Military Book Suggestions

One of my colleagues at work was telling me the other day that she would like to know more about military history. I said I’d send her a list of books. I sent the following (without links) as an email.

Per our conversation, here is a “reading list” of military books. You and your husband might get a kick out of it, and even want to read some of this stuff.

Very difficult to keep the list short. I cruised around my library at home, and came up with the following. I decided to keep it to ten, but failed and ended up with a few more than that.

Since you like historical fiction, I decided to split the difference between that and narrative history and mostly suggest “you are there” memoirs.

I keep my sanity in this job by always having a couple of books going, even if I can only get in a few pages a day.

Here’s the list:

David Hackett Fischer
Paul Revere’s Ride
Washington’s Crossing
Two very good narrative histories of key episodes in the American Revolution. Very good on the details of the events, as well as placing them in their larger context.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Army Life in a Black Regiment

Memoir of the Civil War from the viewpoint of a Boston Yankee commanding a regiment of freed slaves.

Winston Churchill
My Early Life: A Roving Commission

Churchill’s memoir of his early life. He was in combat in India, the Sudan and in the Boer War. Probably his best book, and a good insider view of the Victorian heyday of British imperial power.

Robert Graves
Good-Bye to All That

Ernst Junger
Storm of Steel

Two memoirs capture the British and German responses to World War I. Graves is a beautiful writer and Junger is a mesmerizing maniac.

Eugene B. Sledge
With the Old Breed at Pelelieu and Okinowa

Martin Lindsay
So Few Got Through: With the Gordon Highlanders From Normandy to the Baltic

Gabriel Temkin
My Just War: The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II

Hans von Luck
Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck

Evelyn Waugh
The Sword of Honour Trilogy

My favorite memoirs from World War II, one from each nationality: American, British, Soviet and German. (I don’t know of a good one showing the Japanese or Chinese experience, unfortunately.) There are lots of others, but these are all superb. I add one novel, Waugh’s brilliant though flawed masterwork, which has been described as the best depiction of Britain during World War II.

David H. Hackworth
About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior
Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts: The Hopeless to Hardcore Transformation of U.S. Army, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, Vietnam

Hackworth’s About Face is an epic. A personal, ground-level depiction of the US Army from 1946 to 1970, including Korea and Vietnam. Hackworth joined the Army when he was 15. This is in its way a love story — the kid who gave his heart to the Army and never looked back, no matter how it treated him. Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts is an in-depth depiction of one year in the life of a battalion Hackworth commanded in Vietnam. Both are superb.

Ken Connor
Ghost Force: The Secret History of the SAS

An insider’s take on the military history in the postwar world, from a very different perspective from Hackworth. Part history and part memoir. The British Special Air Service commando unit, “the Queen’s Killers”, fought many bloody unpublicized battles in the back-alleys of the Cold War, and sustained Britain’s global influence during the post-colonial era. The future of the American military and the defense of the United States in the 21st century will probably be far more like these nasty, covert, face-to-face and often low-tech efforts than the big-ticket, big battles of the past.

40 thoughts on “Military Book Suggestions”

  1. George McDonald Fraser: “Quartered Safe Out Here”– a memoir of his time as a young soldier in SE Asia, at the end of WWII. Also his three volumes of short stories about life in an immediatly post-war British Army regiment: “The General Danced at Dawn”, “McAuslan in the Rough” and “The Sheikh and the Dustbin”. All are funny and heartbreaking at the same time.
    Also, the original “M*A*S*H” collection of stories by Richard Hooker. I read them about the time that the movie came out, when I was in college, and was kinda revolted (yet amused)by the antics of all these people with their lavatorial sense of humor, bad language and decidedly loose morals. Then I read it again, after I and been active duty AF for three or four years and thought, “Gee, seem normal enough to me…”

  2. I have heard very good things about that Fraser book. I have not read it yet, though, so I restricted myself to books I’ve already read. This list could be massively expanded, of course, I am interested to see if our readers will tip me off to something I don’t know about already.

