The History Channel is developing a miniseries based on the World War II exploits of Colonel Felix “Shotgun” Sparks who led an infantry regiment that fought its way across Europe and eventually liberated the Dachau concentration camp.
Sparks commanded troops during the September, 1943 invasion of Italy at Salerno. According to the Hollywood Reporter Sparks’ unit, the 157th Infantry Regiment was comprised “primarily of cowboys, Native Americans and Mexican-Americans.”
Sparks and his men are most famous for having liberated Dachau, the infamous Nazi concentration camp that was part of Hitler’s “final solution” against the Jews. The camp was the very first to be established under Nazi rule, in March, 1933. It is estimated that more than 188,000 people were incarcerated at Dachau. While at least 28,000 people died in the camp, the actual death toll is unknown to this day. The first allied soldiers to enter Dachau found 30 boxcars filled with decomposing bodies and the survivors ravaged by disease, hunger, and abuse.
Ironically Sparks was obliged to stop a massacre of captured SS guards who had already surrendered, firing his pistol in the air. The case was later adjudicated by one General George S. Patton, who cleared Sparks of all responsibility for the behavior of his men.
After the war, Sparks became a prominent lawyer in Colorado. He died in 2007 at the age of about 90.
The History Channel has already done scripted TV series, including “The Vikings” and “The Bible.” With “The Liberator” it will follow the example set by “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” which aired on HBO, telling stories of World War II from the point of view of the men who fought it. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are producing a third series, “Masters of the Air,” telling the story of bomber crews flying missions for the Eighth Air Force over occupied Europe.
Jeb Stuart will write the script for “The Liberator” miniseries based on a recent biography of Sparks. “Stuart penned the screenplays for films including Die Hard, Another 48 Hours, The Fugitive and Fire Down Below.”