- Series: The Liberation Trilogy (Book 3)
- Hardcover: 896 pages
- Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; Volume Three of The Liberation Trilogy edition (May 14, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805062904
- ISBN-13: 978-0805062908
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 48.4 x 244.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,744 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (The Liberation Trilogy) Volume Three of The Liberation Trilogy Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Curated Collections of History Books
Browse through handpicked collections of rare, vintage and antiquarian history books. Learn more on AbeBooks.com.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Spanning D-day to V-E Day, Atkinson culminates his three-volume epic of the U.S. Army in Europe during WWII. Readers of the prior volumes (An Army at Dawn, 2002; The Day of Battle, 2007) will discover a thematic continuation in this one, namely, criticism of American generalship. Debacles such as Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, and Patton’s zany raid to liberate a POW camp punctuate the narrative of the U.S. Army’s otherwise remorseless advance toward victory over the German army. To describe the high command’s thinking concerning operations that turned into fiascoes, Atkinson funnels their postwar apologia through his appreciation of a particular battlefield situation, graphically conceptualized in this tome’s excellent cartography. While casting generals in the light of human frailty, Atkinson allocates anecdotal abundance to soldiers’ ground-war experiences. Emphasizing loss, he quotes many last letters from men destined to die. With a mastery of sources that support nearly every sentence, Atkinson achieves a military history with few peers as an overview of the 1944–45 campaigns in Western Europe. --Gilbert Taylor
“A magnificent book… Though the story may seem familiar, I found surprising detail on every page… Atkinson's account of D-Day is both masterly and lyrical… [He] is an absolute master of his material.” ―Max Hastings, The Wall Street Journal
“A tapestry of fabulous richness and complexity… Atkinson is a master of what might be called ‘pointillism history,' assembling the small dots of pure color into a vivid, tumbling narrative. . . . The Liberation Trilogy is a monumental achievement, about 2,500 pages in all, densely researched but supremely readable.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Breathtaking, unforgettable… Atkinson provides us with especially poignant descriptions in a blaze of writing and research that matches the drama and significance of the moment, all without peer in modern history … This volume is a literary triumph worthy of the military triumph it explores and explains.” ―The Boston Globe
“Monumental… As befits a journalist who knows his material inside and out, Atkinson can provide the incisive explanation to a complex situation or personage… A masterpiece of deep reporting and powerful storytelling.” ―The Los Angeles Times
“[Atkinson] reconstructs the period from D-Day to V-E Day by weaving a multitude of tiny details into a tapestry of achingly sublime prose… With great sensitivity, Atkinson conveys the horrible reality of what soldiers had to become to defeat Hitler's Germany.” ―The Washington Post
“Detailed in its research, unsparing in its judgments and confident in its prose…This trilogy--on which [Atkinson has] spent 12 years, twice as long as the war itself--may well be his masterpiece.” ―Time
“Great characters, vivid details…The final volume of Rick Atkinson's ‘Liberation Trilogy' proves again that few can re-tell a story as well as he.” ―USA Today
“A glorious epic… [Atkinson] never stoops to breathless prose in this perfectly paced account and always comes up with fresh and revealing details.” ―Antony Beevor, The Wall Street Journal
“A remarkable conclusion to his three parts on WWII… A fabulous book.” ―Tom Brokaw on MSNBC's Morning Joe
“The Guns at Last Light . . . is history written at the level of literature . . . Atkinson's story is propelled by vivid descriptions and delicious details . . . World War II's reverberations will roll down the centuries in its geopolitical consequences, and in the literature it elicited in letters and in histories like Atkinson's trilogy.” ―George Will, The Washington Post
“The same qualities that garnered Atkinson a Pulitzer Prize for An Army at Dawn--meticulous research married to masterful narrative--are apparent in The Guns at Last Light. The new book relates the oft-told (but never better) story of the war's final year, from D-Day to the German surrender.” ―The Chicago Tribune
“Epic, set-piece battle sequences are balanced by deft portraiture. The Greatest Generation is nearly gone…. The Liberation Trilogy is the monument it deserves.” ―Vanity Fair
“A sweeping, prodigiously researched epic… The Guns at Last Light is a definitive, heartfelt work of grandeur, atrocity, and profound sorrow. It is also, along with the two previous volumes, a long, fervent prayer for the fallen.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer
“[An] extraordinary accomplishment. This is a beautifully written, moving account of one of the most bittersweet chapters in modern history… The details build a stunning and precise account of major movements--from Normandy to Paris, from the South of France to Grenoble--and close-up portraits of famous figures that make them living, breathing beings.” ―Smithsonian Magazine
“A riveting book…Few historians have Atkinson's gift for language and few journalists pay as much attention to historical sources…Atkinson writes with the descriptive and lyrical power of a first-rate novelist.” ―Christian Science Monitor
