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The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

(World War II Liberation Trilogy #2)

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  10,612 ratings  ·  544 reviews

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

Hardcover, 793 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Henry Holt & Company
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4.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,612 ratings  ·  544 reviews

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Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii
“Secrecy was paramount. [Admiral H. Kent] Hewitt doubted that three thousand vessels could sneak up on Sicily, but [Operation] 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 n ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
While as well researched as An Army At Dawn, I found myself struggling with The Day of Battle - perhaps because of the brutality of this phase of the war which cost most casualties than the North African phase. Atkinson goes into excruciating detail about all the blunders: poor logistics, deaths by friendly fire, destruction of cultural monuments, atrocities committed on civilian populations. That being said, it is an exhaustive, accurate account of the conquering of Sicily and Italy between 194 ...more
Rick Riordan
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The follow-up to Atkinson's An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle covers the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy from 1943-1944. I knew little about this front, as it often gets eclipsed by the later invasion of France. It was fascinating to follow the internal struggles between the American and British -- Churchill relentlessly insisting they rip out the 'soft underbelly' of Axis Europe, which proved to be none too soft -- while the Americans saw the Mediterranean as a sideshow, taking valuable r ...more
Nov 18, 2008 rated it really liked it

"Day of Battle" by Rick Atkinson is volume II of his "Liberation Trilogy," a retelling of the US involvement in WWII that welds lyrical prose with detailed narrative.

For Atkinson, writing a book on Sicily and Italy is a tough deal, as it is the lackluster mid-point between North Africa and France, a thankless second act bridging the good parts of a three-act play. The war in Italy is seen within the doubtless good-versus-evil framework of WWII, buttressed by the goal of unconditional surrender.
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Only serious students of Military History.
The second volume in Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy; I can hardly wait for volume three.

This volume deals with the second year of the war in the Mediterranean, including the invasions of Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio; ending with the capture of Rome the day before the Normandy landings, much to the chagrin of the troops in Italy who held the headlines for barely a day. It further reinforces my negative opinion of America's strategic planning, or rather the lack of strategic planning, at least t
Like the army under narration, Atkinson has grown into his role. Amidst the anekdotes, the overall military situation stands out clearer, especially the looming demands of a Normandy landings for both shipping and veteran units. The German propaganda leaflet (discussed both in the picture section & the corpus) showing the American arrival at Berlin circa 1952 at their current pace captures the atmosphere nicely: how long can we plod in front of Cassino, while the relievers at Anzio morph int ...more
A.L. Sowards
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
The allied campaign in Italy could be summed up in one quote, spoken by a general from New Zealand after studying a failed American attempt to breach the Rapido river, “Nothing was right except the courage.”

What went wrong? Plenty. Cassino. Security lapses. Malaria. Italy’s topography. Cassino. The Gustav, Hitler, and Caesar lines. Failure to reach the Alban Hills before the Germans counterattacked at Anzio. Cassino. Constant bickering between allies—first between Patton and Monty, than between
Jul 05, 2013 rated it liked it
You can't fault Rick Atkinson for the amount of research he does. He pores through histories, letters, diaries and battle reports. The result is a full, although at times overly detailed history of the allied taking of Sicily and Italy during World War Two. He quotes not just what soldiers wrote home, but sometimes what they said on the battlefield in the heat of action.

In particular what emerges is a picture of military leadership that is both accurate and not flattering. Gen. George Patton was
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book I might have ranked higher if I was more into the writing style. Although I might have ranked it lower if it hadn't been such a clearly presented view of what is normally a very difficult subject to write about. Italy is never an easy read and sometimes the books on the subject are either so detailed or lacking in detail that you loose a great deal in regards to what is going on.
Atkinson does a good job of keeping clear what is taking place and where. He does tend to focus primarily on
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The second leg of the Liberation Trilogy. Atkinson continues to impress with his ability to put all of this information down without overwhelming the reader. The maps certainly help, but Atkinson knows how to construct a narrative and the writing is a real pleasure. That's probably what makes this work stand out: not many history books are so beautifully written.

As expected, a lot of dark episodes on these pages. War is certainly an ugly thing. You have to give Atkinson a lot of credit, he does
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii, history
Atkinson gets better in the second installment of his Liberation Trilogy. Yes, this book is hefty, both physically and mentally.

The Italian Campaign was the closest that the Western Allies came to WWI-style attritional warfare. The frustration at the stalemate in front of Cassino and at Anzio is palpable throughout the later half of the book. While covering grand strategy, Atkinson still gives a feel for the individual Dogfaces, Tommies, Kiwis, and Gurkhas stuck in the battle.

