More WW II Books

by Steven F. Hayward

All I can say is — wow! Corner readers really are the most literate, informed people on the planet. I had no idea of the high caliber of Corner readership, or their level of engagement with the conversation that takes place here. I’ve been deluged not merely with a list of favorite and worthy WWII books, but with lots of highly literate and sometimes moving explanations of why. I wish I had the time to do justice to this treasure trove of material; I thought I knew the literature fairly well, but learned a lot from all of you. Thanks to everyone, and my apologies to the many of you whom I haven’t acknowledged.

One distinction that emerges is between people (like me) who like the big-scale “geopolitical” books (like the two I mentioned in my original post) and the books that tell the stories of individual battles or individual soldiers, whether generals or infantrymen or pilots. I should be more attentive to the latter category, especially as my late father was awarded the DFC as a Navy pilot in the Pacific and told the most colorful war stories when I was growing up (none of them involving violence — that I had to find out from diaries, letters, after-action reports, etc). A number of you clearly like historical novels about the war; I must confess against a blind spot here — I’ve always found the real stories so remarkable that I have neglected what are no doubt worthy fictional reconstructions. I hope that, 62 years from now, there is a commensurate literature about the grand strategy against Islamic terrorism, and companion books about the genius and heroics of the commanders (Petraus) and men and women on the ground (such as those who took Fallujah).

A few other author many have mentioned: George Macdonald Frasier; several of William Manchester’s books (though I have to confess that I found Goodbye Darkness uneven, but I should reread it; I agree completely about American Ceasar); Ian Kershaw’s Hitler bios; Cornelius Ryan’s novels; Rick Atkinson deservedly has a lot of fans, as does Paul Fussell, also deservedly. Tom Fleming’s book on the New Dealers at war made several people’s lists. Another title I had missed that several mentioned is James Hornfischer’s The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, which sounds like an extraordinary tale that should (still) be made into a movie.

I can’t do justice to all of you who wrote, and it tells me that at least for this segment of American citizens, we have not forgotten.