Notable Naval Books of 1994

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

This year's selection includes an array of impressive titles, diverse in approach and subject matter. Found here are such qualities as prescience, learned hindsight, useful data, stimulating thought, controversial stands, and wisdom. Also found in these works is a representation of the various warfare areas associated with the sea services.

Beginning with air warfare, the current state of military aviation in the United States and the world is the focus of The Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, 1994-95 by Rene Francillon. This 864-page reference work is full of data covering the various aviation components of 169 nations' armed forces, including technical data and operational descriptions of 316 types of aircraft and 46 types of helicopters. The information included in this comprehensive work is available elsewhere but only by referring to several different sources.

William F. Trimble's excellent biography, Admiral William A. Moffett: Architect of Naval Aviation and Jeffrey G. Barlow's Revolt of the Admirals: The Fight for Naval Aviation, 1945-1950 address two important periods in the history of U.S. naval aviation. In a recent review of Trimble's book, Dr. Gerald E. Wheeler wrote, "This biography probably will be the definitive study of the 'Architect of Naval Aviation.' It is technically sound, complete in its research, honest in its conclusions about Admiral Moffett, and extremely well written."

Revolt of the Admirals addresses the contentious post-World War II issue of reorganizing of the U.S. armed forces which resulted in a major showdown between the Air Force and the Navy over the role of carrier aviation in the national security of the United States. A historian with the Contemporary History Branch of the Naval Historical Center since 1987, Dr. Barlow reveals new evidence that changes the traditional thinking about this volatile era and the ultimate results of this "revolt" of the Navy's brass. His rendering of the story—which takes place in the highest echelons of government—has some qualities of a suspense thriller, as administration officials, congressmen, journalists, and high-ranking military officers form alliances and clash over the future U.S. national security structure.

Alvin Kernan's Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's World War II Odyssey represents another era in the history of naval aviation. With the qualities of a well-written novel, this personal memoir takes the reader on a vicarious journey through some of the great events of World War II, as lived by an aerial gunner. Kernan's revealing, sometimes poignant, often humorous, account bears eloquent witness to the terror and tedium of war as well as to some of its most dynamic and dramatic moments, such as Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Guadalcanal.

This year's notable books include several titles focusing upon that man-made denizen of the deep: the submarine. Norman Friedman's U.S. Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History— intended to complement his forthcoming U S. Submarines Through 1945 —re counts the revolutionary stages of submarine development when nuclear power and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) carne of age. In the fine tradition established and maintained in his Illustrated Design History works on aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and small combatants, Friedman has compiled an impressive array of photographs and line-drawings to accompany the well-researched narrative.

Also covering the modern era of U.S. submarine development, Graham Spinardi's From Polaris to Trident: The Development of U.S. Fleet Ballistic Missile Technology focuses on the punch of the so-called "boomers," the seagoing components of the U.S. nuclear triad. Spinardi's work captures the evolutionary and revolutionary nature of the development of SLBMs, from their relatively modest beginnings to the incredibly powerful weapons of today.

Marc Milner's The U-boat Hunters: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Offensive Against Germany's Submarines sheds light on an often overlooked aspect of the World War II. A relatively small but no less important component of Allied naval forces and vital participant in the Battle of the Atlantic was the Royal Canadian Navy. What makes this book unusual and particularly enlightening is that, instead of closing with the defeat of the wolf packs—as is often done by authors covering the struggle against Germany's U-boats—it carries the narrative through to the end of the war.

Several of this year's notable works ably represent surface warfare. Ira Dye's The Fatal Cruise of the Argus: Two Captains in the War of 1812 traces the lives of two captains in the Napoleonic era, one British and the other American, who are destined to converge in war. Before they meet to do battle against one another, each is embroiled in some of the great moments of the day—such as the battles at Copenhagen and Trafalgar, the humiliation of the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, and the capture of the British frigate Macedonian. When they finally meet, both the outcome and the aftermath are surprising. This is the kind of history that keeps novelists awake at night.

Although not technically a component of surface warfare, rescue at sea deserves to be classified as a kind of battle—albeit with the elements of nature—that takes place on the surface of the sea. That Others Might Live: The U.S. Life-Saving Service, 1878-1915 by Dennis L. Noble recalls the exploits of a now-defunct service whose spirit lives on in the modern Coast Guard. The men of this nearly forgotten organization became known as "storm warriors" and were legendary in their own time as they made daring rescues under incredible circumstances. Anyone who has ever been to sea has an abiding respect for sailors who confront the elements in order to rescue those in peril on the great waters. This respect grows markedly when it becomes known that the only boats used by the men of the U.S. Life-Saving Service were oar-powered craft, none longer than 36-feet. Noble's history is a gripping account of the awe-inspiring feats of men once deservedly known as "soldiers of the surf."

