Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Rick Atkinson has done it again. The sequel to his Pulitzer Prize winning Army at Dawn is a thoroughly and well written account of the Italian Campaign in World War II from the invasion of Sicily to the fall of Rome.
Atkinson pulls no punches and is highly critical of the operational and tactical decisions made by Allied generals and politicians. His use of primary sources provides an excellent glimpse of what life was like for the GI and Tommie slogging through some of the worst terrain in World War II.
What is most interesting is his discussion about the utility of the Mediterranean Campaign in general. There were some major frictions between the Americans and British about how much effort to put into driving up the Italian Peninsula or even attempting an invasion of Yugoslavia and driving into Germany via the Ljubljana Gap. These differences were never really resolved and the redeployment of significant numbers of troops from the Mediterranean, first to prepare for the Normandy invasion and then to invade southern France, ensured that Italy would remain a bloody sideshow of the war after June 6, 1944.
I shudder to think what our "mainstream" media would say about this campaign today. Hundreds of GI's were killed and wounded daily to advance a few hundred yards or to take and retake territory from tough fighting German troops.
I dare say they would call it a quagmire. And they would probably be right...but that quagmire diverted a significant amount of German attention away from Normandy...so was it worth it? Read Atkinson's book and decide.