Pen & Sword's Images of War: Essex Class Carriers

Author/Artists: Leo Marriott


Pen & Sword


$24.95 from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 164 pages, softcover, 7.5 x 9.5 inches
ISBN: 978-1-52-6772140

This addition to the Images of War series concentrates on the Essex class aircraft carrier. Thanks to America's ability to crank out these sorts of ships during WWII, the war in the Pacific was able to be carried back to the Japanese much sooner than without them. They were the largest carriers produced during the war and entered service in 1943, just when they were needed the most.

Able to hold a sizeable air wing they were the primary method that the Navy had of power projection against the large number of Japanese held islands in the Central Pacific. A total of 26 of these ships were laid down. Seventeen were commissioned before the end of the war, seven completed after than and two were scrapped without being completely built. The USS Oriskany was not completed until 1950. After the war, many were put into reserve, with some being called back into service for the war in Korea.

Most of the ships underwent major conversions. One of them, the '27 Charlie' conversion added the mirror landing system and steam catapults that enabled them to successfully handle jet aircraft, which needed more 'grunt' to catapult off the deck. Pretty much all the 27C ships got an angled deck a bit later in their lives, further extending the usefulness of the ships into the Vietnam War. By the time of that conflict, the Essex class were unable to handle the newest jet fighter, the F-4, but were still capable of operating A-4 and F-8 aircraft. Others were dedicated anti-submarine warfare ships. It is also interesting that all the Apollo recovery ships were Essex class.

Eventually they were decomissioned and sold off as scrap. One, the USS Lexington became a training carrier until it was realized that a specialized training ship wasn't needed. Four ships survive as museums; USS Hornet, USS Lexington, USS Intrepid and USS Yorktown.

The book covers the development of the aircraft carrier then the design of the Essex class. It also provides its use during the middle and the end of the war along with its operations in Korea. The type was a staple of the early Cold War and continued to be useful during Vietnam. It was after than conflict that the last were pulled from active service. Typical of the series, this one is mostly images. Nicely chosen and while many will seem familiar to some, there are others that were new to these septuagenarian eyes.

A great addition to the series and one that can be easily recommended.

January 2021

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Review book courtesy of  Casemate Publishing, where you can order your copy at this link

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