STRIKE FROM THE SEA: The Royal Navy & US Navy at War in the Middle East 1949-2003
By Iain Ballantyne
Pen & Sword Maritime Books Published in the US by US Naval Institute Press
Reviewed by Capt. Edward Lundquist, US Navy (Ret.)
Iain Ballantyne is my editor at Warships International Fleet Review magazine. I've written a number of articles for him. So when he sent me a copy of his book, I was only too happy to read and share my thoughts with Sea Classics readers.
First of all, Ballantyne writes from experience, that being several embarks made aboard ships in the region during and after the recent operations there, between 1990 and 2001. During the 2003 Iraq War he spent four weeks locked into the 'command bunker' of his UK-based magazine eating, sleeping and breathing 'Shock and Awe'. In the immediate aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom he held detailed discussions on front line operations with an SSN captain, Naval helicopter pilots and surface warship COs.
He knows what he's talking about. He also knows that what's going on over in the Gulf Region is based on centuries of history, so starting his account with much background dating from WWII makes a lot of sense and put Allied presence in the region in greater perspective.
Chapter one starts us off with the Suez Crisis as a preliminary event we need to comprehend before the later pieces of the puzzle can fall into place. In fact, many of the events in that part of the world are difficult to comprehend. Why during the Suez Crisis, the normally closely allied Royal Navy and US Navy weren't sure if they were on the same side. But the sailors in both Navies had to contend with the same long deployments in the scorching hot Middle East sun, gulping salt tablets. Ballantyne also share with us the stories of ships who spent significant time in the Gulf, like the British frigate Ashanti, or the US Flagship USS Duxbury Bay.
This sets the scene for decades of Naval presence in this hot but strategically important region.
Ballantyne gives us a very personal account of the events leading up to the first Gulf War, including the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Desert Shied build-up and the Desert Storm military action that restored Kuwait and decimated the Iraqi forces, at least for a few years. We then see the enforcement of the No-Fly zones in northern and southern Iraq and move through the build-up to the 2003 war to remove Saddam, including also an account of the post 11 September War on Terrorism from the Naval perspective.