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Country Aircraft carriers [1] Battleships[2] Cruisers Destroyers Convoy escorts Submarines Merchant tonnage
United States 22 (141) 8 48 349 420 203[3] 33,993,230
Britain 14 (25) 5 32 240 413 167 6,378,899
Soviet Union 2 25 52
Canada 1 344[4] 3,742,100
Other Commonwealth 3 60+ 2,702,943
Japan 16 2 9 63 187[5] 167 4,152,361
Germany 0 [6] 2 17 23 1,141[3]
Italy 0 [7] 3 6 6 28 1,469,606

United States

The United States Navy grew rapidly during World War II from 1941–45, and played the central role in the war against Japan, and a major role (behind the British Royal Navy) in the European war against Germany.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) sought naval superiority in the Pacific by sinking the main American battle fleet at Pearl Harbor, which was built around its battleships. The December 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor did knock out the battle fleet, but it did not touch the aircraft carriers, which became the mainstay of the rebuilt fleet.

Naval doctrine had to be changed overnight. The United States Navy (like the IJN) had followed Alfred Thayer Mahan emphasis on concentrated groups of battleships as the main offensive naval weapons.[8] The loss of the battleships at Pearl Harbor forced Admiral Ernest J. King, the head of the Navy, to place primary emphasis on the small number of aircraft carriers.[9]

The U.S. Navy grew tremendously as it faced a two-front war on the seas. It achieved notable acclaim in the Pacific Theater, where it was instrumental to the Allies' successful "island hopping" campaign.[10] The U.S. Navy fought six great battles with the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN): the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of Okinawa.[11]

By 1943, the Navy's size was larger than the combined fleets of all the other combatant nations in World War II.[12] By war's end in 1945, the United States Navy had added hundreds of new ships, including 18 aircraft carriers and 8 battleships, and had over 70% of the world's total numbers and total tonnage of naval vessels of 1,000 tons or greater.[13][14] At its peak, the U.S. Navy was operating 6,768 ships on V-J Day in August 1945, including 28 aircraft carriers, 23 battleships, 71 escort carriers, 72 cruisers, over 232 submarines, 377 destroyers, and thousands of amphibious, supply and auxiliary ships.[15]


After Pearl Harbor the IJN seemed unstoppable because it outnumbered and outgunned the disorganized Allies—US, Britain, Netherlands, Australia, China. London and Washington both believed in Mahanian doctrine, which stressed the need for a unified fleet. However, in contrast to the cooperation achieved by the armies, the Allied navies failed to combine or even coordinate their activities until mid-1942. Tokyo also believed in Mahan, who said command of the seas—achieved by great fleet battles—was the key to sea power. Therefore the IJN kept its main strike force together under Admiral Yamamoto and won a series of stunning victories over the Americans and British in the 90 days after Pearl Harbor.

Outgunned at sea, with its big guns lying at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, the American strategy for victory required a slow retreat or holding action against the IJN until the much greater industrial potential of the US could be mobilized to launch a fleet capable of projecting Allied power to the enemy heartland.


The Battle of Midway, together with the Guadalcanal campaign, marked the turning point in the Pacific.[16][17][18] Between June 4–7, 1942, the United States Navy decisively defeated a Japanese naval force that had sought to lure the U.S. carrier fleet into a trap at Midway Atoll. The Japanese fleet lost four aircraft carriers to the U.S. Navy's one American carrier and a destroyer. After Midway, and the exhausting attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign, Japan's shipbuilding and pilot training programs were unable to keep pace in replacing their losses while the U.S. steadily increased its output in both areas. Military historian John Keegan called the Battle of Midway "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare."[19]


Guadalcanal, fought from August 1942 to February 1943, was the first major Allied offensive of the war in the Pacific Theater. This campaign saw American air, naval and ground forces (later augmented by Australians and New Zealanders) in a six months campaign slowly overwhelm determined Japanese resistance. Guadalcanal was the key to control the Solomon Islands, which both sides saw as strategically essential. Both sides won some battles but both sides were overextended in terms of supply lines.

The rival navies fought seven battles, with the two sides dividing the victories. They were: Battle of Savo Island, Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Battle of Cape Esperance, Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Battle of Tassafaronga and Battle of Rennell Island. Both sides pulled out its aircraft carriers, as they were too vulnerable to land-based aviation.[20]


In preparation of the recapture of the Philippines, the Navy started the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign to retake the Gilbert and Marshall Islands from the Japanese in summer 1943. Enormous effort went into recruiting and training sailors and Marines, and building warships, warplanes and support ships in preparation for a thrust across the Pacific, and to support Army operations in the Southwest Pacific, as well as in Europe and North Africa.[21]


The Navy continued its long movement west across the Pacific, seizing one island base after another. Not every Japanese stronghold had to be captured; some, like the big bases at Truk, Rabaul and Formosa were neutralized by air attack and then simply leapfrogged. The ultimate goal was to get close to Japan itself, then launch massive strategic air attacks and finally an invasion. The US Navy did not seek out the Japanese fleet for a decisive battle, as Mahanian doctrine would suggest; the enemy had to attack to stop the inexorable advance.

