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Book Review
USS California
USS California – A Visual History of the Golden State Battleship BB-44
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by: Todd Michalak [ TRM5150 ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

By David Doyle

Published by Ampersand Group, Inc.

©2015 Ampersand Group, Inc.

ISBN 978-0-9773781-7-3

MSRP - $32.95 US

The Ampersand Group, Inc. expands publishing of books and magazines focused mainly military vehicles to begin the journey into the nautical realm with a brand new series of hard covered books concentrated on the capital ships of WWII. The first book from this new series, USS California – A Visual History of the Golden State Battleship BB-44 by David Doyle is a 168 page photographic biography of the Golden State’s “Prune Barge”.

This hard cover book is presented in a landscape format chronologically displaying the USS California BB-44 from her evolution following the First World War throughout the interbellum leading up to her fall and then rise from the ashes following the attack on Pearl Harbor to serve her country in the fight for the Pacific until the end of the Second World War. The author has filled this book hundreds of detailed photographs along with color plates and scale line drawings of the California in all her glory.


The California is christened
• The Pearl Harbor Attack
• Salvage operations
• Return to Puget Sound
• Collision with USS Tennessee (BB-43)
• The Battle of Surigao Straight
• Philadelphia, drydock and reserve

As you can see from the table of contents above, the book begins with the birth of the USS California BB-44. At the time of conception, there was another ship bearing the name of the Golden State; the Armored Cruiser, California ACR/CA-6. At the point where the keel of BB-44 was to be laid, armored cruiser California would change her name to San Diego making way for the new Tennessee Class battleship to gain her namesake. The first chapter of this book gives us an extensive photographic display of the California’s creation at the Mare Island shipyard. This chapter is packed with period photos from the laying of her keel to the christening on the day of her launch by the Barbara Stephens Zane, daughter of governor William Stephens of California. Continuing on through the commissioning of the California, this chapter walks us through the interbellum between World Wars giving a fascinating view of the ship leading up to here refit in 1936 on up to the times prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Each of the hundreds of photos contained in this book are support by text insets allowing the reader to see and understand much of what they are looking at in the photographs. The first chapter also supports a 1936 line drawing as the ship was after her first refit along with a color plate showing the signal flags used by the US Navy.

The second chapter in this book, The Pearl Harbor Attack, walks the reader through that ill-fated day in American history where the Imperial Japanese Navy decimated the US Navy’s battleship fleet with the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941. The California sustained direct hits from one bomb and multiple torpedo hits that disastrous day, however, it would be the concussion from a second bomb off the port bow that would rupture the ship below the water line causing massive flooding resulting in listing the ship and finally she would sink slowly to about the weather deck as the hull rested on the bottom of the harbor. The author takes us through the journey to salvage the California following Pearl Harbor with a photographic view to the aftermath to the attack. Detailed Naval achieve photographs give us a comprehensive walk around view of the damage incurred along with the raising and salvage efforts made. Six months to the day of the attack, the California would float again on her own. Many repairs continued but the milestone of securing the hull would be complete and she would make her way back to the US coast for upgrades to her armor, guns, radar and of course a new paint job; Measure 32, Design 16B. There is an amazing display of the California’s new camouflage from all angles over several pages, all form the A.D. Baker III collection. This chapter also provides a line drawing of the 1944 refit along with a profile color plate of the California and here abstract camouflage. The ship would go on to participate in the Marianas, the shelling of Gaum and Saipan where she would take fire sustaining minor damage from Japanese coastal batteries.

In the book we are given the tour of damage from the aftermath of the Collison with USS Tennessee (BB-43). The US Navy had photographically documented the extensive damage to the ship as a result of the collision and now the author has presented these photographs very well throughout the several pages of this chapter. After repairs, the USS California would go on to participate in the final naval conflict where battleships would face off against each other. With the planned invasion of Leyte, the Southern Japanese Force sailed head on into the 7th Fleet Support Force, Task Group 77.2 & 77.3 rustling in all but one Japanese ship surviving the battle. The author has presented numerous photographs form the battle, both from the air and sea along with documents damage sustained to the California during the battle include damage from a kamikaze attack which hit the bridge and tower of the ship. During repairs at Puget Sound, upgrades to the California’s radar and fire control as well as the bridge and two new Curtis SC-1 Seahawks. She would return to the fleet just in time as the war draw to a close. The USS California and her sister ship, the USS Tennessee, were to report to Philadelphia where they were to be mothballed. Almost to the day of here sinking at Pearl Harbor, the USS California pulled into port for the last time. She would be pulled out of commission in 1947 and sold for scrap in 1959. We are shown a glimpse of the California’s final resting place in the Philadelphia, Drydock and Reserve chapter. A sad but peaceful ending to an American hero.


The Ampersand Group, Inc. continues their dedication to military enthusiasts and modelers alike by talking a big step in a new direction with their latest release of David Doyle’s USS California – A Visual History of the Golden State Battleship BB-44. This hardcover pictorial review of the USS California throughout her service is one of the best collections of photographs telling the story of this iconic ship of the Second World War. Through the exhausted efforts by the author to collect archival and rare pictures from museums, private collections along with help from several well-known historians the complete story of the USS California comes alive. Each of the hundreds of photographs presented in this book have been beautifully presented and are supported by textual inserts helping to give the reader some understanding of what they are viewing in the pictures. For fans of US Naval history, and even more so for fans of the USS California, this is must have book for your collection; this is to include model shipwrights as well. The incredible images allow us to see amazing details into and around to this great ship. Well done Ampersand, I look forward to seeing more books on US capital ships from the Second World War in the future!

Highly Recommended

Model Shipwrights would like to thank Ampersand Group, Inc. for providing this copy of USS California – A Visual History of the Golden State Battleship BB-44 for this review.

Link to David Doyle’s USS California – A Visual History of the Golden State Battleship BB-44 on the Ampersand Group, Inc. website - http://www.ampersandpubco.com/new-page-3/#

The Ampersand Group, Inc. is part of the HobbyLink Japan family of companies. As one of the world’s largest hobby retailers, HLJ represents thousands of lines. HLJ's expertise has helped us further expand into the international marketplace. It is also a great place to shop! Check them out at www.hlj.com
Highs: This is a comprehensive, highly visual pictographic walk around book of the USS California filled with amazing photographs and fascinating information about the ship.
Lows: None
Verdict: For Naval fans and modelers of this subject, this is a must have book for you collection!
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-0-9773781-7-3
  Suggested Retail: $32.95 US
  Related Link: Ampersand Group, Inc.
  PUBLISHED: Feb 16, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Ampersand Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Todd Michalak (TRM5150)

I am building what I like, when I like and how I like it; having fun doing it. I have been building and finishing models on and off my whole life but the past ten years things really exploded. Just about anything goes when it comes to hitting the bench, but wrecked armor, rusted hulks, ships or ...

Copyright ©2021 text by Todd Michalak [ TRM5150 ]. All rights reserved.


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