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Book Review
US ''Treaty'' Heavy Cruisers
US Heavy Cruisers 1941–45 – Pre-war Classes * New Vanguard 210
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Model Shipwrights

Among the many naval gun engagements that shattered the Pacific during World War Two, seven were cruiser duels and five featured heavy cruisers: The Battle of the Java Sea, Battle of Sunda Strait, Battle of Savo Island, Battle of Cape Esperance, Battle of the Komandorski Islands, Battle of Kolombangara and the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. United States Navy heavy cruisers lead most of the other surface actions through the Guadalcanal campaign. I’ve been reading about them for 35 years and eagerly reads every new title that comes out. Thus, I was thrilled to receive US Heavy Cruisers 1941–45 – Pre-war Classes from the good folks at Osprey, and with great anticipation I opened the cover.

Author Mark Stille is an authority on cruisers. Most of the heavy cruisers of Imperial Japan and the United States Navy that fought into 1944 were developed under the constraints of the successive Washington Naval Treaty, London Naval Treaty and Geneva Naval Conference. While the Imperial Naval Staff took liberties with the weight limits, USN was more honest and the first few American designs were found to be underweight and under-protected, earning the derisive nickname "tinclads". Second-generation cruisers up-armored accordingly to become well-balanced, if clunky looking, warships.

US Heavy Cruisers 1941–45 – Pre-war Classes is the 210th title of Osprey Publishing's series New Vanguard. This book explores their background, weapons, radar, and wartime service. It is the first of a two-part guide of America's Second World War heavy cruisers. The book is 48 pages long and available in paperback, ePub and PDF formats, with ISBN: 9781782006299.

Author Mark Stille presents this technical and wartime record of USN "Treaty Cruisers" in 13 sections through 48 pages:
    Naval strategy and the role of the heavy cruiser
    US heavy cruiser design and the Naval Treaties
    USN heavy cruiser weapons
    USN heavy cruiser radar
    Pensacola Class
    Northampton Class
    Portland Class
    New Orleans Class
    Wichita Class
    Analysis and Conclusion

Subsections of each class description includes;
    Design and construction
    Service modification
    Wartime service

The subject is well presented and easily read. This title is by no means comprehensive, nor is it meant to be. It presents detail for further research about a particular ship at a particular time.

History and background of the naval treaties and impact upon naval planning is touched upon in the first four pages. Weapons and radar are explored in the next three pages. The book presents the main and secondary weapons, and anti-aircraft guns, used on the different ships, plus the fire-control equipment and associated directors for each. Shot dispersion, performance, and other pros and cons are briefly presented. The same treatment is given to American naval radar, explaining the designations, types, uses and performance.

Each class of cruiser is discussed with good detail. Inter-war funding issues are sometimes remarked upon, and that affect on ship procurement. Weight-saving measures are recounted, plus the effect on ship performance compared to Japanese designs. Armor was a major consideration of cruiser design and the armor thickness of it over various parts of each ship class is presented. Aircraft were deemed necessary for the cruiser's role of scouting and the aviation complement of each class is mentioned.

Service modifications and wartime exploits are recounted for each ship of each class, including Battle Stars and other commendations earned.

Finally, analysis and conclusion considers just how effective those ships were, with pros and cons and their influence on follow-on designs. Japanese heavy cruisers were very different from USN ships in significant ways. Those differences allowed them to successfully challenge their American opponents yet still suffer vulnerabilities later exploited. The author offers his summary of these Pre-war heavy cruisers at the end of the book.

Photographs, Graphics and Illustrations
Supporting the text are several dozen black and white photographs. Most are crisp and clear. Several are even studio quality. The majority are angled from above water level although there are many taken from aircraft. Some photographs are detailed shots of parts of the ships. The photos provide good studies of USN camouflage, which is identified by 'Measure' (patterns/colors) and described.

Osprey is known for their original artwork and this book is no exception. Fifteen detailed illustrations by artist Paul Wright present the subject ships:

    A. The Pensacola Class: profile of Pensacola at Midway, and profile and planform of Salt Lake City in 1944.

    B. The Northampton Class: early-war Northampton at Midway in profile and planform, and Louisville in 1944 at Leyte Gulf.

    C. USS Houston at the Battle Of Sunda Strait: dramatic painting of USS Houston, outnumbered 12-to-1, gallantly fighting to the end against heavy and light cruisers and their destroyers, despite catastrophic damage.

    D. The Portland Class: profile of Portland in 1942, and planform and profile of Indianapolis, July 1945.

    E. USS San Francisco full hull cutaway featuring 38 keyed components. San Francisco is shown in her late 1942 fit just before the first naval battle of Guadalcanal.

    F. Tuscaloosa At Cherbourg: in-action painting of Tuscaloosa dueling with Nazi shore batteries off Cherbourg, following D-Day.

    G. The New Orleans and Wichita Classes: Minneapolis in planform and profile as seen at Leyte Gulf; the unique Wichita in profile.

Additionally, 15 tables detail:
    * Each class including ship
    * Where built
    * When laid down
    * Launch date
    * Commission date
    * Specifications (as built)
    * Displacement
    * Dimensions
    * Speed
    * Range
    * Crew

Several tables list Wartime Modifications for specific classes:
    * Ship with specific date, where necessary
    * 1.1in quad mounts
    * 20mm guns
    * 40mm guns
    * Radar

Further tables include:
1. USN Heavy Cruiser Antiaircraft Guns (Muzzle Velocity, Max Range, Rate of Fire, theoretical):
    * 0.5in Browning M2 water-cooled machine gun
    * 1.1in Mk 1/1
    * 20mm Oerlikon
    * 40mm Bofors
2. USN Heavy Cruiser Main and Secondary Guns (Type, Muzzle Velocity, Max Range, Rate of Fire [rds/min]):
    * 8in/55 Mk 9 and 14
    * 8in/55 Mk 12 and 15
    * 5in/25
    * 5in/38
3. Major Wartime Damage to USN Treaty Heavy Cruisers by:
    * Ship
    * Agent of Damage
    * Date
    * Fate

This book holds a special interest to me as USS Houston is the ship my father went to war on. This is an excellent book presenting American pre-war heavy cruisers for historians, modelers and illustrators with an interest in the subject. It is by no means comprehensive, nor is it meant to be. It is a detailed basis for further research about one of the particular ships at a particular time. The data concerning weapons is very interesting if you want to compare weapons, as are other technical aspects. The graphic support – photographs, artwork, profiles and tables – alone are worth the price of the book.

Highly recommended!

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on ModelShipWrights.
Highs: Concise overview of the "Treaty Cruisers". Excellent selection of photographs and two dramatic color battle paintings.
Lows: De minimis
Verdict: This is an excellent book presenting American pre-war heavy cruisers for historians, modelers and illustrators with an interest in the subject.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781782006299
  Suggested Retail: $17.95, £9.99
  Related Link: USN Cruiser vs. IJN Cruiser
  PUBLISHED: Nov 01, 2014
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


Fred, thanks for the review. This looks like another great book to have in the Library. I really wish some of these would come out in plastic. I know the Indianapolis and San Francisco are available, but I would love to see the Salt Lake City and Houston one day.
NOV 01, 2014 - 03:06 AM
Russ: "... I would love to see the... Houston one day." I would buy it in a heartbeat! I have the MB 1/350 resin Houston but haven't started it yet - had it since 1994!
NOV 01, 2014 - 12:34 PM

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