  3. Both of Fischers’ books are very good and give an in-depth and eye raising look into events we delude ourselves into thinking we know something about. Excellent pieces of Americana.

    You and I have have long agreed that Hackworths’ “About Face” is possibly the most important book on Vietnam ever written. Far, far better than “A Bright and Shining Lie” or “We Were soldiers Once, and Young”. It’s a stunning expose’ told from the inside by one who experienced the internal rot and collapse of the US Army from the Eisenhower years through Secretary Macnamara’s “Bad news will not be tolerated!” culture and the immense damage it did to the army and United States. It is, as you say, an epic of cascading events that led to that horrible tragedy that haunts us all still. Superbly and grittily told. Highly recommended.

    Oh, one more thing. My sister-in-law’s brother was in the army as a lieutentent (on his way to captain) a few years back. A fine person he was (and is) and a credit to mankind. His commanding officer had “About Face” on the required reading list for all his junior officers. He told me other officers, however, thought Hackworth was a disgrace, with his bad language, loose morals and penchant for medals and decorations. Different perspective I guess. I kinda liked the guy. I consider him a great American and a hero. I’d have been proud to serve with him.

    Storm of Steel: You’re the second person who’s recommended this. I’ll have to read it.

    Ghost Force: I read an SAS memoir a few years back but the title escapes me. I remember the qualifying tests made boot camp look like a Sunday picnic. Much more akin to the SEALs. Once you make it, you’re trained even more intensely, then thrown into the heart of the fire where only the toughest and best trained survive. That was also my first exposure to the fact that sometimes the commandos or SWAT teams of some foreign countries are not that at all, they’re SAS brought in, put in local uniform, then told to carry the day. Sometimes they do. Sometimes it all goes to hell anyway. Impressive bunch of soldiers either way.

    A few I’d recommend:

    Citizen Soldiers: The US Army From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany
    – Stephen Ambrose

    Ambrose, who also wrote Band of Brothers, tells the story of the fighting GI in WWII, from the fighting on the beaches of France through the bitter winters of Germany, the gruesome battles of long forgotten places like the Hurtgen Forest, to the liberation of the death camps and the final collapse and surrender. Much of it is told as quotations from converasations he had the participants, letters they wrote or memoirs they left. History told through the words of those who lived it, with Ambrose providing the framework, filling out the details and providing continuity. Excellent basic history.

    An Army at Dawn: The War in Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy – Rick Atkinson

    From Publishers Weekly:
    “Atkinson won a Pulitzer Prize during his time as a journalist and editor at the Washington Post and is the author of The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point’s Class of 1966 and of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. In contrast to Crusade’s illustrations of technomastery, this book depicts the U.S. Army’s introduction to modern war. The Tunisian campaign, Atkinson shows, was undertaken by an American army lacking in training and experience alongside a British army whose primary experience had been of defeat.”

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book, despite the wincing account of a poorly trained, poorly equipped and often badly led US Army in North Africa. Eisenhower was still getting his legs as a Supreme Commander, intel and recon was poor to nonexistent, supplies and armor were short – it was a real mess. Courage pulled them through. That and sheer determination.

    Undaunted Courage, Merriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West
    – Stephen Ambrose

    This is a wonderful, amazing piece of history. I place it here – it’s a bit of stretch – because the Corps of Discovery, as Jefferson named it, was a military expedition. A fantastic look at North America and it’s landscape and peoples circa 1803-1805. Highly recommended. I only wish I could have gone with them.

    Keep us tuned in Lex. We appreciate your recommendations.

  4. Brazen Chariots by Robert Crisp. But only for war nuts.

    The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer. A number of Germans dispute this book but they have a problem with disputing it as it’s too accurate.

    But the most haunting WW2 “book” I’ve ever read wasn’t published. It’s a PDF account of a kid deported from the Channel Isles by the Nazis.

  5. I have just recently read the Andy McNab novels and memoirs about his experiences training for the British SAS regiment. The two about joining and training with the SAS are Immediate Action and Bravo Two Zero. I don’t know just how true they are but they ring true from what I have heard of our Delta Force men.

    Andy McNab has branched out into creating a character and writing novels with SAS missions as the key. His character is almost a James Bond type in his ability to withstand any torture and see anything coming and dealing with it but then that is sort of the reputation the SAS has anyway.

  6. I would recommend any military history that has the word “blunder” in the title. I think studying mistakes teachers more about actual military history than studying successes.

  7. For insightful reading of events which have meaning today may I recommend, Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian 1866-1891 by Robert M. Utley. The perspective of a small and overtaxed military establishment conducting operations in a demanding environment, physically and politically, while bringing ‘civilization’ to the vastness of the west can be related to the contemporary operations on the world stage today. Of particular note would be chapters three: The Problem of Doctrine, four: The Army, Congress, and the People, and eighteen: Mexican Border Conflicts 1870-81.

    Some excerpts:
    Chapter 3: The Problem of Doctrine. “Three special conditions set this mission apart from more orthodox military assignments. First, it pitted the army against an enemy who usually could not be clearly identified and differentiated from kinsmen not disposed at the moment to be enemies. Indians could change with bewildering rapidity from friend to foe to neutral, and rarely could one be confidently distinguished from another…Second, Indian service placed the army in opposition to a people that aroused conflicting emotions… And third, the Indians mission gave the army a foe unconventional both in the techniques and aims of warfare… He fought on his own terms and, except when cornered or when his family was endangered, declined to fight at all unless he enjoyed overwhelming odds…These special conditions of the Indian mission made the U.S. Army not so much a little army as a big police force…for a century the army tried to perform its unconventional mission with conventional organization and methods. The result was an Indian record that contained more failures than successes and a lack of preparedness for conventional war that became painfully evident in 1812, 1846, 1861, and 1898.

    Chapter 4. The Army, Congress, and the People. Sherman’s frontier regulars endured not only the physical isolation of service at remote border posts; increasingly in the postwar years they found themselves isolated in attitudes, interests, and spirit from other institutions of government and society and, indeed from the American people themselves…Reconstruction plunged the army into tempestuous partisan politics. The frontier service removed it largely from physical proximity to population and, except for an occasional Indian conflict, from public awareness and interest. Besides public and congressional indifference and even hostility, the army found its Indian attitudes and policies condemned and opposed by the civilian officials concerned with Indian affairs and by the nation’s humanitarian community.

  8. The many comments are greatly appreciated.

    Multiple votes for Fraser’s Quartered Safe Out Here, I see. I need to get to that one soon. I agree absolutely about William Slim’s Defeat Into Victory, which I mentioned here. As to what Army officers may think about Hackworth, I cannot say. His books struck me as honest, and being bigger than life is part of leadership, or a kind of leadership, especially with civilians in uniform, like he had to lead. Have not read Citizen Soldiers, An Army at Dawn or Undaunted Courage, though all are well-regarded. Brazen Chariots is on my list. The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer is a favorite, and it was a toss-up whether to put on Sajer or von Luck. Joe, send us a link to the “PDF account of a kid deported from the Channel Isles by the Nazis. ” I read Bravo Two Zero by McNabb, but I decided that I didn’t want to read any more by him, based on things I’d read that made me think he was not entirely trustworthy. Billy, those six volumes have sat on my shelves for a long time, and I have only picked at them. That is a lot of prose to take on, and I certainly did not think a relative novice on these subjects could be expected to read all that. Shannon, as to “Blunder” books, Eliot Cohen and John Gooch have an excellent book called Military Misfortunes on this theme. Don, I have Frontier Regulars on my shelf. I will eventually get to it. David, good excerpt from Slim. As you know, the whole book is good.

  9. I strongly recommend the book “Soldiers of the Sun”, by Meirion Harries and Susie Harries. It’s a history of the Japanese Army from the Meiji restoration to the end of WWII and explains how the Japanese Army became the kind of organization which could be responsible for the Rape of Nanking and similar atrocities. The history actually begins with the founding of the Tokugawa Shogunate, but it breezes over most of that era rapidly because it’s not the point of the book.

    I also very much enjoyed “Fire in the Sky”, by Eric M. Bergerud, a rather extensive history of air warfare in the Pacific during the Solomon Islands campaign. Though it was long I found it endlessly fascinating.

  10. By the way, for cognoscenti only, the West Point Atlases are back in print. I own the 1959 edition of the “West Point Atlas of American Wars” and it’s the single most prized pair of books in my library.

  11. SDB, I’ve got Soldiers of the Sun, and will read it eventually. (I can buy ’em faster than I can read ’em these days.) “Fire in the Sky”, by Eric M. Bergerud — that is going right on the list. West Point Atlas — My uncle was class of 1958 and I’ve got his atlas to Steele’s American Campaigns, and one for the Napoleonic wars and one for World War One. Agreed, these extra-large books are priceless if you want to follow what the books — any books — are talking about. I also have a smaller atlas of selected military campaigns that I virtually memorized as a child.

  12. Rogue Warrior by Richard Marcinko is the book that sparked off the current interest in and respect for the U.S. Navy SEALS special forces.

    Ken Tout’s A Fine Night For Tanks is probably not the most gripping war writing ever penned, but Operation Totalize was one of the largest armour fights the Canadian military was ever in, and this is their story.

    Ranulph Fiennes’ The Feather Men is a bizarre true crime story involving Arabian sheikhs and retired SAS men. It defies summary, but is good reading.

  13. I have a particular interest in the fall of France in 1940 and in the factors that led to this catastrophe (which are frighteningly relevant to today’s world.) Good books on the topic include:

    “To Lose a Battle,” by Alastair Horne…a good summary.

    “Assignment to Catastrophe” by General Edward Spears…a beautifully-written (2 volume) memoir by the individual chosen by Winston Churchill as his personal envoy to France.

    “1940: The Fall of France,” by General Andre Beaufre, who was a young staff Captain at the time.

  14. No Civil War stuff mentioned so far, so how about Shelby Foote’s three-volume history? Epic stuff. Or Grant’s memoirs.

    For historical fiction, there’s nothing to match Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, a beautiful evocation of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.

  15. John Keegan, The Face of Battle, explains why soldiers fight better than any book I know. It compares Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme, which were fought in 1415, 1815, and 1916 very close to each other. Keegan’s description of Agincourt is particularly vivid.

    Michael Oren, Six Days of War, is simply riveting. You cannot understand Israel and Palestine today without a good understand of that war, and there is no better way to get it.

    Bruce Catton, The Civil War (American Heritage Library series). I actually listened to this on an unabridged audiobook, and thought it was tremendous. Catton, of course, is famous for his Civil War books, but this one volume gets you off to an excellent start.

    Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War. Indeed.

    Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far. ‘Nuff said.

  16. I concur on Morrison’s Two Ocean War as a good starting point.

    I recently read (without the intention of doing so, but it was so good) Keegan’s Price of Admiralty.

    It is out of print, but MacIntyre’s The Thunder of the Guns is a great history of battleships from 1855 to 1945. I read it 30 years ago, and was able to find a copy from an antiquarian online last year.

    Max Hastings The Battle for the Falklands is somewhat wooden, but it has a lot of detail on a small contemporary war, and a good perspective on what happens when one side is serious and the other one is not.

    MacPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom is a readable account of the Civil War.

    There isn’t much prose, but Banks A Military Atlas of the First World War has tons of detail on a little understood conflict.

  17. One more. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (best known for his portrayal in “The Killer Angels” and the movie “Gettysburg” which was based on it) wrote a memoir of his own expeiences in the latter part of the Civil War…the title was “The Passing of the Armies” IIRC. He was in his 80s when he wrote it. You have to appreciate Victorian prose style, but I thought it was a very interesting and moving work.

  18. THE AGE OF FIGHTING SAIL, by C.S. Forrester, the author of the Hornblower series, is an exceptional read, recounting the naval actions of the War of 1812.

    Modern battle can be understood through the prism of the Arab/Israeli wars, hence I recommend THE ARAB – ISRAELI WARS, by Chaim Herzog, covers them all, goes into sufficient detail that allows the tactical flair of the IDF to emerge, and also portrays the pace of modern battle.

    Don’t bother with PANZER COMMANDER by von Luck, it’s a bore, and one comes away with little understanding of how the Wehrmacht responded to the growing strains of 2 front war. Far better to consult PANZER BATTLES, by Maj. Gen. von Mellenthin. His section dealing with “the debacle” at Stalingrad is absolutely gripping, and the stress that ordinary German field officers must have under then can hardly be imagined. I can’t think of a situation that was worse for any army, than the problems confronting the ENTIRE southern German wing in eastern Ukraine and the Don basin later ’42, early ’43.

    AN ARMY AT DAWN, which has been recommended, and is relatively current, is mildly interesting, but if your time is somewhat limited, can be dispensed with.

    THE SOUL OF BATTLE, by Victor Davis Hanson has two sections that are MUST reading for the study of western war, that dealing with Sherman, and that concerning Patton. His chapter on Patton is probably the best biography of Patton.

    CITIZEN SOLDIER by Ambrose is his BEST work, far better than the more known BAND OF BROTHERS.

  19. Bicheno “Rebels and Redcoats – the American Revolutionary War”. ‘Iconoclastic’ might, for once, be justified.
    “Mud, Blood and Poppycock”, Corregan: disabused me of much of what I had believed about the First World War.

  20. I saw the Bergerud books recommended on SDB’s site, and came away favorably impressed by both of them. The thematic style of story-telling was also a nice break from the relentless narrative style, something I find can get a touch too monotonous if consumed in too large a quantity (Army at Dawn and Washington’s Crossing were both guilty in this regard, I found). Oren’s Six Days of War worked better as diplomatic history than military history, I found, particularly given the absence of quality maps.

    As an entry-type work, Robert Leckie’s Delivered from Evil is about as good a readable one-volume history of the Second World War as you could ask for, though it looks significantly more initimdating than it is. For the person who recommened “Blunder” generically, Blitzkrieg by the British novelist Len Deighton able pokes apart some of the Anglo myths of the early days of World War II.

  21. The no-win, low-morale times for the US infantry man in Viet Nam the late ’60s is captured by Phil Caputo’s “A Rumor of War”, his autobiograhical work.

    Although War of The Rats (David Robbins) main subject is USSR snipers in 1942 Stalingrad one gets a very strong sense of the battle and (in less detail) Russia’s follow up, eventually, into Berlin.

  22. Richard Frank’s Guadacanal is one of the most excellent military history books I’ve read and I’ve read hundreds.

  23. Being a history major as an undergrad, I have some understanding at what constitutes good history and bad history. The last book I read was perhaps the best written and most thoroughly researched book I have ever read. Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn is a masterpiece of enjoyable reading and detailed research; a combination of popular history and a historian’s desire to see the writer’s documentation. Atkinson’s citations and bibliography attest to the monumental amount of work that went into writing this book. The book lays out the ineptitude of the US Army prior to WWII, both in tactics, operations, and in commanding a coalition, all framed in Operation Torch (invasion of North Africa). This is the first of Liberation Trilogy. So much of WWII history is popular history that generates terms such as the Greatest Generation. Atkinson’s book looks at everything, from atrocity to triumph, to soldier bitching and the formation of great leaders.

    Books I don’t recommend from the list… Primarily Hackworth’s book About Face, at least taken at face value. The reason Hackworth left the Army was due to an investigation of command sponsored (and profiteering from) brothels and drug abuse. He fled justice, a disgraced officer, and moved to Australia. He certainly displayed his personal courage on the battlefield, but that does not make him a great captain. He undermined good order and discipline with his sanctioning of actions contrary to military regulation (there are times and places for that, however). He was a self-aggrandizer of the highest order. He used his book to throw stones at his peers and superiors that he did not like. Compare him to the humble Dick Winters, as accurately portrayed in Band of Brothers, and you can see the difference.

    This article in Slate lays it out:

    Other books not to read:

    The Blitzkrieg Myth : How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II, by John Moser.

    This book is terrible, from a historian’s perspective. It is undocumented, and ignores the best writers of the history and development of German Combined Arms doctrine developed during the interwar period. He attempts to cast himself as a first among authors to figure this out, when in fact he is way overmatched by historians such as COL Robert Doughty (Breakout: Sedan and the Fall of France in 1940), or Karl-Heinz Frieser (Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West 2005 translation). If one really wants to understand why the Germans were so successful (and the French were not) initially in WWII, one has to discard the term Blitzkrieg and start from scratch. Doughty’s and Frieser’s books will help you do this.

  24. I’ll commend to your attention Byron Farwell’s books on Britain’s colonial wars, to include: Mr. Kipling’s Army, Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, and The Great War in Africa. (He has many more.) Fast and engaging reads that do a good job of covering their subjects.

  25. Allow me to make some recommendations. I am a War of 1812 buff and there are many good Canadian books about the subject:

    Donald Graves’ Field of Glory and Where Right and Glory Lead tell the stories of the Battles of Chyrsler’s Farm and the Niagara campaign of 1814 respectively. Both are well researched, extensively noted and written in a simple easy-to-read style.

    A Wampum Denied by Sandy Antal describes the British effort around Detroit and Amherstburg and the actions fought by Proctor (a man thoroughly unfit for that command) and Tecumseh.
    On a slightly different note allow me to suggest The Campaign of Trafalgar by Sir Julian S. Corbett, it’s not really “good” history as Corbett is hopelessly biased but it is an amusing read that gets most of the fighting/shipboard things right (and it includes really nice charts of several different actions).

  26. Wow, as always with our readers, lots of good suggestions and ideas for books.

    A few comments.

    Sanity Inspector: Have not read Marcinko, and never heard of Tout’s “A Night for Tanks” or Fiennes “The Feather Men”. Will look into both
    David Foster: Horne’s “To Lose a Battle” has been on my shelf for years. Never read it cover to cover. I once showed my kids the picture of the French generals, who look old and tired and not very tough, then showed them the Germans, especially Kliest, who even in full dress uniform looks like a Renaissance swordsman, a stone killer. I said, “just looking at these pictures, who do you think won the war.” They guessed right. Spears I have had on my list. Some day. Don’t know the Beaufre, or the Chamberlain Memoir (you remembered the name correctly). I’ll add them to my list.
    MM. Agreed re Grant’s Memoirs. Have not yet gotten to Foote’s mighty 3 Vol opus. Some day. Am aware of O’Brien, but don’t usually read fiction.
    TigerHawk: Keegan’s “Face of Battle” I first read when I was 13 years old. The Cornelius Ryan books I read as a kid as well — His “The Last Battle” is also very good. Oren, “Six Days of War” Morison “The Two Ocean War” I have on my shelf. I have a three-volumes-in-one by Catton of something, but haven’t read it yet.
    David Tufte: I read and enjoyed “Price of Admiralty”. Never heard of MacIntyre’s “Thunder of the Guns”. I have picked at Hastings’ “Battle for the Falklands”. The two volume official history was just published, I noticed. “Battle Cry of Freedom” is excellent, agreed. I will look into the Banks Atlas. Thanks for the tip.
    Dan McCuen: The Forrester and Herzog books are on my list. Disagree strongly about von Luck, which I thought was a great read, with a lot of personal detail. I have read von Mellenthin. I did not think it was a good book for a person without a pretty strong background in reading military history, hence it did not make the cut. I have heard more good than bad things about “An Army at Dawn”, so your vote against is not dispositive. I have a couple of Ambrose’s books on World War II that I picked up in discount bins or yard sales. Haven’t gotten to them. I like his biographies of Nixon and Eisenhower.
    Dearieme: Never heard of either. As to Poppycock, are you familiar with Paddy Griffith’s books on the performance of the British Army in World War I?
    Tom: The one volume history I liked best was Weinberg’s “A World at Arms”. Have never read any Len Deighton.
    Tyouth; “A Rumor of War” is on my shelf. I will add “War of the Rats” to my list. I presume you saw “Enemy at the Gates”? A pretty good movie about the snipers in Stalingrad.
    Mace: Don’t know Frank’s “Guadacanal”. Thanks for the tip.
    CPT Kauffman: Thanks for weighing in. I can see your position about Hackworth. I understand that he is controversial. I have not, however, seen anyone suggest that the things he describes in his books are not true. Also, his vendettas are out in the open, so you can take as much of them as you want. But we can agree to disagree on that suggestion. Not familiar with Moser’s “Blitzkreig Myth”, and will avoid. I recently got Doughty’s “Breakout: Sedan and the Fall of France in 1940” — and it was damned expensive! I hope to read that soon. Had not heard of Frieser’s “Blitzkrieg Legend”, so thanks for that suggestion.
    David Sundseth: Agreed that Farwell’s books are good and a good read. I have read a couple of them.
    Ian: Thanks for the tips on Canadian War of 1812 books. Corbett is supposed to be good. His book “Principles of Maritime Strategy” is supposed to still be good 100 years later.

  27. The Road to Stalingrad – John Erickson

    Carnage and Culture – Victor Davis Hanson

    The Franco-Prussian War – Geoffrey Wawro

    Strange Defeat – Marc Bloch

  28. 30 comments and no one has mentioned HJ Poole!!! What’s going on here? Y’all need to put his The Phantom Soldier and the Tiger’s Way up near the top of your lists.

    I’d also add Correlli Barnett’s The Collapse of British Power, Fraser’s first Flashman, CS Forester’s The Ship, The General and The Good Shepherd (all of which I liked better than the Hornblower series), A.Beevor’s Stalingrad, James Webb’s Fields of Fire, Hanson’s Ripples of Battle, R. Atkinson’s Thin Grey Line, R. Tinberg’s Nightingale’s Song, Ed Kugler’s Dead Center, Frank Nunnely’s (sp?) Tales of Japanese Soldiers (not sure if that’s the exact title). Also Horne wrote an interesting book about Verdun, the name of which escapes me at the moment.
    And then there’s the WWII submarine genre. Lots of good ones there, but can’t remember most of their names now except for O’kane’s Take Her Deep.

  29. For memoirs of a Japanese naval fighter pilot in WWII see “Samurai” by Saburo Sakai with Martin Caidin. The Japanese Navy did the same thing the US Navy did and had ground-based fighter squadrons. Sakai flew first in China in ’36 and then throughout the island campaigns finally ending up being assigned a suicide mission.

    By the way, Martin Caidin’s “Black Thursday” is a great, emotion-packed description of the Schweinfort raids in October of 1943 when 8th Air Force losses on long-range missions got so high that combat operations had to be restricted to short-range missions. You’ll feel like you flew the mission after you read this book. This might not still be in print.

    For general military history, I also like Russell Weigley, late of U Penn, especially “The American Way of War” and “The Age of Battles.”

    Regarding the American Civil War, I am not a big fan of Shelby Foote. He was a novelist with an interest in the war. His prose flow beautifully, but there are lost of errors, and there has been lots of new research in the last 40 years. From a military view point I prefer Herman Hattaway, et al, “How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War.” For a good first-person account of the war see John Billings “Hardtack and Coffee or the Unwritten Story of Army Life” first published in 1880s and still in print.

  30. Thanks for the further suggestions.
    Chris, I’ve got all those on my list. All are well-regarded books.
    Jim, I read Japanese Destroyer Captain, which I agree is a very good book. I suppose I was thinking more of a Japanese infantryman’s memoirs. Hara certainly saw a lot and lived through a lot.
    Allan, I have read everything by Poole. ” The Collapse of British Power” is good. Have not read the Fraser or Forester books. Beevor, Webb, Hanson are all on my list. I have only picked at Horne’s book on Verdun. Atkinson’s “Gray Line” was good. Nunnely, Kugler and O’Kane are new ones on me.
    Paul K: “Samurai” is on my list. Never read any Martin Caidan. The Weigley books you mention are good, I have them both and have read parts of both. I have not yet read “How the North Won.” I have heard of “Hardtack and Coffee” but not read it. I will add it to my list.

