Proving that you sometimes can judge a book by its appearance, my introduction to Rick Atkinson is owed largely to the powerful cover image on his Pulitzer-winning epic, An Army at Dawn. A column of weary World War II GIs marching up a dusty hillside struck me as incredibly honest and in sharp contrast to the clean uniforms and clenched jaws of Hollywood. It also proved apropos of Atkinson's narrative, as the former Washington Post reporter does a remarkable job of pulling back the bravado to reveal the sacrifices endured by those on the front line. The North African chapter of WWII may not have had the unprecedented force or drama of Normandy, but it introduced the world to driven individuals - including a chain-smoking Commander named Dwight D. Eisenhower and a profanely impatient General George S. Patton - who would go on to profoundly shape the conflict in the following years. Atkinson wisely profiles this cast of characters with equanimity, allowing events - not stories - to give them definition. The result is an honest-as-the-cover look at a fighting force that would soon become known as our "Greatest Generation."
Recommended for fans of The Guns of August