Noticias

El general alemán Erwin Rommel llega a África

El general alemán Erwin Rommel llega a África

El general alemán Erwin Rommel llega a Trípoli, Libia, con el recién formado Afrika Korps, para reforzar la sitiada posición de los italianos.

En enero de 1941, Adolf Hitler estableció el Afrika Korps con el propósito explícito de ayudar a su socio del Eje italiano a mantener las ganancias territoriales en el norte de África. “[Por] razones estratégicas, políticas y psicológicas, Alemania debe ayudar a Italia en África”, declaró el Führer. Los británicos habían asestado golpes devastadores a los italianos; en tres meses sacaron a los italianos de Egipto mientras hirieron o mataron a 20.000 soldados italianos y tomaron prisioneros a otros 130.000.

Habiendo comandado una división blindada en las exitosas campañas francesas y de los Países Bajos de Alemania, el general Rommel fue enviado a Libia junto con el nuevo Afrika Korps para tomar el control de la situación en deterioro. Hasta ese momento, el general italiano Ettore Bastico era el comandante general de las fuerzas del Eje en el norte de África, que incluía una división panzer alemana y la división blindada italiana. Rommel estaba destinado a comandar solo su Afrika Korps y un cuerpo italiano en Libia, pero terminó dirigiendo toda la campaña del norte de África.

Los soldados alemanes del Afrika Korps encontraron inicialmente difícil adaptarse al clima desértico; Rommel también encontró difícil mandar a sus tropas italianas, que estaban acostumbradas a un comandante italiano. Cuando Hitler, preocupado por sus planes para su invasión soviética, finalmente dio luz verde a una ofensiva contra las posiciones británicas en Egipto, las fuerzas de Rommel fueron detenidas en seco y luego obligadas a retirarse. En la famosa batalla de El Alamein, el Octavo Ejército británico, que comenzó el 23 de octubre de 1942, sorprendió al comandante alemán con su brutal determinación y lo empujó a él ya su Afrika Korps de regreso a través y fuera del norte de África. (Irónicamente, los árabes celebraron a Rommel, llamado "el zorro del desierto", como un liberador del imperialismo británico).

La retirada siguió a la retirada, y Rommel finalmente se retiró del norte de África por completo y regresó a Europa en marzo de 1943, dejando el Afrika Korps en otras manos.


Afrika Korps

los Afrika Korps o Cuerpo alemán de África (Alemán: Deutsches Afrikakorps, DAK escucha (ayuda · info) ) fue la fuerza expedicionaria alemana en África durante la Campaña del Norte de África de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Primero enviada como fuerza de retención para apuntalar la defensa italiana de sus colonias africanas, la formación luchó en África, bajo varias denominaciones, desde marzo de 1941 hasta su rendición en mayo de 1943. El comandante más conocido de la unidad fue el mariscal de campo Erwin Rommel.


Vida temprana y carrera

El padre de Rommel era maestro, como lo había sido su abuelo, y su madre era hija de un alto funcionario. Una carrera como oficial del ejército comenzó a estar de moda, incluso entre los alemanes del sur de clase media, después del establecimiento del Imperio alemán en 1871, por lo que, a pesar de la ausencia de una tradición militar en su familia, Rommel se unió en 1910 al 124 ° Regimiento de Infantería de Württemberg. como cadete oficial.

En la Primera Guerra Mundial, Rommel luchó como teniente en Francia, Rumania e Italia. Su profundo conocimiento de sus hombres, su inusual coraje y su don natural de liderazgo mostraron muy pronto la promesa de una gran carrera. En el ejército prusiano-alemán, una carrera en el estado mayor general era la vía normal para el avance, pero Rommel se negó a tomar ese camino. Tanto en la Reichswehr de la República de Weimar como en la Wehrmacht de Adolf Hitler, permaneció en la infantería como oficial de primera línea. Como muchos grandes generales, poseía un gran talento para la enseñanza y, en consecuencia, fue designado para puestos en varias academias militares. El fruto de sus experiencias de batalla en la Primera Guerra Mundial, combinado con sus ideas sobre cómo entrenar a los soldados jóvenes en el pensamiento militar, formaron los componentes principales de su libro de texto militar. Infanterie greift an (1937 "Ataques de infantería"), que recibió una alta estima inicial.

En 1938, después de la anexión de Austria por Alemania, el coronel Rommel fue nombrado comandante de la escuela de oficiales en Wiener Neustadt, cerca de Viena. Al comienzo de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, fue nombrado comandante de las tropas que custodiaban el cuartel general del Führer y Hitler lo conoció personalmente. La oportunidad de Rommel de demostrar su valía como comandante llegó en febrero de 1940, cuando asumió el mando de la 7.ª División Panzer. Nunca antes había comandado unidades blindadas, sin embargo, rápidamente comprendió las tremendas posibilidades de las tropas mecanizadas y blindadas en un papel ofensivo. Su incursión en la costa francesa del Canal de la Mancha en mayo de 1940 proporcionó la primera prueba de su audacia e iniciativa.


Derrotado en El Alamein, Erwin Rommel de la Alemania nazi comenzó una histórica retirada desde África

La derrota del Afrika Korps en El Alamein inició una larga retirada y una eventual rendición de las fuerzas del Eje.

Tobruk, el vital puerto libio en la costa de Cyrenaica, cayó ante el general Erwin Rommel y su victorioso Afrika Korps en menos de 24 horas después de un inesperado y devastador ataque aéreo, blindado e infantería el 21 de junio de 1942.

En cautiverio fueron el comandante de la guarnición de Tobruk, el mayor general sudafricano Bernard Klopper, 13.400 soldados sudafricanos, 2.500 indios y gurkhas, y 19.000 soldados y marineros británicos. Solo un millar aproximadamente de la guarnición logró escapar para unirse al Octavo Ejército británico, retrocediendo en Mersa Matruh 220 millas al este y bien dentro de Egipto. El ejército privado de Popski, dirigido por el teniente coronel Vladimir Peniakoff (apodado "Popski") y el más pequeño de los destacamentos de las fuerzas especiales británicas que operan en el desierto, ayudó a algunos de los fugitivos a salir de Tobruk. Muchos meses después, mientras operaba detrás de las líneas alemanas en Italia, Popski y su ejército privado rescataron al general Klopper que había escapado de un campo de prisioneros de guerra y estaba, en palabras de Popski, "deambulando".

Abriendo el camino a Egipto

La victoria de Rommel recibió una gran publicidad en Alemania e Italia. Rommel, gritaban los titulares, había abierto el camino a Egipto, Alejandría, El Cairo, el Canal de Suez y más allá. Hitler lo ascendió a mariscal de campo y Mussolini voló a Trípoli con su caballo blanco y uniformes de gala para dirigir a las tropas italianas en un desfile de la victoria en El Cairo.

Tres días después, el 24 de junio, utilizando camiones, gasolina, petróleo, municiones y alimentos capturados en Tobruk y el Fuerte Capuzzo al estilo Beau Geste, Rommel avanzó hacia Mersa Matruh, donde el Octavo Ejército severamente mutilado había detenido su retirada y se estaba preparando para hacer un puesto. En este punto, el Comandante en Jefe británico de Oriente Medio, el general Sir Claude Auchinleck, asumió el mando personal sobre el terreno. Decidió no luchar por Mersa Matruh y ordenó al Octavo Ejército que comenzara una retirada inmediata a El Alamein. Esa noche, Rommel lanzó su ataque contra Mersa Matruh.

La División de Nueva Zelanda, rodeada por panzergrenadiers en un acantilado al sur de Mersa Matruh y sin apoyo blindado, estalló en un salvaje ataque nocturno con bayonetas fijas, gritando gritos de guerra maoríes y matando granaderos mientras intentaban rendirse. Casi 10.000 neozelandeses se abrieron paso y escaparon, pero cuando terminó la batalla por Mersa Matruh, los alemanes retuvieron a otros 6.000 prisioneros ilesos del Octavo Ejército.

Rommel condujo sin descanso tras el cansado y disperso Octavo Ejército en lo que se convirtió en una carrera por El Alamein, 109 millas hacia el este a lo largo de la costa. El Alamein para Rommel fue “el último obstáculo para nuestro avance sobre Alejandría. Una vez atravesado, nuestro camino hacia el Nilo está despejado ". Para Auchinleck, El Alamein era "la posición defensiva de último recurso". Las tripulaciones de tanques y la infantería alemanas e italianas, exhaustas y sin los suministros capturados en Tobruk, perdieron la carrera.

Ataques a través de campos minados y tormentas de arena

En El Alamein, Auchinleck reagrupó sus fuerzas, incluida la recién llegada 9.ª División Australiana, en una línea que se extendía desde El Alamein, una estación de ferrocarril aislada a una milla del mar, 40 millas al sur hasta los acantilados del norte de la Depresión de Qattara, un 7.000- Cuenca de una milla cuadrada de marisma salada con arena incrustada casi intransitable para cualquier tipo de vehículo. Anclado en el mar al norte y la depresión de Qattara al sur, la línea Alamein no podía flanquearse. Cualquier ataque en la línea tendría que ser frontal, negando a los panzers de Rommel la ventaja de la movilidad.

Entre El Alamein y la Depresión de Qattara había tres crestas bajas y estrechas que corrían aproximadamente paralelas a la costa y denominadas de oeste a este como Miteiriya, Ruweisat y, con mucho, la más grande, Alam el Halfa. Auchinleck desplegó algo de infantería y artillería en estas crestas y estableció su cuartel general táctico avanzado en la parte este de Ruweisat. Como no había suficientes tropas para mantener la línea continuamente, se instalaron varios puntos fuertes o "cajas" a lo largo de la línea con la mayor parte de la armadura desplegada detrás de ellos. El general de división alemán Fritz Bayerlein describió toda la zona como "un desierto pedregoso y sin agua, donde los afloramientos de roca seca se alternaban con extensiones de arena escasamente coaguladas con matorrales de camellos bajo el despiadado sol africano".

El 1 de julio de 1942, el Afrika Korps se enfrentó a los campos de minas británicos y al fuego de artillería asesino de la línea Alamein. En palabras de Rommel, "Bajo un peso tan abrumador de potencia de fuego, nuestro ataque se detuvo".

Al día siguiente, después de una reorganización, Rommel atacó de nuevo con las Divisiones Panzer 15 y 21 empujando hacia el norte de la línea. Los blindados del Octavo Ejército se agacharon y zigzaguearon, fingieron una retirada y luego atacaron a los panzers en su flanco sur desprotegido. Pronto estuvieron a la defensiva y superados en número por los tanques del Octavo Ejército, y con una tormenta de arena soplando, los panzers retrocedieron.

Durante la tormenta de arena, la 90.a División Ligera de Rommel, que tenía más vehículos blindados e infantería mecanizada que tanques, tropezó inesperadamente con la 3.a Brigada Sudafricana. En una demostración inusual de la división de veteranos, entró en pánico y salió disparado. Al mismo tiempo, la División Blindada Ariete italiana se derrumbó bajo un ataque de los neozelandeses, que capturaron 30 cañones y 400 prisioneros.

El contraataque aliado

Cuando la tormenta de arena se calmó, Rommel intentó durante varios días más romper la línea del Octavo Ejército, pero sus ataques fueron interrumpidos y repelidos por la artillería y el bombardeo aéreo. Auchinleck respondió con varios contraataques generalizados. Sus objetivos eran italianos en un esfuerzo por obligar a Rommel a usar el combustible de su armadura para ayudar a sus aliados. El quinto día, Rommel ordenó una pausa para descansar a sus exhaustas tropas y absorber los refuerzos de infantería alemana que llegaban desde Creta. Tenía la intención de volver al ataque, pero Auchinleck se le adelantó.

Durante los primeros seis meses de 1942, el agregado militar estadounidense en El Cairo había estado enviando informes completos y regulares sobre el orden de batalla británico y las intenciones británicas a Washington en un código que la inteligencia alemana había roto. Había sido una valiosa fuente de información para Rommel hasta que las interceptaciones ULTRA descubrieron la fuga y la taparon. Sin previo aviso de las intenciones británicas, Rommel ahora se vio obligado a luchar contra su enemigo en una base más equitativa.

A las 5 de la mañana del 10 de julio, los cañones de Auchinleck se abrieron en un intenso bombardeo del extremo norte del frente. Esto fue seguido por un ataque a horcajadas sobre la carretera costera por parte de la 9.ª División Australiana. Los australianos pusieron en fuga a la División Sabratha italiana, tomando a 1.550 prisioneros, y en Tel el Eisa, la Colina de Jesús, capturaron la Unidad de Reconocimiento Inalámbrica 621 de Rommel, de 100 efectivos. Esta estación de interceptación de radio móvil había estado recibiendo informes de espías alemanes en El Cairo y escuchas clandestinas en las comunicaciones de radio militares británicas. La inteligencia táctica recopilada fue de vital importancia para Rommel y su pérdida fue otro duro golpe para él. Para los británicos fue una ventaja que hicieran un buen uso de las radios y otros equipos.

Rommel estaba en el extremo sur de la línea cuando se enteró del ataque australiano. Se apresuró hacia el norte con parte de la 15ª División Panzer para cerrar la brecha, y durante varios días se libró una feroz batalla por Tel el Eisa. Durante un ataque panzer, el cabo James Hinson se acercó lo suficiente a un tanque líder para sacarlo con una bomba "pegajosa" que le colocó. Hinson recibió una Medalla de Conducta Distinguida. Durante un asalto de infantería, el cabo Victor Knight y sus cuatro ametralladoras Vickers detuvieron un ataque durante tres horas, los infantes orinaron en los cañones de las armas para enfriarlos y vertieron aceite en las partes de trabajo, manteniendo las armas disparando continuamente. Los alemanes, el 104.º Regimiento de Infantería recién llegado de Creta, sufrieron 600 bajas, más del 50 por ciento de su número, por las ametralladoras y algunos disparos durante el ataque. Knight también recibió una Medalla de Conducta Distinguida.

Los peores días de Rommel

El 14 de julio, estalló una lucha salvaje alrededor de Ruweisat Ridge, en poder de los neozelandeses, cuando fue atacada por la 15ª División Panzer y la División de Infantería italiana de Brescia. La lucha continuó hasta el día siguiente. En una acción, el capitán Charles Upham recibió su segunda Cruz Victoria. Fue herido dos veces mientras dirigía un ataque nocturno contra la infantería mecanizada y se acercó lo suficiente a un camión lleno de granaderos blindados como para matar a la mayoría de ellos con granadas. Fue herido de nuevo pero participó en otro ataque al amanecer.

Cuatro puestos de ametralladoras, sostenidos por tanques, detuvieron el ataque y Upham cargó. Herido en otra ocasión, fue capturado. Hizo varios intentos de escapar y puso fin a la guerra en el castillo de Colditz, la prisión de mayor seguridad de los alemanes. Fue solo el tercer hombre en la historia de la Cruz Victoria en recibirla dos veces, y el único que sobrevivió. Cuando terminó la batalla por Ruweisat Ridge, los neozelandeses permanecieron en posesión de ella.

Alrededor de este tiempo, los británicos montaron varios ataques fuertes, mutilando severamente a las Divisiones de Infantería italianas de Brescia, Trieste y Pavía y obligando a las unidades blindadas alemanas a utilizar el escaso combustible para acudir en su ayuda. El 17 de julio, Rommel le escribió a su esposa: “Me está yendo bastante mal. La infantería superior del enemigo está eliminando una unidad italiana tras otra. Unidades alemanas demasiado débiles para detenerlas solas. ¡Me hace llorar!" Y al día siguiente escribió: “El día crucial pasado fue particularmente malo para nosotros. Una vez más nos escapamos. No puede durar mucho más o se pierde el frente. Militarmente estos son los peores días que he vivido ”.


La última ofensiva de Erwin Rommel en el norte de África

Para sus admiradores, el mariscal de campo Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel había mostrado un destello de su antigua forma en Túnez. Recuperándose de un retiro de 1.500 millas de El Alamein en noviembre de 1942, desató su Afrika Korps en el recién llegado Ejército de los EE. UU. a mediados de febrero de 1943 y se estrelló contra Kasserine Pass, administrando una derrota impactante a las tropas estadounidenses verdes y su comandante ineficaz, el general de división Lloyd R. Fredendall.

La situación inmediata alarmó tanto a los comandantes aliados que enviaron una súplica urgente a la némesis de Rommel en El Alamein, el general del Octavo Ejército británico Bernard Law Montgomery, para aliviar a los estadounidenses aumentando la presión en la Línea Mareth, fortificaciones construidas por los franceses en el sur de Túnez que enfrentaban al este hacia el antiguo territorio italiano de Tripolitania. Sin embargo, las perspectivas a largo plazo eran más críticas para el Eje que para los Aliados. Para empezar, Rommel había perdido el favor del alto mando del Eje después de El Alamein. El resultado fue un liderazgo dividido. Rommel comandó las fuerzas alemanas e italianas en el sur, curiosamente llamado Primer Ejército Italiano, mientras que el General Jürgen von Arnim dirigió el Quinto Ejército Panzer en el norte.

