Notable Naval Books of 1996

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

An example of a "cold war" turned hot can be found in the American Civil War. Hi stories of that war have traditionally taken a rather parochial view of the Confederate Navy's role in the war, greatly influenced by the accepted contention that the Confederacy's naval records were burned during the evacuation of Richmond. Raimondo Luraghi brings a fresh and objective view to the subject in his A History of the Confederate Navy, the first of its kind in the 20th century. Luraghi is an Italian professor of history at the University of Genoa, whose nationality lends objectivity and who, undaunted by the obstacle of lost American records, combed the archives of four other nations to uncover information that shatters many prevailing myths and presents the Confederate Navy in a new light.

Steeped in controversy, yet revered by many as the father of amphibious warfare, the enigmatic Earl Hancock "Pete" Ellis is the subject of a new biography by Professor Dirk Ballendorf and retired Marine colonel and well-known author, Merrill "Skip" Bartlett. Pete Ellis: An Amphibious Warfare Prophet, 1880-1923 recounts the tempestuous life of this World War I hero who, realizing that his career was suffering from the effects of depression and alcohol, set off on an ill-fated undercover mission into Micronesia to expose Japanese treaty violations and to gather intelligence for a Pacific island-hopping campaign he felt would be needed eventually. Many controversial issues surround this last mission, including whether he had the approval of top U.S. military officials, whether he was poisoned by the Japanese or merely drank himself to death, and whether his plans and ideas helped saved the Marine Corps from extinction. Professor Ballendorf and Colonel Bartlett have captured the essence of this mysterious man and made a significant contribution to the history of the development of amphibious warfare.

Ellis's prescience, of course, proved accurate—and within two decades a second world war had broken out. The maritime aspects of that war are the subject of Jurgen Rohwer's War at Sea, 1939- 1945 . This superbly illustrated book includes previously inaccessible pictorial and documentary information from the former Eastern Bloc countries and describes the interrelated nature of the events taking place in the many seas and oceans of the world. Rohwer served in the German Navy during the war and brings rare insight to this sweeping work.

Theodore Mason also participated in World War II, but his experiences were as an American bluejacket. In his Rendezvous with Destiny: A Sailor's War, Mason recounts his war years as an enlisted man, pulling no punches and telling his story in the style that has become his trademark. Enlisting in the Navy in 1939, he received his baptism of fire at Pearl Harbor and remained in service through V-J Day. His recollections are vivid and accurate and there is a large dose of opinion that makes this memoir colorful, revealing, sometimes contentious, and always entertaining.

Butch O'Hare's view of the war was quite different from Ted Mason's. This heroic naval aviator unfortunately did not live to see V-J day nor to write his memoirs, so historians Steve Ewing and John B. Lundstrom have recreated his engrossing life story in Fateful Rendezvous: The Life of Butch O'Hare. O'Hare is credited with saving the carrier Lexington by downing five attacking Japanese bombers in what has been called the most daring single action in the hi story of combat aviation. This probing biography investigates the events surrounding O'Hare's death a year after this encounter—which brought him the Medal of Honor—and also examines his father's much-debated role in the conviction of Chicago mobster Al Capone. Retired Navy Captain Steve Millikin, editor of The Hook Magazine, writes, "In an age in which heroism seems limited to sports figures and entertainers, this story shakes our senses with the true nature of heroism."

Yet another view of World War II is provided in No Bended Knee: The Battle for Guadalcanal by Marine General (then Lieutenant Colonel) Merrill B. Twining, who participated in this pivotal campaign as operations officer of the 1st Marine Division. His account is first hand, thought-provoking, and passionate. It confirms, supplements, and challenges the great volume of work that has been done on this grueling and unique campaign.

Total war yielded to a more limited version when Communism and the West confronted one another in Korea. Former Marine 1st Lieutenant Joseph Owen recalls his experiences in that so-called "police action" in his Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir. Owen served with a rifle company hastily assembled from a mix of experienced regulars and raw recruits. Inspiring gallantry, gruesome casualties, frozen rations, terrifying enemy night assaults, hand-to-hand combat in foxholes, and patrols through Chinese lines make an intriguing tale as well as providing some significant food for thought, offering lessons in leadership and a behind-the-scenes look at the problems encountered in a war strategists called limited.

