20 Mar 21
“Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas!”
During Germany’s North Africa Campaign in 1940-43, under the masterful generalship of Erwin Rommel, German forces were able, in the beginning, to recapture much of the area that had been lost to the British by Rommel’s inept Italian allies.
The North African Campaign has been the subject of many glamorous western feature films, but in Hitler’s eyes it was a military sideshow! Hitler’s main interest was in his sequential conquest of France, then Russia, his glorious reiteration of Germany’s failed WWI European offensive strategy, called the “Schlieffen Plan” (after Field Marshall Count Alfred Von Schlieffen, who first articulated it in 1905, in secret)
Operation Barbarossa (Eastern Front) began in June of 1941. It was the largest single land warfare operation ever launched, before or since. It involved three enormous Army Groups, and it starved Hitler’s other two Fronts (Western Europe and North Africa) of supplies.
Rommel was thus continuously hamstrung by logistics issues, especially after the start of Operation Barbarossa, which as noted utterly captivated Hitler’s attention. Rommel nonetheless garnered the well-earned respect of all sides. In fact, among British soldiers in North Africa, any time someone did something well, it was called “a Rommel!”
The nickname given to German troops by the British was “Jerry.” When Rommel ran short of fuel for his tanks, he was able to successfully steal it from the British. So much so that British referred to fuel cans as “Jerrycans.”
We’ve be using the term ever since!
Rommel’s elite “Afrika Korps,” ultimately out of fuel, ammunition, and other critical supplies, fought a retrograde battle as it retreated into Tunisia, where it was finally forced to surrender to the Allies in May of 1943.
Except for Rommel himself, who was spirited back to Germany.
By this time, most German soldiers were grateful (and lucky) to be surrendering to the Americans, and not the Russians!
Germany’s ill-fated North Africa Front had finally collapsed!
Rommel himself, owing to his subsequent (alleged) involvement in the “20 July 1944 Plot” (Operation Valkyrie) that lead to Hitler’s near assassination, was forced to commit suicide (cyanide capsule), rather than face a kangaroo court, which represented a death sentence anyway. He was only fifty-two.
It was officially reported in the short term (for propaganda purposes) that Rommel had died of natural causes. The truth was revealed only after the War ended.
“Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don’t in your endurance of fatigue and privation.
Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same.
Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide”