Archive for February 8, 2012


Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY on February 8, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 376


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and others
Longmen Grottoes *File:Longmen-lu-she-na-1.jpg
Country Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii
Reference 1003
Region ** Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 2000 (24th Session)
Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO

The Longmen Grottoes (simplified Chinese: 龙门石窟; traditional Chinese: 龍門石窟;pinyinlóngmén shíkū; lit. Dragon’s Gate Grottoes) or Longmen Caves are one of the finest examples of Chinese Buddhist art. Housing tens of thousands of statues of Buddhaand his disciples, they are located 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south of present day Luòyáng inHénán province, Peoples Republic of China. The images, many once painted, were carved into caves excavated from the limestone cliffs of the Xiangshan and Longmenshanmountains, running east and west. The Yi River flows northward between them and the area used to be called Yique (“The Gate of the Yi River”). The alternative name of “Dragon’s Gate Grottoes” derives from the resemblance of the two hills that check the flow of the Yi River to the typical “Chinese gate towers” that once marked the entrance to Luoyang from the south.

There are as many as 100,000 statues within the 1,400 caves, ranging from an 1 inch (25 mm) to 57 feet (17 m) in height. The area also contains nearly 2,500 stelae andinscriptions, whence the name “Forest of Ancient Stelae”, as well as over sixty Buddhist pagodas. Situated in a scenic natural environment, the caves were dug from a 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) stretch of cliff running along both banks of the river. 30% date from the Northern Wei Dynasty and 60% from the Tang, caves from other periods accounting for less than 10% of the total.Starting with the Northern Wei Dynasty in 493 AD, patrons and donors included emperors, Wu Zetian of the Tang dynasty, members of the royal family, other rich families, generals, and religious groups.

In 2000 the site was inscribed upon the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity,” for its perfection of an art form, and for its encapsulation of the cultural sophistication of Tang China.



Mt. Longmen as seen from Manshui Bridge to the southeast. May, 2004.

This complex is one of the three notable grottoes in China, which is 12 km to the south of Luyong. The other two grottoes are the Yungang Caves near Datong in Shanxi Province, and the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu Province in west China. The valley formed by the Yi River enclosed by two hills ranges of Xiangshan (to the east) and Longmenshan (to the west) hills have steep slopes on the western and eastern slopes along the river. Yi is a north flowing tributary of the Luo River. The grottoes are formed in 1 km of the stretch of this river and were carved on both banks, in limestone formations creating the “Longman’s Caves”. Most of the work was done on the western bank, while the eastern bank caves, of smaller numbers, served as residences for the large groups of monks.

Within the approximately 1,400 caves, there are 100,000 statues, some of which are only 1 inch (25 mm) high,while the largest Buddha statue is 57 feet (17 m) in height. There are also approximately 2500 stellas and 60 pagodas. The grottoes are located on both sides of the Yi River. Fifty large and medium sized caves are seen on the west hill cliffs which are credited to the Northern, Sui, and Tang Dynasties, while the caves on the east hill were carved entirely during the Tang Dynasty. The plethora of caves, sculptures and pagodas in Longmen Grottoes depict a definite “progression in style” with the early caves being simple and well shaped with carvings of statues of Buddha and religious people. The change of style is more distinct in the Tang Dynastic periods which are “more complex and incorporate women and court figures as well”. The caves have been numbered sequentially from north to south along the west bank of the Yi River. Entry to the caves is from the northern end.


Early history

The earliest history of the creation of Longmen Grottoes is traced to the reign of Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei dynasty when he shifted his capital to Luyong from Dàtóng; Luyong’s symbolic value is borne by the fact that it served as the historic capital for 13 dynasties. The grottoes were excavated and carved with Buddhist subjects over the period from 493 AD to 1127 AD, in four distinct phases. The first phase started with the Northern Wei dynasty (493 and 534). The second phase saw slow development of caves as there was interruption due to strife in the region, between 524 and 626, during the reign of the Sui dynasty (581-618) and the early part of the Tang dynasty] (618-907). The third phase, was during the reign of the Tang dynasty when Chinese Buddhism flourished and there was a proliferation of caves and carvings from the 5th century to the mid 8th century. The last phase, which was the fourth, was from the later part of the Tang dynastic rule extending to the Northern Song Dynasty rule, which saw a decline in the creation of grottoes. It came to an end due to internecine war between the Jinand Yuan dynasties.

Guyangdong or the Shiku Temple, credited to Emperor Xiaowen, was the first cave temple to be built at the center of the southern floor of the West Hill. Xiaowen followed up this activity and excavated three more caves, two in memory of his father and one in memory of his mother; all three caves are grouped under the title of the “Three Binyang Caves” (Binyangsandong), which were built by the emperor over a 24-year period. Over 30% of the caves seen now were built during this period.

In 527, the Huangfugong or Shikusi grottoes, a major cave, was completed. It is a well conserved cave located to the south of the West Hill.

In 675, Fengxiansi Cave, on the southern floor of the West Hill was completed during the Tang dynasty rule. This marked the third phase of creation and the peak period of the gottoes’ creation. It is estimated that 60% of the caves seen at Longmen came about in this period from 626 till 755. During this period, in addition to the caves which housed Buddha statues of various sizes, some Buddhist temples were also built in open spaces with scenic settings in the same complex. However, these are now mostly in ruins. During this phase, Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu Zetian were instrumental in intensifying the activity when they were ruling from Luyong.

File:Luoyang groty z rzezbami wotywnymi Longmen Shiku - Smoczych Wrot i okolice 02.JPG

Entrance to Longmen Grottoes (Longmen Shiku) under Manshui Bridge over Yi River ( Yi He)

Later history

During the period of 1368 to 1912, when two dynasties ruled in China, namely the Ming dynasty from 1368 to 1644, and the Qing Dynasty from 1644–1912, there was cultural revival and the Longmen Grottoes received recognition both at the national and international level.

During the Second Sino-Japanese war, the Japanese looted the site and took many of the statues back to Japan. Many of these relics are now in Japanese museums.

Vandalism occurred in the 1940s, a result of political unrest. With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the grottoes have been declared as protected area and are being conserved. The Constitution of China, under Article 22, which among other issues also provides for protection of the natural heritage sites, has been further defined under various legal instruments enacted to protect and conserve this cultural heritage of China.

The Longmen Relics Care Agency was established in 1953 under the Ministry of Culture. A 1954 site inventory was undertaken by the newly established Longmen Caves Cultural Relics Management and Conservation Office. The State Council declared the Longmen Grottoes as a national cultural monument needing special protection in 1961. In 1982, it was declared as one of the first group of scenic zones to be protected at the state level. The Management and Conservation Office was renamed the Longmen Grottoes Research Institute in 1990; and the People’s Government of Luoyang City became responsible for the management of the heritage monuments. The governing organization was renamed the Longmen Grottoes Research Academy in 2002.

During the Warring States Period, the general Bai Qi of Qin once defeated the allied forces of Han and Wei at the site. The site was subjected to significant vandalism at several points in its history. Major artifacts were removed by Western collectors and souvenir hunters during the early 20th century. The heads of many statues were also destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Two murals taken from the grottoes are reported to be displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.


Panorama of the Boddhisatvas in main Longmen Grotto.



Massive Buddhist sculptures in the main grotto.

There are several the major grottoes with notable displays of Buddhist sculptures and calligraphic inscriptions. Some of the main caves and the year when work began within them include: Guyang-dong (493), Binyang-dong (505), Lianhua-dong (520s), Weizi-dong (522), Shiku-si (520s), Weizi-dong (520s), Shisku (520s), Yaofang-dong (570), Zhaifu-dong (ca. 636), Huijian-dong (630s), Fahua-dong (650s), Fengxian-si (672), Wanfo-si (670-680s), Jinan-dong (684), Ganjing-si (684), and Leigutai-dong (684). The Guyang, Binyang, and Linahua caves are hoseshoe-shaped.


Guyangdong, or Guyang Cave, or Old Sun Cave, is recorded as the oldest Longmen cave with carvings in the Northern Wei style. It is also the largest cave, located in the central part of the west hill. It was carved under the orders of Emperor Xiaowen. The earliest carving in this limestone cave has been now predated to 478 AD, which has been inferred as the time taken by Emperor Xiaowen to shift his capital from Datong to Luyoon have very well sculpted Buddhist statues in niches in this cave. Also found here are 600 inscriptions in fine calligraphy of the writings of the Northern Wei style. Many of the sculptures inside the cave were also contributed by royal people; religious groups supported this activity. The cave has three very large images – the central image is ofSakyamuni Buddha with Bodhisattvas on either side. The features of the images are indicative of the Northern Wei style, typically of slim and emaciated figures. There are about 800 inscriptions in the walls and niches inside the cave, the largest such numbers in any cave in China.There are two rows of niches on the northern and southern walls of the cave, which house a very large number of images; the artists have recorded their names with dates giving reasons for carving them. A score of important ancient calligraphic inscriptions are also seen. The Guyang, Binyang, and Linahua caves are hoseshoe-shaped.


Binyang has three caves of which the Middle Binyang Cave is the most prominent

The rear and north walls in theMiddle Binyang Cave
The upper part of the centralSakyamuni image in the Middle Binyang Cave
South wall of Middle Binyang Cave

Binyangzhongdong or the Middle Binyang Cave, is carved in the Datang style on the west hill, on the northern floor. It was built by Emperor Xuanwun to commemorate his father Xiaowe, and also his mother. It is said that 800,000 workers created it over the period from 500 to 523. In the main wall of this cave, five very large Buddhist statues are carved all in Northern Wei style The central statue is of Sakyamuni Buddha with four images of Bodhisattvas flanking it. Two side walls also have Buddha images flanked by Bodhisatvas. The Buddhas, arranged in three groups in the cave, are representative of Buddha of the past, the present, and the future. The canopy in the roof is designed as a lotus flower. There were reportedly two large bas-reliefs showing the Emperor and the Empress in worship which were pilfered and now stated to be in a museum in the USA. While a few statues are sculpted with “long features, thin faces, fishtail robes and traces of Greek influence”, others are in Tang period natural style and heavily built.


Binyangnandong, or the South Binyang Cave, has five very large images which were carved by Li Tai, the fourth son of Li Shimin, the first Tang Emperor. He made them in 641 AD in memory of his mother Empress Zhangsun. The central image in in a serene appearance is that ofAmitabha Buddha seated on a pedestal surrounded by Bodhisattvas, also serene looking in blend of the Northern Wei and the Tang Dynasty styles.



The Big Vairocana of Longmen Buddha Grottoes

Fengxian, or Feng Xian Si, or Li Zhi cave is the Ancestor Worshipping Cave, which is the largest of all caves carved on the west hill built between 672 and 676 for Empress Wu Zetian. The carvings are claimed to be the ultimate in architectural perfection of the Tang dynasty. The shrine inside the cave measures 39m x35m. It has the largest Buddha statue at the Longmen Grottoes. Of the nine huge carved statues, the highly impressive image of Vairocana Buddha is sculpted on the back wall of the Fengxian. The image is 17.14m high and has 2m long ears. An inscription at the base of this figure gives 676 as the year of carving. Bodhisattva on the left of the main image of Buddha is decorated with a crown and pearls. Also shown is a divine person trampling an evil spirit. The main image of Vairochana’s features are plumpish and of peaceful and natural expression. Each of the other large statues are carved with expressions matching their representative roles. These were carved at the orders of Empress Wu Zetian, and are considered uniquely representative of the Tang dynasty’s “vigorous, elegant and realistic style.” The huge Virochana statue is considered as “the quintessence of Buddhist sculpture in China.

The Vairochana statue also provides information at its base of the names of the artisans who worked here, the donor’s name namely the Emperor Gaozong, and also honors Wu Zetian. It is said that Wu Zetian donated “twenty-thousand strings of her rouge and powder money” to complete this edifice. Hence, it is conjectured that the Vairocana Buddha was carved to resemble the Empress herself and termed as a “Chinese Mona Lisa, Venus or as the Mother of China”. All the images here, which remain undamaged, project a detail of character and animation. Statues ofKasyapa and Ananda, the two principal disciples of Vairochana and two Bodhisattvas with crowns flank the main statue, apart from numerous images of “lokapalas (guardians or heavenly kings), dvarapalas (temple guards), flying divas and numerous other figures.”



Huangfugong, or Shikusi, a three-wall, three-niche cave, is situated south of the west hill, was carved out in 527. It was completed at one stretch as a single unit and is very well preserved. There are seven Buddhas carved on the lintel which give the appearance of a wood finish. Seven very large images are seen in the main hall with Buddha image flanked by two Bodhisattvas and two disciples. Also seen are images of Buddhist groups in the niches of the cave. A very large design of lotus flower is carved in the roof flanked by eight musical apsaras (water spirits or nymphs). It was created by Huangfu Du, uncle of Empress Hu


Wan-fo-tung (“Cave of Ten Thousand Buddhas”), or Yung-lung-tung,[13] was built in 680 by Gaozong and Wu Zetian. It houses 15,000 Buddhas carved in small niches, different from each other, with the smallest Buddha being 2 centimetres (0.79 in) in height.


Yaofangdong, or the Medical Prescription Cave, has small inscriptions of 140 medical prescriptions for a wide range medical problems such as common cold to insanity. These are seen carved right at the entrance on both walls These carvings are dated from the late Northern Wei period right through to the early Tang Dynasty.


