A Hard Way to Make a War: The Italian Campaign in the Second World War.

Author:O'Sullivan, Curtis H.
Position:Book review

A Hard Way to Make a War: The Italian Campaign in the Second World War. By Ian Gooderson. London: Conway, 2008. Maps. Tables. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 352. 20.00 [pounds sterling] ISBN: 978-1-84486-059-3

In his acknowledgements, Gooderson states the obvious: that this ground has been well trodden before and that he made use of many sources, mostly secondary. This is borne out by the references in the notes and in the extensive bibliography. He suggests that he used earlier interpretations to form his own. These tend to be from the British point of view, which is understandable since he is a Senior Lecturer at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Defence Academy of the UK. For the American reader this can be refreshing, as it gives a different perspective. Having served in the Mediterranean Theater for fourteen months, I've read extensively about operations in that theater but found some new information and ideas here. The best for me is the space given to the planning for each campaign. This is too often minimized in favor of the more exciting battles that follow, although it is equally important.

Resources to pursue an Italian Campaign were limited by Marshall's insistence on a build-up for Overlord. Economy of force in the Med should achieve the limited objectives there. Based on ULTRA intelligence, it was initially hoped the Germans would withdraw to Northern Italy. This dream was soon dashed, and the Allies became reluctantly reconciled to a slugging match the length of the peninsula. Only here were the Western Powers engaging Hitler's ground forces and providing a sort of second front to keep Stalin half-way happy, while maybe helping the future Overlord by keeping some potential defenders away from France. The Allies were thus committed to a continuous offensive, in tough terrain and weather, and with restricted assets, against a skilled and dedicated foe.

There was a dissonance between the U.S. and the UK about the importance of the Med. Though America...

To continue reading