At the conclusion of another limited war, U.S. Marines, sailors, and airmen faced hostile fire in an expedition classified as "operations other than war" on the Cambodian island of Koh Tang. The details and excitement of that 1975 engagement known most commonly as the Mayaguez incident are contained in A Very Short War: The Mayaguez and the Battle of Koh Tang by John F. Guilmartin, Jr. Retired Rear Admiral William J. Holland describes this book as "Clausewitz written by Louis L'Amour" and adds that "for the Marines on Koh Tang, the helicopter crews who put them there and took them off, for the ships' companies of the Henry B. Wilson (DDG-7) and Harold E. Holt (FF-1074), this was war in every respect."

In his Spy Sub: A Top Secret Mission to the Bottom of the Pacific, Roger C. Dunham recalls his experiences during a very sensitive Cold War mission that can be told even today only by changing names and making technical modifications. Known in the Pentagon as "The Hunt for Red September," this story proves the old adage "truth is stranger than fiction." Twenty-eight years ago a nuclear armed Soviet submarine exploded and disappeared into the depths of the Pacific. A U.S. submarine, with Dunham on board as a member of her crew, was dispatched on a super-sensitive mission to find it. With a dramatic sense usually only found in novels, Dunham recreates the events of this very unusual mission.

In sharp contrast to the murky depths inhabited by cold-warriors like Roger Dunham and his kind, the "wild blue yonder" over the Persian Gulf is the setting of Sherman Baldwin 's Ironclaw: A Navy Carrier Pilot's Gulf War Experience. Baldwin flew EA-6B Prowlers in Gulf War operations and has recorded those experiences in a memoir that former Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Air Warfare) Robert F.

Dunn describes as "a great read for anyone who wants to know, or would like to share with a friend, what it feels like to fly from an aircraft carrier in combat. Those who have been there will say, 'He tells it like I always wished I could.' For those who have not been there it describes in eminently readable style the challenge, the thrill, and the moments of self-doubt—all with great accuracy and detail."

The variety of operations that U.S. Navy ships and their crews have been called upon to conduct in the three decades following World War II are included in Black Shoes and Blue Water: Surface Warfare in the United States Navy, 1945-1975 by Malcolm Muir, Jr. Sixth in the Naval Historical Center's Contributions to Naval History series, this book, as described in the foreword by Director William S. Dudley, "pays particular attention to the development of weapons, the evolution of sensors and command and control systems, and the institutional steps taken to professionalize the surface warfare community. This coverage allows us to understand the characteristics of a critical component of the United States Fleet that in the 1990s continues to be called upon by our nation's leaders to play multiple roles throughout the world."

Some of those roles Dr. Dudley refers to are the focus of another notable Naval History Center series known as The U.S. Navy in the Modern World. The first in the series dealt with the Navy's role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the latest is an excellent treatise entitled "Swift and Effective Retribution": The U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Confrontation with Qaddafi by Joseph T. Stanik. This series of monographs fills a void in modern naval history by focusing on naval operations that have not received adequate attention.

For an excellent overview of some of the key figures who have had a profound influence on the development of the U.S. Navy, Quarterdeck and Bridge: Two Centuries of American Naval Leaders is a collection of essays written by leading naval historians and edited by James C. Bradford, professor of history at Texas A&M University. Included are the warriors (John Paul Jones, Stephen Decatur, Oliver Hazard Perry, David Dixon Porter, David Farragut, Raphael Semmes, George Dewey, Arleigh Burke, and William F. Halsey), the reformers (Matthew C. Perry, William S. Sims, and Elmo R. Zumwalt), the thinkers (Stephen B. Luce and Alfred Thayer Mahan), the technical innovators (Richard F. Stockton, William A. Moffett, and Hyman Rickover), and the high commanders (Esek Hopkins, Chester Nimitz, and Ernest J. King).

