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Monte Cassino: The Story of the Hardest-fought Battle of World War Two Hardcover – 6 Oct 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Headline; 1st edition (6 Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755311752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755311750
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 24.2 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Monte Cassino is a fitting tribute: an important and beautifully written book, told with real understanding and pathos for those who withstood the Western Allies' bloodiest encounter with the German army (James Holland, Daily Telegraph)

Parker has produced a deeply moving, richly detailed and fast-paced account of the most infamous British battle of the Second World War (Saul David, Sunday Telegraph)

Published in time for the sixtieth anniversary of the battle, Monte Cassino deserves to be widely read (Gary Sheffield, Living History)

Some excellent passages (Norman Stone, Sunday Times)

Moving and well-researched (Economist)

A pacy and informative addition to the military history of a much-neglected campaign (Glasgow Herald)

Book Description

The gripping and horrific story of one of the most terrible battles of World War Two, including interviews with hundreds of veterans who have never spoken publicly before

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book deals with the Italian Campaign, from its beginnings mired in confusion, to the bitter struggles that gained the Allied forces yard after slow yard in central Italy, to the climatic, but empty, victory at Cassino, which cost 200,000 people their lives or health. Parker is very in touch with the soldier on the ground, and shows us their plight in intimate, frightening detail, often following the lives of several soldiers during the whole course of the campaign, giving us a detailed view of what each single infantryman or soldier had to suffer just to survive, never mind fight, in such an inhospitable place. Parker shows us the bravery of the Allied soldiers, and also the steadfast guts and intelligence of the Germans.
I have also read John Ellis' 'Hollow Victory' on the same subject, and, in comparison to Parker's book, Ellis is more concerned with allocating blame to the various Allied commanders who lead their soldiers so pitifully, and let petty squabbles get in the way of good strategy, but is perhaps less in touch with the single soldier's plight on the ground. Parker, I feel, gave a much better impression of what the 'Poor Bloody Infantry' suffered. Ellis gives us a more impressive view of the grand strategy behind the campaign, and also better describes the battles after Cassino, while Parker simply alludes to them. Parker tells us how it all lead up to Cassino though, so you can see the two books in many cases complement each other well, and for a complete understanding of this battle I would recommend first reading Parker's work, then Ellis'.
Both, individually, however, are very good histories, detailing a very long, very bitter, very hard-fought and hugely costly battle in a long, bitter war.
I would thoroughly recommend this book, especially for those who believe the Second World War was somehow 'easier' than the First. If you want to get as good an impression of war as you can from words and script, this book will show you.
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By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I believe the best book on Monte Cassino remains John Ellis' Hollow Victory but Parker still cuts his own piece of turf on this bloody ground. Acknowledging his debt to Ellis he adds some very interesting points of view as well as introducing some new witnesses (especially the Italian civilians). I held off buying for sometime because I thought Ellis might have said it all but am glad that I decided to buy Parker as well. Monte Cassino is a story full of small advances on terrible terrain (and, hurrah, the maps are effective and numerous) and Parker keeps one aware of what it was like to hold a "quiet" bit of the front on the massif. Parker offers useful comparisons of why (for example) the Texans failed on the river crossing but the British did not. He also remembers to record the impact that these defensive victories had on the Germans. He is perhaps less concerned with apportioning blame than Ellis, but one is no less impressed by the troops that fought there.
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Format: Paperback
Anyone who's had the opportunity to visit the Cassino battlefield is bound to be struck by the steepness of Monastery Hill and the surrounding mountains. The idea of fighting your way up its slopes seems so preposterous it makes you wonder if there really could have been a battle there. This feeling is further reinforced when you arrive at the restored monastery itself. It is difficult to believe that the building has been put back together from the bombed out rubble seen in pictures and movies. Compared with many Italian towns, Cassino itself is a very plain and functional place with modern residential areas and sprawling industrial estates on the outskirts; whatever character and charm the place had before the war has been wiped out. Even so, visiting in a typical Italian summer, it is still hard to image the horrors of the fighting which incurred in this spot in the cold and damp winter of 1944.

Matthew Parker's excellent account of the allies' four attempts to break the Gustav Line goes a long way to put the reader into the hell of these battles. When you read as much military history as I do then you do develop a certain emotional immunity to reels of casualty statistics. The author has been able to bring together numerous very moving firsthand accounts, principally of the front line infantry and engineers, and weave these into a clear and coherent narrative of the battle. This is one of the few books that have left me almost shell shocked, even to the extent of deliberately picking non-military related book to read next.

The author doesn't engage a great deal of debate about the strategy of the campaign and the handling of the battles, although there is sufficient to give the events proper context.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book takes you there and is a rivetting read. Nearly three decades on from the trenches and all that and it seems WWII was also being fought by lions led by donkeys... and mostly American donkeys. It is interesting how the author portrays the Americans as less than impressive: someone tell Hollywood. This is the first time I heard of the battle of Kasserine Pass: the Americans have kept this one quiet along with 'How exactly did Pearl Harbour happen'. It is amusing to read how one battalion thought they could win the war with PR and a cool nickname: then got spanked first time they had a fight on their hands. In these pages you can read of the invisible thread that would run through Korea, Vietnam and Vietraqistan. The author does not make enough of the achievement of the Polish forces in the last battle. Okay by then the abbey was not longer that big a deal as the Allies finally had enough men and firepower to attack across a wide front and win the only way MC could be won... by sheer numbers, firepower and brute force. And okay so the abbey was finally taken without a shot being fired as the Germans had done a runner. But. The Poles had three key targets to attack and had to attack them simutaneously to avoid being fired upon from the unattacked ones; and the defenders still had all the advantage of topography and natural cover; and ther Poles did draw fire and keep busy Germans that would otherwise had been directed at other troops; and those soldiers had no experience of MC before the attack. In a short space of time they probably had an intensity of fighting, casualties and fatalities that in proportion was equal of other troops who had been there longer. And this without PR and a cool nickname.
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