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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERIn 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 ItalyIn An Army at Dawnwinner of the Pulitzer PrizeRick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERIn 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 ItalyIn 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 of Battle, he follows the strengthening American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943 and then, mile by bloody mile, fight their way north toward Rome.The Italian campaign’s outcome was never certain; in fact, Roosevelt, Churchill, and their military advisers engaged in heated debate about whether an invasion of the so-called soft underbelly of Europe was even a good idea. But once under way, the commitment to liberate Italy from the Nazis never wavered, despite the agonizingly high price. The battles at Salerno, Anzio, and Monte Cassino were particularly difficult and lethal, yet as the months passed, the Allied forces continued to drive the Germans up the Italian peninsula. Led by Lieutenant General Mark Clark, one of the war’s most complex and controversial commanders, American officers and soldiers became increasingly determined and proficient. And with the liberation of Rome in June 1944, ultimate victory at last began to seem inevitable. Drawing on a wide array of primary source material, written with great drama and flair, this is narrative history of the first rank. With The Day of Battle, Atkinson has once again given us the definitive account of one of history’s most compelling military campaigns.


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERIn 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 ItalyIn An Army at Dawnwinner of the Pulitzer PrizeRick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERIn 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 ItalyIn 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 of Battle, he follows the strengthening American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943 and then, mile by bloody mile, fight their way north toward Rome.The Italian campaign’s outcome was never certain; in fact, Roosevelt, Churchill, and their military advisers engaged in heated debate about whether an invasion of the so-called soft underbelly of Europe was even a good idea. But once under way, the commitment to liberate Italy from the Nazis never wavered, despite the agonizingly high price. The battles at Salerno, Anzio, and Monte Cassino were particularly difficult and lethal, yet as the months passed, the Allied forces continued to drive the Germans up the Italian peninsula. Led by Lieutenant General Mark Clark, one of the war’s most complex and controversial commanders, American officers and soldiers became increasingly determined and proficient. And with the liberation of Rome in June 1944, ultimate victory at last began to seem inevitable. Drawing on a wide array of primary source material, written with great drama and flair, this is narrative history of the first rank. With The Day of Battle, Atkinson has once again given us the definitive account of one of history’s most compelling military campaigns.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Secrecy was paramount. [Admiral H. Kent] Hewitt doubted that three thousand vessels could sneak up on Sicily, but [Operation] Huskys 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 never “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 never considered my mind closed.’) Soldiers and sailors, as usual, remained in the dark and subject to severe restrictions on their letters home. A satire of censorship regulations read to one’s ship crew included rule number 4 – ‘You cannot say where you were, where you are going, what you have been doing, or what you expect to do’ – and rule number 8 – ‘You cannot, you must not, be interesting.’ The men could, under rule number 2, ‘say you have been born, if you don’t say where or why.’ And rule number 9 advised: ‘You can mention the fact that you would not mind seeing a girl.’ One airman tried to comply with the restrictions by writing, ‘Three days ago we were at X. Now we are at Y.’ But the prevailing sentiment was best captured by a soldier who told his diary, ‘We know we are headed for trouble.’” - Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 “We make this wide encircling movement in the Mediterranean having for its primary objective the recovery of the command of that vital sea, but also having for its object the exposure of the underbelly of the Axis, especially Italy, to heavy attack.” - Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking to the House of Commons, November 1942 Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa in 1942, was a compromise between the United States and Great Britain. They were too weak to go directly across the English Channel and tussle with Hitler’s Wehrmacht. At the same time, they could not simply bide their time while the Soviet Union grappled singlehandedly on the Eastern Front. Something had to be done, immediately, but it had to be something that would not conclude in unmitigated disaster. Thus it came to be that British and American troops landed in Morocco and Algeria, opposed only by French troops in the midst of a serious identity crisis. The story of Operation Torch is marvelously told in Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn, the first volume of his magisterial Liberation Trilogy. Quite simply, An Army at Dawn delivers one of the best military histories I’ve ever read. Epic and intimate. Thorough yet lucid. Impeccably researched and gloriously written. It sets a bar high for the rest of his great literary project. It is a bar that volume two, The Day of Battle, surpasses with ease. The Day of Battle covers the invasions of Sicily and Italy, from 1943 to 1944. Still not prepared for a cross-Channel invasion (which would eventually evolve into Operation Overlord), but unable to stand pat with Joseph Stalin giving them furious side-eye, the Allies took the next obvious step in what came a bloody progression, launching themselves into what Churchill called the “underbelly” of the Axis. As time revealed, however, this underbelly turned out to be tougher than a turtle’s shell. The narrative begins with Operation Husky, the invasion of the isle of Sicily, on the night of July 9, 1943. Today, this operation is mostly remembered for the intra-Allied competition between two of the great raging egomaniacs of the war: George Patton and Bernard Montgomery. After 38 days, Axis forces were busy fleeing the island, Allied shells were actually striking Italy proper, and 10,000 square miles of Axis territory had been conquered. From Sicily, Atkinson follows the Allies to Italy. Unfortunately for his narrative (and, perhaps, for history), the colorful force of nature that was General Patton left the theater in order to prepare for the Normandy Invasion (in which he served, as of all things, a decoy). Enter Mark Clark, commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, the central figure of The Day of Battle. He professed to “want my headquarters to be a happy one,” but Clark was too short-tempered and aloof for easy felicity. One staff officer considered him “a goddamned study in arrogance,” while another saw “conceit wrapped around him like a halo.” Perhaps only in correspondence with [his wife] Renie did the sharp edges soften. He wrote of a yen to go fishing, of the rugs and silver dishes he was sending her, of his small needs from home, like vitamin pills and gold braid for his caps. From her apartment in Washington she cautioned him about flying too much, and complained of his infrequent letters, of difficulties with his mother, of how much she missed being kissed…Clark’s compulsive self-promotion already had drawn sharp rebukes from Marshall and Eisenhower, but he still instructed photographers to snap his “facially best” left side. Clark is no easy figure to judge, and Atkinson handles his complexity with aplomb. He was personally brave (he’d made a pre-invasion excursion into North Africa before the Torch landings), cared deeply for his men, and wanted all the attention for himself (a deep egocentrism is probably necessary to be a general, in charge of the lives of thousands of men). Atkinson’s style is not to tell the reader what to think, or what he thinks, but to allow the story to simply unspool. Conclusions about Mark Clark are mostly left unspoken – though he clearly paints Clark in a more favorable light than historians such as Carlos D’Este. The sympathy with which Atkinson writes comes from a deep understanding that Clark’s was a terrifically difficult job. Operation Avalanche – the invasion of Italy – began to unfold in September 1943. Under the overall command of General Harold Alexander, Clark went ashore at Salerno, while Bernard Montgomery landed at Calabria. The invasion soon became a slog, and then a stalemate, as the Allies butted against a belt of German fortifications known as the Winter Line. (The Italians, seeing the pepperoni on the pizza, bowed out fairly quickly). The center of this line, anchored on the town of Cassino, became an infamously tough nut to crack. To outflank the Winter Line, the Allies launched Operation Shingle, a landing at the port of Anzio. Though it achieved some initial success, the Allies were unable to expand the beachhead, leaving them susceptible to a vicious counterattack that nearly through them back into the sea. One of Atkinson’s great strengths of a writer is in providing a vivid and visceral recounting of the fierce battles in Italy. He strives to create images, lasting impressions. For instance, the lethally misguided assault at the Rapido River: The last smudges of violet light faded in the west. Hundreds of soldiers rose from their burrows on Monte Trocchio and from behind the marsh hummocks on the Rapido flats. Fixing bayonets with an ominous metallic click, they looped extra bandoliers over their twill field jackets. Fog coiled from the riverbed and crept across the fields, swallowing the stars and a rising crescent moon… At 7:30 p.m., sixteen artillery battalions opened fire in gusts of white flame. Soldiers flinched as more than a thousand shells per minutes shrieked overhead in a cannonade that ignited the mist and gouged the far bank with rounds calibrated to explode every six and a half yards. Crewmen flipped back the camouflage nets on fifty Sherman tanks, hidden four hundred yards from the river, and yellow tongues of flame soon licked from the muzzles to join the bombardment. Sixty fighter-bombers swooped down the river, and their tumbling silver pellets blossomed in fire and black smoke across Sant’Angelo, adding ruin to ruination. Four hundred white-phosphorous mortar shells traced the river line with topographic precision; the night was windless, and instead of billowing to form a low screen, the smoke spiraled vertically for 150 feet, framing the shore in fluted alabaster columns. Atkinson’s writing, beyond the battles, is exceptional. He does a marvelous job – as mentioned above – with humanizing characterizations of the Allied leadership (for the most part, the story is told from the Allied point-of-view). Atkinson also demonstrates a tremendous feel for Italy, its topography, climate, and history. Interspersed with the clash of Axis and Allies are references to the tribulations of ancient Rome, which took place in many of the same towns and fields. The Day of Battle is first and foremost narrative history. For the most part, Atkinson avoids advancing arguments, critiquing decisions, or weighing conflicting accounts. This is history as a story, with an emphasis on humans in the midst of one of the dramatic trials of all time. And Atkinson is an excellent storyteller. He is superb with telling details, poignant anecdotes, and interesting digressions (for example, an aside on the mass casualties caused by venereal diseases). As in most histories, the human side is mainly reflected in portraits of the leadership. However, Atkinson does find a few men of lesser rank to follow throughout the campaign, including Lieutenant Colonel Jack Toffey, and the journalist Ernie Pyle. (The doomed and melancholy Pyle seems to have a special place in Atkinson’s heart. This makes sense, as Atkinson also served as an embedded correspondent during the second Iraq war). The Day of Battle is not a comprehensive or academic study of the Italian campaign. It ends at the dramatic moment of the Allies’ entrance into Rome (a moment overshadowed the following day by D-Day). The struggle for Italy, though, did not end with Rome’s capture. Hard fighting continued along the so-called Gothic Line, but Atkinson does not cover these battles. That doesn’t matter at all. Readers who want to read about the Gothic Line can certainly find a book to meet their needs. The point of The Day of Battle – indeed the point of the entire Liberation Trilogy – is not to break new ground in the well-furrowed field of World War II. Instead, Atkinson is retelling a familiar tale, but doing it with unsurpassed talent, verve, and beauty. The Liberation Trilogy is one of literature’s great triumphs of historical writing, and The Day of Battle is an extraordinary middle volume, perfectly setting the stage for the fierce and elegiacal finale of The Guns at Last Light.

