Ortona: Canada’s Epic World War II Battle

In one blood-soaked, furious week of fighting, from December 20 to December 27, 1943, the 1st Canadian Infantry Division took Ortona, Italy, from elite German paratroopers ordered to hold the medieval port town at all costs. Infantrymen serving in the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforth Highlanders, supported by tankers of the Three Rivers Regiment, moved from house to house in hand-to-hand combat amid heavy shelling and wrested the town from the grip of the fierce German defenders. When the vicious battle was over, 2,339 Canadians were dead or wounded. But the town that had become known as “Little Stalingrad” was now in Allied hands.

Ortona brings Canada’s first major triumph of the war to life in dramatic, suspenseful narrative, weaving reminiscences of the Canadians, Germans, and Italians who were there together with a blow-by-blow account of the fighting that raged throughout December 1943 from the Moro River Valley past the infamous Gully and finally into the streets of Ortona itself. It is a masterful work a story told from the soldier’s-eye view.

Published by Douglas & McIntyre, 1999: 443 pages.

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The Globe and Mail


Esprit de Corps magazine

Esprit de Corps Magazine

“This reviewer was astonished at the way Zuehlke’s pen has grasped the realities of the battle.. brings the battle for Ortona and the men who fought it back to life.”

The Globe And Mail

The Globe And Mail

“Mark Zuehlke conveys the apocalyptic feel of the battle in agonizing detail and recounts the exploits and sacrifice of 1st CID with extraordinary thoroughness.”


“Destined to become a Canadian military history classic.”

Toronto Star

Toronto Star

“Mark Zuehlke’s grindingly researched book is a heart-stopping, intimate look at all the brutal excesses of war.. Infantry and tank warfare comes alive in Zuehlke’s hands.”

About the Author

Mark Zuehlke is an award-winning author generally considered to be Canada’s foremost popular military historian. His Canadian Battle Series is the most exhaustive recounting of the battles and campaigns fought by any nation during World War II to have been written by a single author.

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