Review of "The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944" by Rick Atkinson

This book is the second in the “Liberation Trilogy,” the first is here. Both of these books were fantastic. I eagerly await the third.

Mr Atkinson relies heavily on contemporary, first-hand sources. Soldiers (and a few deeply involved journalists) do a remarkable job of describing their experiences. Mr Atkinson does an amazing job of pulling it all together in a way that never feels disjointed. His two paragraph biographical skeptics of important figures could easily be compiled and sold separately. It’s too bad someone can’t get them licensed and put on Wikipedia. Even his descriptions of production figures and landscapes held my attention.

Mr Atkinson takes a balanced view of some of the major controversies of the war (though the French and Italians come across poorly). He leaves a decision about Clark’s handling of the invasion of Rome to the reader (although it’s clear Clark was no fan of the British).

The reader gets a good sense of the immense political calculations involved in leading the Allied war effort and the almost overwhelming responsibilities of the commanders. The horrors of war also come across, unambiguously. One wishes that each generation could get a healthy respect for the terribleness of war, without actually having to go through one. Perhaps books like this one is the best we can hope for in that regard.

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