Short Stories About War

This page contains stories that take place during or after a war, or have characters that have been greatly affected by war.

These stories might interest an avid reader, or might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.

The Children’s Campaign | Par Lagerkvist

An unnamed country maintains an army of children between six and fourteen, who run their training and organization without any adult help. When an inferior nation insults this country, war is declared and the children’s army launches an attack.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge | Ambrose Bierce

A confederate sympathizer is sentenced to hang from Owl Creek Bridge during the American civil war.

Read here

The Dog of Tithwal | Saadat Hasan Manto

Entrenched Indian and Pakistani soldiers send a stray dog to the others camp.

Read here

How to Tell a True War Story | Tim O’Brien

The narrator tells war stories interspersed with commentary on story telling.

Read here

The Red Convertible | Louise Erdrich

Lyman Lamartine’s brother, Henry, goes to war in Vietnam and returns three years later a changed man.

Read here

Guests of the Nation | Frank O’Connor

During the War for Independence, two Englishmen are held captive by the Irish Republican Army. The captors and captives develop camaraderie as they go about their daily routine.

Read “Guests of the Nation”

Old Man at the Bridge | Ernest Hemingway

During the Spanish Civil War, an old man sits on the roadside, exhausted and discouraged.  Everyone is fleeing from the advancing Fascist army.

Read here

A Horseman in the Sky | Ambrose Bierce

During the American Civil War, Carter Druse, fighting for the North, falls asleep at his sentry post but wakes in time to catch a spy for the South.

Read here

The Things They Carried | Tim O’Brien

A narrator details the items that a regiment of soldiers carry with them, giving insight into their characters.

Read here (Pages 1 – 10)

Beware of the Dog | Roald Dahl

Peter Williamson, an injured WW II pilot, bails out of his plane and wakes up in a Brighton hospital, but he notices some unusual things.

Read here

The Canal | Richard Yates

While mingling at a cocktail party, two husbands discover they were part of the same military action in WW II. They reminisce, with one of the men eager to share and describe his heroism, while the other is reticent.

An international anthology of World War I short fiction

Only This | Roald Dahl

In an English cottage, an old woman lies in bed. She hears bombers flying overhead, and thinks of her son in the Royal Air Force, imagining that she’s in the plane with him.

Read “Only This” (PDF Pg 188)

Yesterday was Beautiful | Roald Dahl

An English pilot ejected from his plane and landed on a Greek island. He searches the deserted town for a boat that can take him to the mainland.

Read “Yesterday was Beautiful” (PDF Pg 169)

Two Friends | Guy de Maupassant

Two men, now members of the Paris National Guard because of an attack by Prussian soldiers, meet up with each other in the street. They reminisce about the fishing they did before the war, and decide to try and go back to their fishing spot, even though it’s in no man’s land.

Read “Two Friends”

The First Year of My Life | Muriel Spark

The narrator, a baby, is able to relate the first year of its life because, as we’re told, babies are omniscient in their first year. Born late in WW I, the baby reports on its caregivers, famous people’s lives, and the war.

The Upturned Face | Stephen Crane

Two soldiers ponder the body of a fallen comrade. They decide to bury the body even though there’s shooting just overhead.

Read here

Civil Peace | Chinua Achebe

Jonathan Iwegbu and his family rebuild their lives after the Nigerian Civil War.

Read here

A Perfect Day for Bananafish | J. D. Salinger

Muriel speaks on the phone with her mother about her husband, Seymour, who has returned from the war. Her mother is worried about Seymour’s driving and his general mental condition. Meanwhile, Seymour is on the beach, where he meets a young girl and tells her about the bananfish.

Read here

Editha | W. D. Howells

Editha has read about the Spanish-American war in the papers. She has a romantic view of the war, and feels that her fiancé, George, should join the effort. George is against war, but he gets swept up in the fervor at a meeting, and enlists.

Read here

Chickamauga | Ambrose Bierce

A six-year-old boy, who is a deaf-mute, wanders off one afternoon. He gets scared by a rabbit and then runs off and hides, falling asleep. He wakes up to an unusual sight.

Read here

Soldier’s Home | Ernest Hemingway

Krebs comes home after the First World War and keeps to himself. His mother wants him to do something with his life and meet people.

Read “Soldier’s Home”

The Old Demon | Pearl S. Buck

Mrs. Wang lives in a remote Chinese village. They have heard the talk of a war with the Japanese, but they haven’t seen it firsthand. Mrs. Wang is more concerned with the river; it is higher than it’s ever been at this time of year.

“The Old Demon”

Dish Night | Michael Martone

World War II interrupts a couple’s courtship, including their routine of going to a movie on Dish Night so they could get a complete set of crockery.

Read “Dish Night”

Stockings | Tim O’Brien

Henry Dobbins is a good man, and great soldier, but unsophisticated. He views a pair of his girlfriend’s pantyhose as a good-luck charm.

Read “Stockings”

Three Soldiers | Bruce Holland Rogers

Soldiers face difficult situations at various stages of their careers.

Read “Three Soldiers”

Prisoner of War | Muna Fadhil

Saleh was captured by the Iranians and held for seventeen years. He now lives with his daughter, Sahira, who was only five when he was captured.

Read “Prisoner of War”

The Sniper | Liam O’Flaherty                                 

At night, a sniper waits on a rooftop. He risks lighting a cigarette which alerts a nearby sniper of his presence.  They exchange some fire. The sniper feels trapped, but he knows he has to get off the roof before enemy forces converge on him.

Read here

War | Luigi Pirandello

Passengers on a train carriage argue over who feels the most grief over their sons lost in WW I.

Read here

Snow | Julia Alvarez

A young girl is attending Catholic school her first year in the United States. She learns some English words, eventually becoming aware of the communist threat.

Read “Snow”

The Soul of a Regiment | Talbot Mundy

Sergeant-Instructor William Grogram comes out of retirement to lead the First Egyptian Foot, a lowly regiment that the Colonel believes is hopeless. Grogram is devoted to duty and honor, and makes it his aim to turn them into a respectable unit.

Read “The Soul of a Regiment”

The Coup de Grace | Ambrose Bierce

In a regiment are two brothers, Caffal and Creede Halcrow. Caffal is a sergeant under Captain Madwell, and they are long-time friends. Creede is a major and has a hostile relationship with Madwell. Madwell’s company is ordered to hold the head of a ravine, but they are driven from their position with heavy losses.

Read “The Coup de Grace”

Big Bertha Stories | Bobbie Ann Mason

Donald comes home, occasionally and unannounced, to see his family. He seemed to adjust after the Vietnam War, but then he lost his job and deteriorated. He tells his son, Rodney, tall tales of Big Bertha, a huge strip-mining machine. The stories start out light but always turn dark.

It | Norman Mailer

Soldiers are on the battlefield.

Read “It” (Story is less than 40 words)

The Ensign | Alphonse Daudet

A French regiment is holding their position on the banks of a railway. They keep their flag flying despite the advance of the Prussian force. Twenty-two officers fall before Sergeant Hornus takes over the job.

Read “The Ensign”

The Paper House | Norman Mailer

Nicholson and Hayes are Army cooks, stationed in Japan after the war. Hayes is divorced and bitter about it. They often visit the geisha house where they each have a regular woman.

Read “The Paper House” (scroll back a bit)

The Track | Walter McDonald

It is a sweltering day in Vietnam during the war after many of the troops have been withdrawn. The narrator and Lebowitz are running around a track with other soldiers.

Read “The Track”

The Language of Men | Norman Mailer

After failing at a variety of assignments, Carter becomes an Army cook. He does well and is promoted. After a while, he puts more effort into the meals, improving the taste and quality of his dishes. He doesn’t think the men appreciate what they’re getting.

Read “The Language of Men”

See also: Luck (Humorous), Resurrection of a Life (Death)

I will try to add more stories about war that could be helpful for teaching reading and reading comprehension to middle or high school students. Eventually, I hope these pages will become a teaching resource.