BN.com Gift Guide

Monte Cassino: The Hardest-Fought Battle of World War II [NOOK Book]

Overview

Monte Cassino is the true story of one of the bitterest and bloodiest of the Allied struggles against the Nazi army. Long neglected by historians, the horrific conflict saw over 350,000 casualties, while the worst winter in Italian memory and official incompetence and backbiting only worsened the carnage and turmoil. Combining groundbreaking research in military archives with interviews with four hundred survivors from both sides, as well as soldier diaries and letters, Monte Cassino is both profoundly evocative ...
See more details below
Monte Cassino: The Hardest-Fought Battle of World War II

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$13.99
BN.com price

Overview

Monte Cassino is the true story of one of the bitterest and bloodiest of the Allied struggles against the Nazi army. Long neglected by historians, the horrific conflict saw over 350,000 casualties, while the worst winter in Italian memory and official incompetence and backbiting only worsened the carnage and turmoil. Combining groundbreaking research in military archives with interviews with four hundred survivors from both sides, as well as soldier diaries and letters, Monte Cassino is both profoundly evocative and historically definitive. Clearly and precisely, Matthew Parker brilliantly reconstructs Europe’s largest land battle–which saw the destruction of the ancient monastery of Monte Cassino–and dramatically conveys the heroism and misery of the human face of war.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan yardley
Those who have been persuaded by Tom Brokaw, Stephen Ambrose, Hollywood screenwriters and other facile popularizers to a romantic, sentimental view of World War II as the "good war" fought by "the greatest generation" are advised to spend a few hours with Matthew Parker's grim depiction of the six-month battle in 1943-44 to gain control of Monte Cassino in central Italy. It is, as Parker says, "an extraordinary story of ordinary soldiers tested to the limits under conditions more typical of the horrors of the First World War," a story of "incompetence, hubris and politics redeemed at dreadful cost by the bravery, sacrifice and humanity of the ordinary soldiers."
The Washington Post
Jonathan Yardley
Those who have been persuaded by Tom Brokaw, Stephen Ambrose, Hollywood screenwriters and other facile popularizers to a romantic, sentimental view of World War II as the "good war" fought by "the greatest generation" are advised to spend a few hours with Matthew Parker's grim depiction of the six-month battle in 1943-44 to gain control of Monte Cassino in central Italy. It is, as Parker says, "an extraordinary story of ordinary soldiers tested to the limits under conditions more typical of the horrors of the First World War," a story of "incompetence, hubris and politics redeemed at dreadful cost by the bravery, sacrifice and humanity of the ordinary soldiers."
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In the months before D-Day, the Italian campaign dragged on with huge casualties on both sides. Parker (The Battle of Britain) details, with the aid of hundreds of survivor interviews and war diaries, the Allied siege of the monastery at Monte Cassino, a mountainous fiefdom massively fortified by the German commander, Albert Kesselring. With command and ground-level detail that buffs will savor, Parker goes over what seems like every inch of the multinational force's campaign, which reduced the site (and its countless artifacts) to a ruin. (On sale June 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In winter 1944, Allied forces in Italy launched an offensive campaign against the Gustav Line. The strongest point in this chain of German fortifications was a promontory that hovered 1700 feet above the main road to Rome and was crowned by a Benedictine abbey. This was Monte Cassino. Here four bloody battles were fought involving American, British, New Zealand, French, and Polish troops against the tenacious troops of the German Tenth Army. Some of the bloodiest combat of World War II took place in this unmerciful terrain during one of the worst winters in Italian history. British writer Parker (Battle of Britain) captures the horrific nature of the combat. Like most historians of these battles, he is very critical of Allied leadership for deciding to strike at the strongest point in the German defenses. His sympathies are with the grunts from both sides, and through the use of diaries, memoirs, and oral accounts from participants he evokes the incredible ordeal of the Cassino battles and largely vindicates the title of his book. An outstanding example of military history, Parker's study is of the same caliber as John Ellis's masterpiece, Cassino: The Hollow Victory, and should be in every World War II collection. Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A careful reconstruction of the Allied campaign, throughout the winter of 1943-44, to break the Nazi hold on southern Italy. Veterans of Okinawa and Stalingrad may not endorse the subtitle, but the campaign to take the hilltop fortress of Monte Cassino was supremely bloody; as the British comedian Spike Milligan wrote to his parents from the battlefront, "I'm writing this in a hole in the ground, it's convenient, because if you get killed, they just fill the hole in." British editor and writer Parker (The Battle of Britain, not reviewed) writes that the mile-high summit of Cassino commanded the only readily negotiable route to Rome, and invaders would have to pass within range of the German guns that crowned the Cassino Massif. Ideal ground for those who possessed it-as Parker notes, it was "considered one of the finest defensive positions in Europe"-Cassino also boasted a vast sixth-century monastery whose walls were 20 feet thick at the base. The Allies enjoyed tremendous material superiority; one German paratroop officer remembers seeing "an unbroken stream of Allied tanks and vehicles . . . flowing westward" across the Liri River valley and wondering how anyone could stand up to such odds. But for all the cannons and planes the Allies commanded, uprooting thousands of crack German troops from Cassino had to be accomplished one by one, hand to hand-since, as Parker notes, the Allied air assaults that destroyed the monastery "had merely created ruins in which the defender had the advantage." The Allied ground attack was accomplished by a truly international force, with equal-opportunity slaughter; among Parker's finest moments is his account of ill-fated Indian and Maori units chewed upby German machine-gun and mortar fire. The battle, Parker concludes, was disorganized, politicized, and needlessly bloody; had Gen. Mark Clark blocked the earlier German evacuation of Sicily, he suggests, there would have been no crack paratroops to defend Cassino at the start. An accomplished study of a battle that figures in all the standard WWII textbooks but is rarely given much more than a mention. Agent: Julian Alexander/Lucas, Alexander & Whitley
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385513395
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 330,143
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Matthew Parker is the author of The Battle of Britain. He is a writer and editor specializing in modern history, and lives in London, England.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

1

The Casablanca Conference and the Invasion of Sicily

On 14 January 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill met in the newly liberated city of Casablanca in Morocco. In the East, the ring had closed around Stalingrad, and the Western Allied leaders now debated their next steps. With Churchill in the lavish surroundings of the Villa Mirador on the outskirts of the city was Gen. Sir Harold Alexander, later to be overall Allied commander at Cassino, whose "easy, smiling grace," Churchill wrote, "won all hearts." Harold Macmillan, then the British resident minister in North Africa, wrote of Churchill, "I have never seen him in finer form. He ate and drank enormously all the time, settled huge problems . . ." Officially, all were in agreement: With the campaign in Tunisia taking longer than expected, the cross-Channel invasion would be delayed until 1944. Once German resistance in North Africa had been ended, an invasion of Sicily would follow. If successful, this would give the Allies control of the Mediterranean, reopen the Gibraltar-Suez shipping lane and, they hoped, knock Italy out of the war.

Behind the outward shows of unity, however, lurked serious disagreements about strategy. In fact, the Casablanca Conference saw the stormiest negotiations ever to occur between the Western Allies. The Americans, observing the military dictum that an attacker should go the shortest route to his objective with the greatest strength he can muster, were deeply suspicious of further delays to the invasion of France. The staunchest holder of this line was Gen. George Marshall, the US Army chief of staff and Roosevelt's right-hand man as far as running the war was concerned. In his view the Mediterranean was a sideshow and an unnecessary drain on manpower and resources that could be better employed by returning immediately to England and then heading via the shortest route to Berlin. Churchill though, like all the British, haunted by the ghosts of the Western Front a generation earlier, was determined to delay the battle in northern France until success was far more assured. He didn't think that moment had come, and also had other motives for pushing forward in the Mediterranean. Traditionally a British concern because of the route to India, Churchill was also intent on "setting the Balkans alight"--exploiting the resistance to Nazi occupation that had already tied down vital German divisions and aiming to cut supplies of oil and other products essential to Germany's war machine. He was even far-sighted enough to wish to get Western Allied soldiers into Central Europe and especially Greece before the Red Army arrived.

