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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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  3,694 ratings  ·  428 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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4.22  · 
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 ·  3,694 ratings  ·  428 reviews

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'Aussie Rick'
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2, read-military
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
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2-on-land
What a good read this was. It is the story of Felix Sparks and his journey through World War 2, but it also brings in many different and interesting little tales of the campaigns and men he fought with and for. His story isn't like the glory of many other books of men who fought in the war, but also tells of the real horror, the bureaucracy of the army, the glory seeking leaders and the average soldiers life on the front and in the rear while resting. I like all these little facts and stories Ke ...more
Jill Mackin
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Felix Sparks is a hero from WW2. He helped with the invasion of Italy and fought all the way into Germany. Along the way he liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp. Alex Kershaw has written an excellent story of Col. Sparks leadership and a great saga recounting his tour in Europe.

Highly recommend.
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, wwii
This is a story of Felix Sparks and his rise through the ranks as a National Guard soldier who is shipped out with the 157th Regiment, known as the Thunderbirds who would start their war with the landings in Sicily. This Regiment would be in the war 511 days, loose 3,650 men, suffer 13,729 men wounded in battle, and 41,647 non combat casualities yet be one of the least written about least awarded Regiments in the war.
Like all stories of war and the men who fight them and the men charged with le
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 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.

May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jill Hutchinson
Why haven't we ever heard of Felix Sparks, a young man whose experiences, bravery, and loyalty to his men in WWII are the epitome of heroism? This is his story which starts with his visit, in 1989, at the age of 72, to the battlefields where he and his men fought against the retreating Germans as American forces started their long journey through Europe to victory.

Sparks was a member of the 157th Regiment of the famous Thunderbird Division which landed on the shores of Sicily in an operation tha
Kenneth Barber
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book chronicles the life of Felix Sparks. Born in New Mexico, Felix joins a National Guard unit comprised of men from Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The unit took the thunderbird as their unit emblem and were known by that symbol. His unit was part of the 45th Division. They first fought in the landings in Sicily. They next went to Italy and took part in the Anzio campaign. From there the unit landed in southern France and fought their way to Germany. His unit was the first to enter Dac ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
For me the power of this story began at the gates of Dachau

Aside from the extraordinary story of Felix Sparks I learned about what happened the day Dachau concentration camp was liberated. The emotional anguish and trauma the American troops were not ready nor trained to anticipate or experience. Who could have ever believed that this level of genocide could exist? Some events occurred on that day which were less than, shall we say, heroic. Sparks rose to the occasion and his integrity kept a li
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!
Mark Hartzer
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Even though I loved this book, it was not an easy read for me for a number of reasons. 1st, Kershaw does a remarkable job presenting the 'unvarnished' version of war and what transpires. He tracks the 45th Infantry Division and focuses primarily on Felix Sparks who would become a colonel. The brutality and horror of war is eloquently described. For example, on page 114, during the Anzio campaign, he writes: "On busy streets like the Via Roma pimps and black marketers were almost as numerous as t ...more
Ronald Roseborough
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war, military, non-fiction
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
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, biography, 2018
Kershaw ably depicts the terror and struggle of the Second World War through the eyes of Felix Sparks, an officer with the 45th Division (The Thunderbirds) composed of men from the southwest. A poor boy from a depression mining town in Arizona, Sparks enlisted in the 30s, thrived in the army, and then was recalled as an officer for the war.

To paraphrase Sparks, getting promoted in the infantry is easy, all you need to do is survive. Now, surviving is the hard part. The 45th landed at Sicily, Sa
Paul Greenpage
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  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. Four stars.
Apr 02, 2017 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
David Hill
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-wwii
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 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 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 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
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: wwii-europe
I agree with the Goodreads reviewer who called Kershaw's book "pedestrian." It is such and sloppy too. It contains a surprising number of minor errors. For example, Hitler's Wolf's Lair headquarters was not in Poland (page 32), but East Prussia. The site is now in Poland, but not when described in the book. Famous U.S. Army cavalryman, Lucian Truscott was not "Lucien" (Pg. 141). Schloss Johannesburg is not "Joahnnesburg" as on Page 234. Operation Mincemeat was not a counter-intelligence operatio ...more
Herb Hastings
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cannot praise this book enough. As a history of World War 11 combat it is excellent and insightful. As a biography of Felix Sparks, it is well researched and moving. Sparks was a combat commander who led men from the invasion of Sicily to the final battles in southern Germany. He was a remarkable man and his story should be better known. He was in command of the unit that liberated the concentration camp Dachau, a horror that he and his combat veteran unit were unable to absorb. From the barel ...more
Joel B Champagne
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Portrait of a Hero

Excellent portrait of an ordinary man doing the extraordinary. Felix Sparks doing a job he despised often far better than many of the people given the education and background of the professional soldier. An outstanding biography of a true WWII hero.
Mike Gunderloy
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very readable WWII history, following the career of one officer who went through the Sicily, Anzio, and SW France invasions, was involved in some of the fiercest fighting on the German borders, and ended up part of the liberation of Dachau. A good reminder that there are many other stories in that war beyond D-Day and the Russians taking Berlin.
Mar 27, 2017 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 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 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.
Quintin Kump
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Liberator
By: Alex Kershaw

I wish I had more of a soldier's perspective, the book was good though.

My honest opinion is that the book shows what happened from trying to stop germany on there way. The main character in this book is named Felix Sparks which is someone who suffered a lot from the great depression and when confronted by someone who was asking people to join the army. Which he then becomes a military leader from being a soldier. I liked the part where they were in silica and when
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction, war
I found "The Liberator" by Alex Kershaw to be a unique and excellent vehicle to learn about World War II. Kershaw follows one soldier, Felix Sparks from landing on Sicily, fighting through Sicily, then up the 'boot' of Italy, another landing in southern France, north through eastern France, crossing the Rhine River into Germany, fighting through Germany to Bavaria, and, most significantly, liberating the Dachau Concentration Camp. The most amazing fact to me is that Felix Sparks actually survive ...more
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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 The First Wave: The D Day Warriors Who Led The Way to Victory in WWII. He lives in Savannah.
“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” 7 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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