With the possible exception of the men and women who must man them, ships are the most elemental and essential part of a navy and an absolute requisite for the survival of any maritime nation. Although their missions and methods have evolved with the inexorable march of technology, they are the true projectors of seapower, showing the nation's flag in the far corners of the world, striking enemy shores with fire- and manpower, casting aircraft and missiles into hostile skies, probing the depths in search of ICBM-laden submarines, and maintaining the long and fragile umbilicals of logistical strength. Ships are, as Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote, "the backbone and real power of any navy."
So it is particularly fitting that many of this year's "Notable Naval Books" focus upon ships. Of the 19 titles selected for 1987, eight concentrate upon ships specifically or generically. The remainder of the selections are historical in nature and, not surprisingly, ships ply the pages of many of them as well.
The two books we begin with are not strangers to this annual feature: Jane's Fighting Ships and The Ships and Aircraft of the U. S. Fleet are always notable contributions to the body of naval literature whenever they appear in an updated edition. The end of an era has been reached with this 90th Jane's, because Captain J. E. Moore, Royal Navy (Retired), is retiring. In his many years as editor, he has made this comprehensive catalog of the world's navies an invaluable reference tool and, through the incisive analyses that have enhanced the forewords of each edition, he has maintained his reputation as one of the world's leading authorities on naval matters.
Norman Polmar's triennial guide, The Ships and Aircraft of the U. S. Fleet, like Jane's, goes beyond the mere cataloging of hardware: Polmar analyzes The Reagan administration's 600-ship Navy and draws some important conclusions about current capabilities and future developments. The traditional title of this evolving work does not give full credit to its contents: the book includes all the ships and aircraft of the U. S. Navy, and its weapons, electronics, and administrative and operational organizations, as well. Providing continuity to earlier editions, including those originally edited by James C. Fahey, this 14th edition includes special tables that list all combatant ships built for the U. S. Navy since World War II.
Focusing upon the more diminutive elements of the U. S. Navy, Norman Friedman's U. S. Small Combatants is the fifth volume in his critically acclaimed design history series. Illuminating a frequently overlooked but unquestionably significant aspect of the fleet, Friedman comprehensively catalogs and describes the full range of patrol and fast attack craft in the 20th-century U. S. Navy. As with all the books in this unique series, a plethora of photographs and line drawings furnishes intimate detail of the construction and functional capabilities of these craft, while Friedman's erudite writing makes this the most authoritative work on the subject. The subchasers and PT-boats of the world wars, the coastal and riverine craft of the Vietnam era, and the missile-bearing hydrofoils of today are only part of the inventory covered here.
Also considered small but only in relative terms, the "baby flattops," or escort carriers (CVEs), of the Pacific war are the subject of William T. Y'Blood's Little Giants. Like Hunter-Killer, his previous, well-received work on the roles of these minicarriers in the Atlantic during World War II, this latest work is a fascinating portrait of both ships and men. Based upon extensive interviews, after-action reports, official ship histories, and war diaries, Little Giants chronicles the myriad operations conducted by the CVEs in the Pacific. These less glamorous sisters of the much-publicized fast carriers hunted submarines, provided critical air cover to amphibious landings, moved vast amounts of men and material across the Pacific theater, and served as training carriers for fledgling aviators on their way to war. Y'Blood's account captures the drama of these operations while accurately recording the historical details of this largely ignored story.
Another nearly forgotten naval component of World War II—the Asiatic Fleet—is revitalized by the powerful medium of historical fiction in South to Java by retired Vice Admiral William P. Mack and William P. Mack, Jr. Lieutenant Ross Fraser and the USS O'Leary are the fictional but historically representative main characters in this masterpiece of naval fiction; it deftly blends Admiral Mack's real-life experiences with the art of the novelist to recreate the early days of America's war in the Pacific. Man and ship suddenly find themselves in hostile waters, pitted against the formidable Japanese fleet and commanded by a suicidal captain. The fast-paced story rings with authenticity and holds the reader firmly in its grasp until the final pages.
Ships are the focus of another notable naval book this year: not the technology-laden vessels of the 20th century, but the wooden curiosities that bore the father of the American Navy to sea and into "harm's way." The Ships of John Paul Jones by William Gilkerson is the fruit of a 20-year research project that brings history and art into harmony. Sixty of Gilkerson's paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sketches are blended with an informative and historically accurate narrative to bring Jones and his day to life. The ships, with their finely crafted hulls and complex rigging, are revealed in astonishing detail, and the arms, apparel, and habiliments of seagoing life are vividly presented, as well.
