Praise for Last to Die

cover of Last to Die

“[A] meticulously researched account of the days following Japan’s surrender… [Harding] relates his gripping account of the fight between Japanese and American forces in breathless detail, and the tale is impressive and inspiring, as is Harding’s determination to tell it.”
Publishers Weekly


“The acceptance by Japan’s emperor Hirohito of Allied surrender terms did not immediately end all hostilities. Japanese resistance continued sporadically on some Pacific islands. In Japan, some die-hard militarists, especially fighter pilots, insisted upon attacking American bombers engaged strictly in photo reconnaissance. On August 18, 1945, one of these planes was attacked over Tokyo, and Sergeant Anthony Marchione bled to death after being wounded attempting to assist an injured friend. Not yet 20 years old, Marchione was the last American to die in air combat in WWII. Harding, a military-affairs journalist, has woven together letters, interviews with family and friends, and both Japanese and American military records to provide an intense, quietly moving, and, of course, sad chronicle of a young life cut short. He traces Marchione’s life as the son of Italian immigrants, his military training, and his experiences as a gunner/photographer’s assistant. Harding treats the youth with admiration and affection that elicits compassion without becoming cloying or melodramatic. This is a superb look at the life and death of one young man among millions of others who loved, were loved by others, and died too soon.”
Booklist


“The surrender that almost wasn't: an illuminating study of the last moments of World War II. According to conventional histories, Japan lost no time in surrendering to the Allies after the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, writes Military History editor in chief Harding (The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe, 2013), who seems to be making a specialty of the forgotten closing episodes of WWII, there was more than sporadic resistance. Despite Emperor Hirohito's order for a cease-fire, numerous military units committed mutiny by continuing to fight—and it was one such unit that killed American Airman Anthony Marchione, just 20 years old. In a neat blend of military and technological history, Harding links Marchione's story to the development of the aircraft he staffed, a lumbering target called the Consolidated Dominator, a "trouble-plagued super bomber" that barely took off before being scrapped—and whose very existence has been reduced, these days, to a few parts in private collections around the world. Harding also examines the episode surrounding Marchione's death in its global-implications context: had Gen. Douglas MacArthur chosen to retaliate, he suggests, the war in Japan might have raged on, since the anti-surrender elements in the Japanese military could have argued that the Allies, too, had violated the cease-fire agreement. … A worthy sortie that explores a curtain-closing moment in history that might have gone very badly indeed.”
Kirkus Reviews


“The story of Tony Marchione and his tragic, heroic death in the skies over Tokyo a full four days after Japan had supposedly surrendered is as well-told as it is heart-wrenching. Marchione reflected America’s Greatest Generation perfectly, in terms of his upbringing, patriotism, and sacrifice, and he is superbly memorialized in this moving yet also scholarly book. Anyone who enjoyed Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken will love this work of history that reads like a thriller.”
Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War


"This is a rarity: an entirely new World War II story. It reads like an adventure novel yet is a deeply researched work from the hand of a smart and seasoned historian. A tour de force of discovery and storytelling.”
Donald L. Miller, author of Masters of the Air


" In Last to Die Stephen Harding proves that even seventy years later, World War II history can still reveal ‘The rest of the story.’ The little-known events centering upon Sergeant Anthony James Marchione and his Philadelphia area family include an almost unknown bomber flying a largely forgotten mission following Emperor Hirohito's decision to surrender in August 1945. With exceptional attention to detail and an appreciation for personal drama amid great events, Harding brings the bittersweet story of twenty-year-old Tony Marchione to life—and vividly describes the death of the last American airman to die in the world’s greatest war.”
Barrett Tillman, author of Whirlwind and Forgotten Fifteenth


" This poignant story reveals how important it is to track down the truth about World War II events that have become lost to history. In Last to Die Stephen Harding does his usual excellent aviation research and lively writing to tell how ‘last gasp’ wartime efforts—of airmen and their planes—had profound consequences.”
Walter Boyne, former director of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and current Chairman of the National Aeronautic Association

 

Praise for The Last Battle

cover of The Last Battle

 “A tale as compelling as it is unlikely. The Last Battle demonstrates that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction, particularly in war. Well-researched and well-told.”
Rick Atkinson, author of The Day of Battle


