The Guns at Last Light

The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

The Liberation Trilogy (Volume 3)

Rick Atkinson

Henry Holt and Co.

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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, in The Guns at Last Light, 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.

One of The Washington Post's Top 10 Books of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

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Book Excerpts

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PROLOGUE

A killing frost struck England in the middle of May 1944, stunting the plum trees and the berry crops. Stranger still was a persistent drought. Hotels posted admonitions above their bathtubs: “The Eighth Army crossed the desert on a pint a day. Three inches only, please.” British newspapers reported that even the king kept “quite clean with one bath a week in a tub filled only to a line which he had painted on it.” Gale winds from the north grounded most Allied bombers flying from East Anglia and the Midlands, although occasional fleets of Flying Fortresses

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Rick Atkinson on Morning Joe

Rick Atkinson discusses 'The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945' on Morning Joe.

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The Guns at Last Light Video Series (Part 1)

Rick Atkinson (An Army At Dawn, The Day of Battle) and The National WWII Museum President & CEO, Dr. Nick Mueller, discuss The Guns at Last Light, the final book in his epic "Liberation Trilogy." In the first installment of this "sneak peek" video series, the author shares just a few of his discoveries regarding the Normandy invasion — making it clear that even in regards to the most well known battles of WWII, there is always more to learn and discover.

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The Guns at Last Light Video Series (Part 2)

In the second installment of this “sneak peek” video series, Rick introduces us to a lesser-known member of the famous Roosevelt clan.

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The Guns at Last Light Video Series (Part 3)

In the third installment, Rick tells the story of John K. Waters and his involvement in General George Patton’s ill-advised raid on Hammelburg prison camp.

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The Guns at Last Light Video Series (Part 4)

In the fourth installment, Rick details the invasion of southern France and one of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s most controversial decisions.

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The Guns at Last Light Video Series (Part 5)

In the fifth installment, Rick discusses tensions that existed between Eisenhower and Montgomery.

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The Guns at Last Light Video Series (Part 6)

In the sixth installment, Rick discusses the Allies failure to fully secure Antwerp by securing the Scheldt River in a timely manner.

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The Guns at Last Light Video Series (Part 7)

In the seventh, and final installment, Rick discusses Eisenhower’s strategy change in regards to taking Berlin and the “fiction” of the National Redoubt.

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Rick Atkinson on NPR's Morning Edition.

Rick Atkinson discusses 'The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945' with Steve Inskeep on NPR's Morning Edition.

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Rick Atkinson on writing The Guns at Last Light

Rick Atkinson discusses The Guns at Last Light. The magnificent conclusion to his acclaimed Liberation Trilogy

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Reviews

Praise for The Guns at Last Light

#1 New York Times Bestseller

 

Named a Best Book of the Year by

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune

 

“A magnificent book… Though the story may seem familiar, I found surprising detail on every page…  Atkinson’s account of D-Day is both masterly and lyrical… [He] is an absolute master of his material.”—Max Hastings, The Wall Street Journal

 

“A tapestry of fabulous richness and complexity… Atkinson is a master of what might be called ‘pointillism history,’ assembling the small dots of pure color into a vivid, tumbling narrative.  . . . The Liberation Trilogy is a monumental achievement, about 2,500 pages in all, densely researched but supremely readable.”—The New York Times Book Review

 

“Breathtaking, unforgettable… Atkinson provides us with especially poignant descriptions in a blaze of writing and research that matches the drama and significance of the moment, all without peer in modern history … This volume is a literary triumph worthy of the military triumph it explores and explains.”—The Boston Globe

 

“Monumental… As befits a journalist who knows his material inside and out, Atkinson can provide the incisive explanation to a complex situation or personage… A masterpiece of deep reporting and powerful storytelling.”—The Los Angeles Times

“[Atkinson] reconstructs the period from D-Day to V-E Day by weaving a multitude of tiny details into a tapestry of achingly sublime prose… With great sensitivity, Atkinson conveys the horrible reality of what soldiers had to become to defeat Hitler’s Germany.”—The Washington Post

“Detailed in its research, unsparing in its judgments and confident in its prose…This trilogy—on which [Atkinson has] spent 12 years, twice as long as the war itself—may well be his masterpiece.”—Time

“Great characters, vivid details…The final volume of Rick Atkinson’s ‘Liberation Trilogy’ proves again that few can re-tell a story as well as he.”—USA Today

 

"A glorious epic… [Atkinson] never stoops to breathless prose in this perfectly paced account and always comes up with fresh and revealing details."—Antony Beevor, The Wall Street Journal

 

“A remarkable conclusion to his three parts on WWII… A fabulous book.”—Tom Brokaw on MSNBC’s Morning Joe

