By Eric Niderost Generaloberst Erwin Rommel, commander of the Panzerarmee Afrika, was in his element, riding in an armored car at top speed through the desiccated plains of the Libyan desert. It was early evening of May 26, 1942, and Rommel was in the lead as usual, advancing with the vanguard of an armored spearhead he hoped would deliver a crushing defeat to the British enemy. Rommel was already a legend in his own time, honored by friend and foe alike and dubbed the Desert Fox. He was a familiar figure to both his men and to the German public, thanks to the newsreel cameramen that always seemed to be around to record his deeds and embellish his growing legend. Goggles wrapped around his peaked cap, binoculars hung around his neck, the Iron Cross and the Blue Max—the latter a high award from the First World War—clustered at his throat. He was leading “Gruppe Rommel,” which consisted of four major elements, all travelling parallel to one another. From left to right there was the Italian 20th Corps, the 21st Panzer Division, the 15th Panzer Division, and finally the 90th Leiche (Light) Division. Counting tanks, armored cars, and support and supply trucks of every size, around 10,000 tracked and wheeled vehicles were following in Rommel’s wake. The desert at night was usually quiet, but now the engine noises joined with the clattering, grinding, rumbling sounds of tank treads to produce a metallic cacophony that echoed and re-echoed through the night. And that wa


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