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.

The books I picked & why

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

By B.R. Myers,

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

Why 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.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

By Karl Marlantes,

Book cover of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Why 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.

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

By Truong Nhu Tang,

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

Why 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.

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

By Frank Gibney, Beth Cary (translator),

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

Why 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.

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

By Nicholas Stargardt,

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

Why 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.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Vietnam War, Japan, and Germany?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Vietnam War, Japan, and Germany.

The Vietnam War Explore 132 books about the Vietnam War
Japan Explore 299 books about Japan
Germany Explore 267 books about Germany

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy, Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan, and Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power if you like this list.