The classic work completely revised and updated in two volumes


Aircraft Carriers

A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events, Volume I: 1909-1945

576 pages; 8 1/2" x 11" ; Over 400 B&W Photos; Maps

$49.95   $39.96
Available: September 2006
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Aircraft Carriers is the definitive history of world aircraft carrier development and operations. Norman Polmar’s revised and updated, two-volume classic describes the political and technological factors that influenced aircraft carrier design and construction, meticulously records their operations, and explains their impact on modern warfare.

Volume I provides a comprehensive analysis of carrier developments and warfare in the first half of the twentieth century, and examines the advances that allowed the carrier to replace the battleship as the dominant naval weapons system. Polmar gives particular emphasis to carrier operations from World War I, through the Japanese strikes against China in the 1930s, to World War II in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, and Pacific theaters. It begins with French inventor Clément Ader’s remarkably prescient 1909 description of an aircraft carrier. The book then explains how Britain led the world in the development of aircraft-carrying ships, soon to be followed by the United States and Japan. While ship-based aircraft operations in World War I had limited impact, they foreshadowed the aircraft carriers built in the 1920s and 1930s. The volume also describes the aircraft operating from those ships as well as the commanders who pioneered carrier aviation.

Aircraft Carriers has benefited from the technical collaboration of senior carrier experts Captain Eric M. Brown and General Minoru Genda as well as noted historians Robert M. Langdon and Peter B. Mersky. Aircraft Carriers is heavily illustrated with more than 400 photographs—some never before published—and maps.

Volume II, which is forthcoming from Potomac Books in the winter 2006-2007 (ISBN 978-1-57488-665-8), will cover the period 1946 to the present.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)

Norman Polmar is a leading expert on naval and aviation matters. An internationally known analyst, consultant, and award-winning author, Polmar has written more than 40 books, including, with K. J. Moore, Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines (Brassey’s, ISBN 1-57488-594-4) and Historic Naval Aircraft: From the Pages of Naval History Magazine (Brassey’s, ISBN 1-57488-572-3). He is a columnist for the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings and Naval History magazines. Polmar lives in the Washington, DC, area.


“A detailed history of the development of these ships that professional officers, aviation enthusiasts, and historians alike can appreciate.”
Air and Space Power Journal, Spring 2010

“The account of carrier operations during the Second World War is both thorough and sound; the narrative is enhanced by many new photographs, some of which are previously unpublished.”
Warship 2008, Naval Books of the Year

"It is an authoritative and admirable history. . . ."

“ . . . a very well-written, comprehensive primer on the operational history of American carriers.”
Nautical Research Journal, Fall 2007

"This is a truly outstanding reference work. . . .this is a must-have book for those who want to know more about the development of naval aviation."
Canadian Naval Review

"Aircraft Carriers offers a definitive history of world aircraft carrier development and operations. Chapters analyze the first half of the 20th century and offer much in-depth analysis that is key to any serious military collection's holdings."
Midwest Book Review

“Much more than a simple update of the original book published by Doubleday in 1969, this long-awaited opus takes advantage of the nearly 40 intervening years to present new information and photos that were not previously available. Now planned as a two-volume set, of which this book is the first, Norman Polmar’s work will deservedly become the quintessential reference on carrier aviation. Polmar has kept many of the photos from the 1969 edition but has also added new ones. . . . This new book has some truly marvelous views that greatly complement the text. . . . Students of carrier aviation will find the new edition an indispensable addition to their libraries. Polmar’s penchant for scrupulous detail truly makes this large book—and no doubt the oncoming second volume—a major publishing event, especially considering the bargain price in today’s market. I eagerly await the second volume in this seminal set.”
Naval Aviation News, March-April 2007

"A substantial revision and expansion . . . Polmar, a long-respected naval historian and consultant, includes extensive material on the development and (for the time) near-perfection of the sea-air combination during the 1920s and 1930s. . . . Polmar's account is fascinating and well written with the sure touch of an acknowledged authority. With its forthcoming second volume (much of which will be totally new given the long passage of time from the book's first edition), it will surely regain its premier place as the definitive and well-illustrated (photos, maps, diagrams) treatment of a fascinating naval merger of sea and sky."
Skyways: The Journal of the Airplane 1920-1940

"About courageous and colourful mariners and aviators, as well as truly remarkable and in some cases bizarre ships and planes. . . . This book is an historical reference, a statistical compendium, full of interesting facts."
Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, USN (Ret.), in Naval Forces


"An excellent book."
Adm. Arleigh Burke, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, 1955-1961

"A classic in aviation history."
Vice Adm. Donald Engen, USN (Ret.), late director, National Air and Space Museum

"I particularly like the idea of an updated Aircraft Carriers. My 1969 edition is nearly worn out."
Tom Clancy, novelist

"Norman Polmar’s Aircraft Carriershas been the bible about flattops and their operations for thirty-five years. I have no doubt that his ‘new testament’ will be received as enthusiastically as the ‘old,’ and will prove just as long-lived."
Barrett Tillman, aviation historian


"Aircraft carriers, conceived nearly a century ago as floating airfields, have evolved into infinitely flexible pieces of mobile sovereign real estate available to project power offensively and defensively anywhere in the globe. . . . Norman Polmar has produced the unique and essential source book for naval persons and future policy makers who will be called upon to employ these platforms to ensure global security in the century ahead."
John F. Lehman, former secretary of the Navy and 9/11 Commissioner

"Using a judicious blend of primary and secondary sources, Polmar’s book provides a wealth of detail, from the first tentative flights from ships at anchor, to so-called seaplane carriers, and finally to the first true aircraft carriers in Britain, Japan, and the United States. The book brings together operational history, personalities, politics, planning, and strategy, all revolving around the technological development of the aircraft carrier. It serves as a reminder of the historical significance of the aircraft carrier and naval aviation, nearly a century old yet still an arbiter of war at sea and a means of power projection ashore."
William F. Trimble, professor and chair of the Department of History, Auburn University

"Norman Polmar’s Aircraft Carriers is the most authoritative study ever produced of the aircraft carrier, its aircraft, and those who flew from it. Meticulously researched, it is packed with information, technical data, and anecdotes depicting the historical events that highlighted the development of carrier aviation. Polmar deserves an A+ for this superb volume."
Thomas Wildenberg, author of All the Factors of Victory: Adm. Joseph Mason Reeves and the Origins of Carrier Airpower