Battleship / German Navy / Japanese Navy / Non Fiction / Royal Navy / Us Navy / World War II

Books on World War II battleships – a comprehensive guide – non-fiction books

A Glorious Way to Die: The Kamikaze Mission of the Battleship Yamato, April 1945, by Russell Spurr

A first-rate military history book. A Glorious Way To Die: The Kamikaze Mission Of The Battleship Yamato, April 1945 dramatizes the final mission of this Japanese battleship which was the biggest battleship ever built in the history of naval warfare. Russell Spurr tells the day-by-day historic, tragic, violent events surround the final days of the battleship Yamato from both the Japanese an Allied points of view. A Glorious Way To Die is fascinating naval history and “must” reading for all World War II military studies collections.

The Battleship “Yamato” (Anatomy of the Ship), by Janusz Skulski

A detailed description of Yamato – the biggest battleship ever.

The battleship Yamato was a tremendous achievement for the Imperial Japanese Navy. With the greatest displacement, biggest guns, and heaviest armor of all time, Yamato and her sister Musashi were the ultimate battleships. Everything about them was gigantic – for example, each main-armament turret had a total revolving weight of over 2500 tons – and they proved dangerous opponents to the US Pacific Fleet. Fittingly for such a subject as Yamato, this contribution to the ‘Anatomy’ series has twice as many drawings as a standard volume. The ‘Anatomy of the Ship’ series aims to provide the finest documentation of individual ships and ship types ever published. What makes the series unique is a complete set of superbly executed line drawings, both the conventional type of plan as well as explanatory views, with fully descriptive keys. These are supported by technical details and a record of the ship’s service history.

Battleship Missouri: An Illustrated History, by Paul Stillwell

This book has technical data on the Battleship Missouri, and much, much more.  It gives the reader a thoroughly enjoyable view of what it was like to serve in this famous warship.

Missouri was one of the four Iowa Class Battleships (New Jersey, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin). These huge ships are considered by many naval experts to be the perfect blend of speed, firepower, and protection. Only the Japanese Yamoto and Musashi were bigger. When these ships were designed, no one knew that the day of the battleship was over, naval airpower and aircraft carriers reigned supreme in the contest of the Pacific. There were never any huge Battleship battles such as many had imagined.

This book by Paul Stillwell is much more than nuts and bolts of Missouri. It gives the stories behind the steel, the men who crewed the ship, providing a rare glimpse of what it was like to be a sailor aboard a mighty ship from June 1944 at her commissioning to her service in the Korean War, the Vietnam war and finally, the 1991 Gulf War.

The photographs are excellent, showing interior as well as exterior shots. There are line diagrams to show the ship and what makes it tick. This is a pricey book, but well worth the cost for anyone interested in naval affairs, naval history, and a fitting tribute not just to the ship, but the men who served.

Battleships: United States Battleships, 1935-1992, by William H. Garzke and Robert O. Dulin

Every major class of battleship is described in meticulous detail. From design to outcome.

The book deals with the final series of American battleship classes: N. Carolina, S. Dakota, Iowa, stillborn Montana plus the Alaska heavy cruiser. It also features hull frame lines, which are hard to find elsewhere. Additionally, it features deck by deck layouts. The pictures are informative. A chapter about gun turret accidents is very insightful and informative as well.

This book makes a valuable addition to any battleships fan’s library. If you own Friedman’s “” US Battleships” & Breyer’s “Battleships & Battle Cruisers 1905-1970″ the data in this book helps to sort out some of the more obscure points.

The American Battleship, by Samuel Loring Morison and Norman Polmar

A very good book for readers who are new to battleship books or buying one for someone who is new to them. If you are an experienced reader of battleship books, then skip this book.

There is little new in this book, but it contains a good overview and lots of pictures. Most of these, however, have been published in other battleship books. Even so, many of the photos are very nice, and the book is broad enough to provide a good starting point for further explorations into this field.

Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II, William H. Garzke and Robert O. Dulin

The authors of complete their trilogy on capital ships of the World War II-era with this book. They examine WWI development, the Washington Naval Conference and its effect on pre-WWII designs, the escalator clause, and wartime developments affecting the battleships and battlecruisers of Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Spain is included among the Axis powers due to Franco’s right-wing regime and aid received from Germany and Italy during the civil war.

Step by step details of the design of Yamato and the inherent weakness of her underwater protection are discussed. The gunnery comparisons between Yamato and Iowa are surprising.

The chase and sinking of Bismarck and Scharnhorst are detailed and the weaknesses in German designs are pointed out. Finally, the authors compare capital ships in four design areas: 1) battlecruisers 2) 35,000-ton designs 3) 45,000-ton designs 4) 45,000 plus ton designs. There are gunnery tables included at the end for comparison of contemporary naval artillery. This book, along with their books on Allied and US Battleships, belongs on the shelf of any wargamer or warship historian/enthusiast.

There are some known weaknesses in the descriptions of Bismarck and Tirpitz, but this is due to data that was lacking at the time of writing, and not to omissions by the authors.

Imperial Japanese Navy Battleships 1941-45, by Mark Stille

The Imperial Japanese Navy of World War 2 actually surpassed the  Allied and Axis fleets in innovation and technology. This title covers the 12 Japanese battleships that saw service between 1941-45. Each class is considered in turn in light of its design and construction, its armament, and wartime modifications.

The author, Mark Stille, also uses first-hand accounts and dramatic photographs to tell the story of these mighty battleships at war, including major engagements during the raid at Pearl Harbor and the battle of Midway. He also examines the wider context of Japanese battleship development by looking at the naval strategy and cult of the battleship. This title will fascinate any naval enthusiast, and the detailed color plates will make it essential for modelers of the period.

