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An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #1)
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THE SECOND WORLD WAR > WE ARE OPEN - 1. AN ARMY AT DAWN ~ September 9 th ~ September 15th ~ PROLOGUE AND PART ONE - 1. PASSAGE - A Meeting with the Dutchmen - (1 - 33) No-Spoilers

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 17, 2013 09:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

For the weeks of September 9th - September 15th, we are reading the Prologue and Part One - 1. Passage - A Meeting With the Dutchmen of the book - An Army At Dawn..

The first week's reading assignment is:

Week One - September 9 - September 15th
Prologue and Part One - 1. Passage - A Meeting with the Dutchmen - pages 1 - 33:

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

This book is being kicked off on September 9th.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, local bookstore or on your Kindle. Make sure to pre-order now if you haven't already. This weekly thread will be opened up on September 9th.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Bentley will be leading this discussion and back-up will be Assisting Moderators Christopher and Jerome.

Welcome,

~Bentley

TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

An Army at Dawn The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson by Rick Atkinson Rick Atkinson

REMEMBER NO SPOILERS ON THE WEEKLY NON SPOILER THREADS - ON EACH WEEKLY NON SPOILER THREAD - WE ONLY DISCUSS THE PAGES ASSIGNED OR THE PAGES WHICH WERE COVERED IN PREVIOUS WEEKS. IF YOU GO AHEAD OR WANT TO ENGAGE IN MORE EXPANSIVE DISCUSSION - POST THOSE COMMENTS IN ONE OF THE SPOILER THREADS. THESE CHAPTERS HAVE A LOT OF INFORMATION SO WHEN IN DOUBT CHECK WITH THE CHAPTER OVERVIEW AND SUMMARY TO RECALL WHETHER YOUR COMMENTS ARE ASSIGNMENT SPECIFIC. EXAMPLES OF SPOILER THREADS ARE THE GLOSSARY, THE BIBLIOGRAPHY, THE INTRODUCTION AND THE BOOK AS A WHOLE THREADS.

Notes:

It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.

Citations:

If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however.

If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...

Introduction Thread:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

Table of Contents and Syllabus

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

Glossary

Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.

Glossary - Part One - http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/8...

Glossary - Part Two - http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

Glossary - Part Three - http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

Bibliography

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http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

Book as a Whole and Final Thoughts - SPOILER THREAD

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

An Army at Dawn The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson by Rick Atkinson Rick Atkinson


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 31, 2016 03:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Chapter Overviews and Summaries

Prologue

The author presents an overview of the situation with the belligerents and allies.

Part One - 1. PASSAGE - A Meeting with the Dutchmen

Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt (American chosen to strike the first blow in Liberation of Europe) meets with FDR .

Ike had defined Operation Torch's mission to twenty-six words: "The object of the operation as a whole is to occupy French Morocco and Algeria with a view to the earliest possible subsequent occupation of Tunisia." Roosevelt and Churchill wanted complete control of North Africa from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. Rehearsals for Torch landings had been haphazard. Would the eight Vichy French divisions in North Africa fight?

Rationing was beginning: one cup a coffee a day and no nylons for women unless they were going to be used for barter with Moroccan women. FDR had referred to himself as "the pigheaded Dutchman".

There were certain requirements - a) no British troops should participate in the initial landings; b) where to land (control of Tunisia vital) c) preliminary Torch plans called for landings in Oran, Algiers and Bone d) FDR wanted one of the landings to be on the Atlantic e) on September 5th - landings were to be attempted at three sites in Morocco and half a dozen beaches around Algiers and Oran.

Patton was wary of the Navy and only Ike saved him from being sacked before the invasion begun. He admonished Patton - not to scare the Navy.

Torch had its own hazards - it was the first large amphibious operation by the US in 45 years and the most audacious ever.

The initial mission was to seize three port cities - Casablanca, Algiers, and Oran - was complicated by the need to land at nine coastal sites scattered across 900 miles.

