The Liberator

  • by Alex Kershaw
  • Narrated by Fred Sanders
  • 11 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The true story of the bloodiest and most dramatic march to victory of the Second World War: the battlefield odyssey of a maverick U.S. Army officer and his infantry unit as they fought for over five hundred days to liberate Europe - from the invasion of Italy to the gates of Dachau.
From July 10, 1943, the date of the Allied landing in Sicily, to May 8, 1945, when victory in Europe was declared - the entire time it took to liberate Europe - no regiment saw more action, and no single platoon, company, or battalion endured worse, than the ones commanded by Felix Sparks, who had entered the war as a greenhorn second lieutenant of the 157th "Eager for Duty" Infantry Regiment of the 45th "Thunderbird" Division. Sparks and his fellow Thunderbirds fought longest and hardest to defeat Hitler, often against his most fanatical troops, when the odds on the battlefield were even and the fortunes of the Allies hung in the balance - and when the difference between defeat and victory was a matter of character, not tactics or armor.
Drawing on extensive interviews with Sparks and dozens of his men, as well as over five years of research in Europe and in archives across the US, historian Alex Kershaw masterfully recounts one of the most inspiring and heroic journeys in military history. Over the course of four amphibious invasions, Sparks rose from captain to colonel as he battled from the beaches of Sicily through the mountains of Italy and France, ultimately enduring bitter and desperate winter combat against the diehard SS on the Fatherland's borders. Though he lost all of his company to save the Allied beach-head at Anzio and an entire battalion in the dark forests of the Vosges, Sparks miraculously survived the long bloody march across Europe and was selected to lead a final charge to Bavaria to hunt down Adolf Hitler.
In the dying days of the Third Reich, Sparks and his men crossed the last great barrier in the West, the Rhine, only to experience some of the most intense street fighting and close combat suffered by Americans in WWII. When they finally arrived at the gates of Dachau, Hitler's first and most notorious concentration camp, the Thunderbirds confronted scenes that robbed the mind of reason. With victory within grasp, Sparks confronted the ultimate test of his humanity: after all he had faced, could he resist the urge to wreak vengeance on the men who had caused untold suffering and misery?
Written with the narrative drive and vivid immediacy of Kershaw's previous best-selling books about American infantrymen in WWII, The Liberator is a story for the ages, an intensely human and dramatic account of one of history's greatest warriors and his unheralded role in America's finest achievement - the defeat of Nazi Germany.

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What the Critics Say

"[Kershaw] is a captivating narrator, hammering home the chaos and carnage of war, sparing no sensory detail to paint a cohesive picture. [His] portrayal of his subject (based on interviews with Sparks, who died in 2007, and other survivors) makes for a riveting, almost epic tale of a larger-than-life, underappreciated figure." (Publishers Weekly)
"This engrossing wartime narrative offers a fresh look at the European campaign and an intimate sense of the war’s toll on individual participants." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A searing, brilliantly told story of the heroism and horror of war, Alex Kershaw's The Liberator is a book that's impossible to put down. A must read for anyone who loved Band of Brothers." (Lynne Olson, author of Citizens of London)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

All for the PEACE & FREEDOM we enjoy today.

If you could sum up The Liberator in three words, what would they be?

Poignant, Gripping and Unfathomable Bravery.


Who was your favorite character and why?

Felix Sparks. Although he entered the war as a greenhorn, he had good tactics and commanding skills to lead a regiment that saw more action and endured worse than any other regiment or battalion in the history of WWII...not forgetting his LUCK to see it through to the end.


What about Fred Sanders’s performance did you like?

Fred Sanders is the great narrator by far. I really admired his ability to change his voice and play multiple characters with their corresponding accents. He is too good and I appreciate him reading this book.


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Sparks loosing all his 230 men; all of whom he knew very well, scenes about strong men reaching their breaking point and becoming non-functional in the war again, young soldiers committing suicide when the war starts because of fear they had never experienced before, and brave good men dying after taking out a lot of Krauts all made me feel like crying......but was able to hold back.


Any additional comments?

This book has really broadened my scope on WWII and really want more books like this. It's a book you can hardly put away and wish for more chapters. I really didn't want this book to end and right now that I'm done with it, really feel like starting it again. It's a never forgetting story of bravery and all the men who laid down their lives to make the world a better place. God bless their souls and God bless us. We pray for such events NEVER to happen again in the history of Mankind.

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- Kenzibit "Research Technologist with deep interests in Host Cell - Pathogen Interactions & Cancer Research. I enjoy and mostly listen to Non-Fiction audiobooks on Medicine/Science, War and History. I also like to Game when I'm not in the lab."

Now I Know What a Hero Really Is

I listened to this book having read a number of very engaging books about WWII. As a 47 year old male who never experienced war, I am fascinated by the bravery of men like Sparks who experienced brutality and bravery on a scale seldom matched.

Listening to this book while driving in my car to work, I found myself for the first time understanding the pain and sacrifice of men who moved toward danger and fought for an ideal. I cannot fathom what it was like on the beaches, caves and in the most terrifying situations but I can understand that these men are special and for that no amount of gratitude comes even close to thanking them.

The book really hit home when Sparks and his men liberated Dachau. With absolutely no frame of reference to see this living nightmare, it is no wonder that any of these men could even articulate what transpired. When one of the soldiers said "now I know what we were fighting against", nothing could have connected the dots better regarding the need to fight such an evil.

To anyone who wants to understand what war is like and look up to men who are real heroes...please listen to this book.
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- Steven

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-30-2012
  • Publisher: Random House Audio