The best books about the United States Army

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the United States Army and why they recommend each book.

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The Old Army

By Edward M. Coffman,

Book cover of The Old Army: A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784-1898

Coffman’s twin volumes are a, if not the, foundational texts on the social history of the peacetime US Army. Drawing on a host of sources, the books brought to light, in many cases for the first time, the experiences of officers, enlisted men, and their families from the Regular Army’s founding to the outbreak of World War II. Without apparent effort, the late Mac Coffman combined the history of a military organization with the stories of hundreds of individuals who were its components, and he did it with empathy, warmth, humor, and masterly tale-telling.


Who am I?

I am a historian of modern (post-1898) American military history who has been fortunate enough to be at a university that supports my research. I have always been fascinated by the “black holes” in military history, the topics that are not glamorous like the big wars, charismatic generals, or Washington-level civil-military relations. This has led me to study such obscure topics as the conquest and pacification of the Philippines, the forty-year plans for Pacific defense prior to World War II, and how military officers have envisioned future war. The peacetime US Army is a terrific “black hole” because so many people, civilians, and military, assume that they already know that history.


I wrote...

Elvis's Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield

By Brian McAllister Linn,

Book cover of Elvis's Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield

What is my book about?

Elvis’s Army explores the great military and social experiment that was the Cold War atomic army. Militarily, the US Army transformed for the revolution in warfare initiated by nuclear weapons. Traumatized by Cold War reductions and Korea, it seized on the vision of a great atomic land war against the Soviet Union. The Army not only developed a radically new way of fighting, but underwent radical changes in its equipment, its training, and its organization—the infamous Pentomic division. Socially, in the 1950s the service underwent even more of a transformation.  In large part due to the draft, the Fifties Army became the nation’s most racially and economically egalitarian institution, impacting American culture in the 1950s from Madison Avenue to Hollywood, and from civil rights to rock-n-roll.

From Here to Eternity

By James Jones,

Book cover of From Here to Eternity

There are many novels of the peacetime US Army, but most of them, such as Anton Myrer’s much-beloved Once an Eagle, are about officers (almost inevitably good) participating in epic historical events. Jones's book was one of the first to reveal the khaki-collar enlisted culture, the rigid caste line between officers and their troops, and the ruthless ambition and careerism that typified too many military leaders. At the time it shocked civilians (and outraged officers) with its harsh depiction of barracks life, the boredom and meaningless ritual, the obsession with sports, the drinking and prostitutes, and incessant brutal tyranny justified as discipline. Although modern readers will find it overlong, sex-obsessed, and repetitive, it remains essential to understanding enlisted life in the pre-World War II army. 


Who am I?

I am a historian of modern (post-1898) American military history who has been fortunate enough to be at a university that supports my research. I have always been fascinated by the “black holes” in military history, the topics that are not glamorous like the big wars, charismatic generals, or Washington-level civil-military relations. This has led me to study such obscure topics as the conquest and pacification of the Philippines, the forty-year plans for Pacific defense prior to World War II, and how military officers have envisioned future war. The peacetime US Army is a terrific “black hole” because so many people, civilians, and military, assume that they already know that history.


I wrote...

Elvis's Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield

By Brian McAllister Linn,

Book cover of Elvis's Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield

What is my book about?

Elvis’s Army explores the great military and social experiment that was the Cold War atomic army. Militarily, the US Army transformed for the revolution in warfare initiated by nuclear weapons. Traumatized by Cold War reductions and Korea, it seized on the vision of a great atomic land war against the Soviet Union. The Army not only developed a radically new way of fighting, but underwent radical changes in its equipment, its training, and its organization—the infamous Pentomic division. Socially, in the 1950s the service underwent even more of a transformation.  In large part due to the draft, the Fifties Army became the nation’s most racially and economically egalitarian institution, impacting American culture in the 1950s from Madison Avenue to Hollywood, and from civil rights to rock-n-roll.

America's Army

By Beth L Bailey,

Book cover of America's Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force

This is a fascinating study of the creation, evolution, and ultimate success of the All-Volunteer Army after Vietnam. Bailey maintains her historical objectivity even when dealing with controversial and emotional subjects such as race, the role of women, and the Army’s commitment to combat. As she explores this traumatic institutional shift from war to peace, she skillfully interweaves the experiences of individuals into the story. The result is a well-written, enjoyable work that both meets the highest standards of scholarship and is enlightening and entertaining.


Who am I?

I am a historian of modern (post-1898) American military history who has been fortunate enough to be at a university that supports my research. I have always been fascinated by the “black holes” in military history, the topics that are not glamorous like the big wars, charismatic generals, or Washington-level civil-military relations. This has led me to study such obscure topics as the conquest and pacification of the Philippines, the forty-year plans for Pacific defense prior to World War II, and how military officers have envisioned future war. The peacetime US Army is a terrific “black hole” because so many people, civilians, and military, assume that they already know that history.


I wrote...

Elvis's Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield

By Brian McAllister Linn,

Book cover of Elvis's Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield

What is my book about?

Elvis’s Army explores the great military and social experiment that was the Cold War atomic army. Militarily, the US Army transformed for the revolution in warfare initiated by nuclear weapons. Traumatized by Cold War reductions and Korea, it seized on the vision of a great atomic land war against the Soviet Union. The Army not only developed a radically new way of fighting, but underwent radical changes in its equipment, its training, and its organization—the infamous Pentomic division. Socially, in the 1950s the service underwent even more of a transformation.  In large part due to the draft, the Fifties Army became the nation’s most racially and economically egalitarian institution, impacting American culture in the 1950s from Madison Avenue to Hollywood, and from civil rights to rock-n-roll.

Sons and Soldiers

By Bruce Henderson,

Book cover of Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler

Sons and Soldiers tells the stories of the Ritchie Boys, a special military intelligence unit of the US Army in World War II trained in Camp Ritchie, Maryland and made up of German-Austrian men, often German Jews who had fled Nazi persecution. These men had everything to lose: if they were captured and identified behind enemy lines, they would be killed on the spot. However, they also knew that their special knowledge of the German language and German culture gave them an advantage against Hitler’s army. The Ritchie Boys were critical to the Allied victory. Not surprisingly, those who survived went on to become leaders in American society, great heroes who understood that there are some things worth dying for. 


Who am I?

In writing The Lost Son, which is loosely based on family history, I immersed myself in the history of World War II and in the world between the wars. It was important to me to understand this period from both sides—from the perspective of Germans who were either forced to flee their homeland or witness its destruction from within by a madman, and from the perspective of Americans with German ties who also fought fascism. The stories of ordinary people during this time are far more nuanced than the epic battles that World War II depicted, as the stories of ordinary people often are. 


I wrote...

The Lost Son

By Stephanie Vanderslice,

Book cover of The Lost Son

What is my book about?

How does someone end up with sons fighting on opposite sides in World War II? Twenty years before Julia Kruse’s life was shattered when her husband and the baby’s nurse kidnapped her youngest son, Nicholas, from his crib and returned to Germany. Through the Great Depression, Julia struggled to provide for her remaining son, Johannes, but never gave up hope of finding Nicholas, even as her attempts were thwarted at every turn. Neither did Johannes. Now stationed in Germany and fighting for the Allies during the last days of the Third Reich, Johannes must run a race against time to bring his younger brother home to America and back to Julia. Fortunately, he has help from an unusual, well-placed connection. 

Secrets on the Wind

By Stephanie Grace Whitson,

Book cover of Secrets on the Wind

“You ought to write inspirationals.” Every time a reader told me that, I’d shake my head and reply, “They’re too preachy.” But then a dear friend’s death made me reconsider the direction of my writing, and I began to research the inspirational market. One of the first books I read was Secrets on the Wind, the first of Whitson’s Pine Ridge Portraits trilogy. To my delight, she combined meticulous research, sprinkling her story with “telling” details that brought the Nebraska prairie and Fort Robinson to life, and unforgettable characters to create a story that’s lingered in my memory for more than a decade. Best of all, she demonstrated that faith-friendly fiction doesn’t need to be preachy. I’m deeply grateful to her because Secrets on the Wind convinced me that this was the right market for me. 


Who am I?

Like Thomas Jefferson, I cannot live without books. And, while I read in a variety of genres, from early childhood on, my favorite stories were the ones that began with “once upon a time.” My fascination with historicals started with one of my father’s few books from his childhood, The Cave Twins, which introduced me to a world far different from suburban America. For me, the appeal of historicals is the opportunity to learn about another era and to escape from the modern world. And so, if you want to escape from what seems like an endless pandemic, I invite you to explore the worlds six talented authors have created.


