In collecting the thousand of titles under numerous categories I realized that there seemed a few authors that hold a certain grasp of a subject. That statement is based on the quantity of pages written, and not necessarily the quality of their works. So to wet your appetite I will list some of my favorite authors or at least the ones who show a certain love of subject and history. For this session I decided to focus on the two major military conflicts of the 20th Century and even then to centralize on the major components land, air and sea.
World War I
If your interest is in the aerial escapades, especially the equipment, then Norman Franks and Jon Guttman are a couple of authors to pay attention too. Closer to the ground I would suggest Nigel Cave, Jack Horsfall, and Michael Stedman whose works can primarily be found in the Battleground Europe Series. If your taste are a little more on the aquatic side then I would suggest the works of Richard Hough, Dan van Der Vat, Geoffrey Bennett and a little deeper Dwight Messimer. For the general overlook of World War One I would suggest some prolific writers and editors such as Sir John Hammerton, Michael S. Neilberg, Hew Strachan, and a name more easily recognized, Liddell Hart.
Now the number of writers for World War Two far exceeds the last list and so for quick reference I decided to focus on the main areas of operations. What that means is pretty much the same as the First World War categories with the authors that exceeded in the number of books or pages of air, sea, and land operations for both the European and Pacific Theatre. There will be no focus on the African, Italian, Indian, Burmese, or Chinese campaigns. Also at this time, and to present the information in a palpable amount I decided not to mention any authors that produced excessive amount of work dealing in intelligence, POW’s and the Holocaust.
Starting high in the air over Europe the battles and equipment, for allies and axis alike, have been extensively researched and published. In fact, out of all the lists that I have produced the air-war over Europe list is the largest. Two authors that stand out are Martin Bowman and Robert F. Dorr. Other notables are Christer Bergstrom, especially if your taste are more to the Eastern conflict, Stephen Darlow, Norman Franks (again), William N. Ness, Martin Middlebrook (who is one of my favorites), Christopher Shores, and if you enjoy reading from the German perspective then Mike Spick is your man.
The next area is split into two segments. The first authors presented shall be the ones writing about the naval warfare that existed on the surface of the oceans and the other being below the waves. The first prolific writer is Jak P. Showell who’s works, like Mick Spick from the aerial list, on the perspective of the German Navy. Another writer with smaller books, concerning the number of pages, is Charles W. Koburger. He seems to delve outside the normal areas of naval interest and operations taking the reader to such places as the Aegean, Suez and Baltic. The master and winning of the gold writing trophy on naval operations during World War Two, in my opinion, is Samual E. Morison with his (14) fourteen volume epic of both the European and Pacific war. I have yet to find such writings in size and information as Morison’s and it is the only set of books available at every Navy ROTC units across the country.
Below the ocean, in the terrifying world of the U-Boats, a few authors stood out as ones to pick up and learn about true fear. If interested pick up a book by Harry Cooper, Lawrence Paterson, Jurgen Rohwer, Jak P. Showell (again), or Ron Young. To reiterate these writers are some of the most prolific, not necessarily the best. In fact I just started reading Clay Blair’s “Hitler’s U-Boat War: The Hunted, 1942-1945. Even though he is not in the list above his books are not for the feint of eyesight or grey matter.
If you suffer from aerophobia or aqua phobia then the writings on the European mainland conflict may suit you better. Now this list is a little deeper than the others and in itself has numerous subcategories. The land battles have been written expensively from the squad level to division level and along such a broad geographical range that the stories and historical review can never be completed. Starting alphabetically for ease of reference the first name should not surprise even the novice military reader. Stephen Ambrose, a proficient writer, irregardless of claims, has produced well-known works as has Gerald Astor, Jospeph Balkoski, Martin Blumenson, William B. Breuer, Ken Ford (Battle Zone series), George Forty, Sir Max Hastings, Samuel Mitcham, Danny Parker (Battle of the Bulge writings), Charles Whiting, Harry Yeide and Steven Zaloga. Many of the writers just listed also have written about the individual participants of the war. For example Stephen Ambrose wrote about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Gerald Astor bio’ed combat General Terry Allen while Blumenson, Forty and Yeide covered the controversial General Patton.
On the other side of the World the Pacific conflict had some crossover writers and some who focused specifically on this theater. On the island fighting directory pick up a book by Eric M. Hammel, Robert Leckie, Bill Sloan or Derrick Wright. These four writers have covered the battles in some well-known and recommended books. So pick up a copy of Guadacanal: Starvation Island by Hammel, Helmet for my Pillow by Leckie, Given up for Dead: America’s Heroic Stand on Wake Island by Sloan, or Tarawa 1943 by Derrick Wright.
As I did with the Atlantic War I have split my list’s as surface warfare and below-surface warfare. It was actually with the second category that I was pleasantly surprised by the number of publications that existed. When most people think of submarine warfare the spontaneous reaction is German U-Boat operations in the Atlantic Ocean but at this time I have over (65) sixty-five books listed that deal with Pacific submarine operations. That is only about (20) twenty books less than my Atlantic submarine warfare list. Since I mentioned Samuel Morison earlier he will be left off this next grouping. To start, a familiar name comes up, and that is of Eric Hammel. With him you can add the authors James D. Hornfisher, Edwin Palmer Hoyt, and Edward Peary Stafford. A couple of other are Mark Stille and John J. Gobbell who’s only difference with the previously mentioned writers is that Stille’s writes short books, less than a 100 pages, about American and Japanese surface vessels and Gobbell historical Pacific war novels.
Now in the world of submarines you do not have to look past Don Keith, Hughston E. Lowder, J.T. McDaniels or Stephen Moore to find a good starting point. In fact these (4) four writers offer more than 4,000 pages in (14) books of submarine history.
As the listing of aerial books in the European Theater is extensive the Pacific Theater is less so. One reason for this discrepancy is first I started my research in the European Theater. The second may be that some of the books may have been categorized under naval or land operations if the primary focus of the book was not primarily aerial. As before some of these multi-published authors have been listed earlier under different categories and theater of operations. Look up these writers to jump start your learning of the aerial warfare in the Pacific war during World War II. Alphabetically they are Gerald Astor, Martin Caidin, Bruce Gamble, Cory Graff, John Stanaway, and Barrett Tillman. Noted, Tillman is a good source for American aircraft such as the F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, and SBD Dauntless.
For a general outlook of the war in the Pacific Ocean during World War II pick up a volume from Stan Cohen, Edwin Palmer Hoyt or John Toland.
So if you have a problem in finding an author, take these names and do a search, and start building a base concerning World War II history. Once you have found a subject or subjects that grasp your attention and warrants your reading time dig deeper into other authors who have published. Sooner or later you will find your favorite(s).