WWII Reference books part 2

more WWII Reference books 

These are WWII books that I have read for pleasure or to learn more about particular details of the war.  The books listed here might not be the version that is currently in print, or if it currently is in print at all.




Home Fronts (US & British)

Time-Life WW2 – Home Front: USA  (by Ronald Bailey, Time-Life Books, 1977)

Lots of details and pictures of America leading up to War, the build up, life for women and children.




Don’t You Know There’s a War On? (by Richard Lingeman, Capricorn Books, 1970)

What happened on the home front: socially, economically, racially, etc.  How industry adapted to the war effort.




Since You Went Away (by Donald Rogers, Arlington House, 1973)

US history during the war, year by year.  Highlighting Industrial ramp-up, shortages, business concerns, entertainment, women & racial issues, etc.



Virtue Under Fire (by John Costello, Little Brown, 1985)

How World War 2 changed our social and sexual attitudes.  From changing the male dominated work force to supplementing the military forces to providing succor to the lonely GI, women’s role was altered by this war.


Rich Relations (by David Reynolds, Random House, 1995)

The old saw about England was invaded… by the Americans… is the premise of this book.  Gives a bit of British background before the war, the groundwork for massive US troops to come to the island and the clash and synthesis of that arrival.  The culture clash, lost teenage GIs, flattered/shocked native women and awed kids, envious Tommies, and trying to fit racist Americans in non-racist England.

Ernie Pyle in England (by Ernie Pyle, McBride, 1941)

Americans were riveted by The London Blitz.  Many reporters covered the beat and Mr. Pyle’s was one of them.  His description of the horror of bombing, the fortitude of the British and the bucolicness outside of London were great articles that he converted into this book.

A Bundle from Britain (by Alistair Horne, St. Martin Press, 1993)

The experience of an upper-class British 15 year old shipped off to America in 1941.  From an unwelcoming youth of nannies and tortuous British schools, Alistair blooms in the warm, big family he was sent to.  


Once Upon a Town (by Bob Greene, William Morrow, 2002)

What an amazing bit of Americana!  An awesome story of dedicated ladies making sure the troops had at least one memorable stop along their way to war. The effort they maintained to greet every train, every day, for four years is an incredible story of devotion and honor for our servicemen.  You will finish reading this book with a warm glow in your heart.        


The Human Comedy (by William Saroyan, Dell, 1943)  Fiction

Read about small town life in WW2 that was actually written in 1943.  Young Homer,  who grew up during The Depression, is too young for the Army, but old enough to hold a job while most of the men are at war.

Saroyan’s characters are natural and have whimsy and the story is warm-hearted.

Casablanca: As Time Goes By (by Frank Miller, Turner Publishing, 1992)

The best book about the film Casablanca or any film “bio” I have ever read.  All the data on how it came to be, from the studio end, the writing and filming, to release and its aftermath.  I loved this book!   Made during the first year of the US involvement in WW2 and released on the eve of Operation Torch.




The Art of War

Double Cross (by Paul Janecko, Candlewick Press, 2017)

This has a large section (100 pages) on WW2 deceptions.  With chapters on during WW1 and post-WW2.



Deception in World War II (by Charles Cruickshank, Oxford Press, 1979)

Making things seem like something else.  This book goes into how that was accomplished in WW2 from the strategic reasoning, funding and design, to the applications on the ground and their success or failures.  Many specific events are described.


World War II Combat Reconnaissance Tactics (Osprey Elite #156, 2007)

This book explains and illustrates the tactics, techniques, equipment and organization of reconnaissance troops of the American, British, German, Russian and Japanese.  It covers not only the dedicated recon units in the divisional order of battle, with their vehicles and heavy firepower, but also the small infantry patrols that were sent out constantly, by commanders at every level, to scout the terrain, detect the enemy, and infiltrate or raid his lines.  It is illustrated with wartime photos, and brought to life in detailed color plates of tactical scenarios.

Terrific book to get the mindset of a scout.  For wargaming at squad level, this will give you the priorities and attitudes of the reconnaissance soldier.  At the platoon level, it will give you an idea of how to use your reconnaissance troops.

World War II Street-Fighting Tactics (Osprey Elite #168, 2008)

Street-to-street fighting in cities was not a new development, but the bombed-out shells of cities, and advances in weaponry meant that World War 2 took it to a new level of savagery and violence.  Based on rare wartime, British, US, German and Soviet training documents, the text traces the doctrinal evolution of house-to-house combat, drawn from accounts of soldiers on the Western and Eastern fronts, with special emphasis on Stalingrad, Warsaw, and the allied drive into Germany.  Illustrated with photos, diagrams, and full-color tactical scenarios, this is an eye-opening insight into the tactics and experiences of street-fighting infantry.