  2. 4 out of 5

    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 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 1943 ending in Rome just days before D-Day in Normandy. Having read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Kaputt and particularly The Skin by Curzio Malaparte, I was somewhat prepared for the violence, but reality far outstripped fiction in this case. That being said, there is mention of people eating the fish in the Naples aquarium (p 246) which is even more gruesomely described by Malaparte in The Skin. For both Heller and Malaparte, they were speaking from first hand experience. Mirroring Yossarian from Catch-22, one pilot in real life talked about plane explosions: "When a plane blew up, we saw their parts all over the sky. One plane hit a body which tumbled out of a plane ahead. A crewman went through the front hatch of a plane and hit the tail assembly of his own plane. No chute." (P 497) Some of the more horrifying sidenotes were the destruction of a depot of American mustard gas by German bombers in Bari which went unreported until 1967 as well as the horrifically bloodied campaigns at Anzio and Cassata and of course the continued puerile fighting between American and British commanders. In the end, this campaign did divert some of Hitler's muscle from defending against Normandy, but there were so many lost opportunities for completely taking out German offensive power that was later used against the Allied forces that it is stupefying. For those who want the real scoop on how this war played out on the ground, Atkinson's book remains one of the best sources. But be warned, it is as disheartening as the Allied advance north of Salerno.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rick Riordan

    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 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 resources away from the Pacific and the eventual invasion of Normandy. Several characters steal the show in Atkinson's book -- especially George Patton, the brilliant but irascible commander who hits some of his hospitalized men for claiming they have shell shock (what we now call PTSD). Patton yells at the soldiers, calling them cowards and denying that shell shock is real, which gets him in a lot of hot water, though the incidents are hushed up for some time. I was also struck by Atkinson's descriptions of the front line troops at Anzio, living in misery and constant danger on a narrow beachhead, incessantly bombed and challenged by German troops. As for the ill-conceived winter campaign through the Apennines, I could only wince and think, "No, don't do it!" knowing full-well the troops would slog through and be killed by the thousands in the bitterest possible fighting. What struck me most was the bittersweet fall of Rome, which was immediately overshadowed in the press by the news of D-Day in Normandy. Even in 1944, the troops in Italy felt a sense of urgency, knowing they were fighting the 'B-side' of the war, and they had to accomplish their goals before they were forgotten. This is an under-appreciated, poorly understood part of World War II, and Atkinson does a masterful job bringing it to life.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stefania Dzhanamova

    The events of Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle, the second volume of his exceptional Liberation trilogy, take place after the exhilarating Allied victory in North Africa. In Casablanca, at the last big strategy conference, the Allies had decided the next Anglo-American blow Operation HUSKY, which was summarized by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, the mixture of American and British commanders who directed the war for FDR and Churchill, as "an attack against Sicily . . . in 1943 with the target The events of Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle, the second volume of his exceptional Liberation trilogy, take place after the exhilarating Allied victory in North Africa. In Casablanca, at the last big strategy conference, the Allies had decided the next Anglo-American blow – Operation HUSKY, which was summarized by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, the mixture of American and British commanders who directed the war for FDR and Churchill, as "an attack against Sicily . . . in 1943 with the target date as the period of the favorable July moon." As Atkinson reveals, American strategists were wary of waging war in the Mediterranean, but Roosevelt triggered the campaign by siding with Churchill and overruling his own generals, who argued that Allied forces should instead be concentrated in Britain "for a direct lunge across the English Channel toward Berlin." The American high command at Casablanca agreed to support HUSKY because capture of Sicily would (hopefully) divert Axis strength from the Soviet union ("Never forget there are 185 German divisions against the Russians. . . . We are not at present in contact with any," Churchill had dictated.), provide air bases for bombing Italy and other targets in occupied Europe, and (perhaps) cower weak-kneed Rome into abandoning the war by abrogating its "Pact of Steel" with Berlin, explains Atkinson. Yet, beyond Sicily there was no plan, no consensus on what to do with the immense Allied army now concentrating in the Mediterranean. For that reason, the Trident conference was convened in Washington, and Atkinson opens his work with a masterful account of it. As he argues, the essential of the Italian campaign was Allied strategy, or rather the diverging views on strategy between the USA and Britain. While British believed that it was imperative to use the great Allied armies to attack Italy, the Americans shrunk from the thought of putting large armies on Italian soil, a diversion that, according to Roosevelt, could "result in attrition for the United States and play into Germany's hands." It was far better, reasoned he, to continue staging a mighty host in Britain; the subsequent invasion, a "knockout punch" aimed at the Third Reich itself, should be decided upon as an operation for the spring of 1944. American general George Marshall also added that invading Italy would open a prolonged battle in the Mediterranean that would tie down men and equipment need elsewhere. Despite the disagreements, a compromise was finally achieved. Following Sicily, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as supreme commander in the Mediterranean, was to plan an operation that would be able to knock Italy out of the war and, at the same time, contain as many German forces as possible. The Americans agreed with the plan, narrates Atkinson, but problems materialized instanter: General George S. Patton's first airborne attack on the ancient Sicilian town of Gela, for example, was a spectacular fiasco. On the night of July 9-10, more than three thousand paratroopers were supposed to parachute onto several key road junctions outside Gela to forestall Axis counterattacks against the 1st Division landing beaches. However, much of the HUSKY planning had been done by officers who had no airborne expertise whatosever. Transport pilots had little experience at night navigation. Airborne units had yet to figure out how to drop a load heavier than three hundred pounds, much less a howitzer or a jeep. "An experimental 'para-mule' broke three legs; after putting the creature out of its misery, paratroopers used the carcass for bayonet practice," writes Atkinson with a tinge of dry humor. "Still, the ranks 'generally agreed that training proficiency had reached the stage where the mission was in the bag,’ wrote one officer, who later acknowledged 'possible overoptimism.'” While the blacked-out planes were approaching Sicily, the men inside were dozing, unaware that the strong wind had deranged the formations. Most of the pilots did not found the critical turn at Malta – Pilot Willis Mitchell, who had spied Malta and turned accordingly, found himself approaching Gela without thirty of the thirty-nine planes that were supposed to be behind him. More than a hundred paratroopers from this bobtailed formation landed close to the drop zone, but badly scattered and limped with jump injuries. Others – aware only that they were somewhere over land – jumped from fifteen hundred feet at two hundred miles per hour, rather than from the preferred six hundred feet at one hundred miles per hour. Smoke and dust from earlier bombing obscured key landmarks and further befuddled the navigators. Some mistook Syracuse for Gela, fifty miles to the west. "Machine-gun and antiaircraft fire ripped through the formations and the descending paratroopers, killing some before they hit the ground," Atkinson describes the havoc that ensued. The 82nd Airborne commander, Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, lamented this “miscarriage”, caused as much by bad luck as by overweening ambition: “At war’s end, we still could not have executed that first Sicily mission, as laid on, at night and under like conditions.” On top of that, throughout the whole campaign, the terrain hugely favored the defender, Hitler was bent on fighting for every meter north of Naples, the conditions, winter and summer, happened to be much harsher than anyone had anticipated (Lucian Truscott's 3rd Infantry Division "covered thirty miles a day or more in blistering heat"), and – argues Atkinson – the American attitude toward this appallingly costly invasion was half-hearted anyway. As he further observes, the U.S Army "would convict 21,000 deserters during World War II, many of them in the Mediterranean." Another big problem facing the Allies was the slow buildup of troops and matériel caused by American insistence that the formation of the 15th Air Force take priority over troops on the ground, thus using much of the limited transport. In fact, reveals Atkinson, one of the main reasons the U.S chiefs were persuaded to support the invasion of Italy was the promise of airfields from which the strategic bombing of Germany could be intensified. One of the most remarkable aspects of "The Day of Battle" is its author's gift for sketching brilliantly observed character portraits, graphic enough to make the reader feel as if he knows the described historical figures personally. Compelling, for instance, is his description of General Bernard Montgomery, who commanded British forces in HUSKY. Montgomery was a man of contradictions, writes Atkinson, that would define him throughout the whole Mediterranean campaign. “What a headache, what a bore, what a bounder he must be to those on roughly the same level in the service,” a BBC reporter wrote of Montgomery. “And at the same time what a great man he is as a leader of troops.” The general carried from World War I the habits of meticulous preparation, reliance on firepower, and a conception of his soldiers “not as warriors itching to get into action, which they were not, but as a workforce doing an unpleasant but necessary job." He also accumulated various tics and prejudices: a habit of repeating himself, an antipathy to cats, a tendency to exaggerate his battlefield progress, "an obsession for always being right”, and the habit of telling his assembled officers, “There will now be an interval of two minutes for coughing. After that there will be no coughing.” No battle commander kept more regular hours, describes him Atkinson further; he was awakened with a cup of tea by a manservant at 6:30 a.m, and went to bed promptly at 9:30 p.m. Admirable is the sympathy with which Rick Atkinson regards the frontline troops and unfortunate civilians who suffered from the miscalculations made at the top. Among the book's most powerful passages are those depicting the "hellhole" Naples became, the desperate battle for San Pietro, and the bloody Rapido crossing. The sounds, smells, and pointlessness of war penetrate his powerful narrative. "Perhaps only a battlefield before the battle is quieter than the same field after the shooting stops," writes he of the aftermath of the Salerno landings. "The former is silent with anticipation, the later with a pure absence of noise." The Day of Battle offers a gripping, cinematic account of the Sicily and Italian campaign, which traces the American and British troops, struggling against fierce German resistance and many other obstacles, from torrid Sicily to Rome. When the Allies eventually prevailed, even the Italians kept asking: "Why did it take you so long?"

