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Posted April 5, 2012
The Chesapeake Bay at War!
The Coastal Defenses of the Chesapeake Bay During World War Two
A number of major ports, cities, and military installations are scattered around the Chesapeake Bay on America's East Coast include Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; and the important army and navy bases bordering Hampton Roads near the entrance to the bay. During the 19th century, each of these had had its own defenses, but because the entrance to the bay is approximately fifteen miles wide it was not until the advent of effective long range artillery in the early 20th century that serious consideration could be given to defending the entrance to the bay itself. The first defenses of the entrance, a battery of four 16-inch howitzers, were constructed on Cape Henry at the southern entrance to the bay, in the 1920s. But not much more was done until the perceived threat from both German and Japanese naval forces in the early 1940s created a new sense of urgency.
Plans were laid for the construction of a large number of batteries and related facilities. The batteries were to include ones for 16-inch guns in concrete casemates and ones with bomb proof concrete magazines for shielded 6-inch guns. Not all the planned defenses were actually built and some that were built were never armed, but enough were completed to make the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay the most heavily armed of any continental US harbor. The batteries were all disarmed after WWII, but many of the structures still exist.
After a brief introduction that examines the earlier coast defenses of Hampton Roads, the book takes a close and interesting look at the individual batteries and other defenses at the entrance to the bay and the role they played during WWII.. It is large format and packed with a well chosen mix of contemporary official plans, both of individual batteries and the defenses as a whole; mostly black and white WWII era photos; and recent color photos of what remains today. The book is printed on glossy paper and the production quality is excellent. The illustrations are generally sharp and clear, but a few of the plans have had to be reduced in size to fit in the book with a resulting loss of legibility of some of the fine details. This does not, however, seriously detract from the book's overall value.
In summary, the book should be a welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in 20th century American coast defenses who does not have a copy of FORT 36 and is essential reading for any fortification enthusiast planning a visit to the area.
A word about Three Sisters Press. The sisters are the author's 14 and 16 year old daughters. This is their first publishing effort and they have done a very nice job. I look forward to seeing more books from them.
Reviewed by Bill Allcorn
August 28, 2010