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Military Books That Made it to the Big Screen, available on Kindle

Updated: Jun 21

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Military Books That Made it to the Big Screen

For most of my life I have been fascinated by all things Military and I have collected Movies, Magazine Publications, Books and now Kindle Books with Wars and Military Themes as subject matter. Even better, I loved to find out that a movie is based on a Military Book. That way, the movie didn't end at the title credits and offered me something more. When I was younger I couldn't wait for the next high production War movie to come out.

In contrast to Movies, you would often find that Books offer a more visceral feel to events and your mind works hard to try and conjure up the picture the Author is trying to paint to tell their story. There are other good movies Platoon, Saving Private Ryan etc. that I wish were based on Authored Books but are in fact screenplays. I have left them out for that reason.

Filming a War Movie Scene
Movie Scene

Available on Kindle

For those that don't know, I want to share some titles of books and the movies that they were made into. Some may surprise. I intend to add to this Blog Post as I remember titles so this is not completed yet. Any title suggestions are welcome. Where Kindle is unavailable at present, the link will take you to the Book version options.

Full Metal Jacket - The Short Timers by Gustav Hasford.

What a powerful movie this was from the start, shaving of recruit heads to the tune of Hello Vietnam to the Marines singing the Mickey Mouse outro at the end of the movie prior to the credits.

The Short-Timers is a 1979 semi-autobiographical novel by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gustav Hasford, about his experience in the Vietnam War. Hasford served as a combat correspondent with the 1st Marine Division during the Tet Offensive of 1968. As a military journalist, he wrote stories for Leatherneck Magazine, Pacific Stars and Stripes, and Sea Tiger. The novel was adapted into the film Full Metal Jacket 1987, co-scripted by Hasford, Michael Herr, and Stanley Kubrick.

In 1990, Hasford published the sequel The Phantom Blooper: A Novel of Vietnam. The two books were supposed to be part of a "Vietnam Trilogy", but Hasford died before writing the third installment.

Currently the Book does not seem to be available for Kindle but is available on Hardback and Paperback although for quite a lot of money. I will leave the entry here as that may change and this is one that should be high up on your list.

Hamburger Hill - The Crouching Beast by Frank Boccia

I watched this movie many years ago not knowing it is based on a book. Movies based on books around this time tended to focus more on violence and cinema explosions rather than being true to the actual events.

As a first lieutenant in Bravo Company of the Third Battalion, 187th Infantry, Frank Boccia led a platoon in two intense battles in the Vietnamese mountains in April and May 1969: Dong Ngai and the grinding, 11-day battle of Dong Ap Bia--the Mountain of the Crouching Beast, in Vietnamese, or Hamburger Hill as it is popularly known. The Rakkasans, the 3/187th, are the most highly decorated unit in the history of the United States Army, and two of those decorations were awarded for these two battles. This vivid account of the author's first seven months in Vietnam gives special attention to the events at Dong Ap Bia, following the ­hard-­hit 3/187th hour by hour through its repeated assaults on the mountain, against an unseen enemy in an ideal defensive position. It also corrects several errors that have persisted in histories and official reports of the battle.

Beyond describing his own experiences and reactions, the author writes, "I want to convey the real face of war, both its mindless carnage and its nobility of spirit. Above all, I want to convey what happened to both the casual reader and the military historian and make them aware of the extraordinary spirit of the men of First Platoon, Bravo Company. They were ordinary men doing extraordinary things."

Born on the Fourth July - Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic

This movie focused initially on the innocence of boys playing war in patriotic America of the 50s, dealt briefly with scenes in Vietnam and then the ugly and angry aftermath of Ron Kovic's injuries. The Author finds himself once again and becomes a voice for the anti-war movement. He served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War. He was paralysed from his chest down in combat in 1968 and has been in a wheelchair ever since. Kovic was the co-screenwriter of the 1989 Academy Award-winning film based on Born on the Fourth of July.

Black Hawk Down - Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

Black Hawk Down is one of my all time favourite movies of all time. If you can get over the fact that many of the actors are over 30 when most soldiers would have been average 20 at the time of their service. I bought the book expecting a play by play of the movie but it was quite different. It is a real perspective by someone who was there instead of a directors entertaining vision. The book is different from the movie and is currently not available on Kindle. I am leaving it here for the day that it is available.