  5. 4 out of 5

    William

    "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. "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. Even if Italy became a pointless sideshow by 1944, the troops on the ground were still fighting Nazis who could have been fighting elsewhere. That justification was weak, but still worthy. Atkinson still lards his narrative with painfully evocative prose. In “Army at Dawn,” his writing is almost poetic in places, but in “Day of Battle,” it becomes sickly sweet, with fewer high points. At times, reading the book can be a dull slog up the peninsula. Yet the colorful prose made dull by repetition is outweighed by the author’s knowledge of the subject. Atkinson shows he has a good feel for “the arrows on the map.” He can show how that arrow gets drawn at the grand strategic level, as FDR, Churchill, Marshall, Brooke, Eisenhower, and other generals and admirals all try to figure out where the next move shall be, and how to make it. Then Atkinson takes it down to the level of the general pushing that arrow on to the beach and up the peninsula. Then he takes it down to the next level, with the corps and divisional commanders reading the map, looking at the ground, and figuring out the hard way how to make that arrow on the map a fact on the ground. Then he takes it down to regiment and battalion, where the arrow on the map meets the ground, and how the arrow is drawn in blood, not ink. Then he gets down to the fighting man at company and below, who never sees the damn arrow, just the blood. Atkinson has no trouble climbing up and down the ladders of command and action. It all dovetails without needing a lot of explanation. He can explain how attack and defense interacts with the everyday geography of rivers and hills, and how a mountain with a good view can become the stoutest fortress. Each push by the Americans, or counter-push by the Germans, becomes a deadly race to the objective before the regiments melts down to a battalion, or before the battalion melts down to a company, in the span of hours. Yes, the war was worthy, but was it worth the cost? The reader always sees the human cost. It makes the generals look imbecilic as the reader wonders if there was a better way to have taken Italy. Gene Thorp’s maps in “Day of Battle” fail to show elevations, but still lays out the terrain and places the units, all named, in the context of their actions. Atkinson’s writing had to fill in the deteails Thorp missed. To sum up, Atkinson’s “Day of Battle” was still a good read. The flaws were annoying, but outweighed by a story well told, even if the prose is thick and purple in places.

  6. 5 out of 5

    A.L. Sowards

    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. Italys topography. Cassino. The Gustav, Hitler, and Caesar lines. Failure to reach the Alban Hills before the Germans counterattacked at Anzio. Cassino. Constant bickering between alliesfirst between Patton and Monty, than between 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 Clark and everyone else. Goumier rampages on Italian civilians. Have I mentioned Cassino yet? It should probably be mentioned several times, since American, French, British, New Zealander, Indian, and Polish forces all took turns trying to take the abbey and the town, and all suffered horrendous casualties. Perhaps the most tragic moments were the numerous incidents of friendly fire, like the 504 PIR’s drop into Sicily. Paratroopers are trained to drop into fire, but usually it’s the enemy shooting at them, not their own army. One of the more telling moments in the book was the description of the 82nd Airborne’s almost-jump into Rome after the Italian Armistice, and the picture of General Ridgway and his staff weeping in relief when it was called off. They would have obeyed orders, had the jump gone as planned, but Ridgway was sure his division would be wiped out. Atkinson does a good job chronicling the misadventures of the Allied forces in Sicily and Italy. He has a talent for weaving together strings of facts that would be boring coming from a lesser writer, but in this book, the facts are interesting. The book focuses on the Allied leaders, but also includes snips of letters from front-line men and the view from the German side. Were the campaigns in Sicily and Italy a mistake? It’s hard to know. The Allies learned important lessons there, knowledge that would help them in the upcoming invasions of France. And there’s the argument that all those men in the Mediterranean had to go somewhere, and they couldn’t have all fit in England. It’s doubtful an invasion of the Balkans or Greece would have been much easier that Italy. The writing style had a literary feel that reminded me of Barbara Tuchman in The Guns of August. I’m still not sure if I’m glad I bought the kindle version, so I could use the built-in dictionary function, or if I wish I would have bought a hard copy, so I could see the maps better. A good book to add to your list if you want a single-book account of the war in Sicily and Italy (although Atkinson stops after the liberation of Rome—the rest of the war in Italy is quickly summarized, but certainly not given the level of detail he provides for 1943 and the first half of 1944). If you’re like me and prefer the human side of war, you might be better served by reading multiple more specific accounts of the various battles or a few biographies and memoirs of those who fought there. Because Day of Battle focuses on the leaders, and because so many of the leaders had huge flaws and huge egos, the one redeeming quality of war—the brotherhood and bravery it often produces—wasn’t as strong in this book as it often is in books that don’t try to cover quite so much history.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Curtiss

    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 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 throughout the war in the Mediterranean Theater. As the author quotes (more than once) "the only thing not lacking in battle was courage." Quotes from Audie Murphy (a true hero), Eric Sevareid, and Bill Mauldin appear frequently, as do personal reminiscences of the top army and division-level commanders. The only battle in the entire Italian Campaign which involved the slightest finesse, was the 36th division's breakout from the Anzio beachhead, after almost five months of soul-destroying stalemate with the Allies confined to what Berlin Betty referred to as "the largest 'self-sustaining' POW camp in Europe." While the first volume, "The Enemy at Dawn" was not for the squeemish, this one was so gut-wrenching it made me weep. Another book which ought to merit a Six ****** (6) star rating!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    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 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 into the besieged ?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    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 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 a spit and polish blowhard more intent on burnishing his own reputation and place in history than anything else. He slapped not just one soldier in a field hospital suffering battle hysteria, but two. He was the 20th Century George Custer, willing to throw thousands of men to their deaths, so long as he got credit for the win. Britain's Bernard Montgomery was their own Patton, a blowhard in a beret. The generals behaved at times like captains of rival high school football teams. America's Mark Clark made decisions that may have caused thousands of deaths and injuries just so he and his Fifth Army could claim to have reached Rome first. It tells you a lot not just about military leadership, but leadership of many kinds. From the president of a giant corporation to President of the United State, it's often their own welfare they are thinking of first. The book is well worth reading, although daunting in its detail. It's an impressive marshaling of a million facts into a readable narrative. Most Americans tend to think of World War Two as the invasion of Normandy and the eventual conquering of Germany. But that was made possible in large part by the desperate fight to deplete the Germans in Italy and kill and destroy as much of the armies as possible. The fighting in Italy was often reduced to static lines, more World War One than modern maneuver warfare. And it is interesting to realize that the generals were learning on the job. All the details of mounting a seaborne invasion were worked out, frequently with big mistakes, as they actually invaded. Atkinson reveals how the US had a ship laden with mustard gas, held in reserve for retaliation in case the Germans used gas, that was bombed and sunk by German planes. The injuries and deaths from exposure to the gas were kept secret. The casualties are stunning and it is hard to conceive how they could get men to stay in battle knowing that the only way out for most was death or a serious wound. Lieutenants lasted an average of three months. The soldiers lived for months among the bodies of dead friends and enemies. Atkinson writes well but goes off the road when he tries to be poetic. He describes a field "fecund with mines" and bodies of the dead "waiting, as all the dead would wait, for Doomsday's horn." It would seem that they'd already heard it, and that's why they were dead.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dj

