Memorial Day and Borrego Springs

Memorial Day is when we honor the memory of those who fought and died in the many wars our country has pursued. Borrego Springs has a special connection to at least two films that remembered the events of World War II.

In 1951, 20th Century Fox produced The Desert Fox starring Jessica Tandy and James Mason as German General Erwin Rommel.  Fox followed in 1953 with the quasi-sequel  The Desert Rats starring Richard Burton and Mason again as Rommel.  The desert warfare scenes of both films were shot in the Anza-Borrego Desert not far from Borrego Springs.

Rommel was respected by his own troops and the Allied forces as well for being considered professional, humane, and one of the most skillful practitioners of desert warfare of his era.  Later in the war he was executed for conspiring to overthrow Hitler. These facts earned him sympathy and even admiration from many, although the film was criticized by some for being too sympathetic towards the General.

The Desert Rats told the story of an inexperienced company of Australian soldiers that successfully defended the port city of Tobruk, Libya for eight months against the fierce attack of Rommel's Afrika Korps. Burton plays English Captain "Tammy" MacRoberts, who earns the respect of the green and undisciplined Australians, who came to call themselves "the rats of Tobruk" 

The location of the war-scene film shooting was completely lost to memory until a State Park Ranger stumbled onto the abandoned site in the 1980's. These days BSFF founder and retired Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Ranger Fred Jee routinely takes film history buffs on tours to the location 


Dan WrightComment