Military history books are often able to assist individuals in the comprehension of past military events, particularly how and why they occurred. By understanding the causes and effects of military history, individuals can broaden their perspective of many large-scale historical events, as well as the changes they brought with them. Many books have been written with a focus on developing a better understanding of the more complex aspects of war, yet the following six books are recommended for those looking to obtain a master’s degree in military history.

Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer

David Hackett Fischer’s finely crafted narrative, Washington’s Crossing, depicts the events that unfolded as George Washington and his collaborators pushed to save the faltering American Revolution. Six months after the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, American troops had spiraled down a path that would bring them close to being defeated in the war. As scenes unfold, readers are presented detailed accounts of several major battles, as well as Washington’s fearless leadership that turned the tides of the American Revolution. From the Delaware Valley on Christmas night to the Battle of Trenton days later, Fischer does well to identify how the open and flexible strategy employed by the Americans was vital to their success. This strategy would eventually shock the nation, reinvigorate the troops, and give new meaning to the American Revolution.

Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson

Taking an expeditious approach to writing about the most significant details of American Civil War history, Battle Cry of Freedom deploys deep analysis in attempts to make sense of a violent, yet a transformative period of American history. Through this book, McPherson crafted not just a Pulitzer Prize winner, but also what many critics consider “the definitive one-volume history of the American Civil War.” The narrative compiles details of social, political, and military events across the decades-long period that led to the war, and goes on to explain many of the important events that took place during the war. Battle Cry of Freedom offers a new perspective on the causes of the secession, actions were taken by the anti-war opposition, and exactly what it took for the Union to finally claim victory.

Achilles in Vietnam by Jonathan Shay

Achilles in Vietnam takes an authentic approach to the military history genre, comparing the soldiers of Homer’s Iliad to veterans of the Vietnam conflict. As a practicing psychotherapist, Jonathan Shay has spent decades treating veterans who suffer from mild or severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though one facet of battle has remained unchanged—the potential for some warriors to return home suffering from post-traumatic stress or another form of debilitating combat trauma, Shay’s experiences enable an in-depth and informative analysis of how the devastation of war during the period of the Vietnam conflict and the time of the Iliad contrast.

We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam by Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway

Once selected by the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps as a relevant and timeless reading for all marines, We Were Soldiers Once tells the story of sacrifice undergone by the 1st Battalion, 7th Calvary, under the command of Lt. Col. Harold Moore. In 1965, these men were dropped in a small clearing where they were promptly surrounded by approximately 2,000 Vietnamese soldiers. Being in a situation of unlikely survival, the authors do an excellent job of highlighting how these brave soldiers were able to persevere. We Were Soldiers Once also includes detailed perspectives from Lt. Col. Harold Moore who assisted Joseph Galloway in interviewing hundreds of men who were involved in the bloody conflict. The stories range from incredibly heroic to tragically horrendous, providing content which can help historians establish a more direct understanding of war and the psychology of soldiers, particularly when they’re facing an insurmountable challenge.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Published in ~500 B.C., The Art of War is often considered the most influential book on strategy ever written. Though, through reading The Art of War, it is possible to gain an in-depth understanding of precisely how the man dealt with conflict. The book insists that humans are certain to experience conflict in their lives, but fortunately, people already have everything required to deal with conflict in an honorable way that will lead to victory. The lessons represented in The Art of War apply to competition and conflict at every single level, including interpersonal relationships, business dealings and even international conflicts. By studying The Art of War, those in the field can gain an understanding of how they can achieve victory without entering battle.

Thunder Below by Eugene Fluckey

A stark feeling of helplessness is almost constant in World War II stories told from the American perspective, yet Thunder Below is unique in that regard. Instead, this story follows the enthralling adventures of a crew of fearless sailors aboard the USS Barb, led by Captain Eugene Fluckey. The book details the roles each team played in making the USS Barb an unstoppable naval force. It combines data taken from ship logs, reports, personal interviews and even several archived documents submitted by the Japanese Navy that describe their side of events. At the time, many navies were scrambling for strategies that could defeat the concepts outlined in Thunder Below. Overall, the book can provide professionals deeply valuable insights into military strategy and innovation.

Reading books on military history can assist individuals in comprehending the valuable lessons taught in previous wars and how to apply them to modern-day circumstances. In fact, many of the insights noted in these books can be leveraged by individuals to become more effective leaders or strategists in their career or profession.

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Established in 1819, Norwich University is a nationally recognized institution of higher education, the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), and the first private military college in the United States. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s Master of Arts in Military History program takes an unbiased and global approach towards exploring military thought, theory and engagement throughout recorded history. The unique curriculum of the online Master of Arts in Military History program was developed by the distinguished faculty of Norwich University and guided by the goals outlined by the American Historical Association. This highly regarded program is designed to help build your proficiency as a historian, and places our world’s military achievements and conflicts in chronological, geographical, political and economic context.

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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, Oxford University Press

Washington’s Crossing (Book Review),

We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang - the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, Barnes & Noble

The Art of War,

Thunder Below!: The USS Barb Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II, Barnes & Noble

Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, Barnes & Noble

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