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The Invasion Of Sicily 1943

Jon Diamond
The book opens with a page of Acknowledgements where the author makes it quite clear that virtually all of the information portrayed has been obtained from sources in the USA. Although some thirteen bibliographical references are declared at the end of the book, the pictorial and textual content seems to have been gained from the following sources:

The United States Army Military History Institute;

the Library of Congress of the USA;

the National Archives and Records Administration of the USA.

It does seem there appears to be very little from British, Canadian, German or Italian reference material.

The chapters, some five in all, are not written in a strict chronological order though the first is described as the strategic prelude to the invasion of Sicily. It is common knowledge that after the successes in North Africa, Winston Churchill was determined that the Allies would invade both Italy and France from the south. Other Allies did not agree but appreciated the concept of opening the Mediterranean sea to allied shipping, and causing the Axis to withdraw troops from northern Europe and the Russian front. This prelude does mention these facts but also goes on to provide an appreciation of the North African campaign and a history of the global aspect of the war up to that point.

In order to appreciate the task ahead of the allied forces, a chapter is devoted to the general geography and topography of Sicily including the defensive installations with several photographs giving the reader some idea of the difficulties a mechanised army would find on what were effectively tracks instead of roads. Although the coastal highways were adequate, most of the interior was more suitable for horses and donkeys.

Chapter three describes the formations and their commanders, the photographs including a couple of pages, with information, of the Axis commanders. Having introduced those involved, the next chapter covers the actual landings and counter attacks. In some ways the campaign was to provide the allies with a considerable amount of information which would be used for future landings, but it was not an easy one for several reasons. One which had not been anticipated was the fact that malaria was prevalent in the lower areas of Sicily and, of course, the terrain was totally different to that of North Africa where so many of the troops had been previously. At times it seems the author is somewhat contemptuous of the efforts of both Germans, and Italians in resisting the invasion. In fact, the Allied forces were lucky in their choices of beach landings because as they moved inland the resistance was bitter and in country which favoured the defender. The major number of casualties were from airborne landings of American, British and Canadian troops where a considerable number of aircraft were shot down by allied ships and also the effect of high winds blowing many off course to the point where a lot were drowned due to landing in the sea. Because the Germans were not happy with their Italian allies, they eventually started making their own decisions even though the Italians were officially in command, slowly withdrawing toward Messina where evacuation to the mainland of Italy could take place. Both sides fought with ferocity and there were a considerable number of civilian deaths due to bombardment, but the only atrocity during the whole campaign apparently was the Biscari massacre which the author does not mention.

In the relatively short epilogue the author questions the performance of the allies in not attacking Messina to trap the Axis forces. This was considered but the enemy had surrounded Messina with a large number of anti aircraft guns which severely limited bombing by the allied air forces. Further it would seem that naval interception was also a problem because of the considerable number of enemy shore batteries and the strait being so narrow it could be very difficult for allied warships trying to manoeuvre between Sicily and Calabria while at action stations.

The book is not an easy read for several reasons, which seem to be due to the author/editor/publishing team. The choice of a sans serif typeface and the amount of leading was not helpful, considering the size of the body text and the smaller text used to accompany the photographs. This was further compounded by the particular shade of black for the text and the finish of the paper on which it was printed. The use of relatively obscure words, together with the number of simple grammatical mistakes and the fact that some passages were repeated more than once tends to provide the reader with a somewhat formidable task.

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In summary, there are many other books which provide a much better account of the invasion of Sicily and it is a fairly easy task to find many descriptive photographs using either libraries or the internet.
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