Steven Pressfield : Killing Rommel : Book Review


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BOOK REVIEW: KILLING ROMMEL
BY STEVEN PRESSFIELD

We hope you enjoy this book review by Cy Hilterman.

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This novel presents an excellent account of Desert warfare in Africa during World War II. The account is taken from manuscripts written by R. Lawrence Chapman, “Chap” as he was called. Chap’s father had been a mentor and surrogate father to the author of this book who would never consider publishing his “account” of his minor, as he called it, service to England during the war in the very unfriendly desert areas in Africa and Tunisia. Chap’s story had me ducking, driving, avoiding bullets and other ammunition, airplanes as they raided the area, and helping repair the vehicles that so often broke down in the desert heat of the days and the cold nights.

The Long Range Desert Group is made up of very highly trained Special Forces that are trained to work in the harshest of climates and terrain. The desert is generally thought of as sand and hot with unrelenting sun beating down on any living or dead creature. This is true but at night it can get extremely cold causing such temperature extremes that humans and equipment have a hard time just enduring. Chap is eventually assigned to one of these groups and learns fast that his training did not give him the sufficient knowledge that he would need to endure, not just the climate, but the enemy consisting of German desert fighters led by General Edwin Rommel, also known as The Desert Fox. The LDRG is hunting for Rommel through most of the desert warfare in this story. The purpose of finding him was to kill him. Rommel did not hide behind his forces but rather led them usually out front of them making him exposed to the enemy.

Chap was only one small part of the desert action but what he saw and had to do to exist, along with his own men, makes for a great read. The temperature extremes caused trucks, jeeps, guns, and all other heavy-duty equipment to break down frequently, forcing stops in many an inconvenient and unsafe area. They had to make do with the cover they could find such as peaks and valleys of the desert. They could only travel certain hours of the day because navigation in the desert is impossible unless you can find your way by the sun and/or star positions. If it was too bright or nasty weather closed in, they had to sit, wait, and hope they would not be found by the enemy or another group of their own, thinking they were meeting the enemy. These stops gave them little rest, little sleep, while repairing what they could, sometimes by cannibalizing wrecks to get the parts they needed for the equipment that was in fair condition. If they left a vehicle behind, the German’s would take it, repair it, paint their swastikas on it, and put it in battle against the original owners.

One must read this book to appreciate what these men went through while trying to find and kill General Rommel. Steven Pressfield has taken the manuscript of Chap’s and turned it into a great story, most of which is factual with only a few names and groups changed. It is almost unbelievable but we know from history that such brutal tours of duty did exist and this book only touches a brief part of how severe conditions made men live and die while fighting for their lives practically every minute of every day.

REVIEWED BY CY HILTERMAN

DO NOT REPRINT WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, CY HILTERMAN


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