Mientras que los dos ejércitos que luchaban espalda contra espalda en Túnez se habrían beneficiado del control unitario de una sola autoridad, el aristocrático general von Arnim y Rommel, un mariscal de campo de origen burgués de Suabia, se despreciaban mutuamente. El mariscal de campo Albert Kesselring supervisó los asuntos de Comando Supremo en Italia, pero eso fue un arreglo engorroso. Por ejemplo, von Arnim era pesimista y escéptico sobre el avance de Rommel a través del paso de Kasserine, y aunque Kesselring lo indujo a pasar la mayoría de sus tanques a Rommel, von Arnim retuvo sus armas más poderosas, los tanques Mark VI Tiger recién entregados.

Kesselring intentó resolver las cosas creando el Grupo de Ejércitos África, con Rommel al mando general. Para entonces, sin embargo, la sensación generalizada era que Rommel, que estaba atrasado en la baja por enfermedad en Alemania, era solo una figura decorativa.

Como para confirmar eso, von Arnim voló a Roma sin el conocimiento de Rommel y obtuvo el permiso de Kesselring para lanzar un nuevo ataque en el norte el 26 de febrero. Toda esa operación, acertadamente llamada Oschenkopf ("Cabeza tonta"), lo que se logró fue sacrificar 71 tanques, incluidos 15 Tigres, contra una pérdida de los Aliados de solo 16 y causar un serio retraso en los planes del propio Rommel para atacar Montgomery. Cuando se lo contó, Rommel expresó lo estupefacto que estaba por los "tontos" en Comando Supremo mientras cuidaba a sus fuerzas en la Línea Mareth.

En ese momento, Montgomery también se encontraba en una posición precaria, con la mayor parte de su Octavo Ejército débilmente agotado. Todo el X Corps estaba a 1.000 millas de distancia en Bengasi. La gran formación más cercana que se pudo levantar para reforzar sus unidades de liderazgo fue la 2ª División de Nueva Zelanda en Trípoli. "Monty" tenía sólo dos divisiones frente a la línea Mareth 40 kilómetros al sur en un pueblo polvoriento y oscuro llamado Medenine. Con el eufemismo británico habitual, comentó más tarde: "No hay duda de que entre el 28 de febrero y el 3 de marzo definitivamente estuve 'desequilibrado'".

Si Rommel hubiera atacado en ese momento, podría haber sido desastroso para el vencedor de El Alamein, pero los generales alemanes e italianos no pudieron ponerse de acuerdo sobre qué hacer. El 28 de febrero, Rommel convocó a sus generales a un consejo de batalla. Propuso un ataque de pinza, enviando a las divisiones 10 y 21 Panzer al norte a lo largo de la costa y haciendo que la 15 ° Panzer y parte de la 164 ° División Ligera se balancearan desde las colinas hacia el sur. Argumentó que un asalto desde el norte tomaría a Montgomery por sorpresa.

El plan desató un furioso debate. Un comandante alemán declaró que el Eje había colocado miles de minas al norte. "Los hemos colocado con trampas explosivas para evitar que los saquen", dijo. "Si los explotamos, eso le dará al enemigo una advertencia anticipada de que estamos viniendo".

En ese momento, el general Giovanni Messe, ahora comandante del Primer Ejército italiano al mando de Rommel, propuso cruzar las cordilleras del sur, alegando que las fotografías aéreas mostraban que los británicos habían colocado la mayoría de sus armas entre Medenine y la costa. Las discusiones se prolongaron durante cinco horas y Rommel, de manera inusual, dejó que Messe elaborara los planes para lo que se denominó Operación Capri. Messe ordenó el ataque con gancho de derecha.

El comportamiento extrañamente pasivo de Rommel puede haber estado relacionado en gran medida con su salud. Después de dos años de batalla casi incesante en el desierto del norte de África, sufrió desmayos, presión arterial baja, reumatismo y problemas cardíacos. Su piel estaba amarillenta por la ictericia, y su cara y cuello estaban manchados de furúnculos.

Mientras tanto, Montgomery, advertido por los descifradores de códigos Ultra británicos y el reconocimiento aéreo, había estado enviando refuerzos al frente de Medenine durante días. Para el 4 de marzo, tenía cuatro divisiones en su lugar y estaba preparado para cubrir ambos flancos, con casi 400 tanques, 350 cañones de campaña y unos 470 cañones antitanques en su lugar. Estos últimos eran en su mayoría 57 mm y 6 libras, pero había algunos 76 mm 17 libras y cañones antiaéreos de 3,7 pulgadas. Esa formidable matriz esperaba a Rommel cuando atacó el 6 de marzo, con una semana de retraso, con las divisiones Panzer 10, 15 y 21. Para entonces, las tropas de Monty habían aprendido un hecho importante sobre las armas antitanques. En lugar de insertarlos para proteger a la infantería, colocaron sus 6 libras hacia adelante, camuflados y atrincherados, con la función específica de llevar a los tanques enemigos en enfilada a corta distancia. Detrás de ellos, la infantería británica estaba oculta en laderas inversas, al igual que Arthur Wellesley, duque de Wellington, había hecho para proteger a sus tropas de la artillería francesa en España 130 años antes. Respaldando a los 6 libras estaban los cañones de 17 libras de montaje bajo y contundentes. Por orden de Montgomery, sus tanques no se entregaron, sino que se conservaron para operaciones posteriores, como lo habían estado en Alam Halfa en septiembre de 1942.

A las 6 am. Los tanques de Rommel, envueltos en una espesa niebla de una noche lluviosa, desembocaron de sus wadis, precedidos por un aluvión de Nebelwerfer cohetes y proyectiles de artillería. Su ineficacia sugirió a los británicos que los alemanes, habiendo cometido el error principal de no realizar un reconocimiento previo, no sabían exactamente dónde estaban los británicos. Rommel vio el asalto desde Hill 713, a unas 15 millas de distancia, otra señal de decadencia en el hombre que siempre había predicado y practicado que un comandante lidera desde el frente.

El general de brigada Howard K. Kippenberger, al mando de la 5.ª Brigada de la 2.ª División de Nueva Zelanda, había avanzado con su batallón maorí y se le ofreció lo que más tarde llamó la vista de su vida. Unos 50 tanques de la Décima División Panzer avanzaban en compañías, en fila, con cientos de camiones detrás de ellos, llenos de Panzergrenadiers. A Kippenberger le sorprendió lo mal coordinado que estaba el avance, ya que normalmente la infantería enemiga debería haber estado de cerca apoyando a los tanques contra las defensas preparadas y atrincheradas. La artillería británica se abrió contra la infantería que desmontaba de los camiones y los cañones antitanques lanzaron una descarga en los flancos de los blindados, interrumpiendo el ataque.

En otros lugares, la 21ª División Panzer cometió un error frente a una artimaña británica. Las tropas habían dispuesto hileras de latas de ternera para simular minas a cinco millas al oeste de Medenine. Los panzers se desviaron a la izquierda para evitarlos, solo para exponer su blindaje lateral relativamente delgado a los cañones antitanques ocultos, que dejaron una docena de tanques en llamas. Hermann Frömbigen, del 21º Panzer, se acercó a 1.000 metros de las colinas bajas ligeramente al noroeste de Medenine cuando los tanques fueron sofocados por el fuego de artillería pesada desde pozos de armas ubicados a 40 metros detrás de maniquíes abandonados apresuradamente. Al mismo tiempo, los cazas de la Royal Air Force que volaban a baja altura lanzaron cohetes contra los panzers y ametrallaron a la infantería.

Los montañeses de Argyll y Sutherland, bien atrincherados, pasaban por alto un campo de exterminio. “Eran una mezcla de alemanes con el uniforme caqui de la Afrika Korps e italianos con sus túnicas verde oscuro ”, informó un escocés. “Avanzaron por sección en formación cerrada y ofrecieron un objetivo admirable. Tomé un arma Bren yo mismo y, gritando a los demás que detuvieran el fuego, esperando hasta que estuvieran a cuatrocientas yardas, di la señal y les dejamos tener cargador tras cargador ... Entonces las secciones enemigas se detuvieron, Vaciló, rompió en un doble y siguió adelante, se detuvo de nuevo y finalmente se zambulló en busca de refugio entre algunos olivos dispersos. Deben haber sufrido terribles bajas ".

