I enjoyed Atkinson’s “Liberation Trilogy” World War II histories so much that I was eager to get this, the first of a trilogy devoted to the American Revolution. I wasn’t disappointed. This is detailed but readable, full of telling character detail, and an all-around great narrative history.
I was especially struck by the attention the author pays to logistics. For instance, a number of British actions — and their timings — were dictated by the difficulties of supplying armies across an ocean in the age of sail. This is just one example of Atkinson’s ability to explain decisions in terms of the factors that influenced the decision-makers.
I hope the next two volumes in this series aren’t too far off.
“The Day of Battle” is the second volume in Rick Atkinson’s monumental
“Liberation Trilogy”. Like the fist book in the series (“An Army At
Dawn”) its focus is on the US Army in
the European theater of World War II; British and German decisions and
actions are related mostly in terms of how they affected the Americans.
I don’t mean that as a criticism, it’s just a comment on the story
Atkinson chose to tell. The conflicts among US commanders and between
them and the British is as much a part of Atkinson’s story as the fight
between the Allies and the Axis.
As in the previous volume, Atkinson concentrates on command decisions.
He doesn’t ignore the experience of the common soldier, but individual
GIs are de-emphasized in favor of majors, colonels, and generals.
This isn’t a Stephen Ambrose
style history; it’s a more substantial, less sentimental work than many recent
books on World War II. Atkinson avoids the “greatest generation” trope
and the book is based on contemporary accounts instead of veterans
reminiscences. As a result, not every commander looks selfless and
atrocities committed by both sides are not ignored.
I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, which will cover
Normandy and the final defeat of Nazi Germany.
This volume brings Rick Atkinson’s magisterial history of the US Army in
Europe in World War Two to a close. Like its predecessors “An Army at
Dawn” and “The Day of
it’s an impressively detailed but still readable history. Refreshingly,
it doesn’t hide occasional incompentence and poor leadership under
“greatest generation” rhetoric.
I’d characterize the book as traditional military history. The author’s
focus is on the high command, not a “Band of Brothers” style narrative
about individual soldiers. That said, he doesn’t completely ignore the
The conluding chapter, which describes the often-ignored story of the
recovery of US dead is especially interesting. Though I’ve been to the
moving Normandy American Cemetery and
I had never thought or read about the ships full of thousands of coffins
that returned fallen soldiers to the United States so that they could be
buried in their home towns.