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4.2 out of 5 stars26
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 18 June 2013
To me,a very evocative book, as I was with a mobile spitfire fighter squadron, landing at Algiers in November 1942 when all our technical stuff on a lighter, was sunk. What amazed me of the account was dreadful a lot of the fighting was, we were strafed from time to time but suffered none of the losses suffered by both British and American soldiers.
The latter we knew were very green which was they particularly suffered such heavy losses. I also recall quite clearly the B17 bombing of Souk el Arbah our pilots had to be severely restrained from retaliating! To add insult to injury, shortly after, the Germans strafed the place - I hid under a Spit - what they were aiming at! All in all, the book has proved a fascinating and rather disturbing read. I especially recall the Kasserene (spelling?) pass incident, a Hurricane Squadron(43) were bombing the enemy, almost in the circuit - that close!
Anyone of my age or with relatives who served then and there would be most intrigued and probably - like me - amazed at the near disaster the campaign turned out to be. The eventual chasing the Axis forces out via Cap Bon was a great joy, and as we moved up in preparation to mount the Sicilian invasion,one of our young airmen, stopped a truck full of German POW,s turfed them off and our lads who had been somewhat cramped in one of our trucks,loaded up in comfort! We kept the truck for a while, but one of our officers would not let us take it to Malt ( our next stop before Sicily) you'll now appreciate my enjoyment of the book. I was 21 then no prizes for guessing how old I am now.
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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.
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on 25 June 2009
Like others I bought this expecting an account of much more than just Torch and the Tunisian Campaign due to the full title. However I understand where the author is coming from, hence the title and the books in the rest of the series, focusing on the American Armed forces during the Second World War. One can't blame him for this however I do feel if he had thrown in even an extra chapter to summarise the back and forth fighting that had taken place in the previous years more people would have been happier by this account.

This is an area I have read little about and I found this book to well written, very interesting and informative on the invasion of North Africa and the subsequent battles. I found that the author gave a rather balanced account of the non-American forces, for example he describes British tanks covering an American retreat and how the British command slipped in their own men underneath Eisenhower to run the campaign. The author lets loose where he believes it is fully deserved, for example, being extremely critical of the American Corps commander Lloyd Fredendall.

I think this book is well worth a look.
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on 9 February 2015
I have long wished to follow the exploits of my father from north Africa to Italy and thence to Europe with the 8th army - I have read many books on the second world war but Rick Atkinson has put together one of the most comprehensive accounts of these events, accenting the American involvement but giving all the allies due respect, British, Canadian, Polish, French, Nepalese, Indian, African - and all other allies - not mentioned here but of all of equal importance. One of the most important and fascinating aspects of these accounts is the interaction - or lack of - between the few essential commanders who attempted to do the bidding of the planners and the overall commander Eisenhower whose worth seems to have been misunderstood by his self obsessed generals - a genius in keeping a team together and focussed on the goal.
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"An Army At Dawn" tells the of the American Army from its first taste of battle in Operation Torch, the Invasion of French North Africa, through the closing of the Tunisian campaign. Author Rick Atkinson does an excellent job of blending the stories of individual soldiers and actions with the big picture of generals and theatre-wide implications. The rivalries between the Americans, French and British are given fair play.

The theme of this book is that the American Army which went ashore in Operation Torch was not fit for heavy combat. From General Eisenhower on down to the privates, it had lessons to learn which were better learned against French and Italians than Germans. Through adversity the army learned to hate and to fight, the generals learned to command and the wheat was separated from the chaff. The Army which was unfit at Dawn was, by Dusk, ready for the battles which lay ahead.

