Book Review: Snapdragon: The World War II Exploits of Darby's Ranger and Combat Photographer Phil Stern


by Liesl Bradner and Phil Stern,

Oxford & New York: Osprey Publishing, 2018. Pp. 312. Illus., index. $30.00. ISBN: 9781472828507

A Combat Photographer’s War

Phil Stern (1919-2014) was a rising young a glamour and Hollywood photographer when the U.S. entered World War II. For over two years he served in Darby’s Rangers, perhaps the most famous American special operations unit of the war.  Nicknamed “Snapdragon”, he saw combat in North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy, while taking numerous images. After the war, Stern became one of the most successful glamour and celebrity photographers of the twentieth century, and created many memorable images, including iconic ones of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, JFK, and Marlon Brando.

Journalist Bradner uses some 200 images, mostly by Stern, and Stern’s own memoir of the war, which she helped him complete, to give us what amounts to a biography of the man combined with an often grim soldier’s-eye-view of the service of the 1st Ranger Battalion, from its formation through training and into combat.

In the process Bradner also gives us many insights into American life during the Depression and war years, soldiering, and various people, some famous and some not, and more. Snapdragon is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in America in the Second World War, in combat photography, and twentieth century photography in general.


Note: Snapdragon is also available in several e-editions


StrategyPage reviews are shared with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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