❮Read❯ ➲ The Guns at Last Light ➵ Author Rick Atkinson – Gsagency.co

This book is currently on the best seller list And, while I can understand why it s so popular Atkinson takes on the worthy task of explaining one of the most important times in world history , I don t see the appeal for probably the very same reasons people seem to love it the amount of detail that went into writing the book My father and I read this book at the same time The book is steeped in exacting facts Those very details are the reason why my dad loved this book while I didn t I didn t care to know how many pints of blood or cases of morphine made the trek over the Channel on the Allies s way to D Day important at the time very much sointeresting to read not so much The book is not an easy read as a result I felt myself coursing through a mire of details that slowed the pace to such an extent that I felt I was reading a text book from college I like the personal side of history, and although Atkinson surely sprinkled his book with intimate stories of those who lived the war, in my opinion, he didn t share enough Those stories came at the expense of the exorbitant detailing he chose instead While Atkinson needs to be given immense credit for the obvious amount of research he did for this work, I didn t come away with an appreciation for the amount of exact details he explored The book is lengthy well over 600 pages Previous to reading the book, I had a solid understanding of the war, including the battles on the Western front But, for those students of history who do not have a foundation of knowledge, this book would not be the one I would recommend to read as a first I feel it would turn a less serious student of history away from the subject for which they were trying to learn This book is for theastute student of history and for the individual interested in aexpounding treatment of WWII in Europe. A few years ago I picked up An Army at Dawn and was blown away Mr Atkinson opened an arena in history that had rarely been touched by historians, America s entry into WWII on the European theater What blew me away the most was his ability to tell the bigger picture and include the smaller picture of individual warriors tales Mr Atkinson continued his tale with The Day of Battle, treading onfamiliar territory and while not as spellbinding as An Army at Dawn I was impressed Since then I ve been looking forward to the conclusion and I can say Mr Atkinson delivered Of all the books in the series I figured this would be the one that would be weakest due to people s familiarity with the battles and the struggles of the generals Instead I m impressed While I wasn t as riveted to it as An Army at Dawn I was surprised and impressed with his delivery Lower level details aren t as prevalent as they were but the telling and weaving of those lower level details was outstanding Instead Mr Atkinson gives us a very good understanding of the grand tactical situation in northwest Europe with an outstanding look at the struggles of the generals and their units While much of this isn t revolutionary, the thing that stands out the most is how readable this work is and how clear Mr Atkinson is in presenting his case of the war in northwest Europe This is an outstanding book and an enjoyable read worthy of 5 stars. The Magnificent Conclusion To Rick Atkinson S Acclaimed Liberation Trilogy About The Allied Triumph In Europe During World War IIIt Is The Twentieth Century S Unrivaled Epic At A Staggering Price, The United States And Its Allies Liberated Europe And Vanquished Hitler In The First Two Volumes Of His Bestselling Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson Recounted How The American Led Coalition Fought Through North Africa And Italy To The Threshold Of Victory Now He Tells The Most Dramatic Story Of All The Titanic Battle For Western EuropeD Day Marked The Commencement Of The Final Campaign Of The European War, And Atkinson S Riveting Account Of That Bold Gamble Sets The Pace For The Masterly Narrative That Follows The Brutal Fight In Normandy, The Liberation Of Paris, The Disaster That Was Operation Market Garden, The Horrific Battle Of The Bulge, And Finally The Thrust To The Heart Of The Third Reich All These Historic Events And Come Alive With A Wealth Of New Material And A Mesmerizing Cast Of Characters Atkinson Tells The Tale From The Perspective Of Participants At Every Level, From Presidents And Generals To War Weary Lieutenants And Terrified Teenage Riflemen When Germany At Last Surrenders, We Understand Anew Both The Devastating Cost Of This Global Conflagration And The Enormous Effort Required To Win The Allied VictoryWith The Stirring Final Volume Of This Monumental Trilogy, Atkinson S Accomplishment Is Manifest He Has Produced The Definitive Chronicle Of The War That Unshackled A Continent And Preserved Freedom In The Westtp Uscmillan Thegunsatlast Funny thing about Atkinson s writing Even after reading two extremely long volumes in his Liberation trilogy, I was compelled to jump straight into the third and final book as if I was desperate to find out the ending of the series Of course I knew the ending The Nazis lose Hooray The Guns at Last Light covers the most famous part of the war in Western Europe from the landings at Normandy through the liberation of France to the eventual surrender of Germany Still, Atkinson is such a good storyteller that I kept turning pages, anxious to follow the course of events His characters are as vivid as ever from the everyman hero Audie Murphy to the colorful and impossible British Field Marshall Montgomery I especially liked the tale of the Yalta conference between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt shortly before the president s death We get a sense of the Cold War to come, and how much will be at stake once the Nazis are defeated Reading the Liberation trilogy, I felt as if I d lived through the war one torturous month after another It was heavy stuff, but wonderfully and vividly reported If you want to know about the war in Western Europe, this series is about as close as you could come or might want to come to actually being there. I have mentioned before that WWII is not a favorite subject of mine I have read several good books dealing with various theaters, engagements, and personages of that war but those have not been enough to really stir any deep desire to delve in detail in that war Last year I read an excellent book by Craig Symonds called WWII At Sea that introduced me to an entirely different way of understanding armed conflicts Now I have read this book and my interest in WWII has taken a sharp turn.Atkinson s book is by now means a quick read At 641 pages of text it cut off the circulation in my legthan once and in some spots I did have a little head bobbing It is by no means a boring book but it is demanding of its reader It is the third book in a trilogy and I am ashamed to say that I have not read the other two books However, I can report that not having read those books did not diminish the value of this book at all This book covers that portion of WWII from just before D Day until the end of the war in Europe It details the various aspects of D Day as well as thewell known engagements of the war in Europe as well as a number of lesser known engagements and some totally unknown firefights In fact one of the enjoyable aspects of this book is that it mixes stories about the major figures of the war with those of frontline GIs just doing their job and trying to stay alive while doing it While I have a soft spot for the stories of the frontline soldier and sailor that made the history but are never remembered by it there were other things about this book that swayed my interest in this particular war.What strangely caught my interest in this book as well as in Symonds book that I read last year was the logistics The old Napoleonic saying of an army traveling on its stomach was given real meaning in both of these books I was fascinated by the numbers and Atkinson really supplies the reader with a host of utterly fascinating numbers It is clearthan ever how no army or navy accomplishes anything without the support of an excellent supply system starting at the home front through the delivery system to the unloading and transport There were millions of soldiers in Europe and the Army knew how much material each soldier needed to remain in the field The detail of this knowledge is mind boggling and something to read But Atkinson also details the cost of war in human terms as well and this is a bit hard to read let alone fathom The war cost the Russians 14% of their total population A third of the boys born in Germany between 1914 1925 died in the war The physical devastation to the cities bombed or ruined by artillery is beyond comprehension Whole villages and towns were destroyed and many never rebuilt As I have stated the book is long and demanding but there isn t a page I would edit out.What I also found interesting in this book is what might be considered the juicy parts, the gossip or behind the scenes intrigues and backstabbing There is a great deal of quoting from war diaries of many of the major personages of the war After reading this book I have a greater respect for Eisenhower than I ever had before How he managed to hold his temper and not deck some his allies is a testament to his patience and his sense of duty To say the least Montgomery and DeGaulle do not come across well and seem completely unaware of the old saying about not biting the hand that feeds you and not looking a gift horse in the mouth The extent that these prima donas took their antics is unbelievable considering the stakes involved and how obligated they were to the American forces This is an exceptionally good book and well worth reading inspite of its length. I