Monday, December 3, 2007

Book note: Rick Atkinson's Day of Battle

Casualties in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make the daily headlines and cause some to demand an immediate cessation of involvement by American forces. In another time and war, the focus of casualties and mistakes in leadership, were dimmed by the fog of war and the deft hand of censors. Rick Atkinson has authored what will be a trilogy on World War II in Europe. He won a Pulitzer Prize, for his first book, An Army at Dawn, that narrates the invasion of North Africa by Allied forces. .

Last month the second installment, Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, was published.
In the words of one review, from Publishers Weekly. "Atkinson surpasses his Pulitzer-winning An Army at Dawn." I would recommend this for all who are interested in World War II history and want to revisit a campaign that was mostly forgotten after the invasion at Normandy. The mistakes, heartbreaks, cover ups and triumphs, that are grist to all wars, are vividly brought back to life in Atkinson's prose. He takes the reader from the White House, to the slit trenches and blasted out villages in Italy, leaving a lasting impression in the mind of the reader.

To put this all in perspective, the campaign lasted 608 days and cost the Allies 312,000 casualties, with 25, 502 dead, and the Germans, 500,000, half of which were KIA. The cost to the civilian population of Italy was staggering, years after the war unexploded mines continued to kill. The decision to invade Italy has been debated by scholars ever since, much like today's argument that we could have avoided invading Iraq and still win the "War on Terror." The final result for Iraq is still being contested. Sixty years from now, scholars will still be debating both decisions.

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