The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 [NOOK Book]

Overview


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER In the second volume of his epic trilogy about the liberation of Europe in World War II, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson tells the harrowing story of the campaigns in Sicily and Italy In An Army at Dawn—winner of the Pulitzer Prize—Rick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of Battle, he follows the strengthening American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943 and then, mile by bloody ...
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The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

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Overview


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER In the second volume of his epic trilogy about the liberation of Europe in World War II, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson tells the harrowing story of the campaigns in Sicily and Italy In An Army at Dawn—winner of the Pulitzer Prize—Rick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of Battle, he follows the strengthening American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943 and then, mile by bloody mile, fight their way north toward Rome.
The Italian campaign’s outcome was never certain; in fact, Roosevelt, Churchill, and their military advisers engaged in heated debate about whether an invasion of the so-called soft underbelly of Europe was even a good idea. But once under way, the commitment to liberate Italy from the Nazis never wavered, despite the agonizingly high price. The battles at Salerno, Anzio, and Monte Cassino were particularly difficult and lethal, yet as the months passed, the Allied forces continued to drive the Germans up the Italian peninsula. Led by Lieutenant General Mark Clark, one of the war’s most complex and controversial commanders, American officers and soldiers became increasingly determined and proficient. And with the liberation of Rome in June 1944, ultimate victory at last began to seem inevitable.
Drawing on a wide array of primary source material, written with great drama and flair, this is narrative history of the first rank. With The Day of Battle, Atkinson has once again given us the definitive account of one of history’s most compelling military campaigns.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Rick Atkinson won the Pulitzer Prize for the first volume in his masterful Liberation Trilogy, An Army at Dawn. With this follow-up, he confirms his place as one of our best popular historians as he travels across the Mediterranean to reveal how the invasion of Sicily and Italy played a decisive role in breaking Germany's power. Atkinson's fresh insight and perceptive analysis about the on-the-ground fighting and grand strategizing make this a standout read. But what really distinguishes this riveting history is Atkinson's prose and a sense for drama that puts us right in the center of the action. In year with many outstanding works, this one stands at the top of the list.
Robert Killebrew
With this book, Rick Atkinson cements his place among America's great popular historians, in the tradition of Bruce Catton and Stephen Ambrose. Though The Day of Battle's tone is appropriately somber—the story of civilian deaths in Italy from allied bombing and German executions is especially sickening—its underlying theme is optimistic, even triumphal. Atkinson skillfully conveys the growing power of the U.S. Army, pouring men and materiel forward in an inexhaustible stream and, at the front, the toughening of American troops as they advance and beat hell out of an expert and implacable enemy. This is gritty history…a fitting testament to the GIs of the Fifth Army and the Italian campaign.
—The Washington Post
William Grimes
In The Day of Battle, Rick Atkinson picks up where he left off in An Army at Dawn, his history of the North African campaign, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. A planned third volume, on the Normandy invasion and the war in Europe, will complete "The Liberation Trilogy," which is shaping up as a triumph of narrative history, elegantly written, thick with unforgettable description and rooted in the sights and sounds of battle…Mr. Atkinson, a longtime correspondent and editor for The Washington Post, conveys all of this with sharp-edged immediacy and a keen eye for the monstrous and the absurd.
—The New York Times
James Holland
Rick Atkinson proved what a determined and assiduous researcher could achieve in An Army at Dawn, his best-selling account of the North Africa campaign, and he has been no less thorough in The Day of Battle, the second part of a projected "liberation" trilogy. But while there is new material here—like information about the deaths of Allied servicemen from American mustard gas at Bari—it is his ability to ferret out astonishing amounts of detail and marshal it into a highly readable whole that gives Atkinson the edge over most writers in this field. Anyone who devoured An Army at Dawn with relish will be delighted with his account of the Sicilian and Italian campaign. All the same ingredients are here, from sharp one-liners…to brilliantly observed character portraits.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

Atkinson surpasses his Pulitzer-winning An Army at Dawnin this empathetic, perceptive analysis of the second stage in the U.S. Army's grassroots development from well-intentioned amateurs to the most formidable fighting force of World War II. The battles in Sicily and Italy developed the combat effectiveness and the emotional hardness of a U.S. Army increasingly constrained to bear the brunt of the Western allies' war effort, he argues. Demanding terrain, harsh climate and a formidable opponent confirmed the lesson of North Africa: the only way home was through the Germans: kill or be killed. Atkinson is pitilessly accurate demonstrating the errors and misjudgments of senior officers, Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander, Gen. Mark Clark and their subordinates commanding corps and divisions. The price was paid in blood by the men at the sharp end: British and French, Indians and North Africans-above all, Americans. All that remained of the crew of one burned-out tank were the fillings of their teeth, for one example. The Mediterranean campaign is frequently dismissed by soldiers and scholars as a distraction from the essential objective of invading northern Europe. Atkinson makes a convincing case that it played a decisive role in breaking German power, forcing the Wehrmacht onto a defensive it could never abandon. (Oct. 2)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

The second volume of this former Washington Posteditor's "Liberation" trilogy, which began with the Pulitzer Prize-winning An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, this is probably the most eagerly awaited World War II book of the year. Atkinson's clear prose, perceptive analysis, and grasp of the personalities and nuances of the campaigns make his book an essential purchase. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/1/07.]


