The best trilogy of WWII in Europe...period.

I just finished what my opinion, the finest history of World War II in Europe from 1942-1945...period.

Rick Atkinson, former reporter for the Washington Post and 2-time Pulitzer Prize winner (one of them for the first volume in this series) has written what I consider the magnum opus of military history on America's involvement in the liberation of Europe.

This trilogy will become to World War II what Shelby Foote's masterpiece on the Civil War is to the history of that conflict--the definitive must-read account of the greatest and most costly conflict ever waged by the United States.

Ok, enough gushing right? Well, I can't say enough. These books are magnificent on every level: the depth of research, the prose and narrative, the outstanding maps (never to be under estimated, I love maps and hound any history book, especially military history that has poor or nonexistent maps), and the willingness of Mr. Atkinson to address heretofore unspoken aspects of popular or official histories of the war. 

Some of these are expected, even if not previously expanded upon in official histories--the constant bickering and clash of personalities within the Allied high command (British Field Marshall Montgomery comes off as "that British sumbitch" as my father used to call him...and that's being charitable), and Atkinson pulls no punches in describing the often petty arguments that threatened Allied unity.

Other unsavory topics are also honestly discussed, including the often rampant drinking, screwing, and looting of GIs across Europe. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the "Greatest Generation" was not above a bit of seamy behavior...which certainly doesn't diminish their heroism and in fact, makes what they did even more remarkable because they were not mythical supermen, but ordinary men who were both cowards and heroes, and sometimes just wanted a hot meal, bottle of hooch, and to get laid after intense and deadly combat.

To put things in proper perspective, the sheer scale of the combat that many of these men endured is remarkable. Many of these men served for three years overseas and saw combat in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, often serving for months in continuous combat. Mr. Atkinson does an excellent job of weaving individual stories of personalities into the narrative, relating the march of participants across many campaigns and theaters of war, where often the only relief from combat was serious injury or death.

Even though each volume runs to over 700 pages with notes and bibliography, Mr. Atkinson's magnificent prose makes these truly a joy to read. I know I have written individual reviews of two of these volumes before:

Day of Battle

Guns of Last Light

But I had to take the opportunity to read all three of them together...and wow, that is so much can really get a sense of the progression of the American war machine from the bumbling amateurs of Kasserine Pass to the awesome killing machine of the Battle of the Bulge.

So, if you enjoy well written World War II history, this trilogy should be on your bookshelf.


'Nuff said.