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 dramatic non-fiction book about the amazing journey of officer (later General) Felix L. Sparks. It’s an excellent, well researched account of soldiers on the ground and the liberation of Dachau. Author Alex Kershaw interviewed Sparks before he died in 2007, which adds to the authenticity and reliability of the story.
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. Sparks proves to be a natural leader and a man of high intelligence, morality, and respectability, leading his men in four amphibious invasions, through the rough mountainous terrains of Italy and France and winter combat against the SS on the German border.
Somehow Sparks survives, one of the few in his unit to survive the bloody march, and is put in charge to lead the hunt for Hitler into Bavaria. However, Sparks and his man stumble onto the notorious concentration camp Dachau whose horrors force them to struggle with their humanity and sense of revenge.
Sparks, the only man to survive the war from his original company, is portrayed as a man of courage, intelligence, and integrity. There are numerous times when Sparks, commander in the 45th “Thunderbird” Division of the National Guard, risks his life to save his men, protecting them and flirting with danger instead of sitting on the sidelines.
The Liberator describes the day to day grind that the soldiers had to endure, chock-full of details not only of the big picture, but the small stuff that matters every day. A very poignant part is the liberation of the concentration camp Dachau; the soldiers couldn’t believe what they were seeing, and even I had a difficult time reading about the horrors which ensued in the camp.
The book is fast-paced, telling a remarkable story in an easily read narrative. The Liberator is always exciting and interesting, celebrating one of the many heroes of “The Greatest Generation.”
- 448 pages
- Publisher: Crown
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307887995