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An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy (World War II Liberation Trilogy #1)

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  11,865 Ratings  ·  711 Reviews

In the first volume of his monumental trilogy about the liberation of Europe in WW II, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson tells the riveting story of the war in North Africa

The liberation of Europe and the destruction of the Third Reich is a story of courage and enduring triumph, of calamity and miscalculation. In
ebook, 704 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published October 2nd 2002)
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Carlos Saldarriaga I agree 100% that you need the maps. I read it on kindle and it was difficult to follow until I started to pull up the battle maps on my smartphone.
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"For among mortal powers, only imagination can bring back the dead."
Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 was my introduction to WWII African campaign. I found it masterful, thoroughly researched, and bestowed with a well-crafted and colorful narrative. It brings the war, with its scalding heat and contrasting cold nights of the desert turned bitter with icy winds; and gifts the readers with tales about the protagonists, depositing them right on the battlefields.
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
My first introduction to the U.S. Army’s invasion of North Africa in World War II came from Samuel Fuller’s The Big Red One. The film, starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill, opens with the Torch landings, and combines elements of tragedy and farce predicated on the uncertainty over whether or not the French would fight on Hitler’s behalf. Initially, the French played the villains; in other words, they act French. The Americans are pinned down by heavy fire. Explosions throw up gouts of sand. Men d ...more
Jun 07, 2008 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in WW II or Military History
Book One of the Liberation Trilogy, this is one of the most well written WWII history books I've ever read. Atkinson is an accomplished researcher but also brings his research to life with well placed anecdotes, memoranda, letters and documented conversations. It's almost like reading a novel.

The only drawback is the overwhelming scope of his narrative. I sometimes had to read the same material twice to get it into proper context. I also accessed the index many times to refresh my memory on name
Rick Riordan
Dec 20, 2013 Rick Riordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Atkinson's An Army at Dawn covers the 1942-1943 war in North Africa, from the initial Allied invasions to the drawn-out siege of Tunisia. Like all great history books, this one reads like a cracking good novel. Atkinson brings his characters to life, from Supreme Commander Ike Eisenhower to the soldiers on the front line, using personal diaries, letters home, and declassified official accounts. He evokes the North African terrain in vivid detail and really makes the reader feel as if he or she i ...more
May 17, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 gets 5 Big Stars for reaching that rare pinnacle—a war history that can be read enjoyably by novices and historical experts. Rick Atkinson stands equal with Max Hastings and Cornelius Ryan in making this subject come alive. He uses the same techniques, walking you through how the leaders developed grand strategy and then taking you right down into the foxholes, ships and armored vehicles in the heat of battle. He uses vignettes of various parts ...more
Jan 16, 2009 Terence rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: military/WW2 history buffs
Shelves: history-general
I started Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy with his second book - The Day of Battle - but that was such an informative and well written account of the Italian campaign that when I came across a copy of An Army at Dawn in a local used bookstore, I picked it up immediately.

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed.

Despite the occasionally overwrought prose (which I don’t remember so much from The Day of Battle), Atkinson manages to relate the invasion of North Africa and the subsequent campaign to take Tunis wi
Steven Z.
Jun 13, 2013 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those who are interested in the military history of Europe during World War II but do not enjoy dealing with the minutiae of military detail for each battle Rick Atkinson has done us all a service. He has produced what has been labeled as the “liberation trilogy” which he has just completed with the publication of THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT THE WAR IN WESTERN EUROPE, 1944-1945. Mr. Atkinson has spent the last fifteen years researching and writing his history of the war in Europe. In 2002 he pres ...more
In this, the first volume of his "Liberation Trilogy," Rick Atkinson delivers a stirring yet critical narrative of the war in North Africa. This was the scene in 1942 of the first combat clashes between green and untested American soldiers and the long-bloodied Afrika Korps of Erwin Rommel. The greatest strength of this book is Atkinson's marvelous style and his ability to tell the tale with both metaphorical flourishes and precise statistical accuracy. Atkinson is not a historian by training, h ...more
Jul 20, 2015 Checkman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid very readable popular military history. In November 1942 the United States Army (the entire United States military establishment for that matter) was green and it embarked on a major land campaign against the German Army. Arguably one of the best armies in the world at that time and an army that had been basically fighting non-stop for the past three years. Not surprisingly the Germans delivered several stunning kicks to the American jaw, but thanks to many factors (to include just dumb lu ...more
May 14, 2008 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how long it took Atkinson to write this book, but it is meticulously researched. He sifted through official documents, news reels military records, personal letters to home, letters from home and journal entries of the soldiers involved.

He takes all of this information (there's more than 100 pages of references) and creates a detailed look at the African Invasion of World War II, told through the eyes of generals, soldiers and Americans back home. This sweeping epic (it's hard to b
A gritty description of how the American army became a fighting force in the hills of Tunisia. Well written and full of excellent descriptions of the front. I found his research on this political and military aspects extremely interesting. I would have liked more additions on how the Germans played in this campaign. The author did an excellent job and I recommend this one to all WWII readers.
Eric Kibler
Jul 05, 2014 Eric Kibler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit, I've always been a bit intimidated by military history. No more. It's always great when you can find that writer who can ease you past those jargon-barriers that can impede your enjoyment of a particular kind of book. I'm always game for a chance to enlarge my literary comfort zone.

Anyway, my appetite is now whetted for more WWII, and I'm diving right into Atkinson's second book in the Liberation Trilogy, The Day of Battle The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #2) by Rick Atkinson.

Some things I learned from this book:

1. We fought the French in WWII. F
Sherwood Smith
Terrific narrative drive and remarkable facility with imagery coupled with formidable research make this stand above most of the bazillion World War II military histories. Atkinson relies on the letters and diaries of ordinary soldiers as well as official war diaries and the personal writings of various officers and leaders. (Just for the heck of it, I checked his quotes from Rommel, as I have the Rommel papers book, and yep, precise, word for word.)

He also acknowledges several decades of milita
Dec 29, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Arrogance, error, inexperience, and 70,000 allied casualties. And so goes the army at dawn as the Supreme Commander balances politics and war and often comes up short in both fields, battle commanders sacrifice troops in the name of ego, mid-level commanders do or die, support troops build desert cities powered by typewriters, and the troops learn to hate and kill.

The war in North Africa was mostly a mess, but a victory came out of the mess, and it was a mess of on-the-job training for everyone
Jill Hutchinson
This is one of the trilogy of books by Rick Atkinson about WWII and it is a real winner. This edition concentrates on the war in North Africa and the Allies' confrontations with Rommel and von Armin and the Afrika Corps. The initial landing on the continent of Africa, Operation Torch, was pretty much a fiasco and the Americans were green and inexperienced. Men were not prepared for the horrors of warfare and the British who had been in Africa for a while were totally disgusted with the American ...more
A.L. Sowards
A detailed account of the campaign in Northern Africa, from the Allied landings in November 1942 until the capture of Tunis. Atkinson’s books are dense, packed with facts, and always take me a while to get through (not because of any flaw with the writing, there’s just so much to absorb). Full of interesting stories and tidbits, plus an overall informative big-picture look. The conclusion: the campaign in N. Africa wasn’t elegant, but the Allies got the job done.
Susan Albert
Feb 04, 2016 Susan Albert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research, history
A stark, remarkably detailed picture of the North African campaign, with an intense and unrelenting focus on the very human men who managed (and mismanaged) the war and who fought and died in its battles. Egos, intelligence, fears, desires--all here, all sharply drawn. Atkinson possesses an extraordinary ability to pull a dramatically compelling story out of a morass of competing detail.
May 24, 2013 Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book detailing the "dawn" of U.S. combat in WWII with the landings in western North Africa in the fall of 1942. President Roosevelt who had campaigned vigorously on the platform of no U.S. involvement in the war and had reduced the military to a tiny skeleton force, now wanted to get the U.S. into the war immediately because public opinion had changed 180 degrees with the attack on Pearl Harbor. So the North Africa campaign was launched and this book tells the story in great ...more
Apr 02, 2007 Thomas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII Historians
Here is my review for Amazon:

Prodigiously researched with an attitude, Atkinson's book contains many many stories of the War in North Africa that may never have been told otherwise.

The book reads like a novel and novels, of course, are works of fiction. So this method of telling is detrimental; it undermines if not the research, then the conclusions the author draws. The author, given his newspaper experience and many years of hindsight, seems to take a superior attitude and is quick to condemn
Aug 19, 2010 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like every red-blooded American male, I thought myself deeply acquainted with the ins and outs of World War II. Rick Atkinson's An Army at Dawn showed me how little I knew about America's prelude to our invasion of Europe - the African campaign of '42 and '43.
Like every good historical writer, Atkinson blends compelling storytelling with exhaustive research and attention to detail. Though he focuses on the perspectives of Eisenhower and Patton, Atkinson acquaints readers with the French and Brit
Jan 27, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa provides insight into one of the least explored fronts in WWII. Atkinson takes his readers from the first British and American landings in Algeria to the final liberation of Tunisia. He delves into the rocky relationship between British and American soldiers and commanders, the transformation of colonial French forces from enemies to friends, and the painful adolescence of the American military. Atkinson accomplishes this through a play-by-play of each in ...more
Christian Dibblee
This book requires a huge investment of time but goes a long way to adding knowledge about the war in North Africa. He has done a lot to research the individual stories from the front and thus is probably deserving of the Pulitzer.

That said, I had issues following the different offensives because so much time was given over to troop movements. I found myself skimming over those because there was too much going on without a map to easily reference without turning back 10 pages or so. The deep div
Mar 31, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was an excellent narrative history about the US Army's first ventures in WWII. Or should I say misadventures since incompetence reigned from top to bottom. But clearly lessons were learned, and so it was actually beneficial that they cut their teeth against a weakened Axis army that included a sizable contingent of Italians.

My father served in WWII and fought in Europe, and he rarely spoke about his experiences, but somehow his disdain for officers (and generals in particular) was
Dec 20, 2013 Ctgt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly better the second time around. Very readable history of a part of WWII with which I was woefully unfamiliar. Working my way back through the first two books in preparation for reading the last book The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945.
Oct 27, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a reason this book won the Pulitzer Prize. Very well written. It gives you a great view of the dynamics, personalities and battles that shaped the North African campaign. I heard a chance to hear Atkinson speak at the National Book Festival - terrific there as well. One of the best WWII books I've ever read.
Louise Turner
Oct 29, 2013 Louise Turner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a drive underway in Fort Smith, Arkansas, my hometown, to honor General William O. Darby, leader of the famed Darby's Rangers, with a permanent monument for he was our local hero. This reminded me of a wonderful book, "An Army at Dawn" by Rick Atkinson, I read earlier this summer. This, the first volume of Atkinson's "Liberation" trilogy on World War II, had been on my to-read list for a long time and I'm so glad I finally got around to it. It covers the campaign in North Africa and the ...more
Bill Rogers
May 26, 2013 Bill Rogers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Army at Dawn is a fine history of the United States forces in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. Atkinson covers the general history of the invasion well. He also delves into the stories of individual soldiers and adds interesting anecdotes. This gives me more of an understanding of the campaign than I could have gotten from a standard historical overview, however detailed.

Especially interesting is the sense you get of the infuriating incompetence and the mistakes, obvious in hind
Joe Boeke
Jan 20, 2014 Joe Boeke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is the first of Atkinson's three book "liberation trilogy" which provides an overview of the campaigns that eventually led to the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation.

Above all else, the book's historical narrative is so well written that the book simply refuses to let the reader loose from it's pages. Atkinson's prose is well executed and, unlike many books covering military operations, the story he weaves is consistent, clear and a pleasure to read. I was unable to put t
Patrick Santana
Mar 19, 2014 Patrick Santana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"For among mortal powers, only imagination can bring back the dead." -- Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn, p 2.

And with a potency that defies easy explanation, Atkinson opens what has to be one of the greatest narratives of historical imagination ever penned. The lives of individual survivors, of the dying, and the dead are brought forth with the power of Homer's Iliad. AN ARMY AT DAWN is a book I woke up each morning, anxious to read another chapter. It's a rare piece of historical writing that ca
Oct 07, 2013 Ed rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every one of my enemies
I hated this book. Completely and without reservation. About 2/3 of the way through the book, I decided I would clench my teeth and plod onward under the rule that everyone deserves a second (and third, and fourth) chance. Wrong again.
Here's a general synopsis of the book, at least until the last section. The German army had better equipment, sharper leadership, better soldiers, and superior strategy. The Allied forces had outdated and fragile equipment and supplies, were led by venal and stupid
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Born in Munich, in the Federal Republic of Germany, Atkinson is the son of a U.S. Army officer and grew up on military posts. He holds a master of arts degree in English literature from the University of Chicago. He is the best-selling author of The Long Gray Line, a narrative account about West Point’s class of 1966; Crusade, a narrative history of the Persian Gulf War; and An Army at Dawn , the ...more
More about Rick Atkinson...

Other Books in the Series

World War II Liberation Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #2)
  • The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #3)

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“In battle, topography is fate.” 4 likes
“Now arrogance and error would reap the usual dividends” 3 likes
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