In mid-September 1943, as the opening move of the Allied campaign to liberate the mainland of Italy, an Anglo-American invasion force landed on the beaches of the Gulf of Salerno, only a few dozen miles to the south of Naples. Italy had just surrendered, and the soldiers in the landing craft prayed that the invasion would be unopposed. It was not to be. The Germans had seized control of the Italian-built beach defences, and were ready and waiting. What followed was one of the bloodiest battles of the whole Mediterranean campaign - a ten day contest where victory hung in the balance.
Over 80,000 British and American soldiers waded ashore at Salerno, and after bitter fighting they managed to establish a narrow and vulnerable bridgehead. The British enclave near Salerno was separated from the American sector around Paestum by a river, and German-held strongpoints. All attempts to link up the two parts of the bridgehead were thwarted by the German defenders, who were being reinforced faster than the Allies. Then the Americans were nearly flung back into the sea by a ferocious German counterattack, as the German commander on the spot used his veteran armour and Panzergrenadiers to deadly effect. Although driven back towards the beach, the Americans rallied and grimly held on, and the crisis passed.
The ferocious ten-day battle at Salerno was eventually decided by a combination of Allied reinforcements, and secondary landings in support of the beleaguered Salerno bridgehead. The battle for Salerno changed the course of the campaign - by its end it was clear that wherever possible the Germans were going to fight for every inch of ground in Italy, and the campaign was not going to be the easy victory the Allied commanders had hoped.
Using documentary records, memoirs and eyewitness accounts from all sides, Angus Konstam recreates the battle day by day, hour by hour. His methodically researched account offers a fresh perspective on a decisive battle that has largely been neglected by British and American historians in recent years.