Tag Archives: Austin

A Central Texas Connection to the “Desert Fox”

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On November 15, 1891, Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel was born in Heidenheim, Germany. He was the third of the five Rommel children. His family did not have a history of military tradition. His father had served as an artillery officer, though. Young Rommel chose to follow a military career joining the Army at 18. He received his commission as a Lieutenant in January of 1912. He served Germany in both the First and Second World Wars. He served with distinction in both wars. He received wounds in both conflicts.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was one of Germany’s most popular generals during World War II. He was often referred to as “the People’s Marshal” by his fellow Germans. He became one of Germany’s most successful and popular generals. He is most well known for his command of the Afrika Corps that fought the Allies in North Africa.

The propaganda efforts of both the Allies and Germans made Rommel into an icon. He has been the subject of many works of fiction and non-fiction since the war. He is still celebrated in Germany. The Field Marshal Rommel Barracks in Augustdorf is named in his honor. It is today’s largest Army base in Germany.

Rommel in WWI

In World War I, Rommel fought in France, Romania, and Italy. He displayed outstanding leadership and ingenuity. He earned the Iron Cross, Second Class for service in France. Later in Rumania, his actions resulted in the Pour le Mérite for his actions on the Italian Front. By the time WWI had ended, he had reached the rank of Hauptmann (Captain).

The Interwar Years

There were riots and civil disturbances in Germany between the wars. Rommel was active with the Army in response to these disturbances. Generally, he succeeded without the use of violence.

These experiences strengthen his belief in the need for a strong, unified Germany. He later became an instructor at the Dresden Infantry School. In 1934 while at Dresden, he wrote a manual on infantry training. In 1935 Rommel joined the faculty at the War Academy at Potsdam. In 1937 he published the book “Infanterie greift an” (Infantry Attacks). The book described his wartime experiences and included his insightful analysis.

Among the many who read the book was Adolf Hitler. Rommel continued to advance in the ranks. By 1938 he had reached the rank of full Colonel. He became commandant of the Theresian Military Academy shortly afterward. He was seconded to command the Führerbegleibatallion at the request of Hitler in late 1938. This was a special battalion that traveled with Hitler. It provided security whenever he traveled outside of Germany. In August of 1939, Rommel was promoted again to Generalmajor.

Rommel in WWII

On September 1, 1939, Rommel and the Führerbegleibatallion were guarding Hitler. They were with the Führer’s field headquarters during the invasion of Poland. Rommel became commander of the 7th Panzer Division in February 1940. This gave him an opportunity to show his combat leadership skills.

On May 10, 1940, the Phoney War ended. The German Army began its invasion of the rest of Western Europe. Rommel’s 7th Panzers along with elements of the 5th Panzer reached the River Muse in only three days. Soon much of Europe was under German control.

By February 1941 Rommel had moved to North Africa and took command of the Axis troops there. The Italian Army was struggling in Libya. Rommel’s force arrived to strengthen the North African front.

He was very successful at first against the British forces. He earned the nickname of “Desert Fox” for his achievements. His success came to an end in October of 1942. That was when the Africa Corps was decisively defeated in the second battle of El-Alamein. The Germans fell back to Tunis. Orders arrived in March of 1943 for Rommel to return home. The efforts Rommel had against the British made him viewed as a liberator by much of the Arab world.

Hitler named Rommel General Inspector of the Western Defenses in November 1943. This put him in command of both the 7th and 15th armies. His area of responsibility stretched over a 20-kilometer strip of coast. He directed the installation of countless mines and tank traps along the beach. He issued similar orders for defensive measures behind the coast. These were to discourage and disrupt Allied landing attempts. Fortunately, these defensive measures were far from finished on D-Day.

The Plot

On July 20, 1944, Hitler was the target of a nearly successful assassination attempt. Several high ranking German officers had planned the assassination. They believed that the elimination of Hitler was the only way to save Germany. It is unclear from the evidence if Rommel played a role in the plot. There is clear evidence that he had written to Hitler on July 15. The letter pleads with Hitler to end hostilities with the Allies.

Rommel was returning from a visit to the headquarters of the I SS Panzer Corps two days later. RAF fighters attacked his staff car leaving him hospitalized. He had severe head injuries which some thought would prove to be fatal.

