Fatal Decision is a powerful, dramatic, moving, and ultimately definitive narrative of one of the most desperate campaigns of World War II. In the winter of 1943-44, Anzio, a small Mediterranean resort and port some thirty-five miles south of Rome, played a crucial role in the fortunes of World War II as the target of an amphibious Allied landing. The Allies planned to bypass the strong German defenses along the Gustav Line and at Monte Cassino sixty miles to the southeast, which were holding up the American and British armies and preventing the liberation of Rome. By taking advantage of Allied command of the sea and air to effect complete surprise, infantry and armored forces landing at Anzio on January 22 were expected to secure the beachhead and then push inland to cut off the two main highways and railroads supplying the German forces to the south, either trapping and annihilating the German armies or forcing them to withdraw to the north, thus opening the way to Rome.
But the reality of one of the most desperate campaigns of World War II was bad management, external meddling, poorly relayed orders, and uncertain leadership. The Anzio beachhead became a death trap, with Allied troops forced to fight for their lives for four dreadful months. The eventual victory in May 1944 was muted, bitter, and overshadowed by the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6. Mixing flawless research, drama, and combat with a brilliant narrative voice, Fatal Decision is one of the best histories ever written of a World War II military campaign.
In January 1944 an Allied task force landed at Anzio on Italy's west coast, its mission to draw German forces away from the Cassino bottleneck and open the way to Rome. The landing was only lightly opposed but the Germans soon counterattacked, and for five months U.S. general John Lucas's Anglo-American VI Corps fought desperately to retain its fragile beachhead. D'Este's account of this bloody struggle and the subsequent capture of Rome is well researched and vividly told. The political, strategic and tactical aspects of the campaign are carefully reviewed, as are the dynamics of leadership on both sides. D'Este ( Decision at Normandy ) sorts out the still-simmering controversy over whether Lucas missed a great opportunity by not attempting to capture Rome early in the campaign when it was presumably undefended. First-class military history. Illustrations.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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November 10, 2008
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