The best books about war and the Marines

Who am I?

As a combat Marine, I believe these books honor the brave men who served and died for America. I joined the Marine Corps at 17 years of age after graduating from St. Petersburg High School. I served as a machine gunner with the famed 5th Marine Regiment during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. I was wounded 3 times by mortar round, grenade, and gunshot. I've written nine books around these subjects as well as an off-Broadway stage play titled The Battle For Nong Son. Many of my books are recommended reading for all newly commissioned officers at The Basic School. I am the recipient of the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association Brigadier General Robert L. Denig Memorial Distinguished Service Award for writing, as well as the Silver Star, 3 Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Civil Action Combat Medal, and the Marine Combat Ribbon among other decorations.

I wrote...

Guns Up!: A Firsthand Account of the Vietnam War

By Johnnie M. Clark,

Book cover of Guns Up!: A Firsthand Account of the Vietnam War

What is my book about?

"Guns up!" was the battle cry that sent machine gunners racing forward with their M60s to mow down the enemy, hoping that this wasn't the day they would meet their deaths. Marine Johnnie Clark heard that the life expectancy of a machine gunner in Vietnam was seven to ten seconds after a firefight began. Johnnie was only eighteen when he got there, at the height of the bloody Tet Offensive, and he quickly realized the grim statistic held a chilling truth.

The Marines who fought and bled and died were ordinary men, many still teenagers, but the selfless bravery they showed day after day in a nightmarish jungle war made them true heroes. This new edition is filled with photographs and updated information about those harrowing battles, also contains the real names of these extraordinary warriors and details of their lives after the war. The book's continuing success is a tribute to the raw courage and sacrifice of the United States Marines.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Echo in Ramadi: The Firsthand Story of US Marines in Iraq's Deadliest City

Why did I love this book?

Major Scott Huesing is a Marine after my own heart. He was once a Lance Corporal and understands the Corps from top to bottom. He was the combat leader for Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines during their bloody battles in the deadliest city of the Iraq War. Reading this book taught an old Marine what the new Corps is like.

By Scott A. Huesing,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Echo in Ramadi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2019 Gold Medal Award, Best Military History Memoir, Military Writers Society of America

Ranked in the "Top 10 Military Books of 2018" by Military Times. 

"In war, destruction is everywhere. It eats everything around you. Sometimes it eats at you." —Major Scott Huesing, Echo Company Commander

From the winter of 2006 through the spring of 2007, two-hundred-fifty Marines from Echo Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment fought daily in the dangerous, dense city streets of Ramadi, Iraq during the Multi-National Forces Surge ordered by President George W. Bush. The Marines' mission: to kill or capture anti-Iraqi forces.…

West to Cambodia

By S.L.A. Marshall,

Book cover of West to Cambodia

Why did I love this book?

Slam Marshall is the author of many books about the American military. He was a Brigadier General and served in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. This book will give the reader a view of what it’s like to fight under the worst possible conditions, under constant surveillance, and over ground where the enemy continually held the advantage. This is a tribute to the GIs who fought those impossible battles.

By S.L.A. Marshall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked West to Cambodia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Marshall, S. L. A.

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

Why did I love this book?

Obviously one of the great classics about the Marine Corps in combat. Brutal and honest. A must-read by all Marines.

By E.B. Sledge,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked With the Old Breed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind the HBO series THE PACIFIC

This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands...

Landing on the beach at Peleliu in 1944 as a twenty-year-old new recruit to the US Marines, Eugene Sledge can only try desperately to survive. At Peleliu and Okinawa - two of the fiercest and filthiest Pacific battles of WWII - he witnesses the dehumanising brutality displayed by both sides and the animal hatred that each soldier has for his enemy.

During temporary lapses in the fighting, conditions on…

Guadalcanal Diary

By Richard Tregaskis,

Book cover of Guadalcanal Diary

Why did I love this book?

Written by a war correspondent who landed on Guadalcanal with the Marines, this book is another must-read for history buffs and every Marine. It is an accurate story of this critical and now legendary battle. 

By Richard Tregaskis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Guadalcanal Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This celebrated classic gives a soldier's-eye-view of the Guadalcanal battles--crucial to World War II, the war that continues to fascinate us all, and to military history in general. Unlike some of those on Guadalcanal in the fall of 1942, Richard Tregaskis volunteered to be there. An on-location news correspondent (at the time, one of only two on Guadalcanal), he lived alongside the soldiers: sleeping on the ground--only to be awoken by air raids--eating the sometimes meager rations, and braving some of the most dangerous battlefields of World War II. He more than once narrowly escaped the enemy's fire, and so…

Book cover of Edson's Raiders: The 1st Marine Raider Battalion in World War II

Why did I love this book?

When I was writing Gunner’s Glory and needed to know real details about Edson’s Raiders on Guadalcanal, an old Raider named Cpl. Ted Eleston told me to read this book. Mr. Alexander is a retired Marine Colonel, and his research in writing this book is fabulous. Old Ted wanted it made clear that for the record, our first so-called “Special Forces” were just a bunch of very hard men taken from the 5th Marine Regiment and named Raiders.

By Col. Joseph H. Alexander,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Edson's Raiders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The men of 1st U.S. Marine Raider Battalion, known by the name of its legendary commander Merritt Edson, provided the vanguard of an experiment with special lightly armed commando units in the Pacific.

On August 7, 1942, together with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, they landed on Tulagi, British Solomon Islands. Two days of severe fighting secured this strategic island in the Battle of Tulagi. After relocating to Guadalcanal they conducted raids on Savo Island and at Tasimboko, on Guadalcanal.

From 1942 to 1943, they fought seven critical battles in the Solomon Islands against some of Japan's most experienced jungle…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, Japan, and the Iraq War?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, Japan, and the Iraq War.

World War 2 Explore 1,545 books about World War 2
Japan Explore 415 books about Japan
The Iraq War Explore 52 books about the Iraq War

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Forgotten 500, Day of Infamy, and Helmet for My Pillow if you like this list.