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The magnificent conclusion to Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II It is the twentieth 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 bestselling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson recounted how the American The magnificent conclusion to Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II It is the twentieth 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 bestselling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson recounted how the American-led coalition fought through North Africa and Italy to the threshold of victory. Now he tells the most dramatic story of all—the titanic battle for Western Europe. D-Day marked the commencement of the final campaign of the European war, and Atkinson’s riveting account of that bold gamble sets the pace for the masterly narrative that follows. The brutal fight in Normandy, the liberation of Paris, the disaster that was Operation Market Garden, the horrific Battle of the Bulge, and finally the thrust to the heart of the Third Reich—all these historic events and more come alive with a wealth of new material and a mesmerizing cast of characters. Atkinson tells the tale from the perspective of participants at every level, from presidents and generals to war-weary lieutenants and terrified teenage riflemen. When Germany at last surrenders, we understand anew both the devastating cost of this global conflagration and the enormous effort required to win the Allied victory. With the stirring final volume of this monumental trilogy, Atkinson’s accomplishment is manifest. He has produced the definitive chronicle of the war that unshackled a continent and preserved freedom in the West. http://us.macmillan.com/thegunsatlast...


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The magnificent conclusion to Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II It is the twentieth 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 bestselling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson recounted how the American The magnificent conclusion to Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II It is the twentieth 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 bestselling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson recounted how the American-led coalition fought through North Africa and Italy to the threshold of victory. Now he tells the most dramatic story of all—the titanic battle for Western Europe. D-Day marked the commencement of the final campaign of the European war, and Atkinson’s riveting account of that bold gamble sets the pace for the masterly narrative that follows. The brutal fight in Normandy, the liberation of Paris, the disaster that was Operation Market Garden, the horrific Battle of the Bulge, and finally the thrust to the heart of the Third Reich—all these historic events and more come alive with a wealth of new material and a mesmerizing cast of characters. Atkinson tells the tale from the perspective of participants at every level, from presidents and generals to war-weary lieutenants and terrified teenage riflemen. When Germany at last surrenders, we understand anew both the devastating cost of this global conflagration and the enormous effort required to win the Allied victory. With the stirring final volume of this monumental trilogy, Atkinson’s accomplishment is manifest. He has produced the definitive chronicle of the war that unshackled a continent and preserved freedom in the West. http://us.macmillan.com/thegunsatlast...

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    "German machine guns - with a sound one GI compared to 'a venetian blind being lifted up rapidly' - perforated the beach, killing the wounded and rekilling the dead. All thirty-two soldiers in one boat, LCA-1015, were slaughtered, including their captain. A lieutenant shot in the brain continued to direct his troops until, a survivor recounted, 'he sat down and held his head in the palm of his hand before falling over dead.' Wounded men jabbed themselves with morphine or shrieked for medics, one "German machine guns - with a sound one GI compared to 'a venetian blind being lifted up rapidly' - perforated the beach, killing the wounded and rekilling the dead. All thirty-two soldiers in one boat, LCA-1015, were slaughtered, including their captain. A lieutenant shot in the brain continued to direct his troops until, a survivor recounted, 'he sat down and held his head in the palm of his hand before falling over dead.' Wounded men jabbed themselves with morphine or shrieked for medics, one of whom used safety pins to close a gaping leg wound. 'A guy in front of me got it through the throat. Another guy in front of me got it through the heart. I run on,' a survivor later recalled. An unhinged soldier sat in the sand, weeping softly and tossing stones into the water. 'This,' an officer declared, 'is a debacle.'" - Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-45 He stuck the landing. Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy began with the 2002 publication of An Army at Dawn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the invasion of North Africa in World War II. Five years later, he followed that with The Day of Battle, a monumental retelling of the invasion of Sicily and the hard slog through Italy. Now, in grand fashion, he has given us the capstone to his ambitious historical-literary project: The Guns at Last Light. This volume, the longest of the three, covers the war in Western Europe from the invasion of Normandy to Germany’s surrender. It provides a fitting, elegiac, oft-mournful conclusion to a series of books that can best be compared to Shelby Foote’s epic three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative, with the important difference that Atkinson’s books are actually sourced. (Foote’s trilogy has many, many virtues. Historical fidelity is not one of them. Whenever he has to choose between the fact and the legend, Foote invariably chose the legend). Strangely, for a book so overwhelmingly good, The Guns at Last Light started slowly for me. The reason, I think, is that Atkinson finds himself on well-tilled earth. His earlier books on North Africa and Italy had the advantage of freshness. There are not a lot of wildly popular histories about those campaigns. Overlord and the battle for Normandy, on the other hand, constitute a crowded bookshelf. When Atkinson writes about D-Day, he not only has to contend with a lot of other writers, he has to contend with a lot of other good writers. There are genuine classic accounts of D-Day, so Atkinson has to strive hard to separate himself from the pack. (In the first three hundred pages, Atkinson twice has to deal with the ghost of Cornelius Ryan, who famously covered D-Day in The Longest Day and Operation Market Garden in A Bridge Too Far). That said, Atkinson still acquits himself well. He fulfills the twin priorities of good history: solid research and strong presentation. One-hundred-sixty-eight pages of notes attest to Atkinson’s diligence as a historian (there is even a citation to some of Eisenhower’s marginalia!). But what sets this book apart – and what has elevated the entire trilogy – is its literary merits. Atkinson is not a good writer, he is a beautiful writer. He writes vivid battle scenes, brilliantly describes the local topography and weather conditions, and humanizes lofty historical figures. He is masterful at weaving primary accounts into his narrative, and at finding the most acute or poignant observations from among the millions of words spent on World War II. The Allied drive towards Germany included a lot of vicious, costly fighting, including the Falaise Pocket, the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. Atkinson describes these events in bloody detail – and lets the eyewitnesses do so as well (in colorful language a far cry from contemporary World War II-based motion pictures). He does not shy away from Allied mistakes, war crimes, or intra-Allied quarrels (the Montgomery-Eisenhower feud reaches its apex in this volume). In other words, he is not an Ambrosian mythmaker. As in his previous books, Atkinson attempts to follow both the big and small. Most of the time is spent with the generals, but men of the lower ranks appear as well, including the Atkinson-avatar Ernie Pyle, the famed marksman Audie Murphy, and Colonel John Waters, Patton’s in-law, who was captured in Volume 1. Also, as in previous books, Atkinson finds time for numerous digressions from the central story. There are more shocking venereal disease statistics, asides regarding racism and segregation, and a section devoted to desertion, including the execution of Private Eddie Slovak. Each book in Atkinson’s trilogy has an underlying theme. In An Army at Dawn, it was callowness giving way to toughness, as a green army took its licks against bloodied German legions. In The Day of Battle, the theme was the slog of war, as the Allies waged a long, attritional campaign against a persistent enemy. In The Guns at Last Light, the leitmotif is loss – immense and immeasurable. For the survivors of World War II, it may well have been true that the war represented “the one great lyric passage in their lives.” For those who died, however, it was simply the end of the world. It was left to the families and loved ones of the dead to go forward with a pulsing absence that time never erased. Atkinson, better than most, makes the tragedies of seven decades ago feel immediate and raw. Sometimes this comes through in the letter a wife writes to a dead husband: “It will be my cross, my curse, and my joy forever, that in my mind you will always be vibrantly alive…I hope God will let me be happy, not wildly, consumingly happy as I was with you…I will miss you so much – your hands, your kiss, your body…” At another point, Atkinson writes about the repatriation of American dead (60% of American fatalities were returned home): On Saturday, October 27, the Connolly berthed in New York. Stevedores winched the caskets from the ship two at a time in specially designed slings. Most then traveled by rail in a great diaspora across the republic for burial in their hometowns. Among those waiting was Henry A. Wright, a widower who lived on a farm in southwestern Missouri, near Springfield. One by one his dead sons arrived at the local train station: Sergeant Frank H. Wright, killed on Christmas Eve 1944 in the Bulge; then Private Harold B. Wright, who had died of his wounds in a German prison camp on February 3, 1945; and finally, Private Elton E. Wright, killed in Germany on April 25, two weeks before the war ended. Gray and stooped, the elder Wright watched as the caskets were carried into the rustic bedroom where each boy had been born. Neighbors kept vigil overnight, carpeting the floor with roses, and in the morning they bore the brothers to Hilltop Cemetery for burial side by side beneath an iron sky. The final pages of this tremendous book are filled with such passages of profound sorrow that you forget that World War II is an event fast fading from living memory. I love authors who write with ambition. Part of that ambitiousness, of course, is the reality of falling short. For every J.R.R. Tolkien, who completes a classic cycle, there is a George R.R. Martin who can’t keep hold of his own creations, or a Robert Caro who keeps getting bogged down in the details, or a William Manchester, who died before seeing his project to completion (though his Churchill trilogy was eventually finished by a different author). I’m relieved that Atkinson finished his Liberation Trilogy. I’m beyond impressed at its unvaryingly high quality. From book one to three, Atkinson maintains the highest level of prose, research, and storytelling ability. There are more books on World War II than on any other subject in human history. That reality will never change. The stories of that fraught time period will be told as long as humans walk the earth. In that sea of words, I have faith that Atkinson’s trilogy will always float at the top. This trilogy, unlike a lot of WWII books I've read, feels meaningful and necessary, as well as entertaining. It is the kind of Homeric tale worthy of a terrible war that touched all corners of the planet and changed history forever.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    (Okay, so I added a picture). In a drawer, in a sealable plastic bag, there are some memories: a rough map of North Africa, a divisional flag, some medals, love letters with censored locations but uncensored passion. There is a bright red Nazi armband complete with swastika which was always the hit at show and tell. There was a Purple Heart, wisely, lovingly and perfectly bequeathed to a granddaughter as a prized possession. These were my father’s things from the war. Of course not everything coul (Okay, so I added a picture). In a drawer, in a sealable plastic bag, there are some memories: a rough map of North Africa, a divisional flag, some medals, love letters with censored locations but uncensored passion. There is a bright red Nazi armband complete with swastika which was always the hit at show and tell. There was a Purple Heart, wisely, lovingly and perfectly bequeathed to a granddaughter as a prized possession. These were my father’s things from the war. Of course not everything could fit in a plastic bag. Not the men he saved as a medic; nor the ones he didn’t save. Not the soldier who started shaking and said “I can’t go. I can’t go.” And so my father went instead. Not the shrapnel that came that night, while clearing a road in the last days of Sicily. Not the frightened pleading, “Don’t cut my leg.” Not the skin grafts, the maggots, the jaundice. He told me, “We would hear I’ll be home for Christmas and we would cry and cry and cry.” That’s not in my plastic bag. ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- And so I’ve turned the last page of Volume Three of Rick Atkinson’s magnificent The Liberation Trilogy. A day later and my pulse is still up, my eyes puddle. These men. These men. Citizen soldiers. One of them wrote his daughter, “We are certainly no smaller men than our forefathers.” Perhaps that is the only generation that can safely say that. Atkinson lets you look into their eyes, eyes I’ve seen before, eyes I miss. Rarely in war did success and sorrow exclude each other from the battlefield. This book continues Atkinson’s monumental study of the Allied armies in North Africa and Europe. Here we see the planning of the Normandy invasion to the capitulation of German forces. There are judgments as to generals. Patton gets high marks. Eisenhower is shown as a work in progress, a man who would grow into the job. Montgomery’s own words paint him in buffoonerous hues but Atkinson still offered that Monty, while “careless with the truth,” nevertheless “was as responsible as any man for victory in Normandy.” This last judgment does not square with what I’ve read and will be a pebble in my shoe. Aided by plenty of maps and quality pictures, Atkinson does a more than creditable job in describing the battles, weaponry and geography. And Atkinson can spot celebrities. There’s Daphne du Maurier’s husband. And over there is Gertrude Stein. And there’s Hemingway, making pancakes with buckwheat flour and bourbon. Atkinson displays a genius for finding just the right quote or vignette. For many months we have fought together, often on the same side. -- Lt. Gen. Jacob Devers Nuts. – Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, responding to a German ultimatum to surrender at Bastogne. A soldier from the 75th Division described an hour in a foxhole with a mortally wounded comrade and no morphine: “I tried to knock him out. I took off his helmet, held his jaw up. And just whacked as hard as I could…That didn’t work. Nothing worked. He slowly bled to death.” Maybe it’s a good thing their mothers can’t see them die. -- A Third Army shock ward nurse. Maybe just read the few pages about the execution of Private Eddie Slovik, pp. 527-31. But let’s be clear. What separates Atkinson from other historians is the writing, Atkinson’s own turns of phrase. This is history as literature. It has become my custom to make notes of things I’ve learned and passages that play a perfect chord as I’m reading a book. There are pages of such notes stuck in the back of this book. I could have made a note at every page, virtually every paragraph. I’ve noted a few of these as status updates. Here are some more: Such stenches lingered in the nostril, to be carried beyond Cherbourg and beyond the war: the stink of diesel exhaust, of cordite, of broken plaster exposed to rain, of manure piles and the carcasses of the animals that shat them before being slaughtered by shellfire. An infantryman named John B. Babcock later catalogued the scents wafting around him: “cosmoline gun-metal preservative, oil used to clean weapons, chlorine in the drinking water, flea powder, pine pitch from freshly severed branches, fresh dug earth.” Also: “GI yellow soap and the flour-grease fumes” from field kitchens, as well as those pungent German smells of cabbage and sour rye, of “stale-sweat wool [and] harsh tobacco.” Even if the war in the west had barely begun, here was the precise odor of liberation. Montgomery had overegged the pudding. Describing the hundreds of thousands of captured German soldiers: A single strand of barbed wire often sufficed for an enclosure. GI sentries cradled their carbines and stifled yawns. Within the cordon sat supermen by the acre. Singing sad soldier songs and reminiscing about better days, they scavenged the ground for cigarette butts and plucked lice from their field-gray tunics. Supermen by the acre. Three words. Just three words. Because there is a challenge in being brief and yet saying everything. Like Eisenhower being helped by his staff to compose the announcement of victory to the Chiefs of Staff. As each draft grew more grandiloquent, the supreme commander thanked his lieutenants and then dictated the message himself: “The mission of the Allied force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7, 1945. Eisenhower.” Exactly. ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- There is something that is not in the book. Well, not in it exactly. My father did not get out of Volume Two, so he wasn’t there at Omaha Beach and Aachen and Bastogne. A good thing perhaps. So let me tell you about someone else: Charles Durning, the American actor. Durning played a tough guy, often a cop or private eye, in numerous movies. But once upon a time there was a war. And Durning was a young soldier in that war. He was one of the many Americans who landed at Normandy. I’ve watched numerous clips of Durning talking about that day, or just thinking about that day. He always, always breaks down, often sobbing uncontrollably. I could only find one such clip on YouTube. Sadly, it’s a ‘production’ with music and pageantry and Nancy Pelosi. But watch this, because eventually Durning starts to talk. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0GVUX... That voice, that face, the choked silence at the memory. That’s what this book is about. ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- There is one more thing in that plastic bag, a yellowed, folded paper with balky typewritten words. A poem from a homesick, lovesick PFC. Mary had a little lamb Its feet as white as snow. When I’m getting out of here Is what I’d like to know. But since it’s an emergency I might as well be here And protect you from the Evil Because I love you DEAR. No one knows what is to come. I know that I love you. Us getting back together I’ll try my best to do. Always keep your chin up Just like I always said. It won’t be long til Hitler’s gone Then ‘DARLING’ we will WED. Your loving soldier.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    An exceptional end to The Liberations Trilogy, The Guns at Last Light covers the Allied advance from OVERLORD on the Normandy beaches to the surrender on May 7 in Denmark and May 8 in Berlin. As usual, Atkinson's text is dense, but full of the human stories of atrocity in warfare and elated feelings of victory. The portraits of the major players (Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Churchill, Montgomery, Patton, Bradley, etc) are vivid and lifelike which help make the book to be an enjoyable read despite the An exceptional end to The Liberations Trilogy, The Guns at Last Light covers the Allied advance from OVERLORD on the Normandy beaches to the surrender on May 7 in Denmark and May 8 in Berlin. As usual, Atkinson's text is dense, but full of the human stories of atrocity in warfare and elated feelings of victory. The portraits of the major players (Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Churchill, Montgomery, Patton, Bradley, etc) are vivid and lifelike which help make the book to be an enjoyable read despite the horrors of death and dismemberment on nearly every page as the war took its toll on Europe. I did not previously realize that the US dropped tens of thousands of gallons napalm on the European theater, nor the butcheries in the Ardennes, in the Saar, and at the Bulge. The book also shows the complexities of this war where it was a pretty black and white, good guys vs bad guys kind of fight, yet the barbarity of rape and pillage was committed with virulence by Nazi and Allied troops alike. The image of millions of homeless people drifting across a ruined Europe in May 1945 was particularly chilling given the current crisis with refugees from the Middle East. I was also reminded of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow where he attempted to describe this chaotic aftermath, probably with some degree of accuracy like Keller in Catch-22. In any case, this book reassures me in my pacifism and in my hope that my son will never have to fight in such a brutal conflict. An incredible read for those with stamina and interest in the gritting details of the War to end all wars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rick Riordan

    Funny thing about Atkinson's writing. Even after reading two extremely long volumes in his Liberation trilogy, I was compelled to jump straight into the third and final book as if I was desperate to find out the ending of the series. Of course I knew the ending. The Nazis lose. Hooray! The Guns at Last Light covers the most famous part of the war in Western Europe -- from the landings at Normandy through the liberation of France to the eventual surrender of Germany. Still, Atkinson is such a go Funny thing about Atkinson's writing. Even after reading two extremely long volumes in his Liberation trilogy, I was compelled to jump straight into the third and final book as if I was desperate to find out the ending of the series. Of course I knew the ending. The Nazis lose. Hooray! The Guns at Last Light covers the most famous part of the war in Western Europe -- from the landings at Normandy through the liberation of France to the eventual surrender of Germany. Still, Atkinson is such a good storyteller that I kept turning pages, anxious to follow the course of events. His characters are as vivid as ever -- from the everyman hero Audie Murphy to the colorful and impossible British Field Marshall Montgomery. I especially liked the tale of the Yalta conference between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt (shortly before the president's death). We get a sense of the Cold War to come, and how much will be at stake once the Nazis are defeated. Reading the Liberation trilogy, I felt as if I'd lived through the war one torturous month after another. It was heavy stuff, but wonderfully and vividly reported. If you want to know about the war in Western Europe, this series is about as close as you could come (or might want to come) to actually being there.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    Before giving this review over to why this is a very worthy addition the many shelves of World War II military histories, let us try to understand what this book is not. Rick Atkinson's The Guns at Last Light is not a comprehensive , critical analysis of the last 340 days of the War in Europe. It is, from beginning to end a purely American version of the events, with scant attention to the life or contributions of many allies and virtually no narrative assigned to the Germans, Civilian, Soldier o Before giving this review over to why this is a very worthy addition the many shelves of World War II military histories, let us try to understand what this book is not. Rick Atkinson's The Guns at Last Light is not a comprehensive , critical analysis of the last 340 days of the War in Europe. It is, from beginning to end a purely American version of the events, with scant attention to the life or contributions of many allies and virtually no narrative assigned to the Germans, Civilian, Soldier or Officer. There is minimal critical analysis of either strategic or tactical considerations. What is here is for orientation; more to prepare you for the next section than to educate you on military planning. This book does not catalog the various tensions between the various national, political and military staffs as each worked to balance between electoral, economic and battlefield considerations. There is a surprising amount of criticism surrounding individual decisions but much of this is tied to the costs of those decisions and not to any larger context. Because others have noticed this specific short-fall: The maps in this book are mostly for orientation. On a Kindle I cannot believe they have any functionality. Given my eyesight, I stop trying to read them an dI have the Hardback copy. If maps are important you you, I recommend , by reputation only, The West Point Atlas of War: World War II: European Theater now listed at less than $5 for hard copy. In short if you are looking for a technician's critique of or an academic exhaustive accretion of events into a definitive whole; Guns at Last Light is not the book you want. Others have and will publish better histories than this one. By way of introducing my reason for granting a less than academically brilliant book is to remind you that Mr. Atkinson is a Pulitzer Prize winner. The prize was for book one in this trilogy. The salient point is that the Pulitzer Prize is from a point of view that favors journalism over academic scholarship. Least this seem dismissive given a modern cynicism against the media, journalism is of itself proud and honorable and in The Guns at Last Light there are hundreds of pages of end notes and lists of references, documenting the meticulous research that supports Mr. Atkinson's writing. The Guns of Last Light is basically a telling of the American Army's European ground war from D-day to the German signature of the surrender documents. Some reviewers will state that Atkinson's achievement is to make real to a reader the feel modern ground war. In fact what Atkinson makes every reader confront is that you either have this experience by surviving war, or you cannot understand this experience. However large the word count, the evocation of bloodied images and reference to smells; either you have been there or you have not. Instead what Atkinson has accomplished is something like an emotional history of the American Ground War in Europe. The reader is carried though chapters written to help the reader feel a literary equivalent to what soldier experience. The mood of the lead in to D Day is expectant. There is something at once grand and foreboding about the business of loading into ships, handling the pages of plans and tonnage of materials. The landing and breakout from the beach is something of a shock. It is given to us in flashes or recollection and reconstruction. The reader sees pieces of the larger events much as a soldier will have moments of clarity between moment of keeping his head down and hanging on. An atypical aspect of Atkinson's D-Day is the role of Generals; Roosevelt and Cota in particular. Both were present on the beaches and contributors to the breakout. The more typical story of Normandy are the soldiers, maybe their sergeant making the discovery in semi-isolated groups that the beach would be the home of the dead and dying, the living would be those who find a way up and around German gun pits and pillboxes. It is at the section covering the Bocage that the reader begins to learn that Battles do not adhere to plans. Battle winners will have to adopt, learn new strategies and modify equipment. Clearly the progress of the invasion is not going to be a succession of victories as a clever enemy retreats to expected lines of defense. German strategy would become Hitler's strategy and he was not one to care about the advantages of defensible, fall back positions. There was no plan for the Bocage. The Germans were not supposed to be there. And so this war continues; weeks of very little and hours of too much. Some units always seem to be taking the point to the result that entire Divisions would suffer 200% casualties. That is for every soldier in their per-invasion count, they would need 2 replacements before war's end. Again unusual for a typical academic history we have a lengthy discussion of losses due to trench foot and a shorter one about desertion. Ultimately when soldier's frustration over the stubbornness of German refusal to end the fighting takes hold and soldier kill, including surrendering enemies one has some sense of the frustration and distrust that leads a man, including leaders to loose their finer sensibilities. Even allowing for this approximation of sympathetic identification individual acts can be sobering. A soldier arriving in a German home, is so incensed that he grenades a piano, then pours paint over the remains. Both this soldier and the reader know that there is more war to come. It is in his dealing with senior leadership that Atkinson allows himself some creativity. Ike is a hero of the book, if somewhat remote. Patton is clearly the authors favorite. Not to say that Patton gets a free pass on all his doings. I would have liked to know more about Bradly but somehow Atkinson does not see him as a big enough personality. Prime Minister Churchill is alternately a drunken figure of fun and a clever statesman. The most complex portrayal is that of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. To him, Atkinson grants full credit as the planner of the Normandy invasion and as the father of the initial strategy for the early days of the invasion. After that he is nearly ridicules. We read several clearly wrong dispatches and are then told that Monty was not a lier, just not entirely to be trusted for the truth. Initial dispatches from Montgomery's operation Market Garden are wrong to the point of being delusional. Atkinson details that the Market Garden attack would depend on tanks and mounted units, moving forward two abreast up a narrow road. Their instructions were to ignore flank attacks. In a formation two abreast, all you have is flanks. Clearly Atkinson missed something in this passage, or planners were not thinking. Either case, this attacked failed, failed early and resulted in the wastage of good soldiers. By the end of this book, the reading will have exposed the reader to the cycle of life as a soldier. The art is in the fact of the book itself. The words chosen and the pacing of events carry the emotions take those of us not there, into, analogues experiences. If the soldier is being ground down by the relentless stressed sameness of war; the reader can find passages piled on that recreate this same feeling of literary grind. This is an artistic effect. An effect not expected in a historical recounting and emblematic of superb writing. Atkinson makes it clear that no one can hold a book and know what it is like to be "there". In Guns at Last Light, Atkinson allows us to achieve an understanding, at remove, but based on the craft of good writing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Trachta

