His sense of valor and chivalry were the stuff of King Arthur's knights, but it was his "boldness, use of surprise, readiness to accept risks" and above all his "intuitive sense of the battlefield" that made Rommel one of the greatest generals in military history. "Brilliantly successful in attack, and remarkably resourceful in defense," the "Desert Fox" raced his armies through France in 1940 and then repeatedly outwitted the British in North Africa. (Blumenson, 293).
Only a few months into World War I, Rommel won the Iron Cross Second Class for bravery in the field when he was injured in the leg after running out of ammunition and then attacked three French soldiers in the woods. But his first great strategic triumph is the disastrous defeat he helps inflict on the Italian Army at Caporetto in which he captures 150 Italian officers, 9,000 soldiers, and 81 guns. Captain Rommel is awarded the decoration pour le merite - a medal reserved only for senior generals.
He is promoted to Major in 1933 and later to Colonel in 1937 while teaching at the War College.
Throughout the 1930s, Rommel develops a close working relationship with Hitler, whom he initially comes to admire for progressively thwarting the Versailles Treaty and restoring Germany's strength. He is seen more and more by Hitler side. He accompanies Hitler into the Sudetenland in October 1938 and then into Prague in March 1939. But Rommel is anything but a Nazi. In fact, early on he starts to harbor "serious reservations" about the Nazi regime. (Blumenson, 297).
During World War II
Like Germany's other legendary battle front commander of World War II, Field Marshal Heinz Guderian, Rommel is obsessed with mobility and insists on leading his troops at the front. The speed with which Rommel's force speaheads the 1940...