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Fatal Decision [Kindle Edition]

Carlo D'Este
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Fatal Decision is a powerful, dramatic, moving, and ultimately definitive narrative of one of the most desperate campaigns of World War II. In the winter of 1943-44, Anzio, a small Mediterranean resort and port some thirty-five miles south of Rome, played a crucial role in the fortunes of World War II as the target of an amphibious Allied landing. The Allies planned to bypass the strong German defenses along the Gustav Line and at Monte Cassino sixty miles to the southeast, which were holding up the American and British armies and preventing the liberation of Rome. By taking advantage of Allied command of the sea and air to effect complete surprise, infantry and armored forces landing at Anzio on January 22 were expected to secure the beachhead and then push inland to cut off the two main highways and railroads supplying the German forces to the south, either trapping and annihilating the German armies or forcing them to withdraw to the north, thus opening the way to Rome.

But the reality of one of the most desperate campaigns of World War II was bad management, external meddling, poorly relayed orders, and uncertain leadership. The Anzio beachhead became a death trap, with Allied troops forced to fight for their lives for four dreadful months. The eventual victory in May 1944 was muted, bitter, and overshadowed by the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6. Mixing flawless research, drama, and combat with a brilliant narrative voice, Fatal Decision is one of the best histories ever written of a World War II military campaign.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In January 1944 an Allied task force landed at Anzio on Italy's west coast, its mission to draw German forces away from the Cassino bottleneck and open the way to Rome. The landing was only lightly opposed but the Germans soon counterattacked, and for five months U.S. general John Lucas's Anglo-American VI Corps fought desperately to retain its fragile beachhead. D'Este's account of this bloody struggle and the subsequent capture of Rome is well researched and vividly told. The political, strategic and tactical aspects of the campaign are carefully reviewed, as are the dynamics of leadership on both sides. D'Este ( Decision at Normandy ) sorts out the still-simmering controversy over whether Lucas missed a great opportunity by not attempting to capture Rome early in the campaign when it was presumably undefended. First-class military history. Illustrations.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A meticulous audit of Operation Shingle, the WW II campaign designed to win Rome for Allied forces at an acceptable cost. D'Este (Bitter Victory, Decision in Normandy) provides a panoramic overview of the planning, preparation, and execution of the 1944 assault on Anzio, a Mediterranean port about 30 miles south of Rome. The aim of the amphibious thrust was to bypass strong German defenses along the so-called Gustav line and at Monte Cassino, which had stalled American and well as British armies in their drive to liberate Rome. In D'Este's persuasive view, the strike failed in its objectives for lack of decisive leadership. For example, instead of issuing firm orders, General Sir Harold Alexander made gentlemanly instructions which Mark Clark (commander of the US Fifth Army) often ignored. Nor did Clark prod subordinates to seize highways and rail lines that supplied Wehrmacht forces under the able command of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring. At any rate, the Anzio beachhead became a death trap in which Allied troops fought for their lives in rain and mud for over five dreadful months. When opposition finally crumbled under air and sea pounding, Clark neglected to pursue, let alone destroy, retreating German soldiers, so great was his ambition to be the first man into Rome. In a crowning irony, the recapture of Italy's capital was almost wholly overshadowed by the D-day landings in France. In D'Este's book, blame for the botched Anzio expedition is widely shared. Among others meriting censure, he singles out a meddlesome Winston Churchill, who sowed confusion in the Allied ranks and raised unrealistic expectations. A vivid account of a campaign that attests to the high cost of miscalculation and overconfidence in matters military. (Sixteen pages of maps--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1579 KB
  • Print Length: 608 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books (May 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002BD2UWU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,734 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars D'Este's Best Campaign History to Date... September 26, 2003
Since the passing of the late Stephen Ambrose, Carlo D'Este has probably assumed the mantle of America's leading World War II historian and author. This work was his fourth dealing with military events in the European theater (and in this case, the third dealing with the Mediterranean). You probably won't find a better, more detailed account of the Anzio battle than in this book. It's well researched, very detailed and a quick moving read.
I gathered that D'Este believed that the Allies weren't all that allied and the Germans, outnumbered and outsupplied, simply took advantage of Allied mistakes and blunders and nearly made "Operation Shingle" a total disaster.
D'Este clearly admires Mark Clark's bravery, but questions his strategic abilities. He finds Alexander personally likeable, but one of the least decisive theater commanders of the war and Kesselring, daring, resourceful and opportunistic. The General he admires most is without a doubt, Lucian K. Truscott Jr, first commander of the famous U. S. Third Infantry Division, then is elevated to 6th Corps command when Lucas is relieved. The way the author marshalls his facts, you will find it hard to disagree.
But to me, the hero of the book is the ordinary land soldier, the men who endured the barbarous fighting, the nightmarish stalemate and the eventual breakout of the beachhead. This is a superb piece of military history and well worth the time it will take to read it.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Carlo D'Este's "Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome" is one of those books that should occupy a spot on the bookshelves of all students of WWII military history. One need not be overtly interested in the Mediterranean Theatre to find "Fatal Decision" compelling and worth the time invested to devour its ample 430 pp. of text (excluding nine Appendices totaling 33 pp. and [foot]Notes totaling 75 pp.). As is generally true of works by D'Este, "Fatal Decision" is an engaging read, penned by a genuinely talented writer who also happens to be a foremost historical researcher. Readers interested in the Mediterranean Theatre will find "Fatal Decision" extremely rewarding and are likely to place it in the top echelon of books devoted to the topic (the Italian campaign, essentially starting with the Anzio landings [Operation SHINGLE], focusing on that bridgehead and its surroundings, until the fall of Rome).

"Fatal Decsion" is divided into five 'acts': Part I - The Road to Rome (Chapt. 1-7); Part II - The Anzio Beachhead (Chapt. 8-11); Part III - "Lancing the Abscess" (Chapt. 12-15); Part IV - Stalemate (Chapt. 16-19); and Part V - Breakout (Chapt. 20-22), bracketed by insightful Prologue and Epilogue sections. In Part I, which might also be called 'Preamble to Anzio', D'Este brings the reader up to speed with regard to the Mediterranean Theatre leading up to the Anzio landings. Clocking in at 104 pp., Part I is a nice piece on its own quite apart from the sections that follow. Most readers will gain some new insights about the 'soft underbelly' mindset embraced by the Brits. Moreover, D'Este provides a fair and very balanced account of events that, and personalities who, led to the 'hell on earth' that was Anzio in Jan-Feb '44 (and beyond).
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First Rate History July 23, 2008
This is one of the finest accounts of a military campaign that I've ever read. Carlo D'este is a fabulous military historian. D'este has done something very rare, which is simply to tell the story of a major battle,from the generals' arguments to the crazed, terrifying stories from the soldiers crouching in holes in the ground. Anzio was an operation which had already been considered and rejected. D'este shows that the responsibility for this disaster rests almost entirely upon Winston Churchill, who single-handedly rescued the battle plans from the trash and placed them on the drawing board. Unfortunately, Churchill didn't provide any solutions to the weaknesses of the plan; instead he used sleight of hand to make it appear that the plan would work and bullied his subordinates into accepting it. Most American readers are unaware of the damage that Churchill did to the Allied cause. Although he was a brilliant and essential political leader, he'd always yearned to be a successful commander in the field, and his wish to be a military hero blinded him and prevented him from listening to better qualified men and led him to drag England, and the Allies, into spectacular mistakes like the campaigns in Greece and in Norway. Although his "soft underbelly" argument, which led to the tragic and costly Italian campaign, made sense-surely the Americans and British had to do something to help while the Russians fought the Germans-one wonders whether the invasion of Italy ever justified the titanic casualties which it caused. The foreseeable stalemate on mainland Italy led logically to Operation Shingle, the landings at Anzio. D'este shows that, beyond landing the troops, Allied leadership had no real idea of what they wanted to accomplish there.

Something about Italy...
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Carlo D'Este has written a series of books on the often-overlooked Italian campaigns of World War II. D'Este skillfully combines detailed historical analysis with interesting first hand accounts. The result is a highly readable book. The author uses the first several chapters to set the scene and explain the historical significance of the operation. There are extended passages on the conflicts between the Allied commanders. The central section of the book describes the actual conduct of the operation. The chapters cover the battle at the tactical level and include many short personnel stories. The author moves easily from strategic conflicts between Allied generals to the day-to-day struggle of the infantrymen in the mud of Anzio. The author is not afraid to state an opinion and all views are backed up by significant evidence. This makes the work more than just a collection of war stories. The only quirk I found was D'este obvious admiration of German generals and the German military in general. While he goes to great length to point out the weakness of Allied leadership, the Germans are let off rather lightly, despite the fact that in the end they lost.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointed with the small size print
Very disappointed with the small size print. When I used the 'open' feature the print size was satisfactory.
When the lines are also very narrow. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Happy Gal
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thank you,
Published 8 months ago by Earl
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterful presentation of the Anzio battles undermined by e-book...
Content-wise I would easily rate this title as "5 stars", I barely left it out of my sight until finished, unfortunately its conversion to e-book format is not... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mihai-Vlad Nagea
5.0 out of 5 stars A Provocative Unusually Profound Historic Tome
The Italian people have always been of extremely high interest to me. This author vigorously produces a robust, modern historian's style that catapults one right into the intricate... Read more
Published 14 months ago by franklin c. white jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Part of WW2 Forgotten History
The Campaign in Italy was tough and often overlooked. This diluted the German forces ,but not their spirit. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mark J. Motley
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good book
I like this series and I am looking forward to buying the final third book in the series, OK, OK
Published 24 months ago by Anna Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about a faulty and fruitless campaign.
The entire Italian campaign in World War II was something of a strategic mistake, and it reached it's nadir when, with the allied offensive stalled at Monte Cassino, Churchill... Read more
Published on August 2, 2012 by Jonathan Baum
4.0 out of 5 stars A struggle
A struggle to comprehend, that is. A very in-depth analysis of the battles waged at Anzio and Salerno. Read more
Published on April 29, 2012 by amorris1pa
5.0 out of 5 stars Fatal Decision
Carlo D'Este proved why he is a great military writer and story teller.
Published on November 10, 2010 by Canuck in the US Army
I read this after Reading "Warlord" by the same author. Other reviewers have summarized the contents quite well, so I will avoid repeating what they've already said. Read more
Published on March 17, 2010 by Jorge F. M
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