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Essex-Class Aircraft Carriers 1945-91

20 Jun 23


(Osprey Publishing – £11.99)

ISBN 978 1 4728 4581 8

48 pages

This short, soft-backed book tells the story of the 24 ships of the US Navy’s Essex-class aircraft carriers. The author, Mark Stille, is a retired US Navy Commander, who has numerous titles to his credit, with a particular focus on naval history in the Pacific.

The lead ship, the USS Essex, was laid down in 1938, and 17 of the class were commissioned before the end of World War II. At 27,100 tons and with an air group of 100 aircraft, the ships had a range of 15,000 nautical miles and were capable of 33 knots. Whilst the majority of the ships were laid up after World War II, most of them were reactivated as a result of the Korean War. The last of the ships was decommissioned in 1991.

Over the course of their service, ships of the class received extensive modifications, primarily to enable them to operate jets. This inevitably resulted in an increase in displacement (to in excess of 40,000 tons), with a detrimental impact upon armament, speed, endurance and stability.  Indeed, the USS Antietam was the first ship in the world to be fitted with an angled flight deck (pioneered by the Royal Navy). Some of the ships were also adapted for the ASW and amphibious roles.

In addition to short sections on armament and sensors, the book describes the deployment of the carriers during the Cold War period, including during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, with brief descriptions of the operations in which their air groups were involved. The final section provides a brief synopsis of the career of each of the carriers in commission during the post World War II period.

With a length of just 48 pages and illustrated throughout with black and white photographs and some impressive coloured drawings, this informative and well-written book is very reasonably priced at just £11.99. It will be appeal to anyone with an interest in the 20th century US Navy or who wishes to learn more about this versatile and useful class of aircraft carrier.