An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (Liberation Trilogy, Volume 1)

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (Liberation Trilogy, Volume 1)

by Rick Atkinson

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805087246
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/15/2007
Series: Liberation Trilogy Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 736
Sales rank: 43,193
Product dimensions: 8.52(w) x 11.08(h) x 1.41(d)

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

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.

Table of Contents

List of Mapsxvi
Map Legendxvii
Allied Chain of Commandxix
Prologue1
Part 1
1.Passage21
A Meeting with the Dutchman21
Gathering the Ships33
Rendezvous at Cherchel42
On the Knees of the Gods49
A Man Must Believe in His Luck57
2.Landing69
"In the Night, All Cats Are Grey"69
In Barbary78
Villain87
To the Last Man91
"Glory Enough for Us All"103
3.Beachhead116
A Sword in Algiers116
A Blue Flag over Oran124
"An Orgy of Disorder"130
Battle for the Kasbah141
"It's All Over for Now"148
Part 2
4.Pushing East163
"We Live in Tragic Hours"163
A Cold Country with a Hot Sun167
Medjez-el-Bab178
Fat Geese on a Pond187
5.Primus in Carthago194
"Go for the Swine with a Blithe Heart"194
"The Dead Salute the Gods"201
"Jerry Is Counterattacking!"217
6.A Country of Defiles237
Longstop237
"They Shot the Little Son of a Bitch"250
"This Is the Hand of God"256
Part 3
7.Casablanca265
The Ice-Cream Front265
Speedy Valley270
"The Touch of the World"280
The Sinners' Concourse295
8.A Bits and Pieces War301
"Goats Set Out to Lure a Tiger"301
"This Can't Happen to Us"312
"The Mortal Dangers That Beset Us"317
"A Good Night for a Mass Murder"327
9.Kasserine339
A Hostile Debouchment339
None Returned348
"Sometimes That Is Not Good Enough"353
"This Place Is Too Hot"366
"Order, Counter-order, and Disorder"373
"Lay Roughly on the Tanks"382
Part 4
10.The World We Knew Is a Long Time Dead395
Vigil in Red Oak395
"We Know There'll Be Troubles of Every Sort"398
"One Needs Luck in War"406
"The Devil Is Come Down"416
11.Over the Top431
"Give Them Some Steel!"431
"Search Your Soul"444
Night Closes Down453
"I Had a Plan ... Now I Have None"464
12.The Inner Keep480
Hell's Corner480
Hammering Home the Cork490
"Count Your Children Now, Adolf!"499
Tunisgrad513
Epilogue530
Notes543
Sources626
Acknowledgments655
Index660

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An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 72 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!
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.
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!
phaga on LibraryThing 27 days ago
This book was awesome! I've never really paid much attention to military history until I read Keegan's Second World War, and while at the bookstore looking for his book on the WWI, I spotted this. The African campaign was always something that intrigued me, as I knew absolutely nothing about it. The early blunders of our military seemed to be absent from anything i was taught in school about the war, as were the tensions between the allied armies. This book strips the war of it's glamour and legend and brings it back to reality.
dbeveridge on LibraryThing 27 days ago
I read this book while traveling through Scotland with Wendy.
Sandydog1 on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Very well written and researched. It's main theme was the American Army's maturity during the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns. Although it was beyond the scope of the book, I would have liked to have seen a little background on the entire North African campaign.Also, the similes and metaphors were a tad heavy. Battle participants used them, but the author was also very, very liberal with them as well. They flowed like tracers across the desert, like dust storm of Panzers, like the thunder of a bank of 88s, like the rosy fingers of dawn, like...You get the point.
hslone1 on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Atkinson sets you up with how badly planned the American invasion of North Africa was. He also tells of the loss of life by poorly trained officers who made bad decisions. I really liked the details about the battles and the ultimate retreat of the Germans from the continent.
linedog1848 on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Incredible. War narrative that reads like a historical novel. Atkinson delivers detailed and well-researched information on this, a too-often overlooked period of the Second World War, through the eyes and experiences of those who fought the campaigns. Atkinson transitions seamlessly from the thirty-thousand foot view of Roosevelt and Churchill through the ten-thousand foot view of Eisenhower, Montgomery, and Rommel, down to the dogface grunt in the foxhole and back again, weaving a deep, rich, and engaging story that could have been yet another dry academic historical tome if written by a lesser author.I highly recommend this book as all of the things I like. I recommend it for the quality of the writing, for the quality of the content, for feel of the book in the hands. Even the typeface and layout lends itself to extended periods of reading without fatigue. I first heard of this book several years ago, but put it off thinking that at its size I would do better to read it when I have time to dedicate to an effort. . . what a mistake that was! Don't wait. . . this book is no effort at all. The effort after I started this book was to avoid neglecting my schoolwork and family.
Hedgepeth on LibraryThing 27 days ago
6 stars out of 5! Atkinson has done an excellent job of making the history of the North African campaign understandable to the average reader. He has a knack for using broad details instead of minutiae to avoid losing his reader, yet supplying interesting details to keep the narrative from being dry. The coming of age of the US Army is handled exceptionally well. My only regret is that I took so long to get around to reading this volume. An Army at Dawn is a must for any WWII scholar.
IslandDave on LibraryThing 27 days ago
An outstanding history of WWII during 1942 and 43 in North Africa, An Army At Dawn offers a multitude of views centered on US military experiences during Operation Torch. I can't add much more than other reviewers here. Lots of insights into the main generals, such as Eisenhower, Patton, Anderson, Montgomery, and many others, as well as views from the foxholes and gun sights at each key battlefield. 4 1/2 stars, can't wait to read the second in this series (Liberation Trilogy).
Karlstar on LibraryThing 27 days ago
This is an excellent overview of the US Army's role just prior to and through the invasion of North Africa. It includes the training and logistical problems of a major amphibious landing, the political issues, and the struggles of an army with very little experience. A very enlightening and thorough history. This book is focused on the US Army, not air or sea power or even the British battles.
wenestvedt on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Very good, can't wait for the next two.
Bpolybius on LibraryThing 27 days ago
This is probably the finest history of a military campaign I have ever read This was not, of course, the Allies' finest hour but the demonstration of the creation of a modern army out of very little was stunning.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing 6 months ago
If you're looking for a book on the allied invasion of North Africa this is now the standard study. This is not to mention that Atkinson is rapidly becoming one of our best popular historians.
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
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.
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ComplicatedGuy More than 1 year ago
Excellent history that tells you not only the big picture but is filled with the small details such as thoughts and experiences of the individual fighting man. An unglamerous look at the stupidity of war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago