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Posted: 6/1/2001 1:46:26 PM EDT
The subject of battlecruisers, I believe, was brought up briefly in the tank thread. Synchronisity being what it is, a friend of mine emailed me this question: "The battlecruiser concept was shown to be faulty at Jutland when the Brits got their nose bloodied, and countries generally stopped building them after WWI. However, the US Navy built a couple (Alaska and Guam?) late in WWII. Do you have any idea why?" I emailed him a hasty answer; however, I wondered what your take would be.
Link Posted: 6/1/2001 2:04:32 PM EDT
Quick answer: To counter a reported Japanese super-cruiser they came up with the six ships of the Alaska class. These were to be as large as a battleship, have slightly lighter armament than contemporary battleships, and a cruiser's speed. The rationale was they could sink anything smaller, and run away from anything bigger. The the time they were built, the threat of the Japanese ships was shown to be non-existant, and the only two ships completed(Alaska and Guam), were to be used as escorts for the fast aircraft carriers and fors shore bombardment. Both were very expensive to run, and shortly after the end of WWII both were laid up in reserve and eventually scrapped without returning to active service.
Link Posted: 6/2/2001 6:40:39 PM EDT
Those who believed Roosevelt sacrificed our battleships to the Japanese in Pearl Harbor, think he did it because he realized they were obsolete by 1940. He saved the carriers, because he knew how important they were. Personally I don't believe FDR knew when the Japanese raid would happen, but he had to know it was a possibility. Plus I believe carriers were more important than battleships in WWII.
Link Posted: 6/4/2001 9:26:24 AM EDT
Originally Posted By dport: "The battlecruiser concept was shown to be faulty at Jutland when the Brits got their nose bloodied, and countries generally stopped building them after WWI.
View Quote
Nope. They weren't obsolete. They were simply used improperly at Jutland. Battlecrusiers are built to do what Scharnhorst and Gneisenau did- fight cruisers, run from battleships and prey on merchant shipping. The brits used battlecruisers as "substitute battleships" both at Jutland and in the battle with the Bismarck. Hood should never have fought her in a prolonged engagement. Unfortunately what killed the battlecruiser concept was submarines use as merchant shipping killers (why run when you can hide) and the use of aircraft (look at what happened to Repulse and Prince of Wales).
Link Posted: 6/4/2001 2:21:34 PM EDT
poodleshooter, Interesting take; I have passed it along. I can see a niche for BCs in a wartime enviroment. And quite frankly the assertion that BCs were obsolete after Jutland was new to me. As a matter of fact, seems like I remember the USSR producing several, four I think, BCGNs not too long ago. Fallschirmjaegar, The same friend and I recently had a discussion on the supremecy of CVs in WWII and whether or not it was premature. I tend to be anti-aviation in my outlook. This same friend is also supposed to be emailing me a piece about how strategic bombing could have ended WWII in Europe sooner if only we would have built more bombers. [rolleyes] Oh well, I'll see what he sends and I'll probably post it here for further review.
