U.S. Cruisers

An Illustrated Design History

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The modern U.S. Navy began with the authorization of three steel cruisers in 1883. What happened to this important warship over the last century is the subject of this book, the only account of U.S. cruiser development based on internal navy files. It presents a complete history of cruiser design at a level of detail and accuracy never before approached. Like the other books in Norman Friedman’s design-history series, this one pays attention to all designs, even those that never left the drawing board, since every proposal made is a link in the evolution of the cruiser force.

Friedman, a recognized authority on U.S. warships, uncovers the reasoning behind the many radical changes in U.S. cruiser design, which culminated in the Aegis guided missile ships. He deals both with evolving technology and with those changes in the doctrine and role of the U.S. Navy that clearly affected cruiser design. Because the nature of the cruiser is somewhat ill-defined, his book discusses a wide variety of ships, from the battleship-like armored cruisers of the turn of the century and the battle cruisers of the 1916 Navy Act to scout cruisers and the Atlanta-class, ships that werein many ways enlarged destroyers. It covers the emergence of “peace cruisers,” which were essentially large gunboats, and the post-1945 command and missile cruisers. The World War II Alaska-class large cruisers also are included.Friedman shows how the path from the first steel cruisers to the latest ultramodern Ticonderoga-class defines many of the themes of U.S. naval development: the transition from a coastal defense/commerce raiding navy to a navy designed to seize and exploit command of the world’s oceans, and from a navy of independent cruisers on foreign stations to a battle fleet navy and then a carrier navy.Arms control is another important theme of this book. Friedman explains how cruiser design, much more than the design of any other category of ship, has been affected by the constraints of naval arms limitations treaties. He uses the Erie-class gunboat, a “slow cruiser,” and the original Cleveland (illustrated for the first time in this book), an abortive design that stayed within the 8,000-ton limit prescribed by the London Treaty of 1936, as examples of attempts to exploit treaty restrictions.

Also carefully examined are the many post-World War II cruiser projects, both those that were built, like the nuclear-powered Long Beach, and those that were not, like the specialized command ship of 1968. In every case, the author discusses not merely what was tried, but why it succeeded or failed.

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