These are reference books about paratrooper uniforms and equipment for collectors. Most of these books are quite expensive (50 EUR or more) but are absolutely necessary if you want to know what to look for as a colllector. Most of these books have been written by bigtime collectors, so these people understand what kind of information collectors are interested in.
|America’s Finest II
This is the same book as America’s Finest, but this 2007 edition has an additional chapter about the pathfinders. If you are into that, the book is worth the money for that chapter alone. Interesting information about the PPN-1 and PPN-2 beacon and other pathfinder equipment which you can only find here. Beware, the photos are all black and white. Only the insignia section at the back is in color.
This book by Michel De Trez covers the preparations to D-Day and the staging areas. Lots of photos of mannequins, especially pathfinders. Indispensible reference work!
|At the Point of No Return
This is the sequel to the previous book by Michel Deztrez and covers the whole Normandy period. Again with plenty of uniform and equipment photos. I look forward to the next volume in this series: “Orange is the Color of the Day” about the Holland operations, but I have no idea when that one is due to come out.
|First Airborne Task Force
First Airborne Task Force is a rare reference book. It was published in 1998 and has not been reprinted. With 500 pages, this is a huge and heavy book. That’s more than De Trez’s 2 volumes on Normandy combined. This book covers the invasion of Southern France and subsequent battles fought in the Provence and the Maritime Alps. The last chapter is about the First Special Service Force. As with the other books, it contains many photos of original and unique uniforms and equipment, as well as period photographs. I would recommend this book if you can get one cheap (150 EUR would be cheap if you reckon it can fetch up to 350 USD via Amazon, but that’s really outrageous).
Click on the image for sample pages
|American Paratrooper HelmetsThis book came out in early 2010 after a long wait. But the result is worth the wait. In short this is a big fat book with color photos of original paratrooper helmets to drool over. It explains the history and the different makes of shells and liners, types of camouflage and what units used them, and the many different unit markings along with a historical background and period reference photos. It will cost you about 50 euros, but it’s really worth it, if only to help you identify a good repro helmet if you can’t afford a real one.Click here to take a look inside|
|Les Paras du D-DayI got this book in French, but I think it exists in English. It has quite a few pictures of gear not found in other books. It is nicely illustrated, but the quality of the photos is not that great. But still a very useful book.|
|GeronimoIf you are an airborne collector, this is one of the standard works you should buy first. Full of color photos of the best possible quality. The only critique I have is that it focusses a lot on uniforms and insignia and a bit less on equipment. It’s a bit expensive, but I got mine at Amazon (lowest shipping cost).|
|American Airborne PathfindersI had high expectations of this book, but it turned out to be a waste of money. I have several books from Schiffer Publications and they are all outstanding. Expensive, but worth the money. However, this one is the exception. The photographs are of the poorest possible quality throughout the book. I had hoped to find detailed photos of pathfinder equipement such as the Eureka beacon, maybe not from the author’s own collection, but at least from some museum. But all you get is low res pics from the internet! The book isn’t all worthless, but you really have to be into pathfinders to want to pay about 50 euros for it.|
|Parachute Rifle CompanyParachute Rifle Company is a very useful book for re-enactors of WW2 paratroopers, and also interesting for collectors, but not a must-have. It contains many color photos and plenty of detailed info on how to gear up, how to manoeuvre, camp, etc.
The layout, printing and binding quality are of the usual high standard at Schiffer Publishing, although the author might want to check his spelling if the book is ever reprinted. In all, this is a book well worth its money.
