The Savage Storm
The Battle for Italy 1943
by James Holland
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Pub Date 12 Dec 2023 | Archive Date 12 Dec 2023
Grove Atlantic, Atlantic Monthly Press
Acclaimed WWII historian James Holland both narrates and reframes the controversial first months of the Italian Campaign and sets a new standard in the chronicling of war
Following victory in Sicily, while the central command planned the spring 1944 invasion of France, Allied troops crossed into southern Italy in September 1943, expecting to drive Axis forces north and liberate Rome by Christmas. Italy quickly surrendered but German divisions fiercely resisted, and the hoped-for quick victory descended into one of the most challenging and protracted battles of the entire war.
James Holland’s The Savage Storm, chronicling the dramatic opening months of the Italian Campaign in unflinching and insightful detail, is unlike any campaign history yet written. Holland has always narrated war at ground level, but here goes further by chronicling events almost entirely through the contemporary eyes of those who were there on all sides and at all levels—Allied, Axis, civilians alike. Weaving together a wealth of letters, diaries, and other documents—from the likes of American General Mark Clark, German battalion commander Georg Zellner, New Zealand lance-corporal Roger Smith, legendary war reporter Ernie Pyle, and Italian politician Filippo Caracciolo—Holland traces the battles as they were experienced across plains, over mountains, through shattered villages and cities, in intense heat and, towards the end of December 1943, frigid cold and relentless rain.
Such close-up views persuade Holland to recast important aspects of the campaign, reappraising the reputation of Mark Clark himself and other senior commanders of the U.S. Fifth and British Eighth armies. Given the shortage of Allied shipping and materiel allocated to Italy because of the build-up for D-Day, more was expected of Allied troops in Italy than anywhere else, and, as accounts at the time attest, a huge price was paid by everyone for each bloodily contested mile. Putting readers vividly in the moment as events unfolded, with characters made unforgettable by their own words, The Savage Storm is a defining account of the pivotal months leading to Monte Cassino, and a landmark in the writing about war.