Philippe Caresse, The Battleships of the Iowa Class (Naval Institute Press, 2019)
While serving in the Persian Gulf in the 1980s, I had the privilege of spending some time aboard the battleship USS Iowa. I remember being awe-struck at this incredible war machine and the power that it manifested, and that was before it fired its 16” main guns. When I received Philippe Caresse’s The Battleships of the Iowa Class, therefore, I was delighted: a big ship needs a big book to tell her story.
Caresse covers all four of the Iowa class battleships – Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri, and Wisconsin – in loving detail across 513 pages in a ‘coffee-table’ book. He is supported by dozens of colour and black & white photographs, technical drawings, and 3D graphics as he works his way through the evolution of the American battleship and its technical specifications. The latter are mind-boggling: 1.135 million rivets, 57,353 tons displaced, 53,820 square feet of upper deck, three 16” triple-gun turrets weighing 1,850 tons each, twelve 5” guns, four Phalanx, thirty-two cruise missiles, I could go on but you get the picture; the statistics running through the book are staggering. As for the photographs, they cover every technical and social aspect of these majestic vessels, from the engines and weapons to the messes, ship’s store, laundry, and brig, down to a photograph of an officer’s ‘head’ and Roosevelt’s bathtub on the Iowa. But it is the photographs of the big guns firing that capture the imagination and tell you what these ladies were all about. Caresse devotes the second part of his book to the history of the four ships. They fought in all of America’s wars until their decommissioning in the 1990s, experiencing triumphs and tragedies along the way. They are thankfully, but maybe a wee bit sadly, preserved as floating museums.
The Battleships of the Iowa Class is a wonderful homage to ships the likes of which we will never see again. The history sections apart, this is not a reading book, but one you dip into and explore, or use as a reference tool for modelling or historical research. The photographs and 3D renderings help you appreciate the complexity and, well, awesomeness of these incredible feats of engineering. For me, and probably everyone who served in the Iowa class battleships, Caresse brought back some cherished memories, but anyone interested in the big ships will love this book. 10/10