The best books on D-Day airborne operations

Flint Whitlock Author Of If Chaos Reigns: The Near-Disaster and Ultimate Triumph of the Allied Airborne Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944
By Flint Whitlock

Who am I?

Flint Whitlock spent five years on active duty as an officer in the U.S. Army (1965-1970, including tours in West Germany and Vietnam), and is a qualified parachutist (Fort Benning, 1965). He has been an award-winning, full-time military historian since 2003, and has 14 books (mostly about WWII) to his credit. He has also been the editor of WWII Quarterly magazine since 2010 and gives battlefield tours for the Smithsonian, National Geographic, and other organizations.


I wrote...

If Chaos Reigns: The Near-Disaster and Ultimate Triumph of the Allied Airborne Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944

By Flint Whitlock,

Book cover of If Chaos Reigns: The Near-Disaster and Ultimate Triumph of the Allied Airborne Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944

What is my book about?

The Allies’ parachute and glider operations on D-Day were the most daring—and dangerous—of all the aspects of Operation Overlord. Most Americans have heard of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions’ pre-dawn drops into Normandy, but the glider operations are less well known. And few Americans know much about the British and Canadian airborne operations—or even history of combat parachute and glider development and training. I wanted to cover it all and give America’s allies equal representation.

The books I picked & why

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D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II

By Stephen E. Ambrose,

Book cover of D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II

Why this book?

Published in time for the 50th anniversary of D-Day (Operation Overlord) in 1994, Ambrose’s 656-page tome covers the broad scope of the massive, history-changing operation, with special attention paid to the parachute and glider operations. The author details the overall planning of the air-and-sea operation—and analyzes why the most carefully planned invasion in history nearly went terribly wrong. This is the ultimate history of the battle that changed the outcome of World War II.


Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest

By Stephen E. Ambrose,

Book cover of Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest

Why this book?

By focusing on the members of one company of parachutists, Ambrose gave life to the experiences of real human beings caught up in a war none of them wanted. As the dust-jacket copy says, “This is a story of the men who fought, of the martinet they hated, and of the captain they loved who led them. E Company was a company of men who went hungry, froze, and died for each other, a company that took 150 percent casualties, a company where the Purple Heart was not a medal—it was a badge of office.” This is the book that was the inspiration for the award-winning television series.


Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944

By Stephen E. Ambrose,

Book cover of Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944

Why this book?

One of my all-time favorite books; it inspired me to become a military historian. Through extensive interviews with the actual participants, Ambrose detailed how gilder-borne British commandos pulled off a nearly textbook example of how to take an enemy-held bridge. Whenever I lead tours to Normandy, I always make sure we stop at Pegasus Bridge and recount the valor of the British troops who performed what many said was impossible.


Call of Duty: My Life Before, During, and After the Band of Brothers

By Marcus Brotherton, Lynn Compton,

Book cover of Call of Duty: My Life Before, During, and After the Band of Brothers

Why this book?

Buck Compton led an extraordinary life. Not only was he one of the heroes of the storied "Band of Brothers,” in which he fought in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, and the frozen hell of Bastogne, but he had been a remarkable athlete before the war (baseball and football at UCLA). After the war he went into law and became a prosecutor in California and helped convict Sirhan Sirhan for the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. An excellent, fully realized autobiography.


Paratrooper!: The Saga of the U. S. Army and Marine Parachute and Glider Combat Troops during World War II

By Gerald M. Devlin, William P. Yarborough,

Book cover of Paratrooper!: The Saga of the U. S. Army and Marine Parachute and Glider Combat Troops during World War II

Why this book?

This large (718 pages) book covers the entire history of U.S. military parachute and glider operations—from the early evolution of the concept through landings in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, Southern France, Holland, Battle of the Bulge, Leyte, Manila, and Corregidor. Anyone wanting to appreciate the myriad American parachute and glider operations will find a wealth of information in Devlin’s book.


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