“The final volume of Atkinson's World War II trilogy is just great reading: From Hemingway's liberating a Parisian hotel (and raiding its bar) to the American soldiers discovering concentration camps, the entire story is absolutely riveting.” ―People
“Emotionally gripping… This 850-page military history captivates the reader with the high drama of a spellbinding novel and a cast of characters that a master storyteller would be hard-pressed to invent… It's hard to imagine a more engrossing, dramatic, fair-minded and elegantly written account of these 11 months that changed the course of history.” ―Associated Press
“In the final volume of his sweeping World War II trilogy, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson recounts the battle for Western Europe (from D-Day to V-E Day) through the eyes of those who were on the front lines, masterfully bringing this pivotal chapter of history back to vivid life.” ―Parade
“A terrific read… Atkinson never loses track of the men who fought the war. Mining their diaries and letters, he has produced an account that is achingly human.” ―The Miami Herald
“A richly detailed narrative of the war final's year, with riveting looks at D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.” ―San Diego Union-Tribune
“Atkinson paints on a vast canvas while stressing the details. He cites the experiences of soldiers -- officers and grunts alike -- caught up in a conflagration beyond their comprehension. He preserves the humanity of humans in an inhumane situation… Passages describe human courage and depravity in such vivid prose that readers need to pause, reflect and regroup… His book is a fitting tribute.” ―Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Soon, if not already, Atkinson will show up on the list of giants, as later historians stand on his shoulders.” ―The Dallas Morning News
“An epic conclusion to an epic historical trilogy about an epic quest to preserve Western freedom, The Guns at Last Light is sure to join its predecessor volumes in the best-seller ranks, and confirms the Liberation Trilogy as a new benchmark against which World War II books yet to be written will be measured.” ―Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“A monumental piece of historical writing.” ―San Jose Mercury News
“Exhaustively researched, highly readable . . . Just over 16 million Americans served in uniform in the war, and only one million are expected to still be alive at the end of next year. Seven decades later, the story of their service remains compelling, and that's why so many find it worthy of retelling.” ―Buffalo News
“The consummate historian rounds out his prize-winning Liberation Trilogy with a lengthy yet always-engrossing account of the final campaigns on the Western Front, which included D-Day and the well-known Battle of the Bulge. This closing volume is perfect for armchair historians, military buffs, and all those interested in how the Allies finally achieved victory in 1945.” ―Charleston City Paper
“A terrific read. . . [The Guns at Last Light]is narrative history at its best, providing not only an excellent chronicle of the war in Europe but also fascinating human interest stories and first-rate character studies of the major figures, as well as stories of ordinary soldiers. It is truly an outstanding study of the war and a must read for anyone interested in the Second World War.” ―Bowling Green Daily News (Kentucky)
“Crisp narrative drive, prodigious research and incisive analysis of people and events ... Atkinson's latest work is probably the single best volume about the war in Europe from the D-Day invasion … to the capitulation of German forces … Rick Atkinson … has become a poet of the war.” ―The Washington Independent Review of Books
“Superb…Atkinson writes sensitively, even lyrically…The Guns at Last Light offers an outstanding testament to all who sacrificed to defeat Hitler's Third Reich.” ―The Louisville Courier-Journal
“The master of narrative military history ends his Liberation Trilogy with this admired account of the 1944-45 fighting in Western Europe.” ―St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“The Guns at Last Light is an important addition to the World War II bookshelf.” ―The Washington Times
“Impressively researched … and energetically written, with a brisk pace that carries the reader easily through the narrative's 600-plus pages.” ―The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Stark photographs complement the excellent prose.” ―Richmond Times Dispatch
“[The Guns at Last Light] is deep in detail, narrative and character description. Readers encounter famous generals -- Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, and a host of lower officers -- in illuminated portrayals, warts and all.” ―Knoxville News Sentinel
“Rick Atkinson's triumphant keystone in his three-part arch of World War II, 14 years in the writing, is a masterpiece . . . The Guns at Last Light will stand as the best of books about the biggest of wars.” ―The Marine Corps Gazette
“The Guns at Last Light and the Liberation Trilogy is as good as it gets. . . a historical tour-de-force of over 2,000 pages that places Atkinson among the short list of narrative history masters. . . Students and scholars of countless future generations will look to Atkinson for the story of how freedom bested tyranny in Africa and Europe.” ―On Point: The Journal of Army History
“Sweeping in scope, Shakespearean in drama and angst, unsparing in its observations, and rich in detail… Atkinson said that he wrote the trilogy as an effort to tell [the story of the frontline troops] ‘vividly and authoritatively, to current and future generations.' That he has.” ―Defense Media Network
