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  • November 20, 2020 12:19 PM | David Eddy

    America’s Anchor: A Naval History of the Delaware River and Bay, Cradle of the United States Navy

    Kennard R. Wiggins, Jr.

    The Delaware River and Bay hold a special place in the formative history of the United States Navy, an important story that has become increasingly eclipsed as we approach the nation’s 250th anniversary. Philadelphia, as the nation’s first political capital, remains firmly fixed in popular and scholarly imagination, thanks to the twin touchstones of the Declaration and Constitution, and it is widely appreciated that Philadelphia was once America’s most populous and prosperous city. But Philadelphia as young America’s leading seaport and commercial center has largely been forgotten, all but divorcing this maritime city from its location along the Delaware River and vital linkage to the Delaware Bay and the open sea. We forget that Philadelphia was once the largest seaport in North America and probably the largest freshwater port in the world, that more than a quarter of the nation’s total exports during the Federal period passed through the city’s wharves. We forget that Philadelphia led the nation in shipbuilding, with more than twice the tonnage of any other shipbuilding center in the United States. And rarely, if ever, do we associate either Philadelphia or the Delaware River with the birthplace of the United States Navy – which holds true even for those of us who live in the area and regularly cross the Commodore Barry Bridge or drive past the looming presence of the once and mighty Philadelphia Navy Yard.

    Restoring Philadelphia’s role as early America’s leading maritime, commercial, and political center gives new meaning to the Delaware River and Bay as “the cradle of the United States Navy.” Kennard Wiggins’ naval history of the Delaware estuary—a basin that flows south from the falls at Trenton and encompasses Cape May on the New Jersey side of the bay and Cape Henlopen on the Delaware side—does that and more. Wiggins brings to life over three hundred years of a surprisingly active history, detailing the important men and ships as well as the shipbuilders and infrastructure that made the Delaware vital to the history of the United States Navy from its beginnings through the end of World War II.

    Wiggins, a retired military officer and author of five regional books on military history, lives in the Delaware Valley and knows his region well. His clear and concise writing style makes for an enjoyable read, and the book includes a vast array of interesting and insightful information about the colorful ships, men, and deeds that contributed to the progress of the United States Navy in both war and peace. The subject matter produces a sprawling story that suffers a bit from lack of seamless continuity, but the author recognizes this weakness at the outside and works to place the individual stories into larger chronological and topical patterns.

    The narrative is generously supported by fascinating and rarely seen maps, charts, drawings, and photographs, all excellently selected by the author. Four appendices provide lists and brief sketches of Delaware Valley Sailor and Marine Medal of Honor Recipients as well as vast numbers of naval vessels built in the city of Wilmington and other Delaware shipyards. The contributions made by these Wilmington shipbuilders, especially the firms of Harlan & Hollingsworth and Pusey & Jones, who led the nation in iron-hulled ship construction through much of the nineteenth century, is a welcomed inclusion and often overlooked feature of the maritime heritage of the Delaware River and Bay.

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2019
    • 7” x 10”, softcover, vii + 288 pages
    • Illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $45.00
    • ISBN: 9781476671970

    Reviewed by Samuel Heed, Kalmar Nyckel Foundation

  • August 28, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose?

    Peter Marsden

    There have, to date, been several published volumes focused on the sinking and archaeological excavation of Mary Rose, King Henry VIII’s great warship, and a number of them have been helmed by the author of this new publication, Who Sank the Mary Rose?. This text does not fall within the line of technical volumes published by the Mary Rose Trust, but instead provides a more general summary of the history of the service career of the vessel and the final moments on board as reconstructed from the archaeology. The most significant stated goals of the book, however, are to prove that Mary Rose had one more deck than previously thought, which meant the vessel would have been more unstable than previously acknowledged, and that it was actually King Henry VIII who was responsible for the instability that resulted in the loss of the vessel.

