An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (Liberation Trilogy, Volume 1)

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (Liberation Trilogy, Volume 1)

by Rick Atkinson

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In the first volume of his monumental trilogy about the liberation of Europe in WW II, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson tells the riveting story of the war in North Africa

The liberation of Europe and the destruction of the Third Reich is a story of courage and enduring triumph, of calamity and miscalculation. In this first volume of the Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson shows why no modern reader can understand the ultimate victory of the Allied powers without a grasp of the great drama that unfolded in North Africa in 1942 and 1943. That first year of the Allied war was a pivotal point in American history, the moment when the United States began to act like a great power.

Beginning with the daring amphibious invasion in November 1942, An Army at Dawn follows the American and British armies as they fight the French in Morocco and Algeria, and then take on the Germans and Italians in Tunisia. Battle by battle, an inexperienced and sometimes poorly led army gradually becomes a superb fighting force. Central to the tale are the extraordinary but fallible commanders who come to dominate the battlefield: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Montgomery, and Rommel.

Brilliantly researched, rich with new material and vivid insights, Atkinson's narrative provides the definitive history of the war in North Africa.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429967631
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/15/2007
Series: Liberation Trilogy Series , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 704
Sales rank: 5,369
File size: 12 MB
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About the Author

Rick Atkinson, recipient of the 2010 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, is the bestselling author of The Day Of Battle, The Long Gray Line, and In the Company of Soldiers. He was a staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post for twenty years, and his many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Rick Atkinson is the bestselling author of the Liberation Trilogy—An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light—as well as The Long Gray Line and other books. His many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for history and journalism. A former staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post, he lives in Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt



A Meeting with the Dutchman

A FEW minutes past 10 A.M. on Wednesday, October 21, 1942, a twin-engine Navy passenger plane broke through the low overcast blanketing Washington, D.C., then banked over the Potomac River for the final approach to Anacostia Field. As the white dome of the Capitol loomed into view, Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt allowed himself a small sigh of relief. Before dawn, Hewitt had decided to fly to Washington from his headquarters near Norfolk rather than endure the five-hour drive across Virginia. But thick weather abruptly closed in, and for an anxious hour the aircraft had circled the capital, probing for a break in the clouds. Usually a man of genial forbearance, Hewitt chafed with impatience at the delay. President Roosevelt himself had summoned him to the White House for this secret meeting, and although the session was likely to be little more than a courtesy call, it would never do for the man chosen to strike the first American blow in the liberation of Europe to keep his commander-in-chief waiting.

Kent Hewitt seemed an unlikely warrior. Now fifty-five, he had a high, bookish forehead and graying hair. Double chins formed a fleshy creel at his throat, and on a ship's bridge, in his everyday uniform, he appeared "a fat, bedraggled figure in khaki," as a British admiral once observed with more accuracy than kindness. Even the fine uniform he wore this morning fit like blue rummage, notwithstanding the flag officer's gold braid that trimmed his cuffs. A native of Hackensack, New Jersey, Hewitt was the son of a mechanical engineer and the grandson of a former president of the Trenton Iron Works. One uncle had been mayor of New York, another the superintendent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kent chose the Navy, but as a midshipman in the Annapolis sail loft he was said to have been so frightened of heights that he "squeezed the tar out of the rigging." As a young swain he had enjoyed dancing the turkey trot; in recent decades, though, he was more likely to be fiddling with his slide rule or attending a meeting of his Masonic lodge.

Yet Hewitt had become a formidable sea dog. Aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, he circled the globe for fifteen months with Theodore Roosevelt's Great White Fleet, displaying such a knack for navigation that the stars seemed to eat from his hand. As a destroyer captain in World War I, he had won the Navy Cross for heroism. Later he chaired the Naval Academy's mathematics department, and for two years after the invasion of Poland he ran convoy escorts between Newfoundland and Iceland, ferrying war matériel across the North Atlantic.

