OUTSTANDING BOOKS ABOUT THE WORLD WAR II GYRENE



The following books are great resources in learning more about the World War II Marine. The date in parentheses is the year the book was first published. Books are in alphabetical order in the list.

For those interested in buying books on the list, most are available through Amazon.com. Those books have linked titles that will take you to my Amazon page. (I earn a small amount through the sale of each book through WW2 Gyrene, which helps pay to keep the site running.) There are also links on my Amazon page to some of my favorite Marine-related DVDs.

A small part of the WW2 Gyrene reference library. Since I'm not located near any large Marine Corps libraries, I've built my own over the years. My books, magazines, newspapers, manuals, monographs and pamphlets are all essential to researching and writing about the World War II Marine.

If you're looking for a book or DVD related to the Marine Corps, I hope you'll consider checking out my selections on Amazon. You can also click the link directly below this paragraph or at the bottom of the list to browse through my bookstore. There are many books there that aren't on my reading list, but which make great reading to learn more about military history.

WW2 Gyrene's Books and DVDs from Amazon

Always Faithful by William Putney, DVM (2001) This is a great book that should be read not only by historians, but by every dog lover! Dr, Putney was the platoon commander for one of the first war dog units. His story follows the Devil Dogs (human & K-9) from their training at Camp Lejeune right through the end of the war.

At the Closing of a Day by Gary A. Fisher (2010) Marines in the hundreds of thousands served in World War II. Undoubtedly, many of them kept diaries of various kinds, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the only one that has made it into print. The writer was Sgt Merle Fisher, Co B, 1st Amphibian Tractor Bn, and runs from June 1942 to September 1944. Sgt Fisher's diary, which was edited and collated by his nephew, Gary Fisher, offers a glimpse at the day-to-day activities of a young American at war. This book is especially poignant because Sgt Fisher did not survive; he was wounded at Peleliu and died on 26 September 1944.

Battle Cry by Leon Uris (1953) A great novel that tells the story of Huxley's Whores in World War II. It begins in boot camp in San Diego, and follows the radio squad in H&S 2/6 from Guadalcanal to Saipan. Mr. Uris was a Marine in the war, and his narrative provides a gripping look into the world of the combat Gyrene. Battle Cry shows the human side of war through by portraying a small group of Marines who fight together, live together, and help each other through the years of overseas service. I never get tired of re-reading this book. It is hilarious in places, heart-wrenchingly sad in others, poignant. The characters are unforgettable and vividly human.

The 22nd Marines standing by for an attack. Eniwetok, February 1944 USMC Photo

 

Battleground Pacific by Sterling Mace (2012) Mr. Mace served as a BAR man in K 3/5 on Peleliu and Okinawa. His book is a gem of a story that brings the war to vivid, brutal life in a way that few others have. This personal memoir is one more fragment of the fast-disappearing firsthand story of life (and death) in the Marine Corps during World War II. That this book is solidly written, well researched and so gripping makes it especially worthwhile. In many places, it almost reads like a novel, but unfortunately this is no work of fiction. I can only imagine how tough it must've been to dig into the awful memories of those days, but thankfully for us, Mr. Mace has done so. You owe it to the memory of those wartime Leathernecks to read this story.

Brotherhood of Heroes by Bill Sloan (2005) An outstanding overview of the Peleliu campaign. The author builds his story around first-hand accounts of Marines who served on the island. This is one of the best modern histories of the Pacific war.

By Dammit, We're Marines by Gail Chatfield (2008) — The author is the daughter of a World War II Marine who has put together an outstanding collection of oral histories of wartime-era Marines. The stories are grouped together in to topical sections that give this book a refreshingly organized feel this is not only usable, but interesting to read. Although Gail edited out the questions she asked each of these veterans, it's clear that she did her homework, because the content of these stories is detailed and includes much information that usually is not included in books like this one.

Chesty — The Story of LtGen Lewis B. Puller, USMC by Jon T. Hoffman (2002) Chesty Puller was among the most famous and legendary Marines of all time. This biography by Marine Jon Hoffman presents a balanced and clear look at the life of a man who embodied what it meant to be a Marine.

Combat Surgeon by Dr. James S. Vedder (1984) The author served as a battalion surgeon in the 27th Marines, Fifth Marine Division on Iwo Jima. This is an outstanding personal memoir about the Devil Docs who served side by side with the Gyrenes of World War II. So far as I know, Dr. Vedder was the only FMF medical officer to publish a memoir of his experiences in combat.

Coral Comes High by Capt George Hunt (1945) The story of a Marine rifle company in combat in the first days in the bloody campaign for Peleliu on the hard-fought piece of terrain called "The Point." This is an incredible book that was almost impossible to find for many years. Capt Hunt commanded K 3/1 on Peleliu, and earned the Navy Cross for his heroism there. He wrote this book after the battle while stationed on Pavuvu. What especially makes this book so valuable is that Hunt captured the sense of recent memory that can sometime get lost with the passage of many years. This book ranks in the same class as Company Commander.

