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Desert Fox: The Storied Military Career of Erwin Rommel by Dr Samuel Mitcham

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Gary Pinkerton talks with Dr. Samuel Mitcham, U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and author of the new book Desert Fox: The Stories Military Career of Erwin Rommel, about what led him to write about Rommel and why he decided to become a writer. Dr. Mitcham also explains to Gary what characteristics seem to be the most apparent in those who are successful leaders as well as giving some advice to those who are about to leave active duty.

Announcer 0:04
Welcome to the heroic investing show. As first responders we risk our lives every day our financial security is under attack. Our pensions are in a state of emergency. A single on duty incident can alter or erase our earning potential instantly and forever. We are the heroes of society. We are self reliant and we need to take care of our own financial future. The heroic investing show is our toolkit of business and investing tactics on our mission to financial freedom.

Gary Pinkerton 0:39
Welcome to the heroic investing show. My name is Gary Pinkerton and I co host this show with Jason Hartman, this Sorokin investing Episode 191. My guest today is Dr. Samuel Mitchum Dr. Mitchum was born in 1949 in Louisiana and still lives there with his wife. He is a US Army veteran. He was a helicopter pilot during The Vietnam War. And after the Vietnam War, he held a couple of jobs, as you mentioned at the beginning of our discussion, and then found that he had a passion for and an itch for writing amazing historical books. He’s a historian. He’s a prolific author of over 40 books. Most of his writings are centered on World War Two on Hitler’s army, and specifically Gen Rama. And most of you probably know Gen Rama better as the Desert Fox. He’s written several books about general Rommel and his conquests his successes in battle, and actually how he led to the fall of Hitler himself. He also has written a few books, very well received books on the US Civil War, Battle of Vicksburg, and specifically and most importantly, he is focused in on general Nathan Bedford Forrest. General Vorst is quite a character, and I’m sure he comes to life, even as a bigger than life character. In Dr. Mitchum books. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Dr. Samuel Mitchum. So Dr. Mitchum, after returning from your army service, you held a few jobs. And then you decided to become an author. So how did you make that transition? Could you walk us through, you know how it came about that you’re now an author

Samuel Mitcham 2:24
kind of had to. It was a good job that I had, but it was dead end job without a doctorate was going nowhere. In the meantime, I decided to write a book. While I was working at the Institute, the way it worked, we had major projects and in between the major projects we lived on the overhead and the previous project. Well, we came to the end of a project my boss, badly underbid it, and there was no overhead at the end. So she told me that she wanted to make the next project but couldn’t pay me for three years. Next month, and if I got another job she would understand well said no, right. And all these years I have wanted to write a book. And I paid in unemployment. I was single. So I decided to spend at least three months writing the book. And that’s all I did for three months. All the result was a book on real martial Rommel but doesn’t Fox It was not 120 typewritten pages, manual typewriter, no self correcting feature, kill me if I had to do it today. We sold it to Macmillan. And I got half of my advance which was sizable for somebody who fresh out of grad school back in the late 70s. When a corporate conglomerate bought Macmillan, my daughter got the corporate x i had to find a new publisher. And I tried for over a year, I sent it to a small house up in Massachusetts and they sent me back a letter of rejection. I wish I’d kept it told me what it needed to do and said, Gee, we’d like to publish it. is too damn big their exact words. So I broke it into three books, two campaign books on North Africa and one on Normandy. Those were the first three books I ever published, have a distinction of publishing my first book twice or selling it twice. Now I’ve come back to where I started, I’ve made the full circle. Regular history wanted me to write a book on the Desert Fox, I told my publisher about my initial effort. And, of course, a lot of information has come to help since the late 1970s. So I did the biography of Brahma. It was a real pleasure that worked out as well as it did.

Gary Pinkerton 4:43
That’s awesome. I appreciate you taking this kind of walking us through that. I’m not sure you covered this but your time in the military you you were active duty army, Colonel and helicopter pilot by trade, right. And this was during the Vietnam War. I think you touched on it, but it was a Ways back in the conversation there.

Samuel Mitcham 5:02
Yeah, well, I touched on it. I was looking back on active duty state act in the reserve, that a few steps of temporary duty on on active duty but basically I was a reserve officer when I made my rank, better, more spend my whole life in the military. I was glad to be able to

Samuel Mitcham 5:23
discern.

Gary Pinkerton 5:25
I was glad served my country.

Samuel Mitcham 5:30
Flying helicopters is fun.

Gary Pinkerton 5:34
I’m sure it is. It’s challenging, no doubt.

Samuel Mitcham 5:36
Well, a couple of moments we’ll start Tara, but mostly I really enjoy this.

Gary Pinkerton 5:42
So 40 books later, you’ve been through many campaigns of World War Two, you’ve you did a voyage into a specific look at Nathan Bedford Forrest and a couple of the battles there of the Civil War. And you’re back, as you said, full circle. Back to the Desert Fox. So tell us about how you turn the 900 page book into assuming something a little bit smaller, a little condensed. How did that journey go?

Samuel Mitcham 6:10
Well, I left a lot of the details of the Bible so used to my campaign books and my little book sounds more personal anecdotes about his life. Specially interesting to American audiences night the fact that he had an illegitimate daughter, which I didn’t know about it nobody else did either speak of back when I wrote my first book, key, like knowledge, the 21st century when his daughter died, she was a lady by the hand. The letters that he had sent to her during the war came to light and actually didn’t believe it but had checked some German sources and sure enough, turned out to be true. He was an officer cadet and what they call a felon over 18 years old, away from Home for the first time he was lonely. And he had an affair with a lady who was a first seller. She’s so hurt. And to the shock and amazement she turned up pregnant. Well, though Amina Germany was very much a class conscious society. You had to have your commanding officers permission to get married. And this lady would not at all considered officer class material. So Ron will face the choice. Do the right thing and merrier or resigned from the army. And this was 1913 he decided to marier Well, his father setting down his dad died later that same year. But he said if you resign Now, everyone will think you are a coward because World War One started in 1914. And everybody would think that ROM owners On because he was afraid to go to war. Well, that was totally unthinkable for Rommel. So he broke off the relationship, you’re later ended up on the Western Front.

Gary Pinkerton 8:12
Yeah, that’s certainly something that hasn’t hasn’t come to light until you’re well, I guess, in print until your book, you know, as I’m reading here online, some of the takeaways from from your book or some of the excerpts is really compelling. And it’s certainly all of these are things that I have not taken the time to assemble. In my own mind. I’m not a huge historian, but I’ve certainly studied the war and certainly I’ve studied the Desert Fox. And so just some quick little excerpts here. You know, you talk about Rommel burning the orders, telling him to commit war crimes, his impact on D day landings, and then, you know, his involvement in the plot to overthrow Hitler. And then committing suicide is after all of that falls apart. You know, I knew of some of those but those are definitely four big enough hooks to get me to read this book in the near future, anything else to talk about? I mean, that’s just a great book and a great story.

Samuel Mitcham 9:05
One thing else they struck by was, Rommel saw incredible versatility as an officer. They started out the infantry branch, in fact, and then he went to the mountain branch 1918. He really distinguished himself by Matador he commanded about 800 men. He captured 9000 battalions and 81 guns. And then at Langhorne A few days later, he captured another 10,000 enemy soldiers, that’s 19,000 allied prisoners in a few days, and he had probably 800 men or less. He then, of course, went into the right here, as the army of the middle period was called it was between the second right and Third Reich and called the Weimar Public and his progress as Germany was limited to 100,000 man army, and anytime you’re a small army, like the actual rate of promotion is almost always very slow. He spent 14 years as a captain, and finally became an instructor and he wrote a book and this was a real turning point in his career in his life. It’s called infantry in the attack. And it was based on his lectures and there’s war experiences. And it became a bestseller in Nazi Germany and Hitler read it and decided he wanted to make the offer. So he made Rommel acting commander, the fear of bodyguard battalion during the occupation of the sedate lab, the occupation of Czechoslovakia, Poland, then also in the Polish campaign, 1939, now Rama probably not ever saw the inside of a tank before about 1938. But he nevertheless saw that the armored branch, the mechanized motorized infantry was the wave of the future, not the infantry or the Calvary. So he went in to see Hitler after the campaign that Hitler took a personal interest in him at that point.