    Who Sank the Mary Rose? provides a thorough, and easily accessible historical timeline of the lengthy thirty-plus years of service of the vessel, as well as detailed historical contexts for the shifting political and military situations of the early sixtenth century. For those readers who are not already well-versed in the history of Mary Rose, this book provides a clear overview in a handful of chronological chapters. The first half of the book is taken up by this historical overview, which for some readers might feel overburdened with details that do not contribute to the overall narrative of the sinking of the vessel, however the clear organization of the chapters into distinct historical periods make it easy for the reader to focus their attention on the desired information.\

    While Who Sank the Mary Rose? provides a detailed historical context and an archaeological summary, it is a text that is more suited to a lay audience than an archaeological professional searching for technical explanations of the theories proposed by Marsden. The author does summarize his arguments for proposing an additional deck for the vessel, but some of the supporting pieces of information for these arguments seem to be glossed over, and not given the space for the technical detail that would invite archaeological discussion, and only two appendices are included: the dimensions of the masts and spars (with no discussion of the source of the ratios that produced them), and a catalog of the skeletal remains.

    The overall conclusion of the book, that Henry VIII was ultimately responsible for the sinking of Mary Rose, feels at times like a grasp for sensationalism, tenuously connected with the rest of the narrative of the vessel. The myth of the meddling king is always a popular one, demonstrated by the specter of King Gustavus Adolphus haunting the doomed warship Vasa in many retellings of the history of that particular vessel. However, taking into account the service history of Mary Rose, and the realities regarding vessel stability (including the scientific understanding of vessel stability of the period), it is difficult to buy into the idea that the blame for the sinking of Mary Rose really does unequivocally lie at the feet of the English monarch.

    Who Sank the Mary Rose? is an excellent summary, and entertaining read, for those who wish a manageable dive into such a complex subject. With a lack of jargon, and a clear narrative, it presents a compelling tale for the lay audience interested in the great warship of one of the most famous Tudor monarchs. 

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2019
    • 7” x 10”, hardcover, 304 pages
    • Illustrations, drawings, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781526749352

    Reviewed by Annaliese Dempsey, Texas A&M University

  • August 28, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Arctic Mirage: The 1913-1920 Expedition in Search of Crocker Land

    Winton U. Solberg

    On explorer Robert Peary’s 1906 expedition, he looked out over the Arctic icescape and thought he discerned a large landmass to his northwest, one which he called Crocker Land after a major donor to his expedition. On his return and the publicization of his findings, the question of Crocker Land’s existence became an urgent one in Arctic-minded circles. 

    Winton Solberg’s Arctic Mirage covers the entire arc of the expedition sent to discover the reality or unreality of Crocker Land. This covers not just the difficulties and dangers of the expedition itself, but the work it took to get it together, the journeys out and home, and the aftermath. The attention paid to the institutional politics behind the voyage is one of the book’s valuable resources, showing not just the small-scale intergroup dynamics that shape the character and content of such an effort, but the larger-scale flows of money and prestige that bring it into existence in this particular form and shape how and by who it will be remembered afterward. One of the last chapters of the book, for instance, goes into detail about the troubled publication history of expedition leader Donald MacMillan’s geographical report—it was not published by the American Museum of Natural History until 1930, long after other expedition members (including MacMillan) had published narratives of their experience. Readers interested in the ecology of the polar regions will also be drawn in by extensive descriptions of polar flora and fauna, and how they were charted and described by members of the expedition.

    What the book lacks at times is a certain degree of critical or analytical distance from its source material, so that at times the reader is jerked back and forth between different attitudes toward the people involved with little authorial guidance. On page 138, for instance, American Museum of Natural History curator of geology Edmund Hovey is “a tactless, impolite person” and on page 139 he is a “poor old man,” with no clear distance or distinction between whose points of view these are. This juxtaposition of perspective could be quite interesting, but it is not fully made explicit or analyzed and thus is often confusing.

    Where this tendency becomes especially unfortunate is in the description of the Inuit. Solberg seems to take the Americans’ characterizations of them as fact, so in his prose they retain the “childlike” qualities attributed to them by the explorers. In Solberg’s own prose they are hysterical, sulky, superstitious; the Americans have to learn their “tricks” (p. 43). No attempt is made to move far beyond this framing, and later in the book expedition member Elmer Ekblaw’s screed on the racial characteristics of the “Polar Inuit” is paraphrased in long stretches as if it were pure fact. To his credit, though, Solberg treats expedition member Fitzhugh Green’s murder of accomplished Arctic guide Peeahwahto (Piugaattoq) with full seriousness, devoting an entire chapter to it, though it might perhaps be wished for this incident to be connected back to the meat of the expedition and the knowledge it attempted to produce.

    On the whole, this is an in-depth and interesting narrative of the expedition in search of an unreal place, one which should however be read with a skeptical eye.

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2019
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, vii + 255 pages
    • Photographs, map, notes, bibliography, index. $35.00
    • ISBN: 9781476638096

    Reviewed by Brooke Grasberger, Brown University

  • August 28, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Preserving Maritime America: A Cultural History of the Nation’s Great Maritime Museums

    James M. Lindgren

    The origins of both United States ship preservation and maritime museums stem from the need to understand America’s symbiotic role within maritime history. Since its founding, the United States has heavily relied on the high seas, but Americans are often unaware of their impact on maritime history. Many notable global powers, such as Britain, Netherlands and other countries, have long-established national maritime museums to preserve and cultivate their seafaring traditions, while America’s maritime past has been defined by local and regional private institutions. In this unprecedented cultural history, Preserving Maritime America: A Cultural History of the Nation’s Great Maritime Museums, James M. Lindgren examines America’s rise in the nineteenth-century as a commercial power, the decline of its flagged fleet during the twentieth-century, and how museums have played a vital role in telling the story of America’s interaction with the sea. He does this by exploring six maritime museums that pioneered the way Americans experience and engage with their maritime past, which include Salem’s East India Marine Society, New Bedford Whaling Museum, Mystic’s Marine Historical Society, San Francisco Maritime Museum, New York’s South Street Seaport Museum, and the Mariner’s Museum of Newport News.

    There is much to admire in this book. If Lindgren makes one thing clear, it is that there is a need to preserve America’s maritime culture and broaden global awareness, and there has been no shortage of efforts from these six iconic institutions. With varying founding agendas, from cultural preservation, local economic redevelopment, or assertion of overseas power, these six case studies displayed the complexities, promises, and pitfalls of preserving maritime America. The future of these museums came into question when faced with conflicting policymaking, chronic financial shortfalls, and the general public’s underappreciation of the nation’s formative interrelationship with the sea. They had to reevaluate and assess the missions of their institutions. Should they revolve around people, artifacts, research, the environment, social issues, economic development, community building, or a blend of these choices? Each chapter provides an in-depth view of how its respective institution handled the wavering seas and shifted their course to remain relevant. Not holding back on the unvarnished stories, Lindgren created six forceful dramas peppered with behind-the-scenes accounts coupled with descriptions of bureaucratic maneuverings. The level of research is comprehensive and impressive, providing impeccable insight for further maritime preservation efforts. By portraying the debates, conflicts, and intentions that shaped these museums, Lindgren leaves the reader with a sense of how precious these preservation efforts are for understanding America’s maritime past. These museums are fortunate to profit from Lindgren’s scholarly endeavors, in that this book will have a profound impact on the communities that these museums serve.

    For many reasons, Preserving Maritime America serves as the important link between an interested, but often unknowledgeable, public and professionally trained historians and curators about what it means to be a maritime nation, the importance of preservation, and the role museums play in bridging this divide.

    • Amherst & Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2019
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, xi + 341 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, index. $28.95
    • ISBN: 9781625344632

    Reviewed by Kristin Jøsvoll, Texas A&M University at Galveston

  • August 28, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Sailing Under John Paul Jones: The Memoir of Continental Navy Midshipman Nathaniel Fanning, 1778-1783

    Edited by Louis Arthur Norton

    Nathaniel Fanning's memoir, masterfully edited by Louis Arthur Norton, recounts the adventures of Nathaniel Fanning. Fanning followed a unique journey by first becoming a privateer and then serving as a midshipman in the Continental Navy. After sailing under John Paul Jones on Bonhomme Richard, Fanning commanded privateer vessels out of French ports and served for a short time as an officer in the French navy. His story includes descriptions of shipboard life, Bonhomme Richard’s battle with HMS Serapis, conditions in the British prisoner of war camps, and French society during and after the American Revolution.

