Top Ten Airborne Reads: Paratroopers’ Reading List
As paratroopers, we know you've got discipline and are always on the lookout for that new book title that will leave a lasting impression. The global library has never been more diverse, yet you want something you can relate to. The good news is that we've reached out to our community and got some fascinating feedback on paratroopers' favorite books. Although there’s a numerical order of the list, they have been randomly picked, so all titles are excellent.
The list is a combination of classic favorites and some recent hits. While we've done quite a comprehensive job compiling the list, we understand it will only please some. Have we missed your favorite airborne read? Is there a book that merits recognition but hasn't made our list? Here's where you come in: drop your favorite title in the comments, and we guarantee it will be included in the next series of Top Ten Reads!
Whatever It Took (4.6 in Amazon Books)
Published to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, "Whatever It Took" unveils an extraordinary first-person account of World War II. Henry Langrehr, a 95-year-old American paratrooper, shares his remarkable journey as one of the dwindling members of the Greatest Generation. Henry landed amidst chaos on D-Day, crashing through a glass roof in Sainte-Mère-Église. Amid heavy losses, survivors valiantly halted enemy tanks. Later, captured by Nazis, he endured the horrors of a death camp's outer ring, witnessing the unspeakable. Forced into a coal mine, he and a friend staged a daring escape, confronting moral dilemmas. After weeks behind enemy lines, he was rescued. The book also chronicles the sacrifices made by those on the Homefront, like Henry's wife, Arlene. "Whatever It Took" is a gripping tale of heroism, hope, and survival, honoring the indomitable human spirit in history's darkest hours.
Four Hours of Fury (4.8 in Amazon Books)
"Four Hours of Fury" unveils a gripping, yet often overlooked, chapter of World War II—a colossal airborne operation dropping 17,000 Allied paratroopers deep into Nazi Germany. On March 24, 1945, a massive fleet of over two thousand Allied aircraft soared toward Germany, escorting troops destined for a daring Rhine River assault. All primary objectives were swiftly seized in the war's largest airdrop, shattering Germany's last line of defense and crippling Hitler's war machine. The 17th Airborne Division's pivotal role in Operation Varsity, a campaign rivaling Normandy, secured a vital bridgehead into Germany. In this visceral account, historian James Fenelon meticulously details their journey, reminiscent of "A Bridge Too Far" and "Masters of the Air," illuminating a heroic, often overlooked episode of WWII.
WAR (4.7 in Amazon Books)
Sebastian Junger, acclaimed for "The Perfect Storm," now delves into the harsh realm of combat in a gripping narrative that explores the profound bonds forged in the face of adversity. Following a platoon during a perilous 15-month tour in Afghanistan's treacherous Korengal Valley, Junger unveils the raw essence of warfare—fear, honor, and unwavering trust among comrades. His spellbinding account offers a window into the crucible of battle, where survival hinges on unwavering commitment. Through the eyes of these young warriors, he illuminates the true meaning of fighting, serving, and confronting mortal peril. Junger's empathetic storytelling captures the unyielding spirit of those who serve.
Lions of Kandahar: The Story of Fighting Against All Odds (4.7 in Amazon Books)
In the rowdy landscape of southern Afghanistan in 2006, Captain Rusty Bradley embarked on his third tour of duty, extremely aware of the encroaching threat. The Taliban and their allies were tightening their grip, primed to reclaim Kandahar Province, a once-strategic capital. The pivotal moment arrived with Operation Medusa, NATO's largest offensive. Bradley's Special Forces A-team, sent as a diversion, witnessed a fierce counterattack engulfing the main coalition force. Possession of Sperwan Ghar, a modest high ground, became the linchpin. In a savage firefight against nearly a thousand seasoned fighters, Bradley's small detachment fought relentlessly. This raw, authentic war account unveils the incredible men—Americans and Afghans alike—whose indomitable heroism prevailed in the face of insurmountable odds.
No Better Place to Die (4.5 in Amazon Books)
In the chaos of D-Day's predawn darkness, most airborne units missed their drop zones, igniting intense small-unit combat. Amid this turmoil, the 505th Regimental Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division landed near its target. Their mission: seize Sainte Mère Eglise crossroads and secure the Merderet River bridge at La Fière. Facing relentless waves of German forces, these paratroopers clung to the bridge for three days, ultimately launching a counterattack at a harrowing cost. In "No Better Place to Die," WWII veteran Robert M. Murphy offers a firsthand account of the 505th's unflinching heroism. Decorated for valor, Murphy's chronicle illuminates the indomitable spirit of these men who fought across Sicily, Italy, Normandy, and Holland, cementing their legacy in history.