Combat Fleets of the World, 1994- 1995 by A.D. Baker III catalogs and describes modern surface ships, their weapons, and the aircraft they employ to accomplish their missions. Treating ships as systems within an overall military context, Baker provides all the detail necessary for present-day naval planning. Thousands of ships are included, from the familiar destroyers and frigates to the new "stealth" derivatives now under development. Whether one's interest lies in the technological or the operational, this important new guide will prove invaluable.

For most of history, the surface navy was all the Navy there was, and, by definition, writing about the Navy meant writing about surface operations. But as naval warfare moved into new dimensions, books that focused purely on surface ships were published less frequently. Today's surface navy frequently works in conjunction with aircraft and submarines, and it is difficult—as well as unnecessarily parochial—to attempt a clean separation of these elements. Many of today's books perhaps are best classified as dealing with combined naval operations.

One example of a combined approach to examining naval warfare is former Naval Institute Senior Editor Frank Uhlig's new book. Analyzing naval operations of the United States and its allies from the American Revolution to the Persian Gulf War, How Navies Fight studies the influence on technology on maritime strategy and operations. Captain Wayne P. Hughes, Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired), the author of Fleet Tactics: Theory and Practice (Naval Institute Press, 1986), writes: "I doubt that anyone but Frank Uhlig could write so encyclopedic a book in merely 417 pages, or in so easy and gracious a style. He combines a lifetime steeped in every aspect of American naval affairs with an eye that unfailingly discerns the operations that really mattered."

George W. Baer—Chairman of the Department of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College—receives similar accolades from Professor Edward Rhodes of Rutgers University for his book One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890-1990. "This is clearly one of the two or three most important works in American naval history published in the last decade: it has the potential to become a classic in the field," writes Professor Rhodes. "Well researched and carefully nuanced, it provides a distinctive perspective on the evolving historical relationship between national interest and national politics on the one hand and naval power on the other…Baer writes beautifully, and he has organized his material effectively. The book is fully accessible to anyone interested in naval history." Further proof of this book's overall excellence is the fact that it won The Theodore & Franklin D. Roosevelt Prize for Naval History for 1994.

Further proof of the validity of looking to naval history for guidance for the future is the collection of 33 essays edited by John B. Hattendorf under the title Ubi Sumus ?: The State of Naval and Maritime History. These essays were written originally as contributions to the first Yale-Naval War College Conference on naval and maritime history held in June 1993. The majority of them focus upon individual navies, ranging from the once large and powerful—e.g., Britain's and Japan's—to the more diminutive, such as those of Peru and Singapore. Three focus on the U.S. Navy and all are written by noted experts in their fields.

More specific historical perspectives emerge from five new books dealing with four different wars and the early Cold War era. Paul G. Halpern's A Naval History of World War I offers a fresh and long-overdue perspective on that war by looking beyond British and German operations, about which so much has been written, and including all participants in all theaters. While certainly not ignoring the significant North Sea battles and operations, Halpern also includes the Italians and Austrians in the Adriatic; the Russians, Turks, and Germans in the Baltic and Black Seas; and the French and British in the Mediterranean. Also interpreted are riverine engagements on the Danube, the role of neutral powers such as Sweden and the Netherlands, and the parts played by the United States and Japanese navies.

John Costello's Days of Infamy takes a provocative look at the opening days of direct U.S. involvement in World War II by answering such damning questions as: "How did General Douglas MacArthur let the Japanese destroy the greatest concentration of American air power in the Pacific nine hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor and then escape the consequences of this dereliction?" and "Did Churchill receive advance intelligence of the attack on Pearl Harbor?" Those who venerate Churchill, MacArthur, and Franklin D. Roosevelt might find this difficult reading, but anyone interested in learning from the past will want to consider the lessons offered by Costello.

Controversy also follows Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll by Jonathan M. Weisgall. At the time, the two atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946 were portrayed as grand events. The reality is that they were underpinned by bitter interservice rivalry, a tragic displacement of the resident islanders, and the consequences of often misunderstood radiological hazards. This detailed investigation reveals these and other problems related to the Bikini tests and is rich in "lessons learned."

Edward J. Marolda's By Sea, Air, and Land: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy and the War in Southeast Asia combines evocative art and photography with a comprehensive and well-written narrative to tell the story of the U.S. Navy's contributions to the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. No Navy veteran of that conflict can open this book and not be flooded with memories—some nostalgic, some bittersweet. Dr. Marolda's excellent selections of visual materials complement words that capture the facts and the feelings that were Vietnam. Useful appendices, a select bibliography, and a comprehensive index make this an excellent reference work as well.

