Second World War: Pacific
Books - Second World War - Pacific - General Works
US Navy Ships vs Kamikazes 1944-45, Mark Stille. Looks at the reasons for the kamikaze attacks, the techniques used by them, the aircraft involved, the ships they targeted, the American response, and the effectiveness of the attacks. Includes a useful statistical analysis of the campaign, looking at if it was an effective use of resources. A good short account of the kamikaze campaign, looking at it from both sides (Read Full Review)
Rikugun - Guide to Japanese Ground Forces 1937-1945 - Volume 2: Weapons of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Ground Forces, Leland Ness . Looks at an impressively wide range of the weapons used by the Japanese military during the Second World War, covering personal weapons such as machine guns or grenades, the full range of artillery and anti-aircraft guns, aircraft detection systems, tanks, mines, chemical weapons (including smoke generators) and even river crossing equipment. A very useful reference work on the equipment of the Japanese armed forces, providing both a narrative account of developments in a particular area and weapon by weapon technical details [read full review]
Rikugun - Guide to Japanese Ground Forces 1937-1945 - Volume 1: Tactical Organization of Imperial Japanese Army & Navy Ground Forces, Leland Ness. A valuable reference book that provides a well researched and detailed guide to the often confusing ground forces of the Japanese army and navy, tracing the creation, career and end of every significant unit, as well as their many changes in organisation, and the actual troops allocated to these units (often very different to the official structure). Includes some interesting material on how the army in particular reacted to the changing war situation, but is mainly intended as a reference work [read full review]
Burma Road 1943-44 - Stilwell's assault on Myitkyina, Jon Diamond. Looks at the multinational Allied invasion of northern Burma, which ended with the capture of Myitkyina and the opening of a land route to China. Nice to have a book that looks at this battle in its own right, rather than a preliminary to the reconquest of southern and central Burma or a footnote to the Chindits [read full review]
Special Operations South-East Asia 1942-1945: Minerva, Baldhead and Longshanks/ Creek, David Miller. Focuses on three Special Forces operations in South East Asia – a failed attempt to gather intelligence on Sumatra, a series of similar but successful operations on the Andaman Islands and a 'cutting out' operation conducted in the Portuguese enclave of Goa. These were three very different operations, and perhaps the only thing they have in common is that they are now hardly remembered, so this is a useful study of the three. [read full review]
Escape from the Japanese - The Amazing Story of a PoW's Journey from Hong Kong to Freedom, Lt. Cmdr Ralph Burton Goodwin. Compelling story of a rare successful escape from Japanese captivity, followed by a journey across war-torn China. The author was captured at the fall of Hong Kong. After two and a half years he escaped, and made his way across very difficult terrain into Chinese-held territory. We then trace his journey across wartime China, from the Communist held area around Hong Kong to the Nationalist capital at Kunming, so the fascinating escape story is followed by a very valuable insight into conditions within China. [read full review]
Hong Kong 1941-45 - First strike in the Pacific War, Benjamin Lai. Looks at the eighteen day long battle of Hong Kong, a gallant but doomed British and Commonwealth attempt to defend the colony against a larger Japanese army with powerful air support. Also covers the Chinese resistance, the fate of the POWs and the eventual liberation of Hong Kong. A good history of one of the earliest battles of the Pacific War. [read full review]
Storming the City - U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam, Alec Wahlman . Looks at four city battles - Aachen in 1944, Manila in 1945, Seoul in 1950 and Hue in 1968 to see how the US military coped - what plans it had in place for urban warfare, how effective they were, and how things changed over time. A useful volume that analyses a key aspect of military operations across four rather different battlefields. [read full review]
Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II, Jeffrey R. Cox. A brilliant account of the doomed desperate attempt by the Allies to defend the Dutch East Indies, focusing on the naval campaign that ended with crushing defeats in the Java Sea and the loss of most Allied warships either in battle or while attempting to escape. [read full review]
Tank Tracks to Rangoon - the story of British armour in Burma, Bryan Perrett. Interesting history of an unfamiliar aspect of the Burma campaign, looking at the massive effort that went into making the tank an effective weapon in some of the most difficult terrain in the world. Covers the entire campaign from the longest retreat in British military history to the eventual rapid advance on Rangoon. [read full review]
The Rice Paddy Navy, US Sailors Undercover in China, Linda Kush. The story of a US Navy weather reporting service that expanded into a major military force in China, training guerrillas, running an intelligence network, and also managing to report on the weather in China, a key factor in forecasting the weather over the Pacific theatre. [read full review]
Pacific War Ghosts: Travels to the South Pacific Battlefields of World War II, Tony Maxwell. Combines a history of four key Pacific island battles and an account of visits to Papua Mew Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Bougainville, Ballale and Tarawa. Supported by a good mix of wartime and modern photos, the travelogues are interesting but a little too short, while the battle histories are clear and well written. [read full review]
The British Pacific Fleet: The Royal Navy's Most Powerful Strike Force, David Hobbs. A history of the most powerful fleet in British naval history, tracing its rapid development from shaky early days in the Indian ocean to its involvement in the invasion of Okinawa and operations alongside the Americans off the coast of Japan. [read full review]
The Pacific War Uncensored, Harold Guard with John Tring. The memoirs of a British war correspondent who covered the disastrous campaigns in Malaya, Singapore and Java, before escaping to Australia from where he reported on the Allied fight-back on New Guinea. An invaluable first-hand account of the British and Allied defeats in south-east Asia from someone who was caught up in them. [read full review]
The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Imperial Naval Air Service, Peter J. Edwards. An unusual book, containing some fascinating material on the early development of Japanese naval aviation, its increasing efficiency during the 1930s and the dramatic early victories and eventual costly defeat of the Naval Air Service during the Second World War. Written very much from the Japanese point of view, and in a rather breathless style [read full review]
Rising Sun, John Toland. A well researched and compelling history of the Second World War in the Pacific, mainly told from the Japanese point of view. As a result we learn more about the Japanese strategy for the war, the reasons for each decision, and the political background in Japan. [read full review]
The Pacific: Hell was an Ocean Away, Hugh Ambrose. Closely linked to the HBO TV series, this sizable book follows the experiences of five US servicemen (four Marines and a Navy aviator) during the four years of the Pacific War, tracing their experiences from the Japanese invasion of the Philippines to the preparations for the invasion of Japan, through the battles of Midway and Guadalcanal and the long island hopping campaign that followed. [read full review]
Pacific: Hell on Earth (DVD). Eight documentaries looking at different battles of the Pacific War, from Pearl Harbor to Okinawa, with a bonus disc containing a biography of Eugene B. Sledge, author of 'With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa'. A good mix of interviews with surviving veterans, contemporary film and a nice use of wartime aerial reconnaissance photos overlaid onto a 3D map of the battlefields [read full review]
World War Two: U.S. Military Plans for the Invasion of Japan, Thomas Fensch (Editor) This is a very useful collection of official American documents relating to Operation Downfall, the plan for the invasion of Japan. The invasion never needed to be carried out, but the plans had reached a very advanced stage by the time the two Atomic bombs ended the war. [see more]
World War II Jungle Warfare Tactics, Stephen Bull, Osprey Elite. The subject of jungle warfare tactics has fascinated many people and contains many myths. This book tries to cover a large subject in 64 pages, a mammoth task but one which it does remarkably well. The content is clear and very interesting de-bunking various myths such as Japanese superiority in jungle warfare but without throwing the baby out with the bath water and does highlight some of the Japanese strengths in this area. The book is an excellent introduction to the subject.
McMillan, George. The Old Breed: A History of the First Marine Division in World War II, Infantry Journal Press, Washington DC, 1949 (Battery Press Reprint available).
Alexander, Joseph H. Storm Landings, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1997. A detailed account of the major amphibious assaults of the Pacific War.
Wheeler, Richard. A Special Valor: The US Marines and the Pacific War, Harper & Row, 1983, New York.
The Real Tenko, Mark Felton. A grim account of the ordeals suffered by female prisoners of the Japanese during the Second World War, starting with a series of atrocities that took place during the initial conquests, and continuing throughout the war in the huge network on internment camps established across the new Japanese empire. [read full review]
Darkness before the Dawn, Sgt. J.N. Farrow. This is the wartime diary of Sgt. J.N. Farrow, a prisoner of war in Changi for four years from the fall of Singapore to the end of the war. The book in provides an invaluable insight into the life of a P.O.W. in the Far East. [see more]
Children of the Camps: Japan's Last Forgotten Victims, Mark Felton. A study of the fate of the children taken into internment camps by the Japanese after their rapid conquests in the Far East in 1941 and 1942. Covers a wide geographical area, from China through Malaya and Singapore to the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines. [read full review]
Lost Souls of the River Kwai, Bill Reed with Mitch Peeke. An often harrowing account of the suffering inflicted on British Prisoners of War who were forced to build the Burma Railway for the Japanese. Reed's vivid memories of these events tell a tale that needs to be remembered [read full review]
The Quiet Admiral, A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Thomas B. Buell. This is widely considered to be the best biography of Spruance, currently available in this reissued edition. Buell nicely contrasts Spruance with Halsey, his co-commander of the combined third and fifth fleets from 1944, as well as looking at his handling of Midway, the battle that made his name.
In Bitter Tempest: The Biography of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, Stephen D. Regan. A much needed biography of one of the most important American admirals in the year after Pearl Harbor. Regan had rare access to Fletcher's papers, as well as to a wide range of interviews given before his death, and has produced a very valuable work on a neglected figure.
Attack on Pearl Harbor - Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions, Alan D. Zimm. A very detailed look at the Japanese plan for the attack on Pearl Harbor and its implementation, challenging the idea that the attack was brilliantly planned and executed, and convincingly arguing that luck played a major part in the Japanese success on the day. [read full review]
The Cabanatuan Prison Raid, The Philippines 1945, Gordon L. Rottman. An engaging account of one of the most successful raids of the Second World War - the rescue of over 500 POWs from the Japanese camp at Cabanatuan on the Philippines by a force made up of US Rangers, Alamo Scouts and local guerrillas. [read full review]
Leyte 1944 - The Soldiers' Battle, Nathan N. Prefer. A very detailed account of the land battle on Leyte, where the Japanese decided to make their main defensive stand in the Philippines and where the American victory ensured that the Japanese would be unable to hold on to the rest of the Philippines. This will stand as the definitive account of this little known but crucial battle in the Pacific War. [read full review]
Crisis in the Pacific - The Battles for the Philippine Islands by the Men Who Fought Them, Gerald Astor. An excellent account of the Second World War in the Philippines, from the pre-war American colony to the disasters of 1941-42, the long struggle of the resistance to MacArthur's eventual return and the costly battles that followed. The excellent text is based around first hand accounts of the fighting from the American point of view, both military and civilian. [read full review]
The Coral Sea 1942: The First Carrier Battle, Mark Stille, Campaign 214. A useful account of the battle of the Coral Sea and the thinking and events that led up to it, supported by some effective '3D' diagrams showing the series of aerial attacks on enemy carriers that were the most important aspect of the fighting. [read full review]
The Battle for Tinian, Nathan N. Prefer. A study of an opposed landing on a Pacific island where the American worked nearly perfectly, Japanese opposition ended comparatively quickly and with a lower cost than on most of the island invasions. Prefer looks at the reasons for the American success, the course of the battle and the lessons that could have been learnt from the success on Tinian. [read full review]
Wake Island 1941, Jim Moran. A well-illustrated look at the Japanese siege of Wake Island in 1941, which involved two amphibious assaults and repeated aerial assaults, and saw the only unsuccessful amphibious invasion of the Second World War when the first Japanese attack on the island was defeated. Well supported by some excellent maps, and with a clear, well written text. [read full review]