In April 1942, Hewitt had been ordered to Hampton Roads to command the Atlantic Fleet's new Amphibious Force; late that summer came Roosevelt's decision to seize North Africa in Operation TORCH. Two great armadas would carry more than 100,000 troops to the invasion beaches. One fleet would sail 2,800 miles from Britain to Algeria, with mostly British ships ferrying mostly American soldiers. The other fleet, designated Task Force 34, was Hewitt's. He was to sail 4,500 miles to Morocco from Hampton Roads and other U.S. ports with more than 100 American ships bearing 33,843 American soldiers. In a message on October 13, General Eisenhower, the TORCH commander, had reduced the mission to twenty-six words: "The object of the operations as a whole is to occupy French Morocco and Algeria with a view to the earliest possible subsequent occupation of Tunisia." The Allies' larger ambition inTORCH had been spelled out by Roosevelt and Churchill: "complete control of North Africa from the Atlantic to the Red Sea."

Through a tiny window over the plane's wing, Hewitt could see the full glory of Indian summer in the nation's capital. Great smears of color — crimson and orange, amber and dying green — extended from the elms around the Lincoln Memorial to the oaks and maples beyond the National Cathedral. Across the Potomac, the new Pentagon building filled Hell's Bottom between Arlington Cemetery and the river. Jokes had already begun circulating about the immense five-sided maze, including the story of a Western Union boy who entered the Pentagon on a Friday and emerged on Monday as a lieutenant colonel. Though it now owned the world's largest building, the Army was still leasing thirty-five other office complexes around the city, and cynics quipped that if the military were to seize enemy territory as quickly as it had conquered Washington, the war could end in a week.

The plane settled onto the runway and taxied to a hangar. Hewitt buttoned his jacket and hurried down the steps to the Navy staff car waiting on the tarmac. The car sped through the airfield gate and across the Anacostia River to Pennsylvania Avenue. Hewitt had enough time to swing by the Navy Department building downtown and check there for messages before heading to the White House.

"You do everything you can," he liked to say, "then you hope for the best." Since receiving the first top-secret orders for Task Force 34, he had done everything he could, to the verge of exhaustion. Every day brought new problems to solve, mistakes to fix, anxieties to quell. Rehearsals for the TORCH landings had been hurried and slipshod. With Axis predators sinking nearly 200 Allied vessels a month, including many along the American coast, all amphibious training had been moved inside the Chesapeake Bay, whose modest tides and gentle waves resembled not at all the ferocious surf typical of the Moroccan coast. During one exercise, only a single boat arrived on the designated beach, even though a lighthouse had provided a beacon on a clear night with a calm sea; the rest of the craft were scattered for miles along the Maryland shore. In another exercise, at Cove Point, ninety miles north of Norfolk, security broke down and the men stormed the beach to be greeted by an enterprising ice cream vendor. In Scotland, the training by troops bound for Algeria was going no better; sometimes it was conducted without the encumbrance of actual ships, because none were available. Troops moved on foot across an imaginary ocean toward an imaginary coast.

Would the eight Vichy French divisions in North Africa fight? No one knew. Allied intelligence estimated that if those troops resisted stoutly, it could take Eisenhower's forces three months just to begin the advance toward Tunisia. If U-boats torpedoed a transport during the Atlantic passage, how many destroyers should be left behind to pick up survivors? Hewitt was not certain he could spare any without jeopardizing the task force, and the prospect of abandoning men in the water gnawed at him. Had word of the expedition leaked? Every day he received reports that someone, somewhere had been talking too much. For the first months after its creation, the Amphibious Force was so secret that it used a New York City post office box as its mailing address. Only a select few now knew Hewitt's destination, but the existence of a large American fleet designed to seize a hostile shore could hardly be kept secret anymore. A few weeks earlier, Hewitt had received a letter from Walt Disney — written on stationery with the embossed letterhead "Bambi: A Great Love Story"— who offered to design a logo for the Amphibious Force. Ever the gentleman, Hewitt wrote back on October 7 with polite, noncommittal thanks.

