Write Again . . . The ‘Liberation Trilogy’

Published 3:38 pm Monday, September 14, 2015

Thanks to my friend and fellow World War II history buff, Dick Leach, I recently had perhaps the best extended period of reading I’ve ever experienced.

For five or more decades the WWII period in history has been a major focus of my interest. That’s an understatement.

Dick let me read his three volumes of author Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed “Liberation Trilogy” about the Allied triumph, from north Africa, through Sicily and Italy, then Normandy eastward.

Each book is 600-plus pages, and as well done as is humanly possible.

The first volume is “An Army at Dawn,” which chronicles the war in north Africa. The second, “The Day of Battle,” takes the reader through Sicily and Italy. The third and concluding book is “The Guns at Last Light — the War in Western Europe, 1944-45.”

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, among many other prestigious awards, author Rick Atkinson, interestingly, is a graduate of East Carolina University. Yes!

There is no way — utterly impossible — for me to provide for you a succinct explanation, representation of the immensity of the project he undertook to produce such masterful works. His scholarship, research and nonpareil writing skills are beyond my limited capabilities of describing. Truly.

In the final book there is just a sliver of a vast universe of the history of the world’s greatest — and most horrible — event(s) Atkinson addressed that I’d like to share with you. Just a tiny thread from a tremendous tapestry of that historic and terrible time.

“On Saturday, October 27 (1945), the ‘Connolly’ berthed in New York. Stevedores winched the caskets two at a time in specially designed slings. Most then traveled by rail in a great diaspora across the republic for burial in their hometowns. Among those waiting was Henry A. Wright, a widower who lived on a farm in southwestern Missouri, near Springfield. One by one his sons arrived at the local train station: Sergeant Frank H. Wright, killed on Christmas Eve 1944 in the Bulge; Private Harold B. Wright, who had died of his wounds in a German prison camp on February 3, 1945; and finally Private Elton E. Wright, killed in Germany on April 25, two weeks before the war ended.

“Gray and stooped, the elder Wright watched as the caskets were carried into the rustic bedroom where each boy had been born. Neighbors kept a vigil overnight, carpeting the floor with roses, and in the morning bore the brothers to Hilltop Cemetery for burial side by side by side beneath an iron sky.”

Atkinson ends the third, the very last, of his magnificent trilogy thus:

“Yet the war and all that the war contained — nobility, villainy, immeasurable sorrow — is certain to live on even after the last old soldier has gone to his grave. May the earth lie lightly on his bones.”

APROPOS — “The living have the cause of the dead in trust.”

Osmar White, WWII Australian reporter