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A Hard Way To Make War

By: Ian Gooderson (587/35994)
Publisher: Conway ISBN: 9781844860593

It was in Italy that the forces of Nazi Germany made their first surrender to the Allies in Europe on 2 May 1945. In its way, this was fitting, for the Mediterranean theatre had also been the first in which the Anglo-American allies had taken the offensive against the German and Italian Axis in mainland Europe when, following the conquest of Sicily, their troops crossed the Straits of Messina on the toe of Italy. That was in September 1943. Nine months later, in June 1944, when Allied troops landed in Normandy to open the principal 'second front' against Germany, the Italian Campaign was relegated to a subsidiary theatre. By that time, Italy had already seen some of the hardest and most ferocious fighting of the entire war. More was to follow, and Italy remained a bitterly contested battleground as the German divisions, under Hitler's explicit instruction, employed everything they could to halt the Allied Advance.

More than a chronological account of the Italian Campaign, this book is a unique discussion of the decision-making and planning, as the Allied armies, assisted by their air forces and naval units, learned to work together to force their way up the length of the country, frustrated by obstinate German resistance, the mountainous terrain and extremes of the Italian climate. The tactical innovations and flaws of the desperate struggle to hold the beachhead at Salerno, the dogged assaults on the mountain fortress of Monte Cassino and the insufficiently strong landings at Anzio are all assessed in fascinating detail.

Moreover the book examines the role of the Sicily and Italian Campaign within the overall war strategy of both sides, the consequences of which remain controversial to this day.

November 2008

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