—Edwin B. Burgess
Kirkus Reviews
The liberation of Europe marches on in the second volume of Atkinson's sterling Liberation Trilogy-though readers may sometimes wonder how the Allies ever won. After the German defeat in North Africa, writes Atkinson (In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat in Iraq, 2004, etc.), the U.S. military and political leadership pressed to take the war to northwestern Europe. FDR pointedly said that he shrank from "the thought of putting large armies in Italy," a country that was historically hard to attack and historically easy to defend. American commander George Marshall added that invading Italy would open a prolonged battle in the Mediterranean that would tie down men and equipment needed elsewhere; he proposed an air offensive instead. Yet the British were successful in arguing for an Italian front and "making the elimination of Italy from the Axis partnership an immediate goal," even if the Americans did pledge not to reinforce the front and extracted a due-by date from the British for the invasion of France. How the British succeeded is a tale in itself, one that Atkinson relates with due suspense. How the Anglo-American rivalry played out in the field will be familiar to anyone who knows the film Patton, but Atkinson rounds the story out with a close look at the field tactics of Lucian Truscott's infantry, who "covered thirty miles or more a day in blistering heat," and of George Patton's armor. The costs of advancing through "Jerryland" were appalling, and they forced changes in the order of battle-speeding racial integration in the American military, for instance-while occasioning unheard-of rates of desertion and dereliction: Atkinson observes that the U.S. Army "wouldconvict 21,000 deserters during World War II, many of them in the Mediterranean." Yet, despite rivalry, a fierce German resistance and other obstacles, the Allies eventually prevailed in Italy-even if the Italians, one soldier recalled, kept asking, "Why did it take you so long?"Literate, lucid, fast-paced history-an excellent survey of the Mediterranean campaign.
From the Publisher
"Majestic... Atkinson’s achievement is to marry prodigious research with a superbly organized narrative and then to overlay the whole with writing as powerful and elegant as any great narrative of war.” —The Wall Street Journal

"A triumph of narrative history, elegantly written, thick with unforgettable description and rooted in the sights and sounds of battle."—The New York Times

"In The Day of Battle, Rick Atkinson picks up where he left off in An Army at Dawn, his history of the North African campaign, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. A planned third volume, on the Normandy invasion and the war in Europe, will complete The Liberation Trilogy, which is shaping up as a triumph of narrative history, elegantly written, thick with unforgettable description and rooted in the sights and sounds of battle . . . He excels at describing the furor of battle, and the Italian campaign provides him with abundant raw material. . . Mr. Atkinson, a longtime correspondent and editor for The Washington Post, conveys all of this with sharp-edged immediacy and a keen eye for the monstrous and the absurd."—William Grimes, The New York Times  

“Monumental … With this book, Rick Atkinson cements his place among America’s great popular historians, in the tradition of Bruce Catton and Stephen Ambrose.”The Washington Post

“A very fine book …. Anyone who devoured An Army at Dawn with relish will be delighted with Atkinson’s account of the Sicilian and Italian campaign.”—The New York Times Book Review

“[A] fascinating account of the war in Sicily and Italy.”—USA Today

“Gripping …. [Atkinson] combines an impressive depth of research with a knack for taut, compelling narrative.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

“Splendid … the infantrymen who did the fighting will grab at readers’ hearts.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“With The Day of Battle, Atkinson again proves himself to stand among the ranks of our most talented popular historians … Required reading for anyone with an interest in the battles of World War II.”—Austin American-Statesman

“A seamless, stunning narrative that is the equal of An Army at Dawn …. Atkinson’s success lies in his ability to render bare war’s wretched realities in astounding prose.”—Contra Costa Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429920100
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/2/2007
  • Series: Liberation Trilogy , #2
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 816
  • Sales rank: 16,734
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author


Rick Atkinson, recipient of the 2010 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, is the bestselling author of An Army at Dawn, The Long Gray Line, and In the Company of Soldiers. He was a staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post for twenty years, and his many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1

The sun beat down on the stained white city, the July sun that hurt the eyes and turned the sea from wine-dark to silver. Soldiers crowded the shade beneath the vendors’ awnings and hugged the lee of the alabaster buildings spilling down to the port. Sweat darkened their collars and cuffs, particularly those of the combat troops wearing heavy herringbone twill. Some had stripped off their neckties, but kept them folded and tucked in their belts for quick retrieval. The commanding general had been spotted along the wharves, and every man knew that George S. Patton, Jr., would levy a $25 fine on any GI not wearing his helmet or tie.

Algiers seethed with soldiers after eight months of Allied occupation: Yanks and Brits, Kiwis and Gurkhas, swabs and tars and merchant mariners who at night walked with their pistols drawn against the bandits infesting the port. Troops swaggered down the boulevards and through the souks, whistling at girls on the balconies or pawing through shop displays in search of a few final souvenirs. Sailors in denim shirts and white caps mingled with French Senegalese in red fezzes, and bearded goums with their braided pigtails and striped burnooses. German prisoners sang “Erika” as they marched in column under guard to the Liberty ships that would haul them to camps in the New World. British veterans in battle dress answered with a ribald ditty called “El Alamein”—“Tally-ho, tally-ho, and that was as far as the bastards did go”—while the Americans belted out “Dirty Gertie from Bizerte,” which was said to have grown to two hundred verses, all of them salacious. “Sand in your shoes,” they called to one another—the North African equivalent of “Good luck”—and with knowing looks they flashed their index fingers to signal “I,” for “invasion.”

Electric streetcars clattered past horsedrawn wine wagons, to be passed in turn by whizzing jeeps. Speeding by Army drivers had become so widespread that military policemen now impounded offenders’ vehicles—although General Eisenhower had issued a blanket amnesty for staff cars “bearing the insignia of a general officer.” Most Algerians walked or resorted to bicycles, pushcarts, and, one witness recorded, “every conceivable variety of buggy, phaeton, carryall, cart, sulky, and landau.” Young Frenchmen strolled the avenues in their narrow-brimmed hats and frayed jackets. Arab boys scampered through the alleys in pantaloons made from stolen barracks bags, with two holes cut for their legs and the stenciled name and serial number of the former owner across the rump. Tatterdemalion beggars in veils wore robes tailored from old Army mattress covers, which also served as winding-sheets for the dead. The only women in Algiers wearing stockings were the hookers at the Hotel Aletti bar, reputed to be the richest wage-earners in the city despite the ban on prostitution issued by military authorities in May.

Above it all, at high noon on July 4, 1943, on the Rue Michelet in the city’s most fashionable neighborhood, a French military band tooted its way through the unfamiliar strains of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Behind the woodwinds and the tubas rose the lime-washed Moorish arches and crenellated tile roof of the Hôtel St. Georges, headquarters for Allied forces in North Africa. Palm fronds stirred in the courtyard, and the scent of bougainvillea carried on the light breeze.

Vice Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt held his salute as the anthem dragged to a ragged finish. Eisenhower, also frozen in salute on Hewitt’s right, had discouraged all national celebrations as a distraction from the momentous work at hand, but the British had insisted on honoring their American cousins with a short ceremony. The last strains faded and the gunfire began. Across the flat roofs of the lower city and the magnificent crescent of Algiers Bay, Hewitt saw a gray puff rise from H.M.S. Maidstone, then heard the first report. Puff followed puff, boom followed boom, echoing against the hills, as the Maidstone fired seaward across the breakwater.

Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one. Hewitt lowered his salute, but the bombardment continued, and from the corner of his eye the admiral could see Eisenhower with his right hand still glued to his peaked khaki cap. Unlike the U.S. Navy, with its maximum twenty-one-gun tribute, the Army on Independence Day fired forty-eight guns, one for each state, a protocol now observed by Maidstone’s crew. Hewitt resumed his salute until the shooting stopped, and made note of yet another difference between the sister services.

With the ceremony at an end, Hewitt hurried through the courtyard and across the lobby’s mosaic floor to his office, down the corridor from Eisenhower’s corner suite. Every nook of the St. Georges was jammed with staff officers and communications equipment. Eight months earlier, on the eve of the invasion of North Africa, Allied plans had called for a maximum of seven hundred officers to man the Allied Forces Headquarters, or AFHQ, a number then decried by one commander as “two or three times too many.” Now the figure approached four thousand, including nearly two hundred colonels and generals; brigades of aides, clerks, cooks, and assorted horse-holders brought the AFHQ total to twelve thousand. The military messages pouring in and out of Algiers via seven undersea cables were equivalent to two-thirds of the total War Department communications traffic. No message was more momentous than the secret order issued this morning: “Carry out Operation husky.”

Hewitt had never been busier, not even before Operation torch, the assault on North Africa. Then he had commanded the naval task force ferrying Patton’s thirty thousand troops from Virginia to Morocco, a feat of such extraordinary success—not a man had been lost in the hazardous crossing—that Hewitt received his third star and command of the U.S. Navy’s Eighth Fleet in the Mediterranean. After four months at home, he had arrived in Algiers on March 15, and every waking moment since had been devoted to scheming how to again deposit Patton and his legions onto a hostile shore.

He was a fighting admiral who did not look the part, notwithstanding the Navy Cross on his summer whites, awarded for heroism as a destroyer captain in World War I. Sea duty made Hewitt plump, or plumper, and in Algiers he tried to stay fit by riding at dawn with native spahi cavalrymen, whose equestrian lineage dated to the fourteenth-century Ottomans. Despite these efforts, his frame remained, as one observer acknowledged, “well-upholstered.” At the age of fifty-six, the former altar boy and bell ringer from Hackensack, New Jersey, was still proud of his ability to ring out “Softly Now the Light of Day.” He loved double acrostic puzzles and his Keuffel & Esser Log Log Trig slide rule, a device that had been developed at the Naval Academy in the 1930s when he chaired the mathematics department there. His virtues, inconspicuous only to the inattentive, included a keen memory, a willingness to make decisions, and the ability to get along with George Patton. The Saturday Evening Post described Hewitt as “the kind of man who keeps a dog but does his barking himself”; in fact, he rarely even growled. He was measured and reserved, a good if inelegant conversationalist, and a bit pompous. He liked parties, and in Algiers he organized a Navy dance combo called the Scuttlebutt Five. He also had established a soup kitchen for the poor with leavings from Navy galleys; he ate the first bowl himself. Two other attributes served his country well: he was lucky, and he had an exceptional sense of direction, which on a ship’s bridge translated into a gift for navigation. Kent Hewitt always knew where he was.

