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An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (The Liberation Trilogy, Vol. 1) 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,006 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805062885
ISBN-10: 0805062882
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Frequently Bought Together

  • An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (The Liberation Trilogy, Vol. 1)
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  • The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (Volume Two of The Liberation Trilogy)
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  • The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (The Liberation Trilogy)
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In An Army at Dawn,, a comprehensive look at the 1942-1943 Allied invasion of North Africa, author Rick Atkinson posits that the campaign was, along with the battles of Stalingrad and Midway, where the "Axis ... forever lost the initiative" and the "fable of 3rd Reich invincibility was dissolved." Additionally, it forestalled a premature and potentially disastrous cross-channel invasion of France and served as a grueling "testing ground" for an as-yet inexperienced American army. Lastly, by relegating Great Britain to what Atkinson calls the status of "junior partner" in the war effort, North Africa marked the beginning of American geopolitical hegemony. Although his prose is occasionally overwrought, Atkinson's account is a superior one, an agile, well-informed mix of informed strategic overview and intimate battlefield-and-barracks anecdotes. (Tobacco-starved soldiers took to smoking cigarettes made of toilet paper and eucalyptus leaves.) Especially interesting are Atkinson's straightforward accounts of the many "feuds, tiffs and spats" among British and American commanders, politicians, and strategists and his honest assessments of their--and their soldiers'--performance and behavior, for better and for worse. This is an engrossing, extremely accessible account of a grim and too-often overlooked military campaign. --H. O'Billovich

From Publishers Weekly

Atkinson won a Pulitzer Prize during his time as a journalist and editor at the Washington Post and is the author of The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point's Class of 1966 and of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. In contrast to Crusade's illustrations of technomastery, this book depicts the U.S. Army's introduction to modern war. The Tunisian campaign, Atkinson shows, was undertaken by an American army lacking in training and experience alongside a British army whose primary experience had been of defeat. Green units panicked, abandoning wounded and weapons. Clashes between and within the Allies seemed at times to overshadow the battles with the Axis. Atkinson's most telling example is the relationship of II Corps commander George Patton and his subordinate, 1st Armored Division's Orlando Ward. The latter was a decent person and capable enough commander, but he lacked the final spark of ruthlessness that takes a division forward in the face of heavy casualties and high obstacles. With Dwight Eisenhower's approval, Patton fired him. The result was what Josef Goebbels called a "second Stalingrad"; after Tunisia, the tide of war rolled one way: toward Berlin. Atkinson's visceral sympathies lie with Ward; his subtext from earlier books remains unaltered: in war, they send for the hard men. Despite diction that occasionally lapses into the melodramatic, general readers and specialists alike will find worthwhile fare in this intellectually convincing and emotionally compelling narrative.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 681 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (October 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805062882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805062885
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,006 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By David J. Loftus on October 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I read the first two pages of the prologue to this hefty volume and I was HOOKED! Mr. Atkinson writes beautifully, sensitively, and fairly about this huge, complex historical era.
The first of a projected three volumes about the U.S. role in the World War II liberation of Europe, _An Army at Dawn_ deals with the North Africa campaign, which many general readers have tended to neglect in favor of Italy, Normandy, and beyond. Atkinson admirably addresses this problem.
Somehow, the author has found just the right mix of detail -- from personal notes out of soldiers' diaries and letters home, to the reparations paid to Algerians for traffic fatalities caused by Allies -- versus big picture aspects, from the British and American political maneuverings at Casablanca to the larger troop movements and battle strategy. I got a kick out of the references to GI passwords in various battles, jokes and ditties (although it's not clear whether Atkinson realizes the couplet quoted on p. 526 is from Spike Jones's wartime hit, "Der Fuehrer's Face"), as well as the graver tales of of triumph and tragedy.
Don't let the size of this tome intimidate you (541 pages of text, 83 pages of notes, 28 pages of bibliographical source listings) -- because the book reads smoothly and compulsively. And there are plenty of excellent maps sprinkled throughout the book, at just the right places.
The author does not spare us the details of Allied political and personal squabbles (particularly British condescension toward American battleworthiness and courage -- not altogether undeserved, but not fair, either), absurdities, and atrocities.
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Format: Hardcover
Rick Atkinson has been writing military history for about a decade now. He started with books on West Point (which covered Viet Nam rather thoroughly) and the Gulf War, and now he's turned his sights on World War II. He definitely has a modern appraisal of war: the one previous reviewer who complains about Atkinson not recounting any acts of "selfless heroism" by U.S. troops is basically correct. The difference is in focus, though, not that Atkinson doesn't want to portray American soldiers as brave. He doesn't recount any instances of selfless heroism on the part of Germans, Italians, or British soldiers either. To Atkinson, war is a nasty, merciless, vicious, bloody mess, where mistakes cost lives, and almost everyone makes these mistakes, at least starting out.
For one thing, while the book does concentrate a good deal on the front-line soldiers and their ordeals, it spends more time concentrating on the command structure of the U.S. Army, and its compatriots and opponents. While he doesn't name *every* regimental commander, he sure names a lot of them, and the division commanders in the American army at least are described in some detail. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., son of the first president Roosevelt and cousin of the second one, gets a wonderful portrait that makes you sympathize with him, and almost gives you the feeling you know him, though he died in 1944. The author's particular favorite among the generals (he's said this in an interview) is Terry de la Mesa Allen, the commander of the 1st Infantry Division (and Gen. Roosevelt's boss), but even he isn't spared when he makes an unwise attack and loses several hundred casualties.
There are things the book doesn't cover, that's true.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book will be the definitive work, from the American point of view, on the war in North Africa, covering the period when the United States got involved (November 1942) up until the German surrender in Tunisia (May 1943). Mr. Atkinson effectively sets the stage by showing the sorry state the U.S. military had fallen into prior to the decision to invade North Africa. He points out that in September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, the U.S. Army had ranked seventeenth in the world in size and combat power, just behind Romania. When 136 German divisions conquered Western Europe in the Spring of 1940, our War Department reported that we could only field five divisions! Mr. Atkinson writes, "Equipment and weaponry were pathetic. Soldiers trained with drainpipes for antitank guns, stovepipes for mortar tubes, and brooms for rifles...Only six medium tanks had been built in 1939.....This in part reflected an enduring loyalty to the horse...The Army's cavalry chief assured Congress in 1941 that four well-spaced horsemen could charge half a mile across an open field to destroy an enemy machine-gun nest without sustaining a scratch." This sort of information helps you to appreciate what had to be overcome in order for us to play our part in the expulsion of the Axis forces from North Africa! Mr. Atkinson doesn't fail to show us what other problems had to be overcome...Eisenhower having to learn "on the job" how to be Supreme Commander; having to build and then hold together the Allied coalition...this was very difficult, as many top men in the British military had nothing but disdain for Eisenhower's abilities and also for the abilities of the American troops (and many of the top American brass, such as Eisenower, Bradley and Patton were Anglophobic, so it worked both ways!Read more ›
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