 

Marines of the 34th Depot Company resting on Iwo Jima, March 1945 L-R: Pfc Willie Kanady, Pfc Eugene Hill, Pfc Joe Alexander USMC Photo

 

First to Fight – An Inside view of the U. S. Marine Corps by LtGen Victor H. Krulak (1984) General Krulak, nicknamed "The Brute" epitomized the spirit of the Marine Corps. His book is part autobiography, part thesis on amphibious warfare, and part chronicle of the Marine Corps story. He pulls no punches, and records a story that only a Devil Dog who lived through three wars could tell.

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley (2000) The story of the Iwo Jima flag raisers, written by the son of Navy Doc John Bradley. An incredible story of one of the iconic moments in U. S. history. You can't help but be gripped by the bravery and humility of the World War II Marine when you read this book. Joe Rosenthal's famous photo of anonymous flag raisers inspired a nation, and became an icon of American history. This book brings the flag raisers to life.

Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis (1943) This book made the New York Times bestseller list when it was first published, and rightfully so. It was one of the first books to give the American public a view of the battlefront, at least in book form. Richard Tregaskis was a war correspondent who accompanied the 1st Marine Division on the 'canal. This is the story of roughly the first 45 days on the island and the prose is tight, the narrative riveting, the dialogue crisp and realistic.

Goodbye Darkness by William Manchester (1980) The author served in the Marine Corps in World War II & was later a world renowned historian. In this book he delves deeply into his wartime memories and at the collective experience that Marines shared in the Pacific campaigns. Manchester describes the world of the infantry Marine, giving us a front row view of his struggles, sorrow, joys, and the brotherhood of the Corps. Brutally honest, this book is a WW2 Gyrene "must read."

Gyrene — The World War II United States Marine by Wilbur D. Jones (1998) — This book is full of information that isn't usually found in battle histories. It tells the story of daily life in the Corps during the war. From sick call, life on a troop ship to liberty, it's all in here. The author, a retired Navy captain, gives us an intimate portrait of the men who served in the Marine Corps during the war. Gyrene isn't so much about combat, but about the parts of military life that often get obscured in history books. What did Marines do to pass the time in camps between operations? What did they eat? How did they talk? What did they think and dream about? This gem of a book fills in all these details, and much, much more.

Saipan, June 1944. A Marine sits on a dud 16-inch naval shell during a lull in the battle. USMC Photo


Hell to Pay—Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947
by D. M. Giangreco (2009) This groundbreaking book analyzes the planning that took place in 1944-45 for the invasion of Japan. The author, a historian of the first rank, unearthed a treasure trove of undiscovered documents to show that an invasion of Japan would have been an utter bloodbath. His work refutes the revisionist ideas focused on the dropping of the atomic bombs to show that an invasion would have caused untold suffering on an incalculable scale.

Helmet for my Pillow by Robert Leckie (1957) An outstanding story of infantry combat in the Pacific. Mr. Leckie served on Guadalcanal & Cape Gloucester with H 2/1, First Marine Division. Robert Leckie was a complex man, and he didn't fit neatly into the Marine mold. His book delves into the human cost of war, showing us a side of war that only a handful of books have. Few authors are courageous enough to record the sorts of details that Leckie includes in this book.

Into the Valley by John Hersey (1943) As a war correspondent, Hersey covered the campaign for Guadalcanal in 1942. He spent time with an infantry company during the fighting and wrote this little gem of a book shortly after returning stateside. It offers a human dimension in real time to a fateful part of America's Pacific war.

Japan's Imperial Army by Edward Drea (2009) Every student of the Pacific War has asked, "What drove the Japanese to their nihilistic and brutal code of war?" Better than any other single volume, this book provides the answers. Drea explains how the Japanese Army developed into a force that was able to take control of the nation, and how it morphed from a western-style army into the death cult that Marines and soldiers encountered in World War II.

Last Man Standing — The 1st Marine Regiment on Peleliu, September 15-21, 1944 by Col Dick Camp, USMC (Ret) (2008) Col Camp tells an amazing story of a single Marine regiment in combat during some of the most bitter fighting in American history. What makes this story so compelling, among many reasons, is that the First Marines, under legendary commander Col Lewis B. Puller, endured a casualty rate of 71%. Drawing on a variety of well-documented sources, this book is one of the best in the modern era of war stories.

The Lions of Iwo Jima by MajGen Fred Haynes USMC (Ret) (2008) This is the story of the 28th Marine Regiment on Iwo Jima. Countless books have been written about the Marines' fight for Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles in history. What makes this one unique was Fred Haynes' perspective as a regimental operations officer. He participated in planning for the operation, witnessed the flag raising on Mount Suribachi, and survived the momentous events of the battle to serve for many years in the Marine Corps. His book is not only about the military aspects of the battle, but above all about the brave Marines that Haynes' served with on Iwo.

Marine at War by Russell Davis (1961) This is another great war memoir of an infantry Marine in combat. It's a shame that this book isn't better known, because Mr. Davis' writings of his war experiences rank among the best of the genre. He served with 2/1 at Peleliu and Okinawa.

The Marine Corps Book of Lists by Albert Nofi (1997) This isn't specifically related to World War II, but it covers every era in the Corps' history. It's packed with Marine Corps trivia, scuttlebutt, facts & figures.

Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific by Oscar Gilbert (2001) Many people have no idea that tanks and their crews played an important role in nearly every Marine operation of the war. This book tells their story, along with insights into how tanks were employed in combat, and how their role changed during the course of the war.

The Marines of Montford Point by Melton McLaurin (2007) The story of America's first African-American Marines is is inspiring, but little-known. This book is a collection of oral memories by these men, fleshed out with historical information to give the reader a sense of the wider context. Well-chosen photographs add to the book's depth. Not only is this an important book to the Corps' history, but also a fine example of how to present oral histories.

On the Canal by Ore Marion (2004) This is the story of a rifle company during its first combat experience in the war. L 3/5 served on Guadalcanal for five months in 1942 and the company's Marines lived a nightmarish existence of sudden combat, monotonous patrolling, long hours in defensive positions, hunger, and malaria. This is not just an oral history, but a well-researched and engaging campaign study of how one outfit endured battle.

One Square Mile of Hell by John Wukovitz (2007) This amazing book is an important addition to the World War II Gyrene library. It tells the story of the campaign for Tarawa from several perspectives with the sharp focus on infantry Marines and tankers.

Maj Jim Crowe, CO of LT 2/8, 2nd MarDiv at his CP on Red Beach 3,Tarawa, 20 November 1943 USMC Photo

 

Once a Legend by Jon T. Hoffman (1994) The biography of "Red Mike" Edson, truly one of the Giants of the Corps. An Old Corps Marine who was a Medal of Honor recipient at Guadalcanal, Red Mike went on to fight his toughest battles in the post-war unification debates.

Pacific Warriors by Eric Hammel (2005) This is a large format history of the Corps' participation in World War II. It includes hundreds of outstanding pictures with well-researched text by one of the most eminent historians of the Pacific war.

Red Blood, Black Sand – Pacific Apocalypse by Chuck Tatum (1995) Chuck served with B 1/27 through its wartime service and tells an amazing story of courage and commitment. This book is his tribute to the brave men he served with. It is a WW2 Gyrene must-read!

Semper Fi in the Sky by Gerald Astor (2005) This is the single best widely available history of Marine aviation in World War II. It covers the formative years and discusses how the establishment of the Fleet Marine Force solidified the role of Marine air units. A very easy read, this book provides an exciting and informative look at the inspiring part that Leathernecks in the air played in the Pacific War.

Semper Fi, Mac by Henry Berry (1983) The author conducted a series of detailed interviews with World War II Marines. The results can be found in this book. It's an outstanding group of stories about the World War II Gyrene.

Storm Landings by Col Joseph Alexander USMC (Ret) (1997) This book details in a very interesting manner the development of America's amphibious power in World War II. Col Alexander effectively blends gripping combat narratives along with a detailed look at the development of amphibious tactics and equipment.

Strong Men Armed – The U.S. Marines vs. Japan by Robert Leckie (1962) A readable and factual study of the campaigns on World War II. Mr. Leckie was a World War II Marine and does a great job of blending the personal side of war with the big picture of the Pacific campaigns.

An amphibian tractor laden with infantry Marines churns toward the beach head on Iwo Jima, 19 February 1945. still image from USMC combat camera film


The Long and the Short and the Tall
by Alvin M. Josephy (1946) As a Marine combat correspondent on Guam and Iwo Jima, the author took part in two critical campaigns in the Pacific war. His narrative combines an eyewitness story with a keen eye for details that is still worth reading over 60 years after it was first published.

The Long Road of War by James W. Johnston (1998) A powerful memoir of a Marine who served on Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa with E 2/5. It's a shame that this book isn't better known.

This Here is G Company by John Lane (1997) John is a retired university professor, who, as a young man, was a company runner in G 2/25 on Iwo Jima. He used archival material, including casualty records, after action reports and personal recollections of Marines he served with to tell the story of Company G in World War II. This is a readable, and well-researched history of G Company that is much more than a personal memoir of what John calls "a peon's eye view of World War II".

The U. S. Marine Corps in World War II edited by S. E. Smith (1969) An outstanding collection of stories that tells the Corps' story from Wake Island to post-war China. First person accounts, newspaper stories, and after action reviews bring the Pacific war to vivid life.

With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge (1981) One of the very best personal memoirs of the World War II era. Mr. Sledge served with K/3/5 in two of the toughest campaigns in American military history. With the Old Breed is important because it captures the bloody and degrading nature of combat and looks unflinchingly at war's brutality and bravery. This book belongs on every military bookshelf. A WW2Gyrene "must-read!"

WW2 Gyrene's Books and DVDs from Amazon

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