100 books like Surviving Hell

By Leo Thorsness,

Here are 100 books that Surviving Hell fans have personally recommended if you like Surviving Hell. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Unbroken

Steve Pemberton Author Of The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World

From my list on demonstrating the power of the human spirit.

Who am I?

I’m most drawn to stories of overcoming. My own childhood was about exactly that-overcoming a multi-generational inheritance of family separation and orphaned children. When I wrote my first book about that story, A Chance in the World, an unanticipated magic unfolded: I began to receive stories of strangers from all across the world who wrote to tell me their own story of overcoming. Each and every day I hear from someone and the steady stream of those stories of overcoming affirms something I have to come to learn: we all have a story and none of us look like that story.

Steve's book list on demonstrating the power of the human spirit

Steve Pemberton Why did Steve love this book?

If it’s possible to have lived multiple lives in a single lifetime, then Louis Zamperini did it.

I am a big fan of The Greatest Generation and Unbroken is the story of that generation, the deep beliefs they held, and the many sacrifices they made, not for themselves but for the generations that would follow them. You can’t miss the examples of selflessness, perseverance, and faith that jump out at you from the very first chapter.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Unbroken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…


Book cover of When Thunder Rolled: An F-105 Pilot Over North Vietnam

Richard E. Diller Author Of Firefly: A Skyraider's Story About America's Secret War Over Laos

From my list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat.

Who am I?

I am well qualified to speak of the Vietnam aviation experience because these things happened during my formative years as a pilot, and I was on the “front lines” of seeing and experiencing much of it. In addition, I keep up-to-date with it via reunions and reading stories told by other pilots, and I have met Kenny Fields, George Marrett, and Leo Thorsness.

Richard's book list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat

Richard E. Diller Why did Richard love this book?

Rasimus was an F-105 pilot who flew 100 missions over North Vietnam early in the war when things were really hot. He tells of the courage it took to fly into such a dangerous environment and of some of the pilots who did it.

By Ed Rasimus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Thunder Rolled as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ed Rasimus straps the reader into the cockpit of an F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber in his engaging account of the Rolling Thunder campaign in the skies over North Vietnam. Between 1965 and 1968, more than 330 F-105s were lost—the highest loss rate in Southeast Asia—and many pilots were killed, captured, and wounded because of the Air Force’s disastrous tactics. The descriptions of Rasimus’s one hundred missions, some of the most dangerous of the conflict, will satisfy anyone addicted to vivid, heart-stopping aerial combat, as will the details of his transformation from a young man paralyzed with self-doubt into a battle-hardened veteran.…


Book cover of Cheating Death: Combat Air Rescues in Vietnam and Laos

Richard E. Diller Author Of Firefly: A Skyraider's Story About America's Secret War Over Laos

From my list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat.

Who am I?

I am well qualified to speak of the Vietnam aviation experience because these things happened during my formative years as a pilot, and I was on the “front lines” of seeing and experiencing much of it. In addition, I keep up-to-date with it via reunions and reading stories told by other pilots, and I have met Kenny Fields, George Marrett, and Leo Thorsness.

Richard's book list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat

Richard E. Diller Why did Richard love this book?

George Marrett was in my squadron the year prior to me and we tell of some of the same people. Cheating Death is about search and rescue. Same airplane, different mission. A-1s were taildragger airplanes with a 2,700 horsepower engine, could carry 10,000 pounds of external ordinance, and had two 20mm guns in each wing. It was low and slow compared to a jet and could stay over a survivor for a long time until a rescue was made. The author tells of several exciting rescues of pilots who were shot down deep in enemy territory and explains how it was done.

By George J. Marrett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The colourful characters and daring rescues of downed pilots engaged in the Secret War in North Vietnam and Laos are vividly captured by one who was there, in some of the most exciting stories ever written about aerial combat. Sandy Marrett and his squadron colleagues flew some of the most dangerous air missions of the war as on-scene commanders, in charge of rescuing the scores of US Navy and Air Force pilots shot down over North Vietnam and Laos.


Book cover of The Rescue of Streetcar 304

Richard E. Diller Author Of Firefly: A Skyraider's Story About America's Secret War Over Laos

From my list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat.

Who am I?

I am well qualified to speak of the Vietnam aviation experience because these things happened during my formative years as a pilot, and I was on the “front lines” of seeing and experiencing much of it. In addition, I keep up-to-date with it via reunions and reading stories told by other pilots, and I have met Kenny Fields, George Marrett, and Leo Thorsness.

Richard's book list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat

Richard E. Diller Why did Richard love this book?

This is an exciting book by Kenny Fields, a navy pilot who was shot down on his first mission. He came down near a North Vietnamese division in southern Laos and was on the ground for about 50 hours before he was rescued. The story is told from the perspective of the survivor. The NVA and Viet Cong troops had recently participated in the siege of Khe Sanh, and were back in the (for them) sanctuary of Laos.

By Kenny Wayne Fields,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rescue of Streetcar 304 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On 31 May 1968, Lt. Kenny Fields catapulted off USS America in his A-7 for his first combat mission. His target was in Laos, which at the time was `officially' off limits for US attacks. What the planners did not know was that Fields and his wingman were en route to a massive concentration of AAA gun sites amidst an entire North Vietnamese division.

Fields, who used the call sign`Streetcar 304', was the first to roll in, and he destroyed his target with a direct hit. Three AAA guns began to fire, but, following his wingman, he rolled in again.…


Book cover of Rescue Pilot: Life-Saving At-Sea Navy Helicopter Missions

Richard E. Diller Author Of Firefly: A Skyraider's Story About America's Secret War Over Laos

From my list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat.

Who am I?

I am well qualified to speak of the Vietnam aviation experience because these things happened during my formative years as a pilot, and I was on the “front lines” of seeing and experiencing much of it. In addition, I keep up-to-date with it via reunions and reading stories told by other pilots, and I have met Kenny Fields, George Marrett, and Leo Thorsness.

Richard's book list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat

Richard E. Diller Why did Richard love this book?

Dan McKinnon was a navy helicopter pilot who was airborne near an aircraft carrier during flight operations so pilots who had mishaps could be quickly and safely recovered. This is a story about an unusual type of flying, one that provides another layer of safety for naval operations at sea.

By Dan McKinnon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Dan McKinnon, extraordinary helicopter pilot, brings alive the excitement and occasional terror of rescue at sea. An exciting hair raising and reverting tale of the largely untold story of helicopter resuces at sea' - Neil Armstrong, Astronaut. 'Just Great. It's going to be of tremendous interest to all naval helicopter pilots present and future and to the people who want to know more about this aspect of military flight. Boy, you've unleashed a flood of memories' - Bill Stuyvesant, legendary navy helo pilot. A daring Cold-War warrior recounts the thrills of high-sea helicopter rescue missions. Within the pages of "Rescue…


Book cover of Bury Us Upside Down: The Misty Pilots and the Secret Battle for the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Nishi Giefer Author Of The Captured

From my list on Twentieth Century POWs.

Who am I?

As a western mystery writer, rancher, veterinarian, wife, mother, farrier, horse trainer, gardener, seamstress, pilot, homeschooler, tractor jockey, and all-around hand, I conclude that every experience in life is grist for the mill leading to settings, scenery, plots, and character motivations.

Nishi's book list on Twentieth Century POWs

Nishi Giefer Why did Nishi love this book?

As a pilot and an American, I found the content of this extremely well-written book mesmerizing. As a writer and editor, I was blown away by the clean copy. More impressively, both authors replied to my emails. Rick Newman is the wordsmith, and I daresay perfectionist. Upon learning I found only two typos in over five hundred pages, he begged to know where. Major General Don Shepperd, USAF Retired, was a Misty pilot in Vietnam who graciously agreed to be a technical consultant on my novel. His inside knowledge of the continuing struggle to return remains of US service members was invaluable. 

By Rick Newman, Don Shepperd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bury Us Upside Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They had the most dangerous job n the Air Force. Now Bury Us Upside Down reveals the never-before-told story of the Vietnam War’s top-secret jet-fighter outfit–an all-volunteer unit composed of truly extraordinary men who flew missions from which heroes are made.

In today’s wars, computers, targeting pods, lasers, and precision-guided bombs help FAC (forward air controller) pilots identify and destroy targets from safe distances. But in the search for enemy traffic on the elusive Ho Chi Minh Trail, always risking enemy fire, capture, and death, pilots had to drop low enough to glimpse the telltale signs of movement such as…


Book cover of Baa, Baa Black Sheep

Nishi Giefer Author Of The Captured

From my list on Twentieth Century POWs.

Who am I?

As a western mystery writer, rancher, veterinarian, wife, mother, farrier, horse trainer, gardener, seamstress, pilot, homeschooler, tractor jockey, and all-around hand, I conclude that every experience in life is grist for the mill leading to settings, scenery, plots, and character motivations.

Nishi's book list on Twentieth Century POWs

Nishi Giefer Why did Nishi love this book?

The copy I read came from my dad’s collection. It was signed by the author. I don’t know how Dad knew Pappy Boyington, but years ago when Dad and I were walking through a throng of people at Oshkosh, Pappy broke away from a conversation with two very attractive women to wave and call Dad by name. A teenager at the time, I stood in utter shock and amazement while my dad talked planes with a legend. Though the book covers Pappy’s exploits before, during, and after World War II, a large segment is devoted to his time in a Japanese prison camp. One of his fellow detainees was Louis Zamperini, famous Olympic miler. 

By Gregory “Pappy” Boyington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Baa, Baa Black Sheep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here, in his own words, is the true story of America's wildest flying hero, of his extraordinary heroism, and of his greatest battle of all—the fight to survive.

The World War II air war in the Pacific needed tough men like Colonel Pappy Boyington and his Black Sheep Squadron. The legendary Marine Corps officer and his bunch of misfits, outcasts, and daredevils gave new definition to “hell-raising”—on the ground and in the skies. 

Pappy himself was a living legend—he personally shot down twenty-eight Japanese planes, and won the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. He broke every rule…


Book cover of Through the Valley: My Captivity in Vietnam

Nishi Giefer Author Of The Captured

From my list on Twentieth Century POWs.

Who am I?

As a western mystery writer, rancher, veterinarian, wife, mother, farrier, horse trainer, gardener, seamstress, pilot, homeschooler, tractor jockey, and all-around hand, I conclude that every experience in life is grist for the mill leading to settings, scenery, plots, and character motivations.

Nishi's book list on Twentieth Century POWs

Nishi Giefer Why did Nishi love this book?

In a rescue-gone-wrong, Reeder’s chopper went down, landing on its side and leaving the pilot frantically attempting to disentangle himself from the safety harness to escape the burning craft. Years later, after relaying this story to a large audience, Reeder was told by a fellow veteran that he had witnessed the incident and had Reeder in his gunsight, intending to save him from burning to death. The would-be shooter had looked away an instant, and when ready to fire, found Reeder gone. Reeder managed to evade the enemy for a time but was eventually captured and subjected to unfathomable cruelty and deprivation.

By William Reeder Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Through the Valley is the captivating memoir of the last U.S. Army soldier taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. A narrative of courage, hope, and survival, Through the Valley is more than just a war story. It also portrays the thrill and horror of combat, the fear and anxiety of captivity, and the stories of friendships forged and friends lost In 1971 William Reeder was a senior captain on his second tour in Vietnam. He had flown armed, fixed-wing OV-1 Mohawks on secret missions deep into enemy territory in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam on his first tour. He returned…


Book cover of Phase Line Green: The Battle for Hue, 1968

William W. Stilwagen Author Of VIETNAM War SPEAK: The Distinctive Language of the Vietnam Era

From my list on the Vietnam War from a Marone who served there.

Who am I?

I served in Vietnam in 1969 carrying a radio on my back with the 12th Marines on the DMZ. In 1970, I was a door gunner with HMM-364 (Purple Fox Squadron) out of Marble Mountain. Beginning in 1996, I have led 68 tours for veterans, their family members, historians, active-duty military personnel, and others to the jungles, mountains, and battlefields of Vietnam. I currently serve as president and bush guide for the non-profit tour company, Vietnam Battlefield Tours. As an avid reader of non-fiction books on the Vietnam experience, this knowledge base has helped tremendously in my non-profit volunteer service.

William's book list on the Vietnam War from a Marone who served there

William W. Stilwagen Why did William love this book?

It is rare when an actual participant of a battle can produce such a chilling and accurate narrative that keeps a reader’s attention page after page. This was the Tet Offensive urban battle for the Citadel, a walled city containing a labyrinth of buildings and houses jammed around numerous narrow streets. This was city fighting at its worst. In the end, many thousands of the enemy lay dead.

By Nicholas Warr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Phase Line Green as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bloody, month-long battle for the Citadel in Hue during 1968 pitted U.S. Marines against an entrenched, numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force. By official U.S. accounts it was a tactical and moral victory for the Marines and the United States. But a survivor's compulsion to square official accounts with his contrasting experience has produced an entirely different perspective of the battle, the most controversial to emerge from the Vietnam War in decades.

In some of the most frank, vivid prose to come out of the war, author Nicholas Warr describes with urgency and outrage the Marines' savage house-to-house fighting,…


Book cover of A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

James McLeroy Author Of Bait: The Battle of Kham Duc

From my list on the Vietnam War from a commando who served there.

Who am I?

In 1965, I voluntarily enlisted in the Army as a draft exempt, 26-year-old high school teacher. After completing the infantry officer, airborne, ranger, jumpmaster, special forces, and jungle warfare courses, in 1967 I was assigned to a Special Forces A-team in I Corps, Vietnam. In 1968, I volunteered for SOG, a top-secret recon-commando unit at a small, remote SF jungle camp that was later attacked by 3,000 to 4,000 North Vietnamese Army troops. With a master’s degree in history, I have since studied all aspects of the Vietnam War. Gregory Sanders, also a Vietnam veteran, and I researched, wrote, and in 2019 published a unique tactical, operational, and strategic narrative and analysis of that battle titled BAIT: the Battle of Kham Duc

James' book list on the Vietnam War from a commando who served there

James McLeroy Why did James love this book?

This is the best military history of the war from mid-1968 to 1974 during the MACV command of General Abrams. It is essential for understanding the U.S. troop withdrawal period and the combat performance of the revitalized South Vietnamese Army. With his Vietnam staff service, CIA experience, and Ph.D. in history, Sorley provides a unique revisionist narrative and in-depth analysis of those critical but ignored and misinterpreted years. 

By Lewis Sorley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Better War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FIRST HARVEST EDITION. 2000 Harcourt trade paperback, Lewis Sorley (Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam). Neglected by scholars and journalists alike, the years of conflict in Vietnam from 1968 to 1975 offer surprises not only about how the war was fought, but about what was achieved. Drawing from thousands of hours of previously unavailable (and still classified) tape-recorded meetings between the highest levels of the American military command in Vietnam, A Better War is an insightful, factual, and superbly documented history of these final years. - Amazon


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