After having read Kershaw's, "The Longest Winter", I was excited to see "The Liberator", another of his books concerning the ground war in Europe during WWII. I was a boy in the 1940s&1950s and knew men who had fought in both the European and Pacific Theaters of the war. Even back then WWII was exciting to me and also enigmatic because of the reticence of the veterans who had endured it's terrors and tremendous physical stresses. Since then I have come to honor and respect these men in a way approaching hero worship since they all were heroes in their own way.
One man, a close friend of my father's, would tell me more than many of the others. He landed near Casablanca, fought across north west Africa, landed in Italy and fought to the Po River, and then on to Southern France and finally into Germany. I often wondered how someone walked that far. When he talked to me I could tell that he picked the lighter(less terrible) incidents to relate to me, but I didn't get the inside feelings of the men who went through it that this book will bring to you.
So I knew something about the route taken by the main character of this book, Col. Felix Sparks. Kershaw has made the fighting and horrors they went through come vividly alive, as far as they can to one who was not there. How the ones who survived came through it still amazes me, because thousands did not. The concept of greater than 100% casualties was puzzling when first encountered, but when one sees the way the U. S. fed in new replacements, some lasting less than an hour during heavy combat, to keep the units intact it is easy to understand. The 45th division had over 60,000 casualties, combat and otherwise, for a division who's original strength ran from 15-20 thousand men. Very few of the original men who left the U.S. in 1943 lived through the war unscathed. Most who came home joined it later as attrition made room for new soldiers.
The story of a leader's relationships to his men and his amazing ability to lead and survive as he undergoes continual combat for nearly two years of his life is made to come alive for readers.
This is one of the best books of WWII history and combat I have read. I appreciate the work the author has done to bring these men and what they did back to us.