The best books on World War II in the Southwest Pacific

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and investor living in windward Oahu who has had a lifelong interest in military history ever since I read a biography of Alexander the Great when I was 12 years old. I have written several books including Hitler’s Great Gamble and MacArthur Reconsidered. For my next project I have transcribed, compiled, and edited 1,100 of General Douglas MacArthur’s daily communiques issued by his Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) headquarters from 1942-45. This collection will be published by McFarland in 2024.


I wrote...

MacArthur Reconsidered: General Douglas MacArthur as a Wartime Commander

By James Ellman,

Book cover of MacArthur Reconsidered: General Douglas MacArthur as a Wartime Commander

What is my book about?

Douglas MacArthur is one of the most fascinating figures in US history. No other American military leader failed so spectacularly on the battlefield, yet retained a reputation as one of our nation’s greatest generals among large segments of the US population. 

More than 70 years after he was fired by President Truman, MacArthur’s legacy is still remarkably controversial. As the general’s reputation derives primarily from his command of armies in WWII and Korea, my book focuses on his decisions and conduct during those periods. After weighing his strengths and weaknesses I conclude that while he was not our worst wartime general, he was far from the best, and probably the most dangerous to the Republic. 

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Our Jungle Road To Tokyo

James Ellman Why did I love this book?

This Is the World War II memoir of Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger, one of our nation’s most aggressive and effective field commanders.

MacArthur ordered him forward again and again to salvage battles that were tilting in favor of the Japanese. Eichelberger often lived at the front with his men in New Guinea and the Philippines and shared their hardships as he led them to victory at nearly forgotten battlefields such as Buna, Los Negros, Hollandia, Biak, and Batangas.  

Despite his success and promotion to command of the Eighth Army, few have heard of Eichelberger. The primary reason was his superior’s need to hog the limelight…or else. Check out this highly readable first-hand report of the advance to Tokyo that Eichelberger called, “The Hard Way Back.” 

By Robert L. Eichelberger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Jungle Road To Tokyo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been…


Book cover of Touched with Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific

James Ellman Why did I love this book?

The land war in the South Pacific was brutal.

Japanese conduct was unfathomable to the GIs and Marines who confronted them in battle: The enemy would almost never surrender, engaged in suicidal charges, and often feigned death when wounded in an attempt to kill at least one American before expiring. As the Japanese asked no quarter, they also rarely offered it, and those taken prisoner by the Emperor’s soldiers were often murdered and their bodies mutilated. 

Then there was the land itself: jungles and marshes of debilitating heat and humidity from which sprang deadly diseases such as malaria, typhus, and cholera which caused multiples of the numbers of casualties suffered in battle. 

Touched With Fire chronicles this hellish battlefield as the Japanese advance was slowed, halted, and then reversed over the course of 1942-45.

By Eric M. Bergerud,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant history of the land battles in the Pacific theater of World War II, with stirring personal accounts of the horrifying struggle between the Japanese and Allied forces.
 
The horrors of WWII in the South Pacific extended far beyond the detonation of atomic bombs. In this revelatory portrayal of the lives of the regular infantrymen who struggled to contain the Japanese advance, Eric Bergerud has given us a compelling and chilling record of the incredible hardships endured by these soldiers, and the heroic efforts that resulted in the reversal of the course of the war. Bergerud spent hundreds of…


Book cover of General Kenney Reports: A Personal History of the Pacific War

James Ellman Why did I love this book?

Similar to Eichelberger, few today know the name of General George Kenney who commanded the Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) from the 1942 defense of Papua New Guinea to the surrender of Japan.

Again, MacArthur’s need to dominate all headlines from his military theater explains the relative obscurity of his field generals. But Kenney’s story, related in his own words, should not be overlooked.

He was arguably the most innovative and successful air commander of the WWII. He demanded aggressiveness from his pilots, mounted .50-caliber machine guns onto pretty much anything that could fly and insisted on implementing the dangerous but deadly tactics of parachute fragmentation bombing on land and mast-height and skip-bombing against Japanese shipping at sea.  

By George C Kenney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

General Kenney Reports is a classic account of a combat commander in action. General George Churchill Kenney arrived in the Southwest Pacific theater in August 1942 to find that his command, if not in a shambles, was in dire straits. The theater commander, General Douglas MacArthur, had no confidence in his air element. Kenney quickly changed this situation. He organized and energized the Fifth Air Force, bringing in operational commanders like Whitehead and Wurtsmith who knew how to run combat air forces. He fixed the logistical swamp, making supply and maintenance supportive of air operations, and encouraging mavericks such as…


Book cover of Reports of General MacArthur: The Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific Volume 1

James Ellman Why did I love this book?

Written by MacArthur’s staff in Tokyo after World War II, these are detailed, beautiful, in-depth volumes of maneuvers, battles, advances, and retreats. While a useful reference, they may also be the most outrageous piece of sycophancy ever produced at taxpayer expense.

Reports present the conflict as MacArthur wanted you to learn it: a great cataclysm where he worked against time to prepare the Philippines for war, and then fought heroically in the islands for as long as possible before making a daring escape to Australia.

Upon arrival there he famously promised, “I will return”, and launched a crusade in which he led swelling armies across thousands of miles back to redemption in a liberated Manila before becoming the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in a prostrate Japan.

By Douglas MacArthur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Reports of General MacArthur are the official after-action reports of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Long out of print, this facsimile edition contains not only MacArthur's own perspective of his operations against the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific Area during World War II but also the enemy's unique account of Imperial Army campaigns against MacArthur's forces. Collectively, the reports have substantial and enduring value for military historians and students of military affairs, providing an illuminating record of momentous events influenced in large measure by a distinguished Soldier and towering figure in American historiography.


Book cover of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire

James Ellman Why did I love this book?

All of Richard Frank’s books are excellent, but Downfall is the most important.

We learn about the massive preparations for 39 American divisions to invade the Japanese Home Islands commencing in late 1945, along with Imperial Army and Navy plans to defeat the US landing force with more than four million men and 13,000 aircraft.

Had the invasion gone forward, casualties would have been counted in the millions with the Japanese planning to unleash kamikaze attacks on the US fleet in vast numbers while the Emperor’s fanatical soldiers backed by an armed civilian population readied themselves to kill as many American soldiers as possible before embracing their own honorable deaths.

It is difficult to finish this book and not conclude that the two atomic bombs which ended the war was a blessing for both sides.

By Richard B. Frank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a riveting narrative that includes information from newly declassified documents, acclaimed historian Richard B. Frank gives a scrupulously detailed explanation of the critical months leading up to the dropping of the atomic bomb. Frank explains how American leaders learned in the summer of 1945 that their alternate strategy to end the war by invasion had been shattered by the massive Japanese buildup on Kyushu, and that intercepted diplomatic documents also revealed the dismal prospects of negotiation. Here also, for the first time, is a comprehensive account of how Japan's leaders were willing to risk complete annihilation to preserve the…


You might also like...

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

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

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an…

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Japan, Douglas MacArthur, and the Pacific War in WW2?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Japan, Douglas MacArthur, and the Pacific War in WW2.

Japan Explore 493 books about Japan
Douglas MacArthur Explore 20 books about Douglas MacArthur
The Pacific War In WW2 Explore 47 books about the Pacific War in WW2