Book Review: Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era


by Norman Friedman, illustrated by A.D. Baker

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008. Pp. 319. Illus., diagr., tables, append., gloss., notes, biblio., index. $69.95. ISBN: 978-1-59114-555-4

Author of numerous books of warships and war at sea, including Unmanned Combat Air Systems (2010) and The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems (2006), in Naval Firepower Dr. Friedman focuses on what was actually the most important technical problem of the Big Gun era of sea power, how to hit the target. 

The book opens with several chapters that address the question "How good must fire control be?", which lay out the principal problems that affect the accuracy of gunfire at sea, such as platform motion and range finding, tactics and targeting, and so forth.  These are followed by a chapter on the experience of the Great War, another on developments between the world wars, and then a general survey of the experience of World War II.  These chapters tend to focus on the British experience, natural given the dominance of the Royal Navy in the first four decades of the twentieth century.  There follow two chapters on the U.S.N., one a general survey and one on wartime experience, and chapters on the Japanese, French, Italian, and Russian fleets. 

Treatment in all cases is quite detailed, and Dr. Friedman provides critical comparisons between similar systems from different countries.  And the notes are worth reading. Well illustrated, Naval Firepower is an essential work for anyone interested in naval warfare in the twentieth century.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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