Lessons from the African campaign of Rommel

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was a German general who was very bold, innovative and refined military leaders of the Second World War. He was both feared and admired by Hitler, and Rommel was forced to commit suicide in 1944.The life story and actions of Rommel, including the Blitzkrieg in France and the African Campaign have fascinated and inspired me for more than four decades. However, I do feel that I still am not in a position to give a good insight in to the person, and hence restricted myself to my views of him as regards the African campaign.
The lessons gleaned are:
1. Be an expert of your chosen subject. Knowledge matters a lot in being decisive.
2. Develop thinking skills and thereafter apply them in order to hone them continuously
3. Know your theater of operation (terrain) well. There is no substitute to personal observations.
4. Know your enemy well, including their weapons, strategies, tactics as well as the thinking patterns.
5. Know how to discern things that are not evident, by making use of the available information and patterns.
6. Numbers confer no advantage or disadvantage in war. It is the strategy and positioning that matters most.
7. There are no fixed objectives (Strategic Objectives) but only decisive and objective points. Identify them early on, but be flexible enough to change them as operations proceed and new opportunities are opened.
8. Seize the initiative and act. Let the enemy to react to your actions rather than you reacting to the actions of an enemy.
9. Make yourself unfathomable and unpredictable.
10. Keep the enemy on the edge, keep him anxious of and fearful of your next move and make them commit their resources(e.g.- forces) in futile pursuits.
11. Wear down your enemy, physically, mentally and materially.
12. Sap the morale of the enemy by sowing confusion in their minds.
13. The key skills that need to be developed are speed, mobility and maneuverability.
14. Make use of the new technologies to get the maximum benefits. Rommel used both the battle-tanks and anti-tanks guns for his successes.
15. Surprise is a key element of success.
16. Keep pressures on your enemies relentlessly, not giving them any opportunities to plan and think.
17. A well thought of deceptive maneuver is as good as a real attack.
18. Select the place, time and pace of the engagements yourself and do not let the enemy decide these for you.
19. Exploit any initial advantages to the fullest, without letting them to slip away.
20. The keeping of the morale high in your people is of utmost importance.
21. Be fair and be mindful of the needs of your people.
22. Treat all enemy captives with respect and dignity, for they are only your adversaries and not personal enemies.
23. The real problem in decision-making is limited thinking, not limited resources.
24. Keep extensive records of your actions, not only as a help in future planning and as a memoir for your sake, but also as a help to others in future.( also for the sake of many others.).

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Jagath Gunawardana Attorney-at-law

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