Naval Reads

What I especially enjoyed — updated Apr 10, 2012


Ian W. Toll: Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (published 2011).

The book’s prologue sets the historical context. Both the American and Japanese naval establishments are guided by Mahanian strategic thinking. But the era of the battleship had passed by December 1941. The rest, as they say, is history (which Toll is magnificent at narrating).

Vietnam Navy rating: 5.0 stars.

Toshi Yoshihara & James R. Holmes: Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy (published 2010).

Authors provide convincing argument that China has grafted the Mahanian ‘logic’ of sea power onto Maoist ‘grammar’ of active defense. The book gets most interesting when discussing the German precedent for Chinese seapower, current Chinese fleet tactics and an analysis of the last two US maritime strategies (the 1986 Cold War document vs. the 2007 “Cooperative Strategy” edition).

Vietnam Navy rating: 4.0 stars.

Ian W. Toll: Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy (published 2008).

The US Navy was once the underdog. But with the vision of political leaders and the fortitude of a small cadre of officers, a naval tradition was born. Reading this book makes you want to visit the USS Constitution and inspect the solid-oak hull from which British cannon balls bounced off.

Vietnam Navy rating: 4.5 stars.

Robert K. Massie: Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea (published 2004).

Sweeping and riveting history of the naval clashes between Great Britain and Germany in the First World War. Massie does a superb job at analyzing the key figures, military and political environment and naval tactics. This book deserves a Putlitzer prize.

Vietnam Navy rating: 5.0 stars.

Alfred Thayer Mahan: The Influence of Sea Power on History 1660-1783 (published 1890).

The classic work on naval strategy. Mahan is the Clausewitz for the sea but with more timeless insights. The Kaiser and Imperial Japanese Navy obsessed about this book just like the current leaders of the Chinese PLAN.

Vietnam Navy rating: 4.5 stars.



Ronald O’Rourke, China Naval Modernization: Implications for US Navy Capabilities – Background and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, March 23, 2012.
Sober reading…Long live the U.S. 7th Fleet!!!

Huy Duong, The South China Sea is not China’s Sea, Asia Times Online, October 5, 2011.
Why China’s U-shape line claiming the entire South China Sea as its own lake is absurd under UNCLOS.

James Holmes & Toshi Yoshihara, Defending the Strait: Taiwan’s Naval Strategy in the 21st Century, The Jamestown Foundation, July 2011.
Convincing arguments why the Republic of China Navy must update its sea control strategy to one of sea denial. As the authors point out, Mahan must give way to Mao in order to resist today’s PRC. 

Kyle Mizokami, Japan’s Latest Destroyers: Baby Flat-Tops?, Japan Security Watch, July 1, 2011.
Japan is deploying helicopter carriers to hunt Chinese subs, but euphemistically designating these flat tops as “helicopter destroyers (DDH)”.

Frederik Van Lokeren, The Naval Balance of Power: The South China Sea, The Geopolitical and Conflict Report, May 12, 2011.
Good overview of the naval capabilities of all the states on the South China Sea littoral. 

Andrew Hind, The Cruise Missile Comes of Age, Naval History Magazine, October 2008.
The anti-ship missile became a feared weapon with Egypt’s sinking of an Israeli destroyer in 1967. David-like navies facing a Goliath have taken note by deploying inexpensive platforms armed with cruise missiles. 

Paul Kennedy, To rule the waves: The rise and fall of navies, New York Times, April 5, 2007.
In a major historical reversal, Europe is dismantling its navies while Asia is amassing sea power. We all know what happened beginning in the 1500s when the trend went the other way.

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