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Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era [Hardcover]

Norman Friedman , A. D., III Baker , W. J. Jurens


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Book Description

Jan. 1 2008
For more than half a century the big gun was the arbiter of naval power, but it was useless if it could not hit the target fast and hard enough to prevent the enemy doing the same. Because the naval gun platform was itself in motion, finding a 'firing solution' was a significant problem made all the more difficult when gun sizes increased and fighting ranges lengthened and seemingly minor issues like wind velocity had to be factored in. To speed up the process and eliminate human error, navies sought a reliable mechanical calculation. This heavily illustrated book outlines for the first time in layman's terms the complex subject of fire-control, as it dominated battleship and cruiser design from before World War I to the end of the dreadnought era. Covering the directors, range-finders, and electro-mechanical computers invented to solve the problems, America's leading naval analyst explains not only how the technology shaped (and was shaped by) the tactics involved, but analyses their effectiveness in battle. His examination of the controversy surrounding Jutland and the relative merits of competing fire-control systems draws conclusions that will surprise many readers. He also reassesses many other major gun actions, such as the battles between the Royal Navy and the Bismarck and the US Navy actions in the Solomons and at Surigao Strait. All major navies are covered, and the story concludes at the end of World War II with the impact of radar.This is a book that everyone with a more than passing interest in twentieth-century warships will want to read, and nobody professionally involved with naval history can afford to miss.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 319 pages
  • Publisher: US Naval Institute Press (Jan. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591145554
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591145554
  • Product Dimensions: 29.5 x 25.1 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 Kg
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #446,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fairly complete story April 18 2008
By R. Douglas Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book examines fire control of battleships and lesser vessels, their development and use.

The book examines the problem of hitting a ship moving in two dimensions from a ship moving in three and how these problems were solved from just prior to WWI to just after WWII. The problem, it's associated terminology and solutions are examined from both a historical and developmental aspect with examinations of individual navy's systems and their use. Of particular value is the section on shell's and propellants.

On the negative side reading this work can be a bit of a slog as a lot of explanations are in the footnotes and for a novice a lot of page flipping results. Some of the sections will take someone new to the work a certain amount of re-reading (I am still re-reading the book!).

Overall this book is an excellent resource for big ship fire control and the related effects of the solutions. The historical description can give new insight in to some naval actions although some of the historical accounts do not agree with other histories. The effect of fire control systems on the Battle of the Denmark Straight are particularily interesting.

A lot of this information was available from a number of other sources but this book has a lot of it all in one volume and for that alone it is well worth the price and the time taken to read it. For any student of naval actions of WWI and WWII this is a must have! I would recommend this work unreservedly despite the previous paragraph's gripes.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful naval fire control book Aug. 3 2008
By Mark Hinds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although I am not an expert on the subject matter, I have been reading naval history for 40 years, and I found this book to be well worth the purchase price. For one thing, it is full of interesting and useful pieces of information on the development and operation of naval fire control systems, both in general, and for most major navies up through through WWII. Most of this information I have not seen elsewhere, including information on non-anglo-saxon navies such as the Italians, French and Russians. Admittedly the level of detail is less on these latter navies. It would also have been nice to have more quantitive information on relative performance of these systems, but since the real navies didn't have this comparitive information either, I can't complain too much. The bibliography is mediocre, but the "Notes" section at the end is fascinating.
35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A model of military scholarship and a very highly recommended addition March 3 2008
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Battleships are floating platforms for artillery barrages that often proved key and essential components of successful ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore military engagements. They were also to prove vulnerable to submarine and air attacks. Now the combat history and gunnery capability of these massive ships of war is fully explored in "Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns And Gunnery In The Dreadnaught Era" by naval historian and analysts Norman Friedman. The focus is on the guns that made battleships the lords of the sea in their heyday. Replete with historic black-and-white photographs of these ships, and a profusion of interior drawings depicting aspects of the guns and their munitions, "Naval Firepower" begins with notes on the units of measurement, abbreviations, and an informative introduction, followed by chapters on gunnery problems, range-keeping, shooting and hitting, tactics used in 1904 to 1914, the impact of World War I on battleship operations and developments during the years of 1914 to 1918, the era between the two wars, battleship gunnery during World War II, battles ships of the German navy, the Us navy and the US Navy at War, as well as chapters on the battleships of the Japanese, French, Italian, and Russian navies. Of special note is the appendices on "Propellants, Guns, Shells and Armour". Enhanced with extensive notes, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index, "Naval Firepower" is a model of military scholarship and a very highly recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library Military History and Naval History reference collections.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Friedman's best book... June 29 2009
By Jim Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...but anything by Friedman is worth reading.

This book was a difficult read unlike virtually every other Friedman book I've read. Despite the somewhat misleading title this book is almost entirely about fire control - how to hit the target one is shooting at. The problem is a very complex one and the chapters the author devoted to explaining it were not entirely adequate. I think more space should have been devoted to graphic (one picture being worth a thousand words) explanation than pictures of battleships. As it is the chapters have to be read carefully and repeatedly to absorb all the concepts.

Worse than this is his descriptions of the various mechanisms developed to solve the fire control problem. These mechanisms were very complex electromechanical calculators and his descriptions were not adequate. The illustrations helped immensely but not all systems could be shown and the ones that were shown were shown piecemeal - the plotting room, the director, the rangefinder, etc. I came away from this book thinking I grasped the concepts but not quite certain. One had to make a *lot* of inferences and draw a lot of conclusions.

Overall, I thought this book was a little overambitious. I think if Friedman had limited himself to British practice he could have been more thorough. As it was I got the impression that Friedman expected more familiarity from his readers than this reader possessed.

What saved this book for me was Friedman's analysis of the effects that fire control limitations influenced design, operations, and combat. This is what Friedman does best.

In short, a disappointment.
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Misleading Title April 20 2008
By Tony DiGiulian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A more appropriate title for this book might have been "Dreadnought Fire Control" as that represents at least 90% of the contents. Very little is devoted to "Gunnery" and almost nothing is said about "Guns" - and even that small amount is unreliable, even to the point of getting the caliber (bore size) of the weapons incorrect in at least two instances.

As in many of Dr. Friedman's works, this book has a good deal of nomenclature data on what model of equipment was carried by a particular warship, which may prove the most useful part of the work. It is in the area of how this equipment operated and worked with its crewmen that the work falls down. I now know what mark of rangefinder was used by British and USA battleships, for example, but if I relied totally upon this work I would know little about how well they performed under various conditions and what "sailor alts" were performed on them to rectify their faults.

I also have to note that secondary and AA fire control are virtually ignored, with the exception of listing what type/mark of rangefinders or analog computers were used to control them. However, there is pitifully little about how effective these were in performing their job.

In brief, this is a useful work for reference purposes, but it could have been much more.

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