Already winning acclaim as one of the best accounts of combat ever written, Black Hawk Down is a minute-by-minute, heart-stopping account of the 1993 raid on Mogadishu, Somalia. Late in the afternoon of Sunday, October 3 1993, 140 elite US Soldiers abseiled from helicopters into a teeming market neighbourhood in the heart of the city. Their mission was to abduct two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord and return to base. It was supposed to take them about an hour.

Instead, they were pinned down through a long and terrible night in a hostile city, fighting for their lives against thousands of heavily armed Somalis. Two of their high-tech helicopters were shot out of the sky. When the unit was rescued the following morning, eighteen American soldiers were dead and more than seventy badly injured. The Somali toll was far worse - more than five hundred killed and over a thousand injured.

Authoritative, gripping, and insightful, Black Hawk Down is destined to become a classic of war reporting. It is already the most accurate, detailed account of modern combat ever written.

Lone Survivor - Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

You've probably already seen the movie. A harrowing tale of 4 special ops Seals being hunted behind enemy lines and as the title suggests, only one makes it.

In June 2005 four US Navy SEALs left their base in Afghanistan for the Pakistani border. Their mission was to capture or kill a notorious al-Qaeda leader known to be ensconced in a Taliban stronghold surrounded by a small but heavily armed force. Less than twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs was alive.

This is the story of team leader Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of Operation Redwing. Blasted unconscious by a rocket grenade, blown over a cliff, but still armed and still breathing, Luttrell endured four desperate days fighting the al-Qaeda assassins sent to kill him, before finding unlikely sanctuary with a Pashtun tribe who risked everything to protect him from the circling Taliban killers.

American Sniper

From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. His fellow American warriors, whom he protected with deadly precision from rooftops and stealth positions during the Iraq War, called him “The Legend”; meanwhile, the enemy feared him so much they named him al-Shaitan (“the devil”) and placed a bounty on his head. Kyle, who was tragically killed in 2013, writes honestly about the pain of war—including the deaths of two close SEAL teammates—and in moving first-person passages throughout, his wife, Taya, speaks openly about the strains of war on their family, as well as on Chris. 

Gripping and unforgettable, Kyle’s masterful account of his extraordinary battlefield experiences ranks as one of the great war memoirs of all time.

Unbroken - Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, now a major motion picture directed by Angelina Jolie.

In 1943 a bomber crashes into the Pacific Ocean. Against all odds, one young lieutenant survives. Louise Zamperini had already transformed himself from child delinquent to prodigious athlete, running in the Berlin Olympics. Now he must embark on one of the Second World War’s most extraordinary odysseys. Zamperini faces thousands of miles of open ocean on a failing raft. Beyond like only greater trials, in Japan’s prisoner-of-war camps.

Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini’s destiny, whether triumph or tragedy, depends on the strength of his will …

We Were Soldiers - We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Hal Moore & Joe Galloway

 In November 1965, some 450 men of the First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Harold Moore, were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was brutally slaughtered. Together, these actions at the landing zones X-Ray and Albany constituted one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War. They were the first major engagements between the US Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam.

 How these Americans persevered—sacrificing themselves for their comrades and never giving up—creates a vivid portrait of war at its most devastating and inspiring. Lt. Gen. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground throughout the fighting—interviewed hundreds of men who fought in the battle, including the North Vietnamese commanders. Their poignant account rises above the ordeal it chronicles to depict men facing the ultimate challenge, dealing with it in ways they would have once found unimaginable. It reveals to us, as rarely before, man’s most heroic and horrendous endeavor.

Siege of Jadotville - Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle by Declan Power

Ok, I'm a little biased on this one and this has turned out to be one of my favourite movies having watched it 4 times so far. This Company performed their duty to the highest possible standard for the UN but were completely abandoned by & UN hierarchy & Irish politicians during and after the event. The whole incident was viewed as an embarrassment by the Irish government and swept under the carpet for years. These brave men should have received medals and a huge parade at their homecoming but received nothing but years of unfair silent shame instead.

In September 1961, another chapter in Irish military history should have been written into the annals, but it is a tale that lay shrouded in dust for years.

The men of A Company, Thirty-Fifth Irish Infantry Battalion, arrived in the Congo as a United Nations contingent to help keep the peace. For many it would be their first trip outside their native shores. Led by Commandant Pat Quinlan, A Company found themselves tasked with protecting the European population at Jadotville, a small mining town in the southern Congolese province of Katanga. It fell to A Company to protect those who would later turn against them. On September 13th, 1961, the bright morning air of Jadotville was shattered by the sound of automatic gunfire.

