War memoirs are a big part of the military-historical-publishing-complex. The ‘experience of war’ genre is a lively and productive line of research and teaching. You’re no doubt familiar with some of the classics:
The historian John Keegan (who sadly died this summer) wrote the Face of Battle to try and capture the essence of the feel of combat. Richard Holmes (who sadly died this spring) took the idea further (and better, IMHO) with his Acts of War. First person accounts include such as Robert Graves (who lived a good long life) Goodbye to All That which captured the horror and futility of much trench warfare, alongside more recent classics as Anthony Swofford (who is alive and well) Jarhead. I could go on… The Cruel Sea, Storm of Steel, All Quiet on the Western Front, With the Old Breed… etc and so on but there are zillions (in fact, it would be a help to a friend compiling a list of such accounts if you noted your favourites in the comments).
But I don’t think there are too many like Pete (who is also alive and well) Whalon’s memoir of his two tours of Vietnam The Saigon Zoo where he was posted as a swimming pool lifeguard. Watch this interview with the author for a flavour of the book:
To be honest, I haven’t read it yet but I was sufficiently convinced by this Amazon review to click the ‘buy me now’ button.
There’s a serious note here too. As the friend who tipped me off to the existence of this new classic of military history notes it addresses a side of war which by and large we do not teach. As Whalon notes in the interview, ‘what a lot of people don’t realise is that, for all wars, for every combat troop there’s at least six, seven, or eight non-combat people…you know cooks, supply…’ and lifeguards goddammit! Actually, it doesn’t seem Whalon saved too many lives. Since the pool which he commanded was just four feet deep his major lifesaving manoeuvre was yelling ‘stand up, stupid!’ at anybody who looked to be in difficulty. On the other hand, somebody had to do it. Buy the book!