Thursday, 18 October 2012

Review: The Liberator by Alex Kershaw

Title: The Liberator
Author: Alex Kershaw
Published: 1st November 2012
Publisher: Hutchinson
ISBN: 978 0091 943943

Rating: 4.5/5

The cover on this depicts an American soldier walking , and on the rear of the cover is an authentic photo which fills ¾ of the back jacket, depicting The Thunderbirds marching into Cefalu in Sicily on July 1943.

This is the biography of Felix Sparks, who rose through the ranks of the American Army and became the only man to survive the war from his original company.  Kershaw portraits Sparks as a unique man who believed in the people under his command, never faltering in his endeavour to protect his men, even putting his own life in the firing line on more than one occasion where other Commanders sat on the sidelines and turned their backs.  It details Spark’s life pre-enlisting, right up to his natural death in 2007. 

The thing that stays with me most from this book, outside of the horror of the daily war these men had to fight, was that Sparks was a man of integrity and, like his men, he tended to dislike those who wanted to take credit for others hard work, sweat and blood – especially toward the end of the war.  However he was not interested in medals, despite the many he had deservingly earned.  He loved nothing more than catching up with his fellow soldiers and enjoyed spending time amungst friends even after he was discharged from the army.

The Liberator describes with precise clarity what the soldiers had to endure on a daily basis.  Mainly from an American viewpoint, this made some of the content a different slant to how I think of the war.  Each page is cram packed full of details, such as where the soldiers were, what their remit was and how they fared, including loss of life and injuries sustained.  It is told in such a way that I felt as if I were stepping back through time and watching alongside the soldiers.

Spark’s story is one of selfless courage, honour and unlike many soldiers, he ended the war with his humanity still intact, something which is not easily accomplished given all the monstrosities he’d seen on both the battlefield and as a liberator Hitler’s first concentration camp which had held more than 32,000 inmates.

An exceptionally detailed and focussed book which I think anyone interested in knowing more about WWII, politics, military history or history should read.  A lot of lessons could be learnt from this book and the actions taken within history. 

Book synopsis:
On 10 July 1943, Felix Sparks arrived with the Allied forces in Italy, a captain in the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division - nicknamed the Thunderbirds. Just twenty-five years old, Sparks soon proved a leader of immense fortitude and stamina, participating in four amphibious invasions and leading his men through the mountains of Italy and France before enduring intense winter combat against the diehard SS on the Fatherland's borders. Sparks' entire company had been sacrificed to save the Allied beach-head at Anzio and, tragically, his rebuilt battalion soon found themselves surrounded and overcome in the dark forests of the Vosges. Miraculously, despite numerous brushes with death, Sparks survived the long bloody march across Europe and in the last days of the Third Reich was selected to lead a final charge to Bavaria to hunt down Adolf Hitler. But what Sparks and his men would find as they finally reached the gates of Dachau, Hitler's first and most notorious concentration camp, would be a horror greater than any they had so far experienced. With victory within his grasp, Sparks had to confront 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 such untold suffering and misery?

Source - Many thanks to the publisher, a copy was recieved in return for an honest review.

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