Looking for some great reads on Pearl Harbor and wartime Hawaii? Look no further. Hawaii is the only place in the United States where war was literally on our doorstep. During WWII, my grandfather was the school principal in a small sugarcane town called Honoka’a and my grandmother was a teacher. She never tired of telling stories about the war and the soldiers who came to their house while on liberty, and as a young girl, I never tired of hearing them. My favorite stories were of Roscoe, the lion featured in my first novel, ISLAND OF SWEET PIES AND SOLDIERS. Yes, the marines smuggled in an African lion to Camp Tarawa and made him their mascot!
What also stuck with me was how the war so deeply impacted the people of Hawaii. It was such a frightening and dark time, and yet such a meaningful time. People here banded together and befriended the marines before they sailed off to Iwo Jima and Saipan. For many of those men, this was their last stop before dying in battle. When I wrote Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, The Lieutenant’s Nurse and Red Sky Over Hawaii, I wanted to portray not only the fear but the enduring friendships and hope and courage that came along with it. Though these stories are fictional, the backdrop and many of events are real.
The first three here are mine, and below that are books that were instrumental in my research. I highly recommend all of them:
RED SKY OVER HAWAII Releases June 9, 2020. "Ackerman's effortless writing skillfully navigates the early days of WWII with captivating characters bonded by circumstance. Mystery and magic are woven around Lana and the pages of this book, delivering a beautiful and thoughtful novel that pays tribute to the lore of the islands, their people, and those who stand up for the ones who cannot."
THE LIEUTENANT'S NURSE “The Lieutenant's Nurse weaves a tale of love and courage. Bittersweet and suspenseful, it offers readers a firsthand, female perspective of the harrowing days surrounding Pearl Harbor, honoring both the complexities of war and resilience of the human spirit." A USA Today bestseller & Historical Novel Society Editor's Choice.
ISLAND OF SWEET PIES AND SOLDIERS "Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is part mystery and part history. The setting of Hawaii during the expansion of WWII into the Pacific theater is uniquely captivating. A must-read historical fiction, an emotional and evocative story of an era not so long ago when war was literally on our doorstep. Don't miss this impressive debut novel!" The number one best selling book at the Honolulu airport in 2018, and a Barnes & Noble book club pick.
PEARL HARBOR: FROM INFAMY TO GREATNESS, by Craig Nelson. This book is well written, hard to put down, and includes countless poignant stories about the brave souls who experienced the attack firsthand.
“Beginning in 1914, bestselling author Craig Nelson maps the road to war, when Franklin D. Roosevelt, then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, attended the laying of the keel of the USS Arizona at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Writing with vivid intimacy, Nelson traces Japan’s leaders as they lurch into ultranationalist fascism, which culminates in their scheme to terrify America with one of the boldest attacks ever waged. Within seconds, the country would never be the same.”
JOE ROCHEFORT'S WAR: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway, by Elliott Ward Carlson. This book is about so much more than what the title implies. Meticulously researched, and fascinating, it takes a close up look at all the players involved. Carlson does an excellent job chronicling events leading up to the war and beyond.
“The book focuses on Rochefort’s inspiring leadership of Hypo, recording first his frustrating months in late 1941 searching for Yamamoto’s fleet, then capturing a guilt-ridden Rochefort in early 1942 mounting a redemptive effort to track that fleet after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. It details his critical role in May 1942 when he and his team, against the bitter opposition of some top Navy brass, concluded Midway was Yamamoto’s invasion target, making possible a victory regarded by many as the turning point in the Pacific War.”
DESPERATE SURGERY IN THE PACIFIC WAR: Doctors and Damage Control for American Wounded, 1941-1945, by Thomas Helling, MD. A close up look at war from a doctor's point of view. Though hard to read at times because of the graphic nature of the subject matter, I appreciated the infinite wisdom and compassion put forth in this book
“Caring for the wounded in the World War II Pacific Theater posed serious challenges to doctors and surgeons. The thick jungles, remote atolls and heavily defended Japanese islands of the Pacific presented dangers to medical personnel never before encountered in modern warfare, as did the devastating new kamikaze attacks.
Sophisticated treatments, including complex surgery, were by necessity far removed from the fighting, requiring front line doctors to do the minimum--often under fire--to stabilize patients until they could be evacuated: "damage control," it would later be called. Navy doctors responsible for thousands of sailors aboard fleets in battle found caring for the wounded daunting or nearly impossible. Yet to save lives, medical resources had to be kept as close as possible to the action. This book systematically details the efforts and innovations of the doctors and surgeons who worked to preserve life under extreme peril.”
In the spirit of spreading aloha, Sara shares her favorite uplifting and inspiring finds. Maybe it's a book or podcast, or maybe it's a new adventure or film that is too good not to pass along.