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The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (The Liberation Trilogy, 2)

(Book #2 in the World War II Liberation Trilogy Series)

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Book Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER In the second volume of his epic trilogy about the liberation of Europe in World War II, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson tells the harrowing story of the campaigns in... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Brilliant cultural and military history.

This second volume in a planned trilogy on World War II is at once a cultural history of Europe during the War, and a war history within Italy and Sicily. The cultural history is in the model of a Paul Fussell. The author has an eye for the small detail, what people wore, ate, listened to on the radio, talked about. These small details build up a richness that becomes important in how the battles are understood. Yet the military history is also impeccable. In his first volume, Atkinson explained the North African campaigns with succinct lucidity... Here he explains the why and how of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio... Churchill's problematic role is outlined without histrionics; the author places courage and heroism alongside a record of tough decisions and unwitting mis-judgments. In the end, much has changed since World War II. No modern nation could fight this war, no modern democratic political leader could survive the exposure that would happen with human errors and the lives they cost. That is not a nostalgia, damning criticism of our era or a lament, it is just a fact. This makes Atkinson's history one that is about an era that is already long gone; this book reveals how much technology has changed the face of our world. Yet human nature has not changed, errors from leaders still happen, and even though we find out about them quicker, perhaps we understand them less well. Certainly, no modern general could survive and learn from making the sort of mistakes that every single successful WW II general learned from, made in and learned from the blood of their men. This book captures the complexity of a terrible war and does it with a wise eye and real cultural resonance. It is a brilliant accomplishment, even better than his excellent first volume, and if I could order volume III today, I would.

Brilliant sequel to An Army at Dawn

This is probably one of the most anticipated books in the military history field in a good long while, especially among amateurs. Rick Atkinson's books have all been bestsellers, and the previous volume in the Liberation Trilogy won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2003. This current volume is slightly shorter than the previous one. I suspect that this may be because Atkinson took off a year or two to write In the Company of Soldiers about the war in Iraq in 2003. That book was a bestseller, and I expect it did Atkinson some good in that the author was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division's commander, the then-obscure David Petraeus. This allowed Atkinson to view a divisional command in combat, something most of us have never seen, and probably informed his writing a bit afterwards. The Day of Battle is an interesting book. When originally announced, the series was ambitious, and this volume was to cover the war in Italy from the invasion of Sicily right up through the race through the Po Valley at the end of the war. The book that has emerged is somewhat shorter in scope, only covering the fighting up through the capture of Rome in the summer of 1944, apparently leaving the events in Northern Italy for a later, presumably last, volume. No matter, the events portrayed in the book are complete, given that after the fall of Rome the theater became something of a backwater. This is a large, detailed, intelligent book. Atkinson's favorite characters from An Army at Dawn, Terry Allen and Teddy Roosevelt Jr., depart during the fighting in Sicily, victims of Omar Bradley's distaste for flamboyance. Bradley himself, and Patton, depart for England after the conquest of Sicily, and Montgomery leaves at the end of 1943, having been frustrated in his attempt to conquer Italy quickly, without moving fast. Much of the remainder of the book revolves around Mark Clark, and his relationship with Monty protégé Oliver Leese, theater commander Harold Alexander, and his various American and multi-national subordinates. This part of the book could be of use to modern American soldiers: there's much here about wounded nationalist pride, and how thin-skinned other soldiers can be. There's also much about how other nationalities and soldiers can fit into a coalition if they choose: Alphonse Juin, the commander of the French Expeditionary Corps (FEC) in Italy, voluntarily relinquished a star so that he wouldn't outrank Clark, who was his superior in the chain of command. All of the battles of this part of the campaign in Italy are covered in considerable detail. The fighting in Sicily doesn't convey quite the controversy here that it has in other volumes: Atkinson almost plays down the supposed rivalry between Patton and Montgomery, and also makes it clear that both men played fast and loose with the rules: Montgomery sent his troops up a road reserved for Patton's 7th Army, violating the boundary between the two formations, and Alexander refused to order him to

