WW II Books

While feeling deprived because I couldn’t find flour I took some time out to reread part of “With the Old Breed” by E.B. Sledge, probably the truest account of war in the Pacific written. Sliding down muddy hills getting covered in maggots from the decaying dead removes any romantic notion of war. I had the pleasure of meeting this decent humble man at a reunion before he died and he autographed my copy. After reading a bit I was reminded that sitting on my ass in my comfortable home was a really small sacrifice to make for the good of my country.


That’s the longest, hardest little short book I’ve ever met.

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Yep, it took me about a month to read it the first time.

I read it straight through and was a mess for days.

I read Iron Coffins about 5 years ago. I picked it up to read it again a week ago for a second time but put it down. One reading was enough. From the preamble:

There are no roses on a sailor’s grave,
No lilies on an ocean wave,
The only tribute is the seagulls’ sweeps,
And the teardrops that a sweetheart weeps.

Commander Herbert Werner


A few years ago during a Guam crew change I started getting into books on the Pacific theater. One of my great uncles was in the 77th that recaptured Guam and that was the motivation. But here are some from that collection (which did include E. B. Sledge book).
Helmet for my pillow - Robert Locke
One Marine’s War - Gerald A. Meehl
I’m Staying with my boys - (about John Basilone) by Jim Proser.
Robinson Crusoe USN - George R. Tweed

This last one I picked up in Guam and is about the guys that were on the island when it was captured by Japan. How they survived the invasion and years in hiding. Really good. The Chamorros really acted at great hazard to their own well being to hide these guys.

I cannot recommed “The Second World Wars” by Victor Davis Hanson enough.

It is a must read for students of WWII. Even if you think you’ve read it all. New perspectives, new insights, new tidbits of info just abound in that book. I was blown away. I’ve read it 3 times now.

“Away All Boats”; great read, a more expansive story upon which the movie was based.

For the Atlantic Theater, I think “The Cruel Sea” is about as good as they come…other than “Das Boot”.


“The Cruel Sea”, Nichoals Monserrat, is a truly excellent novel on the battle of the Atlantic.
I also just finished the recently released, “The Splendid and the Vile”, Erik Larson, about Churchill during the Blitz. Some really remarkable leadership under extreme duress.


“The Matthews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitlers U-Boats” True story.


Ordered a paper copy through Amazon.

I read “The Mathews Men” a couple of years ago and came away pretty disgusted with Admiral King. He didn’t do us (Merchant Mariners) any favors for way too long.

“Fly Boys” (not the WWI fighter story).

George H.W. Bush was nearly eaten by japanese cannibals.

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I have not read the book, and as Lee-Shore said, ordered from Amazon recently. A couple of my retired shipmates recommended the book just this week. Those Matthews County relatives have all been good sailors, have sailed with a few… Can’t wait to read it. I ordered “Meow Man” for my son and brother in-law past Christmas, has nothing to do with WWII, My son was ships , but KP grad and is well aware of the 142. Brother in law retired from same company I did, and saw many writings on the dock from Meow Man. I thought it was a good gift, hope they let me read it when they are done. I will share Mathews men with my son when I finish it. Look forward to share my thoughts on the book with you Seadog. This Admiral King sounds not like my golf partner.

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With the Old Breed is a good book to give anyone who has ideas about the “glory” of war.

I liked reading Derek Robinson’s books about the air war in both world wars. A Piece of Cake is a good one to start with.

If you want to go back further in time with sea stories there is a Fredrick Marryatt who was a sea captain from the time of Nelson who went on to write some great sea stories based on his own career and that of Lord Cochrane.

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A lot of good recommendations here, The Cruel Sea is hands down my favorite WWII novel, followed by any of Herman Wouk’s WWII novels (The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance).

A good, lesser known, non-fiction book that would be of interest to this group is Cruise of the Lanikai by Kemp Tolley. It’s about the author’s escape from the Philippines in the early days of World War II.

I just got a copy of 'Sea of Thunder" about the last great naval campaign led by Bull Halsey which led to the battle of Leyte. I also got a copy of 'The First Men In ', the story of the paratroopers who were the tip of the spear in Europe in WW II.
My dad was one of them. He never said much about the war even when prodded. Nothing of the bravery that earned him a stack of medals and the accolades from his mates.
He did say to me once that the only time he was scared was when he and his guys were dropped behind enemy lines in flimsy bamboo gliders which they knew would disintegrate as they crash landed somewhere out in enemy controlled farmland.


Same with mine. But he had fistfights in his sleep. And the day I told him about the Iowa turret blowing up I learned a great deal about war just watching his face for ten seconds.

The author has another, I have a copy but haven’t read it yet - The Ghost Ships of Archangel.

My more or less annual D-Day Message on Facebook:

Every year around D-Day I think of Smitty. In 1962 I was a newly-minted 2Lt in Curtis LeMay’s Air Force, green as the new-mown hay. Among the sixty airmen and civilians in my programming shop was an A1C everybody called Smitty. Smitty wore glider pilot wings, and if you know anything about D-Day you know what that meant: crash-landing an overloaded flying cracker box into a flooded field laced with sawn-off telephone poles while the whole world is shooting at you. Smitty didn’t talk much and couldn’t do much, but the Colonel made it clear that it was my job to take care of him and I found things to keep him busy without insulting him with make-work. Once a month or so the ghosts would walk and Smitty would drink himself to sleep in his regular beer joint. My NCOIC and I traded off who’d get the call at closing time, and one of us would go get him and pour him into his bunk at the Bachelor NCO quarters. I separated four years later, he was still there waiting out his retirement, and I never found out what came of him. Here’s to you, Smitty, wherever you are, and I hope you’re among friends.