|Reviewed by Marc Schulman
Rick Atkins has written the second in what promises to be trilogy on the American War on the European Front. Thousand of books have been written on World War II and the question that must be asked is what does this book add. The answer is a great deal. The Day of Battle brings new insights into a theater of the war that has mostly become a footnote in the history of the war, to all but those who lived through it. While the insights and some of the information is new including more information on the killing of German prisoners during the battle, it’s not the new insights that make this book worth reading. Rather it is the clarity of the writing and the ability of Atkins to simultaneously bring into focus the war both from the strategic perspectives of the generals and government leaders as well as from the view of the soldiers in the foxholes.
I have been reading the book at the same time that I have been watching The War by Ken Burns. Atkins succeeds were Burns has failed. Reading Day of the Battle allows provided the reader with an understanding of why the battles were fought while at the same time watching as the actual battle have unfolded. Of course Atkinson is only trying to bring alive one small theater of operation while Burns has attempted to explain the whole war, but Atkinson’s achievement is still notable.
The Day of the Battle begins with a depiction of the Trident Conference where Akins brings to life the personalities of both Roosevelt and Churchill as well as some of the lesser participants as well. Before long we are on the beaches of Sicily with the soldiers as the storm ashore. The book covers both the short battle to capture Sicily as well as the longer and more difficult battle to capture Italy. I recommend this book to all who want to learn more about World War II and the US army.
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