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Tag: USA

The Official History of the US Military in the Second World War

The number of studies and books published by the US military on the Second World War alone fills a small library. Official histories do not only exist for the Army and the Navy, then the two arms of the US military, but also for the nascent forces of the Air Force and the Marines, and of course for countless other organisations like the Corps of Engineers or the Coast Guard. For brevitys sake, we will limit this bibliography to the classic trio of Army, Navy and Air Force. For further research have a look at hyperwar, the not always up-to-date, but always useful collection of links about military history.

The US Army in World War II

Better known as “The Green Books,” The U.S. Army in World War II consists of 79 volumes plus a reader’s guide. Unlike the official histories of some countries, these volumes were often written by professional historians, such as Robert R. Palmer, Forrest Pogue, or Bell I. Wiley, rather than staff officers.

As with official histories, every campaign is covered in great detail, often starting with descriptions from the front lines rather than with strategic plannings and the big picture. But the really valuable volumes are the ones dealing with what usually only gets experts exited.  That is to say, the volumes on to/e, logistics, medical service, and more.  The detail in these is often extraordinary, as  they delve into matters that, although largely invisible in most histories, were essential to shaping an army that could fight and win.

The US Army in WW 2 – Reader’s Guide

The War Department

Chief of Staff- Prewar Plans and Preparations, Mark Skinner Watson
Washington Command Post – The Operations Division. Ray S. Cline
Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare – 1941-1942, Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell
Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare – 1943-1944. Maurice Matloff
Global Logistics and Strategy 1940 – 1943, Richard M. Leighton
Global Logistics and Strategy 1943 – 1945, Robert W. Coakley and Richard M. Leighton
The Army and Economic Mobilization
, R. Elberton Smith
The Army and Industrial Manpower, Byron Fairchild and Jonathan Grossman

The Army Ground Forces

The Organization of Ground Combat Troops, Ken Roberts Greenfield, Robert R. Palmer and Bell I. Wiley
The Procurement and Training of Ground Combat Troops, Robert R. Palmer, Bell I. Wiley and William R. Keast

The Army Service Forces

The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces, John D. Millett

The Western Hemisphere

The Framework of Hemisphere Defense, Stetson Conn and Byron Fairchild
Guarding the United States and Its Outposts. Stetson Conn. Rose C. Engelman and Byron Fairchild

The War in the Pacific

Strategy and Command- The First Two Years, Louis Morton
The Fall of the Philippines, Louis Morton
Guadalcanal- The First Offensive, John Miller, jr.
Cartwheel – The Reduction of Rabaul, John Miller, jr.
Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, Philip A. Crowl and Edmund G. Love
Campaign in the Marianas, Philip A. Crowl
The Approach to the Philippines, Robert Ross Smith
Leyte: The Return to the Phillippines, M. Hamlin Cannon
Triumph in the Philippines, Robert Ross Smith
Okinawa: The Last Battle, Roy E. Appleman, James M. Burns, Russell A. Gugeler, John Stevens

The Mediterranean Theater of Operations

Sicily and the Surrender of Italy, LTC Albert N. Garland and Howard McGaw Smyth. Assisted by Martin Blumenson
Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West, George F. Howe
Salerno to Cassino, Martin Blumenson
Cassino to the Alps, Ernest F. Fisher, Jr.

The European Theater of Operations

The Supreme Command, Forest C. Pogue
Logistical Support of the Armies, Vol I, May 1941 – September 1941, Roland G. Ruppenthal
Logistical Support of the Armies, Vol. 2, Roland G. Ruppenthal
Cross Channel Attack, Gordon A. Harrison
Breakout and Pursuit, Martin Blumenson
The Lorraine Campaign, Hugh M. Cole
The Siegfried Line Campaign, Charles B. MacDonald
The Ardennes – Battle of the Bulge, Hugh M. Cole
The Last Offensive, Charles B. MacDonald
Riviera to the Rhine, Jeffrey J. Clarke, Robert Ross Smith

The Middle East Theater

The China-Burma-India Theater

Special Studies

Pictorial Record

The US Navy in World War II

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Morison, already convinced of the value of personal involvement as a result of sailing experience while writing his biography of Christopher Columbus, wrote to President Roosevelt suggesting the preparation of an official history of the Navy in the war, and volunteering for the task. Both President Roosevelt and the Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox agreed, and in May 1942 Morison was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Naval Reserve, and assigned a staff of assistants, with permission to go anywhere and to see all official records. Morison’s reputation as a knowledgeable sailor (based on his analysis in the biography of Christopher Columbus) preceded him, and he was welcomed on a number of ships, eleven of them in all by the end of the war.