I wrote...

The Spark of Love

By Amanda Cabot,

Book cover of The Spark of Love

What is my book about?

When a spurned suitor threatens her, heiress Alexandra Tarkington flees New York for Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country, where her father is building a hotel. But her father insists she return to New York. Instead, Alexandra carves out a niche for herself in town, teaching schoolchildren to paint and enjoying the company of Gabe Seymour, a delightful man she met on the stagecoach.

Two men, each with his own agenda, have followed her to Mesquite Springs. And Gabe is an investigator, searching for proof that her father is a swindler. When a series of apparent accidents threaten her life, Alexandra and Gabe will have to work together to discover the truth. And perhaps they will discover that the sparks they've felt from the beginning are more than sparks--they're love.

The Road to Gandolfo

By Robert Ludlum,

Book cover of The Road to Gandolfo

I have always loved spy thrillers (Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum, John le Carre, Jason Mathews) because of the plot's intellectual twists and turns, and with the characters' struggle and moral flexibility necessary to survive. But in most spy thrillers, you know who the good guys are supposed to be. Ludlum’s The Road to Gandolfo (and sequel The Road to Omaha) takes an absurd (but plausible) turn on that contention. The characters are loveable and the comedy (plus thriller are equally) fast-paced. I laughed until I cried on more than one occasion while reading this (these) book(s). 


Who am I?

My hero and mentor in life was my mother. She was a remarkable human being. Her lifelong coaching was that there were only two worthwhile pursuits in life: Learning and laughter. Comedic thrillers fulfill this maxim remarkably well. They ask you to think, while also reminding us that life is pretty funny when you can take a step away from the fray. (I am an entrepreneur and venture capitalist in Silicon Valley with over 7 million airline miles cumulatively. Yes, of course, my butt is entirely flat and fat.)  


I wrote...

The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley

By G. Craig Vachon,

Book cover of The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley

What is my book about?

Comedic-thriller examines Silicon Valley's unbridled innovation culture.

Ralph Gibsen isn’t your typical spy. In fact, he may not be a spy at all. He's lumpy, blundering, and abysmal at chatting up the fairer sex. Yet, he is attracting a significant amount of attention from the intelligence community. After all, as a 30-year Silicon Valley mainstay, he can phish your passwords, bust firewalls, and has developed software used by millions to circumvent government censorship. And now his world is closing in as he thinks he has stumbled upon a cabal who is pushing to misuse his own technology for world domination.

Forgotten Ruin

By Jason Anspach, Nick Cole,

Book cover of Forgotten Ruin: An Epic Military Fantasy Thriller

Looking at the cover of this book, you might be scratching your head wondering, "just what the hell is that?" It's a delicious, genre-bending twist on Fantasy and Military SF that is a must-read, I assure you. Army Rangers, as part of a top-secret DARPA program, travel a few years into the future...to find out they're accidentally 10,000 years in the future, and the world they knew is now a Forgotten Ruin (see what I did there?) filled with monsters, magic, and mayhem. Navigating these disastrous circumstances takes some serious ranger grit and a lot of firepower. The story is told from the perspective of a young ranger who is a linguist, and his communication skills are essential to the ranger's survival. But more than that...the Ruin changes people.


Who am I?

I've been writing since I was 7 years old. Star Wars had a big influence on me, but as I got older I gravitated toward Halo: Combat Evolved and Starship Troopers. Modern stories by the likes of Jason Anspach and Nick Cole, JN Chaney, and Rick Partlow...these are the stories that keep me up at night, my mind reeling with the insanity of what I've just read, pondering how close we are as a society to achieving the outlandish adventures contained in these books. I was in the Air Force for 14 years as an F-16 mechanic. I found my voice by combining my experiences and my passion for Science Fiction.


I wrote...

Redshift

By Tyler E. C. Burnworth,

Book cover of Redshift

What is my book about?

