James P. Delgado is a maritime archaeologist, explorer, story-teller, acclaimed author, television host, and explorer who spent nearly four decades in underwater exploration. A native of California, he earned his doctorate in Archaeology from Simon Fraser University, has an M.A. in Maritime Studies from East Carolina University, and took his B.A. in History from San Francisco State University. Dr Delgado is the author or editor of 34 books, including Adventures of a Sea Hunter: In Search of Famous Shipwrecks, Ghost Fleet: The Sunken Ships of Bikini Atoll, Pearl Harbor Recalled: New Images from the Day of Infamy, Kublai Khan’s Lost Fleet: History’s Greatest Naval Disaster, and Lost Warships: An Archaeological Tour of War at Sea. Delgado also has written assessments of submerged cultural resources, proceedings on underwater archaeology for the Society for Historical Archaeology, and maritime histories for elementary and junior high school students. He edited the first encyclopedia of underwater and maritime archaeology, the Encyclopedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology (London: British Museum Press, 1997; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998). [I had the pleasure of reviewing that volume for H-NET REVIEWS/PCAACA (Popular Culture and American Culture Associations), an electronic book review, 6 pp. Published on 12 May 1998. networks.h-net.org/node/13784/reviews/14015/kolb-delgado-encyclopedia-underwater-and-maritime-archaeology.] His latest book, War at Sea, the subject of this book review, is in press and due to be issued in August 2019.
Jim Delgado is a veteran of more than 100 shipwreck investigations around the world, his first-hand research has included RMS Titanic, USS Independence (CVL-22), USS Conestoga (1861), USS Monitor, USS Arizona (BB-39), the notorious “ghost ship” Mary Celeste, the buried Gold Rush ships of San Francisco, the atomic bomb test fleet at Bikini Atoll, and the 1846 wreck of the United States naval brig Somers. He served as the founding director of the National Park Service’s maritime preservation program during a 13-year career with the NPS, then for 15 years, as the Executive Director of the Vancouver (Canada) Maritime Museum, and concurrently as a TV host for Discovery, the History Channel, A&E and six seasons of work as host of a National Geographic International Television series (“The Sea Hunter”). Presently, he serves as the President and CEO of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA), a not-for-profit private research institute affiliated with Texas A&M University and works with its Nautical Archaeology Program. Founded in 1973, INA is the world’s oldest organization devoted to the study of humankind’s interaction with the sea through the practice of archaeology and was founded by Professor George F. Bass who pioneered the science of underwater excavation in the 1960s through work at ancient shipwreck sites off the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. INA’s professional and volunteer members and affiliates have conducted fieldwork oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Americas, and Europe. Delgado’s active participation in the study and preservation of shipwreck sites includes membership in the International Commission on Monuments and Site (ICOMOS) committee on underwater cultural heritage. He is also an elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers’ Club.
Most recently, he was an archaeologist working on a verification project in Mobile Bay, Alabama to determine if the remains found there are from a burned and scuttled slave ship that illegally transported 110 enslaved people from present-day Benin to Mobile in 1860. That voyage took place 52 years after an 1808 law banning slavers from bringing more people to the United States to sell into slavery, and the year before the start of the U.S. Civil War. The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) believes that this vessel is the Clotilda, although Delgado reminds us that “We are cautious about placing names on shipwrecks that no longer bear a name or something like a bell with the ship’s name on it” (Live Science, May 23, 2019 www.livescience.com/65547-last-slave-ship-found.html?utm_source=ls-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190524 ). With experience and expertise spanning decades he is well-prepared to write War at Sea: A Shipwrecked History from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century.
Your reviewer received a pre-publication uncorrected proof for examination; two sections are missing: a forthcoming “Foreword” (pp. ix-x) and a “Glossary” (pp. 433-ff.). In the “Acknowledgments” (pp. xi-xiv) he recognizes 211 individuals and 58 institutions. In his “Preface” (pp. xv-xviii) dated July 2018, Delgado thanks a mentor, Chief Historian Edwin Bearass of the National Park Service (NPS), and states that in four years with NPS he toured every state and every maritime and naval museum and examined their archives and artifact collections. In addition, he interviewed American and Japanese World War II veterans and became a scuba diver well before writing his 1999 book Lost Warships. The 2019 volume, War at Sea, he states is much more than a simple rewrite of Lost Warships (p. xvi), but a much revised and expanded volume that benefited from ongoing excavations and laboratory analyses of finds. He laments illegal “salvage” of warships that are graves as well as wrecks and gives several examples, then comments that “Through the archaeology of lost warships, the dead indeed tell tales” (p. xviii).