The staff car crawled past Capitol Hill to Independence Avenue. Nationwide gasoline rationing would begin soon, but Washington's population had nearly doubled in the last three years, and for now the streets were jammed. Coffee rationing would begin even sooner — one cup per person per day — and diners had started hoarding for special customers, like speakeasies stocking up on liquor just before Prohibition. Bawling newsboys on street corners shouted the day's headlines from the various war fronts: fighting on Guadalcanal ebbs; Red Army at Stalingrad stops Nazi tank attacks; another American merchantman sunk in the Atlantic, the 500th U.S. ship lost to U-boats since Pearl Harbor. The domestic news was also war-related, if less febrile: the first meatless Tuesday had gone well in New York; penitentiary inmates with only one felony conviction were urged to apply for parole so they could serve in the Army; and a survey of department stores in Washington revealed that "there aren't any nylon stockings to be had for love or money."

The car pulled up to the Navy Department's blocky gray building, just south of the Mall. Hewitt climbed from the rear seat and hurried up the steps. He knew where all those stockings had gone. Flying from Norfolk that morning, he could see stevedores on the docks still trying to wedge 50,000 tons of food, gasoline, and munitions into the holds of ships moored across Hampton Roads. Among the secret cargoes in sealed crates were six tons of women's stockings and lingerie, to be used for barter with Moroccan natives. Clandestine military buyers had swept clean the store shelves all along the Eastern Seaboard.

For Hewitt, it was just another secret to keep.

Since Roosevelt's final decision on July 30, TORCH had grown so complex that planning documents now filled a pair of mail sacks, each weighing fifty pounds. Two issues in particular had occupied Anglo-American strategists, and in both instances the president — who referred to himself as "a pig-headed Dutchman" — had pressed his views relentlessly.

First, he insisted that almost no British troops participate in the initial landings. A seething Anglophobia had spread through Vichy France in the past two years as a consequence of several unhappy incidents: Royal Air Force bombers had accidentally killed 500 French civilians while attacking a Renault plant outside Paris. British forces had intervened in the French overseas dependencies of Syria and Madagascar. Britain had also sponsored a failed attack on the French port at Dakar, Senegal, by the Free French forces of Charles de Gaulle, whom Marshal Pétain and many French officers considered an impertinent renegade. And worst of all, in July 1940 British warships had issued an ultimatum to the Vichy fleet at Mers el-Kébir, near Oran, Algeria: lest the French ships fall into German hands, the captains were told to sail for Britain or a neutral port. When the ultimatum was rejected, the British opened fire. In five minutes, they slaughtered 1,200 French sailors.

"I am reasonably sure a simultaneous landing by British and Americans would result in full resistance by all French in Africa, whereas an initial landing without British ground forces offers a real chance that there would be no French resistance or only a token resistance," Roosevelt cabled Churchill on August 30. To test this theory, the president commissioned a Princeton, New Jersey, firm to discreetly survey public opinion in North Africa. The poll results — drawn from a scientifically dubious sample of fewer than 150 respondents — reinforced Roosevelt's conviction.

There was skepticism in London. One British diplomat believed that Roosevelt's "spirit of Lafayette" merely reflected a sentimental Yankee affection for Paris, "where all good Americans hoped to go in the afterlife." But, having won on the larger issue of whether to invade Africa or France, Churchill chose to concur with the president. "I consider myself your lieutenant," he cabled Roosevelt. "This is an American enterprise in which we are your help mates." The president's further suggestion that British forces wait a full month after the invasion before coming to North Africa was gently rebuffed; the plan now called for Tommies to follow hard on the heels of their Yank cousins in Algeria.

The second vital issue involved where to land. Most British strategists, supported by Eisenhower, had stressed the importance of controlling Tunisia within two weeks of the invasion, before Axis troops from nearby Sicily and the Italian mainland could establish a bridgehead. "The whole conception of TORCH may stand or fall on this question of early Allied occupation of Tunisia," a British message advised. Once Tunisia was held, Allied control of Mediterranean shipping was all but assured. Rommel's Afrika Korps would be trapped in Libya, and the Allies would possess a southern springboard for further operations, against Sicily or the European continent.

