Michael C. Smith

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This 1993 volume is a collection of edited oral histories of participants in the carrier war in the Pacific.  It’s an extraordinary volume, with insights on everything from strategy and tactics to ship and aircraft design and operation.   As oral histories will do, it focuses on the experiences of the narrators, and doesn’t present a balanced narrative of the events recounted, but that’s just fine with me.  I am interested in what they did, and saw, and thought was happening.…
This was an enlightening book.  It covers naval ship design following the second of the interwar naval arms limitations treaties, and explains why the treaty came out the way it did, and how it affected warship design in the late 1930s.   Following the end of World War I, a major naval arms limitation treaty (Washington) resulted in the scrapping of large numbers of capital ships then under construction, and provided Britain, Japan, and the United States with the battle cruiser hulls, unusable for their original purpose, which became the first generation of large fleet aircraft carriers.  Some years later, a…
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is a publication in book form of various writings and oral histories of Admiral McCrea. The significance of this officer is that he served as naval aide to President Franklin Roosevelt throughout 1942, and subsequently as the first captain of the new battleship Iowa, in which capacity he carried his former boss to North Africa for conferences with Churchill and Stalin in late 1943.  I’m gathering references for a model of the Iowa during this trip, including the privacy screens on the first superstructure deck and the two elevators that allowed FDR to go…
My latest project is one that I have had in mind for a long time. When I was about 10 years old, and just starting to get interested in World War II and aircraft carriers, one of the first books I got was Barrett Gallagher’s 1959 “Flattop”.  I remember it coming from the old stationary store at 115A East Austin – the one that my office is one door down from now – but I can’t recall the specifics of it, other than a vague recollection that it came from one of the dark rooms toward the back of the…
I should just quit trying.  I’m never going to enjoy a nautical historical fiction series as much as I do C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series so I should just quit looking.  The latest attempt is the story of Union sloop captain Peter Wake knocking around Key West during the Civil War. it is the first book in a series that sees him in the world of naval intelligence all the way through the Spanish-American war and after. Forester aficionados have to get over our assumption that every naval officer is an angst-ridden genius, and I promise that is not the…
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…
This book arose out of something Julia Gimbel didn’t know she had until after her father Robert T. McCurdy passed away.  She knew her father had left a scrapbook with mementos from his time in the Navy during World War II, but what she didn’t find out until she pulled it out for her daughter to use as a homework assignment, was that inside was also a 60 page handwritten journal that neither she nor her siblings had known existed. After transcribing the journal, she used it as a starting point for this book explaining how ordinary Americans were affected…