Monday, 10 March 2014

(Audio) Book Review - "The Liberator" by Alex Kershaw

[Flying back to Seattle today. Should have more time in the evenings for the rest of this week - being mostly over the jet lag helps!

Must not succumb to 15mm 'Nam...]

Picked this up on my Audible subscription a month or so ago: it's the biography of Felix Sparks, an officer in the US 157th Infantry Regiment from the Sicily invasion through to the liberation of Germany during WW2.

Impressions?

From a wargamer/military history point of view, it did open my eyes rather to the 'other' European campaigns (Sicily, Italy and the South of France), which is good, as I think we do tend to all get a bit hung up on the glories of D-Day and the Normandy campaign. Certainly gave me some ideas.

The writing is definitely more of a biography than a military history - it does also jump viewpoint characters a bit, for all it's about Sparks. My major gripes? The excusable one is the classic 'every gun's an 88' - not quite true in this case, but there are things referred to as '88s that I'd be very surprised if they were. The author also suffers a bit from the 'make and model'-itis disease a lot of military writers do - everything on the US side has to have its model name... My major gripe, though is that Kershaw does get a bit 'gosh wow' about stats - every artillery barrage is categorised in terms of rounds/minute, and every one tries to be the worst yet, for example.

That aside? An interesting and thought-provoking listen. The author does a particularly good job of covering the controversy surrounding the shooting of a number of SS soldiers by some of Sparks' men during the liberation of Dachau. I need to do some more research from other viewpoints about the whole story of those events, but Kershaw certainly makes me want to do so.

The book's full title is The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey From the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau, and if you'd rather read it than listen to it, that's an Amazon link.

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