    At the beginning of the book, Norton provides biographical information about Nathaniel Fanning and his family during the Revolution. He provides context about Fanning's upbringing and background. The text begins with the birth of Nathaniel Fanning and then his decision to become a privateer at the age of twenty-three. The chapters then correspond to significant events, including being captured, his time on Bonhomme Richard and its battle with HMS Serapis, the aftermath, Fanning's time as a French privateer, and the aftermath of the Revolutionary War in France. The book also includes illustrations and portraits of battles and people. Fanning also includes a full character sketch of John Paul Jones that describes his personality, his command style, and his character flaws.

    The author does an appreciable job of keeping the text as close to the original as possible while editing it, so it is understandable to the modern reader. The book is easy to read and understand because of the updated language. However, it does expect the reader to have background knowledge of sailing terms, naval history, and the difference between a navy and privateers.

    The book's title focuses on when Nathaniel Fanning was a midshipman on Bonhomme Richard. There are three chapters dedicated to the events before, during, and after the engagement with HMS Serapis. The book also has a detailed overview of the battle from the editor and a biographical sketch of John Paul Jones. While this is a significant event in Fanning's memoirs, there is much more to his story, including his time as a British prisoner of war and a French privateer and naval officer. These recollections provide a broader narrative of the naval war during the American Revolution by describing the life and the war on the European side of the conflict from an American perspective. The book also provides a look into French society a few years before the start of the French Revolution. This description is useful because it shows the radical changes to French society during the Revolution.

    Overall, the book does an excellent job of relating Fanning's memoir in language that is easier to understand while staying true to Fanning's writing. This text is insightful and valuable for readers interested in the eighteenth-century privateer and naval life. Norton does a beautiful job conveying his story to a modern audience while staying true to Fanning's words and writing. With only two hundred pages, it is a quick and edifying read.

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2019 
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, viii + 171 pages 
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95 
    • ISBN: 9781476679600

    Reviewed by Ryan Miranda, East Carolina University

  • May 18, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    The Capture of the USS Pueblo: The Incident, the Aftermath and the Motives of North Korea

     James Duermeyer

    For me, as a 33-year intelligence officer. this book was fascinating in its detail and documentation, Commander Duermeyer did a great job of clearing the mist of intelligence and the military argot in the introduction and first chapter. He did an outstanding lay out of the interaction between the Navy and the National Security Agency (NSA). which greatly helped in understanding how and why the capture was carried off without support from our military.

    Fallowing the groundwork explanation of the Intelligence issues, Duermeyer goes into a detailed discussion of leadership and risk assessment. He is very critical of both the Navy and NSA analysis of risk plus the failure of leadership. He is spot on with his comments and assessment from the President on down the chain of command. Despite numerous incursions and continued low intensity conflict perpetrated by North Korea (NOKO). the Navy and NSA continued to rely on the “12-mile” credo and assessed Pueblo’s risk at low. This was true throughout both chains of command. A true failure to face the reality of risk in order to maintain the Republic of Korea (ROK) forces then fighting with the United States in Viet Nam and not open a second front with Korea. Weltpolitik dominated the decision makers thinking.

    Duermeyer does an excellent job of analyzing the reactions of Pueblo’s crew and its captain, Commander Bucher. Also examined are the intelligence community, South Korea, and the Washington arena (White House situation room); all put into the historic context of the Johnson era and Viet Nam, then the reactions of Congress; all well documented. Congressional reaction was predictably hawkish on one side and cautious to the point of inaction on the other side; the result was no real leadership. In summary, President Johnson is rightfully marked as the top decision maker who failed Pueblo and its crew. Of course, Viet Nam was the ten-ton gorilla in the room throughout the eleven-month period of captivity.

    The most interesting and relevant chapter was on why NOKO captured Pueblo. It provides an insight into the issues involved with today’s negotiations with Kim Il-Un. His father, Kim Il-sung, instituted the harsh imposition of juche, a doctrine meaning North Korea must be regarded by the world powers as being equal or superior to them and that North and South Korea had to be reunited under the North’s dictatorship. This doctrine was and is imposed on the mind and souls of all NOKO citizens and those that did not or do not bent to the Greater Good of the country are tortured into submission or executed. Torture was used on the entire crew in the belief that they could be turned to the communist way. The more torture the more the crew turned to God and country; in the end Kim’s propaganda and mistreatment failed. Though NOKO thought they had humbled the United States and the Central Intelligence Agency, they failed. The doctrine of juche is still very much in the mind and actions of Kim Il-un and, therefore, all of the current negotiations need to take this into account. This book is one that I highly recommend to all scholars and political historians.

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2019
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, x + 199 pages
    • Photographs, notes, bibliography, index. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781476675404

    Reviewed by Edward E. Quan, Greenwood Village, Colorado

  • May 18, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    The Man Who Discovered Antarctica: Edward Bransfield Explained

    Sheila Bransfield

    A young Irish sailor pressed into the Royal Navy at the outset of the Napoleonic Wars might not be an expected candidate for achieving exploratory milestones in the service. This is, however, exactly the story that Sheila Bransfield seeks to bring to life in The Man Who Discovered Antarctica, a work which tracks this young man—Edward Bransfield—from the turn of the century Ireland across the seas of the globe, from ship to ship, and into their furthest southern reaches.

    This book belongs to a genre which seeks to restore to the collective memory someone who has dropped out of it, and Bransfield the author is uniquely qualified to do so—she has not just written about him but has also aided in other efforts to restore knowledge of his life, as in her efforts at preserving his grave. The book is bursting with information about the world through which Bransfield the subject moved, making it not just the narrative of an individual but of a life in and through time. This also makes it an interesting read for people with all levels of understanding around nineteenth-century maritime history, as the narrative is not confined just to him and does not assume vast knowledge on the part of the reader.

    The abovementioned strengths of the book—following the trail of an important but also ordinary man through the upheavals of the first half of the nineteenth century—can at times also be its weakness. This is especially apparent in the first few chapters, which write on Bransfield’s early years in the Navy. Bransfield himself disappears from the text at times, subsumed under the actions of captains and commanders. A reading of this period his life as it might have been experienced by Bransfield himself, from the lower deck, might tie the context and the individual more closely. Sometimes contextual information may feel disjointed, as when a single paragraph about the abolition of the slave trade appears in the midst of describing HMS Royal Sovereign’s patrol of Cadiz, and might have been better suited for a note.

    Where The Man who Discovered Antarctica truly picks up strength is around chapter 9 or 10, as Edward Bransfield begins to rise through the ranks of the navy and his life and the contextual information become more securely intertwined. Chapter 19, which covers Bransfield’s journey to the Antarctic aboard the two-masted brig Williams, is particularly rich. On the whole the book is a fast-paced and far-ranging narrative, expansive as the environment and person who together create the narrative. Bransfield the author’s absorption in her source material is apparent in more than just the information presented; at times the text takes on the cadence of a logbook, making the rhythm of seafaring life felt and not just learned through the course of the book.

    Beginning with impressment and closing with his return to England following his Antarctic expedition, Edward Bransfield’s naval career is a fascinating story, and Sheila Bransfield’s book is the definitive treatment of his life.

    •  Barnsley: Frontline Books, 2019
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, xviii + 318 pages
    • Photographs, notes, bibliography, index. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781526752635

    Reviewed by Brooke Grasberger, Brown University

  • May 18, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Minding the Helm: An Unlikely Career in the U.S. Coast Guard

    Kevin P. Gilheany

    The perils of traveling the world’s waters demands only brave souls serve aboard a seagoing vessel, and requires the most valiant souls to save them when they are distressed. The United States Coast Guard, formed from a merger of the United States Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service in 1915, has a rich tradition in endangering their own lives in order to save those in need throughout American waters. Many have sought to join the ranks of these brave individuals including Kevin P. Gilheany, who dreamt of enlisting in the Coast Guard as a young boy in Manhattan. In Minding the Helm: An Unlikely Career in the U.S. Coast Guard, Retired Chief Warrant Officer Gilheany candidly describes his time and adventures in the United States Coast Guard. Through his service, Officer Gilheany accomplished his youthful aspiration of going to sea, along with experiences only obtained through military service.

