I always await new books on the Mediterranean Campaign with interest. When Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson published his new book The Day of Battle, The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-1944 (Little Brown Books) I was at the front of the queue like a child waiting for a Harry Potter book.
Yes the book is very well researched with an impressive 588 end notes covering a massive 100 pages alone, the sources another 30 pages, however I was somewhat disappointed with the remainder of the book. If you are looking for a balanced narritive of the first part of the campaign, you will still need to look at some of the earlier works as this is a book of the American involvement of the campaign. The British are relegated to little more than a sideshow with their failures given more coverage than their successes, the American hierarchy's anglophobia more prominent than the British Generals experience etc. It also fails to adequatly address the British philosophy of conservation of men and it was this that dictated their strategy and tactics. The role of the French Expeditionary Corps in the early part of the assault on the Gustav line is not included nor, despite their success, the fact that Clarke ordered them to break off their attack to support the American suicidal frontal assault on Cassino.
Even the American failures are not covered in detail. For example, whilst there is a blow by blow account of the crossing of the Rapido River, there is no analysis of why it failed, no mention that they did not practice the assault in advance, of the poor co-ordination between infantry, artillery and engineers nor the lack of recconaisance.
Any study of the Italian campaigns should include all the forces involved in equal detail because they all impacted on each other. They were also on a steep learning curve as the conditions were quite unlike anything encountered before and it was not until much later e.g. the Po Valley that the leasons learned were put into practice.
We await James Holland's new book on the campaign now...