Detail of Vairocana

Reached by modern, concrete stairs up the face of a cliff, Qianxisi, or Hidden Stream Temple Cave, is a large cave on the northern edge of the west hill. Made during Gaozong’s reign (653-80), the cave has statues of a huge, seated, early Tang Buddha (Amitabha Buddha), Avalokitesvaraand ahasthamaprapta flanked by Bodhisattvas, and are carved with a sophisticated expression typical of Tang style. It may have been sponsored by the Nanping princess, with the beneficiary being Gaozong, her recently deceased father.


The Lianhua or the Lotus Flower Cave, dated to 521, belongs to be the Northern Wei period. The Grotto has a large lotus flower carved in high relief on its ceiling. Several small Buddhas are carved into the south wall. Also seen are shrines in the south and north wall in the niches.


The Laolong or the Old Dragon Cave created during the Tang Dynasty period, named after the Old Dragon Palace has many niches dated to Gaozong’s reign.


There are the several temples at Longmen Grottoes. Some important ones include Xiangshan temple, Bai Garden temple, and the Tomb of Bai Juyi. Others are Tongle temple, begun under Emperor Mingyuan; Lingyan and Huguo temples, under Emperor Wencheng; Giangong temple, under Xiaowen; and Chongfu temple, under Quianar.

Xiangshan temple

Xiangshan Temple is one of the earliest of the ten temples at Longmen. It is located in the mid section of the east hill. The name ‘Xiangshan’ is derived from the name of the spices “Xiangge” found extensively on these hill slopes. It was reconstructed some time in 1707, during the reign of the Qing Dynasty patterned on an old temple that existed there. Longmen Grottoes Administration, expanded the temple in 2002, by adding the “Beltry, the Drum Tower, the Wing Room, the Hall of Mahavira and Hall of Nine Persons, Eighteen Arhats, the Villa of Jiang Jieshi and Song Meiling”. New additions included board walks, compound wall and a new gate from the southern end of the temple.

Bai Garden temple


Tomb of Bai Juyi

Bai Garden is temple situated on the Pipa peak, to the north of the east hill (Xiangshan Hill). It was re-built in 1709 by Tang Youzeng of the Qing Dynasty. The temple is surrounded by thick vegetation of pine and cypress trees.

Tomb of Bai Juyi

The Tomb of Bai Juyi on the east bank is of the well known poet during the Tang Dynasty rule who lived in Luoyang during his later years. The tomb is located on the hill top. It is approached from west bank after crossing a bridge across the Yi River. The tomb is a circular mound of earth of 4 meters height with a circumference of 52 meters. The tomb is 2.80 meters high and has the poets name inscribed on it as Bai Juyi.

Preservation and restoration


Delamination of the limestone from which the figures are carved

As one of the major activities achieved in this direction is the recognition given to the monuments by UNESCO in declaring the Longmen’s Grottoes as a heritage monument, after due evaluation over a period, and inscribing it in the World Heritage List based on “Criteria (i), (ii), and (iii); Criterion (i), the sculptures of the Longmen Grottoes are an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity; Criterion (ii) the Longmen Grottoes illustrate the perfection of a long-established art form which was to play a highly significant role in the cultural evolution of this region of Asia; and Criterion (iii), the high cultural level and sophisticated society of Tang Dynasty China is encapsulated in the exceptional stone carvings of the Longmen Grottoes.” This also enjoins on the Government of China to take adequate steps to preserve the monuments to its heritage status as per guidelines issued from time to time after frequent inspections of the site.

The Longmen Grottoes have undergone many concerted efforts of identifying, demarcating, planning and implementing restoration works since 1951. To start with, a weather monitoring station was established near the grottoes to assess the environmental conditions prevailing in the area to plan appropriate restoration measures. This was followed by intensive restoration works, initially in the form of strengthening of the rock bases to arrest seepage of water from the roofs and sides of the grottoes. Overgrown vegetation with roots was cleared. Approach conditions to access the caves were newly installed in the form of railings, footpaths and walkways with steps. All the efforts taken by the government of China over the last nearly six decades has ensured that the grottoes are preserved in a fairly presentable state of conservation. All this has been achieved by integrated action by three institutions namely; the China Institution of Cultural Relics Protection who provided the professional scientific inputs, the China University of Geosciences and the Longmen Cultural Relics Care Agency. Funds for the studies and restoration works have been provided for under the Revised Five-Year and Ten-Year Plans approved by the People’s Government of Luoyang City, in 1999.

Images from

Below :

Great Buddha in the Fengxian cave (672 AD). Public domain.

Ancient inscription. Photo Creative Commons License James Jin.

Bridge across the Yi River. Photo Creative Commons License Jani.

Sculpture at Longmen Caves

Photo Creative Commons License Miss Mita.

Images below from

Looking southward along the Yi River.

A view across the Yi River.

Some of the unfortunate commercial tracts in 1988.

A view of part of Laolong (Old Dragon Cave) from the Tang dynasty.

Possibly part of Laolong (Old Dragon Cave).

High relief carvings along the walls.

High relief carvings along the walls

Buddha carvings in the wall.

Central Buddha figure in Lianhua (Lotus Flower) Grotto. The cave was finished by 521.

Sculpted figures.

Sculpted figures.

A distant view of the Fengxian (Ancestor-worshipping) Image Shrine.

Views of the major images of the Fengxian Image Shrine.

Views of the major images of the Fengxian Image Shrine.

Views of the major images of the Fengxian Image Shrine.

View toward the Vairocan Buddha’s right side.

View of Vairocana Buddha; note the destruction in the lower portion of the image.

Closer view of the head of Vairocana Buddha, perhaps modeled after the empress.

View toward the left side of the ensemble. The numerous square holes in the rockface suggest the height of the wooden ceiling that is now lost.

Bodhisattva to the left hand of the Vairocana Buddha, one of the five Celestial Buddhas, Amoghasiddhi, ‘Infallable Success’.

The King of Northern Heaven (left) holding the Divine Pagoda while crushing the demon Yaksha (and the little boy?) and a Celestial Guardian.

Vairapani, a protector of the Buddha.

Closer view of Vairapani.

Guardians and Buddhas in niches.

Three figures.

A relief sculpture.

A small Buddha figure.

Niche sculptures.

Niche sculptures.

Niche sculptures.

Niche sculptures.

The honey-combed hillside.

The honey-combed hillside.

The honey-combed hillside.

The honey-combed hillside.

Cave with seated figure and wall carvings.

Closer view of the previous image. Note the exterior carvings flanking the opening.

Construction of footpaths to reach middle and upper caves.

Some of the footpaths.

Note the beautiful carving around the entrance of this cave.

Interior of the previous image.

Entry to the Guyang Cave.

The south wall of the Guyang Cave.

Chief Buddha and right bodhisattva. Note the remaining lion at the base of the Buddha.

Some of the paint on the walls remains.

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE on February 8, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 375

What Does the Top of the Moon Look Like?

Natalie Wolchover, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer
Date: 08 September 2011 Time: 11:16 AM ET
Mosaic of 983 images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter over a one month period during northern summer.
CREDIT: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Here’s a view of the moon you’ll never see from Earth.

NASA scientists created this mosaic by stitching together 983 images of the moon’s North Pole region taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The LRO robotic probe, which has been mappingthe moon from above since 2009, has acquired thousands of wide-angle camera shots of its polar regions.

Because the mottled moon only tilts on its axis at an angle of 1.54 degrees (as compared to Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt) some of its surface never sees sunlight. One goal of the LRO mission is to identify these regions of permanent shadow. The probe took the photos in the composite image above at the height of summer in our satellite’s northern hemisphere — the time when the pole is best illuminated. Thus, dark areas, such as those along the inside rims of deep craters and the immediate vicinity of the pole, are probably permanently dark.

The craters around the pole appear to spiral out from it. According to Mark Robinson, principal investigator of the LRO team based at Arizona State University, this is an optical illusion.

“Imagine a series of very narrow pie slices collected 12 times each day, one after another,” Robinson told Life’s Little Mysteries. “It takes roughly 360 slices to fill in the whole pie. Each day the sun direction is progressing around the moon, thus the direction that the sun is striking the surface changes. So the shadow directions slowly progress around the moon, thus leading to the illusion.”

Why Do Photos From Deep Space Take So Long to Get to Earth?

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE on February 8, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 374

Why Do Photos From Deep Space Take So Long to Get to Earth?

Remy Melina, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer
NASA’s Stardust-NExT mission took this image of comet Tempel 1 on Feb 14, 2011.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

The Stardust-NExT probe took photos of the comet Tempel 1 at approximately 11:35 p.m. EST yesterday (Feb. 14), but the images weren’t beamed back to Earth until about four hours later. Photos from deep space often take a while to come in, for various reasons, but the Stardust images took longer than most.

“A number of things contributed to us receiving the images later than we expected, including the order in which we received the images, weather conditions, the spacecraft’s range and the processing of the images,” Randii Wessen, a spokesperson and engineer for JPL, told Life’s Little Mysteries.

The plan was to first transmit the images that Stardust took when it was closest to Tempel 1, at a distance of 112 miles (181 kilometers) away. Although Stardust continuously took photos as it approached the comet, passed alongside it and looked backward at it, mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., wanted to get the closest shots of Tempel 1 transmitted first.

The best images were taken during the middle of the flyby, and we wanted five images from the middle to be sent to us first,” Wessen said. “But instead, the images were transmitted to us sequentially, with 72 images total.”

Stardust is operating 209 million miles from Earth, and Wessen estimates that it took 18 to 19 minutes for the images to arrive. (By comparison, a similar radio transmission from the moon would take about a second-and-a-half to reach Earth.) Because the images were transmitted one by one, it took significantly longer for the “good stuff” to get to Earth.

Wessen said that he didn’t know why the middle images weren’t sent first as planned, but that no data had been lost – it just took longer for the JPL team to get the best approach images because they had to wait for Stardust to transmit them.

Additionally, rain clouds over Madrid slowed the data download to one of the three dish antenna sites that comprise the Deep Space Network (DSN), which is responsible for receiving raw data from Stardust-NExT and other spacecrafts .

Once the images arrive, it takes a little while to make them presentable to the public. The raw radio frequency data that is sent from Stardust to the JPL has to be processed into binary digits, which are codes made using only the numbers 0 and 1. This information is then translated into a high-resolution image, or frame, that JPL engineers manipulate to make the photo clearer and brighter. Wessen likens this process to turning up the contrast option on a TV screen in order to improve the quality of the picture.

New ‘Doomsday Preppers’ Show Highlights Extreme Survivalists

Posted in News on February 8, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 373

New ‘Doomsday Preppers’ Show Highlights Extreme Survivalists

by Natalie Wolchover, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer
Date: 06 February 2012 Time: 03:13 PM ET
 Floresville, Texas: Paul Range and Gloria Haswell have constructed a house entirely out of used shipping containers. Credit: National Geographic Channel/ Sharp Entertainment
Floresville, Texas: Paul Range and Gloria Haswell have constructed a house entirely out of used shipping containers.
CREDIT: National Geographic Channel/ Sharp Entertainment

It’s better to be safe than sorry, which is why FEMA guidelines recommend stockpiling your pantry with three days worth of food in case of a natural disaster. Meanwhile, Paul Range and Gloria Haswell have enough in store to feed 22 people for 15 years — as well as enough guns, bullets and bug-out vehicles to wage a small war. The couple occupies nine steel shipping containers arranged in a castle formation outside Floresville, Texas. A system of windmills and solar panels powers the compound, and human body waste is used to generate methane, which serves as their cooking fuel.

It’s all because they are worried Earth’s magnetic poles might switch.

Range and Haswell are among those profiled in “Doomsday Preppers,” a weekly TV documentary premiering on the National Geographic Channel tomorrow (Feb. 7) at 9 p.m., with a bonus episode at 10 p.m. following the premiere. The show takes viewers on a shocking tour of modern-day apocalypse paranoia, from Range, Haswell and their steel fortress to a Californian who has trained himself to survive off garden weeds in preparation for a major earthquake.

While the show may highlight a few of America’s most extreme cases, apocalypticism — fear of the end of the world as we know it — is at a historic high point, according to Lorenzo DiTommasso, chairman and associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal. The phenomenon has experienced peaks and valleys throughout history. Right now, “we’re in a peak, and have been for the last 40 years,” DiTommasso said.

Fear of nuclear obliteration started the rise in apocalypticism, but today, the main factor driving its continuing spread is the rapid exchange of ideas — especially scary ideas — on the Web.

“There’s no single more important explanation as to the presence of apocalyptic thought in the world today than the development of the Internet,” DiTommasso told Life’s Little Mysteries. “You can learn everything you want about the flipping of the magnetic poles on the Internet. And you can find out related information that would lead you to also believe the poles are going to flip because of, for instance, the presence of a previously unknown planet in the solar system.” [Believers In Mysterious Planet Nibiru Await Earth’s End]

Indeed, doomsday preppers Range and Haswell have come to believe that the coming magnetic pole reversal will cause a sudden shift in the continents, triggering enormous earthquakes and rapid climate change. They’ve learned just enough to inspire a total lifestyle transformation — despite the scientific consensus that the chance of a magnetic pole reversal happening in their lifetimes is vanishingly small.

Others profiled in the show fear a total financial collapse, an electro-magnetic pulse caused by a solar flare taking down the national power grid, terrorist attacks and so on. “People come to apocalypticism for different reasons, and once they’re there they share a set of assumptions that defines the group: First, they believe there is something dreadfully wrong with the world, and it’s not likely to be fixed. The second part is they believe an imminent change is coming about,” DiTommasso said.