Robert Shenk's Authors at Sea: Modern American Writers Remember Their Naval Service is another collection of writings by men who have two things in common: naval service and writing. Among the authors featured in this collection are seven Pulitzer Prize winners and a host of other well-known novelists, journalists, science writers, and historians. Included are Herman Wouk, James Michener, Alex Haley, Edward L. Beach, C. Vann Woodward, Ben Bradlee, Samuel Eliot Morison, and many others. Their recollections are filled with humor, hope, and sadness, and their experiences include leadership challenges, kamikaze attacks, nights on the town, surface engagements, personality conflicts, and flight training, to name a few.

Perhaps the most unique form of warfare addressed in this year's Notable Naval Books is the gridiron variety found in A Civil War: A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry by John Feinstein. Television commentator Brent Musburger once described the Army-Navy football rivalry by saying, "There is no bowl game at stake here. There is no coalition poll, no number one ranking, no Heisman Trophy is at stake either. This is bigger than all that." Feinstein followed the two teams through the entire 1995 season, doing careful research and striving to capture the essence of what it is that makes this long-lasting rivalry both fun and important. He succeeded, and the result is this sympathetic and yet objective analysis of an American tradition that symbolizes fierce competition, martial spirit, and feelings of respect and brotherhood.

Another aspect of Academy life is the subject of retired Rear Admiral Robert W. McNitt's Sailing at the U.S. Naval Academy: An Illustrated History. Midshipmen at Annapolis have been sailing since the days when square-riggers were the norm, and Admiral McNitt has been sailing for most of hi s life. This book represents a marriage of that history and experience and is a stunning portrait of a relevant extracurricular program at the Naval Academy. From basic indoctrination to trophy-winning ocean races, this well-illustrated treatment will please veterans of the wind and will inform and delight the uninitiated.

The march of technological progress has relegated sailing craft to the realm of recreation and extracurricular activity. The Naval Institute Guide to Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet— nowin its 16th edition—addresses the descendants of the age of sail. Cataloging existing fleet assets and postulating future ships and aircraft, highly respected naval analyst and award-winning author Norman Polmar carries on a tradition begun decades ago when the first edition of this important reference work made its debut. This latest edition not only provides important data on the vessels and aircraft that make up today's Navy, but also discusses such future entities as the "Arsenal Ship" and the F/A-18E Hornet aircraft. Also included is an update on the state of the Navy, Defense and Navy Department organization, the Military Sealift Command, the Naval Reserve, the Coast Guard, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Other important topics include the reorganization of the Marine Forces (formerly Fleet Marine Forces), the roles now open to women, and the changing fleet structure.

As tangible testimony to the end of the Cold War, this year's "Notable Naval Books" include a Russian equivalent to Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet. Navy, which is Volume ill in the seven-volume Russia's Arms Catalog, is an amazingly detailed, openly illustrated accounting of the Russian Navy's inventory. Included are major warships and aircraft, support vessels, shore establishments, guided missiles, naval guns, mines, torpedoes, coastal defense weapons, electronic equipment, chemical-biological-radiological defense equipment, and swimmer delivery vehicles. The illustrations include photographs never before available and they are supplemented by many informative line-drawings.

In these days when so much is said and written about contingency operations, humanitarian endeavors, low-intensity conflict, peacekeeping operations and the like, it is important that we do not lose sight of the reality that war is what armed forces are about. We must, of course, recognize that times change, that new challenges will arise as the world political situation takes new directions, and we must appropriately respond to these changes. But this year's notable naval books serve to remind us that contingencies and peacekeeping operations require American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to go in harm's way, that low-intensity conflict is still conflict , that nowhere is it written that high-intensity conflict and all-out war can never again take place.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler has recently joined the Naval Institute staff. This year's "Notable Naval Books"rounds out his service as "Books of interest" author. He has been relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Seamon, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired).

 

A Civil War: A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry. John Feinstein. Boston , MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.412 pp. Photos. $24.95 ($22.45).

A History of the Confederate Navy. Raimondo Luraghi. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 640 pp. Bib. Ind. Maps. Notes. Photos. $39.95 ($31.95).

A Very Short War: The Mayaguez and the Battle of Koh Tang. John F. Guilmartin., Jr. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 1996. 238 pp. Append. Notes. $39.50 ($35.55).

Authors at Sea: Modern American Writers Remember Their Naval Service. Robert Shenk, Editor. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 336 pp. Photos. $32.95 ($26.36).

