Italy, from the toe to the Alps, was the scene of the longest, bloodiest, most frustrating, and least understood series of battles fought by the Western Allies during World War II. Now, John S. D. Eisenhower offers a new look at the Italian campaign, emphasizing the Anzio offensive—an operation pushed by Winston Churchill that fell largely to American troops to carry out. It was visualized as an amphibious landing of two Allied divisions behind German lines that would force the Wehrmacht to evacuate all of Italy. But the Germans held on and, with the arrival of reinforcements, nearly wiped out the Allied troops pinned down at Anzio Beach.
By portraying that struggle from the perspectives of both commanders and foot soldiers, this prominent military historian focuses on the experiences of the individuals who fought in the Italian campaign to reveal what the battle at Anzio was all about. But more than the account of one operation, They Fought at Anzio covers the entire Italian campaign, from the landings at Salerno to the capture of Rome.
Eisenhower brings a trained eye to reconstructing the difficult terrain of battle, approaching the Anzio campaign as a contest between opposing commands striving to anticipate and counter the opponent’s moves—not as a field exercise but as a deadly struggle for survival. He analyzes the command decisions that brought about the Anzio stalemate, interspersing his account with personal experiences of the men in the trenches, the nurses of the 56th Evacuation Hospital, and the young officers witnessing the horrors of war for the first time.
As a study in command, Eisenhower’s narrative gives new credit to generals Lucian Truscott and Fred Walker and assesses both the strengths and weaknesses of General Mark Clark, allowing us to grasp the situation as it appeared to those in command. He also offers compelling portraits of German commanders Field Marshal Albert Kesselring and General Frido von Senger und Etterlin.
It has been said that Anzio was a soldier’s battle, remembered more for blood shed than for military objectives achieved. By focusing on the experiences of the soldiers who fought there and the decisions of commanders in perilous circumstances, They Fought at Anzio offers a new appreciation of the contributions of both and a new understanding of this unheralded theater of the war.