World War Two, European Theatre Bibliography

1936 to 1947

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center


The many older books can be located in second-hand book stores, reference libraries via ILL (Inter-Library Loan), or by book finders. Of course, you know to read magazines and newspapers of the time to pick up the period flavour and concerns.
For costume, avoid most books: they often lump "the Forties" together, though there were two fashion periods, the shoulder pads, high hem, late-Thirties-like fashions of the first half, and the purposely revolutionary, corsetted, narrow-shouldered, long, full-skirted New Look from Dior after the War. Best to read back issues of the fashion magazines of the period.
Be sure and catch the Atlas of Civilisation series, in this case the WWII chapters of The Cultural Atlas of France, The Cultural Atlas of Russia, etc.

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American Red Cross

First Aid Textbook ****
The Blakiston Company, Philedelphia, 1933, rev. 1940; 256 pg, index
How times (and practices!) have changed! Features traction of broken limbs, abhorred today, but more practical in a world where it might be a day's travel to a doctor, or even a phone.

Angelucci, Enzo, & Paolo Maricardi

World Aircraft: Commercial 1935-1960 *
Rand McNally & Co, Chicago, NY & SF, 1979; 317-320 pg per vol., index
World War II Airplanes, vol. I & II **
same, 1978
illustrators: Vicenzo Cosentino & Claudio Tatangelo

Take with grain of salt, and other reference. Their sources and conversions may be a hair off, especially in gallonage, probably a confusion between British Imperial and American gallons, which are a bit different. The longer we have them, the more errors we find. Nice illos, though. T2

Boardman, Barrington

Flappers, Bootleggers, "Typhoid Mary" & the Bomb: An Anecdotal History of the United States from 1923 to 1945 ****
Harper and Row, NY, 1988; 319 pg, index
"History by flashes of lightning" Asimov called this. Despite the title, there is quite a bit about the War in Europe, including an especially revealing detailed report of Hitler's publicly changing position towards the USSR. T3

Braun, Werner von, and Frederick I. Ordway III

History of Rocketry and Space Travel ***
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, NY, 1966
Excellent for the early history of rocketry. Please note that the primary author worked on the German missile program and by this date could divulge quite a bit about it. T3

Chapman, Charles Frederic

Piloting, Seamanship, and Small Boat Handling ****
Motor Boating, NY, 1922, rev. periodically; 688 pg, index
Rules of the Road, weather signs, navigation, marlinspike seamanship, social etiquette, flags and signalling: just about everything! Gospel. Often known simply as "Chapman." T3

Churchill, Sir Winston

The Second World War *****!
Each volume, covering perhaps a year in one theatre, is about 750 pages, giving you a hint of the detail. Some now consider this less than objective, being written by one of the national leaders who had to justify his own decisions, but it is a good grounding. T1

Cormack, Alexander J.R., editor, with Mjr. F. W. A. Hobart and Lt. Col. John Weeks

Famous Rifles and Machine Guns ***
Profile Publications Ltd., Windsor, Berkshire, England, 1977; 160 pg, index
Covers the Winchester repeating rifle, Bren Gun, Erma Submachine, Thompson Submachinegun, Russian submachineguns, Heckler & Koch, SIG Service Rifle, and Armalite weapons. Includes stat tables for most. T3

Cornell, James

The Great International Disaster Book ***
Scribner, NY, 1976
Excellent on human behavior in crisis; unfortunately, subject matter leaves you with a depressed, helpless anxiety after cover-to-cover reading. Take it in small doses, only what you need. T3

Costello, JohnVirtue

Under Fire: How WWII Changed Our Social and Sexual Attitudes *****!
Fromm International Publishing Corp., 1985; 294 pg, index, bibliography
Documentary of innumerable cases of interpersonal relationships, sexual harassment, and gallantry, in all sorts of mixes of male and female, military and civilian. If you think it was all according to the Hayes Office movies, or all an extended dirty joke, you are wrong on either count. Quite an eye-opener. T2

Davis, Larry

Planes, Names & Dames, vol. I 1940-45 ***
Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton, TX, 1990; illustrated by Don Greer
This book apparently came out in response to the enourmous number of copies of Valant's <<Vintage Aircraft Nose Art>> sold by Squadron Mail Order. Lots of new artwork, often in the background of snapshots of guys in the squadron from someone's family album. Much, much less costly than the Valant hardback. T3

Deacon, Richard

The French Secret Service ****
Grafton Books, London, 1990; 363 pgs, index, bibliography
Very good on operations against the Bouche in this period. A good intro before you begin reading espionage memoires. T1

Donhoff, Marion, countess

Before the Storm; Memories of My Youth in Old Prussia ****
trans. by Jean Steinberg
East Prussia from the Great War throught the end of the next, in a personal view. Her escape from the Soviets on horseback through the streams of other refugees is a scene rarely described. T3

Duffy, James P., and Vincent L. Ricci

Target Hitler; the Plots to Kill Adolf Hitler ****
Praeger Publishers, 1992; 229 pg, index, bibliography
Throughout the War, and before, there were Germans, as well as others, willing to give their lives in hopes of assassinating Hitler. You may know about the bomb in the General's Plot, but this includes the Elser's bomb of 1939, which may have been with Himmler's connivance, as well as many other plans. T1

Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt, Col. US Army, ret.

The Military History of World War II ***, except vol. 16, ****
Franklin Watts Inc., NY, 1962, indexed
Cosnists of 18 volumes, each 80-90 pg. Good black and white pictures and maps. The quality is even being by one author rather than several. However, some volumes cover rarer information. T1
1: European Land Battles 1939-1943; 2: same, 1944-1945; 3: Land Battles : North Africa, Sicily, and Italy (these occured in 1941-1943, but that's what happens when you arrange by geography and type); 4: The Naval War in the West: the Raiders; 5: ditto, the Wolfpacks; 6: The Air War in the West: Sept. 1939-May 1941; 7: ditto, June 1941-April 1945; 15: European Resistance Movements; 17: Combat Leaders of WWII (military biographies); 18: Strategic Direction of WWII (the historical summation; volume also has the central index).

Ehrlich, Blake

London on the Thames
Little, Brown & Co., NY, 1966
Each chapter tours London at a different period, often in a slightly different neighborhood, as the city expands. T1

Ford, Brian

German Secret Weapons: Blueprint for Mars ***
Ballantine Books, Inc., NY, 1969; 160 pg, no index
A confusing title for a volume of Ballantine's Illustrated History of WWII series, but it is about planned and actual Nazi German weapon developments, including jet planes, rockets, chemical weapons, 2-man subs, infra-red scopes -- just to tap the ones that made it off the drawing boards! Vital if planning any alternate endings to WWII, or needing something for your spy to steal. Small Table of Contents and no index makes finding specific data a real pain. Intro by Barrie Pitt. T2

Fourtouni, Eleni

Greek Women in the Resistance ****
Largely in the narrative of the freedom fighters themselves, the harsh, miserable, glamorless business, and the inner courage and nobility that carried them through. T2

Hadjipateras, C. N.

Greece, 1940-41 Eyewitnessed ****
Greeks, Germans, British, Italians, and others all contribute interviews, diaries, and other material to this in person view of the invasion and occupation. T3

Hatcher, Julian S., Maj. Gen., US Army, ret.

Hatcher's Notebook ****
Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, PN, 3rd ed. 1962; 640 pg, index
Gospel on firearms, their development since 1900, their behavior, and experiments with ammo. The man has tested this stuff, not only privately and as a magazine's firearms editor, but for the US Army arsenal and test facility, and is an expert in investigation of friearms accidents. The writing is clear even when the subject is complex.

Heiden, Konrad

Der Fuehrer *****!
Houghton Mifflin, boston, 1944; trans. by Ralph Manheim
Must read! A lucid biography of Adolf Hitler and his cronies up to the establishment of absolute power in 1934. A fascinating, well-researched history of German politics before and between the World Wars. Punctures the myths both of Hitler's followers and the sometimes rabid tales of his opponents: the consistent, moderate, realistic picture built up is far more frightening because it shows that it did not take a genius, of either divine or demonic inspiration, but only a lucky and determined politician, to rise to incredible power over a country. T2

Heiferman, Ronald

US Navy in World War II ***
Chartwell Books, Secaucus, NJ, 1978
British in origin, this pictorial does have a two-page index, including an index by ship's name. T3

Hibbert, Christopher

London, the Biography of a City ***
William Morrow & Co., Inc., NY, 1969
Runs it all down through time, with good coverage of your period.

Hingley, Ronald

The Russian Secret Police ****
Dorset Press, NY, 1970; 313 pgs, index, bibliography
The one chapter for this period is highly revealing of the control of Beria and the secret police of the time (they change initials all the time so that the bosses can claim 'no such thing exists' except in anti-Soviet propaganda), who virtually controlled the army. T2

Hogg, Ian V.

The History of Fortification ***
St. Martin's Press, NY, 1981
Clear, interesting and accurate overview from 7000 BC through the 1970's, well illustrated with photos and diagrams; bibliography and glossary. T3

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names: A Cross-cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of Over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in Over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
The Contemporary half has chapters for all the notable groups of Europe, including Frisians and the Cornish. The beginning of the Historical half has Yiddish names, besides Breton and other minorities. Twice as many family names as personal ones. T1

Keegan, John, ed.

The (London) Times Atlas of the Second World War *****!
Harper & Row, NY, 1989, 254 pg, index
Beautifully done, allowing you to follow the strategies as well as the battles. Arranged chronologically, not by theatre, we are especially fond of the maps on 90-91 that give the Nazi picture of the map of Europe after their inevitable victory. Also maps of sabotage and Resistance actions. T1

Kennedy, Ludovic

Pursuit: the Chase and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck ***
The Viking Press, NY, 1974; 252 pg, index
A good historian's view, without propagandist foaming. T3

Lee, Eric C. B. & Kenneth

Safety and Survival at Sea, reviesed & expanded edition ****
W. W. Norton & co., NY & London, 1980; 315 pg, index
Heavy collection of first-hand accounts illustrating what you should and should not do. A must-have if you are putting any characters over the side. T2

Lincoln, John Ware

Driving Without Gas ****
Garden Way Publishing, Charlotte, VT, 1980; index
A fascinating compilation of alternate fuels and engines, like gasohol, ethanol, and methanol; also electric cars, steam cars, gasogens, hydrogen engines, and gas turbines. Includes the many experiments of the '30's and '40's, especially in Europe when fuel got so scarce, and the author's own gasogen '65 Malibu. T3

Macksey, Kenneth & John H. Batchelor

Tank: A History of the Armoured Fighting Vehicle ***
Charles Scribner's Sones, NY, 1970; 160 pg, index
Excellent cutaways and explanations. More a review of tank technology than a catalog of every model, which is what most of us want as an intro. T2

Mauldin, Bill

Up Front *****!
Henry Holt and Co., NY, 1945
The famous cartoons collected from *Stars and Stripes*, with Mauldin's simple, hard-edged, soft-center text about what it's like to be a dogface, by a veteran of three years of ground fighting in Italy. A facsimile edition was brought out for the 50th anniversary of the War. T2

Mazower, Michael

Inside Hitler's Greece ****
It's too easy to forget that Greece, like the Balkans, endured years of occupation and fought a constant guerrilla war against the Germans. Notable for a good selection of photos and the emphasis on the common person, rather than just the leaders. T2

Melton, H. Keith

OSS Special Weapons & Equipment; Spy Devices of WWI(I ****
Sterling Publishing, 1991; 128 pg, index, glossary
Dazzling! An actual catalog for OSS agents, annotated. What length fuses are available to your agent and what are the key colours? How small a radio can he or she have? Belt-guns, .22-calibre cigarettes, knock-down and pistol crossbows, how to knife a guard or blow up a ship, compasses in a button, gilhooleys, "Who Me?" in a tube -- just everything. T3

