Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “World War II at Sea: A Global History” as Want to Read:
World War II at Sea: A Global History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

World War II at Sea: A Global History

4.59  ·  Rating details ·  637 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Author of Lincoln and His Admirals (winner of the Lincoln Prize), The Battle of Midway (Best Book of the Year, Military History Quarterly), and Operation Neptune, (winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature), Craig L. Symonds has established himself as one of the finest naval historians at work today. World War II at Sea represents his crowning achieveme ...more
Kindle Edition, 792 pages
Published April 2nd 2018 by Oxford University Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about World War II at Sea, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Rob Collinson Very factual but really. A really good read! Thoroughly good!! 📖 ✅
Rob Collinson Have just finished 'World War II at Sea'. It deals with Tarawa well. A really good read! Thoroughly good!! 📖 ✅ …moreHave just finished 'World War II at Sea'. It deals with Tarawa well. A really good read! Thoroughly good!! 📖 ✅ (less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  637 ratings  ·  87 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of World War II at Sea: A Global History
“As if a giant hammer had smashed down on her amidships, the Hood broke in half, her bow jackknifing upward to a forty-five-degree angle while flames and smoke soared into the sky. Watching from the Bismarck, [Captain] Lindemann’s adjutant, Burkard Mullenheim-Rechberg, recalled seeing ‘a mountain of flame and a yellowish-white fireball bursting up between her masts and soaring into the sky. White stars, probably molten pieces of metal, shot out from the black smoke and followed the flame, and hu ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With this volume, Dr. Symonds once again proves he is one of the best naval historians currently writing. In this narrative, he takes the reader through WWII at sea from the sinking of the British battleship HMS Royal Oak by a U-Boat at Scapa Flow in the beginning days of the war through to last American Naval Air raids on Japan in August of 1945.

He has arranged the narrative chronologically and by theater. While discussing events in one theater of operations, Dr. Symonds looks how those actions
David Eppenstein
WWII is not an a subject for which I have much enthusiasm. Blame it on all those WWII movies I watched as a kid and then add the History Channel, at least while it still carried history programming, and I guess I have just OD'd on the subject. Nevertheless, there are good histories available on that war but I tend to need a credible recommendation before I spend money on a book dealing with that period. The review of a GR friend (thanks Matt) caught my eye a couple of months ago and I ordered it ...more
Smooth, well-written chronological summary of the naval aspects of War II. Not surprisingly, Symonds contends it wasn’t the bomb, nor code-breaking, nor radar that won the war: each of those explanations has been advanced in diverse books. Rather, it was U.S. technological prowess in shipbuilding. For example, he shows, in the Battle of the Atlantic, that while closing the air gap, adding Jeep carriers to each convoy, and battling million of fanatical Russians helped, by 1943, America simply was ...more
Sean Chick
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A massive synthesis of the emerging interpretations of naval warfare in World War II, more a narrative than an analysis, but not without insights. In particular, Symonds spends a decent amount of the book on logistics, ship construction, and amphibious warfare tactics. Not enough to bore but certainly enough to give a fuller of appreciation of these aspects next to the classic narrative of admirals and fighting ships. There are minor errors that will make a World War II naval nerd shriek, such a ...more
Doug Cornelius
I try to keep looking for ways to interact with my kids in new ways. My son loves reading about military history, so I though I would add a book on that topic to my reading list. Reading it together would give us more things to talk about.