  31. I also like “No End Save Victory”, an anthology on WWII edited by Robert Cowley. It has very interesting chapters such as Bruce Gudmundsson’s “After Dunkirk”, which discusses the effectiveness of the British and French against the Germans in 1940, or David Glantz’s The Soviet Invasion of Japan. I learned many things I hadn’t known before from this book, and fresh perspectives on things I thought I knew.

  32. Lex: The problem with Corbett is not so much in what information he presents but the manner in which he presents it. There is no attempt at objectivity or impartiality. He frequently refers to “our fleet” (meaning of course the Royal Navy). His treatment of Nelson is nothing short of deification. For someone like myself who loves this type of “raw-raw” history this book is great, but I’m sure my former history profs (and many of my former classmates) would have quite a different opinion.

    One last suggestion: Frigate Commander by Tom Wareham, tells the story of Lieutenant-later Captain Graham Moore during the Napoleonic Wars. The book takes long passages from Moore’s journal and ties them together with bits of explanatory narrative – a fascinating look at how a Frigate was managed and fought in the age of sail.

  33. Thought of some more
    Tsar’s Last Armada by Pleshakov (sp?) Writing style is workmanlike, but he gets the story across well.
    The Thin Red Line by James Jones
    Grant and Lee by JFC Fuller
    River War by Winston Churchill
    World War I by Hew Strachan
    Red Star Rogue by K. Sewell
    K-19 the Widow Maker – P. Huchthausen (sp?)

    BTW One painless way your friend can learn military history is by reading the Flashman books. I haven’t read all of them but have liked those that I have. They are of varying quality though (IMHO).

  34. I must mention W.E.B. Griffin’s The Corps series. Fiction yes, but he does a decent job of showing what life was like, albeit his antagonists weren’t exactly run of the mill folks (it is fiction after all). Still the backgrounds used to develop their characters seem realistic enough & the perspective on the events as they unfold are refreshing.

    Also anyone who has seen Enemy At The Gates should be required to read William Craig’s book.

    Marine: The Life Of Chesty Puller by Burke Davis is another one worth picking up – though I presume any of the biographies on Chesty are worth the time it’d take to read them.

    I haven’t had a chance to pick it up but a retired Gunnery Seargent name of Bob Newman wrote a book entitled Guerillas In The Mist. What I’ve heard about it has been favorable enough that it’s on my list.

  35. I’d like to put a plug in for one of my favorite books on the Vietnam-American War: Eric Bergerud’s “The Dynamics of Defeat: The Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province.”

    The Vietnam War is like the American Civil War in that a lot of really bad books have been written about it. Bergerud’s book is an exception to that rule. By focusing on a single province, he is able to cover both political and the military aspects of the war in detail over a fairly long time horizon. Especially important is his analysis of the historiography of the war. You come away not only knowing who the politicians and soldiers were, but where the writers like Bernard Fall, SLA Marshall, Don Oberdorf, Harry Summers, etc., fit in to all this. Even if you don’t buy Bergerud’s conclusion, (Personally, I agree with David Hackett Fischer that inevitablity is a metaphysical question, not an historical question) you learn an enormous amount about what really happened in an influential province close to Siagon.

    This book might be too detailed and analytical for the casual reader, but Vietnam is a complex subject and I don’t think it’s possible to treat it adequately in a simpler framework.

  36. You are missing one very important book. The Guardians of the Sea: The history of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1915 to present by Johnson. I’m somewhat biased due to being a retired Coastie, but it is a really good read, and fills in the gaps about a small but proud military naval service. Hope you guys give it a chance. Semper Paratus.

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