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
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.
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.
I'm just a big kid.
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.
History enthusiast with military and legal background.
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.
The Liberation Trilogy is the best non fiction I have read. It gives equal time to what the allied high command is experiencing, as well as what the guys on the front lines are experiencing. The book gives so much detail into what daily life was like for a grunt, as well as not sugar coating the horror they all experienced. In addition, Atkinson will also throw in many interesting asides as to the history of the place where the battle is being fought. As this book takes place in Italy, there are many ancient battle grounds, spots where ancient monsters were slain, Roman orgies, and important early Christian Church locations.
Listen to this book! You will laugh learn and cry!
I needed to read this book. None of the history classes I took in high school or college ever discussed World War II; I’ve had to learn everything about it on my own over the years. After retiring for good five years ago, I decided to focus heavily on this major 20th century event through biographies, histories, and well-researched historical fiction. I also watched a number of documentaries which included "The War," "Band of Brothers," "The World at War," and "The Pacific" as well as all of the Extras found on the DVD sets. However, nothing I had previously seen, listened to, or read adequately covered the Italian theater. It appeared to be a rather neglected aspect of World War II, or at least it seemed so to me.
When Rick Atkinson completed his The Liberation Trilogy on the war in Europe, I knew I had to read them all in order to piece together the European aspect of World War II. I discovered from "An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943" just how totally unprepared the United States had been when we entered this ongoing conflict--how we sent untrained troops and officers into the fray, and how much we learned through fighting with the British, against the Germans. But what of Sicily and Italy? What of the Italian Campaign?
In this second volume, "The Day of Battle: the War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1945" I found out more than I had expected. The arrogance, huge tactical errors, and misjudgments of many of the generals caused unbelievable suffering and unnecessary death for our troops and those of our allies in this corner of the war. I knew it had been bad, but it’s hard to conceive just how horrendous it really was. No wonder this isn’t the part of WWII we hear much about! Of course we trumpet the successful landings at Normandy in 1944 rather than those that were so nearly repelled with terrible losses at Salerno in 1943. While the courage and perseverance of the men themselves was admirable, much that they were asked to do was stupid and hopeless to the point of being shameful. It was hard to listen to, really it was.
The author provides intricate detail, often using just the precise word, to convey the taste, smell, and misery of this time and place. He portrays the major players as he sees them from from his thorough research of the archives, and sometimes it’s not flattering. He clearly admires Eisenhower, but is certainly less impressed with Clark and Montgomery. In the end this ultimate question looms large: Was the Italian Campaign necessary? Did it further the cause of victory in Europe by occupying a significant portion of Hitler’s resources? Or was it instead a colossal, pointless waste of men and material? Atkinson poses these questions at the end of this volume, leaving it to the reader for final judgement. I’m still pondering...these are not simple questions and perhaps they are unanswerable...
...but I needed to read this excellent and difficult book. It taught me much that is important for me to know. It also posed additional questions that will require more reading and rumination. I am certainly motivated to soon begin the last of this trilogy, "The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945." First, though, I think I’ll listen to some lighter, less intense fiction in order to clear my palate before taking another plunge into WWII.
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.
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.
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