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Richard Worth (MO, USA)

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Dark Navy: The Italian Regia Marina and the Armistice of 8 September 1943
Dark Navy: The Italian Regia Marina and the Armistice of 8 September 1943
by Vincent O'Hara
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 30.32
21 used & new from CDN$ 30.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fills a Long-Standing Need, Nov. 24 2009
The situation in Italy's high command was chaotic during summer 1943, and with the September armistice, events spun out of control. Caught between the maneuverings of the Allies and the Germans, various Italian commands and individuals scrambled along divergent paths with spotty coordination or even outright rebellion. Few English-language sources have attempted to detail the actions of Italy's naval units in this confused period, and most content themselves with a generalized and inaccurate distinction between units that "surrendered" and units that continued in Axis service. Dark Navy corrects the "surrender" misconception and details the events minutely enough to count individual fishing vessels. Not even Sadkovich or the Bragadin translation approach such in-depth coverage. For readers dissatisfied with the glossing-over typical in most English histories, this book provides an authoritative inside look.

Without Wings: The Story of Hitler's Aircraft Carrier
Without Wings: The Story of Hitler's Aircraft Carrier
by Stephen Burke
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.68
7 used & new from CDN$ 21.68

2.0 out of 5 stars Useful as an Introduction, with Caveats, March 10 2008
This unpretentious book, just 110 pages, is at its best when sticking close to its source material; the thirteen-page chapter on shipboard procedures stands out as most valuable. The moment it moves into analysis or background, things become shaky. Perhaps the best example is the discussion of ship displacement in inter-war naval treaties, which the author gets exactly wrong and which has no direct relationship to the subject anyway.
Chronological disorder afflicts the first chapters - flashbacks, fast-forwards, digressions, and wholesale shifts in time. The first sentence on page 12 says Graf Zeppelin's keel-laying followed the launch of the battleship Gneisenau by twenty days; the very next sentence separates the events by two years. Apparently Burke has time-traveled to the carrier's launch without telling us. He eventually manages to confuse even himself. On page 27, the Germans "visited Britain's HMS Furious being displayed during Navy Week for some inspiration, but would gain little from this early carrier. They would be more successful in their visit to Japan and the carrier Akagi, returning with plans for elevators and aircraft arrestors essential for flight-deck operations" - hardly revelatory for a reader who encountered the exact same information on page 15.
Another round of proof-reading and fact-checking would have helped. In mentioning American officer McDonnell and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Burke manages to misspell both McDonnell and Pearl Harbor. He correctly identifies Slavnyi as the vessel ultimately responsible for sinking Graf Zeppelin but cannot say whether Slavnyi was a submarine or a destroyer. (She was a destroyer, as can be readily found in numerous sources.) He cites a well known excellence of German warships as seaboats when in fact German warships of this period had famously poor sea-keeping.
The book includes a couple dozen photographs of indifferent quality. There is no index, but the bibliography lists some worthy titles. Much to my delight, Burke uses footnotes rather than endnotes. I would like to have seen more sourcing; the most substantive sections have few footnotes. One irritating feature was the presentation of extended quotations, several paragraphs long, without distinctive formating or punctuation other than the opening and closing quotation marks, which might be a page or more apart.
The back cover comment - "Read now, for the first time..." - clearly targets readers unfamiliar with a subject covered by four books already sitting on my shelf. Siegfried Breyer's book Graf Zeppelin (AJ Press, 2006) gives perhaps the best English-language account (not to be confused with another Breyer book from Schiffer, 1989, much shorter but more easily acquired). M.J. Whitley's German Capital Ships of World War Two is also an excellent source. Most comprehensive is Ulrich Israel's German-language Einziger deutscher Flugzeugträger Graf Zeppelin.
Now, I've gone on a bit in trying to give examples for all my criticisms, but Without Wings does contain a good amount of information. I think Burke hurt himself with his reliance on document ADMT 19137 from the National Archives which he cites throughout the book. Why is this bad? Because there is no such document. Presumably Burke means ADM 1/19137 ("Report on German aircraft carrier GRAF ZEPPLIN [sic]"), but fumbling his own primary source a dozen times tends to erode his authority. Misnaming the torpedo boats in Graf Zeppelin's final weapons trial, misunderstanding the requirements of Atlantic operations - with too many errors, Without Wings must content itself as an interest-sparker rather than a reliable reference.

Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II
Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II
by William Garzke
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 92.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely valuable, Nov. 14 2001
The G&D books cover a lot of territory. Each section begins with a short design history followed by an overview of the design, broken down into categories (armament, protection, propulsion plant, etc). When it comes to understanding a ship's armor scheme, there's no substitute for seeing a series of drawings; stats-in-a-vacuum like those in a Conway's are less than useless, and a token cross section gives only a glimpse. G&D provide a fully realized picture. The chapter on the Bismarck class is blemished by a lack of definitive information; only now is the extent of the 80mm weather deck generally becoming known, and G&D label it as 50mm throughout. In fact, plenty of questions remain on Bismarck and Tirpitz and their differences, so it's hard to fault G&D for this.
Another weakness is the reference to gun penetration data based on USN calculations; the formula for these calculations was actually intended to predict performance against homogenous armor, and its most common application has been for face-hardened armor. Thus they serve to be indicative only in the most general sense--in other words, why bother?
I find it easier to pick out the nits than to try to elaborate on the battery of qualities in the three books. They sit on the shelf within easy reach, and I refer to them regularly.

Allied Battleships in World War II
Allied Battleships in World War II
by William H. Garzke
Edition: Hardcover
6 used & new from CDN$ 161.73

5.0 out of 5 stars Piling On, Nov. 14 2001
I'm adding my voice to the chorus of praise for the G&D books. The attention to detail is impressive. The authors go so far as to account for the different definitions of "inch"--an inch of armor in the Royal Navy was actually 0.98in, and this reflects correctly in the figures cited for the KGV, Lion, and Vanguard classes. In citing the damage inflicted on France's Dunkerque by exploding depth charges, the authors properly tally, not the amount of explosive in all the depth charges lying alongside the ship, but only the amount which detonated properly. Impressive work.
It should be no surprise that more recent revelations have overtaken G&D's look at Soviet designs. Still, the info they do present is generally representative of the design's actual properties. A similar state applies in the chapter on Dutch Design 1047.
The only caution requiring the reader's attention is that the occasional typo pops up to confuse the statistical information. This is a general caveat for all three volumes rather than this one in particular.

Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia
Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia
by M. J. Whitley
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 41.42

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What the doctor ordered, Nov. 11 2001
There are times when you want to know the number of rivets on a gun shield, or the ship's exact position at the moment of your birth, or the skipper's wife's maiden name.... But most of the time, all you want is something that gives you the important numbers and features in an easily accessible form. That's where Whitley comes in. One volume--all the important stuff. So unless you're a modeler or otherwise obsessed with micro-detail, you're likely to get a lot of use out of this book. Whitley's drawings leave much to be desired, but his text is concise and to the point--a good overview of the subject.

Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia
Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia
by M. J. Whitley
Edition: Hardcover
14 used & new from CDN$ 39.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Cruisers get the Whitley treatment, Nov. 11 2001
Given the general paucity of cruiser information, this may be the most important of Whitley's encyclopedias. As with his battleship book, the drawings are perfunctory. But the book succeeds on the basis of its concentration of data--not microscopic in detail but broad in scope. No other single volume competes with this handy book, and you definitely get your dollar's worth. You could spend twice as much on a Conway's, but you still won't have the fundamental appreciation of design features you get from Whitley.

Battleships of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia
Battleships of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia
by M. J. Whitley
Edition: Hardcover
14 used & new from CDN$ 100.23

4.0 out of 5 stars Whitley being Whitley, Nov. 11 2001
I love the way Whitley compresses it all into one volume that won't chew a hole in your wallet. This is not the last word in battleship references, but it's among the best first words you can find. The one weakness is in its illustrations. Modelers can pass this one by. The line drawings look like the author did them himself, out of necessity--which is actually the case. And there are no armor schematics. However, Whitley goes beyond where other references (like Conway's) grind to a halt, and he goes to the trouble of describing the armor layout rather than simply slapping statistics onto the page. What it lacks in detail, it makes up for with its handiness and broad scope. I'm aware of its limitations, especially where the author was trying to pry information out of Russian and Japanese sources, but I find myself getting plenty of use out of it.

German Capital Ships of World War Two
German Capital Ships of World War Two
by M.J. Whitley
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 33.64

4.0 out of 5 stars At these prices...!, Nov. 11 2001
Whitley has an excellent track record of bringing data on German warship designs to the English reader. If there's a weakness in this volume, it's in its relatively small size. Also, it fails to pinpoint certain details of the Bismarck and Graf Spee designs which remain elusive even now. But Whitley succeeds in presenting a concise account of the design histories and operational histories, and he does it in a highly affordable package. Apart from the massive and expensive Garzke and Dulin work, this is the best single-volume treatment of the subject.

Nelson to Vanguard: Warship Design and Development 1923-1945
Nelson to Vanguard: Warship Design and Development 1923-1945
by D. K. Brown
Edition: Hardcover
6 used & new from CDN$ 358.02

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patented DK Brown, Nov. 11 2001
It's always a pleasure to see Brown's insider perspective on British design. In this book, he takes the opportunity to heap praise on some of his predecessors and nose about in their memoirs for hints of their thoughts on nascent designs. There is little effort here to provide a systematic survey of post-WWI designs--which I would like to have seen--but there is a sufficiency of substance and a liberal sprinkling of anecdotes. This is not a great book, but it is informative and enjoyable. My main complaint is that it tends toward the pricey.

Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946
Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946
by Robert Gardner
Edition: Hardcover
7 used & new from CDN$ 197.89

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All the World's Statistics, Nov. 10 2001
I use my Conway's a lot because it covers a wide scope, but it continues to irk me. As I see it, the book pretends to describe ships by laying out statistics and dates whatever else can be quantified in numbers; but in the end it fails to present a real-world assessment of anything. I understand that no book can be all things to all readers, but Conway's becomes a generator of misunderstanding when it spits out, for example, measurements of armor thickness, tempting the reader to think this is what determines how well a ship is protected. Such superficiality does more harm than good. But once the reader understands that Conway's is merely a starting point for research, it becomes a useful (if expensive) tool.

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