“Atkinson's zest for research and his evident devotion to hard facts never obscures the grace of his writing. The proof of that lies less in the many accolades and prizes (including a Pulitzer in history in 2003) than simply in the reading. Rare is a 600-page-plus history book that qualifies as a page turner.” ―Military History Magazine
“Brilliant…Each volume [of the Liberation Trilogy] is characterized by superb research and fine writing. The high standard set in the prologue to the first volume carries through the epilogue to the last.” ―BG Harold W. Nelson, Army Magazine
“Richly rewarding and beautifully crafted …With lyrical élan, [Atkinson] accurately and objectively tells the greatest story of our time, and does so with the general reader always in mind.” ―World War II Magazine
“Triumphant . . . Critics have correctly praised [The Guns at Last Light's] depth, its evocative nature, and its grasp of the human dimensions of this titanic campaign without losing sight of a broader narrative. . . [Atkinson has] produced a profound work, worthy of being rapidly placed on the service chiefs' and other senior American commanders' reading lists.” ―Foreign Policy.com
“A marvelous capstone to a trilogy that will make Rick Atkinson to the U.S. Army in the European Theater of Operations what Shelby Foote is to the Civil War … Mr. Atkinson has a rare ability to combine a historian's eye with a reporter's pen to simultaneously provide a sweep and detail to combat that is both unique and enjoyable for the novice student and the hardiest grognard.” ―New York Journal of Books
“Superb… Atkinson brings his Liberation Trilogy to a resounding close… An outstanding work of popular history, in the spirit of William Manchester and Bruce Catton.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Superb… The book is distinguished by its astonishing range of coverage… [Atkinson's] lively, occasionally lyric prose brings the vast theater of battle, from the beaches of Normandy deep into Germany, brilliantly alive. It is hard to imagine a better history of the western front's final phase.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“With a mastery of sources that support nearly every sentence, Atkinson achieves a military history with few peers as an overview of the 1944-45 campaigns in Western Europe.” ―Booklist
“The book stands out from others on World War II because it successfully explores the fallibility of participants at all levels…This is not a detailed account of any one particular battle but a sweeping epic, yet it is packed with fascinating details. Highly recommended to all who read World War II history.” ―Library Journal
“The brilliant, more-than-worth-the-wait final volume of [Atkinson's] epic Liberation Trilogy. . . The Guns at Last Light should be read not just as a great work of narrative military history, but as an accomplished work of American literature.” ―BookPage
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
With so many books and research available about WWII, I don't know that I'd call any one volume (or three in this trilogy's case) truly 'definitive.' However, author Rick Atkinson has provided what the best history does, and that's the motivation to learn even more. As I read this volume, I found myself drawn to do further research into things I'd never heard of - Operation Dragoon in southern France for example - or more details about the landing craft used on D-Day, or more about the mistakes made during the campaign around Antwerp.
This is hardly because Atkinson left out information - his amazingly seamless narrative weaves personal stories of soldiers both high ranking and low, with researched documentation from many sources. Unlike historical accounts that keep the reader "above" the action, he very deftly immerses the reader in the tactical battles as easily as the overall strategy. It's never a 'dry' faceless history - the battered humans on the ground, whether it's Eisenhower or a junior private, are almost always the focus. Occasionally, he will offer a quote from a deceased soldier's letter to give a heartbreaking end to a chapter, reminding the reader of the human cost.
And what a cost. We as a country have grown so spoiled over the last 10 years of war, and expectations of easy victories, that WWII becomes difficult to relate to - friendly fire on D-Day killed hundreds of soldiers. Mistakes made by various generals - especially at Operation Market Garden, and the early days of the Battle of the Bulge - no doubt prolonged the war or put soldiers in impossible positions, costing thousands more.
It's easy to criticize these decisions with hindsight - but Atkinson never criticizes; instead, he lets the documents and testimony do the work, as it should be. It made me appreciate how difficult and frankly, impossible, this war was to manage - and what an beyond amazing job generals like Eisenhower and Montgomery did (and unfortunately, Atkinson details the German generals occasional moments of brilliance - and it's awful to think how hard the Germans fought for such a wretched, awful cause, especially when the war was all but lost, and so many people still had to die).
He provided plenty of information that was fairly new to me, even though other works have covered it. For example, the V-1 and V-2 raids over England I knew about in concept - but the accounts he's provided bring it home in much more detail. I had not known what a morale-killer they were to England at the time. That's just one example of many where Atkinson's research and organization and story-telling skills have told so many 'small' stories within this big one.
The book's back cover describes WWII as the epic struggle of the 20th century, and that's certainly true. To give justice to those soldiers needed an epic story to be told, and Atkinson has done the job. It's as five-star as a book can be.
FURTHER READING: After finishing this book, readers could turn to Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, which takes the reader into Europe's next few years.
Also, I recently read The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau, which is a battalion commander's story within this larger struggle, and of course Eisenhower in War and Peace would be a good additional resource. The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today would complement a lot of Atkinson's discussion about the Montgomery-Eisenhower relationship. Also, Ricks deals with the battlefield relief of generals, and it's interesting to note how many commanders Atkinson mentions are 'fired' for their various failures.
Other than that, I did not notice anything in the Normandy section. Nor did I notice anything else that jumped out in the remainder of the book. If I had to score his research, I would give him a 98% at a minimum. Those few errors, in my opinion, result from using dated (German accounts in the immediate post-war period)and not the latest academic scholarship using primary sources. That said, Atkinson's bibliography by itself (selected sources beginning on page 813) is well worth the price of this volume. The book is organized into four parts (each totaling approximately 160 pages), each with three chapters (about 40 - 50 pages apiece).
Part One is entitled "Invasion" and consists of chapters entitled "Invasion," "Lodgment," and "Liberation." Atkinson is a superlative writer who can take a wealth of otherwise meaningless statistics and weave those numbers into meaningful prose. For example, the mind numbing detail involved in carrying out Operation Overlord is fittingly brought to life when Atkinson describes events that NEVER occurred in great detail, e.g. the Allied retaliatory chemical attacks in response to a German chemical or biological strike against the invading armada. The sheer scope of the allied endeavor is driven home when talking about such mundane topics as maps (pp. 23 - 24): "Armed guards from ten cartography depots escorted three thousand tons of maps for D-Day alone, the first of 210 million maps that would be distributed in Europe, most of them printed in five colors. Also into the holds (of ships) went 280,000 hydrographic charts; town plats for the likes of Cherbourg and St. Lo; many of the one million aerial photos of German defenses, snapped from reconnaissance planes flying at twenty-five feet and watercolors depicting the view that landing craft coxswains would have of their beaches...."
PART TWO describes the Post-Cobra and Falaise gap events, e.g. Chapter 4 - Pursuit, Chapter 5 - Against the West Wall, and Chapter 6 - The Implicated Woods. The only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that Atkinson while writing Chapter 8 somehow overlooked a detailed article in World War Two magazine on the 9th Infantry Division's initial foray into the Hurtgen Woods in October 1944. The Germans reinforced their defenses in that sector because they thought they were facing "troops specially trained in forest warfare."
PART THREE resumes the battles on the German frontier before ending with the Rundstedt offensive in the Ardennes with Chapter 7 "The Flutter of Wings," Chapter 8 - "A Winter Shadow," and Chapter 9 - "The Bulge." The fourth and final section details the post-Ardennes fighting as well as the Allied conferences in the last year of the war. The Yalta conference in particular is detailed very effectively. Atkinson is particularly effective in weaving small details into the larger narration (who otherwise would have known that one of the villas occupied by Allied representatives served previously at Rundstedt's headquarters?) I think that Rick Atkinson's work reflects a labor of love as he does not recount events and personalities dispassionately. It is clear that Rick appeared to be as frustrated with the French Army's behavior as Eisenhower following the Normandy invasion nor does the author have much sympathy for Montgomery's perennial "bad boy" behavior resulted from deep seated hubris. That said, this book focuses on the experiences of the American soldier and American armies. Our British and French allies are mentioned only when the narrative demands additional detail along those lines.
As a professional historian, my own take on this story would have involved more discussion along the lines of "battalion X moved from Point B to Point C, sustaining 23 casualties in the process of killing of capturing XX German defenders...." Atkinson brings those events to life with a vivid literary brush that literally almost places the reader at the scene of the action. His research is for the most part impeccable, which translates into ACCURATE dramatic prose.
I am genuinely thankful to the author for making these events accessible and interesting to so many more Americans than academic historians like myself. Mr. Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy represents the penultimate account of the US Army in the Mediterranean and European Theaters during the Second World War. With 29 maps and many photographs, it is well worth the price!
ADDENDUM: Atkinson ends the book not with the final surrender in May 1945, but with a detailed description of the repatriation of American war dead from Europe and the gathering of other American war dead at newly created American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC)cemeteries. I think that this particular approach is a fitting and appropriate way to conclude an outstanding set of books.
Most recent customer reviews
We are reminded that our peaceful prosperity was paid for with a precious price.