Having gained a solid reputation as a military genius of the highest order, Rommel was promoted to Lieutenant General and placed in command of the newly formed Afrika Korps, which had been created with the intention of being sent to Libya to assist Italian troops struggling to cope with British advances into Axis territory in North Africa.
Ignoring orders to assume a defensive posture, Rommel immediately launched a lightning assault on the startled British forces and his Afrika Korps advanced rapidly, driving General Waverley out of his fortified position at Benghazi.
In an attempt to take advantage of the confusion that resulted from the fall of Benghazi, Rommel continued to press forward, driving the British before him and finally enveloping the enemy within Tobruk.
Rommel placed Tobruk under siege but met with stiff and resolute resistance from British and Australian soldiers.
In June 1941, Wavell launched an Allied counterattack, Operation Battleaxe, but was severely mauled by Rommel’s Afrika Corps.
After that, Rommel notched up a string of victories, more often than not against vastly superior forces, including Tobruk, Gazala, and El Alamein.
In the process, he not only earned a formidable reputation for personal bravery and strategic genius but also for gallantry and mercy, as he amply demonstrated when he sent medical supplies to New Zealand forces within the Allied lines.
With a lack of reinforcements and supplies hampering his ability to complete a knockout blow to the Allied forces in North Afrika, Rommel was forced to go on the defensive and then later pull out his remaining forces from the North African theater.