Notable Naval Books of 1986

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U. S. Navy

Edward L. Beach's The United States Navy: 200 Years brings to life the drama, excitement, and human aspects of the Navy's history. This unusual work is not an objective history. It is, instead, a naval officer's view of his service's heritage—a tapestry of historical facts woven together and given vitality by the author's injection of passionate inspiration.

In a more traditional historical spirit, the Naval Historical Center has produced a landmark volume on the War of 1812. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, edited by William S. Dudley, is the first in a planned three-volume series on this subject. The book includes documents pertaining to operations, diplomacy, logistics, administration, and personnel matters, which are supplemented by introductory explanations, descriptions, and locations of the original documents. This collection is, of course, a researcher's delight, but it also provides an entrancing journey for the reader in search of history in its purest form.

The War of 1812 also receives attention in Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean by Captain David Porter. This chronicle of Porter's audacious venture into the Pacific to challenge British dominance was brought out by the Naval Institute Press in its Classics of Naval Literature series. While most books in this series—notable in itself—are reprints of older works, Journal of a Cruise is an exception. Porter's story appeared in two substantially different editions in 1815 and in 1822. The second edition, in response to criticisms fired at the first, was significantly altered to court the more conservative audience of its day. The second edition also included some concluding chapters not found in the first. This Classics of Naval Literature version integrates the texts and illustrations of both editions. Explanatory notes identify portions of the overall work that are unique to particular editions. The end result is the addition of an ageless classic—born in the early part of the 19th century—to the body of modem naval literature.

In a chronological sweep forward, the period 1840-80 is covered by Captains of the Old Steam Navy, the second in the Makers of the American Naval Tradition series edited by James C. Bradford. Following the tradition established in the first volume, Command Under Sail (Naval Institute Press, 1985), this second volume is a collection of biographical essays written by specialists in their respective fields. These seminal essays explore the lives of the men who played prominent roles in the Navy's conversion from sail to steam. Lesser known but significant personalities of the period, such as the naval theorist, Admiral Robert Wilson Shufeldt and Admiral Andrew Foote, are joined by such towering names as Admirals Matthew Calbraith Perry, John A. Dahlgren, and David Glasgow Farragut to make up the 13 essays in this collection. While many of the names have appeared before in their own biographies, few attempts have been made at linking these personalities to this important period.

Also from this period comes Icebound by Leonard F. Guttridge, an extraordinary narrative of America's 1897 quest for the North Pole. Known more popularly as the Jeanette Expedition, this bizarre story of courageous exploration, tragic failure, and subsequent cover-up is captured in vivid detail by Guttridge. His research is impeccable, his characters are three-dimensional, and his descriptions depict the harshness and uncompromising demands of the environment.

Of the books about World War II that appeared in late 1985 and 1986, two are standouts. The first is Gordon Prange's Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History. This insightful work, published eight years after Prange's death through the efforts of Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, stands as the author's final word on a subject he spent most of his life studying. The second is a book more sweeping in scope and somewhat unique in concept. The Pacific War Remembered, edited by John T. Mason, Jr., is a collection of excerpted oral histories that have been converted from the standard interview format to a more flowing first-person narrative. From the USS Arizona (BB-39) in Pearl Harbor to the USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay, this is a chronicle of World War II told by the men who lived it.

A significant historical void has been partially filled by publication of Vietnam: The Naval Story. Although much has been printed in recent years on Vietnam, little has addressed the U. S. Navy's role in that war. During 1967-72, Frank Uhlig, Jr., commissioned a number of essays from participants for the Naval Institute's annual Naval Review. He has now assembled these essays in one volume. Together, they tell a significant portion of the story of U. S. Navy and Marine participation in the Vietnam War. Aviation, logistics, and "brown water" operations are some of the topics covered by authors who were either in command or held responsible staff positions in the forces they write about.

Another Vietnam-related work—and one that has captured national attention—is My Father, My Son by former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., and Elmo Zumwalt III. Beyond the moving human interest element of this dual autobiography, the book highlights the naval war in Vietnam from the perspectives of the admiral in charge and one of his swift-boat commanders—who is also his son.

Today's Navy: Two books by Washington Post reporters address important current naval topics. Patrick Tyler's Running Critical: The Silent War, Rickover, and General Dynamics scrutinizes the Navy's fast attack submarine program that "sank into one of the worst cost overrun disasters of the century." George C. Wilson's Supercarrier is an experienced journalist's account of life on board "the world's most powerful ship," the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67).

With recent attention focused on issues of government spending, especially within the defense establishment, Running Critical is a timely book. It is a behind-the-scenes story of power, and the misuse and greed it sometimes spawns. It is a dramatically written narrative that stimulates healthy, if sometimes painful, examination of the weaknesses within our defense industry. The story is unquestionably provocative and controversial, and it serves as ammunition for a battle that is not likely to end soon.

Supercarrier examines the Navy from the deckplates. In the fall of 1983, the John F. Kennedy left Norfolk, Virginia, on a routine six-month deployment. What was not routine, however, was that she carried with her a Washington Post reporter who had been granted carte blanche to study life on board the huge ship. By remaining on board throughout an entire deployment, Wilson earned the respect of the professionals he wrote about and afforded himself the opportunity to thoroughly understand his subject.

Wilson writes about the 19-hour days of the flight-deck crews, the ever-present danger of launches and recoveries, the grueling hours in the draining heat of the engineering spaces, and the gnawing loneliness of separation from loved ones. Through this close observation, Wilson not only impressively captures the marrow of today's Navy, he also draws some strong and thought-provoking conclusions. Whether or not one agrees with Wilson, his methods must be applauded, and hope arises that Supercarrier might establish a journalistic trend that will enhance the credibility of those who would write about the armed forces.

Professional Reference: Now in its 89th edition, Jane's Fighting Ships has long provided current detailed information on the world's navies, and 1986 is no exception. As always, this latest edition highlights the year's significant naval events and contains tables of statistical comparisons, recognition silhouettes, and the ship reference section, which provides detailed information and illustrations of naval forces alphabetically by nation.

Similar in coverage but uniquely important is Combat Fleets of the World 1986/87 . With useful data on the world's ships, aircraft, and their armament under one cover, this sixth English-language edition has a new 10- by 12-inch format to improve handling and to better display the nearly 3,000 photographs and accompanying data.

The fourth edition of Norman Polmar's Guide to the Soviet Navy provides relevant data and thorough review and analysis, and continues the tradition established by the previous editions of this salient work. Covering every aspect of the Soviet maritime experience, Polmar discusses strategy, tactics, fleet organization, bases, shipbuilding, aviation, naval infantry, coastal defense forces, fishing fleets, and the merchant marine. The data on submarines, surface ships, and aircraft have been updated, and two new chapters have been added: "Operations and Exercises" and "KGB Maritime Border Troops." Retired Rear Admiral James D. Ramage in The Hook describes Guide to the Soviet Navy as "a book that I would like to have on my bridge as a ship commander, or in my operations center as a task force commander."

Strategy and Tactics: While a variety of professional reference works and books on strategy abound, the subject of naval tactics has long been neglected. Fleet Tactics: Theory and Practice by retired Captain Wayne P. Hughes, Jr., answers this need. Emphasizing that sound tactical thought requires "knowledge of history, tactical analysis, and fleet operations," Captain Hughes recreates famous sea battles from history, showing how tactics have evolved as well as demonstrating how they have resisted change. He investigates the tactical interaction of land and sea, the significance of sensors in modem tactics, the role of surprise, and the importance of leadership and morale. He ends by demonstrating how a modem battle might be planned and executed. Hughes draws upon the knowledge and wisdom of land tacticians as well as those of the sea, but also emphasizes the contrasts between them. Fleet Tactics is important reading for anyone having a stake or an interest in naval tactics. The book may well find its place as a tactical equivalent to the strategic classics of Alfred Thayer Mahan and Carl Von Clausewitz.

