Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
alecsandros
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Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:15 pm

Gentlemen,
Aside from our obvious hobby regarding battleship, do you think they were actualy helpfull, in a significant way, in the development of the war ?

Were the immense resources allocated to them actualy necessary in that form... ?

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:28 pm

As long as the other guy had battleships you needed battleships as good or better in most cases. The decisive battle of the decisive campaign of the Pacific War was won by battleships. Carrier battles in the South Pacific proved inconclusive. Cruisers and destroyers had fought night battles up to that point but they had not settled matters. The enemy brought battle cruisers into it which required the next step. It's the Japanese's own fault that they didn't risk Yamato during that campaign.

A case may be made that Germany didn't need battleships. However, this case falls apart when when we look at how the battles against the Allied convoys in the artic progressed. U-boats were brought in, at the expense of being badly needed in the Atlantic, and it was within the range of the Luftwaffe anti-shipping assets, but they couldn't shut down the northern route without surface ships. Zerstroyers were deployed. But this was negated by the enemy's deployment of cruisers. Heavy cruisers and panzerschiffs were brought in but these had to play it safe when the enemy deployed KGV class battleships. You might as well give up if you don't have anything that can match a KGV if your the Germans.

It can not be over stated how vital the construction of the KGV class battleships were to eventual Allied victory in WWII. With no KGV's how could any potential Atlantic operations by German battleships be effectively countered prior to Dec 1941? Their existence made the northern supply route to the Red Army viable. They played a vital role in the Med. Their existence allowed the USN to use their available fast battleships in the Pacific instead of being used to counter Tirpitz. Without KGV class battleships; could the Allies have won the war?
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:43 pm

I don't know for sure.

Japan certainly didn't obtain results with it's battleship fleet.

The USN deployed them more in support roles;

The Royal Navy saw much more trouble protecting and repairing it's battleships then actualy doing something worthwhile with them, in the Med and in the far east.

Maybe they were usefull in the North Atlantic, were the rough seas and poor weather/visibility affected warplanes operations much more, and for a much longer duration of time than in other theatres of operation.

The KGV class helped only insofar as they were helped themselves by concentrated air attacks. Bismarck wouldn't have succumbed to the Royal Navy at all without the torpedo=planes attacks; Tirpitz was constantly harrassed, or under pressure from Victorious and other CVs and CVEs. Adm. Tovey himself wrote that without some damage done by torpedo bombers, KGV couldn't hope to catch Tirpitz in the open seas. There was still a 2kts difference in speed, and probably more in rough seas, as Tirpitz was 7000 tons heavier. And what about range ? Tirpitz could sail twice as far as KGV without refueling, so a high speed chase in the North Atlantic would leave the BRitish battleships with little fuel while Tirpitz would still be at half capacity...

As for the Malta convoys and landings, perhaps Prince of Wales and the others played a part, but not as much as the other, smaller and braver ships...

I don't want to start about Italian BBs, as they were absolutely horribly used (an built :angel: )

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:11 pm

When you really need a battleship only a battleship will do. And it doesn't always need to be the best battleship, but only good enough for the task at hand. The Washington wasn't the best battleship in the world, but it was a pretty good one, and it was the best one there that night when it mattered.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:30 pm

There was some debate about that even before WW1, with Fisher IIRC arguing that id didn't matter how many battleships you had if the other side had lots of fast long range cruisers that could ravage your trade at will, which the battleships could never hope to catch.

The advent of the fast battleship changed that of course, but I would agree with alecsandros that they were not really cost effective. If the main reason for having them is that somebode else has them, justification starts getting a little thin...

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:11 pm

Yes, battleships were very expensive and most day to day operations could be done better with other less expensive weapons systems during WWII, but the cost of not having a battleship, or enough battleships, when you really need them can be more expensive. How much does defeat cost?

Another way to look at it is their huge cost might just be price of victory. You fight if you can crush the enemy. Otherwise you avoid a pitched battle. Those who seek a fair fight in war are fools. In this case you arn't building a battleship just because the other guy might. If the enemy has only lesser warships and you can bring a battleship or two to the fight then you likely win.