The author’s use of primary sources and dramatic photos provides a visual survey of the ships. This is an excellent book.

British Battleships 1939-45 (1): Queen Elizabeth and Royal Soverign Classes, by Angus Konstam

At the outbreak of World War II, Britain’s Royal Navy and her fleet of battleships would be at the forefront of her defense. Yet from a fleet of 12 battleships, ten were already over 20 years old, venerable veterans of World War I.

Extensive modifications throughout the 1930s allowed these ships to perform a vital service throughout the six long years of conflict, and further improvements made during the course of the war enabled them to hold their own against their German and Italian counterparts.

This book offers a comprehensive review of the development of these British battleships from their initial commissioning to their peacetime modifications and wartime service. Detailed descriptions of the main armament of each ship will offer further analysis of individual battleships’ effectiveness, discussing how the guns were manned when engaging the enemy. Describing HMS Warspite during the battle of Matapan in 1941, the author details how this British battleship, together with other Royal Navy and Australian vessels, defeated the might of the Italian navy so that they never again threatened Allied fleets within the Mediterranean. With specially commissioned artwork and a dramatic retelling of key battleship engagements, this book will highlight what it was like onboard for the sailors who risked their lives on the high seas.

This book is a good short history for those who want to know the basics of the early WW2 British Battleships.

German Battleships 1939-45, by Gordon Williamson

In this book, first, of a five-volume series covering the capital ships of the  German Navy of World War II, Gordon Williamson examines the design, development, and operational use of the battleships used by the Kriegsmarine. The ‘Schlesien’ and ‘Schleswig-Hostein’ were used mostly as training ships until the end of the war when they took part in the bombardment of Soviet troop movements in East Prussia. The ‘Scharnhorst’ had a successful career until her sinking at the battle of the North Cape, and the ‘Gneisenau’ with her ignominious end as a block-ship. Bismarck’s short but glorious career and Tirpitz’s lonely vigil in Norway’s distant Fjords until sunk by RAF bombers using the massive ‘Tallboy’ bombs are also covered.

(German Battleships of WWII in action – Warships No. 23 is a good alternative for German battleships, but hard to find and only available in used condition.)

German Capital Ships and Raiders in World War II: From Graf Spee to Bismarck, 1939-1941 (Naval Staff Histories), by Eric Grove

This is a compendium of seven Naval Staff Histories which deals with operations by major German surface units. The actions described are: The destruction of the pocket battleship Graf Spee, by three Royal Navy light cruisers off the River Plate; the hunt for the Bismark; the Battle of the North Cape when Scharnhorst was sunk by HMS Duke of York in a snowy night action; the escape of the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst up the English Channel through British defenses in the “Channel Dash”; the series of attacks Tirpitz by aircraft carriers; long-range bombers and midget submarines in her Norwegian lair; and the predations of disguised merchant raiders such as the notorious Pinguin.

This book is volume one of a two volume set.

German Capital Ships and Raiders in World War II: From Scharnhorst to Tirpitz, 1942-1944 (Whitehall Histories. Naval Staff Histories), by Eric Grove

This is volume 2 of this set.

By 1942 the Kreigsmarine was largely confined to harbour but none the less the Royal Navy still pursued it. In February 1942, two battlecruisers escaped with a daring, daylight sortie up the channel. Following this, there was a series of battles in Arctic waters that left the Scharnhorst sunk in a blizzard by HMS Duke of York and the Tirpitz capsized by giant bombs.

This second volume describes the disproportionate effort expended in trying to sink the finest warships ever built. The Prinz Eugen for example withstood a nuclear explosion after the war ended.

The Battleship Bismarck: Anatomy of the Ship, by Jack Brower

Bismark and her sister ship ‘Tirpitz’ were the largest and heaviest warships ever completed in Europe. Her one battle cruise was obviously the stuff of legends: She sunk the ‘Hood’ in just a couple of salvos.

Bismarck is perhaps the most famous warship in the world. The German battleship, 45,000 tons, was completed in early 1941 and went on to sink the ‘Mighty Hood’, the pride of the Royal Navy, in one of the most celebrated naval encounters ever. After a dramatic chase around the North Atlantic involving many units of the Royal Navy, Bismarck was finally brought to the big guns of the Home Fleet on 27 May and dispatched with gunfire and torpedoes. Before this, however, she was the most fearsome battleship in any European navy.

The ‘Anatomy of the Ship’ series aims to provide the finest documentation of individual ships and ship types ever published. What makes the series unique is a complete set of superbly executed line drawings, both the conventional type of plan as well as explanatory views, with fully descriptive keys. These are supported by technical details, photos, and a record of the ship’s service history. Complete with an extended ship’s plan on the reverse of a fold-out jacket. The books in this series are generally very good.

Jack Brower runs his own design and draughtsmanship company in Canada. He has spent months researching this book in the Bundesarchiv Kriegsmarine collection and through the original records of the shipyard of Blohm and Voss in Germany.

Battleships of the Bismarck Class: Bismarck and Tirpitz : Culmination and Finale of German Battleship Construction, by Bernard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke

This book adds little
new knowledge to the existing information that is available on the Bismarck Class in a variety of other texts, but it contains most of what is also known elsewhere. The most valuable contribution of this book probably lies in the fine photographs, the diagrams, and internal schematics are however very small.

The design criteria and historical context discussion, what little there is, reflects some degree of revisionism via its use of often observed criticisms of the Bismarck Class’ design vs those used by other powers during WWII. Nonetheless, this discussion is not well detailed with regard to a host of specifics, most notably a detailed review of the ship’s immune zones vs certain shells at specified ranges. All and all, some fine photography, but very little new information.