    A few years ago I picked up An Army at Dawn and was blown away. Mr. Atkinson opened an arena in history that had rarely been touched by historians, America's entry into WWII on the European theater. What blew me away the most was his ability to tell the bigger picture and include the smaller picture of individual warriors' tales. Mr. Atkinson continued his tale with The Day of Battle, treading on more familiar territory and while not as "spellbinding" as An Army at Dawn I was impressed. Since th A few years ago I picked up An Army at Dawn and was blown away. Mr. Atkinson opened an arena in history that had rarely been touched by historians, America's entry into WWII on the European theater. What blew me away the most was his ability to tell the bigger picture and include the smaller picture of individual warriors' tales. Mr. Atkinson continued his tale with The Day of Battle, treading on more familiar territory and while not as "spellbinding" as An Army at Dawn I was impressed. Since then I've been looking forward to the conclusion and I can say Mr. Atkinson delivered. Of all the books in the series I figured this would be the one that would be weakest due to people's familiarity with the battles and the struggles of the generals. Instead I'm impressed. While I wasn't as riveted to it as An Army at Dawn I was surprised and impressed with his delivery. Lower level details aren't as prevalent as they were but the telling and weaving of those lower level details was outstanding. Instead Mr. Atkinson gives us a very good understanding of the grand tactical situation in northwest Europe with an outstanding look at the struggles of the generals and their units. While much of this isn't revolutionary, the thing that stands out the most is how readable this work is and how clear Mr. Atkinson is in presenting his case of the war in northwest Europe. This is an outstanding book and an enjoyable read; worthy of 5 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stefania Dzhanamova

    This is the third volume of Rick Atkinson's exceptional Liberation Trilogy, and it covers the whole Allied war in Northwestern Europe from Operation OVERLORD in Normandy to Germany's surrender on 8 May 1945. In July 1943, the Anglo-American forces overran Sicily in six weeks before invading the Italian mainland in early September. Mussolini's Fascist regime collapsed, and the new government in Rome renounced the Axis Pact of Steel. Yet, as Atkinson narrates in THE DAY OF BATTLE, a bloody struggl This is the third volume of Rick Atkinson's exceptional Liberation Trilogy, and it covers the whole Allied war in Northwestern Europe from Operation OVERLORD in Normandy to Germany's surrender on 8 May 1945. In July 1943, the Anglo-American forces overran Sicily in six weeks before invading the Italian mainland in early September. Mussolini's Fascist regime collapsed, and the new government in Rome renounced the Axis Pact of Steel. Yet, as Atkinson narrates in THE DAY OF BATTLE, a bloody struggle at Salerno foreshadowed another awful winter campaign as Allied troops struggled in one sanguinary fight after another – San Pietro, Ortona, the Rapido River, Cassino, Anzio. Still, led by Eisenhower, many of the troops had left the Mediterranean for England in mid-campaign to begin preparing for Operation OVERLORD. Upon returning from Italy five months earlier, General Montgomery had widened the OVERLORD assault zone to fifty miles. The grander OVERLORD, explains Atkinson, required 230 additional support ships and landing vessels such as the big LSTs ("landing ship, tank") that had proved invaluable during the assaults at Sicily and Salerno. As he further reveals, the difficulty of assembling that larger fleet was the reason why the Normandy invasion was postponed from May until early June (an interesting fact I wasn't aware of despite having read James Holland's NORMANDY '44). While some officers in SHAEF – Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force – believed that German resistance might collapse from internal weakness, Montgomery disagreed and "ticked off" the expected enemy counterpunch. "After a sea voyage and a landing on a strange coast, there is always some loss of cohesion," reasoned he. As Atkinson explains, an arduous struggle to amass combat power would determine the battle: OVERLORD's plan called for Allied reinforcements to land "at a rate of one and one-third divisions each day," but a bit more than a week into the fight, ten dozen Nazi divisions could well try "to fling eighteen Allied divisions back into the sea." Montgomery envisioned a battle beyond the beaches in which British and Canadian forces dealt with the main force of German defenders, while the Americans on the right invested Cherbourg. Three weeks or so after the initial landings, Patton's Third Army would "thunder into France." Paris would likely be liberated in mid-fall, giving the Allies enough lodgment to stage the fateful drive on Germany. To agglomerate power for the ultimate war-winning drive into central Germany, some forty-five Allied divisions and eleven major supply depots would advance along a front south of Antwerp through Belgium and eastern France in early March 1945. "Precisely how that titanic final battle would unfold was difficult to predict even for the clairvoyants at SHAEF," though. But that lay in the distant future; the immediate task required reaching Normandy. The Allied commanders knew very well that if OVERLORD succeded, it would "dwindle to a mere episode in the larger saga of Europe's liberation"; if it failed, however, the entire Allied enterprise faced abject collapse. That's why troops continued to pour into Britain. Since January the number of GIs had doubled to 1.5 million. Nearly 400,000 prefabricated huts and 279,000 tents had been erected to accommodate the "Yank horde". Despite improving logistics, confusion and error abounded: the American force included 23 million tons of matériel, most of it carried across the Atlantic in cargo ships that arrived months after the troops. "Truck drivers were separated from their trucks, drummers from their drums, chaplains from their chalices," describes the situation Atkinson. Thousands of items arrived with indecipherable bills of landing or without shipping address other than GLUE (the code of Southern England), or BANG (Northern Ireland), or UGLY (unknown). Furthermore, although "no alliance in the war proved more vital or enduring than that of the English-speaking countries," this vast American encampment rather strained the "fraternal bond": detailed glossaries translated English into English (chemist/druggist, geyser/hot water heater); the soap shortage caused GIs to call unwashed Britain "Goatland", and the fact that British quartermasters stocked only 18 shoes sizes compared to 105 provided by the U.S Army didn't make things any better. Yet, American authorities urged tolerance and gratitude. "It is always impolite to criticize your host," advised A Short Guide to Great Britain. "It is militarily stupid to insult your allies." They say no military plan survives first contact with the enemy, but, of course, on June 6, 1944, the date OVERLORD was launched, the Allied plan didn't even need to face the enemy to go downhill: Operation ALBANY, the foremost Airborne mission, which was intended to seize four elevated causeways from Utah Beach to the Cotentin interior, was a fiasco. American planners knew that marshlands in the area had been flooded with two to four feet of water by German engineers; they, unfortunately, did not know that the enemy had closed some of the dams, canals, and locks in the southeast Cotentin and had opened others, allowing the tide surges to create "an inland sea" ten miles long and up to ten feet deep. "Reeds and marsh grass now grew so dense," writes Atkinson, "that not even the one million aerial photographs snapped by Allied reconnaissance planes had revealed the extensive flooding." Obviously, no one was more surprised that the paratroopers who upon arriving over the coast of France had removed their life vests only to be "pulled to brackish graves by their heavy kit." While thousands of lost and scattered parachutists blundered about in the dark, the first fifty-two gliders arrived "like a swarm of ravens," in one German description. While some of the pilots, who had rarely ever flown at night, indeed found the landing zone near Blocsville, most found "stone walls, tree trunks, dozing livestock, or the pernicious German antiglider stakes known as Rommel's aspargus". Thus began the Normandy campaign, and knowing the Allied aptitude for disaster, which Atkinson often exposes, it wasn't that much of an unexpected start. What never fails to impress me is Rick Atkinson's skill in recreating the smells, the sounds, and the sights of war. He is unflinching in his descriptions of the brutality of death – "a few GIs were butchered . . . including one young trooper who dangled from a tree bough 'with eyes open, as though looking down at his own bullet holes' – but also beautifully descriptive in his scenes of battlegrounds, such as Hell's Beach of which he writes, "June airs usually wafted out of the south, but on this fraught morning the wind whistled from the northwest at almost twenty knots . . . running easterly or westerly depending on the tide. That Norman tide was a primordial force unseen in any previous amphibious landing. Rising twenty-three feet, twice daily it inundated the beach and everything on it at a rate of a vertical foot every eight minutes, then ebbed at almost an inch per second . . ." From OVERLORD to Berlin, this book perfectly intertwines battle logistics with the actions and reactions of Eisenhower, Montgomery, and other eminent commanders, and the sometimes hilarious, often tragic, experiences of ordinary soldiers. Atkinson doesn't have any scruples about criticizing the faulty decisions of the Army and the Navy when they deserve it, but he does it in the most objective way possible. His style, like usually, is fluid and highly compelling. His gift for recreating key conversations and capturing the smallest details (such as Montgomery pinching his cheek in a gesture of contemplation), as well as his impressive research, shine through the narrative. I don't have enough words to praise GUNS AT LAST LIGHT I've read very well-written books on the Normandy campaign, the Ardennes, MARKET GARDEN, Berlin – in short, most of the important events tackled in this work – but I have to acknowledge that no one does it like Atkinson. Outstanding. * Here is a list of great books covering some of the campaigns discussed in GUNS AT LAST LIGHT: Normandy '44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France Ardennes 1944: Hitler's Last Gamble It Never Snows in September: The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem, September 1944