Gary Pinkerton 11:21
What year was this again

Samuel Mitcham 11:22
1939 39 Okay. Yeah. And he said my fear I would like to come at what you won’t, and well said without batting an eye command of a Panzer Division. And he later admitted to his chief of staff. This was an extremely modest request on my part, because there were literally hundreds of officers that are qualified for such command and he was, but it looked at in command of the sudden Panzer Division didn’t have a good reputation that about 10,000 there, and it’s tanks were predominantly captured. Vehicles weren’t the Tigers and the Panthers as the Americans met Norman in 1944. They were inferior to the French tanks, except for the fact they had radios. With the 10,200 tanks, Rommel destroyed more enemy tanks and he had and he captured over 97,000 prisoners, including five admirals around the French Atlantic Fleet headquarters in shurberg. Wow. Yeah, and this propelling forward tremendously, it was obvious he was a master of it, even though he hadn’t experienced the training of some of the other officers. Then Hitler sewn into North Africa. And he excelled as commander the Africa Tory was often not known but three to one, and the tanks in the desert were not Germany’s best, and Germany really wasn’t ready to fight a war in North accent they didn’t intend to what happened? The Italian Empire invaded Egypt and the British shot with 32,000 men destroyed the Italian Army and took over 130,000 of the prisoner. And there was really nothing to keep them from going to AAA and finishing off Mussolini’s North African Empire, except the Germans had invaded Greece now feel Marshall label, the British commander wanted to finish them off. But Churchill said no, that can wait. Let’s say Greece won’t like we’re able to say Greece. And that turned into a disaster. Yeah. And the cost of it was the Germans had a chance to bolster up Mussolini’s North African Empire. And Hitler got this one right. He said, The loss of North Africa can be withstood from a military point of view, but it would So free up a dozen British divisions which they could use most dangerous like. So he sent two divisions to North Africa and they Ramallah commander, the Africa Corps. And he later expanded that mission. It was strictly a secondary Theater of Operations the whole time.

Gary Pinkerton 14:19
So as you as you’ve studied, obviously, numerous wars, what would you distill down as characteristics of the successful individuals that you’ve written about several generals and obviously campaign experts?

Samuel Mitcham 14:33
Oh dice with people like Robert E. Lee, that forest or Rommel, that guts I mean, they took some serious risk. Granted Vicksburg another example. Grant, basically put himself in a position where if he lost the battle, there would be no retreat. Yeah, he

Gary Pinkerton 14:53
may die with our army. Yeah.

Samuel Mitcham 14:56
And global I’m afraid to take that kind of risk either. Obviously, play in forest one. And yeah, I would say audacity also maneuver. All these men I’ve studied were masters at it. They were often outnumbered, Lee was always outnumbered. But at the decisive point, he always had more men present there. And his enemy did. Joel forest said, Ask him that reason for success. He said, I get there first and the most. Yeah. Well studied forest and they said, What difference does it make? If the British had more men always had more minutes the decisive point with my little army, and he did. So yeah, those are your

Gary Pinkerton 15:43
that’s fair. Yeah. That I think sums it up very well. If we take just a quick moment and talk about maybe one of your most well known ones. Bust held wide open your story and historical look at Gen four. What are some things in there that perhaps someone who has not yet read would not know?

Samuel Mitcham 16:05
I got a quote General Sherman on that he said that Nathan force was the most interesting man to ever fight in the American Civil War. He also called him the best cover man in American history. He was nigma uniquely American person. He, he was a first grade dropout never did learn to read and write correctly, or said he never looked at a pen. But what he didn’t think of a snake. He grew up in abject poverty. Their house was 960 square feet. You could look through the cracks between the logs see outside and there were 10 minutes.

Gary Pinkerton 16:43
Yes, head of household that like age 15 right or something like that.

Samuel Mitcham 16:46
Yeah, his dad died and he became head allow so head of the family. And yet before the Civil War started, he admitted that he was worth one and a half million dollars. That’s 34 million. dollars today, but I think he was low balling and looking at some of the accounts he had a stagecoach operation of mail contract brick factory, he traded cattle and horses, news and people. And he was a land speculator on the number of plantations, papers worth more than that. So, when the war started, he enlisted as a private, and by the end of the war, he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant General and be three stars in today’s army. They only wanted the Civil War to do so. And during the process, he personally killed 30 Yankees in one on one combat. He was a very big man, he was a little over six feet tall. And when the average man was Union Army was five foot seven inches. He weighed about 210 pounds the average man was in the Yankee army was 143 pounds. Contract Arnie couldn’t have been much different. And he enjoyed combat, drill, patent love, horrible forest hated war. But he got a thrill of the actual fighting. back he put I advertisement and Memphis Peele tried to recruit troops. It’s like, Come on, boys. Let’s have some fun until we met that.

Gary Pinkerton 18:24
That was genuine. Not hard to believe that knowing what I do of this man’s history, he’s he was certainly an interesting character, and integrity.

Samuel Mitcham 18:35
Oh, he had no fear. Hardly one time the first man he killed it was a gunfight there were four gun fighters come and kill us all, except when you let him do it. They drew oni and he had a two shot pistol like kill one crippled another Mary was no time to reload. A friend toss him up mobile app so he charged slash going on and he was critical. Windham lost an arm and forth and ran away, or ice ran him down, put his knife to his throat, said that he wasn’t going to kill him because he was too much for man to kill someone so totally under your control, but he gunfire but always remember he letting go. Yeah. And farce also killed two Confederates ran away and that’s a bad idea. elwynn Forest commander and he killed weissbier Well, he didn’t drink didn’t smoke, in gambled he was a great Gambler, and he put women on a pedestal. He had great respect for me, fired one of his best friends for having sex with a woman outside of marriage. He said, I will not have in my army, any man who would do that to a Mormon. Wow. It wasn’t what I initially expected when I started researching spare complex character.

