U.S. Amphibious Ships and Craft: An Illustrated Design History
In this latest addition to his acclaimed U.S. warship design history series, Norman Friedman describes the ships and the craft of the U.S. amphibious force, from its inception in the 1920s through World War II to the present. He explains how and why the United States successfully created an entirely new kind of fleet to fight and win such World War II battles as D-Day and the island landings in the Pacific. To an extent not previously documented, his book lays out the differing views and contributions of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines as well as the British, and how they affected the development of prewar and wartime amphibious forces.

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Contents: Background for Modelers
Current and future amphibious forces and tactics are explained, together with their implications for ships and craft, from 40,000-ton amphibious carriers down to tracked amphibious vehicles.

For example, the arrival of atomic weapons hastened the use of helicopters to assault foreign shores. The basic WWII tactic of sending concentrated streams of crafts and men at the enemy, in hopes of overwhelming the defenses, would not survive even a limited nuclear strike. Forces would have to spread out for the trip in to shore, then quickly gather to focus the attack and overwhelm the defenses at close quarters, excluding the use of nukes. As this book explains, the answer was vertical assault. Helos could approach from a variety of directions (spreading out the Marines to limit the value of a nuclear strike against them), then quickly concentrate the Marines at a single point of attack.

As such changes in tactics developed, new classes of ships were needed to put the tactics into action.

As in earlier volumes in the series, this study uses previously unpublished sources to illustrate not only what was actually built but what was planned and never brought into service. For example, the book offers the first comprehensive and fully illustrated account of abortive attempts in the 1960s and beyond to build new fire support ships (LFS).


With nearly two hundred photographs and specially commissioned line drawings and extensive appendixes, the work conveniently brings together details of the ships and their service histories found elsewhere only in scattered official references.

Specifically for the Ship Modeler
Available only in hardcover, and weighing in at 420 large, glossy pages, this is serious stuff. For the modeler, there are multiple, clear B+W photos of every craft, ship and vehicle that ever participated in an amphibious assault starting around the time of WWI and running up through the San Antonio class of proposed assault ships.

Most ships have line drawings of their basic layout, and to illustrate their interior space allotment. Key vessels, such as the Tarawa and Wasp class ships, have detailed side views, showing railing, antennas and the like.

The Newport class is shown in photos and with a model of one of the ships with all the cables and rigging needed to open the bow and drop the ramp. All of this is pure gold for a modeler interested in the 'Gator Navy. About the only problem I can raise is that buying this book made me want to go back and redo many of my amphibious ships based on this new (to me) information.

A word about photos: I used to generally satisfied myself with photos off the Internet when planning a build, and these in many cases are still helpful. The good news is that if you are/were like me, working mostly off the web for research, you can't believe what a difference a sharp photo printed on glossy paper makes. Instead of smeary blobs on the foredeck, you can see the details of the winch such that you can add it to your ship or at the very least be informed what those raised bumps in smaller scales actually represent.

Who is this Book For?
At US$59.50 and 420 pages, this book is not necessarily for every modeler. However, if you have a specific interest in amphibious warfare or the ships that make it happen, this book is your buddy for many a pleasant evening's read. Particularly if you are interested in the history and tactics behind amphibious ship design, you will enjoy this book.

As much as any ship, these vessels are designed as work horses, laid out to satisfy the working demands of Sailors and Marines. These ships often lack the sleek and graceful lines of their sisters, but when it comes time to fight you desperately want them on your side.

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All contents © Copyright 1999-2002 Peter Van Buren except as noted. All rights reserved. Inclusion of links does not imply endorsement of contents.

All models are my own; click on any picture for an enlarged version. Shown are JAG's 1/700 Austin and Raleigh and their Newport.