The best books about naval battles in the Second World War

Who am I?

I’ve been writing on maritime, naval, and military subjects for nearly a quarter-century, beginning with my first published work, “Unsinkable – The Full Story of RMS Titanic” in 1998. My fascination with ships and the sea originated with my father, who served in the US Merchant Marine in the Second World War. His experiences in the North Atlantic in 1943-44 gave me to understand that no matter how large and powerful – or small and fragile – a ship may be, it is her crewmen who brings her life, and sometimes go to their deaths with her. It’s their stories that matter most when recounting the naval battles of any war, and these five books are among the best at presenting them.

I wrote...

Pearl: December 7, 1941

By Daniel Allen Butler,

Book cover of Pearl: December 7, 1941

What is my book about?

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the "hinge of Fate" turned and the course of history was utterly changed. How – and why – did the Empire of Japan and the United States of America collide in blood and flames that Sunday morning when the sun rose and the bombs fell?

Pearl: December 7, 1941 recounts how America and Japan let peace slip away, so that on that "day which will live in infamy," more than 350 warplanes of the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a stunning attack on the United States Navy's Pacific Fleet no one in America thought was possible. Ultimately, it's a story of emperors and presidents, diplomats and politicians, admirals and generals – and the ordinary sailors, soldiers, and airmen who were caught up in the fire and fury of a war they never knew was coming.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour

Daniel Allen Butler Why did I love this book?

The Battle of Samar Island, which is the subject of this book, is one of the most extraordinary naval battles in all human history. In October 1944 a massive Japanese battle fleet encountered a small US Navy task force just east of the Philippines. Woefully outnumbered and outgunned, the diminutive American escort vessels protecting a handful of light carriers charged headlong at their foes – 1,500-ton destroyers taking on 60,000-ton battleships – and forced the Japanese into a disorganized retreat.  The courage, determination, and self-sacrifice of the crews of the destroyers and destroyer escorts – the “Tin Can Sailors” of the title – would be unbelievable if they weren’t so well-documented.

By James D. Hornfischer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.”

With these words, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland addressed the crew of the destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts on the morning of October 25, 1944, off the Philippine Island of Samar. On the horizon loomed the mightiest ships of the Japanese navy, a massive fleet that represented the last hope of a staggering empire. All that stood between it and Douglas MacArthur’ s vulnerable invasion force were the Roberts and the other small ships of a tiny American…

Book cover of Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunted: 1942-1945

Daniel Allen Butler Why did I love this book?

The Battle of the Atlantic (or the Atlantic Campaign) was the longest and one of the deadliest battles of the Second World War. Of the 40,000 men who served in the German U-boats, 30,000 of them lie at the bottom of the ocean, while over 70,000 Allied naval and merchant marine personnel lost their lives. Blair, in what could have been a cold, impersonal recounting of facts and figures, puts a very human face on the confrontations between the U-boats and their prey – the Allied merchant ships and their naval escorts – in the battle that both sides desperately wanted to win, as whoever lost would lose the war.

By Clay Blair,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hitler's U-Boat War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first volume of Clay Blair's magisterial, highly praised narrative history of the German submarine war against Allied shipping in World War II, The Hunters, 1939-1942, described the Battle of the Atlantic waged first against the British Empire and then against the Americas. This second and concluding volume, The Hunted, 1942-1945, covers the period when the fortunes of the German Navy were completely reversed, and it suffered perhaps the most devastating defeat of any of the German forces.
In unprecedented detail and drawing on sources never used before, Clay Blair continues the dramatic and authoritative story of the failures and…

Book cover of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

Daniel Allen Butler Why did I love this book?

The “hinge of Fate” had turned at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, but in June 1942 it swung back again as the United States Navy soundly defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway.  Shattered Sword has become known as the definitive account of Midway, and in particular, is notable for how thoroughly – and fairly -- it tells the Japanese side of the battle.  While the tenacity of the US Navy pilots who flew to certain death has been repeatedly, and deservedly, lauded, Parshall and Tully show us that the Japanese were equally courageous.  It’s impossible to read Shattered Sword without coming away with awed respect for the sailors and aircrew of both navies.

By Anthony Tully, Jonathan Parshall,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Shattered Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many consider the Battle of Midway to have turned the tide of the Pacific War. It is without question one of the most famous battles in history. Now, for the first time since Gordon W. Prange's bestselling Miracle at Midway, Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully offer a new interpretation of this great naval engagement.

Unlike previous accounts, Shattered Sword makes extensive use of Japanese primary sources. It also corrects the many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida's Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, an uncritical reliance upon which has tainted every previous Western account. It thus forces a major, potentially controversial reevaluation…

Book cover of Day of Infamy: The Classic Account of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor

Daniel Allen Butler Why did I love this book?

Few authors have ever matched Walter Lord for his ability to put a reader inside a historical event as it was unfolding. In Day of Infamy he puts his readers vicariously on the ground, in the air, or aboard a ship during the Pearl Harbor attack, and through his use of eyewitness accounts draws the reader into what becomes an almost visceral experience.  While some details Lord recounts have been invalidated by more recent research (the book is over sixty years old yet is still in print!), that does nothing to detract from how convincingly he conveys the Americans’ feelings of shock and anger, or the Japanese’ sense of triumph and accomplishment.

By Walter Lord,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Day of Infamy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special 60th anniversary edition of the bestselling re-creation of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, by the author of A Night to Remember.

Sunday, December 7, 1941, was, as President Roosevelt said, "a date which will live in infamy." Day of Infamy is a fascinating account of that unforgettable day's events. In brilliant detail Walter Lord traces the human drama of the great attack: the spies behind it; the Japanese pilots; the crews on the stricken warships; the men at the airfields and the bases; the Japanese pilot who captured an island single-handedly when he could not get back…

Book cover of Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck

Daniel Allen Butler Why did I love this book?

The author, Ludovic Kennedy, was a very junior officer aboard one of the Royal Navy destroyers in the thick of the hunt for Bismarck, which lends a palpable “I was there” immediacy to his account of one of the most dramatic episodes in the naval war on the North Atlantic in World War II.  His presentation is well-balanced, and his writing style makes for an easy but thoroughly engaging read, while the vignettes of shipboard life and the naval service, in general, are by turns fascinating, gripping, and sometimes tragic.

By Ludovic Kennedy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pursuit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here for your delectation is the SPECTACULAR AND RARE-------------- by . THIS ITEM IS FOUND NOWHERE ELSE!!! DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT! DON'T STAY HOME WITHOUT IT! NOT TO BE MISSED!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!! A FABULOUS COLLECTIBLE!! This is the softcover stated PINNACLE FIRST EDITION FROM JUNE 1975. Other than a couple of ex lib markings, the book (no dj) is in excellent reading condition. There are no rips, tears, etc.---and the pages and binding are tight (see photo). **Note: All books listed as FIRST EDITIONS are stated by the publisher in words or number lines--or--only stated editions that include only…

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Book cover of Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

Bruce Tate

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What is my book about?

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