The 1943 invasion of Sicily was bigger than D-Day and the subsequent campaign featured some dramatic moments (the Patton-Montgomery "race to Messina", the US Navy's mass aircraft fratricide) as well as some bitterly fought set-piece battles (the Paras at Primosole Bridge, the Canadians at Assoro, Leonforte and Agira, the Herman Goering's defense counterattacks against the beaches). But the Allies failed to turn numerical superiority into more than a frustrating campaign against a skillful German economy-of-force effort that culminated in an evacuation across the straits of Messina in the face of Allied airpower.
This Osprey Campaign monograph focuses on the operational ground fighting, although, given the space constraints imposed by the format, it does an admirable job of building in some of the strategy that led to Sicily, the air and naval campaigns, the commanders involved and the opposing forces (not ignoring the Italians). While Sicily has been covered in English-language history writing - the US, British and Canadians all have serviceable official history accounts readily available - this volume provides an effective overview that is informed by both the most recent published accounts as well as archival research.
Again, the series format provides this volume with extensive black-and-white photograph illustrations, several excellent situation and tactical maps, while a "directed telescope" on tactical-level action is provided through three artist paintings of significant low-level actions (Colonel Darby of the Rangers mans a 37mm AT gun, a Siebel ferry runs the gauntlet off Messina, and Ju 88s find out why daylight operations are no longer a good idea) that also provides insights on the hardware involved and how it played a role in the larger scope of events that is the primary focus.
While the size and scope of Sicily makes it hard to fit into the series' format, the author has been able to fit a great deal into this volume and it is certainly worth reading, not only for Sicily's importance as opening the Italian campaign, but what it showed about the evolution of both sides in the ground war in the west.
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Sicily is a fairly overlooked campaign probably best remembered these days for Operation Mincemeat (The Man Who Never Was) and the `race' between Monty and Patton to reach Messina first. The reason for this is probably because after the initial Axis failure to wipe out the Allied beachheads the campaign becomes a protected delaying action to buy time for the inevitable evacuation. In addition, by this stage of the war the Italians had clearly had enough and many (but not all) of their forces were less than willing to die for Il Duce. The result is somewhat anti-climactic with the focus shifting to the conduct of the Allied generals and the German's ability to delay the Allied armies long enough to enable the successful evacuation of their forces.
Having read Carlo D'Este's `Bitter Victory: The Battle for Sicily 1943' two years ago I felt pretty familiar with this campaign. To that end Steven Zaloga's book has no great surprises in store but does successfully cover all the key aspects of the battle abet only very briefly. For anyone wanting a quick overview of this campaign then this title is a good start although with a limit of 96 pages it is only able to touch on the more controversial aspects of the campaign such as the confused planning stage, the near disastrous airborne operations, the Patton/Monty rivalry and the Allied failure to cut off the German evacuation.
As to the title itself: I feel that whilst the maps and photos are fine there is also nothing that really stands out. I would have preferred more detailed smaller scale maps and 3D views covering the beachheads and landing zones, the battle at the Primasole Bridge and US 7th Army's attack along the northern coast. For me, the maps provided lack the detail that Osprey publications are famous for. I was also left a little underwhelmed by the choice of subject matter for the original artwork battle scenes. Rather than a painting of a tank on a ferry where was the depiction of Col. Gavin engaging Tigers at Gela or the actions of the Paras at Primasole Bridge? After what has been a general improvement in the choice of subject matter in recent years, these felt like a backwards step and a missed opportunity.
Overall this is a workman like - but not unwelcome - addition to the Campaign series. It is good to see the Italian campaign being tackled and I'm looking forward to the Salerno title which is often overlooked when compared to Anzio. However I feel a little disappointed by the execution, especially the maps and battle scenes.
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