The five-month Monte Cassino campaign in central Italy is one of the best-known European land battles of World War Two, alongside D-Day and Stalingrad. It has a particular resonance now, because Cassino, with its multitude of participating armies - most notably the American 5th Army under the controversial General Mark Clark - was perhaps the campaign of the Second World War that most closely anticipates the coalition operations of today, with its ever-shifting cast of players stuck in inhospitable, mountainous terrain, pursuing an objective set by unknowing politicians in distant capitals, where victory is difficult to define. Monte Cassino was characterised by the destruction of its world famous Abbey: in retrospect, considered an unjustifiable act of cultural vandalism by the allies.The audit trail of decision-making to destroy an icon as well known then as the Eiffel Tower or Lincoln Memorial, is a chilling reminder that similar decisions are still being made in Iraq and Afghanistan and indeed Libya. To this day, reversing normal prejudice, German troops are welcome in the abbey, having rescued its treasures from allied destruction in February 1944. Cassino was an unusual campaign for World War II in that its outcome was not reliant on sweeping movements or the use of tanks or aircraft - but by old-fashioned boots in the mud, whether capturing the town of Cassino after months of grinding urban warfare (a Stalingrad in miniature) or scrambling up the steep mountain to seize the heights and the religious complex on top of Monte Cassino. Monte Cassino Abbey was painstakingly rebuilt after the war (its baroque chapel remains incomplete) and is now a World Heritage site. An hour south of Rome, it is visited each year by up to one million tourists and pilgrims from around the world.
Fascism and the Italian Occupation of Syros in World War II
Author: Sheila Lecoeur
A powerful and unique study of the realities and long-term impact of occupation, Mussolini’s Greek Island reveals the Italian dictator’s imperial vision, the mechanisms of Italian occupation and its tragic consequences. The small island of Syros is a vital entry-point illuminating Italian imperialism - its ethos, fascist connection, pretension and administrative achievements, marred by famine. Here Lecoeur examines the devastating effects of war and occupation on the local community - starvation, corruption and survival - and, drawing on local archives and interviews with survivors, offers new insight into this crucial but little known episode. Enriching our understanding of Mussolini’s hegemonic visions and the mechanisms of occupation, a key issue of our times, this path-breaking book will appeal to scholars of fascism, World War II and military occupation in general.
The Most Infamous Commando Operation of World War II
Author: Greg Annussek
Publisher: Hachette UK
As the Allied invasion of Italy wore on through the summer of 1943, Mussolini was unexpectedly overthrown and imprisoned by his own people in a remote mountaintop resort. Hitler was furious when he heard the news and swore to rescue his ally and friend. On September 12, a small convoy of glider aircraft suddenly began crash-landing near the hotel where Mussolini was being held and German commandos poured out of the half-wrecked planes. The soldiers quickly overwhelmed the hotel and seized Mussolini, who had watched the drama unfold from a second-story window. "I knew my friend Adolf Hitler would not abandon me," said a grinning Mussolini to his rescuers. Hitler's daring rescue mission to free Mussolini was one of the most famous commando operations of the twentieth century, and it shocked the Allies. It was also the dramatic culmination of the bizarre relationship between Hitler and Mussolini. In this vivid narrative filled with action, intrigue, and some of history's most disreputable characters- among them the infamous leader of the raid, Otto Skorzeny, who was catapulted to worldwide fame as a result of the exploit-Greg Annussek recounts the incredible story of the secret six-week operation in all its drama and suspense.
In September 1943, at the height of World War II, the Aegean island of Leros became the site of the most pivotal battle of the Dodecanese campaign as the British tried, in vain, to retain control of the island. Over the course of two short months – from 15 September 1943 to 17 November 1943 – almost 1500 men lost their lives and hundreds more ended up in Prisoner-of-War camps. In this book, Julie Peakman, a modern-day resident of Leros, brings to life the story of the men caught up in the battle based on first-hand interviews and written accounts including diaries, letters and journals. She tells of the preparations of the soldiers leading up to the battle, the desperate hand-to-hand fighting, and the suffering endured from continual bombings. She also shows the extent of the men’s despair at the allied surrender, the many subsequent daring escapes as well as the terrible years of incarceration for those who were captured and imprisoned. Many of the heart-rending accounts of the battle are told here for the first time, providing a unique eyewitness take on this forgotten corner of World War II.
Sarah Day's MUSSOLINI'S ISLAND is a novel of sexuality and desire, of hidden passions and the secrets we keep locked within us. Based on the true story of the rounding up of a group of Sicilian gay men in 1939, this book is sure to appeal to readers of the Elena Ferrante novels, Anthony Doerr's ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE or Virginia Baily's EARLY ONE MORNING. 'A fascinating debut...the setting and characters are strong and the story is written with verve. Day is a talent to watch' - The Times Francesco has a memory of his father from early childhood, a night when life for his family changed. From that night, he has vowed to protect his mother and to follow the words of his father: Non mollare. Never give up. As Francesco is herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone must have handed a list of names to the fascist police. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day. Elena, an illiterate island girl, is drawn to the handsome Francesco. Sometimes, she is given a message to pass on. She's not sure who they are from; she knows simply that Francesco is hiding something. When Elena discovers the truth about the group of prisoners, the fine line between love and hate pulls her towards an act that can only have terrible consequences for all.
THE LAST GODFATHERS charts the spectacular rise and fall of the richest and most powerful crime family in history: the Sicilian mafia’s Corleonese clan. From humble post-war origins in the dismal town of Corleone, the clan manipulated Cosa Nostra’s code of honour to deceive and bludgeon its way to the summit of the secret brotherhood, launching an unprecedented purge of its rivals and a terrorist campaign which decimated anti-mafia judges, police and politicians. Investigative journalist John Follain focuses on the three godfathers who headed the clan from the 1950s onwards – their lives and crimes, their loves and hates, and the state’s sporadic efforts to hunt them. Luciano ‘The Professor’ Leggio, Salvatore ‘The Beast’ Riina and Bernardo ‘The Tractor’ Provenzano, who was on the run for a record 43 years, forged a vicious clan bent on the subversion of democracy. Cutting through the romantic aura of Hollywood films, THE LAST GODFATHERS portrays the true face of the crime family which inspired Mario Puzo to write The Godfather. Based on thousands of pages of judicial documents, wiretap transcripts, the testimony of mafiosi defectors and interviews with investigators, this is the definitive word on the world’s most notorious criminal organisation.
The Battle for Sicily 1943 by the People who Were There
Author: John Follain
Publisher: Hodder Headline
In July 1943, the Allies launched their first assault against Hitler's "Fortress Europe" by invading Sicily. Mussolini's Island portrays the full horror and glory, the fear and the foul-ups of one of the least known but most dramatic and controversial campaigns of World War II—the battle for Sicily.