Hitler went on a mad pursuit of those involved in the assassination attempt. A German Court of Military Honour found Rommel guilty of conspiracy. Officers visited him at his home on October 14. Three choices were presented to him. He could go to Berlin and defend himself to Hitler. He could do nothing which would mean his admission of guilt. He could choose suicide. Any choice but suicide would have meant punishment for his staff and family. If he chose suicide he would be treated as a hero of Germany and his family would receive a pension.

Whether or not he was guilty, Rommel made the honorable choice to take the offered cyanide capsule. This saved his family and staff. Germany mourned his passing with a state funeral. Rommel’s tomb can be visited in Herrlingen, Germany.

Herrlingen is a small village outside of Blaustein, which is a suburb to the west of Ulm. Herrlingen is about 55 miles (90 km) is East Southeast of Stuttgart.

The Connection to the 36th Infantry Division and the Texas Military Forces Museum

On August 15, 1944, the 6th US Army Group made an amphibious landing in southern France. The 36th Infantry Division was part of the 6th at that time. They encountered far less resistance than the Normandy landing had. The 36th took part in substantial combat as they moved north through France.

By May 8, 1945, VE Day, the 36th was based in Kitzbühel, Austria. The 141st Infantry Battalion was part of the 36th Division. From June 14 until July 9 it was stationed 156 mi (252km) northwest in Herrlingen, Germany. While there they came upon a remarkable find. This placard explains it best:

Rommel's hat 2020-03-20 at 9.30.40 AM

German Officer’s Peaked Cap (Schirmmutze) belonging to General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Rommel was promoted to Field Marshal in June 1942 after his Afrika Corps captured the British fortress of Tobruk, Libya. This cap is a mix of Field Marshal and General Officer insignia, pieced together by Rommel’s staff because an actual Field Marshal’s cap was not immediately available in the North African desert.

The Headquarters Company if the 141st Infantry [Regiment] made its command post at Rommel’s house in Herrlingen, Germany, from June 14 to July 9, 1945. Private First Class George Atkins found the hat in the service quarters of Rommel’s house and took it as a war souvenir. On the inside of the hat in a plastic holder is a typed card with the words “Generalfeldmarschall Rommel – 39496”. This number was the Field Post address assigned to Rommel’s headquarters in North Africa. The Field Marshal’s son, Manfred Rommel, verified that this cap did indeed belong to his father.

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This cap can be found on display in the 36th Division in WWI & II gallery of the Texas Military forces Museum in Austin, TX. 

From the sands of North Africa to southern Germany comes a relic from WWII. A part of the legend of Germany’s Desert Fox can be found in Central Texas.

 

References

  1. Erwin Rommel
  2. Erwin Rommel
  3. Erwin Rommel Biography
  4. 8 Things You May Not Know About Erwin Rommel
  5. Erwin Rommel

If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

A Piece of the Cold War in Austin

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When WWII ended in Europe in May of 1945, Easter Europe, including part of Germany, was occupied by Soviet forces. Germany was divided into four occupation zones at the Potsdam Conference in the late summer of 1945. Each zone was under the control of one of the Allied powers: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. With Berlin being well within the Soviet zone, it too was divided into four sectors. 

The Soviet Union worked to create communist governments in those countries they had occupied. In their zone in Eastern Germany, they worked with German socialists to create the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In addition to the GDR, they set up similar governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Along with Albania, these countries and the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact to oppose NATO. These two became the opposing sides during the Cold War. The other three Allies joined their western zones into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. 

The oppressive GDR drove many Germans to escape into the West. It is estimated that as many as 3.5 million East Germans (20% of the East German population) had fled to the west by 1961. The GDR began closing the border at midnight on August 31, 1961. The border was manned by troop, roads were torn up, and barbed wire was installed (156 km or 97 miles) around the three western sectors of Berlin. The first concrete segments of a wall were erected on August 17. In addition, chain link fences, minefields, and other obstacles were put in place along the border between East and West German. 

For the GDR the wall solved some economic problems that stemmed from two German currencies and an active Black Market for western goods. It also stopped the flow of people to the west, particularly many of the more educated East Germans. This enabled the GDR government to assert tighter control over its citizens. On the downside the wall became a public relations problem. It was a symbol of the Communist East and border guards shooting those trying to escape did little to enhance this point of view. It is thought that nearly 200 people were killed trying to escape over the wall. 

The final Berlin Wall was some 140 km (87 miles) in length. The initial wall was repeatedly improved over the years. The  “fourth generation” wall was the most sophisticated and was completed in 1980. This version of the wall was constructed of 45,000 reinforced concrete panels, each 3.6 m (12 ft) high and 1.2 m (3.9 ft) wide. In the fall of 1989 there was growing unrest in East Berlin. The GDR government finally announced on November 9, 1989, that they would begin allowing citizens to visit the West. Demolition of the Berlin Wall officially began on June 13, 1990, and it was completed in November of that year. Removal of the wall opened up Germany for reunification, which was completed on October 3, 1990. 

In the aftermath of WWII, six new National Guard divisions were created. One of those was the 49th Armored Division and it was assigned to the Texas National Guard. It officially came into being on February 27, 1947, and was nicknamed the “Lone Star Division”. The 49th initially was equipped with WWII vintage equipment, but over the years as the Regular Army received updated armor, the 49th was updated with newer “hand-me-down” equipment. In 1961 when East Germany began building the Berlin Wall the 49th was one of the National Guard Divisions President Kennedy ordered to be mobilized. 

The members of the 49th were called to active duty on October 15, 1961. It moved to Fort Polk, Louisiana to train in preparation for deployment to Germany. The unit spent nearly a year in preparation and was eventually designated as a division in the Strategic Army Corps (STRAC). STRAC was created as a flexible strike force capable of worldwide deployment on short notice. Fortunately, the tension created by the construction of the Berlin Wall had diminished by the late summer of 1962 and the 49th was demobilized in August of that year. 

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1990 a section of it was presented to the Texas National Guard in recognition for their readiness for deployment to Germany. The segment of the wall is on display in the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX. It can be found in the Cold War/War on Terror room in the West Gallery. The plaque reads:

Dedicated to the soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard whose service during the Cold War helped bring the Berlin Wall down

The Long History of Texas Military Forces

Airtricin gore dth ithether ater tPrami & truringTexas has a long history of the military. Officially, Texas Military Forces came into being November 10, 1822. That is when the new country of Mexico authorized the organization of militia units in Texas after Mexico won its independence from Spain. 

The Mexican war for independence spanned a decade from September of 1810 until September 27, 1821. Subsequent to Mexico winning their bid to become an independent nation, Stephen F. Austin, was called to Mexico City. 

Stephen’s father, Moses Austin, had originally solicited and received an empresario grant from Spain to settle the area known as Texas. After Moses’ death in 1821, the empresario was officially passed on to his son Stephen by the new nation of Mexico. Before that transfer was granted, the Mexican government delegated Baron de Bastrop to integrate the Texas colony into the new Mexican nation. Earlier in 1820 de Bastrop had been appointed as commissioner of colonization for Stephen F. Austin’s colony. 

One of the tasks handed de Bastrop was the establishment of militia units and the selection of their commanding officers. The orders given to de Bastrop on November 10, 1822, was the foundation of Texas Military Forces. 

The image at the top of the article is a reproduction of those instructions given to de Bastrop. They are on display at the entrance to the 19th-century gallery of the Texas Military Forces Museum.


The Texas Military Forces Museum is open to the public Tues-Sun 10AM-4PM and located at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

See “Close Assault 1944” this Veteran’s Day Weekend

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(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum related posts) – This coming Monday is Veterans Day in the US. In celebration, the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX will present “Close Assault 1944”. The Museum will be open 10 AM until 4PM both Saturday and Sunday.

Come and visit the Museum and enjoy the reenactment presented by the Museum volunteers. The Museum is always FREE and open to the public on Tuesday thru Sundays.

 

Mabry Monster M*A*S*H & Jeepers Creepers Rally is Tomorrow!

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(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum posts) – I’m a member of the Museum foundation and have been volunteering as a docent since July of 2019 at the Texas Military Forces Museum. I’ll be there helping tomorrow afternoon and hope to see some friends there too.

This is a fundraiser for the Texas Military Forces Museum foundation:

The day begins at Noon with the Jeepers Creepers Rally on the Camp Mabry parade field – come see Jeeps of all styles and vintages from around Central Texas and select your favorite to receive the People’s Choice Award. There will be vendors and music, funnel cakes, and Covert Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram will be showing off the new Jeep Gladiator! The Jeepers Creepers Rally is FREE to the public and any Jeep enthusiast who’d like to show off their wheels, though donations are greatly appreciated! If you’d like to register for award consideration, please go to www.tmfhf.org/monstermash and complete the registration form.

