At War on the Gothic Line: : Fighting in Italy 1944-'45
Christian Jennings

At War on the Gothic Line: : Fighting in Italy 1944-'45

Across the mountains and plains of northern Italy, from autumn 1944 to the end of the Second World War in May 1945,  more than 200,000 American, British, Canadian and Indian troops spearheaded a vast multinational Allied army. They were fighting the battle of the Gothic Line, a huge, critical and undersung conflict that was to last for ten months and decide the fate of post-war southern Europe. It can rightly be called the first battle of the Cold War. General Mark Clark, commanding the Americans in Italy, said at the time that it was “a campaign that might have changed the whole history of relations between the Western world and the Soviet Union.” 

Seventy years later, as these very relations fragment over Russia and the Ukraine, the Cold War is as important as ever. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin – dubbed the ‘Arguing Allies’ – all had different plans in 1945 for post-war southern Europe. These depended on the outcome of the battle for the vast barrier of heavily-defended German positions, codenamed ‘The Gothic Line,’ which stretched from the Adriatic coast to the Mediterranean. By breaking through these defenses, the Allies could forge north into the Reich in Austria and Bavaria, and eastwards into Yugoslavia and Hungary, and also keep these territories out of the hands of the advancing Red Army. Churchill said the key battle would decide  the post-war fate of southern Europe and thus control of the Mediterranean.

Up against the German SS, paratroopers and army soldiers were thrown a huge selection of Allied troops from fifteen different nations. This is the story of that crucial battle told through the exploits of thirteen men and women of seven different nationalities – Americans, Italians, British, German, Canadian, Indian and Polish.

A young Japanese-American ‘Nisei’ lieutenant from Hawaii wins the Congressional Medal of Honour storming German machine-gun positions, while an African American company clerk and troop commander from the racially-segregated 92nd U.S Division, ‘the Buffalo Soldiers,’ battle the SS. A British SOE officer parachutes way behind German lines, while a teenage Italian female partisan helps blow a railway bridge. Outside Florence,  an Indian light infantry officer and his men from Bombay rescue Renaissance art works. A 17 year-old German paratrooper digs in to defend a church outside Rimini against determined Canadian attack, while across Tuscany a Waffen-SS unit commanded by a one-armed Major commits some of the largest war-crimes in Europe of the whole war. Some of their perpetrators have escaped justice to this day.

The book is written by an experienced war correspondent and investigative journalist living in Italy, who has reported extensively from war zones across the Balkans and Africa. It is an under-reported story of the personal, multinational reality of the war in Italy, of its population and its partisans. It tells how one crucial battle helped shape post-war southern Europe.

Book Details:

  • Author: Christian Jennings
  • On Submission
  • Rights Sold
    • US: St Martin's Press
    • UK: Osprey
    • Italy: Leg edizioni,
Christian Jennings

Christian Jennings

  Christian Jennings is a British author and foreign correspondent, and the author of ten non-fiction books of modern history and current affairs. These include the acclaimed The Third Reich is Listening: Inside German Codebreaking 1939-1945, the first comprehensive account in English of German wartime cryptanalysis. His latest book is The Holocaust Codes: Decrypting the Final Solution. He has lectured for Bletchley Park on German codebreaking, and from 1994-2012 he spent fifteen years reporting for newspapers and TV on international current affairs and complex war crimes investigatio...
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Book Reviews

  • "Christian Jennings’s At War on the Gothic Line is a compelling account of the epic battles to liberate Northern Italy in 1944-45 that have been previously ignored by historians. Superbly told through the eyes of the men and women who fought there - Allies, Germans and partisans - this outstanding book admirably recounts one of the bloodiest chapters in the longest military campaign of World War II."
    Carlo D’Este, Author of Patton: A Genius For War
  • "At War on the Gothic Line is a beautifully written, compulsively readable testament to astonishing courage - and utter barbarism - on a lesser-known front during the Second World War. Jennings evokes with great narrative skill the triumph and tragedy of the brutal fighting in Italy. A vital contribution to a great gap in our knowledge."
    Paul Ham, author of Hiroshima Nagasaki
  • "This book is fascinating: a vivid and refreshingly new and important angle on the war in Italy."
    David Stafford, author of Mission Accomplished: SOE and Italy 1943-1945.
  • "  Jennings's chronicle of one of World War II's least-known campaigns is as thrilling as it is erudite. The author never lets his readers catch their breath. As an experienced war correspondent, he knows what it is like to be close to the fighting and there are moments when you can all but smell the cordite. Vivid, enthralling and authoritative, At War on the Gothic Line is military history at its pacy best."
    John Hooper, author of The Italians
  • "An excellent book refreshingly unlike most tedious, confusing war stories. Jennings brings his easy journalistic style and thorough fact finding to one of the most desperate conflicts of the war, teaching us how war stories should be written."
    Kirkus starred review
  • "Investigative journalist Jennings does an excellent job of examining the efforts to dislodge the Germans by interweaving the personal experiences of several soldiers with the broader aspects of the Italian campaign… This is a fine survey of a frequently neglected and still controversial element of WWII. "
  • "a very readable, often gripping account of one of the truly forgotten campaigns of World War II, the fighting in Italyafter the liberation of Rome, on June 5, 1944… an excellent account of the final eleven months of the war in Italy, worth reading by anyone interested in the Second World War. "
  • "In this highly readable account of the 1944-45 fighting the author provides a wealth of personal detail that will last long in the memory."
    War Books Review
  • "Jennings’s book is military history at its most engaging — men set in motion and battles fought against the magnificent backdrop of the Apennines."