Carriers are expensive as well, and naval aviation was not advanced enough for carriers to be the sole capital ship of the fleet, in all weather, day and night, until well after WWII.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by LeopardTooth » Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:53 am

The Washington wasn't the best battleship in the world, but it was a pretty good one, and it was the best one there that night when it mattered.
Besides Iowas and Yamatos, I cannot think of another class of WW2 battleship that I would rate as a clearly more powerful ship than Washington/NC. Really, only the Tirpitzes, South Dakotas, and Vanguard are even contenders.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:36 am

LeopardTooth wrote:
The Washington wasn't the best battleship in the world, but it was a pretty good one, and it was the best one there that night when it mattered.
Besides Iowas and Yamatos, I cannot think of another class of WW2 battleship that I would rate as a clearly more powerful ship than Washington/NC. Really, only the Tirpitzes, South Dakotas, and Vanguard are even contenders.
They were powerfull, but slow for WW2.
REdundancy wasn't to good also.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:43 am

Dave Saxton wrote:Yes, battleships were very expensive and most day to day operations could be done better with other less expensive weapons systems during WWII, but the cost of not having a battleship, or enough battleships, when you really need them can be more expensive. How much does defeat cost?

Another way to look at it is their huge cost might just be price of victory. You fight if you can crush the enemy. Otherwise you avoid a pitched battle. Those who seek a fair fight in war are fools. In this case you arn't building a battleship just because the other guy might. If the enemy has only lesser warships and you can bring a battleship or two to the fight then you likely win.

Carriers are expensive as well, and naval aviation was not advanced enough for carriers to be the sole capital ship of the fleet, in all weather, day and night, until well after WWII.
That's a good theory,

Actual constraints though made battleships much less usefull.

The countries which had the know-how and resources to build and use a large fleet of modern BBs (USA - 9 ships and Great Britain - 6 ships) did not have true adversaries in this matter.
The countries that lacked the resources tried as best as they could but they came up with 4 slow ships (Japan), 2 ships (Germany) and 3 ships (Italy). All 9 were plagued by fuel shortages throughout their lives.

None of the 9 modern Axis battleships played a decisive role whatsoever, and a case might be held that they didn not have a chance of playing a decisive role as long as the Allied yielded much more modern heavy ships.

If taking into account the fleet of older ships, the disproportion grows very much.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by LeopardTooth » Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:29 am

The countries which had the know-how and resources to build and use a large fleet of modern BBs (USA - 9 ships and Great Britain - 6 ships) did not have true adversaries in this matter.
The countries that lacked the resources tried as best as they could but they came up with 4 slow ships (Japan), 2 ships (Germany) and 3 ships (Italy). All 9 were plagued by fuel shortages throughout their lives.
Not sure of the counting here.

The USA had 10 modern capital ships in WW2 - Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin - 12 if one includes Alaska and Guam.

The UK had 6 modern capital ships only if one includes Vanguard with Anson, Duke Of York, Howe, King George V, and Prince Of Wales.

I count 13 modern capital ships on the Axis side at some point in WW2: 4 German (Bismarck, Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, Tirpitz), 4 French (Dunkerque, Jean Bart, Richelieu, Strasbourg), 3 Italian (Littorio, Roma, Vittorio Veneto), and only 2 Japanese (Musashi, Yamato).
The [North Carolinas] were powerfull, but slow for WW2.
Eh. I am not aware of any real-world episode where their speed had any sort of negative impact, and where their being capable of doing 30 knots would have helped anything.

In fact, I don't think that the difference in speed of the w ships listed above made much of difference, one way or the other. I mean, yes, in many cases (for example, the UK vs Italian battles of 1940-42), the fact that all of the modern ships above could all do at least 27 knots, and thus were faster than slower WW1-era battleships, was relevant.

But, as I said, to the best of my knowledge, if all 31 of the modern ships could only do 27 knots, I am not sure how that would have affected the war much differently.

* The Iowa and New Jersey could not have chased down a light cruiser and destroyers at Truk on Feb 16 1944 if they could not have done 33 knots?
* British ships would have been able to hunt down Scharnhorst more rapidly at North Cape?
* Gneisenau and Scharnhorst could not have "run away" from Renown at Lofoten?
* Bogan's TF38.2 (with Iowa and New Jersey) would have maneuvered more slowly at Leyte Gulf?
* Strasbourg would have had more of a challenge running to Toulon, escaping Force H after Mers-el-Kébir?

