|The Liberation Trilogy|
by Rick Atkinson
It was the single best treatment I had ever read on the United States Army's entry into World War II on the African continent. And I will confess, I am a voracious reader with an almost insatiable appetite for military history.
But this book was somehow different. It made the campaign and the men who fought there come alive in my mind. I could almost smell the dust and feel the heat of North Africa.
I impatiently awaited the writing of the second book, The Day of Battle.
Time passed. I read other books. I had almost forgotten about The Liberation Trilogy. Then one day, as we were preparing for a trip to Las Vegas, I swung by Barnes & Noble, for something to read on the plane, of course. (This would have been around 2008, as I recall.)
And there it was, the second book.
Now the reason we were going to Las Vegas was for a bit of a family reunion. On the wife's side of the equation mind you. Not that I have any problem at all with that, I dearly love my wife's family. They are all really awesome people. But, as many of you may know, my wife is Korean, so you might surmise that her family is also Korean. And yes, yes they are.
My wife has two brothers (one older, one younger) and an older sister all of whom still live in Korea.
She also has three younger sisters, all of whom live in these here United States. As they're all a bit spread out, they don't often have a chance to get together. This trip to Las Vegas would be one of those few times.
Sadly, both of her parents have passed on. Marvelous folks they were. My mother-in-law had a sense of humor almost as bizarre as my own. Someday I'll have to regale you with stories of 엄마 (omma).
Older brother and older sister flew in from Korea, younger brother had to stay home. Two of the younger sisters (the twins, one of whom actually lives in Vegas, her house was the venue for this gathering) would also be there. The youngest sister (막내 - magnae) was unable to come.
Now the point of this rather grand diversion is that while in Vegas, much Korean would be spoken. The two oldest siblings have no English and, sadly, my Korean is much diminished from the days I was in Korea (세상에!) So while the siblings were getting re-acquainted and telling stories, it would all be in Korean. I would be the red-headed stepchild. So I would need something to do.
The Day of Battle got me through Vegas and the non-English speaking family reunion. So while the book again was awesome, an epic tale of the Italian campaign, it also kept me company, so to speak. (Don't get me wrong, there were many family activities I participated in, but those did not fill the day. But I had my book. So, j'étais content.)
Again, time passed, other books were read. But I kept my eye out for the third (and of course, final) book in the trilogy. Which came out this last spring. Around the time of my birthday as a matter of fact. So I picked it up.
I haven't had the chance to read it until just last week, when I started it. Tonight I finished it. As Mr. Atkinson described the lights coming on again across Europe, the millions of refugees, the survivors, both military and civilian, I remembered my Dad and my uncles. I remembered all of those WWII veterans I had known, many of whom are no longer with us. It was the end of a journey. A story which I really had been following my entire life, since I was old enough to read and really listen to my elders.
Mr. Atkinson told their story well and true. I've heard mention that his books aren't "serious history" - balderdash and poppycock! His books are perfect history. History, to me at any rate, should be vibrant and the telling of it should take you there. Let you feel, at least a tiny bit, what those who experienced it first hand may have felt.
If a history book is boring, it was probably written by an academic with no soul, no heart. Believe me, I have read a few like that. They're painful to get through and when you're done, you wonder what was the point.
Bottom line, if you want my opinion? Go and read these books. Mr. Atkinson did a superb job. He honored those who fought and died with the telling of their story.
Well done, Sir! Well done.