He called for his staff car—among those privileged vehicles exempt from impoundment—and drove from the St. Georges through the twisting alleyways leading to the port. At every pier around the grand crescent of the bay, ships were moored two and three deep: freighters and frigates, tankers and transports, minesweepers and landing craft. Others rode at anchor beyond the harbor’s submarine nets, protected by patrol planes and destroyers tacking along the coastline. The U.S. Navy had thirty-three camouflage combinations, from “painted false bow wave” to “graded system with splotches,” and most seemed to be represented in the vivid Algiers anchorage. Stevedores swarmed across the decks; booms swung from dock to hold and back to dock again; gantry cranes hoisted pallet after pallet from the wharves onto the vessels. Precautions against fire were in force on every ship: wooden chairs, drapes, excess movie film, even bulkhead pictures had been removed; rags and blankets were ashore or well stowed; sailors—who upon departure would don long-sleeved undershirts as protection against flash burns—had chipped away all interior paint and stripped the linoleum from every mess deck.

Hewitt’s flagship, the attack transport U.S.S. Monrovia, lay moored on the port side of berth 39, on the Mole de Passageurs in the harbor’s Basin de Vieux. Scores of military policemen had boarded for added security, making her desperately overcrowded. Ten to twenty officers packed each cabin on many ships, with enlisted bunks stacked four high, and Monrovia was more jammed than most. With Hewitt’s staff, Patton’s staff, and her own crew, she now carried fourteen hundred men, more than double her normal company. She would also carry, in some of those cargo nets being manhandled into the hold, 200,000 rounds of high-explosive ammunition and 134 tons of gasoline.

The admiral climbed from his car and strode up the gangplank, greeted with a bosun’s piping and a flurry of salutes. Monrovia’s passageways seemed dim and cheerless after the brilliant African light. In the crowded operations room below, staff officers pored over “Naval Operations Order husky,” a tome four inches thick. Twenty typists had needed seven full days to bang out the final draft, of which eight hundred copies were distributed to commanders across North Africa as a blueprint for the coming campaign.

Hewitt could remember his father, a burly mechanical engineer, chinning himself with a hundred-pound dumbbell balanced across his feet. Sometimes the husky ops order felt like that dumbbell. Nothing was simple about the operation except the basic concept: in six days, on July 10, two armies—one American and one British—would land on the southeast coast of Sicily, reclaiming for the Allied cause the first significant acreage in Europe since the war began. An estimated 300,000 Axis troops defended the island, including a pair of capable German divisions, and many others lurked nearby on the Italian mainland.

More than three thousand Allied ships and boats, large and small, were gathering for the invasion from one end of the Mediterranean to the other—“the most gigantic fleet in the world’s history,” as Hewitt observed. About half would sail under his command from six ports in Algeria and Tunisia; the rest would sail with the British from Libya and Egypt, but for a Canadian division coming directly from Britain. Patton’s Seventh Army would land eighty thousand troops in the assault; the British Eighth Army would land about the same, with more legions subsequently reinforcing both armies.

Under the elaborate nautical choreography required, several convoys had already begun steaming: the vast expedition would rendezvous at sea, near Malta, on July 9. A preliminary effort to capture the tiny fortified island of Pantelleria, sixty miles southwest of Sicily, had succeeded admirably: after a relentless three-week air bombardment, the stupefied garrison of eleven thousand Italian troops had surrendered on June 11, giving the Allies both a good airfield and the illusion that even the stoutest defenses could be reduced from the air.

A map of the Mediterranean stretched across a bulkhead in the operations room. Hewitt had become the U.S. Navy’s foremost amphibious expert, with one invasion behind him and another under way; three more were to come before war’s end. One inviolable rule in assaults from the open sea, he already recognized, was that the forces to be landed always exceeded the means to transport them, even with an armada as enormous as this one. From hard experience he also knew that two variables remained outside his control: the strength of the enemy defending the hostile shore and the caprice of the sea itself.

In husky, not only did he have three times more soldiers to put ashore than in Operation torch, he also commanded a flotilla of vessels seeing combat for the first time: nine new variations of landing craft and five new types of landing ship, including the promising LST, an abbreviation for “landing ship, tank,” but which sailors insisted meant “large slow target.” Some captains and crews had never been to sea before, and little was known about the seaworthiness of the new vessels, or how best to beach them, or what draught they would draw under various loads, or even how many troops and vehicles could be packed inside.

Much had been learned from the ragged, chaotic preparations for torch. Much had also been forgotten, or misapplied, or misplaced. The turmoil in North Africa in recent weeks seemed hardly less convulsive than that at Hampton Roads eight months earlier. Seven different directives on how to label overseas cargo had been issued the previous year; the resulting confusion led to formation of the inevitable committee, which led to another directive called the Schenectady Plan, which led to color-coded labels lacquered onto shipping containers, which led to more confusion. Five weeks after issuing a secret alert called Preparations for Movement by Water, the Army discovered that units crucial to husky had never received the order and thus had no plans for loading their troops, vehicles, and weapons onto the convoys. Seventh Army’s initial load plans also neglected to make room for the Army Air Forces, whose kit equaled a third of the Army’s total tonnage requirements. Every unit pleaded for more space; every unit claimed priority; every unit lamented the Navy’s insensitivity.

Despite the risk of German air raids, port lights burned all night as vexed loadmasters received still more manifest changes that required unloading another freighter or repacking another LST. Transportation officers wrestled with small oversights—the Navy had shipped bread ovens but no bread pans—and big blunders, as when ordnance officers mistakenly sent poisonous mustard gas to the Mediterranean. By the time Patton’s staff recognized that particular gaffe, on June 8, gas shells had been shipped with other artillery munitions; they now lay somewhere—no one knew precisely where—in the holds of one or more ships bound for Sicily.

Secrecy was paramount. Hewitt doubted that three thousand vessels could sneak up on Sicily, but husky’s success relied on surprise. All documents that disclosed the invasion destination were stamped with the classified code word bigot, and sentries at the husky planning headquarters in Algiers determined whether visitors held appropriate security clearances by asking if they were “bigoted.” (“I was frequently partisan,” one puzzled naval officer replied, “but had never considered my mind closed.”)

Soldiers and sailors, as usual, remained in the dark and subject to severe restrictions on their letters home. A satire of censorship regulations read to one ship’s crew included rule number 4—“You cannot say where you were, where you are going, what you have been doing, or what you expect to do”—and rule number 8—“You cannot, you must not, be interesting.” The men could, under rule number 2, “say you have been born, if you don’t say where or why.” And rule number 9 advised: “You can mention the fact that you would not mind seeing a girl.”

One airman tried to comply with the restrictions by writing, “Three days ago we were at X. Now we are at Y.” But the prevailing sentiment was best captured by a soldier who told his diary, “We know we are headed for trouble.”

More than half a million American troops now occupied North Africa. They composed only a fraction of all those wearing U.S. uniforms worldwide, yet in identity and creed they were emblematic of that larger force. One Navy lieutenant listed the civilian occupations of the fifteen hundred soldiers and sailors on his Sicily-bound ship: “farm boys and college graduates . . . lawyers, brewery distributors, millworkers, tool designers, upholsterers, steel workers, aircraft mechanics, foresters, journalists, sheriffs, cooks and glass workers.” One man even cited “horse mill fixer” as his trade.

Fewer than one in five were combat veterans from the four U.S. divisions that had fought extensively in Tunisia: the 1st, 9th, and 34th Infantry Divisions, and the 1st Armored Division, each of which was earmarked for Sicily or, later, for mainland Italy. “The front-line soldier I knew,” wrote the correspondent Ernie Pyle, who trudged with them across Tunisia, “had lived for months like an animal, and was a veteran in the fierce world of death. Everything was abnormal and unstable in his life.”

In the seven weeks since the Tunisian finale, those combat troops had tried to recuperate while preparing for another campaign. “The question of discipline has been very difficult,” the 1st Armored Division commander warned George Marshall. “There is a certain lawlessness . . . and a certain amount of disregard for consequences when men are about to go back.” In the 34th Division, “the men did not look well and seemed indifferent,” a visiting major general noted on June 15. Among other indignities, a thousand men had no underwear and five thousand others had but a single pair. “They felt very sorry for themselves,” he added. Thirteen hundred soldiers from the 34th had just been transferred to units headed straight for Sicily, leading to “incidents of self-maiming and desertion.” A captain in the 1st Division wrote home, “Too much self-commiseration, that is something we all must guard against.”

Even among the combat veterans, few considered themselves professional soldiers either by training or by temperament. Samuel Hynes, a fighter pilot who later became a university professor, described the prevalent “civilianness, the sense of the soldiering self as a kind of impostor.” They were young, of course—twenty-six, on average—and they shared a sense that “our youth had at last reached the place to spend itself,” in the words of a bomber pilot, John Muirhead.

They had been shoveled up in what Hynes called “our most democratic war, the only American war in which a universal draft really worked, [and] men from every social class went to fight.” Even the country’s most elite tabernacles had been dumped into a single egalitarian pot, the U.S. Army: of the 683 graduates from the Princeton University class of 1942, 84 percent were in uniform, and those serving as enlisted men included the valedictorian and salutatorian. Twenty-five classmates would die during the war, including nineteen killed in combat. “Everything in this world had stopped except war,” Pyle wrote, “and we were all men of a new profession out in a strange night.”

And what did they believe, these soldiers of the strange night? “Many men do not have a clear understanding of what they are fighting for,” a morale survey concluded in the summer of 1943, “and they do not know their role in the war.” Another survey showed that more than one-third had never heard of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, and barely one in ten soldiers could name all four. In a secret letter to his commanders that July, Eisenhower lamented that “less than half the enlisted personnel questioned believed that they were more useful to the nation as soldiers than they would have been as war workers,” and less than one-third felt “ready and anxious to get into the fighting.” The winning entry in a “Why I’m Fighting” essay contest declared, in its entirety: “I was drafted.”