Link Posted: 6/4/2001 6:28:39 PM EDT
Dport, What?! as far a strategic bombing being important, ask the Japanese, who lost more in the Tokyo firestorms than they did for the two atomic bombs. See if you think they think that bombing is overrated. How bout those ultimate of stubborn Davids, the North Vietnamese. Even though we weren't allowed mass incursions of ground forces into the North, the Communists were inexorably drawn back to the bargaining table after an onslaught of heavy bombers, from which the country is still recovering from. This in spite of the fact that Hanoi was supposedly the most heavily air-defended city in the history of combat. See if the populace of Malta thought that the Luftwaffe was ineffective in sinking the Pampas, and just about every other merchant ship that tried to resupply the island, reducing the caloric intake of the population to 1/2 of subsistence. Talk to Yammamoto as he got ambushed by P-38 lightnings. Albert "I'm so Sorry" Speer, the Reichsminister of armaments in his memoirs rated damage to the German war effort by strategic bombing as unbearable. I don't see how you can undervalue aircraft in modern combat. Sure there are conditions where aircraft cannot operate a la the Battle of the Bulge, but when the conditions were adequate for flying, any Tiger was susceptible to Typhoon attack. 60 ton coffins. On the other side of the coin, Rudel with his record of shot-up T-34s, a price on his head set by Stalin himself, a sunk battleship. What about Taranto, where the Italian battlefleet was largely humiliated by a bunch of antiquated biplanes? Talk to the crew of the Bismarck. Not only was it detected by a Catlina, but it was damaged by the same antiquated biplanes to the extent that the Rodney and King George were able to pound it to pieces. Wow, you must not be speaking the same language I am :). That being said, I am not sure your friend has too much of a valid thesis. The Germans had dispersed their manufacturing facilities, and we had already bombed, flooded and beaten the shit out of the Ruhr Valley, and most of the centralized German armaments industry. Interestingly enough, the Walther plant (assume the Ulm plant) was unmolested. Maybe a testament to the futility of pistols. Cheers :)
Link Posted: 6/5/2001 5:44:21 PM EDT
Let me clarify "anti-aviatioin." I believe aviation is a valuable componant; however, I don't think it is the end all be all to warfare that some do. As for the Bismark it lacked the AAA protection it's American and Japanese, and the later British ships, had. Contrast that to the Yamato, which took hours and hours to sink, and she was left to die and her gunners had very little practice proceeding her one way mission. And how many U.S. battlewagons were sunk, while underay, by aircraft? I firmly believe the Japanese could have won the Battle of Midway if they would have pressed on during the night. As for strategic bombing, I think it's overrated. Let's take your Vietnam example. Yes they went to the bargaining table, but who ultimately won their objectives? And can you, with a straight face, tell me Hitler would have surrendered if we would have just bombed him more? I don't think so. Well this has gone way beyond the original scope of the thread. When my friend sends me his info, I'll post a new thread.
Link Posted: 6/5/2001 5:59:29 PM EDT
hoo boy. You have fun now.
Link Posted: 6/5/2001 9:27:20 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/5/2001 9:28:11 PM EDT by geno_14K]
dport: The USS Nevada was "sunk" while under way. Yes, she was deliberately grounded so as NOT to sink but her wounds were severe enough to cause her ultimate loss had she been in deeper water. The battle cruisers best attributes were speed and firepower. They were not built to absorb large amounts of damage. IMHO the Guam and Alaska were obsolete when completed as their capabilities had been replaced by submarines and aircraft. They would have been useful in the early stages of WWII when the two previously mentioned attack platforms did not exist in large numbers. Yes, A couple of battle cruisers running around the Dutch Indies harrassing Japanese Crusiers and Destroyers would have been a significant problem to deal with. But they came too late. 50 airplanes dropping 1000 lbs bombs had a better chance of scoring a hit that 50 rounds fired from the Alaska/Guam at a range beyond what the Japanese crusiers could engage her at. Technology marches on. Today ships don't have guns (or many) as missles are far more damaging than pounding away with 'ballastic' bombs. The point to all this is that, submarines and airplanes, in those days, were, in effect, terminal guidance systems. They got a lot closer before they launched their weapons, so there was a better probability of a hit. FWIW....Geno Edited for spelling!
Link Posted: 6/5/2001 10:38:29 PM EDT
Observation: Wasn't Force Z exactly comprised of exactly the sort of fast battleship (HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse) that is being portrayed here as a viable raider threat to the Japanese? It took all of three hours for 100 Japanese bombers to sink both capital ships. And please note: The Prince of Wales was one of the entirely modern King George V ships with high angle secondary armament as well as the 2 pounder pom pom anti aircraft batteries. If memory serves, the Repulse had been thoroughly modernized up to current standards as well. None of this addresses the fact that battleship construction consumes hellish amounts of steel which is very vulnerable to submarines or aircraft. Viable surface threat on rye bread with mayonnaise.
Link Posted: 6/6/2001 3:43:36 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/6/2001 3:48:44 PM EDT by dport]
First of all, the NEVADA wasn't damaged enough to be sunk, and almost all of the damage she did sustain was while she was still moored. How do I know? I met the LCDR that got her underway, and I believe he was the ship's damage control officer. Anyway he talked to our class when I was in NROTC. Neat fellow. Interesting story, he was the most senior officer onboard. When he asked for guidance, during the attack, his superiors told him to get underway ASAP. He did, piloting the ship from the battle bridge. The powers that be then saw this massive ship underway and realized that IF she were to be sunk then the harbor would be blocked. They quickly dispatched two tugs to ground her. She sustained more damage due to the grounding than she did from the Japanese, IIRC. Anyway hearing him speak was truly awesome, and an honor to have him speak to a bunch of lowly mids. The PoW and the Repulse did not have the AAA that later British ships had, ie post 1942. However, they were much better armed for AAW than the Bismark was. Also, IIRC, at the end the Battle of Midway, Japan had 2 light carriers, ~10 BBs, and numerous cruisers. While the US had 2 CVs and ~10 cruisers, and had a much smaller surface force. Not to mention maybe one carrier air wing that could fly. If Japan would have steamed straight at the Americans they might have been able to force a surface action, at night, that they could have easily won. At the very least they could have driven off the remaining US forces and completed the invasion. One reason US ships don't have as many guns as we used to is our guns are more accurate than ever before. In fact, I remember reading an article that said the DDG 51 class (1 gun) could put more rounds on target faster than the CG 47 class (2 guns) due to the newer fircontrol systems. Of course, after a while the CG's have a better sustained on target rate. Also of note the newer DDG 51's don't have Harpoon missiles, but they do have a gun that can fire over 3 times the distance of the old gun. Aviation, was and is a valuable contributor; however, in WWII the idea that BBs were obsolete was a bit premature.
Link Posted: 6/6/2001 7:38:52 PM EDT
The acting skipper's name of the USS NEVADA was J.F. Thomas, then a Lt. Commander. I am pleased you got to meet him, I would have jumped at the opportunity had it been presented. The NEVADA was was hit by one torpedo forward while moored but hit by at least five direct hits from 23 dive bombers while attempting to run for the sea. She was listing badly forward and the crew knew they could NOT make the open sea. Rather than risk grounding the bow and being sunk in the center of the channel they manuvered to run her aground at Hospital Point on the eastern side of the channel entrance. As it was, pushed by the current, her stern started to swing around into the channel and the tugs were used to push the stern back towards shore. There, as a result of continued flooding, she settled onto the bottom. I base my statement that she was "sunk" while under way on this flooding. Had she tried for the open sea and made it, the flooding would have consumed her anyway. I recognize this is a 'what if scenario' but you asked for an American BB sunk while under way, and this one fits the bill. I would not say BB's are totally obsolete even today's standards but their narrow usefulness versus cost to operate makes them impractical. They are probably the only capital ship capable of taking multiple hits fron cruise missles. I stand by my statement that battle cruisers such as the Alaska/Guam duo were obsolete from design onward. If you are going to be light and fast you have to have long range weapons. Otherwise you stand a significant chance of getting creamed if you participate in a barroom brawl. These ships ships guns did not give them a truly large advantage. Also guns of that era became very innaccurate while the ship was manuvering frantically to avoid torpedos. or dive bombers. FWIW....Geno I agree that if you are to survive massed aircraft attack you need a significant AA capability. By late WWII American BB's had this in abundance
Link Posted: 6/7/2001 10:56:15 AM EDT
DPORT, if you are considering WW2, the BS were obsolete when compared to the Bombers. The BS's role, in most cases was reduced to escorting and land invasion prep. The bombers were responsible for inflicting much more damage on the enemy. Look at the battle of Midway, and tell me what played a bigger role. You make very good points, but I don't agree with you though.
Link Posted: 6/7/2001 4:57:44 PM EDT
geno, When I spoke to the LCDR he mentioned the flooding after the grounding. He painted the picture, perhaps unintentionally, that the ship sustained more damage as a result of the grounding, and perhaps it did. Look at this statement: "With the help of tugs, Nevada then backed across the way and grounded, stern-first, on the other side of the channel. Her old, much-modified structure proved itself to be anything but watertight, and water traveled inexorably throughout the ship. By the following day, she had settled to the bottom, fortunately in fairly shallow water." - [url:/]http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/pearlhbr/ph-nv.htm [/url] The LCDR did state that the old four stack destoyers were better built. [:)] Anyway you do bring up a valuable point, the torpedo hit forward sustained while still moored, which caused her excessive trim forward, doomed the Nevada. According to the above site the 5 bomb hits you refer to did help this process along. Hell, she was a goner if she stayed or if she tried to get underway. I would also submit that a carrier would have been as vulnerable if not more so, in the same situation. Ships have always been vulnerable in port. Ask the Spanish fleet in Manilla Bay in 1898. Maybe I should have been more specific. How many BB's were sunk by damage sustained totally while she was underway? [;)] As for the BCs they did provide good AAA for the CVs. Also their 12 inch guns did provide more than adequate Naval Gun Fire Support. They cost 3/4 as much as the IOWA class and were maned by 2/3 the crew as an IOWA. My original reply to my friend's question was that I thought they would provide a cheaper means of AAA cover and NGFS support than a BB. However, my theory was proven to be incorrect. Thanks G&B! Submitted for your review the AAA guns of the Bismark, Repulse, IOWA class, and the ALASKA class (note the Prince of Whales AAA armament was not available, I could only find the late war AAA armament of the KGV class): Bismark: 12 5.9 inch guns 16 4.1 inch guns Repulse: 4 4 inch guns 4 3 pounders 5 machine guns 10 Lewis guns (it also had 15 4inch guns in triple turrets but they were "clumsy and not liked.") IOWA Class 80 40mm 50 20mm (this doesn't count any Ma Dueces or the 5" dual purpose guns of which there were 20) ALASKA Class 56 40mm 34 20mm (again this doesn't count any Ma Dueces or the 5" dual purpose guns of which there were 12) "Bonus" Yamato class 12 5 inch dual purpose 24 25mm 4 13.2mm Clearly US ships had more AAA than their counter parts.
Link Posted: 6/8/2001 8:06:29 AM EDT
Originally Posted By dport: As for the Bismark it lacked the AAA protection it's American and Japanese, and the later British ships, had.
View Quote
Interesting that you mention that. I recently read a book by a Swordfish pilot of the time. He stated that the main reason that Bismark's gunners had trouble was the slow speed of the Swordfish (about 90mph). The lead was supposedly quite different from that of other contemporary aircraft.
Link Posted: 6/8/2001 8:20:57 PM EDT
dport: Yes, CV's are notoriously explosive and if they had been at Pearl Harbor would have been disasterously damaged. Had they had been moored there, their Air Groups would have been removed and the ships somewhat less volatile as compared to being full of planes ready for immediate action. The Japanese would have pounded them unmercifully and may have ordered a third or even fourth wave of attack as the potential for perceived immediate US retaliation would have been less. As a result of their fragility and inability to truly be totally self-protective, the CV's from '43 onward, more often than not, were escorted by BB's for the AAA umbrella they provided. This limited the BB's scope of usefullness. They should have been allowed to roam free, striking against Japanese Naval and merchant vessels at will. This role as aircraft carrier's AAA cover was recognized as wasteful. Consequently, the AAA cruisers were built to provide this cover for the carrier Fast Attack Task Forces. These AAA Cruisers were fast enough to keep up the the carrier task forces, BB's were not and limited the rapid mobility of these groups. Yes, the BC's could have covered this mission as well but then again you are wasting whatever raider potential they have against static air defense of aircraft carriers. This has been an interesting discussion. Thank you. Geno
Link Posted: 6/9/2001 1:12:28 PM EDT
geno, I like your point about the cruisers with heavy AAA. Heavy Cruisers OREGON CITY Class 48 40mm 40 20mm DES MOINES Class 60 40mm BALTIMORE Class 44 40mm 22-28 20mm Light cruisers FARGO Class 24 40mm 20 20mm CLEVELAND Class 24 40mm 19 20mm SAN DIEGO Class 24 40mm (first two ships of the class) 8 20mm (first two ships of the class) 28-32 40mm 12-16 20mm The OREGON CITY Class CA compares favorably to the ALASKA Class BC, and when comparing tons/AAA gun tube it packs more guns "pound for pound" than a IOWA Class BB (OREGON CITY 193.2 tons/AAA gun tube vice IOWA 400 tons/AAA gun tube.) Obviously, aircraft "came into their own" during WWII. Otherwise why increase the AAA protection on ships like the SAN DIEGO Class. But as for making BBs obsolete, I still have a hard time buying it. Our light cruisers later in the war had better AAA protection than the early battleships, and they even had better AAA protection than the Yamato late in the war.
Link Posted: 6/22/2001 5:44:52 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/22/2001 5:45:11 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
I dont know why people keep saying battleships are obsolete when something like 70% of the worlds population lives within range of the Iowas 16" guns. With the use of a RPV they can destroy anything they want without risking any US airmens lives. Do you have any idea how many US airmen either lost their lives or were POWs for years in Vietnam, bombing targets that could have easily been destroyed by battleship gunfire? All because the Navy was afraid that it would make their carrier force look bad... Technically Alaskas were called "Crusers, Big" and what resulted in their cancellation was the completion of the automatic 8"/55cal guns used on the Salem/Des Moines class crusers. Those guns, firing 12rpm per barrel could throw more weight in a minute than the 12" bagged charge guns that only fired 3rpm. Anything less than a battleship didnt have the armor to withstand that kind of pounding, they would be simply shredded. That made the 12"guns redundant for surface combat, while the 16" guns of the Iowas could not be equaled in firepower or range. It is questionable weather even Yamato's 18" guns could outgun the Iowas 16"/50cal guns thanks to the 2700lb "superheavy" APC round- a design incidentally scaled up from the .50BMG cartridge.
Link Posted: 7/5/2001 1:06:28 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/6/2001 10:51:31 PM EDT by Squeeze_My_Lemon]
The current Battleships of the Iowa class are obsolete because of the level of technology of the engines, steering, avionics, electrical, and even metalurgy. There is no way the the US Navy is going to design a platform for 16 inch "dumb" guns just on the cost alone. Factor in the manning that would be required vs the current end strength (manpower) that the US Navy currently operates on and there is no way that a modern battleship would be built. I agree that there is a place for a large (16 inch +) gun platform, ones that would use a mixture of "dumb" and "smart" projectiles. The modern battleship would also have to have modern nuclear power, and it would also have to carry an assortment of cruise missiles. It comes down to money. Nuclear power was one of the proposels of rthe Iowa class of battleships. What I meant to say was nuclear power was one of the proposed upgrades to the Iowa class of battleships if they were going to be kept around.
Link Posted: 7/6/2001 2:40:11 PM EDT
I really had every intention of letting this topic die... S_M_L, You make a valuable point. In the 1980's one of the BBs had to have a diesel generator replaced. They had to put it into dry dock and then cut in from the bottom of the ship because the armor plating was too thick to cut through. What would have been a relatively cheap operation with modern thin-skinned ships, turned out to be a very expensive operation. Also to get the BBs recommissioned in the '80s the Navy had to raid almost all the floating battleship museums for parts. No one makes the parts for BBs anymore, and no one has the special tools to fabricate them either. The Navy is moving away from manpower intensive ships. The new class of destroyers are to have 1/3 the crew of the current DDG 51 class. The BBs were very manpower intensive ships, and nuclear power plants would do little to help this.
Link Posted: 7/6/2001 7:03:51 PM EDT
I am currently stationed at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, and I can tell you for sure there are no nuclear battleships currently under consideration. We don't need them.
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