The best books to describe why the Pacific War was waged and how it was really fought in New Guinea

John E. Happ Author Of The Navigation Case: Training, Flying and Fighting the 1942 to 1945 New Guinea War
By John E. Happ

Who am I?

I grew up just north of Chicago, took courses at the University of Madrid (La Complutense), and graduated from Marquette University.  I speak 5 languages and have written for such diverse reviews as The Journal of the American Revolution and Atlantic Coastal Kayaker. Nothing has possessed me like my father’s Navigation Case. Besides learning how this young college graduate helped pioneer the nascent aviation industry training in 11 different types of aircraft, I take pride in the astonishing role he played in American history. He was a combat pilot in the first-ever demonstration of air superiority over an enemy, leading to the greatest campaign victory in the history of the US Air Force. 


I wrote...

The Navigation Case: Training, Flying and Fighting the 1942 to 1945 New Guinea War

By John E. Happ,

Book cover of The Navigation Case: Training, Flying and Fighting the 1942 to 1945 New Guinea War

What is my book about?

I lived 18 years under my father’s roof. In all that time he never spoke about what he did in the Pacific War. After he died I inherited a mysterious, crusty leather case, found in our long-ignored attic: my father’s pilot Navigation Case. In there I was shocked to learn that he flew 64 violent and deadly attack missions as a combat pilot in New Guinea. But if we were fighting Japan, what was he doing in New Guinea of all places? When he was rotated off the front lines he flew Battle of the Bulge wounded to hospitals closer to their native homes. It was called Medical Air Evacuation Transport. And in that role he went missing, lost, completely unaccounted for...

The books I picked & why

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The Works of Inazo Nitobe: Volume III Japan: Some Phases of Her Problems and Development

By Inazo Nitobe,

Book cover of The Works of Inazo Nitobe: Volume III Japan: Some Phases of Her Problems and Development

Why this book?

This book began to help me understand why my father was sent to New Guinea. It taught me a lot about how Japan saw herself in the world at that time and what she thought she could do about it. My conclusion is that Japan felt threatened and feared being colonized. The Europeans had been colonizing the Asian Pacific for centuries: France in Indo-China, Britain manipulating China; Germany held various Chinese ports; Russia pushing into Korea, the Dutch in Indonesia (The Dutch East Indies)… all milking those countries of their natural resources with oppressive control of indigenous peoples. Japan in turn sought to build her nation into an Empire along the British model. 


Bolivar: American Liberator

By Marie Arana,

Book cover of Bolivar: American Liberator

Why this book?

This fabulous book tells not only of Bolivar’s struggle to create an independent united states of South America, but why. The author graphically describes what it means to be a colony, subject to Crown rule. The control exerted by Spain over her colonies was nothing less than feudal. This book illuminates what it is like to have your country pillaged as a colony. Franklin Roosevelt’s original 1941 reason for going to war, if we had to, was to help liberate all the enchained European colonies through a treatise called the Atlantic Charter


Air Combat at 20 Feet: Selected Missions from a Strafer Pilot's Diary

By Garrett Middlebrook,

Book cover of Air Combat at 20 Feet: Selected Missions from a Strafer Pilot's Diary

Why this book?

I consider Garrett Middlebrook to be the Wilfred Owens (poet) of WWII. He is a man with a conscience and a moral code who explains what it meant to be a combat pilot in New Guinea. He describes various life-threatening mission against a superior enemy. But on the other hand, struggles with the fact that he is killing other men, in other uniforms, who like himself are just doing their jobs. He chafes at orders to kill civilian contractors (conscripted Chinese) working for the Japanese in New Guinea. He recoils from celebrations after the battle of the Bismarck Sea because he felt no joy after witnessing the vivid destruction of enemy men and equipment. 


Macarthur's Victory: The War in New Guinea, 1943-1944

By Harry Gailey,

Book cover of Macarthur's Victory: The War in New Guinea, 1943-1944

Why this book?

This book gave me a basic understanding of the New Guinea war into which my father was sent. It gave me the framework with which I could piece together the timeline of my father’s service. It gave me an idea of the progress of the war and a context for all of his military orders, his stacks of correspondence, and all of his photos, long stored away in his Navigation Case.


A Few Months in New Guinea

By Octavius C. Stone,

Book cover of A Few Months in New Guinea

Why this book?

Stone, writing in the 1880s, describes the unexplored mystery, foreboding tropical weather, and long-ignored people of New Guinea. Since its “discovery” by European explorers, the New Guinea climate was known to be inhospitable to westerners. This book began to inform me of the world into which my father was sent as an Army Air Corps pilot. Even as late as 1944 he flew with emergency survival maps with vast swathes of the country completely blank, marked “Unexplored.” 


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