Netflix’s The Liberator tells the true story of U.S. soldier Felix Sparks, so what happened to him after World War II? Here’s what you need to know.
The Liberator tells the incredible story of World War II veteran Felix Sparks, so what happened to him upon returning home? The four-part animated Netflix series provides some closing biographical information about the U.S. Army officer but not enough for audiences to understand what kind of life he led after surviving the war. Based on Alex Kershaw’s eponymous 2012 book and developed for Netflix by Jeb Stuart, The Liberator released in November 2020.
Starring Bradley James as Sparks, The Liberator centers on the U.S. Army’s 157th regiment. Known as “The Thunderbirds,” the unit – as told through voiceover narration – was trained Fort Sill, Oklahoma and consisted of Apache, Seminole, Cherokee, Sioux, Choctaw, and Mexican Americans. The Netflix miniseries begins with the regiment’s invasion of Sicily, and follows them through the Italian mainland to Salerno. After a devastating defeat at Anzio, in which Sparks emerges as the only survivor of the 157th, he rebuilds his unit and pushes forth through France, and ultimately reaches the sad truth about Nazi Germany at Dachau Concentration Camp.
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In the series finale of The Liberator, Sparks is investigated for his involvement in the mass execution of Nazi soldiers at Dachau. He’s ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing by none other than George S. Patton, the legendary American General who tragically passed away in car accident just months after World War II ended. “Don’t let the scars ruin you,” Patton tells Sparks, who returns home to his beloved wife Mary. Closing graphics in the Netflix series show that Sparks attended law school at the University of Colorado and eventually served on the Colorado State Supreme Court. The Liberator also reveals that Sparks died in 2007 after 65 years of marriage to Mary.
Two years after the end of World War II, Sparks graduated from law school in 1947. Approximately 16 years later, his 16-year-old grandson was reportedly (via Westword) shot and killed in Denver. Around the same time, Sparks served in the Colorado Army National Guard as the Cuban Missile Crisis ramped up, and later commanded the unit during the majority of the ’70s. By the ’90s, Sparks became involved in the organization People United — No Children’s Handguns! (PUNCH!), and was subsequently awarded the Community Champion Award by the Civil Justice Foundation; an accolade to sit alongside his Silver Star and two Purple Hearts from World War II.
In 1996, Sparks discussed his Holocaust experiences on-camera for 220 minutes via the USC Shoah Foundation Institute (via YouTube). The organization was founded by filmmaker Steven Spielberg and features video testimonies of 52,000 Holocaust survivors, witnesses, and liberators. Around the 93-minute mark, Sparks recalls communicating with Jewish prisoners at Dachau; a moment that’s depicted in The Liberator on Netflix. He states that he never actually went inside the compound but had a “Birdseye view” of what transpired after speaking with survivors. Mary Sparks also appears near the end of the video and sums up her unique marriage by stating “I will say that, over all the years, it’s been anything but dull.” Felix Sparks died at age 90 in September 2007, and his wife Mary passed away in June 2018 at age 96.
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