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Achille Lauro
Arne Zuidhoek
Amsterdam University Press

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Admiral Bill Halsey
A Naval Life
Thomas Alexander Hughes
Harvard University Press, 2016

William Halsey was the most famous naval officer of World War II. His fearlessness in carrier raids against Japan, his steely resolve at Guadalcanal, and his impulsive blunder at the Battle of Leyte Gulf made him the “Patton of the Pacific” and solidified his reputation as a decisive, aggressive fighter prone to impetuous errors of judgment in the heat of battle. In this definitive biography, Thomas Hughes punctures the popular caricature of the “fighting admiral” to reveal the truth of Halsey’s personal and professional life as it was lived in times of war and peace.

Halsey, the son of a Navy officer whose alcoholism scuttled a promising career, committed himself wholeheartedly to naval life at an early age. An audacious and inspiring commander to his men, he met the operational challenges of the battle at sea against Japan with dramatically effective carrier strikes early in the war. Yet his greatest contribution to the Allied victory was as commander of the combined sea, air, and land forces in the South Pacific during the long slog up the Solomon Islands chain, one of the war’s most daunting battlegrounds. Halsey turned a bruising slugfest with the Japanese navy into a rout. Skillfully mediating the constant strategy disputes between the Army and the Navy—as well as the clashes of ego between General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz—Halsey was the linchpin of America’s Pacific war effort when its outcome was far from certain.

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Admiral Togo
Nelson of the East
Jonathan Clements
Haus Publishing, 2010
Togo Heihachiro (1848-1934) was born into a feudal society that had lived in seclusion for 250 years. As a teenage samurai, he witnessed the destruction wrought upon his native land by British warships. As the legendary "Silent Admiral", he was at the forefront of innovations in warfare, pioneering the Japanese use of modern gunnery and wireless communication. He is best known as "the Nelson of the East" for his resounding victory over the Tsar's navy in the Russo-Japanese War, but he also lived a remarkable life: studying at a British maritime college, witnessing the Sino-French War, the Hawaiian Revolution, and the Boxer Uprising. After his retirement, he was appointed to oversee the education of the Emperor, Hirohito. This new biography spans Japan's sudden, violent leap out of its self-imposed isolation and into the 20th century. Delving beyond Togo's finest hour at the Battle of Tsushima, it portrays the life of a diffident Japanese sailor in Victorian Britain, his reluctant celebrity in America (where he was laid low by Boston cooking and welcomed by his biggest fan, Theodore Roosevelt), forgotten wars over the short-lived Republics of Ezo and Formosa, and the accumulation of peacetime experience that forged a wartime hero.
[more]

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America
Bert Lamers
Amsterdam University Press

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America's Sailors in the Great War
Seas, Skies, and Submarines
Lisle A. Rose
University of Missouri Press, 2017

Honorable Mention, 2016 Lyman Awards, presented by the North American Society for Oceanic History

This book is a thrillingly-written story of naval planes, boats, and submarines during World War I.

When the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, America’s sailors were immediately forced to engage in the utterly new realm of anti-submarine warfare waged on, below and above the seas by a variety of small ships and the new technology of airpower. The U.S. Navy substantially contributed to the safe trans-Atlantic passage of a two million man Army that decisively turned the tide of battle on the Western Front even as its battleship division helped the Royal Navy dominate the North Sea. Thoroughly professionalized, the Navy of 1917–18 laid the foundations for victory at sea twenty-five years later.

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Amphibious Campaign For West Florida and Louisiana
Wilburt S. Brown
University of Alabama Press, 1969

“A retired major general of the Marine Corps offers here an interpretive history of the campaign culminating in the battle of New Orleans, based on a meticulous review of the sources and employing the perceptive of modern military doctrine.  Written with a military regard for precision . . . [the book] nevertheless gathers force and even suspense though its emphasis on the importance f the events at hand . . [T]his is now probably the best book on the topic.”—Choice

[more]

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Analog Superpowers
How Twentieth-Century Technology Theft Built the National Security State
Katherine C. Epstein
University of Chicago Press, 2024
A gripping history that spans law, international affairs, and top-secret technology to unmask the tension between intellectual property rights and national security.
 
At the beginning of the twentieth century, two British inventors, Arthur Pollen and Harold Isherwood, became fascinated by a major military question: how to aim the big guns of battleships. These warships—of enormous geopolitical import before the advent of intercontinental missiles or drones—had to shoot in poor light and choppy seas at distant moving targets, conditions that impeded accurate gunfire. Seeing the need to account for a plethora of variables, Pollen and Isherwood built an integrated system for gathering data, calculating predictions, and transmitting the results to the gunners. At the heart of their invention was the most advanced analog computer of the day, a technological breakthrough that anticipated the famous Norden bombsight of World War II, the inertial guidance systems of nuclear missiles, and the networked “smart” systems that dominate combat today. Recognizing the value of Pollen and Isherwood’s invention, the British Royal Navy and the United States Navy pirated it, one after the other. When the inventors sued, both the British and US governments invoked secrecy, citing national security concerns.
 
Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence, Analog Superpowers analyzes these and related legal battles over naval technology, exploring how national defense tested the two countries’ commitment to individual rights and the free market. Katherine C. Epstein deftly sets out Pollen’s and Isherwood’s pioneering achievements, the patent questions raised, the geopolitical rivalry between Britain and the United States, and the legal precedents each country developed to control military tools built by private contractors.
 
Epstein’s account reveals that long before the US national security state sought to restrict information about atomic energy, it was already embroiled in another contest between innovation and secrecy. The America portrayed in this sweeping and accessible history isn’t yet a global hegemon but a rising superpower ready to acquire foreign technology by fair means or foul—much as it accuses China of doing today.
[more]

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Arky
The Saga of the USS Arkansas
Ray Hanley
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, 2015
While little has been written about the USS Arkansas, this battleship carried the state’s name through two world wars, a Mexican invasion, and into the atomic age. The USS Arkansas, measuring almost the length of two football fields, went to sea in 1911 and sailed the world until 1946 when it served as a target for the atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific. In between, the ship participated in the invasion of Vera Cruz, Mexico; served in World War I; helped Arkansas get an official flag; and assisted in the World War II battles at Normandy, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Highlighting the narrative with previously unpublished photos, the authors tell the facinating story of the ship and its men by referencing handwritten journals penciled in the midst of service and combat.
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Blockade Runners of the Confederacy
Hamilton Cochran
University of Alabama Press, 2004

A readable, exciting chronicle of the men and ships that ran federal naval blockades during the Civil War

Within four weeks of the fall of Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln had declared a blockade of over four thousand miles of Confederate coastline, from Cape Henry in Virginia to the Mexican border. In response, professional runners, lured by both profits and patriotism, built faster, sleeker, low-profile ships and piloted them through the ever-thickening Northern cordon. The tonnage they imported, including items ranging from straight pins to marine engines, sustained the South throughout the conflict. This exciting chronicle of the men and ships that ran federal naval blockades during the Civil War also provides an overall assessment of the blockades conception, effectiveness, and impact on the Southern populace.

[more]

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Blockaders, Refugees, and Contrabands
Civil War on Florida's Gulf Coast, 1861-1865
George E. Buker
University of Alabama Press, 2004
Chronicles the role of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron as an important Federal contingent in Florida
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Bluejackets in the Blubber Room
A Biography of the William Badger,1828-1865
Peter Kurtz
University of Alabama Press, 2013
Explores key events in US maritime history from the 1820s to the end of the Civil War through the biography of the sailing ship William Badger
 
Taking a biographical approach to his subject, Peter Kurtz describes three phases of the life of the William Badger, a sailing ship with a long and exemplary life on the sea: first as a merchant ship carrying raw materials and goods between New England, the US South, and Europe; second as a whaling ship; and finally as a supply ship providing coal and stores for the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron in Beaufort, North Carolina, during the Civil War.
 
Kurtz begins Bluejackets in the Blubber Room by exploring early American shipbuilding and shipbuilders in the Piscataqua region of Maine and New Hampshire and the kinds of raw materials harvested and used in making the wooden sailing ships of the time. After its construction, the Badger became part of the key economic trade between New England, the US South, and Europe. The ship carried raw materials such as timber from New England to New Orleans and subsequently cotton from New Orleans to Spain and Liverpool, England. Using ship logs, sailors’ accounts, and other primary sources, Kurtz delves into both the people and the economics of this critical “cotton triangle” trade.
 
Following service as a merchant ship, the Badger became a whaling ship, carrying its New England–based crew as far as the South Pacific. Kurtz presents a colorful story of life aboard a whaling ship and in the whaling towns ranging from Lynn, Massachusetts, to Cape Leeuwin, Australia. Finally, Kurtz describes the last phase of the Badger’s life as a key player as a supply ship in the Union Navy’s blockade effort. Although not the most dramatic duty a sailor could have, blockade supply nevertheless was critical to the United States’ prosecution of the Civil War and eventual victory. Kurtz examines the decision-making involved in procuring such ships and their crew, notably “refugees” and escaped slaves known as “contrabands.”
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By Wind and Iron
Naval Campaigns in the Champlain Valley, 1665–1815
Michael Laramie
Westholme Publishing, 2015
Contested for More than a Century, a Natural Invasion Route into the Heart of North America
For more than 150 years, the natural invasion route along the waterways of the Champlain and Richelieu valleys into northeastern North America was among the most fiercely contested in the history of the continent. Whether the French and their Indian allies attacking British forts and settlements during the Seven Years’ War, the American Continentals striking north into Canada during the American Revolution, or the British battling French and later American forces in these wars and the War of 1812, it was clear to policy makers in Quebec, London, Paris, Philadelphia, and Washington that whoever controlled this corridor and its lakes and rivers, controlled the heart of the continent. In By Wind and Iron: Naval Campaigns in the Champlain Valley, 1665–1815, Michael G. Laramie details the maritime history of this region from the first French fortifications along the Richelieu River in the late seventeenth century through the tremendous American victory over the British at the Battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain in 1814. Using period letters, journals, and other primary source materials, the author examines the northeastern waterways and their tributaries within the framework of the soldiers and sailors who faced the perils of the campaigns, while at the same time clarifying the key role played by this region in the greater struggle for North America and American independence.
            In support of the narrative, the book also contains appendices that include after action reports from various fleet commanders, tables of fleet strengths, additional battle maps, a glossary, and a dictionary of lake warships with notes on vessel types, typical armament, construction, deployment, and fates.
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Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates
Robert Ritchie
Harvard University Press, 1989

The legends that die hardest are those of the romantic outlaw, and those of swashbuckling pirates are surely among the most durable. Swift ships, snug inns, treasures buried by torchlight, palm-fringed beaches, fabulous riches, and, most of all, freedom from the mean life of the laboring man are the stuff of this tradition reinforced by many a novel and film.

It is disconcerting to think of such dashing scoundrels as slaves to economic forces, but so they were—as Robert Ritchie demonstrates in this lively history of piracy. He focuses on the shadowy figure of William Kidd, whose career in the late seventeenth century swept him from the Caribbean to New York, to London, to the Indian Ocean before he ended in Newgate prison and on the gallows. Piracy in those days was encouraged by governments that could not afford to maintain a navy in peacetime. Kidd’s most famous voyage was sponsored by some of the most powerful men in England, and even though such patronage granted him extraordinary privileges, it tied him to the political fortunes of the mighty Whig leaders. When their influence waned, the opposition seized upon Kidd as a weapon. Previously sympathetic merchants and shipowners did an about-face too and joined the navy in hunting down Kidd and other pirates.

