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Hello Everyone,

This brief annotated bibliography will act as a guide for anyone looking to read up on the Asia-Pacific War. Keeping up with the current historiography of the Asia-Pacific War, or any historical subject for that matter, is almost impossible for the casual observer. Hopefully this will help those of you that are intimidated by the sheer volume of works available and don't even know where to start. I will do my best to continually update the list, but keep in mind that it will never be exhaustive, nor is that the intention. This is only a starting point, with a few highlighted works on each topic. Please do not hesitate to ask me for more specific book/article recommendations on a given subject. I may not always have an answer, but the list below is barely the tip of the iceberg.

Single-volume Surveys

Spoiler

Spector, Ronald. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan. This is still the first book anyone should read on the Pacific War, and remains the best single-volume survey of the conflict between the US and Japan. Unfortunately it is starting to show its age, with some parts holding up far better than others, and does not cover the war on the continent very well.

Toland, John. The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. An extensive single-volume survey of the Pacific War written from the Japanese perspective. As with the vast majority of older histories, the war on the continent was not well covered. This book works well in conjunction with Ronald Spector's Eagle Against the Sun, but both works are quite dated at this point.

Dower, John. War without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War. A sweeping survey of the role that racism and dehumanization of the enemy on both sides played in the Pacific War.

Multi-volume Surveys

Spoiler

Toll, Ian W. The Pacific War Trilogy. This sweeping trilogy is a well-researched and engaging narrative history of the Pacific War with an emphasis on the war at sea. The war on the continent is ignored.
Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3 (forthcoming)

Harmsen, Peter. War in the Far East Trilogy. The first volume of this new multi-volume survey is releasing tomorrow. Peter Harmsen has written two excellent books on the war in China and this trilogy intends to be a survey of the Asia-Pacific War starting from the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, rather than only the Pacific theatre.
Volume 1, Volume 2 (forthcoming), Volume 3 (forthcoming)

2nd Sino-Japanese War/CBI Theatre/War of Resistance

Spoiler

Out of all the aspects of the Asia-Pacific War, the war in China has undergone the most change in the recent historiography. For years the western perception of the conflict was dominated by a very American-centric and pro-Stilwell narrative that had been caught up in post-war politics. The poster child of this outdated position is the widely read Stilwell hagiography by Barbara Tuchman.

Mitter, Rana. Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945. This is the best single-volume survey of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War and should be the first book anyone reads on the subject.

Ven, Hans van de. China at War: Triumph and Tragedy in the Emergence of the New China. A superb new survey that is slightly broader in scope than Rana Mitter's Forgotten Ally.

Peattie, Mark (ed), Edward Drea (ed), and Hans van de Ven (ed). The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945. This edited collection is the best resource on the military history of the war in China.

Taylor, Jay. The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China.  This is the best biography of Chiang Kai-shek and a strong rebuttal to the old pro-Stilwell narrative. Taylor is nicer to Chiang than is warranted, often glossing over KMT abuses, but was among the first major published works to seriously challenge Tuchman's interpretation of the war in China. There is a lot of value, particularly related to Stilwell and other non-political subjects, such as military decision making. Read this biography with a critical mind, as it leaves an impression of Chiang as a tragic hero. He was a more nuanced and interesting historical figure than the old narrative suggests, but was not nearly as pleasant as Taylor implies, particularly in the post-war chapters.

Allen, Louis. Burma: The Longest War, 1941-45. Unfortunately out of print, but it is still the best single-volume survey of the Burma theatre. A bit dated in parts (particularly regarding the Chinese contribution), but still holds up overall.

Pacific Theatre

Spoiler

The amount of literature available on the Pacific theatre of operations is nothing short of staggering. I will list some of the key works here, but keep in mind that this is a tiny fraction of what is available. I'm only going to list one or two works on various periods of the war, skimming over the surface of the available literature on a jet ski.

Prange, Gordon W., Donald M. Goldstein, and Katherine V. Dillon. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. This is still the standard single-volume survey of the lead up to, attack on, and aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Certain details have been revised and tweaked over the years by newer works, but the basic foundation is still solid. It is one of a four-book "series" on Pearl Harbor.

Farrell, Brian. The Defence and Fall of Singapore. This is one of the newest and best surveys of the Malaya campaign and the fall of Singapore.

Bartsch, William H. December 8. 1941: MacArthur's Pearl Harbor. A fine work on a subject often overshadowed by Pearl Harbor.

Womack, Tom. The Allied Defense of the Malay Barrier, 1941-1942.

Willmott, H. P. Empires in the Balance: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies to April 1942.

Boyd, Andrew. The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters: Linchpin of Victory, 1935-1942. This massive tome provides a fresh perspective on a neglected subject.

Lundstrom, John B. Black Shoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal. This contains the newest account of the Battle of the Coral Sea, a battle that is bizarrely understudied since it is always treated as a prelude to Midway rather than a significant event in its own right. The whole book is superb, and goes well beyond Coral Sea.

Willmott, H.P. The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies, February to June 1942.

Stephan, John J. Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan's Plans for Conquest after Pearl Harbor. Yes, you read that right.

Lundstrom, John B. The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. This is one of the finest air power histories ever written. Full stop.

Symonds, Craig L. The Battle of Midway. This book has replaced Gordon Prange's Miracle at Midway as the first book anyone should read on the famous battle.

Parshall, Jonathan and Anthony Tully. Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. The Battle of Midway from the Japanese perspective. This is an excellent work.

Frank, Richard. Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark battle. It takes a lot of effort to live up to such a pompous subtitle (probably imposed on the author by the publisher), but this book does. It is still the standard survey of the Guadalcanal campaign.

Hornfischer, James D. Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal. A wonderful narrative history of the seesaw naval battles off Guadalcanal.

Lundstrom, John B. The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942. Another one of the finest air power histories ever written. Full stop. C'mon John, you're making us all look bad.

Bergerud, Eric. Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific. A superb survey of the critical aerial campaign in the South Pacific that broke the back of Japanese air power. The account isn't perfect, but what is?

Gamble, Bruce. The Rabaul Trilogy. The sweeping tale of the rise and fall of Fortress Rabaul.
Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3

Hornfischer, James D. The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945. Despite the title, this is a narrative history primarily focused on a crucial watershed in the Pacific theatre: the neutralization of Truk, Battle of the Philippine Sea, and fall of the Marianas.

Y'Blood, William T. Red Sun Setting: The Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Heinrichs, Waldo and Marc Gallicchio. Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945. The newest and best survey of the last period of the war, from the fall of the Marianas to the surrender.

Willmott, H. P. The Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action. More ink has been spilled about Leyte Gulf than any other naval battle of the war. The number of monographs on this one battle is daunting. Willmott's account is pretty good.

Tillman, Barrett. Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945.

Blair, Clay. Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan. Unfortunately this appears to be out of print, but it is the best single-volume account of the submarine war against Japan.

Hobbs, David. The British Pacific Fleet: The Royal Navy's Most Powerful Strike Force.

Frank, Richard. Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. The absolute most important, must-read book on the end of the Asia-Pacific War. Here is a 2015 lecture on the subject from the author.

Giangreco, D. M. Hell to Pay: Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947. This stupendous book details American, Japanese, and Soviet planning at the end of the war with a focus on Operation Downfall. Get the revised and expanded edition.

Miscamble, Wilson D. The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan. A small summary of the decision to drop the bombs.

Intelligence

Carlson, Elliot. Joe Rochefort's War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway. An excellent book on SIGINT during the war in this biography of Joe Rochefort.

Prados, John. Combined Fleet Decoded: The Secret History of American Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II. Out of print.

Drea, Edward. MacArthur's "Ultra": Codebreaking and the War Against Japan, 1942-45.

Kotani, Ken. Japanese Intelligence in World War II. Out of print.