A major resource in this volume is the inclusion of the “List of Maps” (pp. xix-xxiii) which is in reality not a “list” but contains six charts that cover the geographic regions included in the book and depicts the shipwrecks or groups of wrecks Delgado references in his text (alas, the scales of distance vary among the six maps); the numbers in parentheses indicated the names of the individual wrecks or groups: “Wrecks of the Mediterranean Region and the English Channel” (21); “Wrecks of Northern Europe” (13); “Wrecks of the Gulf of Mexico/’Caribbean and Central America” (16); “Colonial Wrecks of the Americas” (10); “Wrecks of the Atlantic” (10); and “Wrecks of the Pacific” (23). Following an introductory essay and ten numbered chapters, the volume has a two-part “Bibliography” (pp. 415-432) with 213 books and 115 articles that the author “read and consulted for this book.” Among the notable authors are Robert Ballard (4 citations), George Bass (2), Lionel Casson (3), and Delgado (9 books and 5 articles). There is the forthcoming “Glossary” (pp. 433-ff.) and apparently, no index. The book also contains 111 monochrome illustrations and a group of 16 color images between pp. 226-227.
The text begins with an introductory essay, “Earth’s Greatest Battlefield” (pp. 3-7). We are reminded that three-quarters of the earth is covered by water, and in the fabric of human history, the most pervasive thread is our association with the planet’s oceans, rivers and lakes. “The ocean is humanity’s largest battlefield and also our greatest graveyard. Hence, resting in its depths lay the lost ships of war spanning the totality of human history. Delgado notes that nautical archaeology informs us about ship construction, how the vessels were used, and how the wrecks speak to us about people who made and used them. He states that “I hope you see how little we actually know about many warships …” (p. 5). I next highlight the key points that Delgado makes in each of the chapters – there are, indeed, highlights as the book is an encyclopedia of examples and information.
Chapter 1: “Beginnings“ (pp. 8-35, 10 figures). Delgado begins with a discussion about shellfish gathering 165,000 years ago, seafaring dating back 42,000 years ago, and evidence for fishing 23,000 years in the past. War canoes are the oldest and longest-lasting “warships” with evidence recovered from the coast of West Africa, the Northwest Coast of North America, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Hawai’i. Substantiation for military tactics in Asian waters dates to 473 BC, while double-decked vessels, planked craft, and stern rudders are verified in the archaeological record and Chinese documents, notably during the Han Dynasty (210 BC-AD 220). He also comments on Greek and Persian naval battles in the Mediterranean beginning in 480 BC, riverine seafaring on the Nile and Tigris and Euphrates, Egyptian royal ship burials, Mycenaean war galleys, and verification from the multinational Persian War Shipwreck Survey (2003-2006). A “game changing weapon” was the invention of the cast bronze ram and tactical maneuvers employed at the Battle of Salamis (480 BC) and the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). Oared warships from the period of Alexander to Caesar are also documented along with the use of catapults, firepots, and ballista.
Chapter 2: “Rome and Beyond” (pp. 36-73, 12 figures). The reader is reminded that Rome’s legions are better known than its fleets but that nation became an imperial power with the “Mediterranean lake” but challenged by Carthage, a former Phoenician colony located in North Africa. Carthage constructed a massive fortified naval harbor for 200 warships and developed prefabricated hulls. Rome and Carthage fought three wars between 264-146 BC for control of the western Mediterranean; the four-hour Battle of Egadi near Sicily in 241 BC involved 200 Roman and 250 Carthaginian ships. Between 201-50 BC Roman seapower gradually dominated the eastern Mediterranean and witnessed the use of triremes with both sails and oars, but Rome decline thereafter due to the rise of piracy during Roman civil wars. The Battles of Mylae (260 BC), Tyndaris (257 BC), and Actium (31 BC) are reviewed with emphasis on the use of catapults and ballistae; the author correctly notes that the Romans did not use galley slaves (the book and film “Ben Hur” is wrong). Riverine warfare in Germania saw the blending of Roman and Northern European Celtic shallow draft vessels and Danish clinker-built ships. The latter half of the chapter focuses on the Byzantine Navy and control of trade succeeding the collapse of the Western Roman Empire which was then followed by the rise of Islamic Arabs in Egypt, North Africa, and Persia. New naval forces arose including the Venetians, Franks, and Spanish Muslims setting the stage for Byzantine versus Islamic conflicts. Important archaeological excavations in Istanbul revealed 37 Byzantine galeai (galleys) and a variety of other craft dating back 8500 years. In addition to longships, North Sea Scandinavian Vikings (Vikings translates to “voyagers”) developed shallow draft square sail 24-oared merchant ships capable of carrying cavalrymen and their horses. Viking raids and ship burials are also discussed.