The complexities of anti-nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) tactics are addressed in Donald C. Daniel's Anti-Submarine Warfare and Superpower Strategic Stability. Daniel analyses the controversy over the vulnerability of SSBNs and the destabilizing effects that such vulnerability could portend. His conclusions are thought-provoking and his work is particularly significant because it links the tactical concepts of conventional antisubmarine warfare with the strategic aspects of nuclear war.

Through the Artist's Eye: Gino Galuppini's Warships of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia might well appear as a historical work or as a professional reference book for it is, in fact, both. But what makes this impressive volume particularly unique is its visual appeal. The illustrations that accompany the comprehensive text are nothing short of magnificent. There are 544 color illustrations and more than a thousand black and white scale drawings, all executed in exacting detail and meticulous clarity. From classical antiquity to the age of nuclear power, Galuppini portrays warships, in their vast arrays of sizes, shapes, nationalities, and missions.

From the marine artist comes Stobart: The Rediscovery of America's Maritime Heritage, a large-format collection of paintings by John Stobart. More than 60 beautifully reproduced full color prints with accompanying text capture the spirit of America in the days of sail. The subjects and moods vary from the dignified repose of docked ships in the moonlight to the kinetic panorama of the frigate Constitution running before the wind in the open sea. Stobart captures the special quality that sets ships, sailors, and the sea apart; his paintings smell of salt air and stir the emotions of those who have "gone down to the sea in ships."

Proving that art is not limited to traditional forms, The Cutting Edge by Lieutenant Commander C. J. Heatley III is a striking photo-essay on modem naval aviation. Much as Stobart has captured the spirit of the sea in his paintings, Commander Heatley has brought the exhilaration and splendor of flying to these pages. His photographs throb with the power of technology and are framed in the expansive beauty of the natural world that pilots seek to conquer. It is a unique blending of man, machines, and nature that is packed with nostalgia for former flyers and vicarious excitement for those who have never catapulted from carriers.

Fiction: Two fiction works have distinguished themselves among naval literature this year: Tom Clancy's second novel, Red Storm Rising, and the Naval Institute's second fictional publication, Flight of the Intruder by Stephen Coonts. Both promise to be worthy successors to their predecessor, the enormously successful The Hunt for Red October, which was a first novel for both Clancy and the Naval Institute Press.

Red Storm Rising once again pits the two great superpowers against one another, but this time the confrontation explodes into open warfare. Ships, aircraft, tanks, and troops are called into action. Terrorism, diplomacy, espionage, strategy, and tactics continue the Clancy tradition of spellbinding reading. Red Storm Rising has received much critical acclaim and topped The New York Times bestseller list.

Flight of the Intruder, also a national best-seller, takes the reader into the skies over North Vietnam. It is a story of the men who must face not only the terror of antiaircraft fire and the natural hazards of flying, but must deal with the intense frustrations of limited warfare, where the limitations decrease the odds for their survival. Coonts's characters exhibit the outward bravado and genuine courage that are prerequisites to this unique occupation, but he also explores the limitations and feelings that may not always be visible yet must be factored into the man/machine equation that makes naval aviation the potent force that it is. Flight of the Intruder provides the excitement and fascination that one expects from good war fiction, but it also asks provocative questions on warfighting.

This year's collection of notable naval books are not dominated by anyone type or topic. They are refreshingly diverse. With these selections one can challenge the seas with Stobart or race about vast expanses of the sky with Heatley or Coonts. One can study tactics with Hughes or "know thine enemy" through the efforts of Jane's or Combat Fleets. One can recreate the bygone days of 1812 or relive the ordeal of Vietnam. These books are a small cross-section of a large body of naval literature on a profession that is impressively remarkable in its diversity, that is kept vital by its willingness to look upon its own shortcomings, and that is a source of unquestionable pride for its participants and for the nation it serves.

Commander Cutler has written the Notable Naval Books and Books of Interest features for Proceedings for three years. He has served as technical advisor on a number of Naval Institute Press books and has written a book on coastal riverine warfare in Vietnam to be published in 1987. He enlisted in the Navy in 1965, and has since served in Vietnam and on board two aircraft carriers, one cruiser, and one guided-missile destroyer. He is currently teaching in the History Department at the U. S. Naval Academy.

