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

by Rick Atkinson

Hardcover, 2007

Call number

940.54 ATK



Henry Holt and Co. (2007), Edition: 1st, 823 pages


The second volume in a trilogy chronicling the liberation of Europe during World War II focuses on the Allied campaigns in Sicily and Italy, detailing the bloody battles at Salerno, Anzio, and Monte Cassino, as well as the June 1944 liberation of Rome.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rivkat
The Allies’ Italian campaign in WWII, again a beautifully written story involving a fair share of total screwups, as well as detailed accounts of what it was like for those stuck at Anzio. Jan Smuts is not someone I’d usually quote, but his description of Churchill is so apt: in great things he
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was very great, in small things … not great.
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LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
This is the central volume in Ra's history of the American army in the Mediterranean. It has a good deal to say about the interior politics of the USA in Italy, and how that related to Allied military politics. There is a good deal less about the Allied Armies, the British, Indian, Canadian, Polish
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and French forces in this most Allied of all the theatres of WWII. the coverage of the Germans is on a par with that of the USA and that is another plus. Oddly there is no map of the peninsula other than the endpapers, and that is subtly annoying. Whilethe battle set pieces are also good, and the difficulties of Italy behind the lines are also covered.
But Mr. atkinson has to deal with two controversies; the reasons for the invasion of Mainland Italy at all, and the controversial emphasis on capturing Rome, at the expense of maximizing the damage to the German army in italy. In May and early June, 1944, Mark Clark, the USA Commander made a decision to thrust towards the city of Rome rather than closing several road junctions that would have seen the isolation of the top 40% of the German Army in italy, its, Panzers, its paratroops, and its panzer Grenadiers. He got Rome, a whole day before the Overlord landing in Normandy sucked all the publicity away from his Vth Army. The german army got a lot of top quality men and materials away, some of whom ending up fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Mr. Atkinson gives us a good portrait of Clark and lays out the reasons for Clark's direct refusal of his theatre Commander's order in order to expand his own media coverage. So this is a useful book, within its limitations.
The War in Italy went on for another nine months after Mr. Atkinson, like the World press,decamps for Normandy in the summer of 1944. but you need to find another book covering the further career of even American troops in this campaign.
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LibraryThing member JesperCFS2
Finally I have finished reading this book. And a very good one it is.

I haven't read much about the Italian Campaign. To say nothing would be more correct. I have seen pictures of the utterly destroyed Monte Cassino, read peripheral references in other books to the Sicily, Salerno and Anzio
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landings. But that's about it. Hence I was not aware of how bloody the battles were. And apparently it is still discussed whether the Italian Campaign was worth the loses or not.

For those of you who do not have English as your native language; Atkinsons books has a very high lix number. I have an 'Advanced English Dictionary' App for my iPhone and had to look up words continuously. But finally had to give in and make some 'qualified deductions' instead as my reading rhythm went haywire. But it was a challenge I happily accepted, it was well worth it.
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LibraryThing member jcbrunner
Rick Atkinson's An Army At Dawn was a stellar read. While the campaign in Sicily continues in the same mold, the campaign in Italy falls apart as his neat separation into American and non-American events no longer works. The British and Allied contributions to victory in Italy are not given the
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dues they merit. The campaigns in North Africa and Italy served their main purpose of training the green US army for the real fight on the European mainland. The Americans could gain experience fighting against limited numbers of Germans in a secondary theater.

While the conquest of Sicily made sense as an air base, the attack of the Italian mainland was a classic folly of Churchill. Italy was not the "soft underbelly" of Europe but ideal defensive terrain for a defender. Any student of military history will know how many armies went into Italy to die there. The Germans managed to contain the American and British attack and turned it into a futile war of attrition. The Americans were further hampered by bad generalship: Mark Clark looked like a general but was a terrible commander. Both Salerno and Anzio were mismanaged and caused needless casualties. It is no wonder that Catch-22 is based on the experiences of the war in Italy, a tragic drôle de guerre.