These considerations argued for putting invasion forces from both armadas onto Mediterranean beaches in Algeria, and perhaps even as far east as the principal Tunisian port of Bizerte. "We should take great risks" to reach Tunis first, the British military chiefs of staff urged. Landings too far west should be avoided "like the plague" because of the hazard that the subsequent advance "eastward will be so slow as to allow Germans to reach Tunisia in force." In late August, Eisenhower's preliminary TORCH plan called for landings entirely within the Mediterranean, at the Algerian ports of Oran, Algiers, and Bône.

But General Marshall and War Department planners had other ideas. Tunisia and eastern Algeria lay within range of Axis warplanes on Sicily and beyond range of Allied fighters at Gibraltar. Landings at sites vulnerable to Luftwaffe attack would be extraordinarily perilous. Furthermore, the Americans feared that Hitler might lunge through neutral Spain and close the Straits of Gibraltar, trapping them in the Mediterranean as if cinching the drawstring of a sack. That argued for at least one landing on Morocco's Atlantic coast to guarantee an open supply line across the Atlantic.

For weeks, cables had fluttered back and forth in what Eisenhower called "a transatlantic essay contest." The Royal Navy believed that although the Strait of Gibraltar at its narrowest was just eight miles wide, it could not be controlled by enemy forces any more than the English Channel had been controlled. British planners also calculated that even with Madrid's consent to cross Spain — consent that, London insisted, was unlikely to be given — the Germans would need at least six divisions and more than two months to overpower Gibraltar.

In the American view, however, the risks were too great. The TORCH landings must succeed, Marshall argued, because failure in the first big American offensive of the war would "only bring ridicule and loss of confidence."

Roosevelt agreed, and again he intervened. "I want to emphasize," he cabled Churchill on August 30, "that under any circumstances one of our landings must be on the Atlantic." The president blithely dismissed the notion that Axis forces might build a Tunisian redoubt before the Allies arrived. In another message to the prime minister, he reiterated "our belief that German air and parachute troops cannot get to Algiers or Tunis any large force for at least two weeks after [the] initial attack."

Again Churchill acquiesced, not least because General Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff, shared the American disquiet and believed that diverting Hewitt's armada to Morocco "is a much wiser plan."

If not wiser, it was safer in the short run. But rarely are wars won in the short run. The Americans had been audacious to the point of folly in advocating SLEDGEHAMMER, the sacrificial landing of a mostly British force on the French coast. Now, with American soldiers predominant in TORCH, caution prevailed and audacity stole away. Hewitt's Task Force 34 would deposit one-third of the invasion force more than a thousand miles from Tunis. The invaders would bifurcate themselves by facing east and west, violating the hallowed principle of concentration and weakening their Sunday punch. In London, Eisenhower changed the odds of quickly capturing Tunis from "the realm of the probable to the remotely possible."

On September 5, the final decision was made to attempt landings at three sites in Morocco and at half a dozen beaches around Algiers and Oran. "Please make it before election day," Roosevelt asked Marshall. In this, the president would be disappointed. Various delays intruded, and on September 21, Eisenhower fixed the invasion date for Sunday morning, November 8, five days after the U.S. congressional elections.

TORCH remained breathtakingly bold, an enterprise of imagination and power. But at a critical moment, the Allies had taken counsel of their fears.

His business done at the Navy Department, Hewitt emerged at 1 P.M. to find that the day had turned warm and humid, with temperatures edging into the low seventies. The staff car picked him up and headed east on Independence Avenue before angling north across the Mall on 15th Street.

At the White House, a Secret Service agent directed his driver through the southeast gate, then led Hewitt on a circuitous route to avoid nosy reporters. Walking through the narrow corridors, the admiral saw that the mansion was battened down for combat. Blackout curtains draped the windows, and skylights had been painted black. Every room in the old tinderbox was equipped with a bucket of sand and a shovel, along with folded gas masks. The cluttered Fish Room, where Roosevelt kept trophies from his angling expeditions, was a reminder of the admiral's last encounter with the president. In December 1936, as skipper of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, Hewitt had taken Roosevelt on a monthlong trip to South America. He fondly remembered his passenger casting from the boat deck, then chortling with glee as he hauled in two fish. Roosevelt named them "Maine" and "Vermont," for the two states he had failed to carry in his recent reelection.


Excerpted from "An Army at Dawn"
by .
Copyright © 2002 Rick Atkinson.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. Passage,
2. Landing,
3. Beachhead,
4. Pushing East,
5. Primus In Carthago,
6. A Country of Defiles,
7. Casablanca,
8. A Bits and Pieces War,
9. Kasserine,
10. The World We Knew Is a Long Time Dead,
11. Over the Top,
12. The Inner Keep,

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An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 72 reviews.
Azpooldude More than 1 year ago
An Army at Dawn, The war in North Africa 1942-1943, by Richard Atkinson tells about the United States first involvement in World War II under code name, Operation Torch . It deals with the planning, shipping of troops to Africa, fighting and many more aspects of this historical moment of the Second World War. It is a prized read, hence it won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. This book goes into many details and covers all aspects of the campaign from General Eisenhower to the lowest private. This campaign was an incredible feat and little is known about it to the average American. November 1942, the United States ships thousands of troops and supplies to the shores of Morocco and Algeria, under Task force 34. The objective was to fight the French and later the Germans in North Africa. The French were fighting under the puppet Vichy government that was loyal to Hitler because he threatened to take over the rest of France if they did not comply. US troops met some resistance and had its share of mishaps, but beat the French quite easily. Through diplomatic channels and negotiations the French quickly switched to becoming our allies. But, this was only a taste of what was to come because the Allies would soon face a well seasoned and trained Axis Afrika Korps under Field Marshal Rommel. Having been badly beaten by Montgomery's British Eighth Army a few months earlier in El Alamein, they were on the move westward to face the Allies. Early attempts to reach Tunis by the Allies met with little success. Part of the problem was that the Allied Command was disorganized, poorly coordinated and split by rivalry and national chauvinism. Also, American troops were very green, were under poor field leadership, and critical supplies needed were not being delivered. Hence the Axis make gains in Northern Tunisia at Longstop Hill and at Medjez-El-Bab. With the infamous meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt in January of 1943 in Casablanca, pressure was mounting to finish off the Germans so that a new offensive could take place in the spring and early summer to land troops in Sicily under code name, Operation Husky. But it would not be quite that easy. A bits and pieces war continued in Tunisia for the next two months. Heavy fighting continued at Faid Pass and the Axis made their greatest last attempt to stop the allies at Kasserine. Under operation, Spring Breeze, the Germans were planning, "to go all out for the total destruction of the Americans", General Kesselring declared. They pushed the Allies further back with the aid of their superior Tiger tanks against the weaker Shermans. It seemed like it would be no match. But as they neared the border of Algeria, they would go no further than Thala. Rommel realized that his Afrika Korps, use to freewheeling combat in the open desert had much to learn about this new type of terrain of vulnerable valleys in hill country. Also his supply lines were over extended and they were low on ammunition and fuel. This would turn out to be the high point for the Allies in Northwest Africa. The tide had swung. Torch saved the Allies in the war. It gave the United States a jumping off point to invade Italy, it diverted German air power to that region from others, and most importantly, it deferred a cross channel invasion from England, that would have been a disaster if carried out too early. The taste of war had come to an inexperienced American force that would get much better in the years ahead. Robert Glasker
Guest More than 1 year ago
