Downloading the Past – 12 Military History Apps for Tablets and Smart Phones

“Here’s a peek at what’s out there for the downloading.”

MILITARY HISTORY has been getting a 21st Century make over, thanks to an explosion of new apps for tablets and smart phones. From reference guides and e-books to gaming, there’s probably something for everyone’s preferred digital platform, period of interest and tastes. Here’s a peek at what’s out there for the downloading.

Dan Snow provides the voice over for TimelineWW1.

Dan Snow provides the voice over for TimelineWW1.

First World War Timeline Title: Timeline WW1 Studio: Ballista Studios Type: Reference guide Platform: iPad Cost: $9.99 Billed by developers at Ballista Studios as the “definitive history of the First World War for the Apple iPad”, TimelineWW1 features interactive maps, chronologies, photos and newsreel footage, all narrated by popular Brit documentary historian Dan Snow. Users can try the lite version for free or splurge and download the full edition. Ballista Studios also makes similar apps in its “Timeline” series that explore the Second World War, the Civil War and Medieval castles. Check them all out here.

Modern History e-Books Title: World War I for iPad Studio: Alpha History Type: Reference and quiz Platform: iPad, iPhone, iPod Cost: Starting at $1.99 Alpha History has a full lineup of mobile reference and quiz apps that cover the First World War, Nazi Germany, the Cold War and even the Vietnam conflict. Organized into chapters, each title in the series functions as both an e-book and an audio book and includes interactive menus and photo galleries. To check out Alpha’s First World War app, click here.

Arcade style gaming awaits.

Arcade style gaming awaits.

World War Two For Dummies Title: Second World War Studio:Playbean Co Ltd. Type: Arcade game Platform: Android, iPad, iPod, iPhone Cost: $1.99 Nothing even remotely historical here — but if you’re looking for a quick diversion to kill some time while waiting for the bus, this might fit the bill. In Playbean’s Second World War, players score points by building cartoon-like armies and marching them across a game map to capture objectives, all the while preventing the computer-controlled enemy from doing the same. Campaigns include Normandy and Leningrad. But don’t expect anything close to realism in this one – it’s just pointless arcade fun. Click here for the Apple version or here for Android users.

World War II goes interactive.

World War Two goes interactive.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About WW2 Title: World War Two Interactive Studio:Internet Design Zone Type: Reference Platform: iPad Cost: $4.99 If it’s the Second World War you’re interested in, but would prefer to leave the arcade gaming to the kids, you might want to check out this impressive World War Two reference guide from Internet Design Studio. Updated continuously since its 2011 debut, this app has been winning rave reviews for the past three years. Chronologies, photos, posters, speeches and film clips are all included. Check it out here.


Conflict: A turn-based war game series for the Android.

Conflicts is a turn-based war game series for the Android.

Serious War Gaming Title: Conflicts Series Studio:Joni Nuutinen Type: War game Platform: Android Cost: Free to $2.99 Anyone familiar with tabletop war-gaming a la Avalon Hill will want to check out the “Conflicts” series by indie developer Joni Nuutinen. Made specifically for Android smart phones, these turn-based strategy games cover the biggest battles of World War Two including Kursk, Normandy, Iwo Jima, North Africa and the Battle of the Bulge as well as stand-alone simulations of the First World War, the American Civil War and the War of Independence. Player reviews are overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Check the games out here.

A 19th Century-style newspaper on a 21st century device.

A 19th Century-style newspaper on a 21st century device.

A Civil War Daily Newspaper Title: Civil War Today Type: Newspaper Platform: iPad Cost: $0.99 The American History Channel has produced this novel app: an interactive digital daily newspaper about the U.S. Civil War. Featuring a retro broadsheet look and feel, the app serves up a daily dose of headlines, quotes, authentic letters, profiles and statistics that take users through the bloody conflict day-by-day in real time. Check it out here.

A virtual tour guide to some of the most popular Civil War battlefields.

Battle Apps lets users navigate some of the most popular Civil War battlefields using a GPS interface and augmented reality view finders.

Virtual Tour Guide Title: Civil War Battle Apps Studio:Civil War Trust Type: GPS-enabled map Platform: Android, iPad, iPod, iPhone Cost: Free Battle Apps is a free series of GPS-powered handheld map applications that are ideal for self-directed walking tours of some of the conflict’s most popular historic sites. Gettysburg, Antietam, Vicksburg, Bull Run, Chancellorsville and nine others are included in the lineup. Each features detailed interactive topographical surveys of the battlefields with augmented reality “field glasses” that offer a 360 deg. view of the battle through the tablet or phone’s onboard camera. Anyone planning to hit one of the 14 historic sites featured in the series will want to download a Battle App. For more information, click here.

The Loxleys and the War of 1812 is an immersive graphic novel on a smart device.

The Loxleys and the War of 1812 is an immersive graphic novel on a smart device.

Interactive War Comic Title: The Loxleys and the War of 1812 Studio: National Film Board of Canada Interactive Type: Graphic novel Platform: Android, iPad, iPod, iPhone Cost: Free Since 2012, the government of Canada has been bankrolling War of 1812 bicentennial events, reenactments, museum exhibits and even this downloadable comic book about the conflict. The 80-page graphic novel follows the trials and tribulations of the Loxleys, a fictional family of Canadian settlers who become reluctantly swept up in the fighting. Complete with illustrations, historic maps and even a cinematic score, The Loxleys and the War of 1812 offers a peek into the future of publishing while commemorating a little-known chapter from the past. Apple users can get a copy here, while Android users click here to download it.

Osprey's campaign series heads for the tablet.

Osprey’s Campaign series heads for the tablet.

Famous Battles from History Title: Campaign Series Studio: Osprey Publishing Type: eBook preview Platform: iPad, iPhone, iPod Cost: Free Osprey Publishing has released free iOS previews of a number of titles from is well-known Campaign series of books. Featuring the same in-depth research, eye-popping illustrations and vivid maps that history buffs have come to expect from the widely-respected Osprey print editions, each of these free ‘lite’ downloads covers a different battle from the classical era right up to the Second World War.Click here to check out the selection.

Still More Apps…

  • Empire building.

    Empire building.

    An app like this would have come in handy in 1940 (if there were smart phones) – it’s a digital aircraft recognition guide. Published by Uniplay Apps for the Android, this free download offers pics and detailed stats on more than 50 vintage warbirds. The same developer also offers an edition all about Vietnam War-era aircraft.

  • Ancient warfare is the order of the day with the massive online multiplayer app, Roman Empire. Available for both Android and Apple devices, the free game lets players try their hand as Caesar managing both cities and armies.
  • Until Jane’s Defence gets its famous fighting vehicle guides onto handheld devices, readers can peruse Jourist Publishing’s line of military reference guides for the Android, iPad, iPod and iPhone. The apps, which start at $1.99, cover everything from World War One aircraft and the world’s submarines to tanks and small arms. For a full list of the guides and prices click here.

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