Their pervasive “civilianness” made them wary of martial zeal. “We were not romantics filled with cape-and-sword twaddle,” wrote John Mason Brown, a Navy Reserve lieutenant headed to Sicily. “The last war was too near for that.” Military life inflamed their ironic sensibilities and their skepticism. A single crude acronym that captured the soldier’s lowered expectations—SNAFU, for “situation normal, all fucked up”—had expanded into a vocabulary of GI cynicism: SUSFU (situation unchanged, still fucked up); SAFU (self-adjusting fuck-up); TARFU (things are really fucked up); FUMTU (fucked up more than usual); JANFU (joint Army-Navy fuck-up); JAAFU (joint Anglo-American fuck-up); FUAFUP (fucked up and fucked up proper); and FUBAR (fucked up beyond all recognition).

Yet they held personal convictions that were practical and profound. “We were prepared to make all sacrifices. There was nothing else for us to do,” Lieutenant Brown explained. “The leaving of our families was part of our loving them.” The combat artist George Biddle observed, “They want to win the war so they can get home, home, home, and never leave it.” A soldier in the 88th Division added, “We have got to lick those bastards in order to get out of the Army.”

The same surveys that worried Eisenhower revealed that the vast majority of troops held at least an inchoate belief that they were fighting to “guarantee democratic liberties to all peoples.” A reporter sailing to Sicily with the 45th Division concluded, “Many of the men on this ship believe that the operation will determine whether this war will end in a stalemate or whether it will be fought to a clear-cut decision.” And no one doubted that come the day of battle, they would fight to the death for the greatest cause: one another. “We did it because we could not bear the shame of being less than the man beside us,” John Muirhead wrote. “We fought because he fought; we died because he died.”

A later age would conflate them into a single, featureless demigod, possessed of mythical courage and fortitude, and animated by a determination to rebalance a wobbling world. Keith Douglas, a British officer who had fought in North Africa and would die at Normandy, described “a gentle obsolescent breed of heroes. . . . Unicorns, almost.” Yet it does them no disservice to recall their profound diversity in provenance and in character, or their feet of clay, or the mortality that would make them compelling long after their passing.

Captain George H. Revelle, Jr., of the 3rd Infantry Division, in a letter to his wife written while bound for Sicily, acknowledged “the chiselers, slackers, people who believe we are suckers for the munitions makers, and all the intellectual hodgepodge looking at war cynically.” In some measure, he wrote on July 7, he was “fighting for their right to be hypocrites.”

But there was also a broader reason, suffused with a melancholy nobility. “We little people,” Revelle told her, “must solve these catastrophes by mutual slaughter, and force the world back to reason.”


Copyright © 2007 by Rick Atkinson. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents


List of Maps xvi Map Legend xvii Allied Chain of Command xviii Prologue 1 Part 1
1 Across the Middle Sea 29 Forcing the World Back to Reason 29 Calypso's Island 46
"The Horses of the Sun" 58 Death or Glory 68
2 The Burning Shore 75 Land of the Cyclops 75 The Loss of Irrecoverable Hours 91
"Tonight Wear White Pajamas" 105
"The Dark World Is Not Far from Us" 112
3 An Island Redoubt 123
"Into Battle with Stout Hearts" 123
"How I Love Wars" 129 Snaring the Head Devil 135 Fevers of an Unknown Origin 142 A Great Grief 149
"In a Place Like This" 161 Part 2
4 Salerno 179
"Risks Must Be Calculated" 179 Plots, Counterplots, and Cross-plots 187 The Stillest Shoes the World Could Boast 197 The Moan of Lost Souls 216 A Portal Won 227
5 Corpse of the Siren 239
"I Give You Naples" 239
"Watch Where You Step and Have No Curiosity at All" 249 The Mountainous Hinterland 256
"The Entire World Was Burning" 266
6 Winter 279 The Archangel Michael, Here and Everywhere 279
"A Tank Too Big for the Village Square" 293 A Gangster's Battle 297 Too Many Gone West 307 Part 3
7 A River and a Rock 321 Colonel Warden Makes a Plan 321
"Nothing Was Right Except the Courage" 328 The Show Must Go On 351
8 Perdition 359
"Something's Happening" 359 Through the Looking Glass 372 Jerryland 385
9 The Murder Space 398 This World and the Next World at Strife 398 The Bitchhead 412
"Man Is Distinguished from the Beasts" 432 Part 4
10 Four Horsemen 445 A Fairyland of Silver and Gold 445 The Weight of Metal 453 Dragonflies in the Sun 473
11 A Kettle of Grief 483 Dead Country 483
"Put the Fear of God into Them" 494
"You Are All Brave. You Are All Gentlemen"501
"On the Eve of Great Things" 509
12 The Great Prize 521 Shaking Stars from the Heavens 521 A Fifth Army Show 536 The Cuckoo's Song 555 Expulsion of the Barbarians 564 Epilogue 577 Notes 589 Selected Sources 731 Acknowledgments 763 Index 771
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 82 )
Rating Distribution

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(49)

4 Star

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(9)

2 Star

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(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 82 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2008

    Really Great Book

    My dad rarely spoke about his experiences with the 36th Division in Salerno and Anzio, so I bought this book hoping to gain some insight. Now I know why he tried to forget the horrors he witnessed. This is a most authentic account of the personalities involved in both running a war as well as the actual fighting.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Proud to State My Name, LoCicero (My father was wounded at Anzio)

    I certainly do not agree with Mr Anonymous below and his negative review of this book and its author. His bragging of being an expert in the subject just belies the ignorance in his words. The only experts in war are those that have served and those that have died in that service. I don't believe Mr Anonymous is either.