Filled with elegant writing, I found myself rereading and savoring many passages of this rich, densely detailed, and tragic story. I could read only a few pages at a time before needing time to think about it. History classes I have taken and those I have taught glossed over the North Africa campaign as merely a prelude to the main event in Europe. Now I know better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An Army at Dawn is an extraordinary book. It reminds us that the first Army boot that hit the beach was in North Africa, not Normandy.The book also makes it quite clear that a fighting machine like the U.S. Army just doesn't automatically happen. It takes the courage to learn from mistakes and to be succesful, one must bring maximum force to bear in fighting the enemy. The powerful narrative smoothly moves from the generals to the privates in the foxholes. The research is quite impressive. The book is superbly written. I can't wait for the next volume.
jay1967c More than 1 year ago
I'm almost done with this volume. I really enjoyed it. Had finished a Biography of Hitler recently (900+pages) and while it was good it was very dry. This book however, was thoroughly entertaining (as much as possible considering the subject matter). Would definitely recommend it to WWII devotees.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm only about half way thru this book but it's very, very good at illuminating a theatre in the war that never seems to get the attention that surrounds D-Day and the Northern Europe actions. Can't wait to finish the book but then wonder how long I'll have to wait on volume 2? Recommended
Guest More than 1 year ago
An Army At Dawn is the first full-scale study of the American Army in the North African Campaign of World War II to appear in many years. If less in-depth than the official histories in the Green Book series, it is a far easier read. Atkinson has a gift for shifting from the high command to the impact of war upon the lonely frontline rifleman. He is, moreover, an excellent stylist and his writing is superb. Unlike the increasingly common practice in more popular histories of ignoring notes and sources, both are included. The maps are also surprisingly good, if as always too few in number. Overall this is an excellent book and the only complaint is that the publication schedule for the next two volumes in the Liberation Trilogy means that the wait will be too long!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books about the men and events of World War II. Expertly researched it has a great balance in present the large scale geo-political aspects of the war as well and some of the personal effets of the war. Thanks Rick, looking forward to finishing the series with the thrid books next year.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never before has a book sucked me in before I even finished reading the prologue! Rick Atkinson has a writing style reminiscent of other journalists/authors such as Cornelius Ryan and Ernie Pyle. This book appeals to the historians looking to broaden the knowledge of the subject, to those just beginning to take interest in military conflict. I can wait for the release of the next book in the Liberation Trilogy!
phaga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was awesome! I've never really paid much attention to military history until I read Keegan's Second World War, and while at the bookstore looking for his book on the WWI, I spotted this. The African campaign was always something that intrigued me, as I knew absolutely nothing about it. The early blunders of our military seemed to be absent from anything i was taught in school about the war, as were the tensions between the allied armies. This book strips the war of it's glamour and legend and brings it back to reality.
dbeveridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book while traveling through Scotland with Wendy.
Sandydog1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very well written and researched. It's main theme was the American Army's maturity during the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns. Although it was beyond the scope of the book, I would have liked to have seen a little background on the entire North African campaign.Also, the similes and metaphors were a tad heavy. Battle participants used them, but the author was also very, very liberal with them as well. They flowed like tracers across the desert, like dust storm of Panzers, like the thunder of a bank of 88s, like the rosy fingers of dawn, like...You get the point.
hslone1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Atkinson sets you up with how badly planned the American invasion of North Africa was. He also tells of the loss of life by poorly trained officers who made bad decisions. I really liked the details about the battles and the ultimate retreat of the Germans from the continent.
linedog1848 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Incredible. War narrative that reads like a historical novel. Atkinson delivers detailed and well-researched information on this, a too-often overlooked period of the Second World War, through the eyes and experiences of those who fought the campaigns. Atkinson transitions seamlessly from the thirty-thousand foot view of Roosevelt and Churchill through the ten-thousand foot view of Eisenhower, Montgomery, and Rommel, down to the dogface grunt in the foxhole and back again, weaving a deep, rich, and engaging story that could have been yet another dry academic historical tome if written by a lesser author.I highly recommend this book as all of the things I like. I recommend it for the quality of the writing, for the quality of the content, for feel of the book in the hands. Even the typeface and layout lends itself to extended periods of reading without fatigue. I first heard of this book several years ago, but put it off thinking that at its size I would do better to read it when I have time to dedicate to an effort. . . what a mistake that was! Don't wait. . . this book is no effort at all. The effort after I started this book was to avoid neglecting my schoolwork and family.