have just finished this extraordinary book I read a lot of history, and have read most of the large scale histories of World War II, including Rick Atkinson s two previous volumes, both of which were very skilled indeed If anything, the Guns at Last light goes even deeper, drawing the reader into a new level of understanding of the war The book is fine narrative history, but includes an attention to the detail of personal experience that sets it apart, bringing the conflict to terrifying life in ways that big histories almost never do The portrait of Eisenhower that emerges is particularly striking At last, this complex, ferocious and skillfully contained man is portrayed as the warrior that he was, the intensely conscientious and powerful man behind the grinning good ole Ike image After finishing, I thought long and deeply on the war, reviewing the stories told my by my father s generation, who had fought in it And I wondered at the madness, or the deficiency of being, that again and again lures us into engaging in this bizarre social practice of putting on uniforms and killing one another. Before giving this review over to why this is a very worthy addition the many shelves of World War II military histories, let us try to understand what this book is not.Rick Atkinson s The Guns at Last Light is not a comprehensive , critical analysis of the last 340 days of the War in Europe It is, from beginning to end a purely American version of the events, with scant attention to the life or contributions of many allies and virtually no narrative assigned to the Germans, Civilian, Soldier or Officer There is minimal critical analysis of either strategic or tactical considerations What is here is for orientationto prepare you for the next section than to educate you on military planning This book does not catalog the various tensions between the various national, political and military staffs as each worked to balance between electoral, economic and battlefield considerations There is a surprising amount of criticism surrounding individual decisions but much of this is tied to the costs of those decisions and not to any larger context.Because others have noticed this specific short fall The maps in this book are mostly for orientation On a Kindle I cannot believe they have any functionality Given my eyesight, I stop trying to read them an dI have the Hardback copy If maps are important you you, I recommend , by reputation only, The West Point Atlas of War World War II European Theater now listed at less than 5 for hard copy.In short if you are looking for a technician s critique of or an academic exhaustive accretion of events into a definitive whole Guns at Last Light is not the book you want Others have and will publish better histories than this one By way of introducing my reason for granting a less than academically brilliant book is to remind you that Mr Atkinson is a Pulitzer Prize winner The prize was for book one in this trilogy The salient point is that the Pulitzer Prize is from a point of view that favors journalism over academic scholarship Least this seem dismissive given a modern cynicism against the media, journalism is of itself proud and honorable and in The Guns at Last Light there are hundreds of pages of end notes and lists of references, documenting the meticulous research that supports Mr Atkinson s writing.The Guns of Last Light is basically a telling of the American Army s European ground war from D day to the German signature of the surrender documents Some reviewers will state that Atkinson s achievement is to make real to a reader the feel modern ground war In fact what Atkinson makes every reader confront is that you either have this experience by surviving war, or you cannot understand this experience However large the word count, the evocation of bloodied images and reference to smells either you have been there or you have not.Instead what Atkinson has accomplished is something like an emotional history of the American Ground War in Europe The reader is carried though chapters written to help the reader feel a literary equivalent to what soldier experience The mood of the lead in to D Day is expectant There is something at once grand and foreboding about the business of loading into ships, handling the pages of plans and tonnage of materials The landing and breakout from the beach is something of a shock It is given to us in flashes or recollection and reconstruction The reader sees pieces of the larger events much as a soldier will have moments of clarity between moment of keeping his head down and hanging on.An atypical aspect of Atkinson s D Day is the role of Generals Roosevelt and Cota in particular Both were present on the beaches and contributors to the breakout Thetypical story of Normandy are the soldiers, maybe their sergeant making the discovery in semi isolated groups that the beach would be the home of the dead and