By the early eighteenth century, pirates were on their way to becoming anachronisms. Ritchie’s wide-ranging research has probed this shift in the context of actual voyages, sea fights, and adventures ashore. What sort of men became pirates in the first place, and why did they choose such an occupation? What was life like aboard a pirate ship? How many pirates actually became wealthy? How were they governed? What large forces really caused their downfall?

As the saga of the buccaneers unfolds, we see the impact of early modern life: social changes and Anglo-American politics, the English judicial system, colonial empires, rising capitalism, and the maturing bureaucratic state are all interwoven in the story. Best of all, Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates is an epic of adventure on the high seas and a tale of back-room politics on land that captures the mind and the imagination.

[more]

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Cayman's 1794 Wreck of the Ten Sail
Peace, War, and Peril in the Caribbean
Margaret E. Leshikar-Denton
University of Alabama Press, 2020
The greatest shipwreck disaster in the history of the Cayman Islands
 
The story has been passed through generations for more than two centuries. Details vary depending on who is doing the telling, but all refer to this momentous maritime event as the Wreck of the Ten Sail. Sometimes misunderstood as the loss of a single ship, it was in fact the wreck of ten vessels at once, comprising one of the most dramatic maritime disasters in all of Caribbean naval history. Surviving historical documents and the remains of the wrecked ships in the sea confirm that the narrative is more than folklore. It is a legend based on a historical event in which HMS Convert, formerly L’Inconstante, a recent prize from the French, and 9 of her 58-ship merchant convoy sailing from Jamaica to Britain, wrecked on the jagged eastern reefs of Grand Cayman in 1794.
 
The incident has historical significance far beyond the boundaries of the Cayman Islands. It is tied to British and French history during the French Revolution, when these and other European nations were competing for military and commercial dominance around the globe. The Wreck of the Ten Sail attests to the worldwide distribution of European war and trade at the close of the eighteenth century.
 
In Cayman’s 1794 Wreck of the Ten Sail: Peace, War, and Peril in the Caribbean, Margaret E. Leshikar-Denton focuses on the ships, the people, and the wreck itself to define their place in Caymanian, Caribbean, and European history. This well-researched volume weaves together rich oral folklore accounts, invaluable supporting documents found in archives in the United Kingdom, Jamaica, and France, and tangible evidence of the disaster from archaeological sites on the reefs of the East End.
 
[more]

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The Civil War Diary of Gideon Welles, Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy
The Original Manuscript Edition
Gideon Welles, Edited by William E. Gienapp and Erica L. Gienapp; Foreword by James M. McPherson
University of Illinois Press, 2014
Gideon Welles’s 1861 appointment as secretary of the navy placed him at the hub of Union planning for the Civil War and in the midst of the powerful personalities vying for influence in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. Although Welles initially knew little of naval matters, he rebuilt a service depleted by Confederate defections, planned actions that gave the Union badly needed victories in the war’s early days, and oversaw a blockade that weakened the South’s economy.

Perhaps the hardest-working member of the cabinet, Welles still found time to keep a detailed diary that has become one of the key documents for understanding the inner workings of the Lincoln administration. In this new edition, William E. and Erica L. Gienapp have restored Welles’s original observations, gleaned from the manuscript diaries at the Library of Congress and freed from his many later revisions, so that the reader can experience what he wrote in the moment. With his vitriolic pen, Welles captures the bitter disputes over strategy and war aims, lacerates colleagues from Secretary of State William H. Seward to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, and condemns the actions of the self-serving southern elite he sees as responsible for the war. He just as easily waxes eloquent about the Navy's wartime achievements, extols the virtues of Lincoln, and drops in a tidbit of Washington gossip.

Carefully edited and extensively annotated, this edition contains a wealth of supplementary material. The appendixes include short biographies of the members of Lincoln’s cabinet, the retrospective Welles wrote after leaving office covering the period missing from the diary proper, and important letters regarding naval matters and international law.

[more]

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Command at Sea
Naval Command and Control since the Sixteenth Century
Michael A. Palmer
Harvard University Press, 2007

Commanders at sea struggle not only with the unpredictability of natural elements, but also with a shroud of uncertainty often referred to as the "fog of war." Over the centuries most admirals yielded to the natural temptation to find in new technologies a means to assert centralized control over their forces. But other commanders have recognized the fog for what it is: a constant level of uncertainty resistant to mere technological solution.

In this grand history of naval warfare, Michael Palmer observes five centuries of dramatic encounters under sail and steam. From reliance on signal flags in the seventeenth century to satellite communications in the twenty-first, admirals looked to the next advance in technology as the one that would allow them to control their forces. But while abilities to communicate improved, Palmer shows how other technologies simultaneously shrank admirals' windows of decision. The result was simple, if not obvious: naval commanders have never had sufficient means or time to direct subordinates in battle.

Successful commanders as distant as Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) and Arleigh Burke (1901-1996) accepted this reality. They sought solutions to the dilemmas of command in the personal indoctrination of subordinates through discussion, comradeship, and displays of trust and confidence. Such leaders created a commonality of vision and fostered a high degree of individual initiative. Their decentralized approach to command resulted in a resiliency that so often provided the key to success in battle.

Palmer's exciting and enlightening history reveals the myriad efforts of naval commanders to navigate the fog of war.

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Confederate Navy Chief
Stephen R. Mallory
Joseph T. Durkin
University of Alabama Press, 2005

The book tells of Stephen R. Mallory's support of naval inventions, strategy, and ideas. It also sheds light on the the successes and failures of Jefferson Davis. Durkin gives a well-balanced biography of Mallory and his life in the Confederate navy.

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Cruiser HNLMS Tromp
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press

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Dark Voyage
An American Privateer's War on Britain's African Slave Trade
Christian M. McBurney
Westholme Publishing, 2022
At the start of the American War of Independence, Great Britain dominated overseas commerce and was the leading slave-trading nation in the world. In 1776, American privateers—privately owned ships granted commissions by the Continental Congress to attack and disrupt enemy trade—began to prey on British merchantmen.  Some privateers captured British slave ships with African captives on board just before they arrived at their Caribbean Island destinations.
            One privateer was given an extraordinary task: to sail across the Atlantic to attack British slave trading posts and ships on the coast of West Africa. Based on a little-known contemporary primary source, The Journal of the Good Ship Marlborough, the story of this remarkable voyage is told here for the first time and will have a major impact on our understanding of the Atlantic slave trade and the American Revolution. The voyage of the Marlborough was the brainchild of John Brown, a prominent Rhode Island merchant—and an investor in two slave trading voyages himself. The motivation was not altruistic. The officers and crew of the Marlborough wanted to advance the cause of independence from Britain through harming Britain’s economy, but they also desired to enrich themselves by selling the plunder they captured—including enslaved Africans.
            The work of the Marlborough and other American privateers was so disruptive that it led to an unintended consequence: virtually halting the British slave trade. British slave merchants, alarmed at losing money from their ships being captured, invested in many fewer slave voyages.  As a result tens of thousands of Africans were not forced onto slave ships, transported to the New World, and consigned to a lifetime of slavery or an early death.
            In Dark Voyage: An American Privateer’s War on Britain’s African Slave Trade, veteran researcher and writer Christian McBurney recreates the harrowing voyage of the Marlborough, while placing it in the context of Atlantic World slavery. In Africa, Marlborough’s officers come across an array of African and European slave traders willing to assist them in attacking the British. This book is also the first study to detail the many captures American privateers made of British slave ships during the Revolutionary War.
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Destroyer HMCS Haida
Rindert van Zinderen-Bakker
Amsterdam University Press

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Destroyer HNLMS Kortenaer
Rindert van Zinderen-Bakker
Amsterdam University Press, 2019
HNLMS Kortenaer was torpedoed by the Japanese cruiser Haguro in the Battle of the Java Sea on February 27, 1942. An eyewitness recorded that ‘Kortenaer, about 700 yards bearing 80° relative, was struck on the starboard quarter by a torpedo, blew up, turned over, and sank at once leaving only a jackknifed bow and stern a few feet above the surface.’
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Disciplining the Empire
Politics, Governance, and the Rise of the British Navy
Sarah Kinkel
Harvard University Press, 2018

“Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves,” goes the popular lyric. The fact that the British built the world’s greatest empire on the basis of sea power has led many to assume that the Royal Navy’s place in British life was unchallenged. Yet, as Sarah Kinkel shows, the Navy was the subject of bitter political debate. The rise of British naval power was neither inevitable nor unquestioned: it was the outcome of fierce battles over the shape of Britain’s empire and the bonds of political authority.

Disciplining the Empire explains why the Navy became divisive within Anglo-imperial society even though it was also successful in war. The eighteenth century witnessed the global expansion of British imperial rule, the emergence of new forms of political radicalism, and the fracturing of the British Atlantic in a civil war. The Navy was at the center of these developments. Advocates of a more strictly governed, centralized empire deliberately reshaped the Navy into a disciplined and hierarchical force which they hoped would win battles but also help control imperial populations. When these newly professionalized sea officers were sent to the front lines of trade policing in North America during the 1760s, opponents saw it as an extension of executive power and military authority over civilians—and thus proof of constitutional corruption at home.

The Navy was one among many battlefields where eighteenth-century British subjects struggled to reconcile their debates over liberty and anarchy, and determine whether the empire would be ruled from Parliament down or the people up.

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Don't Give Up the Ship!
Myths of the War of 1812
Donald R. Hickey
University of Illinois Press, 2006

No longer willing to accept naval blockades, the impressment of American seamen, and seizures of American ships and cargos, the United States declared war on Great Britain. The aim was to frighten Britain into concessions and, if that failed, to bring the war to a swift conclusion with a quick strike at Canada. But the British refused to cave in to American demands, the Canadian campaign ended in disaster, and the U.S. government had to flee Washington, D.C., when it was invaded and burned by a British army.

By all objective measures, the War of 1812 was a debacle for the young republic, and yet it was celebrated as a great military triumph. The American people believed they had won the war and expelled the invader. Oliver H. Perry became a military hero, Francis Scott Key composed what became the national anthem and commenced a national reverence for the flag, and the U.S.S. Constitution, "Old Ironsides," became a symbol of American invincibility. Every aspect of the war, from its causes to its conclusion, was refashioned to heighten the successes, obscure the mistakes, and blur embarrassing distinctions, long before there were mass media or public relations officers in the Pentagon.

In this entertaining and meticulously researched book by America's leading authority on the War of 1812, Donald R. Hickey dispels the many misconcep-tions that distort our view of America's second war with Great Britain. Embracing military, naval, political, economic, and diplomatic analyses, Hickey looks carefully at how the war was fought between 1812 and 1815, and how it was remembered thereafter. Was the original declaration of war a bluff? What were the real roles of Canadian traitor Joseph Willcocks, Mohawk leader John Norton, pirate Jean Laffite, and American naval hero Lucy Baker? Who killed the Shawnee chief Tecumseh and who shot the British general Isaac Brock? Who actually won the war, and what is its lasting legacy? Hickey peels away fantasies and embellishments to explore why cer-tain myths gained currency and how they contributed to the way that the United States and Canada view themselves and each other.