Chapter 3: “The Age of Gunpowder” (pp. 74-124, 11 figures). This chapter begins with the emergence of royal powers in England, Scandinavia, France, Hungary, and Poland suppressing raiding in favor of trade alliances such as the Hanseatic League after AD 1000, and the advent of royal ships and naval fleets. Byzantine power waned in the Mediterranean and was replaced in the main, by Venice and less so by Genoa, Pisa, Spanish Aragon, and France. Medieval Asian warfare involved the Chinese Sung, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, notably featuring the centralized control of shipbuilding for the Sung navy (1100-1279). Mongol naval power expanded using siege warfare and fleet attacks while the invasion of Japan featured exploding shells at Tsushima. Delgado discusses finding the “Lost Fleet” of Kublai Khan at Takashima, Indo-China and Indonesian Wars, the invasion of Java, and Chinese conflicts with pirates. The naval battlefield of Bach Dang and Dai Viet naval victory in 1288 are also documented. The Chinese inventions of gunpowder ca. AD 300 and the hand cannon (pre-1278) were ultimately introduced into Europe, while Chinese naval seapower reached its apex during the 14th and 15th centuries with Han and Ming riverine warfare. By 1429 China’s navy was the largest in the world: 1,750 warships and 3,000 merchant vessels and merchant “treasure ships,” the latter under Zeng Ho reopened trade with India (p. 101). There are several transliterations of variants of his name: See Charles C. Kolb, Zhèng Hé (1371-1433 CE), The Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, Linsun Chang (ed.), New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008, pp. 2633-2634, with a summary of Zhèng’s life as a diplomat, explorer, and fleet admiral who, between 1405 and 1433, made seven voyages to the Indian Ocean. In the Mediterranean, the Ottoman Empire attained supremacy at the Battle of Preveza in 1538 and Battle of Lepanto in 1571 (the latter was the last major battle between oared ships in the Mediterranean). Large forecastle ships, swivel-mounted cannon, and cut port and starboard gunports became characteristic of warships built in Western Europe. Delgado discusses in detail the wreck of the top-heavy Mary Rose, a large carrack in Henry VIII’s Royal Navy which sank in 1545; the hull was excavated, raised, and restored – a notable finding was the 60% of the crew was non-English. The rise of sailing warships — mostly galleons and caravels constructed by Spain and Portugal after 1440 — led to explorations of the coasts of the Americas, Africa, and the Indian Ocean. There is a major review of the fate of the 130-ship Spanish Armada, the running sea battles (31 July-8 August 1588), the poor, rushed planning by Philip II, the staunch Elizabethan defense, and the use of fireships – only 60 vessels returned to Spain. A newly reported fact is the disparity of standardization of Spanish cannon and shot – sizes matter.
Chapter 4: “The Age of Sail” (pp. 125-164, 10 figures). This is a period of the expansion of European wars to a “global stage” and the development of two types of vessels: the “ship-of-the-line” (17th century becoming the standard vessel by the next century) and frigate (18th century). Delgado details the wrecks of the galleon Vasa in Stockholm harbor in 1628 which initially employed a diving bell 1665 and 1666 for the salvage of the cannon and focuses on the 1956-1961 preparation and recovery of the ship and subsequent restoration of its ornate woodwork, and the triple-decked warship Kronan which capsized at Stockholm in 1676. The wrecks of the English frigates Swan and Dartmouth and the Norwegian frigate Lossen are discussed; the reader is reminded that “with few interruptions, the Baltic was in a state of war from the 15th through the early 19th centuries” (p. 145). The French 74-gun ship-of-the-line L’Invincible captured by the British in 1744 and renamed Invincible served until sunk in 1758 after being holed by its own anchor off Portsmouth. Its design became a model for the standardization of later British vessels. Russian seapower the Baltic and Black Sea was enhanced under Czar Peter the Great and Czarina Catherine leading to the defeat of the Ottoman fleet in 1770. The sloop HMS Swift, frigate HMS Pandora, and the brig-sloop HMS De Braak represent the heyday of wooden hulled vessels. The chapter also provides a review of the 2007 salvage of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Royal Spanish frigate lost off Portugal in a battle with a British naval fleet in 1804. The wrecks off Trafalgar feature the Napoleonic War Franco-Spanish fleet of 33 vessels versus 24 British ships under Admiral Horatio Nelson in HMS Victory in 1805.
