I have a few books I’ve been reading for context, while I transcribe the paperwork I have. I thought I’d share, for you other enthusiasts. If you have books to recommend, I’d love the comment.

Ghost Soldiers (2001), by Hampton Sides

This was the first book I read, recommended by a friend. I hadn’t planned on getting into side research until getting all of what I have digitized and documented, but when given the opportunity, I went ahead and read it anyway. It is interesting because it isn’t a book I’d have otherwise read. It isn’t directly related to the battles I am covering, so it wouldn’t have come up in my searches. It was a good book to start with, none-the-less, if only for a great introduction to the period views Americans held on the Japanese in battle. The mixture of Japanese brutality versus sympathizers, thoughts on mass suicide as a preference to surrender (and the fear it instilled in the opposition),  and the effect of the turning of the war on Japanese troop morale are all topics discussed in overview.

Overall, the book is very well written and reads like a novel. It has dramatic and emotional points. My only criticism from an entertainment standpoint is a lack of closure. It just kind of ends and quickly mentions where a few people are today (when the book was written). I’d have liked to hear more about reintegration. Also, I didn’t get a sense of what happened to the troops aboard the ship, after it was run aground, offloaded, then bombed.

Kamikaze Diaries (2006), by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney

As a nice contrast from the first book, and from my transcribing, this book counter-balances all of the anti-Japan-semitism I am getting elsewhere. The American writings talk about Japan as a beast made up of death-hungry patriots, yearning to die for their emperor in defense of their nation and ideals. This book combats that as a collection of writings from liberal students drafted (mandatorily “volunteered”) into service as soldiers ordered to not return alive. It gives deeper insight into the social and political tides of the time that lead to this last gasping breath by Japan and her military.

The book is a strange combination of inspirational and depressing. If you are looking for something that stirs up your own perceptions of the role of an individual within a social/political group, this is a great book. See what questions these students asked themselves under a unique amount of pressure. If you are looking for something to strengthen your patriotism, this is not the book. I found myself drawing a lot of parallel between Japan’s brainwashing and recent U.S. tactics.

The biggest weakness of the book is that it is very redundant and tedious. It is broken into chapters by pilot, but the author does more discussing of the journals than actual excerpts are shown. The discussion is very circular and repetitive across chapters. With that said, there are great insights in the commentary when you wade through it.

The Two-Ocean WarThe Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in The Second World War (1963), by Samuel Eliot Morison

I started reading this book, but found myself unprepared for how dense it is. The author was a rear admiral in WWII in addition to being a scholar. As such, the book is very technical and laden with terminology I’m not familiar with. I made it through a couple chapters, but am glad I moved onto other books for the time being. After finishing retribution, I’ll be much more able to digest this history textbook.

Because the author actively served in the war, I’ve linked to his Wikipedia article above (his name) in addition to the usual book title.

War in the PacificWar in the Pacific 1941–1945 (2010), by Richard Overy

I’ve only glossed over this book so far. It was a coffee table piece released in conjunction with the HBO miniseries covering the Pacific War. I wasn’t enthusiastic about the show, but had to have this book.

The book is not a cover-to-cover book. It is full of photos, maps, trinkets, field booklets, copies of paperwork, fliers, advertisements and more. It makes an intriguing appendix to all of the other books and has examples of the format I’d like my books to eventually be in. The goal is to have a series of books that not only read like a novel, but also have the accompanying tactile features to make the stories come to life.

RetributionRetribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944–45 (2008), by Max Hastings

I really enjoy this book. I am in the middle of it now and find it to be a great primer that bridges the larger context of the war across all of the other books you read. The book is well-written and does a nice job of explaining the political motivations of the war in China, the Pacific and even influences of the Western war. From there, the focus balances across Japanese forces and American/Allied, equally distributing blame.

The flow of the book is a little odd. Some chapters are very general, while others drill into details I like to pull out. It is a book that has enough layers of information I am going to have to read it twice or thrice at minimum.

Of particular interest to this project, there are some chapters on the naval battles and chases taking place. I’ve been having a hard time getting my hands on off-shore stories in general.

I’ll update this review when I’ve finished reading the book.

HiroshimaHiroshima (1946), by John Hersey

Published only shortly after the bomb was dropped, this book recounts the individual stories of Hiroshima’s survivors. I have not read this book yet, but have it earmarked as a must-read.

Unlike the other hefty books, this book is a tiny pocketbook. It will likely only take a day to absorb.

John Hersey was a WWII journalist, with boots on the ground in Guadalcanal and Hiroshima, among other places. I’ve linked to his Wikipedia article above (his name) in addition to the usual book title.

Further Reading

Per comments to this page, it has been recommended I also read the following books:

  • Ours to Hold It High: The History of the 77th Infantry Division in World War II (1947), by Max Myers

    Out of print, this book is a bit pricey. I might be able to find it at a local library though.

  • Okinawa: The Last Battle (1948), by Roy E. Appleman, James M. Burns, Russell A. Gugeler, and John Stevens

    This is an online book and I don’t see a version on Amazon. However, it looks like I can buy a printed copy directly from the GPO. I’ll have to inquire, as I’d prefer to not read 500 pages on a computer screen! 😀

Thank you for the recommendations, Tom!