100 books like The First Team

By John B. Lundstrom,

Here are 100 books that The First Team fans have personally recommended if you like The First Team. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

Barrett Tillman Author Of When the Shooting Stopped: August 1945

From my list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like all Boomers, I grew up in the shadow of “The War.” My parents, relatives, and others participated in World War II to various extents; all were affected by it. Therefore, I absorbed the Pacific Theater early on. My father trained as a naval aviator, and among my early TV memories is the 1950s series Victory at Sea. My mother coaxed me early on, and an aunt was an English teacher, so I began learning to read before kindergarten. In retrospect, that gave me extra time to start absorbing the emerging literature. Much later I helped restore and flew WW II aircraft, leading to my first book.

Barrett's book list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific

Barrett Tillman Why did Barrett love this book?

Shattered Sword is proof that history is a journey rather than a destination. When published in 2005, Parshall and Tully set a milepost on the then-six-decade road to understanding the pivotal June 1942 battle.  

Aside from correcting “settled facts” about the battle, the authors added depth with detailed examinations of rare subjects.  Among other things, how the Imperial Navy managed its flight and hangar decks; how the combat air patrols were cycled. What some readers might consider “nuts and bolts” provide revelations to those seeking deeper knowledge, especially for relevant individuals and Japanese culture.

By Anthony Tully, Jonathan Parshall,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Shattered Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many consider the Battle of Midway to have turned the tide of the Pacific War. It is without question one of the most famous battles in history. Now, for the first time since Gordon W. Prange's bestselling Miracle at Midway, Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully offer a new interpretation of this great naval engagement.

Unlike previous accounts, Shattered Sword makes extensive use of Japanese primary sources. It also corrects the many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida's Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, an uncritical reliance upon which has tainted every previous Western account. It thus forces a major, potentially controversial reevaluation…


Book cover of Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945

Ronald Spector Author Of In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia

From my list on the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Emeritus Professor of History and International Relations at George Washington University. Although I trained at Yale to be a college teacher, I spent most of the first twenty years of my career working in and with the military. I served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and later as a reservist on active duty during the Grenada –Lebanon Operations in the early 1980s and during the Gulf War.. As a civilian, I worked at the U.S. Army Center of Military History and subsequently as Director of Naval History and of the Naval History and Heritage Command. I  joined George Washington University in 1990. I am the author of six books about military history, two of which, Eagle Against The Sun: The American War With Japan and In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia are directly about the Asia- Pacific War.   

Ronald's book list on the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945

Ronald Spector Why did Ronald love this book?

For many years, American views of the China’s role in World War II were strongly influenced by Barbara Tuchman’s best-selling, Stilwell and the American Experience in China published in 1971. Tuchman painted China’s war effort as brave but costly and ineffective thanks to the incompetence and corruption of Chiang Kai Shek. Portrayed as a kind of Chinese George Washington in the U.S. media, Tuchman saw Chiang as being in fact, far less interested in defeating the Japanese than in ensuring that his regime survived the war in a position to vanquish its domestic rivals, especially Mao Zedong’s Communists 

In contrast, Mittar’s focus is not on policy squabbles or specific military issues but on the overall impact of the war on China and its people. He highlights that country’s remarkable achievement, not in winning battles but in surviving the Japanese onslaught for eight long years despite the early loss of almost…

By Rana Mitter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Economist Book of the Year
A Financial Times Book of the Year

“A book that has long cried out to be written.” — Observer (UK), Books of the Year

In 1937, two years before Hitler invaded Poland, Chinese troops clashed with Japanese occupiers in the first battle of World War II. Joining with the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain, China became the fourth great ally in a devastating struggle for its very survival.

Prizewinning historian Rana Mitter unfurls China’s drama of invasion, resistance, slaughter, and political intrigue as never before. Based on groundbreaking research, this gripping…


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

Barrett Tillman Author Of When the Shooting Stopped: August 1945

From my list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like all Boomers, I grew up in the shadow of “The War.” My parents, relatives, and others participated in World War II to various extents; all were affected by it. Therefore, I absorbed the Pacific Theater early on. My father trained as a naval aviator, and among my early TV memories is the 1950s series Victory at Sea. My mother coaxed me early on, and an aunt was an English teacher, so I began learning to read before kindergarten. In retrospect, that gave me extra time to start absorbing the emerging literature. Much later I helped restore and flew WW II aircraft, leading to my first book.

Barrett's book list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific

Barrett Tillman Why did Barrett love this book?

Today relatively few Americans have heard of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. 

Eighty years ago the odd name was front-page daily news, a six-month drama played out on land, sea, and air. From the Battle of Midway in June 1942, Guadalcanal was the only major campaign that America might have lost, ending in early 1943. In 750 literate, detailed, immaculately documented pages, Rich Frank created a history for the ages.

Serious Pacific students already know about Downfall, Frank’s 1945 study, and his current Asia-Pacific trilogy leading with the chilling title Tower of Skulls.

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 The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War

Barrett Tillman Author Of When the Shooting Stopped: August 1945

From my list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like all Boomers, I grew up in the shadow of “The War.” My parents, relatives, and others participated in World War II to various extents; all were affected by it. Therefore, I absorbed the Pacific Theater early on. My father trained as a naval aviator, and among my early TV memories is the 1950s series Victory at Sea. My mother coaxed me early on, and an aunt was an English teacher, so I began learning to read before kindergarten. In retrospect, that gave me extra time to start absorbing the emerging literature. Much later I helped restore and flew WW II aircraft, leading to my first book.

Barrett's book list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific

Barrett Tillman Why did Barrett love this book?

President Franklin Roosevelt commissioned Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison to write the definitive history of the U.S. Navy in WW II, and Morison produced an epic 15-volume series between 1947 and 1962. 

Despite more recent research it is richly detailed, elegantly written, and remains a standard source. The Two-Ocean War, Morison’s 1963 one-volume condensation covering all theaters of operations, was among the books that piqued my interest in the subject. It is particularly valuable in describing the Pacific island campaigns as well as the war at sea.

By Samuel Eliot Morison,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Two-Ocean War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1963, this classic, single-volume history draws on Morison's definitive 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. More than a condensation, The Two-Ocean War highlights the major components of the larger work: the preparation for war, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the long war of attrition between submarines and convoys in the Atlantic, the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, the long grind of Guadalcanal, the leapfrogging campaigns among the Pacific islands, the invasion of continental Europe, the blazes of glory at Leyte and Okinawa, and the final grudging surrender of the…


Book cover of Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War: July 1937-May 1942

Ronald Spector Author Of In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia

From my list on the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Emeritus Professor of History and International Relations at George Washington University. Although I trained at Yale to be a college teacher, I spent most of the first twenty years of my career working in and with the military. I served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and later as a reservist on active duty during the Grenada –Lebanon Operations in the early 1980s and during the Gulf War.. As a civilian, I worked at the U.S. Army Center of Military History and subsequently as Director of Naval History and of the Naval History and Heritage Command. I  joined George Washington University in 1990. I am the author of six books about military history, two of which, Eagle Against The Sun: The American War With Japan and In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia are directly about the Asia- Pacific War.   

Ronald's book list on the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945

Ronald Spector Why did Ronald love this book?

Until about twenty years ago writers about World War II tended to treat the contest between the United States and Japan as separate from, and more significant than the other conflicts that engulfed China and Southeast Asia between 1937 and 1945. Today many historians, including almost all academic ones, speak of an “Asia-Pacific War” as a more accurate and appropriate description for this destructive era. Tower of Skulls, is the first general history that not only integrates the conflicts in the Pacific with those in mainland Asia but also demonstrates the close interconnection between them.

The first of a proposed trilogy, Frank’s book covers the period from the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 through Pearl Harbor and the Japan’s conquest of an empire rivaling Genghis Khan’s to the eve of the Imperial Navy’s first setback the Battle of the Coral Sea.  Despite its formidable length, the book…

By Richard B. Frank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1937 the swath of the globe from India to Japan contained half the world's population but only two nations with real sovereignty (Japan and Thailand) and two with compromised sovereignty (China and Mongolia). All other peoples in the region endured under some form of colonialism. Today the region contains nineteen fully sovereign nations.

Tower of Skulls is the first work to present a unified account of the course and impact of this part of the global war. It expands beyond military elements to highlight the critical political, economic and social reverberations of the struggle. Finally, it provides a graphic…


Book cover of War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my career teaching high school. I attended amazing professional development institutes, where scholars showed me how the stories I’d learned and then taught to my own students were so oversimplified that they had become factually incorrect. I was hooked. I kept wondering what else I’d gotten wrong. I earned a Ph.D. in modern US History with specialties in women’s and gender history and war and society, and now I’m an Associate Professor of History at Iowa State University and the Coordinator of ISU’s Social Studies Education Program. I focus on historical complexity and human motivations because they are the key to understanding change.

Amy's book list on books about twenteith-century U.S. History that make you rethink something you thought you already knew

Amy J. Rutenberg Why did Amy love this book?

This book is probably the first scholarly book that blew my mind and pushed me to want to know what else I had always gotten wrong.

Where, like most people I know, I had always thought that the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was just a thing that happened because of “war,” this book made it clear why it happened.

The US and Japan, both diplomats and everyday people, did not choose to understand each other. Different world views, different assumptions, and plain old racism led the US and Japan into a horrific, bloody conflict with long-lasting consequences.

By John W. Dower,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked War Without Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD • AN AMERICAN BOOK AWARD FINALIST • A monumental history that has been hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most original and important books to be written about the war between Japan and the United States.”

In this monumental history, Professor John Dower reveals a hidden, explosive dimension of the Pacific War—race—while writing what John Toland has called “a landmark book ... a powerful, moving, and evenhanded history that is sorely needed in both America and Japan.”
 
Drawing on American and Japanese songs, slogans, cartoons, propaganda films, secret…


Book cover of Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's Odyssey in World War II

Ronald Spector Author Of In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia

From my list on the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Emeritus Professor of History and International Relations at George Washington University. Although I trained at Yale to be a college teacher, I spent most of the first twenty years of my career working in and with the military. I served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and later as a reservist on active duty during the Grenada –Lebanon Operations in the early 1980s and during the Gulf War.. As a civilian, I worked at the U.S. Army Center of Military History and subsequently as Director of Naval History and of the Naval History and Heritage Command. I  joined George Washington University in 1990. I am the author of six books about military history, two of which, Eagle Against The Sun: The American War With Japan and In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia are directly about the Asia- Pacific War.   

Ronald's book list on the Asia Pacific War from 1937-1945

Ronald Spector Why did Ronald love this book?

Though less well known than Eugene Sledge’s With the Old Breed or Richard Tregaskis’ Guadalcanal Diary, this is one of the finest memoirs of World War II and one of the few by an enlisted sailor. At his death at 94, Alvin Kernan was a recognized expert on Shakespeare with long years on the faculties of Yale and Princeton but in 1940 he was a seventeen-year-old boy from the mountains of Wyoming who enlisted in the Navy because he was unable to meet a small cash fee connected to his college scholarship. 

Kernan was aboard the carrier Hornet when it carried Doolittle's Raiders to Tokyo,  during tthe Battle of Midway and when it was lost during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942. He served aboard two other aircraft carriers and advanced from ordnance-man to aerial gunner and chief petty officer. His descriptions of the dramatic…

By Alvin Kernan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this memoir of life aboard aircraft carriers during World War II, Alvin Kernan combines vivid recollections of his experience as a young enlisted sailor with a rich historical account of the Pacific war.

"One of the most arresting naval autobiographies yet published."-Sir John Keegan

"An honest story of collective courage, evocative, well-written, and fixed before the colors fade."-Kirkus Reviews

"[Kernan] recounts a wonderful and exciting American story about a poor farm boy from Wyoming who enlisted in the Navy. . . .[He] has written eight other books. I will go back and read them all."-John Lehman, Air & Space…


Book cover of The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise

Barrett Tillman Author Of When the Shooting Stopped: August 1945

From my list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like all Boomers, I grew up in the shadow of “The War.” My parents, relatives, and others participated in World War II to various extents; all were affected by it. Therefore, I absorbed the Pacific Theater early on. My father trained as a naval aviator, and among my early TV memories is the 1950s series Victory at Sea. My mother coaxed me early on, and an aunt was an English teacher, so I began learning to read before kindergarten. In retrospect, that gave me extra time to start absorbing the emerging literature. Much later I helped restore and flew WW II aircraft, leading to my first book.

Barrett's book list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific

Barrett Tillman Why did Barrett love this book?

Edward P. Stafford’s superb “biography” of the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6) captured my attention two years after publication in 1962 because the ship was at war from Pearl Harbor onward. 

I read and re-re-read my paperback copy from high school onward, including a cross-country train trip. It is so well written that Stafford’s style imprinted itself in my subconscious. Thereafter I came to know dozens of “Big E” aircrews and sailors leading up to my own history of “The Fightingest Ship” in 2012.  

Ed Stafford and I agreed that the world needs a new Enterprise book every 50 years!

By Edward P. Stafford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A lasting memorial to the USS Enterprise, this classic tale of the carrier that contributed more than any other single warship to the naval victory in the Pacific has remained a favorite World War II story for more than twenty-five years. The Big E participated in nearly every major engagement of the war against Japan and earned a total of twenty battle stars. The Halsey-Doolittle Raid; the Battles of Midway, Santa Cruz, Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea, and Leyte Gulf; and the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa are all faithfully recorded from the viewpoint of the men who served her…


Book cover of Enterprise: America's Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped Win World War II

Benjamin Hruska Author Of Valor and Courage: The Story of the USS Block Island Escort Carriers in World War II

From my list on the human superpower of teamwork overcoming challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been drawn to narratives where a group of individuals needs to collectively overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge. And, as someone who loves reasonable outdoor challenges such as whitewater rafting trips, I love stories that combine the two. I have been lucky enough to partake in two private float trips of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. With no internet, or electricity for 16 days at a time, a carefully crafted book list is key for any river descend. All these books at their core are narratives of individuals digging in deep, and cultivating that collective human superpower known as teamwork, to overcome challenges many thought could not be overcome.

Benjamin's book list on the human superpower of teamwork overcoming challenges

Benjamin Hruska Why did Benjamin love this book?

I love this book for at its heart this is a story of the average American sailor waging war in the Pacific during World War II.

As an author of naval history, I understand it is all too easy to get bogged down in the writing about motivations of top commanders and the newest advances in military weaponry. Tillman successfully walks the thin line in telling the individual stories of the sailors of the Enterprise and how this single vessel fits into the greater campaign of the U.S. Navy against the Empire of Japan.

This book demonstrates that detailed military scholarship can retain a human face. 

By Barrett Tillman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Offering a naval history of the entire Pacific Theater in World War II through the lens of its most famous ship, this is the epic and heroic story of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, and of the men who fought and died on her from Pearl Harbor to the end of the conflict.

Pearl Harbor . . . Midway . . . Guadalcanal . . . The Marianas . . . Leyte Gulf . . . Iwo Jima . . . Okinawa. These are just seven of the twenty battles that the USS Enterprise took part in during World War…


Book cover of Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway

Robert O. Harder Author Of First Crossing: The 1919 Trans-Atlantic Flight of Alcock and Brown

From my list on aviation history from a triple-rated pilot.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was old enough to get around under my own power, I wanted to be a pilot, a result of idol-worshiping my mother’s brother, Orvis M. Nelson, president of Transocean Airlines. His influence led to my being named a Distinguished Military Graduate in Air Force ROTC, navigator school (sadly, my eyes were slightly myopic), bombardier school (145 Vietnam War combat missions); then later a civilian private & commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings, and Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). After settling for a business career rather than airline pilot, I now vicariously pursue my first love through writing.

Robert's book list on aviation history from a triple-rated pilot

Robert O. Harder Why did Robert love this book?

I was so taken by this book, I re-read it two weeks later. Dusty’s story (you’ll love how he got the nickname!) is ably guided by Naval historians Timothy and Laura Orr. The result is as smooth and intimate an aviator autobiography as you’re likely to read. 

Although humble and deeply religious, retired U.S. Navy Captain and Navy Cross winner Jack Kleiss was daring even as a boy, seldom turning down a dare. Which explains a lot as to his willingness to push over a SBD Dauntless dive-bomber into a terrifying vertical dive from 20,000 feet, before pulling at near wave-top level. During the 1942 Battle of Midway, Dusty scored massive hits on three enemy ships (two of them aircraft carriers), the only man to do so. Despite the title’s disclaimer, Captain Kleiss was indeed a hero.

By N. Jack "Dusty" Kleiss, Timothy Orr, Laura Orr

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Call Me a Hero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as "the single most effective pilot at Midway" (World War II magazine), Dusty Kleiss struck and sank three Japanese warships at the Battle of Midway, including two aircraft carriers, helping turn the tide of the Second World War. This is his extraordinary memoir.

NATIONAL BESTSELLER * "AN INSTANT CLASSIC" -Dallas Morning News

On the morning of June 4, 1942, high above the tiny Pacific atoll of Midway, Lt. (j.g.) "Dusty" Kleiss burst out of the clouds and piloted his SBD Dauntless into a near-vertical dive aimed at the heart of Japan's Imperial Navy, which six months earlier had ruthlessly…


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