In An Army at Dawn - winner of the Pulitzer Prize - Rick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of Battle, he follows the American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943, attack Italy two months later, and then fight their way, mile by bloody mile, north toward Rome.
The Italian campaign's outcome was never certain; in fact, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and their military advisors bitterly debated whether an invasion of the so-called soft underbelly of Europe was even wise. But once underway, the commitment to liberate Italy from the Nazis never wavered, despite the agonizing price. The battles at Salerno, Anzio, the Rapido River, and Cassino were particularly ferocious and lethal, yet as the months passed, the Allied forces continued to drive the Germans up the Italian peninsula. Led by Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, among the war's most complex and controversial commanders, American troops became increasingly determined and proficient. With the liberation of Rome in June 1944, ultimate victory in Europe at last began to seem inevitable.
Drawing on extensive new material from a wide array of primary sources, and written with great drama and flair, The Day of Battle is narrative history of the first rank.
©2007 Rick Atkinson (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
History is my principle interest...
I have listened to and read a great deal of material on both world wars and thought I had a clear grasp of the essential action. Here I was proved wrong. "The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944" is the second of a trilogy covering the North African, Italian and Western Europe theaters. I stumbled across this one first without listening to the others.
Besides my interest in history I have spent much time in Italy and thought this would add detail to the places I have visited and explored. This indeed was the case. I will never view Monte Casino and the surrounding countryside the same again, nor the pleasant hills and villages of Sicily.
The narration is perfect, Jonathan Davis has just the right blend of voice quality and pace to take you through these years of destruction, stupidity, ill fortune and bravery. The author Rick Atkinson provides a good balance of both the Allied and Axis viewpoints and you get a real feel for what forces caused which actions. For you the book is a significant investment in time (not to mention if you get the entire trilogy) but it is well worth the listen.
The research is significant and, although you already know how the story will end, you are continually amazed at the unending calamitous action from both perspectives. I was also introduced to participants from countries that I had not realized were involved, such as the Indian and Polish units that played significant parts in these battles.
It is hard to grasp that these young men (even the generals were relatively young) were our fathers and grandfathers and their epic trials are still within living memory. You will never look at these men the same again after hearing what they went through. By the end of the book you are actually weary of war and death and need a rest.
Non Fiction Reader
There is a difficulty in writing a book about war an particularly of specific battles. How to portray them? Focus on the men in the trenches? Strategy and/or tactics? Geography? Politics? Decision makers? This book does the nearly impossible: it blends all together. The author tells us what the military leaders hoped to achieve. How they came to their decisions and the mistakes and their successes of those decisions. As in most books of war, a knowledge of the battlefield in essential. Otherwise you have no feeling for the movement of men and material. (I am lucky in that I've been to Sicily and Italy so I have a passing knowledge of the fought-over terrain. In many regards Sicily and Italy are forgotten in the melee because of the much anticipated cross-channel invasion...the "big show". But men fought and died heroically and it is an injustice if their story is not told. This book tells the story clearly and beautifully. It is well researched.
What I liked most about this book was the author's inclusion of solders' diary entries; both allies and axis. It gave perspective and conveys just what the men saw in their limited field of view. These entries brought to life what it felt like to be there. What I thought confusing was the contradictory treatment of some generals. At points the author thoroughly examines their blunders and their inability to change tactics and later proclaims them as well- thought -of if not near "geniuses": even when there was no success. In cases like that, and they were few, I would have liked to have the written page to go back and read if I missed something. I was particularly perplexed with the Anzio invasion. It was my impression this was a case of missed opportunities and the ego of a general who temporized and was more interested in headlines by being first to Rome. The book tells the story (somewhat), and it does fault the general on the ground but it also seems to rationalize faulty decisions that would have deadly consequences. Two who come in for upbraiding are Montgomery and Churchill. If my recollection of history is correct, I think both are warranted; especially Montgomery who is portrayed as a by-the-book, indecisive general, more interested in tidying up his gains than pushing for advantage. Churchill is portrayed as somewhat heartless and unreasoning of what the soldiers' endured on the ground. I can undersatnd why since the American leadership (Roosevelt, Stalin, Marshal, Eisenhower and many British generals were against this theater of operations for taking the eye off the ball of the Normandy invasion. There was also dashied hopes of a promised, quick victory.
