A vivid, nuanced, often witty log on the modern Navy. In the first of two-volume study, Isenberg (History/US Naval Academy; John L. Sullivan and his America, 1988) covers the years from the end of WW II to the Cuban missile crisis--which he calls a ``humiliating disaster for the Soviet Union [and] a misleading triumph for the United States.'' Drawing on a wealth of sources, the author assesses the administrative, operational, personnel, and other institutional developments that molded the salt-water service during the cold war's early stages. In particular, he focuses on the technologies that brought nuclear-powered frigates, submarines, and supercarriers to the fore while relegating once-mighty battleships to mothball fleets. Isenberg concludes that the Navy's aerospace/nuclear capabilities not only played a pivotal role in deterring (as well as encouraging) the threat of atomic holocaust but also helped ensure our virtually unchallenged dominion of the seas--and allowed Washington's frequently arrogant policy-makers to impose their will on a genuinely global scale. Isenberg goes on to provide illuminating perspectives on the many occasions on which presidents yielded to the temptation to employ the flexible, mobile strike-potential of the nation's armada to keep the peace (or otherwise) during the height of East/West confrontation: cases in point encompass Formosa, Korea, Laos, Lebanon, and Suez. Covered as well are the many strong personalities--Arleigh Burke, Hyman Rickover, et al.--who manned the Navy's bridges during a volatile era. Throughout his narrative, moreover, Isenberg displays a refreshingly light touch (a landing ship tank is like ``a dumpy building with a shopping cart'') without undermining the seriousness of his purpose. A long voyage that handsomely repays the time invested. The comprehensive text--which invites favorable comparison with works by John Keegan, Samuel Eliot Morison, and other giants of military history--is accompanied by maps and 70 photos (not seen).