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War At Sea, a book review

Discussion in 'Biographies and Everything Else' started by belasar, Nov 19, 2016.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    War At Sea: A Naval History of World War II, by Nathan Miller, Scribner, 1995, 592 pages, Photo's, Maps, Appendix, Notes, Index, Hardcover.

    Miller is a historian/journalist and author of numerous books on America, many of which deal with US naval history. One work is used as a text book at the US Naval Academy. A veteran of the US Navy during WW II, he passed in 2004.

    War at Sea is a single volume account of World War II naval operation's that opens with U 30's torpedoing of the Athenia and concludes with the signing of the surrender document by Japan on the quarterdeck of the Missouri. While no single book could due proper justice to such a vast subject, Miller's book is a credible attempt to do so. He admirably merges the macro scale with the micro to add nuance and humanity to what could have been just a recital of battles won and lost.

    The narrative is easy to read and largely employs a just the facts style other than when he lets the participants speak for themselves. On occasion he wades into some of the controversy's generated by the conflict, but doesn't use the book to push any agenda. He makes his case and then lets the reader form their own opinion.

    The one exception to this was a footnote concerning John F. Kennedy and the loss of his PT-109. Our collective impression of the event, fortified by the film with Cliff Robertson, is of a heroic acts to save and return most of his crew. Using comments made by contemporary's in his command at the time only his family name and political influence prevented a courts martial for the loss of his boat on calm seas and a moonlit night by ramming by a Japanese Destroyer when being on a patrol line to search for and attack just such a enemy target.

    One of the pleasant surprises was the footnotes. Some people dislike them, but for me they are like tasty little additions to the story that offer just a little more, even if they are getting harder to read these days. Miller offers one of the most clear descriptions of the naval battles around Salvo Island and indeed those up the 'Slot'. He also includes a a page or two on German operations in the Baltic to support Barbarossa which is often lacking in such books.

    On the down side the photo's are generic and offer little new to these jaded eyes. The Appendix is only two pages and to be honest could be fitted into a single page. The maps, though clear, are at the back of the book and require flipping back and forth if you want to consult them.

    For those just diving into the subject of WW II, those who concentrate on land or air topics and want a introduction to the naval aspect of the war and how it impacted the other two, or just someone with limited space and would like compact source this book would be a excellent choice for your personal library.
     
    ColHessler and OpanaPointer like this.

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