The best books about court-martial cases

Many authors have picked their favorite books about courts-martial and why they recommend each book.

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A Whispered Name

By William Brodrick,

Book cover of A Whispered Name

A mystery novel, that tells a haunting, captivating story of the cost paid by one individual soldier at the battle of Messines Ridge. Impeccably researched, the reader is given a firm historical grounding of the physical, psychological, and geophysical costs of being at the explosive, bloody cutting edge of warfare on the Western Front.

Who am I?

Dr. Emily Mayhew is the historian in residence in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London. Her primary research interest is the infliction, treatment, and long-term outcomes of complex casualty in contemporary warfare. She is the author of the Wounded trilogy. A Heavy Reckoning, The Guinea Pig Club, and Wounded: From Battlefield to Blighty which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize in 2014. She is Imperial College Internal Lead on the Paediatric Blast Injury Partnership and co-edited The Paediatric Blast Injury Field Manual.

I wrote...

Wounded: A New History of the Western Front in World War I

By Emily Mayhew,

Book cover of Wounded: A New History of the Western Front in World War I

What is my book about?

In Wounded, Emily Mayhew tells the history of the Western Front from a new perspective: the medical network that arose seemingly overnight to help sick and injured soldiers. The number of soldiers wounded in World War I is, in itself, devastating: over 21 million military wounded, and nearly 10 million killed. On the battlefield, the injuries were shocking, unlike anything those in the medical field had ever witnessed. The bullets hit fast and hard, went deep, and took bits of dirty uniform and airborne soil particles in with them. Soldier after soldier came in with the most dreaded kinds of casualty: awful, deep, ragged wounds to their heads, faces, and abdomens. And yet the medical personnel faced with these unimaginable injuries adapted with amazing aptitude, thinking and reacting on their feet to save millions of lives.

The Buffalo Soldier Tragedy of 1877

By Paul H. Carlson,

Book cover of The Buffalo Soldier Tragedy of 1877

I based one of the most riveting portions of Daughter on Carlson’s meticulously-researched account of what one newspaper called the “Staked Plains Horror.” And horror it was.  In the middle of a dangerously dry summer, forty Buffalo Soldiers led by white officers set off on a routine scouting expedition. Several days later three Black troopers returned to report that all the men of Troop A were missing and presumed dead.

Eventually, all but four of the party made it back to Fort Concho with tales of having survived by drinking the blood of their dead horses and their own urine. Carlson’s careful examination of the records of the court-martial trials that followed reveal what a large role the officers’ bigotry and ineptitude played in triggering this catastrophe.

Who am I?

Growing up, I dreamed of being Margaret Mead. When I realized that Margaret already had that job, I turned my anthropologist’s eye for the defining details of language, dress, and customs to fiction. I love to tell the untold tales--especially about women--who are thrust into difficult, sometimes impossible, circumstances and triumph with the help of humor, friends, perseverance, and their own inspiring ingenuity. In my eleven bestselling novels, I have been able to do this well enough that I was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Prize and in 2021 was honored with the Paul Re Peace Award for Cultural Advocacy for promoting empathy through my work.

I wrote...

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

By Sarah Bird,

Book cover of Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

What is my book about?

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is an epic page-turner inspired by the true story of Cathay/Cathy Williams, the only woman known to have served with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers and the first to enlist in the peacetime U.S. military. Born into slavery, freed by the Civil War, Cathy refused the cruel future that awaited all women-- especially an unmarried, uneducated, Black woman like herself--in the defeated South. Instead, she made the majestic decision to disguise herself as a man and ride west toward grand adventure and true freedom with the Buffalo Soldiers.

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

By Herman Wouk,

Book cover of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

A novel about a rusty old destroyer minesweeper, a supremely difficult captain, a mixed bag officers in a dysfunctional wardroom, a horrific typhoon, and a nail-biting court-martial. The seagoing and combat portions of the novel are very realistic, reflecting Wouk’s time in uniform on a similar class of ship in the Pacific during WWII. In my hand as I write this is a battered 1951 first edition of the novel, with a slightly tattered cover, which I treasure above almost any book in the five thousand volumes in my personal library. Over the years of my career, I’ve returned again and again to The Caine Mutiny, and the fundamental lesson of this sea novel is what both leaders and followers owe each other, especially in the demanding crucible of the sea.

Who am I?

I am a retired 4-star Admiral who spent over forty years at sea, rising from Midshipman at the Naval Academy to Supreme Allied Commander at NATO. Along the way, I served in and commanded destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers in combat, and I have faced many very difficult decisions under extreme pressure. In addition, I’ve been in the Pentagon for many assignments, including as Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense – which also created countless high-pressure decisions. What I learned in the Navy has helped me again and again in calculating risk and making the right decisions. 

I wrote...

To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision

By James G. Stavridis,

Book cover of To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision

What is my book about?

The hardest decisions we make are those that occur under extreme pressure. At the heart of my training as a naval officer was the preparation to lead sailors in combat, to face the decisive moment in battle whenever it might arise. In To Risk it All, you will meet nine men and women who face conflict, crisis, and risk. The lessons you learn will help you make the hardest of decisions. Let’s get underway!