I highly recommend this book.
Despite the fact that 60,000 books have been written about WW 2, this is truly a gem. Volume 2 of this trilogy is very well researched, well written, and beautifully narrated. Very lucid and coherent.
Clear narration that non-fiction reads like a novel.
My father spent three years in Italy in U.S Army during WW 2. This book helped me relive his experiences.
Just A Guy
My father (J. Nelson Howard, Texas A&M class of 1944) participated in the events in this book, first with the 36th Division and latter with the 88th Division. I have a letter he wrote home on June 5, 1944 from Rome. The day after he was one of the first GI's into Rome.
Dad didn't talk a lot about his time Italy, but I know he hated Mark Clark, as did his Aggie friends.
I learned some of the reasons why from this book, and also heard Clark's side of the story.
Reading about the 36th and 88th Divisions.
Davis's performance was excellent. His Italian was excellent. His German, British, and French accents were a tad off, but at least he didn't overdo them.
Overall production value of this recording was excellent, there were no dropouts, changing speeds and volumes, or repeated clips.
It's a long book, but well structured to keep one's interest high.
In the top ten books I have listened to. Usually, military history is tough to listen to. Too many places and names. This was well written, and well read, and because I had a significant background in the topic it was easy to follow.
If you are like me and watched movies like Patton and The Big Red One as a kid, this book and its predecessor puts it all in context. For military enthusiast, this book is a must.
Yes, It gives a great accounting of both triumphs and the tragedies of the Italian and Sicilian campaigns.
Length ( at two books a month this is an important criterion) -- and the history itself is memorable. Glad to see Bill Mauldin's excellent memoir cited.
Bombing of Monte Cassino with nobody inside but monks and refugees
Not unless he learns how to pronounce place names
Narrator's pronunciation of Passchendale (he seems to be saying Passindolly) is setting my teeth on edge. I guess George Guidall can't narrate everything but someone should at least make sure narrators can pronounce important place names.
I've never written a review on here before but I had to say something about the joker narrating this book. As a fan of historical non-fiction I prefer there to be some accuracy in the treatment of the text by the narrator. Jonathan Davis fails at this, and he does so with gusto.
His inability to pronounce words (some quite simple if you know the subject matter) is grating, and frankly does a disservice to an otherwise spectacular entry in the library of modern histories on World War 2. For example:
The Somme: he pronounces it as "some"
Ira Eaker: "Acre"
La Marseillaise: The "Mar-sally"
And these are just of few examples of his butchery of words commonplace in the vocabulary of World War 2 history.
Also laughable was the narrators attempt to any accent that wasn't some form of English, American or Anzac. No matter the other nationality (French, Polish what have you) they came off as German. Apparently, once the Germans occupy your country you start sounding like them according to this narrator.
The book itself of course is fabulous and Rick Atkinson is a towering voice in accessible modern military history.
His contempt for the text was obvious in his inability to research even the simplest background of what he was reading beforehand. Apparenlty if you're not American, English or ANZAC you sound like a German as apparently the French, Polish, Russians, Indians all came across with a German accent.
Yes! Though it would make a better HBO mini-series
Read the book.
Authors I like: Patrick O'Brian, Frederick Forsyth, Jane Austen, John Le Carre, Alan Furst, Jon Krakauer, Ernest Hemingway.
Having read "An Army At Dawn" in print, the author's style and the subject were familiar to me, and I purchased the audio version of "The Day of the Battle" without hesitation. This was a mistake as the narrator Jonathan Davis actually reads the work much too slowly for my patience. His ponderous, halting style is not at all natural to my ear and certainly nothing like my own inner voice when reading text. It made the listening to "The Day of the Battle" more work than relaxation, and at about the halfway point I just gave up on it. I may eventually check the book out of the library to finish it in print.
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