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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 15 June 2017
One of the best war histories I've ever read. Well written, in terms of the descriptions of people and of the battles, in comparison to historical accounts simply of the facts. Author has a wide vocabulary that he sometimes overuses, sending me to the dictionary (though I've written 6 books myself).
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on 16 September 2017
Absolutely superb.
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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 4 May 2017
Part 1 of the Liberation Trilogy.

Atkinson has written the definitive history of the War in North Africa from Torch to the end. He takes the gloves off and there is no reverence for leader or soldier in this writing. It is realistic and at times disturbing but the truth is the truth.

Atkinson seems to have issues with some famous generals * some that I worship * but be that as it may, this is the history of this part of World War II.

It will take a treasured spot on my military history book shelf and now I must acquire the next two copies of this series.

Disclaimer: I purchased this on Amazon CA.

My Rating: 5 stars
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on 24 July 2017
A very good read coming at WW2 in the west from the American angle. This is the first of a trilogy (Book 2 = Sicily / Italy, Book 3 = France). Atkinson's style is to look at the planning and fighting with a cynical eye, for example one paragraph will explain how Admiral Hewitt made a calculated judgement to leave some of his transports in harbour despite the U-boat risk and the next paragraph then explains in great detail how a U-Boat snuck in and torpedoed three vessels. There is glory to be told but Atkinson strips away the flag-waving and recounts the sheer bad-luck and bad planning that goes with any war (in the above example: someone had thought to store blood plasma so sailor's lives were saved, but parts for anaesthesia machines were missing/badly stored so other lives were lost). Atkinson is good at this - possibly because he is a journalist - and it is refreshing for an American author to write about America's entry into the war fighting in the west with cold realism. There is no "saving the Brits" here - as Atkinson lays it on just how badly organised the American army was at the beginning of WW2. But nor is it a hatchet-job. Atkinson has a good knack/technique for setting up a scenario as it was meant to be played out and then immediately tells how it nearly went so badly wrong. War is seen as a series of start-stop-start-stop engagements and this makes the whole thing more entertaining. You are always left wanting to turn the page to see if the particular squad/individual makes it. Atkinson covers all the armies involved, not just the Americans, and his description of the French side of the fighting is very illuminating. I got a very real understanding of the weaknesses of all the participants and how they struggled to cope.
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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 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 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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