THE BATTLESHIPS OF THE IOWA CLASS: A DESIGN AND OPERATIONAL HISTORY

Reviewed by: DR JAMES BOSBOTINIS

This is a visually very impressive book, and one that immediately appealed to this reviewer. The Battleships of the IowaClass provides a comprehensive, detailed history of the design, development and operational history of the US Navy’s final and longest-serving class of battleship. In one example of the fascinating details this book includes, is reference to the arming in the 1950s of the Iowa-class (except for the Missouri) with the Mk 23 ‘Katie’ shells: 16-inch rounds with a 15 to 20 kiloton nuclear warhead. The author, Philippe Caresse, formerly an officer in the French Navy, and now a naval historian, first saw an Iowa-class ship, the New Jersey, whilst on station off Lebanon in 1984, leaving an indelible impression on him, with his book seeking to “provide a technological and historical account of this great class of battleships”.

Divided into two substantive sections – ‘Genesis and Technology’ and ‘Service Careers’, and 16 chapters (albeit a couple of the chapters are only one to two pages), the book covers every aspect of the design, development and service of the Iowa-class, with the second half of the book dedicated to the individual service careers of the Iowa, New Jersey, Missouriand Wisconsin, through to their preservation as museum ships. Caresse has crafted an excellent, deeply researched, and balanced account of the Iowa-class, combining a highly detailed yet accessible technical overview of the ships from stem to stern, with the history of the class and the individual ships. Moreover, he explores some of the proposed modernisation projects, in particular from the 1950s and 1960s, which included a satellite launcher conversion, and the concept for a ‘BBG’, or guided-missile battleship. The BBG would have, in its ultimate form, seen the 16-inch guns removed, and the ships armed with a variety of missiles including 12 silos for Polaris ballistic missiles. Whilst the second half of the book provides a detailed account of the four battleships’ service careers, the first half in particular features a very extensive selection of photographs and diagrams. It does warrant mention that some of the diagrams will require a magnifying glass.

The Battleships of the Iowa Class is a well-written (ably translated by Bruce Taylor), lavishly illustrated book. There are a few minor typos, and a couple of references to the Arleigh Burke-class being included within battleship-led surface action groups in the 1980s: the Arleigh Burke-class, however, did not enter service until the early 1990s. Those minor errors do not detract from the quality of this book. The Battleships of the Iowa Class will appeal to all those with a particular interest in battleships, as well as those with a general interest in naval history. It will also provide a valuable resource to researchers. At £75, the book is on the pricey side, but at the time of writing, Amazon are selling the book for £51.35. For anyone with a particular interest in, for example, the history of the US Navy, its battleships or battleships in general, this book will greatly appeal and is strongly recommended. The Battleships of the Iowa Class would be a worthy addition to any bookshelf, or coffee table, and will provide an engaging and enjoyable read.