Military History Books

There seems to be a rash of questions about the World Wars in GQ (see this, this, and this), and carnivorousplant’s thread in IMHO made me think that one devoted to good military history sources might be of some use and interest.

So here goes (fun with vB code)…
[li]Barbara Tuchman[/li][list]
[li]The Guns of August[/li][li]The Zimmerman Telegram[/li][li]General Stilwell and the American Experience in China[/li][li]and more…the best historical writer, IMHO[/li][/ul]
[li]David Fromkin A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East[/li][li]Robert Massie Dreadnought (and more)[/li][li]Elizabeth Monroe Britain’s Moment in the Middle East[/li][li]Winston Churchill The Second World War[/li][li]John Keegan[/li][ul]
[li]The Face of Battle[/li][li]The Mask of Command[/li][/ul]
[li]Albert Speer Inside the Third Reich (written by Hitler’s Armaments Minister, while in prison in Nuremberg)[/li][/list]

I’m stopping there because I’m sick of typing. Please add your own. If anyone has some truly heavy stuff, it might be nice to swap bibliographies.


Anything written by Stephan Ambrose.

There are many great “documentary” book series of all the wars that are a good read as well.

Keegan also wrote “A History of Warfare” showing the evolution of war which is wonderful. Very informative.

A Quick & Dirty Guide To War by James F. Dunnigan & Austin Bay

Authoritative and easy-to-understand analysis of the worlds hotspots.

Mahan, Alferd Thayer. The Influence of Sea Power on World History.

“Gettysburg: Then and Now” by William Frassanito. He wrote a companion book about Antietam. In each, he took photos taken on the battlefield and deduced where they were taken. A good introduction to the flow of each battle and a reminder of the price exacted there in.

I have liked these for there vivid telling of personal experiences in WWII.

The Forgotten Soldier Guy Sajer
The Longest Day Cornelius Ryan
A Bridge Too Far C. Ryan
Berlin Diary William Shirer

(Hmm… Would Military History Books be an oxymoron, like Military Intelligence? Since history is written by the winners, I mean.)

Of all the books you’ve read about the Vietnam War, how many were written by Vietnamese historians?

There are plenty of German histories of World War II and World War I (Mellenthin’s Panzer Battles, for instance).

History is written by the survivors, yes, but not necessarily the winners.

My all time favorite is a book I have in storage, I don’t recall the title but it was a compilation of all the best war stories of all time, published a little while after WWII. It has everything from “The Corvette Claymore” by Victor Hugo (punchline: Give that man a medal! Now take him out and shoot him!) to “I Bombed the Barges” by Anonymous Mosquito Bomber Pilot (he hits a barge full of sea mines and is carried thousands of feet into the air in a column of flame). It is about 1000 pages chock full of the most diverse and amazing tales I’ve ever read, from the Battle of Thermopylae to WWII, divided into chapters under each of Von Clausevitz’s famous maxims (i.e. “War is the province of friction, wherein all things become difficult.”) I’ll have to go dig it out and locate the title, it might be out of print but it would still be worth searching for. Maybe someone recalls this book and knows the title…?

I’ll second that. “Band of Brothers” is one of the best books about WWII (specifically it’s about the 101 Airborne Divison) that I’ve ever read.

I also highly recommend “Patriots” by AJ Languuth, about the Revolutionary War. It doesn’t just go into the war, but the political reasons behind it and way more in depth about the major players than anything I ever read in school.

I’ll just post a few from the top of my heads (I’ll do a proper search in my collection later) :
Heinz Guderian’s Achtung, Panzer ! and Panzer Leader
Erich von Manstein’s Lost Victories
von Mellenthin’s Panzer Battles
Alexander Werth’s Russia at War
Alan Clark’s Barbarossa
Anything by Jim Dunnigan and A.A. Nofi
Bruce Catton’s The Army of The Potomac trilogy and its centennial history of the ACW
Adolf Galland’s The First and The Last
Charles B. MacDonald’s, A Time for Trumpets (alternate title, The Battle of The Bulge)
John Erickson’s The Road to Stalingrad and The Road to Berlin

I’ll be back this weekend with more

More from my library :
Thucydides’ The Peloponesian War
Xenophon’s The Anabiasis
Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars
Harrison Salisbury’s The 900 Days
Richard B. Frank’s Guadalcanal
William R. Trotter’s Frozen Hell
William Craig’s Ennemy at the Gates
Donald Macintyre’s Narvik
Alan Clark’s The Fall of Crete

I’ll head back to the vault.

