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Ortona: Canada's Epic World War II Battle (1999)

by Mark Zuehlke

Series: Canadian Battle (1)

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912242,282 (4.25)2
In one furious week of fighting in December 1943, the First Canadian Infantry Division took Ortona, Italy, from elite German paratroopers ordered to hold the medieval port at all costs. When the battle was over, the Canadians emerged victorious despite heavy losses. Over 2,500 Canadians died or were wounded there. Military historian Mark Zuehlke blends reminiscences of the Canadians, Germans, and Italians who were there together with a blow-by-blow account of the fighting to create a harrowing, ultimately hopeful rendering of one of World War II's defining moments.… (more)
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The actions around the Title Town in the winter of 1943 -44, are described. Mr. Zuehlke used a great many oral reminiscences, but tries to create a coherent narrative. He succeeds in creating a useful book. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 28, 2013 |
The story of the week-long fight over Ortona, on Italy's Adriatic coast, between 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the German 1st Parachute Division. The battle became known as Little Stalingrad because of the ruined urban setting. I feel like there's a good movie in this book: there are some great characters and lots of interesting anecdotes from contemporary war diaries and later remembrances by the participants, like the plight of Gordon Currie-Smith who was buried in the rubble of building destroyed by the Germans and was rescued three days later, and the invention and use of mouse-holing, which allowed Canadian soldiers to clear houses of Germans without exposing themselves to snipers.

Zuehlke's books usually focus exclusively on the Canadian perspective, and that is a big part of this book, but there are a couple of German perspectives—engineer Karl Bayerlein, whose job it was to lay mines and booby traps, is a running commentator through the much of the narrative, as well as being an important figure in the fighting.

Zuehlke mostly stays out of the way of the story, sticking to spare description of this intense, terrifying battle. ( )
  EdKupfer | Jul 27, 2013 |
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The next dreadful thing to a battle lost is a battle won.
—Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
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When Canada declared war against Germany on September 10, 1939, the nation had a professional army numbering 4,500. By October 70,000 Canadians wore soldier's khaki.
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In one furious week of fighting in December 1943, the First Canadian Infantry Division took Ortona, Italy, from elite German paratroopers ordered to hold the medieval port at all costs. When the battle was over, the Canadians emerged victorious despite heavy losses. Over 2,500 Canadians died or were wounded there. Military historian Mark Zuehlke blends reminiscences of the Canadians, Germans, and Italians who were there together with a blow-by-blow account of the fighting to create a harrowing, ultimately hopeful rendering of one of World War II's defining moments.

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