S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

BOOK REVIEW: The Guns of Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944 to 1945 Volume III by Rick Atkinson

The Gun9780805062908_custom-1a6726df45b0775da6809e6dd65977262d795539-s6-c30s of Last Light, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2013, 877 pp.  Contents,            29 maps, photographs, Notes, 167 pp.; Selected Sources, 28 pp,; Acknowledgements, 6 pp.; Index, 26 pp.
Volume Three of Atkinson’s liberation trilogy details the exploits of the United States Army in North Africa, Italy, and Western Europe during World War II.

The other books in this trilogy are:

  • Volume I, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-1943
  • Volume II, The Day of the Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944.

Sixty-million people died in the six years of World War II, 1939 to 1945.  

The Guns of Last Light compels the reader to join the “dog faces” as they land at Normandy, slug through the hedge rows, liberate Paris, kill Germans in the Falaise Pocket, leak blood in the Hutgen Forest, are massacred in Malmédy, become a “Battling Bastard” of Bastogne, die at Arnhem, crack the Siegfried Line, capture the bridge at Remagen, liberate the death camp at Dachau, assassinate extra judicially the SS guards at Buchenwald, and witness General Alfred Jodl sign the unconditional surrender document on 7 May 1945—VE Day.

This is not a “West Point” type book.   Rather, Atkinson takes our hand and leads us through the key battles in central Europe as the typical GI or Tommy experienced it.  The empathy is intense.  The “gouts of blood” is appalling. The horrors of Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbruck, Buchenwald, and Dacau roil the soul.  On top, he details the Allied General’s strategies,  incompetence, bravado, contempt’s, and narcissisms.

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