Erwin Rommel, 1941.
(born Nov. 15, 1891, Heidenheim an der Brentz, Württemberg, Ger.—died Oct. 14, 1944, Herrlingen, near Ulm) German army commander in World War II
. A teacher at military academies, he wrote the acclaimed textbook Infantry Attacks
(1937). He commanded a panzer division
in the invasion of France (1940), then led his Afrika Korps troops in early successes against the Allies in the North Africa Campaign
. He became known as the “Desert Fox” for his audacious surprise attacks, and he was promoted to field marshal. In 1942 he was ordered to attack Cairo and the Suez Canal, despite his request to withdraw his exhausted troops. After his defeat in the Battles of El Alamein
and retreat into Tunisia, he returned to Germany and in 1944 was given command of the defense of the northwestern French coast. His tactical suggestions were ignored, and after the Allied Normandy Campaign
began, he became convinced that the war could not be won. Implicated in the July Plot
to kill Adolf Hitler
, he was ordered to take poison so that Hitler could avoid a trial of the esteemed “people's marshal.”
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.