“Stephen Harding has a laser-beam instinct for the detail that tells the story, he’s a fine writer, and, most important, knows a good story when he sees one. All the above is true of The Last Battle, one of the more remarkable battles in a truly vast war, now very nicely illuminated.”
Alan Furst, bestselling author of Dark Star and Night Soldiers


“A little-known but fascinating story brought brilliantly to life.”
Alex Kershaw, author of The Liberator


“I love untold stories from World War II, and this is a great one. Brilliantly told, meticulously researched, and filled with larger-than-life heroes and villains. The Last Battle is such a compelling read, I couldn’t put it down.”
Patrick K. O’Donnell, author of Dog Company


The Last Battle combines good history and good storytelling. Harding writes with the skill and grace of a novelist but also the authority of an historian who has done some rather remarkable research into a previously lost chapter from World War II’s final days. I had trouble putting this book down, and I think you will, too.”
John C. McManus, author of September Hope


“The Nazis capture two former Prime Ministers of France (who detest each other) and lock them in a medieval castle in Austria. A handful of intrepid American soldiers sets out to rescue them. And then...well, you’ll have to read The Last Battle to find out what happened. It’s going to make a fantastic action movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger, call your agent!”
Peter Carlson, author of K Blows Top


“The most extraordinary things about Stephen Harding's The Last Battle, a truly incredible tale of World War II, are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie…Steven Spielberg, how did you miss this story?...Harding is a respected military affairs expert…and his writing style carries immediacy as well as authority…Everything that Harding reports in this exciting but also historically accurate narrative is backed up with meticulous scholarship. This book proves that history can be new and nail-bitingly exciting all at once…While the book concentrates on the fight for Castle Itter, it also sets that battle in the wider strategic contexts…This book is thus a fascinating microcosm of a nation and society in collapse…Part Where Eagles Dare, part Guns of Navarone, this story is as exciting as it is far-fetched, but unlike in those iconic war movies, every word of The Last Battle is true.”
Andrew Roberts, Daily Beast


“At the heart of The Last Battle is a largely unknown story that (a) seems implausible, (b) would make a great movie, and (c) reminds us that almost 70 years after the end of World War II there are countless tales still to be told…Harding’s skills as a researcher and dedicated historian are apparent…[A] moment-by-moment real-time report of the events from the viewpoints of the Americans and prisoners…Page-turning…Harding has brought the implausible story to life.”
San Diego Union Tribune


“If, in these halcyon days, a Hollywood screenwriter had approached a major producer with a movie script so packed with improbabilities, so extraordinary in its premises and fanciful in its conclusions, he — the screenwriter — would very likely have been shown the door….sheer tension and melodrama…Stephen Harding, a career journalist and military historian, has put together a fine tale of heroism and cowardice, petty bickering and unselfish sacrifice, and if Hollywood does not snap it up for an epic film, that’s its loss…. A page-turner.”
Roanoke Times


“The book is a very quick read…. The Last Battle has the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster… Harding is a gifted storyteller and effective military historian who details the battle and its background with precision…This compact work is an unqualified success and will prove immensely enjoyable for virtually any reader of ARMY.  With the pace of a tightly-written novel, Harding writes with the determination of a true crime novelist and thoroughness of a first-rate historian.”
ARMY magazine


The Last Battle provides a fascinating glimpse into a situation so bizarre and deadly that Hollywood could not have dreamed it up, though they will probably be happy to buy the movie rights…truth is stranger than fiction.”
On Point: The Journal of Army History


“The most extraordinary things about Stephen Harding’s The Last Battle, a truly incredible tale of World War II, are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie…Everything that Harding reports in this exciting but also historically accurate narrative is backed up with meticulous scholarship. This book proves that history can be new and nail-bitingly exciting all at once.”
War History Online


“Harding does an excellent job in his research and pieces together the few available fragments to tell a story of trust, uncertainty, and moral righteousness.”
Military Review


“Harding, senior editor of Military History, turns a footnote into major drama with the story of how American tankers and German prison guards fought a Nazi unit to save
French VIPs from execution”
Military History Quarterly


“[A] finale worthy of Hollywood.”
WWII History


“[A] book with a narrative Hollywood could only hope for.”
America in WWII