Recommended Medal of Honor Books

With many of us now sequestered at home, it may never be a better time to catch up on your Medal of Honor reading. Check out this list of some of our recommended Medal of Honor books – both new releases and a few classics!

Amazon Smile: Did you know that you can support the National Medal of Honor Museum when you buy books like these below or anything else on Amazon.com? Follow these simple instructions here and designate the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation as your Amazon Smile charity. Every dollar supports our mission.

Recently Published

Blaze of Light: The Inspiring True Story of Green Beret Medic Gary Beikirch, Medal of Honor Recipient by Marcus Brotherton

More than just an account of Army Green Beret medic Gary Beikirch’s Medal of Honor action at Dak Seang in 1970, this highly personal book examines his arduous path to becoming a Green Beret medic and the many post-war crises that he had to overcome after his return from Vietnam. This book will fill you with inspiration, faith, and awe.

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Race of Aces: WW II’s Elite Airmen and the Epic Battle to Become Masters of the Sky by John Bruning

John Bruning’s recently published book covers the tense air battles over New Guinea and the Solomons during World War II.  In this well researched and dynamic account, you’ll fly in the cockpits of America’s leading aces, including Medal of Honor recipients Richard Bong, Tommy McGuire, and Neel Kearby, as they battle for air supremacy against Imperial Japanese forces.  You’ll also see how many of these talented American pilots, in the pursuit of being America’s top ace, made fateful choices that led to their demise.  A fascinating account of aerial heroism and the pitfalls of glory.

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You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For by Kyle Carpenter and Don Yaeger

In the violent and war-torn Helmand Province of Afghanistan, Lance Corporate Kyle Carpenter was suddenly confronted by a life or death decision.  As an enemy grenade rolled towards his position, Carpenter jumped atop the grenade, saving his fellow Marine Nick Eufrazio in the process.  Carpenter suffered grievous wounds from the explosion and earned the Medal of Honor for his life-saving action.  This emotion-filled book is much more about Carpenter’s remarkable determination to overcome his injuries.  It is a powerful account of resilience and can-do, life-affirming spirit.

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Actions in Afghanistan & Iraq

Recommended books covering Medal of Honor actions within the Global War on Terror.

Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor by Clinton Romesha

On October 3, 2009, a small group of U.S. Army soldiers stationed at Command Outpost Keating in Afghanistan’s rugged mountains, were surrounded and attacked by hundreds of well-armed Taliban soldiers.  Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Romesha’s riveting first-person account of the fourteen-hour battle has earned widespread praise from authors and readers alike.  Nowhere else will you find a more vivid account of modern small-unit combat.  The desperate fight for survival at COP Keating led to two Medals of Honor – one for Romesha and another for Specialist Ty Carter.

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House to House: An Epic Memoir of War by David Bellavia and John Bruning

The Second Battle of Fallujah, beginning on November 9, 2004, consisted of brutal, close quarter urban fighting.  In this highly kinetic and personal account, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, the only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq War, recounts his team’s battles against a well-prepared enemy force within a city teeming with peril.   This book pulls no punches and is filled with inspiring and painful episodes that will leave you in awe of the modern American soldier.

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The Outpost 

Journalist Jake Tapper has written an authoritative history of the troubled history of Combat Outpost Keating and the Battle of COP Keating.

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Vietnam War

262 Medals of Honor have been bestowed on our warriors who fought in Vietnam.  Here is a small selection of books covering their brave actions.

Dead Men Flying: Victory in Vietnam – The Legend of Dust Off: America’s Battlefield Angels by Patrick Brady and Meghan Brady

Over two tours in Vietnam, Maj. Patrick Brady flew more than 2,000 missions and evacuated more than 5,000 wounded soldiers from the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam.  This memoir of his actions in Vietnam recounts some of his most famous and death-defying helicopter medevac flights, including the ones on January 6, 1968, that led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor.  Brady is not afraid to call it how he sees it in this highly readable account filled with heroes in the air and on the ground.

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Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot by James Stockdale

This collection of insightful essays by Admiral Jim Stockdale, the most senior POW held in the Hoa Lo prison camp in Hanoi and a Medal of Honor recipient, probes deep into issues of character, leadership, and personal integrity.  You will certainly be enlightened once you learn about his famous “Stockdale Paradox.”

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By Honor Bound: Two Navy SEALs, the Medal of Honor, and a Story of Extraordinary Courage by Tom Norris, Mike Thornton, with Dick Couch

In April of 1972, SEAL LT Tom Norris penetrated deep behind enemy lines to retrieve downed U.S. airmen – an action for which he would later earn the Medal of Honor.  Only six months later, a gravely wounded Norris would be rescued by his teammate Petty Officer Mike Thornton in another epic action, which would earn Thornton a Medal of Honor as well. This book tells the extraordinary story of these interconnected men.

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Medal of Honor: A Vietnam Warrior’s Story by Roy Benavidez

MSGT Roy Benevidez takes you on a journey from his humble upbringing in rural Texas, through unbelievable physical ordeals, to his actions in Vietnam where he earned the Medal of Honor.   “Tango Mike/Mike” will fill you with his indomitable spirit.

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War on the Ground

A collection of recommended books related to Medal of Honor recipients who fought in ground campaigns in the 20th century.

On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, The Korean War’s Greatest Battle by Hampton Sides

Widely considered a masterpiece on the Chosin Reservoir campaign of late 1950, this electric book comes highly recommended.  Hampton Sides not only reveals the strategic blunders that led to the attack by more than 300,000 communist Chinese soldiers, but also details the remarkable heroism shown by the “Chosin Frozen.”  The book includes accounts of various Medal of Honor recipients including Hector Cafferata, William Barber, Ray Davis, and Thomas Hudner.

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The Price of Valor: The Life of Audie Murphy, America’s Most Decorated Hero of World War II by David Smith

This highly readable biography of Audie Murphy not only describes the campaigns and actions that led to his being one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II, but it also highlights his post-war Hollywood fame and his battle with inner demons.

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Indestructible: The Unforgettable Memoir of a Marine Hero at the Battle of Iwo Jima by Jack Lucas with D.K. Drum

He lied about his age to enter the Marine Corps. He went AWOL twice in his efforts to reach combat. And on February 20, 1945 Jack Lucas earned the Medal of Honor by saving fellow Marines on Iwo Jima.  It might be hard to find a Medal of Honor recipient who was more pugnacious and determined than Lucas.

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Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion by Edward Lengel

One of the best accounts of one of the more celebrated episodes from America’s battles on the Western Front of World War I.  Lengel’s account focuses on the U.S. Army’s “Lost Battalion” and the actions of three related Medal of Honor recipients – Maj. Charles Whittlesey, Corporal Alvin York, and CPT. George McMurtry.

To hear more about the book, watch Chief Museum Content Officer, Rob Shenk interview renowned military scholar and author Edward Lengel here.

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Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne by Douglas Mastriano

This biography details Alvin York’s path from a reluctant conscientious objector to one of America’s most famous war heroes.  Not only is York’s Medal of Honor action during the Meuse-Argonne campaign detailed, but you will also learn of York’s interesting post-war life.

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Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden

Black Hawk Down details the frenetic actions of a hundred elite U.S. soldiers deep within the narrow streets of Mogadishu during the 1993 Operation Gothic Serpent operation.  Two Delta Team snipers, Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart, were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the October battle.

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War in the Air

Accounts of Medal of Honor recipients whose actions took place in the skies above.

Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos

Adam Makos’ vivid account of Ensign Jesse Brown and Lieutenant Tom Hudner of Fighter Squadron 32 is one worth reading.  Devotion not only covers the friendship formed between Brown, the son of a sharecropper and the first African American carrier pilot, and Hudner, from a wealthy New England family, but also into the skies over North Korea as they fly their Corsairs in support of the beleaguered Marines around Chosin Reservoir.  LT Hudner would earn the Medal of Honor for his brave and selfless actions in support of his friend.

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Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor by James Scott

This meticulously researched account of Jimmy Doolittle and the April 1942 raid on Tokyo will fill you with a renewed appreciation for this daring and important bomber mission.  Doolittle would later be awarded the Medal of Honor for this mission.

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Roar of the Tiger: From Flying Tigers to Mustangs, A Fighter Ace’s Memoir by James Howard

James Howard became a naval aviator flying F4F Wildcats off of aircraft carriers.  He then became an ace with the famed Flying Tigers.  And later became a Medal of Honor recipient for his “One Man Air Force” defense of a vulnerable bomber formation in the skies over Germany on January 11, 1944 – the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to be awarded the nation’s highest decoration.

