William Welsh, editor of Military Heritage Magazine, has compiled a list of personal favorites for books on the Second World War.
Mr. Welsh has been a regular contributor to Military Heritage since 2005, and has written on topics ranging from ancient times to World War II. His three-part series on Patton’s 1944 offensive through Lorraine to the West Wall was published in the Summer and Fall 2011 editions of WWII Quarterly.
Stephen Ambrose, Citizen Soldiers.
First Light came to Ste. Mère-Eglise around 0510. Twenty-four hours earlier, it had been just another Norman village, with more than a millenium behind it. By nightfall of June 6, it was a name known around the world, the village where the invasion began and now headquarters for the 82nd Airborne Division…
A groundbreaking work by any measure, Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers is by far the best one-volume book about American G.I.’s contribution to the fall of Germany.
Rick Atkinson, The Liberation Trilogy.
She could be heard long before she was seen on that foggy Tuesday morning, May 11, 1943. Through the mist swaddling lower New York Bay sounded in deep bass A, two octaves and two notes below middle C, not so much blown as exhaled from the twin seven-foot whistles on the forward funnel, specially tuned to be audible ten miles away without discomforting passengers at the promenade rail. Her peacetime paints—read, white and black—had vanished beneath coats of pewter gray, although only after a spirited protest by comouflage experts who preferred a dappled pattern of blues and greens, called the Western Approaches scheme, to better befuddle enemy U-boats trying to tix her speed, bearing, and identity. Not that anyone glimpsing the fmaous triple stacks, the thousand-foot hull, or the familiar jut of her regal prow could doubt who she was. Gray paint had also been slathered over her name, but she remained, in war as in peace, the Queen Mary…
The Liberation Trilogy is a landmark undertaking done with a genuine flair for writing against which future works on the conflict concerning the United States will be measured.
Cornelius Ryan, The Last Battle.
The battle for Berlin, the last offensive against Hitler’s Third Reich, began at precisely 4 A.M., Monday, April 16, 1945—or A-Day as it was called by the Western Allies. At that moment, more than thirty-eight miles east of the capital, red flares burst in the night skies above the swollen river Order, triggering a stupefying artillery barrage and the opening of the Russian assault on the city…
The first and one of the greatest books on the last days of the Third Reich.
Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin 1945.
Berliners, gaunt from short rations and stress, had little to celebrate at Christmas in 1944. Much of the capital of the Reich had been reduced to rubble by bombing raids. The Berlin talent for black jokes had turned to gallows humour. The quip of that unfestive season was, ‘Be practical: give a coffin…’
The Fall of Berlin recounts vividly how the Red Army exacted revenge for the horror the Nazis visited upon Mother Russia.
William L. Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Ninteen Sixty: Only fifteen years had passed since the Second World War ended. But already one coule read an essay describing a “wave of amnesia that has overtaken the West” with regard to the events of 1933 to 1945…
Shirer’s book on the Third Reich is the definitive work on Nazi politics and the German war machine.
Antony Beevor, Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege 1942-1943.
Saturday, 21 June 1941, produced a perfect summer’s morning. Many Berliners took the train out to Potsdam to spend the day in the park of Sans Souci. others went swimming from the beaches of the Wannsee or the Nikolassee. In the cafés, the rich repertoire of jokes about Rudolf Hess’s flight to Britain had given way to stories about an imminent invasion of the Soviet Union. Others, dismayed at the idea of a much wider war, rested their hopes upon the idea that Stalin would cede the Ukraine to Germany at the last moment…
Stalingrad is an epic account of one of the greatest campaigns of World War II.