The climax of the carrier war came at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.[22] Taking control of islands that could support airfields within B-29 range of Tokyo was the objective. 535 ships began landing 128,000 Army and Marine invaders on June 15, 1944 in the Mariana and Palau Islands. The Japanese launched an ill-coordinated attack on the larger American fleet; its planes operated at extreme ranges and could not keep together, allowing them to be easily shot down in what Americans jokingly called the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."[23] Japan had now lost all its offensive capabilities, and the U.S. had air bases on Guam, Saipan and Tinian for B-29 bombers targeted at Japan's home islands.

The carrier Zuikaku (center) and two destroyers under attack June 20, 1944

Okinawa 1945

Okinawa was the last great battle of the entire war. The goal was to make the island into a staging area for the invasion of Japan scheduled for fall 1945. It was just 350 miles (550 km) south of the Japanese home islands. Marines and soldiers landed on 1 April 1945, to begin an 82-day campaign which became the largest land-sea-air battle in history and was noted for the ferocity of the fighting and the high civilian casualties with over 150,000 Okinawans losing their lives. Japanese kamikaze pilots exacted the largest loss of ships in U.S. naval history with the sinking of 38 and the damaging of another 368. Total U.S. casualties were over 12,500 dead and 38,000 wounded, while the Japanese lost over 110,000 men. The fierce combat and high American losses led the Navy to oppose an invasion of the main islands. An alternative strategy was chosen: using the atomic bomb to induce surrender.[24]

Naval technology: US vs Japan

Technology and industrial power proved decisive. Japan failed to exploit its early successes before the immense potential power of the Allies could be brought to bear. In 1941 the Japanese Zero fighter had a longer range and better performance than rival American warplanes, and the pilots had more experience in the air.[25] But Japan never improved the Zero and by 1944 the Allied navies were far ahead of Japan in both quantity and quality, and ahead of Germany in quantity and in putting advanced technology to practical use. High tech innovations arrived with dizzying rapidity. Entirely new weapons systems were invented—like the landing ships, such as the 3,000 ton LST ("Landing Ship Tank") that carried 25 tanks thousands of miles and landed them right on the assault beaches. Furthermore, older weapons systems were constantly upgraded and improved. Obsolescent airplanes, for example, received more powerful engines and more sensitive radar sets. One impediment to progress was that admirals who had grown up with great battleships and fast cruisers had a hard time adjusting their war-fighting doctrines to incorporate the capability and flexibility of the rapidly evolving new weapons systems.


The ships of the American and Japanese forces were closely matched at the beginning of the war. By 1943 the American qualitative edge was winning battles; by 1944 the American quantitative advantage made the Japanese position hopeless. The German Navy, distrusting its Japanese ally, ignored Hitler's orders to cooperate and failed to share its expertise in radar and radio. Thus the Imperial Navy was further handicapped in the technological race with the Allies (who did cooperate with each other). The United States economic base was ten times larger than Japan's, and its technological capabilities also significantly greater, and it mobilized engineering skills much more effectively than Japan, so that technological advances came faster and were applied more effectively to weapons. Above all, American admirals adjusted their doctrines of naval warfare to exploit the advantages. The quality and performance of the warships of Japan were initially comparable to those of the US.

The Americans were supremely, and perhaps overly, confident in 1941. Pacific commander Admiral Chester W. Nimitz boasted he could beat a bigger fleet because of "...our superior personnel in resourcefulness and initiative, and the undoubted superiority of much of our equipment." As Willmott notes, it was a dangerous and ill-founded assumption.[26]


The American battleships before Pearl Harbor could fire salvos of nine 2,100 pound armor-piercing shells every minute to a range of 35,000 yards (19 miles). No ship except another battleship had the thick armor that could withstand that kind of firepower. When intelligence reported that Japan had secretly built even more powerful battleships, Washington responded with four "Iowa" class battleships (two of which were used a half-century later in the Gulf War.) The "big-gun" admirals on both sides dreamed of a great shootout at twenty-mile (32 km) range, in which carrier planes would be used only for spotting the mighty guns. Their doctrine was utterly out of date. A plane like the Grumman TBF Avenger could drop a 2,000 pound bomb on a battleship at a range of hundreds of miles. An aircraft carrier cost less, required about the same number of personnel, was just as fast, and could easily sink a battleship. During the war the battleships found new missions: they were platforms holding all together dozens of anti-aircraft guns and 8 or 9 14" or 16" long-range guns used to blast land targets before amphibious landings. Their smaller 5" guns, and the 4,800 3" to 8" guns on cruisers and destroyers also proved effective at bombarding landing zones. After a short bombardment of Tarawa island in November 1943, Marines discovered that the Japanese defenders were surviving in underground shelters. It then became routine doctrine to thoroughly work over beaches with thousands of high explosive and armor piercing shells. The bombardment would destroy some fixed emplacements and kill some troops. More important, it severed communication lines, stunned and demoralized the defenders, and gave the landing parties fresh confidence. After the landing, naval gunfire directed by ground observers would target any enemy pillboxes that were still operational. The sinking of the battleships at Pearl Harbor proved a blessing in deep disguise, for after they were resurrected and assigned their new mission they performed well. (Absent Pearl Harbor, big-gun admirals like Raymond Spruance might have followed prewar doctrine and sought a surface battle in which the Japanese would have been very hard to defeat.)[27]

