Book Report: The Army At Dawn by Rick Atkinson

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #1)An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very good history of the campaign in northern Africa. Rick Atkinson does a great job of tracking this portion of World War II from the high command of Eisenhower down to the front line of battle. Not being as familiar with this part of the war or the geography as with the Europe battle commencing on D-Day I found it a little hard to track the ebb and flow of the battles. There were also a large number of generals adding to the complexity of keeping track of everything. However, given the complexity and size of the battle, it is inevitable that the narrative will be difficult to follow at times.

The battle in North Africa showed the deficiencies of logistics early in the war. The planners estimating ammunition needs based on World War I “discovered that modern divisions, although comprising half the manpower of their Great War counterparts, used more than twice as many shells and bullets”(loc 4821).
“Other deficiencies could hardly be blamed on green soldiers. Virtually no bazookas had been shipped to Tunisia; Patton had plenty in Morocco, a thousand miles from the front”. (loc 4592). But as on British soldier said, “‘The American Army does not solve its problem’, one general noted, ‘it overwhelms them'”.

Eisenhower had much to learn; he had to balance his time between politics and strategy. He also needed to learn how to be more ruthless in making sure his orders were followed, in replacing poor performing generals, and in ordering men to their deaths. Prior to reading this book my knowledge of the North Africa campaign came from the movie “Patton”; but Patton played a smaller role than I had been led to believe. He was replaced by Omar Bradley in the early Spring so Patton could concentrate on the Sicily invasion.

The allies also had much to learn in how to coordinate tanks, armor and infantry and needed to learn to work together. High ranking generals such as Patton, Alexander, and Montgomery could be extremely self-centered and distrustful of their counterparts.

This was a great read laying out the problems and successes of this campaign. I prefer this type of historical writing to that shown in “Grand Expectations by James T Patterson. Atkinson does an excellent job of weaving personal stories with the facts and figures of the events.

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