Rommel's Desert War: Waging World War II in North Africa, 1941-1943

In This Review

Rommel's Desert War: Waging World War II in North Africa, 1941-1943
By Martin Kitchen
Cambridge University Press, 2009
616 pp. $38.00
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The strategic importance of the back-and-forth fighting between Allied and Axis troops in North Africa from 1941 to 1943 has long been debated. In some respects, it was a sideshow to World War II, the main event being in Europe. Germany only became involved to rescue the Italians, but then General Erwin Rommel's dash and flair raised the possibility of humiliating the British. The result was that German forces became overextended and scarce resources were diverted to the desert campaigns, which still ended in defeat. Thanks to Kitchen's meticulous research, there is now a compelling account of the battles from a German perspective, with a well-rounded and not altogether flattering picture of Rommel. The book gives due weight to both his operational brilliance, especially in retreat, and his poor strategic judgment. Ultimately, Rommel undermined himself by banking on his special relationship with Hitler to offset his differences with those above and below him in the chain of command.