I am looking forward to the third and final volume that has just been published. Hopefully the Canadian and British contribution is appreciated a bit more than in the present book. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member jamespurcell
Outstanding book, I will eagerly and impatiently wait for the final volume. Atkinson's insights into the frailties and opportunism of the political and military decision making process of this war sadly resonate with the current situation in Iraq. The evolution of the citizen as soldier provides a
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powerful and poignant theme to frame the glory and futility of war.
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LibraryThing member RobertP
Great read. Excellently written history of the US part in the Italian Campaign. Very balanced, very thorough. I take issue with the gentle treatment given to Lieutenant-General Mark Clark, but do admit to somewhat of a Commonwealth bias against a man as prejudiced against the Canadians and British
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as he was. I know a lot more about the campaign than I did before. I also know more about great writing and solid research.
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LibraryThing member Karlstar
Like the first book in the Trilogy (An Army at Dawn) this is a very thorough examination of the role of the US Army in Sicily and Italy. From the politics behind the campaign, to supply issues and leadership issues, it is very thorough. It is particularly good at examining the US Army leadership,
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particularly at the top. Very engaging and interesting, about as compelling as a history can be.
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LibraryThing member kcslade
Long, tedious narrative of N. African campaign. Good for details but not too readable. Took me quite a while to get through it.
LibraryThing member IslandDave
Rick Atkinson's incredibly-researched second book in the Liberation Trilogy covers the Allied battle for the Axis 'soft underbelly' of Sicily and Italy. Told greatly from a US Army perspective, the concerns and considerations of Generals are comingled with the grim, gutter reality of life of
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Privates and Captains. From the initial movement of the Sicily invasion force (which started the trip in the recently conquered Tunisia and other spots in North Africa) through the triumphant entry into Rome, Atkinson proves yet again he is a master at his craft.

I felt this second entry in the Trilogy trumped the Pulitzer Prize-winning first book, An Army At Dawn. The landscapes of Sicily and Italy make the background more dense, more colorful, and unfortunately, more deadly to those doing the fighting. Soldiers fought and died in famous locations, such as Monte Cassino, and not so famous ones, such as the Rapido River. Gen. Mark Clark's conundrums are carefully and masterfully interwoven with various first-hand battle recollections of screams, sheets of mortar and machine gun fire, smells of burning flesh and cordite, visions of smoke and death, and the harrowing isolation of life on the front.

An amazing amount of research poured into this work, just like its predecessor, and Atkinson's gift of highly-readable narrative turns hundreds of sources into a breathtaking 588 pages. Starting with the invasion of Sicily, the reader follows the participants, high and low, to the invasion of Salerno and then Anzio, bloody battles for the various heavily defended German lines, numerous attempts to take key high ground, such as Monte Cassino, and the tactical decision-making that led to each success or failure. This is simply one of the most complete popular military history books I've ever read, one that will certainly inspire and haunt me for quite some time. I cannot wait for the third and final book in this Trilogy. Five stars.
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LibraryThing member damcg63
Great depiction of the Italy campaign, the battles, the tragic results and the generals. It is an objective account that pulls no punches in pointing out so many flaws in the allied strategy that one has to wonder how many lives were lost needlessly vs. actually lost in meeting objectives. An
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interesting read.
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LibraryThing member Smiley
Highly readable, exhaustive account of WWII campaign in Italy.
LibraryThing member phaga
This book, like the first in the trilogy, was awesome. There are so many things you learn about this theater of the war that you've never heard before. Atkinson sheds light on the complex relationship between all the countries and personalities involved in a way that makes it impossible to put
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down. I can't wait for the final book!
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LibraryThing member dbeveridge
What I fantastic follow-up to An Army at Dawn. Better, deeper, more poignant, an excellent introduction both to the Italian campaign as a war story, and to the characters and mindsets of the soldiers on the ground; compassionate and beautifully written.
LibraryThing member Miro
Following on from "An Army at Dawn", "The Day of Battle" recounts the allied invasion of Sicily and mainland Italy in 1943 - 1944 with the same successful novelistic style.
He pays a lot of attention to the characters and motivations of generals such as Clark and Patton (less on the British side)
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providing a convincing and readable story that interestingly switches from the highest to the lowest ranks.
A minor criticism is that I would have liked more on the performance of their equipment, but basically its a very good book about a neglected theatre.
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LibraryThing member TomMcGreevy
A very readable history of the campaign showing the absolute brutality of war. Atkinson effectively shows how logistics provided the attackers the crucial advantage in the longer term.
LibraryThing member Luftwaffe_Flak
An excellent and somber look at the Italian campaign of WWII. Power plays, political aspirations, and overall incompetence again composed the death rattle of thousands of lives. Again the author does an excellent job of weaving the grand overview, the politicians, tacticians, and the dog faces on
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the ground into one flowing account. The book itself is hard to put down at times, and others hard to read given the circumstances and cost of living involved. Interesting also for me personally to read about the Sicilian landings and campaign that my Grandfather participated in with the 7th Army before heading to England with Patton and subsequently to France with the 3rd Army. Eye opening to say the least.
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LibraryThing member whitrichardson
Following up with his Pulitzer Prize-winning An Army At Dawn, Rick Atkinson offers a readable and entertaining narrative of the U.S. Army's campaign in Italy. For those who don't know much about the U.S. Army's campaigns in Sicily and the Italian mainland, this is a great one-volume history.

