Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel joined the 124th Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet in 1910, and two years later was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant. During World War I he served in France, and on the Romanian and Italian fronts. After the war, he held regimental commands and was a military instructor. He also published a textbook on tactics.
In 1938, Rommel was placed in command of the battalion responsible for Adolf Hitler’s safety during the march into the Sudetenland and the entry into Prague. Promoted major general on the eve of World War II, he was again responsible for Hitler's safety during the invasion of Poland.
In 1940, he commanded the 7th Panzer Division in the advance into France. In June 1942, he was made the youngest field marshal in the German Army, in recognition of his successes in Egypt. However, he was driven back into Tunisia, and in 1943, he returned to Germany because of ill health.
In July, he was given a command in northern Italy, and was made commander in chief of all German armies from the Netherlands to the Loire River. However, the Germans were unable to prevent the Allies from landing in Normandy the following June. On 17 July, Rommel was severely wounded by fire from Allied aircraft, and he returned to Germany to convalesce.
Never a member of the Nazi party, he had become increasingly outspoken in his criticism of Hitler. Suspected of complicity in an assasination plot, he was given the choice between taking poison and having his death reported as resulting from his wounds, or facing trial. He chose the former course, ending his life in the general’s automobile on 14 October 1944.
Rommel was buried with full military honours, and earned the deep respect of his adversaries for his brilliant achievements.