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Salerno 1943; the Allies Invade Southern Italy,
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This review is from: Salerno, 1943: The Allies Invade Southern Italy (Campaign) (Paperback)
The Allied landings at Salerno in September 1943 remain rather overlooked today compared with the battles for Casino and Anzio and even the early invasion of Sicily. Only the later Italian campaign after the liberation of Rome can be claimed to be lost in even greater obscurity. In fact a quick search of Amazon only brings up this title and another book by the same author from 2007 and running to 227 pages. Why the apparent lack of interest remains a puzzle? It's difficult to ignore these events when writing a history of the Italian campaign or even a general history of WW2. In the World at War TV series from the 1970's the battle for Salerno received a very respectable amount of airtime.
The lack of coverage elsewhere meant I approached this title with little detailed knowledge of the campaign, other than the swift and fierce German reaction to the landings and near disaster for the allies saved only by overwhelming airpower. I'm therefore sure that the see-saw battles for the two tobacco factories, hill top villages and river crossings will be new to many readers. I won't attempt to summarise these (go and buy the book) but one is left with respect for the German troops, some of whom, having just retreated from Sicily, were not fully recovered and yet still ran rings around both the British and American forces. In 10 days of fierce fighting the Germans demonstrated qualities of leadership, aggression and tactical skill that could easily have caused the allies to abandon the beachhead. In the end the allies overwhelming firepower from artillery, airpower and especially naval gunfire was able to break-up German offensives. Finally, without reinforcements, and the arrival of Monty's 8th Army from the south, the German called off their counterattacks but were still able to retreat in good order knowing that they had given the allies a bloody nose.
The author's narrative is pretty clear and it is reasonably easy to follow the course of the battle day-by-day. The limited time frame of the campaign means it fits nicely within the 96 page limitation of the Osprey format without much glossing over or cutting out any key events. However I feel it would have helped to have had more detailed maps and these could have done with coming down in scale so that the action could be followed easier. For some reason I also struggled to get a feel of the terrain even from the 3D maps which I put down to the use of the general field patchwork overlay which caused many key features to be lost in the background.
However full marks for another set of excellent colour plates by Steve Noon. Steve's work is always of the highest standard and here the subject matters chosen are on the mark and used to illustrate key events of the battle not covered by photographs. I hope that Osprey's editors make a note of this point.
I have no problem in recommending this title especially as it covers a battle which is so overlooked.