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The Desert Fox in Normandy: Rommel's Defense of Fortress Europe
 
 

The Desert Fox in Normandy: Rommel's Defense of Fortress Europe [Kindle Edition]

Samuel W. Mitcham Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Review

"In a welcome change...the author provides an in-depth account of the World War II invasion of Normandy from the Axis point of view....[T]his book would be a valuable addition to any collection of World War II works, both for its masterful coverage of Axis military organizational, operational, and tactical activities, as well as for its excellent minibiographies of important German military and naval officers..."-The Journal of Military History

Product Description

Perhaps the most famous and admired soldier to fight in World War II was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who achieved immortality as the Desert Fox. Rommel's first field command during the war was the 7th Panzer Division-also known as the Ghost Division-which he led in France in 1940. During this campaign, the 7th Panzer suffered more casualties than any other division in the German Army. During the process, it inflicted a disporoportionate amount of casualties upon the enemy. It took 97,486 prisoners, captured 458 tanks and armored vehicles, 277 field guns, 64 anti-tank guns and 4,000 to 5,000 trucks. It captured or destroyed hundreds of tons of other military equipment, shot down 52 aircraft, destroyed 15 more aircraft on the ground, and captured 12 additional planes. It destroyed the French 1st Armored Division and the 4th North African Division, punched through the Maginot Line extension near sSivry, and checked the largest Allied counteroffensive of the campaign at Arras. When France surrendered, the Ghost Division was within 200 miles of the Spanish border. No doubt about it-Rommel had proven himself a great military leader who was capable of greater things. His next command, in fact, would be the Afrika Korps, where the legend of the Desert Fox was born.

Rommel had a great deal of help in France-and much more than his published papers suggest. His staff officers and company, battalion and regimental commanders were an extremely capable collection of military leaders, which included 12 future generals (two of them SS), and two colonels who briefly commanded panzer divisions but never reached general rank. They also included Colonel Erich von Unger, who would no doubt have become a general had he not been killed in action while commanding a motorized rifle brigade on the Eastern Front in 1941, as well as Kark Hanke, a Nazi gauleiter who later succeeded Heinrich Himmler as the last Reichsfuehrer-SS. No historian has ever recognized the talented cast of characters who supported the Desert Fox in 1940. No one has ever attempted to tell their stories. This book remedies this deficiency.

