The Liberator

The Liberator

One World War II Soldier's 500-day Odyssey From the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau

Book - 2012
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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.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2012.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780307887993
0307887995
Characteristics: 433 p. :,ill., maps.

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bibliotechnocrat Aug 20, 2014

Starting with riding the rails during the great depression, Felix Sparks bootstrapped his way into college. When the war came, he became an officer in the Thunderbird Division of the US Army, and went ashore at Sicily. Sparks served with the Thunderbirds up through the Italian Peninsula, then on to Anzio before being transferred to the landing force that entered southern France - four amphibious landings in all. He fought his way into Germany, finally ending up as the liberator of Dachau. Napoleon famously wanted officers who were lucky - I think Napoleon wouldn't have approved much of this American officer. Solidly researched, this biography covers lesser known areas of US involvement in the war, and gives a great picture of a maverick officer. The discovery of the Dachau atrocities are a body blow at the end of Sparks difficult journey through World War II.

AlanReynolds Nov 14, 2013

I agree wholeheartedly with bbb1771. What a story this man has! A must read for any WWII buff or anyone who wonders how people cope in combat.

ChristchurchLib Jan 15, 2013

"Felix Sparks enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1936; by the end of World War II he held the rank of colonel. From July 1943 to the end of the war, Sparks led the 157th Infantry through brutal and bloody fighting in Sicily and Italy - with devastating losses at Anzio. Among the first Americans to reach Germany, they liberated the Dachau concentration camp. Using interviews with Sparks and letters from him and his men, journalist Alex Kershaw builds a detailed portrait of Sparks' army career, his inspiring leadership, and the grit and perseverance of his regiment." January 2013 Biography and Memoir Newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=591080

b
bbb1771
Nov 20, 2012

Powerfully written account of forgotten WW II campaigns and battles, bringing historical context to significant events from the vantage point of someone who experienced it first hand.

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