He estimates that more than half of the world population believes in some sort of apocalyptic theory, from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim belief in the return of God (called the Rapture in Christianity), to the belief in pseudo-scientific theories like a coming planetary collision. The current peak in doomsday fears, DiTommasso said, “speaks to the prevalence of doomsday preppers today.”

Personally, DiTommasso believes apocalypticists are correct in recognizing that there are grave threats in the world, but they’re misguided as to what forms these will take. “You don’t have to expectan apocalypse,” he said. “Look outside — the environment is being degraded right now. Instead of standing outside, looking up for the comet that’s going to obliterate the Earth, look around you.”


Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY on February 8, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 372



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and others

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel (About this sound listen (help·info)) (15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944), popularly known as the Desert Fox (WüstenfuchsAbout this sound listen(help·info)), was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought.

He was a highly decorated officer in World War I, and was awarded the Pour le Mérite for his exploits on the Italian front. In World War II, he further distinguished himself as the commander of the 7th Panzer Division during the 1940 invasion of France. However, it was his leadership of German and Italian forces in the North African campaign that established the legend of the Desert Fox. He is considered to have been one of the most skilled commanders of desert warfare in the conflict. He later commanded the German forces opposing the Alliedcross-channel invasion in Normandy.

As one of the few generals who consistently fought the Western Allies (he was never assigned to the Eastern Front), Rommel is regarded as having been a humane and professional officer. His Afrikakorps was never accused of war crimes. Soldiers captured during his Africa campaign were reported to have been treated humanely. Furthermore, he ignored orders to kill captured commandosJewish soldiers and civilians in all theaters of his command.

Late in the war, Rommel was linked to the conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler. Because Rommel was widely renowned, Hitler chose to eliminate him quietly; in trade for assurances his family would be spared, Rommel agreed to commit suicide.

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1973-012-43, Erwin Rommel.jpg
Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel
Nickname Wüstenfuchs (Desert Fox)
Born 15 November 1891
HeidenheimKingdom of WürttembergGerman Empire
Died 14 October 1944 (aged 52)[1]
HerrlingenNazi Germany
Buried at Cemetery of Herrlingen
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Wehrmacht
Years of service 1911–1944
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Commands held
Battles/wars World War I 

World War II

Relations Manfred Rommel

Early life and career

Rommel was born on 15 November 1891 in Heidenheim, 45 kilometres (28 mi) from Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg (then part of the German Empire). He was baptised on 17 November 1891. He was the second child of the Protestant headmaster of the secondary school atAalen, Professor Erwin Rommel Senior (1860–1913), and Helene von Luz, who had two other sons and a daughter. Rommel wrote that “my early years passed quite happily.”

At age 14, Rommel and a friend built a full-scale glider that was able to fly short distances. Rommel even considered becoming an engineerand throughout his life displayed extraordinary technical aptitude. Acceding to his father’s wishes, Rommel instead joined the local 124th Württemberg Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet in 1910 and was sent to the Officer Cadet School in Danzig. He graduated on 15 November 1911 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in January 1912.

While at Cadet School, Rommel met his future wife, 17-year-old Lucia Maria Mollin (commonly called Lucie). They married on 27 November 1916 in Danzig and on 24 December 1928 had a son, Manfred Rommel, who later became the Mayor of Stuttgart. Some historians believe Rommel also had a relationship with Walburga Stemmer in 1913, which allegedly produced a daughter, Gertrud.

World War I

File:Italian troops at Isonzo river.jpg

Italian troops entrenched along the Soča(Isonzo) river.

During World War I, Rommel fought in France as well as in Romania (see: Romanian Campaign) and Italy (see: Italian Campaign), first in the 6th Württemberg Infantry Regiment, but through most of the war in the Württemberg Mountain Battalion of the elite Alpenkorps.


Remains of an Austro-Hungarian fortification between Bovec and Log pod Mangrtom

He gained a reputation for great courage, making quick tactical decisions and taking advantage of enemy confusion. He was wounded three times and awarded the Iron Cross, First and Second Class.


1914 Grand Cross of the Iron Cross.

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1813 Iron Cross


1870 Iron Cross

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World War I Iron Cross, 2nd Class


German soldiers during the First World War who have been awarded the Iron Cross.

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World War II Iron Cross 2nd Class

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World War II Iron Cross 1st Class


Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (1939)

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Honor Cross of theBundeswehr for Bravery

Rommel also received Prussia‘s highest award, the order of Pour le Mérite, after fighting in the Battles of the Isonzo in the north-eastern Alps on the Isonzo river front.

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Pour le Mérite
(Military order) Awarded by Kingdom of Prussia


Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves

File:Orden Pour le Merite Vredesklasse.jpg

Pour le Mérite, Civil class

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1970-073-25, Isonzo-Schlacht, Trainkolonne am Moistroka-Pass.jpg

Austro-Hungarian supply line over theVršič pass. October 1917

The award was for the Battle of Longarone and the capture ofMount Matajur and its Italian defenders, which totalled 150 officers, 9,000 men, and 81 artillery pieces. In contrast, Rommel’s detachment suffered only 6 dead and 30 wounded during the two engagements, a remarkable achievement.

Captured British Matilda

For a time, Rommel served in the same infantry regiment as Friedrich Paulus, who like Rommel rose to the rank of Field Marshal during World War II. While fighting at Isonzo, Rommel was caught behind Italian lines but managed to escape capture, though almost all of his staff were taken prisoner. In the Second World War, when the Germans and Italians were allies, Rommel tempered his initial disdain of Italian soldiers, when he realized that their lack of success was principally due to poor leadership and equipment. When these difficulties were overcome they were equal to German forces.Erwin Rommel wrote a book, Infanterie Greift An (Infantry Attacks), in which he examined and analyzed the many battles he fought in during World War I. It was published in 1937 and became essential reading for both German and allied commanders during World War II. He taught his men to dig in whenever they paused for any length of time. This paid off many times when French artillery fired upon his position, only to be shrugged off by the entrenchments built by Rommel’s men.

Career between the world wars

Rommel held battalion commands and was an instructor at the Dresden Infantry School from 1929 to 1933. In 1934, his book for infantry training, “Gefechts-Aufgaben für Zug und Kompanie : Ein Handbuch für den Offizierunterricht“ (Combat tasks for platoon and company: A manual for the officer instruction), appeared. This book was printed until 1945 in five editions, with revisions and changes of title. From 1935 to 1938, Rommel held commands at the Potsdam War Academy. Rommel’s war diaries, Infanterie greift an (Infantry Attacks), published in 1937, became a highly regarded military textbook and attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler, who placed Rommel in charge of the War Ministry liaison with the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend), Headquarters of Military Sports, the branch involved with paramilitary activities, primarily terrain exercises and marksmanship. Rommel applied himself energetically to the task. The army provided instructors to the Hitler Youth Rifle School in Thuringia, which in turn supplied qualified instructors to the HJ’s regional branches.Rommel turned down a post in the Truppenamt (the camouflaged General Staff), whose existence was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles—the normal path for advancing to high rank in the German army. Instead, he preferred to remain a frontline officer.

In 1937, Rommel conducted a tour of Hitler Youth meetings and encampments and delivered lectures on German soldiering while inspecting facilities and exercises. Simultaneously, he was pressuring Baldur von Schirach, the Hitler Youth leader, to accept an agreement expanding the army’s involvement in Hitler Youth training. Schirach interpreted this as a bid to turn the Hitler Youth into an army auxiliary, a “junior army” in his words. He refused and denied Rommel (whom he had come to dislike personally, apparently out of envy for his “real soldier’s” appeal) access to the Hitler Youth. An agreement was concluded, but on a far more limited scope than Rommel sought; cooperation was restricted to the army’s providing personnel to the rifle school. By 1939 the Hitler Youth had 20,000 rifle instructors. Simultaneously, Rommel retained his place at Potsdam. Rommel was awarded the highest war ribbons for excellent performance.

Panzer III in the Desert

In 1938 Rommel, now a colonel, was appointed Kommandant (commander) of the War Academy at Wiener Neustadt (Theresian Military Academy). Rommel was removed after a short time, however, to take command of Adolf Hitler‘s personal protection battalion (FührerBegleitbataillon), assigned to protect him in the special railway train (Führersonderzug) used during his visits to occupiedCzechoslovakia and Memel. It was during this period that he met and befriended Joseph Goebbels, the Reich’s minister of propaganda. Goebbels became a fervent admirer of Rommel and later ensured that Rommel’s exploits were celebrated in the media.

World War II

Poland 1939

In contrast with its traditional role in armed conflicts of the past (even in the Polish-Bolshevik War), the cavalry was no longer seen as a unit capable of breaking through enemy lines. Instead, it was used as a mobile reserve of the Polish armies and was using mostly infantry tactics: the soldiers dismounted before the battle and fought as a standard (yet fast) infantry. Technically speaking, in 1939 Poland had 11 brigades of mounted infantry and no units of cavalry as such.

Although the cavalrymen retained their sabres, after 1937 the lance was dropped and it was issued to cavalrymen as a weapon of choice only. Instead, the cavalry units were equipped with modern armament, including 75mm guns, tankettes, 37mm AT guns, 40mm AA guns, anti-tank rifles and other pieces of modern weaponry.


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-013-0064-35, Polen, Bormann, Hitler, Rommel, v. Reichenau.jpg

Rommel with Hitler, von Reichenau andBormann in Poland (September 1939)

Rommel acted as commander of the Führerbegleithauptquartier (Führer escort headquarters) during the Poland campaign, often moving up close to the front in the Führersonderzug and seeing much of Hitler. After the Polish defeat, Rommel returned to Berlin to organize the Führer’s victory parade, taking part himself as a member of Hitler’s entourage. During the Polish campaign, Rommel was asked to intervene on behalf of one of his wife’s relatives, a Polish priest who had been arrested. When Rommel applied to the Gestapo for information, the Gestapo found no information about the man’s existence.

File:Polish infantry marching -2 1939.jpg

Polish infantry marching

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Polish 7TP light tank

File:Zniszczenia1939 0.jpg

The city of Wieluń destroyed by Luftwaffebombing

File:Komancza 1939 onet.1.09.2010.jpg

Cheerful German and Slovak soldiersposing with Ukrainian civilians in Komańcza, September 1939.

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A bombed Polish Army column during the Battle of the Bzura

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German cavalry and motorized units enteringPoland from East Prussia during 1939.

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A German and a Soviet officer shaking hands at the end of the Invasion of Poland.

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The Royal Castle in Warsaw on fire after being shelled by the Germans

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H27915, Danzig, Enfernen eines polnischen Hoheitszeichens.jpg

German soldiers removing Polish government insignia

France 1940

Panzer commander

File:Rommel 128900.jpg

Portrait ofGeneralfeldmarschall Rommel

Rommel asked Hitler for command of a panzer division. On 6 February 1940, three months before the invasion of France, Rommel was given command of the 7th Panzer Division, for Fall Gelb (“Case Yellow”), the invasion of France and the Low Countries. This promotion provoked resentment among some of his fellow officers. Rommel’s initial request for command had been rejected by the Chief of Army Personnel, who cited his lack of previous experience with armored units and his extensive prior experience in an Alpine unit made him a more suitable candidate to assume command of a mountain division that had recent need to fill its commanding officer post. Rommel had, however, emphasized the use of mobile infantry and recognized the great usefulness of armoured forces in the Poland campaign. He set about learning and developing the techniques of armoured warfare with great enthusiasm. The decision to place him in command of an armoured division was borne out to be an excellent one. In May, 1940 his 7th Panzer Division became known as the “Ghost Division” because its rapid advances and fast paced attacks often placed them so far forward that they were frequently out of communication with the rest of the German army.

Invasion of France and Belgium

File:Battle of France collage.jpg

Top left: German Panzer IV tanks passing through a town in France
Top right: German soldiers marching past the Arc de Triomphe after the surrender of Paris, 14 June 1940
Middle left: French soldiers on the Maginot Line
Bottom left: British and French prisoners at Veules-les-Roses, France
Bottom right: Column of French Renault 35 tanks at Sedan

Date 10 May – 25 June 1940
Location France, Low Countries
Result Decisive Axis victory 

 United Kingdom
Poland Poland
Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
Italy Italy (from June 10)
Commanders and leaders
France Maurice Gamelin(until May 17)
France Maxime Weygand(from May 17)
United Kingdom Lord Gort
Belgium Leopold III
Netherlands Henri Winkelman
Poland Władysław Sikorski
Czechoslovakia Sergej Ingr
Nazi Germany Erwin Rommel
Nazi Germany Gerd von Rundstedt
Nazi Germany Fedor von Bock
Nazi Germany Wilhelm von Leeb
Nazi Germany Erich von Manstein
Italy H.R.H. Umberto di Savoia
Allies: 144 divisions
13,974 guns
3,383 tanks
2,935 aircraft
3,300,000 troops
Alps on 20 June
~150,000 French
Germany: 141 divisions
7,378 guns
2,445 tanks
5,638 aircraft
3,350,000 troops
Alps on 20 June
300,000 Italians
Casualties and losses
360,000 dead or wounded,
1,900,000 captured
2,233 aircraftTotal: 2,260,000 casualties
Germany:157,621 casualties
1,236-1,345 aircraft destroyed
323-488 aircraft damaged
795 tanks destroyed
Total: 163,650 casualties

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-127-0362-14, Belgien, belgischer Panzer T13.jpg

Abandoned Belgian tank is inspected by two German soldiers

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-126-0350-26A, Paris, Einmarsch, Parade deutscher Truppen.jpg

German troops in Paris

On 10 May 1940 a part of XV Corps under General Hoth advanced into Belgium to proceed to the Meuse river near the Walloon municipality of Dinant. At the Meuse, 7th Panzer was held up owing to the bridges having been destroyed and to determined sniper and artillery fire from the Belgian defenders. The Germans lacked smoke grenades, so Rommel, having assumed personal command of the crossing, ordered a few nearby houses to be set on fire to conceal the attack. The German Panzergrenadiers crossed the river in rubber boats, with Rommel leading the second wave. The Division dashed further inland, always spurred on by Rommel and far in front of any friendly forces.