The result was a normal historical work, not a prescribed official history. Limitations of the History of U.S. Naval Operations are mostly due to its shortened period of publication. Some material, especially related to codebreaking, was still classified, and later in-depth research into particular occurrences in the war did clarify points that had been passed over rather lightly. Some rewriting was incorporated in the later printings of this series. This History of U.S. Naval Operations also intentionally avoided a certain amount of analysis, for instance deferring to other works for the causes of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. The intended audience for the work, to quote from the preface, was “the general reader rather than the professional sailor.”

The books can be downloaded free of charge for 14 days at

Vol. I: The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939–May 1943
Vol. II: Operations in North African Waters, October 1942–June 1943
Vol. III: The Rising Sun in the Pacific, 1931–April 1942
Vol. IV: Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, May–August, 1942
Vol. V: The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942–February 1943
Vol. VI: Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 1942–1 May 1944
Vol. VII: Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, June 1942–April 1944
Vol. VIII: New Guinea and the Marianas, 1944
Vol. IX: Sicily, Salerno and Anzio, 1943–1944
Vol. X: The Battle of the Atlantic Won, May 1943–May 1945
Vol. XI: The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944–1945
Vol. XII: Leyte, June 1944–January 1945
Vol. XIII: The Liberation of the Philippines, 1944–1945
Vol. XIV: Victory in the Pacific
Vol. XV: Supplement and General Index

The US Airforce in World War II

The US Airforce became an independent combat arm in 1947. Prior to 1947, the responsibility for military aviation was divided between the Army (for land-based operations) and the Navy, and Marine Corps, for sea-based operations from aircraft carrier and amphibious aircraft.

In March 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget ordering each war agency to prepare “an accurate and objective account”of that agency’s war experience. Soon after, the Army Air Forces began hiring professional historians so that its history could be recorded. An Historical Division was established in Headquarters Army Air Forces under Air Intelligence, in September 1942, and the modern Air Force historical program began. With the end of the war, Headquarters approved a plan for writing and publishing a seven-volume history. In December 1945, Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, Deputy Commander of Army Air Forces, asked the Chancellor of the University of Chicago to assume the responsibility for the publication of the history. Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Frank Craven of New York University and Major James Lea Cate of the University of Chicago, both of whom had been assigned to the historical program, were selected to be editors of the volumes. Between 1948 and 1958 seven were published.

Volume One: Plans and Early Operations January 1939 to August 1942
Volume Two: Europe: Torch to Pointblank August 1942 to December 1943
Volume Three: Europe: Argument to V-E Day January 1944 to May 1945
Volume Four: The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan August 1942 to July 1944
Volume Five: The Pacific: Matterhorn to Nagasaki June 1944 to August 1945
Volume Six: Men and Planes
Volume Seven: Services Around the World

Further Reading:

United States Army Air Force (“Craven and Cate”)


The US Official History of World War One

In the spring of 1918 the US Army founded a Historical Section at the Army War College with the explicit task to write a history of the American contribution to the Great War. Budget restrictions initially prevented the Historical Section to make use of the vast drove of documents already collected. It took until 1948 until many of these documents were finally published in a seventeen-volume series.  These are available online both as PDF as well as HTML. We´ve linked to the HTML versions, but you can easily access the PDF versions from the Center of Military History´s Website.

Lacking a narrative, this series is not a history in the normal sense of the word, but  the orders and reports reproduced in these volumes come from US, British, and French units and provide insight into training, lessons, and operations in the last two years of the war.

