Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History

Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History

by Craig L. Symonds


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From thunderous broadsides traded between wooden sailing ships on Lake Erie, to the carrier battles of World War II, to the devastating high-tech action in the Persian Gulf, here is a gripping history of five key battles that defined the evolution of naval warfare—and the course of the American nation.

Acclaimed military historian Craig Symonds offers spellbinding narratives of crucial engagements, showing how each battle reveals the transformation of technology and weaponry from one war to the next; how these in turn transformed naval combat; and how each event marked a milestone in American history.

- Oliver Hazard Perry's heroic victory at Lake Erie, one of the last great battles of the Age of Sail, which secured the Northwestern frontier for the United States

- The brutal Civil War duel between the ironclads Monitor and Virginia, which sounded the death knell for wooden-hulled warships and doomed the Confederacy's hope of besting the Union navy

- Commodore Dewey's stunning triumph at Manila Bay in 1898, where the U.S. displayed its "new navy" of steel-hulled ships firing explosive shells and wrested an empire from a fading European power

- The hairsbreadth American victory at Midway, where aircraft carriers launched planes against enemies 200 miles away—and where the tide of World War II turned in the space of a few furious minutes

- Operation Praying Mantis in the Persian Gulf, where computers, ship-fired missiles, and "smart bombs" not only changed the nature of warfare at sea, but also marked a new era, and a new responsibility, for the United States.

Symonds records these encounters in detail so vivid that readers can hear the wind in the rigging and feel the pounding of the guns. Yet he places every battle in a wide perspective, revealing their significance to America's development as it grew from a new Republic on the edge of a threatening frontier to a global superpower.

Decision at Sea is a powerful and illuminating look at pivotal moments in the history of the Navy and of the United States. It is also a compelling study of the unchanging demands of leadership at sea, where commanders must make rapid decisions in the heat of battle with lives—and the fate of nations—hanging in the balance.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Symonds is the consummate storyteller, creating powerful images.... The whole book is an effortless read, presenting a natural flow of history beginning with the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813 and ending with Operation Praying Mantis in 1988."—Linda Wheeler, Washington Post

"A riveting account of the morphing of the United States Navy from its humble beginnings in the forests and lakes of the North American wilderness to an awesome and overwhelming strike force that cements the United States' position as the world's remaining superpower and de facto policeman."—Proceedings (The United States Naval Institute)

"Without question, Decision at Sea is a riveting, well-researched account of the U.S. Navy in action. Historian Craig Symonds should be saluted for writing an important and living narrative that shows how sea battles shaped the course of American history." —Douglas Brinkley, author of Tour of Duty and The Unfinished Presidency

"Craig Symonds delivers American naval history in the tradition of Sir Edward Creasy's Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. Combat at sea, from the Great Lakes to the Persian Gulf, jumps form the page in a vibrant, arresting narrative. Complementing each battle piece is an informed argument about the engagement's impact on the course of history."—Alex Roland, Duke University

"Craig Symonds, one of America's leading naval historians, has written a fascinating battle history that also provides thoughtful insights into the American character and the character of America at pivotal moments in the last 225 years. His prose is very accessible and provocative, particularly as he portrays what the future may hold for the U.S. Navy at the apogee of its power."—William S. Dudley, Former Director, U.S. Naval Historical Center

"Decision at Sea combines the wisdom of Alfred Thayer Mahan with the eminent readability we have come to expect from Craig Symonds. This book is destined to be a classic of both naval literature and national strategy."—Thomas Cutler, U.S. Naval Institute, author of A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy and The Battle of Leyte Gulf

"Craig Symonds' Decision at Sea deftly integrates five vigorous battle narratives with a comparative analysis that highlights the changing character and recurring critical role the U.S. Navy has played in American history."—John B. Hattendorf, Naval War College

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195312119
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 10/23/2006
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 194,485
Product dimensions: 8.60(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.10(d)

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