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on 29 December 2013
A very revealing read and for one who lived through the period as a pre-teenager, quite a sobering window on the reality of what, then, seemed so brave and gallant.
Such a waste of so many good young lives through the pig-headedness and egoism of those in charge.
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on 31 October 2013
Book was mainly from the American view point.......I was looking for the British view as my father took part with the 8th army.
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on 2 December 2010
I was impressed by the detail and research content of the first part of Rick Atkinson's Trilogy 'An Army at Dawn'. It seemed to make sense of the situation described to me by two relatives who served in that part of North Africa.

However, I am disappointed in his follow up book. It seems more partisan and omits some details which I feel would have been included before. My father was always distrustful of the American Army and Airforce due to his first hand experience of them. Rick's first book helped to explain why this might be so. This, his second book doesn't.

For example, use the index for 'British Army Royal Artillery' and you find some quotes from Spike Milligan's books. What you do not find is anything meaningful, such as any reference to the bombing of the Royal Artillery's 74th Medium Regiment by the American Air Force at Cassino. This resulted in 35 dead and injured, with a gun and equipment destroyed. As the USAAF had previously bombed the same unit in North Africa resulting in the CO being invalided back to the UK this incident should have been included as an example of why distrust between the two forces might fester.
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on 15 March 2015
Dear oh dear. Although I found this book interesting I just had to write a review about it's bias toward the Americans and almost contempt toward the British.You would think the British played no part in the Italian campaign after reading this book.I was a bit surprised and disappointed about this,especially as I had already read An Army At Dawn and found that to be a more balanced and fair account of the war in north Africa.Not taking away from the bravery of anyone who fought in the war,I thought Mr.Atkinson was quick to praise every other nationality and equally quick to criticize the British.Fair enough,he didn't make out that every thing the Americans did was right or good,but he didn't have anything positive to say about the British at all.
I have bought The Guns At Last Light and am looking forward to reading it,but I hope the final installment of the trilogy is kinder and fairer to the nation that had been at war since 1939, and whose people and armed forces had fought on alone against the Nazis when everyone else had succumbed to them.
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on 3 November 2014
Exemplary writing by Rick Atkinson as always. He manages to cover everything from the high level political aspects down to the misery of the common soldier equally. Along the way, he reveals the incompetence, narrow-mindedness and sheer paranoia of many commanders - particularly Mark Clark, who insisted that every press release referring to Fith Army referred to it as 'Mark Clark's Fith Army and reputedly ordered soldiers holding the southern outposts of Rome to shoot any Eight Army (British) personnel who attempted to move into Rome central before he could stage his own triumphant entrance. This book also does a lot to establish the importance of the Italian campaign in the eventual Allied victory.
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on 11 May 2016
Having read, and enjoyed, Rick Atkinson's 'The Long Gray Line' I thought that this author had accrued enough credit with me to make it worth my while reading this book. Prior to starting it I looked at some of the mixed reviews here on Amazon, and I noted that there were a few regarded this book as being a very American view of the Italian campaign, some even stating that it was American good, British bad. Having now finished the book I regard that as being somewhat unfair. Be in no doubt, to the book's secondary title of 'The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-1944' should be added the words 'from an American perspective', but the criticisms of the British performance are no worse than what has appeared in many other books written by British authors. The criticisms of individuals and units in the campaign were fairly evenly spread around; Montgomery was stuffy, pompous, egotistical, ponderous in attack, behaviour that has been described in dozens of other accounts, whereas with Mark Clark lived down to the nickname that he acquired of Marcus Aurelius Clarkus.

Whilst this is a very accessible account of the Italian campaign it rarely strays out the author’s American orientated comfort zone. I get the impression that beyond the official British history of the campaign, and rather bizarrely some quotes from Spike Milligan’s war memoirs, very little effort was invested in finding out much about the British contribution. The use of the name ‘Tommies’ for the British and ‘Yanks’ for the Americans becomes a bit annoying after a while, as does the authors flowery allusions to past Roman campaigns, which I skipped towards the end because they added nothing. The book is littered with annoying spelling mistakes, probably generated by some spelling checker that has no idea of the idiosyncrasies of British slang. Quoting a British soldier, on hearing about the Italian capitulation, as saying that the Italians have ‘jagged it in’ is just lazy proof-reading.