    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 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 the US side, which does help to cut down on some of the confusion. Stopping pretty much after the taking of Rome, it does leave quite a bit of the late war fighting out, but so far it is one of the best overall looks at the Italian Campaign I have come across.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Meticulously researched Rick Atkinson provides a highly readable narrative of the fighting in Sicily and Italy, in 1943-44, in which my father participated as a member of the Fourth Indian Division, 1st Field Artillery. Called up in 1939, Father had reached the rank of Major and was serving in the Fourth Indian Division, part of General Montgomerys Eighth Army, when five years later he found himself crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy. The Germans had pulled out of North Africa Meticulously researched Rick Atkinson provides a highly readable narrative of the fighting in Sicily and Italy, in 1943-44, in which my father participated as a member of the Fourth Indian Division, 1st Field Artillery. Called up in 1939, Father had reached the rank of Major and was serving in the Fourth Indian Division, part of General Montgomery’s Eighth Army, when five years later he found himself crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy. The Germans had pulled out of North Africa and had crossed the Straits of Messina in full retreat by summer 1944. Like many of his generation I am sure Father was dreadfully traumatised by his wartime experiences and never spoke of them. All his memories remained deeply hidden. “I had both Indians and Gurkhas serving in my company and they were all brave and wonderful soldiers, but the Gurkhas were something very special,” Father would say, and while under his close supervision I would be allowed a brief moment to hold the knife and turn it in my hand. Then he would add, “And the legend has it, of course, that no Ghurkha ever draws his kukri without drawing blood.” There were no signs of wear and tear and certainly no bloodstains. “But Father, if this weapon was your Ghurkha’s pride and joy why did he give it to you? ” He never answered the question, directly, but under further prompting he added, “They were good little soldiers, the bravest of the brave, and wonderfully cheerful at all times. I had two batteries of guns, four in each, so eight guns in all, and we had to give the Ghurkha regiments covering fire as they stormed up the steep slopes and into battle. I had two Gurkhas in my company serving as my batmen and they gave me the knife at the end of the war.” The knife did reappear occasionally and gradually Father revealed more of the story, finally admitting the full horror, “The Germans had mined the river banks, fortified the town and scattered the surrounding heights with guns, so they had us pretty much in their sights. I had my batteries just off Route Six and my guns were set about two miles to the east of the monastery. Father watched through his binoculars as he ordered his guns to give covering fire to his own advancing Indian and Ghurkha troops. The German artillery got our measure first and before we had fired a shot they had us under fire. It was a bright sunny day and I was walking along the road with my two Gurkhas inspecting our position when the bombardment started. They pushed me into a ditch and when it was all over my two Gurkhas lay dead and I walked away.” Then with a simple shrug of his shoulders he would say enigmatically, “You see, these things happen in war.” This book, volume two of his acclaimed ‘Liberation Trilogy’, has given me fresh insights into the impact the war had upon my father, and millions like him, who served in the military forces and saw first hand the high hopes, quickly followed by the utter chaos and confusion of combat, and the random killing and callous brutality of warfare. I now understand why he never spoke about the War, or his experiences, other than with generalities. Clearly, for him, his time in the Army, 1939-46, was a closed book and the pages would never be reopened. And I think the most startling discovery in this trilogy is how Atkinson shows in some theatres of war there was not so much difference between this conflict and the First World War. An immutable principle of warfare is that it is easier to defend than to attack. Mechanised forces did not move forward and troops were forced to digging trenches and foxholes and attrition and stalemate followed. Despite aerial bombardment and effective artillery support the frontline troops still found themselves walking towards a heavily armed enemy. It is interesting how often American generals found themselves complaining of the slow progress made by Montgomery and Alexander, compared with the progress made by the Americans. How often do I remember my father telling me that Montgomery did everything he could to preserve the life of the British soldiers and so his Eighth Army bombardments lasted days rather than hours, in order to preserve life, rather than squander troops as had been Montgomery’s experience of the poor infantry battalions in the Great War. The author has at his disposal the memoirs of Roosevelt and Churchill, Eisenhower and Alexander, Montgomery and Patton, and their diary entries and letters to wives which contain intimate revelations, illustrating extraordinary complexity of the tasks they were entrusted. The logistics of movement and supply, with armies numbering millions, and convoys numbering thousands, would defeat the strategists time and time again, despite their pain-staking best efforts. Not surprisingly bureaucracy could not cope. And the plight of the poor foot soldier disembarking haphazardly from unstable landing craft then storming heavily defended beaches, or paratroopers dropping from the sky through anti aircraft fire, or troops slogging their way through arid, dusty, parched Sicilian landscapes, always at the end of the food chain, victim to ‘friendly fire’ , casualties of misdirection, miscalculation, misapprehension and misunderstanding. And the poor non combatants, Sicilians and Neapolitans, are shown suffering at the hands of first Mussolini, then Hitler, then the occupying Allied forces. The author doesn’t just describe the collateral damage they suffered but details atrocities committed by enraged, impassioned, demented Allied troops. The writing is fast and furious, with febrile anecdotes tumbling forth, but the narrative never loses sight of the humanity of Everyman - witnessed in so many millions of thoughtful actions, and kindnesses, generous services rendered one to another, soldier to soldier, soldier to civilian, and civilian to soldier. Trying to create order from confusion, the generals had the hapless task of issuing battle orders, knowingly sending thousands of men into battle, knowing the inevitable outcome would cause misery and suffering to thousands of families and loved ones. Underneath the Monastery of Cassino my father came under shellfire from German forces sheltered in the grounds of the huge abbey. Two loyal Gurkha soldiers dragged him into a ditch to take cover. When the barrage lifted my father got to his feet and dusted himself down but the two Gurkhas lay beside him mortally wounded. He would shrug his shoulders, hide his grief and say, ‘Well that was war.’ Atkinson’s prose is thoughtful and precise, ‘ 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 honour 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 no heart would remain unstained.’ Aged 56 General Theodore Roosevelt, son of the former President wrote to his wife, ‘ The longer I live the more I think of the quality of fortitude - men who fall, pick themselves up and stumble on, fall again and are trying to get up when they die. Man does what he can and bears what he must.’ Discussions between Churchill and his American allies, Eisenhower and Roosevelt, are recounted in fascinating detail, using private letters and diaries, and time and time again the obdurate British Prime Minister got his way. The author writes as an agreement is reached on another amphibious landing at Anzio, ‘ Churchill had imposed his will on the generals and admirals against their better judgement.’ And he cabled FDR, ‘ They may say I leave them up the garden path but at every stage of the garden they have found delectable fruit and wholesome vegetables.’ Never does the writing lack empathy or brutal analysis. As US forces tried disastrously to get across the Rapido River, ‘ two infantry regiments had been gutted in one of the worst drubbings of the war’, the Germans found 430 American bodies on the West Bank and took 770 prisoners. Their own losses were just 64 dead and 179 wounded. There are haunting images written in vivid prose. To the victors went a cocky insolence. A captured carrier pigeon was returned on the fly with a banded message, ‘Freuen wir uns auf Euren nachsten Besuch’ - or ‘We look forward to your next visit.’ A company commander in the 143rd Infantry said, ‘I had 184 men and 48 hours later I had 17. If that’s not mass murder I don’t know what is.’ ‘A forward observer with half his face blown away, appeared to be dead, but a medic noticed the lack of rigour mortis. Surgeons would reconstruct his visage from the photograph mailed by his family.’ A rifleman from the 143rd infantry reflected, ‘ I had turned into an old man overnight. I know I was never the same person again.’ And now I know the same applied to my Father, too.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dax

