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An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943

(World War II Liberation Trilogy #1)

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  17,111 ratings  ·  1,049 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 miscalculat
Hardcover, 704 pages
Published October 2nd 2002 by Henry Holt and Co.
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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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May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii
“In the tradition of government-issue graves, the stones are devoid of epitaphs, parting endearments, even dates of birth. But visitors familiar with the American and British invasion of North Africa in November 1942, and the subsequent seven-month struggle to expel the Axis powers there, can make reasonable conjectures. We can surmise that Willet H. Wallace, a private first class in the 26th Infantry Regiment who died on November 9, 1942, was killed at St. Cloud, Algeria, during the three days ...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
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"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
Elizabeth Theiss
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Rick Riordan
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Steven Z.
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Stefania Dzhanamova
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
The first volume of the Liberation Trilogy covers the crucial first years of America's involvement in the Second World War. Rick Atkinson has written a compelling narrative of the actions in North Africa from the initial planning to the final victory in May 1943.
The book depicts the U.S Army's introduction to modern warfare. Atkinson leaves no doubt that the effort spent on North Africa was highly important because it enabled the inexperienced, bumbling army to transform into an effective fight
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.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am a historian by training and know from past experience just how difficult it is to write readable military history, combining the objectivity needed to explain the complexity of overall strategy whilst capturing first hand the bitter experience of the front line soldier in combat. But Rick Atkinson pulls it off seamlessly and with apparent ease. This work is a masterpiece and will, I am sure, become the 'definitive history' of the Allied North African Campaign.

Meticulously researched and wr
This is probably the best account of World War 2 that I have ever read and the go-to standard for anyone looking to learn up on the war. So with that out of the way, I’m going to get my main criticisms out of the way by making clear what it isn’t. This is not an account of the entire African campaign. The action starts with Operation Torch in late ‘42 and ignores all earlier campaigns between Rommel and the British. Following on from that, it is not an overview of both sides of the African theat ...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
Karl Jorgenson
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Winner of the Pulitzer prize, Atkinson has done an incredible job of researching operation Torch and the war in North Africa and converting it to narrative non-fiction. How does one human have time for all this research? I am left with the impression that he has read everything: every government document, every letter home, every after-action report, every supply request, every shipping manifest, every newspaper article. The charm of his prose is that he has found the small things, the oddities, ...more
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, war, wwii
This dude can flat out write, like few other historians I’ve read before, and I’ve read a few. An unputdownable 700-page doorstop that makes me grateful for my eReader so I didn’t have to carry around a brick of a paperback. I don’t know if the hardback would fit in my backpack.

The book caught my eye because although I feel that I’ve read way more than my fair share of histories about World War II, the North Africa campaign is my weakest link in understanding the entire conflict. What a lucky ch
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Walter Mendoza
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The first volume Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy", about the african and european front, from 1942 to 1945. The first volume is centered on the 1942-43 war in North Africa. The author describes in very eloquently form and like a detailed and magisterial account of the battles themselves.

Given the complexity and size of the battle, the battle in North Africa showed the deficiencies of logistics early in the war. Atkinon presents the complexity of events with enviable skill and point of view of th
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-42 by Rick Atkinson

An Army at Dawn is a wonderful title that does what few other books of its kind can. Rick Atkinson’s piece combines several great elements I’ve always loved to see in a work of this kind. By applying a thought out structure with liberal use of maps and images, Atkinson keeps the reader well focused. A character oriented narrative makes things personal, both helping to keep events in focus and increases their gravity. Atkinson also
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
The desert sands were reserved for Monty's Rats. Their American cousins instead landed in a reprise of Western Front mud and sleet as they learned to soldier with hate in the Tunesian mountains.

Rick Atkinson writes with the elegance of a ballroom dancer.
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #1) by Rick Atkinsonis the first in a Pulitzer Prize and New York Times Bestselling trilogy about the liberation of Europe during World War II. This one is focused on the early progress in retaking territory from the Nazis in what is known as the war in North Africa. This was the first time since America entered the war in Europe that American troops were involved in direct combat operations against Germany and ...more
Mar 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
N.N. Light
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
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.
Susan Albert
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Great bibliography too.
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Rick Atkinson, editor, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and historian who worked for twenty-five years as a correspondent and editor for The Washington Post. He is the author of several books, including the acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about World War II: An Army at Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light, as well as The British Are Comin ...more

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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