Top critical review
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Partial yet honest
on 22 January 2006
I bought this book expecting a full account of the entire WW2 North African campaign - but it is in fact an (addmiitedly hugely detailed) account of TORCH - the Western bit of the campaign, and so the 8th Army, Montgomery, El Alamein and all that stuff is totally missed, except when they combine with the (largely American) forces pushing eastwards under Eisenhower to Tunisia.
The detail of the many battles, for hills, villages and towns, is impressive, and it certainly gave me insight into a part of the war I had little knowledge about, but (and it is a big "but") it's strengths are then undermined by it's (almost) "American-only" perspective, and to a lesser extent by the relatively few detailed personal accounts it includes.
Whilst it may be harsh to criticize a book because it has a narrower focus that its cover is selling, the US-only aspect is harder to defend. Perpectives of German, Italian, French and a few more British combatants would have been welcome, and perhaps even a view of how the Arab natives - who appear only as cardboard cutouts, targets and cliches - found life as they were pitched ito a war-zone, and passed between as many as 3 occupying forces inside a couple of years. All in all I found myself wishing for a Max Hasings version to rectify these shortcomings (aka his excellent Armageddon on the fall of Germany).
So, what this book is is first and foremost an account of how the American army started to learn how to be come a combat outfit, and how some of its leaders got their first taste of action, and began their evolution into the war-winning commanders of Western Europe. It's good for that - and pulls no punches in criticizing the mistakes and shortcomings of men, strategy, organisation and logistics - but it still not even close to a 360 picture of the North African campaign.
Read for this, its a good and interesting read in itself - but don't believe the hype on the cover.