World War II has a rich history of films, books, and television shows that have been produced for many years. Even while the war was still underway, filmmakers, storytelling, authors, and historians were busy documenting the events at every turn, providing news, insight, and even entertainment to audiences around the world.
We’ve compiled a list of just a few of the sources where you can learn more about World War II.
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) A taut psychological saga about a by-the-numbers British colonel leading his fellow prisoners of war to construct a railroad bridge while cheerfully whistling the “Colonel Bogey March” for their Japanese captors, oblivious to an Allied plan to demolish it.
A Bridge Too Far (1977) The 1977 film A Bridge Too Far is packed with an all-star cast and highlights the failure of Operation Market Garden as the Allies try to break through German lines and take key bridges across the Netherlands.
The Big Red One (1980) This autobiographical film is based on the director’s service in the 1st Infantry Division. The story follows a battle-hardened sergeant and his men from Kasserine Pass to D-Day to the liberation of a concentration camp at the end of the war.
Saving Private Ryan (1998) This epic film begins with the Invasion of Normandy on D-Day and follows a special detachment of soldiers on their mission to locate and send home a paratrooper whose brothers have all been killed in action.
Memphis Belle (1990) A fictionalized version of a true story, Memphis Belle follows the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in 1943 as they prepare for their 25th and final bombing mission, and hopefully their ticket back home.
A Midnight Clear (1992) A squad of American soldiers in the Ardennes Forest hole up in a remote cabin and defend against a small group of Germans who have been cut off from their unit.
Downfall (2004) Adolf Hitler’s final days during the waning of World War II are played out in his underground bunker, his dream of winning the war crumbling as the Red Army takes Berlin.
Band of Brothers (2001) This ten-part HBO miniseries follows the men of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Easy Company from jump training all the way to their D-Day drops and beyond.
WWII in HD (2009) This History Channel ten-part documentary series utilizes films that were shot in color and rarely seen by most Americans. It follows the war through the eyes of twelve Americans, presenting a new perspective on the war.
Winds of War (1983) War and Remembrance (1988-1989) Winds of War and War and Remembrance contrast the front lines of World War II with the struggle of life at home as it affects the Henry and Jastrow families, following them from March 1939 to the attack on Pearl Harbor to the end of the war, four years later.
Combat! (1962 – 1967) This series ran for five years from 1962 to 1967, producing 152 hour-long episodes. The series was praised for its gritty realism and character development, and followed a squad of American soldiers from D-Day and farther into France.
D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II / Band of Brothers by Dr. Stephen Ambrose Dr. Stephen Ambrose was a prolific writer of many books about the history of World War II, and these are two of his most well-known. D-Day covers the story and enormity of the Invasion of Normandy, and Band of Brothers captures the bravery and dedication of the men of Easy Company.
Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy by Max Hastings Another prolific war writer, Hastings’ Overlord presents the story of what took place on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion and follows troops through the taxing push into German forces that took place over ten weeks and across a brutal summer.
The Fighting First: The Untold Story of the Big Red One on D-Day by Flint Whitlock This book relies on interviews, records, and unpublished memoirs to tell the untold story of the 1st Infantry Division, also known as the Big Red One. It follows their exploits, and explains their reputation, as they assault two sectors on Omaha Beach and push across Europe, fighting in battles for Aachen, Hürtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge.
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E.B. Sledge Sledge served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, and was stationed in Peleliu and Okinawa during some of the fiercest fighting in the entire war. Years later, he wrote his experiences down and provided some of the most vivid and personal accounts of those battles.
The Story of World War II by Henry Steele Commager and update by Donald L. Miller Originally written by Commager in 1945, immediately after the conclusion of the war, it was later updated and expanded with new material, including previously unpublished eyewitness accounts. The book covers the entire American experience of World War II, from its very beginnings to the bombing of Nagasaki.