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

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  2,458 Ratings  ·  321 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

Hardcover, 433 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Crown
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'Aussie Rick'
May 08, 2012 'Aussie Rick' rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-military, ww2
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
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’d 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,
Oct 09, 2012 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
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.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Oct 12, 2012 Ronald Roseborough rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war, non-fiction, military
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
Apr 02, 2017 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Like any small boy, I guess I have always enjoyed war comic books and the series and films depicting combat. The Band of Brothers TV series took use all to new levels of almost film documentary and reading Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest left me thinking no future diary or account of men at war would top it.
Well in The Liberator by Alex Kershaw I might need to re-evaluate as he has just taken me on a bloody and brutal journey of
Paul Greenpage
Mar 20, 2017 Paul Greenpage rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great robin. Real page-turner saw me finish this within a week. Not a dedicated biography throughout, and in being so, has opened up doors to other adjacent robins of characters intertwined with Sparks' story, that I have since shelved as to-robin. Five stars.
David Hill
Feb 16, 2017 David Hill rated it it was amazing
Thinking about what I wanted to say here, for a while I considered a minor niggle: it's not so much one soldier's odyssey as it is a unit history. I would be correct to pick that nit, but also not correct. This is not a personal history; it's not Felix Sparks telling his story. And it is the story of the 157th Infantry Regiment. But, having got to the end, I'm not sure how one could tell the story of the 157th Infantry Regiment without concentrating on Sparks for he was clearly at the center of ...more
Read Ng
Sep 15, 2012 Read Ng rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, first-reads
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.
Chace Howland
Sep 11, 2012 Chace Howland rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 08, 2012 Mark Mortensen rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 27, 2017 Pat rated it really liked it
I grew up in the same area as this man, but had never heard of him, sad. He lived an extraordinary life and has the stories to back that up.
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
Aug 23, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michaela Eby
Oct 04, 2012 Michaela Eby rated it it was amazing
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.
Zohar -
Oct 18, 2012 Zohar - rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
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 – the Thunderbirds. Spa
Oct 14, 2012 LunaWave rated it it was amazing
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
Paul Mcfarland
Nov 18, 2012 Paul Mcfarland rated it it was amazing
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
Mike Harbert
Jun 08, 2013 Mike Harbert rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 02, 2012 Jordana rated it really liked it

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
Leonard Romney
Aug 02, 2013 Leonard Romney rated it it was amazing
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.

Mar 27, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii
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.
Betty Kay
Feb 08, 2014 Betty Kay rated it it was amazing
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!
May 06, 2015 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Great book. Kershaw writes brilliantly of Felix Sparks. One of the bravest people nobody has ever heard about. Amazing story as we follow Sparks from Sicily to Dachau. Loved it.
Michele Weiner
Dec 16, 2012 Michele Weiner rated it really liked it
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
4Buffo A
Nov 13, 2015 4Buffo A rated it it was amazing
The book The Liberator by Alex Kershaw tells the personal account of World War II solider Felix Sparks’ 500 day odyssey from the beaches of Sicily to the gates of Dachau. Felix is a young man from Miami, Arizona who joins the Army because he is living San Francisco doing dead end jobs that required “he pay $15 to join a union to get a job” (12). Sparks is walking along the pier when a recruiter for the US Army walks by and asks him “do you want to join the Army” Sparks kept on walking, but thoug ...more
Oct 21, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it
Thanks to all the stellar re-examinations of WWII through the collective efforts of Steven Spielberg, Stephen Ambrose, Tom Hanks, etc., a younger American would be excused for believing that WWII was fought solely through Normandy and into Germany. Alex Kershaw's bloody biography, "The Liberator," reminds us of the thousands of Americans who gave the last full measure in vastly different campaigns.

Kershaw's subject is the iron-willed Arizonan Felix Sparks. A child of the Dust Bowl and the Depres
Shaz Goodwin
Dec 07, 2012 Shaz Goodwin rated it really liked it
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
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Alex Kershaw is the author of the widely acclaimed best sellers The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Few, The Liberator, and Escape from the Deep, as well as biographies of Jack London, Raoul Wallenberg and Robert Capa. His latest book is Avenue of Spies. He lives in Massachusetts.
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“The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, what you do—is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny … it is the light that guides your way. —HERACLITUS” 4 likes
“His only realistic hope of survival was to order his own artillery to fire on his positions to stall the German attack. Some of his own men might be killed, but “pulling the chain,” as it was called, was his only option.” 2 likes
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