Patrick K. O’Donnell / Historian


Patrick K. O’Donnell

“One of the world’s preeminent military historians.”—Military Review, U.S. Army

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Combat historian, bestselling author, and public speaker Patrick K. O'Donnell has written 13 critically acclaimed books that recount the epic stories of America's wars from the Revolution to Iraq. A Fellow at Mount Vernon, he is the recipient of numerous national book awards. O’Donnell is a premier expert on elite and special operations units and irregular warfare.

His books are described as “nonfiction that reads like fiction.”

O’Donnell’s forthcoming book is THE UNVANQUISHED: The Untold Story of Lincoln’s Special Forces, the Manhunt for Mosby’s Rangers, and the Shadow War That Forged America’s Special Operations.

James L. Swanson, bestselling author of MANHUNT, raved, “A spectacular book from one of America’s finest historians. Patrick K. O’Donnell has unearthed a magnificent Civil War epic. Mesmerizing, action-packed, and original, this triumphant narrative is destined for the screen. Impossible to put down.” Historian and bestselling author John Bruning declared, “Once or twice a generation, an extraordinary historian will rediscover a long-buried aspect of our past and restore its significance in the public eye through masterful research and storytelling. Patrick O'Donnell has done exactly that with his brilliant new book, THE UNVANQUISHED.”

About the bestselling THE INDISPENSABLES: The Diverse Soldier-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware, the AP declared, “an engrossing tale.” WASHINGTON’S IMMORTALS: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution, the Wall Street Journal raved, “Combat writing at its best.” The prestigious Journal of the American Revolution named it, “One of the 100 best books on the Revolution of All Time.”

Patrick K. O'Donnell in FallujahFIRST SEALS: The Untold Story of the Forging of America's Most Elite Unit is a bestseller that uncovers the birth of the U.S. SEALs and their origins to the OSS Maritime Unit.

DOG COMPANY: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc - The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way Across Europe, a bestseller, was published in 2012 to great acclaim.

His bestseller, BEYOND VALOR, portrays the gripping tales of U.S. WWII Ranger and Airborne veterans and won the William E. Colby Award for Outstanding Military History.

INTO THE RISING SUN captures the oral histories of hundreds of America’s elite troops in the Pacific War.

O’Donnell is the leading expert on the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency and America’s special operations forces in WWII. His four award-winning books on the subject include: FIRST SEALS; OPERATIVES, SPIES, AND SABOTEURS: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of WWII’s OSS; THE BRENNER ASSIGNMENT: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of WWII; and THEY DARED RETURN: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany (also known as “The Real Inglorious Bastards.”). In 2012, at a ceremony attended by the leadership of America’s intelligence and special operations community, The OSS Society presented O’Donnell with the prestigious John Waller Award for exceptional scholarship in intelligence and special operations history.

O'Donnell's WE WERE ONE: Shoulder to Shoulder With the Marines Who Took Fallujah is required reading for Marines and is on the Commandant’s Professional Reading List, as was GIVE ME TOMORROW: The Korean War’s Greatest Untold Story – The Epic Stand Of The Marines Of George Company. His books have been Main or Alternate selections of the Book of the Month, History, and Military History Book Clubs. Reviewers from media outlets as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Jerusalem Post, CNN, C-SPAN, and National Public Radio (NPR) have hailed his publications.

Patrick O'Donnell in FallujahO'Donnell not only writes about combat—he has experienced it firsthand. During the Iraq war, he was embedded with military units as the only civilian combat historian to volunteer and spend three months in Iraq documenting the experiences of troops in battle. He fought with a Marine rifle platoon (Lima Company 3/1) during the Battle of Fallujah, surviving several ambushes, and carried a mortally wounded Marine out of a firefight with Chechen insurgents. (See The History Channel’s Shootout! D-Day Fallujah.)

On his second tour to Iraq, he served as a war correspondent for Men's Journal and Fox News, reporting on the conflict in Iraq from the perspective of the Marines on the ground. He has written for Military History Quarterly (MHQ) and WWII Magazine and is a frequent contributor to The National Review, as well as a variety of nationally recognized publications.

As an expert on WWII espionage, special operations, and counterinsurgency on the modern battlefield, the historian has assisted with the writing and production of numerous documentaries produced by the BBC, the History Channel, and others. See Discovery/AHC’s Against the Odds: Bloody George at the Chosin Reservoir, based on his book GIVE ME TOMORROW, and History Channel’s Shootout! D-Day Fallujah. His book, THEY DARED RETURN, is the source material for the award-winning documentary: Real Inglorious Bastards. He has appeared as a guest on countless television and radio shows on NPR, CNN, FOX, Discovery, and other networks. All of his books are also available as audiobooks on

O’Donnell also provided historical consulting for DreamWorks' award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers, as well as for the billion-dollar Medal of Honor game franchise.

O'Donnell has been studying World War II and modern war since childhood and has a passion for finding ways to preserve the oral histories of America’s combat veterans for generations to come. Nearly two decades ago, he founded The Drop Zone, the first online military oral history project and virtual museum. This award-winning website contains many of the thousands of interviews O’Donnell personally conducted with veterans and their adversaries, making it one of the largest private collections of historical materials from elite and special operations troops.

National Book Awards

England Society Historical Non-Fiction Book Award 2022.
Founded in 1805 (NES) has honored Prominent writers such as MarTwain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louis Auchincloss, William F. Buckley, Jr., David McCullough” with a similar book award

Bette Hunt Award from the Marblehead Museum.

Honorable Mention for the 2022 Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award.

William E. Colby Military Writers' Award

The OSS Society John Waller Award for excellence and scholarship in Special Operations & Intelligence history

Winner of the Daughters of the American Revolution National Excellence in American History Book Award

Washington’s Immortals is listed as one of the "100 Best American Revolution Books of All Time"
Journal of the American Revolution

Finalist for the Virginia Literary Award

Recipient of the Military Order of St. Louis

Modern Patriot Award –Sons of the Revolution

The author’s skills and expertise have been tapped by private sector firms and government agencies, including DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). For the agency, O’Donnell assisted in the development of modern weapons systems for urban warfare, researched and analyzed counterinsurgency strategies and tactics, and assessed German technology from WWII, focusing on its application to the modern battlefield. He has been selected to lecture at numerous agencies and branches of the armed forces, such as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. ARMY, and USMC.

Because he believes in experiencing the places and people about which he writes, O'Donnell has traveled to nearly all of the battlefields of North America and many of the WWII battlefields in Northern Europe. In addition, each one of his books contains scores, if not hundreds, of oral history interviews he personally conducted, combined with years of archival research. For example, WASHINGTON’S IMMORTALS and THE INDISPENSABLES were based on thousands of primary source documents, many never before published. The author brings an immediacy and modern energy to his books - untold stories considered impossible to write or even research.

Discussion signing of Washington’s Immortals at Anderson House, Society of the Cincinnati

O’Donnell credits serendipity for leading him in the right direction. The stories he tells somehow always find him.

"Two of my favorite museums growing up (and still) @amhistorymuseum @smithsonian @airandspace — special moment visited the same museum gift shops that my parents bought some of my 1st military books when I was age 5. My books, FIRST SEALs and others, are featured out front in the same stores at the Smithsonian."

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