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Two books explore N.M.’s contribution to Navy history

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Four New Mexicans organized the engrossing historical photographs and wrote the informative, detailed text of the book “USS New Mexico.” They are John Taylor, Richard Melzer, Dick Brown and Greg Trapp. But a fifth person gave an essential overview of the battleship’s story.

James Raney Kennedy

That person is James R. Kennedy, who wrote the foreword to the book. Kennedy enlisted in the Navy at 19 and served as a gunner’s mate 2nd class on the USS New Mexico from 1942 to 1945. A New Mexico native, Kennedy lives in Cedar Crest.

The book describes the advent of battleships such as BB-40, and how they evolved, how the New Mexico was built from its keel plates to the top of its masts, and from its clipper bow to the float plane catapults on its stern, and how it proudly showed our flag across two oceans.

“In a way, this a memorial to a majestic ship that earned the titles ‘Queen of the Seas’ and ‘Flagship of the Pacific Fleet,” Kennedy wrote.

He said the book offers “a rare look at her inner workings, shipboard life and her role in taking the fight to the enemy after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.”

Kennedy called the New Mexico one of the fiercest fighting ships in the Pacific Theatre of World War II.

John Taylor, Richard Melzer, Dick Brown and Greg Trapp will talk about and sign copies of “USS New Mexico” from 1 to 3 p.m. today at Treasure House Books & Gifts, 2012 S. Plaza NW, Old Town. Taylor will also sign “New Mexico’s Navy.”

He praised the authors for their historical account of the battleship.

Commissioned in 1918, the New Mexico didn’t see action in World War I.

Taylor, one of the authors, said the ship is renowned for having received six battle stars in World War II.

Kennedy wrote in the foreword he witnessed two kamikaze attacks. One of the attacks, on Jan. 6, 1945 off the island of Luzon, killed the ship’s commanding officer and 29 other men, including a Time magazine war correspondent and a British lieutenant general.

The battleship was decommissioned in 1946.

Taylor, of Peralta, is a retired nuclear engineer; Melzer is a Univeristy of New Mexico Regents Professor of History who lives in Belen; Brown, of Tijeras, is a retired electrical engineer, and Trapp is an Albuquerque lawyer and the executive director of the state Commission for the Blind.

Taylor is also the author of “New Mexico’s Navy,” a book listing the 95 U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine vessels whose names derive from people, places and political subdivisions of the state. The battleship New Mexico and the submarine New Mexico are, of course, included.

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