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11 November 2019


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David Lentini

Yes, it's quite a film. The campaigns in Sicily and the Italian mainland are very much overlooked, IMHO. I suspect that's the case becase of the grinding nature of the war there, and the consequent suffering, compared to Patton's dash out of the bocage, the quick liberation of Paris, and the near-destruction of the Germans at Falaise.


Two uncles fought in the Italy campaign. Their parents, my grandparents, were born in Italy and the brothers, while not in the same units, met up over there during the war, which they both survived. This item's prompted me to ask my genealogy-minded cousin about details of their service.

Barbara Ann

Yards. That word is used many times in the film. The following phrase struck me too; "they were forced to take such cover as the quaking earth could offer".

Marshall's instincts were right. For the many of us who will never experience what it is to live and fight as an infantryman, such films are an important part of our education. Thanks for sharing the link Colonel.

Eugene Owens

David - "The campaigns in Sicily and the Italian mainland are very much overlooked, IMHO."

For sure. My father was WIA at Monte Cassino along with the 55K other casualties there, just a month or two prior to the Normandy landings.

Also overlooked was the Battle of Okinawa that was in its 10th week on 6/6/1944. That battle also cost 55K casualties including 20,195 KIA. A local 96-year-old vet was there just one ridgeline over from Hacksaw Ridge of movie fame. Plus 36 ships were sunk and another 386 damaged. Years ago I worked with a former Navy radioman who spent ten hours in the water off of Okinawa when his destroyer had been sunk by kamikazis. By the time he was rescued his Kapok life jacket was completely waterlogged. He and 16 others survived by circling together and holding each other up.


All - The 141st, 142nd and 143rd Infantry Regiments were the main elements of the 36th Infantry Division. This was the Texas National Guard. A man who served in the division in Italy and who later worked for me told me that by the time they reached Rome there were no Texans left in the division in the infantry. There were still Texans in the artillery of the division and its logistical and administrative parts. The Texas grunts had all been killed or wounded out. As someone wrote, "you have not seen combat until you have fought the Wehrmacht." Much the same thing was said to Grant's staff when they came east for his assumption of command in Virginia, i.e., "You don't know ... You haven't yet met Bobby Lee and his boys."

Eugene Owens

Many of those Texas grunts died or were WIA at the Rapido River near Monte Cassino, where my father was wounded. He always blamed Mark Clark and believed that the congressional investigation whitewashed him.

ex-PFC Chuck

The Battle of Okinawa took place in 1945, not 1944.


ex-PFC Chuck

IIRC, Gen. Mark Clark, the 5th Army CG, got a lot of flack for those high casualty rates. Was he an instance of the Peter Principle in action, i.e. had he reached his level of incompetence? Or was it more a matter of the fact that he was up against a German CG whom many regard as the most competent German commander of the war?

blue peacock

How many German divisions were deployed on the eastern front compared to the western front?

I always find it interesting that western media including Hollywood never acknowledge the role played by the Soviet Union in the war. After all they lost some 20 million people and broke the back of the German military in the east.


ex PFC Chuck

I think he had reached his level of incompetence and should have been relieved after the Liri Valley battles but it was a coalition command in Italy and that made it harder to fire him. His boss was Alexander, the Brit. Kesselring was very skilled, but there were so many Germans who were, Manstein, Rommel, etc.


BP - You are absolutely correct.

John Minnerath

The late Farley Mowat served with the Canadian Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment during the Italian Campaign and wrote And No Birds Sang of his experiences during those bloody battles.
Mowat is one of my favorite authors and this book is well worth reading.

Peter Petrosky

It's fitting that Mark Clark be brought up, 75 years and 2 days after murdering his own men for his photo op in Rome. I can't locate my unit history of the 351st Inf.to supply the exact information, but my Father's outfit was ordered to storm a heavily fortified hill on the outskirts of Rome, without air, artillery, or armor support, "at all costs", so Clark could have his picture taken in Rome before the invasion of France. My Father did not like Gen. Clark, at all. It wasn't until after he was gone that I read that history and discovered why.

Rick Merlotti

Stalingrad. Enough said.

Keith Harbaugh

On D-Day films, let's not forget The Longest Day (1962).
Among other things, it had a really amazing cast.
Any comparisons to the two films you mentioned would be of interest, to me at least.

Stephen McIntyre

Jack Rhind, one of my parents' friends, was Canadian officer at Monte Cassino and entire campaign. He is still alert and spry at 97. He said a few years ago that he still remembers the geography of southern Italy as well as he knows Toronto. He was rather resentful of lack of interest in Italian campaign relative to D-Day. I noticed a short memo of his about a re-visit to Cassino in 1964 online http://rca-arc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2-Cassino-Revisted-Honourable-Mention.pdf

Eugene Owens

I seem to be a bit chronologically challenged, but only a year out of whack. So I'll blame it on bourbon. In any case Okinawa and Italy are both neglected in modern memory.


The Battle of San Pietro is the best war documentary ever made, IMHO. Saw it first in a film class. Some of the battle scenes were recreated by the soldiers who had fought in the battle a few days before filming. Huston and his crew did come under German artillery fire. Some of the other footage came from military cameramen who traveled with the troops. The top-brass shelved the film because they were afraid it was too realistic and would make the recruits too apprehensive about going into battle. Marshal thought the opposite: it would desensitize men to the shock of battle. One thing Marshal had cut from the original film, five reals reduced to three, was closeups of dead GI's faces. He didn't want friends and family to recognize them.

