A very detailed and moving account of the Allies military campaign in Italy from May 1944 to May 1945. What, to me, makes this history standout among other military histories is the inclusion of how 'others' saw the campaign in which they were involved. By 'others' I mean Americans, Polish, South African, Indian, New Zealand, Italian and German forces. In addition, Holland includes the views and sufferings of the civilian population and the part played by the partisans. This is a military history but at the same time it deals with the human side of warfare. In order to accomplish this the author has carried-out detailed research of diaries, documents, and papers of individuals involved in the conflict. The end result is an exceptionally detailed and impelling account of a war that has been largely forgotten by historians due to the attention paid to the D-day landings and ensuing battles that took place over the same period of time.
Some military histories are so dry, matter-of-fact, that it takes a great deal of effort to get through them. Holland, however, includes many wonderfully enlightening details about the campaign that one's spirit is never allowed to flag. Take, for instance, the account of the wounding of Hans-Jurgen Kumberg a German paratrooper. Hans was part of the Fallschirmjager troops based at Montecalderado in the Monte Grande area. It was now December and, during a lull in the fighting, they were waiting for the American Fifth Army to attack them. Hans had just finished his meal - plums and rice - when he stepped outside the farmhouse to relieve himself. "We had candlelight inside, but it was blacked out. The enemy had been shelling us for some days, and I suppose as I opened the door, they must have seen the brief shaft of light." As he returned to the farmhouse and closed the door, a mortar shell landed outside the door and exploded. Shrapnel burst through the door and hit him in the stomach. Shrapnel wounds were usually fatal as no penicillin was available. But the recent meal saved Hans life. A piece of shrapnel buried itself in the rice. He was carried under artillery fire about three miles to a field dressing station where he was immediately operated on. The next morning the doctor told him just how lucky he'd been and presented him with the shell fragment.
Another fascinating piece of information concerns the famous football star Tom Finney. Finney was twenty-one when he was posted from the rear services to the front line. He was called-up in 1942 but had spent most of his service playing football. Now, with the total number of casualties for the Allies over 300,000, every available man was needed for the front line. He was asked, "Have you seen any action yet?" "No," he replied. "Well, you bloody soon will," said the interviewing officer at Foggia. The next day he set off to join the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers.
This is a war that involved a tremendous amount of action right from day one. Many of us know about Monte Cassino and the determined stand by the German forces, but the rest of this dreadful war is largely unknown to us. Hitler, however, ordered Field-Marshall Kesselring to make a stand and fight for every inch of Italian soil. Alexander and Mark Clark had superiority in the air, but the supremely disciplined German army, which included panzer groups, never for one moment thought of losing. As the launch date for the D-day landings on the Normandy beaches approached problems were created for the Allies in Italy by the need for more men and equipment for the planned landings. It became clear to Alexander and Clark that not only had they to battle with the German and Italian forces in Italy, they found they had another type of battle on their hands fighting with their superiors to retain as many men as possible to finish the job.
A wonderfully exciting and enthralling book....Continua
A brilliant account of the last year of WWII set
in Italy.This book covers the angles and perspectives from a variety of different combatants and individuals,from allied and axis generals to the ordinary front line soldier,from the ordinary Italian civilian to the Italian partisan.
Don't be put off at the size off this book as it is very readable.Excellent stuff.