As in previous years, the list of notable naval books for 2010 was compiled, refined, and ultimately decided by a number of people, all of whom are widely recognized for their knowledge of matters pertaining to the sea services. Because the list is subjective and consequently may cause some disagreement, these individuals remain anonymous. Their contributions, however, are hereby recognized and most appreciated.
The list again includes only those books published in the previous calendar year and is restricted to a maximum of 20. The basic criterion for selection is that the book must contribute to the edification of naval professionals in some meaningful way. In many cases these books expand our knowledge of a certain subject; in others they serve to stimulate discussion and debate; and occasionally one comes along that inspires or adds to our basic understanding of who and what we are.
As before, reference books that appear on a regular basis (such as Jane’s Fighting Ships) and longstanding professional books (such as the Watch Officer’s Guide) are not included. While there is no question that such books are notable, mentioning them year after year is redundant and unnecessary; those interested in this list are more than likely already aware of them and need not be reminded.
Because inclusion on the list is considered by many to be a prestigious accolade, and because coming up with only 20 from the many fine books published in 2010 is difficult and subjective enough without trying further to rank them in some manner, the editors again list the books in alphabetical order, by title, to avoid any perceptions of hierarchical ranking or favoritism. Selecting the better and the best from this list will be left to the individual reader.
The Naval Institute is first and foremost an open forum, so the editors welcome the inevitable disagreement that will likely be stimulated by these choices.
British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War by Norman Friedman (Naval Institute Press)
Those familiar with Dr. Friedman’s work will not be surprised to see two of his volumes appear on this list. His more than 30 authoritative books cover a wide range of naval topics and are a primary source of edification for both professionals and buffs alike. This latest contribution details the history of British destroyers from their origins in the 1880s to their greatest challenges when the Royal Navy faced off against the Axis fleets during World War II. Generouslyillustrated with hundreds of photographs and drawings, this book is a visual treat and a cerebral tour de force in typical Friedman fashion.
(For a full review, see June 2010 Proceedings.)
Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine by Robert Coram (Little, Brown and Company)
Biographers rarely find subjects as multifaceted as Victor Krulak. A combat veteran of three of the 20th century’s most challenging wars (World War II, Korea, and Vietnam), “Brute,” as he fittingly came to be known, played vital roles in the successful implementation of amphibious warfare during World War II, the survival of the Marine Corps during the defense reorganization in the postwar years, and the implementation of an effective, if often contentious, military strategy in Vietnam. More warrior than politician, he was nonetheless an apt policy-maker, effecting important changes while making enemies among those he unflinchingly engaged. His 1984 book, First to Fight, is considered a classic and has been deemed essential reading by several Marine Commandants. Coram’s biography is a warts-and-dimples study that ultimately leaves Krulak on the pedestal he has long occupied.
(For a full review, see November 2010 Proceedings.)
China, the United States and 21st-Century Sea Power: Defining a Maritime Security Partnership edited by Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Nan Li (Naval Institute Press)
Since 2006 the Naval Institute has collaborated with the Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute to produce a valuable source library on the current rise of China in which experts in the field might compare their ideas on this potentially vital element of U.S. foreign and defense policy. An important series for those who would better understand China’s new geopolitical role, it is a tangible example of the symbiosis between these two iconic organizations, which concurrently serve the Sea Services and the nation. The present volume, the fourth in the series, explores the possibilities of integrating a stronger China into a global maritime security partnership that—despite the obstacles—would ultimately benefit not only the parties involved but potentially have positive repercussions in other areas of concern. The essays, written by experts on both sides of the Pacific, present varied views typical of the spirit of academic freedom that prevails at the Naval War College (despite its governmental sponsorship) and serves as the bedrock of the Naval Institute’s long-respected open forum.
The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey by Richard Whittle (Simon & Schuster)
In his review in The Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows describes this book as “a wonderful combination of personal drama, technological detective story, military history, and vivid explanation of major issues affecting America’s military and economic future.” Bing West characterizes it as “even-handed,” and syndicated columnist Mark Shields describes Richard Whittle as “a real reporter’s reporter.” These and many other plaudits will reassure potential readers that the book is well worth their time, particularly if they are interested in the defense acquisition and development process, but even if they are not. There is high drama here, extending well into a realm of contentious controversy and even life and death.
(For a full review, see March 2010 Proceedings.)
Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Beyond: A Mud Marine’s Memoir of the Pacific Island War by William W. Rogal (McFarland)
The players in this real-life drama are the 200 Marines in A Company, First Battalion, Second Marines; the setting is the South Pacific; and the time is World War II. This is a gripping memoir that takes the reader where the very names conjure images of brutal combat: Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian. It is a personal story, yet it makes clear that such experiences were not solo performances. It is also another reminder that human beings are sometimes capable of enduring great hardships, surmounting great challenges, and accomplishing great things—and that these individuals are often United States Marines.
(For a full review, see April 2011 Naval History.)
