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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.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Day of Battle the most enjoyable?
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.
What does Jonathan Davis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Clear narration that non-fiction reads like a novel.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
My father spent three years in Italy in U.S Army during WW 2. This book helped me relive his experiences.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful