The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson

The Italian campaign has been neglected by most World War II historians; Rick Atkinson brings it vividly to life. It is a story of almost perpetual tactical and strategic blunders, in which the steady application of brute force rather than brilliant leadership or maneuvering decided the contest. The rivalry among generals was horrific, and there is plenty of blame to go around on the high command. Even Patton does not escape censure; the author scathingly describes him as more bluff and bluster than tactical ability, and argues convincingly that personal courage and a willingness to throw away the lives of soldiers on ill-planned assaults does not a great general make. The “soft underbelly” of the Axis in the end proved not to be so soft, and there is some question as to whether the whole effort was worth it or was merely a costly face-saving effort on the part of Churchill. I prefer to look more favorably on the effort, if only to redeem the honor of the thousands who perished.

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