The War Department called the mission - "the president's great secret baby" and it had much resentment towards the North Africa operation.


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 08, 2013 07:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Make sure that you are familiar with the HBC's rules and guidelines and what is allowed on goodreads and HBC in terms of user content. Also, there is no self promotion, spam or marketing allowed.

Here are the rules and guidelines of the HBC:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/5...

Please on the non spoiler threads: a) Stick to material in the present week's reading.

Also, in terms of all of the threads for discussion here and on the HBC - please be civil.

We want our discussion to be interesting and fun.

Make sure to cite a book using the proper format.

You don't need to cite the Atkinson book, but if you bring another book into the conversation; please cite it accordingly as required but you do not have to cite the author Atkinson either.

Also, to make it easier - here are the citation rules for this book - if the person is mentioned in the assigned pages for the weekly reading - you do not have to cite that person even if he or she is an author of books or other documents. However, if you cite someone who is not part of the chapter readings - then you must cite him or her and you must always do a proper citation if you are mentioning any other book aside from An Army At Dawn.

Now we can begin week one.....


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 08, 2013 07:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
All, welcome to the kick off of the Liberation Trilogy. We are kicking off all three books in the trilogy today - beginning with An Army At Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943.

Please feel free to open up the discussion of this week's reading by giving your initial impressions of the book and the Prologue. What did you find most surprising and/or what did you learn in the opening segment that you may not have been familiar with before? How do you like the author's style of writing?


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
What are your impressions of the key three men discussed in the opening chapter: Hewitt, Patton and FDR?


message 6: by Mark (last edited Sep 09, 2013 03:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark Mortensen A Naval commander and an Army commander with a Commander-in-Chief to keep them focused on the same goal, speaks volumes.


message 7: by Peter (last edited Sep 09, 2013 03:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter | 10 comments After reading a bit, my first impressions, regarding these three men are as follows:
- Hewitt is a naval commander trying to mount a task force fleet, with all its ups and downs...
- Patton is a unique character, bold, daring, sometimes impossible to deal with, which are features both good and bad, depending on the situation and fellow commanders; some admire him and some just hate him... or both...!
- FDR as a Commander in Chief is already showing the complexity of keeping all those branches and nations working as fighting force...


Peter | 10 comments In my view, what is most surprising in the opening chapters of the invasion is to learn about the level of amateurism that is shown by the americans and british, regarding logistics and general organization; I mean mounting an invasion with old postcards as a mean of ilustrating objectives, using old and outdatedd charts, insufficient or no training as coherent larger units, almost unbelievable...


message 9: by Mark (last edited Sep 09, 2013 04:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark Mortensen I was struck by the logistics. Reality comes quickly when one comprehends that just one division required 45 troopships plus cargo ships and escorts to cross the ocean and an invasion of France would require 7,000 to possibly 21,000 landing craft.


message 10: by Bryan (last edited Sep 09, 2013 06:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig We got a big learning curve, don't we?

I like the prologue in that the author sets the stage for what North Africa meant for the everyone, very important lessons and realities.


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "After reading a bit, my first impressions, regarding these three men are as follows:
- Hewitt is a naval commander trying to mount a task force fleet, with all its ups and downs...
- Patton is a un..."


For sure Mark and Peter you are right - Patton either brought out love or hate


message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 09, 2013 07:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "In my view, what is most surprising in the opening chapters of the invasion is to learn about the level of amateurism that is shown by the americans and british, regarding logistics and general org..."

I know - it makes you wonder about current operations and how well they are planned - it was almost as if - they thought that all they had to do was to show up.


message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Bryan wrote: "We got a big learning curve, don't we?

I like the prologue in that the author sets the stage for what North Africa meant for the everyone, very important lessons and realities."


Oh yes, but we will take it one baby step at a time.

It is funny - most World War II enthusiasts do not focus that much on North Africa so this will be interesting.


message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "I was struck by the logistics. Reality comes quickly when one comprehends that just one division required 45 troopships plus cargo ships and escorts to cross the ocean and an invasion of France wou..."