Naval aviation

In World War I the US Navy explored aviation, both land-based and carrier based. However the Navy nearly abolished aviation in 1919 when Admiral William S. Benson, the reactionary Chief of Naval Operations, could not "conceive of any use the fleet will ever have for aviation", and he secretly tried to abolish the Navy's Aviation Division.[28] Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt reversed the decision because he believed aviation might someday be "the principal factor" at sea with missions to bomb enemy warships, scout enemy fleets, map mine fields, and escort convoys. Grudgingly allowing it a minor mission, the Navy slowly built up its aviation. In 1929 it had one carrier (USS Langley), 500 pilots and 900 planes; by 1937 it had 5 carriers (the Lexington, Saratoga, Ranger, Yorktown and Enterprise), 2000 pilots and 1000 much better planes. With Roosevelt now in the White House, the tempo soon quickened. One of the main relief agencies, the PWA, made building warships a priority. In 1941 the U.S. Navy with 8 carriers, 4,500 pilots and 3,400 planes had more airpower than the Japanese Navy.[29]



Germany's main naval weapon was the U-boat; its main mission was to cut off the flow of supplies and munitions reaching Britain by sea. Submarine attacks on Britain's vital maritime supply routes (Battle of the Atlantic) started immediately at the outbreak of war, although they were hampered by the lack of well placed ports from which to operate; that changed when France fell in 1940 and Germany took control of all the ports in France and the Low Countries. The U-boats had such a high success rate they dubbed it the First Happy Time. The Kriegsmarine was responsible for coastal artillery protecting major ports and possible invasion points, ans also handled anti-aircraft batteries protecting major ports.[30]

In 1939-1945 German shipyards launched 1162 U-boats, of which 785 were destroyed during the war, 632 at sea. The British anti-submarine ships and aircraft accounted for over 500 kills. At the end of the war, 156 U-boats surrendered to the Allies, while the crews scuttled 221 others, chiefly in German ports. In terms of effectiveness, German and other Axis submarines sank 2828 merchant ships totaling 14.7 million tons (11.7 million British); many more were damaged. The use of convoys dramatically reduced the number of sinkings, but convoys made for slow movement and long delays at both ends, and thus reduced the flow of Allied goods. German submarines also sank 175 Allied warships, mostly British, with 52,000 Royal Navy sailors killed.[31]

Surface fleet

The German fleet was involved in many operations, starting with the Invasion of Poland. Also in 1939, it sank the British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous and the battleship HMS Royal Oak, while losing the Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate.

In April 1940, the German Navy was heavily involved in the invasion of Norway, where it lost the heavy cruiser Blücher, two light cruisers, and ten ten destroyers. In return it sank the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and some smaller ships.

Great Britain

The Royal Navy in the critical yars 1939-43 was under the command of First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound (1877-1943). As a result of the earlier changes the Royal Navy entered the Second World War as a heterogeneous force of World War I veterans, inter-war ships limited by close adherence to treaty restrictions and later unrestricted designs. It remained a powerful force, though smaller and relatively older than it was during World War I.

At the start of World War II, Britain's global commitments were reflected in the Navy's deployment. Its first task remained the protection of trade, since Britain was heavily dependent upon imports of food and raw materials, and the global empire was also interdependent. The navy's assets were allocated between various Fleets and Stations[32]

Fleet / Station Area of Responsibility
Home Fleet home waters, i.e., north-east Atlantic, North Sea, English Channel (sub-divided into commands and sub-commands)
Mediterranean Fleet Mediterranean Sea
South Atlantic and Africa Station south Atlantic and South African region
America and West Indies Station western north Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, eastern Pacific
East Indies Station / Eastern Fleet Indian Ocean (excluding South Atlantic and Africa Station, Australian waters and waters adjacent to Dutch East Indies)
China Station / Eastern Fleet north-west Pacific and waters around Dutch East Indies

There are sharply divided opinions of Pound's leadership. His greatest achievement was his successful campaign against German U-boat activity and the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic. Winston Churchill, the civilian of the Navy (1939–40) and of all the forces as Prime Minister (1940–45) worked with him closely on naval strategies; he was dubbed "Churchill's anchor".[33] He blocked Churchill's scheme of sending a battle fleet into the Baltic early in the war. However his judgment has been challenged regarding his micromanagement, the failed Norwegian Campaign in 1940, his dismissal of Admiral Dudley North in 1940, Japan's sinking of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales by air attack off Malaya in late 1941, and the failure in July 1942 to disperse Convoy PQ17 under German attack.[34]

British Battlecruiser HMS Hood

During the early phases of World War II, the Royal Navy provided critical cover during British evacuations from Norway (where an aircraft carrier and 6 destroyers were lost but 338,000 men were evacuated), Dunkirk (where 7,000 RN men were killed) and Crete. In the latter operation Admiral Cunningham ran great risks to extract the Army, and saved many men to fight another day. The prestige of the Navy suffered severe blows when the battlecruiser Hood was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941. Although the Bismarck was sunk a few days later, public pride in the Royal Navy was severely damaged as a result of the loss of mighty Hood. The RN carried out a bombardment of Oran in Algeria against the French Mediterranean Fleet. Torpedo bombers sank 3 Italian battleships at Taranto and in March 1941 it sank 3 cruisers and 2 destroyers at Cape Matapan. The RN carried out an evacuation of troops from Greece to Crete and then from that island. In this the navy lost 3 cruisers and 6 destroyers but rescued 30,000 men.