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War on the Seas

Here are three highly recommended books covering World War II naval actions that led to Medals of Honor.

Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour by James Hornfischer

A heart-pounding account of the sacrificial actions of several U.S. Navy destroyers as they take on some of the largest, most powerful ships in the Imperial Japanese Navy.  Hornfischer’s account brings to life the charge of these brave men as they race to their certain destruction.  The book details the role of CDR. Ernest Evans, commander of the U.S.S. Johnston, who would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for his leadership on this fateful day.

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Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James Hornfischer

Many know of the epic battles for control of Guadalcanal during World War II. But how many know the story of the bloody naval battles that happened offshore?  Here you will learn the details of these engagements in “Ironbottom Sound” and the actions of Medal of Honor recipients, including Daniel Callaghan, Norman Scott, and Bruce McCandless.

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Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle of the USS Franklin in World War II by Joseph Springer

On March 19, 1945, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Franklin was struck by two Japanese bombs that set the ship afire and threatened to sink it.  This riveting account of “Big Ben’s” fight for survival is well worth a read.  Two Medals of Honor were awarded to crew members of the Franklin – Timothy O’Callaghan and Donald Gary.

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War under the Seas

There have been 8 submariners who have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Here are a few books for those looking to learn more about the Silent Service.

Clear the Bridge!: The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang by Richard O’Kane

CDR Dick O’Kane sank 24 Japanese ships and was one of the U.S. Navy’s top submarine aces of World War II.  This post-war memoir by O’Kane describes the five Pacific patrols of the submarine U.S.S. Tang (SS-306) – O’Kane’s command.  This book does a great job describing the challenges of command on a submarine and the great risks taken by the top captains.  The highly trained crew of the Tang wreaks havoc on Japanese convoys in Far Eastern water, but ultimately pays the price for its aggression.

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Thunder Below: The USS Barb Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II by Eugene Fluckey

CDR Eugene Fluckey was one of the most decorated submarine captains in U.S. history, with four Navy Crosses and a Medal of Honor for his celebrated 1945 actions in Namkwan Harbor along the Chinese coast.  “Luckey Fluckey’s” confident and daring style comes through in the pages of this action-packed memoir covering his many patrols aboard the U.S.S. Barb.

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American Civil War

Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor by Russell Bonds

Did you know that the first Medals of Honor were bestowed on Private Jacob Parrott and other members of the raiding party known as “Andrews’ Raiders”?  This excellent account of the secret mission to steal a Confederate locomotive is filled with tense scenes as the Confederates give chase in their own engine.  Stealing the General blends detailed research with a highly readable account.

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General History of the Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor: The Evolution of America’s Highest Military Decoration by Dwight Mears

Looking for a great account of the creation and evolution of the Medal of Honor?  If so, then this is your book.  Author Dwight Mears’s book provides an interesting narrative of the birth and evolution of the nation’s highest military decoration.  As you will come to learn, there have been many twists and turns over the years for the Medal and challenges in its fair and equitable use.

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For Younger Readers

Leo Thorsness Vietnam: Valor in the Sky (Medal of Honor) by Michael Spradlin

This third book in a series covers the heroic actions of Lieutenant Colonel Leo Thorsness, who was an F-105 Wild Weasel pilot over the skies of Vietnam.  Thorsness’ brave actions in support of a wingman who was shot down led to his being awarded our nation’s highest military decoration.  Two weeks later, Thorsness would be shot down himself and would spend six long years in a Hanoi prison camp.  This nonfiction middle-grade book in the Medal of Honor series profiles the courage and accomplishments of recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Watch Chief Museum Content Officer, Rob Shenk, interview Michael Spradlin about his book here

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Batman: Gotham Nights #1

DC Comics has released National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation board member Brad Meltzer’s story about Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta in their latest edition of the Batman comic book series. Giunta is the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the War on Terror. Pick up or download your copy today!

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Don’t forget: you can support the National Medal of Honor Museum when you buy books like those above or anything else on Amazon.com using Amazon Smile. Follow these simple instructions here and designate the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation as your Amazon Smile charity. Every dollar supports our mission.

Have any Medal of Honor book recommendations for us? Send us an email at media@mohmuseum.org.