The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau
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The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  605 ratings  ·  166 reviews
The riveting true story of the bloodiest and most dramatic march to victory of the Second World War, following the battlefield odyssey of a maverick U.S. Army officer and his infantry unit as they fought from the invasion of Italy to the liberation of Dachau at war's end.

From July 10, 1943, the date of the Allied landing in Sicily, to May 8, 1945, when victory in Europe wa...more
Hardcover, 433 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Crown (first published 2012)
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'Aussie Rick'
OK, where to start with this review ….. the author, Alex Kershaw has done us all a service by telling us the story of a great and humble man, a soldier who served his country during WW2 and took more interest in his men than in himself. The man in question, unknown to most of us until now, was Felix Sparks. I dare say, an average American, who becomes an extraordinary combat leader.

Alex Kershaw decided to take us on this journey with Felix Sparks and the men of the 157th Infantry Regiment of the...more
This is an extremely well written, solidly researched book that brings a slice of WWII history brilliantly to life. I've read similar titles that are no more than dull summaries of troop movements but because Kershaw makes generous use of personal interviews and letters, his writing is peppered with first-person narrative quotes that make the reader feel as if they were there.

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Read Ng
One last serious omission. P. 310 The last sentence of that section truncates without completing the sentence. ... By two o'clock that afternoon, they.... And the sentence is unfinished. I don't know what they did!

This was a GoodReads giveaway. I am so lucky. It was a pleasure to experience.

We all know that the Allies win against the Axis. But at what price? The horrors of war were never told to me with such pain. I knew that war was hell, but to live it in the eyes of a hero is something else....more
A.L. Sowards
This book is a well-written story of an incredible man. Felix Sparks joined the US Army one day when, out of money and unable to find work, he ran into a recruiter. He saved his money, started college, and then found himself called back into the army as fear of war escalated. After Pearl Harbor, he knew he’ll be in for the long haul.

Sparks served with the 157th regiment, the Thunderbirds, a National Guard unit from Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. By the time they arrived in Europe,...more
This is a well written and well researched account of the WWII action of Felix Sparks and the 45th Thunderbird Division. A gripping story and well worth the read!
Ronald Roseborough
Another great book from a great chronicler of World War II. Some who see a new book about World War II will say it is just a rehashing of oft told tales. But, as long as there are yet men alive who have witnessed that war, there will still be new stories to be told that recount it's horrors. Still be lessons to be learned for those who will listen. Felix Sparks survived over 500 days in combat from June 1943 till May 1945. His odyssey took him from the beaches of Sicily to the Bavarian mountains...more
Chace Howland
Once again, Alex Kershaw has placed his reader in a fox hole directly in the center of hell. Kershaw's, The Liberator, is a riveting and explicit narrative that allows the reader to see via imagination what he or she is reading before his or herself. Not only for the military historian, but the average reader, The Liberator quenches the thirst of anyone interested in stories of inspiration, love, perseverance and camaraderie. Felix Sparks, a poor young lad of the Depression seeking to find his w...more
Mark Mortensen
This smoothly written nonfiction novel is an unvarnished biography of World War II US Army officer Felix Sparks, a gritty warrior assigned to the 157th Infantry Regiment in the heralded 45th “Thunderbird” Division, who rose to become a battalion commander over the course of a 2,000 mile trek of 8 campaigns and more than 500 days fighting on the European Front. It’s amazing that Sparks lived through it all. I was drawn to the book because Spark’s first engagement begins with the less publicized a...more
This the first book I have read about WWII through a soldier's perspective. Normally, I avoid books dealing with combat, because they seem impersonal and chaotic. This book has changed my perspective. While the element of chaos was still present, I was still able to follow all the campaigns with the different regiments. Everything felt immensely personal as well. I felt for Sparks and his troops. War has a different connotation for me now. I will be reading more from this genre in the future, as...more
Michaela Eby
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

As an avid reader of history-related literature, I read anything I can get my hands on that relates to the past. The Liberator was one of the best I've read, an amazing book which was easy to follow. I had initially had reservations before reading it, thinking that with all of the battles and names it would be difficult to keep up with, but I was gratefully proven wrong.

Felix Sparks and the soldiers who fought in WWII are true American heroes....more
Dec 10, 2012 Lisa marked it as to-read
I won this on First Reads.

I take reading and reviewing books very seriously. Due to deaths and major family health issues, I have not been able to dedicate time or energy towards reading or reviewing. I do not want to do either half heartedly, so I will have to post this for now and will come back when things slow down. At that time I will update this with a proper review.
Zohar -
The Lib­er­a­tor: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau by Alex Ker­shaw is a non-fiction book about the amaz­ing jour­ney of offi­cer (later Gen­eral) Felix L. Sparks. The book is an excel­lent, well researched account of sol­diers on the ground and the lib­er­a­tion of Dachau.

Join­ing the Army to get away from the depres­sion, 25 year-old Felix Spars arrives in Italy as a cap­tain in the 157th Infantry Reg­i­ment of the 45th Divi­sion – th...more
Paul Mcfarland
Felix Sparks was a son of the great depression. He spent several years on the road with millions of other young men. Looking for work to do and trying to find a place in life. In 1937 he found a place in the US Army. He entered the military as a private. He left as a Lt. Colonel. During that time he served with the 45th “Thunderbird” Division. He saw action with this unit throughout some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

The Division Landed in North Africa and were trained in invasion tactics...more
Donna B
This book was sent to me as a goodreads first read and I am so grateful for the chance to read the first-hand account of Felix Sparks and his dedication to the men who served under him - the Thunderbirds.

Another amazing story from Alex Kershaw. The worst aspects of war are not sugar-coated however, the remarkable nature of Felix Sparks and his willingness to place himself in harms way to protect his unit is amazing in and of itself. This story not only outlines Felix Sparks and the the Thunderb...more
Betty Kay
Having a Daddy who never talked about his experiences in the Second World War, this book helped me understand the reason for his silence. I have felt a plethora of emotion while reading about Felix Sparks, his family, his men, and his enemies. Great read!
Another great book on WWII by Alex Kershaw! This book follows the story of Felix Sparks and the fighting Thunderbirds from Italy to the liberation of Dachau. It really is a great story, that I wasn't familiar with before reading this book. One of the reasons I like reading an Alex Kershaw book is that he really makes you feel history on a personal level with the soldier's stories that he tells. His books read more like a novel than just another dry account of historical events. He always helps m...more

This book was sent to me as a goodreads first read.

This book took one on an incredible journey. It is an honest look at war: the loss, the pain, bravery, the anger, fear, moments of humanity, beauty, and shocking atrocities committed. The book holds your attention and kept the pace moving, although there were moments where I wished it didn't move quite as fast. The descriptions made it possible to get a sense of what Felix Sparks and his men, and others, had to endure. Whether it be tactical di...more
Leonard Romney
Another great read, this is the story of one infantry man's 500+ days of fighting in Europe beginning in1943. Felix Sparks fought and lead from the front, a rare thing for most infantry officers, beginning in Sicily and ending at Dachau outside Munich. Great writing. Well researched. We would never go to war if we forced our leaders to read the horrors of war depicted in this book, before combat. Sparks was a real, real hero
Cindy Novak-delaurell
Once again, Alex Kershaw has composed a gripping story about the heroic men that fought in WWII. The Liberator follows Felix Sparks as he rose through the ranks of the military whilst fighting some of the toughest, bloodiest battles in the European Theater.
This book is a 'must have' for anyone who is a student or enthusiast of military and WWII history.

Absolutely incredible biography of a relatively unknown hero of WWII. Kershaw as usual, has the writing style of a novelist and presents history in living and vivid picture. I cannot recommend this book enough. Sparks is a true hero whose story deserves to be told. If you like WWII or biographies please do yourself a favor and read this.
Michele Weiner
The Liberator is the story of Felix Sparks, a native of Miami, Arizona, who left home during the Depression to make his fortune, and finding no work, finally joined the National Guard, the Thunderbird Division, whose men were largely from Colorado, Oklahoma and Arizona. The Thunderbird insignia was a swastika, rapidly changed to a Thunderbird after the Nazis appropriated this ancient symbol. Sparks was sent to Sicily when his National Guard unit was activated to fight in WWII. He accompanied the...more
Shaz Goodwin
The Liberator is the story of one mans war, Felix Sparks, from his recruitment into the US Infantry’s 45th “Thunderbirds” Division right through until VE day. Most observers only think of the US Army involvement in the Second World War from June 1944 and the Normandy Landings, but some units such as Spark’s had landed in Sicily and already endured 12 months of fierce fighting against the German Army at their strongest and most confident all through Italy and Southern France.

The Author, Alex Kers...more
Alex Kershaw's "The Liberator" is a refreshing examination of the Second World War in Europe. Vibrantly told through the first-person accounts of Colonel Felix Sparks of the 45th Infantry Division, Kershaw humanizes the tragic and poignant experiences of the ground soldier that are most often overlooked in large-scale campaign studies. From Sicily to Anzio, through the Siegfried Line and on to Dachau, the 45th saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest combat on the European continent. Kershaw follo...more
Mike Harbert
Alex Kershaw provides a well written and well researched account of one man's journey through the Second World War. The story follows Felix Sparks from when he hops a freight train from his depression era home in Oklahoma through his initial enlistment in the Army (largely in search of his next meal and a place to sleep). Sparks goes on to enroll in college only to be recalled to active duty just prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. As a member of the 45th Infantry Division (Thunderbirds), the stor...more
Liz Waters
This book is the story of Felix Sparks, from his youth riding the rails during the height of the Depression to his army service during World War II. From landing in Sicily through many of the critical battles of the war, Sparks' story is one of perseverance and bravery. It also takes on the debate over what really happened when Dachau was liberated. In recent years, Holocaust deniers have tried to say that American soldiers invented much of the Holocaust horror to cover up excessive force used G...more
This was an amazing book, similar to "Unbroken" but maybe not quite that good. I still rated this 5 stars because it's about a regular guy who was a hobo in his teens, looking for work during the Great Depression. He ended up, somehow, finding the Army and marrying a great girl from his hometown in Arizona. He ends up becoming an infantry officer, leading his National Guard unit into WWII. They begin in Italy and end up at a concentration camp. This man fought in WWII for almost 2 years straight...more
World War II has always been in my memory for a couple of reasons. One is that my father served in the navy during it, and was at the battle for Iwo Jima. Two is that I was born 2 years after the war ended, and it just felt “close” when I was growing up. I grew to admire Felix Sparks more, the soldier about whom this book was written, with every page of this novel. My admiration culminated in the story of him battling the NRA in Colorado when his 16 year old grandson was killed by a handgun many...more
Gary Land
This was a riveting book, telling the story of Felix Sparks and the Thunderbirds, the 45th division of the U.S. Army, who fought WW2 from the beaches of Anzio to the Dachau concentration camp. Sparks began as a second lieutenant of the 157th infantry regiment and rose to colonel, miraculously surviving when 9 out of 10 men in the regiment died, were wounded, or taken prisoner. I have never been in the military, much less war, but it seems to me that Kershaw takes us as close to the actual experi...more
Patricia C
Absolutely the best WWII novel I have ever read. Every high school student in this country should be reading this book as required in-class reading. I couldn't put it down -- unbelievable what these men went through...the violence, the utter disregard for human life...fascinating and heartbreaking.
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Alex Kershaw is the author of the widely acclaimed best sellers The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Few, and Escape from the Deep, as well as biographies of Jack London, Raoul Wallenberg and Robert Capa. His latest book is The Liberator. He lives in Massachusetts.
More about Alex Kershaw...
The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War II's Most Decorated Platoon The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice Escape from the Deep: A Legendary Submarine and her Courageous Crew The Few: The American "Knights of the Air" Who Risked Everything to Fight in the Battle of Britain The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II

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