Book Review: America's Sailors in the Great War: Seas, Skies, and Submarines


by Lisle A. Rose

Columbia: University of Missouri, 2016. Pp. xvi, 330. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $36.95. ISBN: 082622105X

America’s Navy in World War I

Sometime sailor and diplomat Rose, author of books on the USS Hornet (CV 8), Richard E. Byrd, and other naval subjects, takes a look at the U.S. Navy in World War I, an often slighted subject.

Dr. Rose offers a wide ranging account of the Navy in the war. He manages to integrate rather seamlessly explorations of questions of high policy and grand strategy, the problems of raising and training more than a half-million men and a few women, harsh days at sea helping protect Atlantic convoys from the U-boot, operations of battlewagons serving with the British Grand Fleet and of and minelayers working in the North Sea to planted what was the greatest undersea mine barrier to that time, takes us along with patrol bombers over the Bay of Biscay or the Adriatic, looks at the work of the 14-inch rail mounted “naval batteries” on the Western Front, and even looks at the everyday details of a sailor’s life, whether in training or in the fleet.

Rose touches on many subjects often overlooked, such as the lack of a credible naval air arm at the start of the war or the role of the now long-forgotten Naval Militia in the mobilization of the fleet. He describes how the service grew and adapted to make a vital contribution to the Allied cause.

But Rose also does not hesitate to point out the limitations of the U.S. Navy, which had an unbalanced fleet a -- with too many battleships and not enough destroyers and cruisers – and had surprisingly little understanding of the problems of modern war at sea.

Rose frequently uses the experiences of individual sailors, both enlisted and officer, to help tell the story, which often offer very personal insights into contemporary naval operations and combat. In this way, he is also able to introduce us to some people well known at the time – William Sims, Henry Mayo, David Beatty – and some who would later be famous – Chester Nimitz, William Halsey, Ernest J. King – and many who did their bit and went home.

Despite some small errors (e.g. “merchant marines”), America’s Sailors in the Great War, a volume in the Missouri series “American Military Experience”, is an excellent treatment of the Navy in the war, worth a read by anyone interested in the service or the Great War at sea.

Note: America’s Sailors in the Great War is also available as an e-book, ISBN 978-0-8262-2083-7.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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