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

The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily 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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"[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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (158 )
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  •  
    JW Atlanta, GA USA 08-31-14
    JW Atlanta, GA USA 08-31-14 Member Since 2011

    Traveler, History buff. Mystery enthusiast. Battlefield explorer.

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    Story
    "A Tremendous Story of Courage and Leadership"

    COL Sparks was a courageous infantryman and outstanding leader. Couple those two traits with a great amount of luck and you have the makings of a very interesting story of one mans battle during WWII. I found it thoroughly interesting and entertaining. The stories told of the extraordinary courage and bravery of the WWII citizen solder is a tribute to them. To hear and see the death and injury surrounding you daily, makes one wonder how any infantryman could return to a world of post-war normalcy.
    The chapters on the events at Dachau are most interesting.
    Also, the book tells the story of the murder of COL Sparks Grandson. It was beyond terrible, and inexcusable. As told in the book, that event seemed to push the COL into a zone of fury unequaled in his wartime years. The grief the family has endured is heart wrenching. I can understand COL Sparks push to keep handguns out of the hands of teenagers like the one that murdered his grandson, that I agree with, but then the story seemed to devolve into a diatribe against the NRA. The NRA does not and will not condone any unlawful use of firearms. In the book the NRA seems to be as much a villain as the murderer himself. With that, I totally disagree.
    Whatever your view is on firearms ownership or regulation you'll enjoy reading of COL Sparks 500+ days in battle.
    It's a very interesting read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Australia 04-11-14
    Joseph Australia 04-11-14 Member Since 2008
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    "A fascinating story of the long road to liberation"

    As my father served in the 45th Division, I read with interest Alex Kershaw’s story of Felix Spark’s Sicily to Dachau odyssey. The story is detailed and personal, providing real insight into the reality of war and the horrendous conditions that soldiers faced.

    Fred Sanders does a good job interpreting the emotion as well as the variety of Italian, French and German words. I wish he had not done accents, which I found to be caricatures and distracting.

    All in all, it is a book I recommend, as it brings to life a time which is fast fading from our memories.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles LYNDON STATION, WISCONSIN, United States 05-11-13
    Charles LYNDON STATION, WISCONSIN, United States 05-11-13 Member Since 2014
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    "The Liberator."

    I enjoyed this book. A lot of action and found it to be very interesting. I would recommend this book to any one, Very Good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron Allons, TN, United States 03-18-13
    Ron Allons, TN, United States 03-18-13 Member Since 2010

    American patriot, veteran, historical researcher and writer.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What war and leadership are all about!"

    If you want to know what men look for in leadership when going to war, this book is for you. The personal account of Col. Sparks war experiences in Italy and Germany relate the true cost of freedom paid on the battlefields in Europe during World War II. Recounting the loss of so many of his men in the 500 days of brutal combat, Sparks leaves for future generations a record of the sacrifice and bravery needed to defeat the true evil that seemed to be enveloping our world.

    Fred Sanders narration was superb, Alex Kershaw's story excellent, and the cost of freedom well documented!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hale Ocala, FL, United States 03-12-13
    Hale Ocala, FL, United States 03-12-13 Member Since 2011
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    Story
    "Error noted regarding the Colombine shooting"
    If you could sum up The Liberator in three words, what would they be?

    Author allegation the shooters used submachine guns is contrary to the facts. The weapons were semi-automatic


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Liberator?

    One of the best books on one soldier's experiences in WWII.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BR FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA, United States 03-12-13
    BR FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA, United States 03-12-13 Member Since 2011
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    "A real account of a real WWII hero"
    If you could sum up The Liberator in three words, what would they be?

    Powerful Enlightening Real


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Liberator?

    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


    Which scene was your favorite?

    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.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    There were several shocking scenes in this book that made the reality of war come to light.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allen Plainwell, MI, United States 02-13-13
    Allen Plainwell, MI, United States 02-13-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Best account of Italian campaign and others"

    I have read a number of WW2 books - almost all the good ones that exist I think. This was probably one of 4 that at least starts with the ITalian campaign, but does a better job detailing some things. I disagree with the other reviewer who said this book is the same material as others - I found details here that were not in other works - both about the journey through Italy, and the landing on the beaches. Good book if you are looking to learn more about some of the lesser known European theater, but not what I would call broad overview of the European campaign. Won't disappoint.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J 02-06-13
    J 02-06-13

    Soldier, Educator, Lifelong Learner

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    "How Much Can One Man Go Through?"
    What did you love best about The Liberator?

    Excellent account of US Army Officer Felix Sparks' WWII journey. Sparks joins the Army in the interwar years, serves his term, and decides to go to law school. Unfortunately WWII broke out and Felix was called back into service. This is his story, his journey from the training; to the beaches of Sicily all the Infantry way to Dachau concentration camp. What an outstanding man and officer who endured way more than any one man should have to in the course of a war.


    What does Fred Sanders bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I enjoyed the narrator's rendition of General George S. Patton Jr.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jack 01-02-13
    Jack 01-02-13
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    "OK Story, Great Narration"

    The story provides great insight into the trials and tribulations encountered by US infantry in the less publicized side of the European Theater of Operations. It highlights the fact the US involvement did not start with D-Day. Fred Sanders does a great job of providing color to the story and the various voices he uses help support the story without becoming a "performance".
    I did not feel the story was well balanced in its presentation of General Felix Sparks. It read a bit like a "puff" piece.
    .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick 11-26-12
    Patrick 11-26-12

    The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

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    "No different than any other WW2 book"

    After reading countless amounts of WW2 books throughout the years, it's very hard to find one these days that doesn't relay the same history lesson, message, or analysis. I cannot say that this book REALLY differentiates from most other books on WW2. I'm not saying it was a bad book, and could actually be a decent first time read for someone who doesn't know much about the subject and wants to focus more on the European aspect. However, to the "seasoned" reader of various books on this topic, this book will not stand out.

    Yes, the story was good, but it really didn't convey the way some other books did on this topic. "Unbroken" or "Tears in the Darkness" are two that I'd recommend first to newcomers on the subject of WW2. Those books actually stuck with me, and I find myself occasionally thinking about the topics I read . Some parts of this book were very interesting, but they all seemed to come towards the end of the book. You're given the same story of how horrible Anzio and the Italian campaign was. Basically all of this information you can obtain by watching Ken Burns "The War" or reading up a little on Wikipedia.

    The narrator wasn't bad, but he sounded more like he should be narrating a History Channel special on TV, not an audiobook.

    So....if you've read many books, articles, seen documentaries, etc. on the subject of WW2, then I'd advise you to skip this book. It has the same broad subject line as always, and is only told to the reader in a different way, that's it. There are splashes of interesting personal stories thrown in throughout the book, and I'm not saying that it's bad, but beware of repeated knowledge if you've been around the block on your WW2 books.

    I read all of the reviews on this book I could find before purchasing this, took the risk, and now I'm stuck with a lot of knowledge I already knew in the first place.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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