When your workbench is a double-build of the same Essex-class carrier as it appeared in 1945 and 1968, and the project before that was an Essex class carrier in 1968 (and 1943), and so was the one before that (1950), and you’re updating another and being tempted to start on yet another – it’s a pretty foregone conclusion that you’re going to buy any book that comes out about the Essex class.

Which is pretty much the only reason you should buy this one.  While many, if not most, of the photos are not ones that I have seen published previously, many are, and in fact there are numerous photos that I included in my book on the class 25 years ago.  But the bigger problem is that the type of paper used – not glossy – means that the reproduction of these black-and-white photos is poor.  I consult numerous photos of the class on a daily basis, and this book is a very poor resource for studying the details of the class because of the format and paper.

Nor do the problems end there.  Apparently the publishing business has reached the point that no one is editing what is sent in for publication because the content suffers from numerous grammatical and formatting errors, as well as significant factual mistakes.  The second sentence of the book places the battle of the Coral Sea in the wrong month of 1942, and while substantive errors like this are not common, they are common enough that I don’t trust the factual assertions presented without checking them in another source.

The book does not have much substantive text, but it does have extensive detailed photo captions that explain the photos, and this is one of its high points.  The captions provide analysis that I have not seen elsewhere, as well as explanations of certain activities that are not covered in other publications.  So while the photos are of marginal quality, they are clear enough to understand what is being portrayed, and the captions do provide useful background.

All in all, if I saw a really good picture in this book I would run it down online if I needed it for reference, but what is in the book is probably good enough unless you are trying to nail down a very specific detail.  And there is useful information, mostly in the photo credits.  But the bibliography is short and puzzling – how can you not list Norman Friedman?