“The War for the Sea: A Maritime History of World War II” by Evan Mawdsley, Yale University Press, 568 pages, 2019, $32.50

World War II was the largest naval conflict ever. Major naval battles were fought in virtually every part of every ocean, from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean.

Yet, no one has written a comprehensive one-volume history of the naval war. Samuel Eliot Morison’s “Two Ocean War” focused on the United States Navy, neglecting great chunks of World War II’s naval war.

Until now.

“The War for the Sea: A Maritime History of World War II” by Evan Mawdsley succeeds in delivering a complete, compact and comprehensible history of World War II’s naval phase.

In less than 500 pages, Mandsley takes the reader from the sinking of the passenger liner Athenia on the war’s third day to the formal signing of Japan’s surrender aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri almost exactly six years later. In between, he briefly covers ever major naval aspect of the war and many secondary operations.

More, Mawdsley explores how each navy developed before the war; the ships it built and why, and the strength and weaknesses of its strategies and tactics. He explores the decisions made by prewar naval and political leaders and how each navy’s leaderships adapted (or failed to adapt) to the challenges arising during the war.

He does for the four major navies of Britain, Germany, U.S. and Japan, and also for the war’s secondary navies. He discusses the structure and activities of the French, Italian and Russian navies, putting their combat operations into context within the greater war.

This book also examines the role of combined operations in the execution of naval activities. He shows the role aircraft played in the naval war and looks at how the naval war contributed to the land war. This includes each navy’s role in amphibious and logistical operation.

Most remarkable of all, he packages everything into a clear prose. Readers with no prior background in navy affairs or World War II history can grasp his points without feeling overwhelmed. “The War for the Sea” is recommended for everyone, those knowledgeable about World War II and those unfamiliar with it.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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