About Rick Atkinson
Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author & Historian
Rick Atkinson is author of The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, the first volume of his intended Revolution Trilogy, a history of the American rebellion through 1783.
He is also author of the Liberation Trilogy, a narrative history of the liberation of Europe in World War II. The first volume, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, received the Pulitzer Prize and was acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal as “the best World War II battle narrative since Cornelius Ryan’s classics, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far.” The second volume, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, drew praise from the New York Times as “a triumph of narrative history, elegantly written…and rooted in the sight and sounds of battle.” The final volume of the Liberation Trilogy, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, published in May 2013, ranked #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The Wall Street Journal called it “a magnificent book,” and the New York Times Book Review described it as “a tapestry of fabulous richness and complexity…The Liberation Trilogy is a monumental achievement.”
Atkinson is also the best-selling author of The Long Gray Line, a narrative saga about the West Point class of 1966, and Crusade, a narrative history of the Persian Gulf War. He also wrote In the Company of Soldiers, an account of his time with General David H. Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion of Iraq in 2003; the New York Times Book Review called the book “the most intimate, vivid, and well-informed account yet published” about that war, and Newsweek cited it as one of the ten best books of 2004. He is the lead essayist in Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery, published by National Geographic in 2007.
Atkinson’s awards include the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for history; the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting; and the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for public service, awarded to the Washington Post for investigative articles directed and edited by Atkinson on shootings by District of Columbia police officers. He is winner of the 1989 George Polk Award for national reporting, the 2003 Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award, the 2007 Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense, the 2010 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, the 2013 New York Military Affairs Symposium award for lifetime achievement, and the 2014 Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for lifetime achievement from the Society for Military History. In December 2015 he received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, previously given to Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison, and David McCullough. In 2019 he was named a Vincent J. Dooley Distinguished Fellow of the Georgia Historical Society.
In 2020, The British Are Coming won the George Washington Prize (awarded by Mount Vernon and its partners), the New-York Historical Society’s Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize, awarded annually to the best work in the field of American history and biography; the Daughters of the American Revolution Excellence in American History Book Award, and the Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award.
Atkinson has served as, the Gen. Omar N. Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College, where he remains an adjunct faculty member. He is a Presidential Counselor at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, a member of the Society of American Historians, and an inductee in the Academy of Achievement, for which he also serves as a board member. He serves on the governing commission of the National Portrait Gallery.
Atkinson worked as a reporter, foreign correspondent, and senior editor for two decades at the Washington Post. His last assignments were covering the 101st Airborne during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and writing about roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. Previously he served as the assistant managing editor for investigations. Atkinson’s journalism career began at the Pittsburg (Kansas) Morning Sun in 1976; in 1977, he moved to the Kansas City Times, before going to the Washington Post in 1983. Among other assignments, he served as the Post’s Berlin bureau chief, covering not only Germany and NATO, but also spending considerable time in Somalia and Bosnia.
Born in Munich, Germany, Atkinson is the son of a U.S. Army officer and grew up on military posts. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from East Carolina University and a master of arts degree in English literature from the University of Chicago. He and his wife, Dr. Jane Chestnut Atkinson of Lawrence, Kansas, a researcher and clinician at the National Institutes of Health, live in the District of Columbia. They have two grown children, Rush, a criminal trial attorney for the Justice Department, and Sarah, a physician and colorectal surgeon at the University of Washington Medical Center.