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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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

31 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

Felix Sparks was a son of the great depression. He spent several

Felix Sparks was a son of the great depression. He spent several years on the road with millions of other young men. Looking for work to do and trying to find a place in life. In 1937 he found a place in the US Army. He entered the military as a private. He left as a Lt...
Felix Sparks was a son of the great depression. He spent several years on the road with millions of other young men. Looking for work to do and trying to find a place in life. In 1937 he found a place in the US Army. He entered the military as a private. He left as a Lt. Colonel. During that time he served with the 45th “Thunderbird” Division. He saw action with this unit throughout some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

The Division Landed in North Africa and were trained in invasion tactics. The first loses came in the course of the training. Moving from ship to small boat is a dangerous thing in itself. The first invasion was Sicily. Under the leadership of George Patton they raced Montgomery to try to cut off the German pull back to Italy.

Following this they invaded Italy twice, first at Paestum in September of 43. Then after fighting their way up the boot they were selected to invade again, this time at Anzio in the abortive attempt to outflank the German line of resistance. After fighting in Italy until August of 44 they landed in France at Saint-Tropez. From there they fought their way into Germany until the unit saw its last action in the liberation of the Dachau complex.

Through the course of this fighting Felix Sparks spent over five hundred days in combat. He had fought in eight campaigns and earned two Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts, and the Croix de Guerre.

Following his military service he was active in politics and in worked for many causes. Some that readers will agree with some they will not. However, nothing changes the fact that Lt. Colonel Sparks led his men through some of the worst fighting in the Second World War.

Alex Kershaw is a bestselling author and has produced a carefully crafted and stunningly told story of men in combat. This volume deserves to stand with the best books on the European campaign.

posted by hippypaul on November 18, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

23 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

Author Alex Kershaw¿s narrative traces the steps of Felix Sparks

Author Alex Kershaw’s narrative traces the steps of Felix Sparks and his role in the 157th Infantry [Thunderbirds] as they trudged from Sicily to Anzio to France and finally to Germany during World War Two. While the story accentuates the human cost of war, it is primar...
Author Alex Kershaw’s narrative traces the steps of Felix Sparks and his role in the 157th Infantry [Thunderbirds] as they trudged from Sicily to Anzio to France and finally to Germany during World War Two. While the story accentuates the human cost of war, it is primarily based on information gleaned from interviews with Felix Sparks and his recollection of events. This is not a scholarly work, but a tale of inconsistencies, chaos, disorganization, frustration, and the emotional toll faced by an ordinary combat soldier in an extraordinary situation.

Little snippets about the battalions’ high rate of venereal disease, Generals using photo opportunities to display their egos, hidden caches of liquor, souvenir hunting, and tales of fraternization will appeal to readers voyeurism until they are slapped in the face with emotional breakdown of battle weary American soldiers during the capture of the Dachau Concentration Camp, one month prior to the end of the war.

The story quickly faded when it jumped from Sparks return to civilian life in 1945 to a very brief awkward overview of Spark’s anti-gun crusade in the 1990s, to his lack of receiving the Distinguished Service Cross, before mentioning his death and funeral in 2007.

Diaries, other interviews and written materials are used to provide limited documentation to Sparks’s account, are listed in the notes. The nine maps provided are very inadequate for showing the position of his regiment or its movement through the terrain for key battle scenes mentioned in the book.

The author should have included transcripts for key Starks’s interviews in appendixes. Adding appropriate academic cross-references for deployments, critical battle decisions and casualty statistics mentioned throughout the text would change this book from one man’s interesting interpretation of the Thunderbirds accomplishments to a documented account of the man and division.

An acknowledgment, notes, list of selected bibliographical materials and index is provided.

posted by penandtome on February 18, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2013

    THROW OUT YOUR BAND OF BROTHRES DVDS AND/OR READ THIS BOOK. ACTI

    THROW OUT YOUR BAND OF BROTHRES DVDS AND/OR READ THIS BOOK. ACTION PACKED WWII SAGA OF EUROPEAN ARMY CAMPAIGN OF USA ARMY. GOOD BOOK. NOT EXCEPTIONAL BUT GOOD.

    7 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013

    Worth the read

    Really a good account of what it must have really been like. Good book

    5 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2013

    It was worth the time, money to digest this book. Very good hist

    It was worth the time, money to digest this book. Very good history book.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    Phenomenal

    Phenomenal

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2014

    This excellent novel gives an overview of the Allies' southern a

    This excellent novel gives an overview of the Allies' southern approach to Germany in WWII, starting in Sicily and following the 157th US Infantry Regiment through Italy, France, and finally Germany, including Dachau, before they end the war in Munich. The story primarily focuses on Felix Sparks, a 2nd lieutenant who rises through battlefield commisions to colonel, but ranges in perspective from squad to corps, and even army, level as needed to forward the narrative. The book provides a good overview of the lesser known aspects of the U.S. presence in Europe, most closely following Sparks as he rises from a humble upbringing through the ranks on the basis of merit. The combination of personal account, with both tactical and strategic perspectives, makes it well worth adding to a WWII reading list or book collection.

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    Posted July 9, 2013

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    Posted June 23, 2013

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    Posted November 27, 2012

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    Posted June 11, 2013

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    Posted June 7, 2014

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