Backwater War

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A year before the much-heralded second front was opened at Normandy in 1944, the Allies waged a campaign in Sicily and Italy—an assault that was marked by argument and dissent from beginning to end, highlighting the fundamental differences in strategic thinking between the Americans and the British. Winston Churchill favored scrapping what would become the Normandy invasion entirely, focusing instead on the soft underbelly of Nazi Europe, but American planners summarily rejected any plan that relied solely on a southern option. This is the story of this backwater campaign, a series of battles skillfully staged by the Germans and so botched by the Allies that their victory was achieved only as a result of German exhaustion.

During the hard-fought campaign, the Americans persisted in their suspicion that the British were trying to undermine the effort. For example, the imbroglio over the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino and the ineptness of the British assault, led by a commander already discredited by his role in the fall of Crete, would spur the Americans to overreact and destroy the monastery by bombing. This created a major propaganda victory for the Germans. Such incidents convinced both Washington and London that they were working at cross-purposes. Hoyt contends that, as the British argued at the time, Allied efforts would have been better-spent concentrating on the Balkans. The Normandy campaign was expensive, unnecessary, and ultimately lengthened the war.

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Editorial Reviews

This military history, written for a general audience, explores the conflicts between the British and American high commands during World War II over the conduct of the war on the European southern front. Time, argues the author, has proven the British right in their failed efforts to broaden the southern effort and "nibble away" and Hitler's forces. The American insistence on attacking the German forces head on through the Normandy operation prolonged the wars in Europe and the Pacific, he suggests. The conflict is especially evident in the conduct of the war in Italy, with the two allies viewing each other's motivations with suspicion and hostility. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275974787
  • Publisher: ABC-Clio, LLC
  • Publication date: 6/30/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 546,148
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

EDWIN P. HOYT is an independent historian. He is the author of more than 150 books, mostly in the area of military history, including The Last Kamikaze (Praeger, 1993) and Hirohito (Praeger, 1992). Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Hoyt turned his attention to journalism after service in the Pacific theater during World War II. He has written for the Denver Post, Collier's Magazine, and American Heritage, as well as for CBS news.

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Table of Contents

1 The Anglo-American Military Alliance 1
2 The Allies Prepare 9
3 The Axis Defenses of Sicily 15
4 Invasion 19
5 The British Eighth Army's Drive 27
6 The U.S. Seventh Army's Drive 33
7 The Fall of Mussolini 37
8 Confusion 45
9 The Race for Messina 49
10 The Surrender of Italy and the Surprise That Wasn't 57
11 Unrest at Quadrant 67
12 Salerno 71
13 The Strategic Trap 81
14 A Series of Delaying Actions 87
15 The Advance Is Stopped 93
16 The Rapido River Fiasco 101
17 Crossing 111
18 Anzio 119
19 The Attack on Cassino 127
20 The Bombing of Monte Cassino 133
21 The Germans at Anzio 141
22 Spring Offensive 145
23 The End of the Gustav Line 151
24 Breakthrough 157
25 The Fall of Rome 163
26 North from Rome 167
27 Cracking the Gothic Line 173
28 The Center of the Line 181
29 Winter Doldrums 187
30 To the Bitter End 195
App. A Order of Battle as of July 10, 1943, D Day - Invasion of Sicily 201
App. B Order of Battle as of September 8, 1943, Salerno Landing 203
App. C Order of Battle as of January 22, 1944, Anzio Landing 205
Bibliography Essay 209
Notes 211
Index 213
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