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The Liberator by Alex Kershaw
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The Liberator (edition 2012)

by Alex Kershaw

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1554077,049 (4)13
Member:ricksbooks
Title:The Liberator
Authors:Alex Kershaw
Info:Hutchinson (2012), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:non-fiction, history, military history, WWII

Work details

The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau by Alex Kershaw

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This relatively short book is essentially a biography of U.S. Army Colonel Felix Sparks, who led an infantry unit in the Sicily, Italian, and southern French campaigns of World War II. Most accounts of the War in Europe focus upon the Normandy invasion and Battle of the Bulge, so this is a welcome addition, detailing the war effort of those that fought in Sicily, at Anzio, and through the south of France.

Sparks certainly saw his share of battle and was never far from the front line, somewhat rare for officers of his rank. His unit saw some of the highest casualty rates of the War. Without a doubt, Sparks was one of the finest soldiers to wear the uniform and his record cannot be denied or diminished in any way. However, as frequently happens in the case of such biographies, the author has tried a little too hard to sell the Colonel’s story. In this instance, he does so by denigrating virtually every U. S. service man of higher rank than Sparks.

Of course, the Generals are either bumbling fools (Mark Clark) or venal, publicity hounds (George Patton) whose negligence and incompetence put Sparks and his men repeatedly in harm’s way, despite the well-argued and indisputable warnings of Sparks. To believe the author, the War would have been won far quicker, with little loss of life, if only the higher ups had listened to Sparks. His immediate superiors likewise come in for their share of criticism as well, particularly Brigadier General Fredericks, who he blames for the sniper death of a soldier returning from a victory parade (as if the sniper would have otherwise been unable to find a target). He also blames the vindictiveness of Fredericks for Sparks’s failure to receive the recognition (as in medals) that he deserved. This despite the fact that Fredericks apparently smoothed over a little incident in which Sparks actually pulled a pistol and stuck it in a General’s face.

Likewise, the author frequently uses a double standard, painting the Waffen SS as monsters for killing American prisoners, then essentially excusing U.S. service men (Sparks’s men) for doing the same, because you see, the American soldiers were emotionally upset, as though German soldiers were immune from such conditions.

The writing style was not entirely to my liking, consisting of short, choppy paragraphs, much in the way of diary entries. The author also takes a number of gratuitous swipes at the NRA in a final chapter detailing Sparks’s subsequent gun control crusades. So, while the subject matter was appreciated, informative and educational, in my opinion the author detracts from the work through his hagiography and the method by which he presents the history. ( )
  santhony | Mar 31, 2014 |
Absolutely incredible biography of a relatively unknown hero of WWII. Kershaw as usual, has the writing style of a novelist and presents history in living and vivid picture. I cannot recommend this book enough. Sparks is a true hero whose story deserves to be told. If you like WWII or biographies please do yourself a favor and read this. ( )
  Luftwaffe_Flak | Feb 6, 2014 |
Makes me really appreciate what my father's generation accomplished - the destruction of total evil.
A powerful, exhausting read.
I will seek out author's other books ( )
  THARVEYME | Aug 21, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A good unit and personal history of an officer in WW2, from Italy to Dachau. Author uses many interviews with those involved, and makes you feel as if you were there.
  markknapp | Aug 21, 2013 |
Really enjoyed. It seemed to be a balanced book ; some books are so "us good, them bad" but this cut to the true war, where Germans were just as caught up in the war as Americans. Not good vs. evil, but individuals fighting for various reasons. The book spanned a great deal of time, including the later life of Mr. Sparks - it was all easy to follow. Highly recommend for war history lovers. ( )
  marshapetry | Aug 16, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
In his latest WWII narrative, Kershaw (The Longest Winter) examines the war through the experiences of Felix Sparks, an American law student–turned–soldier who saw action in some of the bloodiest campaigns of 1943–1945. Sparks was initially assigned as a second lieutenant with the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division (the so-called “Thunderbirds”) and ended his service as a “world-weary” lieutenant colonel.
added by IslandDave | editPublishers Weekly (Sep 17, 2012)
 
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In memory of Jack Hallowell
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They lay beneath perfect rows of white graves that lined lush green lawns.
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Book description
From bestselling author and historian Alex Kershaw comes the true story of the bloodiest and most dramatic march to victory of the Second World War: the battlefield odyssey of a maverick U.S. Army officer and his infantry unit as they fought for over five hundred days to liberate Europe - from the invasion of Italy to the gates of Dachau.

