Free Book of the Week: Troopships of WWII

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Long overlooked despite a vast library of works on warships from PT boats to aircraft carriers has been the humble but essential transport vessel. We are still waiting for a definitive and engaging popular history of the type, and may yet wait a while, but a superb resource for anyone interested in the topic is Troopships of WWIIby naval architect Roland Charles.

Published in 1947 by the Army Transportation Association, the book also serves as a reminder that for the duration of the war, the Army had its own navy. One cannot help but wonder if a few of the Navy’s admirals, particularly of the pre-war vintage, were a little uncomfortable about the army having more ships in 1944 than the Navy had a decade earlier. But Charles is clearly agnostic in this regard, and apart from the subtle reminder that the war at sea was not an exclusively naval affair, does not pursue it.

There is, however, more to be written. It takes nothing away from the USN and its core role in the eventual victory in WWII to delve into the history of the Army at sea, any more than a study of the Coast Guard or Merchant Marine would. But ignoring or underplaying the role of these fleets prohibits us from understanding the kind of fleet we will need in a future conflict.

No doubt the Navy is not proud of the fact that it entered the Second World War materially unprepared for that conflict, and woefully so. Understanding the full width and breadth of that gap is essential for understanding both the drivers of victory and the essence of maritime power.

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