am 10. Februar 2010
There isn't much that I can say here that hasn't already been said by the previous reviewer (a 'cousin' I notice!), other than 'Thank you, Mr.Atkinson!' I originally bought this book in the hope of gaining background information for a new wargames campaign that I wanted to start, having finally grown tired of 'doing' the Russian Front for the last 25 years or so. Thankfully,I wasn't disappointed. Rick Atkinson has written a wonderfully readable and fascinating book that is totally unbiased; I can read it again and again. Mr Atkinson's work is packed with delightful (and often humourous) details that have left me with an urge to learn more about the North African Campaign of 1942 -1943. What I actually found the most intriguing, however, was the bitter in-fighting and national rivalry that went on amongst the so-called 'Allies' which left me wondering how we ever managed to win! My own father (now deceased) served as a young Lieutenant in a (British) armoured car unit in Tunisia (later Sicily / Italy) and confirmed to me much of what the author says, including the remark about referring to American troops as "our Italians". He and his mates also referred to the Italians as "The Gentlemen," the French as "the REAL enemy" and in one instance they even shot down an aircraft of the "American Luftwaffe" that had had the audacity to strafe their vehicles in error (the pilot happily survived and was duly made into the 'tea boy' for his sins, being returned a few days later after having 'bought' his freedom by promising a case of Scotch in return!(I'm serious). As for the Germans, well, they were their usual efficient, disciplined and extremely annoying selves as ever (I live in Germany and I married a German, so I'm allowed to say that). On the negative side - and it is a very small gripe - I think the Italians, particularly those of the more elite units such as 'Centauro,' the Bersaglieri and the 'Giovanni Fascisti' might have earned more mention. Having now finished reading the book I was for some inexplicable reason left feeling somewhat sad and deflated, despite the eventual Allied 'happy ending.' It was then that I remembered something my father once said to me many years ago: "A lot of good men died there, and they all wore different uniforms." Quite.
am 19. August 2008
"An Army At Dawn" tells the of the American Army from its first taste of battle in Operation Torch, the Invasion of French North Africa, through the closing of the Tunisian campaign. Author Rick Atkinson does an excellent job of blending the stories of individual soldiers and actions with the big picture of generals and theatre-wide implications. The rivalries between the Americans, French and British are given fair play.
The theme of this book is that the American Army which went ashore in Operation Torch was not fit for heavy combat. From General Eisenhower on down to the privates, it had lessons to learn which were better learned against French and Italians than Germans. Through adversity the army learned to hate and to fight, the generals learned to command and the wheat was separated from the chaff. The Army which was unfit at Dawn was, by Dusk, ready for the battles which lay ahead.
This book gives the reader a good understanding of the North African Theatre of the war. I had read about it previously, but this put it into a new perspective. I often judge a book by whether it whets my appetite for more. This one passes that test. As I was reading this one, I kept wanting to read more about World War II, the North African campaign and North Africa itself. A book that can do that is a worthy read.