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Eighth Army: The Triumphant Desert Army That Held the Axis at Bay from North Africa to the Alps, 1939-45

Overview

No other army in World War II marched so far or fought for so long. In the desperate days between June 1940 and October 1942 (when American forces arrived on the scene) Eighth Army, considered by many to be the most remarkable fighting force of World War II, was the only Western army left to face the growing Axis powers. They were a British force, comprised of some of the greatest fighting divisions from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada, France, and Greece, among others, and they represented, ...
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Overview

No other army in World War II marched so far or fought for so long. In the desperate days between June 1940 and October 1942 (when American forces arrived on the scene) Eighth Army, considered by many to be the most remarkable fighting force of World War II, was the only Western army left to face the growing Axis powers. They were a British force, comprised of some of the greatest fighting divisions from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada, France, and Greece, among others, and they represented, essentially, the Free World at war. Ultimately triumphant, the men of Eighth Army first had to surmount obsolete equipment and indifferent command, as well as the enemy -- not least among them the formidable and legendary Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of the German Afrika Korps. In Eighth Army acclaimed historian Robin Neillands masterfully relates the defeats and successes of these remarkable men. Using first-hand source material -- including personal accounts and interviews with veterans of Eighth Army -- Neillands digs deep into the details of the strategies, conflicts, controversies, and politically motivated decisions that plagued, stymied, and galvanized this fighting force. He captures the essence of what made this group of men so unique -- their humor, comradeship, courage, and, above all, their willingness to go on. The riveting narrative re-creates, in gripping detail, the battles fought at Sidi Rezegh, Alamein, Sicily, and Cassino. Eighth Army reverberates with the unstoppable spirit of the men whose strength and heart carried them on a 3,000 mile march to victory.
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Editorial Reviews

Alan L. Gropman
Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery was the Eighth's commander when it defeated Rommel, and he stayed with it through Sicily and into southern Italy. When Montgomery left the Eighth in late 1943 to take command of the ground forces for Operation Overlord, the press gave the Eighth much less coverage. Its record in Italy was just as valorous, persistent and worthy, but most histories of World War II give the Eighth's Italian campaigns relatively short shrift. Reading Robin Neilland's engaging book will fill in the gaps.
The Washington Post
Library Journal
Neillands (The Bomber War), a former British Royal Marine commando and widely published military historian, pays tribute to the valor of the British Eighth Army during World War II, tracing their grueling campaigns across the western deserts of North Africa through Sicily and up the long, rugged Italian peninsula to the Alps. Though badly bloodied by their highly resourceful and determined German opponents, this multinational and polyglot army became a well-honed fighting force that emerged victorious at places like Alamein, Cassino, and Ortona. Neillands integrates into his narrative extracts of soldiers' diaries and letters that provide eyewitness glimpses into the terrible nature of the fighting and the severe challenges posed by weather and terrain. The author's account of Eighth Army's desperate fighting and ultimate victory in North Africa is highly compelling, though the narrative bogs down slightly during the account of the slow Allied advance in Italy. Still, within the limits imposed by the scope of his subject, this single-volume work is highly satisfying. A nice complement to more detailed works, such as Dominick Graham and Shelford Bidwell's Tug of War: The Battle for Italy, 1943-45; recommended for all public libraries and military history collections.-Edward Metz, Combined Arms Research Lib., Ft. Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A spirited biography of one of the most storied units in British military history. The Eighth Army, writes military historian Neillands (The Bomber War, 2001, etc.), was huge: at the end of WWII, it encompassed "four corps totaling eight divisions, plus a number of infantry and armored brigades and the 2nd Commando Brigade-a total strength of over 600,000 men including reserves." It was also an extraordinarily cosmopolitan force, made up of Indians, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, British, South Africans, and Poles. During the war, Neillands writes, the Eighth was celebrated: it had, after all, broken Erwin Rommel's famed Afrika Korps at places such as El Alamein. But immediately afterward-the Eighth was disbanded in July 1945-it was all but forgotten, perhaps, he suggests, because its most famous commander, Bernard Law Montgomery, left it for a higher post at the end of 1943, and perhaps because the Italian campaigns in which the Eighth spent 1944 and '45 had become sideshows behind the better-known Allied landings in France and subsequent invasion of Germany. The Eighth achieved greatness against considerable odds, Neillands writes: during the Desert War it was poorly coordinated, badly equipped, and outgunned; as one officer recalls, "Our tanks were designed like sports cars, the German tanks like agricultural machines, which of course a tank is." Too, its first commander, relieved in 1942, seemed sometimes reluctant to seize the initiative, even though he performed brilliantly at El Alamein. The Eighth performed more brilliantly still under the egomaniacal but highly effective Montgomery, and just as well under the even more egomaniacal American army group commander MarkClark, earning high distinction in savage battles such as that for the strategically important heights of Monte Cassino. For WWII buffs, especially those wanting a rounded view of the Mediterranean Theater-a useful companion to Douglas Porch's Path to Victory (p. 121).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585676897
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Maps
Second world war army organization
Preface
1 The western desert force : 1940 1
2 Sidi Barrani and Beda Fomm : June 1940-February 1941 16
3 Tobruk : May-December 1941 37
4 Crusader : the battle for Sidi Rezegh, June-December 1941 64
5 Gazala : January-June 1942 91
6 First Alamein to Alam Halfa : July-August 1942 119
7 Alamein : October-November 1942 144
8 Alamein to Tripoli : October 1942-January 1943 173
9 Tripoli to Tunis : January-May 1943 190
10 Sicily : July-August 1943 208
11 Salerno to the Sangro : September-December 1943 236
12 Cassino : January-March 1944 260
13 Cassino and Rome : April-June 1944 283
14 To the Gothic line : June-November 1944 301
15 The long March ends : November 1944-May 1945 327
Notes 349
Bibliography 358
Acknowledgements 363
Index 367
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