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The Littorio Class: Italy's Last and Largest Battleships 1937-1948, by Erminio Bagnasco & Augusto De Toro

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011. Pp. 356. Illus., maps, plans, diagr., tables, appends., notes, biblio, index. $85.00. ISBN: 1591144450.

Originally published in Italian in 2008, and then revised in 2010, this lavishly illustrated volume is the first biography of the four ship Littorio Class, and thus fills an important need in the historiography of the battleship, by two naval historians well known in Italy, but not in the English-speaking world, though two of Bagnasco’s earlier books have been published in English, Regia Marina - Italian Battleships of WWII and Submarines of World War Two

For a short time among the most powerful warships in the world, the ships had a number of unusual features, notably as the only battlewagons to mount nine 15-inch guns.  This work opens with a discussion of Italian naval policy and the evolution of the battleship in the period between the world wars.  It then examines the design and general characteristics of the class, including a look at a number of technological innovations, notably a highly promising, but ultimately unsuccessful internal anti-torpedo system.  There follows a very detailed look at the technical aspects of everything, hull form, armament, protection, living arrangements, even catapults and aircraft, plus a special section for modelers.  More than 100 pages are devoted to the wartime experiences of the three units that entered service, plus a look at the fate of the fourth.  The book concludes with an interesting chapter comparing the Littorio Class with battleships of other nations at the time. 

An important work for anyone interested in warship design, the naval side of World War II in the Mediterranean, or modern Italian history.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


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