This particular publisher has tackled the subject of US Heavy Cruisers from WW2 by producing two books which compliment each other perfectly. The first of these is the subject of this review and covers the pre-war classes which were still in service when hostilities commenced. The second (a subject for another day) covers wartime and post-war classes from 1943 to 1975.
It is another work from a series of books which have become very popular as far as those covering ship types are concerned. Altogether, the product is best described as an excellent overview of the subject which provides the perfect introduction for those who may be new to the topic. Before getting down to specifics, the book commences with; Introduction, Naval Strategy and the Role of the Heavy Cruiser, USN Heavy Cruiser Design and Naval Treaties, USN Heavy Cruiser Weapons, USN Heavy Cruiser Radar. There then follows five chapters covering the pertinent detail for the following classes of ship; Pensacola, Northampton, Portland, New Orleans and Wichita. Within each of these are the four headings; Design & Construction, Armament, Service Modifications and Wartime Service. The book then concludes with; Analysis & Conclusion, Bibliography and Index.
In short, established author Mark Stille begins by expertly setting the scene in terms of US naval strategy and the design of the most important aspects of this type of ship in the form of hull, weapons and radar and includes whatever generalities were relevant. Following this most instructional narrative, we then find the particular details of each of the five classes mentioned.
The work is fully supported by images of the highest possible quality with either an historic photograph or artistic impression on almost every page. Though mostly ship portraits, some photographs also cover other aspects - such as four vessels streaming in line ahead and executing a 90 degree turn to starboard in unison, ships at anchor and alongside, gun crews, vessels fully camouflaged and some instances of damage. That well-known photograph of the USS Minneapolis minus her entire bow section forward of her guns is included.
The artistic illustrations fall into three broad categories; Across pages 34-35 is a port-side profile of the USS San Francisco with two cutaway sections showing; (A) her engine room and (B) the aft triple 8 in gun turret - all the way down to the magazine revealing the ammunition and the mechanisms for loading shells. There are two excellent images of ships at work; (A) the USS Houston under fire during the Battle of Sunda Strait and (B) the USS Tuscaloosa firing her guns in support of US Forces on D-Day. Perhaps of more importance, however, the third group comprises three images for each class with two very different starboard profiles and one deck detail. Each of these is accompanied by lengthy captions in which items of particular interest (modifications, position of radar etc) are pointed out.
I doubt there is any “new” or revolutionary information which was hitherto unknown by today’s experts. For those with lesser knowledge, however, I really cannot think of a better way of learning about the ships covered by this book and, for that reason alone, the work must be considered as very useful and fully recommended!