Pulitzer Prize, History, 2003
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 learner 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.
An Army at Dawn is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for History.
©2002 Rick Atkinson; 2013 Simon and Schuster
Non Fiction Reader
What comes to mind is that so many blunders of WWI were repeated in WWII. The African campaigns were no exception. American was ill prepared for war and the British seemed not to have learned much from fighting in WWI. But also, as this book unfolds, we learn that only the Germans had learned their lessons and developed new strategies nd tactics, i.e. the blitzkrieg and mechanized warfare. What this theater did was toughen up the Americans, and the allies, physically and mentally, for the long, grueling battles to come.
The author personalizes the battles with snippets from soldiers' diaries (both sides). It proves welcome respite from recalling all the maneuvers and the places they occurred at.
What I wished the book paid more attention to was the installation of Darlan as head of the French forces. There was a mighty bit of political intrigue going on in France, Britain, and American when dealing with what was thought as the least of an unattractive situation. I wished this aspect was explored more in depth.
What the book posits is that this early campaign, won with great difficulty by the allies and lost after horrific fighting by the axis, showed the way to the ultimate destruction of the axis. It gave the allies confidence, sometimes false, and the axis doubts which they were able to overcome to fight on to great tactical victories but ultimate defeat.
I have always doubted the Montgomery's generalship and this book shows how his weaknesses were manifested in his victories but also how they would appear in later battles (his tendency to "tidy" up his lines before making his next assault while the enemy was right in front of him ready to be exploited) to extend the war, e.g. Market Garden.
I highly recommend this book if you wish to examine WWII in a broad context.
As for the narration: it is nothing short of amazing how Guidall can get into the mind of the author and make the story come alive with an inflection here and there. He is a true master of the art o narration.
I loved that, for once, The Africa Campaign was shown for what it was: Intense, gruesome struggles, replete with all the terror and drama that illuminates battles like those on the islands of the Pacific in WWII.
I must deduct a star, because this book requires frequent consulting of maps, and I lost a lot by listening, instead of buying hard copy. (To be fair, even hardcopy books often provide sorry maps, tossed in as an afterthought, without serious effort at illustrating towns or topography described in the text.)
I wish Audible, or the publisher, or the author, or somebody would supply a web site that contains maps that one could follow. What a difference that would make!
Rick Atkinson's WWII trilogy has been hailed for the superb way it describes WWII. This praise is deserved. But may I also recommend Michael Shaara's four WWII novels, which I consider as enjoyable and informative as Atkinson's, and less map-dependent? Yes, read Atkinson, but also read Shaara.
History enthusiast with military and legal background.
Yes, because it tells the truth and strips the BS away from the history we were taught. We watched movies like Patton and thought the US was amazing in WW2. The reality is that, like in the build up to Iraq, the Americans were naïve. To me, it was stunning to see how ill prepared and clueless we were going into WW2. Thank god we went to Africa first and got our asses kicked, otherwise we would have gone straight to Normandy, lost, and Germany would control Europe still today.
I will listen to any thing he narrates. He is the best!
I was so happy to see that this book was released in an unabridged version. This is narrative history at its best. The stories of the men and their sacrifice (and in some cases faults) is mesmerizing to read. Cannot wait for the third book of the trilogy to be released.
I really wanted to soak up this book, I'd never studied WWII in Africa in detail and I was itching to learn about it. But listening to a detailed book about it was not the right approach for me. While very well researched and written, it's a constant barrage of names, places, facts, dates, scenarios..... I simply couldn't keep it all straight in my mind. I think that a book like this is much better read in print, where you can look at maps, stop and let something sink in, remember a person, look up a reference point for clarification, etc.
The book delves deep into operation Torch and the campaign for Tunisia, the African "Stalingrad" for the Axis in Europe. Sometimes too deep... do I need squad level tactics in an engagement of 4 armies, 5 nations and hundreds of thousands of men?
Maybe I do. The letters to home, newspaper articles and diary articles make this a first person account. A couple of characters emerge, Patton, Eisenhower, but the picture of the US soldier is most clear. "Learning to hate", learning to fight, learning to be an army,
When Patton orders his division commander to personally lead a hill assault leading to a needless and serious wound, I wondered what causes someone to be a hero to history versus a villain.
When the British and US finally started to roll, overcoming Kaserien Pass, I decided the next book would be first on my list of books to listen to next.
Beautifully written with abundant use of primary sources. The author ties the beginning and end to the story of the 34th Division from Iowa, whose members could be from any Midwestern state.
If you like WWII history, you will not regret getting this book. Both the writing and the performance come together to emerse the reader in the entire conflict in North Africa, from the the day to day perspective of soldiers fighting the battles, to the personalities and trials of the high command as the Allies made the first large scale effort to defeat the Axis.
So well voiced, so we'll written and such and amazing tale that kudos go to everyone involved in this book and the audio production. Making the war seem at once personal and grand Rick Atkinson has a wealth of detail and the most amazingly beautiful way of writing about what a life changing war this was for all parties involved be they nations or Iowan pharmacy clerks. A must listen for those with even a fleeting desire to know more about the war, but be sure to have a map handy!
This is a superb book and a fine performance! It badly needed A PDF. I'm not at all familiar with the African campaigns. A boatload of information. Fascinating. Well Drawn.
I never knew much about the operation in North Africa so I was completely new on the subject. This book absolutely blew me away. It's a mixture of facts of personal stories / quotes of the men who were there.
The were numerous times I had to switch back to relisten a part because it's very easy to get lost in this book. The number of facts and places are staggering combining with the fact I've never heard of most of the areas / cities mentioned, make it an intensive journey.
I feel enriched with all the knowledge gained from this book and I'm eager to start with part 2 and 3.
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