Monday, February 18, 2013

British Warships and Auxiliaries 2013/14


Maritime Books 2013 

The annual welcomed edition from Maritime Books, British Warships and Auxliaries is now available. Nobody has a better grasp on the current Royal Navy than the editor of Warship World, Steve Bush. Fully illustrated in color (with the exception of the author's portrait picture) and detailed, this book is a must for the bookshelf of navy professionals and enthusiasts alike.

C Class Destroyers


Maritime Books 2012

40 ships of the C Class were planned for the Royal Navy in World War II with 32 completed and the last eight cancelled in favor of newer designs. The class was broken down into five groups of eight, with each octet being given CA, CH, CO, CR and CE names. The Royal Canadian Navy was to receive the who CH group (something I did not know) but due to manning considerations this was deferred to the later CR group. In any event the war ended before the CRs entered service and only two went to the RCN, four to Norway and two to Pakistan.
Each variant of the C Class incorporated improvements over the previous batch with later ships having a large dual purpose gun director which necessitated the removal one of bank of torpedo tubes.
The CA group were given a partial modernization in the 1950s and HMCS Crescent was the only member of the class to receive a Type 15 style modernization. Coming in 1955-56, Crescent's modernization was far and away the best Type 15 style modernization of any navy.

Profusely illustrated in the Maritime Books manner, this book is an entertaining read.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Blue Moon Over Cuba - Aerial Reconnaissance During the Cuban Missile Crisis by Capt. William B. Eckler USN (ret) and Kenneth V. Jack

Blue Moon Over Cuba - Aerial Reconnaissance During the Cuban Missile Crisis by Capt. William B. Eckler USN (ret) and Kenneth V. Jack
By Jim Bates

What started out as an attempt to publish the memoirs of Capt. William B. Eckler, the Commanding Officer of VFP-62 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, this book evolved into much more.  It is basically a one stop summary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how photo reconnaissance was able to prevent war in the fall of 1962.  All aspects of the Crisis are discussed, including the operations of VFP-62 with their RF-8 Crusaders, ruminations on aerial photo reconnaissance and the technology involved, and the behind the scenes military and political maneuvering both in Washington and in the United Nations.  The book also make is clear that once the Crisis was over VFP-62’s work was not done, as they needed to fly missions to verify that the missiles had been removed and that additional weapons had not been imported.  The combination of all of these items makes this a fascinating book and an excellent read.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Town Class Cruisers


2012 Maritime Books

After reading this book right after completing C Class Destroyers from the same publisher, I can tell you that reading of both was enjoyable.
Other works to date have focused on the technical history of these famous cruisers, but this one details their operational service.
Conceived in the 1930s as a response to the growing size and capability of cruisers, these ships were the British response. Four of these ships were lost in action, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Manchester & Southampton. Six served in the postwar fleet with one preserved by the Imperial War Museum in London, HMS Belfast/
Three small errors noted in the text:

  • Plumper blocks called plummer blocks
  • Type 279 numbers transposed as Type 297
  • Confusion on Saint John, New Brunswick and St John's. Newfoundland
Profusely illustrated, this book is highly recommended. 

America's Black Sea Fleet: The U.S. Navy Amidst War and Revolution, 1919-1923

Right up front, I have to say, this is one of the best books that USNI Press has put out in some time. Skillfully written an English professor and retired USNR Captain, Dr Shenk has crafted an excellent treatise on this heretofore little known fleet.
The US Black Sea Fleet operated from Constantinople from the end of the First World War through the horrors of Russian famine and Turkish genocide of Christians until 1923.
Shenk weaves a tale of the egotistical Admiral Mark Bristol USN, who essentially outdid the State Department as the most important American figure in the region. Bristol allowed the use of naval radios to transmit stories for reporters and news services that painted him or his policy in a favorable light. In addition, Bristol often allow the use of destroyers to transport persons or groups in his favor around the region.
The fleet was mostly destroyers augmented by cruisers or battleships for short periods and commanded from ashore or from yacht USS Scorpion (pictured below), which was often used for social functions by Bristol. Some of the young officers serving in theater would become well known in World War Two  and after: Kinkaid, Gallery and Leahy to name a few.

Constantinople was the Roaring 20s was full of desperate White Russians who had fled the Bolshevik takeover at home. To make ends meet, many would perform any type of job they could get such as teachers, maids, waitresses and even prostitutes. Anyone could walk into a restaurant in Constantinople and be served by a former princess.
US Navy ships were permitted to deliver food aid to starving Russians at Black Sea ports. US sailors were first hand witnesses to bodies lying everywhere due to the famine.
The animosity between Greece and Turkey during this period was intense and Greece invaded parts of Turkey to support native Greeks in Turkey. Many of these Greek residing in Turkey were prevented from fleeing and many ended up dead. The Black Sea Fleet was instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of fleeing Greek and Armenian refugees at Smyrna and elsewhere.
Also during the fleet's period of existence was the slaughter of at least one million Christian Armenians in Turkey, a fact that Bristol did not fully comprehend while it was happening. Ninety years ago the idea of that kind of genocide as practically unthinkable in Bristol's defense.
Wow, I've not been as gripped reading a history since I read Barbara Tuchman's classic Guns of August in high school.
We certainly hope that Professor Shenk writes again soon.

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