The author of this book served as an aerial photo interpreter with the USAF for nearly thirty years. One of the jobs he was given during his career was to examine the vast archive of older photographs that had accumulated and see which ones were worth keeping. This book is based on the pictures that he found of enough interest to keep himself, covering the German, Italian, Japanese and Vichy French navies during the Second World War.
It's interesting to see the different types of pictures available for each navy. For Germany and Italy most pictures are high level PR photos produced by the RAF or USAAF, so we see the distinctive hull shapes of the warships. For the Japanese there are almost no pre-war pictures and most of the wartime pictures were taken from aircraft attacking the ships or their bases, so are taken from lower level and normally from the side. As a result we see the profile of the Japanese ships but rarely the top views.
The main idea of the book is to look at the pictures, see what the Allies could learn from them and when possible compare the wartime PI's conclusions with what we now know. This is an interesting approach, and makes you look at the pictures much more closely than would otherwise the case (I spent ages trying to find a German aircraft 'hidden' in one picture, successfully in the end).
This is a fascinating book that really makes you appreciate the hard work that went into analysing the vast amount of photographs produced by Allied photographic reconnaissance, as well as the potential benefits and limits of the information that was produced.
1 - Background
2 - Naval Bases, Ports and Harbors
3 - Reichsmarine
4 - Regia Marina
5 - Marine Nationale
6 - The Imperial Japanese Navy
7 - Final Observations
Author: Colonel Roy M. Stanley II
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime