South Africans versus Rommel Cover

South Africans versus Rommel

The Untold Story of the Desert War in World War II

Davis Brock Katz

Stackpole Books, Guilford, Connecticut, 2017, 384 pages

Book Review published on: November 30, 2018

In South Africans Versus Rommel, David Brock Katz presents a thorough, comprehensive, and concise overview of the history of the South African army in North Africa. The narrative includes a brief discussion of the forming of the army after the Boer War and its role during World War II’s African Campaign and East African Campaign to remove Italian forces from Abyssinia and Somalia from July 1940 to June 1941.

There is also a rich discussion on the divergent views and doctrinal perspectives on employment of mobile forces in both campaigns. This divergence is one of many of the contributing factors that led to the annihilation of the 5th South African Infantry Brigade at Sidi Rezegh during Operation Crusader. It also helps to explain the defeat in May 1942 of the British 8th Army during the battles near Gazala as well as the fall of Tobruk, which resulted in the surrender of the 2nd South African Infantry Division in June 1942. Even with the differing views on how to fight and employ forces in the North African Desert in 1941-1942, this book is a shining example of the abilities, capabilities, and courage of the South African Defense Forces as it fought against Rommel’s Afrika Korps—an equally capable, well lead, and tenacious enemy.

For the military reader or historian, South Africans versus Rommel is an excellent, necessary, and relevant source to begin the process to understand the issues, confusion, and misunderstandings that can arise during coalition or multinational operations. This is an ideal companion for any library, or for those who study or are interested in modern warfare, military history, and war studies in general.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Jeffrey L. LaFace, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas