by Daniel Allen Butler
Philadelphia: Casemate, 2015. Pp. 600.
Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1612002978
The Life and Campaigns of Erwin Rommel
Field Marshal is a new biography by the British author Daniel Allen Butler, better known for his maritime books. Here, Butler covers Rommel’s early life, service in World War One through to Rommel’s break with Hitler, and death. Butler discusses Rommel’s health, wounds, and family experiences, even including the illegitimate daughter whom Rommel raised with his family.
Although well written, it is at best a book for the general reader. There are errors of detail throughout which points out the need for better editing and fact checking by the publisher. Some examples: at Caporetto the Fourteenth Army (p. 67) which, had a number of Austro-Hungarian and German mountain units is given as being been composed entirely of such formations, when it also had several regular line divisions; Germany’s “Turnip Winter” (p. 82) was that of 1916-1917, not 1917-1918; and in September of 1939 the Germans did not hold the Western Front with “a mere six divisions” (p. 145).
While Butler rightly identifies Rommel’s failure to understand logistics in the challenging Western Desert, Butler apparently does not realize Rommel’s lack of General Staff training contributed to Rommel’s failure.
Butler does not appear to have worked in either German or Italian sources, and for a comprehensive biography of Rommel this makes his work of little use to the serious military historian.
Our Reviewer: The author or co-author of numerous works in naval and military history, such as The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1940-1943, Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-November 1942, and The Black Prince And The Sea Devils, this is Jack Greene’s first review for StrategyPage.