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Tenacious and Costly
on July 28, 2010
The author continues to make a significant contribution to recognizing and examining the role of Canada in the Second World War. I have read six of his previous efforts including those focusing on the Italian campaign: Ortona, Liri Valley, and The Gothic Line. Zuehlke's style has improved greatly from his earlier work demonstrating a more narrative and engaging style that is increasingly emulating the works of Beevor, Atkinson, and Ryan (who are my favourites). And he has not sacrificed research, detail, and accuracy in this evolution.
The Italian campaign has received increasing attention in the last decade having been relegated to a "sideshow" given the aggregate efforts in WW2. I most enjoyed the politics and planning involved in Operation Husky along with the fascinating challenges related to supply and logistics. This was a complex operation made all the harder for the Canadian contingent when their commander and other leaders were killed in a plane crash shortly before it was to begin. This introduces us to the prickly Simonds, the criticized Vokes (he took heat at Ortona but received redemption in the European campaign), and the highly-competent Hoffmeister (who later was head of Macmillan Bloedel). The tale of McNaughton is also covered here. The underlying theme is rapidly maturing Canadian forces who would make a contribution to the entire war far beyond the relative size of its young nation.
Sicily set the stage for the rest of the fight up Italy: rugged terrain, stubborn Nazi defenders led by Kesselring, Italian apathy and incompetence (soon followed by capitulation), and a tough climate. The Italian campaign veterans were unfairly labeled "D-Day Dodgers" for not having been present for the glory of invading Normandy and liberating Europe. However, this history and others covering Italy clearly demonstrate that the soldiers on both sides fought a tenacious and costly war with the Canadian losing 562 troops in Sicily alone.