See images of sample pages
|Doughboy to GIThis used to be THE reference work about US uniforms and equipment. It is now long out of print and it has been replaced by the GI Collector’s guide by H-P Enjames. Even though it is in black and white, it still has interesting information for the collector and also includes USAAF items, which you won’t find in the GI Collector’s guide. This book goes for about 90 euros second hand!|
|Uniforms, Weapons and Equipment of the World War 2 GII bought this book mostly because of its curiosity value as the very first collector’s guide, published in 1982 (first and only print). It is of course in black and white and contains a lot of photos and interesting explanations which show the authors have researched the topic quite well. It is written more as a history book than a collector’s guide, but still interesting for the collector. Not a book you need to search for though, as later publications are much more comprehensive.|
|GI Collector’s Guide – Volume 1As I mentioned, this is the new reference work for the collector. Practically everything that was standard issue can be found here in full-color. A big fat book that’s worth its weight in gold, but only costs about 40 euros.|
|GI Collector’s Guide – Volume 2Henri-Paul Enjames has obliged us with a second volume. This one is more for the collector of small personal items and WWII ephemera (such as myself) but it also fills some of the gaps of Volume 1.|
|Individual Gear and Personal Items of the GI in EuropeBeautiful photographs and background info about individual gear and personal items. Much of its contents are now also covered in Volume 2 of the GI Collector’s Guide, so this is more if you’re into the ‘small items’. It’s a Schiffer book, so a bit expensive, but very nice.|
|L’Epopée de la 101ème AirborneThis is a French language edition from Militaria Magazine. For the beginning collector, this shows very high quality pictures of airborne uniforms and equipment throughout the war, and this for only about 15 euros. Recommended!|
|101st Airborne at NormandyOne of the famous books of Mark Bando. Full of interesting period photographs and eye witness testimonials. You buy this for black and white period photographs and historic research, not for color equipment photos.|
|101st Airborne from Holland to Hitler’s Eagle’s NestThe second volume from Mark Bando. Both of these books are out of print now and can be quite expensive, even second hand, so look out for bargains.|
|Objectif Carentan 6-15 June 1944This book from Heimdal publishing is dedicated specifically to the fighting in and around Carentan, Normandy 6-15 June 1944. It is in French, but to be honest I have only looked at the pictures and their captions, and still it’s worthwhile. There are many period photos and great photos from the displays at the Dead Man’s Corner museum, which so far I have only found in this book. See pictures of sample pages.|
|Devils in Baggy PantsThis is a reprint from the original 504th PIR unit history from Africa to Sicily, Anzio, Normandy, Belgium and Germany. Many of these pictures can only be found in this book. Originals of this book may still be found, but are expensive.|
|US Army Uniforms of WWIIThis book is also out of print, and also in black and white. Worthwhile for the period photographs of uniforms you won’t find in other books. Nice if you can get it cheap second hand.|
|US Infantry Weapons of WWIIIf you are going to buy one book about US WW2 firearms, it’s this one. It is not the most beautifully illustrated book (black and white), but it makes up for this by focussing on all the details that are interesting for the collector: what to watch out for, serial numbers, etc.|
|OSS Special Weapons and EquipmentThis book is essentially a reprint of a WW2 manual explaining OSS weapons and equipment. Very useful book if you’re into sabotage equipment, encryption, escape and evasion. Black and white and out of print. The same auther also published another reference book about spy equipment. That one is prettier, but does not focus on OSS and not everything in this book can be found in his new book.|
|War Movies EncyclopediaIndispensible for the WW2 movie buff who wants to look up who played in which film etc. Also includes quotes.|
As a collector of escape compasses and escape maps, I was aware that Clayton Hutton was the inventor of many escape aids, but detailed and reliable historical information had always been hard to obtain. From what I had been able to find out online, I write two articles for this web site on escape maps and escape compasses. Now, about five years later, I find out that Hutton himself wrote a book about it. It contains a wealth of new information to enrich my articles (still to do). Hutton writes with typical British phlegm, which makes for enjoyable reading. I stumbled upon this book on eBay. A beautiful green leather bound book, first (and only?) edition, for just £7!
This fine leather-bound first print presentation copy came out in 1979 in a limited edition of 500 copies. Mine is signed by the author and by Lt. General Yarborough, the founder of the paratroops. It has a dedication by the author for a veteran.
This book is still readily available in reprint and I would very much recommend it. With 717 pages it’s a big book and it’s lavishly illustrated with 20 maps and over 200 photographs, covering the period from the inception, the Test Platoon and training, up to North Africa, Sicily, Salerno etc., all the way to the Rhine Crossing and Japan.
View the photo album
The Founder of the Paratroopers (US) was Gen William C. Lee, the first CO of a parachute unit in the US was Lt William T. Ryder. Gen William P. Yarborough was the founder of the US Special Forces 🙂