    Here we have the full panoply of bloody modern warfare, usually not
    glorious and often with much pathos. We are with the Allied troops as they land in Sicily, most by amphibious, some by air drop. The fighting is detailed in all its minutiae with the main command characters profiled and followed in their decisions and interpersonal communications. The author makes all this very interesting and places the characters within the socio-politico spheres of the time. From Sicily the next location the Allies strike toward is mainland Italy. The Brits move in one direction and the Americans another. Again command figures take center stage, lead among them General Mark Clark. What a fellow. This part of the book becomes enthralling. The slugfest and amount of human and physical destruction wrought by these two forces is unbelievable. All culminating in the seizure of Rome on June 5, 1944. This is one day before the Normandy landings and the final chapter in the destruction of the Third Reich. Hence the Italian campaign becomes postscript to the events leading up to Germany's surrender on May 8, 1945. We have lived with these men through the author's words and we know the sacrifices that they have made. This important part of the European theater of war during World War II should never be forgotten and must always be honored.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2008

    Passionate history disappoints in style and tone

    Authoritative and mountainous work on the 608 day campaign to liberate Italy during World War II, that would cost the Allies 312,000 casualities. The complex, controversial, bloody military campaign in Sicily and Italy is covered in Volume 2 of Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy with mixed results for this reader. Atkinson does a tremendous job with military tactics, units, jargon, and intimate portraits of the central participants in the tragic and savage fight for Italy, that would cost American troops 120,000 casualities including 23,501 killed. His writing style lacks clarity and focus, however, and often times I felt his shifting attention caused a disjointed effect. I was given a more concise, succinct, and clearer description of the Italian campaign in the 12 pages of my copy of the Time-Life History of WWII, with a forward by Eric Sevaried' who Atkinson quotes frequently in this book,than in the entire 588 page tome here by Atkinson. I am someone who was able to give a complete oral history of the events leading up to, through, and following WWII, by the time I was 10 years old, and as such, I consider myself an expert on the war. Having read every book imaginable on the WWII, this book's style and tone disturbed me. Atkinson tries too hard to be poetic in his writing, which causes a strained effect for the reader, and he writes a very unflattering portrait of the Allies, and often seems to admire the Germans which is strangely bizarre. It's great to present a warts and all portrayal of history from all vantage points, but Atkinson plays up Allied mistakes and atrocities, plays down the German ones, with the exception of the Rome massacre, and seems to be following an agenda of somehow equating the Germans and Allies on the same moral plain. As someone who knows the war so well, most of this book is old news to me and a re-hash of events I learned about in the 1970's, and Atkinson conveniently leaves out facts such as the secret negotiations for the surrender of Kesselring's German army that began after the fall of Rome, but were hamstrung by the protests of the Russians, and the last crushing attacks by the Allies that ended the war in April 1945. Atkinson loves to make dubious assertions of opinion, and drone on and on about Allied mistakes, faults, and tragedy, and then he'll write so many times 'but with all this the Allies were able to overcome the Germans', and then never describes how the Allies were able to obtain victory through these tough struggles. Historians like Atkinson are trying to foist a new history of the war onto young audiences unfamiliar with WWII. Those of us well-versed in the history of WWII will not allow this revisionist history of WWII to go unchallenged.

    5 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2013

    A good read about a very dirty part of WWII

    This second volume in the Atkinson "Trilogy" on WWI covers the war in Italy, especially the long slog to capture Monte Cassino. Atkinson is a good storyteller, and he moves the tale along with many human vignettes (mostly about leaders at the Corps level or above, and Ernie Pyle). But he also is good at describing the terrible human cost resulting from Churchill's last effort at asserting British "equality" in making strategic decisions -- and the terrible human cost that Americans (and British, too) paid in allowing Churchill to prevail. This volume (and series) is written for the reader who wants a "good read" and is little concerned about the evidence of the scholarship behind the written word. For that audience, it is another success, and whets the appetite for a third volume about the war in France & the drive to Berlin that ended the war

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    A great read.

