The criteria for selection remains much the same as before with one notable exception: reference books that appear on a regular basis (such as Jane's Fighting Ships and Combat Fleets of the World) are not included. While there is no question that such books are notable, mentioning them year after year was deemed redundant and unnecessary. Those interested in this list are more than likely already aware of such important books and need not be reminded.
One other category of books was omitted in the interest of making room for the more unusual titles. The books in the Naval Institute's Blue & Gold Professional Library are not included, even though these are certainly notable and invaluable to naval professionals. Many of the titles are perennials, reappearing periodically in revised editions. Even though several new titles in the series appeared this past year, these books as a whole represent a special category that, again, is assumed will be known to naval professionals without receiving special recognition here.
Readers will note that a significant number of books on this list are from the Naval Institute's own press. No apology is made for this fact. A review of Amazon.com, Publisher's Weekly, or any other reputable source will reveal that Naval Institute Press produces significantly more books on naval subjects than any other single publisher. Further, as already indicated, the list was created based on the inputs of many people outside the Naval Institute, and one of the criteria used by the selecting committee was to avoid any perceived bias if at all possible.
It will come as no surprise that being included on this list is considered a prestigious accolade, and coming up with a list of only 20 from the many fine books that were published in 2005 is difficult and subjective enough without trying to further rank them in some manner. For that reason the editors have decided to list the books in alphabetical order, by title, so as to avoid any perceptions of ranking or favoritism. The editors are prepared for (and in fact welcome) the inevitable criticism that will come from these choices—that is, after all, what a forum is about—but they see no reason to set themselves up for the additional criticism that would certainly arise from an added hierarchy within the list. Selecting the better and the best from this list will be left to the individual reader.
The Admiral's Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War by Christopher A. Ford and David A. Rosenberg. (Naval Institute Press)
Operational intelligence—knowing where the enemy is and what he is doing—is undeniably crucial to effective military operations. This analytic and historical study, written by two experts in the field, explores the evolution of naval operational intelligence since World War II and evaluates current practices based on inputs from deck-plate practitioners as well as senior members of the intelligence community. The authors have scrupulously taken the work as close to the edge of classification as possible to enhance its value without damaging national security. This groundbreaking work suggests lessons for the use of intelligence against future threats.
(For a full review, see Proceedings, March 2006)
Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality by Robert J. Schneller. (New York University Press)
Written by a staff historian at the Naval Historical Center, and winner of the Organization of American Historians' 2006 Richard W. Leopold Prize, this volume recounts the struggles of the first black midshipman to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. Based on official records, extensive oral histories, and correspondence, it is an important study, packed with food for thought and lessons learned. It is at the same time painful and inspiring, recalling policies and practices that evoke shame, while detailing the triumph of one individual who broke ground for a better world. In 1949, Midshipman Wesley Brown achieved what before had been impossible. The forces that leveled the playing field for Brown—a push from the black community, national political imperatives, a shift in racial attitudes, direct intervention by leaders, and an individual drive to succeed—presaged the convergence of forces that served as the underpinnings of the Civil Rights movement.
(For a full review, see Proceedings, July 2005)
Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot of World War II by Barrett Tillman. (New American Library)
In June 1944, American and Japanese carrier fleets fought a major battle in the Philippine Sea, each side hoping to take control of the vital Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific. This naval engagement is arguably the most spectacular aircraft carrier battle in history. One of naval aviation's outstanding chroniclers, Barrett Tillman has written a new account of this important battle, told from both sides by those who were there. Providing both a sweeping strategic view and a detailed tactical analysis of this critical World War II engagement, Tillman draws on numerous interviews as well as official sources to create this powerful testimonial to those who fought and died in a battle that should never be forgotten.
Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control since the Sixteenth Century by Michael Palmer. (Harvard University Press)
With the kind of unique insights and thoughtful analysis that readers have come to expect from distinguished historian Michael Palmer, this valuable work explores naval history with an eye toward determining what it takes to lead a fleet into battle. Juxtaposing the two largely conflicting schools of centralization versus autonomy, Palmer explores both through a careful analysis of key naval battles, coming to his own conclusions that will both win support and provoke opposition. Beyond the important analysis that makes this book so notable, his battle accounts, with heavy doses of both tactics and technology, are a great read that will find favor with even the most critical of audiences.
(For a full review, see Proceedings, June 2005)
The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815 by N. A. M. Rodger. (W. W. Norton)
Publisher's Weekly appropriately describes this book as "majesterial." This second volume of what will ultimately be a complete history of British naval history begins with the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1649 and ends with the fall of Napoleon and the virtual end of the great age of sail for the navies of the world. Not for the neophyte, this study provides a wealth of information for serious students who wish to better understand the many factors (social, technological, personal, etc.) that influence the development and sustainment of a great sea power.
(For a full review, see Naval History, June 2005)
Cradle of Conflict: Iraq and the Birth of the Modern U.S. Military by Michael Knights. (Naval Institute Press)
Linking Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, and the various operations in between, Michael Knights has produced an eye-opening narrative of America's struggle against Iraq's Ba'athists between 1990 and 2005. This unique perspective sets the scene for a new and constructive critique of U.S. military power and the asymmetric resistance capabilities of U.S. adversaries at the dawn of the 21st century. A recognized authority on military operations in the Persian Gulf region, the author threads together the political-military and military-technical aspects of the struggle, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the military approaches used by the United States to contain and finally roll back the threat. This thoughtful work is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the factors that limit U.S. military power in practice rather than in theory.
Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History by Craig L. Symonds. (Oxford University Press)
Focusing on five history-changing battles (Perry at Lake Erie, the clash of the ironclads in the Civil War, Dewey's triumph at Manila Bay, the tide-turning battle of Midway, and the collision with the Iranian Navy during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988), this award-winning book-perhaps Symonds' best ever-recounts each engagement in a manner that puts the reader on the edge of his or her chair while leaving no doubt as to the battle's historical significance. This is history at its absolute best, making use of the past in the great Mahanian model of extracting important lessons, while (unlike Mahan) making each study a page-turner that makes for great reading in its own right.
(For a full review, see Proceedings, September 2005)
Fire from the Sky: Seawolf Gunships in the Mekong Delta by Richard Knott. (Naval Institute Press)
The story of the Navy's first and only helicopter gunship squadron of the Vietnam War, the "Seawolves" of HAL-3 provided vital air support to the river patrol boats