An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson

This book goes a long way toward dismissing the notion that America’s triumph in World War II was inevitable. Operation Torch in North Africa was full of mistakes and setbacks for the Allies, with generals blaming each other for failures and British and Americans viewing each other with contempt and mistrust. The French, contrary to myth of heroic resistance they fabricated about themselves after the war, proved more valiant in fighting for the Nazis than in fighting against them. But above all this is the story of America’s reluctant evolution from isolationist pacifism into the warrior nation it would eventually become, with both soldiers and leaders gradually learning the deadly art of war. This experience transformed Eisenhower from a raw West Point cadet into a first class world leader, and thus he serves as a metaphor for the transformation of America’s role in the world brought about by this war. A very good book, fortunately written by a journalist rather than a historian.

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