Two very different and famous ships—an austere combatant that still roams the seven seas, and a luxurious passenger liner forever committed to the deep—have been further immortalized by the appearance of Battleship New Jersey by Paul Stillwell and The Discovery of the Titanic by Robert D. Ballard. The only U. S. battleship to participate in three wars, the USS New Jersey (BB-62) is one of the oldest warships still in service, yet she is also one of the most modern in terms of weapon systems and electronics. As a former crew member and notable historian, Stillwell explores this enigmatic leviathan from stem to stem and from keel-laying to present-day operations. With the aid of extensive interviews, more than 350 photographs, and 12 large line drawings, he has successfully blended raw data and historical facts with the devoted affection that these magnificent monsters evoke in sailors and landlubbers alike. The result is an authoritative and loving portrait of a proud lady of the sea.
The Discovery of the Titanic recounts in detail the ship's last night and the 12-year quest to find, explore, and photograph her remains. With dozens of never-before-published photographs, rare archival pictures, beautifully and accurately executed paintings, and a foldout photo-mosaic of the Titanic today, this book rivets the reader to its pages. This is a first-rate nonfiction story of the sea and of the ship that still beckons hauntingly to us from the silent depths.
In addition to the focus upon ships, the notable naval books of 1987 have filled some significant historical voids by contributing original words on subjects that historians have previously neglected or covered only in part. One example is Robert Erwin Johnson's Guardians of the Sea: History of the United States Coast Guard, 1915 to the Present. In essence a sequel to Rear Admiral Stephen Hadley Evans's United States Coast Guard 1790-1915, this book concentrates on the period beginning with the 1915 integration of the Revenue-Cutter and Life-Saving Services into a new service with old purposes, the United States Coast Guard. From sensational tales of search and rescue to armed combat at sea, from wartime service with the Department of the Navy to peacetime service with the Departments of the Treasury and Transportation, this varied history is a sympathetic, yet candid account of the most unusual of the armed services.
Filling another void in naval history is Robert L. Scheina's Latin America: A Naval History 1810- 1987. The most comprehensive history of Latin American navies ever written in English, this book is the result of massive research into Spanish, Portuguese, and English sources. The successes and failures of the various Latin American navies, the impact of U. S. naval influence upon them, and an analytical as well as operational study of the recent Malvinas-Falklands War are but a few of the highlights of this comprehensive and very readable work.
Yet another area that naval historians have neglected somewhat is the undeclared war between the United States and France, known as the "Quasi-War." In Michael A. Palmer's recent work, Stoddert's War: Naval Operations During the Quasi-War with France, 1798-1801, this little known and frequently misrepresented struggle is placed within a European context and critically analyzed with balanced objectivity. More than another account of the familiar frigate battles, Stoddert's War also scrutinizes the other naval operations of the period, including convoy escort, small-boat attacks, and cruising for privateers. It was a formative and consequential time for the callow American Navy, and Palmer's book makes a significant contribution to the literature of the period.
Two historical works deal with the Royal Navy. Paul G. Halpern's book The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1914-1918 examines a little known aspect of the First World War by mining the archives and manuscript collections in Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and the United States to recreate and analyze the events occurring on this "second front" of Britain's naval war.
In The U-Boat Peril, Bob Whinney provides first-person insight into antisubmarine warfare in the Atlantic during World War II. As captain of an aging destroyer that tallied one of the highest U-boat kill rates in the war, he is well-qualified to bring this story to the written page. He lucidly and vividly describes the action so that the reader can both understand what is happening and vicariously feel the physical demands, the tension, and the stark fear that characterized these operations. Vice Admiral Sir Peter Gretton, in his foreword to The U-Boat Peril, writes, "This is the best description of anti-submarine warfare which I have ever read."
The decade immediately following World War II was a critical period in the development of the U. S. Navy. Eminent naval analyst and author Norman Friedman explores this period of reformation and redefinition in The Postwar Naval Revolution. Many of the problems and solutions of this decade have relevance and impact today. Naval planners faced the challenge of synthesizing the lessons of a massive conventional war with the all-new considerations of nuclear warfare. The role of submarines was being redefined and there were serious doubts as to the continued existence of surface fleets. New technology was juxtaposed with budget constraints in the ensuing debates. All of this and more occurred during this turbulent time, which Friedman faithfully records and incisively analyzes in this thought-provoking work.