Los artilleros antitanques también mantuvieron el fuego con frialdad hasta que los tanques alemanes estuvieron cerca. Un equipo defendió una colina crítica llamada Tadjera Khir, que dominaba todas las defensas del XXX Cuerpo. Noqueó a un panzer que se aproximaba, pero un segundo tanque conectó un impacto que hirió la capa de arma en su ojo derecho. Impertérrito, simplemente continuó apuntando con su ojo izquierdo y noqueó a un tercer tanque.

A las 10 a.m., el avance de Rommel se había estancado. "Fue un regalo absoluto", escribió Montgomery después, "el hombre debe estar loco".

Al mediodía, el general Hans Cramer, que había tomado el mando de la Afrika Korps el día anterior, informó a Rommel que sus tanques estaban parados. Rommel sospechaba que los oficiales italianos habían traicionado la operación; no podía haberse dado cuenta de que Monty había sabido sobre la Operación Capri por los descifradores de códigos Ultra y su propia inteligencia.

La fuerza del Eje lanzó un segundo asalto a las 2:30 p.m. Esta vez la infantería precedió a los tanques, pero todo un cuerpo británico desató un bombardeo de artillería sobre ellos. Los montañeses lo llamaron un "rodaje maravilloso", con tropas grises "cayendo como bolos". Refiriéndose a Rommel, Montgomery comentó: "El mariscal se ha burlado de ello".

Al anochecer, Rommel suspendió el ataque, habiendo perdido 52 tanques, más de un tercio de su armadura, y 635 hombres. Montgomery había sufrido 130 bajas pero no había perdido ni un solo tanque. Prácticamente todos los blindados alemanes destruidos habían sido víctimas del fuego antitanques, excepto siete derribados por un escuadrón de Sherman, los únicos tanques británicos comprometidos en la batalla.

El general de división Francis Wilfred de Guingand, jefe de personal de Montgomery, calificó la batalla defensiva de Medenine, perfectamente combatida, como "un pequeño clásico en sí mismo". Winston Churchill declaró: "Todavía no se había visto nada como este ejemplo del poder de la artillería antitanques masiva contra los blindados".

Para Rommel, Medenine fue una catástrofe. “Una gran tristeza se apoderó de todos nosotros”, escribió más tarde. "Que el Grupo de Ejércitos permaneciera más tiempo en África ahora era un simple suicidio". Tres días después, el Zorro del Desierto entregó las riendas a von Arnim y voló a Roma con licencia por enfermedad, para no regresar nunca al norte de África.

Publicado originalmente en la edición de agosto de 2006 de Historia militar. Para suscribirse, haga clic aquí.


Cómo el general Erwin Rommel & # 039s Afrika Korps se ganó su infamia

Punto clave: Rommel era un muy buen comandante y sus oponentes le temían. Así es como pudo defenderse en la guerra del desierto.

El 15 de abril de 1942, Generaloberst (coronel general) Erwin Rommel convocó a sus comandantes subordinados del Panzerarmee Afrika a una conferencia para delinear sus planes para la próxima ofensiva contra el Octavo Ejército británico. Había mucho en juego, sus propuestas no estaban exentas de riesgos, pero, como de costumbre, Rommel irradiaba confianza. Era una figura familiar para sus oficiales reunidos, con su cabello rapado, ojos penetrantes, nariz larga y labios estrechos, un rostro guapo y militar que era un espejo perfecto de una personalidad que podía ser seria pero que también tenía una gran dosis de buen humor. Iba vestido con su uniforme de Afrika Korps, chaqueta marrón con lengüetas rojas de general en el cuello y la Cruz de Caballero de la Cruz de Hierro en el cuello.

Rommel llamó para ayudar a los italianos

En esta primavera de 1942, los alemanes y sus aliados italianos se habían enfrascado en una batalla de balancín por el norte de África, una lucha que había comenzado en 1940 cuando las fuerzas del dictador italiano Benito Mussolini atacaron el Egipto controlado por los británicos desde sus bases en Libia. La ofensiva italiana fue un fiasco y los británicos pronto tomaron la delantera. Los italianos habían mordido más de lo que podían masticar, y en un esfuerzo por sacar las castañas de su compañero dictador del fuego, Adolf Hitler envió a Rommel y a varias unidades alemanas, conocidas colectivamente como Afrika Korps, al norte de África en febrero de 1941.

Rommel inició una ofensiva que empujó a los británicos de regreso a las fronteras de Egipto, y aunque sus éxitos demostraron ser temporales, sus brillantes maniobras fueron el comienzo de su leyenda como el "Zorro del Desierto". A fines de 1941, los alemanes fueron rechazados por una contraofensiva británica, pero en la primavera de 1942 Rommel estaba listo una vez más para hacer una apuesta por la victoria.

Los alemanes se enfrentaron a la formidable línea de Gazala

De hecho, Panzerarmee Afrika se enfrentaba a un desafío formidable. El Octavo Ejército británico se desplegó en una serie masiva de defensas conocida como la línea Gazala, llamada así por una ciudad en la costa mediterránea. Extendiéndose unas 40 millas desde Gazala hasta Bir Hacheim al sur, la línea Gazala presentaba un "archipiélago" de puntos fuertes conocidos como cajas, islas autónomas de resistencia ubicadas en un mar de minas terrestres y protegidas además por enredos de alambre de púas. Cada caja tenía infantería apoyada por artillería y tanques, nueces totalmente duras de romper.

El plan de asalto busca engañar a los británicos

Pero eso no fue todo lo que los alemanes tuvieron que enfrentar. El general Neil Ritchie, el comandante del Octavo Ejército británico, colocó unidades blindadas y motorizadas justo detrás de la línea de Gazala, en teoría una defensa móvil de rápido movimiento que podría contrarrestar cualquier ataque alemán. Rommel tenía dos opciones: podía lanzar un asalto frontal al norte del centro de la línea Gazala, o podía intentar flanquearlo por el sur. Un movimiento de flanqueo al sur era más para los gustos e inclinaciones personales del Coronel General que podía girar en Bir Hacheim (en el proceso de tomar ese punto fuerte) y luego barrer hacia el norte detrás de la línea de Gazala.

A medida que avanzaba la conferencia, Rommel explicó que haría un ataque frontal en la línea de Gazala, pero que el ataque sería simplemente una finta. Justo detrás de la línea de Gazala estaba Tobruck, una fortaleza / puerto que había sido una espina clavada en el costado de Rommel en la campaña del año anterior. Un asalto frontal en el norte sería la ruta más corta a Tobruck, un premio muy buscado. Rommel esperaba poder engañar a los británicos haciéndoles pensar que su principal esfuerzo estaría en el norte, mientras que en realidad la mayor ofensiva sería una envoltura sorpresa del flanco sur británico.

Si bien era cierto que el hecho de que Rommel no tomara Tobruck en 1941 fue una píldora amarga, no estaba tan obsesionado con su captura como para perder de vista el panorama estratégico general. De hecho, quería dejar claro que Tobruck no era el único objetivo. "Die Englischer Feldarmee ”, Rommel declaró, mirando fijamente a los rostros de sus oficiales, "Muss vernichtet werden, und Tobruck muss fallen!" (¡El ejército de campaña inglés debe ser totalmente destruido y Tobruck debe caer!) Rommel sabía que probablemente los británicos lo superaban en número en tanques, pero confiaba en que las tácticas alemanas superiores y, con suerte, los ataques enemigos mal coordinados, restablecerían el equilibrio. La conferencia concluyó y se hicieron los preparativos para la próxima ofensiva a pesar del calor del desierto como un horno.

Rommel admirado por sus hombres

Rommel ya era famoso en la primavera de 1942 y estaba en camino de convertirse en una leyenda. Sus hombres lo idolatraban, porque aunque era un capataz duro, sentía un afecto genuino por sus tropas y se preocupaba por su bienestar. Ciertamente, si era duro con ellos, era igualmente duro consigo mismo. Compartió sus dificultades y nunca les pidió que hicieran algo que él no estuviera dispuesto a hacer. De sólido origen de clase media, Rommel tenía poca conexión con los aristócratas snob de la clase alta que uno asocia con el cuerpo de oficiales alemanes. Aunque ingenuamente pensó que Hitler era el salvador de Alemania, era apolítico y ciertamente no un nazi.