  8. 4 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    I have mentioned before that WWII is not a favorite subject of mine. I have read several good books dealing with various theaters, engagements, and personages of that war but those have not been enough to really stir any deep desire to delve in detail in that war. Last year I read an excellent book by Craig Symonds called WWII At Sea that introduced me to an entirely different way of understanding armed conflicts. Now I have read this book and my interest in WWII has taken a sharp turn. Atkinson I have mentioned before that WWII is not a favorite subject of mine. I have read several good books dealing with various theaters, engagements, and personages of that war but those have not been enough to really stir any deep desire to delve in detail in that war. Last year I read an excellent book by Craig Symonds called WWII At Sea that introduced me to an entirely different way of understanding armed conflicts. Now I have read this book and my interest in WWII has taken a sharp turn. Atkinson's book is by now means a quick read. At 641 pages of text it cut off the circulation in my leg more than once and in some spots I did have a little head bobbing. It is by no means a boring book but it is demanding of its reader. It is the third book in a trilogy and I am ashamed to say that I have not read the other two books. However, I can report that not having read those books did not diminish the value of this book at all. This book covers that portion of WWII from just before D-Day until the end of the war in Europe. It details the various aspects of D-Day as well as the more well known engagements of the war in Europe as well as a number of lesser known engagements and some totally unknown firefights. In fact one of the enjoyable aspects of this book is that it mixes stories about the major figures of the war with those of frontline GIs just doing their job and trying to stay alive while doing it. While I have a soft spot for the stories of the frontline soldier and sailor that made the history but are never remembered by it there were other things about this book that swayed my interest in this particular war. What strangely caught my interest in this book as well as in Symonds book that I read last year was the logistics. The old Napoleonic saying of an army traveling on its stomach was given real meaning in both of these books. I was fascinated by the numbers and Atkinson really supplies the reader with a host of utterly fascinating numbers. It is clear more than ever how no army or navy accomplishes anything without the support of an excellent supply system starting at the home front through the delivery system to the unloading and transport. There were millions of soldiers in Europe and the Army knew how much material each soldier needed to remain in the field. The detail of this knowledge is mind-boggling and something to read. But Atkinson also details the cost of war in human terms as well and this is a bit hard to read let alone fathom. The war cost the Russians 14% of their total population. A third of the boys born in Germany between 1914-1925 died in the war. The physical devastation to the cities bombed or ruined by artillery is beyond comprehension. Whole villages and towns were destroyed and many never rebuilt. As I have stated the book is long and demanding but there isn't a page I would edit out. What I also found interesting in this book is what might be considered the juicy parts, the gossip or behind the scenes intrigues and backstabbing. There is a great deal of quoting from war diaries of many of the major personages of the war. After reading this book I have a greater respect for Eisenhower than I ever had before. How he managed to hold his temper and not deck some his "allies" is a testament to his patience and his sense of duty. To say the least Montgomery and DeGaulle do not come across well and seem completely unaware of the old saying about not biting the hand that feeds you and not looking a gift horse in the mouth. The extent that these prima donas took their antics is unbelievable considering the stakes involved and how obligated they were to the American forces. This is an exceptionally good book and well worth reading inspite of its length.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Whitley

    I have just finished this extraordinary book. I read a lot of history, and have read most of the large-scale histories of World War II, including Rick Atkinson's two previous volumes, both of which were very skilled indeed. If anything, the Guns at Last light goes even deeper, drawing the reader into a new level of understanding of the war. The book is fine narrative history, but includes an attention to the detail of personal experience that sets it apart, bringing the conflict to terrifying li I have just finished this extraordinary book. I read a lot of history, and have read most of the large-scale histories of World War II, including Rick Atkinson's two previous volumes, both of which were very skilled indeed. If anything, the Guns at Last light goes even deeper, drawing the reader into a new level of understanding of the war. The book is fine narrative history, but includes an attention to the detail of personal experience that sets it apart, bringing the conflict to terrifying life in ways that big histories almost never do. The portrait of Eisenhower that emerges is particularly striking. At last, this complex, ferocious and skillfully contained man is portrayed as the warrior that he was, the intensely conscientious and powerful man behind the grinning 'good ole Ike' image. After finishing, I thought long and deeply on the war, reviewing the stories told my by my father's generation, who had fought in it. And I wondered at the madness, or the deficiency of being, that again and again lures us into engaging in this bizarre social practice of putting on uniforms and killing one another.

  10. 5 out of 5

    happy

    Mr. Atkinson has completed his Liberation Trilogy in fine style! This volume covers the liberation of France/Germany from D-Day thru to the end of the war. He blends anecdotes from the lowest private to the highest general, facts and figures of the amount of material was consumed/lost/expended and the higher level tale of the battle to weave the tale of the fight in Northwest Europe that I found fascinating. In the hands of a lesser writer, the statistics Mr.Atkinson cites could really bog down Mr. Atkinson has completed his Liberation Trilogy in fine style! This volume covers the liberation of France/Germany from D-Day thru to the end of the war. He blends anecdotes from the lowest private to the highest general, facts and figures of the amount of material was consumed/lost/expended and the higher level tale of the battle to weave the tale of the fight in Northwest Europe that I found fascinating. In the hands of a lesser writer, the statistics Mr.Atkinson cites could really bog down the flow of the book, but he makes good use of them and it really adds to the narrative. Not only does the book cover the well know battles of D-Day/Normandy, Market Garden, and the Bulge, but he also looks at all the major actions involving Americans. This includes the Hurtgen Forest, the invasion of Southern France (Operation Dragoon), the Colmar Pocket, Operation Nordwind (the last German offensive in the West). Not only does Mr. Atkinson tell the story of the Generals, but also the lowliest infantry soldier. In telling the tale, he does explore the fissures in the command structure of the SHAEF. While it well known that Gen Montgomery had major differences with Ike about strategy (Narrow v Broad front), Mr. Atkinson does tell the story of the extreme personal dislike that developed between Montgomery and the major US commanders (Ike, Bradley and Patton). In addition the US commanders v Montgomery, he looks at the personality clash between Ike and Devers, the commander of the 6th Army Group. The French commanders also come under Mr. Atkinson’s scrutiny. According to the author, they were very difficult to command. He cites several instances of outright insubordination. This includes DeGaulle’s absolute refusal to pull back from Strasbourg during the Battle of the Bulge to shorten the Allied line and free troops to move north. The clashes between Le Clerc and Le Lattre make the Montgomery v US commanders seem mild by comparison. In relating the story of the GI, the author does not sugar coat or white wash the experience of the infantry soldier. He tells of the shortage of replacements, supply problems, mental casualties, and even atrocities committed by US Troops. These atrocities are mainly the killing of prisoners or those attempting to surrender. He also points out the soldiers were not choir boys in the relations with women, in both France and England. At one point the French civil authorities were pleading with the Americans to do something since women and girls could not walk down the street in liberated France without being accosted. Mr. Atkinson does express his opinions on the decisions made by the US command and is hard on Ike and Bradley. Having said this, he does say in the end it really didn’t matter, the overwhelming logistical superiority of the US Army made the end inevitable. This is a fitting capstone to his trilogy – excellent look at the US Army and how it grew from an amateurish organization to a highly professional force. 5 star read

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fergie

    This book is currently on the best seller list. And, while I can understand why it's so popular (Atkinson takes on the worthy task of explaining one of the most important times in world history), I don't see the appeal for probably the very same reasons people seem to love it (the amount of detail that went into writing the book). My father and I read this book at the same time. The book is steeped in exacting facts. Those very details are the reason why my dad loved this book while I didn't (I This book is currently on the best seller list. And, while I can understand why it's so popular (Atkinson takes on the worthy task of explaining one of the most important times in world history), I don't see the appeal for probably the very same reasons people seem to love it (the amount of detail that went into writing the book). My father and I read this book at the same time. The book is steeped in exacting facts. Those very details are the reason why my dad loved this book while I didn't (I didn't care to know how many pints of blood or cases of morphine made the trek over the Channel on the Allies's way to D-Day -- important at the time? -- very much so...interesting to read? -- not so much). The book is not an easy read as a result. I felt myself coursing through a mire of details that slowed the pace to such an extent that I felt I was reading a text book from college. I like the personal side of history, and although Atkinson surely sprinkled his book with intimate stories of those who lived the war, in my opinion, he didn't share enough. Those stories came at the expense of the exorbitant detailing he chose instead. While Atkinson needs to be given immense credit for the obvious amount of research he did for this work, I didn't come away with an appreciation for the amount of exact details he explored. The book is lengthy -- well over 600 pages. Previous to reading the book, I had a solid understanding of the war, including the battles on the Western front. But, for those students of history who do not have a foundation of knowledge, this book would not be the one I would recommend to read as a first -- I feel it would turn a less serious student of history away from the subject for which they were trying to learn. This book is for the more astute student of history and for the individual interested in a more expounding treatment of WWII in Europe.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dax

