Popularly known as The Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel is seen as the driving force that led the Afrika Korps in pursuit of the Eight Army in the battle of El Alamein. Having proven to be a skilled commander in his previous missions, Rommel had earned the respect of his troops, and that of his enemies. However, his defeat against the allied forces in El Alamein was a defining moment in his commandership. Rommel will forever be known as one of the best German commanders of all times, for the role he played in the fight against Montgomery, and in many other battles. His determination and ability to motivate his troops, especially even in the course of a losing battle, were seen as his best achievements. Even so, he made some mistakes that made him lose the battle, disappointing Hitler.
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Rommel’s plan to attack the allied forces from the south was a bold and presumably move as he had used the same plan in his previous invasions. In his quest to affirm these presumes, Montgomery consulted a group of people who had worked at the Bletchley Park, only to get hold of Rommel’s battle plans (Connelly, 2002). This way, he was able to command a blocking force that obstructed reinforcement for the Afrika Korps. The fact that Montgomery had secured control over Suez Canal gave him an advantage over the Afrika Korps, as he controlled their supplies.
By losing control of the Suez Canal, Rommel’s supplies hardly reached him, which consequently starved his troops and denied him enough weapons for a massive attack. Montgomery knew that time would slowly weaken the Afrika Korps, which would then be the best time to attack; however, Rommel led a surprise invasion, which led to massive deaths of his troops because of the land mines that were placed in Alam Halfa in the south of El Alamein. With most of his tanks getting wiped out by the land mines, his attack had started badly and was forced to retreat (Mulligan, 2008).
Being the most skilled German commander of desert warfare, Rommel clearly made a mistake of exposing his plan to attack the Eighth Army from Tobruk to Mersa Matruh. Rommel’s health problem was also a major drawback for the Afrika Korps; this is because he had to take a leave in the middle of a lost battle. By the time he got out of the hospital, the fuel supply situation had worsened, and the Eight Army was ready for an attack. In addition, having lost the first battle, Rommel had lost twice as many men as those of the allied forces, which made it difficult to tactically prepare his troops against the Eight Army (Harvey, 2008).
Even so, he had not yet given up on his troops as he was good at taking advantage of any opportunity through his quick tactical decision-making skills. Even though he was known as the desert fox for his ability to sniff out his enemies in battlefields, Rommel’s pride did not corrupt his decisions, especially when he decided to order a retreat on the fourth of November 1942, against Hitler’s command (Reuth, 2005).
The battle of El Alamein was clearly a turning point for the World War II in Africa. Both Montgomery and Rommel proved to be the best commanders for Germany, and Great Britain consecutively. Montgomery’s triumph against Rommel was greatly celebrated by the allied forces as it turned things around and boosted the morale of their troops, especially since the Afrika Korps was considered the most skilled force in Germany.
Connelly, O. (2002). On war and leadership: The words of combat commanders from Frederick the Great to Norman Schwarzkopf. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Harvey, R., (2008). Maverick military leaders: The extraordinary battles of Washington, Nelson, Patton, Rommel, and others. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.
Mulligan, D. (2008). Heroes of Tobruk. Lindfield, N.S.W: Scholastic Press.
Reuth, R. G. (2005). Rommel: The end of a legend. London: Haus Publ.