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U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History (Illustrated Design Histories) Hardcover – January, 1995
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From the Back Cover
This large-format book, the seventh in Friedman's acclaimed design history series, is lavishly illustrated. Detailed inboard profiles of every distinct type of submarine the U.S. Navy bought between 1900 and 1945 (and also types exported by U.S. builders) show how the submarines changed. The accompanying text and extensive captions show why. For example, cross sections reveal how, before 1919, the Electric Boat Company used its patented inventions to gain and maintain superiority over its main rival, the Lake Submarine Company. Numerous drawings of abortive designs illuminate the choices actually made. The period covered by this book was one of radical change for the U.S. Navy. When the modern navy first considered buying a submarine in 1887, it was a coast defense force confined to the Western Hemisphere. The United States became a world power just as its new submarines offered a way of defending its most distant possession, the Philippines, without tying down an expensive fleet. World War I found U.S. submarines in an unexpected role, countering German U-boats in British waters. Then the situation changed again with unexpected speed. As arms limitation treaties and American politics drastically limited both naval growth and the ability to defend outlying possessions, the United States began to face the real possibility of having to fight across the Pacific. Submarines turned out to be an important part of the solution. They were effective partly because they were backed by brilliant technologists, but more so because the submariners showed enormous imagination. One of their own, Chester Nimitz, commanded the U.S. naval forces that won the Pacific.
About the Author
Norman Friedman is a prominent naval analyst and the author of more than thirty books covering a range of naval subjects, from warship histories to contemporary defense issues. He is a longtime columnist for Proceedings magazine and lives in New York City.
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The key word here is detail - lots and lots of detail. Every paragraph and photo caption is thick with it, as are the 24 pages of technical notes, and the numerous drawings by the author and James Christley. Numerous paper projects and unbuilt weapons and systems are described, as well as just about every sonar and sensor system installed aboard American submarines between 1945 and 1995. This book is stripped and lean; there aren't wondering tangents to be found here. It's a technical history through and through and doesn't pretend to be anything else.
Although I'd recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in submarine design, it's not for the faint of heart. It's "only" 280 pages long, but those 280 pages are incredibly dense and rich. I'd seriously recommend reading Friedman's "Submarine Design & Development" and Polmar's "Cold War Submarines" before tackling this work. Still, this an excellent book for the hardcore submarine buff, who will delight in all the unclassified details not readily found anywhere else. If only Friedman and the USNI would publish a revised and updated edition so people wouldn't have to spend $70 for a used copy...
Expect to spend a lot of time referring back and forth between chapters in order to gain a complete understanding of not only what these boats were like, but why they were built the way they were.