At 5 p.m., move just across the street to the Texas Military Forces Museum grounds for an evening of live music from bands Granville Automatic and Sterling Country, DJ Rick Giles spinning vintage tunes, beer tent, custom cocktails, food trucks, vendors, souvenir event t-shirts and more at the Mabry Monster M*A*S*H! Come dressed as your favorite M*A*S*H character or their zombie equivalent and enter the costume contest! Tickets may be purchased at the gate.

$25/person
$15 for rally participants
$10 for TMD personnel with I.D.
All ticket purchases include a collectible dog tag and two beers!
MUSIC *  FOOD * DOOR PRIZES * COLLECTIBLE TICKET * JEEPS * VENDORS * COSTUME CONTEST

FULL DETAILS AND TICKETS AVAILABLE AT WWW.TMFHF.ORG/MONSTERMASH

100% of PROCEEDS GO TO SUPPORT THE TEXAS MILITARY FORCES MUSEUM

USA, Texas, Austin – Tyson’s Tacos

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(See my other Food related posts) – After working Austin Museum ay at the Texas Military Forces Museum my wife picked me up and we decided to try a local taco place that a friend of hers had recommended. Tyson’s Tacos is located at 4905 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX.

We shared the $11.99 ‘3 Taco Plate’ – This came with rice and beans and our choice of three tacos. We picked two Tasty Basterd (Surf and Turf, Shrimp and Fajita with Sriracha and Cheese) and a Chicken Fajita (sauteed onion and bell pepper). All on corn tortillas. They were very good. Tyson’s has also earned a 4/5 rating on Yelp and 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor. Tyson’s has an extensive menu with over two dozen different taco choices as well as provisions for creating your own concoction.

All tables are outdoors, but most are undercover with fans. It was comfortable there yesterday afternoon. One of the very nice things about Tyson’s is that it is open 24/7.

This location is a few miles from home for us so we won’t be dropping in too often. It is though certainly a place we will return to.

If you are in northern Austin and feel hungry, Tysons might just be the answer regardless of the time or day.


See my other Food & Location posts


 

Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Begins at Austin Airport

(See my other Robot related posts) – I saw today in the Community Impact News that a driverless shuttle program has begun a pilot evaluation at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The Easy Mile EZ10 driverless shuttle provides service between the Terminal building and the rental car and ground transportation areas.

The EZ10 shuttle is an all-electric vehicle which was launched in 2015. The vendor claims that the EZ10 is the “most deployed driverless shuttle in the world.” Each shuttle can seat 6, with additional standing room for up to 15 passengers and operates in all weather conditions and will run up to 16 hours on a charge. While the shuttle is autonomous, an AUS attendant will be present to assist travelers and for safety purposes during the pilot phase.

Texas Military Forces Museum – Hands-on​ History Night 2019

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(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum related posts) – Last Saturday I worked my first “Hands-on History” night at the Texas Military Forces Museum as a docent. I was really impressed by both the attendance and the wide array of weapons and equipment on display.

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Tables were set up and manned by volunteer reenactors from various periods of Texas Military history.

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Periods represented included: Texas Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II (German and US), Korea and Vietnam/Contemporary.

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volunteer reenactors at each of the tables demonstrated the equipment and provided the visitors with details of how it was used.

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Nearly 600 visitors explored the museum and were able to climb into several of the vehicles that are normally just on display.

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The big hit of the night was the Sherman Tank. The line to climb inside filled quickly and during the peak of the evening was near an hour wait. Everyone was able to take their turn inside well before the evening ended.

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I enjoyed the 5+ hours I spent helping visitors to the museum. After experiencing a “Hands-on History” night for myself, I am going to encourage a lot of my friends to take part next year. Many people are surprised to find this 45,000 sq. ft. free museum in the heart of Austin.

If you are interested in history, visit the Museum website to see when the next event takes place. The Museum is free (adults do need to show ID to enter Camp Mabry) and open Tuesday thru Sunday 10AM to 4PM. The living historians (reenactors) will present their Close Assault 1944 living history program on Veterans Day weekend in November.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

The  World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 330 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.

The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.

The “About WWII” page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Change the World

This is almost five years old now. The address was given in May of 2014 at the University of Texas Austin Commencement and published to YouTube that same month. My son sent me the link to this impressive speech.

These are the remarks by US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven a 1977 graduate of UT and the commander of U.S.Special Operations Command. He challenges the graduates to Change the World and relates aspects of his SEAL training to how we should approach the challenges of life.

It is five years old but is very much still appropriate. I encourage you to take the 20 minutes and listen to the talk.