Como general, Rommel tenía un excelente dominio de la estrategia y la táctica. Maestro de maniobras, sabía cómo impulsar un ejército con rápidos golpes. Fue una inspiración para sus hombres, a menudo impulsándolos con su ejemplo personal. Rommel también era flexible, una de las características de un gran general. Si los eventos demostraban que sus planes originales eran defectuosos, era capaz de cambiarlos con presteza para adaptarse a las condiciones cambiantes. A nivel personal, Rommel poseía un alto grado de integridad. No soportaba a los británicos ninguna animosidad personal, y las historias sobre el trato justo de los prisioneros son innumerables. Rommel’s fame was just as great among the “Tommies” as among the Germans, and it was his British enemies who gave him the sobriquet “Desert Fox.”

Beyond Tobruck, Rommel Eyes The Mid East Oil

In the spring of 1942 Rommel was looking beyond Tobruck, and even beyond the possible seizure of the Suez Canal in Egypt. The German general was a fierce partisan of the so-called “Plan Orient,” a geopolitical strategy bold in concept and intercontinental in scope. In early 1942 Hitler’s armies were in the Soviet Union, about to conduct a drive into the Caucasus to seize vital Russian oilfields. Plan Orient was an even bolder concept, calling for the Panzerarmee Afrika to seize not only Alexandria and the Suez Canal, but to continue on and roll through Palestine and the rest of the Middle East. Oil-rich Persia (Iran) and Iraq might fall, and the Panzerarmee would link up with German armies fighting in Russia.

In essence, then, Panzerarmee Afrika would be the southern arm of a great pincers movement, the German army in Russia comprising the northern arm. Once Germany was in control of Middle Eastern oil reserves, the war would be more than half won. It was a good plan on paper, but it presupposed continued German success in Russia and Axis control of the Mediterranean—two very tall orders indeed. In any case Plan Orient didn’t seem a pipe dream in the spring of 1942 even the British feared such a scenario.

Rommel’s Panzerarmee was a mixed force of both German and Italian units. Probably the most famous was the Deutsches Afrika Korps, or DAK, a formation whose name is indelibly linked to Rommel’s. In early 1942 the DAK was commanded by General Walter Nehring and consisted of two major formations, the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions. Another German unit was the 90th Light Division. Sources seldom agree on specific numbers, but probably some 90,000 Axis troops faced 100,000 British. Rommel’s equipment was as multinational as his troops. Besides German and Italian weapons, he incorporated captured British guns and vehicles into the Panzerarmee Afrika. Rommel was even sent Soviet 50-mm and 76.5-mm artillery captured on the Russian front.

Tanks and armored vehicles were going to play an important role in the upcoming Gazala operations. The backbone of the German Panzer divisions was the Mark III tank, boasting thick armor but armed with a short 50-mm gun. Rommel also had 19 Mark III Specials with face-hardened armor and a hard-hitting long-barrel 50-mm gun more powerful than the short-barrel version. Italian tanks were obsolescent nightmares more lethal to their crews than to the enemy. With a delicious sense of irony Italian tank crews called their machines “self-propelled coffins.”

The British had several different kinds of tanks, including Matildas, Valentines, and Crusaders. The Crusader was armed with a two-pounder gun (named after the weight of the shell) but was plagued by mechanical troubles. The Valentine was an infantry support tank, but the queen of British armor was the Matilda Mark II. It was a strongly protected tank, with armor up to three inches thick, and was armed with a two-pounder gun.

In the desert war both sides had to battle the climate as well as the enemy. Even in May the heat was terrible, with temperatures soaring to 120°F. Water was scarce, and fierce dust storms scoured the desert floor with choking clouds of reddish grit. On May 5, while deep into the preparations for the coming offensive, Rommel took the time to note in a letter to his wife, “Hardly a day without a sandstorm.”


German General Erwin Rommel arrives in Africa - HISTORY

By Zita Ballinger Fletcher

The name Field Marshal Erwin Rommel—associated with tank warfare in Europe and North Africa during World War II—might conjure up mental images of the famous “Desert Fox” riding in a panzer, reviewing maps, or commanding battles. What one might not imagine is that in the midst of commanding frontline troops, Erwin Rommel toted a camera and wielded a lens with artistic imagination and precision amid gunshots and shell bursts. In fact, he created thousands of striking war photos prior to his death in 1944.

Rommel’s photography shows that the field marshal had an eye for irony, great attention to detail, an attraction to flowers, and a daring streak—he often tempted mortal danger to snap dramatic action pictures during battles. He was also keenly interested in his fellow soldiers. An overwhelming majority of Rommel’s photographs document simple and poignant moments in the everyday lives of his men—as well as their final resting places. Rommel went out of his way to photograph the makeshift battlefield graves of soldiers who fought alongside him and under his command. Rommel’s war photos included images he wished to publish as documentation of his campaigns as well as many private mementos. He labeled many of his pictures with handwritten captions.

Rommel took the majority of his wartime pictures during his campaigns between 1940 and 1942, although he took some during his command of Army Group B and the fortifying of the Normandy coastline in 1944. His life was brought to an abrupt end several months after the successful Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day. It is interesting to note that the photographs taken during the early stages of the war number in the thousands. However, as the tide turned against the Germans, Rommel became disillusioned and focused solely on his command duties as well as on his own growing discontent with Nazi leadership. As a result, the photographs he took during the last year of his life were strictly for military purposes—lacking the élan and spontaneity that characterizes his earlier work.

Rommel used a Leica camera for much of his photography. Some of his early war photos, particularly from his 1940 campaign in Belgium and France, were taken using a different camera.

Erwin Rommel in 1934.

Since photography was a passion for Rommel for many years preceding the war, he owned many lenses, camera attachments, and other photography equipment. According to his son Manfred, Rommel’s camera equipment was stolen by American GIs, who looted their rural home in 1945. In addition, Rommel’s wartime photography collection was carted off by two American counterintelligence officers, who discovered it in a trunk during a search of the house. They provided the Rommel family with a receipt for the confiscated material. However, the family later was unable to locate the officers or discover the whereabouts of the pictures.

I discovered the obscure photograph collection in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C., while I was a teenager in high school doing research for a book. Afterward, I spent several years doing research on Rommel and his photos and embarked on a mission to digitally restore the pictures, which were badly damaged. My project continued throughout my college years. During that time, I wrote a letter to Manfred Rommel to inform him about the location of his father’s photo collection at NARA, in case he was unaware. I sent Manfred copies of some of his father’s photographs along with my letter. Manfred wrote back to me, confirming that it indeed was his father’s photography. He also provided me with information about a museum in Germany where I could donate the photos to be kept with the rest of his father’s estate. At the time of his letter, Manfred was suffering from a long illness and passed away in 2013.

My senior honor’s thesis at the University of South Florida focused on my restoration work with the Rommel photos. The work evolved into a book series called Erwin Rommel: Photographer, the first volume of which was published in 2015.

I moved to Germany in December 2016 after taking a job there as a foreign correspondent for a wire service. The following spring, I contacted the museum Manfred had written to me about, the Haus der Geschichte in Baden Württemberg, and arranged to meet with the museum’s staff to show them the photographs I had digitally restored. The archivists recognized immediately that the photos were taken by Rommel. They informed me that the photos I had brought matched reels of negatives that had been inside Rommel’s home, and were then in their possession. However, their reels were few and incomplete. The photos I had provided the missing pieces.

Italian soldiers smile for Rommel’s camera in North Africa, circa 1941.

The archivists were completely astonished to behold the images. Rommel’s photographs had not been seen in Germany since before the end of the war, when a pair of American Army officers hauled away a large trunk across the gravel driveway of his home in Herrlingen in 1945. It had been 72 years since the pictures had vanished without a trace. There was an atmosphere of shock and anticipation in the museum when these images resurfaced.

The archivists were particularly fascinated by the photos Rommel took of North Africa. They informed me that photos from behind German lines in North Africa are extremely rare in Germany. They were also excited to see Rommel’s color pictures. They did not even know that Rommel’s color photography existed.

I donated electronic copies of Rommel’s photography that I had digitally restored to the Haus der Geschichte Museum photo archive in 2017, in addition to my research notes in the hope that the photos would be of educational use to any Germans who wished to view them. The images were reunited with those that had been left behind at Rommel’s home and were to be kept at the museum with his other remaining personal belongings.

Studying Rommel’s photography, I identified patterns in his work and several key themes in which he showed special visual interest. Some of these reflect his interests as a professional soldier and a general, such as those depicting troop maneuvers, fortifications, and action shots during battles. Other images reveal Rommel’s personal quirks. No matter what the subject matter, all of the images contain distinct idiosyncrasies that appear like fingerprints in all of Rommel’s images.

