Eight Army in Italy, 1943-1945, The Long Hard Slog

B1999

The author has examined the people, the equipment, the politics and the environment to provide a well-presented account that is balanced and comprehensive. There may be few new insights, but the campaign in Italy has been poorly covered in the past and this book is an objective tribute to the 8th Army in Italy.

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NAME: Eight Army in Italy, 1943-1945, The Long Hard Slog
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 200814
FILE: R1999
AUTHOR: Richard Doherty
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
PAGES: 259
PRICE: £14.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War Two, Second World War, D-Day, amphibious assault, beach landings, landing craft, landing ships, armour, training, artillery, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, 8th Army, Desert Rats
ISBN: 1-78337-606-6
IMAGE: B1999.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/l7wk6f5
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: Churchill’s ‘soft underbelly of Europe’ may have sounded good as rhetoric but Churchill had few illusions that the invasion of Sicily and Italy would be easy. Primarily he wanted to take pressure off Russian demands for a second front. By going for Sicily and then Italy, the Allies could move some of their victorious armies from North Africa in short routes, without reducing or disrupting the preparations for the Normandy landings in mid 1944.

As with any campaign, there will be many conflicting views expressed as to why progress was not as some expected. Certainly the ‘D-Day Dodgers on Holiday in Sunny Italy’ found it anything but a holiday and the weather frequently far from sunny. In most respects, their battles were tougher than those in France and into Germany. It became a hard slog where German troops fought every inch of the way, often with more tenacity than their comrades in France and Germany were to display.

There has been some criticism of the US approach to beach landings, where they failed to exploit apparent early opportunities to get off the beaches and on towards the big prizes. They also became bogged down and close to being thrown back into the sea. A similar story emerges from the much larger Normandy landings. It certainly was no lack of courage, training or equipment. In some cases it was bad luck resulting from weaknesses in intelligence of the enemy positions and strength. Generally, senior US commanders were concerned that premature strikes inland would end up with a breakdown of the supply system and the defeat of the troops. By waiting to build up logistics, opportunities were lost and the British troops were raring to go. Of course, there were some fundamental differences between the two forces. The US had come late into the war and was both learning the trade and coming from an environment where lavish supplies were always available. For the British, the war seemed to have gone on for ever and they wanted a speedy conclusion, more importantly, they had become accustomed to having sparse supplies and fighting light.

The US troops landing in Tunisia had learn of battle the hard way and were still putting those lessons to good use. Both the US and British troops had just come from an essentially desert war with vast spaces, harsh conditions and an ideal environment for armoured divisions to form and advance more like a fleet of warships. Sicily and Italy were a very different environment with urban areas, cultivated land, and roads that owed little to the Roman pre-occupation with straight military roads. A landscape that varied included mountainous areas that were ideal for a rear guard to hold up progress and there were fewer opportunities to exploit the Allied air superiority as completely as had been possible in North Africa.

As the time neared for the Normandy landings, resources were switched from the Italian campaign. This was not only a matter of moving men and equipment, or of a lack of reinforcements to make up battle casualties, but the best commanders were cherry picked and allocated to the D-Day invasion force. Where D-Day was to concentrate on using US, Canadian and British troops, where a first language and heritage were shared, the Italian campaign was a cosmopolitan mix of soldiers from virtually every part of the British Empire, together with those who had fled occupied Europe to join their national Free Forces, the Jewish Brigade and Italian partisans who were joined by regular Italian forces on the ousting of Mussolini and the Italian surrender. Against them was a largely German force that included some of the elite units of the German Army and the Luftwaffe’s paratroopers.

The author has examined the people, the equipment, the politics and the environment to provide a well-presented account that is balanced and comprehensive. There may be few new insights, but the campaign in Italy has been poorly covered in the past and this book is an objective tribute to the 8th Army in Italy.

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