Author: Leon Weckstein
Publisher: Hellgate Press (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 244 pages
Italy, July 1944. The unendurable insult to Italy's inherently genial way of life brought about by Hitler's storm-troopers and Mussolini's Fascist toadies was both taking its toll on the people of Italy and creating a fledgling underground Resistance movement whose heroic ranks would soon swell to nearly 200,000 brave men and women.
Author Leon Weckstein was there--an American GI in combat fighting with and befriending the Partisans. Here is the story, as told through eye-witness accounts and carefully researched historical archives, of the Italian Partisans and their American OSS allies' battle to destroy the Nazi-Fascist regime and expel the culprits from their beloved Italy.
Leon Weckstein’s book, 200,000 Heroes Italian Partisans and the American OSS in WW II, is a book that should appeal to all World War II history buffs, particularly those interested in the European Theater and the Italian campaign in particular. Mr. Weckstein was a participant in the Italian campaign with the Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon of the 1st Battalion, 363rdRegiment of the 91st Infantry Division. He eventually became the 1st Battalion’s Intelligence Sergeant, directing artillery and mortar fire from forward observation posts toward German units. He is a member in full standing of the appropriately called “Greatest Generation.”
In his position as Intelligence Sergeant he became associated with and worked with the so-called Italian Partisans, an indigenous group working to free Italy from the yoke of the Germans and Italian Fascists. He developed a warm relationship with one of the Partisans, Alberto Secchi. Thus Mr. Weckstein is in a position to know and appreciate the contributions the Partisans made in helping to expel the Germans and overthrow the Fascists in Italy in the 1944-45 timeframe. Additionally, Mr. Weckstein traveled to Italy, meeting with two members of the Partisans and gathering documentation for his book.
The Partisans operated at great personal risk, the risk of torture and death in many cases. The Germans and Fascists were ruthless in dealing with the Partisans, and often the risk of being a member of the Partisans extended to their families, who were also killed as an example to other patriotic Italians.
Mr. Weckstein’s book is largely anecdotal, and documentation is often limited, so an in depth portrait is not always possible. But the book delves into the role General William J. Donovan’s OSS played with the Partisans and how they were vital in defeating the Axis powers in Italy. There was close cooperation between the two groups, which was not always true with all the allies. There are also interesting stories within the book about the role women played in the Partisans (including Angelina the prostitute), and even the story of a British submarine sailor who became a leader of the partisans.
In some cases one wishes for more detail on the more interesting Partisans, but in many cases the documentation is lacking. That said, Mr. Weckstein has given an excellent overview of the Partisans fight to win back their country, and has honored their efforts. This book would be a good complement to any history of the Italian campaign. Mr. Weckstein’s previous book on his personal experiences with the 91stInfantry Division (Through My Eyes, 1999) would also be a useful prelude to his current volume.
Reviewed by: Weymouth Symmes (November 2011)