Covers mouse-holing, roof-jumping and covering fire down streets.  For wargaming at squad level, this will give you the procedures for sending  your troops to remove enemy from the town or how to set up a defense in the ruins.

World War II Axis Booby Traps and Sabotage Tactics (Osprey Elite 100, 2009)

Booby traps set by troops in war zones in World War 2 are largely neglected in histories and memoirs, and rarely examined in detail.  Ye on the battlefield the threat of booby traps had to be at the forefront of a soldier’s mind, and an ability to find and disarm them was essential.  In territory which had been occupied by the enemy, anything – a discarded fruit can, a tempting souvenir, or an abandoned truck – could have been wired to explode.  This is the first comprehensive study of World War 2’s battlefield booby traps, using information from rare wartime intelligence publications to identify, illustrate and describe the tactics of German and Japanese saboteurs.  Examining all aspects of this subject, from the devices used to the sophisticated techniques of placing and finding them, this book uncovers the hidden risks faced by soldiers throughout the course of the war.

Could be used in wargaming squad-based games, but mostly for Role-playing espionage/terrorism or horror games.



Bill Mauldin's Army (by Mauldin, William Sloan Assoc, 1951)

The GI’s cartoonist, Bill’s Willie and Joe represented the foot-soldier’s view of World War II.  Gives a sense of the small things that soldiers endured, groused about or smiled at.  This book presents the black and white artwork in a large format.

The Indestructible Jeep (by Denfeld & Fry, Balentine Books, 1973)

The history of the WW2 Jeep or ¼ ton truck 4x4, created by Bantam and built by Willys and Ford.  Ubiquitous in ALL theaters and allied nations.  Describes the various armaments put on it and the various functions it provided.

Sherman Medium Tank 1942-45 (by Steven Zaloga, Osprey Publishing, 1993)

Fast and modern when it was released, it became outclassed by 1944.  Still, it was the mainstay of the Western allies.  The design, development, operation and history of the M4 tank in all its incarnations.


Unexplained Mysteries of World War II (by William Breuer, John Wiley & Sons, 1997)

Fascinating accounts of coincidences, weird events and ‘what happened?’ that occurred all around the world during the Second World War.  The kind of surreal trivia that makes for astonishing reading.         

Great for WW 2 espionage or Pulp Fiction Roleplaying.

See Here Private Hargrove (by Marion Hargrove, Pocket Books, 1942)

The draft started before the war, in 1941.  This is the experience of Mr. Hargrove as he navigated boot camp in the Army.  A run-away best seller during the war, especially with the troops.


American Gun (by Chris Kyle, William Morrow paperback, 2013)

Guns have been a part of our American culture as much as the two party system is currently and slavery used to.

Chris goes into the technology and the times that made ten gunpowder weapons famous in the three centuries of American existence.  From the black powder, ramrod Kentucky Rifle to the fully automatic composite M-16; from the first functional revolver Colt Single Action to the seven decade used M1911 Army Pistol, these weapons made a difference far beyond their individual usage.

This book covers four guns used in WW2:  Springfield M1903 rifle, M1911 pistol, Thompson submachine gun, M1 Garand.  Gives instances of their use.  I especially liked the introduction of the Garand by the Rangers at Dieppe.

Neighborhood Heroes  (by Morgan Rielly, Down East Books, 2014)

Morgan interviewed over two dozen Second World War veterans to give voice to their generation’s tribulations and triumphs. 

This teenage author shows talent, both writing-wise and gumption-wise in creating this book.

Savage Continent (by Keith Lowe, Picador, 2013)

All this current dystopian fiction is not a new thing.  It was real and happened in Europe in 1946.

Burnt earth, disease, starvation, human depravity, rape, demoralization; These are the day-to-day products of Post War Europe.  What the Nazis did to the Jews, the rest of Europe did to each other immediately after the war.

Well researched precedence for Cold War buffs and a primer for Post Apocalypse Sci Fi.            

Avenue of Spies (by Alex Kershaw, Broadway Books, 2013)

An American doctor and his family stay in Paris after the German occupation.  He joins the resistance as he continues to run the American Hospital.  


The Hotel on Place Vendome (by Tilar Mazzeo, Harper Perrenial, 2015)

Puttin’ On The Ritz has new meaning in this prism of World War 2 viewed through the Ritz hotel in Paris.  How the turn of the century Dreyfus Affair to the American Expats of the ‘20s and ‘30s to the Nazi invaders of 1940 and their occupation through 1944 shaped this hotel that affected French history and the world is described ably and mesmerizingly in this book.  A wonderful read.

A Zookeeper’s Wife (by Diane Ackerman, Norton, 2017)

This would have been a light entertaining true story about a Warsaw zoo and the interesting caregivers and animals… if it hadn’t been for the Nazis.  It then becomes a story of German occupation and the struggle to hold true to humanity while enduring systematic Jewish atrocities and capricious conqueror ruthlessness. 

Shows the deterioration of the zoo throughout the first years of occupation, how the zoo became an ‘underground railroad’ and how the ‘Warsaw Uprising’ occurred.

An angle of World War 2 that Americans’ are seldom exposed to.  Like Unbroken, not for the faint of heart.

War in Val D’Orcia:  an Italian War Diary 1943-44  (by Iris Origo, NY Review of Books, 1947)

A civilian tale of German occupied Tuscany.  Marchesa Origo’s gives vivid account of what happened when a peaceful farming valley became a battleground.  Describes the ally bombings of villages, shortages, German occupation, the civil war, and heartache as her estate became the front lines.


Spies of the Balkans (by Alan Furst, Random House, 2011)  Fiction

The Italians botched the invasion of Yugoslavia in the beginning of World War II and now the Greeks worry the Germans will invade instead.  

This well-told tale of political drama, espionage and romance held my interest with its great characterization of Balkan people, the description of physical environments and the city life of the 1940s.  How long can our heroes keep “secure the escape route for fugitives from Nazi Berlin that is protected by German lawyers, Balkan detectives, and Hungarian gangsters— while being hunted by the Gestapo.”

Billy Boyle:  A Word War 2 mystery  [series]  (by James Benn, Soho Crime, 2006)  Fiction

Billy is an Irish Boston cop in the army now.  And he’s in England with his Uncle Ike in war planning.  Lots of opportunity for mischief.  

1)    Great detective work

2)    Military Procedures

                 3)    1940s History & WWII

Light in the Ruins (by Chris Bohjalian, Vintage, 2014)  Fiction

In this murder mystery, Mr. Bohjalian creates a great feel for a Tuscan estate caught up in the World War 2 Ally advance and the consequences of the German’s defense of the villa.  

Partisans, Blackshirts, Nazi art theft, romance and betrayal form a tragedy for an aristocratic family during the war and retribution a decade later.  Patterned after Iris Origo’s diaries. 

Time-Life WW2 – The Neutrals (by Denis Fodor, Time-Life Books, 1982)

Lots of details and pictures of Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Turkey.


When Books Went To War  (by Molly Manning, Mariner, 2015)

Find out how the paperback book gave succor to beleaguered soldiers and sailors in WW2.  And why did the military think it so important, they created and funded the Armed Services Edition, printing some 1200 titles over 5 years. 

I enjoyed how uncensored literature was the antidote to Mein Kampf. 


Combat-Ready Kitchen (by Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Current, 2015)

What do the US Military and the Food Industry have in common?  Just about everything that’s new; from long-lived food, reconstituted meals and flavorings, to nearly permanent packaging.  I was fascinated with how we got Twinkies, Saran Wrap and irradiated food

Goes into detail on how WW2 needs pushed the US into developing the modern food processing business.

The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939 – 1945 (by Lawrence Ward, Thames and Hudson, 2016)

You’ve read about the blitz burning blocks, you’ve seen movies of Buzz Bombs blowing up the docks; but how much was London ruined?

The complete World War II bomb census maps area a unique graphic representations of one of the London’s destruction.  A treasure for Londonphiles and WW2 buffs.

Jack Northrop and the Flying Wing (by Ted Coleman, Paragon House, 1988)

The B2 Stealth Bomber heritage is Jack’s Flying Wing, an iconic and revolutionary design of the 1930s.  This book tells how we almost had a stealth aircraft in 1950 until politics crushed it.      

The YB35 was the flying wing bomber designed during the war years.  Mentioned also are the Black Widow, the Flying Ram concept and later the YB47 Flying Wing.

The Venus Fixers (by Ilaria Dagnini Brey, Farrar/Straus/ Giroux, 2009)

US General Clark remarked that war in Italy was “like fighting in a museum.”  Brey’s book describes the creation of The Monuments Men in the US and English armies and their exploits, but it also goes into the Italian civilian efforts to protect their national and world treasures against military destruction, nature’s wrath and Nazi pilfering.    

The Spoils of War (by Liz Simpson, Abrams, 1997)

You heard of the pillaging of art by the Nazis in WW2. You might not have heard of the wholesale abduction of art by the Russians or the thefts by American soldiers.           The scholarly articles in this book evaluates the loss, reappearance and recovery of European cultural properties.   


Cinema Retro Special Edition #3:  Kelly’s Heroes (by Cinema Retro Magazine, 2011)

The making of a WW2 Classic film.  80 pages of the creation in the US, the filming in Yugoslavia (in 1969), and the release around the world.  Interviews with Eastwood, Savalas, Rickles, Sutherland and Margolin along with director Hutton and gofer John Landis.  Tito had all the Shermans and a three T34 converted Tigers.



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