This list focuses on five titles among many worthy examples of outstanding recent scholarship on the vastly neglected Asian-Pacific War. (The sixth and idiosyncratic pick is just one of my all-time favorites.)

The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945

Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, Hans van de Ven (2010)

“In a scholarly achievement of the first rank, Chinese, Japanese, and Western historians contribute essays of exceptional quality that illuminate this pivotal military struggle in a vast new light. Perhaps most important of all, this volume sounds a trumpet call for much more work in this neglected field.”

The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Struggle for Modern China

Jay Taylor (2009)

“Taylor uses new sources, notably Chiang’s amazing diaries, to reveal much of China’s 20th-century history in new light. This is no hagiography, but when Taylor is done, the way you measure Chiang—particularly against Mao Zedong and Joseph Stilwell—will not be the same.”

War and Nationalism in China 1925-1945

Hans van de Ven (2003)

“An amazingly wide-ranging account of political, economic, and military aspects of this era, including the key years before 1937. It demands a rebalancing of conventional wisdom about the roles of the Nationalists, the Communists, and the Americans in this period.”

Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II 1937-1945

Rana Mitter (2013)

“Reviewed in the November/December 2013 issue, this work is now the best single volume on China’s overall role in World War II. Mitter argues forcefully that China must be placed in the first rank of Allied nations and stresses the appalling death and destruction the war wrought in China.”

Scars of War: The Impact of Warfare on Modern China

Diana Lary and Stephen MacKinnon (2001)

“Lary and MacKinnon have both contributed a number of outstanding volumes on the social effects of the Sino-Chinese War from 1937-1945. The essays they gathered here present a searing portrait of what the war did to China’s civilian population and its long-term effects.”

The Wizard War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939-1945

R.V. Jones (1st American edition, 1978)

“An irresistible confection of science and intelligence, including ULTRA and espionage, told in prancing prose like a series of entrancing mystery stories of enormous consequence to the war.”

In 1990, Richard Frank published his first book, Guadalcanal. His second work, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, appeared in 1999 and has been called one of the six best books in English about World War II. He is working on a narrative historical trilogy chronicling the Asian-Pacific War.


Originally published in the April 2014 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.