The best books on human struggle and achievement in war

Who am I?

Scott McGaugh is a former journalist, founding marketing director (2004-2020) of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, CA, and the author of 10 nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestselling Civil War biography, Surgeon in Blue. His current project is The Brotherhood of the Flying Coffin about the volunteer combat glider pilots of World War II. He has appeared on NPR, the History Channel, and elsewhere.


I wrote...

Honor Before Glory: The Epic World War II Story of the Japanese American GIs Who Rescued the Lost Battalion

By Scott McGaugh,

Book cover of Honor Before Glory: The Epic World War II Story of the Japanese American GIs Who Rescued the Lost Battalion

What is my book about?

The riveting true story of Japanese Americans who volunteer In World War II from behind internment camp barbed wire for a segregated army commanded by white officers, and who become the most-decorated unit of its size in the war. The book focuses on the rescue of a “lost battalion” after other units had failed and its movie rights have been optioned.

The books I picked & why

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The Winds Of War

By Herman Wouk,

Book cover of The Winds Of War

Why this book?

Though a novel, the research and factual basis of this classic oozes from almost every page. A book that examines the people, innocent and otherwise, who make World War II a compelling subject and a worthy, thought-provoking read to this day.


With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

By E.B. Sledge,

Book cover of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

Why this book?

An unvarnished memoir of war in the Pacific that inspires and horrifies. The deeply personal horrors witnessed and exacted by young men on both sides makes it almost a character study of the battlefield. A compulsory read for anyone who wants to understand true sacrifice in uniform far beyond the headlines of the day.


The Guns of August

By Barbara Wertheim Tuchman,

Book cover of The Guns of August

Why this book?

The classic Pulitzer Prize book about the outbreak of World War I. This book weaves detail that pulls the reader in, without distraction. A groundbreaking distillation of historical research into a storytelling style that captivates both readers and authors.


The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

By Gregory A. Freeman,

Book cover of The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

Why this book?

This book shines a spotlight on the humanitarian side of war, seemingly mutually exclusive concepts. Yet those who suffer the most often raise to the greatest heights of sacrifice in rescuing others. A riveting tale, thoroughly researched and hard to put down.


Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission

By Hampton Sides,

Book cover of Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission

Why this book?

This book reads as a gripping thriller rooted in gruesome fact in the Philippine jungle. I’ve read this book several times for inspiration in crafting my books. A great balance between the necessary detail to establish the context and the laser focus on remarkable devotion to duty.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, World War 1, and concentration camps?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, World War 1, and concentration camps.

World War 2 Explore 975 books about World War 2
World War 1 Explore 499 books about World War 1
Concentration Camps Explore 31 books about concentration camps

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Wooden Horse, The Rape of Nanking, and Red Star over China if you like this list.