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

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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



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.

Editorial Reviews
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

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Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
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Liberation Trilogy , #1
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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, 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 An Army at Dawn (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history), The Day of Battle, The Long Gray Line, In the Company of Soldiers, and Crusade. His many other awards include two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism, the George Polk Award, and the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award. A former staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post, he lives in Washington, D.C.

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An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 4.2 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 147 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!
tripledawg More than 1 year ago
Without first reading anyone else's reviews, I dove in and came to agree with what most reviewers have applauded. It was good history, it was good journalism, it was good literature. And two other delightful features which I appreciated: It was suitably long; Atkinson neither ran out of enthusiasm nor felt the need to throw in extraneous trivia, so it was a good workout for my reading muscles. And he expanded my vocabulary; I loved clicking on $10 words to look up in my new Nook's dictionary.
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.
Henrys8 More than 1 year ago
It's simply amazing we won the African Campaign. It is a long book to read but well worth it if you are into the history of WWII. The one problem I had was that I purchased the book for my Nook and the illustrations on the maps was useless. Other than that one issue it was a great book. We just simply had luck and fate on our side, along with men and women willing to pay the ultimate price for freedom.
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PhrogJK More than 1 year ago
The beginning of the trilogy on WW II by Ray Atkinson. This trilogy is the best I have read on that war. All three books in the trilogy are 5 stars.
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Atkinson doors a great job of finding the balance between detail and readability. Very readable book while doing the subject justice.
rgfoste More than 1 year ago
Rick Atkinson does the best job of recapping what went on for the Americans in WWII. He does it like a news reporter. This what was going on. This is what happened. This is the result. If you know nothing about WWII this will get you started. If you've read a lot this will summarize it for. The right mix of facts, personal incidents and perspective. He does not judge the generals, just tells you what was going on.
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