‘I’m one of those guys who believes you’re not a director until you’ve directed a war film,” says filmmaker David Ayer. “It’s one of the last great dictatorial jobs.” for his new film Fury, about a Sherman crew in April 1945, Ayer researched relentlessly. his library, which includes the volumes below, helped him distill GI tankers’ experience at war’s end in Germany. “even if it was a war between good and evil, and it was, the kid in the trench or the tank was still having his heart torn apart,” Ayer says. “What was happening as the war in Europe was winding down was what has been going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. I wanted to explore that as realistically as I could.”

Breakout at Normandy: The 2nd Armored Division in the Land of the Dead

 Mark Bando (1999)

“Tis book, about Operation Cobra and the breakout from the Normandy beachhead after D-Day, includes first-person accounts about the 2nd Armored’s original encounters with the SS, such as Das Reich. This was where the enmity that the film touches on began.”

Crack! and Thump: With a Combat Infantry Officer in World War II

 Charles Scheffel with Barry Basden (2007)

“This memoir by an American infantry officer detailed to the British Army during the war provides a great account of what it means to become battle-wise, and is also a study in the intricacies of leadership.”

Iron Knights: The U.S. 66th Armored Regiment in WWII

 Gordon A. Blaker (2008)

“The 66th Armored was the Forrest Gump of the war in Europe. They were everywhere—from the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia to the bocage to Falaise to the Siegfried Line and Aachen. After they closed the Ruhr pocket and fought at the Veser River, the last German offensive of the war, they and the rest of the 2nd Armored started a 70-mile drive on Berlin. That’s where Fury begins.”

Another River, Another Town: A Teenage Tank Gunner Comes of Age in Combat—1945

 John P. Irwin (2003)

“This is a fantastic memoir of being a kid going into war thinking he’d be a hero but instead having to come face to face with killing.”

Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II

 Belton Y. Cooper (2003)

“Tankers had their individual battlefield experiences, but this book looks at armored warfare from the staff perspective. Cooper was one of the people who dealt with the aftermath and cleanup of what happened in battle.”

Writer/director David Ayer, who served in the U.S. navy as a submarine sonar operator, has extensive Hollywood credits, including 2001’s Training Day, which earned Denzel Washington an academy award for Best actor. he also wrote and directed Sabotage (2014), End of Watch (2012), and Harsh Times (2005).

Originally published in the February 2015 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.