dying, the living would be those who find a way up and around German gun pits and pillboxes.It is at the section covering the Bocage that the reader begins to learn that Battles do not adhere to plans Battle winners will have to adopt, learn new strategies and modify equipment Clearly the progress of the invasion is not going to be a succession of victories as a clever enemy retreats to expected lines of defense German strategy would become Hitler s strategy and he was not one to care about the advantages of defensible, fall back positions There was no plan for the Bocage The Germans were not supposed to be there.And so this war continues weeks of very little and hours of too much Some units always seem to be taking the point to the result that entire Divisions would suffer 200% casualties That is for every soldier in their per invasion count, they would need 2 replacements before war s end Again unusual for a typical academic history we have a lengthy discussion of losses due to trench foot and a shorter one about desertion Ultimately when soldier s frustration over the stubbornness of German refusal to end the fighting takes hold and soldier kill, including surrendering enemies one has some sense of the frustration and distrust that leads a man, including leaders to loose their finer sensibilities.Even allowing for this approximation of sympathetic identification individual acts can be sobering A soldier arriving in a German home, is so incensed that he grenades a piano, then pours paint over the remains Both this soldier and the reader know that there iswar to come.It is in his dealing with senior leadership that Atkinson allows himself some creativity Ike is a hero of the book, if somewhat remote Patton is clearly the authors favorite Not to say that Patton gets a free pass on all his doings I would have liked to knowabout Bradly but somehow Atkinson does not see him as a big enough personality Prime Minister Churchill is alternately a drunken figure of fun and a clever statesman.The most complex portrayal is that of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery To him, Atkinson grants full credit as the planner of the Normandy invasion and as the father of the initial strategy for the early days of the invasion After that he is nearly ridicules We read several clearly wrong dispatches and are then told that Monty was not a lier, just not entirely to be trusted for the truth Initial dispatches from Montgomery s operation Market Garden are wrong to the point of being delusional.Atkinson details that the Market Garden attack would depend on tanks and mounted units, moving forward two abreast up a narrow road Their instructions were to ignore flank attacks In a formation two abreast, all you have is flanks Clearly Atkinson missed something in this passage, or planners were not thinking Either case, this attacked failed, failed early and resulted in the wastage of good soldiers.By the end of this book, the reading will have exposed the reader to the cycle of life as a soldier The art is in the fact of the book itself The words chosen and the pacing of events carry the emotions take those of us not there, into, analogues experiences If the soldier is being ground down by the relentless stressed sameness of war the reader can find passages piled on that recreate this same feeling of literary grind This is an artistic effect An effect not expected in a historical recounting and emblematic of superb writing.Atkinson makes it clear that no one can hold a book and know what it is like to be there In Guns at Last Light, Atkinson allows us to achieve an understanding, at remove, but based on the craft of good writing. Mr Atkinson has completed his Liberation Trilogy in fine style This volume covers the liberation of France Germany from D Day thru to the end of the war He blends anecdotes from the lowest private to the highest general, facts and figures of the amount of material was consumed lost expended and the higher level tale of the battle to weave the tale of the fight in Northwest Europe that I found fascinating In the hands of a lesser writer, the statistics Mr.Atkinson cites could really bog down the flow of the book, but he makes good use of them and it really adds to the narrative.Not only does the book cover the well know battles of D Day Normandy, Market Garden, and the Bulge, but he also looks at all the major actions involving Americans This includes the Hurtgen Forest, the invasion of Southern France Operation Dragoon , the Colmar Pocket, Operation Nordwind the last German offensive in the West Not only does Mr Atkinson tell the story of the Generals, but also the lowliest infantry soldier In telling the tale, he does explore the fissures in the command structure of the SHAEF While it well known that Gen Montgomery had major differences with Ike about strategy Narrow v Broad front , Mr Atkinson does tell the story of the extreme personal dislike that developed between Montgomery and the major US commanders Ike, Bradley and Patton In addition the US commanders v Montgomery, he looks at the personality clash between Ike and Devers, the commander of the 6th Army Group The French commanders also come under Mr Atkinson s scrutiny According to the author, they were very difficult to command He cites several instances of outright insubordination This includes DeGaulle s absolute refusal to pull back from Strasbourg during the Battle of the Bulge to shorten the Allied line and free troops to move north The clashes between Le Clerc and Le Lattre make the Montgomery v US commanders seem mild by comparison.In relating the story of the GI, the author does not sugar coat or white wash the experience of the infantry soldier He tells of the shortage of replacements, supply problems, mental casualties, and even atrocities committed by US Troops These atrocities are mainly the killing of prisoners or those attempting to surrender He also points out the soldiers were not choir boys in the relations with women, in both France and England At one point the French civil authorities were pleading with the Americans to do something since women and girls could not walk down the street in liberated France without being accosted.Mr Atkinson does express his opinions on the decisions made by the US command and is hard on Ike and Bradley Having said this, he does say in the end it really didn t matter, the overwhelming logistical superiority of the US Army made the end inevitable.This is a fitting capstone to his trilogy excellent look at the US Army and how it grew from an amateurish organization to a highly professional force 5 star read Okay, so I added a picture.In a drawer, in a sealable plastic bag, there are some memories a rough map of North Africa, a divisional flag, some medals, love letters with censored locations but uncensored passion There is a bright red Nazi armband complete with swastika which was always the hit at show and tell There was a Purple Heart, wisely, lovingly and perfectly bequeathed to a granddaughter as a prized possession.These were my father s things from the war Of course not everything could fit in a plastic bag Not the men he saved as a medic nor the ones he didn t save Not the soldier who started shaking and said I can t go I can t go And so my father went instead Not the shrapnel that came that night, while clearing a road in the last days of Sicily Not the frightened pleading, Don t cut my leg Not the skin grafts, the maggots, the jaundice He told me, We would hear I ll be home for Christmas and we would cry and cry and cry That s not in my plastic bag And so I ve turned the last page of Volume Three of Rick Atkinson s magnificent The Liberation Trilogy A day later and my pulse is still up, my eyes puddle These men These men Citizen soldiers One of them wrote his daughter, We are certainly no smaller men than our forefathers Perhaps that is the only generation that can safely say that Atkinson lets you look into their eyes, eyes I ve seen before, eyes I miss Rarely in war did success and sorrow exclude each other from the battlefield.This book continues Atkinson s monumental study of the Allied armies in North Africa and Europe Here we see the planning of the Normandy invasion to the capitulation of German forces There are judgments as to generals Patton gets high marks Eisenhower is shown as a work in progress, a man who would grow into the job Montgomery s own words paint him in buffoonerous hues but Atkinson still offered that Monty, while careless with the truth, nevertheless was as responsible as any man for victory in Normandy This last judgment does not square with what I ve read and will be a pebble in my shoe.Aided by plenty of maps and quality pictures, Atkinson does athan creditable job in describing the battles, weaponry and geography And Atkinson can spot celebrities There s Daphne du Maurier s husband And over there is Gertrude Stein And there s Hemingway, making pancakes with buckwheat flour and bourbon.Atkinson displays a genius for finding just the right quote or vignette For many months we have fought together, often on the same side. Lt Gen Jacob Devers Nuts Brig Gen Anthony McAuliffe, responding to a German ultimatum to surrender at Bastogne A soldier from the 75th Division described an hour in a foxhole with a mortally wounded comrade and no morphine I tried to knock him out I took off his helmet, held his jaw up And just whacked as hard as I could That didn t work Nothing worked He slowly bled to deathMaybe it s a good thing their mothers can t see them die. A Third Army shock ward nurse.Maybe just read the few pages about the execution of Private Eddie Slovik, pp 527 31.But let s be clear What separates Atkinson from other historians is the writing, Atkinson s own turns of phrase This is history as literature.It has become my custom to make notes of things I ve learned and passages that play a perfect chord as I m reading a book There are pages of such notes stuck in the back of this book I could have made a note at every page, virtually every paragraph I ve noted a few of these as status updates Here are someSuch stenches lingered in the nostril, to be carried beyond Cherbourg and beyond the war the stink of diesel exhaust, of cordite, of broken plaster exposed to rain, of manure piles and the carcasses of the animals that shat them before being slaughtered by shellfire An infantryman named John B Babcock later catalogued the scents wafting around him cosmoline gun metal preservative, oil used to clean weapons, chlorine in the drinking water, flea powder, pine pitch from freshly severed branches, fresh dug earth Also GI yellow soap and the flour grease fumes from field kitchens, as well as those pungent German smells of cabbage and sour rye, of stale sweat wool and harsh tobacco Even if the war in the west had barely begun, here was the precise odor of liberation. Montgomery had overegged the pudding.Describing the hundreds of thousands of captured German soldiers A single strand of barbed wire often sufficed for an enclosure GI sentries cradled their carbines and stifled yawns Within the cordon sat supermen by the acre Singing sad soldier songs and reminiscing about better days, they scavenged the ground for cigarette butts and plucked lice from their field gray tunics.Supermen by the acre Three words Just three words.Because there is a challenge in being brief and yet saying everything Like Eisenhower being helped by his staff to compose the announcement of victory to the Chiefs of Staff As each draft grewgrandiloquent, the supreme commander thanked his lieutenants and then dictated the message himself The mission of the Allied force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7, 1945 Eisenhower Exactly There is something that is not in the book Well, not in it exactly My father did not get out of Volume Two, so he wasn t there at Omaha Beach and Aachen and Bastogne A good thing perhaps So let me tell you about someone else Charles Durning, the American actor Durning played a tough guy, often a cop or private eye, in numerous movies But once upon a time there was a war And Durning was a young soldier in that war He was one of the many Americans who landed at Normandy I ve watched numerous clips of Durning talking about that day, or just thinking about that day He always, always breaks down, often sobbing uncontrollably I could only find one such clip on YouTube Sadly, it s a production with music and pageantry and Nancy Pelosi But watch this, because eventually Durning starts to talk That voice, that face, the choked silence at the memory That s what this book is about There is onething in that plastic bag, a yellowed, folded paper with balky typewritten words A poem from a homesick, lovesick PFC Mary had a little lambIts feet as white as snow.When I m getting out of hereIs what I d like to know.But since it s an emergencyI might as well be hereAnd protect you from the EvilBecause I love you DEAR.No one knows what is to come.I know that I love you.Us getting back togetherI ll try my best to do.Always keep your chin upJust like I always said.It won t be long til Hitler s goneThen DARLING we will WED Your loving soldier. An exceptional end to The Liberations Trilogy, The Guns at Last Light covers the Allied advance from OVERLORD on the Normandy beaches to the surrender on May 7 in Denmark and May 8 in Berlin As usual, Atkinson s text is dense, but full of the human stories of atrocity in warfare and elated feelings of victory The portraits of the major players Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Churchill, Montgomery, Patton, Bradley, etc are vivid and lifelike which help make the book to be an enjoyable read despite the horrors of death and dismemberment on nearly every page as the war took its toll on Europe I did not previously realize that the US dropped tens of thousands of gallons napalm on the European theater, nor the butcheries in the Ardennes, in the Saar, and at the Bulge The book also shows the complexities of this war where it was a pretty black and white, good guys vs bad guys kind of fight, yet the barbarity of rape and pillage was committed with virulence by Nazi and Allied troops alike The image of millions of homeless people drifting across a ruined Europe in May 1945 was particularly chilling given the current crisis with refugees from the Middle East I was also reminded of Pynchon s Gravity s Rainbow where he attempted to describe this chaotic aftermath, probably with some degree of accuracy like Keller in Catch 22 In any case, this book reassures me in my pacifism and in my hope that my son will never have to fight in such a brutal conflict An incredible read for those with stamina and interest in the gritting details of the War to end all wars.