A shell blasts the road ahead of Rommel’s vehicle during his advance into France, 1940. In his war photos, Erwin Rommel frequently captured images of explosions and smoke. (NOTE: This photograph, like several others presented here, has been cropped to better fit our website.)

As a photographer, the field marshal was quite meticulous. Although he snapped most of his photographs spontaneously while leading his lightning-fast military advances, he somehow managed to create quick images with measured, mathematical precision. For example, Rommel’s focal objects always tend to be perfectly centered within the frame. Lines also always appear measured and balanced in shots in geometrically even compositions. For many photographers, such precision is difficult to achieve without practice and tends to be difficult to pull off when taking snaps on the run. Rommel, however, was both fast and exacting. Precision was a reflex for him when he composed his shots.

Rommel had an eye for drama and was drawn to overpowering shadows, stark light, and dominating lines. He often took larger-than-life images of machines, tanks, and vehicles. He also captured dramatic images of nature, knife-like sand dunes, steep craggy cliffs, and massive sandstorms. He liked to photograph people in the midst of activity rarely are his human subjects idle or completely at leisure.

Debris fills the town square of St. Valery-en-Caux, France, following Rommel’s bombardment of the city. Rommel frequently photographed patterns and apparent ironies in ruins.

One of the most interesting aspects of Rommel’s photography was his attention to contrast and irony. When exploring areas around him, particularly in the aftermath of a battle, Rommel noticed things in his environment that created ironic contrasts or that were amiss. He would snap a single picture of these haunting or bewildering scenes as if making a note. Here is a French soldier retreating sullenly before a charging statue of Napoleon in Cherbourg. A German soldier in North Africa sits alertly with binoculars on a broken-down vehicle. A classical statue poses prettily at the end of a street beside a row of parked military vehicles. Understated ironies such as these frequently appeared in Rommel’s lens.

Perhaps Rommel’s most haunting composition style—one that seems to have been his favorite—was to capture lone human figures against vast or overpowering backdrops. In another kind of contrast, Rommel liked to capture images of small human figures, either isolated or diminutive in the frame, against overwhelming backgrounds: for example, lone German soldiers walking across wide, open spaces being totally dwarfed by nature or advancing tanks. These pictures portray the individual as a tiny speck in a world filled with motion, peril, or emptiness. The images often create a sense of loneliness and void. They give the viewer some kind of insight into Rommel’s psyche. Why, out of the many diverse approaches to photo composition available to him, did this methodical photographer choose to cast human figures in such a desolate, remote light? The answer to that question is something for observers of Rommel’s photos to theorize.

Rommel’s panzers loom against a backdrop of dust clouds in France, 1940.

With regard to the human subjects of his photos, the field marshal tended to focus mostly on soldiers. He showed no discrimination with regard to soldiers that he chose to photograph—they could be German or Italian, English or Indian, Axis or Allied. He clearly enjoyed mingling with enlisted men because he took many pictures of them on and off the battlefield as they were engaging in a wide variety of activities. He also occasionally photographed POWs—among them a turban-wearing Sikh and a kilt-wearing Scot—out of apparent curiosity. The soldiers are usually working, pausing a moment for rest, or in the midst of traveling. There are no photographs of men lounging, playing card games, or engaging in soldierly pranks it appears Rommel had little interest in leisurely pastimes. There are a few exceptions to this rule. He did snap a few pictures of a soldier playing guitar, and he also took some unassuming shots at social gatherings he attended. It is evident from his photography, however, that when it came to personal interactions, the general was predominantly concerned with his work.

German motorcycle troopers, covered in dust from their advance, pause for a photo in France, 1940.

Rommel was emotionally attached to his soldiers, which is evidenced not only by his writings, but also by his numerous private photographs of soldiers’ graves that he took in France and North Africa. Most of these are unmarked and were clearly intended as personal mementos. Rommel kept other burial photos as memorials or tributes. He wrote captions on some images, describing the bravery of particular soldiers or memorializing their sacrifices. Rommel captured images of lone gravesites and secluded makeshift cemeteries in the fields of France and the North African wilderness. Rommel’s photographs show burial services, graves covered with flowers, or German soldiers decorating their comrades’ resting places. Sometimes these German soldiers were buried in open meadows, behind buildings, or in desolate spaces not far from where they fell in France. In North Africa, the graves of the dead were a grim sight, covered by heaps of sand and rocks. Rommel’s pictures show that wooden crosses placed on these graves were frequently blown down by dust and gusting winds. The images also depict German soldiers in North Africa using desert brush to decorate graves in lieu of floral arrangements.

One of the grave photographs with a personal story related by Rommel in his writings is that of Lieutenant Most, killed at Rommel’s side in France in 1940. Most was Rommel’s aide the two men had crossed the Meuse River together under sniper fire and survived many battles together. Most was gunned down unexpectedly as he stood near Rommel during a lull in fighting. Rommel was shocked by this and witnessed Most’s immediate death despite efforts to resuscitate him. He described Most’s death in his writings, referring to him as a “magnificent soldier.” Most’s grave numbers among those photographed by Rommel located behind a brick wall in rural France, it is decorated with tulips and a wooden cross.

A German soldier fires artillery during the invasion of France, 1940. Rommel sometimes captured action shots from a low angle.

Due to the high quality of Rommel’s Leica images, many details of the graves were preserved in time, including the names, ranks, and death dates of many soldiers. Even after the passage of more than 70 years, many Germans are still waiting to learn the fate and whereabouts of their relatives who were killed or went missing in action. To assist surviving family members in locating deceased relatives, I donated digitally restored copies of Rommel’s war grave photographs to the German War Graves Commission in 2018.

Officials from the German War Graves Commission were eager to see the photographs that I offered to send to them and welcomed the donation. The work of the commission is to bury the dead and reconnect families with missing soldiers. This work is fraught with many difficulties that arise from wartime conditions and postwar scars. In many cases, German soldiers were buried in remote unmarked graves, or their cemeteries were demolished. People from former Allied and occupied countries are often unwilling or reluctant to return materials to the German families that may assist them in burying their dead. This causes suffering among the soldiers’ surviving relatives, many of whom are now elderly and wait with faint hope for news from the War Graves Commission or the Red Cross even after so many years. Due to confidentiality, it is unlikely that the world will ever learn whether Rommel’s graveside photos reunited any of his soldiers’ remains with their surviving relatives, however, I did receive a message from the German War Graves Commission conveying their thanks.

Rommel’s soldiers charge up a hill in France, 1940. Rommel led from the front lines and enjoyed photographing his infantry in action.

Aside from soldiers, Rommel the photographer had several other chief areas of interest, including nature, airplanes, machinery, military maneuvers, battle action, and war devastation.

Rommel’s affinity for nature found its way into his pictures. He was an intrepid outdoorsman. Like many Germans, he loved hiking, hunting, fishing, skiing, swimming, and exploring nature. His interest in the outdoors was lifelong and can be attributed to the fact that he grew up in a rural and mountainous region of Germany known as the Swabian Alps. As a young man, he often went on hiking trips, and he continued to involve himself in outdoor pursuits with other soldiers throughout his life and military career. While navigating rough and rugged terrain during his military campaigns, particularly in North Africa, Rommel managed to amass a heap of landscape photography. He photographed sunsets over tanks, rocky ravines, windswept dunes, and blossoming meadows. From the images, it is clear that he always went to great pains to neatly frame every shot. Apparently, the general also had a soft spot for flowers. He strained to take macro close-ups in color of delicate white flower petals and bright golden blooms in North Africa. Rommel’s interest in nature also extended to fauna. Camels, horses, and donkeys number among a variety of animals that Rommel captured in peaceful scenes across war-torn lands. Some camel herds were captured by his lens when he shot images as an aerial photographer.

Rommel frequently made use of a Fieseler Storch aircraft to reconnoiter North African battlefields and surrounding terrain. Most of the time, he piloted the aircraft himself. Rommel had entertained a keen interest in flying since his teens and had made efforts to study the science of flight. As a grown man, he seized opportunities to fly planes. Evidently, he was good at it, since he never crashed despite the many perilous conditions he encountered in North African skies. As usual, Rommel toted his camera along with him in the cockpit and somehow managed to snap a bevy of aerial shots even while maneuvering his plane over battlefields and rugged, windy tundra. He liked to photograph other planes from the air—sometimes as they stood motionless in airfields far below him, and many times as they glided aloft outside his window. At times, he also photographed planes flying over him as he stood on the ground.