    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 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 not glorify the war and he does not unconditionally praise the Allies in their conquest of Italy. General Clark, Alexander, Patton...they are all given their due when deserving but their errors are not overlooked. This may actually be better than An Army at Dawn, which won the Pulitzer. Good news for any Atkinson fans out there: he is currently working on a Revolutionary War trilogy. Hopefully we will see the first book soon.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    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 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 Battle exceeds the firts volume, Army at Dawn mostly because it does cover the entire campaign. Instead of having Montgomery's 8th Army come onto the stage halfway through the story, we get to see the whole story of the campaign...at least through the capture of Rome. I understand that the shared dates of Rome's capture and D-Day in Normandy allow for an easy transition to the third book and a focus on France and Germany, but after following the trials of 5th and 8th Armies, I almost felt sorry that they the rest of their story in Italy was relgated to a short Epilogue.

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Nellis

    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 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 a very thorough history of the campaign, from the planning, politics, the battles , and the effects on the Italian people . Full of personal accounts and observations that helps to bring the narrative to life. Very informative and full of details. Just like his previous book about the war in Africa, this book was very good.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    I flew through this book. Some background on me: 1) My grandfather was a bombadier in the Italian Campaign. After he passed away, we found his old flack jacket... it had saved his life. It was obvious that it had been hit by shrapnel! 2) My dad was assigned to San Vito Air Station when I graduated from college---so I got ot visit and see many of the places talked about in this book. My grandpa did visit one summer while we were in Italy to tour the area that he had spent time in during the War. As I flew through this book. Some background on me: 1) My grandfather was a bombadier in the Italian Campaign. After he passed away, we found his old flack jacket... it had saved his life. It was obvious that it had been hit by shrapnel! 2) My dad was assigned to San Vito Air Station when I graduated from college---so I got ot visit and see many of the places talked about in this book. My grandpa did visit one summer while we were in Italy to tour the area that he had spent time in during the War. As for the book itself: 1) I LOVED how the Italians switched sides during the war. Eisenhower forced the Itialians to switch sides by announcing the agreement on the radio. I found the quote that the House of Savoy never finished a war on the same side that it started the war, unless the war lasted so long that it could switch sides twice. 2) The Rapido Battle---absolutely tragic. But one thing that has always amazed me is that even in battle, the generals might call a cease fire to rescue the wounded. 3) "Rape for 25 lire"---yeah, that's essentially what a brothel is in a war zone. I'm not one to judge prostitution de facto---SOME women may choose that lifestyle and that is fine---but when one is forced (either due to coercion or necessity), then that is a different story. 4) Never really thought about how the battle transpired. I had always imagined that the Allies invaded in the South (near Brindisi) and worked their way up. Hadn't really considered the obvious fact that a mid-pennensula assault would be better. 5) Thought the discussion on how the bombadiers were instructed to avoid "religious" targets was interesting---and how at the end of the day, victory was more important. (See comment above about my grandpa). This book captured and held my attention because I could see my grandpa there. A weak 5 stars,

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    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 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-standing debate over whether the Italian campaign was necessary or worthwhile. Italy was a grinding, attritional slog of a campaign, and at times this book captures it too well and becomes something of a slog itself. Another filthy and chaotic beachhead. Another millstone mountain battle grinding out death. And while Atkinson is a beautiful writer, he's sometimes guilty of gilding the lilly with lines of fanciful prose that feel out of place in a military history. Still, this is another excellent treatment of the campaign to liberate Europe, and I look forward to the third entry in the trilogy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Checkman

    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 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 always the weakest part of a trilogy since it is serving as a bridge and therefore is neither a beginning nor an end)and covers a theater that isn't as satisfying to many WWII history buffs. The Italian campaign is a slogging campaign. There are no thrilling comebacks after a defeat (ie. Kasserine Pass), Patton doesn't make his debut, no valiant French Marquis, no Omaha Beach, no dramatic armor slashes across France, no Bastogne or the Bridge at Remagen. Starting out with the fact that the Allies sort of stumbled into the campaign ,since they didn't want to let up the pressure on the Axis, but weren't ready to land in France yet. Combine that with the fact that Italy's geography favored the defense (leading to a slower offensive) and you just don't get a campaign that is as interesting. In many aspects the Italian Campaign was a close cousin to the trench warfare of World War One and very few people like reading about a war of feet and yards.It's a brutal campaign in which the Human element is secondary to artillery bombardments and the corpses of American soldiers lay frozen on mountain slopes or go floating by in half-frozen rivers. If one wants to read about brave soldiers doing valiant things the Italian Campaign is going lack that "zip" though I would argue that the fact that the men kept doing their duty in such conditions is more impressive than a hundred soldiers with the Silver Star. The other part that makes this book not as engrossing is because the Italian Campaign is bigger than Tunisia. North Africa was more a battle of battalions and regiments and a couple divisions. Sicily and Italy is bigger with the focus moving to the corp and army level. The coverage opens up and there isn't as much room for the Human element which helped to make An Army at Dawn such an effective book. However this is still a well written account and it serves a purpose. The Liberation Trilogy (when can we expect part 3?) is aimed at the casual reader with a passing interest in the role that the U.S. Army played in WWII. While that reader might be familiar with a few names and places (mostly from the Normandy Landings to the German surrender) they probably don't know all that much about what happened in 1942/43 and you can be certain they they know almost nothing about the Italian Campaign. So if The Day of Battle helps to enlighten a few folks about a campaign that has been ignored for far too long then good for Mr. Atkinson. The military history snobs need to understand that and should be pleased that at least Mr. Atkinson has made an effort.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burhans