Gary Pinkerton 20:00
Why did you choose to write about gentle forest?

Samuel Mitcham 20:02
Well, couple of reasons. One, I grew up in a household. Well, I like to say that I was 12 years old before I found out Robert E. Lee was not part of Trinity. I came across a newspaper interview he gave after the war and the reporter asked him who was the best general American Civil War, and we respond to this man. I have never met his name as far as I never would need. And I read a couple of books on him and he told me about his meeting with his wife and that was the second reason he proposed to her on the third meeting. She accepted all four, but she was very much different from him. And far said to give her dad his permission. You had to do that. Those days. her daddy was dead, so we had to go to The Guardian. Her uncle, Reverend cow One who is not at all excited about having nice and better forest in the family. So they argued about it a while And finally, shut up. Why do you want to marry her? She’s quiet. well educated your mirror, introverted. Christian girl. You fight. You have gun fights. You curse are an extrovert. You’re not a Christian and she is. Why do you want to marry her? She’s nothing like you and he farsh responded with. I don’t want to marry anybody like me. I want to marry a Christian girl. Well,

Gary Pinkerton 21:38
I would say somebody who makes him better or just different from him

Samuel Mitcham 21:42
both. Both. I got a great deal of respect for America. First woman I have no regrets. We went against 31 years. And Forrest was a one woman man I was it. He married her and even though he was not a Christian, he didn’t Virtual live. She worked with him a long time. Yeah, I could identify with that.

Gary Pinkerton 22:07
That’s awesome. Well, I appreciate you explaining that for the audience. Dr. Mitchum as we as we come up near the end here, and certainly can find all of your works on on Amazon and anywhere you can find books nowadays. Do you have a website or a mailing list or something that you would point the audience towards?

Samuel Mitcham 22:26
Oh, no. Oh, regular history, I guess. Has Desert Fox elements and bust out wide open amazon.com Barnes and Noble carries books to Utah that are no good, but they’re available.

Gary Pinkerton 22:45
Oh, sure. Sure. So thinking of the you know, our audience being first responders, active duty members of the military and veterans interested in starting their own business or you know, in real estate or just learning more about transition from Military, any advice that comes to mind that you want to pass on?

Samuel Mitcham 23:03
Don’t shoot anybody

Gary Pinkerton 23:07
do that anymore. I got out of the army and it was a hard transition for me different people at different levels of difficulty. I was just kind of glad to be home and alone alive. And that’s why I went back to grad school. I got out of the army and, gosh, doors over, I’m still alive what I do now.

Samuel Mitcham 23:37
That’s something to cherish, I guess. You know, it’s certainly something to to be thankful and grant gracious or have some gratitude towards but also, you know, seeking what you knew was a passion and actually going after, you know, having the having the guts to step away from a salary income and when you had an opportunity and it looked like that was drying up to go after, you know, take charge and go after The thing that you had passionate about which is writing the book so I think that’s great advice and just about anyone out there I for 1am very excited to get Desert Fox and dig into that book, um, World War Two history but certainly learn about general Rama.

Gary Pinkerton 24:14
Well, gladden, I hope you enjoy it. Do another interview at your convenience. One thing I would leave the reader with the potential student of this, the one leaving army like you were talking about our military service, rather interesting quote, if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Yeah, I’ve done it. I could make more money in something else, I’m sure but I have enjoyed it. And it’s been a good ride. I really feel sorry for people who have jobs to say, hey,

Samuel Mitcham 24:52
yeah, me too. And our body speaks to us every day about whether or not we’re in the right role. Right. Like, if took the initiative to type 900 pages on a typewriter or even on a new word processing system. We get the message quickly. I’m not in my right role. I do think I do. I am thankful that there are people like you who like to do the research and bring such wonderful works of art to the rest of us, because it’s not me. But I want to thank you. Yeah, Dr. Mission. Thank you so much for joining our audience for a few minutes today.

Gary Pinkerton 25:25
Well, sure, enjoyed it. And I like that if I had to do that first book over again on a manual typewriter probably has to hold a fear Well,

Samuel Mitcham 25:36
it’s a lot easier that is.

Gary Pinkerton 25:38
Absolutely. Well, that’s we appreciate you taking us through that journey. Thanks so much, and we look forward to talking with you again soon.

Samuel Mitcham 25:45
All right, we take care of yourself.

Gary Pinkerton 25:47
You too, sir. Thanks. Bye, bye.

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