United States Army in the World War, 1917-1919

Volume 1: Organization of the American Expeditionary Forces
Narrative account of the AEF’s participation in major operations

Volume 2: Policy-forming Documents of the American Expeditionary Forces

Volume 3: Training and Use of American Units With the British and French

Volume 4: Early Military Operations of the American Expeditionary Forces
Cambrai Nov 20 – Dec 4 1917, Somme Defensive Mar 21 – Apr 6 1918, Lys Apr 9 – Apr 27 1918, Aisne Defensive May 27 – Jun 5 1918, Cantigny Apr 12 – Jun 2 1918, Château-Thierry Jun 6 – Jul 5 1918 (Belleau Wood Jun 6 – 25 1918, Vaux Jun 26 – Jul 3 1918), Montdidier-Noyon June 9-13 1918

Volume 5: Military Operations of the American Expeditionary Forces
Champagne-Marne July 15 – 18 1918, Aisne-Marne July 18 – Aug 6 1918

Volume 6: Military Operations of the American Expeditionary Forces
Oise-Aisne Aug 7 – Nov 11 1918, Ypres-Lys Aug 19 – Nov 11 1918, Vittorio-Veneto Oct 24 – Nov 4 1918

Volume 7: Military Operations of the American Expeditionary Forces
Somme Offensive Aug 8 – Nov 11 1918

Volume 8: Military Operations of the American Expeditionary Forces
St-Mihiel Sept 12 – 16 1918, Meuse-Argonne Sept 26 – Nov 11 1918

Volume 9: Military Operations of the American Expeditionary Forces
Meuse-Argonne Sept 26 – Nov 11 1918

Volume 10-1: The Armistice Agreement and Related Documents

Volume 10-2: The Armistice Agreement and Related Documents

Volume 11:  American Occupation of Germany
Nov 1918 – July 1919;  German Campaign Plans Oct 29 – Nov 11 1918

Volume 12: Reports of the Commander-in-Chief, AEF, Staff Sections and Services

Volume 13: Reports of the Commander-in-Chief, AEF, Staff Sections and Services

Volume 14: Reports of the Commander-in-Chief, AEF, Staff Sections and Services

Volume 15: Reports of the Commander-in-Chief, AEF, Staff Sections and Services

Volume 16: General Orders, GHQ, AEF

Volume 17: Bulletins, GHQ, AEF

Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War

Volume 1: General Headquarters, Armies, Army Corps, Services of Supply, and Separate Forces,

Volume 2; Divisions

Volume 3, part 1: Organization and Activities of the War Department

Volume 3, part 2: Territorial Departments, Tactical Divisions Organized in 1918, and Posts, Camps, and Stations

Volume 3, part 3: Directory of Troops

Naval Operations

The post war (WW1) situation in the Navy was no different from the Army: Owing to budget cuts the US Navy remained short of funds to compile an official history of its actions. Lacking a large-scale official history, the Historical Section of the Navy Department produced eight short volumes between 1920 and 1923, which are useful sources on US naval activity in the war, some of which are available online:

  1. German Submarine Activities on the Atlantic Coast of the United States and Canada. 1920. 163 pp.
  2. The Northern Barrage and Other Mining Activities. 1920. 146 pp.
  3. Digest Catalogue of Laws and Joint Resolutions, the Navy and the World War. 1920. 64 pp.
  4. The Northern Barrage” (Taking up the Mines). 1920. 79 pp.
  5. History of the Bureau of Engineering. 1922. 176 pp.
  6. The United States Naval Railway Batteries in France
  7. The United States Naval Railway Batteries in France. 1922. 97 pp. (Reprinted 1988 by Naval Historical Center).
  8. The American Naval Planning Section London. 1923. 537 pp.

US Air Force

The US Air Force did not come into being until 1947, long after most other countries had established independent air forces. Nevertheless, the different departments and units tasked with waging air war had left a considerable amount of documents, and in 1978, the Office of Air Force History finally produced a four-volume series, The U.S. Air Service in World War I:

  1. Volume One: Final Report of the Chief of Air Serice, AEF; Tactical History of the Air Service, AEF.
  2. Volume Two: The Aviation Section, 1914-1917. Air Service Plans and Programs, April 1918 –  February 1918. Combat, Feb –  Nov 1918. Postwar Review
  3. Volume Three: The Battle of St. Mihiel, 1918.
  4. Volume Four: Lessens Learned. US Bombing Survey.

Further Official Publications

More ‘official’ information about the US contribution to the war can also be found in Col Leonard P. Ayres’ The War with Germany: A Statistical Summary published by the US Army General Staff in 1919.