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The Savage Storm: The battle for Italy 1943/James Holland

Pursuing my interest in the less well known theatres of World War Two warfare I read James Holland’s account of the Allies’ Italy campaign with great interest and enjoyment.

The Allies had booted Rommel and his Afrika Korps out of North Africa, taken over Sicily and in late 1943 planned the invasion of Southern Italy.

It proved grim.

Under the generalship of ‘Smiling Albert’ Kesselring German resistance was dogged, the winter conditions of rain and unforgiving cold and the mountainous terrain did not lend itself to easy progress.

Dwight Eisenhower masterminded the logistics and appointed General Mark Clark to execute them with his 5th Army.

They moved up the western side of Italy from Salerno through Naples en route to Rome.

Field Marshal Montgomery’s Eighth Army took the opposite side.

The Allies had the advantage of air superiority, enhanced by the early taking of the Foggia airfield, but this was of little help as the forces moved inland.

The attitude of the Italian people was interesting and perhaps surprising.

Italy surrendered in September 1943 and replaced Benito Mussolini with the royalist Marshal Badoglio.

Twenty German divisions invaded Italy through the Brenner Pass in the north and Mussolini was ‘sprung’ by German paratroopers in a daring raid.

The Allies bombed Naples and Rome to smithereens, causing much famine and deprivation, described well in Norman Lewis’ account “Naples 1943”. Yet the Allies were still regarded as liberators.

As Holland writes, the Italian people were weary of war and disillusioned by Mussolini’s hollow ambitions.

All of the above is the background to this book but, as it stops in 1943, we do not read about the Anzio landings, Monte Cassino or the capture of Rome, the brutal German occupation of Florence with a round-up of Jews and the strategic decision – after Italy was cleared of Germans – whether to confront the Red Army or liberate the West from German occupation.

Perhaps James Holland had a sequel in mind but this is quite an omission.

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About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts

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