After the superb Bismarck "Anatomy of the Ship" by the same illustrator, this was easily one of my most anticipated naval history releases in a long time. Having purchased almost every book in the series so far, I eagerly awaited a definitive technical study of an Iowa-class battleship. Sure, the Robert Sumrall book is a classic, but what I really wanted was a comprehensive set of plans which explored every facet of the ship in exacting detail.
My review for the TL/DR crowd? "All style, little substance."
First, the good stuff. Once again, Stefan Draminski's meticulously detailed computer models of the ship are the star of the show. His "Super Drawings in 3D" books are a joy to behold, and on a purely superficial level, this is one of the best looking "Anatomies" to date. Details as small as individual deck planks, helmet racks, flag lockers, fire plugs, and vents are all depicted. The ship is depicted at numerous points in her career, including as commissioned, late 1944, 1947, 1952, 1955, and 1984 through 1990. The line drawings are extremely sharp looking and detailed, with a special emphasis on the superstructure, armament, and fire control devices.
For all the effort put into depicting the ship's exterior, the interior is sadly neglected. Except for basic General Arrangement plans of each hull and superstructure deck, some sectional views of a 16-inch turret, a few unlabeled computer models, and 14 small transverse views, the entire book is a "skin deep" affair. There are no detailed views of the machinery, no diagrams of the hull structure, not even a single view of the interior of a 5"/38 mounting! I can understand why the Bismarck or Yamato anatomies might be lacking in these areas. But all four Iowas survive as museum ships, they have a huge cult following, and thousands of former crewmembers are still alive. It doesn't make much sense, then, that even the Bartolomeo Colleoni AOTS, which covered an obscure Italian warship and had a much smaller page count, blows this one out of the water when it comes to internal details.
I find myself comparing this book to the USS Intrepid "anatomy," published way back in 1982. Yes, it has its flaws. It only depicts the ship as it appeared during World War II, there are no plans of the hull lines, and I imagine a lot of folks would scoff at the occasionally crude black and white drawings. But there's just so much passion and detail on every page, whether it's in a wonderful perspective view of the anchor gear, plan and sectional views of machinery spaces, meticulous diagrams of the shell plating, and plans showing all of the tanks in the double and third bottom. It reminds me of why I became fascinated by naval architecture in the first place - I used to think of ships as strange, mysterious things, and here were these books which explained, in a highly detailed but accessible manner, that they were enormously complex machines.
I don't want to denigrate Stefan Draminski's skills as a graphics artist. Although I've loved his previous work, love this series, and found his Bismarck AOTS a massive improvement over the original edition, this book mostly left me cold. It feels like a mediocre "Anatomy of the Ship" grafted onto a superb "Super Drawings in 3D" title. It's certainly gorgeous to look at but falls short of the work of John Roberts, John Lambert, Ross Watton, John McKay, and the other draftsmen who created the "classic" Anatomies in the 80s and 90s.
(On a closing note, Steve Smith, someone much more intimately familiar with the internal arrangements of these ships, has posted a lengthy list of nitpicks on the Steelnavy message board. I might post them in the review comments later on.)