This impressive history of the Iowa class battleships was originally written in French, but has now been translated flawlessly for the English speaking market. At some 500 pages it’s a hefty book, large enough to contain both a detailed written history of these ships, and a lavish photographic guide.
The book falls into two halves (so much so that they are actually colour coded!). Part one is the technical history of the ships, looking at their design, guns, engines and so on, in great detail. Part two contains the service histories. In both parts pictures take up more space than the text, but the book is large enough for that not to matter!
Part one also includes some nice background details that aren’t directly related to the Iowa Class ships, including a general history of the development of American battleships, and a chapter looking at previous ships with the same name, focusing in particular on the earlier battleships.
One thing that really stands out in the pictures of the interior is just how much space there was inside these ships. Although the sailor’s berthings spaces were a little crowded when they were at their peak wartime complements, everyone still had their own bunk, which wasn’t always the case in warships of this period. The enlisted mens canteens were impressively spacious, and I’ve had smaller bedrooms than most of the officers!
The long service life and high prestige of these ships means that they were extensively photographed. As a result we get an unusually large number of photographs of the interior of the ship, showing all sorts of details that are normally lost to us. Second, there are many more colour photographs than would normally be the case for ships of this vintage, including many very impressive shots of them firing their 16in guns, producing vast sheets of flame in the process.
One thing that immediately emerges from the section on their service histories is that the Iowa class ships never had a change to take part in the sort of battle for which they were designed. In fact only two of the ships ever fired their guns in anger against rival surface units, when Iowaand New Jersey helped destroyer a Japanese squadron made up of one light cruiser, two destroyers and an armed trawlers. They did fire their main guns in anger on many more occasions, but always for shore bombardment, and their powerful anti-aircraft armament saw regular use. In later wars it was once again their shore bombardment capabilities that made them useful, especially as none of America’s opponents in any of their later wars had any significant warships. Impressive though they were, these were a fine example of ships built for the previous war, entering service in the middle of a conflict dominated by the aircraft carrier, and surviving to become the only operational battleships anywhere in the world.
This is a very impressive history of these iconic warships, satisfactorily filling all three types of naval book – the technical, the service history and the pictorial guide.
1 – The Genesis of the Iowa-Class Battleships
2 – Technical Characteristics
3 – Armament
4 – Power and Propulsion
5 – Shipboard Equipment
6 – Paint and Camouflage
7 – Commanding Officers
8 – Battle Honours
9 – Refitting and Conversion Projects
10 – Previous Ships of the Name
11 – The Sad End of the Illinoisand Kentucky
12 – Preservation and Legal Status
13 – The Career of the Battleship USS Iowa (BB 61)
14 – The Career of the Battleship USS New Jersey (BB 62)
15 – The Career of the Battleship USS Missouri (BB 63)
16 – The Career of the Battleship USS Wisconsin (BB 64)
Author: Philippe Caresse