The Military Service Publishing Company

The Officer's Guide *****!
Harrisburg, PN, 9th ed. 1943
If you want to present an Army officer and you haven't been one, or weren't in the right branch of service, this is great. It covers the National Guard as well, with organization of the Army, the command structure, what you wear, with whom you serve, your first station, your last will and testament, ad indinitum. Mercifully written before gobbledegook, in a clear and simple format, which is neither flowery nor dull. T3

Miller, Nathan

Spying for America; the Hidden History of US Intelligence **
The Paragon House, 1989; 482 pg, index, bibliography
Very little on WW2, pgs, 221-298, part of that on the Pacific Theatre, and including the periodic signature of photographs. Consider this a primer, if you consider it at all. T1

Nock, O .S., editor

Encyclopedia of Railroads ****
Octopus Books, Ltd., London, 1977
Galahad Books, NY, 1977; 480 pg, index
History of railroads and equipment over the entire world, including Africa, Asia, and south America. Sections on equipment and operation, also the great luxury trains, past and present. Gorgeous colour layout, oversize. One lap-breaker worth the effort of lifting. T2

"Old Sarge"

How to Get Along in the Army *****!
D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc., NY & London, 1942
An NCO's guide, not on "how to soldier," but all the hints and kinks of staying healthy, blister-free, out of trouble, and in your barracks-mates' good graces. The anecdotes provide many incidents for the character in basic training. T3

O'Leary, Michael

Fighting Lightnings; the Complete Story of Lockheed's Fabulous P-38 Lightning During World War Two ***
War Eagle Publications, Canoga Park, CA
Pictures, pictures everywhere, and good text, too. But this is only one plane. T3

Perrault, Gilles

Paris Under the Occupation *****!
Hundreds of photos of Paris life, while the text deals with how individuals and groups willingly or forcibly accomodated the Nazis occupation. T2

Rawicz, Slavomir, as told to Ronald Downing

The Long Walk: A Gamble for Life ****
Harper and Row, NY, 1956; reissued in 1996; 240 pg
A Polish army officer imprisoned as a suspected spy by the Soviets at the start of WWII, Rawicz with a few others escaped his Siberian prison camp just west of Yakutsk, and was one of the survivors who walked into northern India the next year. Scantily provisioned with a few stolen or hoarded supplies, they crossed Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and the Himalayas on foot. Thrilling, harrowing, inspirational. T2

Reider, Frederic

The Order of the SS: How Did It Happen? ****
Aztec Corporation, Tucson, AZ, 1975
British translation of a French book, it starts out well, dealing with the personal background of the founders, the mysticism with which they embued their young Siegfrieds, the training, the organizations, all crisp, detailed, and fascinating for seven chapters. The last, the eighth, turns suddenly vaporous, as if the author didn't know what to say or how to conclude when the SS was short-circuited by the collapse of Nazism, rather than developing further. T2

Rowland, K. T.

Steam at Sea: a History of Steam Navigation ***
Praeger, NY, 1970
Interesting in that it deals with freighters as well as top passenger liners, and takes you down to the engine rooms. T3

Salmonson, Jessica Amanda

The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era *****!
Paragon House, NY, 1991; 290 pg, no index, bibliography
Mostly in this period, the official female combatants of the USSR, and some underground or resistance fighters. T2

de Seversky, Maj. Alexander P.

Victory Through Air Power ***
Simon and Schuster, Inc., NY, 1942; no index
So famous that a Bugs Bunny cartoon could refer to "Victory Through Hare Power" without further gloss. Radical approach to the new capabilities of aircraft by a proponent of the arguement that all wars from this one on will be won strictly through air power, and that marine navies are obsolete, ground forces are only necessary for mop-up, land-based planes will always conquer carrier-based planes, the only thing bombers have to fear are fighters, etc. Like most extremists, half to three-quarters wrong, but it's fun in retrospective. T3

Shiber, Etta, with Anne and Paul Dupre

Paris - Underground *****!
Charles Scribner's Sons, NY, 1943; reissued by Time-Life
The self-effacing tale of a grandmotherly American widow living in Paris with a friend when the Nazis come into occupation. On impulse they rescue a soldier trapped behind the lines and help him escape the Reich, and become part of the Underground Railroad in occupied France. Later captured, the unassuming Mrs. Shiber stonewalls her Gestapo interrogators, and after months half-starving in icy prisons, is exchanged for a captured Nazi spy. Thrilling and moving. T2

Simonds, Frank H., Litt.D., & Brooks Emeny, PhD

The Great Powers in World Politics: International Relations and Economic Nationalism ***
American Book Company, NY et al, 1939
Originally published in 1935 and revised in 1937; with the precipitation of events into war in 1939 several chapters were continued in the back. Good for the chronology, and the maps of the Great Powers before WWI and during the interregnum, also for its view of WWI, the League of Nations, and the Treaty of Versailles. Takes the stand that a Great Power like Germany or Japan has the *right* to control or to own necessary resources of material and energy, condoning a political and if necessary military rather than an economic solution. Combined with their not-too-grudging admiration of Hitler's handling of politics and aggression, this reads like undercover Geopolitik, and is actually a subtle pro-fascist text. Remember, you have historic hindsight, and this author has no suspicion of the Holocaust to come. T3

Singer, Kurt

Spies and Traitors of World War II *****!
Prentice Hall, NY, 1945
The story of Adm. Canaris, the German spy-master, and various agents around the world, on both sides. Explains why Argentina was a refuge for Nazis (Peron was a fascist), and has a wonderful last chapter on the stated post-war aims of the Nazi underground. He does vastly underestimate Hitler's wrath with Canaris, which eventually led to his execution, as the author does not know. T2

Sklar, Dusty

The Nazis and the Occult ****
Dorset Press, 1977; 180 pg, index, bibliography
A well-detailed report on the occult studies of Hitler and many other Nazi powers, like Hess. If you have heard that Hitler always despised occultism, Sklar notes that most of Hitler's library is in the Library of Congress, among the thousands are those inscribed to him as a member of the Armanen. The evidence is here. T2

Smith, J. R., and Antony L. Kay

German Aircraft of the Second World War ****
The Nautical & Aviation Publishing company of America, Baltimore, MD, 1972; 745 pg
The best book on the subject. Has information otherwise found only in rare specialist books, if anywhere else. Includes not only the fighters and bombers, but the flying boats, the flying wings, and the Triebflugel. Yes, the Germans had helicopters before the War! The opening to Victory At Sea shows one flitting around behind German ships, but we couldn't nail it down until we found this book. T3

Sparks, Nancy J., editor

True Stories of World War II ****
Reader's Digest Books, Pleasantville, NY, 1980
Twenty-six stories from the pages and Condensed Books of Reader's Digest, including They Were Expendable,; The Londest Day,; Is Paris Burning?,; A Bridge Too Far,; and lesser-known gems. T2

Time Life Books, the editors of

This Fabulous Century: Sixty Years of American Life, volume 5. 1940-1950 *
Time-Life Books, NY, 1969
Fashions, fads, infamies, in crisp original photographs, and reproductions of ads and newspapers of the times. However the text has consistently turned up glaring errors of fact and date. Good for pictures, but bad for information, though this volume is the least flawed of the set. T3

Valant, Gary M.

Vintage Aircraft Nose Art ****
Motorbooks International, Osceola, WI, 1987
"Over 1000 photographs (118 in color) of pin-up paintings on US military aircraft in World War II and Korea." Despite the cover blurb, quite a few are NOT pin-up girls, but cartoon figures from Disney and the funny pages. T3

Vanderveen, Bart H., editor; compiled by the Olyslager Organization

British Cars of the Early Forties 1940-1946 ***
Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd., London & NY, 1974; 64 pg, index
Wartime production of scout cars, armoured cars, mobile canteens, etc. predominate. primarily pictures with pithy captions that include wheelbase, hp, etc. T3
British Cars of the Late Thirties 1935-1939 ***
Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd., London & NY, 1973; 80 pg, index
Family saloons, sparts cars, luxury cars, etc., including Morgan 3-wheelers. Wall-to-wall photos in black and white with captions carrying technical info and occasional prices. T3

Ventry, Arthur F. D. E., baron, and Eugene M. Koesnik

Airship Saga: The History of Airships, etc. ***
Blandford Press, NY, 1982
Very good, covering anti-sub blimps as well as dirigibles. T2

Wall, Robert

Airliners ****
Chartwell Books, Secaucus, NJ, 1980
From the earliest to the Concord, and into speculation, this big picture-heavy book gives a thorough and unusual coverage, including a fine chapter on the LTA airliners like *Graf Zeppelin*. Lots of period cutaways showing interior layouts, and interior shots, many with passangers in real-life clothes. Also airports, menues, stamps, "the front office," and travel posters. T2

Willmott, H. P.