    After progressing through boot camp, he received his first orders to report aboard the cutter Bear, after a brief spell aboard Gallatin in New York. From there, Quartermaster Gilheany served onboard the Coast Guard’s sail training vessel Eagle, in New Orleans as quartermaster of the buoy tender Wedge, and as an operation controller at Long Island’s Moriches Station before finally returning to New Orleans. He provides tremendous insight into the day-to-day activities enlisted men in the Coast Guard experience, as well as the characters and friendships encountered along the way. Additionally, the author includes snippets of Coast Guard history to supplement his narrative. All reveal the honor Gilheany attaches to his service in the Coast Guard.

    While he recounts his professional and personal development, Officer Gilheany offers his own perception into the many major events that occurred during his service. Serving from the 1980s to the early 2000s, he witnessed the Challenger explosion, as well as the 9/11 attacks either firsthand or through exercises in their aftermath. For instance, the reader experiences the surreal sensation of watching the World Trade Center, a building he had viewed on the New York skyline since his childhood, fall. Instances like these deepen the audience’s understanding of his dedication towards his country through his Coast Guard service. In his eyes, he had been blessed with the ability to serve and strode to make a difference in the wake of each of these tragedies.

    Perhaps the most entertaining part of Gilheany’s memoir are his recollections of his fellow crewmembers. Often, he fondly remembers the friendships he cultivated throughout his service; he also recalls the individuals and characters who irritated him beyond comprehension. The New York native frequently had to suppress his natural urge to speak against the sloth and unprofessional behavior displayed by his colleagues throughout his assignments, but he never let it prevent him from performing his duties. That attitude helped the young misfit from New York enjoy such a lengthy and successful military career.

    Kevin P. Gilheany’s, Minding the Helm: An Unlikely Career in the U.S. Coast Guard, showcases his exemplary two and a half decade military career. Joining the Coast Guard helped him develop personally and allowed him to accomplish his childhood dreams. His book brilliantly captures his perspective on his service and his character, molded through constant adversity. Historians and enthusiastic readers alike will appreciate Retired Chief Warrant Officer Gilheany’s rendition of his career serving in the United States Coast Guard.

    • Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2019
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, viii + 269 pages
    • Photographs, notes, bibliography, index. $24.95
    • ISBN: 9781574417500

    Reviewed by Will Nasiff, East Carolina University

  • May 18, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Early U.S. Navy Carrier Raids, February-April 1942: Five Operations that Tested a New Dimension of American Air Power

    David Lee Russell

    From February through April in 1942, the United States Navy launched a series of aircraft carrier raids against the Empire of Japan. Although the raids were pinpricks, with little material impact, they proved critically important.

    Early U.S. Navy Carrier Raids February–April 1942: Five Operations That Tested a New Dimension of American Air Power, by David Lee Russell, shows exactly how important the five raids were. The February carrier raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, Rabaul, and Wake and the Marcus Islands, a March raid on Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea, and the April Doolittle Raid on Japan were the first offensive operations in the Pacific by the United States Navy following Japan’s attacks in December 1941. The author devotes a chapter to each raid, with an opening chapter introducing the situation, and a final chapter placing the results of the raids in the context of the overall war and their significance to its outcome.

    Each raid gets a detailed examination. Russell presents the planning, execution and outcome of each set of raids. He documents each American attack and each Japanese counterattack occurring during the raid. These are accompanied by a generous assortment of maps and illustrations, helping readers better understand the action in each raid.

    Russell makes comprehensive use of primary sources, such as operations orders, after-action reports and wartime analyses. These are extensively quoted in each chapter, adding immediacy to his descriptions. He backs this up with post-war analyses.

    The book covers some of the most dramatic episodes of World War II. The clearest example is that of the Doolittle Raid. Other incidents include “Butch” O’Hare single-handedly breaking up an attack on Lexington. He earned “ace-in-a-day” status, credited with shooting down five G4M bombers in a few minutes’ fighting. It also offers a look at men who played starring roles in the Pacific War, from admirals like William Halsey to pilots, like Wade McCluskey  and John Thatch, who played critical roles at Coral Sea and Midway.

    This book is of primary interest to naval historians. Those focused on maritime history or pre-twentieth century naval history will probably give it a pass. Similarly, while interesting to read, ship modelers will find little of interest. For those interested in World War II United States carrier operations, it is a must read, if not a must have. Those interested in World War II naval operations, especially those whose focus is the Pacific theater will find it useful.

    It is also useful for wargamers gaming carrier air combat. The appendices have full orders of battles for the American task groups committed to each raid. However, it is weaker in providing Japanese orders of battles. Readers learn what the American actually encountered, but not what the Japanese potentially had.

    Early U.S. Navy Carrier Raids February–April 1942 offers a well-written account of a series of operations that, while minor, were significant. All (except for the Doolittle Raid) are largely forgotten today. Russell offers readers a fresh look at them in this book.

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2019
    • 7” x 10”, softcover, vii + 197 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781476638614

    Reviewed by Mark Lardas, League City, Texas

  • February 19, 2020 12:00 PM | David Eddy

    Captain Kidd’s Lost Ship: The Wreck of the Quedagh Merchant

    Frederick H. Hanselmann

    The allure of pirates has spanned generations, inspiring numerous fictional works and a myriad of historical and archaeological research to understand the lives of these nationless sailors. In recent decades, archaeology has begun to embrace the study of pirates and methodically explore their resources, including vessels, as significant cultural resources. Frederick Hanselmann, the director of the Underwater Archaeology and Exploration Program at the University of Miami, has spent his career working throughout the Spanish Main and analyzing the political and economic interactions between the colonial empires throughout the area. Through his work, Captain Kidd’s Lost Ship: The Wreck of the Quedagh Merchant, he brings the varying empires and their interactions together around Captain William Kidd and the age of piracy. Hanselmann’s work not only provides significant evidence that the wreck off Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic is in fact Quedagh Merchant; in doing so, he also offers a framework for contextualizing a shipwreck within a larger historical narrative and creating a viable management and interpretation plan for a shipwreck site.

    In characterizing the wreck as Quedagh Merchant, Hanselmann first addresses the theoretical frameworks used to connect the broader historical trends with the individual actions of those involved with the physical remains of the site in the Dominican Republic. He focuses his framework around multiscalar world-systems and individual agency as symbolized in the shipwreck site and its global story. Delving directly into the global and individual histories at play, Hanselmann contextualizes the connections and power roles that developed between the British, their Indian counterparts, and the American colonies in the larger world that Indian Ocean piracy and Captain William Kidd navigated through. The in-depth historical context provided the basis for laying the groundwork for exploring the shipwreck. Hanselmann moves his framework, and argument, forward by next addressing the site itself. He lays out the archaeological methodology used to investigate the site before providing the hypothesis developed concerning the identity of the wreck. Observations noted about the form and function of the wreck outlined in the hypothesis were compared to the historical research. Through this comparison, he provided compelling evidence the wreck is indeed the Indian vessel, Quedagh Merchant, captured by Captain William Kidd. To complete his framework, Hanselmann covers the structures now in place to not only protect the site, but to also interpret the site and use it as a part of the tourism of the Dominican Republic. By the end, Hanselmann successfully argues the vessel is Quedagh Merchant and shows a useful framework for theoretical analyzing a shipwreck site and providing meaningful management and interpretation.

    While the work is filled with many direct quotes that make reading a little dense, Hanselmann is able to use these quotes effectively to aid in laying his theoretical approach, historical research, and management overview. These features, and quotes accompanied by well-placed images and tables, allow him to present a strong argument for the identity of the shipwreck site off Catalina Island, its place in the global piratical and colonial history of the late seventeenth century, and feasible management and interpretation strategies. Captain Kidd’s Lost Ship is not only a compelling work for any person interested in piracy, but also a fundamental example of using a clear theoretical framework for analyzing and interpreting a shipwreck site.

    • Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2019
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, xxii + 198 pages
    • Illustrations, drawings, tables, maps, bibliography, index. $85.00
    • ISBN: 9780813056227

    Reviewed by Allyson Ropp, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

The Nautical Research Guild regularly publishes reviews of books about naval/maritime history and ship modeling.  Each issue of the Nautical Research Journal includes several book reviews, but there are often more book reviews than the Journal can accommodate. 

The listing below includes book reviews for each issue of the Journal starting with Volume 58.  You may browse the reviews by the issue of the Journal, by book title, or by author.

Book reviews marked 'Journal Only' (and are not clickable) are found in the pages of the listed issue of the Nautical Research Journal.


Listing Type



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