- Series: The Liberation Trilogy (Book 1)
- Paperback: 736 pages
- Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Revised edition (May 15, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805087249
- ISBN-13: 978-0805087246
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,056 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy Revised Edition
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
In prose that easily is absorbs the non-specialist reader (as this reviewer is), Atkinson shows what a paltry and untreated force America was able to field alongside of a decidedly unsung British force in what became what must have seemed like it would never be: a defeat of a strong German force within convenient range of the German homeland.
Before this could happen, the green American forced needed to lose their triumphalism and their British allies needed to learn how to fight to a win on an inhospitable battlefield that was complicated by both weather and colonial legacy. Many American readers (again, I am one) will be surprised by the complex French role at this early stage of the War, a story I will not spoil potential readers in this short review.
Among military historians, it seems, to temptations are to be avoided. The first is to chronicle a conflict as though the technology of weaponry were the main thing. The second is to paint the war in terms of the ideas and decisions of generals. Atkinson has become a great writer of military history in our time because he brings mastery of both of these elements to the more interesting story of the soldier whose prospects for life and death were shaped by those less personal forces.
Although Atkinson is serially quotable, the first paragraph of the book's prologue captures his touch for the human drama of war and its cost:
'Twenty-seven acres of headstones fill the American military cemetery at Carthage, Tunisia. There are no obelisks, no tombs, no ostentatious monuments, just 2,841 bone-white marble markers, two feet high and arrayed in ranks as straight as gunshots. Only the chiseled names and dates of death suggest singularity. Four sets of brothers lie side by side. Some 240 stones are inscribed with thirteen of the saddest words in our language: 'Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to god.' A long limestone wall contains the names of another 3,724 men still missing, and a benediction: "Into Thy hands, O Lord".'
The toll was emblematic of a principle point of Atkinson's book: America only really began to act like a world power on North Africa's regrettable battleground. This stepping into a space that history had prepared for her marks, in retrospect, the turning point of this vast, global conflict. Churchill's eulogy for the campaign proved right: It *was* in fact 'the end of the beginning'.
The genius of Atkinson's AN ARMY AT DAWN lies, in part, in his ability to help the reader understand why this was so while never losing sight of the boy from Iowa crouched in terror as the seemingly invincible Wehrmacht throw its best at him and his buddy, then eventually collapsed in ignominy as claims of invincibility came in for severest re-negotiation.
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.
Great illustration, but unfortunately on Kindle the maps are hard to read. True of most books.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Atkinson has written the definitive history of the War in North Africa from Torch to the end.Read more