It boggles your mind when you think of the logistical nightmare that ensued.


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 09, 2013 08:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
What did you think of Ike's role in protecting Patton and telling him - "Don't scare the Navy"? and also how Patton felt about the Navy - a "bunch of rattlesnakes".

Where do you think those attitudes came from and why was there animosity between the Navy and the Army (or was it just Patton being Patton)?

Was it a particular event, was it because FDR was a former Navy man and they sensed favoritism or was it something else?


message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Why was the War Department resentful of the entire operation - what are your views on this - just politics or something else?


message 17: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark Mortensen Bentley wrote: "What did you think of Ike's role in protecting Patton and telling him - "Don't scare the Navy"? and also how Patton felt about the Navy - a "bunch of rattlesnakes".

Where do you think those attitudes came from and why was there animosity between the Navy and the Army...?"


The Army/Navy rivalry has been going long before the football tradition began. The lives of historical figures often take unique twists and turns. I find it interesting that General Eisenhower initially passed the entrance exam to the Naval Academy in 1911 but was turned down because he was too old and General Vandegrift, who became Commandant of the Marine Corps in the latter stages of WWII, came close to attending West Point.

During WWII upon completion of the Pentagon the Army command invited the Navy and Marine Corps to move into the large home base - Kumbaya. Throughout it all we had a Commander-in-Chief reminding everyone of a common enemy.


Bryan Craig Great information, Mark. Yeah, I think inter-service rivalry is an institution, and it can be detrimental to the war cause.


message 19: by Tom (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Wing (twing113) | 53 comments In relation to the first questiin about the three figures, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Walt Disney had contacted Patton with the logo offer...as for interbranch nd service rivalry, goes back to the beginning of time but was actually overcome during the war. The ability to conduct combined operations so well was acknowledged by the opposition.


message 20: by Robert (new)

Robert Hoffman | 6 comments Impressions of Hewitt, Patton and FDR:

Hewitt: He appears the precursor to the emergence of the modern Navy and rightly so - he was a witness of and participant in TR'a Great White Fleet, and presided over the ramp up to Task Force 34. Unstated in Atkinson's book is the link of the Navy's rise with the rise of the US as a global power, and thus, the need for a Navy to protect US commerce and ports.

Patton: Strikingly old school in temperament and flamboyance (recognized when FDR jokingly asked GSP if he would place his cavalry saddle on his tank turret), yet he too a bridge between the horse and mechanized cavalries.

FDR: The classic politician who relied on the force of his personality to drive decisions and results while repairing the ruptures within his team that resulted from them.


message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Well Tom - we can only imagine (smile) - you make a very good point about how this was ultimately overcome.

Hewitt was critical and I don't think he gets enough credit today. You make an excellent point about the link to the Navy's rise. Patton was vital despite his flaws and of course FDR (another study in how a strong and vibrant personality can overcome all odds) - a remarkable man in terms of the power of his personality - but his personality was also a double edged sword as you pointed out.

With the three of them in a room - their collective egos could have blocked the sun (smile). Although I think that Hewitt's was more in check.

Who do you think you admire the most of the three Robert and why?


message 22: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 09, 2013 02:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
All, feel free to discuss any aspect of the Prologue or A Meeting with the Dutchman. I will continually add posts throughout today and for the week on the reading.


message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Yes good post Christopher - I think Hewitt got the short end of the stick too - it appears he should have received a lot more appreciation.


message 24: by Donna (last edited Sep 09, 2013 06:37PM) (new) - added it

Donna (drspoon) After reading the prologue, I was surprised to learn that FDR alone made the decision to invade North Africa, contradicting his generals and provoking a decades long controversy. This seems a very bold thing to do. Atkinson suggests that the decision was based on "instinct and a political calculation that the time was ripe"(page 16). I wonder if these were the real catalysts for the decision or if pressure from Churchill played a part.


message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 09, 2013 07:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
I think he was forced into it by Churchill. I am not sure how much instinct it was - I guess that is a debatable point and one that is open to discussion here.

