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

By Samuel W. Mitcham Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
"A PITILESS DESTINY"

At 4:00 P.M. on July 17, 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel left the headquarters of Sepp Dietrich's I SS Panzer Corps at St. Pierre-sur- Dives on his way back to La Roche-Guyon. He never reached it. What happened to him was not unusual: It happened to thousands of German soldiers on the Western Front in 1944 and 1945. On a secondary road from Livarot to Vimoutiers, his car was jumped by a pair of Allied fighter-bombers. His driver, Corporal Daniel, stepped on the accelerator and headed for a little side road about 300 yards ahead, which would have given them some protection. Before they could reach it, however, the leading aircraft--which was only a few feet above the ground-- pulled to within 500 yards and opened fire. Rommel was hit in the temple and cheekbone, suffered a triple skull fracture, and lost consciousness immediately. Major Neuhaus was hit in the holster with such force that it broke his pelvis. Another shell from the Allied cannon shattered Daniel's left shoulder and arm, causing him to lose control of the car. As Captain Helmuth Lang ( Rommel's aide) and Sergeant Holke (his spotter) jumped out, the car struck a tree stump on the left, skidded to the right, and turned over in the ditch. Rommel was thrown out and lay unconscious in the road, about 20 yards behind the car. 1

The field marshal's left cheekbone was destroyed, he had numerous shell splinters and fragments in his head, his left eye was injured, his skull badly fractured in four places, and his temple penetrated. It was 45 minutes before Captain Lang and Sergeant Holke could get him to a French religious hospital. At first it was thought that there was no chance of him living through such serious wounds.

Later that night the Desert Fox, still unconscious, was transferred to the Luftwaffe hospital at Bernay, about 25 miles away. His driver, Corporal Daniel, also unconscious, was transported with him. That

-179-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter 1 - The Atlantic Wall 1
  • Chapter 2 - D-Day 57
  • Chapter 3 - Holding Fast 93
  • Chapter 4 - Cherbourg 129
  • Chapter 5 - The Crumbling Fortress 141
  • Chapter 6 - A pitiless Destiny 179
  • Appendix I - Table of Equivalent Ranks 203
  • Appendix II - German Staff Abbreviations 205
  • Appendix III - Characteristics of Opposing Tanks 207
  • Appendix IV - Rommel's Schedule, March 23-June 4, 1944 209
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 219
  • About the Author *
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