This book lives up to its hype. Atkinson manages to weave a narrative where all the elements of the war in North Africa are skillfully woven into a single whole - the grand politics that so vexed Eisenhower, the commanders of the units - especially American, French and British, and the individual soldiers themselves. Most importantly he weaves a story of the growth of the Americans - the men and the leaders - one could weave a metaphor of the army as a child, learning its way. Atkinson compares the novice Americans, at all levels, with the veteran British and Germans. Well illustrated with maps and photos this is a must have for those interested in World War II, right on the book shelf with The Longest Day and Guadalcanal Diary.
I wanted to like this book. It is about a part of World War II I have studied little. It is written from an overview perspective, so one should be able to get a good understanding of the theatre. But it was a disaster.
From simple factual errors (p. 88 the Mitchell bomber has only TWO engines), to a clear misunderstanding of military units (p. 146 where the 7th Division is described as having only 2 battalions - a full division has between 6 and 12 battalions plus various other formations), to maps that have none of the locations mentioned in the text they are accompanying, to inconsistency from one paragraph to the next (pp. 101-2 where 75 bombers become 93, unless it was really 108, just a few paragraphs later) Duffy is all over the place.
Unfortunately, he is no better with the people. He gives brief biographies of the players - leaders mostly but some common soldiers too - and they sound good, until they don't. One general is noted as having been commissioned in 1923 but only two pages later to have distinguished himself in World War One when he was but a teen, though no further mention is given.
To round it out, Duffy's descriptions of terrain are also challenged. In one chapter he tells how the Allies decide to build three large airfields in a place which, just two pages before, he has described as having rough mountains marching to within a hundred meters of a mangrove jungle lined shore. Doesn't sound like any place for a large flat airfield!
I'll continue to look for a good history of the Second World War in New Guinea. This is not it.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)