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Attack from the Sea — book review

24 January 2011

Attack from the Sea: a history of the U.S. Navy’s Seaplane Striking Force — William F. Trimble, 2005, ISBN 1-59114-878-2, 196 pp.

Attack from the Sea: a history of the U.S. Navy’s Seaplane Striking Force by William F. Trimble

Attack from the Sea: a history of the U.S. Navy’s Seaplane Striking Force by William F. Trimble

Trimble is a thorough researcher and writes technical matter in an easily readable form. I became aware of this book when researching the Martin P6M SeaMaster, of which there is precious little material though the SeaMaster project was expensive (over $2 billion in today’s dollars) lasting for a decade.

This book was a find. It describes the U.S. Navy’s (USN) initial thoughts in late WW II to have minelaying aircraft designed (after the success of the USAAF’s, now USAF’s successes) and how they evolved during the onset of the Cold War to include strategic nuclear strike missions. This time, the 1950s, were fluid for the USN in that nuclear weapons were large and heavy, aircraft carriers had limited strategic mission capable aircraft, and the USAF was stridently moving to be the chief armed service with regard to nuclear capabilities.

During this decade the USN originated the IRBM submarine, the nuclear powered aircraft carrier as well as submarine, and the Seaplane Striking Force (SSF). The SSF produced the most advance seaplane (in terms of speed and range) that ever flew as well as a seaplane fighter — the Convair Sea Dart (Great Britain also produced a test bed seaplane fighter). We still have the ballistic missile submarines and nuclear aircraft carriers but the seaplane has been retired from service in the USN.

This book is the story of how this history transpired and more. Trimble described the concept of the SSF and the thinking of the navy admirals. As time went along and managers were replaced the SSF was overtaken by better technologies as well as maddening technical design difficulties.

One thing, and probably the only thing, not explained was the USN’s decision to purposely destroy the remaining 16 SeaMaster aircraft but keep all the Sea Dart aircraft. This decision was either myopic or, maybe, shameful, but its rationale appears lost in the fog of history — especially so if Trimble could not make a determination.

I first read this book at a local library but have purchased a copy for my own as the book is that good and its references a gold mine to exploit.

Notes:

  • I have other reviews of books written by William Trimble — to see them please type “Trimble” into the search window and select ENTER
  • Posts on Convair’s Sea Dart have been written — to see them please type “Sea Dart” into the search window and select ENTER
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