The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 2002, Volume 48, Number 3
Gregg Hennessey, Editor

Book Reviews

Aircraft Carriers. By Michael and Gladys Green. New York: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers, 2000. Full-color and Black/White photographs, 144 pages. $19.98 Hardcover.

The Air War. By Bernard C. Nalty. New York: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers, 2000. Photographs, illustrations, index, 128 pages. $14.98 Hardcover.

Reviewed by Timothy Metcalf, a history major at the University of San Diego and an Active Duty Navy personnel. He has deployed on three cruises onboard two different Aircraft Carriers — the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk and the U.S.S. Carl Vinson — during his Naval career. As a member of a helicopter crew, he was privy to the wondrous sites of the aircraft carrier and her operations while at sea. Before beginning his academic career, sponsored by the United States Navy, he served as a Rescue Swimmer on board SH-60F and HH-60H helicopters for eight years and accumulated over 1800 flight hours.

The beauty and majesty of an Aircraft Carrier while cutting a wake through the ocean is breathtaking. I am glad to have had the opportunity to witness this awe-inspiring power and now so can readers of Michael and Gladys Green’s Aircraft Carriers. For anyone who has served on one of these majestic ships and loved the experience, the photography in Aircraft Carriers will bring back many memories; and for those who have not had the good fortune to take part in the excitement and adventure of aircraft carrier life, this book is as close as it gets. Through an amazing array of pictures, Aircraft Carriers reveals a perspective that rivals actually being embarked upon the ship yourself.

The Greens explain and illustrate production of aircraft carrier at the beginning of the book, a too-often forgotten necessity in books which deal with a specific class of ship, and deal with the complexity of operations onboard in language that lay persons will find meaningful. In addition to giving a history of the vessel, Aircraft Carriers offers great insight into the issues of today’s Navy and the future of these impressive and imposing vessels. The scope of the book is not limited to the United States Aircraft Carriers but covers the allies of the U. S. as well as the adversaries to the carrier and her flight crews. The photographs of other country’s ships alongside the U. S. S. are magnificent and rare. I recommend this book as an addition to any collection, for it will make an excellent book to display as well as a source of knowledge into the complexities of Aircraft Carriers and their operations.

The Air War, one of four books in the “World War II Chronicles” series, examines the ways in which air power (introduced into the war arena in World War I) forever changed the tactics of armed conflict. Certainly Bernard C. Nalty’s almost forty-year experience as historian for the United States Marine Corps, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Center for Air Force History contributed to his superb decisions in book organization. Nalty does not begin in 1939, but rather returns to the 1910s when tacticians first began to incorporate air strikes into military strategy. Thus, readers learn why air power led to World War II earning distinction as “the defining conflict of the twentieth century.”

Nalty does not only discuss the United States and her allies but gives insight into the strengths of Axis air power. Several maps help to describe the various air strategies used by Allied and Axis powers, and detail the broad influence of World War II.

Nalty’s use of photography, however, is what will resonate most with readers of The Air War. From the sands of the Northern African deserts to the cool blue waters of the Pacific, we see it all. Action photographs from the vantage points of both crew and victims of air destruction offer a balanced account of the influences of air power during the first half of the twentieth century.