The RN was vital in interdicting Axis supplies to North Africa and in the resupply of its base in Malta. The losses in Operation Pedestal were high but the convoy got through.

The Royal Navy was also vital in guarding the sea lanes that enabled British forces to fight in remote parts of the world such as North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Far East. Convoys were used from the start of the war and anti-submarine hunting patrols used. From 1942, responsibility for the protection of Atlantic convoys was divided between the various allied navies: the Royal Navy being responsible for much of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Suppression of the U-boat threat was an essential requirement for the invasion of northern Europe: the necessary armies could not otherwise be transported and resupplied. During this period the Royal Navy acquired many relatively cheap and quickly built escort vessels.

The defence of the ports and harbours and keeping sea-lanes around the coast open was the responsibility of Coastal Forces and the Royal Naval Patrol Service.

Landing craft convoy crossing the English Channel in 1944

Naval supremacy was vital to the amphibious operations carried out, such as the invasions of Northwest Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy. For Operation Neptune the RN and RCN supplied 958 of the 1213 warships and three quarters of the 4000 landing craft. The use of the Mulberry harbours allowed the invasion forces to be kept resupplied. There were also landings in the south of France in August.

During the war however, it became clear that aircraft carriers were the new capital ship of naval warfare, and that Britain's former naval superiority in terms of battleships had become irrelevant. Britain was an early innovator in aircraft carrier design, introducing armoured flight decks, in place of the now obsolete and vulnerable battleship. The Royal Navy was now dwarfed by its ally, the United States Navy. The successful invasion of Europe reduced the European role of the navy to escorting convoys and providing fire support for troops near the coast as at Walcheren, during the battle of the Scheldt.

The British Eastern Fleet had been withdrawn to East Africa because of Japanese incursions into the Indian Ocean. Despite opposition from the U.S. naval chief, Admiral Ernest King, the Royal Navy sent a large task force to the Pacific (British Pacific Fleet). This required the use of wholly different techniques, requiring a substantial fleet support train, resupply at sea and an emphasis on naval air power and defence. In 1945 84 warships and support vessels were sent to the Pacific. It remains the largest foreign deployment of the Royal Navy. Their largest attack was on the oil refineries in Sumatra to deny Japanese access to supplies. However it also gave cover to the US landings on Okinawa and carried out air attacks and bombardment of the Japanese mainland.

At the start of the Second World War the RN had 19 battleships, and 80 cruisers. Fifty old destroyers and other smaller craft were obtained from the US in exchange for bases. At the end the RN had 16 battleships, 52 carriers—though most of these were small escort or merchant carriers—62 cruisers, 257 destroyers, 131 submarines and 9,000 other ships. During the war the Royal Navy lost 350 major warships and more than 1000 small ones. There were 134,000 men in the navy at the start of the war, which rose to 865,000 by the end. 51,000 RN sailors were killed. The WRNS was reactivated in 1938 and their numbers rose to a peak of 74,000 in 1944. The Royal Marines reach a maximum of 78,000 in 1945, having taken part in all the major landings.

German invasion threat 1940

Operation Sea Lion was Germany's threatened invasion across the English channel in 1940. The Germans had the soldiers and the small boats in place, and had far more in the way of tanks and artillery than the British had after their retreat from Dunkirk. However, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force were fully prepared, and historians believe that an attempted invasion would be a disaster for the Germans. British naval power, based in Scotland, was very well-equipped with heavily armored battleships; Germany had none available. At no point did Germany have the necessary air superiority. And even if they had achieved air superiority, it would have been meaningless on bad weather days, which would ground warplanes but not hinder the Royal Navy from demolishing the transports and blasting the landing fields.[35] The German general Alfred Jodl realized that as long as the British navy was a factor, an invasion would be to send "my troops into a mincing machine."[36]


With a wide range of nations collaborating with the Allies, the British needed a way to coordinate the work. The Royal Navy dealt smoothly with the navies-in-exile of Poland, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece using a liaison system between senior naval officers. The system produced the effective integration of Allied navies into Royal Navy commands.[37]


When France fell in June 1940, Germany made the soldiers into POWs but allowed Vichy France to keep its powerful fleet, the fourth largest in the world.[38] France sent its warships to its colonial ports or to ports controlled by Britain. The British attacked one of the main squadrons at Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria (near Oran), on 3 July 1940. The attack killed 1300 men and sank one or badly damaged three of the four battleships at anchor. The Vichy government was angry indeed but did not retaliate and maintained a state of armed neutrality in the war.[39] The British seized warships in British harbors, and they eventually became part of the Free French Naval Forces. When Germany occupied all of France in November 1942, Vichy France had assembled at Toulon about a third of the warships it had started with, amounting to 200,000 tons. Germany tried to seize them; the French officers then scuttled their own fleet.[40]


The Italian navy ("Regia Marina") had the mission of keeping open the trans Mediterranean to North Africa and the Balkans; it was challenged by the British Royal Navy. It was well behind the British in the latest technology, such as radar, which was essential for night gunnery at long range. The Regia Marina had six battleships, 19 cruisers, 59 destroyers, 67 torpedo boats, and 116 submarines. Two aircraft carriers were under construction; they were never launched. The nation was too poor to launch a major shipbuilding campaign, which made the senior commanders cautious for fear of losing assets that could not be replaced. In the Battle of the Mediterranean the British had broken the Italian naval code and knew the times of departure, routing, time of arrival and make up of convoys. The Italians neglected to capture Malta, which became the main staging and logistical base for the British.


