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Attacks 1st Edition
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From this book its clear that during WW1 Rommel acquired most of the military characteristics that made him one of the best commanders of WW2. His emphasis on reconnaissance, deception, and surprise as well as his trademark "feel for the terrain" (fingersptizengefuhl) were all developed at the battalion level in this earlier conflict.
Another real plus in this book are the maps (actually Rommel's hand sketches) showing terrain and lines of attack.
Anyone who is interested in Rommel's military operations should start here. As a WW2 follow-on, I'd recommend Ronald Lewin's Rommel as Military Commander...for its detailed battle accounts and excellent maps. Fraser's and Irving's books are also good, but operate at a more general level and suffer from a lack of battle area maps.
Rommel published ATTACKS in 1937, when he was a lieutenant-colonel in the Reichsheer and commandant of the military academy in Weiner Neustadt. At the time he was already famous in the German army for his 1914 - 1918 exploits, but ATTACKS brought him international acclaim, at least in military circles. In Germany the book made him quite wealthy, and in a sense one can see why: compared to the turgid, half-mystical reminiscences of some of his contemporaries, ATTACKS is entirely without introspection. It is simply a recounting of the innumerable small-unit actions in which Rommel participated in during the Great War. The book's methodical, matter-of-fact style reflects the personality of its author, who was not inclined to philosophizing. The "whys" and "wherefores" of war mattered to him not at all. Unlike Ernst Juenger, who also won the Pour le Merite and wrote postwar accounts of his exploits (THE STORM OF STEEL, COPSE 125, WAR AS AN INWARD EXPERIENCE) Rommel wasn't interested in the "inward experience", just the fighting. He was a soldier's soldier.
During the War, Rommel served extensively in France, Rumania and Italy, and ATTACKS recounts in great detail his many offensive exploits, where he distinguished himself not merely with his aggressive style but by his habit (repeated in World War II) of leading from the front. Utterly fearless, possessing unlimited physical stamina and seemingly immune to pain (his gunshot wounds are described merely as events, like losing the sole of a shoe; the only thing that seems to have caused him real discomfort in the whole war was getting a foot smashed by a boulder in the mountains) Rommel was the ideal junior officer under any conditions, and was rightly worshipped by his men - another trait he enjoyed in the '39 - 45 war. He was further distinguished by his nobility and chivalry, qualities which are more responsible than his military genius for making him beloved among his former enemies. Today, Rommel is the only one of the myriad generals who achieved fame in Nazi Germany who is officially honored by the present day German government.
The strength of ATTACKS lies not merely in the nature of what is being described (battle and more battle) but in the fact that Rommel has no artistic pretentions: he simply records what happened without sentimentalizing or succumbing to the Germanic curse of using 1,000 words when two hundred would suffice. This, however, is also the book's great weakness: all these skirmishes, raids, marches, countermarches, midnight conferences, attacks, retirements, hand-grenade fights, machine-gun duels, artillery bombardments, and climbs up mountain slopes in the rain, snow and blazing sun begin to wear down the reader over time. If it is possible for combat to be monotonous, Rommel occasionally manages to make it so, if only by the staggering amount of it he actually experienced. If Juenger was often turgid and romantic, he was also willing to discuss the lighter side of war - the pranks, the drinking, the philosophical bull-sessions and the endless war against rats, boredom and Prussian discipline. Such humanistic moments would have been welcome in ATTACKS, but Rommel was not inclined to dwell on them. (The closest thing he displays to a sense of humor is contemptuous jokes at the expense of the French and the Italians, neither of whom seem to have impressed him with their soldierly ability.)
So, if you are looking for a pure combat memior, penned by one of the greatest soldiers ever, ATTACKS is the very definition of the bill. But if you want a look "under the helmet" into the mind and soul of a great fighting man, I would suggest supplementing ATTACKS with Juenger's more layered STORM OF STEEL. After all, nothing is more Prussian than obtaining a "total view" of a military situation!