The best books on the war in the Pacific 1941-1945

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Daniel Hammel and my father Eric Hammel was a prolific author and military historian. He specialized in the Marine Corps and specifically World War II. Though he has passed, several of these books, especially Day of Infamy, inspired him to become an author, where he wrote over 40 books. This list is an ode to my father, Eric, and to his many accomplishments.


I wrote...

Two Flags Over Iwo Jima: Solving the Mystery of the U.S. Marine Corps' Proudest Moment

By Eric Hammel,

Book cover of Two Flags Over Iwo Jima: Solving the Mystery of the U.S. Marine Corps' Proudest Moment

What is my book about?

The saga of the flags on Iwo Jima has fascinated America for decades. Hammel himself grew up in the company of WWII veterans and has always been intrigued by ‘The Photo’ of the flag, which became a powerful symbol of patriotism and national pride. But the story of how the flag got there, and even the identity of the soldiers in the photo, has been muddied by history. Eric Hammel here sets the record straight, viewing complex events through the lens of the story of the infantry company in which all the flag raisers served.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

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

Daniel Hammel Why did I love this book?

Lord writes in the narrative history perspective of the attack on Pearl Harbor and interviewed hundreds of people who were present at the event. The book reads like you are in it, tiny details are present, from the light hearted night of entertaining of Admirals before the attack on December 6th to the unsuccessful two-man midget submarine attack. We hear the echoes of the past as they are unfolding in real time, minute by minute, hour by hour, bomb by bomb. An event that shook the world, from the people who were there on both sides of it.

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 Guadalcanal Diary

Daniel Hammel Why did I love this book?

Tregaskis, not a soldier, but a journalist on assignment, takes us into the world of the man on the ground, in and out of combat. The story of the first real blow against the Japanese Empire following the string of defeats prior. The diary reads just like you would expect - the day-by-day account of the monotony of ship life as the Marines sail closer to unknown shores, followed by tales of bravery and air raids while engaged in combat with the enemy. Tregaskis is an observer, but he takes us there, where few dare go.

By Richard Tregaskis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This celebrated classic gives a soldier's-eye-view of the Guadalcanal battles--crucial to World War II, the war that continues to fascinate us all, and to military history in general. Unlike some of those on Guadalcanal in the fall of 1942, Richard Tregaskis volunteered to be there. An on-location news correspondent (at the time, one of only two on Guadalcanal), he lived alongside the soldiers: sleeping on the ground--only to be awoken by air raids--eating the sometimes meager rations, and braving some of the most dangerous battlefields of World War II. He more than once narrowly escaped the enemy's fire, and so…


Book cover of Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific

Daniel Hammel Why did I love this book?

Leckie enlisted in the Marine Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. His story is one of the best accounts of life on the ground in combat, from induction to his time on now famous islands, Guadalcanal, New Britain, and finally Peleliu. Leckie lets the reader in on the grinding, miserable combat of New Britain, the joyous affair of Peleliu, and the pet-names he has for the men around him. At the end of it all, Leckie finds himself in the hospital for the tenth time since he entered the Marine Corps, left wondering what it was all for.

By Ross Leckie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Helmet for My Pillow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind the HBO series THE PACIFIC

Here is one of the most riveting first-person accounts to ever come out of World War 2. Robert Leckie was 21 when he enlisted in the US Marine Corps in January 1942. In Helmet for My Pillow we follow his journey, from boot camp on Parris Island, South Carolina, all the way to the raging battles in the Pacific, where some of the war's fiercest fighting took place. Recounting his service with the 1st Marine Division and the brutal action on Guadalcanal, New Britain and Peleliu, Leckie spares no detail of the…


Book cover of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

Daniel Hammel Why did I love this book?

Sledge’s experience is not a tale of glory. Sledge is haunted by his time in combat by the things he has seen done, and has done himself. A volunteer, like many of his comrades, he did not wait to get drafted into the Marine Corps. It wasn’t until 36 years after the end of the war, no longer a young man that he was finally able to publish his account of the war. Sledge’s first taste of combat is on the killing field of Peleliu, a desolate and unhabitable place. Here he learns about leadership and loss. Captain Andrew Haldane, his company commander whom he idolizes is killed on Peleliu as are many of his comrades with almost 1/3 of the division becoming causalities in a month of fighting. Nothing of Peleliu though could have prepared him for the meat-grinder of Okinawa. Okinawa had a populace where Peleliu had not. The fighting never ceases during his time on Okinawa and it takes its toll. The division again suffers horribly at the hands of the Japanese, and by the time fighting is over The Old Breed have taken 150% casualties in the combined actions of Peleliu and Okinawa.

By E.B. Sledge,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked With the Old Breed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind the HBO series THE PACIFIC

This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands...

Landing on the beach at Peleliu in 1944 as a twenty-year-old new recruit to the US Marines, Eugene Sledge can only try desperately to survive. At Peleliu and Okinawa - two of the fiercest and filthiest Pacific battles of WWII - he witnesses the dehumanising brutality displayed by both sides and the animal hatred that each soldier has for his enemy.

During temporary lapses in the fighting, conditions on…


Book cover of Twilight of the Gods

Daniel Hammel Why did I love this book?

The third and final book of the epic Pacific War Trilogy, Twilight of the Gods is the story of the crushing of the once venerable Japanese Empire. At just under 800 pages the book describes in the great detail the coming apocalypse for the Japanese war machine. While 1943 was pivotal with the war in the Pacific having essentially been won by the Allies, it was 1944 and 1945 where the real murder of empire happened. In these two years of horrendous fighting, hundreds of thousands died for what was clearly a lost cause. The Japanese tried one last time at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but were massacred by the incredible might of the U.S. Navy and combined forces. Toll brings the reader into the little details of the war, and how they affected everything.

By Ian W. Toll,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In June 1944, the United States launched a crushing assault on the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The capture of the Mariana Islands and the accompanying ruin of Japanese carrier airpower marked a pivotal moment in the Pacific War. No tactical masterstroke or blunder could reverse the increasingly lopsided balance of power between the two combatants. The War in the Pacific had entered its endgame.

Beginning with the Honolulu Conference, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with his Pacific theater commanders to plan the last phase of the campaign against Japan, Twilight of the Gods brings…


You might also like...

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Japan, presidential biography, and World War 1?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Japan, presidential biography, and World War 1.

Japan Explore 463 books about Japan
Presidential Biography Explore 18 books about presidential biography
World War 1 Explore 872 books about World War 1