From July 10, 1943, the date of the Allied landing in Sicily, to May 8, 1945, when victory in Europe was declared – the entire time it took to liberate Europe – no regiment saw more action, and no single platoon, company, or battalion endured worse, than the ones commanded by Felix Sparks, who had entered the war as a greenhorn second lieutenant of the 157th “Eager for Duty” Infantry Regiment of the 45th “Thunderbird” Division. Sparks and his fellow Thunderbirds fought longest and hardest to defeat Hitler, often against his most fanatical troops, when the odds on the battlefield were even and the fortunes of the Allies hung in the balance – and when the difference between defeat and victory was a matter of character, not tactics or armor.

Historian Alex Kershaw masterfully recounts one of the most inspiring and heroic journeys in military history. Over the course of four amphibious invasions, Sparks rose from captain to colonel as he battled from the beaches of Sicily through the mountains of Italy and France, ultimately enduring bitter and desperate winter combat against the diehard SS on the Fatherland’s borders. Though he lost all of his company to save the Allied beach-head at Anzio and an entire battalion in the dark forests of the Vosges, Sparks miraculously survived the long bloody march across Europe and was selected to lead a final charge to Bavaria to hunt down Adolf Hitler.

When they finally arrived at the gates of Dachau, Hitler’s first and most notorious concentration camp, the Thunderbirds confronted scenes that robbed the mind of reason. With victory within grasp, Sparks confronted the ultimate test of his humanity: after all he had faced, could he resist the urge to wreak vengeance on the men who had caused untold suffering and misery?

Written with the narrative drive and vivid immediacy of Kershaw’s previous bestselling books about American infantrymen in WWII, The Liberator is a story for the ages, an intensely human and dramatic account of one of history’s greatest warriors and his unheralded role in America’s finest achievement – the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Haiku summary
Sparks leads men in war

Many die at German hands

Dachau's why they fight

(islanddave)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307887995, Hardcover)

The true story of the bloodiest and most dramatic march to victory of the Second World War: the battlefield odyssey of a maverick U.S. Army officer and his infantry unit as they fought for over five hundred days to liberate Europe - from the invasion of Italy to the gates of Dachau.

   From July 10, 1943, the date of the Allied landing in Sicily, to May 8, 1945, when victory in Europe was declared – the entire time it took to liberate Europe – no regiment saw more action, and no single platoon, company, or battalion endured worse, than the ones commanded by Felix Sparks, who had entered the war as a greenhorn second lieutenant of the 157th “Eager for Duty” Infantry Regiment of the 45th “Thunderbird” Division.  Sparks and his fellow Thunderbirds fought longest and hardest to defeat Hitler, often against his most fanatical troops, when the odds on the battlefield were even and the fortunes of the Allies hung in the balance – and when the difference between defeat and victory was a matter of character, not tactics or armor.

   Drawing on extensive interviews with Sparks and dozens of his men, as well as over five years of research in Europe and in archives across the US, historian Alex Kershaw masterfully recounts one of the most inspiring and heroic journeys in military history.  Over the course of four amphibious invasions, Sparks rose from captain to colonel as he battled from the beaches of Sicily through the mountains of Italy and France, ultimately enduring bitter and desperate winter combat against the diehard SS on the Fatherland’s borders.  Though he lost all of his company to save the Allied beach-head at Anzio and an entire battalion in the dark forests of the Vosges, Sparks miraculously survived the long bloody march across Europe and was selected to lead a final charge to Bavaria to hunt down Adolf Hitler.

   In the dying days of the Third Reich, Sparks and his men crossed the last great barrier in the West, the Rhine, only to experience some of the most intense street fighting and close combat suffered by Americans in WWII.  When they finally arrived at the gates of Dachau, Hitler’s first and most notorious concentration camp, the Thunderbirds confronted scenes that robbed the mind of reason.  With victory within grasp, Sparks confronted the ultimate test of his humanity: after all he had faced, could he resist the urge to wreak vengeance on the men who had caused untold suffering and misery?

   Written with the narrative drive and vivid immediacy of Kershaw’s previous bestselling books about American infantrymen in WWII, The Liberator is a story for the ages, an intensely human and dramatic account of one of history’s greatest warriors and his unheralded role in America’s finest achievement – the defeat of Nazi Germany.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:39 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The true story of the bloodiest and most dramatic march to victory of the Second World War. The battlefield odyssey of a maverick U.S. Army officer and his infantry unit as they fought for over five hundred days to liberate Europe; frmo the invasion of Italy to the gates of Dachau.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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