Book Review: U.S. Standard-Type Battleships 1941 – 45 (1 & 2) by Mark Stille

Topic & Content

Part of Osprey’s New Vanguard series, these two books cover the development, systems, and service of the six classes of Standard-Type battleships in the U.S. Navy prior to and during World War II. The books are organized as follows:

Book 1

  • Introduction
    • Impact of Naval Treaties on USN Battleship Development
  • American Battleship Design Developments
    • Interwar Reconstruction of American Battleships
    • American Battleship Weapons
    • USN Battleship Radar
  • The Battleship Classes
    • Nevada class
    • Pennsylvania class
    • New Mexico class
  • Analysis and Conclusion

Book 2

  • US WWII Strategy and the Role of the Battleship
    • The Standard-type Battleships’ New Role
    • US Battleship Design Developments
    • US Battleship Weapons
    • US Battleship Fire Control
    • USN Battleship Radar
    • USN Battleship Tactics
  • The Battleship Classes
    • Tennessee class
    • Colorado class
    • South Dakota class
    • Lexington class Battlecruisers
  • Analysis and Conclusion

Thesis

Surprisingly, these two books actually have a unifying thesis. Mark Stille writes that although these ships weren’t used in their envisioned role of a large-scale battleship versus battleship engagement (barring the Battle of Surigao Strait), they still had worthy careers and demonstrated their value in providing gunfire support for amphibious assaults.

Author’s Background

Mark Stille is a retired U.S. Navy Commander with more than 30 years in the intelligence community. Additionally, he did tours as a faculty member at the Naval War College and is a frequent contributing author to Osprey. Anyone with a passing interest in WWII Pacific War history will inevitably encounter Stille’s books given that he almost exclusively writes on that subject.

Critical Observations

Positives

These books serve their function well as introductory texts to the ship classes under discussion. As with all of the Osprey Vanguard series, they’re very short and easy reads. In fact, each of these books is under 70 pages long and you could read both of them in a few days or less.

Given that these are clearly meant for the popular history market (as most of Osprey’s books are), they serve their purpose well in providing easily digestible information for the reader. Anyone expecting some groundbreaking historical research should look elsewhere since these are very derivative works. That being said, for the reader who isn’t familiar with these ships, these books provide a good overview of their design features and service histories.

Negatives

For what these books are, I don’t have many criticisms of them since they’re meant for armchair historians. However, a relatively minor criticism is that these two books are so short (each less than 70 pages) that they could easily be condensed into a single volume. I suspect that Osprey, the publisher, has page limits for its New Vanguard series which are all paperback books of an introductory nature. Therefore, that necessitated splitting the content into two separate volumes. Another reason could also be that Osprey wanted to make more profit, and thus, had the books sold separately. Then again, the author could’ve just needed more time to do his research on the ship classes, so he submitted what he had to be published. (However, I’m just speculating since I’m not familiar with the publishing industry.)

Evaluation (Does the content support the thesis?)

These books are certainly no technical references. However, their content is straightforward and supports the thesis that these battleships, while products of the interwar period and thinking, proved their design and worth in the Pacific Theater. The only real downside is that the content of these books is strangely divided up into two volumes when it could easily fit into one. For anyone already familiar with these ships, these books won’t tell you anything new. As with many of Osprey’s books, they’re based on existing research and don’t bring any groundbreaking information to the table, but they work well as quick and easily accessible references for amateur historians.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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