America’s Anchor Cover

America’s Anchor

A Naval History of the Delaware River and Bay, Cradle of the United States Navy

Kennard R. Wiggins Jr.

McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2019, 296 pages

Book Review published on: September 22, 2023

Kennard R. Wiggins Jr., a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a native of Delaware, presents the history of one of the United States’ important waterways in America’s Anchor: A Naval History of the Delaware River and Bay, Cradle of the United States Navy. He describes events, people, and ships related to the Delaware Bay and River from when Europeans first colonized the eastern coast of America to when the United States saw the conclusion of World War II. His book is an excellent reading for those interested in American naval history.

The author begins with how the bay and river enabled American colonists to establish settlements in the area, which eventually led to the establishment of Philadelphia. With access to the Atlantic Ocean, the waterway enabled Philadelphia to become a major port for international trade as ships could dock in sheltered waters for delivering and receiving goods. This also led to the creation of a shipbuilding industry that eventually became capable of manufacturing large seagoing vessels.

The strategic importance of the Delaware Bay and River are highlighted by Wiggins in several chapters about America’s wars. From the American Revolution onward, as the United States evolved into a great power, the bay and river’s maritime infrastructure grew substantially as the shipyards of Philadelphia, and later Wilmington, built and modernized ships for the Continental and U.S. Navies. From gunboats to battleships, the shipyards along the Delaware River gave the United States the means to protect its coasts and merchant shipping, and project naval power at a global level.

Wiggins also talks about the development of the American Navy from the late 1700s through the end of World War II. The author discusses the early armed wooden ships that dominated naval operations throughout the early 1800s and the emergence of armored, steam-powered warships during and after the American Civil War. Wiggins then explains the development of the battleship during the late 1800s, which eventually led to the construction of the Iowa-class battleships, such as the USS New Jersey, which entered service during the early years of World War II.

In addition, Wiggins discusses the people from the Delaware Bay and River area who played significant roles in the rise of the U.S. Navy. Among them were notable people such as John Barry, who served as the U.S. Navy’s first captain, Henry Lockwood, who helped develop the U.S. Naval Academy, and Rear Adm. Lewis Smith Parks, who received three Navy Crosses for heroism while commanding submarines in the Pacific during World War II. As well, the author includes an appendix with information about all the personnel from the area that received Medals of Honor for their actions during service with the U.S. Navy.

In all, America’s Anchor: A Naval History of the Delaware River and Bay, Cradle of the United States Navy is a comprehensive and interesting historical work about one of the United States’ significant waterways. It explains the development of the U.S. Navy and conveys the strategic importance of bays, harbors, and maritime infrastructure, for projecting naval power. Wiggins’s book is a worthwhile reading for military history enthusiasts, and it is a valuable contribution to the study of naval power and operations.

Book Review written by: Dirk C. Blackdeer, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas