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Monte Cassino: The Hardest-Fought Battle of World War IIby Matthew Parker
Synopses & Reviews
A gripping chronicle of the greatest and most terrible confrontation between Allied forces and the Nazi army, based on groundbreaking archival research and the compelling first-person accounts of four hundred survivors on both sides of the conflict.
Before D-Day there was Monte Cassino, the desperate six-month struggle in the mountains of central Italy that left more than 350,000 men dead or wounded. Hitler had declared that the Allied drive toward Rome must be stopped at all costs, and in the winter of 1943–44 the German commander Kesselring chose the fortress-like monastery of Monte Cassino as the centerpiece of the Gustav Line, one of the most impressive feats of defensive engineering ever conceived. With months to prepare his position, Kesselring took advantage of the treacherous terrain to establish a virtually impregnable position. As the Allied forces?which included Americans, British, Canadians, Indians, South Africans, Tunisians, Algerians, Moroccans, Senegalese, Brazilians, and royalist Italians?pushed their way forward, the coldest, rainiest winter in Italian history rendered air and armor power useless, and turned the landscape into a hellish killing ground.
The Battle of Monte Cassino is a story of the horrors of war seen from the perspective of the soldiers on the battlefield. Through interviews with hundreds of survivors, as well as wartime letters and diaries, Matthew Parker vividly captures the savagery of conflicts fought with grenades, bayonets, and bare hands. His extensive research in the military archives of the participating nations brings to light how incessant disagreements and backbiting at the Allied command level contributed to the carnage and confusion. The destruction of the fourteenth-century monastery itself becomes a powerful symbol of the toll war takes on history and culture. Monte Cassino was one of the most sacred sites in Christendom and the home to valuable religious artifacts, artworks, and manuscripts. In massive Allied bombings, the building and many of its irreplaceable treasures were reduced to rubble.
The first book in twenty years about Monte Cassino, this monumental work of history conveys the human face of war with authoritative power and unforgettable emotional resonance.
Documents the six-month battle in the mountains of central Italy during which more than 350,000 people died, describing how German commander Kesselring established a virtually impregnable position at the fortress-like monastery, in a volume drawing on the first-person accounts of four hundred survivors.
Monte Cassino is the true story of one of the bitterest and bloodiest of the Allied struggles against the Nazi army. Long neglected by historians, the horrific conflict saw over 350,000casualties, while the worst winter in Italian memory and official incompetence and backbiting only worsened the carnage and turmoil. Combining groundbreaking research in military archives with interviews with four hundredsurvivors from both sides, as well as soldier diaries and letters, Monte Cassino" "is both profoundly evocative and historically definitive. Clearly and precisely, Matthew Parkerbrilliantly reconstructs Europe's largest land battle-which saw the destruction of the ancient monastery of Monte Cassino-and dramatically conveys the heroism and misery of the human face ofwar.
"From the Trade Paperback edition."
About the Author
MATTHEW PARKER is the author of The Battle of Britain. He is a writer and editor specializing in modern history, and lives in London, England.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The monastery and the Gustav Line — Pt. 1: Sicily to Cassino. The Casablanca conference and the invasion of Sicily ; The invasion of Italy ; The Gustav Line ; Into the Gustav Line — Pt. 2: The first battle. British X Corps on the Garigliano : the left hook ; Bloody River ; Anzio and Cassino ; The Cassino Massif — Pt. 3: The second battle. The destruction of the monastery ; Snakeshead Ridge ; Lull at Cassino, counterattack at Anzio — Pt. 4: The third battle. The battle for Cassino town ; Castle Hill ; The green devils of Cassino — Pt. 5: The fourth battle. Deception ; Break-in ; Amazon Bridge ; The monastery — Postscript: Surviving the peace — Appendix: Typical British infantry battalion, 1943-44 — Orders of battle.
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