Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson

A good read. Atkinson tells the story of the WWII North African invasion, Operation Torch. It starts off with controversy, the American general staff was dead set against it. Roosevelt intervened, over rode the US military's objections, and the operation was on. The invasion fleet loaded up in Norfolk Virginia, steamed across the Atlantic and hit the North African beaches some 3000 miles away. One troopship was torpedoed and the troops lowered their landing craft in mid Atlantic, planning to motor the rest of the way. They didn't make it, and had to be rescued by a destroyer, but it was a noble effort.
Then there was a need for a shallow draft vessel to bring bombs and aviation gas up a shallow river to an airfield. A tired banana boat, the Contessa, was commandeered, dry docked for a scrape and paint of the hull, plus leak repairs. When the crew heard where the Contessa was bound, they all jumped ship. The captain and first mate go down to the Norfolk jail and pretty soon they have a new crew of men who think crossing the sub infested Atlantic, loaded with gasoline and explosives, is a better deal than a Virginia chain gang. The Contessa makes it, picks up a local pilot, gets up the river and unloads at the airfield.
Any history buff will enjoy this one.

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