Martin King is an Emmy Award winning British military historian, lecturer, and prolific author of World War II history. He has traced the individual histories of veterans for almost 20 years. Here, he speaks about his early life, his writing career, and his newest book, Warriors of the 106th.
Could you tell us a bit about any history of military service in your family? In what ways was the military part of your life from an early age?
My Grandfather served in the First World War. Two of his brothers were killed. One died on the Somme and the other died of an ear infection on the troop ship home. Grandad was wounded at Passchendaele. I recorded my first veteran interviews with a group of Scottish soldiers who used to congregate at the edge of the village where I lived. I was 15 at the time and I still have the cassette. Scotland and the north of England provided more military personnel per capita than any other part of the country in both WWI & WWII.
When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer? What is it about writing that appealed to you?
I always loved writing so combining that with my passion for military history and respect for war veterans I found a métier that inspired me.
What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book?
What fascinates me is that unless people are reminded they tend to forget our debt of gratitude to these heroes. Recording and writing about their experiences isn’t a job it’s a labor of love and honor.
When and how did you become interested in Military history?
When I was very young maybe 10 or 11 years old I discovered my Grandfather’s war record and saw his medals. I still have one of them here on display. He never talked to anyone about his experiences.
Who are your favorite authors, fiction and non-fiction, and why?
I’ve always liked Cornelius Ryan, because he provides more than one perspective. He interviewed allies and axis face to face. Anthony Beevor is one of my idols because of the way that he animates the story and draws the reader in. My friend Peter Snow wrote an excellent account of life under the command of the Duke of Wellington. He puts the reader right in there. Bernard Cornwell’s books are incredibly well researched and I’ve enjoyed many of them over the years. Charles B. McDonald wrote the ultimate book about the Battle of the Bulge, and he saw the action firsthand.
Have you read anything lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
Alamo in the Ardennes was good and I loved To War with Wellington by my friend Peter Snow.
How do you relax? Do you have any hobbies or interests?
I play jazz guitar and read. I love doing book signings and lecture tours of the US and it’s always humbling to meet servicemen and women at places such as West Point Military Academy, Valley Forge, Fort Campbell, Joint base McGuire, Lakehurst, Dix. This is never work it’s a holiday that my wife and I enjoy to the max.
What do you like most about your book? Why should we read it?
All fans of military history love hearing the voices of those who were there. This volume is packed full of first-hand accounts of the action. It will put the record straight once and for all.
What makes this story so important?
There haven’t been many books about the 106th and those that are out there are quite scathing about the division. It’s time to give these indomitable men the credit they are long overdue. They were brave, stouthearted and tenacious warriors who deserve the accolade of having slowed the German advance long enough for other US units to get to the scene and ultimately win the Battle of the Bulge. All these men fought hard and many languished for months in German POW camps, but they gave their all. The American public should be rightfully proud of them.
Anything else we should know about you and your books?
Writing gives me as much enjoyment as reading. I love my subject with a passion that speaks to me when I’m writing. I just hope that my passion communicates to the reader. I don’t like giving opinions in my books. I prefer to provide as much evidence as possible and allow the reader to draw their own conclusions. This empowers the reader and demonstrates respect for his or her intelligence without being patronizing.
MARTIN KING is an Emmy Award winning British military historian and former university lecturer. He has worked as a historical consultant for various History Channel productions and has made personal appearances at the Pentagon, West Point, and Valley Forge. He is the author of several Casemate books, including The Fighting 30th Division: They Called Them Roosevelt’s SS; To War with the 4th: A Century of Frontline Combat with the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, from the Argonne to the Ardennes to Afghanistan; and Warriors of the 106th: The Last Infantry Division of World War II.
Warriors of the 106th
By Martin King, Ken Johnson & Michael Collins
The 106th were fresh, green and right in the pathway of the German 5th Panzer Army when the Battle of the Bulge began at 0530 hours on December 16, 1944. This book covers the history along with the individual stories of the incredible heroism, sacrifice and tenacity of these young Americans in the face of overwhelming odds. From this division 6,800 men were taken prisoner but their story didn’t end there. For the ones who miraculously escaped, there was a battle to fight, and fight it they would with every ounce of strength and courage they could muster. They would fight debilitating weather conditions more reminiscent of Stalingrad than the Belgian Ardennes. They would fight a determined enemy and superior numbers and despite all adversity they would eventually prevail. One 106th GI waged his own personal war using guerilla tactics that caused serious consternation amongst the German troops. For another GI his main concern was recovering his clean underwear. These stories are heartwarming, heartbreaking, nerve-wracking and compelling. They aim to put the reader right there in the front lines, and in the stalags, during the final months of WWII.
Warriors of the 106th is now available from all good bookshops. Also available as an eBook.