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What Happened to the Battleship

...1945 to the Present, from Seaforth Publishing

Title: What Happened to the Battleship
Author: Chris Baker
Publisher: Seaforth Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-3990-7008-9

This recent book from Seaforth Publishing takes on the subject of the Battleship, from the end of WW2 to their final days in service. A 416-page book packed with the detail of what happened to those once proud battlewagons which survived WW2, though in a variety of conditions.
It takes the signing of the Japanese surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, alongside a number of other Battleships assembled there for the event. There were 95 dreadnoughts and battleships around the world at that point of time, though in varying degrees of serviceability. The value of these huge ships made salvage still a viable proposition, even for some that had been sunk or scuttled. In the opening chapter we get a summary of the state of each ship, by country. The USA had 32: the UK, 18: France 12: USSR 9: Italy 7: Germany 6: Japan 5: Brazil 2: Argentina 2: Chile 1: and Turkey 1. There was much to do in the immediate aftermath and we hear how the battleships played their part while they still had to begin to wind down, not only to save money, but to allow crews to go home. The UK economy was in a bad state after the war so there is a lot about the changing plans for the post-war Royal Navy requirements, and even then consigned for the scrap merchant, Warspite didn't give up easily and makes for an interesting story all by itself when it ended up in Prussia Cove, Cornwall, while the US Navy had a similar problem trying to get the Oklahoma back across the Pacific. One of the question marks that was left by the appearance of the atomic bomb, and there is some great detail of those ships involved in the tests at Bikini Atoll. There is so much more, as the politics of the Cold War settled into place. The cost of building and operating these huge ships had to be planned for by all the countries which had them as the sheer economics of it all had to be taken into account. There were widespread cuts along with Stalin's plan for an Oceanic Navy along with the outbreak of the Korean War. The Cold War presented more issues before the US Iowa Class were reactivated for the Vietnam War, and later modernised and brought back into service for the Gulf War as well. Finally though, the battleship had its' day, and the final examples remain only now as museum ships.
The whole story makes for some really interesting detail. Not just the practicalities of building, crewing and operating these huge ships and what their use was in the expansion of aircraft carriers and guided missile systems but also the complex politics of international relationships which impacted not only on their operations, but even in how the were scrapped. Overall a very interesting read and one I won't hesitate in recommending.
Thanks to Seaforth Publications for the review copy.


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