Rommel and the Rebel/Rommel’s Peace

Written by Lawrence Wells
Review by John R. Vallely

Erwin Rommel occupies a special place in the historical and fictional accounts of World War II. The praise awarded him by friend and foe alike was due to his skilled leadership of the famed 7th Panzer Division (the “Ghost Division”) in France in 1940 to his dramatic exploits as the Desert Fox in North Africa, to his still debated role in the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.

Saying Lawrence Wells believes Rommel as one of the century’s greatest heroes is to be guilty of serious understatement. He presents his readers with two Rommels in these books. Rommel and the Rebel is the pre-war German officer studying the tactics of Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest in a tour of 1937 Mississippi. Rommel is escorted by Max Speigner, a proud Mississippian who serves as a U.S. Army Intelligence officer. Together, the two soldiers join with William Faulkner as the unlikely trio follows Forrest’s tracks through various Civil War battlefields.

Fast forward to World War II in North Africa and Speigner is assigned as an advisor to the 8th Army. Glimpsing evidence of the long-dead Forrest in Rommel’s tank tactics, Speigner advises British officers on the proper countermoves. The Rommel-Speigner friendship survives German defeat in North Africa and is tested once again in Normandy when the American is ordered to contact the Desert Fox in the hopes of seeking a truce to end the fighting.

Rommel’s Peace follows this intriguing tale of the July 20, 1944 plotters against Hitler as an example of all that could have happened if responsible Germans had been able to kill Hitler. The action surrounding Rommel and the young American is intense and fast-paced as they struggle to achieve their ends in a contest to outwit Gestapo investigators and the confusion of the Normandy fighting.

The Rommel of both novels is a proud solider and fervent patriot equally comfortable trading Civil War stories with William Faulkner as with leading tanks into combat. Max Speigner is the youthful, altruistic optimist convinced that the Desert Fox is a man to be admired, a soldier to be studies, and a hero to be followed.