On 7 December 1941, the principal units of the Japanese Navy included:[41]

  • 10 battleships (11 by the end of the year)
  • 6 fleet carriers
  • 4 light fleet carriers
  • 18 heavy cruisers
  • 18 light cruisers
  • 113 destroyers
  • 63 submarines

The front-line strength of the Naval Air Forces was 1753 warplanes, including 660 fighters, 330 torpedo bombers, and 240 shore-based bombers. There were also 520 flying boats used for reconnaissance.[42]


The HNLMS Java in 1941

The small but modern Dutch fleet had as its primary mission the defence of the oil-rich Dutch East Indies.[43] The Netherlands, Britain and the United States tried to defend the colony from the Japanese as it moved south in late 1941 in search of Dutch oil.[43][44] The Dutch had five cruisers, eight destroyers, 24 submarines, and smaller vessels, along with 50 obsolete aircraft. Most of the forces were lost to Japanese air or sea attacks, with the survivors merged into the British Eastern Fleet. The Dutch navy had suffered from years of underfunding and came ill-prepared to face an enemy with far more and far heavier ships with better weapons, including the Long Lance-torpedo, with which the cruiser Haguro downed the light cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter.[45]

As Germany invaded in April 1940, the government moved into exile in Britain and a few ships along with the headquarters of the Royal Netherlands Navy continued the fight. It maintained units in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and after it was conquered later in Sri Lanka and Western Australia. It was deciseively defeated defending the Dutch East Indies in the Battle of the Java Sea. The battle consisted of a series of attempts over a seven-hour period by Admiral Karel Doorman's Combined Striking Force to attack the Japanese invasion convoy; each was rebuffed by the escort force. Doorman went down with his ships together with 1000 of his crew. During the relentless Japanese offensive of February through April 1942 in the Dutch East Indies, the Dutch navy in the Far East was virtually annihilated, and it sustained losses of a total of 20 ships (including its only two light cruisers) and 2500 sailors killed[46][47]

A small force of Dutch submarines based in Western Australian sank more Japanese ships in the first weeks of the war than the entire British and American navies together, an exploit which earned Admiral Helfrich the nickname "Ship-a-day Helfrich".[48]

Around the world Dutch naval units were responsible for transporting troops, for example during Operation Dynamo in Dunkirk and on D-Day, they escorted convoys and attacked enemy targets.


Building a Soviet fleet was a national priority, but many senior officers were killed in purges in the late 1930s.[49] The naval share of the national munitions budget fell from 11.5% in 1941 to 6.6% in 1944.[50]

When Germany invaded in 1941 and captured millions of soldiers, many sailors and naval guns were detached to reinforce the Red Army; these reassigned naval forces participated with every major action on the Eastern Front. Soviet naval personnel had especially significant roles on land in the battles for Odessa, Sevastopol, Stalingrad, Novorossiysk, Tuapse, and Leningrad. The Baltic fleet was blockaded in Leningrad and Kronstadt by minefields, but the submarines escaped. The surface fleet fought with the anti-aircraft defence of the city and bombarded German positions. In the Black Sea, many ships were damaged by minefields and Axis aviation, but they helped defend naval bases and supply them while besieged, as well as later evacuating them.[51]

The U.S. and Britain through Lend Lease gave the USSR ships with a total displacement of 810,000 tons.[52]

Battles and Campaigns




While the Royal Navy spent a great deal of energy dealing with German surface and submarine attacks on its merchant marine, it also launched its own attack on Axis shipping, especially in the Mediterranean. The British sank 3082 Axis merchantment in the Mediterranean, amounting to over 4 million tons. The loss of supplies proved fatal to the Axis armies in North Africa.[53]


  1. Figure in parentheses indicates merchant vessels converted to Escort carriers.
  2. Not including ships built before the war
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wagner, Kennedy, Osborne, and Reyburn. The Library of Congress World War II Companion. pp 202-203.
  4. Number of ships in the RCN All escort vessels of the frigate, minesweeper and corvettes classes were built in Canada and 10 Corvettes were supplied to the USN.
  5. 67 Type D escort ships + 56 Type C escort ships + 29 Ukuru class escort ships + 9 Hiburi class escort ships + 8 Mikura class escort ships + 14 Etorofu class escort ships + 4 Shimushu class escort ships
  6. None completed by the end of the war. Two were in production , Graf Zeppelin and Flugzeugträger B.
  7. None completed by the end of the war. Two were in production: see Aquila and Sparviero.
  8. Trent Hone, "The Evolution of Fleet Tactical Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1922-1941," Journal of Military History (2003) 67#4 pp. 1107-1148 in JSTOR
  9. Henry M. Dater, "Tactical Use of Air Power in World War II: The Navy Experience," Military Affairs, Vol. 14, (1950), pp. 192-200 in JSTOR
  10. Stephen Howarth, To Shining Sea: a History of the United States Navy, 1775–1998 (1999)
  11. Samuel Eliot Morison, Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (1963)
  12. Crocker III, H. W. (2006). Don't Tread on Me. New York: Crown Forum. p. 302. ISBN 978-1-4000-5363-6. 
  13. Weighing the U.S. Navy Defense & Security Analysis, Volume 17, Issue 3 December 2001, pp. 259 - 265.
  14. King, Ernest J., USN. "Major Combatant Ships Added to United States Fleet, 7 December 1941 - 1 October 1945", US Navy at War 1941-1945: Official Report to the Secretary of the Navy. Retrieved 8 April 2006.
  15. "Ship Force Levels 1917-present". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  16. "Battle of Midway: June 4–7,1942". Naval History & Heritage Command. 27 April 2005. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2009.  "...considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific."
  17. Dull, Paul S. Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-219-9.  "Midway was indeed "the" decisive battle of the war in the Pacific.", p. 166
  18. "A Brief History of Aircraft Carriers: Battle of Midway". U.S. Navy. 2007. Archived from the original on 12 June 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2007. 
  19. Keegan, John. "The Second World War." New York: Penguin, 2005. (275)
  20. Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. 5: The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942-February 1943 (1949)
  21. James C. Bradford, ed., A Companion to American Military History (2010) 1: 205-7, 402-3
  22. William T. Y'Blood, Red Sun Setting: The Battle of the Philippine Sea (2003)
  23. Barrett Tillman, Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot of World War II (2005)
  24. William L. O'Neill, The Oxford Essential Guide to World War II (2002) p 279
  25. Robert Jackson, Mitsubishi Zero (2005)
  26. Quoted in H. P. Willmott, The barrier and the javelin: Japanese and Allied Pacific strategies, February to June 1942 (Naval Institute Press, 1983) p 198
  27. Christopher Chant, An Illustrated Data Guide to Battleships of World War II (1997)
  28. Jeffery S. Underwood, The wings of democracy: the influence of air power on the Roosevelt Administration, 1933-1941 (1991) p. 11
  29. Jeffery S. Underwood, The wings of democracy
  30. Feldgrau :: Organization of the Kriegsmarine in the West 1940–1945
  31. S.W. Roskill, White Ensign: The British Navy at War 1939-1945 (1960) pp 422-23
  32. Royal Navy in World War 2
  33. Tony Heathcote, The British Admirals of the Fleet 1734 – 1995 (2002). p 217
  34. Peter Nailor, "Great Chiefs of Staff - Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, OM, GCB GCVO," RUSI Journal: Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies (1988) 133#1 pp 67-70.
  35. Mark Simmons, "The planned 1940 sea invasion of Britain, Operation Sea Lion, remains one of the great 'what-ifs' of modern military history," Military Heritage (2013) 15#1 pp 16-19.
  36. quoted in Brian James, "Pie in the Sky?" History Today (Sept 2006) 56#9
  37. Mark C. Jones, "Friend and Advisor to the Allied Navies: The Royal Navy's Principal Liaison Officer and Multinational Naval Operations in World War II," Journal of Military History (2013) 77#3 pp 991-1023.
  38. Paul Auphan and Jacques Mordal, The French Navy in World War II (1976)
  39. Martin Thomas, "After Mers-el-Kebir: The armed neutrality of the Vichy French Navy, 1940-43," English Historical Review (1997) 112#447 pp 643-70 in JSTOR
  40. Spencer C. Tucker (2011). World War II at Sea: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 751–52. 
  41. S.W. Roskill, The War at Sea 1939-1945; Volume II: The Period of Balance (1956) p 476
  42. Roskill, The War at Sea 1939-1945; Volume II: The Period of Balance (1956) p 480
  43. 43.0 43.1 Herman Theodore Bussemaker, "Paradise in Peril: The Netherlands, Great Britain and the Defence of the Netherlands East Indies, 1940–41," Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (2000) 31#1 pp: 115-136.
  44. Jack Ford, "The Forlorn Ally—The Netherlands East Indies in 1942," War & Society (1993) 11#1 pp: 105-127.
  45. See at "The Dutch East Indies Campaign of World War II or mirror"; using mirror
  46. Klemen, L (1999–2000). "The War at Sea". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. 
  47. David Arthur Thomas, The battle of the Java sea (Deutsch, 1968).
  48. TIME, Monday, Feb. 23, 1942 (February 23, 1942). "World Battlefronts: Dutchman's Chance". Time.,9171,884450,00.html. 
  49. Jürgen Rohwer and Mikhail S. Monakov, Stalin's Ocean-going Fleet: Soviet Naval Strategy and Shipbuilding Programmes, 1935-1953 (Psychology Press, 2001)
  50. Mark Harrison, "The Volume of Soviet Munitions Output, 1937-1945: A Reevaluation," Journal of Economic History (1990) 50#3 pp. 569-589 at p 582
  51. Sergeĭ Georgievich Gorshkov, Red Star Rising at Sea (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1974)
  52. Boris V. Sokolov, "The role of lend‐lease in Soviet military efforts, 1941–1945," Journal of Slavic Military Studies (1994) 7#3 pp: 567-586.
  53. Roskill, White Ensign, p 410


