertise and puts it into context with what actually was the reason for his achievements in France and North Africa.

I have to point out that what I wanted to read the most about was the British addition to propaganda in regards to Rommel. The author shows that since the British were pushed off the continent, after the fall of France, Norway, the Balkans, etc, their only field of battle against Nazi Germany (aside from the Battle of Britain) was the North African theatre. This meant that their only 'claim to fame', so to speak, in showing that they had taken a part in taking down the German land Army was showing what odds they were able to overcome. Thus, Rommel became a 'superman' and the 'Desert Fox' and Montgomery, the commander who eventually defeated him, became THAT much better than Rommel himself.

A lot of detail is given to Rommel's involvement with the assassination attempt on Hitler (or non-involvement). I wasn't surprised to see that Rommel was ignorant of what was going on around him in terms of German policies and strategy. He was a talented tactician, to a point, but the fact is he was sent to North Africa to help the Italians hold back the British, not wage war toward the Suez Canal and beyond, which is something he hoped to do. He never had the man-power for such an offensive and even so decided to go through with it, letting logistics sort themselves out. The end result was a sea-saw of battles that eventually led to the demise of the Afrika Armee.

A recommended read for those interested in seeing Rommel's achievements in an objective light, his victories and losses, as well as how BOTH the Germans and British used Rommel for their own needs (the most photographed German general, it should be noted). Also, how even after the war he served as a token tool for, once more, both the Germans and British in propagating their respective causes.

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