No. 310 in Osprey’s New Vanguard Series, this short but interesting volume focuses on an important class of American aircraft carriers, many of which saw constant action during the Vietnam War, although most of these ships were begun or completed during World War II, and saw action at the end of the war as well as during the Korean War. The author is a retired U.S. Navy commander with a career in naval intelligence.
Most of the photo coverage is quite small and just doesn’t show these colorful ships to good advantage, and less so their changing air wings that were taking the air Navy from the prop age to the jet age at the equally important political world in which they served, pitting the western world led by the U.S., against Asian and eastern Europe dictators that arose after the Pacific War.
This book still has a wealth of information, including what were the Essex-class carriers, each ship’s history and various deployments, and the details of their modernization programs that in part saw particular Essexes undergo important additions to their general shape such as enclosed hurricane bows that added protection and increased survivability, and angled decks, which added launch and landing areas that were eventually so vital to the design of today’s carriers.
Included graphics are excellent depictions of these carriers by artist Adam Tooby, including overviews of particular carriers, such as the name carrier of the class, the straight-deck Essex (CVA 9), the Antietam (CVA 36), the world’s first carrier to operate with an angled deck, pioneered by the British, and the Oriskany (CV 34) during its late Vietnam period. These views show just how narrow, almost restrictive, were the newly incorporated angled decks that in some ways might have inhibited the free movement of the new jets that were quickly entering service.