An online database
of WORLD WAR
books and information
on the Web since 1995
New & forthcoming
Books by subjects
Latest book feedback
Sell your books
Nations at war
Those investigating the campaign on Sicily in 1943 are fortunate to have a wide assortment of books -- memoirs, official histories, popular accounts, and so on -- with which to work. In response to a recent request, here's a survey of some of the most important titles for research into Husky and subsequent operations on the island.
Political and Diplomatic Background
Some of the battle-oriented titles (notably the US and British official histories) spend a fair amount of pages on the wider context of the campaign, but these two books offer a good view of the situation in Italy around the time of Operation Husky.
- Davis, Melton S. Who Defends Rome. New York: Dial, 1972. From the ouster of Mussolini in July to the German occupation of Rome in September.
- Deakin, F. W. The Brutal Friendship: Mussolini, Hitler and the Fall of Italian Fascism. New York: Harper, 1952. From the autumn of 1942 to the death of Mussolini.
Given the relatively minor nature and brief duration of the island campaign (compare the forces engaged on Sicily with those grappling on the Russian front at the same time), much ink has been expended on Husky. These are the most important books:
- Blair, Clay. Ridgway's Paratroopers: The American Airborne in World War II. Garden City: Dial, 1985. Good account of airborne operations.
- Blumenson, Martin. Sicily: Whose Victory? New York: Ballantine, 1968. One of the better Ballantines, but suffers from the limitations of the series.
- D'Este, Carlo. Bitter Victory. New York: Dutton, 1988. Probably the best book on the subject with complete coverage of every aspect. Don't miss this one.
- Faldella, Emilio. Lo Sbarco e la Difesa della Sicilia. Rome: 1956. This is rated as the best Italian history of the campaign, but I've not seen it. Let me know where I can get a copy....
- Garland, Albert N. and Howard McGaw Smyth. United States Army in World War II: The Mediterranean Theater of Operations: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1965. The US official history. Thorough coverage of planning, Axis defenses, American operations, and political/diplomatic events. Excellent maps.
- Higgins, Trumbull. Soft Underbelly: The Anglo-American Controversy over the Italian Campaign, 1939-1945. New York: Macmillan, 1968. Good strategic overview of Sicily in the context of the larger war effort.
- Jackson, W. G. F. The Battle for Italy. New York: Harper, 1967. Useful section on Sicily.
- Linklater, Eric. The Campaign in Italy. London: HMSO, 1951. This precursor to the HMSO official history offers a brief synopsis.
- Mitcham, Samuel W. and Friedrich von Stauffenberg. The Battle of Sicily. New York: Orion, 1991. Very good. Detailed Italian order of battle.
- Molony, C. J. C. History of the Second World War: The Mediterranean and Middle East, volume V: The Campaign in Sicily 1943 and The Campaign in Italy 3rd September 1943 to 31st March 1944. London: HMSO, 1973. The first 180 pages of the British official history provide a very detailed, combined air-land-sea narrative of the campaign with excellent maps, charts, and tables.
- Nicholson, G. W. L. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945. Ottawa: Minister of National Defense, 1956. With only one infantry division and a tank brigade committed to the island, the Canadians nevertheless devote as many pages to Sicily as do the British. Very complete coverage of Canadian operations.
- Pack, S. W. C. Operation Husky: The Allied Invasion of Sicily. New York: Hippocrene, 1977. A somewhat skimpy account. Not bad, but doesn't compare to D'Este or Mitcham.
- Pond, Hugh. Sicily. London: Kimber, 1962. Interesting early book about the campaign.
- Shepperd, G. A. The Italian Campaign, 1943-45. New York: Praeger, 1968. Initial chapters on strategic setting and Sicily.
Coverage of air ops is not as strong as ground and naval material. Data for Sicily must be extracted from larger volumes with more important issues to discuss or axes to grind.
- Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate. The Army Air Forces in World War II, volume 2: Europe: Torch to Pointblank, August 1942 to December 1943. Washington, DC: General Printing Office, 1983. Although the air series is the least illuminating of the official histories, this volume does offer forty pages of information about Sicily.
- March, Wing Commander Cyril (editor). The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, 1933-1945. New York, St Martins Press, 1983. (Originally published in the UK in 1948 by the Air Ministry. Usually listed without an author, Probert's introduction to the 1983 edition names March as the original editor.) British Air Ministry Intelligence Branch evaluation of captured German records and interrogations of Luftwaffe personnel at the end of the war.
- Perret, Geoffrey. Winged Victory: The Army Air Forces in World War II. New York: Random House, 1993. Sicily plays a small part in this account, but Perret offers analysis and strong opinions.
- Richards, Denis and Hilary St George Saunders. Royal Air Force, 1939-1945, volume II: The Fight Avails. London: HMSO, 1954. Air ops from the British point of view. Detailed air OB.
- Terraine, John. A Time for Courage: The Royal Air Force in the European War, 1939-1945. New York: Macmillan, 1985. (Published in the UK as The Right of the Line.) The best history of the RAF, but only about twenty pages on Sicily.
Just coincidence that both the USN and RN produced such superlative official histories?
- Barnett, Correlli. Engage the Enemy More Closely. New York: Norton, 1991. An excellent history of the Royal Navy in WWII with a strong chapter on Sicily.
- Bragadin, Marc Antonio. The Italian Navy in World War II. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1957. One chapter on Sicily in the eyes of the Regia Marina.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, volume IX: Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, January 1943-June 1944. Boston: Little, Brown, 1954. Morison does his usual thorough job in 200 pages devoted to Sicily. Indispensable.
- US Navy. The Sicilian Campaign. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1945. Given the date of publication, surprisingly good information on American landings.
- Roskill, Stephen W. History of the Second World War: The War at Sea, volume 3: The Offensive, part 1. London: HMSO, 1960. Roskill does his usual thorough job. Indispensable.
Don't overlook the intelligence aspect of the campaign, especially given the fact that Ultra was providing ample information about Axis dispositions and intentions.
- Bennett, Ralph. Ultra and the Mediterranean Strategy. New York: Morrow, 1989. What the Allies knew and when they knew it.
- Hinsley, F. H. et al British Intelligence in the Second World War: Its Influence on Strategy and Operations, volume three, part 1. London: HMSO, 1984. More precise information on what the Allies knew and when they knew it.
- Montagu, Ewan. The Man Who Never Was. Evans Brothers, 1953. Account of one very cinematic aspect of the deception plan for Operation Husky. Who doesn't get a kick out of this?
It seems like everyone who participated in the campaign on Sicily signed a book contract: Alexander, Bradley, Eisenhower, Cunningham, de Guingand, Kesselring, Montgomery, Patton, and Tedder to name a few. Most of the memoirs are not very valuable for studying the battle. Here are two worth looking into:
- Truscott jr, Lucian K. Command Missions. New York: Dutton, 1954.
(Also a Presidio Press edition in 1990.) A very strong book by the commander of US 3rd Infantry Division with an excellent account of operations on Sicily.
- von Senger und Etterlin, Frido. Neither Fear nor Hope. New York: Dutton, 1963. (Also a Presidio Press edition in 1989.) Another gem, this from the German point of view.
Most of those participants who penned memoirs are also the subject of one or more biographies. For most of them Sicily was a minor episode and so the books contribute little. Again, two stand out:
- D'Este, Carlo. Patton: A Genius for War. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. D'Este adds to his superlative account of the campaign with this great biography.
Good material on Patton vs. Monty.
- Hamilton, Nigel. Master of the Battlefield: Monty's War Years, 1942-1944. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983. Although from an American perspective Hamilton seems to be smitten with Monty's brilliance and perfection on the battlefield, he does explain it all at some length.
This list is getting out of hand, but don't forget some of the unit histories: British 5th, 50th, 51st, 1st Airborne; US 1st, 2nd Armored, 3rd, 82nd Airborne.
Reviewed 1 January 1996