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Book Review
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel, COMMAND 5
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:


“Rommel, Rommel, what matters other than beating him?” So exclaimed Churchill after another British disaster in North Africa. So great is Rommel’s legendary generalship that Rommel is one of the most admired and widely known of the WWII German generals. Yet in Germany, Rommel is not ranked among their top 10 commanders. And as the years pass, so wanes the Rommel legend, even as continued research and exposition reveal more about this fascinating warrior.

From the Osprey Publishing website:
"Nicknamed ‘The Desert Fox’ for his cunning command of the Afrika Korps, Erwin Rommel remains one of the most popular and studied of Germany’s World War II commanders. He got his first taste of combat in World War I, where his daring command earned him the Blue Max, Germany’s highest decoration for bravery. He followed this up with numerous successes early in World War II in both Europe and Africa, before facing his biggest challenge – organizing the defense of France. This book looks at the life of this daring soldier, focusing on his style of command and the tactical decisions that earned him his fearsome reputation."

the book

Author Pier Paolo Battistelli, PhD, pens another Osprey title to explore the life of Rommel in this fifth of the Osprey series COMMAND. The text is illuminated with 40 black and white photographs, 1 color photo, and several maps and illustrations by Peter Dennis. The text is easy to read and well organized.
Dr. Battistelli explores Rommel through 64 pages in nine chapters:

• Introduction
•The early years
•The military life
•The hour of destiny
•Opposing commanders
•When war is done
•Inside the mind
•A life in words
•Further reading

A few sidebars expand on illustrations and concepts. Oddly, a table comparing Wehrmacht rank with British and American equivalents, and a key to military symbols, is practically hidden on the copyright page!

The artwork by Mr. Dennis is dynamic. The maps are interesting and useful. Some of the photographs are from private collections.

The son of a schoolmaster, Rommel was not interested in the military. Yet after he became a cadet, he enjoyed the military life. Taking to the physical and outdoor rigors, Rommel was not academically strong; rather he was a natural soldier. He won some impressive victories against Italy in the First World War, winning the coveted Pour le’Merit. However, his award-winning achievement was not without controversy. The German Army was dominated by Prussians. An uninvolved Prussian was credited with the victory and awarded the medal, and it took the intervention of Rommel’s superior to right the wrong. This seems to have molded Rommel’s attitude towards the General Staff for his career: if you want to be recognized, you had to perform beyond all doubt!

The Theme:
I found this treatise iconoclastic in tone. Dr. Battistelli fields the idea that Rommel was more suitable as a brigade commander than a GeneralFeldmarschall, that though Rommel was an incredible battlefield commander, he lacked the strategic vision of a theater commander. He furthers the thought that Rommel only attained his high ranks and responsibilities by catching Hitler’s favor.

Dr. Battistelli supports his propositions with frequent quotes and references from The Rommel Papers and Wehrmacht military manuals. That Rommel was a great warrior is undeniable, and Mr. Battistelli gives him his dues. Rommel lead from the front (a photograph of bullet holes in his command car attest to that), Rommel earned the loyalty of his troops. Rommel was a proponent of Auftragstaktik: training one's troops, tasking them, and then letting them figure out how to accomplish the mission. However, Dr. Battistelli shows that despite this lip service, Rommel tended to micromanage his battles. Rommel is also portrayed as a commander who would not shoulder responsibility for failures, rather he would deflect it upon his subordinates.

This book shows that Rommel made many serious mistakes, some that should have led to his capture or death! Yet Rommel was always able to ultimately outfight his opponents and save his command--or what was left of it. The one enemy he could not overcome was the Nazi regime. Implicated in the plot to kill Hitler, Rommel chose suicide over a public trial.


Mr. Battistelli concludes this book by examining Rommel -The Legend with Rommel -The Historical Figure. Whether Rommel was as good as he is generally considered to be in the West is left up to the reader. It is noted that as the winds of conventional wisdom changed with the end of the Cold War, Rommel is considered in new light. A plaque commemorating Rommel was installed in the officer's mess at Goslar in 1961; recently it was quietly removed, as it is now considered a glorification of a minion of a criminal regime. One can only wonder if the modern day Prussian stars are having a last laugh at the son of the schoolmaster, who outshone so many of them?

Whether to introduce you to ‘The Desert Fox’ or to further your knowledge of him, this is a fine book. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781846036859

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Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Dynamic artwork, rare photographs. Good supportive references.
Lows: Hidden rank and symbol information.
Verdict: Whether to introduce you to ‘The Desert Fox’ or to further your knowledge of him, this is a fine book.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: 9781846036859
  Suggested Retail: £11.99
  Related Link: Erwin Rommel -- Osprey Publishing
  PUBLISHED: Nov 11, 2010

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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