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Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944--1945 [Kindle Edition]

James Holland
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $7.99
Sold by: Macmillan
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Book Description

During the Second World War, the campaign in Italy was the most destructive fought in Europe – a long, bitter and highly attritional conflict that raged up the country’s mountainous leg.  For frontline troops, casualty rates at Cassino and along the notorious Gothic Line were as high as they had been on the Western Front in the First World War.  There were further similarities too: blasted landscapes, rain and mud, and months on end with the front line barely moving. 

And while the Allies and Germans were fighting it out through the mountains, the Italians were engaging in bitter battles too.  Partisans were carrying out a crippling resistance campaign against the German troops but also battling the Fascists forces as well in what soon became a bloody civil war.  Around them, innocent civilians tried to live through the carnage, terror and anarchy, while in the wake of the Allied advance, horrific numbers of impoverished and starving people were left to pick their way through the ruins of their homes and country.  In the German-occupied north, there were more than 700 civilian massacres by German and Fascist troops in retaliation for Partisan activities, while in the south, many found themselves forced into making terrible and heart-rending decisions in order to survive.

Although known as a land of beauty and for the richness of its culture, Italy’s suffering in 1944-1945 is now largely forgotten.  This is the first account of the conflict there to tell the story from all sides and to include the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike. Offering extensive original research, it weaves together the drama and tragedy of that terrible year, including new perspectives and material on some of the most debated episodes to have emerged from the Second World War.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British historian and journalist Holland (Fortress Malta) vividly recalls the final year of World War II in Italy in this masterful narrative. The controversial decision to invade Sicily and Italy following the North African campaign was "purely opportunistic" and intended to draw German resources away from the main action in Normandy. As critics had feared, Italy, with its rugged mountains, was "a truly terrible place to fight," and the campaign became a bloody war of attrition. The final toll on combatants, civilians, and the Italian landscape was staggering; total casualties exceeded a million and entire cities were leveled. Cassino, the site of a decisive battle, was "utterly-100 per cent-destroyed" and Benevento resembled "a post-apocalyptic ruin." Holland's balanced account of the savage fighting and wholesale destruction draws on the eyewitness testimony of Allied and German combatants, Italian partisans and Fascist loyalists. He concludes-echoing historian Rick Atkinson's excellent recent account of the campaign, The Day of Battle-that despite its terrible cost, the fight in Italy played a decisive role in defeating Germany. A complementary volume to Atkinson's account focusing on the earlier stages of the campaign, this is popular history at its very best: exhaustively researched, compellingly written and authoritative.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

During the course of the past few years, historians and publishers have shown a renewed interest in World War II. The popularity of Ken Burns’ recent documentary The War is evidence that the general public is still fascinated by this iconic twentieth-century conflict. Though much has been written about the war in Europe, comprehensive treatments of the Italian campaign are far outnumbered by the vast array of books that document D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and the race across Western Europe to Berlin. Holland attempts to fill the void with this meticulously researched history of the final year of the war in Italy. Readers new to this subject may be surprised to learn of the tremendous havoc and destruction wreaked upon Italy during 1944 and 1945; those more familiar with martial history will welcome this inclusive chronicle of the Allied, German, and Partisan campaigns in both the south and the north of the Italian peninsula. --Margaret Flanagan

Product Details

  • File Size: 7332 KB
  • Print Length: 656 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,141 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, if not for a few oddities November 19, 2008
I've never read anything by James Holland before. Apparently I'm going to have to get used to historians (to say nothing of a President) who are younger than I, which is something of a jarring experience. The current book, however, is a well-researched, well-written account of the course of the campaign in Italy, basically from the last battle of Cassino up through the end of the war. The author spends a lot of time (more than used to be the fashion) discussing the impact of the war on civilians, and he also spends a lot of time discussing the lives of individual soldiers on both sides of the lines.

Cassino was one of the most frustrating battles of the war, for the Allies, and the author starts with it, recounting briefly the earlier battles, then recounting in considerable detail the successful attack by the Poles. He also spends a lot of time talking about the famous attack out of the Anzio bridgehead by Mark Clark's Fifth Army, and interestingly defends Clark's decision to turn towards Rome and capture it, as opposed to moving to the fabled Valmontane, where Alexander had ordered him to go. Holland discusses this incident, and the produces a map which shows the main German retreat routes from the Cassino front. Only one of them goes through Valmontane, and the author lets you know this was an alternate, less-important, route. The four further north, out of reach of Clark's forces no matter what he did, were the significant ones. Very interesting thesis.

