This volume of the Osprey New Vanguard series highlights perhaps the most enduring class of fighting ships of the 20th century. Considering that transformation in warships during the last 70 years, the longevity of the Iowa class battleships is noteworthy and a testament to their design and construction.
The book is basically divided in to two sections. The first deals with design and construction of the four units of the class (U.S.S Iowa, U.S.S. New Jersey, U.S.S Wisconsin and U.S.S. Missouri) with particular emphasis on how design parameters of previous battleships (of both U.S and foreign navies) as defined by the Washington Naval Treaty influenced the development of the Iowas. These considerations had a direct bearing on such things as armament, protection and speed. The author also goes into some detail describing the brains of these heavyweights – the fire control systems. The use of radar as well as aircraft for gunfire spotting is also detailed here.
The greater portion of the book describes the operations of the Iowa class, and these ships operated over a very long period of time. Beginning in mid-1943, the class went through numerous cycles of active duty, decommissioning and re-commissioning, including operations during WW II (all), Korea (all), Vietnam (New Jersey), Cold War (all), and Desert Storm (Wisconsin and Missouri, though all were in commission). The last of the class, U.S.S Missouri, was finally decommissioned for the last time in March, 1992. All but U.S.S. Iowa have found homes as museum ships.
Throughout the book, the author points out interesting highlights of the ships histories, some well known, such as the concept to convert the class to hybrid battleship/VSTOL carriers during the Cold War, to lesser known tidbits like the testing of nuclear 16” projectiles in late ‘50s (Wisconsin test fired a dummy nuclear shell in 1957) and the conversion of two of the 40mm gun tubs to swimming pools during the New Jersey’s modernization for service in Vietnam. The book is illustrated with color profiles of the class throughout their operational lives, a two-page cut-away, and many color and black/white photographs showing details of their systems, particularly interior views of the turrets, magazines, ammunition handling and fire control machinery. The more recent images are larger and more revealing of detail. Unfortunately, period exterior images from WW II, Korea and Vietnam are too small to be very useful to the modeler. There are several charts detailing each vessel’s periods of active duty and their respective accomplishments, as well as a detailed specification section at the end of the book.
It’s too bad this current format is only 48 pages, however, this is a very good primmer of the Iowa class, with a considerable amount of information packed between the covers. Thanks to Osprey Publishing for providing this review sample.