Published by Zenith Press in 2005, reprinted in 2010
792pp combined, earlier edition has 857pp
5 out of 5 stars
The 82nd Airborne has been America’s “go-to” force ever since World War II. If there’s a crisis, we may cry “Send the Marines,” but it’s usually the paratroopers who get there first (Sorry USMC, but they do). The 82nd has a storied history even before it became an airborne division, as it was the division Alvin York came from. And it was the Army’s first airborne division.
It is this story that Mr. Nordyke has told well and masterfully. Considering he was elected by the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment as their official historian in 2003 and has written books on two of the regiments of the division (the 504th and the 505th), Mr. Nordyke is well-placed to write this, the penultimate history of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.
The book is replete with both official sources, as well as the stories of the veterans themselves, and covers all the major jumps of the division, including Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, Market Garden, and its service in the Battle of the Bulge. Many of the stories covered here were probably not told outside of veteran’s organizations, and Mr. Nordyke has done a fantastic job in covering the 82nd in combat and training from every angle while giving a good treatise in what made the 82nd into what it was by the end of the war.
The photo selections are equally well done, and I must say, complement the text extremely well. I really liked the writing style as well, as Mr. Nordyke lets the veterans tell their own stories and uses those stories to tell a larger story with skill and an erudite sense of the subject matter. I can’t recommend this book enough, and the good news is, the book is still quite affordable on both Kindle, hardback, and softback.
The maps are among some of the best I have seen in a military history book as well, and considering I am of the sincere opinion that one should never write a military history book without maps (it’s essential for the reader to be able to follow the action), Mr. Nordyke has done a fabulous job with this book.
My only minor complaint, which seems to have been listened to by the publisher, is that this thing is an 800+ page weighty tome that could be used to brain someone. It’s a fine piece of work, and I am glad the publisher broke it up into two volumes. Amazon, however, hasn’t done a good job of delineating that, and you’re going to have to be careful that you can get both volumes for whatever medium you wind up choosing. My one recommendation – set aside some time to read this. It’s a magnum opus, and it’s meaty reading. You won’t read this in an afternoon. But it’s worth every word.
What Value is the Book to Wargamers?
There’s a lot of value in the book to wargamers. The book really goes in-depth to every possible subject of the 82nd, and a variety of veterans from all of the subordinate units were spoken to (some 900 in all) during the course of this book. If you’re designing a wargame about the airborne drops on Normandy, Holland, Sicily, or Salerno, then this book is required reading in my humble opinion.
Another thing this book is good for is if you’re a tactical level gamer of such games as Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) or Lock n’ Load Tactical. This book is a scenario gold mine. I have come up with some scenario ideas every time I flip through the book. But keep in mind, the book is primarily an oral history, and as such, it’s going to have some issues with details about the Germans, so you will probably have to supplement it with other sources.
That said, I am very satisfied with the quality of the book, and I was really taken by the details. There’s really a lot of it to be found here. And that’s the best part of the book. If you cannot mine at least one Squad Leader scenario out of this book, you’re not even trying, in my humble opinion. I would not be surprised if someone hasn’t done it already (I am not an ASL player, for the record, so I wouldn’t know).
To sum up, it’s nice to see the 82nd get their due. There’s been a lot of spilled ink over the 101st of late due to a certain TV series from twenty years ago, and I think the other parachute units of the US army deserve some time in the limelight. Mr. Nordyke did a fabulous job here. Bravo.
At Epoch XP, we specialize in creating compelling narratives and provide research to give your game the kind of details that engage your players and create a resonant world they want to spend time in. If you are interested in learning more about our gaming research services, you can browse Epoch XP’s service on our parent site, SJR Research.
(This article is credited to Jason Weiser. Jason is a long-time wargamer with published works in the Journal of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers; Miniature Wargames Magazine; and Wargames, Strategy, and Soldier.)