The best books on World War I

Stephen L. Harris Author Of Duty, Honor, Privilege: New York City's Silk Stocking Regiment and the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line
By Stephen L. Harris

The Books I Picked & Why

No Man's Land: 1918 The Last Year of the Great War

By John Toland

No Man's Land: 1918 The Last Year of the Great War

Why this book?

Pulitzer-Prize winning author Toland, in a riveting style, gives us a detailed account of what it was like on the Western Front in 1918 for the British and French armies, their leaders and their soldiers, but more importantly for America, its crucial role and for its men, from President Wilson and General Pershing down to the mud-splattered private on the frontlines. He also delves into the Russia Revolution. When you finish this book, you get a full understanding of the war and what it was like during that last year.


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The Doughboys: The Story of the AEF, 1917-1918

By Laurence Stallings

The Doughboys: The Story of the AEF, 1917-1918

Why this book?

Stallings was there, on the frontlines, fighting. He was wounded, lost a leg. He received the Croix de Guerre from the French government and the Silver Star and Purple Heart from his government. Reading his book, you’re right there with the first Americans landing in France and then following them and those who came after right up until the armistice on November 11, 1918. He also published an award-winning photographic history of the war, wrote a novel about his experiences and, in 1924, with playwright Maxwell Anderson, co-wrote the famous play that twice was turned into a movie, “What Price Glory.” If you want to know what World War I was like for America, it’s well worth the read.


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The Illusion Of Victory: America In World War I

By Thomas Fleming

The Illusion Of Victory: America In World War I

Why this book?

The late historian, Thomas Fleming, was a friend. It was an article he wrote for American Heritage magazine in 1968, “Two Argonnes,” about his father, a lieutenant in the 78th Division, that inspired me to write my first World War I book centered on my great uncle as the main character, Duty, Honor, Privilege: New York’s Silk Stocking Regiment and the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line. The author of 19 books, The Illusion of Victory, his last book, Fleming paints a different picture of America’s role in the war, showing how President Wilson and our country were “duped” by Great Britain and France to enter the war, thinking the war was almost won. He not only writes about the Western Front, but goes into detail about the home front. After reading his book, you’ll get a different perspective on World War I. In 2020, to honor one of our most imminent historians, Military History Quarterly magazine inaugurated the annual Thomas Fleming Award for outstanding military history writing.


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Borrowed Soldiers, Volume 17: Americans Under British Command, 1918

By Mitchell A. Yockelson

Borrowed Soldiers, Volume 17: Americans Under British Command, 1918

Why this book?

A leading archivist at the Modern Military Records Branch at the National Archives, Yockelson, another good friend, tackled a subject rarely covered, United States troops attached to the British where they fought with very little recognition back home for their valor on the battlefields of Flanders and the Somme. Two National Guard divisions, the 27th from New York State and the 30th from North and South Carolina and Tennessee, formed the American II Corps. They took part in some of the bloodiest battles of the war. The 27th Division’s 107th Regiment from New York’s wealthy Upper East Side broke through the vaunted Hindenburg Line and in doing so lost more men on a single day of fighting than any regiment in United States history. I write about that regiment in my book, Duty, Honor, Privilege. Yockelson’s book covers it all for those Yankee troops fighting alongside the Brits.


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The Guns of August

By Barbara Wertheim Tuchman

The Guns of August

Why this book?

Tuchman’s book came out in 1962, but I didn’t get around to reading it until the 1970s. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Along with Thomas Fleming, she drove my interest in World War I. I was especially interested in the opening days of the war, and she handles it masterfully and in great detail, covering the first month of the war. I can still envision her description of the German army invading Belgium. This book is a must-read for those wanting to learn about how the war started and what transpired during those turbulent days in August, 1914.


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