Chapter 5: “Colonial Conflicts in the Americas” (pp. 165-214, 10 figures). Beginning with the fleet scuttled by at Villa Rica de Vera Cruz (Mexico) by Hernando Cortez in 1520, the author undertakes a broad, comprehensive assessment of European conflicts over control of the New World. A majority of the vessels lost in American waters have been located and some excavated and studied in detail. Among these are La Trinité representing the Spanish versus French fleets in La Florida (1562-1565), the French flagship La Belle under Sieur de La Salle off Louisiana (1682-1685), and ships of the French-Dutch War off Tobago (1673-1678); there were four major conflicts between Britain and France between 1690 and 1760. The latter is exemplified by the wreck of the Elizabeth and Mary off Quebec in the St. Lawrence River (1690) and the Sapphire off Newfoundland (1698). The French and Indian War (1742-1758) included gunboats in Lake Champlain and Lake George and British capture of Louisbourg (1758) ending French rule in Canada which had begun in 1608. The American Revolutionary War (1775-1781) witnessed British blockades and transport of troops and arms in the conflict against the Colonials, French recognition of the United States, Dutch merchants sending supplies and arms to the United States, and the lesser-known capture by a Franco-Spanish fleet of a British merchant convoy of 52 vessels bound for the West Indies. John Paul Jones’ attacks on British shipping, the battle between HMS Serapis and Bonhomme Richard, the “first American Navy” fight in Lake Champlain between 29 British vessels and 15 American craft (11 October 1776), and American independence as the result of action at Yorktown, Virginia when the British fleet of 60+ ships (men-of-war and supply vessels), was countered by the French West Indies fleet of 37 ships under Comte de Grasse preventing British resupply or escape. The War of 1812 saw American victories battles on Lake Ontario (8 August 1813) and on Lake Erie (10 September 1813) with Perry’s capture of a British squadron. British successes in the Chesapeake Bay lead to the burning of portions of Washington, DC, but the capture of the British fleet on Lake Champlain on 11 September 1814 ended plans for the British invasion of the United States from the north. The conflict ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on 24 December 2014. The chapter concludes with Las Guerras de Independencia whereby the Spanish Civil War (1810-1821) and end of Napoleonic Wars resulted in Spain’s inability to control its Americas colonies and the independence of Gran Colombia, Argentina, and Chile, as well as Brazilian independence from Portugal.
Chapter 6: “Iron and Steam” (pp. 215-253, 9 figures). The Industrial Revolution led to the production of steam-powered metal armored ships with turrets and shell guns. The United States led steam-powered warship in 1815 with Britain closely following, but it would be decades before the new technology would be fully trusted and adopted. The British used steam and shell guns during the Opium Wars against China in the 1840s and the United States did so during the Mexican War (1846-1848). Russia employed shell-firing guns to defeat the Ottoman Turks in 1859. The American Civil War (1861-1865) demonstrated the efficiency of steam, ironclads, turrets, mines, and submarines. The USS Cumberland was the first victim of a steam-powered ironclad, the CSS Virginia. The story of the USS Monitor versus the CSS Merrimack battle is well told (pp. 223-229) augmented by details on excavation and conservation, and interpretation of the human and cultural remains. Likewise, the story of the USS Hunley, the first submersible warship, and its initial success against the sloop USS Husatonic, is splendidly documented. The successes of the ironclads and submersible were profound revelations and changed naval warfare forever. Relevant examples are detailed: The gunboat USS Cairo was sunk by a “torpedo mine” near Vicksburg, Mississippi in December 1862, the barkentine CSS Alabama was sunk by the USS Kearsarge near Cherbourg, France in June 1864, and the Battle of Mobile Bay [Alabama] involved Confederate blockade runners, three CSS gunboats, and the ironclad ram CSS Tennessee –protected by a minefield – engaged a Union fleet of 18 ships under the command of David Glasgow Farragut in August 1864; he reportedly issued the order “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” The Civil War served as a proving ground for naval warfare and ended a thousand years of wooden warships.
