57 pages 1 hour read

Rick Atkinson

An Army at Dawn

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2002

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Key Figures

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander in the North African theater. Born in 1890, Eisenhower spent most of his career as a staff officer, having seen no combat in his 27 years in the military. While he was generally considered to be an affable and humble man, Atkinson suggests this was in part a calculated persona. Atkinson quotes the war correspondent Don Whitehead who writes that Eisenhower is "a man who shaped events with such subtlety that he left others thinking they were the architects of those events. And he was satisfied to leave it that way" (60). From Eisenhower's lack of combat experience, several failings emerged early in the campaign. According to Atkinson, "In truth, he spent at least three-quarters of his time worrying about political issues […] Eisenhower had yet to bend events to his iron will, to impose as well as implore, to become a commander in action as well as in rank" (197).

 

At the same time, Atkinson reserves heavy praise for Eisenhower over his ability to learn from his mistakes. The colossal tactical, organizational, and logistical problems that plagued his command over much of the campaign served as a necessary trial-by-fire, without which Eisenhower would have never become the kind of general capable of smashing Hitler in Europe.

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