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German Destroyers 1939–45 (New Vanguard) Paperback – November 21, 2003
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There is no knocking the New Vanguard series. They're cheap, informative and very user friendly.
From the Publisher
The unrivalled illustrated reference on fighting vehicles, transport and artillery through the ages. Each volume is illustrated throughout, making these books uniquely accessible to history enthusiasts of all ages.
Top customer reviews
I have purchased and read most all of the NEW VANGAURD BOOKS AND ALL HAVE BEEN VERY GOOD!!
This one, not so good. All it does is it lists all the ship names. It gives a list of each date the ship was born and the date it died or was scuttled. There is very little about the life and campaigns the ships experienced. Very little about the workings of the ships mechanically. With each list, only the outside 2/3 of each page was used. The inside 1/3 of each page was left blank. A huge waste of paper. All of these lists occupy roughly 1/2 of the book, 1/4 of the book is used for pictures and cutaways and the final 1/4 is for vague descriptions of the deployment of the German Destroyer Fleet.
This is the ONLY book of this series I wished I hadn't wasted my money on!!!! I would suggest you look this book over carefully before you decide to buy it.
German Destroyers 1939-1945 begins with a very brief introduction, followed by short sections on armament, radar, color schemes and camouflage, ship's namesakes, and flotilla organization. The author then provides a summary of each of the six German destroyer types, including basic technical data, launching/commissioning dates and fate for each member of the type, and names of ship commanders. The "meatiest" part of this thin volume is the 12-page section on wartime service, which details the major operations in which German destroyers were involved in the Second World War. Certainly the best part of this volume is the superb color plates which include: two Type 34A destroyers in profile; Ambush at Narvik (Georg Thiele versus HMS Eskimo); a profile and overhead depiction of the Type 34 class; a detailed cutaway of theZ39; a profile and overhead of a Type 36A; the Karl Galster escorting the Tirpitz in the Far North; and a profile and overhead depiction of the Type 36A. The volume also includes about 39 black and white photographs that while interesting are mostly peacetime and in-port type shots, instead of operational photos. I was also disappointed that the author did not provide a map of the destroyer action at Narvik, since this was the critical battle of the war for the German destroyers. Williamson's bibliography is very thin, and readers should consult M.J. Whitley's 1983 book, Destroyer!, which has clearly influenced this summary. There is also one significant error in the volume, when Williamson clams that during the "Channel Dash" in February 1942, "three of the older torpedo boats that also formed part of the escort force were sunk". In fact, the Germans lost no ships during the "Channel Dash" and Williamson is obviously confusing the loss of the torpedo boats Iltis and Seeadler that were sunk three months later.
Williamson concludes that, "the German destroyers, whilst large and impressively armed, were dogged by mechanical failure, hampered by lack of training for the crews and often by over-timid commanders who failed to use their vessels aggressively enough." Although Williamson mentions the "notoriously unreliable power plant of the German destroyers," he fails to explain that the Kriegsmarine [German Navy] opted to install a virtually untested high-pressure boiler system in their destroyers built in the 1930s. The Kriegsmarine took a chance on an untested design - one that delivered 300% more pressure than similar British designs and offered the potential of a 2-4 knot speed advantage over their British opponents - but the gamble brought a very high degree of mechanical unreliability. While the German destroyers had significantly greater potential horsepower than all but a handful of French destroyers, the extra speed came at a high price. Furthermore, while the German destroyers were fairly heavily armed, their gunnery and torpedo marksmanship was typically poor, except in the narrow confines of the fjords around Narvik.
While mechanical problems, insufficient training and timid leadership certainly reduced the impact of the Kriegsmarine's destroyer arm, the critical deficiency that Williamson fails to emphasize is the sheer lack of numbers. German started the war with 22 destroyers and one year later had only ten left; throughout the war Germany rarely had more than 12-15 destroyers operational. The pre-war "Z Plan" to build up the Kriegsmarine called for the construction of 68 destroyers but less than half were ever built. Once the war began, Germany's limited naval construction capability shifted primarily to U-Boats and completing prestige units like Bismarck and Tirpitz, with very little effort left for destroyers. The loss of 50% of the available destroyers at Narvik so early in the war was a catastrophe and Williamson fails to note that this lack of naval units was critical in influencing Hitler's decision to call off Operation Sealion, the invasion of Britain. Even if the German destroyer's high-pressure steam plants had worked as advertised, there were just too few of these vessels to significantly influence the naval balance in European waters. In an era where the British and American navies were fielding over 100 destroyers and building dozens more every year, the tiny German destroyer arm pales in significance. Lacking numbers, the Kriegsmarine tended to avoid decisive combat since they knew that they could not trade losses with the Royal Navy, and this reduced most of the surface fleet to little more than a "fleet in being."