Snapdragon Cover


The World War II Exploits of Darby’s Ranger and Combat Photographer Phil Stern

Liesl Bradner

Osprey, New York, 2018, 312 pages

Book Review published on: July 13, 2018

If you have even the slightest interest in an unvarnished soldier’s tale from World War II that has photography worthy of a coffee-table display, then buy Snapdragon: The World War II Exploits of Darby’s Ranger and Combat Photographer Phil Stern. Not only will you get to read the words of Phil Stern (aka Snapdragon), but you will also enjoy dozens of photographs that he took during his tour. From Scotland to Italy via the North African desert, you can explore this illustrated diary of Stern, one of Darby’s Rangers, written in the unit’s first year. Stern’s aptitude for writing and photography before and after the war is probably one of the reasons that this book is so engaging.

In the fall of 2014, Liesl Bradner started working with Stern and his family to finish the story he began while recovering from his wounds in 1943. She took his original manuscript and filled in the gaps with information from the news, fellow rangers, and general historical facts. Bradner completed the project after Stern’s death in December 2014, and the result, Snapdragon, is a treasure.

What makes this book so extraordinary is the photographs. As a skilled photographer, who also happened to be a ranger, Stern captured the candid, authentic moments that other war correspondents and photographers could not. Because of this skill as a photographer and credentials as a soldier, he managed to build a rapport with the Hollywood elite and, after World War II, he became a renowned photographer of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, and John F. Kennedy.

Book Review written by: Michelle Garcia, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas