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What Happened to the Battleship (Hardback)

1945 to the Present

Colour Books Maritime > Naval Maritime > Seaforth Publishing Photographic Books WWII

By Chris Baker
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 304
Illustrations: 120 colour & b/w photos
ISBN: 9781399070089
Published: 26th May 2022


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In the hundreds of books written about battleships, the authors tend to draw down the curtain on the careers of these great vessels in September 1945, with the surrender of Japan. Yet, on that day some ninety-eight battleships or ex-battleships might be spotted around the world, and eleven of them were in or around Tokyo Bay for the surrender itself. What happened to all those ships?

This new book takes a fresh look at the slow demise of the battleship. It examines the decisions made by the major world powers after 1945, and their aspirations to retain battleships in their navies, despite financial stringency. It places the history and role of battleships after 1945 in their geo-political context, centred around the Cold War and the need for the West to face down an aggressive Soviet Union. It also examines the impact on battleships of operational analysis of the Second World War and new technological developments, notably the atom bomb and the guided missile.

The book uses the wealth of information from ship’s books, ship’s logs and gun logs to document in considerable detail what the ships actually did after the Second World War, with a particular focus on those of the Royal Navy. It covers United States battleship operations in Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War, as well as the deterrent role played by battleships for NATO from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Finally, it brings the story up to date by documenting the preservation as museum ships of the eight dreadnoughts which still exist today in the United States.

Extensively illustrated with photographs of the huge range of activities of battleships after 1945, from their use as Fleet flagships to Royal or Presidential yachts and more poignantly as target ships, this new book will appeal equally to the historic ship enthusiast and naval specialist, and provide a novel perspective through a battleship–shaped lens on late twentieth-century history for the more general reader.

I commend this excellent book to readers of the Naval Review. I enjoyed reading it, a great deal. Clear, concise and meticulously researched, Chris Baker has captured the decline and eventual fall of the battleship extremely well.

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Naval Review

"What Happened to the Battleship breaks new ground in fleshing out the story of the last decades of the service of the battleship, demonstrating that the story was far more complex and nuanced than is often implied, and is highly recommended."

Warship Annual - 2023

"This book is beautifully illustrated throughout with several never seen before images and is a relatively easy (non-academic) read. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for any naval enthusiast’s bookcase."

Warship World Magazine

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Mariner's Mirror

Overall a very interesting read and one I won't hesitate in recommending.

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Military Model Scene


This 416-page book by Chris Baker will appeal equally to the historic ship enthusiasts and naval specialist, while it also provides a novel perspective through a battleship-shaped lens on the late 20th century for the more general historians.

Ships Monthly - December 2022 Issue

Now I’m not going to claim to be an expert on Naval history, just a mere enthusiast, but I found this to be a very interesting book, one that would suit many levels of knowledge. As usual, there was great photography throughout the book and certainly one I’ll be reading again for all kinds of information.

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The History Fella

"Overall this is a fascinating book that sheds a fresh perspective on the declining years of the battleship. I learnt a lot from it, thoroughly enjoyed reading it from cover to cover and recommend it highly."

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Australian Naval Institute

"This is an excellent work which will appeal equally to the historic ship enthusiast and naval specialist and I would posit the general reader. Highly Recommended!"

Martin Willoughby, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

About Chris Baker

CHRIS BAKER read Modern History at Oxford University, where he specialised in military history. He spent thirty-seven years as a civil servant in the UK Ministry of Defence, dealing with defence policy, programme and resource issues. Battleships have been a lifelong interest, and his study of them has come to fruition in this, his first book.

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