My one
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criticism of the book was that it ended with the capture of Rome in June 1944, when U.S. soldiers fought and died for a whole other year as they climbed higher up the boot. Just because D-Day in Normandy stole the headlines away from the Italian Campaign at the time, doesn't mean we have to also ignore the fighting that continued in Italy from June 1944 to May 1945.

I can't wait for the Atkinson's third and final installment of the trilogy documenting the U.S. Army's war in Europe.
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LibraryThing member joeydag
Interesting details helped add color to this dark story of the war in Italy.I believe the author is ambivalent about the campaign.
LibraryThing member Philip100
Very well written, shines a light on the Italian Campaign. Provided me with more insight into what went on in the Italy. Well worth the read.
LibraryThing member VashonJim
The second part of Atkinson's trilogy shifts to Italy. The location differs -- the quality of the writing and reporting do not. Amazing stuff.
LibraryThing member jerry-book
As a German general said to a British general after the war, next time you attack Italy don't start at the boot! The Allies failed to realize Italy with its mountains was designed for defensive warfare. The Allies needed creative thinking but did not have the strategy. The one thing they did try
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was the Anzio landing behind enemy lines; however, they needn't a Patton type general to exploit the landing. But General Mark Clark and his subordinate failed to take advantage of the successful landing. Thus, Italy became a World War I like slogging battle. General Clarke comes across as a decent but not great commander. It was only after the Allies amassed overwhelming superiority with control of the skies that they broke through. Atkinson describes the action and provides character sketches of the important Allied commanders. A friend who just toured monte cassino says the current Guide says the Germans were using the monastery which is contrary to Atkinson's book.
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LibraryThing member delta351
Did this as an audio book, on a long road trip. Feel some guilt as if cheating...
Anyhow, book was quite good. Sicily got short shrift, but Italy was more than adequately covered. Heavy on details of overall strategy, but some great storytelling esp on LTC Toffey at a more tactical level. Atkinson
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excels at creating a picture of a person, in words.
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LibraryThing member setnahkt
Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy, of which The Day of Battle is the middle, is the best military history I’ve read since Shelby Foote’s The Civil War. Research is extensive, narrative is excellent, maps are good, not much not to like. Atkinson doesn’t care much for Montgomery and
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Alexander and Freyberg, but he comes down fairly hard on the American side too. If there’s a flaw here, Atkinson tends to focus too much on the generals rather than the “little guy”; there are plenty of extracts from diaries and letters home, but the writers are usually anonymous (i.e. “A private in the 36th infantry said…”). There’s also not too much from the other side – German soldiers and Italian civilians doubtless have interesting stories to tell.

The details are fascinating. The description of the horrific battles to crack the Gustav Line and of the rear area “garritroopers” in Naples are outstanding. I was surprised to find that 10% of the 5th Army was hospitalized with venereal disease at one time or another, and the 60% of the women in Italy were supposed to be infected. I suppose if you put a bunch of young men in proximity to a bunch of starving women, it’s bound to happen; the surprise may be how few rather than how many. (Atkinson notes at one point that many of the streetwalkers in Naples powdered their hair with DDT but doesn’t comment further – in the mistaken belief it could do something about VD? To demonstrate they didn’t have lice? Just as a fashion statement?) I’m also a little disappointed Atkinson didn’t continue with the Italian campaign past the fall of Rome; it was admittedly a sideshow, but sometimes what goes on in the sideshows is just as interesting as the main event. At least four stars.
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LibraryThing member
A detailed account of the war in Italy from the landings in Sicilia to the conquest of Roma

Mistakes are shown and explained; the suffering of the soldiers and of the civilians are told in full, as are decisions (good or bad ones)
LibraryThing member varielle
This is the second volume of Pulitzer winner Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy. It’s a doorstop but worth the effort. Atkinson’s well-researched work has a lengthy set of endnotes that would be a gold mine for any researcher. His narrative is gripping. As the Greatest Generation is passing
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it’s easy to forget everything that came before D-Day. The horror is so intense and information so tightly packed it’s best digested in small bites. The slog up the boot to root out the Germans was an endeavor to remember. Whew!
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