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!

The books I picked & why

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The All Americans

By Lars Anderson,

Book cover of The All Americans

Why 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.”


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

By Brian Curtis,

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

Why 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.


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

By Anne R. Keene,

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

Why 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. 


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

By Duncan Hamilton,

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

Why 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.


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

By Bradford Pearson,

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

Why 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.


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