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About Patrick K. O'Donnell
Combat historian, bestselling author, and public speaker Patrick K. O'Donnell has written 11 critically acclaimed books that recount the epic stories of America's wars from the Revolution to Iraq. He is a premier expert on elite and special operations units and irregular warfare. O'Donnell's books are described as "nonfiction that reads like fiction."
His newest book is THE UNKNOWNS: The Untold Story of America's Unknown Soldier and WWI's Most Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home.
About his recently published WASHINGTON'S IMMORTALS: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution, the Wall Street Journal raved, "Combat writing at its best." The prestigious Journal of the American Revolution named it, "One of the 100 best books on the Revolution of All Time."
His other books include FIRST SEALS: The Untold Story of the Forging of America's Most Elite Unit; and DOG COMPANY: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc - The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way Across Europe. His bestseller, BEYOND VALOR, portrays the gripping tales of WWII Ranger and Airborne veterans and won the William E. Colby Award for Outstanding Military History. O'Donnell's WE WERE ONE: Shoulder to Shoulder With the Marines Who Took Fallujah is required reading for Marines and appeared on the Commandant's Professional Reading List, as did GIVE ME TOMORROW: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story - The Epic Stand Of The Marines Of George Company. His books have been Main or Alternate selections of Book of the Month, History, and Military History Book Clubs. Reviewers from media outlets as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Jerusalem Post, C-SPAN, and National Public Radio (NPR) have hailed his publications.
O'Donnell is the leading expert on the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency and America's special operations forces in WWII. His four award-winning books on the subject include: FIRST SEALS; OPERATIVES, SPIES, AND SABOTEURS: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of WWII's OSS; THE BRENNER ASSIGNMENT: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of WWII; and THEY DARED RETURN: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany (also known as "The Real Inglorious Bastards").
In 2012, at a ceremony attended by the leadership of America's intelligence and special operations community, The OSS Society presented O'Donnell with the prestigious John Waller Award for exceptional scholarship in intelligence and special operations history.
O'Donnell not only writes about combat -- he has experienced it firsthand. During the Iraq war, he was embedded with military units as the only civilian combat historian to volunteer and spend three months in Iraq documenting the experiences of troops in battle. He fought with a Marine rifle platoon (Lima Company 3/1) during the Battle of Fallujah, surviving several ambushes, and carried a mortally wounded Marine out of a firefight with Chechen insurgents, experiences he recounts in WE WERE ONE.
On his second tour to Iraq, he served as a war correspondent for Men's Journal and Fox News, reporting on the conflict in Iraq from the perspective of the Marines on the ground. He has written for Military History Quarterly (MHQ) and WWII Magazine and is a frequent contributor to a variety of nationally recognized publications.
As an expert on WWII espionage, special operations, and counterinsurgency on the modern battlefield, the historian has assisted with the writing and production of scores of documentaries produced by the BBC, the History Channel, and others. His book THEY DARED RETURN is the source material for the award-winning documentary The Real Inglorious Bastards. He has appeared as a guest on countless television and radio shows on NPR, FOX, Discovery, and other networks.
O'Donnell also provided historical consulting for DreamWorks' award-winning miniseries "Band of Brothers," as well as for the billion-dollar Medal of Honor game franchise.
O'Donnell has been studying World War II and modern war since childhood and has a passion for finding ways to preserve the oral histories of America's combat veterans for generations to come. Nearly two decades ago, he founded The Drop Zone, the first online military oral history project and virtual museum. This award-winning website contains many of the thousands of interviews O'Donnell personally conducted with veterans and their adversaries, making it one of the largest private collections of historical materials from elite and special operations troops.
The author's skills and expertise have been tapped by private sector firms and government agencies, including DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). He has also been selected to lecture at numerous agencies and branches of the armed forces, such as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. ARMY, and USMC.
O'Donnell credits serendipity for leading him in the right direction. The stories he tells somehow always find him.
Represented by William Morris Endeavor (WME) for film, television, and literary rights.