  • Bertke, Donald A. et al. World War II Sea War (5 vol. 2011-13 in progress) excerpt and text search vol 5; 500pp each; includes warships and civilian ships from Allied, Axis, and neutral nations. Data is organized by month, then by geographical area, then by date.
  • Dear, Ian and M.R.D. Foot, eds. The Oxford companion to world war II (1995), comprehensive encyclopedia
  • Rohwer, Jürgen, and Gerhard Hümmelchen. Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War II (Naval Institute Press, 2005)
  • Tucker, Spencer C. (2011). World War II at Sea: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. , comprehensive naval encyclopedia


  • Adams, John A. If Mahan Ran the Great Pacific War: An Analysis of World War II Naval Strategy (Indiana UP, 2008)
  • Blair, Jr., Clay. Silent Victory. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975 (submarine war).
  • Boyd, Carl, and Akihiko Yoshida. The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II (1995)
  • Carpenter, Ronald H. "Admiral Mahan, 'narrative fidelity,' and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." Quarterly Journal of Speech (1986) 72#3 pp: 290-305.
  • Dunnigan, James F., and Albert A. Nofi. The Pacific War Encyclopedia. Facts on File, 1998. 2 vols. 772p.
  • Evans, David C; Peattie, Mark R (1997). Kaigun: strategy, tactics, and technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-192-7. 
  • Gailey, Harry A. The War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay (1995) online
  • Hopkins, William B. The Pacific War: The Strategy, Politics, and Players that Won the War (2010)
  • Inoguchi, Rikihei, Tadashi Nakajima, and Robert Pineau. The Divine Wind. Ballantine, 1958. Kamikaze.
  • Kirby, S. Woodburn The War Against Japan. 4 vols. London: H.M.S.O., 1957–1965. Official Royal Navy history.
  • Marder, Arthur. Old Friends, New Enemies: The Royal Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy, vol. 2: The Pacific War, 1942–1945 (1990)
  • Miller, Edward S. (2007). War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897–1945. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-500-7. 
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. 3, The Rising Sun in the Pacific. Boston: Little, Brown, 1961; Vol. 4, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions. 1949; Vol. 5, The Struggle for Guadalcanal. 1949; Vol. 6, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier. 1950; Vol. 7, Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls. 1951; Vol. 8, New Guinea and the Marianas. 1962; Vol. 12, Leyte. 1958; vol. 13, The Liberation of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao, the Visayas. 1959; Vol. 14, Victory in the Pacific. 1961.
    • Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (2007)
  • Okumiya, Masatake, and Mitso Fuchida. Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan. Naval Institute Press, 1955.
  • Prange, Gordon W., Donald Goldstein, and Katherine Dillon. At Dawn We Slept. Penguin, 1982. Pearl Harbor
  • Prange, Gordon W., Donald Goldstein, and Katherine Dillon. Miracle at Midway. Penguin, 1982.
  • Prange, Gordon W., Donald Goldstein, and Katherine Dillon. Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History.
  • Smith, J. Douglas, and Richard Jensen. World War II on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites. (2002)
  • Spector, Ronald. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan Free Press, 1985.
  • Thomas, David Arthur. The battle of the Java sea (Deutsch, 1968)
  • Toland, John, The Rising Sun. 2 vols. Random House, 1970. Japan's war.
  • Toll, Ian W. Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941–1942 (2011)
  • Parshall, Jonathan; Tully, Anthony (2005). Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books. ISBN 1-57488-923-0. 
  • Willmott, H. P. Empires in the Balance. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute Press, 1982.
  • Willmott, H. P. The Barrier and the Javelin. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute Press, 1983.
  • Willmott, H. P. The Last Century of Sea Power, vol. 2: From Washington to Tokyo, 1922–1945. (Indiana University Press, 2010). 679 pp.
  • Wood, James B. Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific War: Was Defeat Inevitable? (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007)
  • Y'Blood, William. Red Sun Setting: The Battle of the Philippine Sea. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1980.


  • Barlow, Jeffrey G. "American and Allied Strategy and Campaigns in the Pacific War, 1941-1945." in Loyd Lee, ed. World War II in Asia and the Pacific and the War's Aftermath, with General Themes: A Handbook of Literature and Research (1998): pp 72–89 historiography.
  • Peattie, Mark R. "Japanese Strategy and Campaigns in the Pacific War, 1941-1945." in Loyd Lee, ed. World War II In Asia and the Pacific and the War's Aftermath, with General Themes: A Handbook of Literature and Research (1998): pp56–71; historiography.

