Tillman's most influential book to date is On Yankee Station (1987), written with John B. Nichols. A critical appraisal of naval aviation in the Vietnam War, it was added to the US Air Force and Marine Corps professional reading lists and became a "reality check" for various Navy and Marine squadrons.
Early life 
Born a fourth-generation Oregonian, descended from American pioneers, American Revolutionary War Patriots, Pilgrims (e.g. Priscilla Alden) and Pocahontas, Tillman was raised on the family wheat and cattle ranch. His younger brothers include a breeder of exotic animals and a Rhodes Scholar. In high school he was an Eagle Scout, won two state titles as a rudimental drummer, and was a champion speaker and debater. Tillman was first published in 1964 at age 15 and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Like his father, a Navy trained pilot in World War II, Tillman developed an early passion for aviation and learned to fly at age 16. Over the next several years he flew a variety of vintage and historic aircraft, including a pre-WW II Navy trainer and a restored dive-bomber. The latter became the subject of his first book, The Dauntless Dive Bomber of World War II, published in 1976. It established the format for many subsequent books, operational histories of U.S. Navy aircraft.
Marriage and children 
Tillman lives in Arizona with his wife, Sally.
After college Tillman worked as a freelance writer until 1982 when he founded Champlin Fighter Museum Press in Mesa, Arizona, publishing out-of-print and new titles on military aviation.
In 1986 he moved to San Diego to become managing editor of The Hook, quarterly journal of the Tailhook Association. He remained in that position for three years before deciding to focus full time to writing fiction. His first novel was published in June 1990. Warriors depicted a Mideast air war and became an immediate best seller when Iraq invaded Kuwait two months later.
Tillman's next two novels appeared in 1992: The Sixth Battle, (written with his brother John) which captured a wide following among computer war gamers; and Dauntless, intended as the first in a trilogy. It was followed by Hellcats, nominated as military novel of the year in 1996. He has also published original fiction in the Stephen Coonts anthologies, Combat and Victory.
Tillman remains active as a magazine writer. He is a regular contributor to The Hook, Flight Journal, and several firearms publications. He has also reported from Africa for Soldier of Fortune magazine.
Tillman is a former executive secretary of the American Fighter Aces Association.
Published works 
- Jimmy Doolittle: The First 80 Years (1976)
- The Dauntless Dive-Bomber of World War II (1976)
- Hellcat: the F6F in World War II (1979)
- Corsair: the F4U in World War II and Korea (1979)
- On Yankee Station: the Naval Air War Over Vietnam (1987) (with CDR John B. Nichols, USN (Ret))
- TBF-TBM Avenger at War (1979, re-released 1991)
- MiG Master: Story of the F-8 Crusader (1980, second edition 1990)
- Wildcat: the F4F in World War II (1983, second edition 1990)
- Sun Downers: VF-11 in World War II (1993)
- Carrier Battle in the Philippine Sea (1994)
- Pushing the Envelope: The Career of Test Pilot Marion Carl (1994) (with MajGen Marion E. Carl, USMC (Ret.))
- Wildcat Aces of World War II (1995)
- Wildcats to Tomcats: The Tailhook Navy (1995) (with CAPTs W.M. Schirra, R.L. Cormier & P.R. Wood, USN (Ret.))
- Carrier Air War: World War II in Original Color (1996) (with Robert L. Lawson)
- Reissued as World War II U.S. Navy Air Combat, (2002)
- Hellcat Aces of World War II (1996)
- Warbird Tech: Vought F4U Corsair (1997)
- U.S. Navy Fighter Squadrons and Aces of World War II (1997)
- SB2C Helldiver Units of World War II (1997)
- U.S. Navy Fighters of World War II (1998) (with R.L. Lawson)
- SBD Dauntless Units of World War II (1998)
- TBD Avenger Units of World War II (2000)
- The Complete Guide to AR-15 Accuracy (2000) (with Derrick Martin)
- U.S. Navy Dive and Torpedo Bombers (2001) (with R.L. Lawson)
- Above & Beyond: The Aviation Medals of Honor (2002)
- The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Air Force (2003)
- Brassey's D-Day Encyclopedia (2004)
- Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot of World War II (2005)
- Heroes: Army Recipients of the Medal of Honor (2006)
- LeMay (2007)
- What We Need: Extravagance and Shortages in America's Military (2007)
- Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan 1942-1945 (2010)
- Enterprise: America's Fightingest Ship and The Men Who Helped Win World War II (2012)
Chapters in non-fiction works:
- R.L. Lawson, ed. History of U.S. Naval Air Power (1985)
- Saburō Sakai Samurai! (1991)
- Steve Coonts, ed. War in the Air (1996)
- Jack Sweetmen, ed. Great American Naval Battles (1998)
- Hill Goodspeed, ed. U.S. Naval Aviation (2001)
- Tom Clancy series, revised chapter Fighter Wing (2004)
- Walter Boyne, ed. Today's Best Military Writing (2004)
- Another Country by Jeff Cooper (2005)
- Fire Works by Jeff Cooper (2005)
- To Ride, Shoot Straight & Speak the Truth by Jeff Cooper (2005)
- Warriors (1990) (with CDR John B. Nichols, USN (Ret))
- The Sixth Battle (1992) (with John L. Tillman) Detailed Book Review(Dead Link)
- Dauntless (1992)
- Hellcats: A Novel of the Pacific War (1996)
- "Skyhawks Forever." Combat (2001) (Steve Coonts, ed., et al.)
- "I Relieve You, Sir." A Date Which Will Live in Infamy (2001) (Brian Thomsen and Martin Greenberg, eds., et al.)
- "Flame On Tarawa." Victory (2003) (Steve Coonts, ed., et al.)
- Pandora’s Legion (2007) with Harold Coyle
- Prometheus' Child (2007) with Harold Coyle
- Vulcan's Fire (2008) with Harold Coyle
Tillman has received six writing awards including the second Admiral Radford Award for Naval History and Literature and is an honorary member of three Navy squadrons. He has been honored by the Air Force Historical Foundation, the American Aviation Historical Society, the U.S. Naval Institute, and remains the youngest recipient of the Tailhook Association’s lifetime achievement award.
Barrett Tillman is descended from Christopher Tilghman, Jr., (b. Kent, England 1592; arrived Virginia 1635; died 1673). The first of the line born in America was Christopher Junior's eldest son, Gideon (b. Virginia 1643; d. 1720). The family name was changed to Tillman by Barrett's great-4X grandfather Tobias (b. North Carolina 1751). Barrett Tillman further descends from Joshua Tillman (b. Ohio 1824) and John H. Sr. (b. Ohio 1881) who moved to Oregon c. 1907. Barrett Tillman's mother's lineage is incomplete but family records indicate that the Barrett family arrived in America in 1638.
- Cohen, Roger (7 September 1990). "Crisis in Iraq Inspires Spate of Books". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
- "Donald Blakeslee; led P-51 fighters, first to reach Berlin". Retrieved 22 February 2010.