Oxford University Press was kind enough to send me a review copy of its upcoming release: World War II at Sea: A Global History by Craig L. Symonds. My son and I jumped in and enjoyed this narrative of the naval war and all of its belligerents, on all of the wo
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent naval history of WWII
Jeff Dow
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
A good survey of the war at sea...a surprisingly fast read for such a heavy topic
Stephen Butterworth
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
On the surface it seems like a very dense read, but this book is engaging and before you know it, you'll be 50 pages in and eager for more. It truly is a wonderful overview of WW2 sea battles and strategy - yet it mixes perspectives of seamen and admirals to paint a great picture of what was going on. ...more
Chris White
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
An interesting telling of the war at sea, providing a insight into the challenges of each of the navies in the various theaters.
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This well written book covers the naval war of World War II between the years 1939 and 1945. It offers a global perspective of the major engagements. The author expertly tells about the mechanics of warfare on the sea and explains about the nature of the war. The entire naval history of World War II is recounted in one volume. This is a great addition on this subject for your library. I received a copy of this book compliments of Goodreads Giveaway for a review.
Lawrence Myers
To get right to the heart of the matter, I looked forward to reading Professor Symonds' book with a great deal of anticipation, but instead came away disappointed. This disappointment doesn't stem from poor writing, but from rather sloppy research. For example, in describing American carrier movements preceding the Pearl Harbor raid, he has USS Enterprise delivering aircraft to Midway (actually it was Wake Island) and USS Hornet doing the same at Wake (Hornet was still undergoing sea trials off ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Craig Symonds, a lifelong Navy man, might be considered somewhat partial his own Service, but that partiality doesn't dim the brilliance of his survey of the crucial role played by Allied naval forces in World War II. He argues forcefully and persuasively that Allied naval superiority was one of the three reasons the Allied forces prevailed in the war (the other two being British determination at the beginning of the war and the resilience of the Red Army). Whether he's right about this or not ...more
Susan Liston
With war history I tend to gravitate towards personal stories or accounts of individual episodes, because military strategy and maneuvering tends to go over my simple little head. Or I am just too lazy to really concentrate on understanding it. No problems here. This book takes an enormous subject and renders it consumable for even the dimmer-witted. It was frequently, dare I say it, a page-turner. (I did pace myself, though, the incomprehensible destruction and loss of life get a little overwhe ...more
Matt Caris
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid one-volume history that balances strategic analysis and the individual narrative nicely. Only gripe is the editing, which was very poor. Any ambitious history book has mistakes; but consistent errors in naval-specific issues is a bad look for a naval historian. The R-class battleships weren't "limited to 28 knots," USS Wainright in 1942 was a destroyer, not a cruiser, etc. These may seem like nitpicks, but there are tons of examples like this. Again, errors happen, but routine errors of sh ...more
Peter Goodman
“World War II at Sea: a global history,” by Craig L. Symonds (Oxford, 2018). Yep, that’s what it is. Symonds was chair of the department of naval history at the US Naval Academy, where he is currently distinguished professor of maritime history. He carries his erudition lightly. This is a wonderful book. I knew much of what he recounts here, and was a little puffed up at finding that I had read a number of the books he cites. But Symonds really does provide a full-bodied, detailed, expansive por ...more
Bruce Cook
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read a lot about World War II, including not only accounts of the war and its battles, but biographies of those caught up in the conflict, like Churchill, MacArthur, Roosevelt and others. I have read a lot about the battles in the Pacific as well, many of which are sea battles. But I have never read an account of all of the sea battles and how they fit into the big picture of the war in general. This book is superb in giving insight into why sea battles were fought, why they were lost or ...more
J Earl
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, won
World War II at Sea from Craig Symonds is a comprehensive (not exhaustive) history of the naval war in its entirety told chronologically. In other words, a section about the North Atlantic will be followed by a section on the Pacific if there were events that occurred simultaneously or one right after the other. So told as the war unfolded, which means taking into account what is happening in other parts of the world.

The purpose of this book is to tell the story in a more realistic manner than t
Brian Page
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Craig L. Symonds’ World War II At Sea: A Global History, published by Oxford University Press, is grand sweeping narrative history reminiscent of Macaulay. It’s brilliant. Nevertheless, interestingly, there are a couple of tiny, tiny, blips that I noticed in my area of specialized knowledge. The German crypto device was not simply that which “the Allies called the ‘Enigma machine’” but was actually the trade name of the device by Arthur Scherbius and its manufacturer, Chiffriermaschinen Aktienge ...more
Urey Patrick
A global naval history of World War II, correlating events and developments across the globe over the course of the war while focussing the narrative on the war at sea, in all its many permutations. Most naval histories of World War II isolate themselves to particular battles, campaigns or venues. Symonds has written a naval history that covers, and correlates, all venues, campaigns and battles - at sea. There is little of the air (except naval air) and land war, except to set the stage for the ...more
Will Payne
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not usually one to read military histories, having gotten burned out on the history of warfare after a slough of AP history classes in high school. In fact, this is probably the first serious account of military history that I’ve read since then.

All that notwithstanding, I found this book to be surprisingly good, and genuinely worthwhile. As other reviewers note, the pedantic title and prodigious length is this book make it initially seem like a chore—but far from it! The author’s writing i
This was just excellent. I have read other WWII naval books that focused just on the Pacific or the North Atlantic, but as the author notes, it was hard to find a global overview to put everything in context.

I thought he did an excellent job of staying focused on the naval warfare, but including just the right amount of context about the larger war and political situations to make the information fit. I learned and understood more about the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, and learned much more ab
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nls-audio
So perhaps you’ve shied away from World War II histories because it all seemed complex and boring or maybe you were concerned that the names and funny-sounding geographic locations would throw you off. Scapa Flow, after all, sounds like it ought to be a congestion relief medicine, not the location of one of the early naval encounters of World War II. I don’t know how to adequately convince you of this, but this is a highly readable history that kept me listening to the last syllable without chec ...more
German Onofrio
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Craig L. Symonds delivers a broad yet detailed take on all aspects of naval warfare during WWII, on all sides. This book never felt boring and was for the most part engaging, giving you enough details to fully understand a battle, but keeping it concise enough for it to not drag out. The historical events are mostly told in chronological order, which makes it easy to follow. At the same time, Symonds drives home the point that this is one big war, not many smaller ones. He uses maps and images, ...more
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truely exceptional book in its scope and depth. from the extremely clarifying maps of large battles and plenty of photographic material of key-persons, to ships and places, this book does it all.

Rarely have i read an account of warfare such as this. Symonds writes as a true historian: well sourced, overlaying info, figures and reports as well as personal anecdotes, it makes for a riveting read.

Some people just naturally click with a writer and that certainly happened for me here. I felt like i
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through a FirstReads giveaway on GoodReads.

This well written single volume history of the naval campaigns of World War II begins with the author setting the stage for the global naval situation prior to the 1939 in the prologue and covering all naval actions of the war through the signing of the Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri in 1945. The book is written more as a novel than a history book and because of this, it was a very easy read. The author does a fantastic
William Nist
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A wonderfully readable magnum opus on the navel history (British, German, Japanese, Italian and American) of the Second World War. Very helpful maps and photographs add to the enjoyment of this work. I found the analysis of the importance of submarines, esp German U boats interesting, as well as the analysis of the "turning point" that finally delivered the ultimate Allied victory.

I never appreciated that American manufacturing capacity may have been the most impotent determinant of victory, bu
Christian Cederberg
As others have stated this is a well-written and engaging book. However it cries out for a good editor, because there are plenty of factual errors like HMS Gurkha being a light cruiser instead of a Tribal class DD.
According to the author HMS Royal Oak could make 28 knots in 1939, when none of the R-class battleships could exceed 19 knots by 1939 as their machinery was worn out.
Another quote from the book: Most of the cruisers now being send to confront the Graf Spee were heavy cruisers with six
Joe Mahoney
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thorough review of military naval activity from all the major players of World War Two from the beginning of the conflict to the end. Symonds concisely serves up a massive amount of information in an engrossing and informative fashion, a testament both to his ability as a writer and as an historian. The stories themselves serve as a stark reminder of the madness of war and the incalculable damage that foolish, misguided, and simply evil leaders are capable of inflicting on the human race. The ...more
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-war-ii
This is an extraordinary history book about WWII. It focuses on the Naval aspects of the War and deals with the German, British, American, Italian, and French navies. A comprehensive and well-written account of the naval actions during WWII.

I especially liked that he didn't make judgments about the actions of characters (MacArthur, Halsey, etc.) just tried to present the facts.

The author has written previously about the Navy during the D-Day landings and the Battle of Midway so any slight to thi
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945
  • Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
  • Normandy '44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France
  • The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777
  • The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945
  • Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal
  • The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King—the Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea
  • Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942
  • The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944
  • Ardennes 1944: Hitler's Last Gamble
  • An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #1)
  • The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #2)
  • The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s
  • The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan
  • The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #3)
  • The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History, May-October 1940
  • Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944
  • Big Week: Smashing the Luftwaffe, February 1944
See similar books…
Craig Lee Symonds is a retired professor and chairman of the history department at the United States Naval Academy.

News & Interviews

Looking for a fictional meet-cute in the new year? We've got some steamy novels for you to snuggle up with, including Casey McQuiston's...
63 likes · 14 comments
“torpedo, too, either missed the target or failed to explode. Undaunted, Prien then headed southward, away from the Royal Oak, to reload his bow tubes. An hour later, just past 1:00 a.m., with the crew of the battleship still no wiser about his presence, he returned to fire three more torpedoes.” 0 likes
“the battlecruiser HMS Hood, which at 860 feet was the pride of the fleet. While her eight 15-inch guns were the largest then afloat, her Achilles’ heel was her relatively thin armor, which made her more vulnerable than any battleship.” 0 likes
More quotes…