Gavin at War

The World War II Diary of Lieutenant General James M. Gavin

The previously unpublished wartime diary of Lieutenant General James Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.
Date Published :
November 2022
Publisher :
Editor :
Lewis Sorley
Illustration :
30 photographs
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781636240244
Pages : 240
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Out of stock. Available in 6-8 weeks
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"Gavin at War provides a lively self-portrait. His diary is especially notable for its skeptical assessments of his comrades and his Army.” — The New York Times

"General Gavin was a very brave man who had great faith in his men. The battle or the weather never stopped him from going to check the troops. He would go in the rain or snow. If the battle was severe, he would crawl from foxhole to foxhole to talk to his men to let them know he was with them. Words cannot explain the love and pride I had for General Gavin."—Walter Woods, World War II aide to General Gavin

Lieutenant General James Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division during WWII, is one of the best-known figures of the war. Beginning as the commander of the 505th Parachute Combat Team that spearheaded the American assault on Sicily in July 1943, Gavin advanced to division command and finally command of US forces in Berlin. Throughout this time he kept a wartime diary that starts in April 1943, as the unit was preparing to go to northern Africa, and continues through to his final entry on 1 September 1945 during the occupation of Berlin.

During the war years, Gavin came into close contact with virtually all the leading airborne commanders and many others who would advance to the top levels of Army leadership. His diary includes observations on fellow military and political leaders such as General Dwight Eisenhower and the British Field Marshal Montgomery, army operations, and the general's personal life. Gavin was an officer who led by example: on four combat jumps—into Sicily, at Salerno, then Normandy and the Netherlands—he was the first man out the door. Two Distinguished Service Crosses, two Silver Stars, and the Purple Heart rewarded his service.

For decades, Gavin kept the existence of the journal a secret; the general's family discovered it among his belongings after his death. Editor Lewis "Bob" Sorley has worked closely with the Gavin family and the Army Heritage Center to prepare the diary for publication. His edited and annotated version includes a prologue and epilogue to frame the entries within the wider scope of the general's life.

About The Author

Lewis Sorley is a third-generation graduate of the United States Military Academy who also holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. During two decades of military service he led tank and armored cavalry units in Germany, Vietnam, and the United States, held Pentagon staff assignments in the Offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Army Chief of Staff, and was on the faculties of West Point and the Army War College.

Following service as a senior civilian official at CIA he became a leading historian of the Vietnam War. His books include A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam and biographies of Generals Creighton Abrams, Harold K. Johnson, and William Westmoreland.


Walter Woods Letter
Editor’s Note on the Text
Editor’s Prologue

1 Going to War
2 Sicily
3 Africa
4 Italy
5 London
6 Back to the 82nd
7 Normandy and After
8 Division Command and Nijmegen
9 France and Belgium
10 Germany
11 Berlin

Editor’s Epilogue
Selected Bibliography


Gavin at War provides a lively self-portrait. His diary is especially notable for its skeptical assessments of his comrades and his Army.” 

- The New York Times

“'Airborne All the Way!' That was Major General Jim Gavin’s ethos when he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division during the toughest battles of World War II. For years, many wondered about the man behind the legend. What made this airborne leader who he was? Now we know the answer in the general’s own words, courtesy of Gavin’s newly revealed wartime diary. West Point graduate, Vietnam War veteran, and acclaimed historian Lewis S. Sorley, III has masterfully edited this unique look into the mind of one of America’s greatest combat commanders."

- Daniel P. Bolger, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, Retired and author of "The Panzer Killers"

Gavin at War is a remarkable work, a must-read for all World War II history aficionados. The detail is specific, the insights honest and forthright, and the reader is immediately immersed in the General James Gavin's war."

- Martin Dugard, New York Times #1 bestselling author of "Taking Berlin"

“Jim Gavin was an airborne pioneer and an inspirational, innovative leader who somehow managed to keep a fascinating, revealing World War II diary. Now, thanks to the expert, intuitive editing of Lewis Sorley, Gavin's diary is finally available to us in published form, richly augmented by Sorley's insightful background chapters. I found myself riveted by Gavin's many insights and observations. Highly recommended!”

- John C. McManus, Ph.D., author of "September Hope: The American Side of a Bridge Too Far and "The Americans at D-Day"

Gavin at War is an unprecedented look into the mind of one of the airborne’s legendary leaders. An essential addition to the paratrooper history and the legacy of the 82nd Airborne Division.”

- Kevin Maurer, New York Times #1 bestselling author of "No Easy Day" and "Damn Lucky"

"Nothing can be more truthful and revealing than a diary, and Jim Gavin’s never disappoints. His entries form an exciting window through which we view, unvarnished, the great personalities and events that shaped the world. Essential reading."

- Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor Winner, Former Military Associate to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam

"Invaluable insights on leadership in war and peace from one of the finest leaders in modern history, General James Gavin. A profound debt of gratitude and respect is due the Gavin family for sharing these memoirs with contemporary leaders, historians and the public so that all might learn from his example."

- General John W. Nicholson Jr, US Army Retired

"Gavin at War is a must have addition to the library of anyone interested in airborne operations, combat leadership, or the history of the Second World War. It is a rare opportunity to understand the experiences of a renowned combat leader in his own words."


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