Michael E. Haskew’s Aircraft Carriers: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Important Warships is a concise, accessible history of the development and use of aircraft carriers from their creation to the present day.
This is a broad and deep subject, but Haskew gives the reader a rich overview of the history of aircraft carriers in this single, well-illustrated volume. The author has written several books focused on the military and is the editor of World War II History magazine, and his assurance with the subject matter is especially evident during the period covering World War I through the end of World War II, which comprises the bulk of the book.
This is not to say that Haskew shortchanges pre-World War I or post-World War II carrier development and actions. Although they receive less coverage than the World War II years that were so vital to the development of carrier technology and tactics, the pre-history of the aircraft carrier and post-war developments are more than adequately explored. And while Haskew concentrates more on American aircraft carriers, he also covers virtually every other nation’s efforts to build and operate these multimission, air-capable ships, both historically and in more recent years.
Along with both black and white and color historical and modern day photos, Aircraft Carriers: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Important Warships is illustrated with vintage patches, artwork, advertisements, cigarette cards, line drawings, and “naval covers” – envelopes cancelled by post offices aboard U.S. aircraft carriers. Some of the photos will be familiar to the casual reader, but many others are new or rarely seen. Unfortunately, the captions for the photographs and artwork sometimes fail to live up to the standard of the main text. Some could have provided more information on what the photo depicts, and there are a few misidentifications as well as outright errors.
Overall, however, this large format book offers an attractive and entertaining combination of words and images to effectively tell the story of these capital ships that remain key elements of naval power even in the first decades of the 21st century, some 100 years after their origins.