13 Hours: The explosive true story of how six men fought a terror attack and repelled enemy forces in Benghazi by Bill McCarthy

This is another great movie based on true events and one that I have watched several times.

13 HOURS is the true account of the events of 11 September 2012, when terrorists attacked a US State Compound and a nearby CIA station in Libya, one of the most dangerous corners of the globe. On that fateful day, a team of six American security operators stationed in Benghazi fought to repel mounting enemy forces and escalating firepower, to protect the Americans stationed there, including the US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. Going beyond the call of duty, the team ignored orders to stand down and instead choked back smoke, fought wave after wave of machine-gun fire and retook the Compound, averting tragedy on a much larger scale – although four Americans would not make it out alive.

Recounting the 13 hours of the now infamous attack, this personal account is both blistering and compelling, and sets the story straight about what really happened on the ground, in the streets and on the rooftops.

Conclusion - For Now

For now, this is my list and I've read about half of them myself. I love the movies so they are listed here. At some stage I will get around to reading the rest of them. If I think of more I will add them as time goes by.

Thanks for Reading, David

Additional Titles of Interest;

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam- Mark Bowden

By January 1968 the fighting in Vietnam seemed to be at a stalemate. Yet General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces, announced a new phase of the war in which 'the end begins to come into view.' The North Vietnamese had different ideas. In mid-1967, the leadership in Hanoi had started planning an offensive intended to win the war in a single stroke. Part military action and part popular uprising, the Tet Offensive included attacks across South Vietnam, but the most dramatic and successful would be the capture of Hue, the country's cultural capital. At 2:30 a.m. on January 31, 10,000 National Liberation Front troops descended from hidden camps and surged across the city of 140,000. By morning, all of Hue was in Front hands save for two small military outposts.

The commanders in country and politicians in Washington refused to believe the size and scope of the Front's presence. After several futile and deadly days, Lieutenant Colonel Ernie Cheatham would finally come up with a strategy to retake the city, block by block and building by building, in some of the most intense urban combat since World War II.

With unprecedented access to war archives in the U.S. and Vietnam and interviews with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple points of view. Played out over twenty-four days of terrible fighting and ultimately costing 10,000 combatant and civilian lives, the Battle of Hue was by far the bloodiest of the entire war. When it ended, the American debate was never again about winning, only about how to leave. In Hue 1968, Bowden masterfully reconstructs this pivotal moment in the American war in Vietnam.

The Mammoth Book of Modern Battles

From the start of the 20th century to the most recent major offensives, here are fifty accounts of the battles that made the modern world, described in superb detail by historians and writers including John Keegan, Alan Clark, John Strawson, Charles Mey, John Pimlott, and John Laffin.

All the major conflicts are covered, from two world wars, through Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Chechnya, to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the battles featured are: the Somme, Passchendaele, Battle of Britain, Stalingrad, El Alamein, Monte Cassino, Omaha Beach, Iwo Jima, Dien Bien Phu, Ia Drang, Hamburger Hill, Desert Storm, Kabul, Baghdad, and Basra.

Isandlwana: How the Zulus Humbled the British Empire

The historian and founder of the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society presents his groundbreaking account of the Battle of Isandlwana.

The story of the British Army’s defeat at Isandlwana in 1879 has been much written about, but never with the detail and insight revealed by the research of Dr. Adrian Greaves. In reconstructing the dramatic and fateful events, Greaves draws on newly discovered letters, diaries and papers of survivors and other contemporaries. These include the contemporary writings of central figures such as Henry Harford, Lt Henry Carling of the Royal Artillery, August Hammar and young British nurse Janet Wells.

These historical documents, coupled with Greaves’s own detailed knowledge of Zululand, enable him to paint the most accurate picture yet of this cataclysmic battle that so shamed the British establishment. We learn for the first time of the complex Zulu decoy, the attempt to blame Colonel Durnford for the defeat. Greaves uncovers evidence of another “Fugitives’ Trail” escape route taken by battle survivors, as well as the identity of previously unknown escorts for Lieutenants Coghill and Melville, both awarded Victoria Crosses for trying to save the Colors.

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