Black Shoes and Blue Water: Surface Warfare in the United States Navy, 1945-1975. Malcolm Muir, Jr. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1996. 235 pp. Bib. Gloss. Ind. Notes. Photos. $19.00. Order from GPO 202-512-1800. Stock number 008-046-00169-3.

Chronicles of the Frigate Macedonian. James Tertius de Kay. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 1995. 336 pp. App. Illus. Ind. Notes. $25.00 ($22.50).

Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir . Joseph Owen. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 255 pp. Maps. Photos. $29.95 ($23.86).

Fateful Rendezvous: The Life of Butch O'Hare . Steve Ewing and John B. Lundstrom. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997. 312 pp. App. Ind. Maps. Notes. Photos. Sources. $32.95 ($26.36).

Ironclaw: A Navy Carrier Pilot's Gulf War Experience . Sherman Baldwin. New York, NY: Morrow, 1996. 258 pp. Gloss. $23.50 ($21.15).

NAVY Volume III in Russia's Arms Catalog . Nikolai Spassky, Editor in Chief. Moscow: Military Parade, 1996.588 pp. Ind. Photos. Plans. $495.00 Order directly from Zig Zag Venture Group, New York. tel: 212-725-6700 fax: 212-725-6915.

No Bended Knee: The Battle for Guadalcanal . Gen. Merrill B. Twining, USMC (Ret.). Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1996. 197 pp. Ind. Maps Photos. $21.95 ($19.75).

Pete Ellis: An Amphibious Warfare Prophet, 1880-1923 . Dirk A. Ballendorf & Merrill Bartlett. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997. 215 pp. Bib. Ind. Maps. Notes. $26.95 ($21.56).

Quarterdeck and Bridge: Two Centuries of American Naval Leaders . James C. Bradford, Editor. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 512 pp. Bib. Ind. Notes. Photos. $42.50 ($34.00) hardcover, $22.95 ($18.36) paper.

Rendezvous with Destiny: A Sailor's War . Theodore Mason. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 235 pp. Maps. Photos. $29.95 ($22.46).

Rifleman Dodd . C.S. Forester. Washington, DC: Marine Corps Association, 1996. $19.95 ($17.95 for Marine Corps Association members (hardcover), $4.99 ($3.95 for Marine Corps Association members) paper.

Sailing at the U.S. Naval Academy: An Illustrated History . RAdm. Robert W. McNitt, USN (Ret.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 270pp. Append. Bib. IIIus. Gloss. Notes. Photos. $41.95 ($33.56).

Spy Sub: A Top Secret Mission to the Bottom of the Pacific. Roger C. Dunham. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 232pp. Bib. Photos. $27.95 ($20.96).

"Swift and Effective Retribution": The U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Confrontation with Qaddafi. Joseph T. Stanik. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1996. 52 pp. Photos. Maps. $6.50. Order from GPO 202-512-1800, stock number 008-046-00175-8.

The Naval Institute Guide to Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet . Norman Polmar. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 553 pp. App. Gloss. Ind. Photos. $79.95 ($63.96).

War at Sea, 1939-1945 . Jurgen Rohwer. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996. 192 pp. Photos. $45.00 ($36.00).

 

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.

More by this Author

BROWN WATER, BLACK BERETS
The men of the U.S. Navy's brown-water force played a vital but often overlooked role in the... Read More
BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF
The last great naval battle of World War II, Leyte Gulf also is remembered as the biggest naval... Read More
DUTTON'S NAUTICAL NAVIGATION, 15TH EDITION
As paper navigational charts are replaced by vector images on computer screens, magnetic compasses... Read More
A SAILOR'S HISTORY OF THE U.S. NAVY
Also Available in an Audio Edition from Audible via Amazon Essential reading as part of the Chief... Read More

Events and Conferences

Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More

 
 

Conferences and Events

2014 U.S. Naval Institute History Conference

Wed, 2014-10-01

The 2014 Naval History Conference is hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the U.S. Naval Academywith support from The William M...

Defense Forum Washington 2014

Newseum - Knight Conference Center

2015 WEST Conference

View All

From the Press

Guest Speaker

Wed, 2014-09-17

Guest Speaker

Wed, 2014-09-17

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership