Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin

Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin

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by Leon Uris

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In Berlin at the end of World War II, an American Army officer bears witness to the aftermath of one historic tragedy and the rise of another  Captain Sean O’Sullivan distinguishes himself as a courageous soldier in the closing days of World War II, but what comes next tests his deepest reserves of strength and conviction. Sent to oversee the


In Berlin at the end of World War II, an American Army officer bears witness to the aftermath of one historic tragedy and the rise of another  Captain Sean O’Sullivan distinguishes himself as a courageous soldier in the closing days of World War II, but what comes next tests his deepest reserves of strength and conviction. Sent to oversee the rebuilding of Berlin, O’Sullivan is exposed to the horrific truths of the Holocaust, a shattered and defeated society, and the new threat of Soviet power as the Iron Curtain begins to shadow the city. When Soviet forces blockade Berlin and the airlift begins, O’Sullivan is faced with profound moral dilemmas in an increasingly complicated world. Armageddon is one of the great fictional portrayals of Europe in the earliest days of the Cold War. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Leon Uris including rare photos from the author’s estate.

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From the Publisher
“Magnificent. The great drama of the Berlin airlift . . .” —The Columbus Dispatch
“A vast panorama of people and places . . . dramatic moment after dramatic moment in a throbbing tempo.” —New York Herald Tribune

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By Leon Uris


Copyright © 1964 Leon Uris
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-2572-1


January, 1944

Captain Sean O'Sullivan lifted the blackout curtain. A burst of dull light grayed the room. Christ, he thought, doesn't the sun ever shine in London. He heard planes droning overhead toward the English Channel but he could not see them through the thick fog. He wondered if his brother, Tim, was flying today.

"Come to breakfast, dear," Nan called.

Sean turned into the room. It was an elegant room, the most elegant he had ever known. The photograph on the mantle of Major G. Donald Milford stared down at him particularly harshly this morning.

The dining area was an alcove of three angled windows affording a view over Bayswater Road to Kensington Gardens. It was so mucky outside, the view had vanished. Nan Milford added to the opulence of the place in a silk and lace dressing gown. She put his jacket across the back of his chair and mentioned something or other about trying to remove a spot from the sleeve.

Sean sipped the coffee, grimaced, made a mental note to bum some decent coffee from the cook. This British version of ersatz was unfit for consumption in the first place and even worse when Nan got finished overboiling it.

Nan looked pleasantly tired from love-making. She was sad because she had made love so intensely and even sadder because she had fallen in love. She watched him with obvious adoration. "How is it that a handsome Irish brute like you never married?"

"And give up all this?"

"Do be serious for once, Sean."

"The transposition of old country traditions to San Francisco, I guess."

"And how many girls have chased you as I did and how have you avoided them?"

He was about to make a crack about playing it safe with married women but thought better of it. "A bachelor develops a sixth sense that tells him when his sanctity is about to be invaded. All sorts of built-in warning systems send up flares and rockets and bells go off."

She tweaked the end of his nose. "Please," she pleaded.

"Why be serious?"

Nan stiffened. She never got overtly angry ... only straightened her back, glared, conveyed hurt. "I am sorry I asked."

From time to time Sean was suddenly reminded that Nan could be offended easily, that he had to treat her differently than other women he had known.

"It would be hard for you to comprehend," he said apologetically.

"Am I so without understanding?"

"You've had certain advantages in your life that makes understanding impossible."

"You speak as though I'm a terrible snob."

"You are. But you are a real snob. It is nothing you deliberately cultivated. The world is loaded with people trying to be snobs who just can't make the grade. A genuine, unvarnished snob is a creature to be revered."

She liked to hear Sean talk his lovely gibberish. Of course no man had ever spoken to her that way before. Dear, sweet Donnie sat where Sean sat now. My! What a difference. Nan did not know if Donnie would be more offended by the fact that Sean was in his place or that Sean had the audacity to sit at his table with his sleeves rolled up and his collar unbuttoned.

