Military historian Boyne (Clash of Wings, 1994, etc.) offers a general account of the naval engagements fought from 1939 to 1945. In the author's view, the Treaty of Versailles and the Washington Naval Disarmament Conference of 1921-22 lulled the Western allies into a false sense of security while Japan and Nazi Germany secretly built huge machines of war that enabled them, when hostilities began, to overwhelm the weak and obsolete defenses of their victims. Boyne stresses the rise of naval air power and fast carriers as weapons in WW II and the decline of the battleship as the most important factor in naval warfare. However, he argues, carriers were vulnerable to both air and submarine attacks, requiring much protection from other ships in battle. After suffering grievously in the early years of the war, Britain and the US mobilized their resources of innovation, leadership ability, production, and organization to outclass their enemies on the sea. For instance, the Allies broke the secret codes of Japan and Germany; Axis commanders never figured out why their ""surprise attacks"" were often met with Allied units in place and prepared for battle. Boyne praises the high professional standards of American naval officers, as well as the courage and fighting abilities of American and British sailors and fliers, and offers detailed accounts of Japanese barbarism. In the end, Boyne argues, the Allied naval victory was a ""tribute to the same democratic system that had allowed the conditions for war to occur in the first place"" by failing to stop Axis aggression in its nascent stages. An engrossing narrative, not overburdened with detail, and a perceptive analysis of the vital victory at sea for the Western democracies.