In the weeks prior to D-Day, Rommel analyzed Allied bombing patterns and concluded that they were trying to make Normandy a strategic island in order to isolate the battlefield. Rommel also noticed that the Allies had mined the entire Channel coast, while the naval approaches to Normandy were clear. Realizing that Normandy would be the likely site of the invasion, he replaced the poorly-equipped 716th Infantry Division with the battle-hardened 352nd Infantry Division on the coastal sector. But his request for additional troops was denied by Hitler. Mitcham offers a remarkable theory of why Allied intelligence failed to learn of this critical troop movement, and why they were not prepared for the heavier resistance they met on Omaha Beach. He uses a number of little-known primary sources which contradict previously published accounts of Rommel, his officers, and the last days of the Third Reich. These sources provide amazing insight into the invasion of Normandy from the German point of view. They include German personnel records, unpublished papers, and the manuscripts of top German officers like general of Panzer Troops Baron Leo Geys von Schweppenburg, the commander of Panzer Group West. This book also contains a thorough examination of the virtually ignored battles of the Luftwaffe in France in 1944.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3608 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (30 May 1997)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000QCUC96
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #743,062 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MAN WHO COULD HAVE CHANGED HISTORY 3 Jun 2002
By Gil_Gibbs_Hotch VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Samuel Mitcham has written an account of the Normandy invasion from the German perspective; in particular that of Erwin Rommel.
Probably the most talented of all Germany's army commanders it reveals his limitless energy and resourcefulness to prepare the Atlantic Wall for the forthcoming Allied invasion. From December 1943 when he took over command of Army Group B to his death in October 1944 it follows the unfortunate demise of a great man.
His was a thankless task, which he more or less acknowledged from the beginning, but through his misguided loyalty continued to follow the orders of Hitler.
After D-Day, and with Hitler's absolute refusal to believe that this was the real invasion and not simply a diversionary assault for the real invasion which would come in the Pas de Calais, Rommel and his army were fighting a losing battle.
He pleaded incessantly for reinforcements and received 10,000 to replace 120,000. He was never permitted to follow his own strategies, which would have saved a great deal of blood shed on both sides.
From early July the story focusses also on his inner turmoil. How to balance the massacre of his army in Normandy and indeed of the whole German nation against his past loyalty for Hitler. It suggests, that although he was politically naive Rommel was prepared,together with his immediate subordinates to "open the western front to the allies" to ensure that Europe did not fall into Russian hands. It leaves the reader wondering what Europe would have looked like today if that had happened.
Unfortunately an allied fighter bomber ensured that this would never be a subject for discussion as he was taken out of the frony line on July 17.
The failed assassination plot against Hitler and Rommels' perceived involvement leads to a very sad ending to the book.
Although he was an enemy, there is little doubt that Rommel was indeed a great man of his time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Mitcham's thoughtfully researched analysis of Rommel's final months reads a bit like hero worship, but the thorough documentation of sources (and quality thereof) makes this a definitive third-party analysis of this period of Rommel's career. Mitcham casts Rommel as strategic seer, chronicling the Field Marshal's workmanlike foretelling of so many Allied tactics that you really do wonder if the U.S. would've been pushed back into the sea at Omaha had Rommel been able to a) properly fortify the coastline and b) bring up the 15th Panzer Division, which stood idle during so much of the crucial fighting in the bocage and on the Cotentin Peninsula. In explaining Rommel's role in the Hitler assassination attempt, Mitcham distances Rommel from direct involvement, painting him as politically naive and motivated to prevent a Russian overrun of Germany by "arresting" Hitler and seeing to a political restructuring of the Reich through a negotiated, Allied truce. Whether ! ! or not this was the case is uncertain to me, but it does make me speculate about what a post-Hitler Germany would have been like had the plan worked. Rommel as its president? Mitcham thinks this could have been the case.
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Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars admire Rommel? this book won't dampen your spirits 17 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Mitcham's thoughtfully researched analysis of Rommel's final months reads a bit like hero worship, but the thorough documentation of sources (and quality thereof) makes this a definitive third-party analysis of this period of Rommel's career. Mitcham casts Rommel as strategic seer, chronicling the Field Marshal's workmanlike foretelling of so many Allied tactics that you really do wonder if the U.S. would've been pushed back into the sea at Omaha had Rommel been able to a) properly fortify the coastline and b) bring up the 15th Panzer Division, which stood idle during so much of the crucial fighting in the bocage and on the Cotentin Peninsula. In explaining Rommel's role in the Hitler assassination attempt, Mitcham distances Rommel from direct involvement, painting him as politically naive and motivated to prevent a Russian overrun of Germany by "arresting" Hitler and seeing to a political restructuring of the Reich through a negotiated, Allied truce. Whether ! ! or not this was the case is uncertain to me, but it does make me speculate about what a post-Hitler Germany would have been like had the plan worked. Rommel as its president? Mitcham thinks this could have been the case.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, informative -- worth the read 17 July 2008
By David M. Dougherty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Author Mitcham does the American reader a service in covering Rommel's actions in Normandy and his writing is well-paced and readable.

The book's strengths are in its viewpoint -- clearly outlining the hopelessness of the German defense as constrained by Hitler's interference and decisions against which Rommel labored much like a classical tragic hero, repeatedly avoiding defeat in very near-run situations, but unable to bring about victory. The comparative strengths of the Allies and Germans is discussed at length, and with the overwhelming tactical air support enjoyed by the Allies it is difficult to see how a lesser man than Rommel would have avoided a catastrophy long before the St. Lo breakout. On the Allied side, Bradley is presented as methodical and Montgomery as somewhat inept (without explaining Montgomery's desire to avoid incurring British casualties). The mini-biographies of German personnel are welcome (in the end notes), but sometimes multiple notes must be read before the individual comes into focus (like von Stuelpnagel.)

