31 Mar 21
Posted by: Dr James Bosbotinis

The Sea and the Second World War immediately appealed to this reviewer. Edited by Marcus Faulkner and Alessio Patalano, both members of the Laughton Naval Unit within the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, and featuring contributions from authors including Rear Admiral James Goldrick, Evan Mawdsley, and G. H. Bennett, the book did not disappoint. The Sea and the Second World War seeks to “illustrate the impact of naval operations in the Second World War by providing insight into political, strategic, administrative, and operational aspects of the maritime war from Axis and Allied perspectives”. It does this, whilst also providing important and timely analysis of subjects of contemporary relevance such as doctrinal development, innovation and implementing technological transformation.

The Sea and the Second World War features 10 chapters, encompassing a diverse range of topics. This includes British submarine capability in the Far East from 1919 to 1940; the naval strategies of Britain, the US and Japan at the start of the Pacific War; a case study of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; the role and contribution of Dominions to British maritime power in the Second World War; “Schnellboote, Strategy and the Defense of Festung Europa, 1943-44”; the development of the Combined Operations Headquarters; Australia and amphibious warfare in the South West Pacific; naval gunfire support at Iwo Jima; “Naval Power, Mao Zedong, and the War in China, 1926-1949”; and the US Army-Navy contest for control of land-based anti-submarine aviation and the military unification debate. This reviewer found the chapters on British, US and Japanese naval strategies, the Pearl Harbor case study, the War in China, and on the US debate on Army versus Navy control of land-based anti-submarine aircraft, by Mawdsley, Zimm, Grice and Monahan respectively, of particular interest. It also features a succinct Introduction by Faulkner and Patalano.

This is an excellent, well-written volume, reflecting the quality of the contributors, and provides much thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating reading. The book is written to academic conventions, with each chapter having detailed footnotes. The Sea and the Second World War will very much appeal to those with an academic or professional interest in naval strategy or history; it would be most useful to students at Staff College. It would also appeal to the interested lay reader, being sufficiently accessible to those without an academic background. In this respect, the price of the book – £37.50 deserves mention as it is considerably more affordable than many books intended for an academic audience. The Sea and the Second World War is intended to shed light on the impact of naval operations in the Second World War from both Axis and Allied perspectives, and does so effectively, providing across its 10 chapters, a highly readable, and detailed analysis of the maritime aspects of the war. It is highly recommended.