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US Navy Gunboats 1885–1945

US Navy Gunboats 1885–1945 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review March 2022 Title US Navy Gunboats 1885–1945
Author Brian Lane Herder Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2021 ISBN 9781472844705
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $19.00


“Like their foreign contemporaries,” author Brian Lane Herder notes, “the US Navy’s late 19th and early 20th-century steel gunboats showed the flag, patrolled rivers and littorals, protected expatriates, policed small crises, landed armed parties, and provided a deterrence and fast-response capabilities around the world.”

Now he recaps his terrific topic in US Navy Gunboats 1885–1945 – a “succinct yet broad-ranging survey” from Osprey Publications.

Number 293 in the publisher’s vast “New Vanguard” range, Herder’s handy handbook spans just 48 pithy pages across eight, picture-packed parts:

  • Introductory Notes
  • Design & Construction
  • Gunboats
  • Spanish-American War 1898
  • Banana Wars 1899-1916
  • The Asiatic Station 1899-1937
  • Asia & The Pacific 1937-1942
  • Conclusion

Period B&W photos, color shots, profiles, and action paintings season the study. A USS Panay cut-away and a Yangtze River map further illustrate the effort.

Extended, explanatory captions, action accounts, and a sidebar also augment the effort. A selected bibliography and index also enhance the effort. And tables chronologically recap vessels by name, designation, service, tonnage, draft, armament, and more.

Patrol gunboats. Monitors. War prizes. Yachts. Riverine and ocean-going. Purpose-built and converted civilian. Steel, iron, wood, and composite hulls. It’s all here.

Even Steve McQueen!

Admirably indexed, Osprey’s splendid US Navy Gunboats 1885–1945 certainly unearths lots of coruscating nuggets – like ex-Spanish units pressed into U.S. service after 1898’s Spanish-American War. But I wish Herder noted more on gunboats with state naval militias.

Spend a lazy couple hours with the US Navy’s proverbial red-headed step children. And grab this illuminating little page-turner.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!