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.
Recommend this book
Add your recommendation
Only registered users can recommend books. Please use the buttons below to either create a new account, or sign-in to an existing account.
Peter Caddick-Adams has brought highly perceptive and much-needed fresh analysis to this new account of the Cassino battles. Both authoritative and compellingly written, his immense knowledge and understanding of the Second World War exudes from every page. It will unquestionably remain the standard text on this bloody episode of the war for many years to come - James Holland
If you want to understand what happened at Monte Cassino and why, then this is the book for you - Britain at War Magazine
Peter Caddick-Adams has produced a thoughtful treatment of a crucial period of the Italian campaign. It should be read by anyone with an interest in the Second World War. - Military History Monthly
Peter Caddick-Adams’s excellent book clearly shows that for the sheer awfulness, some of the fighting endured by British soldiers in Italy in 1944 equalled or exceeded the experience of their fathers and uncles a quarter of a century earlier… Peter Caddick-Adams is up there with Anthony Beevor and Max Hastings in telling the story of the fighting from the perspective of the participants… Caddick-Adams is not the first historian to tell this tale, but he does so with great skill and in a very readable fashion, wearing his immense expertise lightly. He knows the ground which was fought over, and that is what brings the book to life; that and the fact that, as a former soldier, with experience of active service, he treats the men of 1944 with particular insight and compassion. - The Oldie
Having served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Caddick-Adams brings a soldier’s perspective to this detailed and important book - Good Book Guide
By this author
About the Author
Dr Peter Caddick-Adams has been a professional military historian for over twenty years. He lectures at the UK Defence Academy and staff colleges around the world on military history, war studies and media operations. Specialising in battlefield tours, doctrine and leadership, he worked with the inspirational Richard Holmes for twelve years and has led visits to more than fifty battlefields worldwide. As a regular and reserve soldier he has experience of three major war zones: Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and is a frequent TV and radio broadcaster on military and security issues.