Rommel’s technique of pushing forward boldly, ignoring risks to his flanks and rear and relying on the shock to enemy morale to hinder attacks on his vulnerable flanks, paid large dividends during his rapid march across France. When encountering resistance, Rommel would simply order his tanks forward, all guns blazing, relying on the shock of the sudden assault to force the enemy to surrender. This method offset the disadvantage the German tanks had in terms of armour and low-calibre guns, often causing large formations of enemy heavy tanks to simply give up a fight they would otherwise have had a good chance of winning. This approach, although it saved lives on both sides by avoiding prolonged engagements, did cause mishaps. On one occasion his tanks, following this tactic, closed with a convoy of French trucks and fired into them only to realise that the trucks were acting as ambulances ferrying wounded from the front.

File:French troop rescue ship.png

French troops are rescued by a British ship at Dunkirk during Operation Dynamo

Battle of Arras

A Canadian cyclist shouting down a German dugout during the 2nd Battle of Arras.

By 18 May the Division had captured Cambrai, but here Rommel’s advance was checked briefly. His chief of staff, still with the unmotorized part of the Division in Belgium and not having received radio reports from Rommel, had written off Rommel and his combat group as lost and so had not arranged for fuel to be sent up. There was a degree of controversy over this issue, with Rommel furious at what he perceived as a negligent attitude on the part of his supply officers, whereas his chief of staff was critical of Rommel’s failure to keep his staff officers informed of his actions.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1972-045-08, Westfeldzug, Rommel bei Besprechung mit Offizieren.jpg

Rommel in the Western Europe campaign (June 1940)

On 20 May Rommel’s tanks reached Arras. Here he wanted to cut off the British Expeditionary Force from the coast and Hans von Luck, commanding the reconnaissance battalion of the Division, was tasked with forcing a crossing over the La Bassée canals near the city. Supported by Stuka dive bombers, the unit managed to cross whereupon the British launched a counterattack (the Battle of Arras) on 21 May. Facing the British Matilda tanks, the Germans found their 3.7-cm guns useless against the heavy armour and a battery of 88 mm guns had to be brought up to deal with the threat, with Rommel personally directing the fire.

File:Hitler and german-nazi officers staring at french marechal foch statue june25 1940.png.png

Hitler (hand on side) staring at Foch’s statue before signing the armistice at Compiègne, France (22 June 1940)

After Arras, Hitler ordered his tanks to hold their positions, while the British, in Operation Dynamo, evacuated their troops at Dunkirk, and the 7th Panzer Division was given a few days of much-needed rest. On 26 May, 7th Panzer continued its advance, reaching Lille on 27 May. For the assault on the town, General Hoth placed his other tank division, 5th Panzer Division, under Rommel’s command, to the chagrin of its commander, General Max von Hartlieb. The same day, Rommel received news that he had been awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross; the first divisional commander to be so honoured during the campaign.

Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
The highest grade of the award: the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.
Awarded by the Führer and Reichskanzler of theThird Reich
Type Neck order
Eligibility Military personnel
Awarded for Awarded to holders of the Iron Crossto recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership
Campaign World War II
Status Obsolete
Established 1 September 1939
First awarded 30 September 1939
Last awarded 11 May 1945 / 17 June 1945
Swords: 15
Oak Leaves: 95
Knight’s Cross:
Golden Oak Leaves: 1
Diamonds: 27
Swords: 160
Oak Leaves: 890
Knight’s Cross:7,365
Next (higher) Grand Cross of the Iron Cross
Next (lower) Iron Cross 1st Class

This award, which had been secured for Rommel at Hitler’s behest, caused more animosity among fellow officers, who were critical of Rommel’s close relationship with Hitler. They believed that this was further evidence that Hitler seemed to give Rommel preferential treatment.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-054-1531-11, Frankreich, erste Hilfe für Verwundeten.jpg

German Military Medic providing first aid to a wounded soldier

On 28 May, while making the final push into Lille and far in front of friendly forces, 7th Panzer came under heavy fire from French artillery. Rommel drove his forces on, capturing Lille, trapping half of the French First Army, and preventing their retreat to Dunkirk. After this coup, Rommel’s forces were again given time to rest.

Drive for the English Channel

Rommel, resuming his advance on 5 June, drove for the River Seine to secure the bridges near Rouen. Advancing 100 kilometres (62 mi) in two days, the division reached Rouen only to find the bridges destroyed. On 10 June, Rommel reached the coast near Dieppe, sending his “Am at coast” signal to the German HQ.

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Burned out German Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft lying in a Dutch field.

On 15 June, 7th Panzer started advancing on Cherbourg. On 17 June, the Division advanced 35 kilometres (22 mi), capturing the town on the following day. The Division then proceeded towards Bordeaux but stopped when the armistice was signed on 21 June. In July, the Division was sent to the Paris area to start preparations for Operation Seelöwe, Sea Lion the planned invasion of Britain. The preparations were half-hearted, however, as it soon became clear that the Luftwaffe would not be able to secure air superiority over the Royal Air Force.

Ghost Division


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Erwin Rommel at a Paris victory parade (June 1940)

7. Panzer-Division was later nicknamed Gespenster-Division (the “Ghost Division”), because of the speed and surprise it was consistently able to achieve, to the point that even the German High Command at times lost track of its whereabouts. It also set the record for the longest thrust in one day by tanks up to that point, covering nearly 320 kilometres (200 mi).

Rommel received both praise and criticism for his tactics during the French campaign. Many, such as General Georg Stumme, who had previously commanded 7th Panzer Division, were impressed with the speed and success of Rommel’s drive; however, others were more reserved, some out of envy, others because they felt Rommel took unnecessary risks. Hermann Hoth publicly expressed praise for Rommel’s achievements but had private reservations, saying in a confidential report that Rommel should not be given command over a corps unless he gained “greater experience and a better sense of judgment. Hoth also accused Rommel of an unwillingness to acknowledge the contributions of others to his victories.

7th Panzer division moving


front: light tanks P38t, then Panzer II Ausf.B and one command tank Panzerbefehlswagen III near Abbeville, june 1940.

The Fourth Army commander, General Günther von Kluge, also criticised Rommel for falsely claiming all the glory for his achievements. Rommel did not, Kluge felt, acknowledge the contribution of the Luftwaffe, and Rommel’s manuscript describing his campaign in France misrepresented the advances of neighbouring units to elevate the achievements of his own dazzling advances. Kluge also cited the complaint by General Hartlieb that Rommel had misappropriated 5th Panzer’s bridging tackle on 14 May after his own supplies had run out in order to cross the Meuse, delaying 5th Panzer for several hours. Rommel had repeated this procedure on 27 May at the River Scarpe crossing.

Major General Erwin Rommel, then commander of the 7th Panzer Division, with captured 
British officers in Cherbourg, France, June 1940.  (Gregory J. W. Urwin Collection)

North Africa 1941–1943

Rommel’s reward for his success was to be promoted and appointed commander of the 5th Light Division (later reorganised and redesignated21.Panzer-Division) and of the 15.Panzer-Division which, as the Deutsches Afrikakorps,(About this sound listen (help·info)) were sent to Libya in early 1941 inOperation Sonnenblume to aid the demoralised Italian troops which had suffered a heavy defeat from British Commonwealth forces inOperation Compass. It was in Africa where Rommel achieved his greatest fame as a commander.

First Axis offensive


The Western Desert area, showing Rommel’s first offensive 24 March – 15 June 1941.

His campaign in North Africa earned Rommel the nickname “The Desert Fox.” On 6 February 1941 Rommel was ordered to lead the Afrika Korps, sent to Italian Libya to help shore up the Italian forces which had been driven back duringOperation Compass, launched by British Commonwealthforces under Major-General Richard O’Connor during December 1940. Initially ordered to assume a defensive posture and hold the front line, the Axis High Command had slated a limited offensive towards Agedabia and Benghazifor May, planning then to hold the line between those cities. Rommel argued that such a limited offensive would be ineffective, as the whole of Cyrenaica would have to be captured if the front lines were to be held. The task of even holding the remaining Italian possessions seemed daunting, as the Italians had only 7,000 troops remaining in the area after O’Connor’s successful capture of 130,000 prisoners and almost 400 tanks during the previous three months of advance.

softkins of 7th Panzer division moving

Description : Sd.kfz 10, Protze, Horsch and Sd.Kfz 222 ready to follow tanks.

On 24 March 1941 Rommel launched a limited offensive with only the 5th Light Division supported by two Italian divisions. This thrust was to be minor, in anticipation of Rommel receiving the 15th Panzer Division in May. The British, who had been weakened by troops being withdrawn to fight in the Battle of Greece, fell back to Mersa el Brega and started constructing defensive works. Rommel decided to continue the attack against these positions in order to prevent the British from building up the fortifications. After a day of fierce fighting, the Germans prevailed and the advance continued as Rommel disregarded holding off the attack on Agedabia until May. The British Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command, General Archibald Wavell, overestimating the strength of the Axis forces and already apprehensive about the extent of his advances during the previous winter, ordered a withdrawal from Benghazi in early April to avoid being cut off by Rommel’s thrust.

Motorcycle-mounted reconnaissance troops from the German 7th Panzer Division
survey the landscape somewhere in northern France, May 1940.
(Gregory J. W. Urwin Collection)

Rommel, seeing the British reluctance to fight a decisive action, decided on a bold move: the seizure of the whole of Cyrenaica despite having only light forces. He ordered the Italian Ariete armoured division to pursue the retreating British while the 5th Light Division was to move on Benghazi. Generalmajor Johannes Streich, the 5th Light Division’s commander, protested this order on the grounds of the state of his vehicles, but Rommel brushed the objections aside because, in his words, “One cannot permit unique opportunities to slip by for the sake of trifles.” The Italian Commander-in-Chief, General Italo Gariboldi, tried repeatedly to halt Rommel’s advance but was unable to contact him.

After Benghazi had been secured following the British withdrawal, Cyrenaica as far as Gazala was captured by 8 April. This was despite fervent protests from Italian GHQ, which felt Rommel was going beyond his orders, especially since he was supposedly under Italian command. Rommel had received orders from the German High Command that he was not to advance past Maradah, but he turned a blind eye to this as well as to protests from some of his staff and divisional commanders. He believed he was grasping a great possibility to largely destroy the Allied presence in North Africa and capture Egypt. Rommel decided to keep up the pressure on the retreating British and launched an outflanking offensive on the important port of Tobruk during which he managed to capture on 9 April the Military Governor of Cyrenaica, Lieutenant-General Philip Neame as well as O’Connor, who at this time was his advisor. With Italian forces attacking along the coast, Rommel decided to sweep around to the south and attack the harbour from the southeast with the 5th Light Division, hoping to trap the bulk of the enemy force there. This outflanking could not be carried out as rapidly as was necessary owing to logistical problems from lengthening supply lines and spoiling flank attacks from Tobruk, so Rommel’s plan failed. By 11 April the envelopment of Tobruk was complete and the first attack was launched. Other forces continued pushing east, reaching Bardia and securing the whole of Libya by 15 April.

Siege of Tobruk

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1941: British Matilda tanks move forward at Tobruk.

The following siege of Tobruk lasted 240 days, with the garrison consisting of the Australian 9th Division under Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead and reinforced by all the British troops who had withdrawn to the port city, bringing the defenders to a total of 25,000. Impatient to secure success, Rommel launched repeated small-scale attacks. These were easily defeated by the defenders. Rommel later criticised the Italian High Command for failing to provide him with the blueprints of the port’s fortifications (which the Italians had built before the war), but this was due to his surprising advance so far beyond the agreed point, hardly allowing them time to produce the plans. Reflecting on this period, General Heinrich Kirchheim, then commander of the 5th Light Division, said: “I do not like to be reminded of that time because so much blood was needlessly shed.” Kirchheim had been reluctant to launch further attacks on Tobruk, as the costs of earlier assaults had been very high.

File:Rommel's Africa uniform.jpg
Rommel’s Africa tunic (Deutsches PanzermuseumMunster)
Erwin Rommel in Africa
Erwin Rommel as a commander of Africa Corps.

Rommel remained optimistic that success was imminent. In his memoirs, he claimed that he immediately realised that the enemy was determined to cling to Tobruk; however, this seems to be in doubt. In a letter to his wife dated 16 April, he wrote that the enemy was already abandoning the town by sea, and he remained confident that the enemy were not going to defend the town until well into April. In reality, the ships arriving at the port were not evacuating the defenders but unloading supplies and even some reinforcements. A letter of his written on 21 April,suggests that he was beginning to realise this while the arrival of the Italian blueprints of fortifications provided further grounds for discouragement. Nonetheless, Rommel continued to insist that success was imminent. His relations with his subordinate commanders were at their nadir at this point, especially with Streich, who was openly critical of Rommel’s decisions and refused to assume any responsibility for the attacks. Rommel began holding a series of courts-martial, though ultimately he signed almost none of the verdicts. This state of affairs led Army Chief Walther von Brauchitsch to write to him that instead of making threats and requesting the replacement of officers who “hitherto had excelled in battle”, rather “… a calm and constructive debate might bring better results.” Rommel remained unmoved.

Australians at Tobruk Resting on top of a Humber in the Western Desert

At this point Rommel requested reinforcements for a renewed attack, but the High Command, then completing preparations for Operation Barbarossa, could not spare any. When Chief of Staff General Franz Halder also told Rommel before the latter left for Africa that a larger force could not be logistically sustained, Rommel had responded “that’s your pigeon.” Now Halder sarcastically commented: “Now at last he is constrained to state that his forces are not sufficiently strong to allow him to take full advantage of the ‘unique opportunities’ offered by the overall situation. That is the impression we have had for quite some time over here. Angry that his order not to advance beyond Maradah had been disobeyed and alarmed at mounting losses, Halder, never an admirer of Rommel, dispatched Friedrich Paulus to (in Halder’s words) “head off this soldier gone stark mad.×380.jpg

Upon arrival on 27 April, Paulus was initially persuaded to authorise yet another attack on Tobruk. Back in Berlin, Halder wrote: “In my view it is a mistake” but deferred to Paulus. When the attack, launched on 4 May, seemed to turn into a disaster, Paulus intervened and ordered it halted. In addition, he now forbade Rommel from committing forces in any new attack on Tobruk and further ordered that the attacks were to halt until regrouping was completed. No new assault was to take place without OKH’s specific approval.

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Rommel with the 15th Panzer Divisionbetween Tobruk and Sidi Omar, Libya.

Rommel was furious with what he perceived as the lack of fighting spirit in his commanders and Italian allies. However, on the insistence of Paulus and Halder, he held off further attacks until the detailed plans of the Tobruk defences could be obtained, the 15th Panzer Division could be brought up to support the attack, and more training of his troops in positional warfare could be conducted,For Streich, however, it was too late. He was transferred from command of 5th Light Division. When he met Rommel for the last time as he was taking his leave, Rommel told him that he had been “too concerned for the well-being of your troops”; Streich shot back: “I can recognise no greater words of praise”, and a new quarrel ensued. After the decision was made to hold off attacks on Tobruk for an indefinite period, Rommel set about creating defensive positions, with Italian infantry forces holding Bardia, the Sollum–Sidi Omar line and investing Tobruk. The mobile German and Italian formations were held in reserve to fight any British attacks from Egypt. To this end, Halfaya Pass was secured, the high water mark of Rommel’s offensive. An elaborately prepared great assault was scheduled for 21 November 1941, but this attack never took place.

Major General Orlando Ward reviews the U.S. 1st Armored Division before it was blooded at Tunisia’s
Kasserine Pass in mid-February 1943.  (Courtesy of National Archives)

Whereas the defenders of Tobruk could be supplied by sea, the logistical problems of the Afrika Korps greatly hampered its operations, and a concentrated counterattack southwards by the besieged Allies might have succeeded in reaching El Adam and severing the lines of communication and supply of the Axis forces at Bardia, Sollum and Halfya covering the Egyptian border. General Morshead, however, was misled by intelligence overestimates of the German forces investing Tobruk, and so no major action was attempted.

General Wavell made two unsuccessful attempts to relieve Tobruk (Operation Brevity (launched on 15 May 1941) and Operation Battleaxe(launched on 15 June 1941). Both operations were easily defeated, as they were hastily prepared, partly owing to Churchill‘s impatience for speedy action. During Brevity the important Halfaya Pass was briefly recaptured by the British but was lost again on 27 May. Battleaxeresulted in the loss of 87 British for 25 German tanks in a four-day battle raging on the flanks of the Sollum and Halfaya Passes, with the British being unable to take these well-fortified positions.








In August, Rommel was appointed commander of the newly created Panzer Group Africa. His previous command, the Afrika Korps, comprising the 15th Panzer Division and the 5th Light Division, which by then had been redesignated 21st Panzer Division, was put under command of Generalleutnant Ludwig Crüwell, with Fritz Bayerlein as chief of staff. In addition to the Afrika Korps, Rommel’s Panzer Group had the 90th Light Division and six Italian divisions, the Ariete and Trieste Divisions forming the Italian XX Motorized Corps, three infantry divisions investing Tobruk, and one holding Bardia.

Operation Crusader

Allied counter offensive
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Rommel conversing with his staff near El Agheila, January 12, 1942.

Following the costly failure of Battleaxe, Wavell was replaced by the Commander-in-Chief of India,General Claude Auchinleck. Allied forces were reorganised and strengthened to two corps, XXXand XIII, and became the British Eighth Army under the command of Alan Cunningham. Auchinleck, having 770 tanks and 1,000 aircraft to support him, launched a major offensive to relieve Tobruk (Operation Crusader) on 18 November 1941. Rommel had two armoured divisions, the 15th and 21st with a total of 260 tanks, the 90th Light Infantry division, and three Italian corps, five infantry and one armoured division with 154 tanks, with which to oppose him.

The Eighth Army deeply outflanked the German defences along the Egyptian frontier with a left hook through the desert, and reached a position from which they could strike at both Tobruk and the coastal road, the “Via Balbia”. Auchinleck planned to engage the Afrika Korps with his armoured division, while XXX Corps assaulted the Italian positions at Bardia, encircling the troops there. But the British operational plan had one major flaw. When XXX corps reached the area of Qabr Salih, it was assumed that the Afrika Korps would attack eastward, allowing the British to surround them with a southerly armour thrust. Rommel, however, did not find it necessary to do as the British planned, and instead attacked the southernly armoured thrust at Sidi Rezegh.

Rommel was now faced with the decision of whether to continue the planned attack on Tobruk in late May, trusting his screening forces to hold off the advancing British, or to reorient his forces to hit the approaching British columns. He decided the risks were too great and called off the attack on Tobruk.

The British armoured thrusts were largely defeated by fierce resistance from antitank positions and tanks. The Italian Ariete Armoured Division was forced to give ground while inflicting heavy losses on the advancing British at Bir el Gobi, whereas the 21st Panzer Division checked the attack launched against them and counterattacked on Gabr Saleh. Over the next two days the British continued pressing their attack, sending their armoured brigades into battle in a piecemeal fashion, while Rommel, aware of his numerical inferiority, launched a concentrated attack on 23 November with all his armour. The 21st Panzer Division held their defensive positions at Sidi Rezegh, while 15th Panzer Division and the Italian Ariete Division attacked the flanks and enveloped the British armour. During this battle, among the biggest armoured battles of the North African campaign, the British tanks were surrounded, with about two-thirds destroyed and the survivors having to fight themselves out of the trap and head south to Gabr Saleh.

Rommel’s counterattacks

On 24 November Rommel, wanting to exploit the halt of the British offensive, counterattacked into the British rear areas in Egypt with the intention of exploiting the disorganisation and confusion in the enemy’s bases and cutting their supply lines. Rommel considered the other, more conservative, course of action of destroying the British forces halted before Tobruk and Bardia too time consuming. Rommel knew his forces were incapable of driving such an effort home, but believed that the British, traumatised by their recent debacle, would abandon their defences along the border at the appearance of a German threat to their rear.

Kradschutzen Battalion #2 on parade in Coburg 1937.

General Cunningham did, as Rommel had hoped, decide to withdraw the Eighth Army to Egypt, but Auchinleck arrived from Cairo just in time to cancel the withdrawal orders. The German attack, which began with only 100 operational tanks remaining, stalled as it outran its supplies and met stiffening resistance. The counterattack was criticised by the German High Command and some of his staff officers as too dangerous with Commonwealth forces still operating along the coast east of Tobruk, and a wasteful attack as it bled his forces, in particular his remaining tank force. Among the Staff officers who were critical was Friedrich von Mellenthin, who said that “Unfortunately, Rommel overestimated his success and believed the moment had come to launch a general pursuit. In Rommel’s favour, the attack very nearly succeeded: Cunningham ordered a withdrawal, and only Auchinleck’s timely intervention prevented this.

March column during field training prior to move to Bad Kissingen. Stefanowicz

Tobruk relieved, Axis retirement to El Agheila

While Rommel drove into Egypt, the remaining Commonwealth forces east of Tobruk threatened the weak Axis lines there. Unable to reach Rommel for several days, Rommel’s Chief of Staff, Oberstleutnant Westphal, ordered the 21st Panzer Division withdrawn to support the siege of Tobruk. On 27 November the British attack on Tobruk linked up with the defenders, and Rommel, having suffered losses that could not easily be replaced, had to concentrate on retrieving and regrouping the divisions that had attacked into Egypt. By 6 December the Afrika Korps had averted the danger, and on 7 December Rommel fell back to a defensive line at Gazala, just west of Tobruk, all the while under heavy attacks from the RAF. The Italian forces at Bardia and on the Egyptian border were now cut off from the retreating Axis. The Allies, briefly held up at Gazala, kept up the pressure to some degree, although they were almost as exhausted and disorganised as Rommel’s force, and Rommel was forced to retreat all the way back to the starting positions he had held in March, reaching El Agheila on 30 December. His main concern during his withdrawal was being flanked to the south, so the Afrika Korps held the south flank during the retreat. The Allies followed, but never attempted a southern flanking move to cut off the retreating troops as they had done in 1940. The German-Italian garrison at Bardia surrendered on 2 January 1942.

Recapture of Gazala

On 5 January 1942 the Afrika Korps received 55 tanks and new supplies and Rommel started planning a counterattack. On 21 January the attack was launched, which mauled the Allied forces, costing them some 110 tanks and other heavy equipment. The Axis forces retookBenghazi on 29 January, Timimi on 3 February, and the Allies pulled back to the Tobruk area and commenced building defensive positions at Gazala.

During the confusion caused by the Crusader operation, Rommel and his staff found themselves behind Allied lines several times. On one occasion, he visited a New Zealand Army field hospital that was still under Allied control. “[Rommel] inquired if anything was needed, promised the British [sic] medical supplies and drove off unhindered. Eventually, Rommel did supply the medical unit with some medical equipment.

Motorcycle troops arrive at rail yard 
during one of the frequent pre war moves to new barracks.

Second German offensive: Battle of Gazala

Following General Kesselring‘s successes in creating local air superiority and suppressing the Malta defenders in April 1942, an increased flow of vital supplies reached the Panzer Armee Afrika. Previously it had been receiving about a third of its needed supplies for several months. With his forces thus strengthened, Rommel began planning a major push for the summer. He felt the very strong British positions around Gazala could be outflanked, and he could then drive up behind them and destroy them. The British were planning a summer offensive of their own and their dispositions were more suited for an attack rather than a defence.

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Rommel in North Africa (June 1942)

The British had 900 tanks in the area, 200 of which were new Grant tanks, whereas Rommel’sPanzer Army Africa commanded a mere 320 German, 50 of which were the obsolete Panzer IImodel, and 240 Italian tanks, which were no better than the Panzer IIs. Therefore Rommel had to rely predominantly on 88 mm guns to destroy the British heavy tanks, but even these were in short supply. In infantry and artillery Rommel found himself vastly outnumbered also, with many of his units under-strength following the campaigns of 1941. In contrast to the previous year, the Axis had more-or-less air parity.

On 26 May 1942 Rommel’s army attacked in a classic outflanking Blitzkrieg operation in theBattle of Gazala. His Italian infantry assaulted the Gazala fortifications head on, with some armour attached to give the impressions that this was the main assault, while all his motorized and armoured forces outflanked the positions to the south. On the following morning Rommel cut through the flank and attacked north, but throughout the day a running armour battle occurred, where both sides took heavy losses. The attempted encirclement of the Gazala position failed and the Germans lost a third of their heavy tanks. Renewing the attack on the morning of 28 May, Rommel concentrated on encircling and destroying separate units of the British armour. Heavy British counterattacks forced Rommel to assume a defensive posture and not pursue his original plan of a dash north for the coast. On 30 May he attacked eastwards to link with elements of Italian X Corps which had cleared a path through the Allied minefields to establish a line of supply. On 2 June 90th Light Division and the Trieste Division surrounded and reduced the Allied strongpoint at Bir Hakeim, capturing it on 11 June. With his communications and the southern strongpoint of the British line thus secured, Rommel attacked north again, forcing the British back, relying on the minefields of the Gazala lines to protect his left flank. On 14 June the British began a headlong retreat eastwards, the so-called “Gazala Gallop”, to avoid being completely cut off.

ommercial post card showing machine gunner in position.

On 15 June Axis forces reached the coast eliminating any escape for the Commonwealth forces still occupying the Gazala positions. With this task completed, Rommel set off in pursuit of the retreating Allied formations, aiming to capture Tobruk while the enemy was confused and disorganised. Tobruk, isolated and alone, was now all that stood between the Axis and Egypt. The defenders were the 2nd South African Infantry Division and some disorganised units recovering from the Gazala battle. On 21 June, after a swift, coordinated and fiercecombined arms assault, the city surrendered along with its 33,000 defenders, including most of the South African 2nd Division. Only at thefall of Singapore, earlier that year, had more British Commonwealth troops been captured. Hitler made Rommel a Field Marshal for this victory.

By this time, Rommel’s gains caused considerable alarm in the Allied camp. He appeared to be poised to deliver a crippling blow to the British by conquering Egypt. The Allies feared Rommel would then turn northeastward to conquer the valuable oil fields of the Middle East and then link up with the German forces besieging the equally valuable Caucasian oil fields. However, these required substantial reinforcements that Hitler refused to allocate. Ironically, Hitler had been sceptical about sending Rommel to Africa in the first place. He’d only done so after constant begging by naval commander Erich Raeder, and even then only to relieve the Italians. Hitler never understood global warfare, despite Raeder and Rommel’s attempts to get him to see the strategic value of Egypt.

The classic trio, driver, rifleman and gunner on a 740 cc BMW with sidecar set..    The motorcycle offered speed
and mobility on the battlefield but most often, the troops were committed as dismounted infantry.

Drive for Egypt
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Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, with his aides during the desert campaign. 1942

Rommel determined to press the attack on Mersa Matruh despite the heavy losses he had suffered at Gazala and Tobruk. He also wanted to prevent the British from establishing a new frontline, and felt the weakness of the British formations had to be exploited by a thrust into Egypt. This decision met with some criticism, as an advance into Egypt meant a significant lengthening of the supply lines. It also meant that a proposed attack on Malta would have to wait, as the Luftwaffe would be required to support Rommel’s drive eastwards. Kesselring strongly disagreed with Rommel’s decision, and went as far as threatening to withdraw his aircraft to Sicily. Hitler agreed to Rommel’s plan, despite protest from Italian HQ and some of his staff officers, seeing the potential for a complete victory in Africa. Rommel, apparently aware of his growing reputation as a gambler, defended his decision by claiming that merely to hold the lines at Sollum would confer upon the British a distinct advantage, in that they could more easily outflank the positions at Sollum and the overseas supply lines would still have to be routed via Tripoliunless he secured a front further east.

Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)


On 22 June Rommel continued his offensive eastwards and initially little resistance was encountered. Apart from fuel shortages, the advance continued until Mersa Matruh was encircled on 26 June, surrounding four infantry divisions. One of the divisions managed to break out during the night, and over the next two days some elements of the remaining three divisions also slipped away. The fortress fell on 29 June, yielding enormous amounts of supplies and equipment, in addition to 6,000 POWs.

On 25 June Auchinleck had assumed direct command of Eighth Army and decided to form his main defensive line at El Alamein, where the proximity to the south of the Qattara Depression created a relatively short line to defend which could not be outflanked to the south because of the impossibility of moving armour into and through the depression. Rommel continued his march eastwards, but with the supply situation steadily worsening and his men exhausted after five weeks of constant warfare, the offensive on El Alamein seemed in doubt. On 1 July theFirst Battle of El Alamein started, but after almost a month of inconclusive fighting both sides, completely exhausted, dug in, halting Rommel’s drive eastwards. This was a serious blow to Rommel who had hoped to drive his advance into the open desert beyond El Alamein where he could conduct a mobile defence. The Eighth Army suffered higher casualties in the fighting around El Alamein, some 13,000, compared with Axis losses of 7,000 men, 1,000 of which were Germans, but Rommel could afford the losses to a much lesser degree.

More significantly, Rommel only had 13 operational tanks by the time he reached El Alamein. Although he was only a few hundred miles fromthe Pyramids, he knew he didn’t have the resources to push forward. On 3 July, he wrote in his diary that his momentum had “faded away.

Allied attack: Second Battle of El Alamein

Summer standoff

Operation Crusader file photo

After the stalemate at El Alamein, Rommel hoped to go on the offensive again before massive amounts of men and material could reach the British Eighth Army. Allied forces from Malta were, however, intercepting his supplies at sea and the Desert Air Force kept up a relentless campaign against Axis supply vessels in Tobruk, Bardia and Mersa Matruh. Most of the supplies reaching the Axis troops still had to be landed at Benghazi and Tripoli, and the enormous distances supplies had to travel to reach the forward troops meant that a rapid resupply and reorganisation of the Axis army could not be done. Further hampering Rommel’s plans was the fact that the Italian divisions received priority on supplies, with the Italian authorities shipping material for the Italian formations at a much higher rate than for German formations. It seems the Italian HQ was uneasy with Rommel’s ambitions and wanted their own forces, whom they at least had some control over, resupplied first.

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An Italian soldier surrenders to a British Indian Army soldier during the initial successful phase of allied operations.

The British, themselves preparing for a renewed drive, replaced C-in-C Auchinleck with General Harold Alexander. The Eighth Army also got a new commander, Bernard Montgomery. They received a steady stream of supplies and were able to reorganise their forces. In late August they received a large convoy carrying over 100,000 tons of supplies, and Rommel, learning of this, felt that time was running out. Rommel decided to launch an attack with the 15th and 21st Panzer Division, 90th Light Division, and the Italian XX Motorized Corps in a drive through the southern flank of the El Alamein lines. The terrain here was without any easily defensible features and so open to attack. Montgomery and Auchinleck before him had realised this threat, and the main defences for this sector had been set up behind the El Alamein line along the Alam El Halfa Ridge, where any outflanking thrust could be more easily met from overlooking defensive positions.

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A group of Sikh soldiers from the British Indian Army during the operation.

Battle of Alam El Halfa

The Battle of Alam el Halfa was launched on 30 August, with Rommel’s forces driving through the south flank. After passing the El Alamein line to the south, Rommel drove north at the Alam el Halfa Ridge, just as Montgomery had anticipated. Under heavy fire from British artillery and aircraft, and in the face of well prepared positions that Rommel could not hope to outflank due to lack of fuel, the attack stalled. By 2 September, Rommel realized the battle was unwinnable, and decided to withdraw.

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Damaged Panzer IIIs at Belhamed, 16 December 1941.

Montgomery had prepared to pursue the Germans but in the afternoon of 2 September, he gave Corps commander Brian Horrocks clear orders to allow the enemy to retire. This was for two reasons: to preserve his own strength and to allow the enemy to observe, and be misled by, the dummy preparations for an attack in the area.Nevertheless, Montgomery was keen to inflict casualties on the enemy and orders were given for the as yet inexperienced 2nd New Zealand Division, positioned to the north of the retreating Axis forces, and 7th Armoured Division to attack on 3 September. The attack was repelled, however, by a fierce rearguard action by the 90th Light Division and Montgomery called off further action to preserve his strength. On 5 September Rommel was back where he had started, with only heavy losses to show for it. Rommel had suffered 2,940 casualties, lost 50 tanks, a similar number of guns and, perhaps worst of all, 400 trucks, vital for supplies and movement. The British losses, except tank losses of 68, were much less, further adding to the numerical inferiority of Panzer Army Afrika. The Desert Air Force inflicted the highest proportions of damage to Rommel’s forces. He now realized the war in Africa was unwinnable without more air support which was impossible since the Luftwaffe was already stretched to breaking point on other fronts.

Second Battle of El Alamein
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El Alamein 1942: Destroyed Panzer IIIs near Tel el Eisa

In September British raiding parties attacked important harbours and supply points. The flow of supplies successfully ferried across the Mediterranean had fallen to a dismal level. Some two-thirds of the supplies embarked for Africa were destroyed at sea. In addition, Rommel’s health was failing and he took sick leave in Italy and Germany from late September. Thus he was not present when the Second Battle of El Alamein began on 23 October 1942. Although he returned immediately, it took him two vital days to reach his HQ in Africa. The defensive plan at El Alamein was more static in nature than Rommel preferred, but with shortages of motorized units and fuel, he had felt it was the only possible plan. The defensive line had strong fortifications and was protected with a large minefield which in turn was covered with machine guns and artillery. This, Rommel hoped, would allow his infantry to hold the line at any point until motorized and armoured units in reserve could move up and counterattack any Allied breaches.

General Georg Stumme was in command in Rommel’s absence but during the initial fighting he died of a heart attack. This paralyzed the German HQ until General Ritter von Thoma took command. After returning, Rommel learned that the fuel supply situation, critical when he left in September, was now disastrous. Counterattacks by the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions on 24 October and 25 October had incurred heavy tank losses due to the intensity of the British artillery and air attack. Rommel’s main concern was to counterattack in full force and throw the British out of the defensive lines, which was in his view the only chance the Axis had of avoiding defeat. The counterattack was launched early on 26 October but the British units that had penetrated the defensive line inflicted heavy losses on Rommel’s armour at the position code-named Snipe (often mis-named Kidney Ridge due to faulty interpretation of the ring contour – it was actually a depression). The Allies continued pushing hard with armoured units to force the breakthrough, but the defenders’ fire destroyed many tanks, leading to doubts among the officers in the British armoured brigades about the chances of clearing a breach.

Montgomery, seeing his armoured brigades losing tanks at an alarming rate, stopped major attacks until 2 November when he launchedOperation Supercharge and achieved a 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) penetration of the line. Rommel immediately counterattacked with what tanks he had available in an attempt to encircle the pocket during 2 November, but the heavy Allied fire stopped the attempt. By this time Panzer Army Africa had only one-third of its initial strength remaining, with only 35 tanks left operational, virtually no fuel or ammunition and with the British in complete command of the air, yet the British armour had been fought to a standstill, having taken murderous losses with some armoured brigades reporting losses of 75%.

Rommel’s retreat

On 3 November Montgomery found it impossible to renew his attack, and he had to wait for more reinforcements to be brought up. This lull was what Rommel needed for his withdrawal, which had been planned since 29 October, when he had determined the situation hopeless.At midday, however, Rommel received the infamous “victory or death” stand-fast order from Hitler. Although this order demanded the impossible and virtually ensured the destruction of Panzer Army Africa, Rommel could not bring himself to disobey a direct order from hisFührer. The Axis forces held on desperately.

On 4 November Montgomery renewed the attack with fresh forces, and with almost 500 tanks against the 20 or so remaining to Rommel. By midday the Italian XX Motorized Corps was surrounded, and several hours later was completely destroyed. This left a 20 km gap in Rommel’s line, with British armoured and motorized units pouring through, threatening the entire Panzer Army Africa with encirclement. At this point Rommel could no longer uphold the no-retreat order and ordered a general retreat. Early on 5 November he received authorization by Hitler to withdraw, 12 hours after his decision to do so—but it was far too late, with only remnants of his army streaming westward. Most of his unmotorized forces (the bulk of the army) were caught.

Part of the Panzer Army Africa escaped from El Alamein, but this remnant took heavy losses from constant air attacks. Despite urgings from Hitler and Mussolini, the Panzer Army did not turn to fight, except for brief holding actions, but withdrew under Allied pressure all the way toTunisia. However, the retreat was conducted most skilfully, employing scorched earth tactics and leaving behind booby traps, making the task of the pursuers very difficult. The Allied forces had great numerical superiority and air supremacy, while most of Rommel’s remaining divisions were reduced to combat groups.

End of Africa campaigns

Having reached Tunisia, Rommel launched an attack against the U.S. II Corps which was threatening to cut his lines of supply north to Tunis. Rommel inflicted a sharp defeat on the American forces at the Kasserine Pass in February.
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Tunisia—Rommel talks with German troops who are using a captured American half-track

Rommel immediately turned back against the British forces, occupying the Mareth Line (old French defences on the Libyan border). But Rommel could only delay the inevitable. At the end of January 1943, the Italian General Giovanni Messe had been appointed the new commander of Rommel’s Panzer Army Africa while Rommel had been at Kasserine, which was renamed the Italo-German Panzer Army (in recognition of the fact that it consisted of one German and three Italian corps). Though Messe replaced Rommel, he diplomatically deferred to him, and the two coexisted in what was theoretically the same command. On 23 February Armeegruppe Afrika was created with Rommel in command. It included the Italo-German Panzer Army under Messe (renamed 1st Italian Army) and the German 5th Panzer Army in the north of Tunisia under General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim.

The last Rommel offensive in North Africa was on 6 March 1943, when he attacked Eighth Army at the Battle of Medenine. The attack was made with 10th15th, and 21st Panzer Divisions. Warned by Ultra intercepts, Montgomery deployed large numbers of anti-tank guns in the path of the offensive. After losing 52 tanks, Rommel called off the assault. On 9 March he handed over command of Armeegruppe Afrika toGeneral Hans-Jürgen von Arnim and left Africa, because of health reasons, never to return. On 13 May 1943, General Messe surrendered the remnants of Armeegruppe Afrika to the Allies.

Some historians contrast Rommel’s withdrawal to Tunisia against Hitler’s wishes with Friedrich Paulus‘s obedience of orders to have theGerman Sixth Army stand its ground at the Battle of Stalingrad which resulted in its annihilation. Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, appointed overall Axis commander in North Africa, saw things differently. He believed the withdrawals, some of which were carried out against his orders, unnecessary and ruinous since they brought forward British airfields ever closer to the port of Tunis. As far as he was concerned, Rommel was an insubordinate defeatist and string-puller. The increasingly acrimonious relations between the two did nothing to enhance performance.

Role of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) in North Africa


The Axis had some major SIGINT successes in North Africa. They intercepted the reports of the U.S. military attaché in Egypt, who was briefed by the British on their forces and plans.Some authorities believe this information explains much of Rommel’s success.

In addition, the Afrika Korps had a Radio Intercept Section (RIS) attached to its HQ. The RIS monitored radio communications among British units. The British were very “gabby” and most of this chatter was in clear, that is, uncoded, allowing the Germans to more easily identify British units and deployments. During the first Battle of El Alamein, a British counter-attack reached the German HQ. The RIS was wiped out in the fighting and many of their files captured. This alerted the British to the problem, and they tightened up on radio chatter. The loss of this resource is considered an important factor in Rommel’s later lack of success.


