The Guns at Last Light is the finale of the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson, the first of which, An Army at Dawn, won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2003. The series encompasses the history of the United States activity in the European theater of World War II. An Army at Dawn is about the U.S. Military during the North Africa campaign. Book two, The Day of Battle, is about the the war in Italy and the Mediterranean; it is subtitled, The War in Sicily and Italy. Finally. The Guns at Last Light begins at D-Day and continues through the surrender of Germany. Most of this information is pretty obvious by the titles and subtitles of each book. What is not obvious is how well done these books are.
TGaLL is a magnificent piece of both non-fiction writing and storytelling. This book is about the part of World War II with which I am most familiar. I think that is probably true for most people. We’ve watched Saving Private Ryan and A Bridge Too Far. The events upon which those films are based occur very early in the war in Europe. Band of Brothers follows a single unit for the duration of this book but if I’m being completely honest, I’ve seen the first two or so episodes a dozen times but finished the series MAYBE once. Even so, the personal take on the story, while far more cinematic and perhaps compelling, does not begin to cover the breadth and depth of TGaLL.
TGaLL focuses on the strategic viewpoint of the war and on the players at that level, Eisenhower, Montgomery, and Churchill. It looks at the relationships between those men as well as their subordinates like Bradley and Patton. The Yalta Conference is discussed in detail and is really the only time that we see Stalin and Roosevelt in the book and I think that is part of the reason this section stands out for me.
I really loved this book. In spite of my familiarity with the subject, I still learned a ton and found myself captivated. It made me want to re-read the others in the series as well. If you like military history, it would be hard to do better than this.