Recomended Military Books: World War II

Today in WW II: 17 Jan 1945 Soviet troops capture Warsaw from German Army Group A who had occupied the city.   

Books about World War II

The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won by Victor Davis Hanson. 720 pages (October 17, 2017) Basic Books. Prof. Hanson brings his talents as a military historian, analyst, and writer to produce this important new treatment of the full scope of World War II. That vast and devastating conflict ended in 1945 but still influences the world well into the 21st century. The author explains his vision of WW II at this link.

The U.S. Cavalry - Time of Transition, 1938-1944: Horses to Mechanization by Gary W. Palmer. 510 pages (March 29, 2013) Voyak Publications. Blending official wartime records with fresh interviews, stories and rare photos from personal and archival collections, the author follows the 106th Cavalry Group, a unit of the Illinois National Guard, as its 1,500 personnel transition from horses to vehicles and participate in the landmark Louisiana training maneuvers of 1940�41. Palmer also uncovers the behind-the-scenes activities of the War Department, Army General Staff, and other military units as they test the firepower of the traditional horse cavalry against the new technologies of tanks, jeeps and other mechanized vehicles.

Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald. 288 pages (October 19, 1999) Burford Books. Originally published in 1948, the book is OCS graduate Captain MacDonald's day to day experience as Commander of Company I and later Company G, 23d Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from September 1944 through the end of the war. Rifle companies like these were the heart of the US Army. The story is not pretty and not about MacDonald's heroic performance, rather it celebrates the real infantryman -- the rifleman, the machine gunner, the messenger, the mortarman -- what he did and what he endured to do it.

Beyond Peleliu by Peter Baird. 268 pages (May 30, 2007) Ravenhawk Books. This historical novel starts with the Battle of Peleliu, but is mostly about the generational impact of war and the importance of truth for healing and forgiveness. Thomas Childers, Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and author of .php amazon_pp("B000SKR3NY", "World War Two: A Military and Social History");?> said: "Peter Baird's Beyond Peleliu is a hauntingly powerful novel of compelling honesty and skill, a moving reminder that wars do not end when the last shot is fired. A novel that must be read." Significantly, the author's father was an army surgeon with the 81st Infantry Division during the Battle of Peleliu.
The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson. Henry Holt and Co. (October 2, 2007), 816 pages. Following the course of American involvement in World War II in Europe, Atkinson continues the narrative established with his prize-winning .php amazon_pp("0805074481","An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943");?>. While many others have written of the July 1943 Operation Husky (the invasion of Sicily) and the Italian Campaign that followed (e.g. as early as the 1944 fictional, but accurate account of Salerno in .php amazon_pp("0803261489","A Walk in the Sun");?>) Atkinson provides a comprehensively researched and richly detailed story in this excellent book. He not only follows the battle as the Allies scratch out progress measured in yards and blood, but enlivens the description with personal anecdotes from the diaries, letters and memoirs of participants, officers and men up and down the chain of command: generals, officers, soldiers on the line, war correspondents. While the book is focused on the American units and their leaders, the story of the British and other Allies in the fight is also told, along with the view from the Germans and Italians. Starting with the prelude to Husky, the action is followed through the invasion of mainland Italy, the hard fighting up the mountainous boot, to the liberation of Rome in June of 1944. The larger issues of the relationship of the Mediterranean campaigns to the rest of the war are revealed and the ultimate question is resolved: was Italy worth the cost? Atkinson shows why the Italian campaign had to be, despite the horrific cost of so difficult and costly a slog.
Firestorm: Allied Airpower and the Destruction of Dresden by Marshall De Bruhl. Random House (November 28, 2006), Hardcover: 368 pages. The Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany (13-15 February 1945) heavily damaged a large percentage of the city's buildings, among them many cultural landmarks, killing an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 people. The raid became controversial as some commentators argued that Dresden was not a military target and that the Nazi government was near defeat in any case. With the luxury of hindsight, some called the raid a war crime. In this book, De Bruhl assembles the evidence to show that Dresden was a center for war production. The war was still in progress, the Germans were not yet beaten, and Dresden was a legitimate target. The Dresden bombing, in the contemporary context that included V-1 and V-2 rockets falling daily on the UK, was legitimate and proportional.
