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Liberation Trilogy #01: An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943

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Liberation Trilogy #01: An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 Cover

ISBN13: 9780805087246
ISBN10: 0805087249
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

Chapter 1
 
A few minutes past 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 21, 1942, a twin-engine Navy passenger plane broke through the low overcast blanketing Washington, D.C., then banked over the Potomac River for the final approach to Anacostia Field. As the white dome of the Capitol loomed into view, Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt allowed himself a small sigh of relief. Before dawn, Hewitt had decided to fly to Washington from his headquarters near Norfolk rather than endure the five-hour drive across Virginia. But thick weather abruptly closed in, and for an anxious hour the aircraft had circled the capital, probing for a break in the clouds. Usually a man of genial forbearance, Hewitt chafed with impatience at the delay. President Roosevelt himself had summoned him to the White House for this secret meeting, and although the session was likely to be little more than a courtesy call, it would never do for the man chosen to strike the first American blow in the liberation of Europe to keep his commander-in-chief waiting.

Kent Hewitt seemed an unlikely warrior. Now fifty-five, he had a high, bookish forehead and graying hair. Double chins formed a fleshy creel at his throat, and on a ships bridge, in his everyday uniform, he appeared “a fat, bedraggled figure in khaki,” as a British admiral once observed with more accuracy than kindness. Even the fine uniform he wore this morning fit like blue rummage, notwithstanding the flag officers gold braid that trimmed his cuffs. A native of Hackensack, New Jersey, Hewitt was the son of a mechanical engineer and the grandson of a former president of the Trenton Iron Works. One uncle had been mayor of New York, another the superintendent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kent chose the Navy, but as a midshipman in the Annapolis sail loft he was said to have been so frightened of heights that he “squeezed the tar out of the rigging.” As a young swain he had enjoyed dancing the turkey trot; in recent decades, though, he was more likely to be fiddling with his slide rule or attending a meeting of his Masonic lodge.

Yet Hewitt had become a formidable sea dog. Aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, he circled the globe for fifteen months with Theodore Roosevelts Great White Fleet, displaying such a knack for navigation that the stars seemed to eat from his hand. As a destroyer captain in World War I, he had won the Navy Cross for heroism. Later he chaired the Naval Academys mathematics department, and for two years after the invasion of Poland he ran convoy escorts between Newfoundland and Iceland, ferrying war matériel across the North Atlantic.

In April 1942, Hewitt had been ordered to Hampton Roads to command the Atlantic Fleets new Amphibious Force; late that summer came Roosevelts decision to seize North Africa in Operation TORCH. Two great armadas would carry more than 100,000 troops to the invasion beaches. One fleet would sail 2,800 miles from Britain to Algeria, with mostly British ships ferrying mostly American soldiers. The other fleet, designated Task Force 34, was Hewitts. He was to sail 4,500 miles to Morocco from Hampton Roads and other U.S. ports with more than 100 American ships bearing 33,843 American soldiers. In a message on October 13, General Eisenhower, the TORCH commander, had reduced the mission to twenty-six words: “The object of the operations as a whole is to occupy French Morocco and Algeria with a view to the earliest possible subsequent occupation of Tunisia.” The Allies larger ambition in TORCH had been spelled out by Roosevelt and Churchill: “complete control of North Africa from the Atlantic to the Red Sea.”

Through a tiny window over the planes wing, Hewitt could see the full glory of Indian summer in the nations capital. Great smears of colorcrimson and orange, amber and dying greenextended from the elms around the Lincoln Memorial to the oaks and maples beyond the National Cathedral. Across the Potomac, the new Pentagon building filled Hells Bottom between Arlington Cemetery and the river. Jokes had already begun circulating about the immense five-sided maze, including the story of a Western Union boy who entered the Pentagon on a Friday and emerged on Monday as a lieutenant colonel. Though it now owned the worlds largest building, the Army was still leasing thirty-five other office complexes around the city, and cynics quipped that if the military were to seize enemy territory as quickly as it had conquered Washington, the war could end in a week.

The plane settled onto the runway and taxied to a hangar. Hewitt buttoned his jacket and hurried down the steps to the Navy staff car waiting on the tarmac. The car sped through the airfield gate and across the Anacostia River to Pennsylvania Avenue. Hewitt had enough time to swing by the Navy Department building downtown and check there for messages before heading to the White House.

“You do everything you can,” he liked to say, “then you hope for the best.” Since receiving the first top-secret orders for Task Force 34, he haddone everything he could, to the verge of exhaustion. Every day brought new problems to solve, mistakes to fix, anxieties to quell. Rehearsals for the TORCH landings had been hurried and slipshod. With Axis predators sinking nearly 200 Allied vessels a month, including many along the American coast, all amphibious training had been moved inside the Chesapeake Bay, whose modest tides and gentle waves resembled not at all the ferocious surf typical of the Moroccan coast. During one exercise, only a single boat arrived on the designated beach, even though a lighthouse had provided a beacon on a clear night with a calm sea; the rest of the craft were scattered for miles along the Maryland shore. In another exercise, at Cove Point, ninety miles north of Norfolk, security broke down and the men stormed the beach to be greeted by an enterprising ice cream vendor. In Scotland, the training by troops bound for Algeria was going no better; sometimes it was conducted without the encumbrance of actual ships, because none were available. Troops moved on foot across an imaginary ocean toward an imaginary coast.

Would the eight Vichy French divisions in North Africa fight? No one knew. Allied intelligence estimated that if those troops resisted stoutly, it could take Eisenhowers forces three months just to begin the advance toward Tunisia. If U-boats torpedoed a transport during the Atlantic passage, how many destroyers should be left behind to pick up survivors? Hewitt was not certain he could spare any without jeopardizing the task force, and the prospect of abandoning men in the water gnawed at him. Had word of the expedition leaked? Every day he received reports that someone, somewhere had been talking too much. For the first months after its creation, the Amphibious Force was so secret that it used a New York City post office box as its mailing address. Only a select few now knew Hewitts destination, but the existence of a large American fleet designed to seize a hostile shore could hardly be kept secret anymore. A few weeks earlier, Hewitt had received a letter from Walt Disneywritten on stationery with the embossed letterhead “Bambi: A Great Love Story”who offered to design a logo for the Amphibious Force. Ever the gentleman, Hewitt wrote back on October 7 with polite, noncommittal thanks.

The staff car crawled past Capitol Hill to Independence Avenue. Nationwide gasoline rationing would begin soon, but Washingtons population had nearly doubled in the last three years, and for now the streets were jammed. Coffee rationing would begin even soonerone cup per

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

mgreiner1, December 16, 2012 (view all comments by mgreiner1)
An outstanding history book, describing the early years of America's entry into World War II. Atkinson does not spare the icons of our military in describing their early mistakes, including the contempt of more seasoned British commanders. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the personalities of our early leaders,and was horrified by the tragic loss of so many lives due to ego-driven decisions. In summary, it's refreshing to read a book that sticks to the truth.
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Bradley Garing, September 23, 2011 (view all comments by Bradley Garing)
THIS LIKE NEW MINT CONDITION HARDCOVER IS A MUST READ FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IT THE
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II AND HOW IT WENT TO SCHOOL IN NORTH AFRICA AND
IN THE BATTLES IN TUNISIA TO LEARN HOW TO FIGHT THE GERMANS AND ITALIANS AND ULTIMATELY LEARNED HOW TO WIN VICTORIES OVER THEM INSPITE EARLY SETBACKS SUCH
AS KASSERINE PASS AND HOW TO BE PART OF ALLIEAD COALITION FORCES THAT ULTIMATELY
DEFEATED HITLER'S AND MUSSOLINI'S FORCES.
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(0 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Stuart Kohn, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Stuart Kohn)
My favorite book of the decade.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780805087246
Author:
Atkinson, Rick
Publisher:
Owlet Paperbacks
Author:
Mitter, Rana
Subject:
Military - World War II
Subject:
Africa, north
Subject:
Military-World War II General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series:
Liberation Trilogy
Series Volume:
01
Publication Date:
20070531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
2 16-pp. bandw inserts, 18 maps; endpape
Pages:
768
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.50 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » World War II » Europe » General
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » General
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » North Africa
History and Social Science » Sale Books
History and Social Science » World History » General

Liberation Trilogy #01: An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$11.50 In Stock
Product details 768 pages Holt Rinehart and Winston - English 9780805087246 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The epic, untold story of Chinaand#8217;s devastating eight-year war of resistance against Japan in World War II.
"Synopsis" by ,
The epic, untold story of Chinaand#8217;s devastating eight-year war of resistance against Japan

For decades, a major piece of World War II history has gone virtually unwritten. The war began in China, two years before Hitler invaded Poland, and China eventually became the fourth great ally, partner to the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Yet its drama of invasion, resistance, slaughter, and political intrigue remains little known in the West.

Rana Mitter focuses his gripping narrative on three towering leaders: Chiang Kai-shek, the politically gifted but tragically flawed head of Chinaand#8217;s Nationalist government; Mao Zedong, the Communistsand#8217; fiery ideological stalwart, seen here at the beginning of his epochal career; and the lesser-known Wang Jingwei, who collaborated with the Japanese to form a puppet state in occupied China. Drawing on Chinese archives that have only been unsealed in the past ten years, he brings to vivid new life such characters as Chiangand#8217;s American chief of staff, the unforgettable and#8220;Vinegar Joeand#8221; Stilwell, and such horrific events as the Rape of Nanking and the bombing of Chinaand#8217;s wartime capital, Chongqing. Throughout, Forgotten Ally shows how the Chinese people played an essential role in the wider war effort, at great political and personal sacrifice.

Forgotten Ally rewrites the entire history of World War II. Yet it also offers surprising insights into contemporary China. No twentieth-century event was as crucial in shaping Chinaand#8217;s worldview, and no one can understand China, and its relationship with America today, without this definitive work.

"Synopsis" by ,
"A splendid book... The emphasis throughout is on the human drama of men at war."—The Washington Post Book World

In the first volume of his monumental trilogy about the liberation of Europe in WW II, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson tells the riveting story of the war in North Africa

The liberation of Europe and the destruction of the Third Reich is an epic story of courage and calamity, of miscalculation and enduring triumph. In this first volume of the Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson shows why no modern reader can understand the ultimate victory of the Allied powers without a grasp of the great drama that unfolded in North Africa in 1942 and 1943.

Opening with the daring amphibious invasion in November 1942, An Army at Dawn follows the American and British armies as they fight the French in Morocco and Algiers, and then take on the Germans and Italians in Tunisia. Battle by battle, an inexperienced and sometimes poorly led army gradually becomes a superb fighting force. At the center of the tale are the extraordinary but flawed commanders who come to dominate the battlefield: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Montgomery, and Rommel.

Brilliantly researched, rich with new material and vivid insights, Atkinson's vivid narrative tells the deeply human story of a monumental battle for the future of civilization. 

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