World War II, especially Hitler and the annihilation of the Jews, is a topic that sells itself. We will never stop being shocked by what Hitler did. Some of those books are on this list. But that is only a piece of the World War II story. There was the war with Japan that came first for the United States. There was the invasion of Normandy which kicked off the U.S. involvement in Europe. There were civil rights issues, prisoner of war stories, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and of course, that famous photo at Iwo Jima. All of these events can be found in this highly engaging, A-list of World War II books for youth.
Flags of Our Fathers (Young Reader’s Edition) by James Bradley
James Bradley’s father was one of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. It was captured on camera for all the world to see. The photo was not what it seemed, and John Bradley never acknowledged the photo as anything special. After he died, his son James wanted to know the story behind the photo. What he found was extraordinary.
Unbroken (Young Reader’s Edition) by Laura Hillenbrand
In 1943 Louis Zamperini’s fighter plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He and the crew survived a harrowing ordeal in a life boat, only to be picked up by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp. Conditions were so grueling, the men wished they were back on the lifeboat. Their resolve to live would be tested again and again.
The Day the World Went Nuclear by Bill O’Reilly
In 1945, the United States dropped not one, but two, atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II. They were the most powerful bombs ever created up to that point. The buildings within one square mile of impact were instantly reduced to rubble. People were incinerated within seconds. O’Reilly, provides the battle history that influenced Truman’s unprecedented decision.
D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History by Deborah Hopkinson
D-Day, also known as the allied invasion of Normandy, was the turning point of World War II. The United States, Britain and Canada united together for one of the bloodiest battles in war history. Hopkinson details the complexity of the plan, the five Allied entry points, the arrival of the supply gliders, followed by the paratroopers, and finally the assault from water. She describes the sea invasion at Omaha beach in astonishing detail.
Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
During WWII, German scientists discovered the potential to unleash massive amounts of energy from a nuclear chain reaction and the race was on to build the world’s most destructive weapon. Under the strictest call for secrecy in a converted school in New Mexico, America’s best physicists came together in a tireless effort to outwit the Germans.
Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
During World War II a group of black Navy men were assigned to Port Chicago, California, to load bombs onto ships. Black men were not allowed combat duty. After a devastating explosion kills everyone on duty, the off duty men refused to continue loading ammunition. The commanders refused their request for a change of duty. The men were court-martialed, found guilty and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose
When Denmark surrendered to Germany during World War II, a handful of teenagers decided to take action. They formed a secret organization called the Churchill Club after the British prime minister who defied Hitler. They harassed the Nazis by vandalizing, committing arson and stealing weapons. Eventually they were caught, but their actions inspired a nation.
Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
The Hitler Youth, which began as an organization like the Boy Scouts, eventually became regimented and militaristic. When the war began, membership became mandatory for all Aryan youth. Jews were refused membership. The youth put Hitler above all others, turning against friends and family if necessary. Amazing story of Hitler’s rise and fall and the youth who were willing to die for him.
We Will Not Be Silent by Russell Freedman
After first being members of the Hitler Youth, Hans and Sophie Scholl came to deplore Hitler and his ideas. With a small group of friends at the University of Munich, they formed a resistance organization called the White Rose. They distributed pamphlets, informing the public of the truth about Hitler and his warped ideas. They were caught, interrogated, tried, and sentenced to death. Before the war ended, their pamphlets made it all around Europe.