Trucks form a strange asymmetrical pattern as they cross the desert in North Africa, circa 1941-42. This was one of many reconnaissance-type war photos Rommel took from his Fieseler Storch aircraft while flying, he created many striking photographic compositions.

Machinery captivated Rommel he was a gifted engineer who showed great interest in battlefield equipment and in designing fortifications. It would be inaccurate to say that Rommel was fascinated only with tanks. Generally speaking, he photographed anything with wheels, engines, gears, or metal parts—whether intact or in ruins. He took many photos of damaged and derelict vehicles in addition to working ones. Sometimes, he photographed pieces of vehicles blown apart during battle. He had an attraction to tank treads and metal bolts, taking many moody and imposing images focusing on the undercarriages of larger-than-life tanks and their outer steel armor. He also frequently took abstract photographs of trucks and battleships.

Rommel enjoyed capturing vivid scenes of his troops advancing. He frequently accomplished this through aerial photography or by wielding his camera from a moving armored vehicle. He intended to use photos of his maneuvers to document military events that transpired under his command. He photographed scores of motorcycles and tanks speeding across France and North Africa from many striking angles and viewpoints. However, not all of the photos were taken with a military view in mind—Rommel could not resist a good shot. He snapped many oddities that crossed his lens, including goats and dogs interrupting a military march, geometric patterns left by tire tracks, and a sandstorm crossing a desert battlefield.

Battlefield chaos provided the scenes for many of Rommel’s most striking pictures. The German commander dedicated himself not only to successfully devising strategies and leading troops under fire, but to photographing the action as it unfolded. Amid bomb bursts, ear-shattering shell explosions, and gunfire, Rommel risked his life to take compelling photos of hot war zones. Photos frequently show other soldiers around Rommel ducking for cover. Other pictures show men charging forward in assaults or firing mortars and plugging their ears amid sonic blasts and curtains of rising dust. Instead of covering his own ears, Rommel was using his hands to snap Leica pictures. As shells fell, Rommel was quick to capture the explosions and fountains of dark smoke that ensued. Rather than shield himself from enemy fire, Rommel accompanied his men on the front lines and took snapshots of some of their most daring exploits in the thick of fighting.

Soldiers of the Afrika Korps pose on top of a tank, circa 1941. Rommel photographed many scenes from soldiers’ everyday lives on the front lines. Unlike staged photos taken by Nazi propagandists, Rommel’s photographs of his men were candid and unpolished.

A sizable portion of Rommel’s photography focuses on the devastation of war. These pictures form some of the strangest and eeriest in his collection. These pictures depict only emptiness and ruin—with isolated human figures making occasional ghostly appearances. Destroyed buildings, collapsed walls, shattered inanimate objects, and bomb-tossed furniture all merited single snapshots from Rommel as he passed by them. The result is a hodgepodge of destruction. Most of these spooky photographs show intellectual contradictions. For example, his photos portray order amid disorder, broken or ruined machines, or neatly intact objects among ruins. One photograph shows a shadowy staircase on fire inside a building. Another depicts a line of torched cars parked in perfect formation along a street. An orderly row of trees in North Africa stands in the sunshine beside a shattered wall. What makes these pictures unsettling is the complete absence of human presence in most of them. It seems obvious that Rommel deliberately excluded people from these scenes, likely out of respect. Doubtless, Rommel as a soldier witnessed much destruction during his career, more so than appears in his collection. Why he chose to capture these particular scenes is a mystery.

Vehicle tracks crisscross the landscape in North Africa, circa 1941-42. Rommel tended to photograph geometric patterns due to his apparent visual interest in them.

Much can be gleaned about Rommel’s personality from the types of photos he did not take during the war. During his lifetime, Erwin Rommel was a man whose personal opinions and point of view were often understated and seemingly repressed. Absence, at times, speaks louder than presence. This is quite true in the case of Rommel’s photo collection. The photographs seized were exactly as they had been in his unaltered personal collection under the care of his family.

Rommel took no photographs of dead people. This is unusual since many war photographers visually document death. Also, many American military officers in World War II took photos of dead enemy combatants. Yet not a single dead German, Italian, or Allied soldier of any type appears among Rommel’s photos.

Similarly, gore has no place in Rommel’s photos. Pooling blood, guts, and gruesome injuries—most certainly a real part of battle—are nonexistent in the field marshal’s collection. The lone exception is the depiction of a wounded German soldier with what appears to be minor bleeding injuries being carried from the battlefield by his comrades. The wounds were a rare sight.

There is a marked absence of sadism. There are no pictures of human beings in demeaning or helpless situations. Photographs of POWs show them being treated respectfully by German soldiers there are no images of brutality or dehumanization. Inhumane images such as I have described were frequently taken by Nazi devotees or marauding German soldiers. Rommel, however, did not take any such pictures.

Rommel knelt to capture this photo of German graves in the desert framed beneath a looming artillery gun, circa 1941. He took many photographs of his men’s graves throughout his campaigns, evidently to save them as mementos.

There are no photos of debauchery. German soldiers acquired a notorious reputation for taking risqué and bawdy pictures of each other partying in France following their occupation of that country in 1940 many photographed themselves with trophy foreign girlfriends or in the company of prostitutes. German soldiers were known to have behaved similarly in Italy, Greece, and certain areas of North Africa, and many images of this type exist as proof of their behavior to this day. Rommel was present in France, Greece, Italy, and North Africa where many of these events were occurring and must have been aware of them. However, he was clearly preoccupied with his job and made no effort to create or collect photos of revelry in conquered lands.

Rommel also took no propaganda photographs. Although he frequently allowed himself to be exploited by the German government for propaganda purposes, Rommel’s viewpoint expressed through his pictures reveals an absence of Nazi Party aggrandizement. For example, Nazi Party visual propaganda emphasized racial superiority at others’ expense and centered on the cult of Hitler’s personality, in addition to swastika images and slogans. Rommel did none of these things. He took no photographs of his soldiers performing the Nazi salute. He took no photos to stage images of “racial superiority.” Nazi Party heroes and slogans, neo-pagan symbols, and other iconography associated with the Nazi regime are missing from Rommel’s pictures. Rommel’s photography contains limited photos of the swastika when present, the swastika appears on soldiers’ uniforms, military vehicles, and the German national flag.

In a similar vein, Rommel took no “war trophy” photography. It was typical for many German soldiers, particularly Nazi Party enthusiasts, to take gloating pictures of destroyed cultural landmarks in foreign countries or to photograph themselves striking victory poses in conquered territories. This was not the case for Rommel. His photo collection contains no pictures of himself or others performing acts of personal or propaganda-related cruelty.

In its entirety, Rommel’s photography collection provides a gripping visual history of World War II from the viewpoint of one of the most famous commanders in modern history. The photographs are valuable not only in view of the strategic military mind that created them, but are also silent witnesses to the war as Rommel, a lone figure against a background of vast chaos, experienced it.

It has been said that an image is worth a thousand words. Scenes captured in Rommel’s photography tell us more about him perhaps than any biographical conjecture written about him. A camera is like an open mind—what moments it chooses to dwell on reveal facts about the personality and will behind the shutter-release button. The pictures that Rommel created show us that he was a high-spirited person who tested danger, a keen observer of human irony, and a leader who enjoyed mixing with his troops, but who was drawn to scenes of personal isolation.

During the last year of his life, Rommel unfortunately destroyed many of the papers and writings that might have revealed more of his thoughts and personal convictions. His pictures, however, endure as visual documents of spontaneous and vivid moments that he never got the chance to revise, edit, or refine. His photography is significant and insightful because it gives modern historians a clear and candid view of a military leader who, throughout most of his life, tended to be minimalistic in expressing his mind.

Since the photos have been returned to Germany, it is now up to present and future generations of Germans to examine their nation’s past as captured by Rommel’s camera and develop their own analyses on a part of history that was previously lost.

At the same time, the photos open new doors for historical discoveries, providing numerous opportunities for historians, military enthusiasts, and curious onlookers in America and elsewhere to reinterpret their existing knowledge of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his military campaigns. By viewing Rommel’s photographs, onlookers gain a rare opportunity to look through the lens to experience and share the same sights as he did during the war.


ROMMEL’S GRAVE IN HERRLINGEN

Regardless of the fact, that October 18, 1944 , is generally attributed as the funeral day of Erwin Rommel, the day included no more than a procession at the Rathaus and beyond. After the ceremony with all VIP guests were completed, the gun carriage with Rommel’s body, followed by his widow, a son, an adjutant, and a number of military men, were got to a place of the main crematorium of the city of Ulm, located to the North next to the HAUPTFRIEDHOF (Main cemetery). The city of Ulm had been historically accounted as one of the pioneers of the cremation in Germany and now the premise was destined to conceal the case of the death of the national hero. As soon as in January 1945 , only three months after Rommel’s funeral, the city crematorium would be completely devastated by mean of the Allied raid on the North part of the city.

The burial ceremony of the mortuary urn with the remains of Erwin Rommel was brought into execution in three days, no sooner than October 21, 1944 , in fact, one week after the death of the field marshal. Ulm was not initially considered as the burial place and the family insisted on a small local cemetery in Herrlingen, 200 meters distance from the villa, which would make it possible for them to visit the grave until their moving. In March 1945 Lucia Rommel would receive a letter from the chief design officer for German Military Cemeteries with the message, that he had been personally called by Hitler to erect a monument to Erwin Rommel, but these plans would never be completed due to the collapse of the Third Reich.

In modern days, the entrance to the cemetery is accompanied by a sign of remembrance to encrypt the name of the field-marshal, days of birth and death, and an arrow, pointing the direction to the burial place itself. The grave itself is being shaped with a wooden cross and two modern tables, which honor the fact, that the name of Erwin Rommel would be eternally associated with the Afrika Korps. For decades after the end of the Second World War, the former military colleges and subordinates had been visiting Herrlingen annually to honor the legacy of Erwin Rommel. Lucia Maria Rommel, wife and later widow of the Fieldmarshal was also buried in this very place, a few steps from her beloved husband back in 1971 . Manfred Rommel , the son of the national hero, had been visiting the grave of his father for almost seven decades until his death in 2013 . Manfred was buried within the cemetery of Ostfilderfriedhof in Stuttgart.

No monuments to Erwin Rommel would ever be raised in Germany. It is very easy to believe that, if he somehow knew of it, Rommel would be pleased by that fact: for all of his vanity, he was never guilty of ostentation. He would be quite satisfied, certainly, with the knowledge that his ashes are buried, as he had wished, in the cemetery at the Community Church of St. Andrew in Herrlingen, and that Lucie rests beside him.

Daniel Allen Butler (The life and death of Erwin Rommel, 2015)


Field Marshal and Defeat Near El Alamein

Field Marshal Rommel&aposs success would be short-lived, however. Only five months after the Battle of Gazala, in the fall of 1942, British forces recaptured Tobruk at the (Second) Battle of El Alamein, which took place near the Egyptian city of El Alamein. With North Africa lost, in 1943, Rommel was recalled to Europe to oversee the defense of the Atlantic coast.

In early 1944, Rommel was entrusted with the French Channel coast&aposs defense against a possible Allied invasion. Around this same time, Rommel began to express doubt about both Germany&aposs reasons for participating in the war and Hitler&aposs capability of peace-making, and the field marshal was told by a group of friends that he should lead the nation once Hitler was overthrown. Rommel dismissed the suggestion, unaware at the time that the men had been planning to assassinate the German leader.


The Desert Fox takes command of the German Afrika Korps

Today on February 12th 1941, German General Erwin Rommel arrives in North Africa to support his beleaguered Italian allies.

Erwin Rommel, nicknamed the Desert Fox, was one of Germany’s most decorated field commanders during World War II. Rommel experienced great success as the commander of the 7th Panzer Division during the 1940 Invasion of France. Throughout the war, he became a larger than life figure among both Axis and Allied forces. In early 1941, Hitler established a new Deutsches Afrika Korps to support and reinforce his beleaguered Italian allies. Mussolini’s invasion of North Africa was crumbling by the day with Britain delivering countless defeats. Italy had lost control of Egypt, suffering more than 20,000 casualties and over 100,000 soldiers being taken prisoner.

Rommel was dispatched to Tripoli, Libya to take command of the 5th Light Division and 15th Panzer Division. He was initially only given control over the German and and Italian forces located in Libya. However he would quickly assume command over the entire North African Campaign. The German High Command ordered Rommel to take up a defensive position in Libya and prepare for a British assault. Instead he opted to launch an offensive attack first with encouragement from Hitler. These conflicting orders highlighted the growing disagreement between Hitler and his generals.

Rommel reaffirmed his reputation as a formidable commander after a series of surprise attacks against the British. Impressed with his success in North Africa, Hitler promoted Rommel to field marshal. However, it quickly became apparent that Rommel had difficulty capitalizing on his victories. The Germans continued to struggle in the intense desert heat and were constantly running low on supplies and ammunition. While attempting to advance on Cario, Rommel was defeated at El-Alamein and eventually lost all of his newly regained territory. Across the Arab world, Rommel was dubbed a “liberator” from British authority. Hitler ordered him home in March 1943.


Rommel first gained attention in the First World War. As a young German officer, he experienced mobile warfare on the Romanian and Italian fronts, avoiding the bogged down trench fighting. Smart and courageous, he earned several of Germany’s highest honors, including two Iron Crosses.

Rommel in an armored vehicle. Por Bundesarchiv & # 8211 CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Politically astute, Rommel ingratiated himself with the Nazi leadership as they took control of Germany. His style of command involved more micro-management than was usual in Germany, but because of his political connections, it did not hinder his career.

At the start of the Second World War, Rommel commanded the troops guarding Hitler’s headquarters during the invasion of Poland. He then used Hitler’s favor to win command of a Panzer Division, skipping the usual line for a promotion.

In France, Rommel proved his worth as a tank commander. Using the boldness that had won him distinction in the previous war, he led his division in a decisive advance. He waded into icy waters and wielded a machine gun during a difficult river crossing. His troops were credited with capturing 100,000 Allied prisoners.

When Italian troops were in trouble in North Africa, Rommel was sent to help them. It was to be a token effort, but a bold strike by Rommel drove the British back. Two years of back-and-forth campaigning followed. Operation Torch, in which the Americans arrived, opened a second front and led to the defeat of Axis forces in North Africa.

Briefly involved in the defense of Italy, Rommel was then moved to Normandy. He prepared defenses and fought against the 1944 Allied invasion. However, his tactical flexibility was limited by Hitler’s commands.

In July 1944, he was severely wounded when a British fighter strafed his car. While recuperating, he was implicated in a plot to kill Hitler. Given a choice between suicide and a show trial, he took his own life on October 14.

These often-chilling pictures offer us a fascinating insight into the hardware the Allies were up against in this theatre of WW2. The campaign was hard and bloody and left many hundreds of thousands dead, missing, wounded, or captured, but the fascist alliance of Germany and Italy was ultimately driven from the land. After the campaign, the Allies would turn their attention to Italy, where they would win another crucial victory in the fight against militant fascism in Europe.

The arrival of the first Afrika Korps troops. Rommel greets an Italian officer Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A Captured British Mk II Mathilda Tank near Tobruk – Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A German soldier with goggles and a scarf to protect him from the desert sand Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A German private first class (Gefreiter) carries a Panzerbüchse 39 tank hunting rifle through the desert. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 General Rommel with General von Bismarck, commander of the 21st Panzer Division discussing tactics on a map. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Erwin Rommel and Fritz Bayerlein standing in an open staff car in Tobruk harbor Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Supplies being delivered in the desert Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 The commander of a Panzer Mk II stands in his turret another Mk II can be seen in the background. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German soldiers with binoculars in German Half Track, Sd. Kfz 250. A Panzer Mk III can be seen on the right. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German soldiers sleeping on their Luftwaffe BMW with sidecars Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A Panzer Mk III drives through the desert. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 June 1st, 1942 after the battle at Bir Hacheim, a German Half Track Sd. Kfz. 251 with what appears to be a radio antenna. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A Half-Track tows an 88mm gun through the desert Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A 5 Ton Half-Track, Sd.Kfz. 6, tows an 88mm gun Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 An 88mm gun being towed into position near El Alamein Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German troops near a mosque Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German soldiers in a light Half Track, Sd. Kfz, 250 overlooking the battle (smoking vehicles can be seen in the background) Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Close up of the gun of a Panzer Mk IV, 7,5 cm KwK/L24 Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German troops near a building that has “Reserved for Signalers. No Parking within 500 YDS” written on it Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German troops driving in a hairpin turn up a mountain in Africa, note the tank with a track missing. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Tunisia, a heavy field howitzer firing Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Erwin Rommel and General Fritz Bayerlein in their command vehicle, a Sd.Kfz. 250/3 “Greif” Half Track. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A medium half-track, Sd. Kfz. 251 with antenna Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0


Ver el vídeo: Эрвин Роммель и его Африканский корпус (Enero 2022).