Eagle Against the Sun

The American War with Japan

Ronald H. Spector

Foreword by Paul Kennedy

Featuring a new foreword and maps, Eagle Against the Sun is Ronald H. Spector’s definitive history of World War Two in the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


They came in from the north over the blue-green hills of Kahuku. In steady waves, 181 Japanese fighters, dive-bombers, and torpedo planes – the most modern, highly trained, and deadly naval air force in the world – roared across the island toward their targets.

From its vivid opening account of the raid on Pearl Harbor to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Eagle Against the Sun chronicles the American war against Japan. The book, which is compulsory reading for cadet-officers at the United States Military Academy, West Point, is published to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VJ Day on 15 August 2020. As well as featuring entirely new hand-drawn maps and 32 pages of carefully curated photographs, the Folio edition includes a specially commissioned foreword by Paul Kennedy – Dilworth Professor of History at Yale University. Eagle Against the Sun is a gripping narrative of arduous land and sea campaigns, punctuated by episodes of brutal fighting – including names such as Midway and Iwo Jima that resonate through the modern age. Its scope is vast, taking in the strategic coups and blunders of the high command alongside the desperate struggles of the soldiers, sailors and marines who executed their orders. With acute insight and a dazzling command of his sources, Spector brings to life a conflict that ‘dehumanised both victor and vanquished alike’.

Production Details

Three-quarter bound in blocked cloth with a cloth front board, screen-printed and blocked with a design by Neil Gower

Set in Quadraat Pro

688 pages

Frontispiece and 32 pages of black & white plates, 3 maps

Printed map endpapers

Pictorial slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝


The sudden, awful end of the war in the radioactive ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has obscured the less spectacular horrors which both sides had inflicted on each other by 1945.

Since its initial publication in 1985, Eagle Against the Sun has become established as the most comprehensive single-volume work on the Pacific war, and was awarded the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Prize for Naval History in 1986. As well as the great battles, the book probes many of the lesser-told episodes of the 44-month Pacific war. Critics have praised Spector’s insights into the day-to-day experiences of the American GI behind the battle lines. As a veteran of the US Marines in Vietnam, he could draw upon first-hand experience of an active warzone in the Far East. Spector writes powerfully about the contribution of African American troops at a time when the US military remained segregated, and the participation of women in the armed forces.

Spector’s history has gained admiration for its balance and thoroughness, while not shying away from ‘tough judgements on various American campaign failings’. The author tackles controversies and conspiracy theories head-on, with a clinical dismissal of the revisionist opinion that President Roosevelt had prior knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack. On the contentious matter of whether America’s use of atomic weapons was justified, he paints a complex picture. In his new foreword, Paul Kennedy writes that here, as elsewhere, ‘Spector wanted his readership to go away thinking.’  

About Ronald H. Spector

Ronald Spector has been Professor of History and International Relations in the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, since 1990. He previously taught at the University of Alabama and at Louisiana State University, and was Director of Naval History in the US Department of Defense. Spector has been a Fulbright Lecturer in India, Israel and Singapore; ‘Class of 1957 Distinguished Visiting Professor of Naval History’ at The US Naval Academy, Annapolis; Visiting Professor of Strategy at The National War College; and Harold K. Johnson Visiting Professor of Military History at the US Army War College. He was also Distinguished Guest Professor at Keio University in Tokyo, and held visiting professorships at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto and Princeton. In 2012 he received the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize of the Society for Military History for career achievement in that field. Spector served in the US Marine Corps in Vietnam during 1968–9, and retired a Lieutenant Colonel. His books include After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam (1993), At War at Sea: Sailors and Naval Combat in the Twentieth Century (2001, which received the 2002 Distinguished Book Award of the Society for Military History) and In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia (2007).

About Paul Kennedy

Paul Kennedy is the Dilworth Professor of History and Founding Director of International Security Studies at Yale University. He achieved his BA at Newcastle University in 1966, and D.Phil. at Oxford in 1970. He was research assistant to Sir Basil Liddell Hart in the late 1960s, preparing draft chapters on the Pacific War for the latter’s History of the Second World War (1971). Kennedy is the author or editor of nineteen books, including Pacific Onslaught (1972), Pacific Victory (1973), The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (1976) and Engineers of Victory (2013). His best-known book is The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1988). He is the recipient of numerous honours and prizes, including twelve honorary degrees and the CBE. He is a Fellow of, among others, the British Academy and the American Philosophical Society.


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