Gorshkov: Man who challenged the US Navy

Admiral Gorshkov: The Man Who Challenged the US Navy. By Norman Polmar, Thomas A Brooks, and George E Federoff. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2018.

Reviewed by Tim Coyle

FLEET ADMIRAL OF THE SOVIET UNION Sergey Georgyevich Gorshkov ruled the Soviet Navy as its commander-in-chief from January 1956 to December 1985. During this period, he transformed a largely obsolete coastal defence force into a formidable strategic challenger to not only the preeminent US Navy but to NATO and other navies as a continual presence in the oceans of the world.

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Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the US Navy

Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the US Navy 1898 – 1945. By Trent Hone. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2018. 

Reviewed by Tim Hulme

ASK any graduate of the UK’s Advanced Command and Staff Course to repeat the most oft-used, or perhaps overused, quote of the course and it’s pretty much odds-on that they will regurgitate the old chestnut, attributed to Rommel, that the “British write some of the best doctrine in the world; it is fortunate their officers don’t read it.” Taking that as a starting hypothesis, Learning War could probably be considered as the very antithesis of this slightly pejorative viewpoint of an approach to warfare, and learning about warfare in particular.

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Allied Coastal Forces of World War Two

Allied Coastal Forces of World War Two: Volume 2 Vosper MTBs and US Elcos. By John Lambert and Al Ross. Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, 2019.

Reviewed by Tim Coyle

VOLUME 1 of ‘Allied Coastal Forces’ (previously reviewed) covered the British Fairmile Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) designs and US Submarine Chasers. Volume 2 is devoted to the products of the British Vosper and the US Elco (Electric Launch and Navigation Company) companies. The Vosper section comprises a myriad of Vosper and Packard (engine) drawings and photographs from Vosper-Thornycroft archives while the Elco Patrol Torpedo (PT) boats are detailed through the contributions of many well-known naval illustrators and historians and the resources of the PT Boat Museum of Fall River, Massachusetts and Memphis, Tennessee.

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The Dawn of Carrier Strike

The Dawn of Carrier Strike and the World of Lieutenant W P Lucy DSO RN. By David Hobbs. Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, 2019.

Reviewed by Tim Coyle

ON 31 March 1918 the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) comprised approximately 55 000 aircrew, maintenance and other support personnel. It pioneered naval aviation through operating aircraft from warships – capital ships, seaplane tenders and the world’s first aircraft carriers: HM Ships FURIOUS and ARGUS.

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British Cruiser Warfare

British Cruiser Warfare: The Lessons of the Early War 1939-1941. By Alan Raven. Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, 2019.

Reviewed by David Hobbs

ALAN RAVEN is best-known for his co-authorship with John Roberts of the classic works on British Battleships and British Cruisers of World War II in addition to several titles in the influential Ensign and Man o’War series of warship monographs.  This is his first major work for several years, however, and it provides an outstanding contribution to the historiography of the Second World War at sea. 

It is the result of many years of meticulous research using primary sources among the Admiralty papers held at the National Archive at Kew and others which are fully described in the opening pages.  In his introduction he describes the positive results that can be derived from painstaking research into documents that, at first glance, might have been dismissed by others as irrelevant.  Raven chose not to use footnotes to indicate individual sources, however, believing that if used comprehensively there would often be more space devoted to notes than actual text for a given page. 

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Plans of Aircraft Carrier Victorious

Aircraft Carrier Victorious: Detailed in the Original Builders’ Plans. By David Hobbs. Seaforth Publications, Barnsley, 2018.

Reviewed by Gregory P. Gilbert

HMS VICTORIOUS is the new addition to the latest Seaforth series based upon high quality reproductions of the ‘as fitted’ drawings held by the National Maritime Museum Greenwich in London.

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The Story of Naval Valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom

Fortune Favors Boldness: The Story of Naval Valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom. By Barry M. Costello. Fortis, 2018.

Reviewed by Vice Admiral Peter Jones AO DSC RAN (Retired)

‘FORTUNE FAVORS BOLDNESS’ provides both a commander’s perspective of the naval operations during the 2003 Iraq invasion and is also the most readable account of these operations to date. Rear Admiral Barry Costello commanded the CONSTELLATION Strike Group in the war and while his counterpart, Rear Admiral John Kelly in the ABRAHAM LINCOLN Strike Group commanded the naval air campaign, Costello commanded the myriad of littoral warfare operations. 

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RN and Scandinavian trade in World War One

Southern Thunder: The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One. By Steve R Dunn. Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, 2019.

Reviewed by Tim Coyle

DENMARK, NORWAY and SWEDEN were neutral in World War One, but their strategic geographical locations, valuable resources and trading strengths were vital to the British and German war economies. ‘Southern Thunder’ examines the three-cornered diplomatic and maritime campaigns that played out over the four-year war period.

Germany relied on the Scandinavian countries for food and raw materials, while Britain sought to restrict supplies to Germany while working to turn the trade towards its own interests.

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Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World

Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World. By Owen Rees. Pen and Sword, Barnsley, 2018.

Reviewed by Gregory P. Gilbert

MOST modern readers have had very little exposure to the experiences of the ancient world. If history is more than one or two hundred years old then it is mostly considered irrelevant. If that were true we would be relying upon less than 5 per cent of our past experience. Much of our deep past continues to resonate today. ‘Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World’ is a good example.

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America’s Descent into Vietnam

Road to Disaster: A New History of America’s Descent into Vietnam. By Brian VanDeMark. Customs House, Harper Collins, New York, 2018.

Reviewed by Mike Fogarty

‘God loved knights and ladies as well as He loved peasants and clergy, and perhaps all the more indulgently because in many ways they were morally more exposed.’ (From Wolfram von Eschenbach’s tale as translated by A.T. Hatto, ‘Parzival’). 

As I am not a Vietnam veteran, I may be ill-equipped to review this book. I was an 18 year old midshipman serving in an RAN destroyer which briefly traversed (far from) the South Vietnamese coast in April, 1967. We sailed near some Thai minesweepers, observed a US fighter-bomber pass over our ship towards the Republic and we acknowledged a USN destroyer, USS FALGOUT. I visited Saigon in February 1975 before its sad dénouement. From 1980-1981 I served at the Australian Embassy, Hanoi. Once again, I was an observer and not a participant, safely out of harm’s way. Hence the interest, stoked by studying Vietnam under the late professor Jeff Grey. 

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