HISTORY 425: WORLD WAR II                                                                 


The amount of literature on World War II is staggering. New studies appear frequently with no let up in sight. The purpose of this bibliographic essay is to suggest a limited selection of sources, including some of the key classic sources and a sampling of the latest scholarship. I have generally not included detailed histories of individual battles, surveys of which can be found in the one volume general
histories cited below.

Basic primary sources:

United States Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States (various dates) are multiple volumes of diplomatic correspondence for the war years with special volumes for several of the high level conferences (abbreviated as FRUS).

Warren F. Kimball (ed), Churchill & Roosevelt, The Complete Correspondence, 3 vols, (1984), contains all the exchanges between the two men.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Complete Presidential Press Conferences of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 25 volumes (1972).

Memoirs and biographies:

Winston S. Churchill's memoir, The Second World War, 6 vols, (1948-1953), is essential, although his memory is selective on some points. Lord Moran, Churchill: Taken From the Diaries of Lord Moran: the Struggle for Survival, 1940-1965 (1966) is a revealing account of private moments by Churchill's personal physician. Martin Gilbert, Churchill: a Life (1991) is the best biography, Roy Jenkins, Churchill: a Biography (2001) is the most recent.

The literature on Roosevelt is vast. James McGregor Burns, Roosevelt: Soldier of Freedom (1970) among older works, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (1994) will give a good sense of the man.

There are many memoirs and biographies of principle World War II figures. Among them Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins (1950), is indispensable for the contributions of FDR's right hand man and personal emissary, Harry Hopkins. Cordell Hull, Memoirs, 2 vols, (1948), by FDR's Secretary of State, and Henry Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (1948), by FDR's Secretary of War remain valuable.

On Harry S Truman see his Year of Decisions, Vol. 1 of Memoirs (1955), and Robert H. Ferrell (ed), Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman (1980) for the hard decisions which faced him in the last months of the war. David McCullough, Truman (1992) is the best biography.  James F. Byrnes, Speaking Frankly (1947), is the memoir of one of Truman's closest advisors. Also David Robertson, Sly and Able: A Political Biography of James F. Byrnes (1994).

Ian Kershaw, Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis (2000) is the newest and a most impressive biography of Hitler.

Major wartime conferences

In addition to the special volumes of FRUS on all of the major conferences, the following are useful: Keith Sainsbury on Teheran, The Turning Point (1985); Diane Shaver Clements, Yalta (1970); and Charles Mee, Meeting at Potsdam (1975).

The best of the one volume general histories:

Michael J. Lyons, World War II: A Short History (3rd edition, 1999).

John Keegan, The Second World War (1989);

Gerhard L. Weinberg, A World At Arms: A Global History of World War II (1994);

Williamson Murray and Allan Millet, A War to be Won: Fighting the Second World War (2000) is the best single volume military history of the war.

Peter Padfield, War Beneath the Sea: Submarine Conflict 1939-1945 (1998) is the best one volume account of submarine warfare in WW2.

Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan (1985) is the best general history of the Pacific war.


Telford Taylor, March of Conquest: The German Victories in Western Europe, 1940 (1958). Ernest R. May, Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France (2000).

Richard Overy, The Battle of Britain: the Myth and the Reality (2001).

Dan Van der Vat, The Atlantic Campaign: World War II's Great Struggle at Sea (1988).

For specific operations and campaigns see appropriate chapters in Lyons, Keegan, or Weinberg.

U.S. NEUTRALITY 1939-1941

William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason, The Challenge to Isolation, 1937-1940 (1952), and The Undeclared War, 1940-1941 (1953), are classic semi-official histories, based on access to then unopened archives, still useful today.

For FDR's foreign policy see Robert Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 19321945 (1979); the highly critical assessment by Frederick W Marks III, Wind Over Sand: The Diplomacy of Franklin Roosevelt (1988); and collections of essays by two of the leading WW2 scholars, Warren F. Kimball, The Juggler: Franklin Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman (1991, and Waldo Heinrichs, Threshold of War: Franklin Roosevelt and American Entry into World War II (1988.)

Warren F. Kimball, The Most Unsordid Act: Lend-Lease, 1939-1941 (1969) is important.

David Reynolds, The Creation of the Anglo-American Alliance, 1937-1941: A Study in Competitive Cooperation (1982) documents the growing concern over Germany and Japan, which enables Britain and the US to surmount considerable mutual mistrust. Theodore A. Wilson, The First Summit: Roosevelt and Churchill at Placentia Bay, 1941 (2nd edition, 1991), and James R. Leutze, Bargaining for Supremacy: Anglo-American Naval Collaboration, 1937-1941 (1977), are important.

For Japan see Akira Iriye, The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific (1987). Ronald H. Worth, No Choice But War: The United States Embargo Against Japan and the Eruption of War in the Pacific (1995) examines the impact of US economic policy on Japan's decision to go to war. Robert J.C. Butow, Tojo and the Coming of the War (1961) remains a useful examination of the outbreak of the conflict from the Japanese side.

On Pearl Harbor, Gordon W. Prange, updated with David M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (1981), effectively refutes the conspiracy thesis that FDR knew of the attack and didn't act. Pearl Harbor: the Verdict of History (1986) contains more substantial refutation of the plot theory. Robert Love, Jr., ed., Pearl Harbor Revisited (1995) is one of several sets of 5 0th anniversary conference essay collections.


Lash, Joseph P. Roosevelt and Churchill: The Partnership That Saved the West (1976) is an important early work. More recent is Warren F. Kimball, Forged In War: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War (1997).

The broad strategic picture is best summed up in Mark Stoler, Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II (2000). See also Eric Larrabee, Commander in Chief Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War (1987).

On relations between the top Allied leaders see David Reynolds, Allies at War: The Soviet, American, and British Experience, 1939-1945 (1994).

For Italy see Dominic Graham, and Shelford Bidwell, Tug of War: The Battle for Italy, 1943-1945 (1986), and George F. Botjer, Sideshow War. The Italian Campaign, 1943-1945 (1996).

Michael E. Howard, The Mediterranean Strategy in the Second World War (1968), and Carlo d'Este, World War II in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945 (1990) analyze all the campaigns.

For specific operations and campaigns see appropriate chapters in Lyons, Keegan, or Weinberg.


John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad (1975) concentrates on the Soviet response to the German invasion and his Road to Berlin (1983) continues the story. Also Anthony Beevor, Stalingrad, The Fateful Seige: 1942-1943 (1998). Geoffrey Jukes, Kursk: The Clash ofArmor (1969) details the greatest tank battle in history. Harrison Salisbury"s The 900 Days: The Seige of Leningrad (1969) remains a horrifying picture of that part of the Russian war. David M.Glantz, and Jonathan M. House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler (1995) utilizes sources from recently opened Soviet archives.

For specific operations and campaigns see appropriate chapters in Lyons, Keegan, or Weinberg.


Michael S. Sherry, TheRise of American Airpower: The Creation of Armageddon (1987) is a brilliant account of the history of American strategic bombing, also Alan J. Levine, The Strategic Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 (1992), and Conrad C. Crane, Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War II (1993). Ronald Schaffer, Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II (1985) is an extremely critical account of U.S. bombing policy in both Europe and the Pacific.

Max Hastings, Bomber Command (1979) focuses on British bombing strategy.  See Williamson Murray, War in the Air 1914-1945 (1999), and Richard J. Overy, The Air War 1939-1945 (1985). Overy deals with the conflict in Europe and East Asia plus leadership, organization, training, production, research, and intelligence.


Norman Rich, Hitler's War Aims: Ideology, the Nazi state and the Course of Expansion (1973) is still the best account of German occupation policies.

Literature on the holocaust is vast. The most detailed and reliable work is Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (1985). Daniel Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996) alleges controversially that knowledge and support of the holocaust was widespread in Germany. R. J. Rummell, Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder (1992) gives estimated numbers killed. Also Robert H. Abzug, Inside the Vicious Heart: America and the Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps (1983).

On Japanese atrocities see Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (1999), and Daqing Yang, "Convergence or Divergence? Historical Writing on the Rape of Nanking." American Historical Review 104 (June 1999).

George Hicks, The Comfort Women: Japan's Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War (1995).

For the plight of captured allied personnel see Gavin Dawes, Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific (1994), and E. Bartlett Kerr, Surrender and Survival: The Experience of American POWs in the Pacific, 1941-1945 (1985). Kerr states that of 25,600 American military personnel captured, 10,650 were killed or died in captivity, mortality rate of 41.6%. (60% of Russians captured by the Nazis did not survive the war.)


The best recent book about the war at home is John W. Jeffries, Wartime America: The World War II Home Front (1996). John Martin Blum, V Was For Victory: Politics and American Culture During World War II (1976), and Richard R. Lingeman, Don't you Know There's a War On? The American Home Front 1941-1945 (1970) also give a good sense of the wartime mood in once again prosperous times.

For propaganda see Allan M. Winkler, The Politics of Propaganda: The Office Of War Information, 1942-1945 (1978), and William L. Bird, Jr., and Harry Rubenstein, Design for Victory: World War II Posters on the American Homefront (1998).

The many studies of film include Bernard F. Dick, The Star Spangled Screen: The American World War II Film (1985); Clayton R. Koppes and Gergory D. Black, Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Profits, and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies (1987); John Whiteclay Chambers II, and David Culbert, World War II, Film, and History (1996); George H. Roeder, The Censored War: American Visual Experience During World War Tow (1993); and Thomas Doherty, Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II (1994), studies the role of the movie industry in portraying the war effort.

On American soldiers D. Clayton James and Anne sharp Wells, From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day: The American Armed Forces in World War II (1995) and Lee Kennett, G.I.: The American Soldier in World War II (1987).

Literature about women during World War II has mushroomed. Among the many Doris Weatherford, American Women and World War II (1990) examines the various roles played by women on the home front as well as in the military. Also Karen Anderson, Wartime Women: Sex Roles, Family Relations, and the Status of Women During World War II (1981), and Susan M. Hartmann, The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s (1982). Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (1988) has a good chapter on the war years. On Women's employment see Sherna Berger Gluck, Rosie the Riveter Revisited: Women, the War, and Social Change (1987).

For African-Americans during the war, Neil H, Wynn, The Afro-American and the Second World War (1976) in the place to begin. A searching examination of the Japanese-American experience is in Roger Daniels, Concentration Camps U.S.A.: Japanese-Americans and World War II (1971), The Decision to Relocate the Japanese Americans (1975), and Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese American in World War It (1993). Also Paige Smith, Democracy on Trial: The Japanese American Evacuation and Relocation in World War II (1995).

D-DAY TO V-E DAY (JUNE 6,1944-MAY 7, 1945)

David Reynolds, Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain 1942-1945 (1995) studies the impact of the presence of U.S. military personnel there. Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (1997), is a brilliant account of tide turn.

For the planning and execution of the Allied landings see Stephen Ambrose, D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World war II (1994). Also John Toland, The Last 100 Days (1966) and Cornelius Ryan, The Last Battle (1966) and A Bridge Too Far (1975) weave personal accountsfrom all sides into very readable histories. There are many accounts of Hitler's last days but Hugh Trevor-Roper's, The Last Days of Hitler (1962) still holds up.

For specific operations and campaigns see appropriate chapters in Lyons, Keegan, or Weinberg.


Barbara Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945 (1970) relates in detail the complex relationship with Chiang Kai-shek and the difficulties of the war in China.

For specific operations and campaigns see appropriate chapters in Lyons, Keegan, or Weinberg.




Morrison Harries, and Susie Harries, Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army (1991).


Akira Iriye, Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War, 1941-1945 (1981) and John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (1986) study the attitudes of Japanese and American leaders toward their respective enemies.

Clay Blair Jr., Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan (1975) studies the impact of American underwater attacks on Japanese shipping. E. Bartlett Kerr, Flames Over Tokyo: The U.S. Army Air Forces' Incendiary Campaign Against Japan, 1944-1945 (1991) evaluates American bombing strategy.

The best history of the battle of Midway is Gordon Prange, Miracle at Midway (1982). Richard D. Frank, Guadalcanal:: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990) is the best study on that crucial campaign. Also Joseph Alexander, Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa (1977), and Robert Leckie, Okinawa: the Last Battle of World War II (1995).

For specific operations and campaigns see appropriate chapters in Lyons, Keegan, or Weinberg.

Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (1999) provides up-to-date information about the strategic bombing of Japan, and the Japanese surrender process, as well as summarizing the various arguments about the use of the atomic bomb.

There is a extensive literature on the atomic bomb. The definitive account of its development is Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986).

Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam (1965) began the controversy by charging that the bomb was used to impress the Russians and enhance American bargaining power. Herbert Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II (1966) contended that the bomb was used to end the war with as little loss of life as possible. Robert James Maddox, Weapons for Victory: the Hiroshima Decision Fifty Years Later (1995), claims Alperovitz's conclusions are based on "pervasive misrepresentations of the historical record." Maddox insists that American leaders were convinced that without the bomb the Japanese would continue to resist indefinitely. John Roy Skates, The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb (1994) argues that American decision-makers believed an invasion would ultimately be necessary and feared heavy casualties. See D. M. Giangeco, "Casualty Projections for the Invasion of Japan. 1945-1946: Planning and Policy Implications." Journal of Military History, 61 (July 1997). Also J. Samuel Walker, Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bombs Against Japan (1997). Each position has many supporters.

Bix, Herbert. "Japan's Delayed Surrender: A Reinterpretation." Diplomatic History 19 (Spring 1995). Bernstein, Barton J. "Understanding the Atomic Bomb and the Japanese Surrender: Missed Opportunities, Little Known Near Disasters, and Modern Memory." Diplomatic History 19 (Spring 1995).