Uncommon Warriors: 200 Years of the Most Unusual American Naval Vessels, by Ken W. Sayers, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Md., 2012, $34.95
Uncommon Warriors recounts the histories of some of the most obscure, unusual and specialized vessels the U.S. Navy has ever operated—those designated AG (Miscellaneous Auxiliary) and IX (Miscellaneous Unclassified Unit). A perusal of the book reveals that these designations cover a spectrum of vessels, from covert spy ships to irreplaceable naval relics. You’ll find presidential yachts, decoy Q-ships, ships that starred on film, top-secret spy ships, captured war prizes and purpose-built, high-tech vessels. The book includes old and formerly famous warships, as well as equally old and not-so-famous cargo ships, all of which the Navy converted to perform new functions of which their original designers never dreamed.
Although the list includes a few famous names, such as the 19th century frigates Constitution and Constellation, most of the subjects of Uncommon Warriors will be unfamiliar to most readers, even those who have served in the U.S. Navy. Many of these ships operated far from regular naval bases. Quite a few were not manned by Navy crews at all but by civilian seamen working for the rarely publicized Military Sealift Command. Others, such as the covert Hughes Glomar Explorer, were built and operated on contract by private companies.