One of my (obvious) favorites, though a biography rather that pure scholarly history: Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller by Burke Davis. Considering that Puller spent more time in combat (Haiti, Nicarauga, WWII, and Korea) than any just about any other officer in the 20th Century, it provides a pretty good historical look at the evolution of modern warfare.

My collection includes a great number of the previously mentioned titles. Some of my other favorites that haven’t been mentioned are The Long Grey Line, the story of the USMA class of '66, Incredible Victory by Walter Lord (Lord’s stuff is really similar to Ryan’s), and Nam by Mark Baker, a collection of anecdotal accounts of Viet Nam veterans describing everything from Basic Training to life at home after the war.

I’ll second that one and I’ll include these :
T.R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War
Richard Connaughton’s The War of the Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear
George S. Patton’s War as I Knew It
James Gavin’s On to Berlin !
Albert Seaton’s The Red Army and The German Army
Gordon W. Prange’s At Dawn We Slept and Miracle at Midway
And among the post that disappeared in the other day’s unpleasantness, was one by Anthracite recommending “Queen Victoria’s Little War”. BTW, welcome back, we missed your input !

Apparently I lost a post to the depths of the board.

Chas.E I recommended that you look through A Common Reader to see if you could spot the book you were thinking of.

H.W.V. Temperley edited and wrote a number of extensive books for the British Center for International Affairs (I think that’s the proper title), including one on the Paris peace conferences with all the documentation.

Gilber Martin has written fairly extensively on WWII, most the causes thereof - see his “The Appeasers.”

George McDonald Frasier’s “Flashman” books are a great read, and highly historically accurate, covering most major conflicts of the nineteenth century.


Best work of military history I’ve ever read:

“Enemy at the Gates: An Oral History of the Battle of Stalingrad” (Or some other similar subtitle). By William Craig.

Too bad the movie sucked.
Also liked Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall.

“About Face” by Col. David Hackworth. That one was a big influence on me as a young infantry officer.

Rommel’s Memoirs.

Lee’s Lieutenants, particularly volume one’s section devoted to Jackson’s Valley Campaign.

Forgot to add…more generally, both the Oxford and Cambridge “Histories” are excellent reference sets (as are their various attendant volumes).


Check out Reporting Vietnam and Reporting World War II, both two-volume sets published by the Library of America.

They’re contemporary accounts, and with so much space available (about a thousand pages per volume), they’ve included a wide range of contemporary accounts; first rough draft of history, if you will.

Second the notion about anything by Jim Dunnigan and A.A. Nofi. I’ve been reading their stuff in the old Strategy & Tactics magazine for years, and they’ve published several books since.

As good as “Enemy at the Gates” is, I think Anthony Beevor’s “Stalingrad” tops it, with his remarkable access to newly-opened archives in Russia of German documents (including letters home).

One of the forgotten campaigns of the Second World War (unjustly, as the bulk of Japanese forces were committed there) is Burma, and the best book I’ve ever read on the subject is “Burma–The Longest War,” by Allen Louis. For a more personal-level view of that campaign, George MacDonald Fraser’s autobiographical book “Quartered Safe Out Here” is outstanding–even if you’re not interested in the British Army in Burma, it is a highly readable, thought-provoking look at the sharp end.

On the subject of the Zulu campaign of 1879, Frank Emery’s sadly out-of-print “The Red Soldier: Letters from the Zulu War, 1879” is a very poignant review of the contemporary British view of that conflict; while Robert Edgerton’s “Like Lions they Fought” looks at both British and Zulu warriors, but probably the best all-round non-specialist history of the Zulu War is still Donald Morris’ “The Washing of the Spears.”

Christopher Hibbert’s “The Great Mutiny–India 1857” is a grippingly-told narrative of that great clash of cultures.

Richard Rhodes “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” manages to combine scientific history with narrative, and still remain accessable for the general reader.

On the subject of the First World War, I always push Paul Fussel’s brilliant “The Great War and Modern Memory,” as well as “Death’s Men” by Denis Winter. Anything by Martin Middlebrook is terrific: his interviews with eyewitness participants give a visceral worms-eye-view of battles: in particular, his “First Day on the Somme,” and “The Battle of Hamburg” are worth seeking out. Likewise, Lyn MacDonald uses the first-person interview in her excellent “1914,” “1915–The Death of Innocence,” and “To the Last Man–Spring 1918.”

A Bright Shining Lie (Neil Sheehan). One man’s experiences in Vietnam. Opened my eyes.