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The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western…
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The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (2013)

by Rick Atkinson

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The final volume of Rick Atkinson's trilogy is not as good as the first one but vastly superior to the confused second one. A more linear narrative and the preponderance of the US efforts in comparison to the allies makes it a better read. There are still jingoistic elements, e.g. when he derides Swiss complaints about US bombardments. Given that the United States and Switzerland were not at war, who would not at least complain, especially as the US pilots bombed a city far inside Switzerland that could only be attributed to navigational incompetence. Some of Atkinson's errors of judgment are also based on ignorance. Atkinson sides with Stalinist totalitarianism instead of democratic Switzerland. His penchant for authoritarianism is especially triggered by French general De Gaulle whose efforts to get French interests recognized is belittled throughout. A further target are Montgomery and the British whose contributions are often reduced to assisting the Americans in doing the job. This aspect of the War on Terror history writing will not age well and diminishes an otherwise splendid effort.

While Atkinson mentions the Soviet effort many times, the focus on American victory ultimately fails to truly value the overwhelming Soviet contribution in breaking the Wehrmacht. The willingness of the German soldiers to fight on for a lost cause and folly in 1944 and 1945 in the West is truly astonishing. While not as mad as Brad Pitt's zombie Nazi attacks in "Fury", the German soldiers fought to the last in clinging on to indefensible inches of territory. Supply and logistics defeated the Wehrmacht both by the internal lack of resupply and the massive supply chain the United States built up.

The part about the liberation of the concentration camps is very movingly told and presents a good picture what the war was about, even though the true nature of the horrors was known to the Allies only after the war had been won. Given Atkinson's focus on the generals and the soldiers, he avoids most of the setup of the Cold War. Overall, a highly readable account of the US armies' effort in the European theater. ( )
  jcbrunner | Jan 31, 2015 |
The Guns at Last Light is the conclusion of an amazing achievement, three books about large scale "armies of Liberation" on the move during World War II.

This one is about the last year of the war in Europe, from D-Day to the fall of Berlin and V-E Day and beyond.

He can flash effortlessly from generals in their command posts (sometimes fantastically equipped manor houses and chateaus) to privates crouching in a basement waiting for the flames to die down.

He never loses sight of the fact that there are people down there peering through the fog of battle and making guesses that sometimes win battles - and sometimes lose them.

He is a master of the little vignette that perfectly sums up the moment.He has read letters, newspaper reports, diaries, and it all shows.

He looks over the shoulders of Dwight Eisenhower, and Bradley and Patton, and some lesser lights too. The conventional wisdom I think about Ike was that he wasn't much of a combat general, but he was good at holding the Allied Coalition together. This book sheds some light on both sides of that "but".

Some people seem to think that the war was over and done after the D-Day Landings. Those people ought to get out more.

And if you're the kind of person who doesn't reads military history, generally, well you might just give this one a try.

"The Battle of the Bugle had affirmed once again that war is never limited, but rather a chaotic, desultory enterprise of reversal and advance, blunder and elan, despair and elation".

It takes a great writer to describe chaos and make you see it - and make you understand it.

Very highly recommended ( )
  magicians_nephew | Dec 29, 2014 |
In this last book in the Liberation Trilogy, Atkinson provides a detailed account of the Allied invasion of Europe from D-Day to the German surrender. I especially enjoyed the analyses of the strengths and foibles of various commanders. ( )
  proflinton | Nov 18, 2014 |
Absolutely astounding, the strongest of the trilogy. Atkinson ends his series with a tour de force finish that in the end leaves you wanting more (Pacific Theater Mr. Atkinson?). An excellent history of the Allied war in the West, provokes much emotion. At the end I simply wept and felt like I had lost a friend. Highly recommended. ( )
  Luftwaffe_Flak | Feb 6, 2014 |
I've been looking forward to the final of the Liberation trilogy for years and it wasn't disappointing. This is a comprehensive, detailed examination of the US Army's role in the War in Europe, primarily the war in France and Germany. Very little is mentioned about Italy, the Eastern Front , Greece and the Middle East are ignored completely, but that was not the purpose of this book. The military, political and logistical details of the final defeat of Germany by the US are covered extensively. Considering that this book covers nearly a full year of the war, it cannot be as detailed about individual battels, but it does cover all of the major battles in sufficient detail. I really enjoyed it, though I found myself many times realizing I was re-reading familiar history. Atkinson does not make a point to try and reveal any little known pieces of history, minor battles or unknown details, but what he does cover is well written and fascinating. Highly recommended. ( )
  Karlstar | Feb 1, 2014 |
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Epigraph
But pardon, gentles all, The flat unraised spirits that hath dared On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth So great an object. Can this cockpit hold The vasty fields of France? - Shakespeare, Henry V, Prologue
Dedication
To those who knew neither thee nor me, yet suffered for us anyway
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(Prologue) A killing frost struck England in the middle of May 1944, stunting the plum trees and the berry crops.
The singing stopped as the Normandy coast drew near.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805062904, Hardcover)

The magnificent conclusion to Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II

It is the twentieth century’s unrivaled epic: at a staggering price, the United States and its allies liberated Europe and vanquished Hitler. In the first two volumes of his bestselling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson recounted how the American-led coalition fought through North Africa and Italy to the threshold of victory. Now he tells the most dramatic story of all—the titanic battle for Western Europe.

D-Day marked the commencement of the final campaign of the European war, and Atkinson’s riveting account of that bold gamble sets the pace for the masterly narrative that follows. The brutal fight in Normandy, the liberation of Paris, the disaster that was Operation Market Garden, the horrific Battle of the Bulge, and finally the thrust to the heart of the Third Reich—all these historic events and more come alive with a wealth of new material and a mesmerizing cast of characters. Atkinson tells the tale from the perspective of participants at every level, from presidents and generals to war-weary lieutenants and terrified teenage riflemen. When Germany at last surrenders, we understand anew both the devastating cost of this global conflagration and the enormous effort required to win the Allied victory.

With the stirring final volume of this monumental trilogy, Atkinson’s accomplishment is manifest. He has produced the definitive chronicle of the war that unshackled a continent and preserved freedom in the West.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:10 -0400)

Tells the dramatic story of the titanic battle for Western Europe from D-Day to the thrust to the heart of the Third Reich.

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