 

Anti-Submarine Warfare and Superpower Strategic Stability . Donald C. Daniel. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1986. 222 pp. Charts. Maps. Tables. Ind. $32.50 ($29.25).

Captains of the Old Steam Navy: Makers of the American Naval Tradition 1840-1880 . James C. Bradford, Editor. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986.356 pp. Illus. Bib. Ind. $24.95 ($19.96).

Combat Fleets of the World, 1986/87: Their Ships, Aircraft, and Armament . Jean Labayle Couhat and A. D. Baker, Editors. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986. 776 pp. Illus. Append. Ind. $94.95 ($75.96).

The Cutting Edge . Cdr. C. J. Heatley III, USN. Charlottesville, VA: Thomasson, Grant & Howell, a Naval Institute Press Edition, 1986. 152 pp. Illus. $38.00 ($30.40).

Fleet Tactics . Captain Wayne P. Hughes , Jr., USN (Ret.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986. 316 pp. Figs. Tables. Append. Bib. Ind. $21.95 ($17.56).

Flight of the Intruder . Stephen Coonts. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986. Fiction. 329 pp. $15.95 ($12.76).

Guide to the Soviet Navy (Fourth Edition) . Norman Polmar. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986. 480 pp. Illus. Append. Bib. Ind. $38.95 ($31.16).

Icebound: The Jeannette Expedition's Quest for the North Pole . Leonard F. Guttridge. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986. 357 pp. mus. Ref. Ind. Maps. $23.95 ($19.16).

Jane's Fighting Ships 1986-1987 . Captain John Moore, RN (Ret.), Editor. New York: Jane's Publishing Inc., 1986. 838 pp. Gloss. Illus. Ind. $135.00 ($121.50).

Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean by Captain David Porter, in the United States Frigate Essex, in the Years 1812, 1813, 1814 . Capt. David Porter, USN. Introduction by R. D. Madison. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986. 500 pp. $19.95 ($15.96).

My Father, My Son . Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., USN (Ret.), and Elmo Zumwalt III, with John Pekkanen. New York: Macmillan, a Naval Institute Press Edition, 1986. 320 pp. Illus. Ind. $18.95 ($15.16).

The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History . William S. Dudley, Editor. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1985. 714 pp. Illus. Notes. Ind. Maps. Tables. $34.00 ($30.60).

The Pacific War Remembered: An Oral History Collection . John T. Mason, Jr., Editor. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986. 247 pp. Ind. $28.95 ($23.16).

Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History . Gordon W. Prange with Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. New York: McGrawHill Book Co., 1986. 699 pp. Illus. Maps. Photos. Append. Bib. Ind. $19.95 ($17.95) hardcover, $4.95 ($4.45) paper.

Red Storm Rising . Tom Clancy. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1986. Fiction. $18.95 ($17.05).

Running Critical: The Soviet War, Rickover, and General Dynamics . Patrick Tyler. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986. 374 pp. Illus. Ind. $19.95 ($17.95).

Stobart: The Rediscovery of America's Maritime Heritage . John Stobart with Robert P. Davis. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1985. 210 pp. Illus. $73 .00.

Supercarrier: An Inside Account of Life Aboard the World's Most Powerful Ship, the USS John F. Kennedy . George C. Wilson. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, a Naval Institute Press Edition, 1986. 273 pp. Illus. Ind. $19.95 ($15.96).

The United States Navy: 200 Years . Capt. Edward L. Beach, USN (Ret.). New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., a Naval Institute Press Edition, 1986. 564 pp. Illus. Notes. Append. Ind. $24.95 ($19.96).

Vietnam: The Naval Story . Frank Uhlig, Jr., Editor. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986.496 pp. Illus. Ind. $28 .95 ($23.16).

Warships of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia . Gino Galuppini. New York: Times Books, 1986. 320 pp. Illus. Figs. Bib. Ind. $69.95 ($62.95).

 

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

Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More
Videotape Interview
10:00am, “Veterans Oral Histories Series,” American Veterans Center, 1100 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington,... Read More
29 March - Presentation
12:00 PM | National Museum of the United States Navy | Washington, DC Read More

 
 

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