Combined Arms Training Centre

Combat Commander’s Reading List


CATCs purpose is to generate Combined Arms competent combatants who are capable of achieving success in the Joint Land Battle. Implicit in this is partnering with Combat Brigades, Regiments and Battalions to produce soldiers, NCOs and officers who are brilliant within their trade and can adapt to changing situations across the spectrum of war.

Acknowledging that multiple reading lists exist that provide advice on generalist leadership and military service, the command team of CATC pulled together a selection based on our own experience focussed on our core function: Warfighting. This list provides a number of books that have been selected to specifically prepare COs and RSMs for service in combat Regiments and Battalions. Rather than the management and governance aspects of unit command, this list addresses battle command, decision making and combat culture, in order to distil the unique demands of leadership at this level.

CATC has a declared bias for seeing combat leadership teams succeed, and this extends to assisting future COs and RSMs prepare for their role. Combat units possess distinctive characteristics, challenges and opportunies that are a result of their primary focus and the uniqueness of their role in the battlespace. This necessitates an approach to leadership that harness, sustains and is complimentary to a combat mindset, philosophy and methodology. This list has been developed to assist you in this.

Reading List

Just Soldiers
by Darryl Kelly

To lead soldier commanders must know them. These personal accounts from ordinary soldiers in WWI provide an insight into the human tragedy of war. They confirm that the reputation of the Australians as fearless fighting men was genuinely earned. The stories are representative of the war experiences of the forebears of today's ordinary Australians.

Moral Combat - Good and Evil in WWII
by Michael Burleigh

Detailed chronology of the ethical questions faced by all sides of World War II. Although there is emphasis on the political world view and decisions made to win the war, the chapters focussed on soldiers' decisions under intensely difficult situations examines the questions of ethics in battle. It highlights the importance of deep set values and the power of organisational thinking and behaviour modelling. In terms of combat behaviours, it is an interesting reference to a less invested aspect of combat behaviours (Ethics); history shows the dangers of neglecting it.

Paratrooper: The Life of General James M. Gavin
by T. Michael Booth and Duncan Spencer

Key highlights of the book is Gavins combat leadership, lead from the front style, ‘of you want a decision go to the point of danger.’ Suffering a significant injury at the start of Operation Market Garden he still went on to lead his division to achieve all their objectives.

Defeat into Victory
by Field Marshal William Slim

This book provided enduring lessons on the mindset of a commander, especially one who suffered significant defeats in the early part of his campaign. Considerations of a commander in a precarious multi-national environment, pushing the Fourteenth Army through Burma with a tiny HQ and being at the far end of an already poor logistics network. Slim’s carefully chosen commanders, mission command approach and deliberate focus of morale re-invigorated and enabled his troops to eventually defeat the Japanese in India and Burma.

The Men Who Came Out of the Ground
by Paul Cleary

Commando campaign in Timor 1942. Highly trained and motivated for a mission, everything goes wrong on insertion, including loss of communication with higher HQ and equipment. Through resourcefulness and imagination the team rally. They resolve to carry out their mission behind enemy lines. The story is rich with examples of inspirational leadership, combat behaviours and captures the mantra of Survive, Thrive, Fight and Win.

The Heights of Courage: A Tank Leader's War on the Golan
by Avigdor Kahalani

A great book by an Israeli Tank Bn commander during the Yom Kippur War. It is his personal account of the war and is well worth a read for further insight into Bn command in a war for national survival. In October 1973, the State of Israel was invaded by Egyptian and Syrian forces. Fought principally by armoured and mechanised formation, the war became a story not only of battle strategy and tactics, but also one of human discipline and endurance.

Stilwell and the American Experience in China 1911-1945
by Barbara W Tuchman

Tuchman’s narrative follows Stilwell from the time he arrived in China during the Revolution of 1911, through his tours of duty in Peking and Tientsin in the 1920s and 1930, to his return as theatre commander in World War II . This biography of a cantankerous but level-headed commander is a bright, coherent and authentic account.

Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine
by Robert Coram

A story of leadership innovation, and moral courage when he stood up to the president against the tactics being used in Vietnam. Leadership as a Battalion Commander in World War 2, awarded the Navy Cross, and innovation in amphibious operations.

A Bastard of a Place. The Australians in Papua
by Peter Brune

Based on countless hours of interviews with survivors, this book tells the story of the Australian actions at Kokoda, Milne Bay, Gona, Buna and Sananda. Although the book largely ignores the context of these actions at the operational level the account provides a number of enduring tactical lessons.

On Tactics. A theory of Victory in Battle
by Bernard A. Friedman

This book delivers practitioner’s hand book written as a counterpoint to the swathes of literature dealing with the strategic level of war. He challenges conventional wisdom in a logical fashion. He clearly establishes the link between physical tactical actions and their psychological effect on the adversary – central in a manoeuvrist approach.

Forgotten Soldier
by Guy Sajer

The author’s experiences on the Eastern Front in WW2 have utility for all ranks on the brutal reality of conventional warfare and necessity for personal resilience. Forgotten Soldier recounts the horror of World War II on the eastern front, as seen through the eyes of a teenaged German soldier.

Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II
by George MacDonald Fraser

The personal account of George Macdonald Fraser on his time as a rifleman in Slim’s 14th Army during the Burma Campaign. This memoir recounts the frontline action he saw while serving as a young soldier during the British army’s savage campaign against the Japanese. The authenticity of his story, merged with the talents of a gifted novelist, result in an unforgettable read. There is little doubt that soldiers of all ranks and experiences will find great resonance with the humour, horror and camaraderie described.

Beyond Band of Brothers
by Dick Winters

Not only an interesting read from an ‘history of Easy Coy through WWII’ perspective (Band of Brothers), but Winters writes about how he as an individual did all that he could to set himself up for his subsequent success in command. He discusses to what we aspire to in regards to combat behaviours, leadership and culture and how this helped him and his unit throughout their successful campaign across Europe.

Green-Eyed Boys: 3 Para and the Battle for Mount Longdon
by Christian Jennings & Adrian Weale

In the Falkland Islands War of 1982, Mount Longdon was the bloodiest battle, during which the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment lost more than twenty dead and 50 wounded. In the aftermath, controversy began to arise regarding planning, war crimes and culture.

Australian Battalion Commanders in the Second World War
by Garth Pratten

The authors explores the background, role and conduct of the commanding officers of Australian infantry battalions in World War II. This book provide a gripping, meticulously researched and insightful account that charts the development of Australia's infantry commanding officers. It is a story of men confronting the timeless challenges of military leadership in order to motivate and inspire their troops to endure the maelstrom of war.

On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace
by Dave Grossman

This book provides slolid lessons and practical advice on development and implementation of combat behaviours through understanding of combat physiological & psychological responses, mastery through repetition and management of natural fear responses, as well as emphasising the importance of debriefing once the battle is over.

Combined Arms Training Centre

CATC performs a vital function for Army by delivering key outcomes to the Australian Army, supporting both FORGEN and OPGEN through the execution of Directed Training Requirement (DTR) and Exported Training to FORCOMD and the wider ADF. CATC works closely with all other formations in Army, in particular the Combat Brigades, to ensure Army is postured to win the land battle. CATC training establishments include the School of Armour, School of Artillery, School of Infantry and School of Military Engineering. Recommendations were provided by all CATC training establishments and the HQs.