The Filthy Thirteen: From the Dustbowl to Hitler’s Eagle Nest (4.3 in Amazon Books)
Among the prominent 101st Airborne Division in WWII, the Filthy 13 earned a legendary reputation. Comprising soldiers from the Dust Bowl and Depression era, they defied convention, refusing salutes baths, and obeying orders. Infamous for hard drinking and fierce combat skills, they shocked even their elite peers. Shaving heads into Mohawks and donning war paint, they parachuted into Normandy ahead of D-Day, revealing their fearless combat prowess. Jake McNiece, a half-Indian survivor, exemplified their spirit. Though rough around the edges, the Filthy 13 played a vital role in the war against Nazi Germany, inflicting more damage on the enemy than on their own ranks. Their legacy endures within the 101st Airborne.
The Chosen Few (4.7 in Amazon Books)
In 2007, a single company of U.S. paratroopers, known as the "Chosen Few," ventured into eastern Afghanistan, hoping to win hearts and minds while extending the Afghan government's reach. A grueling fifteen-month ordeal was marked by relentless attacks, dwindling resources, and outnumbered battles against the encroaching Taliban. Rockets, grenades, and machine-gun fire rained down as America's focus shifted to Iraq. In their final, most brutal battle near Wanat in Nuristan province, some fifty Chosen Few soldiers faced an estimated three hundred enemy fighters. The resulting bloodshed in July 2008 marked one of Afghanistan's deadliest clashes. Two received the Medal of Honor, and all returned forever changed by their harrowing experiences.
Boots on the Ground: A Month with the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq (4.5 in Amazon Books)
"Boots on the Ground" offers a gripping account of the 82nd Airborne's journey through Iraq. Departing from Kuwait, they converge on Tallil Air Base before engaging in intense battles in Samawah, focusing on safeguarding the Euphrates' bridges. It serves as a microcosm of modern warfare's cutting-edge tactics and technology, all while delving into the daily challenges faced by soldiers. Karl Zinsmeister, a frontline reporter embedded with the 82nd, vividly portrays meticulous planning and technological advancements. Readers are immersed in the sensory aspects of war, from sounds to smells. Beyond the battlefield, it's a human story, revealing the bonds, humor, compassion, and dedication that unite soldiers in the face of extraordinary circumstances.
Into the Viper’s Nest: The First Pivotal Battle of the Afghan War (4.5 in Amazon Books)
The gripping account unfolds the intense three-day battle for Musa Qala, a Taliban stronghold, commencing on December 7, 2007. At the outset, the town sheltered a population of fifteen to twenty thousand, making it a significant Taliban-held territory. Facing off against a formidable two thousand-strong Taliban force deeply entrenched after occupying the town for over nine months, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mounted a relentless assault led by Task Force 1 Fury—the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Musa Qala held immense strategic importance for ISAF, necessitating the ousting of the Taliban and securing the town. After months of occupation, the Taliban were prepared to defend their turf. What ensued was one of the war's most significant and harrowing battles, a testament to the unwavering determination of those on the frontlines.
Photo by Lara Poirrier/Army
Swords and Plowshares: A Memoir (4.8 in Amazon Books)
General Maxwell D. Taylor, a revered figure in American military history, played pivotal roles in World War II and beyond. His remarkable journey spanned combat in Sicily, Italy, and the D-Day invasion of France as the leader of the 101st Airborne Division. Taylor's leadership extended to the Arnhem drop in Holland and the defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Post-war, he assumed various high-ranking roles, including Superintendent of West Point, U.S. Commander in Berlin, and Eighth Army Commander in Korea. Serving as Army Chief of Staff under President Eisenhower, he became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during John F. Kennedy's presidency.
In his memoir, "Swords and Plowshares," General Taylor offers a firsthand account of his life marked by action, courage, strategy, and unwavering dedication. He provides candid insights into prominent figures like Eisenhower, John Dulles, the Kennedys, and General Westmoreland, shedding light on their differing perspectives on air power in modern warfare. General Taylor's memoir solidifies his legacy as one of America's great military minds, alongside figures like Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Patton.
There you have it, now read away, paratroopers, read away!