"Are you trying to say that marriage would have held you from advancing your station?"

"Not at all, Nan. The reasons were more practical."

"Now, I'm completely intrigued."

"I haven't married for the same reason my parents didn't marry until after a ten-year courtship. He was just too damned poor to support a wife."

He gulped another swallow of the horrible coffee. Nan's soft hand on his lightened the blow. Her fingertips played over his hands. "Please don't stop, Sean. We know so terribly little about each other."

Sean's large brown eyes searched the room and then outside into the mist, looking for nothing. "When my parents emigrated to America all they had was their hands, their backs and their hearts. My father worked harder than the Lord meant any man to work. I can hardly remember when he didn't have two jobs ... longshoreman by day, watchman by night, cable-car driver by day, janitor by night, hod carrier, ditchdigger, bouncer. And Mom spent most of her life washing dishes and scrubbing floors in places like this. It makes me want to hurt you sometimes and all the other Mrs. G. Donald Milfords whose toilets were cleaned by my mother."

She squeezed his hand tightly to let him know she understood.

"My father always said he didn't come from the old country to raise three Irish cops for the San Francisco police force. His obsession was to put his sons through college. Work now, reward in heaven."

"He must be a remarkable man."

"Yes, he is," Sean answered, "but one day his back gave out and his heart almost gave out too. It was up to mother to keep us alive. Up to me to get through college. I didn't quit. I made it through. Know how? Picking up ten and twenty bucks fighting preliminaries in little clubs around the Bay Area. One of them in San Francisco was called the Bucket of Blood. I was a good boxer, Nan. I didn't want to get hit in the face and have to explain the cuts and bruises to my mother. I fought under the name of Herskowitz, the Battling Yid. How's that? So, the Lord was good. I got through Cal and I went to my mother one day and said, Mom, you don't have to scrub Mrs. G. Donald Milford's floors any more. I'll take care of you."

"Sean ... I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what? I'd made it and I was going to get my brothers through. We're just a black Irish family which hangs together. One day I broke my hand in the ring and got this," he said, pointing to the thin white-lined scar over his left eye, "and then my mother knew. From then on I became Schoolboy O'Sullivan the Fighting Prof. Mom nearly died every time I got into the ring." Sean slumped. "So here we are, the brothers O'Sullivan. Tim's up there flying and Liam is in a grave in North Africa. I wanted to get married, had a girl I loved, but my family came first and she wouldn't wait." He dumped an oversized spoon of mulberry marmalade over the muffin to smother the burned taste. "Nan. You're one lousy cook."

She muttered something about the impossibility of getting domestic help. The rest of the meal was in silence. Sean rolled down his sleeves, buttoned them, and fixed his tie and slipped into his jacket. The quiet became uneasy. Every time they said good-by now there was an averting of eyes. The feel of the wet cold clouds from outside had come into the room and engulfed them.

Nan knew that the God who ruled Sean O'Sullivan was pushing him to the end of their affair. "There are so many unsaid things," she whispered.

"Our whole relationship is unsaid, Nan. That photograph of your husband who cannot protest. Your children in the country who remain hidden. The words we never say when we are making love. Six beautiful months of unsaid things."

"They're going to be said now, aren't they, Sean?"

"Kind of looks like it."

A jeep horn sounded from the street below. Beep, be, beep, beep. Nan reacted. "Must he blow that horn and announce your departures to the entire West End of London?"

Sean buttoned his jacket and put on his cap. At this moment she always turned genteel, holding her cheek up for the departing bus as she did for G. Donald Milford. Instead she found herself tight against him. He let her go and she reeled back and watched him disappear down the hall.

Sean hopped into the jeep alongside Second Lieutenant Dante Arosa, who gunned the vehicle away on the fog-wettened pavement.

"Scored last night," Dante said with pride of conquest

"Little show girl?"