Exasperated by British reluctance to proceed full-steam-ahead with plans for the cross-Channel invasion, the Americans were suspicious that Churchill's Mediterranean ambitions were motivated by imperial interests. There had been tension between Britain and America between the wars, including fierce exchanges over Britain's economic policy of Imperial Preference, which damaged US trade, and the American leadership could be absolutely sure of its people's deeply held anticolonialism. For Churchill, though, the empire was not up for discussion.

But at Casablanca the British, much to their surprise, got their way, and after ten days of heated negotiation a compromise was reached that prepared the invasion of Sicily. This, as will be seen, led almost inadvertently to the major struggle in Italy, and the Americans retained the impression that they had been duped, or "led down the garden path" as far as Southern Europe was concerned.

The ramifications of the Casablanca Conference were to affect the whole of the Italian campaign. To a great extent, at the highest level the Americans were unwilling participants in Churchill's "Mediterranean adventure." This made the southern theater a low priority for supplies and manpower, and also fed the distrust and dislike between the two principal allies, which was to reach its grim conclusion at Monte Cassino.


The road that leads to the climactic battles south of Rome in early 1944 starts with the decision taken nearly two years earlier in July 1942 to commit sizable American and British resources to North Africa. It had been agreed that there were not enough specialized landing craft for a cross-Channel invasion that year. There were also insufficient US forces already trained and shipped to Europe. Instead of letting what forces there were stagnate, it was thought best to use them to clear North Africa and thus do at least something on land to help the hard-pressed Soviets. President Roosevelt was determined that there should be American troops fighting the Germans somewhere as soon as possible. So in November 1942, against the wishes of the US military leaders, the president gave the go-ahead for Operation Torch; landings by American and British troops along the northwest coast of Africa. General Sir Bernard Montgomery's 8th Army, following its victory at El Alamein the previous month, attacked from the east.

The deep misgivings of the British about the unreadiness of the Allied forces for an attack on the well-defended northern French coast proved justified when in December 1942 the 8th Army was checked by the outnumbered Afrika Korps. In early February 1943, Rommel, briefly back in charge of the German forces in Africa, counterattacked American units near the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Initially the attack was held, but soon rumors began to sweep through the American ranks, and some units started retreating without having been given the order to do so. Exhausted and demoralized, and weak from days of fighting in the mountains without water, it was for many of the American soldiers their first taste of being dive-bombed and mortared. The result was a panic-stricken retreat that saw the Germans push back their attackers for over fifty miles. For the British, it was upsetting confirmation of their suspicions about the fighting ability of their ally. General Alexander, then second-in-command in the theater, wrote to Gen. Sir Alan Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff and effectively Britain's most senior soldier, calling the GIs "soft, green and quite untrained . . . is it surprising they lack the will to fight? . . . If this handful of divisions here are their best, the value of the rest may be imagined." The breakthrough at Kasserine was not exploited, but German reinforcements continued to arrive in Tunisia.

This move was evidence of a new German confidence in the early spring of 1943. To the dismay of the Red Army, the Wehrmacht had made a startling recovery after the disaster of Stalingrad the previous winter. In March 1943 the Soviets were driven back in places by a hundred miles when the Germans counterattacked around Kharkov in the Ukraine. In addition to this success, new weapons were coming through, including Tiger heavy tanks and Panther heavy-medium tanks. A massive manpower mobilization using slave labor had freed thousands of Germans for military service, and the Wehrmacht was now close to its size of two years earlier in spite of the enormous losses on the Eastern Front. Germany's increasingly unwilling allies--Italy, Finland, Hungary, and Romania--had been kept in the war, and another great offensive was planned for May around Kursk. Submarine production was up and it was hoped that offensives against the West at sea and the East on land would see Germany through until the unlikely alliance between the United States/Britain and the Soviet Union fell apart.

Furthermore, even relations between the United States and Britain were strained. After the Casablanca Conference and the setback in the Kasserine Pass, the Americans persisted in their suspicions that they had been hoodwinked into an expensive sideshow, and the British remained fearful that their ally would pull the plug on the Mediterranean theater, or, even worse, go back on the Germany First policy and transfer the bulk of their forces to fight Japan. Events on the ground had also led to distrust on one side matched by resentment on the other. President Roosevelt himself complained that the British had relegated American units to supporting roles, unwilling to trust them with anything else. In fact, the performance of the American II Corps in Africa improved markedly as the soldiers and commanders gained experience and received training from British troops. As Gen. Omar Bradley, II Corps' commander, commented after the war, Tunisia was an important testing ground. "In Africa," he wrote, "we learned to crawl, to walk--then run." By 3 March, the ground lost in Rommel's February counterattack had been recaptured, and at the end of the month General Patton's American divisions met up with Montgomery's 8th Army, which had at last broken through the German defensive lines in southern Tunisia. Alexander then reorganized the Allied armies and ordered a general offensive to start on 4 May. By then German supply lines to their army in Tunisia were under constant attack, and it was decided in Berlin to abandon the Afrika Korps, now commanded by Gen. Jurgen von Arnim. Three days later Bizerte and Tunis were captured, and on 12 May a message was intercepted by the Allies from von Arnim: "We have fired our last cartridge. We are closing down for ever." By the next day, all Axis forces in North Africa had surrendered. In all, some 130,000 German and 120,000 Italian prisoners were taken. Notes made by an Allied cameraman recording the capitulation maintain that the lines of prisoners stretched for twenty-two kilometers. By any standards, it was a spectacular victory for the Allies.

The front line was now the Sicilian Channel, and, as agreed at Casablanca, preparations started for an assault on the island. There was considerable nervousness about what was to be the Allies' first major amphibious landing on an enemy-held coast, and Britain's first return to Europe since its ignominious expulsion from Greece and Crete in 1941. Unlike the North African landings, when the invaders had faced Vichy French troops, this time they would be up against German divisions; and, also in contrast to North Africa, they did not possess a network of agents and informers to provide intelligence information.


As the Tunisian campaign was nearing its conclusion, the Allied leaders met in Washington for the Trident Conference. Again, the arguments were dominated by the question of priorities, with the Americans still deeply suspicious of the "distraction" of the Mediterranean theater and the British, to General Marshall's continuing frustration, doing their utmost to delay the cross-Channel invasion. Repeatedly throughout 1943, Churchill would return to his worries about this operation, fearing that the Germans' excellent transport links to northern France would enable them to assemble "an overwhelming force against us and to inflict on us a greater military disaster than Dunkirk. Such a disaster would result in the resuscitation of Hitler and the Nazi regime." Already desperately short of manpower, the British, having been driven off the continent three times already--from Norway, France, and Greece--simply could not afford another such loss. Instead, and in keeping with Britain's traditional role as a maritime power, the prime minister still pushed for opportunistic attacks around the periphery, what he called the "soft underbelly" of Europe: the Balkans, the Dodecanese, and Italy. At the conference Brooke, Marshall's opposite number in the British high command, argued in favor of an invasion of Italy, pointing out that it would be much more difficult than northern France for the Germans to reinforce. To knock Germany's principal ally out of the war, suggested Churchill, would bring many benefits: as well as being a huge boost to opponents and unwilling allies of Germany everywhere, it would force the Germans to take over the garrison duties of the Italian army in the Balkans and the Aegean, and the British Mediterranean Fleet would be free to sail against the Japanese. More than anything, he insisted, it would mean that British and American armies remained in contact with the enemy, reminding the conference that the Russians were now facing 185 German divisions in the East.

