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On Seas Contested: The Seven Great Navies of the Second World War Hardcover – October 15, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Numerous stimulating and provocative observations [are] in On Seas Contested, which will be a standard reference for years to come."--The Journal of Military History

"This effective collection of essays provides much detailed information on the French, German, British, Italian, Japanese, American, and Soviet navies during World War II. The range of material covered is very impressive." --Naval History

"Published by the prestigious Naval Institute Press, this book is the product of an unprecedented collaboration by an international team of naval historians. . . . Excellent book. . . . The book's multinational orientation delivers a fresh view that will be of great value as a reference source. It should be on the shelves of specialists in naval and military history as well as those generally interested in the hows and whys of the major navies in the Second World War."--The Northern Mariner

"A book that breaks new ground; it is an absolute must for anyone with aspirations to be a naval historian, and a good read for those simply interested in the navies of the Second World War." --Warship 2012

"On Seas Contested fills a noticeable void in naval history. . . . The reader will come away with a much better understanding of the inner workings of each of the Seven Great Navies." --Sea History --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Vincent P. O'Hara is an independent scholar and the author of nine works including five published by the Naval Institute Press, most recently Torch. His articles have appeared in the Naval War College Review, Warship, MHQ, Storia Militare, and other periodicals and journals. He holds a history degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

W. David Dickson, an expert on Japanese naval doctrine and carrier design, is an author who lives in Hernando, MS.

Richard Worth specializes in warship design. A resident of Bolivar, MO, he is the author of several books.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press; 1st edition (October 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591146461
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591146469
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,450,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Vincent P. O'Hara is a naval historian and the author of The German Fleet at War (2004), The U.S. Navy Against the Axis (2007), The Struggle for the Middle Sea (2009), Dark Navy (co-author 2009), On Seas Contested (editor, 2010), In Passage Perilous (2012), To Crown the Waves (editor 2013), Black Phoenix (co-author 2013) and Torch: North Africa and the Allied Path to Victory (2015). His work has also appeared in periodicals and annuals including Naval War College Review, Warship, MHQ, World War II Magazine, World War II Quarterly, Seaforth Naval Review, American in WWII, WWII History, and Storia Militare. He holds a history degree from the University of California at Berkeley

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An excellent comparative study in the main WWII navies - France, Germany, UK and Commonwealth, Italy, Japan, USA, URSS - written and edited by specialists of high repute. A mine of information, some of which not easily found elsewhere. And a novel look into those navies' performance, characteristics, assets and liabilities, and wartime fate. The final fair judgment passed on sea forces such as the French or the Italian navies - respectively vastly overlooked and frequently maligned upon in large portions of the previous literature on the subject - may surprise some readers.

An annoying downside of some (even high quality) military - and especially naval - historiography is national partisanship. Not only the story is narrated strictly from the author's national perspective, but to various degrees, the author tends to overpraise his own nation's military force while walking with velvet tread on, or downplaying, or simply passing over, its flaws, faults and setbacks. The scientific approach designed by Vincent O'Hara, successfully applied to other works, and cooperatively followed by the authors of On Seas Contested not only provides the book with a solid framework, preventing it from being a hodgepodge of merely stacked up contributions. But it also nips national partisanship in the bud. Substantially increasing the fairness of the outlook, to the reader's advantage.

Each navy is presented and discussed in a consistent format, the same for all navies explored. Backstory, with a brief summary of the navy's development up to 1939. Organization, including command structure, doctrine, training, intelligence, and so on. Materiel, including ships, aircraft, weaponry, infrastructures, industry. A recapitulation of the navy's development, actions and performance in wartime.
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Format: Hardcover
Here is a book with structure and content like no other. On Seas Contested is not a single narrative, but rather seven chapters that provide parallel information regarding the major naval powers of World War II: France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, the United States and the Soviet Union. For each one, the outline incorporates pre-war history, mission, command structure, doctrine, ships, aviation, weapon systems, infrastructure and wartime evolution plus a summary and assessment.

Such a compilation would have been beyond the qualifications of any individual author. Accordingly, the editors have entrusted each chapter to one (or more) who can bring to his subject a working knowledge of 60 years' research and reflection. It would be a treat to find such a survey for any individual navy; to find it for seven in parallel is a tour de force.

The book's organization invites jumping among chapters even on first reading and helps make it a useful continuing reference. Even knowledgeable readers will likely find much here that is new. Well done.
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Format: Hardcover
After his 2004 The German Fleet At War, 1939-1945, 2007 The U.S. Navy Against the Axis: Surface Combat, 1941-1945, and 2009 Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean Theater, 1940-1945, here's O'Hara's 2010 masterpiece: in a sense, if the three former told the "what", the latter explains the "why".

This time O'Hara is co-editor, primus inter pares with Dickson and Worth, of an unusual and extremely innovative book. The seven great navies of WWII are thoroughly described in separate chapters written by reputable experts adopting a fixed analytic framework. Moreover, every chapter is provided with a short order of battle and, a definite plus of the book, a map of bases and organization, whose graphical symbols lets immediately appreciate the importance and facilities of the bases of each power (one only regrets the lack of a general map for the bases of the British Empire).
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides a useful overview of the main navies of World War II. It is organised into a brief introduction and seven 30 to 40 page long chapters on each of the navies. These chapters are, in turn, organised into a standard format with sections on 'Backstory' (which covers the history of the navy), 'Organization', 'Material' and 'Recapitulation' (which covers the navy's experiences during the war). The authors of the chapters were well selected, and each is an expert on 'their' navy.

The chapters are ordered by the name of the country they cover. This is a bit unfortunate, as it means that the book starts with its chapter on France, which is probably the weakest part of the book due to the relatively limited wartime experience of the French Navy and the author repeating some material in different sections of the chapter. The second chapter on Germany is also a bit disappointing as it places undue emphasis on the German fleet's major surface units at the expense of the submarines and small craft which did most of the fighting. The chapter on Great Britain provides a valuable summary of the Royal Navy and the main dominion navies, and the chapters on Italy and Japan are excellent - for my money the chapter on the Italian Navy was the strongest and most interesting part of the book. The chapter on the United States is solid but feels a bit short given the enormous scope of the topic it covers, and the final chapter on the Soviet Navy is excellent. Each of the chapters focuses on how the navies prepared for war, and in most cases I thought that the coverage of the impact of the war was insufficient (for instance, how each navy was organised at the time their country entered the war is described in detail, but subsequent changes aren't always mentioned).
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