Erwin Rommel Battles and Campaigns 1940-1944

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His chances of survival were enhanced when his Regiment was sent to the Vosges, a move thatsaved him from the artillery maelstrom engulfing Verdun and the Somme in 1916 (where an individual infantryman's skill was of little account). It was further to his advantage when he was transferred to the Württemberg MountainRegiment in October 1915, and given an intensive course in mountain warfare. This was to pave the way to his career as an outstanding combat leader, for in such a specialistassault force, his flair for mobility and initiative would be developed to the full. With them, he took post in the Vosges mountains and engaged in raids, mostly by night, on the French occupying this 'quiet' sector of theWestern Front. Under ideal conditions, methodically and in his own time, he was here able to develop techniques of stealth and guile with the maximum resort to intensive fire support an ideal preparation for the wars of movementto come.Towards the end of November 1916, a few weeks after his unit had been transferred to the RumanianFront, he took a short leave to marry "Lu", as he called her in his daily letters. Their five years' courtship had developed into a love-match of the most enduring quality, but, despite this, one is left with thefeeling, after reading the published sources, that she was to take second place to the Army and his career. Patriotism urged him on, but the evidence of his pen and the comments of his closest colleagues portray an individualistabsorbed in his profession to the exclusion of practically everything else. War was almost the sole subject of his reading; he cared not for the other arts and, in the company of his social equals, would often lapse into adeep silence, seemingly lost for conversation. Conviviality and relaxation he found much easier among the rank and file, with whom he would mix and jest in the rough Swabian dialect. Indeed, it was his sympathy for the men,rather than for his brother officers (with a few exceptions), that set him apart. The number of words he expends on descriptions of the suffering of the wounded and the praise he gives to noncommissioned ranks, to the virtualexclusion of his junior officers, indicate a clear bias. Of those officers, he demanded nothing more than he asked of himself: and, while many another newly-married man might have taken fewer risks, Rommel, in the words of one friend,"was just the same, just as tough, just as regardless of danger, just as preoccupied with winning the war in his particular sector". The italics are mine, since that phrase does seem to underline Rommel's self-centredapproach to war-making, his preoccupation with events on his own front regardless of the overall demands of those set above him or positioned to a flank. True, as his closest comrade, Hermann Aldinger, was to say, "IfRommel was on your flank you knew you had nothing to worry about ..." and, less convincingly, "In those days he believed that every order must be carried out exactly ...". But already, in fact, he was fosteringwithin himself a habit of insubordination which, in certain circumstances, would generate mistrust.

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