There were disagreements, too, among the commanders of the various service arms, both between and within the two Allied camps. The US Army chief of staff General Marshall, together with the air commanders of both sides, wanted Mediterranean operations scaled down in favor of the cross-Channel invasion; British sea and land commanders wanted to concentrate on knocking Italy out of the war.

The outcome was compromise and indecision. Eisenhower's staff was told to prepare plans for invasions of Sardinia and Corsica as well as of southern Italy, but the Mediterranean force was to lose most of its assault shipping and seven experienced divisions by November 1943, to return to England for the cross-Channel invasion. Then called Roundup, this was set for May 1944. So the question of the next step after Sicily--should the operation be a success--was left unresolved at the highest strategic level. Eisenhower himself felt that the resources available for any operation post-Sicily were "very slender indeed." It was an inauspicious start, and it would be events in Rome, rather than a clear and united "grand plan," that would precipitate the Italian campaign to come.

As the invasion fleet of nearly 2,600 Allied vessels left Africa for Sicily, neither side at the talks in Washington was fully satisfied. Marshall, who had been against even the Africa offensive as a dispersion of effort, predicted that the outcome would be that neither the Mediterranean nor the forthcoming cross-Channel invasion would be properly equipped. Brooke, writing in his diary on 24 July 1943, despaired that the American general could be so blind: "Marshall absolutely fails to realize what strategic treasures lie at our feet in the Mediterranean, and always hankers after cross Channel operations. He admits that our object must be to eliminate Italy and yet is always afraid of facing the consequences of doing so. He cannot see beyond the tip of his nose and is maddening."


After successful bombing attacks had destroyed the Italian and seriously weakened the German air forces in Sicily, the landings on 10 July went better than anyone had dared expect. There were counterattacks on one of the American beaches, but by 12 July both Allied armies were marching inland. Not so the airborne landings, which fell foul of high winds and sustained "friendly fire" from Allied ships and suffered very heavy losses. Nevertheless, Syracuse and its nearby airfields were captured after just two days, and a rapid advance was started.

Although the two German divisions fought hard from the outset, the loss of so many men and so much material in Tunisia had seriously compromised the Italian defenders of Sicily. They were chronically short of transport for their nine weak divisions, and morale among the fighting men was in freefall. The Italians had had enough. When Patton's troops entered Palermo on 21 July, they were greeted by its inhabitants not as enemies but as liberators, an ominous sign for Mussolini and Italy's Fascist leadership.

Presented with this early progress and the evidence that Italy's collapse might be imminent, the Allied planners began to add detail to their outline for an invasion of the mainland. Five days before the Sicily invasion the Germans had launched their Kursk offensive against a huge bulge in the Soviet line, using nearly three-quarters of their available strength on the Eastern Front. There were very real concerns that Russia would be knocked out of the war and might make a separate peace with Germany--it was known that there had been contacts between the Soviet Union and Germany through Sweden.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction : the monastery and the Gustav Line
1 The Casablanca Conference and the invasion of Sicily 3
2 The invasion of Italy 15
3 The Gustav Line 34
4 Into the Gustav Line 63
5 British X corps on the Garigliano : the left hook 83
6 Bloody river 102
7 Anzio and Cassino 117
8 The Cassino massif 132
9 The destruction of the monastery 149
10 Snakeshead Ridge 176
11 Lull at Cassino, counterattack at Anzio 189
12 The battle for Cassino Town 215
13 Castle Hill 229
14 The green devils of Cassino 247
15 Deception 271
16 Break-in 292
17 Amazon Bridge 311
18 The monastery 326
Postscript : surviving the peace 341
App. 1 A typical British infantry battalion, 1943-44 358
App. 2 Orders of battle 359
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    ATM

    Here. Takes any card

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2012

    Quite shocking, but could not out it down. Nothing like the rom

    Quite shocking, but could not out it down. Nothing like the romanticized versions of WWII that you have read before. The amazing stupidity of the commanders, and the unbelievable bravery of the foot soldier, and ancillary services - PTSD long before it was recognized.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)