The best books on naval battles in WW2

Why am I passionate about this?

Walter R. Borneman is an American military and political historian. He won the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize in Naval Literature for The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King, a national bestseller. Borneman's other titles include Brothers Down: Pearl Harbor and the Fate of the Many Brothers Aboard the USS Arizona; MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific; and 1812: The War That Forged a Nation.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea

What is my book about?

Learn how history's only five-star admirals triumphed in World War II and made the United States the world's dominant sea power. Only four men in American history have been promoted to the five-star rank of Admiral of the Fleet: William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey. These four men were the best and the brightest the navy produced, and together they led the U.S. Navy to victory in World War II, establishing the United States as the world's greatest fleet.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II

Walter R. Borneman Why did I love this book?

Perceptions of the first several months of World War II in the Pacific war usually focus on Douglas MacArthur’s actions in the Philippines. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy and its British, Dutch, and Australian allies waged a largely unsung and losing battle against the Japanese onslaught to control the natural resources of the Netherlands East Indies.

Rising Sun, Falling Skies scrutinizes the learning curve of allied command, the hopelessness of facing numerical superiority, and the grim awakening that airpower plays a decisive role no matter how powerful the fleet. Cox’s portraits of admirals Thomas Hart and Karl Doorman beg a host of intriguing “what ifs.”

By Jeffrey Cox,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rising Sun, Falling Skies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few events have ever shaken a country in the way that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor affected the United States. The Japanese forces then continued to overwhelm the Allies, attacking Malaya with its fortress of Singapore, and taking resource-rich islands in the Pacific in their own blitzkrieg offensive. Allied losses in these early months after America's entry into the war were great, and among the most devastating were those suffered during the Java Sea Campaign, where a small group of Americans, British, Dutch, and Australians were isolated in the Far East - directly in the path of the Japanese…


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

Walter R. Borneman Why did I love this book?

There is no dearth of literature about Midway. Parshall and Tully are at the top of the list and are both insightful masters of detail and thoroughly engaging writers.

They draw heavily on primary sources for the Imperial Japanese Navy and scrutinize American operations from Nimitz’s overall carrier-centric strategy to the tactical shortcomings of individual air squadrons. When aviators from the American carriers put three Japanese carriers out of action within a few serendipitous minutes, Parshall and Tully make it seem like the reader is in their cockpits with them.

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 Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

Walter R. Borneman Why did I love this book?

All of Hornfischer’s histories deserve to be on this list, but Neptune’s Inferno is my personal favorite. Guadalcanal is justifiably thought of as the heroic struggle of Marines to take and hold the island, but they could not have done so without the sacrifices of thousands of sailors in the surrounding waters.

Hornfischer’s smooth style guides one through multiple battles over a four-month campaign, including two of the darkest moments in U.S. naval history: the fiery nighttime battle of Savo Island that initially saved the beachhead and the opening round of the climatic battles of mid-November 1942 that numbered two admirals among the American dead.

By James D. Hornfischer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Neptune’s Inferno as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A masterpiece of 20th-century naval history." --Bob Shacochis, National Book Award-winning author of The Immaculate Invasion

"The star of this year's reading list is James D. Hornfischer, a military historian whose flair for narrative is rivaled only by his ability to organize the sweep of battle and assess strategy and tactics in layman's terms." --Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Battle of Guadalcanal has long been heralded as a Marine victory. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy's sacrifice, James D. Hornfischer tells for the first time the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in…


Book cover of Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945

Walter R. Borneman Why did I love this book?

The battles of Leyte Gulf have led to many books, but if one is interested in both the overarching sweep of strategy and the psyche of the individual men who implemented it, Sea of Thunder is definitely the place to begin.

Laying out a multi-prong, last-ditch assault by the Imperial Japanese Navy, Thomas focuses on the perspectives and experiences of two commanders on each side, including Admiral Bill Halsey and Admiral Takeo Kurita. Both men would be second-guessed forever for decisions each made during the heat of battle. Ultimately, these running battles on multiple fronts would become the greatest naval battle ever fought.

By Evan Thomas,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sea of Thunder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sea of Thunder is a taut, fast-paced, suspenseful narrative of the Pacific War that culminates in the battle of Leyte Gulf, the greatest naval battle ever fought.

Told from both the American and Japanese sides, through the eyes of commanders and sailors of both navies, Thomas's history adds an important new dimension to our understanding of World War II.

Drawing on oral histories, diaries, correspondence, postwar testimony from both American and Japanese participants, and interviews with survivors, Thomas provides an account not only of the great sea battle and Pacific naval war, but of the contrasting cultures pitted against each…


Book cover of The Hunters 1939-1942

Walter R. Borneman Why did I love this book?

Yes, there was a naval war in the Atlantic, too. Had not the Allies defeated Hitler’s U-boats over a multi-year battle—the longest of the war—World War II would likely have been lost no matter the heroics in the Pacific. Hitler’s U-Boat War does for the Battle of the Atlantic what Blair did with Silent Victory for submarine actions in the Pacific.

This book is exhaustive in detail—pick a boat or an engagement, and Blair has chronicled it— but taken overall, these volumes show the tenuous nature of the battle that was won in the aggregate by individual conflicts between hunter and hunted. This is a reliable desktop reference as well as a compelling read.

By Clay Blair,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hunters 1939-1942 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"His monumental work...is the most thorough study of the U-boat campaign available."    --Library Journal

Hitler's U-boat War is an epic sea story about the most arduous and prolonged naval battle in history. For a period of nearly six years, the German U-boat force attempted to blockade and isolate the British Isles in hopes of forcing the British out of the war, thereby thwarting both the Allied strategic air assault on German cities and Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Occupied France. Fortunately for the Allies, the U-boat force failed to achieve either of these objectives, but in the attempt they…


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Book cover of The Flower Queen: A 1970's Suspense Romance

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What is this book about?

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It took away her husband’s pain on his deathbed, kept her from losing the family farm, gave her the power to build a thriving business, but it’s illegal to grow in every state in the country in 1978. It even brings her first love from high school back; the only problem he works for the FBI. Will their occupations implode their romance or will the opposite happen? A second chance at love, opposites attract , rags to riches heroine trope story.


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Interested in the Battle of Midway, veterans, and U-boats?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Battle of Midway, veterans, and U-boats.

The Battle Of Midway Explore 13 books about the Battle of Midway
Veterans Explore 83 books about veterans
U-Boats Explore 24 books about U-boats