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Five months after being deployed to Iraq, Lima Company's 1st Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, found itself in Fallujah, embroiled in some of the most intense house-to-house, hand-to-hand urban combat since World War II. In the city's bloody streets, they came face-to-face with the enemy-radical insurgents high on adrenaline, fighting to a martyr's death, and suicide bombers approaching from every corner. Award-winning author and historian Patrick O'Donnell stood shoulder to shoulder with this modern band of brothers as they marched and fought through the streets of Fallujah, and he stayed with them as the casualties mounted.
In August 1776, little over a month after the Continental Congress had formally declared independence from Britain, the revolution was on the verge of a disastrous end. General George Washington found his troops outmanned and outmaneuvered at the Battle of Brooklyn. But thanks to a series of desperate charges by a single heroic regiment, famously known as the “Immortal 400,” Washington was able to evacuate his men and the nascent Continental Army lived to fight another day.
In Washington’s Immortals, award-winning military historian Patrick K. O’Donnell brings to life the forgotten story of these remarkable men. Comprised of rich merchants, tradesmen, and free blacks, they fought not just in Brooklyn, but in key battles including Trenton, Princeton, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown, where their heroism changed the course of the war.
Drawing on extensive original sources, from letters to diaries to pension applications, O’Donnell pieces together the stories of these brave men—their friendships, loves, defeats, and triumphs. He explores their tactics, their struggles with hostile loyalists and shortages of clothing and food, their development into an elite unit, and their dogged opponents, including British General Lord Cornwallis.
Through the prism of this one unit, O’Donnell tells the larger story of the Revolutionary War.
“Well-written, and superbly researched . . . A must-read for Revolutionary War and Maryland history buffs alike.” —Bill Hughes, Baltimore Post-Examiner
The acclaimed combat historian and author of The Unknowns details the history of the Marbleheaders and their critical role in the Revolutionary War.
On the stormy night of August 29, 1776, the Continental Army faced annihilation after losing the Battle of Brooklyn. The British had trapped George Washington’s army against the East River, and the fate of the Revolution rested upon the soldier-mariners from Marblehead, Massachusetts. One of the country’s first diverse units, they pulled off an “American Dunkirk” and saved the army by navigating the treacherous river to Manhattan.
At the right time in the right place, the Marbleheaders, a group of white, black, Hispanic, and Native American soldiers, repeatedly altered the course of events, and their story shines new light on our understanding of the American Revolution. As historian Patrick K. O’Donnell recounts, beginning nearly a decade before the war started, Marbleheaders such as Elbridge Gerry and Azor Orne spearheaded the break with Britain and helped shape the United States through governing, building alliances, seizing British ships, forging critical supply lines, and establishing the origins of the US Navy.
The Marblehead Regiment, led by John Glover, became truly indispensable. Marbleheaders battled at Lexington and on Bunker Hill and formed the elite Guard that protected George Washington, foreshadowing today’s Secret Service. Then the special operations–like regiment, against all odds, conveyed 2,400 of Washington’s men across the ice-filled Delaware River on Christmas night of 1776, delivering the surprise attack on Trenton that changed the course of history . . .
The Marbleheaders’ story, never fully told before now, makes The Indispensables a vital addition to the literature of the American Revolution.
Behind enemy lines
The never-before-told true story of a small team of American saboteurs with orders to sever the Third Reich's main supply artery -- the Brenner Pass
Like a scene from Where Eagles Dare , a small team of American special operatives parachutes into Italy under the noses of thousands of German troops. Their orders: link up with local partisans in the mountains and sabotage the well-guarded Brenner Pass, the crucial route through the Alps for the Nazi war machine. Without the supplies that travel this route, the German war effort in Italy will grind to a halt.
Using thousands of recently declassified files, personal interviews, and private documents, including a behind-the-lines diary buried in a bottle, military historian Patrick K. O'Donnell has written a cinematic World War II adventure story. The unforgettable cast of characters includes the dashing and daring team leader; the romantic idealist who plans the operation; the seductive Italian countess who is also a double-agent; and the maniacal SS officer who will stop at nothing to kill the team and their partisan collaborators. The Brenner Assignment is also a World War II story that resonates today, revealing lessons for the war on terror and illustrating the complex nature of insurgency.
Packed with action, suspense, intrigue, and even romance, this exciting true tale of survival and sabotage behind enemy lines is one of the greatest untold adventure stories of World War II.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is sacred ground at Arlington National Cemetery. Originally constructed in 1921 to hold one of the thousands of unidentified American soldiers lost in World War I, it now receives millions of visitors each year. “With exhaustive research and fluid prose,” historian Patrick O’Donnell illuminates the saga behind the creation of the Tomb itself, and the stories of the soldiers who took part in its consecration (Wall Street Journal).
When the first Unknown Soldier was laid to rest in Arlington, General John Pershing selected eight of America’s most decorated veterans to serve as Body Bearers. These men appropriately spanned America’s service branches and specialties. Their ranks include a cowboy who relived the charge of the light brigade, an American Indian who heroically breached mountains of German barbed wire, a salty New Englander who dueled a U-boat for hours in a fierce gunfight, a tough New Yorker who sacrificed his body to save his ship, and an indomitable gunner who, though blinded by gas, nonetheless overcame five machine-gun nests.
In telling the stories of these brave men, O’Donnell shines a light on the service of all veterans, including the hero they brought home. Their stories present an intimate narrative of America’s involvement in the Great War, transporting readers into the midst of dramatic battles that ultimately decided the conflict.
"What would you want if you could have any wish?" asked the photojournalist of the haggard, bloodied Marine before him. The Marine gaped at his interviewer. The photographer snapped his picture, which became the iconic Korean War image featured on this book's jacket. "Give me tomorrow," he said at last.
After nearly four months of continuous and agonizing combat on the battlefields of Korea, such a simple request seemed impossible. For many men of George Company, or "Bloody George" as they were known-one of the Forgotten War's most decorated yet unrecognized companies-it was a wish that would not come true.
This is the untold story of "Bloody George," a Marine company formed quickly to answer its nation's call to duty in 1950. This small band of men-a colorful cast of characters, including a Native American fighting to earn his honor as a warrior, a Southern boy from Tennessee at odds with a Northern blue-blood reporter-turned-Marine, and a pair of twins who exemplified to the group the true meaning of brotherhood-were mostly green troops who had been rushed through training to fill America's urgent need on the Korean front. They would find themselves at the tip of the spear in some of the Korean War's bloodiest battles.
After storming ashore at Inchon and fighting house-to-house in Seoul, George Company, one of America's last units in reserve, found itself on the frozen tundra of the Chosin Reservoir facing elements of an entire division of Chinese troops. They didn't realize it then, but they were soon to become crucial to the battle-modern-day Spartans called upon to hold off ten times their number. Give Me Tomorrow is their unforgettable story of bravery and courage.
Thoroughly researched and vividly told, Give Me Tomorrow is fitting testament to the heroic deeds of George Company. They will never again be forgotten.
In a world made unrecognizable by the restrictions placed on the CIA today, OSS played fast and loose. Legendary chief "Wild Bill" Donovan created a formidable organization in short order, recruiting not only the best and brightest, but also the most fearless. His agents, both men and women, relied on guile, sex appeal, brains, and sheer guts to operate behind the lines, often in disguise, always in secret.
Patrick O'Donnell, called "the next Studs Terkel" by bestselling author Hampton Sides, has made it his life's mission to capture untold stories of World War II before the last of its veterans passes away. He has succeeded in extracting stories from the toughest of men, the most elite of soldiers, and, now, the most secretive of all: the men and women of OSS. From former CIA director William Colby, who parachuted into Norway to sever rail lines, to Virginia Hall, who disguised herself as a milkmaid, joined the French Resistance, and became one of Germany's most wanted figures, the stories of OSS are worthy of great fiction. Yet the stories in this book are all true, carefully verified by O'Donnell's painstaking research.
The agents of OSS did not earn public acclaim. There were no highly publicized medal ceremonies. But the full story of OSS reveals crucial work in espionage and sabotage, work that paved the way for the Allied invasions and disrupted the Axis defenses. Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs proves that the hidden war was among the most dramatic and important elements of World War II.
It is said that the right man in the right place at the right time can make the difference between victory and defeat. This is the dramatic story of sixty-eight soldiers of the U.S. Army's 2nd Ranger Battalion, D Company -- Dog Company -- who made that difference, time and again.
From D-Day, when German guns atop Pointe du Hoc threatened the Allied landings and the men of Dog Company scaled the ninety-foot cliffs to destroy them; to the thickly forested slopes of Hill 400, in Germany's HÃ¼ Forest, where the Rangers launched a desperate bayonet charge across an open field, captured the crucial hill, and held it against all odds. In each battle, the men of Dog Company made the difference.
Dog Company is their unforgettable story -- thoroughly researched and vividly told by acclaimed combat historian Patrick K. O'Donnell -- a story of extraordinary bravery, courage, and determination. America had many heroes in World War II, but few can say that, but for them, the course of the war may have been very different. The right men, in the right place, at the right time -- Dog Company.
-- Charles Lindberg, Flag Raiser
Patrick O'Donnell has made a career of uncovering the hidden history of World War II by tracking down and interviewing its most elite troops: the Rangers, Airborne, Marines, and First Special Service Force, forerunners to America's Special Forces. These men saw the worst of the war's action, and most of them have been reluctant to talk about it. With O'Donnell's respectful coaxing, however, they first began telling their stories through www.thedropzone.org, his award-winning Web site. In 2001, veterans of the European Theater told their stories in O'Donnell's first book, Beyond Valor. Now, in Into the Rising Sun, O'Donnell presents scores of veterans' personal accounts, based on over a thousand interviews spanning the past ten years, to tell the story of the brutal Pacific war.
"They were making a lot of noise, talking, yelling to one another, and I heard someone getting beat up on the left. I can still hear the screams. He was begging for mercy. They [the Japanese] were berating him. Later on I found that it was one of my friends, Ken Ritter."
-- Robert Youngdeer, Guadalcanal
These veterans were often the first in and the last out of every conflict, from Guadalcanal and Burma to the Philippines and the black sands of Iwo Jima. They faced a cruel enemy willing to try anything, including kamikaze flights and human-guided torpedoes. As O'Donnell explains in the Introduction, most of the men in this book were at first reticent to talk. Over the course of the war, they had spearheaded D-Day-sized beach assaults, encountered cannibalism, suffered friendly-fire incidents, and endured torture as pris-oners of war. Heroes among heroes, they include many recipients of the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and other medals of battlefield valor, but none bragged about it. As one soldier put it, "When somebody gets decorated, it's because a lot of other men died."
By at last telling their stories, these men present an unvarnished look at the war on the ground, a final gift from aging warriors who have already given so much. Only with these accounts can the true horror of the war in the Pacific be fully known. O'Donnell has carefully verified each account by comparing it with official records and interviews, and he intersperses each story with brief commentary. Together with detailed maps of each battle, the veterans' stories in Into the Rising Sun offer nothing less than a complete picture of the war in the Pacific, a ground-level view of some of history's most brutal combat.
Beyond Valor recaptures their hidden history. A pioneering oral historian, Patrick O'Donnell used his award-winning website, The Drop Zone, to solicit oral- and "e-histories" from individual soldiers. Gradually, working from within the community, O'Donnell convinced some of the war's most battle-hardened soldiers to tell their stories. The result is WWII seen through the eyes of the men who saw the most intense of its action. O'Donnell focuses on the elite units of the war -- the Rangers, Airborne, and 1st Special Service Force -- troops that spearheaded the most dangerous operations and often made the difference between victory and defeat.
From more than 650 interviews O'Donnell has chosen oral- and e-histories that form a seamless story line, a pointillistic history of the war in Europe from the first parachute drops in North Africa through the final battles in Germany and the long trip home. It is the story of the war not discussed in polite company. O'Donnell presents the wreckage of entire battalions nearly annihilated, invisible personal scars, and haunting revelations of wartime atrocities. But more important are the men who recount lives risked without hesitation for comrades and cause, and those who did not return: the friends who died in their arms. Their stories remind all of us that victory came only at the highest price.
Remembering the infamous cliffs at Pointe-du-Hoc, bloody Omaha Beach, the bitter fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, and Hill 400 in the Hürtgen Forest, the soldiers reveal war as seen, heard, and smelled by the GIs on the front line. Also included is the unique story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the trailblazing African-American "Experimental" Test Platoon that had to fight its own battle behind the lines.
Beyond Valor captures the truths that exist among soldiers. It is one of the most inspiring accounts of the war ever produced.