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Emergency Deep
Cold War Missions of a Submarine Commander
Alfred Scott McLaren
University of Alabama Press, 2021
Conveys in dramatic detail the high-risk, covert operations of a nuclear attack submarine during the zenith of the Cold War

Captain Alfred Scott McLaren served as commander of the USS Queenfish (SSN 651) from September 1969 to May 1973, the very height of the Cold War. As commander, McLaren led at least six major clandestine operations, including the first-ever exploration of the entire Siberian Continental Shelf: a perilous voyage detailed in his previous book Unknown Waters.

Emergency Deep: Cold War Missions of a Submarine Commander conveys the entire spectrum of Captain McLaren’s experiences commanding the USS Queenfish, mainly in the waters of the Russian Far East and also off Vietnam. McLaren offers a riveting and deeply human story that illuminates the intensity and pressures of commanding a nuclear attack submarine in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

Relying on his own notes and records, as well as discussions with former officers and shipmates, McLaren focuses on operational matters both great and small. He recounts his unique perspectives on attack-submarine tactics and exploratory techniques in high-risk or uncharted areas, matters of leadership and team-building and the morale of his crews, and the innumerable and often unforeseen ways his philosophy of command played out on a day-to-day basis, with consequences that ran the gamut from the mundane to the dire and life-threatening.

Readers are also treated to significant new information and insight on submarine strategy, maneuvers, and culture. Such details illuminate and bring to life, with both great humor and gravitas, the intensity and pressures on those engaged in covert missions on nuclear attack submarines.
 
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Emperor of the Seas
How Khubilai Khan Made China the First Naval Superpower
Jack Weatherford
Harvard University Press

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Engines of Rebellion
Confederate Ironclads and Steam Engineering in the American Civil War
Saxon T. Bisbee
University of Alabama Press, 2018
A challenge to the prevailing idea that Confederate ironclads were inherently defective
 
The development of steam propulsion machinery in warships during the nineteenth century, in conjunction with iron armor and shell guns, resulted in a technological revolution in the world’s navies. Warships utilizing all of these technologies were built in France and Great Britain in the 1850s, but it was during the American Civil War that large numbers of ironclads powered solely by steam proved themselves to be quite capable warships.  
 
Historians have given little attention to the engineering of Confederate ironclads, although the Confederacy was often quite creative in building and obtaining marine power plants. Engines of Rebellion: Confederate Ironclads and Steam Engineering in the American Civil War focuses exclusively on ships with American built machinery, offering a detailed look at marine steam-engineering practices in both northern and southern industry prior to and during the Civil War.
 
Beginning with a contextual naval history of the Civil War, the creation of the ironclad program, and the advent of various technologies, Saxon T. Bisbee analyzes the armored warships built by the Confederate States of America that represented a style adapted to scarce industrial resources and facilities. This unique historical and archaeological investigation consolidates and expands on the scattered existing information about Confederate ironclad steam engines, boilers, and propulsion systems.
 
Through analysis of steam machinery development during the Civil War, Bisbee assesses steam plants of twenty-seven ironclads by source, type, and performance, among other factors. The wartime role of each vessel is discussed, as well as the stories of the people and establishments that contributed to its completion and operation. Rare engineering diagrams never before published or gathered in one place are included here as a complement to the text.
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Fast Combat Support Ship HNLMS Zuiderkruis
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2016
HNLMS Zuiderkruis (1975-2012) was the second Fast Combat Support Ship of the Royal Netherlands Navy. It was primarily intended for Replenishment At Sea, fueling task groups and NATO units. As a modern design Zuiderkruis enabled a “one stop replenishment” and also carried AVCAT, fresh water and spare parts. A helicopter deck facilitated vertical replenishment.
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Frigate HMS Leander
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2012
HMS Leander was completed in 1963 as the first ship of the Leander Class Improved Type 12 General Purpose Frigates. In 1974, she joined the 3rd Frigate Squadron, which included other Leander-class frigates. The design was the most successful Western frigate of its time and led to several new international designs.
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Frigate HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerck
Rindert van Zinderen-Bakker
Amsterdam University Press

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Frigate USS Clark
Rindert van Zinderen-Bakker
Amsterdam University Press

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Frigate USS Clark
Rindert van Zinderen-Bakker
Amsterdam University Press

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From Cape Charles to Cape Fear
The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War
Robert M. Browning Jr.
University of Alabama Press, 2003

Examines naval logistics, tactics, and strategy employed by the Union blockade off the Atlantic coast of the Confederacy.

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From Torpedoes to Aviation
Washington Irving Chambers & Technological Innovation in the New Navy 1876 to 1913
Stephen K. Stein
University of Alabama Press, 2007

The central figure in the modernization of the U.S. Navy.

The career of Washington Irving Chambers spans a formative period in the development of the United States Navy: He entered the Naval Academy in the doldrum years of obsolete, often rotting ships, and left after he had helped like-minded officers convince Congress and the public of the need to adopt a new naval strategy built around a fleet of technologically advanced battleships. He also laid the groundwork for naval aviation and the important role it would play in the modern navy.

This work covers Chambers’s early naval career, his work at the new Office of Naval Intelligence, his participation in the Greeley Relief Expedition, and a survey for the projected isthmian canal through Nicaragua, before becoming the key advocate for naval modernization. As such, Chambers worked as a pioneering torpedo designer, supervised construction of the Maine, modernized the New York Navy Yard, and became a member of the first permanent faculty at the Naval War College.

During his long career, Chambers not only designed torpedoes, but also several warships, including a prototype Dreadnought-style battleship and a host of small devices that ranged from torpedo guidance systems to the first catapult for launching airplanes from ships. At the close of his career, Chambers purchased the navy’s first aircraft and founded its air arm. Working with Glenn Curtiss, Chambers guided a coalition of aviation enthusiasts and pioneers who popularized naval aviation and demonstrated its capabilities. Chambers arranged the first take-off and landing of an airplane from a ship and other demonstrations of naval aviation. Combined with his tireless advocacy for modernization, these contributions secured a place in naval and aviation history for the innovator.

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A Great and Rising Nation
Naval Exploration and Global Empire in the Early US Republic
Michael A. Verney
University of Chicago Press, 2022
A Great and Rising Nation illuminates the unexplored early decades of the United States’ imperialist naval aspirations.

Conventional wisdom holds that, until the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States was a feeble player on the world stage, with an international presence rooted in commerce rather than military might. Michael A. Verney’s A Great and Rising Nation flips this notion on its head, arguing that early US naval expeditions, often characterized as merely scientific, were in fact deeply imperialist. Circling the globe from the Mediterranean to South America and the Arctic, these voyages reflected the diverse imperial aspirations of the new republic, including commercial dominance in the Pacific World, religious empire in the Holy Land, proslavery expansion in South America, and diplomatic prestige in Europe. As Verney makes clear, the United States had global imperial aspirations far earlier than is commonly thought.
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A Great and Rising Nation
Naval Exploration and Global Empire in the Early US Republic
Michael A. Verney
University of Chicago Press, 2022
This is an auto-narrated audiobook version of this book.

A Great and Rising Nation illuminates the unexplored early decades of the United States’ imperialist naval aspirations.


Conventional wisdom holds that, until the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States was a feeble player on the world stage, with an international presence rooted in commerce rather than military might. Michael A. Verney’s A Great and Rising Nation flips this notion on its head, arguing that early US naval expeditions, often characterized as merely scientific, were in fact deeply imperialist. Circling the globe from the Mediterranean to South America and the Arctic, these voyages reflected the diverse imperial aspirations of the new republic, including commercial dominance in the Pacific World, religious empire in the Holy Land, proslavery expansion in South America, and diplomatic prestige in Europe. As Verney makes clear, the United States had global imperial aspirations far earlier than is commonly thought.
[more]

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Guided Missile Frigate Tromp
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2021
Both Tromp-class frigates entered service in 1975/-76. Their primary task was area air defense. They acted as flagships for the COMNLTG (Commander Netherlands Task Group). Their large radome (which housed a 3D radar antenna) is why the ships had the nickname ‘Kojak’, after the bald-headed actor in the famous crime tv-series.
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Gunboats, Muskets, and Torpedoes
Coastal North Carolina, 1861–1865
Michael G. Laramie
Westholme Publishing, 2020
The Clash of Arms and Technology for a Critical Region that Lasted the Entire American Civil War
From the first shots at Cape Hatteras in the summer of 1861 to the fall of Fort Fisher in early 1865, the contest for coastal North Carolina during the American Civil War was crucial to the Union victory. With a clear naval superiority over the South, the North conducted blockading and amphibious operations from Virginia to Texas, including the three-hundred-mile seacoast of North Carolina. With its Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds—fed by navigable rivers that reached deep into the interior—and major Confederate port of Wilmington, the Carolina coast was essential for the distribution of foreign goods and supplies to Confederate forces in Virginia and elsewhere. If the Union was able to capture Wilmington or advance on the interior waters, they would cripple the South’s war efforts. 
            In Gunboats, Muskets, and Torpedoes: Coastal North Carolina, 1861–1865, award-winning historian Michael G. Laramie chronicles both the battle over supplying the South by sea as well as the ways this region proved to be a fertile ground for the application of new technologies. With the advent of steam propulsion, the telegraph, rifled cannon, repeating firearms, ironclads, and naval mines, the methods and tactics of the old wooden walls soon fell to those of this first major conflict of the industrial age. Soldiers and sailors could fire farther and faster than ever before. With rail transportation available, marches were no longer weeks but days or even hours, allowing commanders to quickly shift men and materials to meet an oncoming threat or exploit an enemy weakness. Fortifications changed to meet the challenges imposed by improved artillery, while the telegraph stretched the battlefield even further. Yet for all the technological changes, many of which would be harbingers of greater conflicts to come, the real story of this strategic coast is found in the words and actions of the soldiers and sailors who vied for this region for nearly four years. It is here, where the choices made—whether good or bad, misinformed, or not made at all
—intersected with logistical hurdles, geography, valor, and fear to shape the conflict; a conflict thatwould ultimately set the postwar nation on track to becoming a modern naval power.
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Hard Aground
The Wreck of the USS Tennessee and the Rise of the US Navy
Andrew C. A. Jampoler
University of Alabama Press, 2023

Three intertwined stories that reveal the challenges faced by the US Navy in its evolution between the Civil War and the First World War

Hard Aground brings together three intertwined stories documenting the US Navy’s strategic and matériel evolution from the end of Civil War through the First World War. These incidents had lasting consequences for how the navy would modernize itself throughout the rest of the twentieth century.

The first story focuses on the reconstruction of the US Navy following the swift and near-total dismantling of the Union Navy infrastructure after the Civil War. This reconstruction began with barely enough time for the navy’s campaigns in the Spanish-American War, and for its role in the First World War. Jampoler argues that the federal government discovered that the fleet requested by the navy, and paid for by Congress, was the wrong fleet. Focus was on battleships and cruisers rather than destroyers and other small combat vessels needed to hunt submarines and serve as convoy escorts.

The second story relates the short, tragic life of the USS Tennessee (later renamed Memphis), one of the steel-hulled ships of the new Armored Cruiser Squadron that was a centerpiece of the navy’s modernization effort. The USS Tennessee was ordered on two unusual missions in the early months of the First World War, long before the United States formally entered the war. These little-known missions and the ship's shocking destruction in a storm surge in the Caribbean serve as the centerpiece of the story. Threaded through the narrative are biographical sketches of the principal players in the drama that unfolded following the ship’s demise, including two of Tennessee’s commanding officers: Vice Admiral Sims, who commanded the US Navy squadrons deployed to Europe in support of the Royal Navy; Rear Admiral William Caperton, who commanded the Caribbean squadron before the Memphis (formerly the Tennessee) was lost; Charles Pond, squadron commander during the wreck; and the American ambassador to the Ottoman court, President Wilson’s enthusiastic supporter, Henry Morgenthau.

Jampoler rounds out this fascinating account with the story of how the USS Tennessee’s destruction prompted fierce deliberations about the US Navy’s operations and chains of command for the remainder of the First World War and the high-level political wrangling inside the Department of the Navy immediately after the war, as civilian appointees and senior officers wrestled to reshape the department in their image.

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Hero of the Angry Sky
The World War I Diary and Letters of David S. Ingalls, America’s First Naval Ace
David S. Ingalls
Ohio University Press, 2012

Hero of the Angry Sky draws on the unpublished diaries, correspondence, informal memoir, and other personal documents of the U.S. Navy’s only flying “ace” of World War I to tell his unique story. David S. Ingalls was a prolific writer, and virtually all of his World War I aviation career is covered, from the teenager’s early, informal training in Palm Beach, Florida, to his exhilarating and terrifying missions over the Western Front. This edited collection of Ingalls’s writing details the career of the U.S. Navy’s most successful combat flyer from that conflict.

While Ingalls’s wartime experiences are compelling at a personal level, they also illuminate the larger, but still relatively unexplored, realm of early U.S. naval aviation. Ingalls’s engaging correspondence offers a rare personal view of the evolution of naval aviation during the war, both at home and abroad. There are no published biographies of navy combat flyers from this period, and just a handful of diaries and letters in print, the last appearing more than twenty years ago. Ingalls’s extensive letters and diaries add significantly to historians’ store of available material.

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A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks
Stewart Gordon
University Press of New England, 2017
Stories of disasters at sea, whether about Roman triremes, the treasure fleet of the Spanish Main, or great transatlantic ocean liners, fire the imagination as little else can. From the historical sinkings of the Titanic and the Lusitania to the recent capsizing of a Mediterranean cruise ship, the study of shipwrecks also makes for a new and very different understanding of world history. A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks explores the age-old, immensely hazardous, persistently romantic, and ongoing process of moving people and goods across the seven seas. In recounting the stories of ships and the people who made and sailed them, from the earliest craft plying the ancient Nile to the Exxon Valdez, Stewart Gordon argues that the gradual integration of mainly local and separate maritime domains into fewer, larger, and more interdependent regions offers a unique perspective on world history. Gordon draws a number of provocative conclusions from his study, among them that the European “Age of Exploration” as a singular event is simply a myth: over the millennia, many cultures, east and west, have explored far-flung maritime worlds, and technologies of shipbuilding and navigation have been among the main drivers of science and exploration throughout history. In a series of compelling narratives, A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks shows that the development of institutions and technologies that made the terrifying oceans familiar and turned unknown seas into well-traveled sea-lanes matters profoundly in our modern world.
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John Barry
An American Hero in the Age of Sail
Timothy McGrath
Westholme Publishing, 2010

The Life of the First Captain of the United States Navy

Finalist for the Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Excellence in Naval Literature

“Ashore as well as at sea, Tim McGrath paints an informative, engaging and highly entertaining portrait of this worthy but neglected hero of American independence. The author shows us a man who was a magnificent embodiment of common sense—and uncommon courage and dedication. That such a work is long overdue makes its achievement all the more pleasurable.”—Wall Street Journal 

“Combining sophisticated use of sources with a pleasing writing style, McGrath masterfully rescues a father of the U.S. Navy from unmerited eclipse.”—Publishers Weekly

“A nearly indispensable addition to U.S. Navy collections.”—Booklist

“McGrath employs exemplary narrative style in this work. . . . In John Barry, the author adroitly juxtaposes maritime history, narratives of naval combat, and early U.S. social history.”—New England Quarterly

“McGrath is a compelling and lucid writer. He brings Barry to life, makes battles understandable, and provides the clearest description of Barry's 1778 capture of the British transport ships Mermaid and Kitty that this reviewer has seen.”Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

“A great read and an absorbing account of a drama-filled life.”—Naval History

“Well researched, well written, and a pleasure to read, this book restores John Barry to the important place he once held as one of our nation’s great heroes. It is a tale of high adventure and personal courage and you will not want to put it down.” JAMES L. NELSON, author of George Washington’s Secret Navy

“Readers of this vivid biography will imagine they smell the ocean’s salt air and the sulfurous fumes of gunpowder as they navigate these action-packed pages. Fans of Horatio Hornblower and Lucky Jack Aubrey will rejoice in discovering their real-life American counterpart.”GREGORY J. URWIN, author of Facing Fearful Odds: The Siege of Wake Island

The man regarded as “the Father of the American Navy” returns to the quarterdeck in John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail, the first comprehensive biography of this legendary officer in generations. Son of a hardscrabble Irish farmer from County Wexford, Barry was sent to sea as a child, arriving in Philadelphia during the restless decade before the American Revolution. Brave and ambitious, he ascended the ratlines to become a successful merchant captain at a young age, commanding the most prestigious ship in the colonies and recording the fastest known day of sail in the century.

Volunteering to fight for the Continental cause, Barry saw his star rise during the War for Independence. As captain of the Lexington, Raleigh, and Alliance, Barry faced down broadsides, mutinies, and even a fleet of icebergs. He captured the first enemy warship taken by a Continental vessel and fought the last battle of the American Revolution. His hard-won victory over two British warships simultaneously garnered him international notoriety, while his skill as a seafarer and cool temper established Barry as a worthy foe among British captains. Without a ship during the winter of 1776-77, the ever resourceful Barry lead a battery of naval artillery at the battle of Princeton. With peace came a historic voyage to China, where Barry helped open trade with that reclusive empire. In 1794, President Washington named Barry as the first commissioned officer in the new United States Navy. Given the title of commodore, Barry ended his career during America’s naval war with France, teaching the ropes to a new generation of officers, most notably Stephen Decatur.

Drawn from primary source documents from around the world, John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail by Tim McGrath brings the story of this self-made American back to life in a major new biography.

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John McIntosh Kell of the Raider Alabama
Norman C. Delaney
University of Alabama Press, 2003

A vivid portrait of the man credited as a driving force behind the most successful of the Confederate raiders, the legendary C.S.S. Alabama.

John McIntosh Kell was an experienced, proven military man, a graduate of Annapolis, a veteran of the Mexican War and of Admiral Perry’s voyage to Japan. As a Confederate officer, Kell served first on the raider Sumter and then on the Alabama. At sea for only 22 months, the Alabama engaged nearly 300 northern merchant vessels, burning 55 of these transport ships along with their million-dollar cargoes.

Though First Lieutenant ("Luff") Kell was apparently content to let his captain, Raphael Semmes, take credit for their accomplishments, Semmes acknowledged that his successes were due largely to the energy and resourcefulness of his second in command. Life on the commerce cruisers was hard and tedious, and much of the responsibility for running the day-to-day operations, including the disciplining of a largely mercenary crew, rested on Kell, whose sense of duty and loyalty did not waver.

Norman C. Delaney bases his account of this remarkable naval officer’s experiences on the interviews Kell granted to news reporters during the 1880s and 1890s (previously neglected by historians) and his memoirs, published in 1900 as Recollections of a Naval Life. He supplements these materials with records from Kell’s earlier years, including letters, journals, diaries, and contemporary observations. First published in 1973 by The University of Alabama Press, this new edition of an award-winning biography will be welcomed by Civil War historians and enthusiasts around the world, naval institutions and museums, and general readers alike.

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Lincoln's Trident
The West Gulf Blockading Squadron during the Civil War
Robert M. Browning Jr.
University of Alabama Press, 2014
In Lincoln’s Trident, Coast Guard historian Robert M. Browning Jr. continues his magisterial series about the Union’s naval blockade of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Established by the Navy Department in 1862, the West Gulf Blockading Squadron operated from St. Andrews Bay (Panama City), Florida to the Rio Grande River. As with the Navy’s blockade squadrons operating in the Atlantic, the mission of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron was to cripple the South’s economy by halting imports and disrupting cotton exports, the South’s main source of hard currency. The blockade also limited transportation within the South and participated in combined operations with Union land forces.
 
The history of the squadron comprises myriad parts and players, deployed in a variety of missions across the thousand-mile-wide Western Theater. From disorganized beginnings, the squadron’s leaders and sailors had to overcome setbacks, unfulfilled expectations, and lost opportunities. Browning masterfully captures the many variables that influenced the strategic choices of Navy commanders as they both doggedly pursued unchanging long-term goals as well as improvised and reacted to short-term opportunities.
 
Notable among its leaders was David Glasgow Farragut, believed by many to be America’s greatest naval hero, who led the squadron through most of the war and the climactic Battle of Mobile Bay. Under his legendary leadership, the squadron not only sealed Confederate sea ports, but also made feints and thrusts up the Mississippi River as far north as Vicksburg, Mississippi.
 
Knowing the Navy’s role in isolating the Confederate economy and preventing the movement of troops and supplies within the South is crucial to understanding of the outcomes of the Civil War, as well as the importance of naval power in military conflicts. With thirty-five maps and illustrations, Lincoln’s Trident expounds upon an essential part of the Civil War as well as naval and American history.
[more]

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The Loss of Java
The Final Battles for the Possession of Java Fought by Allied Air, Naval and Land Forces in the Period of 18 February - 7 March 1942
P.C. Boer
National University of Singapore Press, 2011
The Loss of Java explains in detail the air, sea and land battles between the Allied and Japanese armed forces during the battle for Java that followed the evacuation of southern Sumatra in February 1942. Little has been written about the allied air campaign, or about why Dutch forces fought just one major land battle with the Japanese, the Battle of the Tjiater Pass, in the later stages of the struggle.
 
 P.C. Boer considers whether the assessment of Major General Van Oyen that deploying the Allied air forces might prevent Japanese invasion of Java was realistic, and whether reliance on air power limited the capacity of land and naval forces to repel Japan's advances. The generally accepted idea is that the Allies were ineffective in their fight against the Japanese invaders but in fact the Japanese suffered serious losses. Boer's study shows that Dutch strategy grew out of a carefully-devised plan of defense, and that the battle for Java comprised not one (the Battle of the Java Sea) but four major engagements. However, Japanese commanders at various levels consciously took steps that exposed their forces to great risk but succeeded in putting the Allies under great pressure. In the end the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) and the allied forces capitulated on 8 March 1942.
 
 This book is a translation of Het Verlies Van Java: Een kwestie van Air Power. De eindstrijd om Nederlands-Indie van de geallieerde lucht-, zee- en landstrijdkrschten in de periode van 18 februari t/m 7 maart 1942 (Amsterdam: Bataafsche Leeuw BV for the Koninklijke Militaire Academie, 2006).
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Lured by the American Dream
Filipino Servants in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, 1952-1970
P. James Paligutan
University of Illinois Press, 2022
Starting in 1952, the United States Navy and Coast Guard actively recruited Filipino men to serve as stewards--domestic servants for officers. Oral histories and detailed archival research inform P. James Paligutan's story of the critical role played by Filipino sailors in putting an end to race-based military policies. Constrained by systemic exploitation, Filipino stewards responded with direct complaints to flag officers and chaplains, rating transfer requests that flooded the bureaucracy, and refusals to work. Their actions had a decisive impact on seagoing military’s elimination of the antiquated steward position. Paligutan looks at these Filipino sailors as agents of change while examining the military system through the lens of white supremacy, racist perceptions of Asian males, and the motives of Filipinos who joined the armed forces of the power that had colonized their nation.