How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle by Gideon Rose (Simon & Schuster)
Contending that “war termination,” a phrase frequently used in the current media, largely depends on the quality of pre-armistice or pre-surrender planning, Gideon Rose—the editor of Foreign Affairs—surveys U.S. wars since World War II to illustrate his thesis. Allocating responsibility to both military and civilian leaders, he concludes that the key players often do not articulate their postwar hopes and expectations until combat operations have ended—too late in most cases to prevent many of the problems we repeatedly encounter. Written with a cogency that reflects his position and experience, this is a must-read for those who would better understand why time and again we emerge from conflicts with other than optimal results.
(For a full review, see February 2011 Proceedings.)
Maritime Dominion and the Triumph of the Free World: Naval Campaigns that Shaped the Modern World by Peter Padfield (The Overlook Press)
The prolific and always readable Peter Padfield has produced the third in a three-volume series that covers naval campaigns from the Spanish Armada to the turn of the 21st century. The series’ theme is that the system of beliefs accompanying a maritime nation’s ascendency is one of the primary reasons for its rise to power. This volume examines the period 1852 to the present and consequently focuses on British and American maritime dominance. Padfield brings his story so vividly to life that one often forgets it is history that he is so effectively presenting.
(For a full review, see December 2010 Proceedings.)
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly Press)
It has been some time since a Vietnam War novel has captured the attention of the reading public, but this one has done so in a big way. Writer Mark Bowden (no slouch himself, with Black Hawk Down and a host of others to his credit) proclaimed this a “great novel,” and Publisher’s Weekly calls it a “grand, distinctive accomplishment.” This tale by a decorated Marine veteran was 30 years in the making and recalls the days when the tragedy of war was amplified by the ingratitude of too many of the nation’s citizens, whose misplaced anger left young men fearing not just for their lives but for their honor. As is often the case with important literature, readers may not necessarily “enjoy” the book but will come away with a deeper appreciation of the human condition.
(For a full review, see August 2010 Proceedings.)
Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan (Random House)
As a young Sailor I remember venturing into what we then called “the IO,” a region that seemed to lie at the other side of the world and was akin to the dark side of the moon. Today, a major geopolitical shift is afoot, and the Indian Ocean both seems to and does play a more prominent role. With characteristic wit and skill, Robert Kaplan illuminates this increasingly significant region in a narrative that is both travelogue and geopolitical textbook. He makes clear why the key players there are likely to be India, China, and the United States, and identifies the factors that will determine what actions each are likely to—or should—take. Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski calls this book “an intellectual treat,” and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham (American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House) describes Kaplan as “an indispensable voice in our search for order in a time of chaos.”
(For a full review, see October 2010 Proceedings.)
Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129 by Norman Polmar and Michael White (Naval Institute Press)
While one may be reluctant to use such tired expressions as “truth is stranger than fiction,” this book absolutely demands such a description. The authors have recounted in meticulous detail an endeavor that is jaw-dropping in its audacity, starkly revealing of a time gone by, and inspiring in its achievement. At the height of the Cold War, the contest between the two superpowers was often characterized by seemingly outlandish attempts to gain some advantage in the frustrating stalemate that the fear of nuclear Armageddon had imposed on the United States and the Soviet Union. When a Soviet submarine was lost in the depths of the Pacific, the Soviets did not know where she was, but the Americans did. Determined to recover all or part of her, the CIA launched what would prove to be one of the most ambitious engineering undertakings in history, rivaling the lunar landing in technical difficulty, with the added risk of a concurrent superpower war. This is a riveting story that reveals much about a strange era that we somehow survived, while helping to explain why, when it ended, we were left standing while our adversary was not.
Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy by Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes (Naval Institute Press)
Selected by The Atlantic as one of the best books of the year on foreign affairs, this important volume combines an intimate knowledge of Asia with naval combat experience and expertise in sea-power theory. Recognizing that the Chinese are embracing a number of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s ideas, Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes draw parallels to the geostrategic predicament Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany faced prior to World War I yet do not overstress the concept of historic parallels. This is a balanced, realistic assessment of the rise of Chinese maritime power that offers much food for thought.
Road of 10,000 Pains: The Destruction of the 2nd NVA Division by the U.S. Marines, 1967 by Otto J. Lehrack (Zenith Press)
In his foreword, former Commandant of the Marine Corps General Al Gray writes that Otto Lehrack “has successfully chronicled the events of this campaign” and “has compiled a riveting account of men at war.” Aptly taking its title from The Iliad, this is an epic oral history of one of the Vietnam War’s bloodiest campaigns, fought for seven months in a series of battles that nearly concluded with the loss of Da Nang, one of South Vietnam’s most important cities. Leatherneck magazine describes it as “one of the best books about the Vietnam War to date.”
(For a full review, see August 2010 Proceedings.)
Stockpile: The Story behind 10,000 Strategic Nuclear Weapons by Jerry Miller (Naval Institute Press)
As a former nuclear-weapon delivery pilot and a nuclear-plans monitor who helped prepare the national Strategic Target List and the Single Integrated Operational Plan for waging nuclear war, Vice Admiral Jerry Miller is particularly qualified to write this important book. Providing an accessible and engaging analysis, he highlights the strategies, politics, and arms-control measures that influenced the decisions leading to the massive nuclear buildup during the Cold War. Making it clear that there was unquestionable overkill in the buildup, Admiral Miller devotes a final thought-provoking chapter to reviewing various operational scenarios and providing suggestions for ways to bring the current nuclear force into line.
Such Men as These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies over Korea by David Sears (Da Capo Press)
Using James Michener’s famous novella The Bridges at Toko-Ri as his point of departure, David Sears sheds new light on the Navy’s air war over and around Korea. It is a fascinating but often underappreciated period in the history of American naval aviation that includes the first use of carrier-based jets, harrowing tales of close air support, and exciting engagements with Soviet MiGs. Sears brings his well-established writing skills to his new book, which has earned much critical acclaim.
(For a full review, see February 2011 Naval History.)
Trailblazer: The U.S. Navy’s First Black Admiral by Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr., U.S. Navy, with Paul Stillwell (Naval Institute Press)
In a match made in heaven, a groundbreaking naval officer and an eminent naval historian have collaborated to recount an inspiring story of perseverance and the realization of the American dream. Admiral Samuel Gravely was the first African-American to command a Navy ship in the 20th century, to command a numbered fleet, and to achieve flag rank in the U.S. Navy. As one might suspect, these were no small achievements when racial barriers were formidable. Paul Stillwell, editor of the award-winning The Golden Thirteen: Recollections of the First Black Naval Officers and himself a retired Navy commander, brings a deft touch to this engaging biography.
Unmanned Combat Air Systems: A New Kind of Carrier Aviation by Norman Friedman (Naval Institute Press)
In this timely book, naval weapons expert Norman Friedman predicts that these newcomers will ultimately transform naval aviation not only by reducing risk but by extending the Navy’s reach while lowering costs. He details how the new aircraft are a natural extension of the networked form of drone warfare currently being developed and how they have tactical advantages that manned aircraft cannot duplicate. The discussion is accompanied by an extensive appendix that lists and describes the world’s unmanned military aircraft in thorough Friedman fashion. Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman praises Friedman’s “ability to translate complex technology into simple declarative sentences and then deploy that crisp language to tell a gripping story.”
War by Land, Sea and Air: Dwight Eisenhower and the Concept of Unified Command by David Jablonsky (Yale Library of Military History)
While today we take unified command more or less for granted, during World War II this was a new concept, pioneered in significant ways by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. David Jablonsky evaluates the evolution of Eisenhower’s thought and demonstrates how its execution played a major role in the development of the current organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was influential in developing the defense reorganization under the Goldwater-Nichols act. He examines Eisenhower’s career from his days at West Point and creates an analytical study of high command, capturing meanwhile much of the essence of this unique general.
(For a full review, see November 2010 Proceedings.)
The War for Korea, 1950-1951: They Came from the North by Allen R. Millett (University of Kansas Press)
In the second volume of his monumental trilogy, distinguished historian Allen Millett focuses on the yearlong struggle in Korea from the initial invasion through the end of June 1951. He combines military operations with high-level command and policy to analyze a period in the war when so much was at stake. He carefully considers the conflict’s international aspects, with special attention to Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. His conclusions will be anathema to some and vindication to others, depending on their views of Douglas MacArthur and other key participants. When Millett writes, the result is always worth reading, and this is no exception.
(For a full review, see December 2010 Naval History.)
Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan 1942-1945 by Barrett Tillman (Simon & Schuster)
Beginning with the Halsey-Doolittle Raid of 18 April 1942 and ending with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Barrett Tillman examines the story of the American air campaign against the Japanese home islands. Never shrinking from controversy when appropriate, this gifted writer delivers verdicts on several issues that inevitably arise from such a thorough analysis. He concentrates especially on the B-29 bomber, which he concludes was a war-winning weapon. Advocates of naval air and other aspects of aviation war will find much to sink their teeth into as well. The Wall Street Journal describes Tillman as a “master storyteller,” and Peter Mersky (author of Wings of Gold) writes that Whirlwind is “a well-written, bright and insightful tour of the last definitive period of the Pacific war” that “will not disappoint.”
(For a full review, see March 2010 Proceedings.)
Winston’s War: Churchill 1940-1945 by Max Hastings (Knopf)
Despite all that has been written on Winston Churchill, British historian Max Hastings seems to have managed the impossible by significantly adding to the massive body of literature about the great man. Churchill’s transformation from lost soul to one of Great Britain’s most important historical figures was due in no small part to his inspired leadership and to his skills as a highly effective strategist. Hastings sheds new light on that metamorphosis, explaining what appears to have been a virtual miracle, in pragmatic and lucid prose. While no hagiography and not overlooking Churchill’s limitations, it is precisely this balanced approach that makes the results that much more admirable. Readers familiar with Churchill and those studying him for the first time (if such exist) will find much here that captures the significance of one of the world’s most successful war leaders.
(For a full review, see August 2010 Naval History.)