Chapter 7: “The Race to Global War: (pp. 254-294, 12 figures). Delgado discusses overseas expansion by France, Britain, Japan, and the United States, as well as the importance of Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1896). The purchase of Alaska, acquisition of Hawai’i and the Panama Canal, and the procurement of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and temporarily Cuba, were American territorial gains due to the Spanish-American War. Hence, the American, Japanese, and German navies were expanding to protect the newly acquired territories. The author examines nearly a dozen shipwrecks dating to the later quarter of the 1800s and early 1900s, characterizing these examples as “time capsules.” A primary contribution is the evolution of the HMS Vixen a seagoing ironclad that led to the development of battleships; major issues in the transition were that 19th century iron plate became brittle in the cold and prone to shattering and steam engines of that era were inefficient. Examples of ships lost and later located and studied included the Russian monitor Russalka, lost in the Baltic; the gunboat HMS Doterel which exploded in the Strait of Magellan; the battleship USS Maine which exploded in Havana Harbor in 1898 due to a spontaneous coal fire; and the Spanish fleet lost at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. The rise of the Imperial Japanese Navy began after the Battle of the Yalu River between Japan and China in 1894, with the victorious Japanese transformed from a non-industrial feudal power. American submarines were designed and improved beginning with the USS Holland in 1897.
Chapter 8: “World War I” (pp. 295-328, 12 figures). A major naval engagement the occurred at Heligoland Bight in the North Sea on 28 August 1914 with Royal Navy cruisers and destroyers against German battle cruisers, light cruisers, and torpedo boats. The Germans were forced to withdraw and a second battle at Dogger Bank 25 January 1915 resulted in the sinking of the armored cruiser Blücher. The Germans devised a plan to lure the British into an ambush but it turned into a running battle between the two opposing fleets — the Battle of Jutland 31 May to 1 June 1916 – with a controversial outcome. The British fleet of 99 ships lost 14 sunk and 6,784 men while the German fleet of 59 ships lost 12 sunk and 3,099 men. Delgado discusses some of the pros and cons of the engagement and reports the current results of archaeological explorations, remote sensing, recently found archival charts, and human dives that have helped locate 76 ships (22 are Jutland losses) (pp. 297-301). A significant contribution is the essay “Triumph of the Submarine” in which the author reviews the first German submarine patrols and the successes of U-21 and U-9 in August 1914. Over four years, 6,927 Allied ships were sunk and 202 U-Boats were lost. The disastrous Allied campaign against the Ottoman Empire at Gallipoli located between the Aegean Sea and Sea of Marmara leading to the Bosporus and Black Sea is documented (pp. 307-314). Perhaps best known for the failed land invasion in February 1914, the naval engagements involved the use of minefields, submarines, transports and capital ships. More than 80 vessels were sunk and Delgado reports the latest studies by ROV and human divers of this “vast undersea battlefield.” The Indian Ocean and west coast of South America naval campaigns of the German East Asiatic Squadron under Admiral von Spee are also documented. Notable are the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile with the loss of two British cruisers, the odyssey of the cruiser SMS Dresden, and the engagement at the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic when von Spee’s squadron was sunk in deep water. The chapter ends with a report on the “Grand Scuttle” when the intact but bottled-up German High Seas Fleet was scuttled by the Germans at Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919 (salvage operations were conducted from 1923 to 1939). The 39 km2 area has since been mapped.
Chapter 9: “World War II” (pp. 329-382, 13 figures). During the 21 years between the two global wars, many nations (particularly the United States and Japan) failed to recognize the failure of battleships, the development of aircraft carriers, and the adoption of submarines into the naval arsenal. It quickly became clear that at the outbreak of the war the Kriegsmarine was not as well-prepared as either the Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe. Delgado focuses on a half-dozen nautical examples beginning with the Battle of the Atlantic (1939-1945) and the sinking of the liner Athena by U-30. Overall, more than 3,500 merchant ships and 175 Allied warships were sunk with a loss of 765 U-Boats. Important areas detailed include “Torpedo Junction” off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and there is a comprehensive analysis of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and the results of archaeological discoveries, exploration and documentation. The Graf Spee under Hans Langsdorff in the South Atlantic and the Battle of the River Platte in December 1939 receive due attention including information about clandestine salvage of its range finder and radar by the British. New archaeological evidence on the engagement northwest of Australia between HMAS Sydney and the disguised raider KMS Kormoran in November 1941 is revealed. The battle between Bismarck and Prinz Eugen versus HMS Hood and Prince of Wales in the North Atlantic in May 1941 and the loss of HMS Ark Royal sunk by U-8 in November 1941 are reviewed.
In the Pacific, the loss of the USS Arizona and USS Utah at Pearl Harbor is retold and the report is enhanced by recent exploration and preservation activities (Delgado was personally involved). The important issue about Japanese midget submarines at Pearl Harbor is updated (pp. 357-361). Delgado also reviews the pivotal battles of Coral Sea and Midway in early 1942 which resulted in “tremendous” victory for the United States. Underwater surveys by Robert Ballard on the carriers Yorktown and Kaga at depths of 16,000 feet are recounted. In an essay on the “Lost Ships of Guadalcanal” (pp. 369-373) four naval engagements between August and November 1942 — Savo Island, Guadalcanal, Iron Bottom Sound, and Tassafranga – are documented; studies of wrecks by Robert Ballard (1991-1992) and Paul Allen (2015 and 2018) augment the narrative. Delgado also comments on the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in October 1944 — the largest naval battle of World War II and human history – which involved nearly 400 ships and 1,800 aircrafts.
Delgado comments rightly that the “rate of discovery of lost ships has grown exponentially as technology has improved” (p. 371) noting that there is ongoing work to locate all 52 USN submarine lost during the war. Paul Allen’s team has found and verified Japanese and American vessels, among then the Yamashoro and I-400, USS Ward (in Philippine waters), and the infamous USS Indianapolis and USS Lexington. Other NOAA maritime heritage dives are reported such as the “best known collection of wrecks” in Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon dating to February and April 1944. The author returns to the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Baltic with an essay on diver-historians and archaeologists who report on Normandy and particularly on German ships in the Baltic sunk by the Soviet submarine S-13 in early 1945: Wilhelm Gustloff with 9,000 perishing and Steuben with 5,000 deaths. The chapter also provides “Lessons and Perils of Undersea Museums of World War II” with a tabulation of 1,454 warship losses: 402 Japanese, 3559 Royal Navies, 244 German, and 167 United States. These figures include 545 destroyers, 110 cruisers, 78 battleships, and 47 aircraft carriers. We are also reminded of environmental perils (oil pollution) and illegal salvage such as the Repulse and Prince of Wales, and that some wrecks are war graves.
Chapter 10: “The Cold War and Beyond” (pp. 383-413, 12 figures). The United States emerged from World War II as the major naval power in the world, but newly challenged by a proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The Cold War (1946-1990) and other conflicts are reviewed briefly: Korea, Vietnam, Arab-Israeli, and British-Argentinian. The story picks up immediately with the October 1946 sinking of HMS Volage by Albanian mines but moves quickly to an assessment of Operation Crossroads (pp. 389-395), the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in July 1946 where 22 of 242 ships (95 were floating targets) were sunk and another 73 irradiated – Delgado was part of an archaeological analysis team in 1989 and 1990. Cold War technology opened the door to deep water shipwrecks such as the RMS Titanic, located by Ballard in 1985 after his USN mission to locate the wreckage of the submarine USS Scorpion lost in 1968; the USS Thresher was lost in 1963. Soviet submarine losses included the K-8, K-159, K-278, K-429, Kursk, and, in the North Pacific, K-129 partially salvaged by the Glomar Explorer.
This book provides a detailed and well-documented global tour the history of lost warships over 3,000 years of prehistory and history. It is a world history as viewed from the sea. However, Jim Delgado also offers accounts of how archaeology and underwater exploration beginning with diving bells through Glomar Explorer and Paul Allen’s submersibles informs us about the wrecks and helps resolve issues about locations, preservation, and environmental issues. This volume represents an incredible piece of research by one of the pioneers of underwater cultural studies and points out issues of illegal salvage, derelict Soviet nuclear submarines, and historic preservation. He has written a masterpiece that will be a benchmark for understanding the significance of shipwreck history for decades to come.
War at Sea: A Shipwrecked History from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century
By James P. Delgado, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York (2019)
Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb, Ph.D. Kolb is a Golden Life Member at the US Naval Institute, an independent scholar, and “accidental archaeologist.” He is the Associate Editor for Archaeological Ceramics at the Society for Archaeological Sciences and served as senior program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities for 24 years.
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