William Fitzgerald


"And No Birds Sang" is a poignant and well written war memoir. My favorite, though, is "The Boat Who Wouldn't Float". No, on second thought, it's "The Gray Seas Under". Wait, "Sea of Slaughter" is his most important book. He was a wonderful writer and I would urge those not familiar with his books to start reading.


English Outsider

Colonel - I think we're still a little parochial here in not acknowledging that very much. The Battle of Britain and D-Day seem to be most of what survives in popular memory over here. .

Huston's vivid documentary led me to looking again at the Eighth Army in Italy. Some time ago I had met a man who served with it. I always remembered that he felt the fighting in Italy had been not been remembered that much and posted the documentary you had selected to an English website to mention the Italian campaign.

That led me to Miles Dempsey, and back to D-Day, and to the following assessment that gave an insight into the mental qualities needed in this field: (Wiki/quoting an historian) - " Blessed with an active and incisive mind, a phenomenal memory and a unique skill in reading maps, Dempsey would soon leave his army staff in awe over his ability to remember everything he saw on a map, to bring a landscape literally to life in his mind even though he had never actually seen it. This talent proved particularly important during the crucial battles around Caen in June and July 1944. Dempsey was considered the Eighth Army's best expert in combined operations .."

Then came across various arguments on various sites about who'd done most when, which I found not that useful, given that from Khalkhyn Gol to Normandy there were decisive battles and each tends to find the sector he's looking at the most significant. So Dempsey, cutting through all that, was something of a relief: (same reference) - " During the operation, Dempsey, forward near the front with his Tac HQ, witnessed the crossing of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division's 504th Parachute Regiment cross the Nijmegen bridge. Impressed, he later wrote that the 82nd was "easily the best division on the Western front".[48] Dempsey met with the 82nd's commander, Brigadier General James M. Gavin, shook him by the hand and said "I am proud to meet the commander of the greatest division in the world today."[49]"

Who would no doubt have returned a similar compliment. There is no debating contributions when all contribute their maximum. That's why I found the D-Day commemoration incomplete. Seemed to be no Russians around. Maybe some time we'll remember they were in it too, and as your remark above might indicate, decisively.

John Minnerath

"The Boat Who Wouldn't Float" is the most hilarious side splitting yarn about small boats on the water ever. I first read "The Gray Seas Under" in 1956 when I was 13.
He wrote many I'd consider important. I was greatly saddened when I read of his passing. He was a truly great writer in all respects.


Amongst the most underrated battles of WW2, Operation Dragoon, or the Allied landing in Provence (department of Var) characterized by :
- French and Us troops at par amongst the 580 000 troops who landed in France coming from Sicilia and Corsica
- the upsurging and participation of the 75 000 French resistants (FFI + FTP) in coordination withe OSS, who totally paralyzed the German logistics on their back, and provoked their retreat.
- the liberation of Toulon and Marseille, by French troops and resistance, which allowed the US army to supply hundreds of thousands of tons of equipment to the Allied forces in Europe - the Normandy harbors being quite insufficient in this regard. The liberation of Marseille was the main goal of the Operation Dragoon, and the harbor was quickly repaired and put in operation although German sabotage. The same for Toulon, a military harbor.
- the relatively light losses amongst the Allied : 25 000 casualties (15 000 US, more than 10 000 French) versus 30 000 German casualties and 140 000 prisoners.
- the quick retreat of the German army from southern France, due to the very rapid progression of Allied forces, largely in advance on initial planning.
- as a political consequence of Dragoon : the Pétain régime dismantled by the Germans.

As far as I know there has been no movie superproduction about Dragoon : should we conclude that a smooth going and successful military operation is not interesting for cineast and Hollywood?


One of those heroes from the Italy campaign, Bill Crawford:


The above linked article includes his Medal of Honor citation.


"Everyone thought he was just a school janitor, then they discovered his heroic WW2 past."


In my neighbourhood there is the Hürtgenwald, the place of one of the nastier battles the US had in Germany during WW-II 75 years ago.

Close combat, mortar and 20mm auto cannon fire and intense forrest fighting in deep and cold winter. Hemingway wrote about that battle in "Across the River and into the Trees".

According to the Wikipedia entry:

"The battle was so costly that it has been described as an Allied "defeat of the first magnitude," with specific credit given to Model."


I went there with friends by bike a couple years ago and bomb craters and trenches can still be very well seen.

My mother told me that till into the mid 1950s regularly woodsmen and school boys playing there had the misfortune of finding unexploded ammo or mines in trees or on the floor. It is still dangerous to walk in that forrest beyond the marked ways since it was mined and even yet hasn't been fully demined.

That written, in even in Cologne there are areas which still haven't been debombed yet, mostly because they have not been built on and were just used as ... garden, grazing land or parking areas.

Disarming exclusion zones are being declared about weekly when bombs are found during some construction. I have been sent home from work twice because of that. In Munich some time ago one so found bomb went up and caused considerable damage (fortunately just that).


Back in 1956 the family were on holiday in the south of France. Dad had been in the war an aircraft fighter controller in North Africa and ME. He made sure that we explored the still there and much as they were in 1944 massive German fortifications along the coast east of Marseilles. Pillboxes and bunkers for miles, the Germans were probably more prepared for the attack than in Normandy. We were surprised that the casualties were not higher. Very sobering.

As to the advance up the spine of Italy, the Germans had a key advantage, the terrain, perfect for defence, which made bringing the Allies strengths in armour and ground attack aircraft difficult to bring to bare.

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