This book gives the reader a good understanding of the North African Theatre of the war. I had read about it previously, but this put it into a new perspective. I often judge a book by whether it whets my appetite for more. This one passes that test. As I was reading this one, I kept wanting to read more about World War II, the North African campaign and North Africa itself. A book that can do that is a worthy read.
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on 4 February 2016
A brilliant analysis of the war in North Africa. While concentrating mainly on the American troops and actions it does not neglect British and also Axis efforts. Very well researched with great insight to command responsibilities and actions at all levels
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on 20 September 2013
One of the most readable history books I have ever seen, and full of interesting and revealing anecdotes, about everyone from the highest General to the lowest Private. A great insight into an often forgotten campaign.
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VINE VOICEon 17 September 2010
With its Pulitzer Prize and long list of plaudits `An Army at Dawn' came with a great deal of expectation for this reader riding on it. On occasion I have been left underwhelmed by works carrying the weight of so many 5 star reviews. However in this case the laurels are all well deserved and I would have no hesitation about putting this up there with the very best of histories of the Second World War.

Although sub-titled `The campaign in North Africa 1942-43', Rick Atkinson's focus is here on Operation Touch and the subsequent Tunisian campaign. This means that 8th Army's operations in 1942 (Gazala and El Alamein) get very little mention until Montgomery's forces reach the Tunisian boarder in early 1943. The `Army' of the title is very much the US Army in its first major operation in the European Theatre of Operations, although ironically the action all occurs on the African continent. Whilst the story of this first rather amateurish and somewhat shambolic entry of the US military into WW2 is clearly the primary focus of the book, the author is then able to expand the scope of his work into a thorough account of the Tunisian campaign. Here the action switches between the enthusiastic but naive Americans and the experienced but battle-weary British and with all the controversies and clashes of personalities within the Great Alliance being first played out. These would continue through Sicily, Normandy and beyond the Rhine.

As a British reader it would be easy to become prickled by some of this American author's opinions on British generalship, in particular Generals Montgomery and Anderson. However Atkinson is more than scathing of the US performance where it warrants and in my opinion his analysis and conclusions on the performance of all parties is in the end fair and balanced. The author always displays great empathy and admiration for the courage and sacrifices of all the allies involved.

This book is particularly welcome as the Tunisian campaign is often overlooked by both US and British historians. Rick Atkinson goes a long way to restore it to its important place in the story of the defeat of Hitler and where the US Army was first tempered in battle. One can only be grateful that the fledgling US forces were not flung into a cross channel invasion in 1943 without the benefit of the experience gained in this campaign.

Perhaps an interesting element, which raises the work out of the normal military history crowd, are the accounts of the treatment of the Arab and native populations. Although the Allies are clearly liberators, for the indigenous peoples it is a more ambiguous experience. Not only is there the return of their colonial masters but also the random extrajudicial justice handed out by US and British forces. The author gives a number of examples of what would today be regarded as war crimes committed by the Allied armies against the local inhabitants but which are mostly ignored at the time. Clearly the past is a different country compared with modern heart-and-minds campaigns. It is this aspect which demonstrates that even a war with as clear a moral purpose as the WW2 is in the end drawn in ethical shades of grey.

Overall highly recommended and probably the best account you will find of the Tunisian campaign. I look forward to reading the next two parts of his `Liberation Trilogy' with enormous anticipation.
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on 21 January 2010
This is a very well documented account of Operation Torch, if anything, the level of detail about the different units and commanders is such that some parts of it can be a bit too long for the non-expert reader. One of the shocking things to learn from this book is how initially the allies had to fight the Vichy French forces, that switched sides a few days later...such a useless loss...
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on 3 July 2003
This book tells the story of the North Africa campaign '42 to '43 and what is covered is good, well written and interesting read backed
up with some good clear pictures and maps.
However in ignoring the fighting in North Africa before the US joined in, it only tells half the story. If you are looking for for the 'how and why'
then you'll need a book covering 1940 and 41. The website quote saying "deserves to be much better known to British readers than it is'"
seems to ignore the fact that this book doesnt cover a good deal of the campaign.
I dont regret buying it, but from the moment I picked it up I just felt something was missing ! Perhaps it was Benghazi, Tobruk (the first time) or
Rommel's arrival and first offensive.
If the later part of the campaign is all you are interested in then this is a book you should buy, but this book just feels like it should be 'volume 2'.
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