by Martin Kitchen
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. xvii, 598.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $38.00. ISBN: 978-0-521-50971-8
In his many earlier works, such as The Third Reich: Charisma and Community (2008) and The German Officer Corps, 1890-1914 (1968), Kitchen has displayed a rather iconoclastic view of traditional interpretations of events and institutions, and Rommel's Desert War is fully in keeping with these.
Although blurbed as, among other things, "a modern, balanced, and fascinating account," Rommel's Desert War is essentially a fairly comprehensive look at the North African campaign from the German perspective, one which is less worshipful of Rommel, both as a commander and as a person, than most books on the subject. Thus, Kitchen notes Rommel's carelessness with staff work, neglect of logistics, and frequent temper tantrums. This critical look at Rommel aside, the book actually breaks little new ground in terms of the operational aspects of the campaign, though it is well-written, with some excellent battle pieces.
As usual in accounts of the campaign, the focus is almost entirely on the German and British forces, omitting recent scholarship that has revised the wartime propaganda image of the Italian armed forces, upon whom Rommel actually relied rather heavily. Save when being blamed for something, Italian forces are rarely mentioned and no Italian sources are listed, though Kitchen has done an excellent job of combing German materials.
Nevertheless, the criticism of Rommel makes this valuable for the specialist and interesting for the amateur student of the desert war.