    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 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 history, drawn in broad epic brushes, while at the same time it is filled with the small stories of people famous and unknown that really give you a feeling for what was on their minds and in their hearts during the war. The descriptions of the battlefields are so well drawn you can almost smell the cordite and the dead, and taste the dust and dirt in the air. The only set of history books I can compare them too are Shelby Foote's amazing civil war trilogy, and that is high praise indeed in my eyes.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bob Mobley

    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 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 and capabilities of the key decision makers. While many readers will see this as a very comprehensive military history, it is also an excellent and compelling lesson about leadership from which we ourselves can learn.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    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 Atkinsons 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, all “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, all f***d up”). Military history often consists of maps dominated by thrusting arrows and accounts of generals’ battle plans as they unfold across borders and over time. In so much of the writing in the genre, there’s little sense of the experience of real people, combatants and civilians alike. Not so in The Day of Battle. Oh, the book features plenty of maps full of arrows, but the text often dwells on the indecision, the confusion, the clashing egos, and the miscalculations of the generals in the field — and the unconscionable toll of “friendly fire” that killed untold numbers of American soldiers. An erroneous shipment of poisonous mustard gas on an American ship stuck in the harbor at Bari, Italy, struck by a German bomb in a sneak attack on the port, flooded military hospitals in the vicinity with victims of poisoning by the gas. Why was the ship sitting in the harbor in the first place? The shipment was secret, so most officials knew nothing about it, and gave it a low priority for unloading. Thousands of U.S. paratroopers were dropped over Sicily in an effort to attack from behind the German lines — then everything went wrong. Virtually none of them landed anywhere close to their targets, and, because orders to American troops on the ground to ignore them went out half a day late, they were slaughtered and their planes shot down . . . by American guns. Much later, the paratroop commander, Matthew Ridgway, “would report that he could account for only 3,900 of the 5,300 paratroopers who had left North Africa for Sicily on the ninth and eleventh.” If you’re not a pacifist before reading this book, you may well become one. Atkinson skillfully weaves together the results of his research into military memoirs, the contemporaneous accounts of reporters like Ernie Pyle and Eric Sevareid, the letters home from countless soldiers, officers and enlisted men alike, and conversations with World War II survivors to illuminate the victorious but tragically costly Allied campaign to take Italy out of the war and oust the Germans from Sicily and Italy in 1943-44. Especially telling are the point-counterpoint disputes, the rivalries, and the blunders involving the Allied leadership who ran the war in the Mediterranean theater. Winston Churchill, who forced his generals to undertake a tragically undermanned and misguided landing at Anzio on the Italian coast, sacrificing thousands of lives and bottling up American and British troops for months. Dwight Eisenhower, whose inept strategy for the invasion of Sicily allowed hundreds of thousands of German troops to escape to the mainland and bedevil his soldiers for months to come. Mark Clark, whose paranoia toward the British and desperate need for fame led him to disobey an explicit order and drive his troops to liberate Rome instead of tending to the strategic business of demolishing the German armies in central Italy. George Patton, whose disdain for logistics led his troops to run short of ammunition, his medical corps to lack medicine and bandages, and other vital supplies to languish in North Africa. These guys, Americans and British alike, were a very, very mixed bag. Most are regarded by historians as brilliant generals, and there’s no disputing they won the war in the Mediterranean against a fanatically determined enemy, but at what a price! Atkinson notes “the saddest lesson, to be learned again and again . . . 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.” As I said, if you’re not a pacifist before reading this book, you may well become one. World War II was “the good war,” after all. How many bad ones have we Americans suffered through since then?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Leftbanker

    The second in the brilliant The Liberation Trilogy. I honestly never knew that the campaign in the Italian boot was such an incredible shit-show. Jesus, what a terrible waste of human life. I havent quite finished this, but Im close so I thought I would write just these few words. Ill get back to this later, but I needed a break for my own sanity as there are enough shit-shows going on at the same time these days that I dont need to conjure up another from 75 years ago. I came across this bit in The second in the brilliant The Liberation Trilogy. I honestly never knew that the campaign in the Italian boot was such an incredible shit-show. Jesus, what a terrible waste of human life. I haven’t quite finished this, but I’m close so I thought I would write just these few words. I’ll get back to this later, but I needed a break for my own sanity as there are enough shit-shows going on at the same time these days that I don’t need to conjure up another from 75 years ago. I came across this bit in the prologue which describes how at the height of the fighting, the American people were called upon to make considerable sacrifices to aid the war effort, something most did without hesitation. …the war infiltrated every kitchen, every closet, every medicine cabinet. Sugar, tires, and gasoline had been rationed first, followed by nearly everything else, from shoes to coffee. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” became a consumer mantra. Plastic buttons replaced brass; zinc pennies supplanted copper. To save fifty million tons of wool annually, the government outlawed vests, cuffs, patch pockets, and wide lapels; hemlines rose, pleated skirts vanished… Now people balk about wearing a mask. Just like in the first volume, this one is filled with zingers. In a secret letter to his commanders that July, Eisenhower lamented that “less than half the enlisted personnel questioned believed that they were more useful to the nation as soldiers than they would have been as war workers,” and less than one-third felt “ready and anxious to get into the fighting.” The winning entry in a “Why I’m Fighting” essay contest declared, in its entirety: “I was drafted.” The point of this review is to encourage others to read these amazing histories, so I’ll let the book do the talking for me. Their pervasive “civilianness” made them wary of martial zeal. “We were not romantics filled with cape-and-sword twaddle,” wrote John Mason Brown, a Navy Reserve lieutenant headed to Sicily. “The last war was too near for that.” Military life inflamed their ironic sensibilities and their skepticism. A single crude acronym that captured the soldier’s lowered expectations—SNAFU, for “situation normal, all fucked up”—had expanded into a vocabulary of GI cynicism: SUSFU (situation unchanged, still fucked up); SAFU (self-adjusting fuck-up); TARFU (things are really fucked up); FUMTU (fucked up more than usual); JANFU (joint ArmyNavy fuck-up); JAAFU (joint Anglo-American fuck-up); FUAFUP (fucked up and fucked up proper); and FUBAR (fucked up beyond all recognition). This bit made me laugh out loud as it touched on the very nature of military life: “After the first mile we were so worn out we barely had enough breath to bitch,” a mortarman recalled, “but we managed.”