Donna - I suspect Churchill forced the situation and the British did not want to have another drubbing.

But you raise an interesting point - we know it was not a popular decision even in his War Department - what do the rest of you think about the rationale for this decision and what led to it.


message 26: by Toby (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toby Stroud | 0 comments My initial thoughts on this week's readings are how sometimes we forget that the American military was not the "supreme fighting force" that we know today. The buildup of the US military, likened to "the reconstruction of a dinosaur around an inland three vertebrae", really struck a profound image with me. I think it is important to remember, as we read through this conflict, just how untested and inexperienced the Allied force really was in Africa, especially when compared to Rommel and the Germans.


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Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
A good point Toby.


message 28: by Toby (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toby Stroud | 0 comments "Around an ulna and three vertebrae" that should read.... Darn auto correct!


message 29: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 09, 2013 09:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Donna R - in rereading the Prologue - I think Atkinson gives us an idea of what led to FDR's decision.

First - there was Churchill who acted like a missionary and these were his arguments - page 13 of the Prologue:

"Punctuating each point with a stab of his trademark cigar, the prime minister ticked off the advantages to anyone within earshot: the occupation of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia could trap the Afrika Korps between the new Anglo-American force and the British Eighth Army already fighting Rommel in Egypt; Allied possession of North Africa would reopen the Mediterranean routes through the Suez Canal, shortening the current trip around the Cape of Good Hope by thousands of miles and saving a million tons of shipping; green American soldiers would get combat experience in conditions less harrowing than a frontal assault on France; the operation would require fewer landing craft and other battle resources than a cross-Channel attack the Vichy government might be lured back into the Allied camp; and the operation could be mounted in 1942, in keeping with Roosevelt's wishes to help the Soviets as soon as possible and to expedite the entry of American soldiers into the war.

Churchill clever as he was - then appealed to FDR that this was really part of his idea - he said - "This has all along been in harmony with your ideas." "In fact, it is your commanding idea. Here is the true second front of 1942."

Atkinson said that "increasingly he seemed beguiled by Churchill's arguments rather than those of his uniformed advisers". And foremost among his war principles was 'the simple fact that the Russian armies are killing more Axis personnel and destroying more Axis material than all of the other twenty-five United Nations put together." He needed to protect the limitless oil reserve in the Caucasus and Middle East and he could not allow Hitler to gain access to that so they had to be sure that the Soviet resistance did not collapse.

There were demonstrators chanting - "Second front now" in support for the beseiged Russians and by seizing Africa - the Allies would deny the Axis potenial bases for shipping lanes in the South Atlantic or for striking the Americans. FDR did not want to have US forces drained into the Pacific.

Finally, Churchill was by Roosevelt's desk when bad news from Tobruk reached him and FDR asked Churchill what could he do to help and he stripped 300 new Sherman tanks from the 1st Armored Division and gave them to British troops in Egypt. FDR cast his lot with the British - and he made several miscalculations. But a decision he made.

So Donna - the above sort of summarizes what Akinson thought was the basis for the FDR decision and it probably explains why the War Department was none too happy with that decision.

All, if you were in FDR's shoes and you had the same facts in front of you - what would have been your strategy and what would you have done and why?


message 30: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Toby wrote: ""Around an ulna and three vertebrae" that should read.... Darn auto correct!"

No worries Toby (smile)


message 31: by Tom (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Wing (twing113) | 53 comments yes Toby, no worries! my phone pecked responses almost always have typos...sorry folks


message 32: by Donna (new) - added it

Donna (drspoon) Bentley wrote: "Donna R - in rereading the Prologue - I think Atkinson gives us an idea of what led to FDR's decision.

First - there was Churchill who acted like a missionary and these were his arguments - page 1..."


