Naval Warfare Books

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Ship That Won the War

Elphick, Peter

2001, United States Naval Inst.
ISBN 1557505357
Hardcover, 512 pages

Type. General History
Pros. Very detailed, debunks many myths on the subject, entertaining
Cons. Nothing major; see below

This is a very thick, very detailed book covering every aspect of the Liberty Ship, from the wartime situation that led to the necessity to build it, to its technological specifications, the procedures used in its construction, and the politicians, engineers, shipyard workers, and sailors who put their efforts into realizing the goal of keeping the supply lines open. The author seems to have set out to write the definitive history, and takes the opportunity to debunk many myths introduced in previous books about Liberty Ships.

Overall this is an excellent book, containing everything one would wish to know on the subject. It is divided into three parts. The first covers the development of the Liberty, including factors that led to its being necessary, shipyards, naming the ships, crews, social and political changes caused and/or feared by this program, and the structural failure that almost spelled disaster. The second part details stories of individual ships and specific areas, including chapters on Liberties in various theaters of the war; Liberties used as troopships; salvage issues; the sea battle between Stephen Hopkins and the German raider Tannenfels; and much more. The third part covers activities of the Liberty postwar, including peacetime losses, treasures possibly remaining on sunken Liberties, and surviving Liberties today.

The exhaustiveness of the book is both a plus and a minus. Sometimes the detailed descriptions of the personalities involved, down to the clothes they liked to wear, can seem to slow things down. Although the several appendices included do provide a quick reference, this is probably not the best choice for those who wish to grasp the essentials of the Liberty Ship quickly. On the contrary, this is a leisurely look at an often unexpectedly colorful chapter in shipping and naval warfare history.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 12 Dec 2001.

This title is highly recommended.

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