Episode 3 of The Liberator ships us across the sea to St Maxime in France. The Thunderbirds have been taken out of Italy and reassigned to Six Army for Operation Dragoon.
They’re looking to invade Southern France but shelling and rough seas aren’t good signs, despite the 20% casualty rate predicted. Tellingly, Sparks has now been promoted to Major as well.
The army arrive in Cologne expecting resistance but finding none. A man on a bicycle greets them and asks exactly what’s taken them so long. It’s a welcome respite but one that doesn’t last.
On the way, the soldiers get acquainted to one of their own called Otaktay while enjoying the pleasures of “the champagne campaign”, which sees the soldiers all enjoying themselves and making the most of these rare luxuries.
Sparks remains guarded, believing the Germans are drawing them into their territory before launching a counter attack. Sparks is given a distinction for his efforts in Anzio and 3 other medals – those 3 obviously being for the only other survivors.
A more pressing concern is the upcoming mission. With their ranks at 50% strength and no reinforcements inbound any time soon, Sparks is forced to lead the men through treacherous winter conditions to the Vosges mountains.
The soldiers get stuck in and dig their foxholes ready for the inevitable conflict to come. It’s just in time too, as mortar blasts come raining in. They’re pinned down, forced to try and withstand this horrific shelling, as Major Sparks does his best to get supplies up to them.
Unfortunately that supply truck is hit by a grenadier and comes under heavy fire. Even worse, a sniper has them pinned down too so there’s no way of leaving.
When Sparks receives radio silence from E Company, he demands they get on the radio and bring in reinforcements – including tanks and artillery.
Under heavy shelling, the German soldiers break through the tree line and start marching toward them. Only, they’re not just any troops – they’re SS. The two separate groups are pinned down with little respite – but that also goes for the Germans too. In a rare sight, we see two SS soldiers huddled together talking of home.
Meanwhile, our US Father and son duo make an impossible decision while in their fox-hole but it’s one that ultimately pays off.
This man makes it back to base and informs the Major exactly what they’re dealing with up by the bridge. With the metal skeletal remains of the previous reinforcements lying in their wake, these 2 SS soldiers watch as Major Sparks heads up to tend to his troops himself.
They can hardly believe their eyes as he runs across the battleground and brings his men to safety. With a finger on the trigger, our Germans decide to show mercy. That mercy comes in the form of Sparks formally surrendering to the German Major.
With their group surrounded and little other choice, Sparks tells the men he’s going to take the General up on his offer. It’s either that or be killed by the SS soldiers that haver them in their line of sight.
Of course, some men do choose to flee, unable to face being a prisoner of war. The Germans try to pick them off but this trio of soldiers make it back down the mountain.
Following the bloodshed and hopelessness of this mission, a furious Major Sparks returns to base and berates his officer over the pointlessness of this endeavour. He completely breaks, sobbing and unable to control his emotions as he rolls out with the rest of the group. As they look set to leave France, Sparks does his best to keep it together.
The Episode Review
War is hell and there’s no winning side or Heroes in this great campaign. This episode perfectly exemplifies that and the wordless ceasefire between the two sides shows how much mutual respect there is between these two sets of soldiers.
Despite everyone at the time believing the Germans to be the most evil people in the world, that is of course far from the truth. Yes there were a few – namely Himmler, Hitler and their close circle of Nazi brethren – but for the most part the rest of the soldiers were just doing their jobs.
The changed dynamic of the mountain is good and the entire episode is steeped in tension too as the groups look on the verge of breaking point. With a fourth and final episode up next, it remains to be seen quite what will happen next.