Chief Pentagon correspondent of The New York Times Michael R. Gordon and retired Marine Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor have collaborated to provide an insightful, provocative analysis of the Persian Gulf War in The Generals' War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf Dr. Russell F. Weigley—author of such classics as The American Way of War and Eisenhower's Lieutenants— calls this "essential reading" for "anyone concerned about the effectiveness of the current U.S. military."

Looking more to the future than to the past, the current Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William A. Owens, U.S. Navy, reveals the inside story of the revolutionary changes underway in the Navy in his High Seas: The Naval Passage to an Uncharted World. Admiral Owens makes some bold prescriptions regarding new roles and missions—and consequent organizational changes—for a more technologically sophisticated fleet that will be capable of routine littoral missions as well as joint power-projection operations. Among his revelations are plans for mission-oriented Maritime Action Groups and Naval Expeditionary Task Forces and a more integrated Navy-Marine Corps team.

A significant number of this year's notable books deal with the Marine Corps and amphibious warfare. Reminiscent of some aspects of today's issues is the detailed biographical portrait of one of the Marine Corps' most controversial officers sketched by Major Jon T. Hoffman, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, in his book Once A Legend: "Red Mike" Edson of the Marine Raiders.

Amphibious operations in World War II come to the fore in Stephen Ambrose's popular D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II and Paul Stillwell's Assault on Normandy: First Person Accounts from the Sea Services. Both of these excellent books view this gargantuan operation through the eyes of its participants, giving the reader a more keen insight into the greatest seaborne invasion in history. In the case of Stillwell's book, we follow men of the sea services beyond the beaches as they fight along the coast of France, go across the Rhine River, and witness the German surrender in May 1945.

Amphibious warfare in the post-World War II era is the subject of Sea Soldiers in the Cold War by Colonel Joseph H. Alexander and Lieutenant Colonel Merrill L. Bartlett, both U.S. Marine Corps (Retired). The spectacular flanking attack at Inchon, the British transoceanic assault on the Falkland Islands, and NATO training exercises in Norway are just a few examples of amphibious warfare conducted over the 46 years addressed in this well-written study. Colonels Alexander and Bartlett bring years of experience and impressive credentials as authors to this project.

Rounding out this year's Notable Naval Books are two fiction titles. Last year, Patrick O'Brian's latest novel in the Aubrey-Maturin series— The Wine-Dark Sea (W. W. Norton)—was selected; thisyear a resurrected work of his is worthy of mention. First published in 1956, The Golden Ocean was O'Brian's first novel about the sea. Written in the days before the world had discovered his outstanding literary ability, the novel's action takes place in the 1740s, involves a British naval expedition to the Pacific, and is characterized by O'Brian's marvelous sense of humor and his knowledge and appreciation of the sea and the art of seafaring.

Also notable is John Biggins's A Sailor of Austria. Set in World War I, the story is told through a submarine captain serving under the colors of the House of Hapsburg. Written with compassion and more than a little humor, this is a tale of war at sea that gives the reader a detailed, authentic, and sympathetic view of the struggles faced by all sailors in the Great War, regardless of nationality.

This year, as in every year, other titles probably are worthy of mention. The selection process is subjective and therefore susceptible to human bias and possible oversight. The purpose here is to honor a few selected works but by no means to denigrate the honest efforts of many other authors who have contributed to the important body of literature that brings attention and improvement to the work of those who "go down to the sea in ships" or who are tied to the sea in other ways. To all those who have taken pen in hand to illuminate, edify, entertain, constructively criticize, record, or analyze, a special thanks is offered in the name of all of us who benefit from those efforts.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler contributes frequently to Proceedings and Naval History.

*Originally, the selections were revealed each year in the January issue of Proceedings, but the staff decided that waiting until the Naval Review issue would allow more time to evaluate all of the preceding year's publications as well as those published early in the current year.

EDITOR'S NOTE : Lieutenant Commander Cutler's book— The Battle of Leyte Gulf: 23-26 October 1944 —is most deserving of a place on this year's list. It is an excellent work described by Richard Frank—the author of Guadalcanal (Random House, 1990)—as "a fresh and splendid account of the greatest sea and air fight of all time."


Admiral William A. Moffett: Architect of Naval Aviation . William F. Trimble. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994. 338 pp. Append. Bib. Ind. Notes. Photos. $29.95 ($26.95).

Assault from the Sea: First Person Accounts from the Sea Services . Paul Stillwell, Editor. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 320 pp. Gloss. Illus. Maps. Photos. $36.95 ($27.71).

