Salerno 1943: The Allies invade southern Italy

ISBN: 978 1 78096 249 8
Review Date:

Shortly after their success in Sicily, the Western Allies decided to push on with an invasion of the Italian mainland by two armies, the inexperienced US 5th Army and the veteran British 8th Army. With the collapse of the Italian Fascist government lead by Benito Mussolini, the Allies thought that they would have an easy time getting ashore. At least the British Eighth Army had an easy time getting ashore but that was mainly due to the Germans focusing their attention on the US 5th Army that served as the main attacking force. The resulting battle that they had to face at an Italian costal town named Salerno was a taste of what awaited the Allies in Italy and a warning of what could have had happened had they not done their homework for Normandy.

Published by Angus Konstam a longtime author for Osprey along with illustrations from Steve Noon, Salerno 1943 deals with the seven-day battle from Sept 9 to 16 as the Allies attempted to return to Europe. When the Fifth Army closed in to their target, the troops thought that they would have a clear run into the beaches and inland into Italy. Instead, they immediately faced strong German forces including those that escaped from Sicily. In savage fighting, the Germans nearly succeeded in driving the 5th Army into the sea. However, a desperate defense by the American and British forces as well as summoning as much firepower and reinforcements (direct and indirect) as they could lay their hands on help saved the situation.

As standard for the Osprey campaign series, Salerno 1943 starts with an overview of the strategic situation before dealing with the opposing forces and their commanders before discussing the plans and dispositions of the opposing armies. The rest of the book deals with the actual invasion and the brutal struggle the Fifth Army endured to hold its ground against top German panzer and mechanized divisions (nearly all of them were regular formations). Afterwards the aftermath battle follows as well as bibliography section and index.

Despite the limited number of pages, the book does a good job in describing the fighting and the desperate situation the allied forces endured, mainly on the operational level as they attempted to hold and expand the beachhead. The book highlights the key factors in the battle for Salerno along with a good amount of detail of the tactical actions, particularly during the middle and later stages of the battle where desperate stands and firepower from the fleet helped prevent German success.

While the research for the book is fine, many are in the bibliography are several decades ago and it does not stress enough the fact that this battle along with the later fighting at Anzio was a form of the worst case scenario that faced the Allied forces when Normandy came around. That scenario was namely alert German forces with panzer divisions already in position to hit them the moment they landed on the beaches.

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