Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Brooklyn Navy Yard

The Brooklyn Navy Yard

By Thomas F. Berner


128 Pages Arcadia Publishing 1999

Price: $21.99

Not much larger than a few city blocks (219 acres, plus 72 acres of water), the Brooklyn Navy Yard is one of the most historically significant sites in America. It was one of the U.S. Navy’s major shipbuilding and repair yards from 1801 to 1966. It produced more than 80 warships and hundreds of smaller vessels. At its height during World War II, it worked around the clock, employing some 70,000 people. The yard built the Monitor, the world’s first modern warship; the Maine, whose destruction set off the Spanish-American War; the Arizona, whose sinking launched America into World War II; and the Missouri, on whose deck World War II ended. On June 25, 1966, the flag at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was lowered for the last time and the 165-year-old institution ceased to exist. Sold to the City of New York for $22.4 million, the yard became a site for storage of vehicles, some light industry, and a modest amount of civilian ship repair.

In The Brooklyn Navy Yard, author Thomas F. Berner restores what were fast-fading memories of the yard’s days of glory. An attorney who practices law in New York City, Berner presents stunning photographs to illustrate the vital role of this small yard. His sources include the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Historical Society, the Museum of the City of New York, and the United States Naval Institute.

With seemingly never ending redevelopment of the former Brooklyn Navy Yard still ongoing 11 years after this book was first published, it still holds up as a nice reference tool. A pictured of the never completed aircraft carrier USS Reprisal (probably the best warship name ever!) under construction in the yard was the first I had ever seen.

The book is well illustrated with photos of both the yard and the ships built and repaired there. One historical piece of trivia missed by the author was the requirement until the 1960s that US warships had to be able to fit under the Brooklyn Bridge. The last aircraft carrier built at the yard, USS Constellation was also the last ship built with this capability which was a fold down mast.

One small criticism was the use of the commonly misused grammatical error “the USS” when just “USS should’ve been used.

This was the first book we have reviewed from Arcadia Publishing and hope their other titles are as enjoyable.

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