The best books about American combat leaders in World War II

Daniel P. Bolger Author Of The Panzer Killers: The Untold Story of a Fighting General and His Spearhead Tank Division's Charge into the Third Reich
By Daniel P. Bolger

Who am I?

I’m a combat veteran and longtime soldier trying to figure out my own wartime experiences by learning about what others did. Soldiers may join up for mom and apple pie and the grand old flag. But they fight for each other, and they follow leaders they trust. I tried to be one of those solid combat leaders. Since I had never been under fire before that day came, I endeavored to learn from—and write about—the lives of others who led soldiers in war. I’m still reading and still writing about battlefield leadership.


I wrote...

The Panzer Killers: The Untold Story of a Fighting General and His Spearhead Tank Division's Charge into the Third Reich

By Daniel P. Bolger,

Book cover of The Panzer Killers: The Untold Story of a Fighting General and His Spearhead Tank Division's Charge into the Third Reich

What is my book about?

Major General Maurice Rose commanded The Panzer Killers.

The son of a rabbi, Rose never discussed his Jewish heritage. But his ferocity on the battlefield reflected an inner flame. He led his U.S. 3rd Armored Division not from a command post but at the dangerous leading edge of the formation. He devised innovative tactics, made the most of American weapons, and personally chose the cadre of young officers and sergeants who drove his division forward. From Normandy to the West Wall, from the Battle of the Bulge to the final charge across Germany, Maurice Rose's deadly division blasted through enemy lines and pursued the enemy with bold intensity.

The books I picked & why

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Against All Odds: A True Story of Ultimate Courage and Survival in World War II

By Alex Kershaw,

Book cover of Against All Odds: A True Story of Ultimate Courage and Survival in World War II

Why this book?

This book made me think—and rethink—what I thought I knew about battlefield heroism. Nobody “wins” the Medal of Honor, nor is it “awarded.” It is earned under fire, often at the cost of one’s life and always in the face of ferocious hostile resistance. What sort of men do such deeds? Alex Kershaw knows. In Against All Odds, Kershaw tells the interwoven stories of Maurice Britt, Michael Daly, Audie Murphy, and Keith Ware, all combat key leaders in the 3rd Infantry Division during World War II.

Against All Odds: A True Story of Ultimate Courage and Survival in World War II

By Alex Kershaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Against All Odds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*The instant New York Times bestseller*

The untold story of four of the most decorated soldiers of World War II—all Medal of Honor recipients—from the beaches of French Morocco to Hitler’s own mountaintop fortress, by the national bestselling author of The First Wave

“Pitch-perfect.”—The Wall Street Journal • “Riveting.”—World War II magazine • “Alex Kershaw is the master of putting the reader in the heat of the action.”—Martin Dugard

As the Allies raced to defeat Hitler, four men, all in the same unit, earned medal after medal for battlefield heroism. Maurice “Footsie” Britt, a former professional football player, became the…


Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II

By Adam Makos,

Book cover of Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II

Why this book?

When I was trying to wrap my head around the grim realities of tank warfare in World War II, this book by Adam Makos taught me a lot. Makos tracked down and brilliantly narrates the stories of an American tank crew and a German panzer crew who battled it out in front of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany in March of 1945. Major General Maurice Rose makes a cameo appearance, but this book is not about generals. It's about sergeants and privates fighting to the death, tank vs. tank.

Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II

By Adam Makos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spearhead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, LOS ANGELES TIMES, AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER 

“A band of brothers in an American tank . . . Makos drops the reader back into the Pershing’s turret and dials up a battle scene to rival the peak moments of Fury.”
—The Wall Street Journal

From the author of the international bestseller A Higher Call comes the riveting World War II story of an American tank gunner’s journey into the heart of the Third Reich, where he will meet destiny in an iconic armor duel—and forge an enduring bond with his enemy.

When Clarence…


War As I Knew It

By George S. Patton,

Book cover of War As I Knew It

Why this book?

He was our greatest ground combat commander in World War II. I wanted to know why. So here is the story in the general’s own words. Most of the text comes from Patton’s wartime diary. He did not pull any punches in battle and he sure didn’t sugar-coat anything in this book, either. It’s pure Patton, unfiltered and unafraid, “war in the raw,” as he liked to put it. 

War As I Knew It

By George S. Patton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War As I Knew It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

General George S. Patton, Jr., was one of the most brilliant military strategists in history. War As I Knew It is the personal and candid account of his celebrated, relentless crusade across western Europe during World War II. The Book is an absorbing narrative that draws from Patton's vivid memories of battle and his detailed diaries, covering the moment the Third Army exploded onto the Brittany Peninsula to the final Allied casualty report. The result is not only a grueling, human account of daily combat and heroic feats—including a riveting look at the Battle of the Bulge—but a valuable chronicle…


A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge

By Charles B. MacDonald,

Book cover of A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge

Why this book?

There are a lot of books about the Battle of The Bulge, the biggest American engagement of World War II. I think this one is the best, and that’s because author Charles B. MacDonald fought in the Bulge as a rifle company commander, then for years after the war served as an official U.S. Army historian writing about the Bulge and the other major campaigns. MacDonald had that rare opportunity to figure out what really happened to him and his fellow soldiers. He makes a brief appearance in his own gripping narrative, just another tired, cold, young officer trying to keep himself and his troops alive in the biggest clash of the entire war. MacDonald understands how and why the Bulge went the way it did.

A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge

By Charles B. MacDonald,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Time for Trumpets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On December 16, 1944, the vanguard of three German armies, totaling half a million men, attacked U.S. forces in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg, achieveing what had been considered impossible -- total surprise. In the most abysmal failure of battlefield intelligence in the history of the U.S. Army, 600,000 American soldiers found themselves facing Hitler's last desperate effort of the war.

The brutal confrontation that ensued became known as the Battle of the Bulge, the greatest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army -- a triumph of American ingenuity and dedication over an egregious failure in strategic intelligence.…


Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

By James M. Scott,

Book cover of Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

Why this book?

Old ground soldiers like me tend to think the airmen have it good—three hot meals a day, clean sheets at night, and only a few hours of war a day. James M. Scott’s Black Snow sure taught me otherwise. The 1945 American firebombing of Japan proved horrific for both the bombers and the bombed, and Scott tells the full awful story from both the American and Japanese sides. Major General Curtis LeMay was not some cigar-chewing caricature from Dr. Strangelove, but a young commander trying to break the will of a brave, stalwart people who had never lost a war in their country’s centuries of history. LeMay’s bomber crews won, but at a terrible price that resonates to this day.

Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

By James M. Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Snow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seven minutes past midnight on 9 March 1945, nearly 300 American B-29s thundered into the skies over Tokyo. Their payloads of incendiaries ignited a more than 1,800-degree firestorm that liquefied asphalt and vaporised thousands; sixteen square miles of the city were flattened and more than 100,000 men, women and children were killed. Black Snow is the story of this devastating operation, orchestrated by Major General Curtis LeMay, who famously remarked: "If we lose, we'll be tried as war criminals".

James M. Scott reconstructs in granular detail that horrific night, and describes the development of the B-29, the capture of the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, the Battle of the Bulge, and Tokyo?

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World War 2 Explore 1142 books about World War 2
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