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In January 1944 an Allied task force landed at Anzio on Italy's west coast, its mission to draw German forces away from the Cassino bottleneck and open the way to Rome. The landing was only lightly opposed but the Germans soon counterattacked, and for five months U.S. general John Lucas's Anglo-American VI Corps fought desperately to retain its fragile beachhead. D'Este's account of this bloody struggle and the subsequent capture of Rome is well researched and vividly told. The political, strategic and tactical aspects of the campaign are carefully reviewed, as are the dynamics of leadership on both sides. D'Este ( Decision at Normandy ) sorts out the still-simmering controversy over whether Lucas missed a great opportunity by not attempting to capture Rome early in the campaign when it was presumably undefended. First-class military history. Illustrations. (June)