Every Shape, Every Shadow: A Novel of Guadalcanal by Roger L. Conlee. Pale Horse Productions (November 18, 2004), Paperback: 267 pages. This historical novel features a fictitious platoon and dialogue, but is wholly accurate as an account of the bloody 1942 Guadalcanal campaign. As a tribute to the 1st Marine Division, the real heroes are all there, including General Archer Vandegrift, Colonel "Red Mike" Edson, General Roy Geiger and Sgt. Manila John Basilone. The book was recognized with the Military Writers Society of America's 2006 Distinguished Honor Award.
Pattons Photographs: War As He Saw It by Kevin M. Hymel. Potomac Books (April 30, 2006), Hardcover: 172 pages. While researching other military history in the Library of Congress, the author found previously unknown photo albums from Gen. Patton's war service, donated by Patton's family after the war. This book is a collection of the best of the photos, organized chronologically from the campaign in North Africa through the liberation of Western Europe in 1945. The collection is unique in that the scenes were selected by Patton himself and reflect his priorities in fighting the war as well as his sense of himself and the legacy he wanted. Sidebar notes and Patton family captions add to the value of the photos themselves. Unique and fascinating.
Dunkirk Spirit by Alan Pearce (ebook). This novel, the first ever on the subject, tells the full true story of the Dunkirk evacuation in the early months of the Second World War. Journalist Alan Pearce reveals the incredible personal sacrifice and bravery both on the home front and at the front line. Drawing on personal accounts and official histories, the novel relives the harrowing evacuation under fire and paints a remarkable picture of life in the early days of the war when England faced invasion while the British Army lay trapped on the shores of France.
Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan B. Parshall, Anthony Tully. Potomac Books (December 15, 2005), Hardcover: 640 pages. Shattered Sword is a groundbreaking new treatment of the Battle of Midway that corrects long-held myths and finally provides a complete and accurate account of the epic 1942 sea battle that was the first step to the eventual American victory in the Pacific Theater of World War II. This naval history of Japan's loss at Midway provides an hour by hour account never before available, fully exploring both side's tactical doctrine and operational results. Survivor's stories from the Japanese side give deep insight into horrific crew conditions on their vessels that bring appreciation and honor to their service. You don't know the Battle of Midway until you have digested this book.
Experiences of a World War II Veteran: Before, During And After the War by James Woodall Taylor. Authorhouse (August 31, 2005), 284 pages. Dr. Taylor recounts his life and career, starting as a country boy in Tennessee, living on subsistence farming during the Depression, to vivid experiences as a noncom on Tinian and Okinawa in the Pacific Theater during WW II, and his civilian life afterward. Dr. Taylor candidly recalls his successes and failures, and the lessons and philosophical questions drawn from life�s up and downs.
The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944 by Lt. Col. Will Irwin (Ret.) PublicAffairs; 1st edition (September 6, 2005), 323 pages. The Jedburghs is a good capsule history of the 1944 D-Day invasion and its aftermath, helping the reader to understand Eisenhower�s plans and the movement of armies, but it also delves into the details of the role of Jedburghs, how they were organized, their equipment and training, and the selection and experiences of individuals and small teams as they took up the special warfare challenge and carried out their missions. Using interviews, diaries and letters, and other direct sources Col. Irwin brings alive what it was like to join the Jedburghs, go through the punishing mental and physical training, and then to parachute as 3-man teams into France, behind German lines, to work with the Marquis to harrass, interdict and defeat the Germans. Many things went wrong, from missed drop zones and lapsed communications to traitors among the French, but the Jeds were above all resourceful and time after time created victory out of almost nothing. The heroic and inspiring accounts of the actions of individual Jeds and seven of the teams is the strongest part of the book. In an Epilogue, the author provides a follow up of the life of Jedburgh veterans after the war. It is revealing, but not surprising, to learn that these extraordinary men generally rose to high positions and professional attainment, including Major Wm. Colby whose Jed experience in WW II led to a career in the intelligence community and to his appointment as CIA Director in 1973. An Appendix provides a detailed roster of the Jedburgh teams and missions in France. See also, the page on The Jedburghs.
The March to Victory: A Guide to World War II Battles and Battlefields from London to the Rhine . This book is an interesting combination of a history of World WAr II in Europe combined with a guide to what relics, monuments, and museums can be seen if you visit the battle sites today. The book covers sites in England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands.
A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron, Forgotten Heroes of World War II , by Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud. Knopf; 1st edition (September 23, 2003), 512 pages. This well written history of Polish fighters in World War II is actually much more than its title conveys. Here are rich, personal details about the relentlessly brave Polish pilots who escaped the Nazi invasion and founght decisively with the RAF, side by side in the crucial days of the Battle of Britain. But the book also adds much to the history of the Eastern Front, especially the situation in Poland during the Nazi occupation and the Soviet invasion from the east at war's end. The suffering of Poland from Nazi brutality did not suppress its heroic uprisings, unique in Europe. And, sadly, the book documents the tragic betrayal of the Poles by British and American leaders who sought to appease the Soviet Union during the war -- doing little as the Soviet army stood by and watched the Nazi's crush the Warsaw revolt -- and afterward when Stalin absorbed Poland while the western Allies turned their backs.
Bates Books offers two histories of the fighting in France in 1944-1945. The first, The Charge of the Bull, recounts the battles of 11th British Armoured Division from the time they landed in Normandy, on 13 and 14 June, 1944, between Bernires and Courseulles on the Channel coast, to January, 1946, when the Division was disbanded in Flensburg, Germany, on the Baltic Sea, at the Danish border. The second book, The Search for Sidney, is the story of Corporal Sidney Bates, VC, a young, working-class, cockney boy who fell in Normandy in the battles following the D-Day landings. The author (same last name but no relation) went to France and worked closely with French and British survivors to establish the fine details of the events. Eventually, it turned out to be a search not only for the battlefield and for the personality of Sidney Bates himself, but also for ways to correct certain misunderstandings, even slanders, both on the military and civilian sides, that have crept into the D-Day literature.
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson. 672 pages (October 2002) Henry Holt & Company, Inc. Operation Torch, the campaign in North Africa, was the first major effort of the United States in World War II. Although overshadowed today by the D-Day invasion of Normandy and subsequent battles into the heart of Germany, it was in North Africa that the U.S. military learned how to craft an allied force with the British to defeat the initially superior Germans. Commanders such as Patton, Bradley, Clark and Eisenhower, along with their officers and men, were tested and learned the necessary lessons for the coming war in Italy and western Europe. After the intensively described battle of Kasserine Pass (February 1943), where American forces were mauled, out of defeat the allies learned that even Rommel could be held and defeated. In An Army at Dawn, Atkinson brings to life this strategic and tactical picture of the movement of armies and development of the alliance that eventually won the war. But more than that he illuminates the elusive "what was it like" through numerous personal stories and anecdotes. His style is highly readable and never bogs down, keeping the overall picture clear while zeroing in on lots of little-known details.
Twenty-Five Yards of War : The Extraordinary Courage of Ordinary Men in World War II by Ronald J. Drez, Stephen E. Ambrose. 296 pages (November 2001) Hyperion. Ronald Drez worked with Stephen Ambrose at the Eisenhower Center (U. of New Orleans) on the Normandy Project, the basis of Ambrose's book .php amazon_pp("0671673343","D-Day June 6, 1944 : The Climactic Battle of World War II");?>. That experience led to this fine book of personal stories set in ten of the most significant actions of World War II. Each chapter follows the experience of an individual through their own path as the events unfolded day by day. The book provides an outline of the strategic picture, the grand design, but the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and pilots didn't have that view at the time as they did what they had to do to get the job done and maybe survive. This book adds texture and detail to what you may already know about events from the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo to Iwo Jima and the Battle of the Bulge.
Pearl Harbor Betrayed by Michael Gannon. 320 pages (September 2001) Henry Holt & Company, Inc. Historian and author Michael Gannon presents a most compelling story of the complex and interrelated events, decisions, actions and judgements that led to the disaster at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The book easily dispels myths like "Roosevelt did it" or "The millitary was asleep". Those glib assertions don't stand under the weight of detailed review of the multitude of actions going on in 1941 as the Navy and Army built up the fleet, defenses, strategy and tactics for the war it knew was coming. Individual decisions, at the time unrelated and taken for good reasons or through the workings of blind bureaucracy, left Admiral Kimmel and General Short isolated in Hawaii without the startegic intelligence or tactical defenses needed to handle the attack that was predicted by many (although not really expected). The defenders were actually very well trained and fought bravely, but were reacting to a surprise and had limited weapons and equipment for the fight. In the aftermath there was a rush to judgement as the nation shifted to a war footing and had to put the blame for Pearl Harbor on someone convenient.
Hitler Stopped by Franco by Jane Boyar and Burt Boyar. 323 pages (July 2001) Marbella House. In June of 1940 Hitler was master of Europe, seemingly an unstoppable force. England was under assault from the Luftwaffe and its fall seemed only weeks away. To seal the fate of England, and possibly civilization, Hitler needed Gibralter to control the Mediterranean. That seemed simple: wasn't General Franco in Spain an ally of The Third Reich? Didn't Germany and Italy provide crucial support in the Spanish Civil War that brought Franco to power? It would seem so, but somehow Franco, alone of all the powers of Continental Europe, resisted falling into the hands of Hitler. By resisting and delaying, he cost Germany the key logistical position that made the Allied landings in North Africa possible and ultimately led to the end of Hitler's Reich. This book tells the story of how these events unfolded by making it into a novel. Based on in-depth research, but with invented dialog where no documents exist, it makes a fascinating read as the conversations, meetings, and diplomatic dispatches show how little Franco and his relatively weak country defied the greatest tyrant of the 20th century and got away with it.
The Two-Ocean War by Samuel Eliot Morison. Little Brown and Company (Reprint edition, November 1989), Paperback: 611 pages. The subtitle is "A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War" which understates the completeness of the coverage of the immense Atlantic and Pacific naval campaigns of the war, including the invasion and conquest of the many Pacific islands. It is only short when compated to Morison's own fifteen volume history of US naval operations in WW II, but is easy to read and keeps a brisk pace. A must for any military library of World War II.
Sea Assault by Captain Joseph Enright, USN with James Ryan. 336 pages (October 2000) St Martins Press Paperback. In late 1944 the Japanese Navy launched Shinano, a mammoth 72,000-ton aircraft carrier, commanded by one of Japan's most able Captains. This enormous ship, built in complete secrecy, embodied Japan's hopes of stopping the onslaught of the U.S. and its allies across the Pacific toward their home islands. Through an incredible series of improbable events combined with the skill and daring of Captain Enright and his crew, a lone U.S. submarine, Archer-Fish, sank the Shinano on its maiden voyage, just hours after it left the port where it was built. This gripping account combines Enright's story with interviews, diaries, and captured documents gathered after the war from the officers and men on the Shinano.