B-17 Flying Fortress ***
Gallery Books, NY, 1980
Slim, hardback picture book. T3

Wood, Tony, and Bill Gunston

Hitler's Luftwaffe ***
Salamander Military Press, London, 1977; 244 pg, index
Excellent on the planes, very good on the strategy and disposition of units. Even some pictures of uniforms in colour. T2

editors of the New York *World*

The World Almanac and Book of Facts *****!
published annually by the New York World
Since 1886, this is an instant window on any year, due to its detailed General Chronology of the previous year, which in the 1944 edition runs from 1 December 1942 to 30 November 1943. But the tide charts and moon cycles and holidays are for the cover year, 1944. During WW2, they also ran a special section on the military aspects of the war, in all theatres, so you can find out on which days who bombed where. Your library should have this on microfilm. If not, buy your own copy from Ann Arbor; it's worth it. T3


There's some astonishing stuff out there, from aircraft training films to deathcamp footage "For Adults Only." This a sample of items to get you grounded.

B-25/B-26 ****

Pierce Butler Publishing, St. Paul, Minnesota
Training films originally produced for the Army during the War. Get inside the North American Mitchell and the Martin Marauder. See what drills it takes to get them set for flight.
Other government training films from Pierce Butler:

Fight for the Sky - P47/P-47 Operations ****

Both on the Republic Thunderbolt.

Flying the B-17 ****

Big training film for the famous Boeing Flying Fortress.

P-40/P-38 ****

For the Curtiss-Wright Warhawk and the Lockheed Lightning.

Great Battles of World War II: North Africa/Western Europe ****

Reader's Digest Video
Film footage, explanatory maps with moving arrows, etc., of the invasion of Fortress Europe.
I: "The Beginning of the End: North Africa to Cassino"; II: "On the Move: D-Day to the Liberation of France"; III: "Against All Odds: the Siegfried Line and the Battle of the Bulge"; IV: "Victory in Sight: to the Rhine, the Elbe, and the Po" T2

Victory At Sea ****

1952; Embassy Home Entertainment
The classic series from the early days of television, on the naval aspects of the War. Twenty-six half-hour episodes, available as 26 individual cassettes, or, as here, as six cassettes. More winder time to find a specific area, but less bulk to store. T2

The "Why We Fight Series" *****!

Reader's Digest Video
All seven of the Frank Capra films, originally made to be shown in boot camps. Superb. If you watch nothing else, see these. For Europe, if you find them separately, you will want volume I: "Prelude to War: World at the Brink" covering the escalating Japanese militarism and the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany; II "The Nazi Strike: Blitzkrieg!" on the conquest of Austria, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia and the Czech Republic), and Poland; III: "Divide and Conquer: Europe in Flames" on both the propaganca and the invasions of Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, and France, including the British "miracle of Dunkirk."; IV: "The Battle of Britain: the Finest Hour" which includes a special prologue by Churchill himself; V: "The Battle of Russia: the Nazi March Frozen" when Hitler turned on his ally, the USSR, but is turned back by the infamous "Genreal Winter" that defeated Napoleon, and by not succeeding in the seiges of Stalingrad and Leningrad; VII: "War Comes to America: the Front at Home" which is a retrospective of American reaction in recent years to the Axis powers, leading up to the dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor. T1

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H-GIG Historical Times & Places ***

A thorough-going linksite maintained by the University of California at Riverside, H-GIG sorts by area, by era (ancient, Medieval, early Modern, Modern, and 20th C<yours>), or by topic (military, women, etc.). It's a good place to start a hunt for books and essays online.

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