It seems that Churchill's personal appeals played heavily into FDR's decision and his instincts told him it was time to take action. The British weren't ready to commit to the cross-Channel attack and those discussions were floundering. FDR believed an attack in Africa didn't preclude the cross-Channel attack at a later date, an apparent miscalculation. But he chose action over prolonged inaction and made a "buck stops here" decision and the rest, as they say, is history.


Peter | 10 comments Bentley wrote: "Bryan wrote: "We got a big learning curve, don't we?

I like the prologue in that the author sets the stage for what North Africa meant for the everyone, very important lessons and realities."

Oh..."


Exactly my case, it's a theatre of operations that I often desregard.
But I'm learning...


Peter | 10 comments Bentley wrote: "What did you think of Ike's role in protecting Patton and telling him - "Don't scare the Navy"? and also how Patton felt about the Navy - a "bunch of rattlesnakes".

Where do you think those attitu..."


Well, in my view, there were always problems between US army, navy and airforce, concerning who is the best, who takes the bigger share in investment, and so on.
Also, Patton always thought of infantry and armour as the real war winners, they're the ones that really hold the ground...


Bryan Craig Toby wrote: "My initial thoughts on this week's readings are how sometimes we forget that the American military was not the "supreme fighting force" that we know today. The buildup of the US military, likened t..."

My thoughts exactly, Toby. We grew up knowing of we our dominant military power in the world, but not in 1942. A real mind shift.


Bryan Craig Great question Bentley. I wouldn't like it because it would delay a cross Channel invasion, but I probably would go into North Africa. The plea from Churchill after Singapore, hard to ignore.


message 37: by Mark (last edited Sep 10, 2013 10:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark Mortensen Bryan wrote: "We grew up knowing of we our dominant military power in the world, but not in 1942. A real mind shift..."

Due to cutbacks the U.S. military was not a superpower at the onset of the Second World War, however there was the rock solid unique mentality that derived from 1918 the final year of the First World War. During 1918 America geared up innovation, technology, production and logistics and their fighting force in France was feared by all. This spirit and mindset of “don’t mess with the U.S.” carried over to 1942.

Both of my grandfathers faced combat in WWI and my father at a prime 21 years of age in 1942 served with a medical staff in WWII. When you think of the WWII generation you must realize that some prominent leaders such as FDR, MacArthur and Patton participated and witnessed first hand the American success in WWI of pushing the Germans back. Eisenhower was in the era although not active in WWI. The ingrained belief in ultimate victory a second time was strong.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight D. Eisenhower


message 38: by Robert (new)

Robert Hoffman | 6 comments Bentley:

Hard to pick one of the three - each brings a skills set essential to the overall effort. Yet, would select FDR for a fundamental reason: he was willing to make decisions that may have been done over the objections of a key constituency (siding with the UK on Torch over the objections of the military), but do so in ways that kept disparate elements together.

At the end of the day, the three gentlemen were role players, but FDR had the toughest/most critical role.

R


message 39: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments This is the third time for me for this book. It is my favorite of the trilogy. I am always amazed at how weak the US army was during this time period with few soldiers and inadequate equipment. Isolationism was probably responsible for part of that. The Navy was kept relative stronger to give the nation time to prepare.

I was amused by the Tommy's comment about this is a war to start wars again.

FDR is a pretty complex character. My understanding was that getting a clear decision out of him was pretty darn hard. Telling the joint chiefs to stop arguing and invade North Africa is one of the few examples in the war where he went against his advisers. Atkinson makes it clear he thinks it was the right decision.


message 40: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy Rafferty (jimmyra) | 8 comments Brilliant book - the level of detail, the little stories to illustrate points, the analysis of the personalities, etc, makes it really readable.

In hindsight, FDR was so right to go for TORCH - if those armies (US and British) had tried to cross the channel in 1943, never mind 1942, they would almost certainly been destroyed by the Germans in France. The US Army seemed to assume that it would just 'carry on where it left off' in 1918, without having learned anything since. Much as the British and French had in 1940!


message 41: by Toby (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toby Stroud | 0 comments Another thought as I digest this weeks readings......