I think Day of Batt
John Nellis
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting and informative history of the Italian campaign. I haven't read a lot of books about the war in Italy, other than books about the Cassino battles, and Anzio. I always had the intention of learning more about this campaign as a whole, and Rick Atkinson did a very good job of telling the story. I never realized all the infighting in the Allied command was so bad. Especially between the British and American commands. The stories of the battles are very well done. This is ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Finely crafted account of a campaign neglected by popular history writers. As in the first title in the series, we're privey to accounts of the struggle from all ranks, from Churchill and Clark down to captains and privates. And like an Army at Dawn, this is no reverential hagiography. While the bravery and sacrifices of the soldiers is treated with compassion and admiration, Atkinson does not hold back from capturing the folly and incompetence displayed by the actors, including the long-standin ...more
Michael Burhans
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
The second book in the Liberation Trilogy is, surprisingly, even better than the first one. I would not have thought that was possible. These books are about history, history that is for the large part well known. There is no mystery as to who is going to win the war. My father fought in these battles and I have heard stories from him and his friends. Yet still Rick Atkinson makes learning even more about them taunt, exciting, and page turning. As with the first book there is the sweep of histo ...more
Bob Mobley
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the second volume of Rick Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy," and follows An Army At Dawn. The Day of Battle is an interesting and fascinating account of the campaigns in Sicily and Italy during 1943 - 1944. Atkinson makes this story compelling, illuminating, personal and revealing on the difficult and incredible challenges that faced the Allied Forces in this theatre of war. What I found most interesting and very informative was his detailed examination of the leadership characteristics an ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-Mucho y muy bien, qué más se puede pedir.-

Género. Historia.

Lo que nos cuenta. Aproximación a la campaña aliada de la Segunda Guerra Mundial que permitió la conquista de Sicilia y de buena parte del territorio continental italiano, que llega hasta la toma de Roma. Segundo libro de la trilogía temática del autor, a la que llama Trilogía de la Liberación, construida a partir de la intervención de las fuerzas armadas de los USA en el escenario del norte de África y de Europa occidental.

¿Quiere sabe
Gary Butler
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
37th book read in 2017.

Number 518 out of 602 on my all time book list.
Mal Warwick
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
“The fog of war.”

This phrase, introduced by the Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz in a book published in 1837, years after his death, is generally taken to mean that, in war, uncertainty and confusion demand fast and flexible thinking of military commanders. In Rick Atkinson’s The Day of Battle, the second book in his three-volume account of the Allies in World War II, the term took on new meaning for me close to that of a phrase from contemporary slang, SNAFU (“situation normal,
Good military history. Nothing really new covered here and the book ends in the spring of 1944 with just a cursory look at the last year of the Italian Campaign. Why? Because this is the second chapter of a trilogy about the liberation of Europe from the Nazi yoke.

The real meat and potatoes of such a trilogy is going to the the third installment and the battle for Northwestern Europe (France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany proper). The Day of Battle is the middle installment (traditionally alw
Rebecca Wilson
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: war, histories, american
Sicily and Italy was a huge gap in my WWII knowledge, so I'm glad to have read this. Friends, it wasn't easy. This was a hard go.

Throughout the book Atkinson shows—and then actually says at the very end—that the Italian front was the aspect of the war that most closely resembled the brutal slog of WWI trench warfare. Civilians starved to death, were gang raped, and had their villages and fields obliterated. The descriptions of the battles of San Pietro and Monte Casino are among the saddest nonf
Michael Gerald
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
War is such a nasty business, that it is almost unthinkable to write about a real war in great prose. But Rick Atkinson did it in this book about the liberation of Sicily and Italy in 1943-1944.

Following in the tradition of fine writing of the likes of Cornelius Ryan, Stephen Ambrose, and Hampton Sides, "The Day of Battle" brings the reader in an almost intimate manner to the struggles, the hardships, the sacrifices, the defeats, the victories, the sorrows, and the joys of the war in Italy, amon
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History readers
If you read books about the Second World War, put Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle at the top of your pile. If you don't, this is a great place to start. The focus of the book is on the American Army experience in Sicily and Italy from 1943-44. The British, Polish, Canadian, Free French, and New Zealand forces are also covered, but the emphasis here is on the American forces.

The book is admirably balanced between the problems of command and the daily lives and deaths of the foot soldier. Like i
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the second book in Rick Atkinson’s WWII Liberation trilogy. I felt the same way about this one that I felt for his first oneAn Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943. For this book being a non-fiction book, he does a great job at not just regurgitating the facts he compiled in his research. I think the thing that helps is all of the personal stories from journals and letters that he included. It put a touch of humanity in it and that helped it move along and kept it interesting ...more
Oct 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
I actually liked this book better than his first in this 3-part series (the third book is still pending at this time). I delves deeply into the theories, planning, scheming, folly, tragedy, valor, and pyrrhic success of the battles in Sicily and Italy. Not only does it touch on more famous scandals, like the famous Patton slapping incidents and the infighting between Allied generals, but it takes the reader right into the fox holes of the typical GI. This theater of war quickly fell into the sha ...more
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully written and researched. An extremely fine companion book to the Army at Dawn, which covered the US Army in North Africa. The author spends lavish amounts of time trying to create context and color, so much so it overwhelms at times. One of the interesting points throughout the book is how much of this campaign was under supported in men and material and largely unwanted by the US high command, who were much more interested in prepping for the real show in France. There was very littl ...more
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"The Day of Battle" is the second volume of Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy. The first volume, "An Army at Dawn", which won the 2003 Pulitzer for History, covered the 1942-43 Allied invasion of North Africa. This second volume deals with the 1943-44 invasion of Sicily and Italy. The final volume will cover Normandy and the march into Germany. When I read "An Army at Dawn" upon its release, I thought it the finest book about war I'd ever read. Reading "The Day of Battle", I may have to revise ...more
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Atkinson is quickly becoming my favorite military historian. We'll get to him the writer in a bit, but let's first focus on this masterpiece first. I would argue, somewhat arbitrarily as it doesn't really matter, that this book is better than An Army At Dawn, the first book of the Liberation Trilogy. My rationale, however, could possibly be in that the war in Sicily and Italy lends itself to the skills of a great writer (see: Heller, Joseph). The war in Italy was far from Churchill's idea of a s ...more
Howard Cincotta
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read much of Day of Battle, second in Rick Atkinson’s stirring Liberation Trilogy, with an odd mix of anticipation and dread. Anticipation because, as a history of the World War II campaigns in Sicily and Italy, we know how the story ends. But also dread, because we can foresee the terrible price in lives and blood that this grinding conflict will cost.

Yes, the scale of combat on the Eastern Front dwarfed that of the Mediterranean, but the casualty rates in Sicily and Italy were often horrifi
Steven Peterson
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 huma
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 is the second book in Rick Atkinson's three-part history of World War II. It picks up pretty much right where An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 ends.
The battle for Italy was one of the toughest of the war. By the end of the 608 day campaign to liberate Italy, Allied forces had lost about 312,000 casualties. German losses, while uncertain, were similar in scale. The fighting was particularly brutal at the Anzio beachhead
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The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - WEEK TWO - THE DAY OF BATTLE - January 19th ~ January 25th - Part One - Calypso’s Island, "The Horses of the Sun”, Death or Glory and Part Two - The Burning Shore - Land of the Cyclops ~ -(47 - 91) No-Spoilers 38 107 Aug 23, 2015 07:08PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - WEEK FIVE - THE DAY OF BATTLE - February 9th - February 15th - Chapter Four: "Risks Must Be Calculated Plots, Counterplots, and Cross-plots, The Stillest Shoes the World Could Boast, ...etc. (179-226) - No Spoilers 11 51 Aug 23, 2015 07:06PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - WEEK FOUR - THE DAY OF BATTLE - February 2nd - February 8th - Chapter Three: "Into Battle with Stout Hearts", "How I Love Wars", Snaring the Head Devil , Fevers of an Unknown Origin....etc. (123-178) - No Spoilers 17 138 Aug 23, 2015 07:04PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - WEEK SIX - THE DAY OF BATTLE - February 16th ~ February 22nd - Chapter Four and Five: A Portal Won - "I Give You Naples","Watch Where You Step and Have No Curiosity at All",The Mountainous Hinterland - (227 -265) - No Spoilers 10 127 Aug 23, 2015 06:59PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - WEEK SEVEN - THE DAY OF BATTLE - February 23rd - March 1st - Chapter(s) Five and Six: PART TWO - 5. Corpse of the Siren - The Entire World was Burning and 6. Winter - The Archangel Michael, Here and Everywhere (266 - 292) - No Spoilers 11 96 Aug 23, 2015 06:51PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - WEEK EIGHT - THE DAY OF BATTLE - March 2nd - March 8th - Chapter Six: "A Tank Too Big for the Village Square,” A Gangster's Battle, Too Many Gone West (293-318) - No Spoilers 11 99 Aug 23, 2015 06:43PM  
The History Book ...: WE ARE OPEN - WEEK ELEVEN - Part Three - 8. Perdition - Jerryland and 9. The Murder Space -This World and the Next World at Strife - pages 385-412 - No Spoilers 17 173 Aug 23, 2015 05:53PM  
  • Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45
  • Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris; June 6 - Aug. 5, 1944
  • Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan
  • The Battle of Kursk
  • Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire
  • September Hope: The American Side of a Bridge Too Far
  • Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
  • Fire In The Sky: The Air War In The South Pacific
  • The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944
  • Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of World War II
  • Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters, 1939-1942
  • The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe
  • Patton: A Genius for War
  • To Lose a Battle: France 1940
  • Up Front
  • A Bridge Too Far
  • Partners in Command: George Marshall & Dwight Eisenhower in War & Peace
  • Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
Rick Atkinson, editor, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and historian who worked for twenty-five years as a correspondent and editor for The Washington Post. He is the author of several books, including the acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about World War II: An Army at Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light, as well as The British Are Comin ...more

Other books in the series

World War II Liberation Trilogy (3 books)
  • An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #1)
  • The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #3)
“For war was not just a military campaign but also a parable. There were lessons of camaraderie and duty and inscrutable fate. There were lessons of honor and courage, of compassion and sacrifice. And then there was the saddest lesson, to be learned again and again in the coming weeks as they fought across Sicily, and in the coming months as they fought their way back toward a world at peace: that war is corrupting, that it corrodes the soul and tarnishes the spirit, that even the excellent and the superior can be defiled, and that no heart would remain unstained.” 1 likes
“I must pursue the shadows to some middle ground,” wrote the pilot John Muirhead, “for I am strangely bound to all that happened to them.” 0 likes
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