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Showing 1-10 of 857 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,070 reviews
on February 8, 2014
I purchased Rick Atkinson's "Army at Dawn" and the other two titles in his Liberation Trilogy after hearing him impressively lecture about the most recent book in the trilogy, "The Guns at Last Light."

Atkinson is among that rare breed of historians who are also talented writers; it is one thing to know history and lecture about it. It is quite another to have the ability to bring it to life on the printed page. Atkinson excels as both researcher and story teller. "Army at Dawn" history lesson is laden with anecdotes, and a reader can only pause now and then to marvel at the the time, effort, and execution that Atkinson implemented to enlighten readers in this text and in the trilogy mates that succeeded it.

A professional military historian may find fault with "Dawn," but for us non-professionals, the book is a fascinating read, laced with stories about the American military personalities of the day and the ordinary foot soldiers and tankers, but doing so without ever losing sight of the underlying theme: the initial involvement of American military forces in North Africa in the early days of World War II.

A note of caution: Rick Atkinson is an excellent wordsmith, and his vocabulary is exceptional, yet never used glibly or gratuitously. Still, a reader of Atkinson's trilogy would be well advised to keep a dictionary by the bedpost, because his prose brings powerful expression to the English language as well as to American military history.

You can choose to dismiss his prose as overkill, or you can choose to treat it as an expression of a man's exceptional vocabulary; I rarely encountered a page that didn't offer up at least one "new" word. I chose to accept the Atkinson Word Challenge, and I spruced up my own vocabulary in the process.
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on May 24, 2015
An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson is a phenomenal read presenting the battles for Africa during WII. Military history is not my forte but Atkinson brings battles to life from numerous angles. Obviously, he discusses battle strategies from the perspective of both the Allied and Axis armies. He reviews Allied leaders in detail for both there flaws and what made others successful, particularly Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Montgomery, and many officers of lower rank. There is an effective use of quotes from letters and other document from the allied troops sent home, plus personal letters sent by officers to home or to one another. There is a liberal use of quotes from Patton for his colorful use language, both oral and written. One of Atkinson's best accomplishments is his ability to remove the fog of war delivering a narrative that is easy to follow and very engaging. One recommendation is to have a dictionary nearby when reading. Atkinson introduced new words to my vocabulary more than any author I have come across.
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on August 25, 2017
Atkinson is a gifted writer with a talent for presenting WWII combat in blunt, unadorned prose faithfully describing the chaos, terror, emotional shock, pathos and savagery of each battle. As an additional bonus, the author focuses on the ordinary American infantryman and the American home front, two heroes often given short shrift in WWII non-fiction books. Using his talent for almost lyrical prose, Atkinson can make you experience the frustration, fears and hopes of ordinary soldiers fighting desperate battles - the sense of stark realism is tempered by his compassion for ordinary soldiers attempting to follow orders, orders both foolish and brilliant. Atkinson also acknowledges our debt to the American home front which produced an abundance of weapons, supplies and food which powered not only the American forces but the Brits, Russians, Chinese and Canadians on various fronts. His description of a small Iowa town receiving a blizzard of "We regret to inform you" telegrams from the War Dept. after a single, bloody battle conveys a sense of the shock and despair experienced by the town's residents upon learning that many of their sons had died in combat - a truly moving depiction of the grief shared by a close knit community of average Americans.

However, Atkinson shares an obsession held by many historians. He drags the reader through the childish politics of the North African war, the oft told tale of the Darlan incident, the juvenile antics of Churchill and Roosevelt touring the countryside after their self serving conference in Casablanca and the feud between British and American generals detailing the Brits' national inferiority complex over American efforts to assist them and the American's unwarranted feelings of inferiority toward a British military who retreated in France, were hastily evacuated, had their capitol city thoroughly bombed, surrendered an impregnable fortress in Singapore and after many initial failures finally managed to stand up to the Germans in Africa. If you're looking for a Homeric tale of heroes like Achilles and Hector - only with Eisenhower and Montgomery playing the hero role then this isn't the book for you. Atkinson is unimpressed with our various Great Men but he consistently tries to be fair in his criticism of their faults. Overall, an excellent WWII history with the exception of tedious political squabbles.
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on October 11, 2014
Although I have read several books on the conflict in North Africa, this was my first comprehensive look at the entire campaign from an American viewpoint. This book focuses on command, and the outcome of command decisions. Other reviewers have found the tone of this book too critical of American performance and they suggest it ignores many acts of valor. Undoubtedly this is to some degree true However, at this stage of the war, as this book illustrates, American war making was often characterized by poor planning and faulty execution. French and British forces had their own problems as well. Cooperation between the Allies was begrudging, competitive and sometimes absent altogether. What is truely remarkable here, is how the Allied officers and soldiers overcame these errors to emerge victorious. For this reason, it would make an excellent read for military war colleges preparing officers for command. Atkinson's true interest is on the men involved and he provides many first hand accounts from diaries and letters of those participants. If they find their first taste of war chaotic, dirty, and dangerous, then it should be no surprise that a negative tone emerges. The book is illustrated with maps of key phases of the campaign and excellent photographs from the period. The weak spot of the book is it's relatively light coverage of the air and sea campaign, both of which greatly influenced the theaters final outcome.
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on April 30, 2017
Atkinson has a gift for description, evoking a scene, and bringing together details to highlight a situation. He must have read boxes of letters by individual soldiers. He depicts the campaign from the grit and fear in the trenches to the comforts of Army headquarters and the settings of the great Big 3 conferences that debated and then set overall policy. It was not at all certain the the campaign reviewed in this book would occur at all - many US generals opposed it. He does not let the generals, all the way up to Ike -- off easily. Their blundering and slow learning are a bit disheartening to read about...
Great illustration, but unfortunately on Kindle the maps are hard to read. True of most books.
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on August 31, 2017
This was recommended to me by my son in law who is a great history--especially WWII-- buff. Very readable. It fills in a lot of information about the early years of the war, but after the US has joined the effort. Very helpful for a reader whose focus has been mostly on the European theater and on the British viewpoint. The author offers good analyses of US and British leaders' decision making.
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on September 25, 2015
An Army at Dawn

The book's start mirrors WWII in that it is slow and some times confusing to follow the story line. It is evident that as Americans our war entry was slow and in some cases indecisive. Our materials and expertise were often similar to our Lend Lease objectives, only what would suffice. Our military leaders were of a different stock then our allies, not aristocrats like the British. The situations with free French were not well developed.

Roosevelt states that unconditional surrender is the ultimate Allied goal over the Axis three of Germany, Italy, and Japan, which "...does mean the destruction of the philosophies in those countries which are based on conquest and subjugation of other people.” (pg 293) The book contains detail of Churchill and Roosevelt's Casablanca Conference. There were great efforts to protect both leaders at the conference. Casablanca, like the African campaign as a whole, was part of the American coming of age, a hinge on which world history would swing for the next half century. (pg 298)

I enjoyed the battle details allowing the reader to experience wars realities. I am not a student of African geography, so Allen's descriptions encouraged a more topography and weather research. The ending's facts and figures are disturbing as to the initial costs of life in war's dead, wounded, and missing. The sheer size of the American cemetery is twenty-seven acres. Yet the African theater closes with a tuned American military machine and world respect as determined fighters.
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on December 28, 2016
As a former history teacher, I read an awful lot of history books, and take a special interest in the wars of the twentieth century. In my opinion, there is no better writer than Rick Atkinson. And while this review is of the first volume, it could be applied equally to all three books in the trilogy. His research is meticulous, and the richness of his narrative makes this a profound reading experience. Atkinson is the Bruce Catton of the Second World War. A truly monumental achievement.
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on October 19, 2013
I suspect that no matter how much you've read about WWII, your knowledge will be exponentially enhanced by reading this trilogy by Mr. Atkinson. All aspects of the conflict from the strategy, tactics, the politics, logistics and the daily grind on everyone, from the multi-star generals to the dog face infantry trooper on the line, is exceptionally well researched and the picture painted with vivid clarity. He pulls no punches when exploring the politicians' and commanders' egos and failings. Thank God we were fighting Hitler rather than someone competent, but then there were some frequently ineffective leaders on the Allied side as well. If you don't read another account of WWII, read these.
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on May 22, 2015
Exquisitely written. I had read Atkinson in the Washington Post and did not know he had such a magnificent command of the language. I suppose newspaper editors squeeze out individuality. In the middle of the most prosaic scenes, he selects the mot juste to describe the situation and the scenery; and he doesn't repeat himself. He tells a story that previously had not interested me (the American Army in WW2 was generally a short snoozefest compared to the Germans and the Russians). He brings it alive. I am going to read all three books in the series. He's that good. Highly recommend it.
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