World War II at Sea: A Global History Illustrated Edition
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Two German destroyers are moored next to the pier in Narvik Harbor in April 1940 prior to the attack by Warburton-Lee’s destroyers. Two German minesweepers are moored at right. By the time British forces arrived at Narvik, the Germans were already in possession of both the town and the harbor. Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The American carrier USS Wasp in her death throes after being hit by three torpedoes fired from the Japanese submarine I-19 on September 15, 1942. Torpedoes from the same salvo crippled the battleship North Carolina and sank the destroyer O’Brien. Image courtesy of the U.S. National Archives, no. 80-G-16331.
Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill look over some papers during a photo session at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. Behind FDR are Ernest J. King and George C. Marshall. To Marshall’s left is Admiral Dudley Pound. The vice admiral at right is Louis Mountbatten. Image courtesy of the U.S. National Archives, no. 80-G-35135.
American General Douglas MacArthur surveys the terrain on Los Negros Island in the Admiralty Islands in February 1944. MacArthur was a larger-than-life figure in the Pacific War who attracted both admirers and critics. The figure behind him is his aide Col. Lloyd Lehrabas. Image courtesy of the U.S. National Archives, no. SC 187355.
British and American LSTs unload vehicles and cargo on Omaha Beach in June 1944. The absence of a working port, and storm damage to the artificial harbor or Mulberry, made the LSTs essential to the success of the invasion. The barrage balloons were to prevent enemy aircraft from strafing the beach. Image courtesy of the U.S. National Archives, no. 80-G-46817.
The Japanese supercarrier Shinano was in commission for so short a time that few photographs of her exist. This sketch by Japanese artist Shizuo Fukui, was made after the war. Though the Archerfish sunk only one ship on her patrol, measured by total tonnage it was the most successful patrol of the entire war. Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
"In World War II at Sea, Mr. Symonds does for the naval struggle what Martin Gilbert did for the conflict on land in his The Second World War. A thoroughly enjoyable read, World War II at Sea sweeps its glass across the world's oceans and deftly recounts battles that shaped the course of history's greatest war."--Wall Street Journal
"Craig Symonds is a seaman and historian of the first order. His telling of this Navy Saga is as vast as the oceans themselves and as gloriously detailed as were the battles for them."
"Sweeping, majestic, and brilliant are the words that come to mind reading World War II at Sea by distinguished naval historian Craig Symonds. This will be the definitive single volume treatment of the enormously critical naval contributions to winning World War II."
--Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret), Supreme Allied Commander at NATO 2009-2013, Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
"World War II at Sea somehow manages to distill this entire naval history into a single volume without missing a beat. How Craig Symonds accomplished this while keeping the story interesting and the narrative engaging is a fine feat. This book is a treat!" -- John Prados, author of Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun
"Craig L. Symonds's World War II at Sea is a wonderfully ample and invaluable single-volume naval history of the all-hands-on-deck 1939 to 1945 global conflict. All major naval engagements are concisely and brilliantly recounted here. And there are fine assessments of military leaders like Ernest King and Isoroku Yamamoto. My admiration for this book is boundless!" -- Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History, Rice University, co-author of Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal
"Readers will welcome this fine account from a highly qualified guide... A solid storyteller and naval scholar, Symonds mixes politics, strategy, sea battle fireworks, technical details, and personal anecdotes to deliver one of the better single-volume histories of the naval portion of WWII."--Kirkus
"A scholarly yet extremely accessible work that will be of value to anyone interested in World War II; this will likely be a new standard on the topic."
--Library Journal, Starred Review
"World War II at Sea is an effective, well-written account of the war above, on, and below the oceans that draws on both classic and very recent writing to synthesize a single narrative of the entire conflict--no small feat. Even experienced readers will find valuable insights about participants, such as Finland and Italy, that are generally neglected. For anyone seeking a one-stop-shop, up-to-date naval history of the period, World War II at Sea is the book to read."--America in WWII
"World War II at Sea is as broad and deep as the far-flung waters that serve as its contextual backdrop. It's a worthy addition to any maritime history buff's book locker."
--Military History magazine
"Symonds' account is refreshingly free of the finger-pointing and controversies that plague many postwar memoir-based histories. Seven decades down the road he can, and does, cherry-pick the best research."--San Antonio Express News
"Symonds's book is large. It is also a large achievement. It belongs on the bookshelves not only of every World War II buff but also of anyone who wants to think seriously about how we deal with a rising maritime competitor like China--and the geopolitical reality that, as the saying goes, whoever rules the waves rules the world."--Weekly Standard
"This book is engaging and accessible ... even to landlubbers."--Providence Journal
"Symonds deftly shifts from the 30,000-foot view of the war down to the 20-foot view, placing readers front and center to the war's action. A gifted writer, he make such action come alive. It's been more than a half-century since Samuel Eliot Morison first published The Two-Ocean War, which in the publishing business means we are long overdue for a fresh perspective and take on the topic. Symonds delivers just that, producing a book that doubles as both an entertaining crash course for the historically uninitiated as well as a riveting revisit of the war's major stories for those with a deeper understanding. Either way, it is a great read."--James M. Scott, author of Target Tokyo and Rampage, from a review in the Charleston Post and Courier
"Until now, no single volume covered the entire war at sea, in all theaters, with a focus on every major navy. That's just what Symonds provides, with riveting chapters on German U-boats and pocket battleships, Italian and British duels in the Mediterranean Sea, Japanese dreams of imperial grandeur, and, of course, the relentless U.S. naval counteroffensive across the globe. While plenty of readers will be familiar with parts of the tale, from the stunning reversal in Japan's fortunes at the Battle of Midway to the endless Allied struggle to find enough shipping to carry on a three-front war, Symonds succeeds at weaving each part into a coherent whole."--Foreign Policy
"Symonds provides an engaging text that furnishes comprehensive and authoritative coverage of operational events, profiles leading personalities while quoting from numerous engaged individuals, and reviews the strategic and economic decisions of the various Axis and Allied nations... Essential."--CHOICE Reviews
"This outstanding naval history of World War II will likely become the definitive introductory textbook for studying the naval aspects of the war. Craig L. Symonds, probably the foremost naval historian in the United States, is uniquely qualified to integrate all of the disparate naval actions in World War II around the world seamlessly into one volume... World War II at Sea is an outstanding addition and further proof of his absolute mastery of the craft of writing naval history."--Bill Cox, H-War
"Symonds writes with a fluency and dramatic verve that will keep readers turning pagesEL [He] tells a big story and tells it well, highlighting the global character of the conflict at sea that helped shaped the outcome of the Second World War."
--Michigan War Studies Review
About the Author
Craig L. Symonds is Ernest J. King Distinguished Professor of Maritime History at the U.S. Naval War College and also Professor Emeritus at the U.S. Naval Academy where he taught for thirty years and served as Department Chair.
- Publisher : Oxford University Press; Illustrated edition (May 2, 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 792 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0190243678
- ISBN-13 : 978-0190243678
- Item Weight : 2.83 pounds
- Dimensions : 9.3 x 2.1 x 4.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #84,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Professor Symonds organizes the narrative chronologically, dovetailing the events that took place at the same time but separated by great distances. Most authors cover the war geographically, telling the story of war in the Atlantic separately from the war in the Pacific. That is done for organizational convenience and because most authors focus on the United States. Craig Symonds covers all the navies of the major belligerents with a descriptive command that clearly illustrates the historical flow to the reader. Several episodes of the war not usually covered appear here. The Norwegian Campaign and the naval confrontations in the Mediterranean are typically not well covered but the author corrects that in this book. I found the story of the attempts to relieve the garrison on Malta gripping; I had never heard of Operation Pedestal before. Another important event covered by the author that is usually missed by others: the monumental importance of Congressman Carl Vinson and the Two Ocean Navy Act he pushed through the House.