Insightful and dramatic, Lured by the American Dream is the untold story of how Filipino servicepersons overcame tradition and hierarchy in their quest for dignity.

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Maritime Strategy and Global Order
Markets, Resources, Security
Daniel Moran and James A. Russell, Editors
Georgetown University Press

Taken for granted as the natural order of things, peace at sea is in fact an immense and recent achievement—but also an enormous strategic challenge if it is to be maintained in the future. In Maritime Strategy and Global Order, an international roster of top scholars offers historical perspectives and contemporary analysis to explore the role of naval power and maritime trade in creating the international system.

The book begins in the early days of the industrial revolution with the foundational role of maritime strategy in building the British Empire. It continues into the era of naval disorder surrounding the two world wars, through the passing of the Pax Britannica and the rise of the Pax Americana, and then examines present-day regional security in hot spots like the South China Sea and Arctic Ocean. Additional chapters engage with important related topics such as maritime law, resource competition, warship evolution since the end of the Cold War, and naval intelligence.

A first-of-its-kind collection, Maritime Strategy and Global Order offers scholars, practitioners, students, and others with an interest in maritime history and strategic issues an absorbing long view of the role of the sea in creating the world we know.

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The Mediterranean Naval Situation, 1908-1914
Paul G. Halpern
Harvard University Press, 1971

During the early part of the twentieth century all the Mediterranean powers were transforming or at least expanding their navies from mere coastal defense forces to modern war machines, thus adding to a highly unstable political situation. The naval challenge of the Triple Alliance to Britain and especially to France was a serious one. Indeed, this study demonstrates that the Mediterranean situation had great influence on the plans and estimates of the British Admiralty.

Paul G. Halpern has uncovered new material in London, Paris, Rome, and Vienna that helps to explain the plans and dispositions of Entente and Triple Alliance forces at the outbreak of the war.

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Missouri at Sea
Warships with Show-Me State Names
Richard E. Schroeder
University of Missouri Press, 2004
Although the state of Missouri is located hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, ships with Missouri names and connections have served the United States for decades. In Missouri at Sea, Richard Schroeder tells about the ships that were named after the state, its cities, and its favorite sons and explores the important role that each has played in American history.

For each vessel, a brief history is supplied, and the book is illustrated with many extraordinary images and photographs taken from official U.S. government records and archives. Schroeder begins his volume with the first St. Louis and other small early ships that were symbolic of America’s modest nineteenth-century commercial and political ambitions. The first Missouri, one of the earliest American steamships, depicts the United States’ move into the industrial and technological revolution of the nineteenth century.

Another Federal St. Louis and a Confederate Missouri highlight the Mississippi River Civil War campaign. Schroeder then turns to America’s rise as a global military power at the beginning of the twentieth century with stories of the St. Louis in the Spanish-American War and the first battleship Missouri of Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet. The dominance of the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific theater is illustrated by the fourth and most famous of all the ships to bear the name Missouri, whose deck was the site for the Japanese surrender.

The advanced technological achievements of the mid-twentieth century are represented by the nuclear submarines named for one of Missouri’s favorite sons and for its capital: Daniel Boone and Jefferson City. Also highlighted in the volume is the 5,000-crew nuclear aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, along with smaller ships named for Missouri war heroes. Missouri at Sea will appeal to those readers interested in naval history and technology or Missouri history.
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Naval Power in the Conquest of Mexico
By C. Harvey Gardiner
University of Texas Press, 1956

In this account of the naval aspect of Hernando Cortés's invasion of the Aztec Empire, C. Harvey Gardiner has added another dimension to the drama of Spanish conquest of the New World and to Cortés himself as a military strategist. The use of ships, in the climactic moment of the Spanish-Aztec clash, which brought about the fall of Tenochtitlán and consequently of all of Mexico, though discussed briefly in former English-language accounts of the struggle, had never before been detailed and brought into a perspective that reveals its true significance. Gardiner, on the basis of previously unexploited sixteenth-century source materials, has written a historical revision that is as colorful as it is authoritative.

Four centuries before the term was coined, Cortés, in the key years of 1520–1521, used the technique of "total war." He was able to do so victoriously primarily because of his courage in taking a gamble and his brilliance in tactical planning, but these qualities might well have signified nothing without the fortunate presence in his forces of a master shipwright, Martin López.

As the exciting story unrolls, Cortés, López, and the many other participants in the venture of creating and using a navy in the midst of the New World mountains and forests are seen as real personalities, not embalmed historical stereotypes, and the indigenous defenders are revealed as complex human beings facing huge odds. Much of the tale is told in the actual words of the protagonists; Gardiner has probed letters, court records, and other contemporary documents. He has also compared this naval feat of the Spaniards with other maritime events from ancient times to the present.

Naval Power in the Conquest of Mexico as a book was itself the result of an interesting combination of circumstances. C. Harvey Gardiner, as teacher, scholar, and writer, had long been interested in Latin American history generally and Mexican history in particular. During World War II, from 1942 to 1946, he served with the U.S. Navy. As he relates: "One day in early autumn 1945, while loafing on the bow of a naval vessel knifing its way southward in the Pacific a few degrees north of the Equator, my thoughts turned to the naval side of the just-ended conflict, and in time the question emerged, 'I wonder how the little ships and the little men will fare in the eventual record?' Then, because I was eager to return to my civilian life of pursuit of Latin American themes, the concomitant question came: 'I wonder what little fighting ships and minor men of early Latin America have been consigned to the oblivion of historical neglect?' As I began later to rummage my way from Columbus toward modem times, I seized upon the Mexican Conquest as the prime period with pay dirt for the researcher in quest of the answer to that latter question."

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Navy Priest
Richard Gribble
Catholic University of America Press, 2015
Navy Priest is a compelling biography of the Jesuit priest and Navy chaplain John Francis (Jake) Laboon. Father Jake made a significant contribution to the United States Navy, both as a World War II submarine officer and, most prominently, during a 22-year career as a chaplain. Laboon served as the first chaplain for the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Program, but also served as chaplain at his alma mater the United States Naval Academy, undertook a tour of duty with the US Marines in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Legion of Merit, and later served as Fleet Chaplain of the United States Atlantic Fleet.
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Neptune’s Admiral
The Life of Sir Bertram Ramsay, Commander of Dunkirk and D-Day
Andrew Gordon
Harvard University Press, 2025
Admiral Bertram Ramsay orchestrated the evacuation at Dunkirk, planned the invasions of North Africa and Sicily, and worked closely with Eisenhower on the Allied landings at Normandy. In the most authoritative portrait we are ever likely to have, Andrew Gordon restores this great naval commander to his essential place in World War II history.
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Normandie
Arne Zuidhoek
Amsterdam University Press

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The Notorious Edward Low
Pursuing the Last Great Villain of Piracy's Golden Age
Len Travers
Westholme Publishing, 2023
Following the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1713)—generally known in the Americas as Queen Anne’s War—a dramatic, decade-long wave of sea-robbery plagued the Atlantic rim. Often glamorized as the “Golden Age of Piracy,” that period saw such colorful pirate leaders as Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, Charles Vane, and “Calico Jack” Rackham and his henchwomen Anne Bonney and Mary Read. Outdoing any of these, a Boston-based laborer, Edward Low, left his mark on pirate history as a “monster,” the most vicious and sadistic raider of them all. Low’s reputation, and those of the other pirates of the time, was crafted through newspaper accounts and popular literature, most notably The General History of the Pyrates, first published in 1724. Romanticized as anti-heroes and egalitarians in a monarchical world who had liberated themselves from the constraints of law and society ashore, these marauders came to enjoy an immortality bestowed upon them by generations of historians, novelists, and moviemakers. That persistent gloss masks a more sordid reality.
            In The Notorious Edward Low: Pursuing the Last Great Villain of Piracy’s Golden Age, historian Len Travers reexamines this critical period through the career of Low, a complicated pirate leader, and his nemesis, Peter Solgard, captain of the Royal Navy warship HMS Greyhound. By the time Solgard, aboard Greyhound, was tracking Low in 1723, the era’s other notable pirates were gone—dead, captured, or disappeared. Drawing on previously unpublished Admiralty records and consulting both contemporary and modern chroniclers, Travers directs readers to much powerful testimony minimized in or excluded from histories of piracy’s “Golden Age,” leveling a critical eye at familiar sources too long accepted at face value. Travers demonstrates that, feared asthey certainly were, pirates were largely ordinary seamen trapped in desperate circumstances who, in the end, had little to show for their efforts. Contrary to popular portrayals, for pirates the second decade of the eighteenth century was a time of radically diminishing returns, scant treasure, buried or otherwise, and increasingly successful suppression by state authorities. One by one, safe havens shut out the sea-rovers, who with their depredations in America quickly squandered the sympathy and support they had once enjoyed among common folk. The Notorious Edward Lowputs individual actors, from colonial governors to captains to common seamen, at center stage, and reveals how British authorities used new anti-piracy laws to reclaim a measure of authority over their fractious North American colonies—a compelling  and meaningful story with its own brand of true-life swashbuckling on the high seas.
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ON BOARD THE USS MASON
THE WORLD WAR II DIARY OF JAMES A. DUNN
MANSEL G. BLACKFORD
The Ohio State University Press, 2016
James A. Dunn was a signalman on the USS Mason, a destroyer escort during World War II, the only oceangoing warship in the navy to employ African Americans in positions other than cook or messmate. Manned by African American seamen (and commanded by white officers), the ship made ten crossings of the Atlantic from 1944 to 1945, escorting convoys of merchant ships to and from the United Kingdom and North Africa and operating in hunter-killer groups searching for German submarines.
Dunn kept a day-to-day diary during his spare time on board the Mason. Such diaries are a rarity, for the navy (and other armed services) forbade the keeping of diaries, fearful lest secret information fall into enemy hands. The diary chronicles the Mason’s wartime activities, from the first convoy to the final return to the United States. It captures the feeling and meaning of life on board with an immediacy not fully found in retrospective accounts. The diary accurately records the mortal danger Dunn and his shipmates were in while attacking enemy submarines or dealing with extreme weather conditions in the North Atlantic. It conveys the boredom the men encountered while confined on long, tedious convoys and the joy of shore leaves. Here is the daily life aboard ship—the duties and the pastimes that made shipboard life endurable.
Equally interesting, the diary reveals what it meant to be an African American in a white navy within a segregated American society, the shipboard tensions, and the shipboard cooperation and sense of unity. It also portrays the life of an African American onshore in the United States, Great Britain, and North Africa and the love story that unfolded between James and his wife, Jane.
Supplemented by additional sources, including interviews with Dunn, this diary is a personal view into an important part of American history. Like the Tuskegee airmen, the men of the USS Mason paved the way for desegregation in America’s armed forces, contributing to a civil rights movement that changed the face of a nation.
 
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On Wide Seas
The US Navy in the Jacksonian Era
Claude Berube
University of Alabama Press, 2022
A meticulously researched account of how the US Navy evolved between the War of 1812 and the Civil War
 
The 1830s is an overlooked period in American naval history and is usually overshadowed by the more dramatic War of 1812 and the Civil War. Nevertheless, the personnel, operations, technologies, policies, and vision of the Navy of that era, which was emerging from the “Age of Sail,” are important components of its evolution, setting it on the long path to its status as a global maritime power. On Wide Seas: The US Navy in the Jacksonian Era details the ways in which the US Navy transformed from an antiquated arm of the nation’s military infrastructure into a more dynamic and effective force that was soon to play a pivotal role in a number of national and international conflicts.
 
By Andrew Jackson’s inauguration in 1829, the Navy had engaged with two major powers, defended American shipping, conducted antipiracy operations, and provided a substantive, long-term overseas presence. The Navy began to transform during Jackson’s administration due in part to the policies of the administration and to the emerging officer corps, which sought to professionalize its own ranks, modernize the platforms on which it sailed, and define its own role within national affairs and in the broader global maritime commons. Jackson had built his reputation as a soldier, but he quickly recognized as president the necessity for a navy that could foster his policies. To expand American commerce, he needed a navy that could defend shipping as well as conduct punitive raids or deterrence missions.
 
Jackson developed a clear, concise naval strategy that policymakers and officers alike could seize and execute. He also provided a vision for the Navy, interceded to resolve naval disciplinary challenges, and directed naval operations. Also, given Jackson’s own politics, junior officers were emboldened by the populist era to challenge traditional, conservative thinking. They carried out a collective vision that coincided with the national literary movement that recognized America’s future would rely upon the Navy.
 
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PCE 1604 Series, Frigate Panter
Henk Visser
Amsterdam University Press, 2021
The six Frigate Panters were all built in the USA with MDAP funds. They were designed to escort slow coastal convoys in the Channel and North Sea areas and were operated as a single squadron by the Royal Netherlands Navy. They proved useful in a number of peacetime tasks, especially fishery protection, and some retained this role in the North Sea until the mid-1980s.
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The Poet and the Sailor
The Story of My Friendship with Carl Sandburg
Kenneth Dodson. Edited by Richard Dodson. Foreword by Penelope Niven
University of Illinois Press, 2006
Two friends, a lifetime of letters, and an intimate look at a literary icon

Carl Sandburg first encountered Kenneth Dodson through a letter written at sea during World War II. Though Dodson wrote the letter to his wife, Letha, Sandburg read it in tears and told her, "I've got to meet this man." Composed primarily of their correspondence that continued until Sandburg's death in 1967, The Poet and the Sailor is a chronicle of the deep friendship that followed. Ranging over anything they found important, from writing to health and humor, the letters are arranged by Richard Dodson and are accompanied by a foreword from Sandburg's noted biographer, Penelope Niven.

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Power at Sea, Volume 1
The Age of Navalism, 1890-1918
Lisle A. Rose
University of Missouri Press, 2006
The twentieth century was preeminently an age of warring states and collapsing empires. Industrialism brought not peace but the sword. And the tip of that sword was sea power.
In Power at Sea, Lisle A. Rose gives us an unprecedented narrative assessment of modern sea power, how it emerged from the Age of Fighting Sail, how it was employed in war and peace, and how it has shaped the life of the human community over the past century and a quarter. In this first volume, Rose recalls the early twentieth-century world of emerging, predatory industrial nations engaging in the last major scramble for global markets and empire. In such times, an imposing war fleet was essential to both national security and international prestige. Battleship navies became pawns of power politics, and between 1890 and 1914 four of them--Britain’s Royal Navy, the Imperial German Navy, the Japanese Navy, and the U.S. Navy--set the tone and rhythm of international life.
Employing a global canvas, Rose portrays the increasingly frantic naval race between Britain and Germany that did so much to bring about the First World War; he takes us aboard America’s Great White Fleet as it circumnavigated the world between 1907 and 1909, leaving in its wake both goodwill and jealousy; he details Japan’s growing naval and military power and the hunger for unlimited expansion that resulted.
Important naval battles were fought in those days of ostensible peace, and Rose brings to life the encounters of still young and relatively small industrial fighting fleets at Manila Bay and Tsushima. He also takes us into the huge naval factories where the engines of war were forged. He invites us aboard the imperial battleships and battle cruisers, exploring the dramatically divided worlds of the officers’ lordly wardroom with its clublike atmosphere and the often foul and fetid enlisted men’s quarters.
The Age of Navalism climaxed in the epic First World War Battle of Jutland, in which massive guns and maneuvering dreadnoughts determined that Imperial Germany would become the latest in a line of ambitious naval powers that failed to shake Britannia’s rule of the waves. Germany’s subsequent use of a revolutionary new strategy, unrestricted submarine warfare, nearly brought Britain to its knees, reduced the level of naval combat to barbarism, and brought the United States into the war with its own substantial navy, ultimately turning the tide of battle.
Focusing as much on social issues and technological advances as on combat, Power at Sea: The Age of Navalism tells a compelling story of newfound power that is fascinating in its own right. Yet, it is merely a prologue to more startling accounts contained in the author’s succeeding volumes.
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Power at Sea, Volume 2
The Breaking Storm, 1919-1945
Lisle A. Rose
University of Missouri Press, 2006
After 1921, the clouds of suspicion and resentment left by the Great War gradually obscured the strenuous efforts of negotiating statesmen and led to ever greater appetites for power at sea. By the midthirties, worried admiralties around the world were bracing themselves for a new and deadlier round of global violence. In this monumental study, Lisle A. Rose revisits the strategies, battles, ships, planes, weapons, and people of the most destructive war in history to show the decisive influence of sea power upon its outcome.
During the years preceding World War II, Britain’s once dominant Royal Navy, beset by national economic decline and steadily eroding morale within the fleet, pleaded for the appeasement of dictators in Europe and the Far East in an attempt to avoid a three-front maritime war that would surely doom the British Empire. Desperately hoping for time to build a formidable fleet, Hitler’s admirals feverishly tried to rebuild German naval weaponry upon a technological foundation not much improved since 1918. In the end, it was Japan and the United States, facing each other across the broad Pacific, that moved naval history into a new phase by fashioning ultramodern navies based on the integration of sea, air, and amphibious forces.
Rose relates how the strengths and weaknesses of seafaring nations came into play within the crucible of a six-year war during which naval encounters were every bit as critical and frequent as land-based fighting. He recounts the well-known naval battles and operations of World War II from a novel perspective, placing them in the context of daring gambles open to both the Axis and the Allies that were either seized upon or ignored. Once Britain’s survival was assured, and the Allies held on in the North Atlantic and the Pacific, however, the superior industrial culture of the United States doomed the Axis. After 1943, America threw into the deadly battles against the German U-boats and the Japanese fleet more and better ships, more and better citizen sailors, better intelligence, and better strategies than did its antagonists or allies.
Two years later, the United States had not only defeated the Axis, it had also won control of the world’s oceans from its exhausted British ally. In the process, it had begun a revolutionary transition in which power at sea became power from the sea. Whether recounting the heart-stopping action of naval encounters or analyzing the technologies that made victory possible, Rose traces in vigorous, memorable prose the dramatic emergence of a new naval power that would leave all others in its wake.
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Power at Sea, Volume 3
A Violent Peace, 1946-2006
Lisle A. Rose
University of Missouri Press, 2006
Bringing to a close his epic recounting of naval power in the twentieth century, Lisle Rose describes the virtual disappearance after 1945 of all but one great navy, whose existence and operations over the next sixty years guaranteed a freedom of the seas so complete as to be at once universally acknowledged and ignored.
In the first twenty years after World War II, the U.S. Navy continued the revolutionary transformation of sea power begun in the 1930s with the integration of sea, air, and amphibious capabilities. Between 1946 and 1961, the United States placed on, above, and beneath the world’s oceans the mightiest concentration of military power in history. Supercarriers filled with aircraft capable of long-range nuclear strikes were joined by strategic ballistic missile submarines, even one of whose sixteen nuclear-tipped missiles could devastate most of an enemy’s major urban centers together with its industrial and military infrastructure.
Such a fleet was incredibly costly. No ally or adversary in a world recovering slowly from global war could afford to build and maintain such an awesome entity. Its needs constantly had to be balanced against competing requirements of a broader national defense establishment. But the U.S. Navy ensured an unchallenged Pax Americana, and its warships steamed where they wished throughout the globe in support of a policy to contain the influence and threat represented by the Soviet Union and China.
The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, however, galvanized the Soviet leadership to construct a powerful blue-water fleet that within less than a decade began to challenge the United States for global maritime supremacy, even as its own ballistic missile boats posed a massive threat to U.S. national security. While the Soviets enjoyed the luxury of building exclusively against the U.S. Navy and challenging it at almost every point, America’s sailors were increasingly burdened by a broad array of specific missions: fighting two regional wars in Asia, intervening in Lebanon, protecting Taiwan, aiding in the preservation of Israel, and maintaining close surveillance of Cuba, chief among them. Confronting ever-growing Soviet sea power stretched U.S. capabilities to the limit even as the fleet itself underwent revolutionary changes in its social composition.
The abrupt decline and fall of the Soviet Union after 1989 led to another reappraisal of the importance, even necessity, of navies. But the turbulent Middle East and the struggle against international terrorism after 2001 have demanded a projection of sea-air-amphibious power onto coasts and adjacent areas similar to that which America’s fleets had already undertaken in Korea, Vietnam, and Lebanon.
The U.S. Navy now sails on the front line of defense against terrorism—a threat that confronts strategists with the greatest challenge yet to the ongoing relevance of maritime power. This third volume of Rose’s majestic work offers readers an up-close look at the emergence of America’s naval might and establishes Power at Sea as essential in tracing the emergence of U.S. dominance and understanding the continuing importance of ships and sailors in international power plays.
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Prisoners of the Bashaw
The Nineteen-Month Captivity of American Sailors in Tripoli, 1803–1805
Frederick C. Leiner
Westholme Publishing, 2022
FINALIST FOR THE GILDER LEHRMAN MILITARY HISTORY PRIZE
America’s first crisis with the Islamic world: the diplomatic and military mission to free more than three hundred enslaved sailors
On October 31, 1803, the frigate USS Philadelphia ran aground on a reef a few miles outside the harbor of Tripoli. Since April 1801, the United States had been at war with Tripoli, one of the Barbary “pirate” regimes, over the payment of annual tribute—bribes so that American merchant ships would not be seized and their crews held hostage. After hours under fire, the Philadelphia, aground and defenseless, surrendered, and 307 American sailors and marines were captured. Manhandled and stripped of their clothes and personal belongings, the men of the Philadelphia were paraded before the Bashaw of Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanali. The bashaw ordered the crew moved into an old warehouse, and the officers were eventually moved to a dungeon beneath the Bashaw’s castle. While the officers were treated as “gentlemen,” although imprisoned, the sailors worked as enslaved laborers. Regularly beaten and given a meager diet, several died in captivity; escape attempts failed, while a few ended up converting to Islam and joined their captors. President Thomas Jefferson, Congress, U.S. diplomats, and Commodore Edward Preble, commander of the naval squadron off Tripoli, grappled with how to safely free the American captives. The crew of the Philadelphia remained prisoners for nineteen months, until the Tripolitan War ended in June 1805. 
            The Philadelphia captives became the key to negotiations to end the war; the possibility existed that if threatened too much, the Bashaw would kill the captives. Ultimately, the United States paid $60,000 to get them back—about $200 per man—a sum less than the Bashaw’s initial demands for compensation. In June 1805, the Americans began their journey home. Combining stirring naval warfare, intricate diplomatic negotiations, the saga of surviving imprisonment, and based on extensive primary source research, Prisoners of the Bashaw: The Nineteen-Month Captivity of American Sailors in Tripoli, 1803-1805 by Frederick C. Leiner tells the complete story of America’s first great hostage crisis. 
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Protected cruiser Gelderland
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press

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S-class destroyer Piet Hein (ex HMS Serapis)
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press

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Sober Men and True
Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900-1945
Christopher McKee
Harvard University Press, 2002

The image of the naval sailor is that of an enigmatic but compelling figure, a globe-trotting adventurer, swaggering and irresponsible in port but swift to flex the national muscle at sea and beyond. Appealing as this popular image may be, scant effort has been expended to reveal the truth behind the stereotype.

