Italy’s Sorrow by James Holland is a story that demonstrates how horrible the final year of Second World War in Italy actually was. The story covers a forgotten Italian campaign in Second World War. The author sets a human face on the campaign through the remembrances of a number of individuals who suffered during the campaign including Germans, Poles, South Africans, Kiwis, Canadians, Brits, Americans, and Italians (Holland). In addition, Holland adequately interprets and explains military operations and strategy, and examines politics barely enough to give some background for military decisions.

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The book covers the Italian campaign from before the breaching of the Gustav line until the final stages of the war. The key issue that is new in the story by Holland is the discussion of the impact of the Second World War on the Italian people. The Germans used the mountainous territory of the Italian Peninsula in most of their successful defensive campaign (Holland). As they were retreating, the Germans used this chance to destroy all transport and bridges infrastructures (Holland).

The air power was used by the allies to destroy power stations as well as other infrastructures. This indicates that there was lack of transport in both Allied and German areas, meaning that there was likelihood that the civilians suffered from starvation. In the allied areas, more than half the women under 40 years suffered from venereal diseases as a result of prostitution, which they used as a means of survival. Indiscipline French colonial troops are raped a huge number of Italian women (Holland).

The campaign is analyzed from a military point of view; however, the impact on Italy is not disregarded. Nevertheless, the war in Italy was a significant part of Second World War. German atrocities against Italians are well documented, and the impact of the Allies was hardly less brutal at times, particularly the French colonial Goumiers (Holland). All sides of the conflict are detailed, the Allied forces including Free Polish and French troops, Brits and GI’s, and the German defenders led by Albert Kesselring, with Italians caught in the middle as civilians, partisans, or auxiliaries to one side or other (Holland).

When reading this book, one realizes that Italy suffered a lot as former Nazi ally and that this suffering can be associated with Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini because he is the one who allied Italy with Nazi Germany (Holland). A case might possibly be made that Nazi Germany could have been well-off with Italy remaining a friendly neutral in Second World War, engaging in trade with Germany rather than be co-belligerent with it. With no Greece and North Africa to entrap German troops to free Italian adventurism, the Eastern push could have been to a certain extent different in 1941-1942. Indeed, Italy could have been well-off without entry into Second World War, which ruined the country and contributed to a lot suffering to the Italian population.

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Holland spent much of his time discussing the impact of the war on civilians as well as discussing the lives of specific soldiers on both sides. The author starts recounting the Cassino battle as one of the most frustrating battles for the Allies (Holland). He then discusses into details the successful attack by the Poles. Holland also spent a great deal of his time documenting the famous attack attributed to Anzio Bridgehead by Mark Clark’s Fifth Army and remarkably supports Mark Clark’s decision to capture Rome, as opposed to move to legendary Valmontane, where he was ordered to go by Alexander (Holland). The author captures this event and then produces a map that indicates the key German retreat routes from the Cassino battlefront. Only one retreat route that passes through Valmontane and the author describes it as a less-important, alternate route. The other four routes which were far north out of Clark’s forces reach were the most important ones (Holland).

This book has provided a lot of information concerning the different battles and forces, late on in the campaign, and most of the information is well-document and well-presented, and the judgments are considerate. To be sincere, Holland has presented a lengthy and highly readable account of the last year of the Second World War in Italy. This book is very interesting because it has raised the issue of how horrible the impact of the campaign was on the innocent civilians, and it presents a good account of the incidents. What impressed me about Holland’s writing is that he is brief in his presentation of what happened, and his candidness and desire to bring out the history of the Italian campaign to the limelight.

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This book has honored and recognized the people who served in the military, and the ordinary civilians affected by the war. It is extremely overwhelming, astounding, compelling, and somebody cannot complete it and forget its content. Its content find its own way into the reader’s mind, and the reader cannot forget the compelling details of the Italian campaign, Second World War, and the Holocaust. The book is a telling of humankind, humanity, evil, human kindness, and brutality, paralleled with the Nazis and fascism. It is a book that belongs to every library be it at home, university, college or high schools. I highly recommend this book to everybody.

Work Cited

Holland, James. Italy’s Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944-1945. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008. Print.


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