The most interesting facts that I got from the book were: the lining up and killing of German POWs by American troops in Sicily, the German air-raid on the port of Bari that released mustard gas that was being stockpiled just in case the Germans resorted to chemical warfare, and the campaign of mass rape on Italian women and children conducted by Moroccans fighting with the French. Clearly some things don’t change.

As a highly readable account of the campaign in Sicily and Italy from an American perspective, this book works fine. It is very much in keeping with the Max Hastings, Andrew Roberts, James Holland school of commercial popular war history, and there is nothing wrong with that if it gets people to go beyond the History channel on TV.
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I bought this book during a visit to SE Sicily where we encountered several WWII cemeteries but heard little about their backgrounds. As it turns out, the very excellent "The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy" devotes about one-third of its substance to the 1943 landings in Sicily and the relatively short period of time it took to wrest the island from the Italians and Germans. For our purposes, it was sufficient to explain what happened in the areas around Siracusa, Gela and Catania where we were traveling. Thankfully, the action was over relatively quickly and Allied (and Italian) losses here were comparatively light. Fighting in the north of Sicily was quite a different story, particularly around Mt. Etna and Catania.

Author Rick Atkinson's great accomplishment in this massive account of the Sicilian/Italian campaigns is the skillful weaving of strategies, battle plans, and politics with actual on-the-ground events and personal experiences of individual soldiers and military leaders. In the latter case, he has gone to some extremes to provide details--often opinions or observations from colleagues and friends--of the prominent military leaders involved in these battles---Eisenhower, Patton, Montgomery, Alexander, Clark, Kesselring, etc.

The takeaway for me from this carefully detailed chronicle was more or less a surprise. I had always bought into the idea that in this "good war" against the Nazis and fascism, the Allied forces followed well-thought out strategies and applied careful tactics on the ground. Author Atkinson, without being hysterical about it, is saying that both strategies and tactics were often badly flawed and the products of political compromise and/or personal rivalries. In the extreme, during the Italian campaign--prior to 1944--tactics and battles came to resemble the disastrous and wrong-headed approaches of WWI, where troops were flung against well-entrenched enemy troops without a prayer of success.

If anything, this book--and others in the series--makes the point that the results of war are rarely predictable and that military leaders often resort to the use of overwhelming numbers and mass bombing in lieu of clever planning, patience and political maneuvering.
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on 8 February 2011
..but not to this degree. Unfortunately, this book is part of the new 'ambrose' like breed of sensationalist and revisionist american military writing. The focus on and lauding of Mark Clark and Fifth Army is pretty transparent and laughable for a book which considers itself a serious historical account. A shame as the writing at times is powerful and emotive. I also feel duty bound to be unhappy with a book that would have you believe that commonwealth troops did not fight and did not fight effectively. Little important detail, little sense of operational scope and patently not a book about anything except the US soldier and their further development as a fighting arm. Avoid.
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on 7 January 2016
Luckily I didn't buy this boook, just borrowed it, don't waste your money. Some of the shortcomings of the British upper command are very valid, and have been well documented by many others, but this a complete -go USA -good, Brits -bad trashing.
If you like your history re written my Americans to fit their view of themselves now, rather than as a leaning ally in 1943, and that the British Tommy wasn't up to the standard of the good old yanks, read on. A bit like the film Pearl Harbour and other Hollywood classics.
If you want the truth, I'd read another book.
I won't be reading the other books in the trilogy.
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on 23 April 2015
This book should be re -titled ' The Americans in Italy '.It is a pity that the author who has such an eye for detail chooses to devote so much of the narrative to the American side of the story.As if that wasn't bad enough,most references to the British ( who suffered equally horrendous casualties )
are of a derogatory nature.There is a nasty undercurrent running beneath the surface of this book,where it appears the author is just itching to have a dig at the British.
This is totally unacceptable in an historical narrative that many people will regard as fact.( I am sure Hollywood could make something of this !)
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