    You couldn't ask for more from Rick Atkinson. His Liberation Trilogy is simply amazing, and this third installment might be the best of the the bunch. Atkinson captures the tragedies of the worst conflict in the history of mankind in such a way that will leave tears welling in your eyes. There is an element of poetry in his writing and the way he constructs his narrative. I can't imagine anyone better suited to tackle such a project. Special.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike Kershaw

    D Plus 69 Last night as I settled down on the couch to watch the “News Hour”, I was treated to an interview by Rick Atkinson on his new book, “The Guns at Last Light”. It was 69 years ago that the US Army participated in Operation Overlord and the invasion of Normandy, which Atkinson highlighted was only the beginning of an exceptionally bitter and bloody campaign. ‘The Guns at Last Light’ is the third volume in Atkinson's trilogy on America's involvement in World War II in Europe. He began with D Plus 69 Last night as I settled down on the couch to watch the “News Hour”, I was treated to an interview by Rick Atkinson on his new book, “The Guns at Last Light”. It was 69 years ago that the US Army participated in Operation Overlord and the invasion of Normandy, which Atkinson highlighted was only the beginning of an exceptionally bitter and bloody campaign. ‘The Guns at Last Light’ is the third volume in Atkinson's trilogy on America's involvement in World War II in Europe. He began with “An Army at Dawn", which described the campaign to invade and liberate North Africa. His second volume, "Day of Battle", focused on Sicily and Italy and concluded with the seizure of Rome literally on the eve of D-Day and the Normandy invasion. Atkinson has become a chronicler of the modern America Army during this time as well and his focus on Generalship, Coalition Warfare and uncovering previously little known or often overlooked issues are continued in this volume. The central theme of this volume, as well as the trilogy, revolves around Eisenhower's maturation as a theatre commander, validating FDR's choice of him for this role early on, based in large part on his political acumen. "The best politician of the generals" is FDR's one liner on Ike and it is his political skills that are recognized as critical to maintaining the coalition – even if often acknowledged begrudgingly by his critics. So much of this trilogy and this volume in particular is focused on Eisenhower and his interactions with both the politicians – Churchill and FDR – but also his senior leaders in the two Allied Armies involved predominantly in the campaign. This is a book I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the US Army and the European Campaign. Atkinson’s book is enjoyable, well-written and true to the form in his two earlier volumes. For anyone interested in the US Army in World War II, this book represents the culmination of volumes which have put into perspective the immense challenges faced by the Allied High Command and American leaders in persecuting the European conflict -- only one part, albeit the most important, of a truly global war. Atkinson's first volume, "An Army at Dawn", was released shortly after my battalion command tour in Italy and with two deployments to North Africa and a visit to the Kasserine Pass, I thought it well articulated the challenges faced by the US Army as it entered conflict in Europe. His description of the trials of North Africa, the emergence of key leaders, the inevitable setbacks and development of the Army were useful against the backdrop of another conflict, albeit of a much different nature. In "The Day of Battle" -- Atkinson's volume covering the US Army during the Sicily and Italian Campaigns, he seemed to lose momentum. Each chapter somewhat formulaically began with an almost tour guide description of the general area of the ensuing chapter and while interesting to someone following the route of the US Army today or, perhaps an expatriate, I found these departures distracting. Atkinson offered interesting insights into these most difficult and contentious campaigns but I felt there was very little new or particularly insightful. In the interim, Atkinson served an embedded journalist with the 101st in Iraq and wrote "In the Company of Soldiers" -- which at least one reviewer thought would have been better titled "In the Company of Generals". Atkinson is keenly interested in the interplay of senior leadership in the conduct of a campaign and his World War II volumes follow the development and maturation of the senior Allied Commanders. During his interview on the “News hour”, Atkinson began with the proposition that the Normandy invasion while complex and difficult, was only the beginning of some of the most bitter and bloody fighting of the war. In April of 1945, for example, at a point in time when the war in Europe had long been decided, he cited that US Forces suffered some 11,000 killed. He was questioned why the Germans fought so hard and long after the decision was no longer in doubt and answered that most Germans believed in Hitler and then emphasized the coercive powers of the German police state. I would encourage anyone who has a similar question to read Ian Kershaw's "The End". Atkinson is at his best when giving us perspective on the difficulties of coalition warfare. What is often presented in terms of personality clashes was, more objectively, a fundamental struggle between opposing British and American views of the war – with the American view acknowledged to win out in the end. The antagonists -- Churchill, Brooke and Montgomery square off against FDR, Marshall and Eisenhower with Stalin and Degaulle intervening for good measure. The larger conferences, Yalta in particular, in described in some detail – remind us that this is both a global endeavor and that the Russians are bearing the greatest burden in the fight against the Germans. The British continually pressed for an overall Ground Commander, citing Eisenhower’s lack of ‘grip’ on Ground Operations, amongst other issues, including a single axis of advance into Germany vice the broad front approach the Allies followed. Hanging over this is the waning influence of the British Empire and the approaching post-war realities which were, not surprisingly, not completely understood. Additionally, he reminds us of the overused but oft forgotten adage that ‘professionals talk logistics while amateurs argue tactics’. Each of the Allied Armies reflected its national priorities for fighting the global war – an American Army, reliant on firepower and motorization, designed to win a short campaign but short on battle experience; a British Army on its last legs, with a shortage of manpower but fighting almost literally in their front yard, with V-1 and V-2 rockets hammering London. Soldiers repeatedly cited instances of watching the ‘buzz bombs’ fly over them on their way to London, or later, Antwerp. The Canadians, Poles and Free French – each with their own political objectives, combat experience and missions to accomplish – have to managed and directed. The struggle to sustain the armies is placed in logistical context – un-captured ports meant that divisions remained uncommitted because they couldn’t be married to their equipment, which had to be brought to the continent. Or, alternatively, they couldn’t be resupplied once they were equipped – because of the prodigious tables of organization by which the Allies and particularly the US Army equipped our forces. The focus on the seizure of ports -- Cherbourg, Brest, Le Harve, Marseilles/Toulon, Channel ports and finally, and most importantly, Antwerp – are put in context and balanced with the manpower constraints under which these democracies fought. This is the strongest perspective that Atkinson’s brings to the campaign through his technique and reminds us that the separation of military and political considerations is never as clean as we often remember it. Of course, just to remind us that ‘toxic leadership’ isn’t something particularly new, he exposes the reader to the self-proclaimed ‘Czar of the Communications’ Zone – General John H. (“Jesus Christ Himself”) Lee – and officer so vain he wore his rank on both sides of his helmet and who wielded his power in such an authoritarian manner that even Patton assumed an obsequious posture when he visited. The struggles between Eisenhower’s senior leaders are recounted in more detail in Weigly’s “Eisenhower’s Lieutenants”, but Atkinson gives us enough of the characters to support his thesis. Atkinson used Soldier vignettes to remind of us who is fighting and paying the ultimate cost in this war. Using excellent maps, he brings together both the well-known battles and campaigns with those lesser known but important to the story. He uses vignettes from a few well-known Soldiers -- Dawson and Murphy being two of the most familiar -- as well as those chroniclers of lesser renown. He helps provide a corrective to some of the 'greatest generation' mythology – citing the numbers of desertions, discipline issues, atrocities and rape that occurred as armies of armed men swarmed across Europe. In his “News Hour” interview, he briefly discussed some of the known atrocities committed by US Soldiers during the liberation of the death camps, many of which were recorded in photographs and openly acknowledged at the time but are often removed from more antiseptic accounts of the liberation. However, I thought his most effective and sobering reminders came from his quoting liberally from Soldiers who did not survive the war – again, reminding of us of the ultimate cost of such endeavors. These quotations, from long service veterans and recent arrivals highlight the real cost of war and the thoughts of those who didn’t survive to craft their biographies. As Atkinson finished his interview on "News Hour", I was struck by our continued fascination with the war of our grandfathers. Atkinson's book will consumed by many but I question what it really adds to our knowledge that can help us with our future challenges. There are volumes and volumes written on World War II, and yet I spent the better part of an afternoon last weekend in the San Antonio Public Library (affectionately known as "The Big Red Enchilada" here in the Alamo City) searching for a military history of the last few years of the Vietnam conflict -- a campaign highlighted by engagements at Firebase RIPCORD, which many of you have read about, the invasion of Cambodia, Lam Song 719 and Dak To. I think, in some ways, our fascination with ‘the last good war’ prevents us from looking critically at more recent experiences. As with World War II, we find plenty of personal accounts of combat in Vietnam, but most of the ‘military history' of the Vietnam War turns after the TET Offensive to political issues, the slow decline of the Army or domestic issues. The value of Atkinson's volume is that reminds us that long after decisions have been made and decisive points reached, battles still remain to be fought and Soldiers will still be required to fight. Our Army is experiencing this today in Afghanistan and we would do well to remember this as we contemplate the future of our Army. MK

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    There are limits to my enjoyment of narrative military history: without maps, I'm lost on where units are moving; I don't really care about the squabbling between generals, and to some extent battles blur together for me. However, writers like Atkinson have such rich sources, and his writing is so good, that it mostly cancels out these other factors. This books is particularly good on A. The experiences and perspectives of soldiers, especially how they thought about the moral impact of the war. There are limits to my enjoyment of narrative military history: without maps, I'm lost on where units are moving; I don't really care about the squabbling between generals, and to some extent battles blur together for me. However, writers like Atkinson have such rich sources, and his writing is so good, that it mostly cancels out these other factors. This books is particularly good on A. The experiences and perspectives of soldiers, especially how they thought about the moral impact of the war. B. The impact of the war on civilian populations C. The absurdity and tragedy of even the most just wars. This is a tough recommend because it is so long and part of a trilogy on the US war in the Western theater. If you really want to go deep and don't mind the size of the books, it is probably the best narrative military history of WWII out there. I'd still say that books like Richard Overy's Why the Allies won are more edifying about the war itself. If you are looking for arguments about WWII, this would not be the book for you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sweetwilliam

    I just finished Guns at Last Light. This was the third book in Rick Atkinson’s trilogy on WWII’s Western Theatre. In my opinion it is the best book of the three. I was surprised by just how terrible the fighting was as the allies closed in on Germany. I had assumed that the Germans just gave up after the Bulge. Boy was I wrong. This book is full of terrible stories that will provide plenty of material for future nightmares. Atkinson recounts several episodes of frontline SS troopers killing inno I just finished Guns at Last Light. This was the third book in Rick Atkinson’s trilogy on WWII’s Western Theatre. In my opinion it is the best book of the three. I was surprised by just how terrible the fighting was as the allies closed in on Germany. I had assumed that the Germans just gave up after the Bulge. Boy was I wrong. This book is full of terrible stories that will provide plenty of material for future nightmares. Atkinson recounts several episodes of frontline SS troopers killing innocent civilians at random. He also mentioned episodes at D-day and the Bulge of 12the and 2nd SS panzer and how they killed POWs and of how the allies retaliated. The book describes how the German army on the Western front fought tooth and nail to delay the inevitable. The closer the allies got to Germany the harder the Germans fought. Their motivation was more than just to fight for Germany but to avoid retribution from the Nazi party on their families. The level of intimidation by the Nazi government is more than one can imagine. This only helped to prolong the misery and increase the total casualties in the western theater exponentially. As the Anglo-American armies fought to a near stalemate in the west the Russian invasion of the east brought whole scale slaughter and rape of innocents. The strategic bombing by the west appeared to continue far too long. After awhile the aerial bombardments served little purpose. A case in point, the bombing of Dresden and the white phosphorous bombing of Berlin – the latter was done to curry favor with Stalin. The book also describes how field commanders had a habit of sacrificing airborne troops for pipe dreams such as Monty’s MARKETRGARDEN to capture several bridges that were way too far. Atkinson’s dynamic portrayal of the principles and leaders in the 3 volume set is amazing. He doesn’t seem to lionize or idolize anyone of the generals or politicos on either side. It seems that even the WWII heroes that I grew up idolizing had their good and bad days and many had more bad days than one could imagine. D-day, the bulge, Akin, the attack on Alsace, Operation MARKETGARDEN, the crossing of the Rhine, the meeting at Yalta are all covered in this book in vivid detail. For me it was far too vivid…heroes seen as how they really are; death, destruction, and carnage that I care not to fathom. As the Prince of the Netherlands said “my country can ill afford another 90% success by Montgomery," I cannot stomach to learn anymore about the European theater. I am no longer naïve. The heroics in war are overshadowed by death and destruction and misery at every turn. Oh, how a beer hall brawler can destroy a continent! Read if you dare. 5 stars

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hudson

    This was the last book in Rick Atkinson Liberation Trilogy and just like the preceding books, this one was an absolute masterpiece. In the grand scheme of things I am still very much a student of WWII but I have read several books about it and this tour de force is simply head and shoulders above the rest. To use a word that is as popular in this trilogy as it is in other books about military history: this series was a juggernaut. Atkinson is truly a master and I hope he wins another Pulitzer pr This was the last book in Rick Atkinson Liberation Trilogy and just like the preceding books, this one was an absolute masterpiece. In the grand scheme of things I am still very much a student of WWII but I have read several books about it and this tour de force is simply head and shoulders above the rest. To use a word that is as popular in this trilogy as it is in other books about military history: this series was a juggernaut. Atkinson is truly a master and I hope he wins another Pulitzer prize for this book as he did for an “Army at Dawn”. I really enjoy his style of writing and I loved his use of short declarative sentences when he starts a new paragraph or section by answering his close in the last paragraph of section. Example; “The bravado reminded Churchill’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Hastings Ismay, of the eve of Agincourt as depicted in Henry V: “He which hath no stomach to this fight, / Let him depart.” None departed.” He really makes the characters come alive and he showed the war in all its possible colors, beauty and ugliness, cowardice and bravery, sadness and joy. This was an incredible series and I am a better man for having read it!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Why yet another book on the battle for Western Europe in World War II? It’s a story oft told, but seldom as well told as by Rick Atkinson. Atkinson set a high standard for popular military history in his earlier books about the American involvement in the Western Theater. He has succeeded once again in The Guns at Last Light, the third and last volume of his Liberation Trilogy. Atkinson sprinkles his narrative with relatively unknown (at least by me) small-scale anecdotes without ever losing view Why yet another book on the battle for Western Europe in World War II? It’s a story oft told, but seldom as well told as by Rick Atkinson. Atkinson set a high standard for popular military history in his earlier books about the American involvement in the Western Theater. He has succeeded once again in The Guns at Last Light, the third and last volume of his Liberation Trilogy. Atkinson sprinkles his narrative with relatively unknown (at least by me) small-scale anecdotes without ever losing view of the major strategic issues faced by the allies. Moreover, nearly every chapter contains at least one excellent map to guide the reader through the details of the geographical maneuvering of the armies. A major theme discussed throughout the book was the bickering among various generals and political leaders about the correct strategy to defeat the Nazis. Churchill bitterly opposed the Allies landing in Southern France after the Normandy invasion, preferring instead bolstering the attack in Italy. Although Churchill and Roosevelt had agreed that an American (Eisenhower) would be Supreme Commander of the allied forces, they apparently never fully convinced British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery that he should not be (in some cases, was not) in command. An even pricklier “ally” was the imperious Charles De Gaulle, who managed to provoke the enmity of every non-Frenchman with whom he dealt. One British wit said that a staple of De Gaulle’s diet was the hand that fed him. Eisenhower once told George Marshall, “Next to the weather, the French have caused me more trouble than any other single factor. They even rank above landing craft.” Some of the juicy details that vivified the narrative were: Prior to D-Day, the Allies identified senior German railway officials for assassination by the French resistance in order to complicate enemy logistics once the invasion took place. GI’s who received the Medal of Honor also received a $2 per month raise. American dentists extracted 15 million teeth (more than one per soldier) from the men serving in the military during the war. Daily combat consumption (from fuel to ammunition to cigarettes) was 41,298 pounds per soldier! Churchill was said to speak French “remarkably well, but understands very little.” The U.S. Army hospitalized 929,000 men for “neuropsychiatric” reasons (battle fatigue, shell shock, or PTSD) during the war, including as many as one in four during the Battle of the Bulge. Atkinson is even-handed in his evaluation of the actions of key leaders, which often means he is highly critical of them. Montgomery and De Gaulle are seen as capable, but monumentally egotistical. Patton is shown to be an able tank commander, but occasionally very unwise, as with his unimaginative tactics to take the city of Metz. Evaluation: This book can serve as an excellent introduction to the war in Western Europe for readers unfamiliar with those events, but it can also be edifying for those who have read a great deal about them. I highly recommend it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Checkman

    Arguably the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany in 1944-1945 (by the allies) is one of the most well-documented military campaigns of all time. Mr. Atkinson has written a book that covers a very well trod path. There is no new ground to break. No startling revelations.As a result he has written a competent, readable account of the last eleven months of WWII in Western Europe. This is large history covering strategy, politics, economics, logistics, battles, human psychology and loss. Arguably the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany in 1944-1945 (by the allies) is one of the most well-documented military campaigns of all time. Mr. Atkinson has written a book that covers a very well trod path. There is no new ground to break. No startling revelations.As a result he has written a competent, readable account of the last eleven months of WWII in Western Europe. This is large history covering strategy, politics, economics, logistics, battles, human psychology and loss. As the Liberation Trilogy has progressed the books have grown in their scope. The books had to take that approach. The Liberation Trilogy is about the growth and maturity of the U.S. Army from a small peacetime force designed for......well not much of anything......to a massive machine capable of fighting a global war. From December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor) to September 2, 1945 (Surrender of Japan) the war grew in it's complexity and the United States Army took on a larger and larger role. As a result the intimacy that made the first installment ,"An Army At Dawn", so popular is missing in the final installment. I found it just as interesting, but it's definitely "Big Picture" history. For the most part Mr. Atkinson follows in the footsteps of other military and non-military historians. So what is different? Well perhaps there is a little more attention paid to the European civilians and what they endured during the campaign - both German and non-German. A few more pages dedicated to the prickly relations between the French and the American Army and many exerts from American service-members' letters and diaries. The influence of Cornelius Ryan,Stephen Ambrose and Martin Blumenson, to name but a few military historians, is apparent. For those who are knowledgeable about the war there will be no surprises, but it can still be a good read. Like watching a favorite old movie that one has already seen two dozen times. For those who aren't as familiar with the war Mr. Atkinson's book will provide a well written broad look. War is a multifaceted activity that involves far more that just combat. It's a difficult, frustrating, horrifying and inefficient activity and he does a commendable job covering the many aspects. It took Mr. Atkinson several years longer that originally predicted to complete this final chapter, but I'm glad I waited. It's a keeper.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Louis

    I will read this as soon as it comes out. The other two books in this trilogy were excellent and the most informative books on our involvement in WW II in the Western Theater. I think the best so far was the first and how we learned and created a world class Army and fighting force. These books give the good and the bad. I can hardly wait.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jesper Jorgensen

    What can I say other than when I got started for real - the lix number is in the upper end, for me anyway, and I had to 'tune in' on the book - I could not leave it. (A summer holiday with room for extended periods of reading helped a lot)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    "THE GREATEST CATASTROPHE IN HUMAN HISTORY" If you were born after 1950 or so, and you think at all about the Second World War, it’s probably little more to you than an event shrouded in history — a big one, of course, but one that ended two generations ago and is now just one of many terrible episodes in a century prone to violence. Chances are, you have no sense of the magnitude of that epochal event that many historians think of as “the most prodigious undertaking in the history of warfare” and "THE GREATEST CATASTROPHE IN HUMAN HISTORY" If you were born after 1950 or so, and you think at all about the Second World War, it’s probably little more to you than an event shrouded in history — a big one, of course, but one that ended two generations ago and is now just one of many terrible episodes in a century prone to violence. Chances are, you have no sense of the magnitude of that epochal event that many historians think of as “the most prodigious undertaking in the history of warfare” and “the greatest catastrophe in human history.” If the Vietnam War is your yardstick for measuring the impact of war on an American generation, consider the following. Of the US population of 106 million in 1920 (the census year closest to the time when the younger soldiers were born), more than 16 million served in uniform during World War II. That was roughly one out of every seven people in their generational cohort, and more than one out of every four men, since fewer than half a million women served in uniform. By comparison, during the Vietnam Era, more than twice as long as WWII, a total of 9 million Americans – approximately one out of every 17 persons of the 151 million counted in the 1950 census — served on active duty in the armed forces. Since only about a quarter-million women served in the armed forces in Vietnam, the proportion of men who were on active duty there was roughly one out of every nine members of their age cohort. One in four vs. one in nine? The difference is enormous. And comparisons between World War II and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan diverge far more dramatically. Is it any surprise that the Second World War continues to loom so large in the consciousness of many older Americans, despite all that has transpired since then? Viewed superficially, The Guns at Last Light is a straightforward, chronological account of the Allies’ march toward victory in Western Europe. The book focuses on the major events of the last year of World War II: the Normandy Invasion, the Allied landing in southern France, the Battle of the Bulge (“the largest battle in American military history”), the crossing of the Rhine, and the drive toward eastern Germany as the Soviet Union thundered toward Berlin from the east. But there are other books — many other books — that treat these events in greater detail. What sets apart Rick Atkinson’s masterful treatment of the critical final stage in the war is the depth of his research into the thoughts and actions of the major military players in this monumental drama, particularly General Dwight David (“Ike”) Eisenhower, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, and Generals Charles De Gaulle, Omar Bradley, George Patton, and Jean de Lattre. FDR, Winston Churchill, General George Marshall, and Field Marshal Alan Brooke hover over the scene, intervening from time to time. Every one of these historic figures emerges from the pages of The Guns at Last Light as a living, breathing human being rescued from the dustbin of history. However, Atkinson’s research was by no means limited to the journals and letters of the major figures. He illuminates every advance, every retreat with quotations from the correspondence of the Allied troops on the line, from “buck privates” to brigadier generals. He does the same from German sources, but to a much lesser extent. Equally remarkable is the author’s treatment of four recurring themes: the decisive role of logistics and supplies, the often tragic imprecision of the air war; the leadership conflicts that stopped just short of tearing apart the Alliance, and the disproportionate role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of Germany. Miscalculations and everyday screw-ups in logistics might well have given rise to that charming contribution of the war to the English language, “SNAFU,” meaning “Situation normal, all f****d up.” For example, “dozens of U.S. Army divisions were stuck at home for lack of dockage in Normandy.” And “one quartermaster depot would report receiving 11,000 brooms, 13,000 mops, 5,000 garbage cans, and 33,000 reams of mimeograph paper.” But even worse was the perennial shortage of ammunition, which frequently forced Allied commanders to place strict limits on the number of rounds their soldiers could fire. Yet the supply chain for the Allies was immeasurably better than that for the Germans in the final year of the war, when hundreds of fearsome Tiger tanks were left by the roadside for lack of fuel. The attack on German cities by Allied bombers was notoriously inaccurate, with bombs falling on or near their targets only a small percentage of the time. In one Allied action to resupply surrounded US troops, the sky was heavily overcast (as usual) and “more than 98 percent of the payloads missed their targets, often by miles.” Paratroopers fared little better. Of “more than six thousand jumpers from the 101st Airborne, barely one thousand had landed on or near the H-hour objectives” in the Normandy invasion. The result? Paratroopers were slaughtered by the thousands. As one high-ranking US general wrote to an uncooperative French commander, “For many months we have fought together, often on the same side.” Disputes among the commanding generals – Montgomery vs. Eisenhower, Bradley vs. Montgomery, DeGaulle vs. everyone who wasn’t French, and Patton vs. nearly everyone – became so heated at times that Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and US Army Chief of Staff George Marshall (in Washington) were forced to intervene. The Alliance was most certainly not united by friendship. In the final stage of the war in the West, Allied casualties were immense – “200,000 dead since D-Day alone” – but other countries suffered much more greatly. “Some 14 percent of the Soviet population of 190 million perished during the war; the Red Army suffered more combat deaths at Stalingrad alone than the U.S. armed forced did in the entire war. Soviet forces also had killed roughly nine times more Germans than the United States and Britain combined.” In other words, if anyone tells you that the US won the war, please correct them. Despite these and many other drawbacks, the Allies did win both in the East and the West, as we know very well. As Atkinson asserts in the epilogue to The Guns at Last Light, “The enemy was crushed by logistical brilliance, firepower, mobility, mechanical aptitude, and an economic juggernaut that produced much, much more of nearly everything than Germany could – bombers, bombs, fighters, transport planes, mortars, machine guns, trucks – yet the war absorbed barely one-third of the American gross domestic product, a smaller proportion than that of any [other] major belligerent.” The Guns at Last Light is the third and final volume of Rick Atkinson’s monumental Liberation Trilogy, a study of the strategic events in the Allies’ six-year effort to defeat Germany. First in the series was An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, which I read and enjoyed immensely before I began reviewing books in 2010. Then, preceding The Guns at Last Light, was The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-44. Read together with Paul Kennedy’s superb analysis of the pivotal factors in the Allied victory, Engineers of Victory: The Problem-Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War, Atkinson’s trilogy provides an in-depth introduction to the story of World War II.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dj

    The last of a trilogy about the involvement of the US Army in the War in Europe. I put off reading this one since the battles that took place in Europe are ones I am more familiar with. It was a mistake. Atkinson takes this section of his work to a whole new level. While it does cover a great deal of ground that was familiar he introduced more on the command level as well as the Civilian level. He didn't pull any punches or try to dodge touchy questions, like crime involving allied troops, deser The last of a trilogy about the involvement of the US Army in the War in Europe. I put off reading this one since the battles that took place in Europe are ones I am more familiar with. It was a mistake. Atkinson takes this section of his work to a whole new level. While it does cover a great deal of ground that was familiar he introduced more on the command level as well as the Civilian level. He didn't pull any punches or try to dodge touchy questions, like crime involving allied troops, desertions, or even command confusion. All in all, I now consider this to be the best of the three.

  23. 4 out of 5

    CD

    The Liberation Trilogy is complete. Author Rick Atkinson has wrapped up his magnum opus of World War II with "The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945". Beginning with a 41 page prologue The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 moves through the assault on fortress Europe at a pace equal to, if not greater than the Allied forces in the slightly over ten months of 1944-1945. The reader needs to take time to peruse the 168 pages of notes and the 36 pages of Sources/Bibliography and The Liberation Trilogy is complete. Author Rick Atkinson has wrapped up his magnum opus of World War II with "The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945". Beginning with a 41 page prologue The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 moves through the assault on fortress Europe at a pace equal to, if not greater than the Allied forces in the slightly over ten months of 1944-1945. The reader needs to take time to peruse the 168 pages of notes and the 36 pages of Sources/Bibliography and Acknowledgements. If one has read from some of the classic war histories referenced, it is enriching to take a few moments and review some of those other works while marching through Europe with the Lords of War as related by Atkinson. World War II is the most written about war in history. The amount of documentary material generated during the war from all parties was unprecedented and will only be surpassed by video recording of current and future battle, and then doubtfully the richness of WWII material will ever be surpassed. This means that we are not through by any means with this period of history and yes, this book was more than needed. Atkinson in the text of this work makes mention of this and that WWII will be discussed, analyzed, and commented on most like for centuries to come. The Pulitzer Prize in history was awarded to Author Rick Atkinson for his first entry in this trilogy, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 as it ranks as one of the finest battle histories ever produced. And this about an exceeding analyzed and mythologized moment in WWII. That focused detailed work that changed how we view North Africa continued with the reevaluation and candid look at the wider topic of the Sicily/Italian Campaign in the second work of the Trilogy, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. It changed how we need to approach the evaluation of many issues regarding the Allies and Axis forces in the peninsula conflict unlike any single work. The final entry in the trilogy concludes 'the day'. It is Last Light, the Götterdämmerung of this moment in history. Not merely the end of the Nazi/Axis forces in the dozen year long horror, but perhaps the twilight of all the traditional gods of war. Another conflict of this type is unimaginable in the world that would follow. Atkinson's descriptions of the end of Europe, the destruction of people, the change in political system and realities, the fall of Empire and the rise of Superpower all play as underlying themes in this great work as told via the stories and personages familiar if idealized. Atkinson tears apart myth after myth from source piled on source regarding the leaders of this great endeavor. In doing so his 'color commentary' enriches the reader if at the same time horrifying them too. War crimes and atrocities were committed by one and all, if not by policy and necessity, from often sheer emotional exhaustion. The competency of the 'great and heroic' leaders is not left quietly by the side but is evaluated from official sources and field diaries. Letters from Generals home leave no doubt that uncertainty plagued all but a few megalomaniacs from beginning until the very end. The Guns at Last Light need not, should not, be the last WWII history read. It should be the first or next in the list of what hopefully this book will launch in new,more accurate research and evaluation of a defining moment in human history. A must read. [July 19 - I see a few edits to make.]

  24. 4 out of 5

    John

    There is no way a single book is ever going to "finish" World War II. I've been devouring them for years, including the first two installments of the Liberation Trilogy. This book is a beautiful thing, at once informative, suspenseful and poetic. I started this third volume and couldn't put it down, even though many of the dramatic moments are well-known from novels, histories, documentaries and movies. What Atkinson does is awesome: regularly pulling up to look at the global picture but then di There is no way a single book is ever going to "finish" World War II. I've been devouring them for years, including the first two installments of the Liberation Trilogy. This book is a beautiful thing, at once informative, suspenseful and poetic. I started this third volume and couldn't put it down, even though many of the dramatic moments are well-known from novels, histories, documentaries and movies. What Atkinson does is awesome: regularly pulling up to look at the global picture but then diving back down to the mud, weaving anecdote, detail, hundreds of characters and moral musings about the meaning of it all in a propulsive narrative. It's an American vantage point, for sure, but that seems fair enough given the American role in bringing this conflict to its end. What Americans by and large don't learn from their own schools and much of their popular literature - the petty jealousies among the generals, the colossal errors that cost tens of thousands of Allied lives, the ugly reprisals that undermined the high ground the Allies claimed - is much more fully related here. But by the time you cross the Rhine and see what the invaders saw, it's impossible to argue with the moral balance Americans, historians and Atkinson have drawn. It also, for all the explanations, is ultimately hard to comprehend how and why sixty million humans had to die in this conflict, or despite the most vivid prose and engaging of storytelling to really feel how horrible an experience it was for so many more.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    And thus one of the great multi-volume histories of World War II in Europe draws to a close in high fashion as Mr. Atkinson once again shows off his considerable narrative skills. Starting with his previous two volumes, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 and The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Mr. Atkinson has infused fresh blood into a war that has been written about ad nauseam by hundreds of other historians since the war's end. What makes this t And thus one of the great multi-volume histories of World War II in Europe draws to a close in high fashion as Mr. Atkinson once again shows off his considerable narrative skills. Starting with his previous two volumes, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 and The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Mr. Atkinson has infused fresh blood into a war that has been written about ad nauseam by hundreds of other historians since the war's end. What makes this three volume set worth a look is the melding of high strategic workings among Allied generals and on-the-ground stories of soldiers in the trenches that is hung together by Mr. Atkinson's ability to infuse his narrative with all the irony, absurdity, and senselessness that always accompanies war. Aside from the home front, no part of the war is left unspoken of. There are only two parts of this volume that are weak. The first is really the first part of this book (the book is divided into four parts with three chapters each bookended by a prologue and epilogue), which chronicles D-Day and the slog through the Normandy hedgerows ending with the liberation of Paris. Honestly, this is the one part of the war in Europe that not even Mr. Atkinson could make seem fresh and exciting as it has been done before and, dare I say, better by Stephen E. Ambrose in his two books D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II and Citizen Soldiers: The U S Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany. The other down side to this volume is the inordinate amount of time Mr. Atkinson spends detailing the supply and manpower troubles the Allies had prior to the taking Antwerp. Mr. Atkinson spends such a good chunk of the narrative on this that it is practically tedious trying to get through it all. Yes, it's impressive how much America produced during the war and the supply problems did have an effect on the battlefront, but I hardly think it was worth the amount of space Mr. Atkinson devoted to it. However, neither of these black marks is enough to weigh down the five-star rating I have given to this book. I highly recommend this book and its two predecessors to anyone who is interested in the best and fullest account of how America and her allies won the war in Europe.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Curtiss

    The third and much-anticpated final volume of Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy. This volume picks up the day after the liberation of Rome on June 5th 1944, at the end of "The Day of Battle", and continues with blow-by-blow account of the D-Day landings at Normany. The preface includes a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the strategic planning behind the invasion and the mammoth logistical planning which made it possible. As one passage states, "amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logi The third and much-anticpated final volume of Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy. This volume picks up the day after the liberation of Rome on June 5th 1944, at the end of "The Day of Battle", and continues with blow-by-blow account of the D-Day landings at Normany. The preface includes a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the strategic planning behind the invasion and the mammoth logistical planning which made it possible. As one passage states, "amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics." [This vital element of warfare is also grimly evident in the memoires of Ulysses S. Grant, which dwell almost exclusively on the logistics behind the Vicksburg campaign, the Wilderness Campaign ,and the road to Appomattox Courthouse.] Rick Atkinson also discusses the changing standards for draftability during the wartime years, as the need to provide the manpower to support the Allied logistical juggernaut led to the acceptance in 1944 of personnel who in 1942 would have been classified '4-F'. Draftees would eventually be approved blind in one eye, with three fingers on their non-shooting hand, and as few as 12 teeth (provided they were sufficient for the draftee to masticate their food with). Grim and informative, with quotations and anecdotes from official documents, letters and diary entries with perspective at all levels of command from President Roosevelt & Prime Minister Churchill, to George Marshall & Ike Eisenhower, all the way down to the troops in the foxholes. This volume deals with the third and fourth year of the war in Europe (from America's entry on), including the Normandy Invasion (Operations Neptune/Overlord); the breakout from the Brittany Hedgerows (Operation Cobra); the Strategic Bombing Campaigns against German industry, transportation, and population; the Invasion of Southern France (Operation Grenade), the 'failed' attempt to secure an early crossing of the Rhine (Operation Market/Garden); the strategic debate over whether to pursue the destruction of Germany's armies on a broad front, or go for a knock-out blow by aiming for Berlin with a single thrust; the Allies pause for breath short of the Ruhr with the onset of Winter; and the Nazi's last-gasp attempt to rupture the Allied front and drive to Antwerp resulting in the Battle of the Bulge. Instead of a glorious victory, this later effectively eliminated the last German mobile forces and shortened the war. Eisenhower does not come across as a 'great captain', but rather an astute politician, forced to contend with mammoth egos and national pride to achieve a war-winning coalition. The only characters to impress me were Brigadier General 'Dutch' Cota, commander of the much-embattled 29th Infantry Division, whose red keystone logo (they were a Pennsylvania outfit) and combat experiences led to their knick-name, 'the Bloody-Bucket', George S. Patton, whose record from Normandy on was exemplary (except for the diversion of a portion of his forces in a failed attempt to rescue his son-in-law from a Nazi POW camp - a singular example of jeopardizing the troops for his own personnal interest), and Audie Murphy who "exceeded even his own standards for heroism" at the Colmar Pocket, earning the Congressional Meal of Honor at the age of 19. While in my opinion, the first and second volumes each merited a Six ****** (6) star rating, the lack of any postwar discussion about what eventually happened to many of the key players, leaves me to 'down-grade' this volume to a mere Five ***** (5) stars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    This is the final book in the Liberation trilogy by Rick Atkinson. This is the story of the American involvement in WW II in the European theater told in three parts. This is the part that starts with D-day and goes to the end of the war in May of 1945. This book as well as the trilogy is in my estimation one of the finest works about this conflict I have ever read. Atkinson writes in a way that is very approachable and he has a way of explaining what is going on with simplicity and conciseness This is the final book in the Liberation trilogy by Rick Atkinson. This is the story of the American involvement in WW II in the European theater told in three parts. This is the part that starts with D-day and goes to the end of the war in May of 1945. This book as well as the trilogy is in my estimation one of the finest works about this conflict I have ever read. Atkinson writes in a way that is very approachable and he has a way of explaining what is going on with simplicity and conciseness with out over looking any relevant details. I think he excels at showing the human side of the allied leaders in a way that is not a typical depiction but he doesn't lessen your sense of the impact they make but you see more of how they are impacted by the events and issues they faced. The author also takes the time to show how the soldier on the front faces incredible challenges with perseverance and bravery. In the end though I think he is able to demonstrate how enormous and costly this war was and how it impacted people through the sheer destructiveness and inhuman demands that everyone faced and tried to cope with. This was brilliant writing that stands above a multitude of works about this era and is worth the time and expense to own and read. If you only read this trilogy and nothing else about WWII you would have a better grasp of the history and impact this war had then if you read 30 other books on this subject. Can't recommend this more highly.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy is a great series on World War II in the Western Theater. The first book, a Pulitzer Prize Winner, focuses on the early stages of the United States involvement in the War in Africa. This period is not covered in as much detail in most history books, but played a crucial role in America’s evolution as a military force. Allied forces made many mistakes in Africa, but learned from them. The Armies had to learn how to fight and work together. The second book, discus Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy is a great series on World War II in the Western Theater. The first book, a Pulitzer Prize Winner, focuses on the early stages of the United States involvement in the War in Africa. This period is not covered in as much detail in most history books, but played a crucial role in America’s evolution as a military force. Allied forces made many mistakes in Africa, but learned from them. The Armies had to learn how to fight and work together. The second book, discusses the expansion of the war as the allies attacked Italy and marched north toward Germany. The invasion of Italy proved to be a logistical nightmare, but as Axis defenses were not focused, the Allies were able to prevail. Again, this book talked about an area often overlooked in American’s understanding of WW II. Guns at Last Light focuses on the final phases of WW II in Europe. It talks about the preparation and execution of the Invasion at Normandy and the ensuing battles. While it is well written, this is the area of World War II that Americans typically know the most about---most of the WWII movies set in Europe occur after D-Day. As a result, this book lacks some of the intrigue that graced Atkinson’s first two books. The history felt more familiar and at times dragged out a bit. Atkinson is a skilled writer and the book is definitely worth reading as the final piece to this excellent trilogy, but without the antecedent books, this history would be a less appealing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilson

    This trilogy was my Big Reading Project of 2017 (finished with a few hours to spare!). It is a masterful, cohesive recounting of American efforts in North Africa and Europe, and the last installment is BY FAR the best. Atkinson reined in his flowery tendencies, and it’s the only one of the three books that deserves to be as long as it is. Patton, Eisenhower, Montgomery (grr!), Stalin, Bradley all get a lot of space, as do the letters home of regular enlisted men – unglamorous but truly affecting This trilogy was my Big Reading Project of 2017 (finished with a few hours to spare!). It is a masterful, cohesive recounting of American efforts in North Africa and Europe, and the last installment is BY FAR the best. Atkinson reined in his flowery tendencies, and it’s the only one of the three books that deserves to be as long as it is. Patton, Eisenhower, Montgomery (grr!), Stalin, Bradley all get a lot of space, as do the letters home of regular enlisted men – unglamorous but truly affecting and heroic. They didn’t even know at the time that they were saving civilization (along with the Soviets, couldn’t have done it without them).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leftbanker

    This is less a review and more a “why the hell aren’t you reading these books” rant. What are you waiting for? The Liberation Trilogy is the best account I’ve read about WWII. Period. My apologies to Antony Beevor and William L. Shirer. Reading this incredibly vivid account of the Normandie invasion it’s almost like I’m listening to a live broadcast of the horrors on the radio. You’d think that after reading the first two doorstop volumes in this trilogy that I’d have become somewhat calloused a This is less a review and more a “why the hell aren’t you reading these books” rant. What are you waiting for? The Liberation Trilogy is the best account I’ve read about WWII. Period. My apologies to Antony Beevor and William L. Shirer. Reading this incredibly vivid account of the Normandie invasion it’s almost like I’m listening to a live broadcast of the horrors on the radio. You’d think that after reading the first two doorstop volumes in this trilogy that I’d have become somewhat calloused about the ravages of war, instead, I’m as jittery as some old dowager in a Marx Brother’s movie who’s just seen a mouse. I think it’s called battle fatigue. “I’m no longer content unless I am with soldiers in the field,” he confessed, but added, “If I hear another fucking GI say ‘fucking’ once more, I’ll cut my fucking throat.” -Ernie Pyle When a V-1 was heard during a performance at the St. James Theatre, one patron muttered, “How squalid to be killed at this disgusting little farce.” Another laugh out loud bit: Troops poured into Naples for a final respite before the battle resumed, not just for “I&I”—intercourse and intoxication The whole “glory of war” mentality is such a cruel lie. Monty wanting “bold” moves” and not giving a damn how many men got chewed up in the process, and Patton always impatient to launch his next frontal attack or whatever. As he points out again and again in the books, Eisenhower was probably the perfect man with the perfect temperament for the impossible job that was forced on him. Just the diplomatic manner in which he dealt with an unbelievable poof like Monty—again and again—showed what a great leader he was. 8,000 British dead during Monty’s Market Garden fiasco—dude was a war criminal.

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