The best books about World War II letters

Who am I?

I'm a Frenchman with a great interest in the history of the Second World War, specializing in the correspondence of Allied soldiers. Almost 20 years of collecting WWII letters led to the publication of my first book Till Victory which was an award-winning bestseller in France, before it was released in English worldwide in 2021. I also host a podcast (Till Victory: a podcast about WWII and Peace), where I interview British and American veterans, and have made documentaries such as Red Beret & Dark Chocolate or The Missing Highlander. It's all about trying to understand what the young men who fought and died to liberate my country went through when they were my age.

I wrote...

Till Victory: The Second World War By Those Who Were There

By Clément Horvath,

Book cover of Till Victory: The Second World War By Those Who Were There

What is my book about?

From the mountains of Italy to the beaches of Normandy, and from the deserts of North Africa to the ruined cities of Germany, experience the history of the Second World War in Western Europe from 1939-1945 in an entirely different way. Using their wartime letters and diaries, follow the journeys of more than a hundred Allied soldiers (American, British, French, Canadian…) as they liberate the old continent from Nazi rule, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Arranged in chronological order and placed in historical context, their stories and letters are illustrated with many personal photographs, WWII memorabilia and original uniforms.

Winner of the 2022 Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Awards (National Museum of the US Army).

The books I picked & why

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The Words of War: British Forces' Personal Letters and Diaries During the Second World War

By Marcus Cowper,

Book cover of The Words of War: British Forces' Personal Letters and Diaries During the Second World War

Why this book?

Although it has no illustrations (and seeing the face of the soldier writing the letters is very important to feel connected), reading these archives from the Imperial War Museum, focusing on British Forces’ Personal Letters and Diaries during the Second World War, was a fantastic read. The soldiers’ names and personal stories are disclosed and there’s a historical context for the neophytes. It also deals with battles that we seldom hear about (looking at you, books about D-Day on Omaha Beach!!).

Letters from the Greatest Generation: Writing Home in WWII

By Howard H. Peckham (editor), Shirley A. Snyder (editor),

Book cover of Letters from the Greatest Generation: Writing Home in WWII

Why this book?

This could be the American version of The Words of War, since it has the same qualities and flaws, this time focusing only on American troops (in Europe as in the Pacific). The quality of the letters is excellent, and I know how difficult it is to find some with historically relevant content (due to the censorship of the time). They were in fact collected during the war, thanks to solicitations through Indiana newspapers, and the authors chose 131 letters out of the 3,500 they received! As far as I am concerned, my selection for my own book was even stricter and more difficult, since I was not dealing with one American State but with all the allied countries, that I was collecting the letters by myself (auction sites, other collectors...), and that this search was done 70 years after the facts. Anyway, those are fantastic accounts!

World War II Letters: A Glimpse into the Heart of the Second World War Through the Eyes of Those Who Were Fighting It

By Bill Adler (editor), Tracy Quinn McLennan (contributor),

Book cover of World War II Letters: A Glimpse into the Heart of the Second World War Through the Eyes of Those Who Were Fighting It

Why this book?

Finally, a book with WWII letters that doesn’t focus exclusively on the British or Americans! Some of the soldiers are also from Australia, New Zealand, and even Germany! It helps to have a broader view of the conflict and it is very interesting to observe the differences in points of view. Moreover, this book provides the reader with beautiful photos of the letter writers, in addition to their names and stories before and after the war. Unfortunately, there is little or no historical context surrounding each letter, which is not disturbing when one is already familiar with the subject but is essential to understand all their subtleties.

Last Letters Home

By Tamasin Day-Lewis,

Book cover of Last Letters Home

Why this book?

This book is more about the impact of war on the families of those who never returned from it. There isn’t a lot of combat content, but some of the letters are extremely moving. On the other hand, the title of the book is misleading, since some letters are indeed "last letters home," but they are in fact the last ones written before the soldier went home... In any case, although this book focuses exclusively on the British troops, it allows us to enter the intimacy of families torn apart by the war with great emotion.

Brave Men

By Ernie Pyle,

Book cover of Brave Men

Why this book?

Alright, this is not technically a book about WWII letters, but it’s very close, and my favorite historical accounts’ book ever. Just like with wartime correspondence, Ernie Pyle wrote from the battlefield about the daily routine of the regular GI while experiencing it himself. Just like in a personal military letter, you get to know a tired civilian in uniform rather than a multi-medal bearing superhero with a thirst for action. With his exceptional writing, Pyle painted touching and realistic portraits, not of the Generals we've already read all about, but of the simple soldier who simply did his job and won the war with his sweat and blood.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, letters, and France?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, letters, and France.

World War 2 Explore 975 books about World War 2
Letters Explore 20 books about letters
France Explore 587 books about France

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like In Command of History, Implacable Foes, and Scoop if you like this list.