On Reading Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle

day of battleI don’t read much war history. I’m fascinated by what causes humans to end up in a state of war, but not so interested in the bloody details of how they fight their battles. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed The Day of Battle, a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson.

The book covers the war in Italy, which the Allies turn to after achieving military success in Africa:

“For the Americans, the first leg of the century’s most grueling race had come to an end, its emblem the Afrika Korps’s prisoners now trudging into camps in Kansas and Oklahoma. That leg, from Pearl Harbor through the capture of Tunisia, had required spunk and invention, unity and organizational acumen. Now the long middle leg of the race was about to begin, of uncertain duration, over an undetermined course, and few doubted that new virtues would be needed: endurance, impenitence, and obdurate will.”

Atkinson’s writing is rich in details. Almost cinematic at times. Often it’s from his own writing. But he also finds an amazing array of quotes from soldiers in the field. One soldier describes an attempt to land on a beach this way:

“The water had become a sea of blood and limbs, remains of once grand fighting men who would never be identified.”

And the bravery of those soldiers is often contrasted with the idiocy of their superiors:

“If the courage of those flying to Sicily that night is unquestionable, the same cannot be said for the judgment of their superiors in concocting and approving such a witless plan.”

I highly recommend this book.

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