Hedgepeth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
6 stars out of 5! Atkinson has done an excellent job of making the history of the North African campaign understandable to the average reader. He has a knack for using broad details instead of minutiae to avoid losing his reader, yet supplying interesting details to keep the narrative from being dry. The coming of age of the US Army is handled exceptionally well. My only regret is that I took so long to get around to reading this volume. An Army at Dawn is a must for any WWII scholar.
IslandDave on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An outstanding history of WWII during 1942 and 43 in North Africa, An Army At Dawn offers a multitude of views centered on US military experiences during Operation Torch. I can't add much more than other reviewers here. Lots of insights into the main generals, such as Eisenhower, Patton, Anderson, Montgomery, and many others, as well as views from the foxholes and gun sights at each key battlefield. 4 1/2 stars, can't wait to read the second in this series (Liberation Trilogy).
Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent overview of the US Army's role just prior to and through the invasion of North Africa. It includes the training and logistical problems of a major amphibious landing, the political issues, and the struggles of an army with very little experience. A very enlightening and thorough history. This book is focused on the US Army, not air or sea power or even the British battles.
wenestvedt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very good, can't wait for the next two.
Bpolybius on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is probably the finest history of a military campaign I have ever read This was not, of course, the Allies' finest hour but the demonstration of the creation of a modern army out of very little was stunning.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you're looking for a book on the allied invasion of North Africa this is now the standard study. This is not to mention that Atkinson is rapidly becoming one of our best popular historians.
xenophonmil More than 1 year ago
The author has published three more excellent military histories - this is the first of the three covering much of World War II participation by the United States in Europe. The number and quality of battle maps much exceeds the common standards. Atkinson has done excellent research that enables him to meld personal accounts of individuals at all levels of command with reports in official sources. The narrative is from the American view point, but adequate descriptions of the German side provide context. The British and French view and participation are included only as absolutely necessary. john sloan
Runner510 More than 1 year ago
I often felt blitzed by this nearly day-by-day chronicle of Operation Torch, the campaign that American forces fought against Germany in WWII between November 1942 and May 1943. Between many unfamiliar US, English, French, and German military figures (Fredendall, Ryder, Anderson, Giraud, Nogues, Arnim, etc) and places I’d feel foolish trying to pronounce (Medjez-el-Bab, Sidi bou Zid, El Guettar, Ousseltia Valley, etc, though the 19 maps included in the book are invaluable in keeping track of where these places are and the movements of the Allies and Axis around them), many of the details were way too much for me to take in. (Now that I think about it, I had a similar problem with the last book in the Game of Thrones series I read.) However, in the end I was completely won over by the amazing scope of the book and just wish I had the mind to absorb and process it all. The writing at times is lyrical, almost novelistic, though much of the account describes hardcore military tactics and brutal battles, which I assume would please truly knowledgeable readers. I, on the other hand, appreciated more reading the insights into what Eisenhower, Patton, Rommel, as well as the lesser-known participants thought about the ups and downs of the campaign, where the Allied forces certainly did not steamroll their way from Morocco to Tunisia; there were what seemed to be daily setbacks and botched efforts. And, of course, many casualties (estimated at over 70,000 Allied soldiers killed, wounded, missing, or captured). Atkinson stresses, though, that this baptism by fire was essential to Eisenhower’s maturation as commander general of the European Theater, as well as to the entire American force. I definitely plan to read the other two books in Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy.
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ComplicatedGuy More than 1 year ago
Excellent history that tells you not only the big picture but is filled with the small details such as thoughts and experiences of the individual fighting man. An unglamerous look at the stupidity of war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago