Synopses & Reviews
In a work of extraordinary narrative power, filled with brilliant personalities and vivid scenes of dramatic action, Robert K. Massie, the Pulitzer Prizewinning author of Peter the Great
, Nicholas and Alexandra
, and Dreadnought
, elevates to its proper historical importance the role of sea power in the winning of the Great War.
The predominant image of this first world war is of mud and trenches, barbed wire, machine guns, poison gas, and slaughter. A generation of European manhood was massacred, and a wound was inflicted on European civilization that required the remainder of the twentieth century to heal.
But with all its sacrifice, trench warfare did not win the war for one side or lose it for the other. Over the course of four years, the lines on the Western Front moved scarcely at all; attempts to break through led only to the lengthening of the already unbearably long casualty lists.
For the true story of military upheaval, we must look to the sea. On the eve of the war in August 1914, Great Britain and Germany possessed the two greatest navies the world had ever seen. When war came, these two fleets of dreadnoughts gigantic floating castles of steel able to hurl massive shells at an enemy miles away were ready to test their terrible power against each other.
Their struggles took place in the North Sea and the Pacific, at the Falkland Islands and the Dardanelles. They reached their climax when Germany, suffocated by an implacable naval blockade, decided to strike against the British ring of steel. The result was Jutland, a titanic clash of fifty-eight dreadnoughts, each the home of a thousand men.
When the German High Seas Fleet retreated, the kaiser unleashed unrestricted U-boat warfare, which, in its indiscriminate violence, brought a reluctant America into the war. In this way, the German effort to "seize the trident" by defeating the British navy led to the fall of the German empire.
Ultimately, the distinguishing feature of Castles of Steel is the author himself. The knowledge, understanding, and literary power Massie brings to this story are unparalleled. His portrayals of Winston Churchill, the British admirals Fisher, Jellicoe, and Beatty, and the Germans Scheer, Hipper, and Tirpitz are stunning in their veracity and artistry.
Castles of Steel is about war at sea, leadership and command, courage, genius, and folly. All these elements are given magnificent scope by Robert K. Massie's special and widely hailed literary mastery.
"'Castles of steel' was Winston Churchill's grand phrase for the Grand Fleet and its German counterpart, and this unusually fine military narrative lives up to it as well." Publishers Weekly
"Massie demolishes a number of myths....[and] brings us closer to the human face of battle than we have any right to expect." Boston Globe
"Massie has given us an important work full of new insights, but one that also captures the adventure, the passion and the tragedy of a momentous sea war." Washington Post
"Many other books have been written on the Great War at sea, some more concise, others more comprehensive, but none more readable." New York Times
"Massie has distinguished himself as a writer who pens enormous narrative histories so engaging that readers...forget that they're reading nearly 1,000 pages of nonfiction....[A] decisive success." Booklist
"[M]onumental....Massie is an accomplished maker of knee-buckling tomes....Massie's account...reveals his mastery of period detail....Hardly a page-turner, but a vivid account that will satisfy anyone with an interest in the Great War." Kirkus Reviews
"[The Battle of Jutland] springs to life, thanks to Massie's clear grasp of tactics and his suspenseful narration. His portraits of major figures...are perceptive and enthralling..." The New Yorker
"[An] intriguing work....Drawing on excerpts from official sources, contemporary accounts, and personal memoirs, the author vividly and clearly chronicles the action between the British and German navies..." Library Journal
"[A] wonderful, meaty history, marked by extensive research and smooth prose....It is rare that a reader of a book with more than 850 pages turns the last page and wishes that there were still more, but Mr. Massie has produced such a book." Dallas Morning News
"Massie's latest book displays his usual talent for bringing history to life in a narrative that is both exhaustively researched and completely engrossing." BookPage
"[A] 1,000-page blockbuster....It is a sprawling but compelling narrative that places the Anglo-German naval competition in its geographical and technological settings." Los Angeles Times
"[A]n extraordinary achievement. [Massie] has taken a complex and difficult subject...and simplified it, made it accessible and understandable even to readers who aren't buffs." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"[A] masterfully written book that creates a powerful portrait of politics and intrigue on land and of war at sea." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
In a work of extraordinary narrative power, filled with brilliant personalities and vivid scenes of dramatic action, Massie elevates to its proper historical importance the role of sea power in the winning of World War I.
About the Author
Robert K. Massie was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and studied American history at Yale and modern European history at Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He was president of the Authors Guild from 1987 to 1991.
Table of Contents
List of Maps
Ch. 1 July 1914 3
Ch. 2 "Goeben Is Your Objective"' 26
Ch. 3 Jellicoe 56
Ch. 4 First Days 72
Ch. 5 Beatty 83
Ch. 6 The Battle of the Bight 97
Ch. 7 Submarines and Mines: "Fisher's Toys" 122
Ch. 8 "Shall We Be Here in the Morning?" 146
Ch. 9 Prince Louis Departs 163
Ch. 10 Admiral von Spee's Voyage 179
Ch. 11 Admiral Cradock's Voyage 198
Ch. 12 The Battle of Coronel 225
Ch. 13 "Very Well, Luce. We'll Sail Tomorrow" 244
Ch. 14 The Battle of the Falkland Islands 257
Ch. 15 Fisher Returns to the Admiralty 287
Ch. 16 "The Requirements of the Commander-in-Chief Were Hard to Meet" 300
Ch. 17 The Yarmouth Raid and Room 40 309
Ch. 18 The Scarborough Raid: "Within Our Claws" 319
Ch. 19 The Scarborough Raid: Hipper Escapes 337
Ch. 20 The Cuxhaven Raid: "Stupid Great Things, but Very Beautiful" 361
Ch. 21 The Battle of the Dogger Bank: "Kingdom Come or Ten Days' Leave" 375
Ch. 22 The Battle of the Dogger Bank: "Why Didn't You Get the Lot?" 405
Ch. 23 "A Demonstration at the Dardanelles" 426
Ch. 24 The Minefields 444
Ch. 25 The Naval Attack on the Narrows 457
Ch. 26 Gallipoli: The Landings 471
Ch. 27 "Some Corner of a Foreign Field" 492
Ch. 28 The Blockade of Germany 503
Ch. 29 Lusitania and the American Reaction 528
Ch. 30 The Eve of Jutland 553
Ch. 31 Jutland: Beatty vs. Hipper 579
Ch. 32 Jutland: Jellicoe vs. Scheer 606
Ch. 33 Jutland: Night and Morning 635
Ch. 34 Jutland: Aftermath 658
Ch. 35 America Enters the War 685
Ch. 36 The Defeat of the U-boats 715
Ch. 37 Jellicoe Leaves, Beatty Arrives, and the Americans Cross the Atlantic 739
Ch. 38 Finis Germaniae 764