Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD 1997
235 pages $32.95
Reviewed by Norman Polmar
“This book is an attempt to describe in lay tenns the development of the most important of the weapons that dominated naval warfare from 1939 to 1945, and their employment in action,”
writes Kenneth Poolman in his introduction to this book. His 20 chapters each talce on a naval weapon (although not necessarily a technology). German U-boats are described in several chapters as are anti-submarine efforts; U.S. submarines are addressed in Chapter 20 “The Hit Parade”.
This is history, and interesting history. However, there is little new. What this reviewer had hoped to see was analysis of the impact of naval technology. A few chapters have such analyses. For example, Chapter 18 “Microwaves and Long Lances: Guadalcanal” concludes with:
“This American victory [August 1943] was the first battle fought entirely by radar, with the Americans seeing the enemy only on their screens. American transports were unmolested. Withdrawing slowly to protect a damaged destroyer, [Rear Admiral A.S.] Merrill suffered a heavy air attack, but using the new proximity (TV) fuzes actuated by radar, which exploded a shell as it neared its target, be shot down more than a quarter of the attackers and sustained no losses.”
This is a good analysis. Unfortunately, it is the exception, rather than the rule. For example, the chapter Hit Parade”-about U.S. submarines in the Pacific-concludes with six paragraphs that do not even mention U.S. submarines. Further, there are several factual errors in the chapter. The U.S. Navy had only one mine laying submarine, ARGONAUT (SM-1), not two; and U.S. submarines did not sink any Japanese aircraft carriers in 1942 (the author says four).
Indeed the book is inundated with such errors: ASDIC was not derived from the Allied Anti-Submarine Detection and Investigation Committee (which did not exist); the destroyer LEARY did not have a 5 inch gun; the carrier FURIOUS never carried two 18 inch guns (only one); as battle cruisers COURAGEOUS and GLORIOUS had four 15 inch guns (not two 17 inch guns); the Curtiss Helldiver was SB2C (not SB2D-1); five Type XXIII Uboats conducted operational patrols (not two making experimental cruises); the carriers YORKTOWN and ENTERPRISE generated 120,000 horsepower (not 80,000); there were only two, not six battleships of the North Carolina class; and six battleships of the Iowa class were laid down, not four; and the list goes on.
This is not the level of accuracy one expects in a professional naval book. With this uneven accuracy and analyses, this book can be recommended only as a basic history-not as a professional volume.