U.S. Navy Auxiliary Vessels: A History and Directory from World War I to Today
Ken W. Sayers
Military men often say. “Amateurs talk tactics. Professionals talk logistics.” What is true for the army and air force goes double for the navy. You cannot fight if you cannot get there. Since steam replaced sail you cannot get there unless you have fuel. Even if you have fuel, you cannot win without the food, supplies, and ammunition to fight.
U. S. Navy Auxiliary Vessels: A History and Directory from World War I to the Present, by Ken W. Sayers, brings much needed attention to one of the most important, yet often overlooked part of the United States Navy: its fleet logistics chain. The book provides a ready reference to the ships that have made up this force for over 100 years.
Sayers divides his book into three parts. Part I covers Combat Logistics and Fleet Support Ships. Combat logistics ships have the capability of providing underway replenishment to fleet units. Fleet support ships operate on open ocean to support combatant forces. Part II covers Support Ships, vessels designed to provide general support to combatant forces or shore bases. Part III is a directory of inactive United States Navy auxiliary ships.
Within each section, ships are sorted by type, alphabetically by United States Navy code (AKA, AO, etc.) A brief explanation of the purpose of that type of auxiliary is provided, followed by a history of the class: when it was first used, and the subsequent use and eventual abandonment of the type (if applicable). This is followed by a roster of all ships of that type used by the Navy, selected specifications of the important classes of these ships, and histories of the significant ships in the type discussed. Service dates of the ships not given individual histories are listed in the notes section at the end of each section.
One interesting result of this sorting is the most modern types of auxiliaries tend to be listed first, as today’s navy leans more heavily on combat logistics and fleet support ships than on support ships not designed for open ocean work. Another interesting observation is the increasing trend towards multi-mission combat logistics ships in the modern navy. The fleet tanker and underway replenishment ship of World War II have merged into a single ship capable of delivering “beans, bullets, and black oil.”
While not a comprehensive history of every auxiliary (which would likely require a library needing a ship to carry) the selected history approach used by Sayers allows U. S. Navy Auxiliary Vessels to provide a comprehensive overview of 103 years’ worth of United States Navy auxiliary ships. The histories are brief, but informative, and the text is not dry. It is engaging and readable. He even lists Constitution in the Support Ships section, making a credible defense of that placement.
In all, U. S. Navy Auxiliary Vessels is a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in the modern navy, from World War I on, especially readers seeking information on post-World War II auxiliary ships. It delivers detailed information in a concentrated package.
- Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2019
- 7” x 10”, softcover, vii + 353 pages
- Photographs, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $45.00
- ISBN: 9781476672564
Reviewed by Mark Lardas, League City, Texas