US Submarines 1900-35

Published: May 30th, 2011     
Front cover
Front cover
Author: Jim Christley, Illustrated by Peter Bull
Reviewed by: Rob Benson - IPMS# 44038
ISBN #: 978-1-84908-185-6
E-Book ISBN #: 978-1-84908-186-3
Other Publication Information: Soft cover, 48-pp
Price: $17.99
Product / Stock #: New Vanguard 175
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

Thanks to Sara of Osprey Publishing and to IPMS USA for giving me the opportunity to review this wonderful book!

Osprey continues their well-established historical narrative format in the New Vanguard series with US Submarines, 1900-35. This is a significant development era of the US Navy, a transition from the "novelty" submersible ships to a legitimate weapon. Book chapters describe genesis of the US submarine force, early design development, the need for new technologies, naming of submarines, and early operational accounts. The book is a paperback, on heavy pages, which successfully withstood a coffee spill by the reviewer. There are many vintage B&W photos and line drawings throughout, supplemented by numerous color renderings of boat designs, propulsion systems, weapon systems, cutaways, etc. A good index is included, but a reference list or bibliography is absent. I included the ebook ISBN, since as a computer has crept into my workshop, I find that quickly referencing materials on screen is becoming quite helpful.

I have a deep respect for all who have served or are serving in submarines. But after reading about the dangers in the early boats (think seawater getting into open battery wells and generating chlorine gas, among other problems), I am truly amazed at what these pioneers did to make submarines the fighting force they are. There are stories of disasters and battle actions that show raw courage and sometime cynical action reports, including friendly fire! Getting submarines built was itself a problem, with Electric Boat and Lake competing with various designs, during which the Navy was seeking to establish a government-owned submarine building facility, specifically the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Interestingly, early submarines had no fish names, rather a comparatively boring pattern of S-4, etc.

Of course one of the real enjoyments of our hobby is the background research and development of our projects and for anyone building early subs, this book will be a great asset. Nearly all of the photographs came from the Naval History Center and the US Navy, so additional details should be readily available. One odd thing is that this book is touted by the publisher as filling the gap in Osprey's coverage of submarines between the Civil War and WW2, yet the Osprey WW2 submarine volume NVG 118 title suggests that there is a gap from 1935 to 1941. In all fairness, I have not read Osprey's NVG 118, and it may very well cover the pre-1941 development of the fleet submarine. If not, I am very hopeful that that Osprey will consider truly filling in that gap.

In summary, US Submarines 1900-35 is an excellent reference and read with a great blend of details and engaging narrative.

Again, thanks to Sara of Osprey Publishing and to IPMS USA for giving me the opportunity to review this book!

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