The author not only emphasizes the importance of merchant shipping to the war effort but focuses the reader on the significance of the amphibious ships and craft necessary to deliver the Allies to the beaches. In this discussion Symonds gets a chance to examine the competition for resources that resulted from attempting to quickly build not only the huge numbers of so many different types of vessels but also build airplanes, tanks, jeeps, trucks and artillery as well. This competition meant that one type of ship, the Landing Ship Tank, would be the limiting factor. The LST could not be replaced by any other vessel and Eisenhower very nearly did not have enough for the invasion of Northern Europe. The Allies had planned an invasion of Southern France, Operation Anvil, to be simultaneously launched with Overlord. The LST requirements for Anvil would limit the sealift for Overlord. Professor Symonds explains Eisenhower’s dilemma, “…while there would be enough LSTs for the first three tides, after that ‘we will have no repeat no LSTs reaching the beaches after the morning of D plus 1 until the morning of D plus 4.” (p 508) That is a long time to go without reinforcement or resupply. That is how critical the LST was. It did not help matters that the invasion of Saipan in the Pacific was planned to take place at nearly the same time as Overlord. The war in the Pacific accounted for the dearth of LSTs in Europe and the Mediterranean. The US did produce an overwhelming amount of war material. With plentiful natural resources, massive industrial and agricultural capacity the US still did experience critical shortages at critical times in the war. Anvil was postponed until August of 1944 and renamed Dragoon. The war in the Pacific continued unabated.
Craig L Symonds is an outstanding author. He can translate the history of a single battle or a grand sweeping survey of a six year global war into gripping and enthralling literature. Professor Symonds currently is the Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History at the US Naval War College after a long distinguished career as a professor of naval history at the US Naval Academy. He has won many awards to include the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature for his book Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings. So, besides being a gifted author Professor Symonds is also a highly respected naval historian. I first discovered him through his book on the Battle of Midway and when Neptune came out I had to get it. Both are just fabulous examples of how to tell an engaging story, explain technological details while maintaining the reader’s interest and pass on the history of that time and place, and of the people involved, in a way that flows like a novel. Since Neptune was published I have been keeping an eye out for his next work. When I saw the topic of his new effort I was stunned. Yes, that is what I want. I want a single volume history of World War II at sea and I want it written by Craig Symonds! I am completely satisfied with the result.
Beginning with the daring attack on Scapa Flow by a German U-Boat and concluding with the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay, this fine book covers every major naval encounter of the war. Included are the battles of the river Plate, the U-Boat menace in the Atlantic, Pearl Harbor, Midway, North Africa, Guadalcanal, the battles in the Mediterranean, the sinking of the Bismarck, the campaigns in the central Pacific, and Okinawa, among others. The book also contains dozens of photographs and maps.
The personalities of the war at sea are also covered. Such leaders as Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance, King, Yamamoto, Nagumo, Raeder, and Donitz and the tactics they used are brought to life. Not to be forgotten are the brave men who manned the ships and fought so hard. These men risked their lives in battle so that themselves and their comrades might be able to go home again.
Very seldom does a single volume do such an accurate job of describing the war at sea. Symond's book does just that. Each major battle is discussed, and he does a fine job of including all of the action that took place as well. I highly recommend this fine book. It is a good read for the naval expert or the casual reader.
Top reviews from other countries
I don't know enough about the war against Germany to be able to make any observations, but when it comes to the war against the Japanese I have the following points that might be of interest: (i) Craig Symonds lays the blame for the sending of the two capital ships to Singapore at the feet of Winston Churchill, and the lack of an aircraft carrier in Singapore in 1941 at the feet of Lady Luck, or rather her absence, (the carrier ran aground in the West Indies). Andrew Boyd, on the other hand, in his very good book The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters: Linchpin of Victory 1935-1942 argues very persuasively that the fault for the Prince of Wales and the Repulse being at Singapore and not, for example, based in Ceylon, is down to a decision by Sir Dudley Pound, and not Churchill, and that no aircraft carrier was ever meant to go to Singapore in 1941.
(ii) Although it is possible that Admiral Helfrich was in Surabaya as stated by Craig Symonds, it is more likely, I think, that he was in Bandung as stated by Jeffrey Cox in his very good book Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II. Yes, Surabaya is the location of the main Dutch Naval Base in the Far East at the time, but Bandung is where the Ministry of Defence was situated, which points to another issue.
(iii) Was Craig Symonds hampered by a lack of knowledge of Dutch? Admiral Helfrich is given a far too easy a ride, I think, by Craig Symonds, and for people with the requisite Dutch language skills I can strongly recommend the five books by Dr Lou de Jong on what happened with the Dutch East Indies during World War II.
Craig L Symonds clearly explains how important naval gunfire support was to troops heading towards and on a hostile shore both in the European theatre of operations and in the Pacific. In fact, so important that a subsequent edition of the book might usefully include a page or two of explanation by present-day admirals and warship builders why it seeems that pretty well all the gun turrets have disappeared from modern destroyers / surface vessels.