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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

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  •  
    Kenzibit Ghana 11-07-12
    Kenzibit Ghana 11-07-12

    Research Technologist with deep interests in Host Cell - Pathogen Interactions & Cancer Research. I enjoy and mostly listen to Non-Fiction audiobooks on Medicine/Science, War and History. I also like to Game when I'm not in the lab.

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    "All for the PEACE & FREEDOM we enjoy today."
    If you could sum up The Liberator in three words, what would they be?

    Poignant, Gripping and Unfathomable Bravery.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    What about Fred Sanders’s performance did you like?

    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.


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

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven United States 11-27-12
    Steven United States 11-27-12 Member Since 2010
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    "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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Effie Lakewood, CO, United States 12-21-12
    Effie Lakewood, CO, United States 12-21-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Wonderful Book! Must read for all Coloradoans."
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Liberator to be better than the print version?

    Yes


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

    The end was so touching.


    Have you listened to any of Fred Sanders’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    no


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Many


    Any additional comments?

    It was wonderful to learn about some of the history of my state and the many sacrifices made during WWII.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean Houston, Texas, United States 03-26-13
    Sean Houston, Texas, United States 03-26-13 Member Since 2004

    Say something about yourself!

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    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PipeDZ USA 01-06-13
    PipeDZ USA 01-06-13
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    "Excellent Narration of Great Story"
    Would you listen to The Liberator again? Why?

    Probably not...life is too short, there are so many good books, so I've never listened to an audiobook twice yet...nothing against this one.


    What other book might you compare The Liberator to and why?

    Its kind of a cross between EB Sledge and Rick Atkinson's Trilogy....alledgedly Sparks' story but lots of context thrown in when there clearly seems to be little known of day-day events in his unit


    Which character – as performed by Fred Sanders – was your favorite?

    BG Felix Sparks of course


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The helplessness Sparks must have felt when MG Frederick refused to allow his BN to get re-positioned in the Vosges resulting days later in the destruction of his BN....one imagines one would wonder in retrospect whether another approach to the issue at hand could have yielded another outcome


    Any additional comments?

    The narration on this book is excellent even though not by the author. So any shortcomings lay at the author's feet. Kershaw does yeoman service in the book by highlighting the sort of (horrific) war the 45th division had in WWII.
    The one shortcoming in the book is that it lacks insight into WHY decisions were made which adversely impacted Sparks' soldiers...that would have value to future leaders in learning from the challenges faced as described in the book. The book gives you what happened but not insight into as much insight as to why from Sparks' perspective . That said, this book is one which I'll never forget and I highly recommend.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Armbrister marion, va 01-04-13
    M. Armbrister marion, va 01-04-13 Member Since 2009

    reeder

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    "Absolutely incredible!"
    Where does The Liberator rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is an excellent book!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Felix Sparks, of course!


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

    I enjoyed Fred Sanders performance. Listening to the foreign names is preferable to reading them.


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

    This story broke my heart a hundred times over. How did anyone survive this? Much less come back and create such a normal life?


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. LaBossiere 12-26-12
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    "informative and inspiring"
    What did you love best about The Liberator?

    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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John East Lindfield, Australia 12-04-12
    John East Lindfield, Australia 12-04-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CTM VA United States 10-28-14
    CTM VA United States 10-28-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Great book except for the last chapter"
    Any additional comments?

    This book would have been 5/5 except for the last chapter when it turns into a political hit piece. It actually makes me question the remainder of the narrative, making me wonder if the whole book was written to lend gravitas to the contemporary political point being forced at the end of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JW Atlanta, GA USA 08-31-14
    JW Atlanta, GA USA 08-31-14 Member Since 2003

    Traveler, History buff. Mystery enthusiast. Battlefield explorer.

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    "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
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