The best books about sports during World War II that inspire me

Who am I?

I’m an “Army brat” who attended five different middle and high schools, graduated from West Point (where I majored in international history), and later attended law school. The law is my profession, but writing is my avocation, and I’ve been fortunate to have several military histories published. I reside in Birmingham, Alabama, with my wife, our youngest son, and two untrained, incorrigible dogs. As far as my latest book is concerned, they like to say at West Point that “the history that we teach was made by people we taught.” In my case, I guess it was “the history I wrote about was made by people wearing the same uniform that I wore.”

I wrote...

Undefeated: From Basketball to Battle: West Point's Perfect Season 1944

By Jim Noles,

Book cover of Undefeated: From Basketball to Battle: West Point's Perfect Season 1944

What is my book about?

Undefeated is my most recent book. It tells the tale of the United States Military Academy’s perfect 1944 basketball season. It also relates the story of the team’s graduating seniors—Minnesota’s Ed Christl, Michigan’s Bob Faas, and Chicago’s Jack Hennessey—who fought in Europe and in the skies over Japan after their commissions as U.S. Army second lieutenants. Sadly, it would be a war that not all of them would survive. One reviewer called the book “Hoosiers meets Band of Brothers,” and I don’t think I can describe it any better than that!

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The books I picked & why

The All Americans

By Lars Anderson,

Book cover of The All Americans

Why did I love this book?

On November 29, 1941, Army played Navy in their annual football classic. But, eight days later, the United States was suddenly at war. The All Americans follows four of the men who played in that fateful Army-Navy game—two from West Point, and two from Annapolis—through the next four years of war. Anderson’s book was clearly a labor of love and it reminds the reader of the words of Douglas MacArthur: “Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown that seeds that, on other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.”

By Lars Anderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On November 29, 1941, Army played Navy in front of 100,000 fans. Eight days later, the Japanese attacked and the young men who battled each other in that historic game were forced to fight a very different enemy. Author Lars Anderson follows four players-two from Annapolis and two from West Point-in this epic true story, The All Americans.

Bill Busik: Growing up in Pasadena, California, Busik was best friends with a young black man named Jackie, who in 1947 would make Major League Baseball history. Busik would have a spectacular sports career himself at the Naval Academy, earning All-American honors…

Book cover of Fields of Battle: Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl, and the Boys Who Went to War

Why did I love this book?

1942’s Rose Bowl game was moved, in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, from Pasadena, California, to safer environs on the East Coast in Durham, North Carolina. In North Carolina, Oregon State beat host Duke 20-16, but even greaterand far more deadlycontests were ahead for the team’s players. Brian Curtis takes his readers from the Rose Bowl to the battles ultimately fought in Italy, Normandy, the Ardennes, and the Pacific.

By Brian Curtis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shortly after this unforgettable game, many of the players and coaches entered the military and went on to serve around the world on famous battlegrounds, from Iwo Jima and Okinawa to Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, where fate and destiny would bring them back together on faraway battlefields, fighting on the same team.

Book cover of The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team That Helped Win World War II

Why did I love this book?

In The Cloudbuster Nine, Anne Keene not only channels her father’s memories of his own dreams of baseball glory but also recounts the tale of a collection of fighter-pilot cadets—men like the legendary Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, and Johnny Swain—who, while preparing for flight training in the U.S. Navy’s V-5 pre-flight program during World War II. In doing so, she provides a fascinating overview (and reminder) of what World War II meant for many of America’s star athletes—and what those athletes meant for America’s war effort. 

By Anne R. Keene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1943, while the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals were winning pennants and meeting in that year's World Series, one of the nation's strongest baseball teams practiced on a skinned-out college field in the heart of North Carolina. Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, and Johnny Sain were among a cadre of fighter-pilot cadets who wore the Cloudbuster Nine baseball jersey at an elite Navy training school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As a child, Anne Keene's father, Jim Raugh, suited up as the team batboy and mascot. He got to know his baseball heroes personally,…

Book cover of For the Glory: The Untold and Inspiring Story of Eric Liddell, Hero of Chariots of Fire

Why did I love this book?

You probably know Eric Liddell’s story from the film Chariots of Fireor, at least the first part of his story, leading up to his triumph in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. In many ways, however, Liddell’s following twenty years—mostly spent as a missionary in China—were even more impressive. Hamilton’s book takes Liddell’s story through those two decades and into his final, and fatal, five years of quiet, stoic heroism and leadership in a Japanese internment camp.

By Duncan Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Hamilton is a guarantee of quality." -Financial Times

"Duncan Hamilton's compelling biography puts flesh on the legend and paints a vivid picture of not only a great athlete, but also a very special human being." -Daily Mail

The untold and inspiring story of Eric Liddell, hero of Chariots of Fire, from his Olympic medal to his missionary work in China to his last, brave years in a Japanese work camp during WWII

Many people will remember Eric Liddell as the Olympic gold medalist from the Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire. Famously, Liddell would not run on Sunday because…

Book cover of The Eagles of Heart Mountain: A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in World War II America

Why did I love this book?

The Eagles were a collection of Japanese American youth interned, with their families, at a relocation camp at the base of Heart Mountain, outside of Cody, Wyoming. In the fall of 1943, they embarked upon an undefeated high school football season, although their triumphs were tempered by the injustice of their families’ incarceration and, ironically, the looming threat of the graduating seniors being drafted into the same military that guarded the perimeter of their camp.  Pearson’s is a disturbing, but ultimately uplifting, look at a dark chapter in America’s history.

By Bradford Pearson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Eagles of Heart Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“One of Ten Best History Books of 2021.” —Smithsonian Magazine

For fans of The Boys in the Boat and The Storm on Our Shores, this impeccably researched, deeply moving, never-before-told “tale that ultimately stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit” (Garrett M. Graff, New York Times bestselling author) about a World War II incarceration camp in Wyoming and its extraordinary high school football team.

In the spring of 1942, the United States government forced 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes in California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona and sent them to incarceration camps across the West. Nearly…

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