The 2003 Pulitzer Prize for History praised Rick Atkinson's An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume 1 of the "Liberation Trilogy": as a "monumental history of the overshadowed combat in North Africa during World War II that brings soldiers, generals, and bloody battles alive through masterful storytelling." It does that and more as it takes readers battle by battle through the U. S. and British campaign in North Africa, from Operation TORCH, the amphibious invasion of French Morocco and Algeria on November 8, 1942, to the hard-won victory in Tunisia on May 13, 1943, in a way that appeals to novices, pleases history buffs, and satisfies serious historians.
Atkinson argues that the North African campaign was a "pivot point in American history, the place where the United States began to act like a great power militarily, diplomatically, strategically, and tactically" (3). More importantly, he believes that World War II was the "greatest story of the twentieth century, like all great stories, it was bottomless, [and that] no comprehensive understanding of the victory of May 1945 is possible without understanding the earlier campaigns in Africa and Italy" (655). He supports this argument well in over 500 pages of material.
The prologue provides excellent background information leading up to the launch of the North African campaign, describing in juicy detail the Allied debate between a campaign in North Africa and a cross-channel invasion, presenting the idea that fighting in North Africa was really fighting for British imperial interests instead of getting the U.S. closer to Berlin and then to Tokyo. Critics saw it as a distraction and a delay of the crucial, eventual cross-channel invasion. Atkinson supports the British push for North Africa by showing throughout the book that the... [continues]
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