Humanity's manifest destiny to control the galaxy was thwarted by a devastating event known as The Collision—an attack that left millions of humans dead and a young boy named Abraham burning with a lust for revenge. The veneer of an ecumenical interstellar society begins to crack as the revenge campaign against the Riskar, perpetrators of the Collision, leads to the discovery of an ancient war between two factions of humanity vying for control of the galaxy's most powerful military—with Abraham mysteriously at the center of it all. Abraham's future, and the future of the galaxy itself, depends on uncovering the origins of his mysterious heritage.

A Time for Trumpets

By Charles B. MacDonald,

Book cover of A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge

A meticulous examination of the Battle of The Bulge, the largest battle ever fought by the US Army. What I found so fascinating was that, even given the massive scale of the fight, it reads more like a wide series of small engagements, scattered and disconnected from each other.  Individual units, often cut off from each other and vastly outnumbered and outgunned, still put up a stiff resistance, enough to pick away at the juggernaut advance of the Germans, each one slowing the enemy a little more and a little more and a little more, until reinforcements can finally put a stop to the enemy advance.


Who am I?

Andrew is a long-time WWII history buff and writer who looks for any excuse to do a deep dive into his favorite history topics. For his WWII horror novel One Last Gasp, he spent over a year researching the Battle of the Bulge, from first-hand accounts of front-line soldiers to official U.S. Army documents.


I wrote...

One Last Gasp

By Andrew C. Piazza,

Book cover of One Last Gasp

What is my book about?

Near the end of World War II, during the Battle of The Bulge, a US Army unit pursues a renegade SS panzer battalion into the secluded Ardennes forest. There, hidden deep in the snow-covered pines, they find an ancient manor house containing an inhuman evil that defies any sense of reality.

Confronted with a supernatural evil inside the manor, and surrounded by enemy troops outside, the soldiers will have to unravel the mysteries of the creature called The Geist and face a nightmarish battle for body and soul if they are to survive.

Call Sign Dracula

By Joe Fair,

Book cover of Call Sign Dracula

Readers will follow the author during his acclimation to war and witness his transition from a scared, naïve and inexperienced eighteen-year-old soldier into a skilled, savvy leader within the course of a year. The author shares his memories, both good and bad. I sometimes found myself laughing out loud at some of the antics he and his fellow soldiers pulled. Joe doesn’t pull any punches and tells it like it was…when friends die, it is very hard to keep a stiff upper lip and continue to function as if nothing happened. He also shows us that the military has both good and bad leaders within its ranks, errors in judgment often resulted in the death of many innocent people.

The life of a grunt is difficult, indeed, Call Sign Dracula will educate civilians – infantry veterans will relate.


Who am I?

I served as an infantryman in Vietnam with both the 25th ID and the 101st Airborne. Curiosity about what other units did during the war drove me to read about their exploits and learn about what else took place outside of my little part of the war. I am also the admin of a website dedicated to the Vietnam War and its Warriors. My intent over the last eleven years is to educate the public and continue our legacy.  


I wrote...

Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel

By John Podlaski,

Book cover of Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel

What is my book about?

In 1970, John Kowalski is one of many young, naive teenage soldiers sent to Vietnam to fight in an unpopular war. Dubbed “Cherries” by their more seasoned peers, these newbies suddenly found themselves thrust into the middle of a terrible nightmare. On-the-job training is intense, however, most of these teenagers were hardly ready to absorb the harsh mental, emotional, and physical stress of war. When coming under enemy fire and witnessing death first-hand, a life-changing transition begins...one that can't be reversed.

The author is an excellent storyteller, readers testify that they're right there with the characters, and joining them in their quest for survival; sharing the fear, awe, drama, and sorrow, witnessing bravery, and sometimes, even laughing at their humor. Cherries tells it like it is and when finished, readers will have a much better understanding of what these young men had to endure for an entire year. It's a story that is hard to put down.

Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay

By Don Rickey,

Book cover of Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay: The Enlisted Soldier Fighting the Indian Wars

I was delighted to discover this compilation of personal accounts by enlisted men who’d served in the U.S. Army during the settling of the American West. Though the educated class of officers left extensive documentation of their lives on the frontier, the mostly illiterate rank and file were unable to chronicle their experiences. Rickey filled this void in the early sixties by interviewing over three hundred troopers, both black and white, who were still alive at that time.

The wealth of detail they supplied was invaluable to me in creating both Cathy’s voice and the world she passed as a man in.


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.

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