    More in depth about this part of the war than most histories, so it fills some gaps in conventional accounts. Well written and balanced analysis.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 26, 2008

    The Daughter of a Texas Ranger-36th Division

    Texas Ranger Division 36 142 Company D Infantry Regiment I bought this book to learn more about his experience in the war from 1943-1945. Few stories had been told only brief comments like I lost a lot of friends! He had enlisted and was sent to Texas from NY state...I learned a lot and can better put the pieces together of his reference to the "hill" and so many people lost ,not having clothing for the weather ! This book might help others like me that are trying to fill in brief stories they had heard. I know it was a help to me.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2008

    Jon, son of 34th Inf Div officer

    I had to drag stories out of my father about the Italian campaign, including this one: as the 34th prepared their third crossing of the Rapido, one of my fathers officers said: 'Captain, I can't live through another crossing. Somebody shoot me a little so I can go the hospital.' My father was cleaning a captured Walther PP pistol. Playfully, my father pointed the gun at the guy and gently touched the trigger. There was bullet left in the chamber and it took off the guys left pinky finger. He missed the crossing, but indeed did die in the next battle. My father led his company across the river, and afterward checked himself into the field hospital for psychiatric care.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    The Forgotten Front - Italy in WWII

    Long forgotten as a major front in WWII, except for Anzio, few know of the horrific battles fought in 1943-1944 in Italy. Mr. Anderson continues his outstanding scholarship and writing to brign home the details and actions from the landings in Sicily through the liberation of Rome. He is very balanced in his writing, detailing the strenghths and weaknesses of a full cast of commanders who, on both sides, had to deal with subordinates and political concerns as well as outright hostility among allies. What sets this work apart is how he has been able to relate the various actions to the overall campaign and how each influenced the other.
    This is a must reading for any WWII reader and should be essential for any collection.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Awesome

    Rick Atkinson has done it again. This superb book provides an absorbing and very readable history of the American campaign in Italy during World War II. The pages and pages of citations in the back of the book are a testament to the research effort that he puts into his works. But instead of flooding us with detail, he selects items that provide a cross-section -- observations from Private to General -- that help the reader get a feel for and understand what was going on at that moment. <BR/><BR/>While there were many extraordinary Soldiers revealed in this work, the story of the US Army in Italy was also the story of LTG Mark Clark, the Fifth US Army Commander. Atkinson provies a very balanced view of his generalship because as it turns out, Clark is a leader that could easily be despised. While there is no doubt that the Fifth Army was successful, would there have been so many casualties without Clark's hubris? It is almost overwhelming at times to consider the losses that were suffered at the Rapido River and Cassinio.<BR/><BR/>I look forward to the final volume in Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2008

    The Whole Bloody Campaign

    Atkinson is a great chronicler of the Italian Campign. Too often a war history is reported in a victory or defeat attitude and not the bloody crime it is. No one dies for their country, their lives were taken from them. Great job Rick.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2014

    History rewrite

    With the way this book portrays the events between the invasion of Sicily to marching into Rome, it's easy to understand why the Greatest Generation didn't want to talk about their service. With thirty years of USAF time myself, retiring as a Colonel, I have to cringe at the poor decisions, pissing contests, communications issues, irresponsible personal behavior, and bumbling that Atkinson portrays as the Allied effort to defeat Nazi Germany. If we look at it with today's eyes, with over a 90% survival rate of our wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, the collaboration and unity of command necessary to prosecute a conflict, WWII is grim. If we look at it with trench warfare eyes, then progress was made. I did not give it five stars despite the fact that it is a captivating read because the author spent a lot of time focusing on all the bumbleheaded decisions that portray the entire conflict in a less than favorable light with today's eyes. In my view, Atkinson's portrayal is 180 degrees from Brokaw's Greatest Generation, even though the outcome is the same. It is an overall well researched and documented read, with copious first hand diary perspectives, and I will get the last in the trilogy, but to me it's a history rewrite.

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  • Posted June 14, 2014

    Backdoor Moved Front: The Italian campaign

    My father served in the Army Air Force in WWII flying over France and Germany, and I heard some first hand history about that theater of the War as a child. War Movies like The Longest Day and , later Saving Private Ryan,re-enforce D-Day and the following months as what saved us from the Nazi hoard.This book by Rick Atkinson puts some background to what was possible in France and Germany by bringing out details of lessons learned the hard way to the Sicily and Italian campaigns which preceded the Normandy invasion.Clearly this campaign has not received the attention of the other,Chances are that without the front in Italy, and earlier North Africa there would have been no success possible in France. Day of Battle filled in some of my knowledge gaps in an easily readable and enjoyable manner. About to start the 3rd book in the trilogy so I can better understand what happened in France and Germany.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2014

    Great

    Read it !

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  • Posted November 15, 2013

    high recommend

    Turning on to history, so really dig reading this book.......read his first north Africa book and will move on to the Normandy invasion...............worth your time.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2013

    The epic battle

    Hi its Jack Frost and i think Reshiram is much better and to see my awesome story go to battleship craft last result.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2013

    The Epic Batle

    Which i better? Reshi or Zek? Post your answers here! Poll ends June 24th, at 6:00 p.m. central time.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013

    War War in italy

    Good

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2013

    The best book in the whole section

    Son of three marine sergents one given CMH

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    bit purple but good overview of yanks in italy

    bit purple but good overview of yanks in italy

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2012

    Narrative lost in the details

    When I finished the book I found myself disappointed. The book felt like thousands of notes and quotes strung together. The chronology was there, but the meaning of the Italian campaigns was lost in a torrent of somewhat gossipy details. I suggest "Anzio the Gamble that Failed by Martin Blumenson". It's a much shorter book which focuses on Anzio but which provides a better sense of the meaning of the Italian campaign in the overall Allied strategy. Besides Blumenson's book is available for free from B&N.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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