An online database
of WORLD WAR
books and information
on the Web since 1995
New & forthcoming
Books by subjects
Latest book feedback
Sell your books
Nations at war
Silverstone, Paul H. The Navy of World War II, 1922-1947. New York: Routledge, 2007
xxvi + 428 pages
Introduction; Explanation of Data; Abbreviations; Naval Ordnance, 1922-1947; Chronology 1922-1947; photos; Disposition of Combatant Ships, 7 December 1941; Bibliography; Index; Errata
Appendices: Navy Construction Program, Navy Strength; Navy Type Designations; World War II Operations; List of Shipbuilders
More than thirty years ago Paul Silverstone produced the single best volume on specifications of US warships of World War II, with more than 400 pages devoted to displacement, dimensions, machinery, and armament for hundreds of vessels ranging from battleships and aircraft carriers to minecraft and auxiliaries. His new book revisits the same ships and boats, but this time, along with specs, he adds key aspects of individual ship histories. The result? An even bigger, more impressive tome that stands out as one of the best books of the year.
The excellence of the new volume will come as no surprise to those who pay attention to naval books, because this is the latest in Silverstone's The U.S. Navy Warship series. Other volumes cover the "sailing navy" (1775-1854), Civil War navies (1855-1883), and the "new navy" (1883-1922). This title takes as its starting point the state of the US Navy in 1922 and tracks all those vessels, plus new construction, through the immediate post-war years.
Before he begins his lengthy array of individual ship entries and histories, the author provides valuable preliminary information. W.J. Jurens contributes six pages about "U.S. Naval Ordnance, 1922-1947," covering guns, torpedoes, and aircraft, including two pages of tabular data. Three pages of chronological information survey USN milestones between 1922 and 1947 with an emphasis on WWII. Finally, Silverstone devotes two pages to identifying the location of US warships around the globe on 7 December 1941. For example: "At sea escorting convoy to South Africa: CA Quincy, Vincennes; DD Mayrant, McDougal, Moffett, Rowan, Wainwright, Winslow."
With those preliminaries out of the way, the book begins a chapter-by-chapter examination of individual vessels according to general category:
- Aircraft carriers
- Destroyer escorts
- Mine vessels
- Patrol vessels
- Amphibious vessels
- Transport and supply vessels
- US Coast Guard
While it's true that the bigger, sexier warships like battlewagons and carriers tend to get more ink, Silverstone follows the same basic pattern for almost all vessels, large and small, and doesn't skimp on any of them. The chapter on aircraft carriers is typical.
The chapter begins with a brief overview of the development and employment of carriers in WWII and runs in total almost twenty pages. After the overview, the author lists vessels "on the Navy List, 1922." In this case, there was only one carrier in 1922, CV 1 Langley. Because Langley was built and commissioned prior to 1922 (the opening year for this volume), construction details appear in the previous volume. Here, Silverstone recites the story of Langley from 1922 onward. This is what he has to say:
CV 1 Langley. Joined Pacific Fleet 29 Nov 1924. Damaged by generator explosion off Ambrose Light, NY, 29 Apr 1927. Damaged by explosion at San Diego, Calif., 20 Dec 1927 (1 killed). Converted to seaplane tender; flight deck cut back to midship and rec[lassified] AV 3, 14 Jan 1937. Sunk by Japanese aircraft 75 miles southeast of Tjilatjap, Java, 27 Feb 1942. Armaments: 4-5"/51 guns. (14 killed.) Survivors picked up by destroyers Whipple and Edsall and transferred to oiler Pecos. (About 260 lost with Pecos.)
With the single existing carrier out of the way (most types, of course, have more vessels active in 1922), the chapter turns to aircraft carriers built after 1922. These are covered on a class-by-class basis in chronological order. Thus, for carriers built during this time frame, Silverstone first studies the Lexington class. This he does in tabular format, and here's what it looks like:
ex-CC 1 (1 Jul 1922)
||8 Jan 1921
||3 Oct 1925
||14 Dec 1927
ex-CC 3 (1 Jul 1922)
||25 Sep 1920
||7 Apr 1925
||16 Nov 1927
||33,000 tons; 47,700 f/l; Saratoga (1945): 48,552 f/l.
||888' (oa); 850' (wl); 822' (bp) x 105' 6" x 24' 2"; Saratoga (1945): 909' 6" (oa); beam 111' 9" (oa).
||4 screws; GE T-E, 16 Yarrow boilers (WF 3); SHP 180,000; 33.9 knots
||12,000/14; (1945) 9,500/15
||2,176; (1945) 3,375
||8-8"/55, 12-5"/25 AA; Saratoga (1942): 8-5"/38, 36-1.1" AA; (1945) 12-5"/38, 2 twin 40mm, 23 quad 40mm, 16-20mm guns
||5" to 7" belt
: Converted from incomplete hulls of canceled battle cruisers. Largest ships built in the United States up to that time, and the only US carriers with integrated hull and flight deck. Saratoga had a vertical black recognition stripe on her stack. Flight deck widened forward and AA added, Oct 1940; 8" gun turrets removed in 1942 for coast defense in Hawaii, and replaced in the Lexington by 20-20mm AA.
Compared to his 1972 book, the new volume contains more information about construction and technical specifications, including some corrections and clarifications. For example, the earlier book showed Lexington and Saratoga with complements of 3300. As shown above, the new book notes complements of 2176 when constructed, increasing to 3375 for Sara by 1945.
Following the tabular presentation of construction information and specifications, Silverstone writes thumbnail histories of CV 2 and CV 3.
CV 2 Lexington. Provided electrical power to the city of Tacoma, Washington, 17 Dec 1929 - 16 Jan 1930. At sea en route to Midway, 7 Dec 1941. Damaged by two or three aircraft torpedoes and two bombs at Battle of the Coral Sea, causing massive gas vapor explosion, and sunk by US destroyers, 8 May 1942 (216 killed).
2* Salamaua-Lae Raid, Coral Sea
CV 3 Saratoga. Went aground on Sunset Beach, Calif., 18 Aug 1932. Torpedoed by submarine I-6 500 miles southwest of Oahu, 11 Jan 1942 (6 killed). Torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-26 southeast of Guadalcanal, moderately damaged, 31 Aug 1942. Operated with British fleet in Indian Ocean, Mar-May 1944. Severely damaged when hit by four kamikazes and two bombs off Iwo Jima, 21 Feb 1945 (123 killed). Carried largest number of troops home (29,204) in Operation Magic Carpet voyages. Sunk as target at Bikini atomic bomb test, 25 Jul 1946.
7* Guadalcanal-Tulagi, Guadalcanal, Eastern Solomons, Buka Raid, 1st Rabaul Raid, 2nd Rabaul Raid, Gilbert Is., Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Sabang Raid, Soerabaja Raid, Honshu Raid 2/45, Iwo Jima, Operation Magic Carpet
The chapter continues with the Ranger class (one carrier), Yorktown class (two carriers), Wasp and Hornet classes (one each), Essex class (ten carriers), Ticonderoga class, Midway class, Independence class, Saipan class, Long Island class, Charger class, Bogue class, Sangamon class, Casablanca class, and Commencement Bay class. All these classes are handled in the same fashion with ship-by-ship tabular specs and brief histories, including notes about cancelled construction and ships transferred to the Royal Navy.
Valuable and impressive as this kind of information is for battleships, carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines, the bulk of the book covers more modest warships including LSTs, submarine tenders, aviation supply ships, catapult lighter, river gunboats, converted yachts, sub chasers, auxiliary ocean tugs, and more. While some of the smallest vessels, such as PT boats, receive an abbreviated treatment, most classes are covered in the same ship-by-ship manner as aircraft carriers. Photographs illustrate key classes and vessels throughout.
Silverstone's U.S. Warships of World War II served for years as the go-to reference on the US fleet during 1939-1945. His new book includes the same information (updated and expanded) along with much more in the realm of ship histories. So don't worry about trying to locate a hard-to-find secondhand copy of the 1972 book. Instead, rush out and buy a copy of The Navy of World War II. It's an impressive achievement, a must-have resource for naval buffs, and a very strong candidate for our annual Editor's Choice Awards.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Routledge.
Read and submit feedback
Reviewed 11 November 2007
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone