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 best-selling 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.
©2012 Alex Kershaw (P)2012 Random House Audio
"[Kershaw] is a captivating narrator, hammering home the chaos and carnage of war, sparing no sensory detail to paint a cohesive picture. [His] portrayal of his subject (based on interviews with Sparks, who died in 2007, and other survivors) makes for a riveting, almost epic tale of a larger-than-life, underappreciated figure." (Publishers Weekly)
"This engrossing wartime narrative offers a fresh look at the European campaign and an intimate sense of the war’s toll on individual participants." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A searing, brilliantly told story of the heroism and horror of war, Alex Kershaw's The Liberator is a book that's impossible to put down. A must read for anyone who loved Band of Brothers." (Lynne Olson, author of Citizens of London)
This book is completely and utterly engrossing. It is simply one of the best accounts I've encountered. Sparks fought through 500 days of hell on earth that I just can't imagine. Even though the book revolves around the war, the pre and post war narratives are equally interesting. I find the ending poignant. The narration is excellent although Sanders' accents aren't the best. The book provides an interesting and new perspective through which to view the SS that I had not really considered before. I always find it difficult to reconcile the fact that young men were plucked from the best years of their lives, were required to do ungodly things, yet after victory they were simply returned to society from whence they came. This book encapsulates the lifelong trauma that accompanied these men.
"Now I Know What a Hero Really Is"
I listened to this book having read a number of very engaging books about WWII. As a 47 year old male who never experienced war, I am fascinated by the bravery of men like Sparks who experienced brutality and bravery on a scale seldom matched.
Listening to this book while driving in my car to work, I found myself for the first time understanding the pain and sacrifice of men who moved toward danger and fought for an ideal. I cannot fathom what it was like on the beaches, caves and in the most terrifying situations but I can understand that these men are special and for that no amount of gratitude comes even close to thanking them.
The book really hit home when Sparks and his men liberated Dachau. With absolutely no frame of reference to see this living nightmare, it is no wonder that any of these men could even articulate what transpired. When one of the soldiers said "now I know what we were fighting against", nothing could have connected the dots better regarding the need to fight such an evil.
To anyone who wants to understand what war is like and look up to men who are real heroes...please listen to this book.
"All for the PEACE & FREEDOM we enjoy today."
Poignant, Gripping and Unfathomable Bravery.
Felix Sparks. Although he entered the war as a greenhorn, he had good tactics and commanding skills to lead a regiment that saw more action and endured worse than any other regiment or battalion in the history of WWII...not forgetting his LUCK to see it through to the end.
Fred Sanders is the great narrator by far. I really admired his ability to change his voice and play multiple characters with their corresponding accents. He is too good and I appreciate him reading this book.
Sparks loosing all his 230 men; all of whom he knew very well, scenes about strong men reaching their breaking point and becoming non-functional in the war again, young soldiers committing suicide when the war starts because of fear they had never experienced before, and brave good men dying after taking out a lot of Krauts all made me feel like crying......but was able to hold back.
This book has really broadened my scope on WWII and really want more books like this. It's a book you can hardly put away and wish for more chapters. I really didn't want this book to end and right now that I'm done with it, really feel like starting it again. It's a never forgetting story of bravery and all the men who laid down their lives to make the world a better place. God bless their souls and God bless us. We pray for such events NEVER to happen again in the history of Mankind.
"Expected much more"
I chose this book based on the marketing blurb. I expected a personal account of one man's 500 days. I got a high level recounting of the Allied Italian campaign, interspersed with a few personal recollections. What annoyed me the most were the "suppositions". Unable to say exactly what Sparks actually experienced, the narrative uses assumptions. "He probably spent the night scared." If I was being unkind, I would say this book perfectly shows the vast gulf between a general staff officer's view of battle and reality on the front lines. Except he was on the front lines. The book just doesn't have enough facts to tell the front line story. If you have not read Atkinson's wonderful book on the North African and Italian campaign, or if you have not read much about the second world war, or if you have not read really good personal accounts, then this will likely be entertaining and informative. As for me, I stopped reading half way through, because the book was not sharing any new information, it was omitting any details ("they survived that night's furious assault by defending themselves vigorously"), and it just wasn't interesting as a "personal account of one man's 500 days".
"informative and inspiring"
The book describes the depressing horrors of war, and it was hard at times to hear about how hard it was--for both Allies and Germans. I found the story of General Sparks and his experience of WWII ultimately inspiring and worth reading. You really get a sense of what it was like for him and the soldiers under his command. I had not heard of him before this book, and realize now what a great general and leader he was. My father was on the front lines in Europe and although toward the end of his life I was eventually able to get him to open up and share some of his experiences, this book really made it more clear to me just how tough it was for him. I have a new appreciation for the men and women who fought in that war.
"Wonderful Book! Must read for all Coloradoans."
The end was so touching.
It was wonderful to learn about some of the history of my state and the many sacrifices made during WWII.
"The Good and Bad of the Human character"
Sorry never read the print version
Despite being in hellish situations the good of men can come to fore
Not a chance
"Good; not great"
I listen to a lot of WWII history. This book is a fine example of Lt. Col Sparks, the 157th Infantry Regiment, and their long, hard war from Salerno and Anzio, through the invasion beaches in the south of France, and on into Germany. LTC Sparks saw a hell of a lot of combat, and in areas that are often neglected by the popular histories.
But that's all covered at least as well in other books. Audie Murphy's "To Hell And Back" gives a better idea of the exhaustion, and fatalistic pessimism that comes with being in combat for the better part of two years.
Where this book gets really interesting is at the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp at the end of the war as it deals, unflinchingly, with the summary execution of SS troopers captured as Dachau was being liberated.
That is not a story often told; that prisoners of war were killed by both sides. And that part of the book, the subsequent investigation, involvement of Patton, and doubts that lingered for more than 40 years, were the parts of the book that make it stand out from other histories.
I recommend this book, but not to everyone. It was a good read, and I am glad to have learned more about Felix Sparks, and his war.
"A real account of a real WWII hero"
Powerful Enlightening Real
When he got out of a tank to rescue his men and the SS decided not to shoot out of respect for a ranking officer that would do such a thing
My favorite scene was the whole story about the concentration camp and Colonel Sparks reaction to the shooting of the guards and his respect for human life regardless of the situation he was in. This was coupled with his reaction to the General that wanted a photo opportunity. I was touched by someone who could witness such horrors and maintain such decency in all of it - a true hero.
There were several shocking scenes in this book that made the reality of war come to light.
This is an excellent book!
Felix Sparks, of course!
I enjoyed Fred Sanders performance. Listening to the foreign names is preferable to reading them.
This story broke my heart a hundred times over. How did anyone survive this? Much less come back and create such a normal life?
"Different story of the US Army in Europe"
Felix Sparks comes across as an amazing but perfectly believe-able person caught up in WW2.
It also tells the story of a different front for the US Army in Western Europe in WWII.
From Sicily to Italy to Southern France, then across the Siegfried line into southern Germany.
As one of the GIs said when asked "Which beach did you land on" - implying Normandy, he said "We landed on so many beaches we lost count".
Also keep listening to the end, the story doesn't end in 1945.
"One of my top 10"
Great man. Incredible story. Nicely narrated. To put it simply, I was captivated from the beaches of Sicily to the very end of the story.
the selfless acts and fearlessness that this leader of men shown both during and post war should be shown and used as an educational tool to help a new generation realise how people can and should care for one another.
A fantastic book which made me change my own priorities in life
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