On September 23, PBS will air the first of Ken Burns's seven-part documentary on WWII, The War. Knopf, as it has with other Burns film projects (The Civil War; Baseball) has the tie-in, written by Burns and Geoffrey Ward. Subtitled An Intimate History, The War will no doubt bring to life first-hand accounts of the war experience from a generation that is dying off at a rate of a thousand a day. The Second World War, a “necessary war” in the words of former airman Sam Hynes, has proven to be a popular topic for American readers, and this fall season has several titles that aim to give voice to that war's combatants.

Into the Fireby Duane Schultz (Westholme Publishing, Oct. 31). This small, Yardley, Pa.—based press had a surprise success with last year's Stealing the General, which focused on a spectacular Civil War railroad heist. Into the Fire takes a similarly narrow focus, telling the story of an Eisenhower-Churchill operation to attack Nazi oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania.

Brothers in Battle, Best of Friendsby William Guarnere and Edward Heffron (Berkley/Caliber, Oct. 2). Two WWII paratroopers, known respectively as “Wild Bill” and “Babe,” were members of an elite unit of the 101st Airborne. The two were depicted in the film Band of Brothers; Tom Hanks pens the foreword to this collaboration, which recounts not only war experience but also an extraordinary friendship forged therein.

101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles in WWIIby Mark Bando (MBI/Zenith, Sept. 15). The famous Airborne Division immortalized in Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers gets a full picture-book treatment. The exploits of the storied group are documented, from training and maneuvers through D-Day and on to Berchtesgaden and the end of the war.

The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italyby Rick Atkinson (Henry Holt, Oct. 2). This is the second volume in Pulitzer-winning Atkinson's trilogy on the liberation of Europe. In a starred review, PW wrote: “The Mediterranean campaign is frequently dismissed by soldiers and scholars as a distraction from the essential objective of invading northern Europe. Atkinson makes a convincing case that it played a decisive role in breaking German power, forcing the Wehrmacht onto a defensive it could never abandon.”

Aiming for Military Sales
As legions of military aficionados and professionals seek targeted books, this trio of publishers are among many answering the call.

“We've published since 2002, but we're mostly a distribution company of military books,” says publisher David Farnsworth of Casemate Publishing. “We have 32 clients, many from the U.K., and we also sell English-language books from other countries.” Casemate originates about 20 titles a year, and with its client imprints, it introduces some 280 books to the U.S. annually. “I've always been interested in personal accounts,” Farnsworth reports. “I like the 'let-the-vets-talk' kind of publishing.” That's what Casemate's lead fall book does. War on Two Fronts: An Infantry Commander's War in Iraq and the Pentagon (Aug.) by Col. Christopher P. Hughes recounts both his stint during the current Iraq conflict and his later efforts as a desk officer in D.C. “The book doesn't take sides,” says Farnsworth. “It's no polemic.”

Military Misdemeanours is our big book for October,” says John Tintera, director of sales and marketing for Osprey Publishing. “It's by Terry Crowdy and its subtitle is Corruption, Incompetence, Lust and Downright Stupidity. That gives you an idea of its cheeky sense of humor as it covers everything from ancient times right up through the present debacle in Iraq.” Distributed by Random House, the U.K.-based Osprey has an international list, which can reach 150 titles annually. “Everything we do is related to the military,” notes Tintera, referring to books on the ancient world, samurai traditions, Napoleonic wars, the American Civil War and more. “Osprey came out of the hobby industry,” Tintera remarks, “so we publish for the general audience.”

One of the most venerable of military book publishers is Naval Institute Press, arm of the U.S. Naval Institute. “The institute is a not-for-profit professional society founded in 1877,” says NIP director Rick Russell. “We started publishing in 1898 and now do about 70 books a year. We started with professional books on such subjects as navigation and oceanography, and we still do those, but we also publish general military biographies and histories.” October brings Bankrupting the Enemy: The Financial Siege of Japan Before Pearl Harbor by Edward S. Miller. “He details the economic plans to defeat Japan before World War II,” says Russell, “plans that backfired and led the Japanese to attack us. It's a story that hasn't really been told before.” Seeking to diversify since the end of the Cold War, NIP has triumphed with such fiction as Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October and Stephen Coonts's Flight of the Intruder. “But you have to hit a home run with fiction,” says Russell. “We're really geared to nonfiction.” —Robert Dahlin