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  • USS Ranger: The Navy’s First Flattop from Keel to Mast, 1934–1946
  • Malcolm Muir Jr.
USS Ranger: The Navy’s First Flattop from Keel to Mast, 1934–1946. By Robert J. Cressman. Washington: Brassey’s, 2003. ISBN 1-57488-720-3. Photographs. Notes. Index. Pp. xiv, 451. $39.95.

Center ring for the United States Navy during World War II was the war against Japan, and the new heavyweight was the fleet aircraft carrier. Given the challenge imposed by the Imperial Japanese Navy, virtually all U.S. fast carriers fought in the Pacific. An exception was the Ranger, the first purpose-built carrier in the U.S. Navy. Although only seven years old at the time of American entry into the war, the Ranger had already been relegated to second-line status by that point. Smaller than her peers and suspect in her damage control arrangements, she saw all her combat in the Atlantic theater where her planes provided invaluable air cover for the invasion of French North Africa during Operation Torch. A year later, she carried out the only wartime strikes ever launched by a U.S. carrier above the Arctic Circle when she hammered German shipping in the coastal waters of northern Norway. As the war in the Atlantic wound down, she was relegated to training duties in 1944. A candidate for the atomic tests at Bikini, the Ranger instead ended up in a scrapyard hardly more than a year after war's end.

Telling the story of this ship is Robert J. Cressman, the head of the Ships History Branch of the Naval Historical Center. A student of naval aviation, Cressman has written or co-authored the official chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II as well as works on carriers Yorktown and Enterprise, and on battles such as Wake Island and Midway. His research on the Ranger matches his earlier standards, with his scholarly underpinnings consisting of official records, interviews with members of the ship's company, their personal papers, oral histories, and the carrier's newspapers.

For a major warship with such a relatively short career, the Ranger compiled an outstanding record outside the combat arena. On her shakedown cruise, she bolstered the infant Good Neighbor policy with successful visits to several South American countries. She helped pioneer antiaircraft director work against radio-controlled target drones. She also served as an aircraft ferry and trials ship for the navy's first airborne early warning radar and for some of its earliest jet aircraft. [End Page 1280]

Cressman traces the story of these less visible but important tasks. For instance, as a training carrier, the Ranger on 15 May 1945 alone experienced 480 landings. Routine disguised hazard, both for fledgling aviators and deckcrew alike, and Cressman ably recounts the dangers of flight deck operations, especially at night.

Cressman's care for his subject is matched by his publisher. Handsomely produced, the book is well-illustrated with many of the photographs appearing for the first time. The illustrations neatly dovetail with the text, and the captions are themselves replete with added detail. The glossary and index are both models of comprehensiveness. This study should be acquired by any library with strong holdings in naval history.

Malcolm Muir Jr.
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, Virginia


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1280-1281
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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