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The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 | [Rick Atkinson]

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

It is the 20th 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 best-selling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson recounted the history of how the American-led coalition fought its way from North Africa and Italy to the threshold of victory. Now he tells the most dramatic story of all - the titanic battle in Western Europe. D-Day marked the commencement of the war's final campaign, and Atkinson's astonishingly fresh account of that enormous gamble sets the pace for the masterly narrative that follows.
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Publisher's Summary

The eagerly awaited final volume in Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Atkinson's New York Times best-selling Liberation Trilogy.

It is the 20th 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 best-selling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson recounted the history of how the American-led coalition fought its way from North Africa and Italy to the threshold of victory. Now he tells the most dramatic story of all - the titanic battle in Western Europe.

D-Day marked the commencement of the war's final campaign, and Atkinson's astonishingly fresh account of that enormous gamble sets the pace for the masterly narrative that follows. The brutal fight in Normandy, the liberation of Paris, the disaster that was Market Garden, the horrific Battle of the Bulge, and finally the thrust to the heart of the Third Reich - all these historic moments come utterly alive. Atkinson tells the tale from the perspective of participants at all levels, from presidents and prime ministers to ambitious generals, from war-weary lieutenants to terrified teenage riflemen. When Germany at last surrenders, we understand anew both the devastating cost of this global conflagration and the awe-inspiring effort that led to Germany's surrender.

With the stirring final volume of this monumental trilogy, Rick Atkinson's remarkable accomplishment is manifest. He has produced the definitive chronicle of the war that restored freedom to the West. His lively, occasionally lyric prose brings the vast theater of battle, from the beaches of Normandy deep into Germany, brilliantly alive. It is hard to imagine a better history of the western front's final phase.

©2013 Rich Atkinson (P)2013 Simon & Schuster

What the Critics Say

"Superb… The book is distinguished by its astonishing range of coverage… [Atkinson’s] lively, occasionally lyric prose brings the vast theater of battle, from the beaches of Normandy deep into Germany, brilliantly alive. It is hard to imagine a better history of the western front’s final phase." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"[An] extraordinary accomplishment. This is a beautifully written, moving account of one of the most bittersweet chapters in modern history… The details build a stunning and precise account of major movements—from Normandy to Paris, from the South of France to Grenoble—and close-up portraits of famous figures that make them living, breathing beings." (Smithsonian Magazine)

"Superb… The book is distinguished by its astonishing range of coverage… [Atkinson’s] lively, occasionally lyric prose brings the vast theater of battle, from the beaches of Normandy deep into Germany, brilliantly alive. It is hard to imagine a better history of the western front’s final phase." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

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  •  
    David I. Williams Keithville, LA, United States 05-25-13
    David I. Williams Keithville, LA, United States 05-25-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Well Written Overview"

    It seems that we will never run out of new books about World War II. That is not a bad thing. World War II saw more combatants than any other war in history. It affected a large percentage of the world’s population. Much of the war was fought between literate soldiers, officers, and civilians on both sides. This has left us with a mountain of material. Every author has his own reading and prejudices that he brings to the study. This means that we will receive many different views of the same subject. Rick Atkinson’s The Guns At Last Light: The War In Western Europe, 1944-1945, brings us his view of the war. The book starts with the invasion plans for Normandy. Atkinson goes in to a lot of detail about the logistical troubles that the allies had to prepare for what would be the largest amphibious assault in history. The information on D-Day itself and the Normandy campaign is very comprehensive, but not overwhelming with minutiae. The author points out the successes and failures of the campaign. One of the great failures was the lack of preparation by the commanders for dealing with the hedgerow country.

    Many books on the campaign in France tend to focus on the Normandy campaign and the subsequent breakout. There was a subsequent invasion of the south of France known as Operation Dragoon. Atkinson spends a good deal of time talking about Dragoon. He also spends a lot of time discussing Operation Market Garden. Market Garden was one of the more controversial campaigns of the war and it is covered quite well here. One of the reasons Eisenhower was willing to try Market Garden was the need to stop the new rockets that Germany had developed. First the V1 then the V2 rockets were causing a lot of havoc in London. The other reason was the need to gain Antwerp. Logistics was a nightmare for the Allied force. The port in Antwerp would significantly increase the supply capacity.

    The Battle of the Bulge is portrayed in the book as the greatest failure of Allied intelligence during the war. The Battle is portrayed in very vivid scenes. This section contains some of Atkinson’s best prose. One can almost feel the cold when reading the book.

    Atkinson spends a lot of time discussing generals who are not as well known to the general reader. Almost everyone has heard of Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, and Montgomery. Here we also get to see generals like Roosevelt, Truscott, Hodges, Devers, and others. Atkinson is obviously not a fan of Omar Bradley and never passes up a chance to criticize him. He tries to be fair to Montgomery, but it is hard. I’m not sure that it is possible to portray Montgomery accurately and in a positive light. There are a lot of stories about the British intrigues against Eisenhower. The British never approved and never understood Ike’s large front strategy. They always favored a narrow front with a heavy strike force. Of course they also wanted Monty in charge of it. Eisenhower knew better. Ike favored the same kind of battle order that Grant used in the Civil War. He knew that the Germans simply didn’t have the manpower to hold the entire front.

