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A Soldier’s Story: 8 War Books Told by Those Who Were There

We’re honoring America’s heroes with books that reveal what it's like to be in war.

We regularly read about wars both past and present. Yet there are few of us who truly know what it's like to be there. The accounts below are told by the brave men and women who fought on the front lines, as well as those intrepid reporters who documented war in person. From World War II to the battlefields of Vietnam, these eight works provide insight into the triumphs and terrors of armed conflict. 

Buy On Killing at Amazon

On Killing

By Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

In 1947, S.L.A. Marshall published Men Against Fire, in which he claimed 90% of WWII soldiers never fired their weapon due to an innate "phobia" of killing another. Although that particular claim was soon questioned, the U.S. Army took the possibility seriously, and began training soldiers to specifically ease this in hopes of a more effective force. Dave Grossman, who served in the U.S. Army and taught psychology at West Point, investigates how the military encourages soldiers to overcome reluctance to kill through interviews with and personal accounts from other soldiers.

On Killing

By Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

Buy We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young at Amazon

We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young

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We Were Soldiers Once…and Young examines Ia Drang, one of the most significant and brutal battles of the Vietnam War. Written by Lt. Col. Harold Moore, with the help of journalist Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground at la Drang—the book tells the harrowing tale of the American soldiers who never gave up, despite the devastation that surrounded them. 

Related: Battle of Ia Drang: The United States Army’s Brutal Entry into the Vietnam War  

We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young

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Buy This Kind of War at Amazon

This Kind of War

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The book that Defense Secretary James Mattis recently recommended in response to rising tensions in North Korea, This Kind of War analyzes the Korean War—as told by a man who was there. Often referred to as “the forgotten war,” Fehrenbach, who served as a U.S. Army officer during the war, provides a powerful reflection on its destruction and how unpreparedness led to the loss of so many lives.

Related: What Lessons Can the Korean War Offer as the Threat of Nuclear War Grows? 

Buy Valor in Vietnam at Amazon

Valor in Vietnam

By Allen B. Clark

Looking at the Vietnam War through the lens of those who were there, Valor in Vietnam offers 19 different stories of triumph and tragedy. Presented in chronological order, the accounts are emotional, intense, and personal. 

Valor in Vietnam

By Allen B. Clark

Buy Goodbye Vietnam at Amazon

Goodbye Vietnam

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William Broyles’ memoir covers his life from the time he was a college student—hoping not to be drafted—to his service in Vietnam and his return to the country years later, in an attempt to come to terms with the bloody war. Though he was enrolled at Oxford when the Vietnam War began, Broyles realized he could not let his class or education stand in the way of his civic duty. He subsequently enrolled in the marines. And while he survived, he wasn’t able to move on until he confronted his past and returned to the former battlefields of Vietnam. 

Buy Eyewitness to World War II at Amazon

Eyewitness to World War II

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This military bundle includes three books from Richard Tregaskis, a World War II reporter who bridged the gap between the soldiers on the front lines and those waiting at home. Including Guadalcanal Diary, Invasion Diary, and, John F. Kennedy and PT-109, Tregaskis, who travelled with the Allies during WWII, recounts the bravery and sacrifice he witnessed. 

Related: The Guadalcanal Battle: An Eyewitness Account of One of the Most Pivotal Offensives of World War II 

Eyewitness to World War II

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Buy Special Ops at Amazon

Special Ops

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Orr Kelly, a journalist who served as a war correspondent in Vietnam, tells the stories of the military’s elite forces. The bundle includes Brave Men, Dark Waters; Never Fight Fair!; Hornet; and, From a Dark Sky. From the Navy SEALs to the US Air Force Special Operations, Kelly details the courage and resilience of these unique fighters. In Never Fight Fair!, the Navy SEALs tell us, in their own words, about the history of their special force and what it takes to be one of the elite. 

Buy In Pharaoh's Army at Amazon

In Pharaoh's Army

By Tobias Wolff

A National Book Award finalist, In Pharaoh’s Army chronicles Tobias Wolff’s experiences as an army officer in the Vietnam War. Present during the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns that took place during the war, Wolff tells his story and how it has affected him both in and out of Vietnam. 

In Pharaoh's Army

By Tobias Wolff

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Published on 08 Nov 2017

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