An Army at Dawn

An Oblate priest told me about this book and the series.  He said if you like history, you have to read this guy.  So I did, all 540 pages in 3 weeks flat – it was an inter-library loan with no renewal.

Basic story: The U.S. enters WWII after Pearl Harbour.  They are called upon by Churchill to help Britain drive Rommel and the Nazis from North Africa in late 1942.  (Reluctantly they agree as they would have preferred a more direct assault on the Continent as well as an allied focus on defeating the Japanese in the Pacific.)  Gen Ike Eisenhower is appointed Commander.  They land in Morocco and Algeria.  They suffer initial setbacks and humiliations in learning how to fight.  There is much rivalry and disdain between the American and British commanders. They proceed east to Tunisia where the bulk of the fighting takes place, finally annihilating the Afrika Corps, Panzer Divisions and Italian forces in May 1943 with the help of liberated French troops.  This is not before suffering some 100,000 Allied casualties (killed, wounded or missing)!

It was the coming of age of America’s might and world domination.  Part way through it became evident to everyone that the Allies are going to win the war due to the shear depth and strength of America’s industrial might.  It was a Quartermasters war and America was second to none in its ability to provide equipment, troops, food and transport.  Rick Atkinson is adept at explaining the horror of combat and the ugliness of war in exhaustive detail.  He won the Pulitzer Prize in history for this book in 2003.

There is some ugly portraying of Muslims as looters and traitors, Italians as lazy and inept, French as vacuous and pompous and the British as egotistical and simply awful.  There is grudging respect for Germans ability but real hate and a developed desire to kill, kill, kill Heinies.  I had some trouble understanding the maps detail but that was probably just me.  There were interesting references to U.S. Civil war heroes such as “unconditional surrender” Gen Ulysses S. Grant.

All in all a solid 8.5 out of 10, riveting.  Not sure whether I will read the 2 sequels yet, need a breather.


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