    The Malta and Yalta conferences are the subject of a chapter and they help to set the stage for the end of the war. It is interesting to see the interaction of the three leaders (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin) as the decide the fate of Europe in the post-war. The section on the liberation of the concentration camps is also very well done and very interesting. I was intrigued to lean that at Buchenwald American troops and officers took it on themselves to kill a number of SS troops who surrendered. The only really weak point in the book occurs here. Atkinson seems outraged by the actions of the American troops and seems them as simply murderers. His language gives the impression that it makes them no better than the SS thugs that they killed. I think that the context certainly gives the lie to any such moral equivalency. The GIs were well aware that the SS had massacred American POWs during the Battle of the Bulge. Now they see this fresh hell and in front of them are the men who committed the atrocities. I doubt that any of the soldiers who took part in the executions slept poorly over what they did.

    That one criticism aside this is an excellent book. Atkinson’s style is easy to read and the information is presented in such a way that the average reader will not be overwhelmed. He tries on the whole to give a thorough look at the campaign and the players. This should not be the only book that you read on this subject, but it is a book that you should read.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 08-27-13
    Robert 08-27-13 Member Since 2012
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    "The Guns at Last Light Excellent Book"
    Where does The Guns at Last Light rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I am a fan of World War II, as a Former Paratrooper this is my History, My Units History. Well written, Well Read. If you are a fan of World War II this book will give you new insight into the dysfunction of the Allied Army, The Disconnect of the German High Command to the actual situation on the Ground.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas 08-22-13
    Thomas 08-22-13
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    "Pretty close to perfect."

    Not much to say except it's a great book, performed by a great speaker. I really can't come up with anything but good to say about this book. If you're into history, this is a keeper. The middle book in this trilogy, The Day of Battle, was just as good. I avoided The Army at Dawn because the narrator sounded like he was 80 years old, and that would get on my nerves after a while.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas United States 06-13-13
    Douglas United States 06-13-13 Member Since 2003

    Urgyen Menla

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    "Best WWII-Europe History"

    I'm so sad to see this trilogy conclude. Such a great journey of history of American involvement in the European theatre of WWII.

    This is clearly Atkinson's life's work of love and passion.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig Seattle, WA, United States 12-28-13
    Craig Seattle, WA, United States 12-28-13 Member Since 2007

    I teach. I Listen. I trust your judgment as a fellow listener.

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    "Zoom Goes the War…Where are the People?"

    Unlike Atkinson's first two extraordinary treatises on North Africa and Italy, The Guns of Last Light lacks previous compelling and well-developed personalities. Yes, the usual and important historical figures are there (Patton, Bradley, Ike, and Audie Murphy), it's just that they are lost in the details of Arden, The Bulge, and D-Day. And, this is why I was not enthralled with this historical fiction/non-fiction.

    In the first two books we saw into individuals and their thinking, with all the appropriate disclaimers about 'this might have been said, but we don't know for sure.' In "Guns at Last Light" the author strays from risk-taking and speculative history to recite the facts and dates of battles already familiar to previous readers of WWII history. I felt like I was taking a military history course at an academy while listening to this final installment of Atkinson's trilogy.

    Sooo…would I recommend this final installment? Yes, if you are new to WWII history, but No if you already know what happened before and after the allies crossed the Rhine.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    James C. Delaney simsbury, ct USA 11-28-13
    James C. Delaney simsbury, ct USA 11-28-13 Member Since 2012

    shyster

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    "Five star finale"
    What did you love best about The Guns at Last Light?

    Great end to the liberation trilogy


    What did you like best about this story?

    It combines discussions of grand strategy and the realities of the foxhole. It is a realistic (warts and all) story of the liberation of Western Europe. It illuminates the great heroism and wisdom, as well as the folly, of the victors. Many recent depictions of this familar story gloss over many instances of wate, foolishness and venality of the Western Allies. Making the Allies human does not diminish the heroism-it only enhances it.


    What does L. J. Ganser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Great read. He understands the subjec matter which shows in the reading.


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

    The many instances of the sheer (and unnecessary) waste of human life in all too many cases drove me to tears.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Winston Salem, NC, United States 10-15-13
    William Winston Salem, NC, United States 10-15-13
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    "Depressing, but important"

    This book is so relentlessly grim and depressing that I had to alternate chapters with a light-hearted Bill Bryson book to get through it. But I am glad I read it and was reminded one more time of the events that shaped the world I lived in as a boy. The reader moved this very long book along well, though I think he played hooky on some classes in French 101.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dusty Tacoma WA 09-22-13
    Dusty Tacoma WA 09-22-13 Member Since 2011
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    "The last of a trilogy about WWII in Europe"
    Would you listen to The Guns at Last Light again? Why?

    The story is written in a cogent manner that takes the reader (listener) through conflict of WWII in Europe while describing the broad strokes of the conflict and including details of soldiers at the personal level. The narrator does a good job of capturing the listener's attention.


    What other book might you compare The Guns at Last Light to and why?

    The author's previous two book on WWII in the European theater are equally well written and narrated. This trilogy places WWII in Europe in an accurate and complete historical account.


    Which character – as performed by L. J. Ganser – was your favorite?

    Ganser is talented at subtly changing his voice and inflection to capture quotes and characters.


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

    The book is engaging -- it makes my commute enlightening and entraining.


    Any additional comments?

    Must buy along with the previous two books.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 07-24-13
    William 07-24-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Super book"
    What made the experience of listening to The Guns at Last Light the most enjoyable?

    Attention to the personalities of the leaders and the clashes between them and how soldiers died because of their leaders stupidity.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chad Annapolis, MD USA 07-19-13
    Chad Annapolis, MD USA 07-19-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Full of Info"
    What made the experience of listening to The Guns at Last Light the most enjoyable?

    The expanse of military politics.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    No favs - it is non-fiction.


    What didn’t you like about L. J. Ganser’s performance?

    His flourish in pronouncing non-English place names and other nouns in (what I assume to be) native accents begins to grate on the listener....


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The Longest Book.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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