That, in some ways, was the highlight of the book. There's a great deal of information here about various forces and battles, later in the campaign, and much of the information is very well-presented and the judgements are thoughtful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of a forgotten conflict September 8, 2010
Italy's Sorrow is the story of the often forgotten Italian campaign in WWII. Despite Soviet calls for a "second front" from 1942, somehow the 1943 invasion of Sicily, and subsequent slog up the Italian peninsula, did not even count as a second front in WWII, despite tying up a large number of German troops, especially after the Italian surrender, and then switching sides to fight alongside the Allies.

Nonetheless, the war in Italy was an important part of WWII, and James Holland tells the story well. All sides of the conflict are covered off - the Allied forces, including Free French and Polish troops as well as the GI's and Brits, and the German defenders under Kesselring, with the Italian people caught in the middle, whether as partisans, auxliaries to one side or other, or civilians.

The campaign is analysed from a military standpoint, but the impact on Italy itself is never overlooked. In Masters and Commanders and The Storm of War Andrew Roberts questioned the value of the Italian front after the capture of Rome, but Holland never considers the question - it is clear that to leave simply half of Italy in German hands and settle into defensive positions was not an option for democracies who claimed to be fighting for freedom. German atrocities against Italians are detailed, and the impact of the Allies was at times scarcely less brutal, especially the French colonial Goums.

When reading about D-Day and the second battle of France, the impact on civilian life - the collateral damage, in today's terms - is made clear. What is also clear after reading Italy's Sorrow is that Italy suffered far worse - perhaps rightly, as a former Nazi ally - and that this suffering can largely be laid at the feet of Il Duce Mussolini himself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Occupied Italy and its' rescue. June 16, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was in Italy during WWII. Came to the U.S. in 1948. I have always felt that historians had not given the trials that Italy suffered enough credence. This book told it all. Not only the loss to the U.S. and british soldiers, but the atrocities that the Germans commited to the Italians but also to the armies of the Allies..
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My actual review for the book is 3.5, but overall having to choose I went with 4 stars. On the one hand the author does identify all the major players in the story (the Allies, Axis,conflicting Partisans and Italian political leadership, and the great tragedy of humanity suffered by the common Italian people in general and the Italian female population in particular) and provide a good picture of how these played out to cause "Italy's Sorrow". This is a much needed contribution to the story of WW2, as the Italian campaign after the Invasion of Normandy resulted in this significant part of WW2 largely being historically ignored. He did provide significant reference materials and the maps were very good I thought. While it did take some careful examination of these (the maps), they were available and did add appreciably to understanding how the campaign progressed. As my father served only in Italy, and my interest being in the Italian campaign post 6/6/44, this did very well meet my expectations in terms of relating the story.
On the downside, the author gives, in my opinion, too much credit to Clark. In particular, relative to Clark's decision to ignore Alexander's orders at Anzio. Here the author offers some very valuable insight into the overall evaluation of Clark's performance, which did add to my understanding of Clark as a general. But, the author ignores Clark's performance in other aspects of his generalship such as the sacking of his immediate subordinate generals for Salerno and Anzio (when much if not most of the fault rested with Clark) and the extent to which he (Clark) seemed willing to ignore accepted military doctrine during the attempted Rapido River crossing because of not wanting the British to get any credit for the hoped for success.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars the madness of war
One more excellent book from James Holland, after the Dam Busters.
His personalisation of events brings it out with so much more clarity, than a straight forward Military... Read more
Published 5 months ago by A Movie Buff
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched
I enjoyed this well-researched account of the Allied push through Italy with emphasis on the smaller regions and the human and social toll within.
Published 12 months ago by sherill leonardi
4.0 out of 5 stars On the front line and behind it
James Holland has delivered a highly readable, if somewhat lengthy, account of the final year of the Second World War in Italy. Read more
Published on February 5, 2013 by Gregory Hope
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could have been better
This ultimately is a frustrating book. First, the positives: Holland does an effective job demonstrating just how awful the last year of WWII in Italy really was. Read more
Published on December 26, 2011 by Eric Trowbridge
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning and Powerful Work
James Holland's "Italy's Sorrow" is a powerful and illuminating study of the WW II battle for Italy. Read more
Published on January 3, 2010 by D. Jordan
2.0 out of 5 stars German casualties 536,000; Allies 313,500. Total over a million
The above is a shortened quote from page 530. If the reader has got that far he'll be asking why the Italian statistic is missing. Read more
Published on March 11, 2009 by James-philip Harries
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad
This covers the Italian campaign from just before the breaching of the Gustav line till the end of the war. Read more
Published on October 11, 2008 by Tom Munro
5.0 out of 5 stars a splended book
Rick Atkinson's coverage of the war in Italy through the capture of Rome was an excellent read, but Italy's Sorrow is an essential supplement as well as a great piece of historical... Read more
Published on May 16, 2008 by Dr. J. J. Kregarman
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