Brilliant Work -- A Masterpiece

Rick Atkinson's "The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944" is a masterpiece of military history that should be read by anyone with any interest in World War II or American military history. Following on the heels of his Pulitzer Prize-winning "An Army at Dawn," this is the second work in Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy" and deserving of yet another Pulitzer Prize. This book is awash in details about the difficult - and often forgotten - fighting in the Mediterranean Theater, but it also clearly and effectively describes the bigger picture of the war in Sicily and Italy. Two things will immediately strike the reader about this book: the detail with which Atkinson describes the fighting, and the dazzling prose that he uses to tell this story. Atkinson describes the personalities and details of the main characters in the story - the leaders, from Eisenhower to Kesselring to Patton to Mark Clark to - and also gives telling glimpses of the personal lives of the "grunts" who did the fighting on the ground. His emphasis on detail knows no bounds, as he describes Churchill's meals, the furnishings in Mark Clark's office, and the "Anzio Ritz" - the underground cinema at the Anzio beachhead that showed movies to the soldier's at the world's largest self-sufficient POW camp. For many authors, these details would detract from the story, but through Atkinson's incredible writing, these details instead add life, character, and flavor to this story. He captures the frustrations and difficulties of preparing and leading these forces, such as when he says that "for reasons known only at echelons above reason" a typical convoy required more than six thousand pages of names. My only complaint or criticism is that, in his effort to weave a seamless narrative, some of the militarily-significant details - the exact unit's designation, the exact date and time, the number of casualties - are omitted. That prevents this book from being a definitive source on the fighting in Sicily and Italy and means that anyone trying to do research on these campaigns needs to look elsewhere. But despite that extremely minor criticism, this book stands head and shoulders above most other military histories. I've waited for this book for over three years, since reading "An Army at Dawn," and it was well worth the wait. I am already anxiously awaiting Rick Atkinson's concluding work in the "Liberation Trilogy."

This Is Military History At Its Best!

When it comes to writing military history, Rick Atkinson's narratives, in my view, are as good as it gets. I have an entire bookcase devoted to books about World War II and I would argue that very few, if any of them, meet the standard set now by Atkinson as far as depth of research, a flair for the truly visual and personal, and where an easy and readable prose-style is of concern. So I would not hesitate to nominate Atkinson as the best living author of books about World War II, if not of history in general. This current effort is the second volume of a proposed three-volume set of works about that devastating war. The first book in the series was "An Army at Dawn" -- a winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- which dealt with the North African campaign. Now, in "The Day of Battle," Atkinson takes on the campaign in Sicily and Italy in 1943 and 1944. And does he ever! I have a large collection of videos dealing with WWII and, of course, one can get "up front and close" to the action when watching them. The images, combined with the narration and the accompanying music in the background, provide the viewer with a true "you are there" experience. I felt almost the same experience while reading this book. Atkinson's ability to linguistically describe a situation so that the reader feels he or she is right there within the phenomenal frame of a battle is awesome. And I don't use the word "awesome" very often. But in this case it is genuinely applicable. I could actually visualize all the action as it was occurring; such is an excellent writer's ability to translate words into mental pictures. There is one other thing I found absolutely compelling about this book. Over the past few years, I have been studying (revisiting again for the umpteenth time, but more in-depth) the history of ancient Greece and Rome. Sicily and Italy, of course, played a significant role in the history of that era. One of the things that Atkinson does in "The Day of Battle" is correlate the geography of the exploits during the Sicilian and Italian military campaigns to activities that occurred and places that were important during the period when the Greeks and the Romans were active there. For instance, in the first chapter in a section titled "Calypso's Island," he relates the following information: "Over the millennia, a great deal had happened on the tiny island [Malta] the Allies now code-named FINANCE. St. Paul had been shipwrecked on the north coast of Malta in A.D. 60 while..."; in the second chapter we read: "Few Sicilian towns claimed greater antiquity than Gela, where the center of the American assault was to fall. Founded on a limestone hillock by Greek colonists from Rhodes and Crete in 688 B.C. ..."; and in the tenth chapter we read: "Not far from here, in 217 B.C., Hannibal had found himself hemmed in by the mountains and Roman troops." And the above are just three of the numerous references that Atkinson gives us as a classical background to what is going on d

A great volume 2 to a major work on the US Army in the ETO

Quick summary: a major history of the US Army's campaign to capture Sicily and mainland Italy during WWII. It covers the years 1943 - 1944 and reveals the maturing development of the US Army from a raw green force in North Africa to a more confident professional army capable of actions involving large scale operations. With the passage of time, the release of more documents (>50 years since the end of WWII) and the longer arc of history, it is now possible to write more objective and critical history of the US side of the ETO. The first work, Army at the Dawn, revealed how badly prepared the US Army was at the outbreak of WWII and how green they were when they landed in North Africa. In hindsight Operation Torch was necessary in order to help sort out what tactics and weapons worked, which generals and officers were up to the modern shooting war, and what was the character of the American Army. Though West Point supplied a professional officer cadre, every American Army has essentially been an amateur one - from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Spanish American War, and WWI. Large numbers of keen volunteers which needed several years or campaigns to become a serious fighting army. The Second World War proved no different. Atkinson continues his narrative of the evolution of the American Army with a detailed discussion of the Sicilian and Italian campaigns - the flaws and successes, the personalities, and lesser known but important figures. <br /> <br />This work should interest all readers who have an interest in military history in general, and US military history in particular.
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