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Ortona: Canada's Epic World War II Battle Paperback – May 19, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Mark Zuehlke's book is a heart-stopping intimate look at all the brutal excesses of war...it is a fascinating read, rich in anecdotes." (Toronto Star 2003-03-07)

"Zuehlke brings the battle for Ortona and the men who fought it back to life...This is a book which reveals what war is really like." (Esprit de Corps 2003-03-07)

About the Author

Mark Zuehlke is the author of the critically acclaimed Canadian Battle Series and many other books. He has worked as a journalist, been educated as a historian and written award-winning fiction. The Canadian Battle Series is the most detailed accounting of any army during World War II ever written by a single author. In recognition of his work, Mark Zuehlke has been shortlisted for the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Popular Media - The Pierre Berton Award. The award will be presented on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013. Zuehlke lives in Victoria, B.C.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre; First Trade Paper Edition edition (May 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550545574
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550545579
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,685,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Mannie Liscum on March 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mark Zuehlke is one of Canada's leading academic Second World War historians and his 1999 book, "Ortona: Canada's Epic World War II Battle", represents a fine example of the quality of his research and writing. As an American (hence by default I am likely more American-centric in my readings and studies) I knew nothing (short of having heard of the town) about Ortona's place within the larger context of WWII, or that it holds such a prominent place in the history of Canadian troops to have fought in Europe in 1944-45. Zuehlke has done his job in spades in conveying the importance of Ortona to the Canadian soldiers of WWII.

Clocking in at 382 pp. of formal prose, with an additional 44 pp. for Appendices, Notes and Bibliography, "Ortona" may be a bit long for many readers given that it is dedicated to a single battle period of relatively limited geography, in an oft considered secondary theatre (Italy), away from the more famous and main action (Monte Cassino and Liri Valley), fought by a comparatively small contingent of men from a lesser partner (in fact at that time Canada was considered part of the British Commonwealth forces) in the Grand Allied Coalition. However, Zuehlke does not waste words and his prose flows extremely well, keeping the readers interest throughout. So do not be deterred by the length of a book that may seem 'fringe' at first glance. The story deserves to be told and moreover warrants being read by an audience wider than one limited by nationalistic (Canadian) interest. Most American (and likely British) readers are enamored by stories of their own countrymen and even the Germans in the Second World War, but are much less likely to pick up a book dealing with one of the lesser partners (or even the largest partner - USSR).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By AvidOldiesCollector TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
When I saw this in a bookstore in Toronto a few summers ago, one of my sons knew it would be the perfect birthday gift, as my dad [and, of course, his grandfather] fought with the Canadian Army throughout the battles of Sicily and Italy.

Dad was a sergeant with the 51st Battery of the 1st Canadian Anti-Tank Regiment, and while he was reluctant to discuss the war in any detail, there were times - especially with a few beers under his belt - when he would open up. Even then, however, the horrific battles at the Moro River and Ortona were off usually limits.

Then, in the early days of his brief battle with Alzheimer's, he spoke of those days in the halting, limited vocabulary that is the bane of the disease's sufferers. And I remember him telling how his AT battery would be called in to blast away the top floors of some high buildings in the town and open up gaps in the rubble for the Shermans.

He also spoke of the spooky German withdrawal, saying one day they moved into position only to find them "all gone ... all gone."

How thrilling it was to see these events covered in Mr. Zuehlke's book. Thank you, sir, for the one of the best volumes on the Canadian effort in that theatre of the war. It takes a Canadian author to recognize and credit the actions of the Canadian Army without referring to them as "British forces."
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul Bourgault on September 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Canadian have been repeatedly set apart from the grand scheme of the hole war by some historian most of them from England, but in reality they have been deeply involve even if the quantity of man and woman was not as big as other countries.
Ortona gives you a sense of what it is to be a Canadian soldier. Well written, and well depicted, the story of some of the best regiment will give you a grip of the real thing, the fear and the bound that emerge from the hell of the shell and blood.
This book is a must have in any serious collection.
Paul Bougault
2Lt/Fus MR21/34thCBG/RCAC
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By mathieu laine on January 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
The book is an easy and fast read, very informative and MORE than adequate for the casual reader of world war II material. The blend of veteran testemonies and factual account is interesting and the formula works. It is not the most detailled military account around - and like a previous reviewer mentionned, Ortona is only covered at the end of the book. Still, I highly recommend this book to anyone intrested in the subject.
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Format: Paperback
Ask the average Canadian about his or her country's role in World War II, and they will say "Dieppe." Or possibly add, "Hong Kong." Both are battles in which Canadian troops fought with great valor and suffered heavily, but a third such engagement should be added to create a hat trick -- Ortona. There the 1st Canadian Corps slugged it out with some of Germany's best troops in Italy's mountain terrain and vile winter.

Mark Zuehlke, who is Canada's pre-eminent historian on that nation's World War II efforts, has produced a stunning volume on this battle, which both focuses on the "big picture" at 8th Army and 1st Canadian Corps headquarters, the "medium picture" at brigade and battalion Tac HQs, and the "small picture" in foxholes and slit trenches. We hear from generals, colonels, majors, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, lance-corporals, and privates, as they struggle against a variety of potential fatal challenges, and endure appalling hardships.

Mr. Zuehlke knows how to do research, and has assembled a formidable collection of interviews and accounts to provide the human side of this incredible story, and then render it in a riveting and gripping style.

Canada's World War II is in the shadows, even in Canada. That should not continue. It's time the whole world knew about it. Reading this book is a start. Mostly highly recommended for any serious student of World War II.
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