Journalist and war correspondent Jennings (Bosnia's Million Bones: Solving the World's Greatest Forensic Puzzle, 2013, etc.) chronicles the World War II battles in Italy in 1944 and 1945.
Laced through the story are the viewpoints of fascinating individuals involved in the fighting. At the same time, the author gives us a broad overview, reporting battle details clearly and providing vivid descriptions of the impenetrable German line. Trying to drive the Germans out of Italy was the job of a truly diverse army. There were soldiers from India, America, Brazil, New Zealand, Poland, and Canada. They were arrayed against the Gothic Line, which ran from Rimini on the east coast to Carrara on the west. The German army, under Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, had escaped the fighting in the south because American Gen. Mark Clark decided the glory of liberating Rome was more important than cutting off the German army. Kesselring made potent use of Italy’s geography to dig into the mountains and set up minefields, and he even buried tank turrets as bunkers. The Allies split into three units to move up the center of the line to Bologna, in the west toward the Tuscan coast, and in the Adriatic toward Ravenna. Ready to attack, the Allies were suddenly ordered to divert some divisions to the invasion at Nice, a move that took all pressure off Hitler, gave Stalin free rein in his westward push, and guaranteed that the fight for the Gothic Line would be bloody. The struggle seemed never-ending. The author takes to task those generals who ignored orders, causing extended fighting and untold deaths. He also includes a helpful section at the end, “What Became of the Characters in the Book.”
An excellent book refreshingly unlike most tedious, confusing war stories. Jennings brings his easy journalistic style and thorough fact finding to one of the most desperate conflicts of the war, teaching us how war stories should be written.