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An Army at Dawn

Book Review

 

Title:

An Army at Dawn

Author:

Rick Atkinson

Publisher:

Henry Holt and Company,  New York, NY

ISBN:

0-8050-6288-2

Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

September, 2003

Rating:

An Army at Dawn tells the story of TORCH, the Allied invasion of North Africa in 1942. Spanning well over 600 pages, it looks at individual unit actions in this theater along with the big picture.

Get more information about An Army at Dawn at amazon.comIn 1942, the situation was perhaps the grimmest for the Allied forces. Hitler and the Nazis had occupied most of Europe, North Africa, and were approaching the  gates of the largest Russian cities, while the Japanese were winning victories  and territory in Asia and the Pacific. Stalin begged for a second front to provide relief for his troops, and the Allies developed TORCH.

The plan included putting troops ashore along the wide front in North Africa,  where they would be opposed by Vichy French forces. Although the Allies thought there would be little opposition from the French, the reality at many landing sites was different, and a number of casualties were incurred by both sides.  After a sharp three day battle, reason carried the day and the French forces  surrendered to join the fight against the Axis powers.

Because of the short duration of the battle, the Allies began to develop a feeling of confidence in their fighting abilities that was to be quickly dashed once  they came up against the battle hardened Nazi soldiers. With an advantage of experience, air power, and sheer numbers, the Germans were nevertheless defeated by the Allies over the course of a year. Learning from their mistakes, the Allies  were able to weld their armies together into a cohesive and deadly fighting  machine.

Rich Atkinson does a magnificent job of presenting this battle in book format. Besides showing the battles from the view of the individual foot soldier, he also shows the early days of many famous Allied Generals including Eisenhower,  Patton, Bradley, Roosevelt, and Montgomery. He also provides an excellent portrait  of the political situation with the French at the time of TORCH and how this impacted the battle.

Anybody interested in World War II will find this work truly unique and several  notches above what they have come to expect. It is pleasing in every aspect  and written with an easily read style. It is well researched, includes a number  of interesting photographs, and uses a number of maps to show how the major battles progressed.

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