An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy

by Rick Atkinson
     
 

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

 

The liberation of Europe and the destruction of the Third Reich is a story of miscalculation and incomparable courage, of calamity and enduring triumph. In this first volume of the Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson focuses on 1942 and 1943, showing how central the great drama that

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Overview

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

 

The liberation of Europe and the destruction of the Third Reich is a story of miscalculation and incomparable courage, of calamity and enduring triumph. In this first volume of the Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson focuses on 1942 and 1943, showing how central the great drama that unfolded in North Africa was to the ultimate victory of the Allied powers and to America's understanding of itself.

Opening 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 Algiers, and then take on the Germans and Italians in Tunisia. Battle by battle, an inexperienced and often poorly led army gradually becomes a superb fighting force. Central to the tale are the extraordinary but flawed commanders who come to dominate the battlefield: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Montgomery, and Rommel.

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

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An Army at Dawn may be the best World War II battle narrative since Cornelius Ryan's classics, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far." -The Wall Street Journal

"Exceptional . . . A work strong in narrative flow and character portraits of the principle commanders . . . [A] highly pleasurable read." -The New York Times Book Review

"A splendid book . . . The emphasis throughout is on the human drama of men at war." -The Washington Post Book World

"Atkinson's account will be a monument among accounts of World War II." -John S. D. Eisenhower, author of Allies and The Bitter Woods

"One of the most compelling pieces of military history I've ever read." -Gen. Wesley K. Clark, USA (ret.), former NATO Supreme Commander

"A master of the telling profile . . . This vivid, personality-driven account of the campaign to drive Axis forces from North Africa shows the political side of waging war, even at the tactical level." -Chicago Tribune

"An Army at Dawn is more than a military history, it is a social and psychological inquiry as well." -Paul Fussell, author of Doing Battle and Wartime

"Brilliant . . . This is history and war in the hands of a gifted and unflinching writer." -The Kansas City Star

bn.com
The Barnes & Noble Review
Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Long Gray Line and Crusade, delivers a blockbuster in Volume One of his World War II Liberation Trilogy. On paper, Operation Torch -- the American amphibious invasion of North Africa in November 1942 -- had clear strategic goals: Join the British in the fighting, expel Axis troops, regain the Mediterranean, and safeguard Suez. But complications abounded. American planners favored Operation Sledgehammer (the cross-Channel invasion of France and an advance on Berlin); Operation Torch was seen as supporting British imperial interests. Atkinson highlights the dramatic Churchill-Roosevelt partnership and the maneuverings that led to U.S. adoption of Torch and illuminates the roles of Harry Hopkins, George Marshall, and Dwight D. Eisenhower -- the Allied commander in cliff-hanging operations against the brilliant but finally exhausted German general Erwin Rommel.

Atkinson's clear-cut analyses and fast-moving, quotation-studded narrative bring American, British, and Axis leadership styles and blood-and-sweat battlefield experience into sharp focus. Key issues come alive: Allied strategy feuds fueled by the conflicting personalities of Eisenhower and the British commander, Bernard Montgomery; Rommel's surprise moves; George Patton's difficult genius; French grandstanding and double-dealing; the raw American troops receiving their first battlefield experience; horrific physical conditions and near-insoluble supply problems -- all are presented with keen insight.

The ultimately victorious six-month campaign achieved all goals, making possible the invasions of Sicily and Italy: Churchill saw it as "possibly the beginning of the end," and the German propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, admitted it was "a second Stalingrad." Undoubtedly it assured Eisenhower's rise to supreme command and American dominance in subsequent WWII grand strategy. This is the definitive account of the opening gambit by the Allies from a master historian and storyteller. Peter Skinner

Andrew Carroll
An Army at Dawn is an absolute masterpiece . . . This book is storytelling — and history — at its most riveting.
Paul Fussell
Atkinson's book is eminently friendly and readable, but without compromising normal standards of accuracy and objectivity . . .
Gordon R. Sullivan
A masterpiece. Rick Atkinson strikes the right balance between minor tactical engagements and high strategic direction . . .
Mark A. Stoler
This is a wonderful book — popular history at its best. It is impressively researched and superbly written . . .
John S. D. Eisenhower
. . . His account will be a monument among accounts of World War II.
Wesley K. Clark
One of the most compelling pieces of military history I've ever read, An Army at Dawn will become a . . . classic.
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. (Oct. 2) Forecast: While there's no clear news hook for this title, Atkinson is well known enough to garner readers on name recognition. An eight-city author tour will help raise awareness, as will the marketing of the book as first volume of the Liberation Trilogy, Atkinson's study of WWII. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
James Salter
"Enormously rich in detail and written with a novelist's brilliance, the pages literally hurry before one . . . A very moving book."
The Washington Post Book World
Chicago Tribune
A master of the telling profile . . . This vivid, personality-driven account of the campaign to drive Axis forces from North Africa shows the political side of waging war, even at the tactical level.
New York Times Book Review
Exceptional . . . A work strong in narrative flow and character portraits of the principal commanders . . . [A] highly pleasurable read.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Atkinson's writing is lucid, vivid . . . Among the many pleasures of An Army at Dawn are the carefully placed details — shells that whistle into the water with a smoky hiss; a colonel with 'slicked hair and a wolfish mustache'; a man dying before he can fire the pistols strapped in his holster.
Wall Street Journal
An Army at Dawn may be the best World War II narrative since Cornelius Ryan's classics, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far.
Washington Post Book World
A splendid book . . . The emphasis throughout is on the human drama of men at war.
Kansas City Star
Brilliant . . . This is history and war in the hands of a gifted and unflinching writer.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
...precise ...sparkling, Atkinson's research is extensive. An Army at Dawn also includes new and fascinating materials.
Raleigh News & Observer
What distinguishes his narrative is the way he fuses the generals' war . . . with the experience of front-line combat soldiers.
Associated Press
A book that stands shoulder to shoulder with the other major books about the war, such as the fine writing of Cornelius Ryan and John Keegan.
Nicholas Proffit
"As masterfully executed as it was conceived."
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Cullen Murphey
"A story of epic proportions . . . An awesome feat of biographical reconstruction."
The Boston Globe
Library Journal
A former staff writer and editor for the Washington Post, Atkinson (The Long Gray Line) here offers the initial volume in a trilogy concerning the liberation of Europe during World War II. The invasion of North Africa was the first joint military operation conducted by the Allies, and it influenced many future decisions. Using battlefield reports and archival material, Atkinson tells a fascinating story of the North African campaign that is hard to stop reading, even though one knows the outcome. He includes the perfect combination of biographical information and tactical considerations, and eyewitness accounts give readers an idea of what the average soldier must have endured. Similar in scope to Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers or Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day, this book will have wide appeal for both public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.] Mark Ellis, Albany State Univ. Lib., GA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805074482
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/28/2003
Series:
Liberation Trilogy Series, #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
736
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 8.28(h) x 1.27(d)

Read an Excerpt

From An Army at Dawn:

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."

The stones are devoid of epitaphs, parting endearments, even dates of birth. But visitors familiar with the American and British invasion of North Africa in November 1942, and the subsequent seven-month struggle to expel the Axis powers there, can make reasonable conjectures. We can surmise that Willett H. Wallace, a private first-class in the 26th Infantry Regiment who died on November 9, 1942, was killed at St. Cloud, Algeria, during the three days of hard fighting against the French. And Jacob Feinstein, a sergeant from Maryland in the 135th Infantry who died on April 29, 1943, no doubt passed during the epic battle for Hill 609, where the American Army came of age.

What People are saying about this

Joseph L. Galloway
Rick Atkinson has done a beautiful job of research and writing in An Army At Dawn. This is the North African campaign--warts, snafus, feuding allies, incompetents, barely competents--unvarnished. It whets my appetite for the rest of the Liberation Trilogy Atkinson has promised us.
— co-author of We Were Soldiers Once...and Young
Gordon R. Sullivan
A masterpiece. Rick Atkinson strikes the right balance between minor tactical engagements and high strategic direction, and he brings soldiers at every level to life, from private to general. An Army At Dawn is history with a soldier's face.
— USA (ret.), former Army chief of staff

Meet the Author

Rick Atkinson is a staff writer for The Washington Post, currently on assignment in Iraq. He is the bestselling author of The Long Gray Line and Crusade. His many awards include the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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