Allied codebreakers read much enciphered German message traffic, especially that encrypted with the Enigma machine. This Ultraintelligence included daily reports from Africa on the numbers and condition of Axis forces. It also included information about Axis supply shipments across the Mediterranean. This information enabled the weak Allied air and naval forces there to intercept and destroy much of these shipments. To protect the source of the intelligence (ULTRA), Allied air and naval forces were forbidden to destroy the convoys carrying war supplies to North Africa until a flyover to “discover” the convoy was arranged and completed.

France 1943–1944

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Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel in December 1943.

The inglorious end of the North African campaign meshed poorly with the Nazi propaganda machine’s relentless portrayal of Rommel as an unbeatable military genius. This opened in Berlin the awkward question of precisely what use now to make of the erstwhile Desert Fox. Back in Germany he was for some time virtually “unemployed”. On 23 July 1943 he moved to Greece as commander of Army Group Eto defend the Greek coast against a possible Allied landing that never happened, and which the Germans were led to expect due to the elaborate British deception plan known as “Operation Mincemeat“—only to return to Germany two days later upon the overthrow of Mussolini. On 17 August 1943 Rommel moved his headquarters from Munich to Lake Garda as commander of a new Army Group B created to defendnorthern Italy.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-263-1598-04, Frankreich, Rommel, "Indische Legion".jpg

Rommel inspecting the Indian Legion, February 1944.

After Hitler gave Kesselring sole Italian command, on 21 November, Rommel moved Army Group B to Normandy in France with responsibility for defending the French coast against the long anticipated Allied invasion. He was dismayed by the lack of completed works and the slow building pace and feared he had just months before an invasion. Rommel reinvigorated the fortification effort along the Atlantic coast. The Commander-in-Chief West, Gerd von Rundstedt, expected the Allies to invade in the Pas-de-Calais because it was the shortest crossing point from Britain, its port facilities were essential to supplying a large invasion force, and the distance from Calais to Germany was relatively short. Hitler’s HQ, although agreeing with this assessment, also considered a landing at Normandy as a possibility. Rommel, believing that Normandy was indeed a likely landing ground, argued that it did not matter to the Allies where they landed, just that the landing was successful.He therefore toured the Normandy defenses extensively in January and February 1944. He ordered millions of mines laid and thousands of tank traps and obstacles set up on beaches and throughout the countryside, including in fields suitable for glider aircraft landings, the so-called Rommelspargel (“Rommel’s asparagus”).

After his experience with Allied air superiority at the end of the North Africa campaign, Rommel concluded that future Allied offensives would also enjoy overwhelming Allied air superiority, exposing any German armoured counter movements to severe punishment from above. He argued that the tank forces should be dispersed in small units and kept in heavily fortified positions as close to the front as possible. In doing so they would not have to move far and en masse when the invasion started. He felt their best chance was to confront the invading force immediately and drive it into the sea. However, von Rundstedt felt that there was no way to stop the invasion near the beaches due to the equally overwhelming firepower of the Allied navies. He felt the German armour should be held in reserve well inland near Paris where they could be used to counter attack in force in a more traditional military doctrine. The allies could even be allowed to extend themselves deep into France, exposing their flanks for a pincer movement to cut off the supplies and retreat of the Allied troops. This notion of defending France was supported by other officers, most notably Heinz Guderian and Panzer Group West commander Geyr von Schweppenburg, who strongly disagreed with Rommel and wanted the armour placed far inland.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-718-0149-17A, Paris, Rommel und von Rundstedt.jpg

Generalfeldmarschalls Gerd von Rundstedt and Erwin Rommel meeting at the Hotel “George V” in Paris

When asked to pick a plan, Hitler vacillated. In late April, he ordered them placed in the middle, far enough inland to be useless to Rommel but not far enough for von Rundstedt. Rommel did move some of the armoured formations under his command as far forward as possible, ordering General Erich Marcks, commanding the 84th Corps defending the Normandy section, to move his reserves into the frontline.

The Allies staged elaborate deceptions for D-Day (see Operation Fortitude), giving the impression that the landings would be at Calais. Although Hitler himself expected a Normandy invasion for a while, Rommel and most Wehrmacht commanders in France also started believing in a Pas-de-Calais landing. Rommel concentrated fortification building in the River Somme estuary and let the work in Normandy lag. By D-Day on 6 June 1944 virtually all German officers, including Hitler’s staff, firmly believed that Pas-de-Calais was going to be the invasion site.

During the confusing opening hours of D-Day, the German command structure in France was in disarray. Rommel, and several other important officers were on leave. Several tank units, notably the 12th SS Panzer Division and Panzer-Lehr-Division, were close enough to the beaches to create serious havoc. The absence of Rommel and continued confusion in the army and theater HQs led to hesitation in releasing the armoured reserves to Normandy when they might be needed to meet a second invasion further north. Facing only small-scale German attacks, the Allies quickly secured a beachhead. According to the official history of the SAS, a British sniper could have killed Rommel, but was ordered not to, because by that time the allies understood the German’s mind and felt they could anticipate his strategies but not that of his unknown successor. Rommel personally oversaw the bitter fighting around Caen where only the determined defence of Kampfgruppe von Luck prevented a British breakout on the first day. Here, again, the on-site commanders were denied freedom of action and the Germans did not launch a concentrated counterattack until mid-day on 6 June.

Members of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in the village of St. Marcouf somewhere
behind Utah Beach, June 8, 1944.  Note the men’s distinctive “Screaming Eagle”
division patch on their shoulders.  (Courtesy of National Archives)

The Allies pushed ashore and expanded their beachhead despite the best efforts of Rommel’s troops. By mid-July the German position was crumbling. On 17 July 1944, Rommel was being driven along a French road near the front in his staff car. According to a widely accepted version of events, an RCAF Spitfire of 412 Squadron piloted by Charley Fox strafed the car near Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery and Rommel was injured. He was hospitalised with major head injuries. In a different version, a patrol of 602 Squadron led by Chris Le Roux carried out the attack. Australian Fred Cowlph, of squadron 453, also claims he shot up the Horch carrying Rommel, . He claims his camera that activated automatically on firing his cannons verified this. He recorded this action in his aircraft log book.

Plot against Hitler

Main article: 20 July plot

There had always been opposition to Hitler in conservative circles and in the Army, the Schwarze Kapelle (Black Orchestra), but Hitler’s dazzling successes in 1938–1941 had stifled it. However, after the Russian campaign failed, and the Axis suffered more defeats, this opposition underwent a revival.

Early in 1944, three of Rommel’s closest friends—, the Oberbürgermeister of Stuttgart, SA Brigadeführer Karl Strölin (who had served with Rommel in the First World War), Alexander von Falkenhausen and Carl Heinrich von Stülpnagel—began efforts to bring Rommel into the conspiracy. They felt that as by far the most popular officer in Germany, he would lend their cause badly needed credibility with the populace. Additionally, the conspirators felt they needed the support of a field marshal on active duty. Erwin von Witzleben, who would have become commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht if Hitler had been overthrown, was a field marshal, but had not been on active duty since 1942. Sometime in February, Rommel agreed to lend his support to the conspiracy in order to, as he put it, “come to the rescue of Germany.

Rommel, however, opposed assassinating Hitler. After the war, his widow—among others—maintained that Rommel believed an assassination attempt would spark civil war in Germany and Austria and Hitler would have become a martyr for a lasting cause. Instead, Rommel insisted that Hitler be arrested and brought to trial for his crimes. By the time of his head injuries, Rommel had made up his mind to do his part to get rid of Hitler.

After the failed bomb attack of 20 July, many conspirators were arrested and the dragnet expanded to anyone even suspected of participating. Rommel was fairly perturbed at this development, telling Hans Speidel that Hitler’s behavior after the attack proved that the dictator had “gone completely mad.” It did not take long, however, for Rommel’s involvement to come to light. His name was first mentioned when Stülpnagel blurted it out after a botched suicide attempt. Later, another conspirator, Caesar von Hofacker, admitted under particularly severe Gestapo torture that Rommel was actively involved.

Additionally, Carl Goerdeler, the main civilian leader of the Resistance, wrote on several letters and other documents that Rommel was a potential supporter and an acceptable military leader to be placed in a position of responsibility should their coup succeed. Nazi party officials in France reported that Rommel extensively and scornfully criticised Nazi incompetence and crimes.

Rommel’s death

File:Erwin rommel death.jpg

A memorial at the site of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s suicideoutside of the town of Herrlingen,Baden-WürttembergGermany(west of Ulm).

The “Court of Military Honour”—a drumhead court-martial convened to decide the fate of officers involved in the conspiracy—included two men with whom Rommel had crossed swords before: Heinz Guderian and Gerd von Rundstedt. The Court decided that Rommel should be expelled from the Army in disgrace and brought before Roland Freisler‘s People’s Court, a kangaroo court that always decided in favour of the prosecution. However, Hitler knew that having Rommel branded as a traitor would severely damage morale on the home front. He and Keitel thus decided to offer Rommel a chance to commit suicide.

Rommel was approached at his home by Wilhelm Burgdorf and Ernst Maisel, two generals from Hitler’s headquarters, on 14 October 1944. Burgdorf informed him of the charges and offered him a choice: he could face the People’s Court or choose to commit suicide quietly. In the former case, his staff would have been arrested and his family would suffer even before the all-but-certain conviction and execution. In the latter case, the government would assure his family full pension payments and a state funeral claiming he had died a hero. Burgdorf had brought a capsule of cyanide for the occasion. After a few minutes alone, Rommel announced that he chose to end his own life and explained his decision to his wife and son. Carrying his field marshal’s baton, Rommel went to Burgdorf’s Opel, driven by SS Master Sergeant Heinrich Doose, and was driven out of the village. Doose walked away from the car leaving Rommel with Maisel. Five minutes later Burgdorf gestured to the two men to return to the car, and Doose noticed that Rommel was slumped over, after taking the cyanide pill. Doose, while sobbing, replaced Rommel’s fallen cap on his head. Ten minutes later the group phoned Rommel’s wife to inform her that Rommel was dead.


Rommel’s grave

After the war, an edited version of his diary was published as The Rommel Papers. He is the only member of the Third Reich establishment to have a museum dedicated to him. His grave can be found in Herrlingen, a short distance west of Ulm.

The official story of Rommel’s death, as initially reported to the general public, stated that Rommel had either suffered a heart attack or succumbed to his injuries from the earlier strafing of his staff car. To further strengthen the story, Hitler ordered an official day of mourning in commemoration and Rommel was buried with full military honours. Hitler sent Field Marshal von Rundstedt as his representative at Rommel’s funeral. Rommel had specified that no political paraphernalia were to be displayed on his corpse, but the Nazis made sure he was fully festooned with swastikas. The truth behind Rommel’s death did not come out until Field Marshal Keitel testified about it during the Nuremberg Trials.

Rommel’s style as military commander

Logistics and strategy

Rommel was a skilled tactician, but some allege that he had little sense of logistics or military strategy. They consider as an example of this his proposal to postpone Operation Herkules, the invasion of Malta in favour of the immediate advance to the Suez Canal, which would cut the island off from the western Mediterranean. In the event, the operation did not take place, and he ran out of supplies in Egypt, principally because Malta-based forces were sinking Axis supply ships. Those that allege that Rommel had little sense of logistics think that his eagerness to drive for Egypt, when the necessary logistical support was lacking, meant that these drives ultimately failed with great losses.

In his analysis of the logistical aspects of the North African Campaign, military historian Martin van Creveld wrote:

Given that the Wehrmacht was only partly motorized and unsupported by a really strong motor industry; that the political situation necessitated the carrying of much useless Italian ballast; that the capacity of the Libyan ports was so small, the distances to be mastered so vast; it seems clear that, for all of Rommel’s tactical brilliance, the problem of supplying an Axis force for an advance into the Middle East was insoluble. … Rommel’s repeated defiance of his orders and attempts to advance beyond a reasonable distance from his bases, however, was mistaken and should never have been tolerated.


Contemporaries who had to work with him under adversity often had very few kind words to say about him and his abilities. Following Paulus’ return from his inspection of Rommel’s doings in North Africa and also considering the reports submitted by Alfred Gause, Halder concluded: “Rommel’s character defects make him very hard to get along with but no one cares to come out in open opposition because of his brutality and the backing he has at top level.” Others mentioned his leadership style, which expected much of his commanders, while not being open to criticism or objections. He had little patience for sub-commanders who did not do their jobs properly. Only three weeks after assuming command of the 7th Panzer Division in February 1940, Rommel found a battalion commander performing below par and had the man relieved of command and sent on his way in 90 minutes. This management style would certainly send a signal that he demanded the utmost of his men, but it was bound to create a feeling of resentment among some of his officers.

F. W. von Mellenthin, who served on Rommel’s staff during the Africa campaign, wrote that Rommel took great chances on several occasions, gambling entire battles on decisions made almost on the spur of the moment and with incomplete information. He cited Rommel’s counterattack during Operation Crusader as just one such instance. Others who served under him in Africa, most notably General Fritz Bayerlein, said he took risks but only after carefully weighing the potential dangers and rewards. Rommel himself was aware of his growing reputation as a gambler and added careful notes in his papers explaining and defending his actions, especially concerning his decision to drive into Egypt during the 1942 Summer Offensive.

