Shattered Sword by Jonathan Parshall & Anthony Tully THE most comprehensive and modern book about Midway. Detailed research and a modern interpretation put to bed many myths and un-truths about this turning point in the Pacific. May be too detail-oriented for some, but a masterpiece.
Japanese Destroyer Captain by Tameichi Hara Original view of the Pacific War from the Japanese perspective. Hara took part in ALL the major battles of WW2 in the Pacific, and his comments about Americans – their strengths and their weaknesses - will surprise you.
Neptune’s Inferno by James Hornfischer THE definitive account of the US Navy at Guadalcanal. How they went in a short time from a peacetime, tea-drinking social club to defeat the toughest enemy the USN has ever faced. Easy read and real page-turner.
Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James Hornfischer Perhaps the most heroic story of WW2 for the US Navy in the Pacific. I believe every American should read this book and know the name Ernest Evans.
With the Old Breed at Peleliu & Okinawa by Eugene Sledge What it was like to be a Marine combat soldier in two of the most vicious battles of WW2. A humanistic tale told by an unlikely and modest survivor. Sledge wrote this for his family and never sought publication. It remains the finest account of infantry combat and the horrors of war ever written.
Tennozan, by George Feifer The Story of Okinawa and the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. One of the most powerful accounts of this greatest battle of the Pacific. Told with a human interest point of view, it is gut-wrenching and emotional. Not for the squeamish.
Goodbye, Darkness, by William Manchester Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s personal account as a young Marine in various island battles across the Pacific, including Saipan
Pacific Crucible – War at Sea in the Pacific 1941-1942, by Ian Toll Part I of a three-part Pacific War Trilogy covering the entire Pacific war. Comprehensive, readable, and modern – in the sense that it uses sources newly available. Covers the lead up to Pearl Harbor and Japan’s stunning drive across the Pacific.
The Conquering Tide – War in the Pacific Islands 1942-1944, by Ian Toll Part II of Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy. Includes terrific coverage of Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal & the Solomons campaign.
Twilight of the Gods – War in the Western Pacific 1944-1945, by Ian Toll Part III of Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy¬¬¬. The conquest of the Marianas, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Japan’s final surrender.
Tower of Skulls, by Richard Frank First of a three volume History of the Asia-Pacific War. Starts in 1937 with the Japanese invasion of China, with extensive coverage of Japan’s grasp for world power that led to national destruction. Best treatment of Japan’s reasons for war and decision to attack the US and Great Britain. Also sheds new light on China’s contribution to Japan’s defeat. Look forward to the next two volumes in this series, not yet published.
Guadalcanal, by Richard Frank THE book on Guadalcanal. Much ink has been spent on Guadalcanal, but Frank’s work is the most readable, comprehensive, detailed study of a land, sea, and air campaign that started the long road back to Tokyo Bay. If you read ONE book on Guadalcanal, this is it.
The Battle of Midway, by Craig Symonds Best single volume, most accessible study of the battle that changed everything. Symonds is a professor at the US Navy War College and is one of the best military historians writing about WW2 today.
A Dawn like Thunder by Robert Mzarek Here is the story of Torpedo Squadron Eight, the torpedo bombers that sacrificed themselves at Midway. He follows the squadron, their incredible courage against overwhelming odds, and its survivors who fought gallantly in the Guadalcanal Campaign. This book will make you cry.
Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley A book written in homage to his father on Iwo Jima, it carries a flawed premise – that John Bradley was one of the men shown in the greatest combat photo of all time. New information has denied this premise, but this in no way takes from Bradley’s stirring account of the fight the enshrined our Marine Corps in the hearts of Americans forever.
I have read every book on this list and can therefore highly recommend any one of them. There are of course, many others that are valuable and would be welcome additions to my list.
PODCAST “Supernova in the East” by Dan Carlin This is a six-part Podcast by noted military history expert Dan Carlin. Emotional, intellectual, comprehensive, and spellbinding, this narrative is long, but you would not wish it to be a second shorter. Great for long car trips. See also Dan’s website: www.dancarlin.com for outstanding podcasts on a variety of historical subjects. Get them from wherever you get podcasts.
FILMS Remember that the purpose of film/video streams is to entertain, not educate. Nevertheless, a few are historically accurate enough to entertain AND educate.
MIDWAY two versions of this, one older and one modern. The new one has better CGI and is more accurate.
Letters from Iwo Jima Clint Eastwood’s masterful telling the story of Iwo Jima from the Japanese side. Filmed in black and white, it captures the futility and sacrifice that Japan expected from its soldiers, and the terrible duty they carried out.
Flags of Our Fathers The companion to Letters from Iwo Jima, this full-length feature tells the story of Iwo Jima from the American point of view with Clint’s famous attention to factual historical detail.
The Pacific HBO series that follows the Marines of the First Marine Division in the campaign across the wide Pacific. This is a companion series to the famous “Band of Brothers”. It is equally virtuoso telling of this achingly poignant story.