Day of Infamy by Walter Lord. 256 pages. Originally published in 1957, this is the 60th Anniversary Edition (May 2001). Owl Books. 2001 is the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the event that ended any thought of the U.S. avoiding participation in World War II. Americans in 1941 were not sure that war with Japan was coming. Many thought a long-distance attack against Hawaii was impossible or that air power was impotent against major ships. All illusions were shattered as the planes converged on Pearl just after sunup that Sunday. In this book, the definitive history of the day, Walter Lord details (!) the attack starting with the Japanese planning, logistics and unprecendented cross-Pacific execution. He follows the minute by minute experiences on the ground and in the air over Oahu as the action unfolded. Though the words and memories of hundreds of people, on both sides, who were there he reconstructs the sights, sounds, and feelings as if the reader was there too. (If you plan to see the movie "Pearl Harbor" this book is your best preparation.) The book ends with President Roosevelt's historic "Day of Infamy" speech -- within a hour America declared war, the beginning of the end for the aggressors.
Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France by Ernest R. May. 384 pages (September 2000) Hill & Wang Pub. At the outset of WW II in Europe, France and England seemed to have the largest, best prepared armies far exceeding Germany's war potential. When Hitler first announced his plans for France to his staff, they recoiled in disbelief and asked for delays of years. But Hitler insisted and, to everyones' amazement he was right -- France collapsed and Britian withdrew at Dunkerque. narrowly avoiding complete destruction. In this carefully researched book, Ernest May explores the day by day developments on all sides that led to this unexpected Strange Victory.
Some Survived : A True Story of the Desert War Against Rommel by Charles Ronald. 312 pages (December 1999) American Literary Press. Ronald follows a British tank regiment from training in England through battles in the North African desert in the early days of World War II. They fight, suffer, and die struggling against Rommel, the Luftwaffe, and their own inept officers and inadequate supplies and equipment. The narrative speaks with great authenticity exposing the ground level view of the war and the soldiers who fought, sometimes reluctantly, until victory.
Duty : A Father, His Son & the Man Who Won the War by Bob Greene. 304 pages (May 2000) William Morrow & Company. Greene's moving book is rewarding at two levels. He reveals new first-person details of Col. Paul Tibbets and his Hiroshima mission that convinced the Japanese to finally end the war. More profoundly, through conversations with Tibbets and revealing introspection about his own father's Army service in Italy, Greene uncovers the intricate cultural connections binding the wartime generation. Asking few questions, making no demands they did their duty, putting their lives on the line to win the war and secure the peaceful, prosperous postwar nation. Today's generation hardly recognizes these warriors but owes everything to them.
The Second World War by John Keegan. 608 pages (Reprinted September 1990) Penguin USA (Paper). Keegan, a military historian and prolific writer (search this page for other Keegan books) has produced the best one-volume treatment available on WW II. An outstanding synthesis of an enormous amount of material on "the largest single event in human history."
Six Armies in Normandy : From D-day to the Liberation of Paris by John Keegan. 365 pages (Reprinted June 1994) Penguin USA (Paper). A detailed account of the actions of June 6, 1944, and the subsequent Normandy campaigns by five Allied nations and their German opponents. Vividly detailed battle descriptions.
The Fighting Pattons presents a unique view of a military family, and most importantly displays the lives of a father and son: a father who would become an American hero and a son who excelled on his own terms, but who was profoundly influenced by a figure who had gained legendary status. Includes a vast array of never before published information on Patton's family and WW II. Link with more about this book.
The Military Music & Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich 1933-1945 by Brian Matthews. An exciting, photo-filled, 100,000-word book focusing on German military music during the years of the Third Reich. Painstakingly researched to reveal this overlooked area of German military history, a 20-chapter work that will appeal both to the military music/brass band enthusiast and Third Reich collector/historian.
Achtung-Panzer! The Development of Armoured Forces, Their Tactics and Operational Potential by Heinz Guderian. Paperback - 220 pages (August 1995) Arm & Armour Press. Guderian is the German general who spearheaded the development of tank warfare going into WW II. This book is a reprint of the seminal work which established the art and still provides the basic principles today.
A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan. Paperback - 670 pages Reprint edition (May 1995) Simon and Schuster Books. The dramatic final volume in Ryan's superb World War II trilogy focuses on the battle for Arnhem. Ryan draws from a vast cast of characters--from Dutch civilians to British and American strategists to common soldiers and commanders--to bring to life this daring military operation. Photos.
The Longest Day : June 6, 1944 by Cornelius Ryan The original, definitive book on D-day, the basis for the epic movie with the same name. Full of details on the strategy, tactics, individual stories and hour-by-hour accounts of the deadly, ultimately successful action. Paperback, 350 pages. Published by Touchstone Books. Publication date: May 1994.
The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan. Paperback - 571 pages Reprint edition (May 1995) Simon and Schuster Books. Ryan's well-known ability to recreate the sights and sounds of war with breathtaking immediacy resounds in this portrait of the last Allied offensive against Hitler's Third Reich--the Battle for Berlin. 52 photos. 4 maps.
D-day June 6, 1944 : The Climactic Battle of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose One of the best books on D-day available now in paperback. Published by Simon & Schuster. Publication date: June 1995.
Crusade in Europe by Dwight D. Eisenhower. This is Ike's own memoirs of the massive campaign of land armies which drove the final stake into the heart of Nazi Germany. Every military library must include this book! Reprint Edition. Paperback, 559 pages. Published by Johns Hopkins Univ Press. Publication date: April 1997
Citizen Soldiers : The US Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944-May 7, 1945 by Stephen E. Ambrose. Here the author uses many individual soldiers' stories to explore why the American army was able to succeed against the entrenched forces of the Third Reich. Many incredible details, never before revealed. Hardcover, 480 pages. Published by Simon & Schuster. Publication date: November 1997.
Vanguard Of The Crusade: The 101st Airborne Division In World War II , by Mark Bando. A chronicle of the 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles" from 1943 England through their critical role in D-Day and on to the end of the war in Germany. The story is built from hundreds of interviews and personal diaries of 101st veterans, the building blocks of history from the memories of those who were there.
Band of Brothers : E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hilter's Eagle's Nest by Stephen E. Amrose. The author has made a career out of this defining period in history. This book adds more detail to the events of 1944-1945 as he follows day by day with this unit. Reprint Edition. Paperback. Published by Touchstone Books. Publication date: June 1993.
Flags of Our Fathers . The author James Bradley is the son of John "Doc" Bradley, one of the six men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima February 23, 1945. In this book, he probes the events and the men of the USMC in that immense 36 day battle for a small island, the valor and horrific scenes his reticent father never was willing to speak of. A moving, revealing book about the war, the battle and the individual Americans who fought.
The Rape of Nanking : The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II by Iris Chang. 290 pages (November 1998) Penguin USA (Paper). The horrible events in Nanking under Japanese occupation in 1937 are the subject of this book. In Nanking, China's capital city, Japanese soldiers were trained to slaughter unarmed, unresisting civilians, as they would later do throughout Asia, likening their victims to insects and animals.
Bataan : Our Last Ditch : The Bataan Campaign, 1942 by John W. Whitman . Hardcover - 754 pages (November 1990) Hippocrene Books. Detailed military history of the attack, defense, and fall of Bataan. Gives the reader great insight into the accomplishments,ingenuity,espirit and gallantry of The American and Philippine soldiers stand in the face of impossible odds and abandonment in the early months of the Pacific War.
Desert Explorer : A Biography of Colonel P.A. Clayton, by Peter Clayton (March 1998) Zerzura Press . This book relates the true history of desert warfare behind the movie "The English Patient" including the history of the Long Range Desert Group. Well illustrated with unique photos.
The 761st Tank Battalion (African-American Soldiers) by Kathryn Browne Pfeifer. 80 pages (June 1994) Twenty First Century Books. This is a book for children, Grade 5 - 8, that covers the history of the black soldiers of the 761st Tank Battalion, which served with distinction during World War II providing advance ground support for General Patton's infantry divisions.
The 56th Evac. Hospital : Letters of a WW II Army Doctor (War and the Southwest Series ; No. 4) by Lawrence D. Collins. Published by University of North Texas Press, June 1995.

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