US Navy Light Cruisers 1941 - 1945

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Mark Stille
Other Publication Information
Illustrated by Paul Wright, Paperback, August 2016; 48 pages
Product / Stock #
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site

The latest New Vanguard naval edition from Osprey covers one of the least well-known class of modern US Navy vessels, the light cruiser. The operational lifetime of the Navy’s light cruisers spanned 50 years, from the commissioning of the USS Omaha in 1923 to the scrapping of the USS Roanoke in 1973. Their heyday occurred between 1941 and 1945. By 1947, most of those that had survived the World War II had been decommissioned. A few soldiered on either as gun platforms during the Korean War, or were adapted to missile platforms during the Cold War.

The first chapters detail the origin of the light cruiser, the influence of the London and Washington Naval Treaty restrictions, the evolution of their standardized 6”-gun armament, and advent of radar and its spectacular effect on their fire control. Completed just after World War I, the Navy’s first “modern” light cruisers, the 10-ship Omaha class, were intended as a scouting vessel for the main Battle Fleet. They would prove a disappointment, never adequately fulfilling the mission they were designed for, much less the heavier demands placed on them by the Second World War.

Ten years would pass before the first ship of the next new class would be laid down in 1935. The Brooklyns attempted to match the firepower of the new Japanese 15-gun Mogami class on a treaty-restricted 10,000 ton hull (something the Japanese never legally accomplished). They proved to be very capable ships, and more than held their own in battle. More important, they provided the foundation for the most successful (and largest numbered) light cruisers of the war.

The 26-ship Cleveland class were well balanced and adaptable ships, even if they were often overloaded with too much topside weight - due mainly to the ever increasing need for more antiaircraft guns. The Atlantas were designed to squeeze the last tons out of the London Treaty. The inability to mount the hoped for dual-purpose 6”gun led to the design of the 6000 ton, 5”-gunned Atlanta class as destroyer leaders. Combat experience in the Solomons showed the fallacy of that concept, and they became exemplary fleet escorts. Lastly, the Worchester class (designed during but completed after the end of the war) finally mounted 12 of the longed for 6” dual purpose guns, but by then the need for light cruisers had passed, and only two were completed (its too bad that no images of this class are included - my only nit to pick with this book).

The later chapters describe each of the five light cruiser classes in detail. While it isn’t possible to describe each ship in depth, the design, armament, protection, machinery and capabilities of each class is highlighted (including some examples for specific ships), as well as service modifications made during the war. Tables on each class give the particulars of each ship’s construction, and a brief service history of every vessel is provided, including their eventual fate.

Two or three profile illustrations of each class are included, plus “in action” artwork of USS Helena and USS San Juan, as well as a nice two page cutaway of USS Cleveland. A truly massive amount of technical and historic information is contained within this slim volume’s 48 pages, making this a great little primer for an important category of US Navy ships. Highly recommended. Thanks to Osprey Publishing for providing this review sample.


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