Atlantic and Mediterranean

  • Barnett, Corelli. Engage the Enemy More Closely: The Royal Navy in the Second World War (1991)
  • Bennett, George Henry, and Ralph Bennett. Survivors: British Merchant Seamen in the Second World War (Hambledon Press, 1999)
  • Blair, Clay, Jr. (1996). "Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters 1939–1942". Cassell & Co.. 
  • Blair, Clay, Jr. (1996). "Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunted 1942–1945". Cassell & Co.. 
  • Costello, John; Hughes, Terry (1977). "The Battle of the Atlantic". London: Collins. OCLC 464381083. 
  • Douglas, William A.B., Roger Sarty and Michael Whitby, No Higher Purpose: The Official Operational History of the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War, 1939–1943, (2 vol 2002-2007)
  • Gardner, Jock. "The battle of the Atlantic, 1941‐the first turning point?." Journal of Strategic Studies (1994) 17#1 pp: 109-123.
  • Greene, Jack, and Alessandro Massignani. The naval war in the Mediterranean, 1940-1943 (1998)
  • Ireland, Bernard (2003). "Battle of the Atlantic". Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 1-84415-001-1. 
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operation in World War II in 15 Volumes (1947–62, often reprinted). vol 1 The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939 – May 1943; vol 2 Operations in North African Waters, October 1942 – June 1943; vol 9. Sicily – Salerno – Anzio, January 1943 – June 1944; vol 10. The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943 – May 1945; vol 11 "The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944–1945
    • Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (2007), condensed version
  • Offley, Edward. Turning the Tide: How a Small Band of Allied Sailors Defeated the U-boats and Won the Battle of the Atlantic (Basic Books, 2011)
  • O'Hara, Vincent P. The German Fleet at War, 1939-1945 (Naval Institute Press, 2004)
  • Paterson, Lawrence. U-boats in the Mediterranean, 1941-1944. (Naval Institute Press, 2007)
  • Rodger, N. A. M. Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, Volume 3: 1815–1945 (2009)
  • Roskill, S. W. War at Sea 1939–1945, Volume 1: The Defensive London: HMSO, 1954; War at Sea 1939–1945, Volume 2: The Period of Balance, 1956; War at Sea 1939–1945, Volume 3: The Offensive, Part 1, 1960; War at Sea 1939–1945, Volume 3: The Offensive, Part 2, 1961. online vol 1; online vol 2
    • Roskill, S. W. The White Ensign: British Navy at War, 1939–1945 (1960). summary
  • Runyan, Timothy J., and Jan M. Copes, eds. To die gallantly: the battle of the Atlantic (Westview Press, 1994)
  • Sarty, Roger, The Battle of the Atlantic: The Royal Canadian Navy's Greatest Campaign, 1939–1945, (CEF Books, Ottawa, 2001)
  • Syrett, David. The Defeat of the German U-Boats: The Battle of the Atlantic (University of South Carolina Press, 1994.)
  • Tarrant, V. E. The last year of the Kriegsmarine: May 1944-May 1945 (Arms and Armour, 1994)
  • Terraine, John, Business in Great Waters, (London 1987) The best single-volume study of the U-Boat Campaigns, 1917–1945
  • Tomblin, Barbara Brooks. "The Naval War in the Mediterranean." in A Companion to World War II (2013): 222+
  • van der Vat, Dan. The Atlantic Campaign (1988)

Ships and technology

  • Bath, Alan Harris. Tracking the Axis enemy: The triumph of Anglo-American naval intelligence (University Press of Kansas, 1998)
  • Campbell, N. J. M. Naval Weapons of World War Two (2002), covers major navies of the world
  • Friedman, Norman. U.S. Naval Weapons: Every Gun, Missile, Mine and Torpedo Used by the U.S. Navy from 1883 to the Present Day (1983)
  • Goralski, Robert, and Russell W. Freeburg. Oil and War: How the Deadly Struggle for Fuel in WWII Meant Victory or Defeat (Morrow, 1987)
  • Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II (1972); covers major navies of the world
  • Levy, James P. "Race for the Decisive Weapon: British, American, and Japanese Carrier Fleets, 1942–1943." Naval War College Review (Winter 2005) v 58
  • Newpower, Anthony. Iron Men and Tin Fish: The Race to Build a Better Torpedo During World War II (Greenwood, 2006)


  • Bird, Keith. Erich Raeder Admiral of the Third Reich (2006)
  • Brodhurst, Robin. Churchill's Anchor: Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, OM, GCB, GCVO (Pen & Sword Books, 2000)
  • Buell, Thomas. The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond Spruance. (1974).
  • Buell, Thomas B. Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (Naval Institute Press, 1995). ISBN 1-55750-092-4
  • Larrabee, Eric. Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War (2004), chapters on all the key American war leaders excerpt and text search
  • Murfett, Malcolm. The First Sea Lords from Fisher to Mountbatten (1995), British
  • Padfield, Peter. Dönitz: The Last Führer (2001)
  • Potter, E. B. Bull Halsey (1985).
  • Potter, E. B. Nimitz. (1976).
  • Potter, John D. Yamamoto 1967.
  • Roskill, Stephen. Churchill and the Admirals (1977).
  • Simpson, Michael. Life of Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham (Routledge, 2004)
  • Stephen, Martin. The Fighting Admirals: British Admirals of the Second World War (1991).
  • Ugaki, Matome, Donald M. Goldstein, and Katherine V. Dillon. Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki, 1941-1945 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991), a primary source
  • Wukovits, John. Admiral" Bull" Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy's Most Controversial Commander (Macmillan, 2010)

External links

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