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Empires at Sea

Naval History.

Storm and Conquest
The Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809

Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809.
Stephen Taylor
The Indian Ocean was the final battleground for Nelson's navy and France. At stake was Britain s commercial lifeline to India and its strategic capacity to wage war in Europe. In one fatal season, the natural order of maritime power since Trafalgar was destroyed. In bringing home Bengali saltpeter for the Peninsular campaign with military and civilian passengers, Britain lost fourteen of her great Indiamen, either sunk or taken by enemy frigates. Many hundreds of lives were lost, and the East India Company was shaken to its foundations. The focus of these disasters, military and meteorological, was a tiny French outpost in mid-ocean the island known as Mauritius. This is the story of that season. It brings together the terrifying ordeal of men, women, and children caught at sea in hurricanes, and those who survived to take up the battle to drive the French from the Eastern seas. Mauritius must be taken at any cost.

Naval History.

Captain James H. Blethen, Master Mariner

D. A. Levy, The Maritime Heritage Project
Naval History.Illustrated
This book about Captain James H. Blethen, Master Mariner, is one of a few small books from The Maritime Heritage Project focusing on notable sea captains sailing in and out of San Francisco during the 1800s.

Captain Blethen spent 44 years at sea, including as captain of a hospital troop ship during the Civil War, and opening the mail lines between Hawaii and Australia/New Zealand. Upon his retirement, he become Harbor Commissioner in the Port of San Francisco. The books include a few passenger lists, with information on links to extensive passenger lists for each of the captains.

Naval History.

Captain Robert Bully Waterman

D. A. Levy, The Maritime Heritage Project
This book is the second in a new series of small books from The Maritime Heritage Project focusing on notable sea captains sailing in and out of San Francisco during the 1800s. Captain Waterman went to sea at age 12 aboard a China trader. By 1829, Robert Waterman was said to be the youngest First Mate on record.

To this day, Captain Waterman holds world sailing records.

The Admirals.

The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King

The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at SeaNaval History.

Walter R. Borneman

Naval History.

A Man and His Ship:

America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the S.S. United States
Naval History.

Steven Ujifusa
At the peak of his power, in the 1940s and 1950s, William Francis Gibbs was considered America’s best naval architect.

His quest to build the finest, fastest, most beautiful ocean liner of his time, the S.S. United States, was a topic of national fascination. When completed in 1952, the ship was hailed as a technological masterpiece at a time when “made in America” meant the best.

Gibbs was an American original, on par with John Roebling of the Brooklyn Bridge and Frank Lloyd Wright of Fallingwater. Forced to drop out of Harvard following his family’s sudden financial ruin, he overcame debilitating shyness and lack of formal training to become the visionary creator of some of the finest ships in history. He spent forty years dreaming of the ship that became the S.S. United States.

William Francis Gibbs was driven, relentless, and committed to excellence. He loved his ship, the idea of it, and the realization of it, and he devoted himself to making it the epitome of luxury travel during the triumphant post World War II era. Biographer Steven Ujifusa brilliantly describes the way Gibbs worked and how his vision transformed an industry. A Man and His Ship is a tale of ingenuity and enterprise, a truly remarkable journey on land and sea.

Naval History.

Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. NavyNaval History.

Ian W. Toll

Naval History.

Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain's Greatest Frigate CaptainNaval History.

Stephen Taylor

Naval History.

1812: The Navy's WarNaval History.

George Daughan
At the outbreak of the War of 1812, America s prospects looked dismal. It was clear that the primary battlefield would be the open ocean but America s war fleet, only twenty ships strong, faced a practiced British navy of more than a thousand men-of-war. Still, through a combination of nautical deftness and sheer bravado, the American navy managed to take the fight to the British and turn the tide of the war: on the Great Lakes, in the Atlantic, and even in the eastern Pacific. In 1812: The Navy s War, prizewinning historian George C. Daughan tells the thrilling story of how a handful of heroic captains and their stalwart crews overcame spectacular odds to lead the country to victory against the world s greatest imperial power. A stunning contribution to military and national history, 1812: The Navy s War is the first complete account in more than a century of how the U.S. Navy rescued the fledgling nation and secured America s future.

For Crew and Country: The Inspirational True Story of Bravery and Sacrifice Aboard the USS Samuel B. RobertsNaval History.