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilson

    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 showsand then actually says at the very endthat 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 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 nonfiction I've ever read. The preceding book in this trilogy, An Army at Dawn, focused on North Africa. There was much sadness there, certainly, but it was balanced by interesting political details, plenty of hilarious stories, and the outsize personalities of Eisenhower and Patton. It's not that General Mark Clark, the central figure of this book, wasn't interesting or a competent leader, but he comes across as your run-of-the-mill moderately narcissistic leader, rather than a personality for the ages. In Italy, there were no heroes, just a shit ton of suffering on every side. That is the reality of war. That is why books like this are important. WWII wasn't a romantic adventure; Europe was saved from enslavement only because millions of allied troops, support personnel, and civilians suffered and died in terrible ways. As in the previous book, Atkinson gets a little fond of his own prose from time to time. He regularly provides ancient context for the locations of battles and events, I think with the goal of showing that military leaders were overly concerned and influenced by classical history: "Well, if Caesar did it this way, so should we." Though he did provide some direct quotes from military leaders, much of it felt contrived and a little show-offy (especially when combined with his occasionally purple prose). On the other hand, Atkinson masterfully conveyed a particularly disheartening aspect of the whole ordeal: After months and months of death and misery, the allies finally captured Rome on June 4, 1944—hooray! What a victory. Except, I don't know about you, but I had never read or heard about the liberation of Rome prior to this book. That's because the Normandy Landings happened two days later and the reporters all decamped for France. All of that death and misery, none of the glory. C'est la guerre.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Gerald

    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, 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, among the most tortuous of the entire Second World War. Written with the credibility of good research, the detail of an almanac, the humor of a comedy show, and the prose of a riveting novel, it is a piece of work that almost makes the reader feel he is with the Allied leaders as they think and make their decisions; on the ships and planes taking the men to battle; on the brutal killing zones such as Salerno, Cassino, Anzio, and others. The book also has a balanced load of the protagonists involved: generals and privates, sergeants and lieutenants; civilians and not, Allies and Axis. Atkinson draws with fascination short profiles of the most important personalities: the firmness of Eisenhower, the profanity of Patton, the hubris of Clark, the bombast of Mussolini, the cowardice of King Victor Emmanuel III, the shrewdness of the German commanders, the petulance of some, the courage of others, the humanity of them all. Read about fatal blunders: the disastrous airborne landings in Sicily, the hesitation in Anzio, the unnecessary destruction of the monastery in Cassino (later rebuilt). And the victories: Palermo, Salerno, the successful breakthrough of the 36th Infantry Division on Monte Artemisio that broke the German line, and the liberation of Rome. Whatever the controversies about the necessity of taking Italy at all, the monumental struggle in Italy led to lessons learned that would prove so effective later in gaining ultimate victory against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Their sacrifices were not in vain. And this book provides a great read of those.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tripp

    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 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 in other wars, early thoughts of being home by Christmas were broken on the realities of the Italian terrain. The many hills and valleys, poor roads and the in depth German fortifications made the war primarily a slow moving and grinding infantry war. Allied commanders often seem like World War One generals, perplexed by the tactical problems facing them and limited resources at hand. The increasingly desperate situation of the soldier on both sides is a major theme as well. The book covers the near-disaster at Anzio, where a large army held onto to a postage stamp sized beachhead and failed to break-out for months. A Nazi radio propagandist called it the largest self-run POW camp in the world. Atkinson goes into great depth about the Cassino struggle. The casualty heavy attempts by Allied Armies to break the German lines and the pointless destruction of Monte Cassino are heartbreaking. The book ends with a brief discussion as to whether the Italy campaign made sense at all. Atkinson briefly argues that it did, but the grand strategic context is not the heart of this book. It is instead a warning and a memorial about the costs of war.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This is the second book in Rick Atkinsons 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. 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. War is ugly and I’m grateful he doesn’t dwell on painting horrific pictures of the ugliness. When the US entered into the war they were completely ill prepared for it, but somehow with the allies, they were able to pull through. I look forward to reading the third book, as soon as it is available at the library.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    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 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 shadows of events in Western Europe (the capture of Rome didn't even enjoy one whole day in the headlines before attention was ripped away by D-Day in Normandy) and to most people is all but forgotten now, but this book provides a moving, often tragic, narrative that should never be forgotten. Whether you're a student of WWII or just have a pedestrian interest in the War, I highly recommend this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    George

    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 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 little glamor or glitz in the Italian campaign after Patton left the stage in Sicily, and Patton comes in for very little praise here and neither do most of the other Allied commanders here, US or British. But the troops themeselves soldier on and persevere and the author does an outstanding job of making them human and making the reader feel and regret their sacrifice.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    "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 "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 that opinion. It is equally good, if not better. I reviewed this book on my blog back in February, 2008. Go here to read more: http://whatsnew-dc.blogspot.com/2008/...

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

    The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #2) by Rick Atkinson is the second in a Pulitzer Prize and New York Times Bestselling trilogy about the liberation of Europe during World War II. This one is focused on the retaking of Sicily and then using it as a base to invade southern Italy and planning to move up the boot pushing the Italian and German troops back. By this time the American soldiers were experienced and hardened combat veterans from The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #2) by Rick Atkinson is the second in a Pulitzer Prize and New York Times Bestselling trilogy about the liberation of Europe during World War II. This one is focused on the retaking of Sicily and then using it as a base to invade southern Italy and planning to move up the boot pushing the Italian and German troops back. By this time the American soldiers were experienced and hardened combat veterans from their action in North Africa. The author chronicles the action from the initial amphibious landings in Sicily until the Nazis are pushed off the island and back to Italy where they were again attacked and pushed up the Italian peninsula. The author covers all the action and the destruction caused by the combat operations including civilian casualties and the loss of irreplaceable churches and other buildings. Great and informative read for WWII buffs and others interested in the Italian campaign that saw the Italians actually surrender and then switch sides during the campaign. Well written and now I'm off to read the third part of this series.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gregg Brewer

    Another 4.5 stars and great bibliography.

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