Historical books

5 Must-Have War/Historical Books From Naval Institute Press

Be there . . . . for a fresh look at the amphibious catch of Tarawa; later, to meet the wistful and controversial hero of Navy aviation, Gregory “Pappy” Boyington; followed by joining the fighting in the Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, June 1942 – April 1944; then slide, drag and battle along the jungle trails of Guadalcanal; and, finally, aboard one of our reconnaissance aircraft, watch the fascinating 72-hour battle of Leyte Gulf. . . .


Naval Institute Press (who else?) has five truly enjoyable and spellbinding books on WWII naval battles. .

Reviewed and recommended by Don DeNevi

THE WILDEST: The Three Days of Tarawaby Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (retired). Naval Institute Press: 306 pages, sc

When first published in 1995, “UTMOST SAVAGERY” was a main selection of the Military Book Club. The book won the General Wallace M. Greene, Jr. Award for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year on Marine Corps History and the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Best Writer of the Year, presented by the United States Navy League. It was also a selection from the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps’ Reading List.

To read the best, most comprehensive and accurate “minute-by-minute account” ever written of the pulverization of tiny Tarawa (2 ½ miles long and less than 100 yards wide) by a three-day bombardment, a reader need a more impressive narrative? endorsement contest? Eddie Albert, the popular Hollywood film, stage and radio star of the 1930s and, in 1942, Salvage Boat officer for the Tarawa Red Beach landing, said it best: “Books on battle suffocate this militant planet, but few are able to tell it as it was.

I have never read a more honest and gruesome description of combat than this melee explosion on Tarawa. Now we know what it was really like reading “Utmost Savagery.” Eddie’s last assignment in Tarawa was particularly sad: recovering and identifying the swollen corpses of American boys off Red Beach.

BLACK SHEEP: The Life of Pappy Boyingtonby John F. Wukovits. Naval Institute Press: 252 pages, sc

Like most older enthusiasts, enthusiasts and serious aficionados of USMC aviation history after WWII who knew and appreciated the character, personality and brave exploits of Gregory “Pappy” Boyington during the Pacific, New Generations were introduced to the pilot in the 1970s television series, “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. Few people cared about episodes that carried little reality on the actual accomplishments of Boyington and his squadron in the South Pacific.

In fact, few abandoned the man when they learned that wherever he walked, unrest ensued. Or, heard how “he stomped and stomped his way through life like a bull, leaving hurt feelings and disillusioned loved ones in his path.” Wukovits concludes, “In many ways, Boyington has failed miserably as a human being.

Regardless, the Black Sheep Airmen gladly accepted Boyington as their commander. He proved his courage and bravery many times in China and Burma by always being the first to engage the Japanese when sighted. Soon he achieved ace status. No one doubted his abilities. For a man like Boyington, suffering from the illnesses that plagued him, acceptance by his men made all the difference. He triumphed in the South Pacific. “He was always for the underdog and saw himself as such.”

ALUTIANS, GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS, June 1942 – April 1944”, History of United States Naval Operations, Volume 7, by Samuel Eliot Morison. Naval Institute Press: 369 pages, sc

Samuel Eliot Morison, a prominent Harvard professor, was appointed by his close friend, President Roosevelt, to write the history of American naval operations during World War II after convincing him that too many war stories had been written afterwards or from a distance. The 14-volume set was first published in 1951 and remains a worthy series to this day for many reasons, the most important being the blend of strong and often eloquent narration by Morison and his team with the sound and correct miniature that persists to this day.

Morison called his classic saga a “shooting history” of the war in the Pacific because it was documented by historical observation during each specific naval operation in the Pacific and Atlantic. These military literary historians still hail the set for its precision, narrative pace, and detail. Its 15th volume, the Supplement and the General Index, alone is worth the price of the entire collection. “Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, June 1942 – April 1944” is the heart of Morison’s collection, by far the most fascinating read of the 14 volumes.

THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANALby Trent Hone, Naval History, Special Edition. Naval Institute Press: 114 pages, sc

The painful lessons were learned at a tragic cost on the island of Tarawa when our USMC troops camouflaged in the jungle began the complicated reconquest of Guadalcanal after its capture by the Japanese in the early months of 1942. No one knew the first stage of the reconquest of the island. , the capture of the airfield, would be so easy, then would become a horrible nightmare for more than six months. Every inch of wet sand, slippery dirt and soggy jungle would cost the Allies dearly in blood as the Japanese poured reinforcements onto the island, mostly at night, aboard the ‘Tokyo Express’.

As usual, Naval Institute Press author Trent Hone, a masterful summary, paints the six-month battle compellingly, that is, brilliantly compelling, compelling and forcefully appealing to mindful readers. the Second World War. After a brilliant introduction, he presents “ships, tactics and technology” in the first sections of the book, followed by the first skirmishes of the campaign and the Battle of Cape Esperance.

From then on, he asks his readers to plod and plod through the smoldering jungles and their partially flooded paths for another five and a half months, experiencing wins and losses, defeats and wins, all mingling until until the final victory is achieved at the beginning. December 1942.

There was no geography in every part of the world where our troops fought that they hated more than the steaming, stinking jungles of Guadalcanal. Hell was seen more as the celestial paradise than the leech invested in flooded jungle paths, rest areas and the nooks and crannies of the bivouac for the night.

BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF: The greatest naval battle of the Second World (Images of War series)by John Grehan and Alexander Nicoll. Front Line Books, Pen & Sword, Naval Institute Press: 184 pages, sc;

No one doubts that the greatest naval battle in the world took place in Leyte Gulf. There, with great luck, the USN finally sank the last vestiges of Japanese naval power.

For three nerve-wracking days, the two greatest navies ever united fought to the bitter end, firing salvo after salvo, torpedoing, strafing and bombarding, across a sea half the size of North America. East, from the coast to Mississippi, from Florida to Connecticut. With the benevolent guidance of God, nature and brilliance from Admiral William Halsey, Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid and their combined 800 warships, joined by Supreme Naval Commander Admiral Chester Nimitz in Honolulu, we won! What a story!

Accompanied by rare photos, this review challenges the reader to start reading and stop halfway, especially with so many disasters on both sides, futile pursuits, gallantries from so many officers in “Taffy 3 “, and parodies, and the whole world wondering who won.

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5 Naval Institute Press War Books