Military history

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

The magnificent conclusion to Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II

It 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 Europe.

D-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 more 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 victory.

With 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 West.

PROLOGUE

PART ONE

Chapter 1. INVASION

The Far Shore

First Tide

Hell’s Beach

A Conqueror’s Paradise

Chapter 2. LODGEMENT

“This Long Thin Line of Personal Anguish”

A Gunman’s World

Terror Is Broken by Terror

How Easy It Is to Make a Ghost

Chapter 3. LIBERATION

A Monstrous Blood-Mill

The Bright Day Grew Dark

Ministers of Thy Chastisement

The Loveliest Story of Our Time

PART TWO

Chapter 4. PURSUIT

“The Huntsman Is Hungry”

The Avenue of Stenches

“Harden the Heart and Let Fly”

Chapter 5. AGAINST THE WEST WALL

“Five Barley Loaves and Three Small Fishes”

Every Village a Fortress

A Market and a Garden

The Arrow That Flieth by Day

Chapter 6. THE IMPLICATED WOODS

Charlemagne’s Tomb

“Do Not Let Us Pretend We Are All Right”

The Worst Place of Any

PART THREE

Chapter 7. THE FLUTTER OF WINGS

A Town Too Small for the Tragedy

“Faith in a Friendly Universe”

To the Land of Doom

“Providence Decrees and We Must Obey”

Chapter 8. A WINTER SHADOW

“We Are All So Human That It Is Pitiful”

Staking Everything on One Card

The Light Line

“Go Easy, Boys. There’s Danger Ahead”

Chapter 9. THE BULGE

A Rendezvous in Some Flaming Town

“Why Are You Not Packing?”

War in the Raw

“Glory Has Its Price”

The Agony Grapevine

PART FOUR

Chapter 10. ARGONAUTS

Citizens of the World

A Fateful Conference

“Only Our Eyes Are Alive”

Chapter 11. CROSSINGS

The Inner Door to Germany

Two If by Sea

“The Enemy Has Reason to Fear Him”

Lovers’ Quarrels Are a Part of Love

Chapter 12. VICTORY

Mark of the Beast

Dragon Country

“God, Where Are You?”

A Great Silence

EPILOGUE

NOTES

SELECTED SOURCES

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

PHOTOS