Sunday, August 03, 2008

Book Review: An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume 1 of the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson

The U.S. introduction to the land war in europe in WWII against Germany was in North Africa. The generals there, Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, first were tested here, along with an un-tried American army. History and us remember them as the leaders who breached the Atlantic Wall and liberated Europe, but it is easy to forget that they did not spring full grown as an Athena out of the head of Zeus. They had to learn to walk before they could run. And this book documents those first steps.

As you read Atkinson's account, you get a sense of the confusion, unknown and uncertainty. Both at the level of the normal foot soldier as well as the highest commanders. Atkinson shows, that even with the very best and most meticulous of preparation, war is messy, confused, unpredictable. And that the enemy always has a vote, even when it seems they are out.

What history tells us is in North Africa, a young United States Army as part of the Allies completed its first campaign having evicted the Axis from a continent and removing two German Field Armies from the war. Atkinson tells us of the lessons and pains along the way. The stories of an army learning the art of war are something to remember, especially as new stories of another American Army learning the ways of war are being recorded (with Rick Atkinson being one of the recorders.)
Post a Comment