"A living testimony that English women are not cold in bed. Who in the hell libeled them in the first place? Some Irishman?"

Sean was indulgent. Dante was his own age, twenty-eight, but England was his first real experience with life. He had gone from a truck farm in the Napa Valley to the University of San Francisco to an almost too brilliant law career. There was little doubt of Dante Arosa's ability as a counter-intelligence officer on duty, or his somewhat juvenile behavior off duty. Tall, thin young men shouldn't smoke cigars, Sean thought. Dante doesn't clamp the cigar in one side of his mouth solidly. It sort of hangs limply from the front of his teeth.

As they ran alongside Kensington Gardens the traffic thickened. Dante continued his testimony to British womanhood.

"By the way, don't blow the horn."


"When you pick me up. One, park jeep. Two, emerge. Three, walk to door. Four, ring bell."

Dante shrugged. He didn't like Nan Milford. It was broads like her who gave the English women their bad reputations. Where does she get this Virgin Mary routine? She's just another married broad shacking up behind her husband's back no matter what kind of icing Sean puts on it.

They sank into quietness. Everything was different about London, these days. Everything but the weather. The long, harrowing nights in the bomb shelters were over. The tension had eased. The bombers were going in the other direction these days. There was an air of victory everywhere. People were looking toward the end of the war and it was evident in everyone's voice and step.



"How far has this thing gone with you and Nan?"

"I wish I knew."

"I'll ring the bell."

Dante Arosa cut the jeep abruptly in the middle of the block. Cars before him screeched to a halt and pedestrians scattered. He beelined for a spike fence that blocked a short, dead- end street named Queen Mother's Gate. Dante hit the brakes, bringing the tormented vehicle to a halt before the terrified sentry. The sentry saluted half-heartedly and waved them through past the sign on the gatepost which read: MISSION, MILITARY GOVERNMENT, UNITED STATES ARMY.

The abbreviated, enclosed street held a half-dozen buildings set about a wide central courtyard. On one side were officers' quarters, enlisted barracks, administration, dispensary, mess hall. Across the courtyard stood two large three-storied block-granite buildings housing the offices and conference rooms of SPECIAL MISSION, MILITARY GOVERNMENT.

From the instant they passed through the gate toward the motor pool the problems of life and love in London were done. Dante and Sean walked crisply in step toward the first of the Mission office buildings.

The directory in the anteroom read:

Room 101: Civil Administration of German Cities

Room 102: German Legal Codes

Room 103: Public Health

Room 104: Banking System

Room 105: Displaced Persons/Refugees

Conference Hall A/B/C: Identification of German Cities. Aerial Recon.

Room 106: Lab.

Room 201: Counter-Intelligence, Leading Nazis

Room 202: Counter-Intelligence, Secondary Nazis

Rooms 203/204/205: Eradication of Nazism

Room 206: Military Government Orders/Rulings/Manual

Conference Halls E/F: Identification of Nazis-Nazi Organizations

Third Floor: Document Center

Off the anteroom they entered the officer of the day's office and signed in, were passed through the locked portal to the inner core of quiet bustle. A second security desk, manned by a sergeant, blocked the hallway.

"Morning," Dante said, leaning over signing the register.

"Morning, sir."

"Morning," Sean said.

"Morning, Captain O'Sullivan. General Hansen wants you in his office at ten hundred. And frankly, sir ... Eric the Red has the storm flag up."


Brigadier General Andrew Jackson Hansen balanced his specs on the end of his nose. He was short, hefty, had a few sprigs of gray hair so that the addition of a pillow under his jacket could have given him the appearance of kindly Kris Kringle. Other men wore glasses but he wore specs. His face was as mobile and expressive as a Punch and Judy puppet. This bubble of gentleness was deceptive for in an instant a stream of oaths could tell one why he was identified as Eric the Red.

He drummed his stubby fingers on the desk top and from time to time a particularly annoying word would growl from his throat as he read ...

CONFIDENTIAL REPORT: Requested for the eye's only use of Brig. Gen. A. J. Hansen.

SUBJECT: Cohabitation; Nan Milford/Capt Sean O'Sullivan.

Mrs. Nan Milford. Age 35. Wife of G. Donald Milford, Major, British Army. Major Milford was captured during the German invasion of Crete in 1941. Has been a prisoner of war three years at Officer's Lager 22; Westheim, Germany.

Before war Milford was a highly successful director of Morsby Ltd., one of Britain's leading publishing houses. Member of board of directors of a dozen lesser companies. Rated moderately wealthy. Blue blood on both sides of family. Before the war the Milfords were considered congenially married. They associated themselves with London society, art, cultural and charity affairs. Members, Church of England.

Two children: Pamela, age 10. Roland, age 12. Children are living at home of paternal grandmother in Plimlington East where they were evacuated during the heavy bombing of London.

Since husband's internment, Nan Milford has worked as a volunteer in the London Section of the International Red Cross, Prisoner of War Division.

Approximately seven months ago she met O'Sullivan who was then conducting a G-5 study on Prisoner of War Camps. In this connection he spent much time with her on official duty gathering specific Red Cross data.

O'Sullivan and Mrs. Milford have engaged in cohabitation for approx. six months. In the beginning they were extremely cautious about their rendezvous and kept away from outside social activities together. However secrecy appears diminishing. For the last two months cohabitation has occurred regularly in the fashionable Milford flat on Bayswater Road, London, W.2.

Single copy this report produced. Other records destroyed as requested. Thos. Hanley, Major, Counter-Intelligence.

"Piss," said Hansen as he slid the report into the top drawer of his desk.

He paced the room. He did not know if he were more angry with Sean or with himself. A. J. Hansen did not like to guess wrong about people. That annoyed him. He had selected Sean for the Special Mission over several hundred experts, all older, with more experience and sounder judgment.

Why did I pick him? There was that first creeping doubt of an error in sizing the man up. Why? Because he doesn't back down from me ... maybe. Because any kid who loves his parents and brothers and takes care of them at the expense of his personal happiness would love his country that way too.

The general pouted some more back at his desk. Even when Sean lost his brother in North Africa he pulled himself together. Women! Goddamned women. These two have nothing in common outside the bedroom. She's seven years older and they come from different social, economic, and religious worlds.

Hell, nothing wrong with a stray piece. But like the report said—cohabitate—and forget them.

Sean's got to get rid of that woman.

The general's orderly, a gangly acne-marked corporal from Kentucky, announced Sean's arrival.

"Sit down, O'Sullivan."

Hansen picked up a document Sean recognized as a study he had completed the day before. TOP SECRET, PREROGATIVES OF MILITARY GOVERNMENT COMMANDERS IN GERMANY.

"This report was two weeks late."

"Lot more involved than I figured."

"What? The report?" Hansen thumbed through the pages, playing for fifteen seconds of tension-building silence, "You've got a real rod on against the Germans."

"If the General will be specific."

"The General will be specific," he aped. He adjusted his specs for reading. "This choice morsel is on page fourteen, paragraph sixty-two. I quote Captain Sean O'Sullivan. 'In the event the orders of the local military commander are not carried out by the civilian population, the commander is empowered to seize hostages from the German civilian population and execute them at his discretion until his will is enforced.'" Hansen closed the report and snatched off his specs. "That's a hell of a thing for an American boy to write."

"I didn't know our function is to spread Americanism in Germany."

"Nor is it to continue Nazism. Now by hostages, Captain O'Sullivan, I take it you mean to define between Nazis and non-Nazis."

"If the General will tell me if the bullet that killed my brother came from a Nazi rifle or a non-Nazi rifle."

"So in judging all Germans as being the same, you mean to take hostages who are two, three, or four years old."

Sean balked. "Well ... perhaps we should limit hostages to Nazis."

"There are fifteen million Nazis in Germany," Hansen pressed.


Excerpted from Armageddon by Leon Uris. Copyright © 1964 Leon Uris. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Magnificent. The great drama of the Berlin airlift . . .” —The Columbus Dispatch “A vast panorama of people and places . . . dramatic moment after dramatic moment in a throbbing tempo.” —New York Herald Tribune

Meet the Author

Leon Uris (1924–2003) was an author of fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays whose works include numerous best-selling novels. His epic Exodus (1958) has been translated into over fifty languages. Uris’s work is notable for its focus on dramatic moments in contemporary history, including World War II and its aftermath, the birth of modern Israel, and the Cold War. Through the massive success of his novels and his skill as a storyteller, Uris has had enormous influence on popular understanding of twentieth-century history.

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Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Wandering_Colo_Girl More than 1 year ago
Armageddon is my favorite Leon Uris, unless I just reread Exodus. The book is the story of one of three brothers serving as soldiers during World War II, each in different capacities. Sean O'Sullivan's war is not one of glory and flying but of thinking and strategizing how the United States will occupy Germany after the War. After his brothers are killed by the Germans he finds it hard to do his job and begin the rebuilding of this enemy state. The story gradual turns to Berlin, the first front of the Cold War. The struggles of Sean O'Sullivan are set against the drama and escalation between the United States and the Soviet Union culminating in the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948 and the fledgling United States Air Force successful effort to supply Berlin by air. An air power buff will love this story of the logistics and planning it took to supply half of Berlin, by air, for almost a year. The intermingling of the facts of rebuilding Germany, the political fight for Berlin and its eventual division into East and West, and the Berlin Airlift with the story of Sean O'Sullivan and Ernestine a young German woman he comes to love create a potent story that you don't want to end despite the long pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cold war story about post war Germany and the Berlin airlift by the most prominent post WWII writer. Loved it in high school, but now that I am a grown-up the story seemed like it had potential that was mostly not met and the characters were pretty much made of cardboard.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great history, but only mediocre character devel and plot
Guest More than 1 year ago
Leon Uris once again creates a novel that tells the true story of post WWII Berlin. It reveals the true nature of the Russian Government and it's desire to take vengence out of THE LORD'S hands.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent read which is stunningly vivid in its portrayal of post WWII Germany, especially Berlin now occupied by the four powers. The book goes from 1945 wartime to postwar times, into the very beginnings of the cold war. The story covers the complexities of governing a counter divided and dealing with the logistics of supplying that nation under seige. This book uses the right language and the right storyline to get the point across, it is told very well and is an exeptional story. All in all i give it a 11 out of 10.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At times it is difficult to read but the story behind the scenes make this book worth the effort.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seven nuzzled down in his fur. [Maybe you should then?]
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of violence language functions and sex seem to hold the readers attention. This use to be called a solid read and would have been left open on a coffee table to show the good taste and serious recreational reading taste of the reader who was in book of the month club i had forgotten all about this author m.a.@sparta
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"I don't care if she talks to you first, either," he added, then calling over to Flutter. "Same to you. Talk to Prism, you're dead. And I'd expect a fight Armageddon." And with that he limped out heading back to BC camp
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seven mews, pressing against him in return.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A feel good phantasy, but not a serious writer The book is unbelievably unrealistic for an adult writer. The author was about 40 when he wrote this novel in 1963. The knowledge of human mentality and behavior is so shallow, you feel like the book was written by a high school sophomore. The cavalier approach to history fits the pattern. Not a serious writer A good friend of mine advised that I read this book, so I was determined to read the whole thing, at least to provide a feedback. I managed to digest the first 30 pages, then started to skip paragraphs and pages and made it up to p300 (of 744), then I figured I can’t spend more time on reading juvenile gibberish