Monte Cassino

I guess I could, or should, spend all my time reading Civil War books, which exist in far greater number than I can ever hope to keep up with. But I have other interests, including anything scholarly that relates to race in the U.S. or American military history. Lately, I’ve been reading Monte Cassino: The Hardest-Fought Battle of World War II by Matthew Parker. So far, I am enjoying the book, which gives an Allied, rather than American, perspective on the battle. However, I find it hard to believe that anyone could say Cassino was the hardest fought battle of World War II, given all the bloodshed on the Eastern front. In terms of total casualties, I don’t think Cassino comes close to the hell-on-earth engagements between the Nazis and Soviets.

Nevertheless, Cassino is an underrated battle in an understudied theatre of the war. Even if, as some people claim, the Italian front was a wasteful sideshow, that doesn’t diminish the sacrifices made on all sides. And usually when I read World War II history, I’m more interested in good writing, an interesting narrative, and colorful anecdotes, not strong arguments. Honestly, I don’t hold most WWII scholarship to the same standard as Civil War history, which, I think has enjoyed much greater academic rigor in the past generation than WWII studies. There have been some great academic books on WWII that I’ve read–War without Mercy by John Dower comes to mind. But on the whole, it seems that the Civil War attracts a more academic audience.

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