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An Army At Dawn: The War In North Africa, 1942 1943 (World War II Liberation Trilogy #1)

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  12,672 Ratings  ·  761 Reviews
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
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.
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Hardcover
Published 2003 by Little, Brown (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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Community Reviews

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Matt
May 26, 2013 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
Michael Finocchiaro
Long-winded, but incredibly well-written and exhaustive, An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson was definitely a choice pick for the Pulitzer for History 2003. The book is simply brilliant is demonstrating that friction between British and America commands nearly imploded the effort in Africa and how close the battle for Tunisia really was. The psychological portraits of the legendary characters of Ike, Patton, Montgomery and Rommel were fascinating. The detailed battle maps were also incredibly usefu ...more
Lizzy
"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.
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Cody
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzers, history
It took me over a month to get through the first volume of Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy. This was not due to a lack of enjoyment but rather because I enjoyed it so much. There are 19 maps included, and I spent a significant amount of time flipping between Atkinson's narrative and those maps showing division maneuvers during numerous engagements. These maps were well done and help the reader follow along as the campaign plays out. I would have been lost without them.

Another reason for the lengt
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Bou
Combining storytelling with historical facts, this book really stands out and truly is worth its Pullitzer in every sense

An Army at Dawn is the first book in a trilogy, where Rick Atkinson covers the liberation of Europe during World War II. This book covers the Allied landings in North Africa, starting in 1942 until the Allied victory on the Axis forces in Tunisia, ending in 1943.

The book starts with the early planning stages of the Allied invasion (Operation Torch). The big question that puzzl
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Ed
May 20, 2008 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
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Rick Riordan
Dec 20, 2013 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
Mike
Aug 31, 2008 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
Elizabeth Theiss
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If I didn't know the end of this story, I would swear the Allies are about to lose World War II. Eisenhower stays in Gibraltar for the early months, taking care of politics instead of coordinating the war effort in North Africa. Later he moves to Algiers, far from the battle front. Americans and British make every amateur mistake in the book: failure to do reconnaissance prior to engagement, dividing rather than concentrating forces, incomprehensible broken communications systems, sticking to pl ...more
Steven Z.
Jun 13, 2013 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
Terence
Nov 22, 2008 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
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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.
Keith
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
Paul
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that every person that wants to know about World War 2 must read, but it’s primarily about the United States’ entry into the war in the European Theater (or African/Mediterranean Theater, if you prefer).

It’s always been hard for me to read about the Africa campaign from the U.S. perspective because – as the title implies – the American military was so unprepared for war. Problems with logistics, with command structure, and even the desire to kill the enemy had to be le
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Checkman
Jul 15, 2012 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
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
Dan
Mar 19, 2008 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
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Jack
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.
Katy
Excellent read. Atkinson brings the war in North Africa up close and personal in this book.
Gary Butler
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
26th book read in 2017.

Number 507 out of 591 on my all time book list.
Eric Kibler
Jan 28, 2014 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
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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
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Richard
Jul 26, 2013 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
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Susan Albert
Jan 31, 2016 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.
Silvana
It felt good to go back reading about the World War II, and this time a book that has been gathering dust in my to-read-not-yet-bought list for seven (?) years. Lucky, this was selected for a group read and its price became more affordable.

It is a complex, meticulous one. What I like first of all is the breadth of the narrative. Every major battle from the first (disastrous) landing was covered. Orders were laid out. At the end there are some concluding points and reflections on why a certain a
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Rebecca
Aug 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histories, war, american
3.5 stars — I really enjoyed this book. Four stars for being so well written, thoroughly researched, and anti-Nazi. Minus half a star for being a third again as long as it should have been.

I especially appreciated the well-rounded portrayal of major actors such as Eisenhower, Patton, and Rommel, as well as the experiences of the enlisted men. There certainly was a romantic aspect to the North African front, with bizarre, courageous, hilarious exploits. But Atkinson also shows the terror, boredom
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Susan
This is a fantastic book. I truly enjoy WWII history, possibly because of my Dad and my father-in-law being veterans. Plus as a nurse I have had the privilege of caring for so many veterans from that war.
This is one of the very best books I have read. The author has the ability to put the reader in the midst of everything that is happening. I could see the battles and hear the noise. I could feel the tension between the commanders. I laughed and I cried. Rick Atkinson has written a superb book.
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Ross
May 07, 2013 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
Thomas
Apr 02, 2007 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
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Joe
Aug 19, 2010 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
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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.” 5 likes
“Now arrogance and error would reap the usual dividends” 4 likes
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