On the negative side are the many inaccuracies -- I found myself reading with a pencil and correcting errors in the text (Bastone should be Bastogne, etc.) Curiously, the author usually refers to Wilhelm Canaris as "Canasis", even referencing Heinz Hoehne's book "Canaris" as "Canasis." In addition, books like this usually have inadequate maps, and this one is no exception. The author frequently gets his directions wrong such as where east should be west or northwest should be northeast, making the need for maps even more critical than usual.

With respect to the Introduction complained about by an earlier reviewer, I found it accurate. Mitcham's point is that leaders do make historical impacts and that accurate biographies (of DWMs or whatever) are important in understanding history. That we are currently being very poorly served by elitist leftist academicians who revise history according to their own agendas is without doubt -- but rarely expressed. On any scale, Rommel was a German hero, ready to sacrifice himself for Germany and its people. I wonder how many university professors who have never been outside the cocoon of academia would be be willing to sacrifice anything, much less their lives, for their country. Certainly, the activities of academicians in World War II and subsequent conflicts would indicate something much less than a heroic sacrifice.

Mitcham's book is refreshing, focusing on Rommel's struggles as an individual -- one who was immensely talented as a leader but frequently limited in his ability to accomplish what he saw as required in a doomed defensive conflict.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars for the Desert Fox 8 Sep 2009
By Dave Schranck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Anybody who has read a Mitcham book knows the author has high esteem for German Command and the Wehrmacht in general. One also knows that from 1944, he over stresses the poor state of the Wehrmacht and as such was fighting a big disadvantage. This book will be no exception for as the author describes how Rommel tried to exert a positive influence on his command in Normandy, he will also stress how understrength and inexperienced his divisions were. The author also goes into detail on how Rundstedt and Hitler refused Rommel's requests to redeploy his forces closer to the shore and specifically Normandy beaches.

Rommel was convinced that the only way to defeat the Allied invasion was to push them back into the sea within the first few days when the Allies would be at their weakest. To accomplish this the panzer divisions would have to be nearer the shore. A problem with this theory is that neither Rommel or the author explains how the panzers would be protected from Allied air strikes.

After the deliberate situational coverage prior to the landinggs, the author delivers a brief but decent summary of the engagements up to the end of July that will include Operation Cobra. Attempts at holding the beach, St Lo and the defense in the Caen sector are also covered in typical Mitcham fashion. The near fatal wounding of Rommel on July 17th and his subsequent recovery is discussed as well as his slight involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler. The book ends in an attempt to save his family, Rommel commits suicide for the alleged involvment in the assassination attempt.
There are a few maps and some good photos to study as well. The author, as usual, also provides an extensive Notes section.

I take issue on three minor statements the author has made. The author states the Germans had 2000 panzers destroyed at Kursk. I believe that's an over statement. He also claims Japan was a good Ally of Germany which is false. The repeated misspelling of Adm Canaris's name was also disappointing.

For anybody not familiar with Rommel this book would be a good starter book. Its not comprehensive but it is engaging and an easy read. It provides Rommel's insight and drive as a career officier and it shows a glimpse into Rommel's personal life.
Anybody who is well read on WWII will probably not find anything new on Rommel in this book but its still worth having in your collection if your're a Rommel fan.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Perspective on the Desert Fox 21 Aug 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Mitcham has touched upon an issue of slight controversy here. He talks about Rommel's role from an admirer's point of view. Wasn't an editor from a popular magazine fired last year because he thought that Rommel and other Nazis had good tastes in fashion?
Anyway, Mitcham doesn't worship Rommel like a deity. He was probably right in describing Rommel as the German commander best-suited to preside over the defense of France in 1944. If not for Hitler's stranglehold over the Wehrmacht and Rommel's rivalry with senior commanders/Nazis, he likely would have conducted a better defense, if not driven the Allies back into the sea. Mitcham's description of Rommel as the potential leader of Germany wasn't so far-fetched either. Stephen Ambrose once commented briefly on this prospect.
Mitcham's tendency to make his endnotes miniature stories in themselves is his forte. The damper to this book is his preface, in which he goes off on a tangent by ranting against liberal historians and affirmative action, as if these things bore a direct relation to the subject of his book. Readers may wonder if Mitcham wanted to rant against civil rights, but stopped short of doing so lest it stir up controversy. Please stick to the subject, Dr. Mitcham! If it weren't for your preface, your book would have rated 3.5 stars.
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