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Soldiers of the Greatest Generation annealed, touched with fire,
This review is from: The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (Liberation Trilogy) (Hardcover)
"'There must be a beginning of any great matter,' (Sir Francis) Drake had written, 'but the continuing unto the end until it is thoroughly finished yields the true glory.'" - from THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT
"... Germans unable to find white flags surrendered by waving chickens." - from THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT
"I cried for the joy of being there and the sadness of my father's death. I cried for all the times I needed a father and never had one. I cried for all the words I wanted to say and wanted to hear but had not. I cried and cried." - from THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT, a daughter's memory of visiting her father's grave in the cemetery above Omaha beach
Having just finished THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT, after having previously read Rick Atkinson's first two books in the Liberation Trilogy (An Army At Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (Liberation Trilogy) and The Day Of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-44 (Liberation Trilogy)) about the Yanks' World War II fight against the Germans from 1942 to 1945, I stand amazed at the relative ease at which the author wrote so many elegant, eloquent, and thoroughly engaging volumes. Now, obviously, I don't mean to say it was an effortless task, but all three lengthy books were published over a relatively short period of time (2002-2013), and the research alone for any one of them might have well taken any other writer decades. Atkinson is amazing.
What makes THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT, as well as the preceding two in the series, enormously readable is Rick's ability to describe the Western Allies' war both at the macro level - multiple armies advancing on a wide front - down to the micro level - an individual participant's involvement. Yet, the trilogy is a masterpiece of comprehensive narrative that doesn't get bogged down in either the wide or narrow view.
As an exceedingly casual student of the Second World War, over the decades I've become acquainted via my reading with the Normandy invasion, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. (I mean, even full-length feature films have been made about them!) Yet, for the first time and because of this volume, I've picked up more than a little knowledge of the invasion of Southern France in August 1944 (Operation Dragoon), as well as the Falaise Pocket, the battles for Aachen and the Hürtgen Forest, the Colmar Pocket, and the encirclement of the Ruhr - none of which have received the same amount of press as the first three mentioned. So, I'm pathetically grateful when any book expands my knowledge base by even so much as a smidgen.
THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT contains an eminently serviceable photo section and a wide selection of above-average battlefield maps. The Notes and Selected Sources sections are positively prodigious.
Finally, THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT provides perhaps the best ever example of concise understatement, i.e. General Eisenhower's famous dispatch to his superiors reporting the victory of his Allied Expeditionary Force over Germany:
"The mission of this Allied force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7, 1945. Eisenhower." It's so perfect it gives me chills.