Steven Peterson's Reviews > The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson
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Sep 26, 09

Read in November, 2007

This is a detailed work showing the horrors of battles in Sicily and Italy in World War II. Gruesome details provide a ring of truth in this well researched volume. The work also demonstrates the genuine heroism that took place. The "soft underbelly of Europe," to use Churchill's terms, was hardly soft in fact.

Some real strengths of this book are the thumbnail character sketches of many figures, from top generals to division commanders down to small unit leaders and troops. This provides a human face to the ferocity of the fighting. In addition, Atkinson writes well and the book moves quickly.

The work itself covers the Sicily campaign in nice detail, including a sketch of the infamous event in which Patton slapped two soldiers for their alleged cowardice. The book also indicates that some generals were as interested in their own glory as in their troops (e.g., Patton and Montgomery). The part of the book also provides some detail on the skills of the German commander, Kesselring.

Then, the invasion of Italy itself. The book details the questionable Salerno amphibious landing. For instance, lots of poor decisions made this a Hairsbreadth Harry escape for the Allied troops, who, at one point, were in danger of part of the invading force being pushed back into the sea. Mark Clark, the commander of the invasion, did not seem to have full control of events, as he learned how to command the Allied forces.

The ferocity and brutality of the German forces are illustrated--as well as the sometimes inhuman Allied responses (being taken prisoner could be dangerous for troops of either side).

Then, other major battles are well described, with the human face in the forefront. Whether the attack on the Bernhardt or Gustav lines, the latter of which featured the bitter fighting at Monte Cassino, the sanguinary attack on the Rapido River, the bloodletting at Anzio, and so on. The details provide a real sense of the desperation of these and other actions.

So, all in all, this is an important work covering the Sicily and Italy campaigns. While the details may be painful as one reads, they provide a grisly reminder of the terror and horror of war.
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message 1: by André (last edited Sep 27, 2009 11:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

André Thank you, STeven , for bringing this one back to my attention. I had put it on one of my to-buy-lists but somehow forgot about it. I flipped through parts once at a NY bookstore as I was looking for a book about Monte Cassino.
A great book!


Steven Peterson This is a well done book. I think you'll find it worthwhile.


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