Book Review: Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns and Gunnery


by Norman Friedman

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014. Pp. 400. Illus. diag., append., notes, biblio, index. $86.95. ISBN: 1591146046

How Ships Fought Aircraft in World War II

Dr. Friedman, author of numerous excellent works on naval design, technology, and operations, such as British Cruisers: Two World Wars and After, Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era, and The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems, gives us a look at naval anti-aircraft defense in the era of the Second World War. 

Friedman’s first three chapters are essentially introductory. He discusses the evolution of the air threat to ships through 1945, a threat that was at first, despite the claims of aviation pundits, negligible, became increasingly serious by 1940. He follows this with a chapter on the problem of making anti-aircraft fire effective, particularly in a maritime environment. His third examines early developments in fleet anti-aircraft defense through the First World War. 

Friedman devotes a chapter each to British, U.S., and Japanese efforts to develop effective naval air defense between the world wars, plus one on the other European navies. Operational experience and developments during the war are covered in three more chapters, one each on the development of U.S., British, and Axis naval anti-aircraft technologies and techniques.

Friedman concludes with a short survey of post-war trends in naval anti-aircraft gunnery through the introduction of anti-aircraft missiles. Friedman generally manages to explain often very complex technical problems in weapons design, fire control, and tactics clearly, making extensive use of photographs and diagrams to help clarify matters.  Although the book could have benefited from more careful proof reading, it is nevertheless an excellent work.

While not for the casual reader, Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns and Gunnery is an absolutely essential work for the serious student of naval warfare in the twentieth century. 

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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