Although historians have written a reasonable amount about the Korean War, the primary focus has been on the political rather than the military aspects of the conflict. Some military analysts believe that this paucity of analysis contributed to America's loss in Vietnam. While it is too late to have any impact on this latter tragedy, it is never too late to review a war in search of lessons, particularly a war as relatively recent as this one. Presenting a serious study of the military side of the Korean War is The Forgotten War: America in Korea 1950-1953, by Clay Blair. Pulling no punches in his critical analysis, Blair deals candidly with the personalities who commanded at both the strategic and tactical levels. It is a study in leadership as well as an appraisal of battlefield performance, a balanced work that has credibility and hopefully will have influence. As the first of America's "containment wars," Korea must not become "the forgotten war."
Another war, pushed to the back of the national mind for nearly a decade but now receiving vast attention, is Vietnam. Part of the naval side of that story is told in the Naval Historical Center's From Military Assistance to Combat 1959-1965 by Edward J. Marolda and Oscar P. Fitzgerald. The second in a planned three-volume work entitled The United States Navy and the Vietnam Conflict, this official history recounts the advisory years of the Kennedy administration and details the events and policies that led to the introduction of U. S. combat forces into Vietnam. One of the more interesting revelations is the contention that the second Tonkin Gulf incident—the attack on the destroyers USS Turner Joy (DD-951) and USS Maddox (DD-731)—did in fact occur. Until the appearance of this book, historians seemed to have reached a consensus that the second incident never happened, that overeager and nervous crewmen misinterpreted weather effects as an attack by North Vietnamese patrol craft. Marolda and Fitzgerald, however, make a strong case for an actual attack, and this, in turn, has rekindled the debate on this controversial subject, bringing historians and participants on both sides of the issue into heated battle. Sadly, we will probably never resolve the matter, but this notable work makes an important contribution to the debate and provides a factual and very readable account of the U. S. Navy's early days in Vietnam.
Focusing upon one aspect of the naval war in Vietnam, the air war, is the polemic On Yankee Station, coauthored by former fighter pilot and veteran of some 350 missions in Southeast Asia John B. Nichols and award-winning aviation historian Barrett Tillman. Described in the introduction as "a cockpit view of the carrier war over North Vietnam—with benefit of hindsight" and as "part memoir, part analysis," this thought-provoking book records, examines, castigates, and applauds the various aspects of the naval air war in Vietnam between 1964 and 1973. Nichols and Tillman present a well-reasoned indictment of the highly restrictive and often inconsistent rules of engagement that limited and frequently endangered the aviators who flew these missions. They assert that, contrary to the conventional belief that U. S. airpower failed in Vietnam, North Vietnamese aggression could have been ended as early as 1965 had the United States properly employed its mastery of the skies. Aiding the factual record are several useful appendices, while vivid descriptions capture the tension, pathos, humor, and adrenaline-pumping excitement of individual episodes.
No list of notable naval books would be complete without recognizing that other vital sea service, the Marine Corps. Celebrating 75 years of U. S. Marine Corps aviation, Navy pilot, photographer, and author C.J. Heatley III has produced a stunning photographic record of today's inventory of Marine aircraft. Forged in Steel continues in the tradition of Heatley's highly acclaimed The Cutting Edge with Breathtaking photography. Candid Comments by Leatherneck aviators describe the challenges and emotions unique to aviation. An archival section records the heritage that precedes these flyers, and a reference section provides aircraft specifications and capabilities along with three-view drawings that clearly illustrate the modern aircraft of the U. S. Marine Corps.
The colorful and controversial Smedley Butler is the subject of Hans Schmidt's Maverick Marine. Butler's checkered career included participation in most of the U. S. military interventions in the Caribbean, Central America, and the Far East during 1898-1920, service as public safety director for the city of Philadelphia while on a two-year leave from the Marine Corps, and a post-military career as a dramatic spokesman for many dissident and leftist causes decrying American military adventurism and imperialism. He was the most popular Marine hero of his day, had won two Medals of Honor, and became the ranking major general in the Marine Corps. But his apostasy and outspokenness (he once described his job as a Marine as being "a racketeer for capitalism") prevented him from becoming commandant of the Corps, earned him an early retirement and a (later rescinded) court-martial, and subjected him to a great deal of public ridicule and chastisement in the right-wing press and among numerous groups whose views differed from his own. Butler's dichotomous career raises many controversial historical issues. But Schmidt's biography paints a vivid portrait of a man whose courage on the battlefield was perhaps exceeded only by his fortitude in the face of a powerful establishment.
Since "Notable Naval Books" first appeared in 1950 (reviewing the naval literature of 1949), more than 700 books have been selected and reviewed. Some have become classics (Edward L. Beach's Run Silent, Run Deep, for example, was a notable naval book in 1955 and has recently been reprinted as one of Naval Institute Press's Classics of Naval Literature series) while the usefulness of others was only temporary. But whether these works have stood the test of time, or provoked serious thought on the issues of their day, or served as useful reference tools, or rendered illuminating glimpses of the past", or merely provided pleasure to friends of the sea services, all of these books, including the notables of 1987, represent the evolving nature of the profession. They also highlight the principles of a free society, in which constructive criticism and institutional introspection can flourish and lead to greater things.
Commander Cutler has written "Notable Naval Books" and "Books of Interest" for Proceedings for four years. He has served as technical adviser on a number of Naval Institute Press books and has written a book on coastal and riverine warfare in Vietnam—Brown Water, Black Berets—that will appear from the Naval Institute this month. 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.
Battleship New Jersey: An Illustrated History. Paul Stillwell. London, UK: Arms and Armour Press, a Naval Institute Press Edition, 1986. 319 pp. Illus. Draw. Append. Ind. $36.95 ($29.56).
The Discovery of the Titanic. Robert D. Ballard with Rick Archbold. New York: Warner Books, 1987. 230 pp. Photos. Illus. Gloss. Ind. $29.95 ($26.95).
Forged in Steel: U. S. Marine Corps Aviation. C. J. Heatley III. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press with Howell Press, 1987. 190 pp. Photos. Illus. Ind. $37.00 ($27.75).
The Forgotten War: America in Korea 1950-1953. Clay Blair. New York: Times Books, 1988. 1136 pp. Photos. Maps. Append. Notes. Bib. Ind. $29.95 ($26.95).
From Military Assistance to Combat 1959-1965: The United States Navy and the Vietnam Conflict, Volume II. Edward J. Marolda and Oscar P. Fitzgerald. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, 1986. 591 pp. Photos. Maps. Charts. Append. Bib. Ind. $22.00 ($19.80).
Guardians of the Sea: History of the United States Coast Guard, 1915 to the Present. Robert Erwin Johnson. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987. 412 pp. Photos. Notes. Bib. Ind. $23.95 ($19.16)
Jane's Fighting Ships, 1987-88: Ninetieth Edition. Captain John Moore, Royal Navy (Retired). London: Jane's Publishing, 1987. 855 pp. Photos. Illus. Tables. Ind. $149.50 ($134.55).
Latin America: A Naval History, 1810-1987. Robert L. Scheina. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987. 442 pp. Maps. Tables. Append. Notes. Bib. Ind. $34.95 ($27.96).
The Little Giants. William T. Y'Blood. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1987. 452 pp. Gloss. Illus. Bib. Notes. Ind. Append. $28.95 ($23.16).
Maverick Marine. Hans Schmidt. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky (Naval Institute Press edition), 1987. 292 pp. Photos. Notes. Bib. Ind. $28.00 ($22.40).
The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1914-1918. Paul G. Halpern. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987. 631 pp. Maps. Charts. Tables. Gloss. Notes. Bib. Ind. $29.95 ($23 .96).
On Yankee Station: The Naval Air War over Vietnam. Commander John B. Nichols, U. S. Navy (Retired) and Barrett Tillman. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987. 179 pp. Photos. Maps. Append. Notes. Ind. $16.95 ($13.56).
The Postwar Naval Revolution. Norman Friedman, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1987. 240 pp. Illus. Ind. Append. Tables. $21.95 ($17.56).
The Ships and Aircraft of the U. S. Fleet, Fourteenth Edition. Norman Polmar. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987. 591 pp. Photos. Tables. Ind. $33.95 ($27.16).
The Ships of John Paul Jones. William Gilkerson. Annapolis: U. S. Naval Academy Museum, Beverley R. Robinson Collection, and Naval Institute Press, 1987. 83 pp. Illus. Notes. Bib. $32.95 ($26.36).
South to Java. Vice Admiral William P. Mack, U. S. Navy (Retired), and William P. Mack, Jr. Baltimore, MD: Nautical & Aviation. 1987.460 pp. $19.95 ($15.96).
Stoddert's War: Naval Operations During the Quasi-War with France, 1798-1801. Michael A. Palmer. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1987. 327 pp. Illus. Maps. Gloss. Append. Notes. Bib. Ind. $24.95 ($22.45).
The U-Boat Peril: An Antisubmarine Commander's War. Bob Whinney. London: Blandford Press (Distributed in the U. S. by Sterling Publishing), 1987. 160 pp. Photos. Maps. Append. Bib. Ind. $17.95 ($16.15).
U. S. Small Combatants, Including PT-Boats, Subchasers, and the Brown Water Navy: An Illustrated Design History. Norman Friedman (ship plans by A. D. Baker III with Alan Raven and Al Ross). Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987. 529 pp. Photos. Illus. Tables. Append. Notes. Ind. $46.95 ($37.56).