Thanks to Christopher McKee's groundbreaking work, it is now possible to hear from sailors themselves--in this case, those who served in Great Britain's Royal Navy during the first half of the twentieth century. McKee has scoured sailors' unpublished diaries, letters, memoirs, and oral interviews to uncover the lives and secret thoughts of British men of the lower deck. From working-class childhoods teetering on the edge of poverty to the hardships of finding civilian employment after leaving the navy; from sexual initiation in the brothels of Oran and Alexandria to the terror of battle, the former sailors speak with candor about all aspects of naval life: the harsh discipline and deep comradeship, the shipboard homoeroticism, the pleasures and temptations of world travel, and the responsibilities of marriage and family.

McKee has shaped the first authentic model of the naval enlisted experience, an account not crafted by officers or civilian reformers but deftly told in the sailors' own voices. The result is a poignant and complex portrait of lower-deck lives.

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Standing Watch
American Submarine Veterans Remember the Cold War Era
Jonathan Li-Chung Leung
University of Alabama Press, 2019
The first book to capture and preserve the inside story of the exclusive brotherhood that manned the front lines of the Cold War
 
Featuring interviews from seventeen veteran submariners, Standing Watch: American Submarine Veterans Remember the Cold War Era offers the perspective of the submariners themselves—lending them a voice and paying homage to their service. Jonathan Li-Chung Leung provides an original glimpse into a world of unique challenges and characters, a life isolated and submerged, and a duty defined by the juxtaposition of monotonous routine and unparalleled excitement.
 
These personal accounts of life below the surface offer readers a front-row seat to close encounters with Soviet submarines and the naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as an intimate understanding of daily life onboard the vessels, the culture of military discipline, and the religious-like fervor exercised in honoring traditions big and small. By applying first-hand perspectives to a larger thematic overview, this book uses authentic narratives to deliver a lively and colorful picture of the Silent Service.
 
Set against the backdrop of sobering geo-political disputes and their own role as the nation’s defenders against a seemingly ambiguous super-enemy, these veterans focus on their responsibilities and reflect on careers built on the simple axioms of pride and service. This invigorating and unalloyed account is an unprecedented addition to the existing literature on naval and military history.
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Stephen Decatur
American Naval Hero, 1779-1820
Robert J. Allison
University of Massachusetts Press, 2007
Born to a prominent Philadelphia family in 1779, Stephen Decatur at age twenty-five became the youngest man ever to serve as a captain in the U.S. Navy. His intrepid heroism, leadership, and devotion to duty made him a perfect symbol of the aspirations of the growing nation. Leading men to victory in Tripoli, the War of 1812, and the Algerian war of 1815, and coining the phrase "Our country, right or wrong," Decatur created an enduring legend of bravery, celebrated in poetry, song, paintings, and the naming of dozens of towns—from Georgia to Alabama to Illinois.

After the War of 1812, Decatur moved to Washington to help direct naval policy. His close friendships with James Madison, John Quincy Adams, and other political leaders soon made him a rising star in national politics. He and his wife Susan made their elegant home on Lafayette Square near the White House a center of Washington society. The capital and the entire nation were shocked in 1820 when Decatur died at the age of forty-one in a duel with a rival navy captain.

In this carefully researched and well-written biography, historian Robert Allison tells the story of Decatur's eventful life at a time when the young republic was developing its own identity—when the American people were deciding what kind of nation they would become. Although he died prematurely, Decatur played a significant role in the shaping of that national identity.
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Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands
The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans, 1812-1815
Frank L. Owsley
University of Alabama Press, 2000
Examination of the Creek War which integrates that struggle into the larger conflict that broke out in 1812 between Great Britain and the United States
 
Using American, British, and Spanish documents, many previously unknown, Frank Owsley’s study establishes the Creek War and the struggle to control the Gulf borderlands as integral parts of the War of 1812. The war between the United States and a large part of the Creek nation is usually studied as local or regional history. These documentary sources, however, show the larger picture. They show Spain to have been a major influence in the Creek War and indicate the extent to which the British were aiding the Indians and using them to redirect American troops. On the other hand, Andrew Jackson, in charge of the American forces on the Gulf Coast, emerged from the conflict as a first-rate military commander. His victories on the Gulf gave the West a leader and aided in shifting political power from the eastern seaboard to the South and West.
 
Owsley concludes that the victories in the Gulf region were of sufficient magnitude to justify the claim that the War of 1812 was not a draw but a decisive American victory and that had there been a general of Jackson's caliber on the northern frontier, the United States might have had a clear-cut victory there.
 
As a result of the war, the United States held its claim on Louisiana, annexed the Mobile district, forced Spain out of Florida, and broke the power of the southern Indians, thus opening vast lands for settlement from the new nation on the eastern seaboard.
 

 
 
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To My Dearest Wife, Lide
Letters from George B. Gideon Jr. during Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan, 1853–1855
Edited by M. Patrick Sauer and David A. Ranzan
University of Alabama Press, 2019
A personal account of Commodore Perry’s landmark expedition to Japan and life in the antebellum navy
 
George B. Gideon Jr. served as second assistant engineer aboard the  USS Powhatan from 1852 to 1856. From his position on the steam  frigate, Gideon traveled to Singapore, Labuan, Borneo, Hong Kong, and many other Asian lands. During his time at sea, Gideon penned dozens of letters to his wife, Lide, back home in Philadelphia. Recently  discovered in the attic of his great-great-grandniece, were fifty-one letters penned by Gideon providing thorough and insightful commentary  throughout the voyage.

Through these correspondences, Gideon laboriously documents the details of his daily life on board, from the food they ate to the technical aspects of his work, as well as observations concerning the historical events unfolding around him, such as Chinese piracy, the Taiping Rebellion, the Crimean War, and the devastation of Shimoda.  To My Dearest Wife, Lide: Letters from George B. Gideon Jr. during  Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan, 1853–1855 is a rare first-person account of the landmark American naval expedition to Japan to establish commercial relations between the two countries. Gideon’s letters have been meticulously transcribed and annotated by the editors and are an invaluable primary historical source.

Gideon’s letters are candid and revealing, delving into the rampant dysfunction in the navy of the 1850s—sickness and disease, alcohol abuse, and poor leadership, among other challenges. Gideon also unabashedly shares his own cynical views of the navy’s role in supporting American economic interests in Japan. This firsthand account of the political mission of the Perry expedition is a unique contribution to naval and military history and gives readers a better view of life aboard a navy ship.
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To the Arctic!
The Story of Northern Exploration from Earliest Times
Jeannette Mirsky
University of Chicago Press, 1970
"Who Reached the North Pole First?" A recent article in the New York Times (February 17, 1997) presented new evidence from the journals of Admiral Robert E. Peary and Dr. Frederick A. Cook that sheds light on this long-argued debate. Questioning whether the journal entries are truthful, new theories indicate that neither explorer was first, despite their individual claims. To the Arctic contributes valuable information to this debate in its lively narrative of Arctic exploration from the time of the ancient Greeks to the mid-1940s. Revealing stories of the many men who attempted to map the lands or search for means to live there, Mirsky describes the weather and resources they encountered, the temptations and odds of success, and the role of nationalism and individual character in the many conflicting accounts of Arctic exploration.

"Excellent. . . . This is a book which anyone interested in almost any facet of the north will find of value."—William Cody, Canadian Field Naturalist

"A book filled with adventure."—Daily News Journal
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Too Far on a Whim
The Limits of High-Steam Propulsion in the US Navy
Tyler A. Pitrof
University of Alabama Press, 2024
In Too Far on a Whim, Tyler A. Pitrof presents a high-spirited revision of the US Navy’s commitment to high-steam propulsion systems, the mainstay of its World War II fleets. Pitrof’s research persuasively demonstrates that in its war against the Imperial Japanese Navy, the US Navy succeeded despite its high-steam propulsion systems rather than because of them.

War with an aggressive Japan and a resurgent Germany loomed in the dark days of the late 1930s. Rear Admiral Harold G. Bowen Sr., head of the US Navy’s Bureau of Engineering, advanced a radical vision: a new fleet based on high-steam propulsion, a novel technology that promised high speeds with smaller engines and better fuel efficiency. High-steam engines had drawbacks—smaller operational ranges and maintenance issues. Nevertheless, trusting its engineers to resolve these issues, the US Navy put high-steam propulsion at the heart of its warship design from 1938 to 1945.

The official record of high-steam technology’s subsequent performance has relied heavily on Bowen’s own memoir, in which he painted high-steam innovation in heroic colors. Pitrof’s empirical review of primary sources such as ship’s maintenance records, however, illuminates the opposite—that the heroism lay in the ability of American seamen to improvise solutions to keep these difficult engines running.

Pitrof artfully explains engineering concepts in layman’s terms and provides an account that extends far beyond technology and into matters of naval hierarchies and bureaucracy, strategic theory, and ego. He offers a cautionary tale—as relevant to any endeavor as it is to military undertakings—about how failures arise when technical experts lack managers who understand their work. Admiral Bowen wielded excessive power because no one else in the US Navy knew enough to countermand him.

Compulsively readable, Too Far on a Whim is a landmark for those interested in naval history and technology but also for readers interested in the interplay between innovation, decision-making, and engineering.
 
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Torpedo
Inventing the Military-Industrial Complex in the United States and Great Britain
Katherine C. Epstein
Harvard University Press, 2014

When President Eisenhower referred to the “military–industrial complex” in his 1961 Farewell Address, he summed up in a phrase the merger of government and industry that dominated the Cold War United States. In this bold reappraisal, Katherine Epstein uncovers the origins of the military–industrial complex in the decades preceding World War I, as the United States and Great Britain struggled to perfect a crucial new weapon: the self-propelled torpedo.

Torpedoes epitomized the intersection of geopolitics, globalization, and industrialization at the turn of the twentieth century. They threatened to revolutionize naval warfare by upending the delicate balance among the world’s naval powers. They were bought and sold in a global marketplace, and they were cutting-edge industrial technologies. Building them, however, required substantial capital investments and close collaboration among scientists, engineers, businessmen, and naval officers. To address these formidable challenges, the U.S. and British navies created a new procurement paradigm: instead of buying finished armaments from the private sector or developing them from scratch at public expense, they began to invest in private-sector research and development. The inventions emerging from torpedo R&D sparked legal battles over intellectual property rights that reshaped national security law.

Blending military, legal, and business history with the history of science and technology, Torpedo recasts the role of naval power in the run-up to World War I and exposes how national security can clash with property rights in the modern era.

