“Masterly . . . a heartbreaking, beautifully told story of wasted sacrifice.” —Vince Rinehart, The Washington Post The Allied attack of Normandy beach and its resultant bloodbath have been immortalized in film and literature, but the U.S. campaign on the beaches of Western Italy reigns as perhaps the deadliest battle of World War II’s western theater. In January 1944, about six months before D-Day, an Allied force of thirty-six thousand soldiers launched one of the first attacks...
“Masterly . . . a heartbreaking, beautifully told story of wasted sacrifice.” —Vince Rinehart, The Washington Post
The Allied attack of Normandy beach and its resultant bloodbath have been immortalized in film and literature, but the U.S. campaign on the beaches of Western Italy reigns as perhaps the deadliest battle of World War II’s western theater. In January 1944, about six months before D-Day, an Allied force of thirty-six thousand soldiers launched one of the first attacks on continental Europe at Anzio, a small coastal city thirty miles south of Rome. The assault was conceived as the first step toward an eventual siege of the Italian capital. But the advance stalled and Anzio beach became a death trap. After five months of brutal fighting and monumental casualties on both sides, the Allies finally cracked the German line and marched into Rome on June 5, the day before D-Day. Richly detailed and fueled by extensive archival research of newspapers, letters, and diaries—as well as scores of original interviews with surviving soldiers on both sides of the trenches—Anzio is a harrowing and incisive true story by one of today’s finest military historians.
It is a heartbreaking, beautifully told story of wasted sacrifice.
— The Washington Post
After victories in North Africa and Sicily, the Allies invaded Italy in September 1943 and quickly bogged down, as German commander Kesselring fought a brilliant defensive campaign aided by miserable weather and primitive, mountainous terrain. To break the stalemate in January 1944, two Allied divisions landed behind German lines at Anzio, encountering surprisingly little resistance. Within days, German units rushed to the small beachhead for some of the most concentrated, brutal, bloody fighting outside the Russian front. British historian Clark delivers an absorbing account of the terrible battle. Historians criticize the force's commander, Gen. John Lucas, for not pushing inland to cut off the Germans or even capture Rome, though Lucas insisted he had too few men. Clark agrees, but adds that Lucas should have advanced far enough to occupy a stronger defensive position. By February, the Allies had secured the beachhead and the energetic Lucian Truscott took over from Lucas, but it was not until May that troops broke out. Clark does not rock any historical boats, but he tells a relentlessly fascinating story with plenty of asides about individuals' experiences. Carlo D'Este's 1991 history may still be the best on the subject, but no reader will be disappointed with Clark's. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Overshadowed by the Allied invasion at Normandy in 1944 and the subsequent Northwestern Europe campaign, the Italian campaign is mentioned only occasionally and the landings at Anzio even less so, autobiographies notwithstanding. Clark (war studies, Royal Military Acad., Sandhurst) has written a conversant, evenhanded account of the Anzio landing and the battle for the liberation of Rome. In late 1943, after considerable political jockeying on strategy, the British Allies gained approval to invade Italy and, in January 1944, to land at Anzio in an attempt to break through the formidable German defenses, the Gustav Line. American preoccupation with planning for the Normandy Invasion kept the Anzio forces from taking advantage of initial German weaknesses that might have led to an earlier liberation of Rome. Anzio nearly became a death trap; it wasn't until early May that the stalemate was finally broken and, on June 4, Rome liberated. Clark includes the accounts of American, British, and German eyewitnesses at all levels of participation, which gives an immediacy to the narrative. He is as flatly objective as he can be, especially considering the egos and the mistakes involved here on all sides. Recommended for all collections. David Lee Poremba, Davenport, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A rich account of the campaign Winston Churchill called "a story of high opportunity and shattered hopes, of skillful inception on our part and swift recovery by the enemy, of valor shared by both."The Italian theater, writes Clark (War Studies/Royal Military Academy Sandhurst), has long fallen in the shadows of Overlord and what the British call the North West European Campaign, to the extent that most moderns cannot name a single battle-except, perhaps, Anzio, an effort to land Allied troops and secure central Italy. As Gen. Mark Clark boasted, his VI Corps would thus be "the first army in fifteen centuries to seize Rome from the south." His ambitions were realized, but only after a long winter's fighting along a "mere sixteen miles of front" into which more than 300,000 men were crowded, with the Germans and Allies roughly equivalent in number. But the Germans were, Clark demonstrates, for the most part better led; the American frontline commander, John Lucas, was singularly ineffective. He recognized his own disinclination to bold action, but only when Lucian Truscott replaced him did the Allied forces break through a tightly coordinated, bitterly held German defensive line. For all the strategic and tactical planning in the world, battles are a collection of odd moments, and Clark ably recounts several memorable ones: Hitler calmly receiving the news that Kesselring's armies were being thrown back; an American parachutist complaining that the Luftwaffe-targeted rear was less safe than the front, "where we had to endure only machine guns, machine pistols, rifle, mortar, small antitank gun, 75, 105, 88, and occasional 150 and 170 mm fire"; and Churchill complaining of the wholeenterprise, "I thought we should fling a wild-cat ashore and all we got was an old stranded whale on the beach," among many others. Clark does much to disprove the Italian campaign's reputation as a sideshow. Highly readable, and of much interest to students of WWII history.