October 8, 2014 / 8:44 PM / in 4 years

WWII author Rick Atkinson says faces learning curve for next project

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Author Rick Atkinson, who won a Pulitzer Prize for a best-selling World War Two history, said on Wednesday he was facing a steep learning curve for his next project on the American Revolution.

After 15 years of researching and writing about World War Two, Atkinson said the 1775-1781 war that freed 13 American colonies from Britain and created the United States was a brand new subject.

“It’s a steep learning curve for me. I know a lot about World War Two, a lot less about the Revolution and 18th century warfare and 18th century societies,” he said.

But Atkinson said the deaths during the Revolution were as poignant and the sacrifices as large as any during the vastly greater conflict of World War Two.

“One of the things (about war) is the miracle of singularity. Each death is as unique as a snowflake or a fingerprint, and no less for the Revolution than for something as grand as World War Two,” he said.

Atkinson, 61, spoke on the margin of a briefing about new exhibits at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, where he is an adviser.

A former editor at the Washington Post, Atkinson has won the Pulitzer Prize both for journalism and for “An Army at Dawn,” his history of the U.S. Army in North Africa during World War Two.

“The Guns at Last Light,” the third volume of the “Liberation Trilogy,” was a New York Times No. 1 best-seller. He also has written books about the Gulf War, the U.S. Military Academy and the invasion of Iraq.

Atkinson said he was delving into archives in Britain and the United States and called reading 18th century cursive writing “a nightmare.”

Atkinson said the Revolution was especially relevant since both sides faced logistical headaches with their expeditionary forces, such the British having to ship horses across the Atlantic in mid-winter.

“I’m always interested in logistics, because it’s the essence of warmaking, regardless of whether you’re talking about the 18th century or the 21st century,” he said.

Atkinson said he started his research in July 2013 and would need another 18 months to two years to complete it.

The first volume will cover the beginning of the Revolution in 1775 and 1776, and Atkinson expected it out in 2017 or 2018. Subsequent volumes will come in three-year intervals.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bernard Orr

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