A chance encounter at war changes history, Spitfire pilot remembered
November 11, 2008 11:37 PM   Subscribe

Charley Fox, two-time recipient of the Distinguished Cross, died on October 18th in a car accident. Another WWII veteran gone, and as with many, an interesting tale exists in his past. Credited with injuring Rommel (although he didn't know it at the time and it was denied by Germany), it's often thought that the loss of Rommel from Hitler's strategy team helped sway the war for the Allies (though it's wondered if has Rommel lived the July 20 plot against Hitler might have succeeded). After the war, Charley was an advocate for veterans and trained many. He died wearing his uniform.
posted by Kickstart70 (12 comments total)
though it's wondered if has Rommel lived the July 20 plot against Hitler might have succeeded

Rommel didn't die of his wounds, he was forced into suicide (to spare his family and honor) after the July 20th plot failed. Did you read your own links?
posted by Roman Graves at 1:48 AM on November 12, 2008

Did you read your own links?

Why the snippy stuff? A simple correction would have worked. The Flying Fox didn't kill the Desert Fox, but it looks like he wounded him on July 17, 1944, and apparently there has been some speculation that Rommel's wounding may have messed up the assassination attempt on You Know Who Else that followed on July 20. This assumes Rommel actually was in on the plot.
posted by pracowity at 2:32 AM on November 12, 2008

Pracowity, it's a valid point that Roman Graves makes. Kickstart 70's post gives the firm impression that Rommel died before the July 20 plot went into effect, and that his death may have compromised it.

I'd be interested in seeing any evidence of serious speculation that Rommel's wounding had any effect on the plot at all. It failed for many reasons, but given that Rommel had little actual part in it other than being aware of its existence (if he had had an active role, he would have been tried and executed like the other conspirators, irrespective of his war record) his incapacitation at the time wasn't one of them.
posted by Major Clanger at 4:04 AM on November 12, 2008

I find it interesting that "charley fox" is acceptable-in-all-company shorthand for "clusterfuck". I thought Kickstart70 was screwing with us for a split second.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:11 AM on November 12, 2008

The what ifs of history are never in short supply. The assassination plot against Hitler failed more as an accident of history than anything else. If he'd have walked 10 feet in the right direction, it would have been a different story. The implication is generally, even if Rommel wasn't in on the assassination plot, he was who the assassins wanted to put into position as the new leader. With him gone, the wind was kind of out of their sails.

Still, they might not have given Rommel the "drink this poison or you and your family die horribly" offer if he was at the front directing the counteroffensive. Still, if you are the most brilliant tactician and have twice as many tanks as I do, but I have all the gasoline, ammunition and air supremacy, I win.

And then we could get into things that never came into play in Europe - the Allies anthrax stockpiles. The German's nerve gas. Nukes.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:13 AM on November 12, 2008

Why the snippy stuff?

Because it's a silly mistake to make, and Rommel, and the manner of his death, are really really famous?
posted by pompomtom at 4:15 AM on November 12, 2008

It's kind of snippy, but it's also a straight-forward question. I assume that people know the topic they're posting about, especially in this case. Rommel is a pretty famous figure, with an extensive wiki page that was linked but obviously wasn't even scanned, and kickstart's slip ruins any mention of the plot in his own post.
posted by Roman Graves at 4:31 AM on November 12, 2008

...if you are the most brilliant tactician and have twice as many tanks as I do...

When did Rommel have double the tanks of the Allies? Hell, when did he even have as many - even counting the Italian clunkers? The Germans were even outnumbered in tanks (and aircraft) against France. They just knew how to use them.

I seem to remember a book, maybe 20 years ago, where the author claimed to have uncovered evidence he himself had strafed Rommel, and it wasn't this guy. Unfortunately I can't seem to remember or find his name. Anyone else remember it?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:23 AM on November 12, 2008

Ah, found the guy I was thinking of, though it sounds like he (another Canadian) may have only spotted the car and radioed in the coordinates, enabling Charley to go in attack.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:11 AM on November 12, 2008

a tiny derail which may be of interest to war nerds: i had the good fortune to see Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire (VC, OM, DSO and 2 Bars, DFC) of the Dam Busters squadron (617) give a talk at my school once.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:35 AM on November 13, 2008

Rommel is a totally overrated general. The British and the Germans both had there reasons to overblow his talents. The British wanted to explain why they couldn't beat him (even worse leadership) and the Germans wanted a hero to distract from the fact that they were getting beat on the Russian front.

Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt, Rommel's superior described him as a "man suitable for minor operations."

Rommell continuously overreached, underestimated supply problems and was thrown back when his overextended forces ran out of fuel.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:36 PM on November 13, 2008

Is this the same von Rundstedt who thought Normandy was too far west for the Allies to invade, and thought it would be a good idea to place armoured reserves well back of the front so they'd have to try moving where they were needed while fully exposed to Allied air superiority?

From everything I've read, Rommel had a pretty damned good idea of his supply problems, and was only guilty of "overreaching" because the alternative was "sit still and get hammered". Seriously, look at the comparative forces available to both sides. To get the results he did from the forces he had on hand, he was a damned good commander.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:03 AM on November 17, 2008

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