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War at Sea: A Naval Atlas 1939-1945

By Marcus Faulkner

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2012

9-1/2” x 13”, hardcover, xii + 275 pages

Maps, bibliography, index. $89.95

ISBN: 9781581145608 

                Written by Marcus Faulkner, and introduced by naval historian Andrew Lambert, War at Sea: A Naval Atlas 1939-1945 is a nearly comprehensive visual and narrative account of the naval actions of the Second World War. The text breaks away from the familiar large campaign focus of traditional naval historiography, and instead presents a balanced view of the surface engagements, amphibious landings, air campaigns, operational movements, and minor skirmishes of the water-borne conflict through a series of detailed color maps and brief narrative entries.

                The atlas, as discussed by Faulkner in the preface, is designed to serve two functions. The first is as an overall history of the conflict. The chronological organization of the text offers a systemic view of the naval war in the seas around Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and successfully illustrates the fluid and often overlapping nature of naval combat. The second function is that of a reference point from which to further analyze specific campaigns or operations. In most cases, the larger operations, such as the Battle of the Atlantic or the raid on Pearl Harbor, are allotted two pages, whereas the smaller events, such as Operation Pamphlet or the Battle of Savo Island, are allotted one page. Owing to the predominantly visual nature of the text, each map contains a geographic reference point, a breakdown of relevant Allied and Axis forces, and a color-coded order of movements in order to provide a detailed, complete picture of the event.               

  War at Sea: A Naval Atlas 1939-1945 is a well-balanced, extensive examination of the major and minor occurrences of the naval portion of World War II. The author presents the material in a concise, easy to read format, and the wealth of visual information and accompanying explanations, complemented by the use of color, symbols, and a glossary of terms and abbreviations, allow even a lay reader to follow and understand the text. The complementary organization and thorough account of primary and secondary source material make this a must have reference for scholars and armchair historians alike. 

Nicole Silverblatt

East Carolina University