The Successes and Failures of Erwin Rommel in the German North

The Successes and Failures of Erwin Rommel in the German North African Campaign of WWII Respected by both friend and foe, Erwin Rommel was unlike most of his fellow German generals. He was a skilled tactician and strategist, and a professional soldier who never allowed politics to interfere with his command. It was because of Rommel that the British forces in North Africa under Generals Archibald Wavell and Claude Auchinleck were pushed away despite the wide gap in terms of numerical superiority of forces. It was only during the arrival of British commander Bernard Montgomery that Rommel had found himself a very skilled adversary. This was evident during the pivotal Battle of El Alamein in 1943. Despite Rommel’s many talents, he was soundly defeated. That meant the end of the German campaign in North Africa. Rommel had many successes during his North African battles, even at the ill-fated battle of El Alamein. Rommel has been regarded as a brilliant military commander in both tactical and strategic levels, as much as his sphere of command can control. Rommel was aware that the forces under his command were numerically inferior against the British forces based in North Africa. They were also lacking in sufficient supplies. Despite such disadvantage, Rommel caused a lot of mayhem with a disproportionately small number of tanks and supplies. As Greene (2006) observed:What was most devastating about this offensive was the novel way Rommel fought. He used the desert as if it were an ocean. Despite supply problems and difficult terrain, he kept his tanks in perpetual motion. The British could not let up their guard for a moment and this mentally exhausted them… Instead of pushing forward and to punch holes in the enemy lines, he would send out his weakest tanks, then have them retreat at first contact. the British tanks would invariably swallow the bait and go in pursuit, kicking up so much of their own dust in the process that they would not see they were running straight into a line of German antitank guns. (pp.190-191)Rommel relied on speed and surprise to make his strategy work to his advantage. He used small forces to outmaneuver and outsmart his numerous British opponents. Rommel would ride ahead, risking death so that he could make rapid decisions on the move. He devoured information about the enemy, made himself an expert on tank technology, memorized maps, and personalized his relationship with his men (Greene, 2006, p.38). Rommel also never allowed any of Hitler’s political directives to undermine his command. When Hitler ordered that Jews among the German military be shot, Rommel ignored the orders and treated the men humanely. Despite all his tactical and strategic talents, and skill as a leader, Rommel lost in El Alamein due to lack of logistical and armed support from the German military. As Greene (2006) pointed out, the only thing that stopped him was Hitler’s obsession with Russia, which bled Rommel of the supplies and reinforcements he needed (p.191). Rommel could not keep up the fight against the British when his forces were slowly thinning due to lack of fuel, spare parts, equipment, and men. Both Montgomery and Rommel were closely in par with regard to their capabilities in battle tactics and strategies, but Rommel did not enjoy the same amount of support as Montgomery did. When it came to the head-on fight at El Alamein, both the British and Germans suffered almost the same number of casualties, the figures having hardly any differences. The only problem, which Rommel was very aware and concerned of, was that there would be no way for the German forces to secure their positions or even win without any reinforcements.ReferenceGreene, Robert. (2006). The 33 strategies of war. New York: Penguin Group.