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Rommel's Desert War: Waging World War II in North Africa, 1941-1943 (Cambridge Military Histories) 1st Edition

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521509718
ISBN-10: 0521509718
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Editorial Reviews


"Rommel's Desert War is a book of outstanding importance. It will stand alongside, challenging and correcting, Liddell Hart's Rommel Papers. Martin Kitchen takes us to the heart of the Axis war effort in North Africa. His book effortlessly blends sources written in many languages into a gripping narrative. The struggle for Libya was not the 'war without hate': it was a squalid and nasty fight with enormous ramifications for world history. Kitchen captures both the brutality and the importance of the struggle. No one is going to see the Desert War in quite the same light after reading his book." Simon Ball, author of The Bitter Sea: The Struggle for Mastery in the Mediterranean 1935-1949

"Rommel's Desert War brings fresh sources and a fresh perspective to the North African campaign. Kitchen's skillful blend of policy and strategy, operations and tactics, pulls no punches. His stringent, well-documented critique of Rommel's performance in particular makes this a significant contribution to the literature on the Second World War." -Dennis Showalter author of Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century

"At last we have a book which provides a modern, balanced and fascinating account of the war in North Africa from the Axis point of view. Martin Kitchen reveals with real clarity the complex interaction between the two armies in the see-saw fighting of the desert. He punctures myths effortlessly and, impressively, links the fierce desert fighting with the political imperatives and realities of the fascist powers. This book is now essential reading for anyone interested in the desert war and its place in the wider history of the Second World War." -Niall Barr, author of Pendulum of War: Three Battles at El-Alamein

"For too long the decisive campaign in North Africa has been viewed as a military duel between Britain and Germany, personified in the figures of Montgomery and Rommel. Now at last, making full use of Italian sources, Martin Kitchen has given us a balanced, judicious and convincing analysis of the three-handed war in the desert. It will be required reading for every World War II historian." John Gooch, author of Mussolini and his Generals: The Armed Forces and Fascist Foreign Policy, 1922-1940

"In Rommel's Desert War Kitchen has produced a fine book; highly recommended." -Adrian Gilbert,

"Martin Kitchen combines policy, strategy, tactics and personality in a detailed account from the Axis perspective. ... Fascinating insights abound." -Soldier, magazine of the British Army

"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." -Foreign Affairs

"Arguably the most provocative reassessment of this theater in many a year, this challenging, rich, well-argued tome forces careful revisits to dearly held truths about strategy, operations, tactics, and personalities." -World War II Magazine

"Kitchen has written the definitive analysis of the North African war for our time."
Germany Studies Review, Larry L. Ping, Southern Utah University

"This study gives us a vivid view of the theater from the perspective of the Afrikakorps command." -Eleanor Hancock, American Historical Review

"...valuable for the specialist and interesting for the amateur of the desert war." -A.A. Nofi,

Book Description

The first comprehensive English-language history of the Axis campaign in North Africa offers an account of the battles of 1941-3, Rommel's generalship, the divisions that undermined the Axis coalition and the place of the campaign within the broader strategic context of the war.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Military Histories
  • Hardcover: 618 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (September 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521509718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521509718
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #303,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By NC Mike on November 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're interested in the WWII Western Desert campaign you'll love this book. I own many of the classic books on the subject...from Corelli Barnett's- "The Desert Generals" to Agar-Hamilton's- "Sidi Rezigh Battles" and "Crisis in the Desert"...and I'm always looking for new ones. In my opinion, Martin Kitchen's- "Rommel's Desert War" ranks right up there with this subject's classic works. "Rommel's Desert War" is well researched and written, very fact hard to put down, full of little known facts attesting to the author's research, and supplemented by good maps and interesting photographs. The Axis perspective in this campaign has never been so clearly detailed to the reader. Yes, from the quality of the paper (you won't believe how heavy this little gem is) to the quality of the scholarship this is a first rate book. There are good researchers and good writers but only a few historians are able to meld the two disciplines into an enjoyable and illuminating read. Martin Kitchen is one of the few and should be proud!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Rogash on November 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent overview of Rommel's North African campaign but it also emphasizes the higher elements of command from mainly the Italian and German leadership perspective. Thus it may not satisfy those looking for a book that gives more in-depth descriptions of what warfare was like as experienced by individual infantrymen or tank commanders. For that I recommend Holland's Together We Stand. Instead this book discusses and describes the planning and implimentation of military operations across the desert and especially the internal conflicts between the more agressive ambitious Rommel and those in both the Italian and German High Commands who prefered Rommel engage in more of a holding campaign rather than striking for the Suez Canal. The discussions of the critical battles are probably adequate for most readers but those expecting a more detailed operational account may find the author too sketchy or incomplete and the maps also omit some of the finer details. This is especially true concerning Operation Crusader.

This book is also partly revisionist in that its portrayal of Rommel is considerably more negative than most other books on this topic. The author concedes Rommel is a far superior tactician, especially compared to his British opponents, but also considers him vainglorious, callous toward his men, reckless, arrogant, and prone to blame and even punish others for his mistakes. From a military perspective, Rommel's tendency to ignore the logistical impossibilities and subsequent futility of his military goals contributed to his final defeat thus making his earlier victories much in vain. Perhaps the North African Campaign indeed verifies the comment among the German High Command that Rommel was an excellent divisional commander but no more than that.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Falk on December 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

This is a nice book on the campaign in North Africa. While not providing any sensational new info, much of the relevant info is here put into context. It details not only the fighting itself, but also how the political decisions made in Rome and Berlin influenced the campaign.
It does, however, have some serious drawbacks.

While most contemporary students of the North African campaign agree that Rommel was a highly controversial military leader with as many flaws as virtues, this book really takes it a step further, too far in my opinion.
Indeed, the focus seems to be "Rommel-bashing", using every available negative scrap of info against him, only grudgingly admitting that he had some strengths as well, usually only as he was forced on the defensive in the later part of the campaign.
In addition, it even claims that Rommel never wrote about feelings when writing to his wife, while allegedly enjoying nude swimming with younger officers...

(To be fair, the book is also highly critical of the British leadership)

The work has some minor factual mistakes, while not serious, they are irritating. My guess is that the author is well conversant with the political and strategic game, while lacking the insight and knowledge of the military details.

The word panzer is used ad nauseam, and while it is true that Panzer is the correct plural form in German, it would be more correct to write panzers when writing in English and describing several vehicles. Details...

It could also have had a slightly better layout, as it can be a bit tedious and unstructured at times, and the coverage tapers off after El Alamein, almost as if caused by lack of space or writing stamina.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Raff on November 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Kitchen paints a fascinating portrait of Rommel as a vainglorious commander whose dashing feats in the desert marked not a great tactician, but a dreadful strategist. I recommend this book as a necessary component of any WWII or military history buff's bookshelf -- despite two reservations I discuss below.

Military-history readers are often treated to accounts of Rommel as an honorable, daring, inventive, and successful leader -- due in large part, I suspect, to his sympathizing with Hitler's would-be assassins and to lingering anti-Montgomery sentiments among Americans (I confess to mixed feelings myself about Monty). For example, another book called "Rommel's Desert War" (Mitcham), "An Army at Dawn" (Atkinson), and "Alamein: War without Hate" (Bierman and Smith) all portray Rommel as a fine general and man -- one worthy of being toasted by British veterans 50 years after the war.

In contrast, Kitchen shows how Rommel failed to understand (or willfully chose to ignore) that North Africa was relegated to a secondary or tertiary theater after the invasion of the Soviet Union and that his repeated surges forward placed excessive demands on an already-stretched supply line. Part of the blame undoubtedly lies with the Axis's (notably Hitler's) frequently changing strategies -- and with their inexplicable decision to leave Rommel in the dark about the planning of Barbarossa -- but Kitchen places the bulk of the blame directly on Rommel, a man who had missed out on much of the German General Staff's well-regarded training and who consciously avoided mastering the details of logistics.

The book suffers from two flaws. First, Kitchen spends many turgid pages describing the back-and-forth arguing among the Axis high command.
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