While some aggressive subordinates, like Hans von Luck, praised his leadership from the front, Mellenthin questioned this leadership style as it often led to disinvolvement of his staff officers in the fight instead of their maintaining an overview of the situation. His consequential long absences from HQ also meant that subordinates had to make decisions without consulting Rommel, leading to confusion.

Rommel was a teetotaler and a non-smoker.

Relations with the Italians

Rommel’s relations with the Italian High Command in North Africa were in the worst possible terms. That is hardly surprising, as Rommel was nominally subordinate to the Italians for much of the campaign but was also direct commander of the DAK, by far the strongest component of the Axis forces, and enjoyed direct access and the strongest relationships with the highest German political authority. This allowed him to ignore blatantly any sort of order or even simple advice coming from his Italian counterparts, and Rommel’s abrasive and often impolite manners did nothing to smoothe the resentment that this perceived insubordination and lack of respect generated in his Italian allies.

The belated expedient to nominate Field Marshall Kesselring as Supreme Commander Mediterranean, to act as a buffer between Rommel and the Italians, failed miserably, as Rommel quite simply ignored Kesselring exactly as he ignored the Italians.

Besides Rommel’s impolite manners and insubordination, there were also strong professional points of disagreements, mostly related to the handling of the logistical part of the campaign. While certainly much less proficient than Rommel in their tactical outlook and mobile warfare skills, the Italian commanders were competent “old school” professionals, with full staff training and a sound grasp of logistics and artillery doctrine, that is the true weak points of Rommel professional preparation. As such the Italian commanders were repeatedly at odds with Rommel, particularly when their conservative logistical calculations – regularly ignored by Rommel – were actually confirmed as accurate, leaving the Axis forces stranded in exposed position from where the Italians – with their puny motorized resources – were much less able than the Germans to extricate themselves

This generated a widespread lack of respect among the Italian commanders for Rommel’s professional skills in anything but tactical situation, that further ruined any possibility of implementing good working relations. This lack of trust reached its acme during the retreat up to Tunisia after the El Alamein battle, when an utterly spent and dispirited Rommel eluded all requests by the Italians to stand up and attempt to fight in defence of Libya on the favourable traditional back-up line at the el Agheila bottleneck or even before the main logistical base of Tripoli, a fact that the Italian commanders did consider just short of outright cowardice and treason.

Much different was the perception of Rommel among the Italian common soldiers and lower officers, that reserved for him the highest sort of admiration and respect.

Aggression and tactical capability

In France, Rommel’s aggressive drive through the French and British lines, disregarding the safety of his flanks and rear, succeeded to a remarkable degree. His bold attacks often caused larger enemy formations to surrender but his aggressiveness did cause resentment among fellow officers, however, who felt he at times acted too recklessly and failed to keep his sub-commanders and colleague commanders properly informed of his intentions. He was also criticized for claiming too much of the glory himself, neglecting support from other elements of the Wehrmacht and downplaying other units’ achievements.

British General Harold Alexander commanded Allied forces in the Middle East facing Rommel in Egypt (from August 1942) and later commanded 18th Army Group in Tunisia. In his official despatch on the campaign in Africa, he wrote of Rommel :

He was a tactician of the greatest ability, with a firm grasp of every detail of the employment of armour in action, and very quick to seize the fleeting opportunity and the critical turning point of a mobile battle. I felt certain doubts, however, about his strategic ability, in particular as to whether he fully understood the importance of a sound administrative plan. Happiest while controlling a mobile force directly under his own eyes he was liable to overexploit immediate success without sufficient thought for the future.

Sir David Hunt, one of Alexander’s intelligence officers, expressed the view in his own book that:

…his real gift was for commanding an armoured regiment, perhaps a division, and that his absolute ceiling was an armoured corps.

During the siege of Tobruk, Rommel launched frequent costly attacks during the first month of the siege. The level of losses incurred caused Rommel to have several arguments with his unit commanders, and also with the German High Command. Indeed, some sources indicate that Chief of Staff Halder had to send Friedrich Paulus to Africa to rein Rommel in, although Rommel himself maintained he had realized the futility of further attacks on the fortress on his own accord.

Popular perception

Rommel was extraordinarily well known in his lifetime, not only by the German people, but also by his adversaries. Popular stories of his chivalry and tactical prowess earned him the respect of many opponents, including Claude AuchinleckWinston ChurchillGeorge S. Patton, and Bernard Montgomery. Rommel reciprocated their respect; for instance, he said Montgomery “never made a serious strategic mistake” and credited Patton with “the most astounding achievement in mobile warfare. Hitler counted Rommel among his favorite generals. Rommel was among the few Axis commanders (others being Isoroku Yamamoto and Reinhard Heydrich) directly targeted for assassination by Allied planners. However, unlike the other two, the attempt on Rommel’s life was a failure.

The Afrika Korps were never accused of any war crimes, and Rommel himself referred to the fighting in North Africa as Krieg ohne Hass—war without hate. Numerous examples exist of Rommel’s chivalry towards Allied POWs, such as his defiance of Hitler’s infamous Commando Order following the capture of Lt. Roy Woodridge and Lt. George Lane as part of Operation Fortitude. He also refused to comply with Hitler’s order to execute Jewish POWs.

During Rommel’s time in France, Hitler ordered him to deport the country’s Jewish population; Rommel disobeyed. Several times he wrote letters protesting against the treatment of the Jews. When British Major Geoffrey Keyes was killed during a failed commando raid to kill or capture Rommel behind German lines, Rommel ordered him buried with full military honours. Also, during the construction of the Atlantic Wall, Rommel directed that French workers were not to be used as slaves, but were to be paid for their labour.

His military colleagues also played their part in perpetuating his legend. His former subordinate Kircheim, though privately critical of Rommel’s performance, nonetheless explained: “thanks to propaganda, first by Goebbels, then by Montgomery, and finally, after he was poisoned (sic), by all former enemy powers, he has become a symbol of the best military traditions. …Any public criticism of this legendary personality would damage the esteem in which the German soldier is held.”

After the war, when Rommel’s alleged involvement in the plot to kill Hitler became known, his stature was enhanced greatly among the former Allied nations. Rommel was often cited in Western sources as a general who, though a loyal German, was willing to stand up to Hitler. The release of the film The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) helped to further enhance his reputation as one of the most widely known and well-regarded leaders in the German Army. In 1970 a Lütjens-class destroyer was named the Rommel in his honour.

Quotations about Rommel

The British Parliament considered a censure vote against Winston Churchill following the surrender at Tobruk. The vote failed, but in the course of the debate, Churchill stated:

We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.

Churchill again:

He also deserves our respect, because, although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler and all his works, and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany by displacing the maniac and tyrant. For this, he paid the forfeit of his life. In the sombre wars of modern democracy, there is little place for chivalry.

Theodor Werner was an officer who, during World War I, served under Rommel:

Anybody who came under the spell of his personality turned into a real soldier. However tough the strain he seemed inexhaustible. He seemed to know what the enemy were like and how they would react.

British General Claude Auchinleck, one of Rommel’s opponents in Africa, in a letter to his field commanders:

There exists a real danger that our friend Rommel is becoming a kind of magical or bogey-man to our troops, who are talking far too much about him. He is by no means a superman, although he is undoubtedly very energetic and able. Even if he were a superman, it would still be highly undesirable that our men should credit him with supernatural powers… [ending the memo with] I am not jealous of Rommel.

Medals and decorations


Rommel, with his various decorations including the Iron Cross

Dates of ranks


Shaanxi Provincial Museum: Qin GalleryShaanxi Provincial Museum: Qin Gallery

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY on February 8, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 371


Shaanxi Provincial Museum: Qin GalleryShaanxi Provincial Museum: Qin Gallery

lasting from 221 to 207 BC


The Qin Dynasty (ChinesepinyinQín CháoWade–Giles: Ch’in Ch’ao; IPA: [tɕʰǐn tʂʰɑ̌ʊ̯]) was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin statederived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring States Period. In the mid and late third century BC, the Qin accomplished a series of swift conquests, first ending the powerless Zhou Dynasty, and eventually destroying the remaining six states of the major states to gain control over the whole of China, resulting in an unified China.

During its reign over China, the Qin Dynasty achieved increased trade, improved agriculture, and military security. This was due to the abolition of landowning lords, to whom peasants had formerly held allegiance. The central government now had direct control of the masses, giving it access to a much larger workforce. This allowed for the construction of ambitious projects, such as a wall on the northern border, now known as the Great Wall of China. The Qin Dynasty also introduced several reforms: currency, weights and measures were standardized, and a better system of writing was established. An attempt to purge all traces of the old dynasties led to the infamousburning of books and burying of scholars incident, which has been criticized greatly by subsequent scholars. The Qin’s military was also revolutionary in that it used the most recently developed weaponry, transportation, and tactics, though the government was heavy-handed and bureaucratic.

Despite its military strength, the Qin Dynasty did not last long. When the first emperor died in 210 BC, his son was placed on the throne by two of the previous emperor’s advisers, in an attempt to influence and control the administration of the entire dynasty through him. The advisors squabbled among themselves, however, which resulted in both their deaths and that of the second Qin emperor. Popular revolt broke out a few years later, and the weakened empire soon fell to a Chu lieutenant, who went on to found theHan Dynasty. Despite its rapid end, the Qin Dynasty influenced future Chinese empires, particularly the Han, and the European name for China is thought to be derived from it.

Shaanxi Provincial Museum: Qin Gallery  lasting from 221 to 207 BC.

Qin State: model of tomb of Duke Qin Jinggong, 537 BC, 166 human sacrifices, largest pre-Qin Dynasty tomb found so far

Qin State: bronze pot, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: pottery jar, Warring States

Qin State: painted pottery jar, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: painted pottery jar, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: bronze he, Warring States

Qin State: bronze tripod, Qin Dynasty

Qin State: bronze dui, Warring States

Qin State: bronze ewer, Warring States

Qin State: bronze pot, Warring states

Qin State: bronze axle cap, Warring States

Qin State: pottery yu, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: pottery

Qin State: pottery jar, Qin Dynasty

Qin State: bronze tripod, 292 BC

Qin State: bronze tripod, Warring States

Qin State: bronze spoon, Qin Dynasty

Qin State: iron cha spade, Qin

Qin State: bronze pick axe, Warring States

Qin State: iron shovel, Qin

Qin State: bronze xiao scraper, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: bronze plow share, Warring States

Qin State: bronze plow share, Warring State

Qin State: bronze mirror, Warring States

Qin State: bronze mirror, Warring States

Qin State: bronze mirror, Warring States

Qin State: bronze jian, Lintong, Qin Dynasty

Qin State: pot, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: pottery qun granary, Qin

Qin State: bronze platter, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: bronze bell, Warring States

Qin State: bronze yan, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: gilded bronze flask, Warring States

Qin State: gold harness ornament, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: jade pendants, Warring States

Qin State: agate pendant

Qin State: gold buckle & rings

Qin State: jade pendants

Qin State: jade garment hook, bronze belt hook, Warring States

Qin State: iron dagger with gold inlaid handle

Qin State: iron dagger with gold inlaid handle (museum photo)

Qin State: gold animal masks

Qin State: gold & silver inlaid bronze belt hook, Spring & Autumn; lute-shape bronze belt hook, Warring States

Qin State: jade objects

Qin State: jade objects

Qin State: gold adapter ring for horse harness, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: gold ornaments (tiger on right), Spring & Autumn

Qin State: gold woodpecker, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: gold monster, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: bronze dragon, Warring States-Qin Dynasty

Qin State: bronze dragon, Warring States-Qin Dynasty

Qin State: bronze dragon, Warring States-Qin Dynasty

Qin State: bronze dragon, Warring States-Qin Dynasty

Qin State: bronze dragon, Warring States-Qin Dynasty

Qin State: brick, Qin Shihuang Mausoleum

Qin State: tile, Qin Shihuang Mausoleum

Qin State: pottery lamp, Qin Shihuang Mausoleum

Qin State: tile end, Qin Shihuang Mausoleum

Qin State: squatting figure, Qin Shihuang Mausoleum

Qin State: pot, Qin Shihuang Mausoleum

Qin State: bronze xi basin, Qin Shihuang Mausoleum

Qin State: spade coins, Spring & Autumn

Qin State: banliang coin mold

Qin State: banliang coiins, Qin Dynasty

Qin State: knife coins, Warring States

Qin State: large bronze weight

Qin State: bronze lidded ding, Warring States

Qin State: bronze he, Warring States

Qin State: bronze he, Warring States

Qin State: bronze pot

Qin State: bronze bell

Qin State: bronze crossbow trigger mechanism with repro bow

Qin State: bronze arrowheads, Qin Dynasty

Qin State: tiger tally, Qin Dynasty

Qin State: bronze ge, Qin Dynasty

Qin State: bronze ge, Warring States

Qin State: bronze ge, Warring States

Qin State: bronze jian, Warring States

Qin State: bronze spears, Warring States & Qin

Qin State: bronze spears, Warring States & Qin

Qin State: bronze dagger, Warring States

Qin State: bronze dagger, Warring States

Qin State: bronze pike, dated 228 BC, Lintong, Qin Shihuang pit

Qin State: bronze goose, Lintong, Qin Shihuang pit

Qin State: terracotta civil officer, Lintong, Qin Shihuang pit

Qin State: terracotta kneeling archer, painted, Lintong, Qin Shihuang pit

Qin State: terracotta sitting figure loading crossbow, Lintong, Qin Shihuang pit

Qin State: terracotta sitting figure, Lintong, Qin Shihuang pit

Qin State: stone armor, Lintong, Qin Shihuang pit


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