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SUBMARINES OF WORLD WAR TWO: Design, Development, and Operations

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SUBMARINES OF WORLD WAR TWO: Design, Development, and Operations

Erminio Bagnasco

Seaforth Books, 2018

288 pages, 24.5 cm x 26.5 cm

Suggested Retail: GBP40.00

 

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When I was in middle school, way back in the day, some of my favorite books to check out from the library were books about military hardware -- planes, ships, etc. -- that were broad surveys of different types and included lots of pictures. I still enjoy such books today. Submarines of World War Two fits that description nicely, although it is (happily) more detailed in its descriptions than a middle-school book.

 

Originally published in 1973, this book is literally a survey of just about every class and variant of submarine deployed by every WWII combatant, from major powers like Germany right on down to the smaller fleets of lesser combatants such as Latvia. Neutral countries are covered, too. First written in Italian, the English edition is very readable and gives very few hints of being a translated work.

 

The book begins with a 32-page introduction that covers the origins of submarines, their subsequent development, and their coming of age as significant weapons of war during WWI. This portion of the book is well-written and worth reading in its own right, so don't skip the introduction in this work!

 

The main portion of the book is divided into two sections, the first and necessarily larger section covering the major combatants, and the second devoted to lesser and neutral powers. Within each section, countries are presented in alphabetical order, and the various classes of boats are presented in the order in which they were first built. Each country is introduced with a short overview that cover various aspects of its development of submarines and use of them during the war.

 

The description of each class of submarine begins with a wealth of statistical data, including number of boats in the class, names, dates and locations of builds, dimensions, complement, and performance data. The design and development of each class is discussed and its significant contributions are covered. The final disposition of every boat in the class is listed, and, if lost, the means by which it was lost is given. In some cases, as for instance with Germany's Type VII boats, these lists can be very lengthy -- a grim reminder of the appalling human cost of WWII submarine warfare.

 

Submarines of World War Two is printed on glossy stock and profusely illustrated with line drawings (in the form of cross-sections and outboard and inboard profiles) and black-and-white photographs. It rewards the casual page-turner as well as the serious student of naval history.

 

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I think that I can safely say that the casual fan of WWII naval operations is broadly familiar with Kriegsmarine submarine efforts during the Battle of the Atlantic, and possibly to a lesser extent with U.S. operations in the Pacific. This book was, for me at least, a real treat in that it describes the not inconsiderable submarine operations of the other combatants, who don't generally get nearly as much ink in big-picture descriptions of the larger conflict. For this focused treatment alone, Submarines of World War Two is a worthy addition to the libraries of submarine fans everywhere.

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