The best books for understanding America and her enemies in wartime

Who am I?

After retiring from academic medicine, I moved to the ocean and learned of WWII Japanese submarine and balloon bomb attacks on Oregon. With extensive research, consultation, and trips to Europe, Latin America, and Asia, I have now published three historical fiction novels on Amazon: Enemy in the Mirror: Love and Fury in the Pacific War, The Osprey and the Sea Wolf: The Battle of the Atlantic 1942, and Night Fire Morning Snow: The Road to Chosin. My website is intended to promote understanding of America and her enemies in wartime.

I wrote...

Night Fire Morning Snow: The Road to Chosin

By Mark Scott Smith,

Book cover of Night Fire Morning Snow: The Road to Chosin

What is my book about?

In 1941 a Korean medical student, chafing under Japanese colonial rule, joins guerrillas fighting the Imperial Japanese Army in Manchuria. In 1944 a young American GI fights the Japanese in New Guinea. Both men suffer great personal losses before returning to their private lives after the war with Imperial Japan. Just as they each attain happy relationships and satisfying careers, war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula. Now two men who fought a common enemy in the Pacific War become enemies. Their paths crisscross and ultimately converge at the tragic battle of the Chosin Reservoir.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters

Why did I love this book?

I’ve learned most about traditional Korean culture from books such as Three Generations by Yom Sang-stop which were written during the country’s century-long colonization by Imperial Japan. Today it is difficult to find a window to peer into the true culture of the cloistered Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Although written in a somewhat deprecating tone, The Cleanest Race is packed with historical, military, and political knowledge. It also provides insights into the propaganda that promotes certain political and cultural beliefs among an apparently compliant North Korean populace. This authoritative, fact-filled book greatly deepened my understanding of mysterious North Korean ideology and beliefs today.

By B.R. Myers,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Cleanest Race as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Understanding North Korea through its propagandaA newly revised and updated edition that includes a consideration of Kim Jung Il's successor, Kim Jong-On What do the North Koreans really believe? How do they see themselves and the world around them? Here B.R. Myers, a North Korea analyst and a contributing editor of The Atlantic, presents the first full-length study of the North Korean worldview. Drawing on extensive research into the regime’s domestic propaganda, including films, romance novels and other artifacts of the personality cult, Myers analyzes each of the country’s official myths in turn€”from the notion of Koreans’ unique moral purity,…

Book cover of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Why did I love this book?

Karl Marlantes' deeply personal and gritty account of combat in Vietnam is rivaled only by Eugene Sledge’s Pacific War classic With the Old Breed. Filled with action, emotion, and inner reflection, Matterhorn sweeps the reader along with a Marine platoon plunging into the dark and dangerous jungle where seasoned guerrillas and North Vietnamese Army troops seek to destroy them. The author Karl Marlantes, a Yale graduate, left his Rhodes scholarship to go on active duty with the Marines in Vietnam.

By Karl Marlantes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Matterhorn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fire Support Base Matterhorn: a fortress carved out of the grey-green mountain jungle. Cold monsoon clouds wreath its mile-high summit, concealing a battery of 105-mm howitzers surrounded by deep bunkers, carefully constructed fields of fire and the 180 marines of Bravo Company. Just three kilometres from Laos and two from North Vietnam, there is no more isolated outpost of America's increasingly desperate war in Vietnam.

Second Lieutenant Waino Mellas, 21 years old and just a few days into his 13-month tour, has barely arrived at Matterhorn before Bravo Company is ordered to abandon their mountain and sent deep in-country in…

Book cover of A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath

Why did I love this book?

This fascinating book provides insight into the mind of a cultured, erudite Vietnamese man who grew up in French Indochina. Truong Nhu Tang, simultaneously a South Vietnamese government official and a clandestine Viet Cong urban organizer, has inspirational encounters with Ho Chi Minh in Paris and Viet Minh guerrillas in the jungle. Captured by South Vietnamese police in 1968, he was released to the North in a US-Viet Cong prisoner exchange. After the War, becoming disillusioned with political repression and economic mismanagement by the new communist government, he escapes from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and ends up living in exile in Paris.

By Truong Nhu Tang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"An absorbing and moving autobiography...An important addition not only to the literature of Vietnam but to the larger human story of hope, violence and disillusion in the political life of our era."—Chicago Tribune

When he was a student in Paris, Truong Nhu Tang met Ho Chi Minh. Later he fought in the Vietnamese jungle and emerged as one of the major figures in the "fight for liberation"—and one of the most determined adversaries of the United States. He became the Vietcong's Minister of Justice, but at the end of the war he fled the country in disillusionment and despair. He…

Book cover of SENSŌ: The Japanese Remember the Pacific War: Letters to the Editor of "Asahi Shimbun"

Why did I love this book?

Composed of letters to the editor in Tokyo’s highly respected Asahi Shimbun newspaper from 1986 to 1987, SENSŌ provides vivid insight into wartime life in Imperial Japan. Composed of honest reflections 40 years after the war, the topics covered (often with powerful emotion) include: life in the military, the Sino-Japanese War, Pacific War, home front, the bombing of Japanese cities, and post-war reflections. In the end, I was impressed how the Japanese experience and emotions during the war were not dissimilar to what I might imagine feeling as an American in a similar situation.

By Frank Gibney, Beth Cary (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This acclaimed work is an extraordinary collection of letters written by a wide cross-section of Japanese citizens to one of Japan's leading newspapers, expressing their personal reminiscences and opinions of the Pacific war. "SENSO" provides the general reader and the specialist with moving, disturbing, startling insights on a subject deliberately swept under the rug, both by Japan's citizenry and its government. It is an invaluable index of Japanese public opinion about the war.

Book cover of The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945

Why did I love this book?

Compiled from personal diaries and letters, wartime arts and entertainment, court records, military correspondence, secret police reports and Nazi propaganda ministry assessments, an Oxford professor of modern European history has written this engrossing account of the German military and civilian experience during World War II. Initial enthusiasm for the war effort during the early years of WWII, gradually gives way under the intense bombing of German cities, awareness of the regime’s genocidal activities and military losses on both fronts. In the final year of the war ordinary Germans, realizing the war could not be won, were simply determined to hold on until a just peace can be attained.

By Nicholas Stargardt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As early as 1941, Allied victory in World War II seemed all but assured. How and why, then, did the Germans prolong the barbaric conflict for three and a half more years?In The German War , acclaimed historian Nicholas Stargardt draws on an extraordinary range of primary source materials,personal diaries, court records, and military correspondence,to answer this question. He offers an unprecedented portrait of wartime Germany, bringing the hopes and expectations of the German people,from infantrymen and tank commanders on the Eastern front to civilians on the home front,to vivid life. While most historians identify the German defeat at Stalingrad…

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