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Trade and Privateering in Spanish Florida, 1732–1763
Joyce Elizabeth Harman, With a New Introduction by Carl E. Swanson
University of Alabama Press, 2004
An important study of the First Spanish Period in Florida’s history

Trade and Privateering examines the illegal yet highly profitable and mutually beneficial trade between Spanish Florida and the English colonies on the eastern seaboard in the mid-18th century. In St. Augustine, the arrival of subsidies from Spain was erratic, causing shortages of food and supplies, so authorities ignored the restrictions on trade with foreign colonies and welcomed British goods. Likewise, the British colonists sought Spanish products from Florida, especially oranges.
 
But when England and Spain became declared enemies in the War of Jenkins’ Ear and the French and Indian Wars, this tacit trade arrangement was threatened, and the result was a rise of privateering in the region. Rather than do without Spanish goods, the English began to attack and capture Spanish vessels with their cargoes at sea. Likewise, the Spaniards resorted to privateering as a means of steadily supplying the Florida colony. Harman concludes that, both willingly and unwillingly, the English colonies helped their Spanish neighbor to sustain its position in the Southeast.
 
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Tripartite minehunter Haarlem
Bob Roetering
Amsterdam University Press

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Turtle
David Bushnell's Revolutionary Vessel
Roy R. Manstan
Westholme Publishing, 2010

The Remarkable History and Reconstruction of the First Operational Submarine
At the onset of the American Revolution, the British expected to quell the rebellion quickly with a show of overwhelming force. In an experiment in asymmetric warfare, David Bushnell created the first submarine vessel designed specifically “for the destruction of vessels of war.” On a quiet September night in 1776, sergeant Ezra Lee maneuvered Bushnell’s strange little craft out from Manhattan and into the midst of the greatest naval fleet ever assembled in the Americas. Lee’s goal was to sink the British flagship HMS Eagle by attaching a powerful explosive to its hull. Although the mission was unsuccessful, Bushnell’s concept of submarine warfare was considered by George Washington to have been “an effort of genius.”

David Bushnell was raised in the town of Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River. More than two centuries later, another Turtle would be launched into the same river within sight of Bushnell’s first forays with his vessel during the summer of 1775. Under the direction of technical arts teacher Frederic J. Frese, students at Old Saybrook High School created a working replica of Bushnell’s submarine, facilitated through an education partnership with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island, where Roy R. Manstan was a mechanical engineer and Navy trained diver. With twenty-first century submariners at the helm, the Turtle replica was subjected to a series of operational tests at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut.

In Turtle: David Bushnell’s Revolutionary Vessel, the authors provide new insight into Bushnell’s “engine of devastation,” tracing the history of undersea warfare before Bushnell and the origin of the many innovations Bushnell understood would be necessary for conducting a covert submarine attack. The knowledge gained from testing the Turtle replica enabled the authors to speculate as to what America’s first submariner Ezra Lee experienced that September night and what may have caused the attack to fail.

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Twenty-Three Minutes to Eternity
The Final Voyage of the Escort Carrier USS Liscome Bay
James L. Noles
University of Alabama Press, 2004
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Type 42 destroyer Southampton
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2019
The primary role of the Type 42 destroyers was providing air defense for the fleet. With their long-range sensors, the ships could also act as radar pickets, sailing ahead of a task group. HMS Southampton was the eighth ship originally destined to be a 16-ship class – two of these ships have been exported to Argentina. The type 42 comprised eight Batch 1 vessels, four Batch 2 and four Batch 3 Stretched Type 42.
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Type 47B Destroyer Drenthe
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2020
After World War II, the Royal Netherlands Navy ordered new ships to counter the growing threat coming from the Soviet submarines. These ships were classified as ASW destroyers (onderzeebootjagers), but close to contemporary destroyers in terms of specifications. The national industry designed and constructed two classes of these ships. Drenthe was of the more capable Type 47B series.
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The Union Blockade in the American Civil War
A Reassessment
Michael Bonner
University of Tennessee Press, 2021

Winner of the 2021 John Lyman Book Award from the North American Society for Oceanic History!

Swashbuckling stories of the Union naval blockade of the Southern states and the blockade runners who smuggled goods to the Confederacy have long been a part of the romanticized image of the Civil War. Throughout the war, Lincoln’s blockade and attempts to breach it touched nearly every aspect of the war effort. The Union prevented crucial material from reaching Confederate forces, while blockade runners smuggled hundreds of thousands of guns to rebel armies. No other military campaign lasted as long or had as many long-term consequences on the outcome of the Civil War.

Covering more than three thousand miles of Southern coastline and employing the services of 100,000 sailors, the blockade was a massive undertaking largely dictated by two Atlantic powers: Great Britain and the United States. Michael Bonner and Peter McCord build on the extensive scholarship of the blockade and incorporate previously unexamined British primary sources to deliver a fresh analysis of the Union blockade, blockade-running, and a reassessment of the blockade’s effectiveness. Their multifaceted study reassesses several key aspects of a “critical component of Union strategy,” including diplomatic and legal issues and the significance of the Confederacy’s reliance on European supplies to sustain the war effort.

The authors present statistics showing that the blockade was not nearly as effective as is commonly believed; moreover, its successes against steam-powered blockade runners actually decreased as the war went on. The diversity and comprehensiveness of coverage makes The Union Blockade in the American Civil War an essential work for Civil War historians and students.

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Unknown Waters
A First-Hand Account of the Historic Under-Ice Survey of the Siberian Continental Shelf by USS Queenfish (SSN-651)
Alfred S. McLaren
University of Alabama Press, 2008
Charting the Siberian continental shelf during the height of the Cold War
 
Unknown Waters tells the story of the brave officers and men of the nuclear attack submarine USS Queenfish (SSN-651), who made the first survey of an extremely important and remote region of the Arctic Ocean. The unpredictability of deep-draft sea ice, shallow water, and possible Soviet discovery, all played a dramatic part in this fascinating 1970 voyage.

Covering 3,100 miles over a period of some 20 days at a laborious average speed of 6.5 knots or less, the attack submarine carefully threaded its way through innumerable underwater canyons of ice and over irregular seafloors, at one point becoming entrapped in an “ice garage.” Only cool thinking and skillful maneuvering of the nearly 5,000-ton vessel enabled a successful exit.
 
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U.S. Coast Survey vs. Naval Hydrographic Office
A 19th-Century Rivalry in Science and Politics
Thomas G. Manning
University of Alabama Press, 1988
Examines a crucial phase of the relations of science and politics in the post-Civil War period
 
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The U.S.-China Military Scorecard
Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996–2017
Eric Heginbotham
RAND Corporation, 2015
A RAND study analyzed Chinese and U.S. military capabilities in two scenarios (Taiwan and the Spratly Islands) from 1996 to 2017, finding that trends in most, but not all, areas run strongly against the United States. While U.S. aggregate power remains greater than China’s, distance and geography affect outcomes. China is capable of challenging U.S. military dominance on its immediate periphery—and its reach is likely to grow in the years ahead.
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The USS Wisconsin
A History of Two Battleships
Richard H. Zeitlin
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1988

Battleships were instrumental in America’s rise to world dominance at the end of the 19th century. Two battleships in particular, the U.S.S. Wisconsin BB-9 and BB-64, participated in wars and conflicts around the globe, demonstrating America’s strength and technological power. The keel of the BB-9 was laid down on the eve of the Spanish-American War, and she sailed with the Great White Fleet on its famous world voyage of 1907-1909. Representing a major advance in American naval technology, the Wisconsin both demonstrated American strength in the Pacific and served as the setting for peace talks between Panama and Colombia when the former gained independence in 1903. Recommissioned during World War I as a training ship, the BB-9 was then decommissioned in 1920. More than twenty years later, on December 7, 1943, the fast battleship Wisconsin (BB-64) was launched in response to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The BB-64 served in the Pacific to the end of World War II and again in the Korean War. One of the Iowa- class battleships, the BB-64 was one of the fastest and sleekest on the ocean. In 1988, she was refitted and recommissioned for yet another tour of duty. This is the story of two proud vessels and their role in American naval and diplomatic history.

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Valor and Courage
The Story of the USS Block Island Escort Carriers in World War II
Benjamin J. Hruska
University of Alabama Press, 2021
Recounts the stories of the USS Block Island CVE 21 and CVE 106 and their crews, many of whom served on both ships in the Atlantic and Pacific theatres

In Valor and Courage: The Story of the USS Block Island Escort Carriers in World War II Benjamin Hruska explores the history and commemoration of the USS Block Island—or, more properly, the Block Islands, as two escort carriers bore that name during WWII. The first, CVE 21, bears the distinction of having been the only American aircraft carrier sunk in the Atlantic Theatre after being torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of North Africa.
 
Of the CVE 21’s 957 crew members, six sailors were killed and eighteen injured in the strike, and four of the Block Island’s fighter pilots were lost later in the day searching for a safe place to land their planes. When the CVE 106 was commissioned to replace its predecessor, Captain Massie Hughes successfully persuaded the Navy to keep the CVE 21’s crew together in manning the new ship. After resurrection as the CVE 106, the Block Island was assigned to the Pacific theater where it fought until the end of the war. The saga of these two ships and the crew that navigated two very different theaters of war offers a unique lens on naval strategy and engineering as it evolved during WWII, especially as pertains to the escort carrier class—generally underappreciated both in naval studies and in public memory.
 
Using archival materials, dozens of oral histories, primary sources, and official records, Hruska traces the life of the Block Island from the CVE 21’s construction through its missions in the Atlantic, its work as an antisubmarine hunter, its destruction, and the lasting impact of those experiences on its crew. Hruska’s study juxtaposes traditional military history with an examination of the acts of remembrance and commemoration by veterans who served on the escort carriers, how those practices evolved over time, and how the meanings of personal wartime experiences and memories gradually shifted throughout that process.
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The Voyage of the CSS Shenandoah
A Memorable Cruise
William C. Whittle
University of Alabama Press, 2005

The only Confederate ship to circumnavigate the globe

The Confederate cruiser Shenandoah was the last of a group of commerce raiders deployed to prey on Union merchant ships. Ordered to the Pacific Ocean to “greatly damage and disperse” the Yankee whaling fleet in those waters, the Shenandoah’s successful pursuit of her quarry compared favorably with the exploits of the more celebrated Alabama and Florida but has never been as well known because it coincided with the war’s end and the Confederacy’s downfall. It was, however, one of the best documented naval expeditions—from England to the Indian Ocean, Australia and the South Pacific, the Bering Sea, San Francisco, and finally to port in Liverpool—during the Civil War.
 
The ship’s log and Captain James Waddell’s notes are well preserved, and a number of the Shenandoah’s officers kept detailed journals of the entire voyage. One of the most significant journals, by Lieutenant William Whittle, is presented here, with annotations from other journals, the official records and logs, and newspaper accounts of the Shenandoah’s activities, together bringing to life the history of this remarkable voyage.
 

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Warship 1
Cruiser HNLMS Tromp
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press

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Warship 10
Type 47B Destroyer Drenthe
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press

front cover of Warship 14
Warship 14
Dutch Leander Frigate Van Speijk
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press

front cover of Warship 3
Warship 3
Frigate HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerck
Rindert van Zinderen Bakker
Amsterdam University Press

front cover of Warship 4
Warship 4
Frigate USS Clark
Rindert van Zinderen Bakker
Amsterdam University Press

front cover of Warship 5
Warship 5
Protected Cruiser Gelderland
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press

front cover of Warship 6
Warship 6
Destroyer HMCS Haida
Rindert van Zinderen Bakker
Amsterdam University Press

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Willem Ruys
Arne Zuidhoek
Amsterdam University Press


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