The Battle of Leyte Gulf: 23-26 October 1944 . Lcdr. Thomas Cutler, USN (Ret.). New York: HarperCollins, 1994.450 pp. Bib. IlIus. Maps. Notes. Photos. $25.00 ($22.50).

By Sea, Air, and Land: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy and the War in Southeast Asia. Edward J. Marolda. Washington, DC; Naval Historical Center, 1994. 416 pp. Append. Bib. Gloss. Illus. Ind. Maps. Photos. $43.00 ($40.85).

Combat Fleets of the World, 1994-95 . A. D. Baker, III. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. Addenda. Illus. Ind. Photos. $145.00 ($116.00).

Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's World War II Odyssey . Alvin J. Kernan. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 190 pp. Ind. Maps. Photos. $21.95 ($17.56).

Days of Infamy . John Costello. New York: Pocket Books, 1994. 448 pp. Ind. Maps. Notes. Photos. $24.00 ($21.60).

D-Day, June 6 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II . Stephen Ambrose. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. 704 pp. Gloss. Ind. Maps. Photos. $29.95 ($26.55).

The Fatal Cruise of the Argus: Two Captains in the War of 1812 . Ira Dye. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 480 pp. Bib. Ind. Notes. Photos. $35.00 ($28.00).

From Polaris to Trident: The Development of U.S. Fleet Ballistic Missile Technology . Graham Spinardi. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 253 pp. Append. Bib. Illus. Ind. Notes. Tables. $54.95 ($49.45).

The Generals' War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf . LtGen. Bernard Trainor, USMC (Ret.) and Michael Gordon. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1995. Illus. Ind. Maps. Notes. Photos. Tables. $27.95 ($25.15).

The Golden Ocean . Patrick O'Brian. New York: W. W. Norton, 1994. 285 pp. $22.50 ($20.25).

High Seas: The Naval Passage to an Uncharted World . Adm. William A. Owens, USN. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995. 224 pp. Illus. Ind. Notes. $27.95 ($22.36).

How Navies Fight: The U.S. Navy and its Allies . Frank Uhlig. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 470 pp. Bib. Ind. Maps. Notes. $34.95 ($27.96).

A Naval History of World War I . Paul G. Halpern. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 618 pp. Bib. Ind. Maps. Notes. $55.00 ($44.00).

The Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, 1995 . Rene J. Francillon. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995. 745 pp. Gloss. Illus. Ind. Photos. Tables. $125.00 ($ 100.00).

Once a Legend: "Red Mike" Edson of the Marine Raiders . Maj. Jon T. Hoffman, USMCR. Navato, CA: Presidio Press, 1994. 416 pp. Ind. Maps. Photos. $24.95 ($22.46).

One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890-1990 . George W. Baer. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994. Ind. Notes. $49.50 ($45.00).

Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Bomb Tests at Bikini Atoll . Jonathan M. Weisgall. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994.435 pp. Append. Bib. Ind. Notes. Photos. $31.95 ($25.56).

That Others Might Live: The U.S. Life-Saving Service, 1870-1915 . Dennis Noble. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 200 pp. Bib. Gloss. Illus. Ind. Notes. Tables. $27.95 ($22.36).

Revolt of the Admirals: The Fight for Naval Aviation, 1945-1950 . Jeffrey G. Barlow. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1994. Bib. Illus. Ind. Notes. Photos. Tables. $30.00 ($28.50).

Sailor of Austria . John Biggins. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. 369 pp. Illus. Maps. $22.95 ($20.60).

Sea Soldiers in the Cold War: Amphibious Warfare, 1945-1991 . Col. Joseph Alexander, USMC (Ret.) and LtCol Merrill D. Bartlett, USMC (Ret.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 320 pp. Bib. Ind. Maps. Photos. $32.95 ($26.36).

Ubi Sumus? The State of Naval and Maritime History . John B. Hattendorf, Editor. Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 1994.430 pp. Bib. Notes. Tables. $12.50 (incl. shipping). Order directly from: Naval War College Foundation Museum Store; 686 Cushing Rd.; Newport, RI 02841. Paper.

The U-Boat Hunters: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Offensive Against Germany's Submarines . Marc Milner. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 336 pp. Append. Bib. Figs. Gloss. Ind. Maps. Notes. Photos. $29.95 ($23.96).

U.S. Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History . Norman Friedman. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994. 352 pp. Append. Gloss. Illus. Ind. Notes. Photos. Tables. $59.95 ($47.96).


Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

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Events and Conferences

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12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More
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10:00am, “Veterans Oral Histories Series,” American Veterans Center, 1100 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington,... Read More


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