The Boats Of Cherbourg: The Navy That Stole Its Own Boats And Revolutionized Naval Warfare, by Abraham Rabinovich
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]
When I read an excerpt from this book in a collection I recently read for the Naval Historical Institute , I saw the author’s e-mail address and figured it would be worth a shot to get a book from the author, as happens from time to time . Although the book was apparently out of print and the author did not have any physical copies, he offered to send me an e-book and that was definitely acceptable to me. What I received fully justified my enthusiasm about reading the book based on its excerpt. Indeed, the gripping narrative was fascinating and worthy of being made into a somewhat darkly humorous and glorious Hollywood epic combining military action and espionage activities. Indeed, this real-life story includes a 007 reference that is entirely appropriate.
In terms of its contents, the book is taut, and full of drama. The whole story itself is full of stunning ambition on the part of Israel. A nation with almost no naval tradition or scientific-industrial base and a ragtag fleet of destroyers rendered obsolete by ship-to-ship missiles in 1967, it embarked on a clandestine and daring plan to develop a missile boat technology that would allow it to pack the punch of a much larger fleet, a mission [spoiler alert] that it was successful in beyond its wildest expectations, allowing it naval domination in the Yom Kippur War despite being heavily outnumbered and facing state-of-the art Russian Styx ship-to-ship missiles that had more than twice the range of its own homegrown variety. Alone among the services of the Israeli military, the navy crowned itself with glory in that brutal war, thanks be to God.
It is hard to tell what aspects of this book are more the result of divine providence: the fact that Israel was able to develop an indigenous state-of-the-art ship-to-ship missile and a missile boat platform for it with Electronic Warfare elements that were more than a decade ahead of the United States, that they were able to sneak it away from France during an embargo in what became an international incident, that this small force was able to repeatedly face off against larger and more powerful Arab navies and avoid being hit a single time by 58 missiles, winning two of the most lopsided fleet engagements since the Spanish-American War , or the fact that this incredible tale is little known in the general public (even in Israel) and has not been turned into a historical film. All of those sound pretty amazing to me, and for anyone who has a love of military history and enjoys seeing Israel outwit and overcome its opponents in war and diplomacy, this book is a great one full of lively characters and unbelievable but true stories of the rise of Israel’s navy after 1967 as a small fleet with revolutionary success of a kind that can provide a model to other similar small states. Like the British at Gibraltar during the escape of the last five Cherbourg ships, it will be hard to avoid cheering “Bon Voyage” to the success of this little fleet.
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