None of this is certain, and nowhere does the impact look decisive to me. I'll say it again - if all 31 modern capital ships listed above had only been able to travel at a max 27 knots, I cannot think of any major way that the war would have been different.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:01 am

LeopardTooth wrote:
Not sure of the counting here.

The USA had 10 modern capital ships in WW2 - Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin - 12 if one includes Alaska and Guam.

The UK had 6 modern capital ships only if one includes Vanguard with Anson, Duke Of York, Howe, King George V, and Prince Of Wales.
Yup;
I wouldn't incude the Alaskas, as they had no hope of dueling with a true battleship.
I count 13 modern capital ships on the Axis side at some point in WW2: 4 German (Bismarck, Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, Tirpitz), 4 French (Dunkerque, Jean Bart, Richelieu, Strasbourg), 3 Italian (Littorio, Roma, Vittorio Veneto), and only 2 Japanese (Musashi, Yamato).
By the time of their completion, Richelieu and Jean Bart were in US waters.
Dunkerque and Strasbourg were battlecruisers.
Schar and Gneis weren't true battleships, similar to the Alaskas.

The [North Carolinas] were powerfull, but slow for WW2.
Eh. I am not aware of any real-world episode where their speed had any sort of negative impact, and where their being capable of doing 30 knots would have helped anything.

In fact, I don't think that the difference in speed of the w ships listed above made much of difference, one way or the other. I mean, yes, in many cases (for example, the UK vs Italian battles of 1940-42), the fact that all of the modern ships above could all do at least 27 knots, and thus were faster than slower WW1-era battleships, was relevant.

But, as I said, to the best of my knowledge, if all 31 of the modern ships could only do 27 knots, I am not sure how that would have affected the war much differently.

* The Iowa and New Jersey could not have chased down a light cruiser and destroyers at Truk on Feb 16 1944 if they could not have done 33 knots?
* British ships would have been able to hunt down Scharnhorst more rapidly at North Cape?
* Gneisenau and Scharnhorst could not have "run away" from Renown at Lofoten?
* Bogan's TF38.2 (with Iowa and New Jersey) would have maneuvered more slowly at Leyte Gulf?
* Strasbourg would have had more of a challenge running to Toulon, escaping Force H after Mers-el-Kébir?

None of this is certain, and nowhere does the impact look decisive to me. I'll say it again - if all 31 modern capital ships listed above had only been able to travel at a max 27 knots, I cannot think of any major way that the war would have been different
If limited at 27kts,
- Bismarck wouldn't escape the shadowing of Prince of Wales
- Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would fight to the death with Renown at Stromvaer
- Glorious would escape
- US carriers wouldn't have had true escorts (the Iowa's), and thus would suffer greatly from kamikaze strikes

Indeed, no essential alterations of the war, but when 2 ships of radically diffrent speeds slug it out, it matters...

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by MikeBrough » Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:48 pm

After the above post, I went to wiki (I know, I know) to check on something and saw the following statement on the Littorio page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_ba ... p_Littorio):

"Littorio and her sister Vittorio Veneto were built in response to the French battleships Dunkerque and Strasbourg. They were Italy's first modern battleships, and the first 35,000 ton capital ships of any nation to be built under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty."

Maybe I'm misreading this but what about Rodders and Nelson?

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:55 pm

MikeBrough wrote:
Maybe I'm misreading this but what about Rodders and Nelson?
I think they were initialy planned a little bit differently, and altered after the Washington treaty took effect.

THe Littorio's were the first designed and built under the treaty...

