The Winning Edge: Naval Technology in Action, 1939-1945

By Mahnken, Thomas | Naval War College Review, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

The Winning Edge: Naval Technology in Action, 1939-1945


Mahnken, Thomas, Naval War College Review


Poolman, Kenneth. The Winning Edge: Naval Technology in Action, 19391945. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1997. 256pp. $32.95

In this study on the impact of technology on World War II's naval campaigns, Kenneth Poolman describes the development of a variety of naval sensor and weapon systems and analyzes their use during the war at sea. Poolman, a World War II veteran of the Royal Navy, is a prolific writer on naval combat, and his book demonstrates his mastery of naval technology.

The author begins by describing how Allied navies turned to new technology-including Asdic (sonar), radar, high-frequency direction finding, antisubmarine mortars, and rocketsin response to Germany's naval campaign against Allied supply lines. He also describes how the Germans fielded acoustic torpedoes, the Schnorkel, and radio-controlled bombs to strengthen their blockade. While the author gives greatest emphasis to the Battle of the Atlantic, he also devotes considerable attention to the war in the Pacific, examining the development of carrier aviation, surface-search and fire-control radar, and cryptanalysis by the U.S. Navy.

Given the breadth of his subject and the brevity of the volume, the author's description of naval technology is occasionally terse to the point of confusion. Even the technologically proficient reader is likely to stumble, for example, over the author's discussion of the evolution of sonar systems. The book also contains a number of mistakes. Poolman argues that the German air force dropped its plans to develop a heavy bomber because such an aircraft was unnecessary; in fact, the Luftwaffe canceled its heavy-bomber programs-the Do-19 and Ju-89-in 1937 because of slow progress in developing engines for the aircraft and resource constraints as much as the low priority of the aircraft in a continental war. …

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