John Wukovits tells of the most dramatic naval battle of the Pacific War and the incredible sacrifice of the USS Samuel B. Roberts. On October 25, 1944, the Samuel B. Roberts, along with the other twelve vessels comprising its unit, stood between Japan's largest battleship force ever sent to sea and MacArthur s transports inside Leyte Gulf. Faced with the surprise appearance of more than twenty Japanese battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, including the Yamato, at 70,000 tons the most potent battlewagon in the world, the 1,200-ton Samuel B. Roberts turned immediately into action with six other ships. Captain Copeland marked the occasion with one of the most poignant addresses ever given to men on the edge of battle: Men, he said over the intercom, we are about to go into a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. The ship churned straight at the enemy in a near-suicidal attempt to deflect the more potent foe, allow the small aircraft carriers to escape, and buy time for MacArthur s forces. Of 563 destroyers constructed during WWII, the Samuel B. Roberts was the only one sunk, going down with guns blazing in a duel reminiscent of the Spartans at Thermopylae or Davy Crockett s Alamo defenders. The men who survived faced a horrifying three-day nightmare in the sea, where they battled a lack of food and water, scorching sun and numbing nighttime cold, and nature s most feared adversary sharks. The battle would go down as history's greatest sea clash, the Battle of Samar the dramatic climax of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Naval History.

1421: The Year China Discovered America

Gavin Menzies
On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China to "proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas." When the fleet returned home in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships were left to rot at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost in the long, self-imposed isolation that followed was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. And they colonized America before the Europeans, transplanting the principal economic crops that have since fed and clothed the world.

Naval History.

It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy (revised)Naval History.

D. Michael Abrashoff
The story of Captain D. Michael Abrashoff and his command of USS Benfold has become legendary inside and outside the Navy. Now Abrashoff offers this fascinating tale of top-down change for anyone trying to navigate today's uncertain business seas. When Captain Abrashoff took over as commander of USS Benfold, a ship armed with every cutting-edge system available, it was like a business that had all the latest technology but only some of the productivity. Knowing that responsibility for improving performance rested with him, he realized he had to improve his own leadership skills before he could improve his ship. Within months he created a crew of confident and inspired problem-solvers eager to take the initiative and take responsibility for their actions. The slogan on board became "It's your ship," and Benfold was soon recognized far and wide as a model of naval efficiency.

Naval History.

Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at GuadalcanalNaval History.

James D. Hornfischer
The Battle of Guadalcanal has long been heralded as a Marine victory. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy s sacrifice, James D. Hornfischer tells for the first time the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of Ironbottom Sound. Here are the seven major naval actions that began in August 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. Working from new interviews with survivors, unpublished eyewitness accounts, and newly available documents, Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who opposed the Japanese in America s hour of need. The first major work on this subject in almost two decades, Neptune s Inferno does what all great battle narratives do: It tells the gripping human stories behind the momentous events and critical decisions that altered the course of history and shaped so many lives.

Naval History.

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors:

The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest HourNaval History.

James D. Hornfischer

Naval History.

Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy SealNaval History.

Chuck Pfarrer
Since the first navy frogmen crawled onto the beaches of Normandy, no SEAL has ever surrendered, writes Chuck Pfarrer. No SEAL has ever been captured, and not one teammate or body has ever been left in the field. This legacy of valor is unmatched in modern warfare. Warrior Soul is a book about the warrior spirit, and it takes the reader all over the world. Former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer recounts some of his most dangerous assignments: On a clandestine reconnaissance mission on the Mosquito Coast, his recon team plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with a Nicaraguan patrol boat. Cut off on the streets of Beirut, the author s SEAL detachment must battle snipers on the Green Line. In the mid-Atlantic, Pfarrer s unit attempts to retrieve or destroy the booster section of a Trident ballistic missile before it can be recovered by a Russian spy trawler. On a runway in Sicily, his assault element surrounds an Egyptian airliner carrying the Achille Lauro hijackers. These are only a few of the riveting stories of combat patrol, reconnaissance missions, counter-terrorist operations, tragedies, and victories in Warrior Soul that illustrate the SEAL maxim The person who will not be defeated cannot be defeated. From the Hardcover edition. Show more

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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