The legendary wartime status of Rommel perpetuated in later years by Desmond Young's laudatory Rommel the Desert Fox (1950) and Paul Carrell's popular The Foxes of the Desert (1958) is here challenged--in a less strident, more narrowly focused critique than David Irving's The Trail of the Fox (1977). Structuring his book after Carrell's and rebutting him point-by-point, Heckmann portrays Rommel as a reckless field commander (albeit a tactical genius) exuding in the favorable publicity generated by Goebbels' propaganda ministry. He treated his subordinate commanders ruthlessly, Heckmann demonstrates, and his derring-do led him into numerous fiascos--most notably, his almost suicidal attacks on Tobruk in 1941 and his famous wild goose chase with the Afrika Korps during the late 1941 ""Crusader"" campaign. But his most grievous error, Heckmann writes, was his decision to suspend the planned invasion of Malta (which lay directly on the supply route from Europe to Africa), and instead move into Egypt after his spring '42 victories at Gazala and Tobruk. Heckmann stresses that ""the war in Africa was decided by gun ranges and armor-piercing effectiveness, by thicknesses of armor, and by tactics rather than by a single hero figure."" What he does not mention, in his zeal to debunk Rommel, are certain more intangible and less quantifiable factors--doctrine, maintenance, training--that were equally if not more important. But overall his book is both vivid and judicious--the best corrective yet to the overvaluation of Rommel's role in North Africa.