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