The Guns at Last Light – Rick Atkinson

The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

I approached this book with a bit of trepidation, since I was very put off by parts of his Gulf War book where he inserted after the fact political jabs to score debating points on the young men that were, you know, protecting his life in the operation.  So I wondered if the same temptation to throw the book across the room would come here.

Thankfully, no. The book is a good roundup of the fight from Normandy to the end of the war, and covers the final operations that often get left out entirely. It is pretty common for books to end at the Battle of the Bulge.

It has been a while since I have read the first two volumes in the series but it seems like the focus has changed from showing the development of the US Army into an overall history of the Allies.  In a way, here, the US Army now becomes a minor player, well behind the generals, the Yalta conference, Monty and his issues, the French.  When you consider the first book was about a 6 month period with far fewer players, the final book covering a year was going to be spread thin – but adding in these other elements tended to spread it a little too thin.

With the expanded scope, some of the little vignette stories now are overblown.  Patton’s attempt to rescue POWs now has more coverage that any of the battles to take the Rhineland – possibly more than all of them added together.  The shooting of the one deserter for the war also seems bloated relative to the events around it.

So all in all, a reasonably good book that suffers from stretching itself to cover too much in too few pages.


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