The best books on WW2 from a military historian

Who am I?

Gerhard Weinberg fled Germany at the end of 1938 and experienced the first year of World War II – including the beginning of the Blitz – in England. He completed his PhD after serving in the US Army of Occupation in Japan, researched the captured German documents, established the program for microfilming them, and after writing an analysis of the origins of World War II decided to prepare a book covering the war as a whole.


I wrote...

A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II

By Gerhard Weinberg,

Book cover of A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II

What is my book about?

This is the first general history of World War II to be based both on the existing literature and on extensive work in British, American, and German archives. It covers all the theaters of war, the weaponry used, and developments on the home front. Taking a global perspective, the work deals with all belligerents and relates events in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and the Pacific to each other. The role of diplomacy and strategy, of intelligence and espionage, and the impact of war upon society are all dealt with, often on the basis of hitherto unknown material. New light is shed on the actions of great and small powers and on topics ranging from the beginning of the war to the dropping of the atomic bombs; the titanic battles on the Eastern Front are fitted into the war as a whole; the killing of six million Jews and millions of others is placed into context, and the fighting at sea and in the air is included in a coherent view of the great conflict.

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War

Gerhard Weinberg Why did I love this book?

A truly extraordinary examination of the army that would do a majority of the fighting and suffer as well as inflict the largest portion of the military casualties of the European part of World War II. The "Bibliographic Essay and Selective Bibliography" is extraordinarily helpful in its account of the fate of Soviet archives and publications over the years.

By David M. Glantz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Germany's surprise attack on June 22, 1941, shocked a Soviet Union woefully unprepared to defend itself. The day before the attack, the Red Army still comprised the world's largest fighting force. But by the end of the year, four and a half million of its soldiers lay dead. This new study, based on formerly classified Soviet archival material and neglected German sources, reveals the truth behind this national catastrophe.

Drawing on evidence never before seen in the West-including combat records of early engagements-David Glantz claims that in 1941 the Red Army was poorly trained, inadequately equipped, ineptly organized, and consequently…


Book cover of Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East

Gerhard Weinberg Why did I love this book?

The author provides an analysis of the initial stages of the fighting on the Eastern Front that effectively revises several of the prior generally accepted views of that critical portion of the war. Here is one book that extensively utilizes German sources without becoming enslaved by them as too many works appear to become.

By David Stahel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began the largest and most costly campaign in military history. Its failure was a key turning point of the Second World War. The operation was planned as a Blitzkrieg to win Germany its Lebensraum in the east, and the summer of 1941 is well-known for the German army's unprecedented victories and advances. Yet the German Blitzkrieg depended almost entirely upon the motorised Panzer groups, particularly those of Army Group Centre. Using archival records, in this book David Stahel presents a history of Germany's summer campaign from the perspective of the two…


Book cover of Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War

Gerhard Weinberg Why did I love this book?

At last (2015) there is a balanced and carefully researched study of a central figure in the modern history of Japan and the war in the Pacific. The substantial utilization and integration of Japanese sources enhances the work but does not lead to any distortion of the real picture.

By Noriko Kawamura,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This reexamination of the controversial role Emperor Hirohito played during the Pacific War gives particular attention to the question: If the emperor could not stop Japan from going to war with the Allied Powers in 1941, why was he able to play a crucial role in ending the war in 1945? Drawing on previously unavailable primary sources, Noriko Kawamura traces Hirohito's actions from the late 1920s to the end of the war, analyzing the role Hirohito played in Japan's expansion. Emperor Hirohito emerges as a conflicted man who struggled throughout the war to deal with the undefined powers bestowed upon…


Book cover of Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle

Gerhard Weinberg Why did I love this book?

The author provides a most thoughtful and well-presented coverage of the longest battle of the Pacific War and of American history. Covering a war in a part of the world that very few are acquainted with, the author has enhanced his account with a large number of maps that truly help to orient the reader.

By Richard B. Frank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Brilliant...an enormous work based on the most meticulous research."-LA Times Book Review

The battle at Guadalcanal-which began eight months to the day after Pearl Harbor-marked the first American offensive of World War II. It was a brutal six-month campaign that cost the lives of some 7,000 Americans and over 30,000 Japanese.

This volume, ten years in the writing, recounts the full story of the critical campaign for Guadalcanal and is based on first-time translations of official Japanese Defense Agency accounts and recently declassified U.S. radio intelligence, Guadalcanal recreates the battle-on land, at sea, and in the air-as never before: it…


Book cover of MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific

Gerhard Weinberg Why did I love this book?

In view of the numerous controversies and varied views of General MacArthur’s actions and policies in the Pacific War, it is great to have a balanced and very carefully researched and presented account of a commander who was in it from Japan’s attack on the United States to Japan’s surrender. While dealing fairly with some of the criticisms of the general, Borneman does note his repeated announcements of battles being ended when they were not as well as the hopeless incompetence of his intelligence chief.

By Walter R. Borneman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

World War II changed the course of history. Douglas MacArthur changed the course of World War II. MACARTHUR AT WAR will go deeper into this transformative period of his life than previous biographies, drilling into the military strategy that Walter R. Borneman is so skilled at conveying, and exploring how personality and ego translate into military successes and failures.

Architect of stunning triumphs and inexplicable defeats, General MacArthur is the most intriguing military leader of the twentieth century. There was never any middle ground with MacArthur. This in-depth study of the most critical period of his career shows how MacArthur's…


You might also like...

Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Who am I?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

It is 1948 in Berlin. The economy is broken, the currency worthless, and the Russian bear is preparing to swallow its next victim. In the ruins of Hitler's capital, former RAF officers and a woman pilot start an air ambulance company that offers a glimmer of hope. Yet when a Soviet fighter brings down a British airliner, Berlin becomes a flashpoint. The world teeters on the brink of World War Three.

Award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader tells the backstory of the Berlin Airlift in Cold Peace, the first book of the Bridge to Tomorrow series.

Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

By Helena P. Schrader,


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Soviet Union, the German occupation of Europe, and Japan?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Soviet Union, the German occupation of Europe, and Japan.

The Soviet Union Explore 313 books about the Soviet Union
The German Occupation Of Europe Explore 68 books about the German occupation of Europe
Japan Explore 462 books about Japan