Japanese-Soviet Border Incidents and "August Storm"

Additional Reading

Spoiler

Paine, S. C. M. The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949. This is a very good broad overview of a turbulent period in the history of East Asia. Paine has truly remarkable language skills (English, Japanese, Chinese, AND Russian), so she is uniquely positioned to bring a lot of insights to the table. One of the central arguments in the book is thinking of the conflicts in East Asia as "nested wars": civil (KMT vs. CCP), regional (Japan vs. China), and global (Second World War). The needs and objectives of the combatants in each of these "nested wars" interacted and were often mutually exclusive.

Paine, S. C. M. The Japanese Empire: Grand Strategy from the Meiji Restoration to the Pacific War.

Jordan, Donald A. China's Trial by Fire: The Shanghai War of 1932. Out of print.

Drea, Edward. Japan's Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945. A superb institutional history of the IJA by its finest English-language historian.

Drea, Edward. In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army.

Humphreys, Leonard. The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920's.

Orbach, Danny. Curse on This Country: The Rebellious Army of Imperial Japan. An excellent book on the chronic insubordination and rebellion within the IJA and one of the finest works of history I have ever read. Here is a brief lecture summarizing his arguments.

Evans, David C. and Mark R. Peattie. Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. The first book anyone should read on the IJN.

Peattie, Mark. Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909-1941. This started as axed chapters from Kaigun and was expanded and released as a full book.

Asada, Sadao. From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States. This is an excellent institutional history of the IJN, focused on its internal politics during the turbulent interwar years.

Grow, Ian. Military intervention in Pre-War Japanese Politics: Admiral Kato Kanji and the "Washington System."

Maurer, John H. (ed) and Christopher M. Bell (ed). At the Crossroads between Peace and War: The London Naval Conference of 1930.

Goldstein, Erik (ed) and John Maurer (ed). The Washington Conference, 1921-22: Naval Rivalry, East Asian Stability and the Road to Pearl Harbor.

Miller, Edward S. War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945.

Kuehn, John T. Agents of Innovation: The General Board and the Design of the Fleet that Defeated the Japanese Navy.

Hone, Trent. Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898-1945.

Felker, Craig C. Testing American Sea Power: U.S. Navy Strategic Exercises, 1923-1940.

Nofi, Albert A. To Train the Fleet for War: The U.S. Navy Fleet Problems, 1923-1940.

Wildenberg, Thomas. Destined for Glory: Dive Bombing, Midway, and the Evolution of Carrier Airpower.

Wildenberg, Thomas. Billy Mitchell's War with the Navy: The Interwar Rivalry Over Air Power.

Miller, Edward S. Bankrupting the Enemy: The U.S. Financial Siege of Japan Before Pearl Harbor

Barnhart, Michael A. Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941. The first book one should read about Japan's road to war with the United States.

Tsutsui, Kiyotada (ed). Fifteen Lectures on Showa Japan: Road to the Pacific War in Recent Historiography.

Hotta, Eri. Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy.

Bix, Herbert P. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. Hirohito's role in the war is a very controversial subject of which much has been written. This is the best biography of Hirohito and serves as a good introduction into a contentious field of study.

Cook, Haruko Taya and Theodore F. Cook. Japan at War: An Oral History.

Louise, Young. Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism. Study of the Japanese Empire is one hell of a rabbit hole to find yourself tumbling down. Here is a start.

Duss, Peter, Ramon H. Myers, and Mark R. Peattie. The Japanese Wartime Empire, 1931-1945. Yet another introduction to the Japanese Empire.

Benesch, Oleg. Inventing the Way of the Samurai: Nationalism, Internationalism, and Bushido in Modern Japan. A history of Imperial Japan's twisting of the idea of "bushido" to suit its own ends.

I can keep going, but at this point just ask if you would like me to recommend a book on a specific subject related to the Asia-Pacific War. I may have one for you.

 

Edited by AdmiralPiett
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Nomonhan Incident, another case of the IJA dictating foreign policy by initiating conflict, Japanese government be d*mned.  A shining example of Pre-Pearl Harbor Japanese politics (including assassinations of their own if they weren't ultra-nationalist enough), and an absolute rampant military calling the shots.

 

You look at all the major powers that eventually become embroiled in WWII, all of them the military was subservient to a government power.  Even the Wehrmacht was subservient to the government and did not start shooting and starting conflict just for sh*ts and giggles.  Not Japan.  The IJA did what they wanted.  These guys were so batsh*t insane, it's amazing how they got that much power and influence over the country and its affairs.

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20 minutes ago, HazeGrayUnderway said:

Nomonhan Incident, another case of the IJA dictating foreign policy by initiating conflict, Japanese government be d*mned.  A shining example of Pre-Pearl Harbor Japanese politics (including assassinations of their own if they weren't ultra-nationalist enough), and an absolute rampant military calling the shots.

 

You look at all the major powers that eventually become embroiled in WWII, all of them the military was subservient to a government power.  Even the Wehrmacht was subservient to the government and did not start shooting and starting conflict just for sh*ts and giggles.  Not Japan.  The IJA did what they wanted.  These guys were so batsh*t insane, it's amazing how they got that much power and influence over the country and its affairs.

I suspect it's because Japan modernized so rapidly, that they never had time to mature out of the old feudal warlord mindset.  By WWI, you still had plenty of Japanese citizens who grew up under a feudal Shogun and yet were fighting in a modern war with modern technology.  Heck, there were probably still those in the military who held the caste rank of Samurai before it was abolished.

When the Nisshōki was adopted in 1870, the idea of a national flag or a national symbol was an alien concept to Japan.  The citizens had probably identified themselves more with the Mon (family crest) of themselves or their local lord.

The idea that a warlord could just act on their own initiative and gain tremendous power was still ingrained in the Japanese by WWII, despite the "nationalism".  Even the grudges between the clans caused by the Sengoku Jidai and the Boshin War were still around, hence the intense rivalries between Army and Navy.  "Japan" as a concept was still integrated into the people, and was not fully developed by WWII.

 

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The Taylor book on Chiang is a whitewash funded by a foundation set up to fund stuff that whitewashes KMT crimes.  Not trustworthy.

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17 hours ago, Taichunger said:

The Taylor book on Chiang is a whitewash funded by a foundation set up to fund stuff that whitewashes KMT crimes.  Not trustworthy.

There is plenty of value in the book, particularly related to the war, Stilwell, and other non-political subjects. Taylor does indeed gloss over KMT abuses (I found his couple sentence "yeah, it happened" gloss over of the 228 Incident particularly egregious) and Chiang comes off better than I feel he should, which I have made clearer in the OP.

Edited by AdmiralPiett

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9 hours ago, Sventex said:

I suspect it's because Japan modernized so rapidly, that they never had time to mature out of the old feudal warlord mindset.  By WWI, you still had plenty of Japanese citizens who grew up under a feudal Shogun and yet were fighting in a modern war with modern technology.  Heck, there were probably still those in the military who held the caste rank of Samurai before it was abolished.

When the Nisshōki was adopted in 1870, the idea of a national flag or a national symbol was an alien concept to Japan.  The citizens had probably identified themselves more with the Mon (family crest) of themselves or their local lord.

The idea that a warlord could just act on their own initiative and gain tremendous power was still ingrained in the Japanese by WWII, despite the "nationalism".  Even the grudges between the clans caused by the Sengoku Jidai and the Boshin War were still around, hence the intense rivalries between Army and Navy.  "Japan" as a concept was still integrated into the people, and was not fully developed by WWII.

 

I remember hearing some of the IJA leadership being happy that the IJN suffered a catastrophe at Midway, because it brought the Navy down some notches from the prior successes it had against the Allies.  Despite the IJN catastrophe being a catastrophe for Japan herself because the Pacific Theater was largely a naval war.

 

Also, rivalry is an understatement.  The IJA were assassinating people, even naval officers.  Hell, there's a story of a junior IJA officer that did not like a superior's political stance, and just straight up went into the higher ranking officer's office and murdered the man with his sword.

 

These guys were just batsh*t insane, and they ran that country!  Every story I read, I couldn't believe it.  This stuff was going on in the 20th f-cking century!

Edited by HazeGrayUnderway

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8 hours ago, HazeGrayUnderway said:

I remember hearing some of the IJA leadership being happy that the IJN suffered a catastrophe at Midway, because it brought the Navy down some notches from the prior successes it had against the Allies.  Despite the IJN catastrophe being a catastrophe for Japan herself because the Pacific Theater was largely a naval war.

 

Also, rivalry is an understatement.  The IJA were assassinating people, even naval officers.  Hell, there's a story of a junior IJA officer that did not like a superior's political stance, and just straight up went into the higher ranking officer's office and murdered the man with his sword.

 

These guys were just batsh*t insane, and they ran that country!  Every story I read, I couldn't believe it.  This stuff was going on in the 20th f-cking century!

I added a few sources related to this in the "additional reading" section, but yeah. The culture of disobedience and rebellion in the IJA is a fascinating subject.

Edited by AdmiralPiett
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14 hours ago, AdmiralPiett said:

I added a few sources related to this in the "additional reading" section, but yeah. The culture of disobedience and rebellion in the IJA is a fascinating subject.

Thanks for the video.  Right to the point getting into how out of control these guys were.

Edited by HazeGrayUnderway

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On 11/27/2018 at 11:48 PM, HazeGrayUnderway said:

I remember hearing some of the IJA leadership being happy that the IJN suffered a catastrophe at Midway, because it brought the Navy down some notches from the prior successes it had against the Allies.  Despite the IJN catastrophe being a catastrophe for Japan herself because the Pacific Theater was largely a naval war.

 

Also, rivalry is an understatement.  The IJA were assassinating people, even naval officers.  Hell, there's a story of a junior IJA officer that did not like a superior's political stance, and just straight up went into the higher ranking officer's office and murdered the man with his sword.

 

These guys were just batsh*t insane, and they ran that country!  Every story I read, I couldn't believe it.  This stuff was going on in the 20th f-cking century!

Just look at one of Japan's most historic battle.  It was just riddled with betrayals and disobedience.  And if you watch the whole video, see you'll see how now the entire war was the result of disobedience because the Emperor and Shogun had lost control of the country.  These are the heroes of Japan, the pivotal figures everyone aspired to be.  Shogun Oda Nobunaga, betrayed by his general. His betrayer Akechi Mitsuhide becoming the thirteen-day Shogun, "replaced" by Imperial regent Hashiba Hideyoshi whose dynasty was betrayed by Tokugawa, whom became the new Shogun.

 

Edited by Sventex

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21 hours ago, Sventex said:

Just look at one of Japan's most historic battle.  It was just riddled with betrayals and disobedience.  And if you watch the whole video, see you'll see how now the entire war was the result of disobedience because the Emperor and Shogun had lost control of the country.  These are the heroes of Japan, the pivotal figures everyone aspired to be.  Shogun Oda Nobunaga, betrayed by his general. His betrayer Akechi Mitsuhide becoming the thirteen-day Shogun, "replaced" by Imperial regent Hashiba Hideyoshi whose dynasty was betrayed by Tokugawa, whom became the new Shogun.

 

Another case of disobedience that came to mind was the Battle of Manila late in WWII.  IJA General Yamashita was in charge of Japanese defense of the Philippines when the Americans returned.  He was withdrawing troops to another defensive area.  Forces in Manila were to abandon the city and withdraw also.  But Yamashita's subordinate in Manila, RAdm Iwabuchi (who had Special Naval Landing Forces under his command), ignored these orders and proceeded to make the city a battleground and have his men commit numerous atrocities.  You had IJN leadership in Japan telling him, "Yeah!  Do it!" while the theater commander, Yamashita didn't.  It was a bloodbath.

 

The screwed up part was Yamashita paid for this in the post-war courts, making him responsible for the atrocities and devastation of Manila done by Iwabuchi, when he ordered his men to leave the place and not fight there at all.  He was hanged for this.

Edited by HazeGrayUnderway

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