American military planners in 1942 really thought an invasion through France was the best option?? Sure, this would eventually come to pass, but at the time they were proposing it this was downright delusional! American military power was no where near strong enough to undertake such a feat at that point in time. I think that alone speaks a lot to the experience (or lack thereof) of the American military during this time, and it will be interesting to watch them grow and mature as the conflict rolls on.


message 42: by Toby (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toby Stroud | 0 comments I see Jimmy's thinking is right in line with what I just posted as well!


message 43: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 10, 2013 07:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
@ Donna - Good point Donna - FDR was not looking for the "perfect decision" and did not suffer from paralysis analysis. One thing that I did like about FDR is that he made a decision - paved the way for the decision to succeed and went on to the next problem. No self recriminations, or hand wringing or finger pointing. Did you find other traits about FDR that you admired or not in the reading?

@Peter - Don't you think that Patton did have a point about boots on the ground - you can only accomplish so much without that commitment of actual men there to lay the groundwork. The armed forces were certainly in transition at this point and for the US in build mode - which is not that good if you are going into battle. Were you surprised at the level of preparation, supplies, and equipment that the men had? It really left them vulnerable - don't you think?

@ Bryan - given the options that were presented by Marshall, King, the War Department and everybody else surrounding FDR - what other good options did he have given the circumstances. If given that decision making power would there have been some things you would have tweeked better?

@Mark - your post implies I think that the Americans assumed ultimate victory just because they had entered the war - yet they were ill prepared and sent to North Africa for "experience" - do you think that was the wise course of action - of course they were not ready for Normandy - was there anything else the commanders and FDR should of done and/or did not do to prepare their men?

@Robert - interesting answer Robert - you make a good point - his decisions had to dovetail with others and he had to keep multiple balls in the air. Do you think that FDR had a true understanding of the Russians and Stalin - do you think he was being muscled by the Russians and maneuvered by the Brits and Churchill - in other words "handled" and "managed" or do you think that FDR was holding the marbles?

@Patricrk - How do you think that isolationism played a part in the men not being combat ready - many of the commanders had served in World War I - shouldn't they have known what the men needed in skill sets and wasn't it their responsibility to make them ready if they were not? I really felt for those men being sent into combat while on a training exercise of sorts. Yes I agree - I think Atkinson was in his corner about this decision - but he did say that FDR did make some miscalculations. In terms of those miscalculations which is the one that you think will come back and haunt him the most?

@Jimmy - glad you like the book - it is starting off well - why do you think there were no lessons learned from World War I - why did the commanders think that it would be business as usual - was it because they did not think they had any choice but get in and fight or was it false bravado? What else could they have done better?

@Toby - I have to agree - vainglorious - no chance whatsoever of succeeding - maybe they thought it was the most direct approach but it would only have led to the slaughter of more young men. I think that I can understand the lack of experience of the young draftees but not of the commanders - what were they thinking - how could they have suggested such a foolhardy initiative. What do you think was going through their heads to suggest this as a viable operation or plan?

@Christopher - thank you for your posts and questions - who are you most impressed with so far - is it Hewitt, FDR, Churchill, Marshall, Ike, Patton in getting things moving and on the right track and who do you think was the most steady in terms of long term strategy and planning?


message 44: by Toby (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toby Stroud | 0 comments @Bentley - As stated in the chapter, it was an almost reflex reaction for American military planners to aim right for the heart of a problem (ie, Berlin) by the shortest possible avenue. I think an under-appreciation for attacking where your enemy is weakest, even if it would result in a longer route, is also to blame.

This is possibly an unintended side effect of the American "can-do" attitude, where the military believed they could succeed solely based on their commitment to the cause. While normally commendable, in this case if Roosevelt had gone forward this plan it could have been disastrous!


message 45: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
For sure Toby - Americans like to go for the bulls eye even though a direct route is not always fortuitous. But that is what always gets me about the military operations then and now - there is always a bit of the "fantastic" when they start out and usually they are "toned down" by folks who are more grounded than some of the operations folks. These were supposed to be some of the best people giving advice to their commander in chief and frankly he got better advice from Churchill and from his own intuition and smarts. Or don't you agree?


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Robert Thompson | 3 comments If you really take a look at the emerging armed forces post WWI and prior to WW2 you see a strong division amongst the branches. Much of this of course had to do with funding and future expansion. The Army had really taken a hit with the loss of first the cavalry and then the realization that air power and naval power were advancing into the modern age much quicker then anticipated. From the beginning of the nation, it was the Army that had played a central role and this had most certainly bred a level of elitism amongst Army brass. With the emergence of the Air Corps and the realization that naval aviation would rule the seas, the Army swallowed a bit of their own pride with the coming of WW2.

With that said, it still amazes me how well the Joint Chiefs and our Allies, despite the initial amateurism, came together and formed the greatest allied coalition the world had ever seen. You can see this forming in the first meetings between FDR, Hewitt, and Patton as well as Churchill's relationship with FDR. We will of course see the full emergence of this relationship much later but it's flowering began with the initial decisions we are reading about now. Patton was Patton! A hard man to get along with but a great warrior. Eisenhower can already be seen as the ever watchful father and Hewitt is a fine example of the professionalism that our Navy has always shown. It is almost by a miracle that such brilliant minds were brought together to take on this task of tasks.

Each brings their own strengths and compliments the weaknesses of their fellow leaders. It will be amazing to read how these men brought it all together to defeat what was at one time the greatest military force in the world.


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Patricrk patrick | 435 comments I think the isolationist helped to keep the army budget low. Without anyone to fight in North America the only reason to have a large army was to send it overseas. And, the isolationists saw no reason to do that therefore there was no reason to fund a large modern army. Besides the last war was to end all wars.

I think at this time Marshall was still mentally preparing for the Trench warfare of World War I instead of the "modern" battle field of world war II. Another example of the Generals always being prepared to fight the last war. While all of the coastal fortifications were not in place in Europe at this time, and a successful established beachhead was probably possible. German air power and panzers would have been able to knock the allies back. The Germans knew they had to have control of the air to invade England but control of the air over Europe wasn't achieved by the allies until 1944.

In actual fact the key to winning the war at this time was making sure that Russia stayed in it and didn't make a separate peace with Germany. Getting a second front in somewhere was necessary to demonstrate to the Russians the allies commitment to the cause.


message 48: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 11, 2013 04:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Many historians believe that if Marshall had gotten his way that the war would have ended one year earlier. The North Africa initiative was only going to delay the Allied liberation of continental Europe - the Brits did not want Marshall to spell that out in his memorandums because they worried it would get the Russians upset. Marshall had stated that Operation Sledgehammer would be prevented from happening and Operation Round-Up would be delayed. Marshall and Eisenhower saw it as a long diversion. The Brits were forced to go along because Marshall threatened that he would scuttle the North African operation if they tried to take out that warning and wording. Sir Alan Brooke wanted the North African operation and Marshall's wording remained. Atkinson sided with FDR's North African decision but could Marshall have been ultimately correct about what should have happened and when? Some historians disagree. Was it a big diversion like Marshall and Ike agreed it was? It is tough to be a Monday morning quarterback but was Marshall right from the get go and was he overruled by the combined forces of Churchill and his president?


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Tom Wing (twing113) | 53 comments We can not be sure what would have happened had Marshall gotten his way but disaster is a possibility as well as a shorter war. One thing is for sure, we learned important lessons in logistics, gained combat experience for green troops, and increased airpower between torch and d-day. I like Marshall, but I think FDR made the right call. A failure or stalemate on the European continent in '43 means a different outcome for the war.


Phillip (philbertk) | 55 comments Just started tonight. Prologue sets a nice stage for the significance of The North Africa Invasion. I was particularly intrigued by the idea that this was the intro to over a half century of American leadership.


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