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by LeopardTooth » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:04 pm

By the time of their completion, Richelieu and Jean Bart were in US waters.
Sailors on the USS Massachusetts and Augusta might have had other opinions about the Axis combatant-status of the Jean Bart on Nov 8 1942, as sailors on HMS Barham and Resolution might concerning Richelieu in Sept 1940.
I wouldn't incude the Alaskas, as they had no hope of dueling with a true battleship.
Dunkerque and Strasbourg were battlecruisers.
Schar and Gneis weren't true battleships, similar to the Alaskas.
I would pick an Alaska or Dunkerque class battlecruiser or a Scharnhorst class undergunned battleship over an Nevada, Bretagne, Arkansas, New York, or Courbet class battleship. I would also pick one of the more modern vessels over as the probably victor over a New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Cavour, or Andrea Doria class battleship, and better than even odds against a Tennessee or Revenge.
- Bismarck wouldn't escape the shadowing of Prince of Wales
Bismark was only doing 28 knots, 22 during boiler repairs, after the Denmark Straights anyway. PoW was avoiding battle with Bismark. And if the Tovey and the Home Fleet had encountered the Bismark earlier, the result would have probably been about the same as what really happened.
- Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would fight to the death with Renown at Stromvaer
I imagine that a 31-knot Renown would have caught up with 27-knot S&G, seen what she was up against, and turned tail.
- Glorious would escape
Nope.

At 16:00, "Glorious was in the fourth degree of readiness, i.e. at cruising stations, steaming at 17 knots on 12 of her 18 boilers."

"Scharnhorst, experiencing boiler trouble, was making 29 knots .... Glorious received her first hit at 1638 from Scharnhorst's third salvo."
- US carriers wouldn't have had true escorts (the Iowa's), and thus would suffer greatly from kamikaze strikes
US CVs and CVLs, 1944-1945, spent a lot of time with (1) South Dakota and North Carolina battleships in escort, (2) no battleships just cruisers and destroyers in escort, or (3) making under 27 knots while under air attack. I imagine that the amount of time they spent sailing at over 27 knots with Iowas in escort was tiny.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:18 pm

LeopardTooth wrote:
By the time of their completion, Richelieu and Jean Bart were in US waters.
Sailors on the USS Massachusetts and Augusta might have had other opinions about the Axis combatant-status of the Jean Bart on Nov 8 1942, as sailors on HMS Barham and Resolution might concerning Richelieu in Sept 1940.
Yes, but they were nonetheless not completed.
The explosion of Richelieu's guns and Jean Bart using a single turret (the only one) defending MErs-el-Kebir show just that.
I would pick an Alaska or Dunkerque class battlecruiser or a Scharnhorst class undergunned battleship over an Nevada, Bretagne, Arkansas, New York, or Courbet class battleship. I would also pick one of the more modern vessels over as the probably victor over a New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Cavour, or Andrea Doria class battleship, and better than even odds against a Tennessee or Revenge.
Yes, but as long as the enemy had modern fast battleships, they couldn't hope to play the role of capital ships. Imagine Scharnhorst against Washington, or DUnkerque versus Vanguard.

Bismark was only doing 28 knots, 22 during boiler repairs, after the Denmark Straights anyway. PoW was avoiding battle with Bismark. And if the Tovey and the Home Fleet had encountered the Bismark earlier, the result would have probably been about the same as what really happened.
Bismarck escaped radar tracking using a bold manouvre and probably accelerating to the max. Prince of Wales made 2 attempts to engage her after Denmark Strait - the first in the evening of 24th of May, and the second during the night of 25/26th.

- Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would fight to the death with Renown at Stromvaer.
I imagine that a 31-knot Renown would have caught up with 27-knot S&G, seen what she was up against, and turned tail.
Well, there were also 9 British destroyers there...
- Glorious would escape
Nope.

At 16:00, "Glorious was in the fourth degree of readiness, i.e. at cruising stations, steaming at 17 knots on 12 of her 18 boilers."

"Scharnhorst, experiencing boiler trouble, was making 29 knots .... Glorious received her first hit at 1638 from Scharnhorst's third salvo."[/quote]

Glorious managed to work up speed, up to 24kts, IIRC. A slower speed for the raiders meant slower closing speed, and more time elapsed before openeing fire.
It might be enough time for Glorious to work up to 30kts and escape.
- US carriers wouldn't have had true escorts (the Iowa's), and thus would suffer greatly from kamikaze strikes
US CVs and CVLs, 1944-1945, spent a lot of time with (1) South Dakota and North Carolina battleships in escort, (2) no battleships just cruisers and destroyers in escort, or (3) making under 27 knots while under air attack. I imagine that the amount of time they spent sailing at over 27 knots with Iowas in escort was tiny.
That's true; all in all, not much difference on the overall war...

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