"The Guns at Last Light . . . is history written at the level of literature . . . Atkinson’s story is propelled by vivid descriptions and delicious details . . . World War II’s reverberations will roll down the centuries in its geopolitical consequences, and in the literature it elicited in letters and in histories like Atkinson’s trilogy."—George Will, The Washington Post

“The same qualities that garnered Atkinson a Pulitzer Prize for An Army at Dawn—meticulous research married to masterful narrative—are apparent in The Guns at Last Light. The new book relates the oft-told (but never better) story of the war’s final year, from D-Day to the German surrender.”—The Chicago Tribune

 

“Epic, set-piece battle sequences are balanced by deft portraiture. The Greatest Generation is nearly gone…. The Liberation Trilogy is the monument it deserves.”—Vanity Fair

 

“A sweeping, prodigiously researched epic… The Guns at Last Light is a definitive, heartfelt work of grandeur, atrocity, and profound sorrow. It is also, along with the two previous volumes, a long, fervent prayer for the fallen.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

 “[An] extraordinary accomplishment. This is a beautifully written, moving account of one of the most bittersweet chapters in modern history… The details build a stunning and precise account of major movements—from Normandy to Paris, from the South of France to Grenoble—and close-up portraits of famous figures that make them living, breathing beings.”—Smithsonian Magazine

 

“A riveting book…Few historians have Atkinson’s gift for language and few journalists pay as much attention to historical sources…Atkinson writes with the descriptive and lyrical power of a first-rate novelist.”—Christian Science Monitor

 

"The final volume of Atkinson’s World War II trilogy is just great reading: From Hemingway’s liberating a Parisian hotel (and raiding its bar) to the American soldiers discovering concentration camps, the entire story is absolutely riveting."—People

“Emotionally gripping… This 850-page military history captivates the reader with the high drama of a spellbinding novel and a cast of characters that a master storyteller would be hard-pressed to invent… It’s hard to imagine a more engrossing, dramatic, fair-minded and elegantly written account of these 11 months that changed the course of history.”—Associated Press

 

“In the final volume of his sweeping World War II trilogy, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson recounts the battle for Western Europe (from D-Day to V-E Day) through the eyes of those who were on the front lines, masterfully bringing this pivotal chapter of history back to vivid life.” —Parade

“A terrific read… Atkinson never loses track of the men who fought the war. Mining their diaries and letters, he has produced an account that is achingly human.”—The Miami Herald

 

“A richly detailed narrative of the war final’s year, with riveting looks at D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.”—San Diego Union-Tribune

 

“Atkinson paints on a vast canvas while stressing the details. He cites the experiences of soldiers — officers and grunts alike — caught up in a conflagration beyond their comprehension. He preserves the humanity of humans in an inhumane situation… Passages describe human courage and depravity in such vivid prose that readers need to pause, reflect and regroup… His book is a fitting tribute.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Soon, if not already, Atkinson will show up on the list of giants, as later historians stand on his shoulders.”—The Dallas Morning News

“An epic conclusion to an epic historical trilogy about an epic quest to preserve Western freedom, The Guns at Last Light is sure to join its predecessor volumes in the best-seller ranks, and confirms the Liberation Trilogy as a new benchmark against which World War II books yet to be written will be measured.”—Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

 

“A monumental piece of historical writing.”— San Jose Mercury News

“Exhaustively researched, highly readable . . . Just over 16 million Americans served in uniform in the war, and only one million are expected to still be alive at the end of next year. Seven decades later, the story of their service remains compelling, and that’s why so many find it worthy of retelling.”—Buffalo News

"The consummate historian rounds out his prize-winning Liberation Trilogy with a lengthy yet always-engrossing account of the final campaigns on the Western Front, which included D-Day and the well-known Battle of the Bulge. This closing volume is perfect for armchair historians, military buffs, and all those interested in how the Allies finally achieved victory in 1945."—Charleston City Paper

“A terrific read. . . [The Guns at Last Light]is narrative history at its best, providing not only an excellent chronicle of the war in Europe but also fascinating human interest stories and first-rate character studies of the major figures, as well as stories of ordinary soldiers. It is truly an outstanding study of the war and a must read for anyone interested in the Second World War.”— Bowling Green Daily News (Kentucky)

 

“Crisp narrative drive, prodigious research and incisive analysis of people and events ...  Atkinson’s latest work is probably the single best volume about the war in Europe from the D-Day invasion … to the capitulation of German forces … Rick Atkinson … has become a poet of the war.”—The Washington Independent Review of Books

 

“Superb…Atkinson writes sensitively, even lyrically…The Guns at Last Light offers an outstanding testament to all who sacrificed to defeat Hitler’s Third Reich.”—The Louisville Courier-Journal

 

“The master of narrative military history ends his Liberation Trilogy with this admired account of the 1944-45 fighting in Western Europe.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

The Guns at Last Light is an important addition to the World War II bookshelf.”—The Washington Times

