The Battle of Sicily: How the Allies Lost Their Chance for Total Victory (Stackpole Military History) Paperback – 10 Jul 2007
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About the Author
Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., is the author of more than twenty books on World War II. He lives in Louisiana. Friedrich von Stauffenberg, who died in 1989, was an expert on German-armored warfare in World War II.
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The content of the book is also very problematic. Mr Mitcham has just copy-pasted the maps in the book form other books without reference to where these are taken from and some factual errors left unchecked – such as on Map 6 with the claim that the German counterattack on the US beach head was carried out on the July 10th, when in fact occurred July 11th. The text are in many parts close to copies of US and UK official sources, such as C.J.C Molony's excellent "History of the Second World War - The Mediterranean and Middle East, Vol. 5" (H.M. Stationary Office 1973) and Albert N. Garland/Howard McGaw Smyth's "United States Army in World War II Mediterranean Theatre of Operations - Sicily and the Surrender of Italy". This ensures a reasonable accurate description of the events seen from the Allied side. However, when it comes to the Axis accounts, Mr Mitcham’s primal sources are very limited and scarce. This lack of perspective is the book’s most serious flaw as it becomes inaccurate.
One such example is Mr Mitcham poor and ill-researched account of the battle for the Malati and Primosole bridges 13-15th July, 1943. He claims on page 156 that the 372nd Costal Battalion and an "Arditi (Blackshirt anti-Commando) battalion" were deployed north of the Primosole bridge. He furthermore claims that the 372nd Costal Battalion was of limited combat value due to the fact that it's battalion commander had "mysteriously disappeared" and that many of its men had already deserted. Finally he claims that the "Arditi Battalion mounted a few small scale attacks" but did not represent a threat to the British at the Primosole bridge.
Had Mr Mitcham taken military history more seriously, he would easily have discovered that Major Nino Bolla, commander of the 372nd Costal Battalion, remained in charge of the battalion through out the whole battle and that one of his companies was part of Battle group Tropea that successfully drove off the men of the British 3rd Commando that held the Malati bridge. Furthermore, the "blackshirt Arditi Battalion" is a total fictional unit. What Mr Mitcham might be referring to is the 2nd Arditi Battalion of the X (10th) Regiment Arditi (Army – not Blackshirt), stationed north of Catania. On request of the German battle group commander, Hauptmann Stangenberg, the 113th Mechanised Commando Company was detached from the 2nd Arditi Battalion to be the vanguard when the lightly armed Fallschirmjägers would storm over the bridge to capture the southern fulcrum. In a furious attack, the Arditi company crossed the bridge and together with Germans drove off all of John Frost paratroopers. The Italians lost half of their force in this attack but thanks to their effort, the Axis forces where in full control of both the Maleti and Primosole bridges which would enable Kampfgruppe Schmalz and the 3rd Fallschirmjäger Regiment to escape the encirclement Montgomery had envisaged for them.
Sadly this type of serious factual errors could have been avoided if Mr Mitcham had showed much more interest to the Axis sources, such as General Emilio Faldella’s excellent account of the battle, which goes under the title "Lo Sbarco e la difesa della Sicilia" from 1956.
Instead, his book is filled with so much unsubstantiated claims, anecdotes, legends and irrelevant curiosities about certain officer’s physical disabilities, etc., that I would not recommend anyone to buy it.
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