Anyone familiar with destroyer operations in World War II will know that destroyers began gradually taking on a larger number of responsibilities from their originally designed purpose of being “torpedo boat destroyers.” Apart from their original anti-surface warfare role, the “tin cans” saw further enhancements, not only to their main battery but also to their anti-air and anti-submarine capabilities as technology improved during the interwar years and into the conflict. Thus, a book about the various weaponry used by destroyers might be interesting…except Destroyer Weapons of World War 2 by Peter Hodges and Norman Friedman falls somewhat short.
For one thing, the title itself is misleading. It implies a broad examination of weapons used by destroyers throughout the world’s navies at the time. However, in reality, it only covers British and American destroyer weapons. A more accurate title might be British and American Destroyer Weapons of World War 2.
The book is essentially composed of two parts. The first half, written by Peter Hodges, is on British Royal Navy destroyers and their weapons and sensors. The second half of the book, written by Norman Friedman, focuses on U.S. Navy destroyers and their associated weapons and sensors.
What is immediately noticeable is that there is a marked difference in the writing and details provided by the two authors. Hodges uses more headings and divides the narrative into sections discussing different destroyer classes and their different weapons. He also provides more technical drawings identifying the various components of weapons. In contrast, Friedman’s writing, much like his other works, is more of a continuous narrative. He does discuss the destroyer classes individually, but the discussion of their weapons and sensor arrangements are blended together into the narrative. Personally, I prefer Hodges’ style of writing a bit more over Friedman’s. It’s easier to follow and more logically laid out.
My biggest issue with this book is that while the writing itself contains sufficient technical details, as you would expect from these authors, it’s a bit skimpy. The book comes in at less than 200 pages. Yes, it’s strangely very short. I wouldn’t say that the book is a bad read, but having already read Norman Friedman’s excellent design history on U.S. destroyers, I expected a far more substantial narrative. Not much is said about the development of these weapons (and sensors), nor of how they performed in combat, apart from the fact that the sailors identified deficiencies in some areas and requested some upgrades, modifications, or a completely new design. As a result, much of the narrative examines how the destroyers were upgraded over their careers. This basically amounts to “____ destroyer received ____ number of (insert weapon) by this time in the war.” In short, very little evaluation is given and this book clearly stands as more of a design history rather than an operational history. The problem is that even the portions of the design history are short.
In summation, the book’s title is rather misleading. For authors who are experts in their fields, the writing itself is above-average, but unfortunately, the content provided is pretty cursory. It leaves the reader expecting more details, but the book comes off as more of an overview than an in-depth history of destroyer weaponry. I suppose the short page count should’ve been a giveaway.
Rating: 3 out of 5 (Above average).