 

“Impressively researched … and energetically written, with a brisk pace that carries the reader easily through the narrative’s 600-plus pages.”—The Minneapolis Star Tribune

 

“Stark photographs complement the excellent prose.”—Richmond Times Dispatch

 

“[The Guns at Last Light] is deep in detail, narrative and character description. Readers encounter famous generals — Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, and a host of lower officers — in illuminated portrayals, warts and all.”—Knoxville News Sentinel

 

"Rick Atkinson’s triumphant keystone in his three-part arch of World War II, 14 years in the writing, is a masterpiece . . . The Guns at Last Light will stand as the best of books about the biggest of wars."—The Marine Corps Gazette

 

The Guns at Last Light and the Liberation Trilogy is as good as it gets. . . a historical tour-de-force of over 2,000 pages that places Atkinson among the short list of narrative history masters. . . Students and scholars of countless future generations will look to Atkinson for the story of how freedom bested tyranny in Africa and Europe.”—On Point: The Journal of Army History

 

“Sweeping in scope, Shakespearean in drama and angst, unsparing in its observations, and rich in detail… Atkinson said that he wrote the trilogy as an effort to tell [the story of the frontline troops] ‘vividly and authoritatively, to current and future generations.’ That he has.”—Defense Media Network

 

“Atkinson’s zest for research and his evident devotion to hard facts never obscures the grace of his writing. The proof of that lies less in the many accolades and prizes (including a Pulitzer in history in 2003) than simply in the reading. Rare is a 600-page-plus history book that qualifies as a page turner.”—Military History Magazine

 

“Brilliant…Each volume [of the Liberation Trilogy] is characterized by superb research and fine writing. The high standard set in the prologue to the first volume carries through the epilogue to the last.” —BG Harold W. Nelson, Army Magazine

 

“Richly rewarding and beautifully crafted …With lyrical élan, [Atkinson] accurately and objectively tells the greatest story of our time, and does so with the general reader always in mind.”— World War II Magazine

 

“Triumphant . . . Critics have correctly praised [The Guns at Last Light’s] depth, its evocative nature, and its grasp of the human dimensions of this titanic campaign without losing sight of a broader narrative. . . [Atkinson has] produced a profound work, worthy of being rapidly placed on the service chiefs' and other senior American commanders' reading lists.”—Foreign Policy.com

“A marvelous capstone to a trilogy that will make Rick Atkinson to the U.S. Army in the European Theater of Operations what Shelby Foote is to the Civil War … Mr. Atkinson has a rare ability to combine a historian’s eye with a reporter’s pen to simultaneously provide a sweep and detail to combat that is both unique and enjoyable for the novice student and the hardiest grognard.”—New York Journal of Books

 

“Superb… Atkinson brings his Liberation Trilogy to a resounding close… An outstanding work of popular history, in the spirit of William Manchester and Bruce Catton.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

 

“Superb… The book is distinguished by its astonishing range of coverage… [Atkinson’s] lively, occasionally lyric prose brings the vast theater of battle, from the beaches of Normandy deep into Germany, brilliantly alive. It is hard to imagine a better history of the western front’s final phase.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 

“With a mastery of sources that support nearly every sentence, Atkinson achieves a military history with few peers as an overview of the 1944-45 campaigns in Western Europe.”—Booklist

 

“The book stands out from others on World War II because it successfully explores the fallibility of participants at all levels…This is not a detailed account of any one particular battle but a sweeping epic, yet it is packed with fascinating details. Highly recommended to all who read World War II history.”—Library Journal

 

“The brilliant, more-than-worth-the-wait final volume of [Atkinson’s] epic Liberation Trilogy. . . The Guns at Last Light should be read not just as a great work of narrative military history, but as an accomplished work of American literature.”—BookPage


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About the Author

Rick Atkinson

Rick Atkinson is the bestselling author of An Army at Dawn (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history), The Day of Battle, The Long Gray Line, In the Company of Soldiers, and Crusade. His many other awards include a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, the George Polk award, and the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award. A former staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post, he lives in Washington, D.C.

Rick Atkinson

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Rick Atkinson

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Available Formats and Book Details

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

Award

Apple iBooks Best of the Year, Barnes and Noble Best New Books of the Year, Bookish Best Books of the Year, Chicago Tribune Best Books of the Year, Wall Street Journal Best Books of the Year, Washington Post Best Books of the Year, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
May 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429943673
ISBN10: 142994367X
448 pages
$19.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
Henry Holt and Co.
May 2013
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780805062908
ISBN10: 0805062904
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 896 pages, 29 maps, 2 16-page b&w inserts
$40.00

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
5/13/2014
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250037817
ISBN10: 1250037816
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 928 pages, Includes 29 maps and two 16-page black-and-white photograph sections
$20.00
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Henry Holt and Co.

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