Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
ede144
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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by ede144 » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:15 pm

It's my strong belief that wearingout the guns is what capital ships were built for.

The situation in Kurland and Eastprussia was similar to the Korean war 6 years later. I'm sure the US Navy send BB"s because the had a surplus of guns in the inventory. This odd Sowjet subs did greatest disaster in shipping. WITH the Gustloff lost several thousand civilians their life. nt the

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:23 pm

Soviet subs only became a real threat when Finland had surrendered. Before that the Soviet Navy was effectively bottled up in Kronshtadt by massive minefields. Even the Soviet *cough* battleships :-).

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by tommy303 » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:59 am

Extending the effective range of naval artillery is another place were one needs battleships. In the Pacific, IJN and USN cruisers exchanged salvoes at greater than 20k on occassion. They expended thousands of rounds in exchange for a handful of hits. As others more knowlegable than myself have pointed out, the probability of scoring hits greatly increases if the battle range is 50% or less than the max ballistic range of the gun. You need larger than cruiser caliber guns to extend the effective range of naval artillery.



I have heard that too. In light of that, Prinz Eugen's shooting at Denmark Straits must be rated as exceptional, scoring the first German hit of the battle and then landing almost as many hits as Bismarck.
To a degree, Prinz Eugen tends to be the exception that proves the rule. The 20,3cm guns of the Hippers were exceptionally long ranged for their class, having a ballistic range of about 40,000 yards (37,000m), making them one of the longest ranged 8-inch cruiser guns of the war. The Italian 20,3cm came pretty close, but dispersion problems from mounting the guns closely and probably service munitions being made to sloppy specs made them inaccurate.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Francis Marliere » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:50 am

Ersatz Yorck wrote:Use aircraft (better ones than they had and with better pilots). Or submarines.
Gentlemen,

I am afraid that argument is a bit anachronic. It is easy, 70 years after the war, to say that "they" should have build planes and submarines instead of battleships because we know that big guns ships became obsolete during the war. I guess that people who took the decisions to build battleships in the late 30's didn't have cristal balls and could not know what the future would be. At this time battleships were still the kings of the sea because planes had poor range, performances and payload, and had not yet sunk a major warship in action. Admiralties didn't expect too much from submarines because of their slow speed and the existence of ASDIC, whose performances were overestimated. Hence, considering what the admirals knew before WWII, their decision to build battleships made sense.

Anyway, I am not sure that building planes or submarines instead of battlesips in the late thirties should have been a good idea. Neither Italy's air force nor its hudge submarine fleet were not very sucessfull and buiding some subs and / or obsolete CR.42 Fighters + BR.20 bombers instead of the Littorios would have made things easier for the Royal Navy.

Sorry for my awfull english ; I hope you understand me anyway.

Best,

Francis Marliere

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:07 am

Francis Marliere wrote:
Ersatz Yorck wrote: Hence, considering what the admirals knew before WWII, their decision to build battleships made sense.
There was the case of Ostfriesland, sunk by US bombers in 1921.
The Japanese long lance torpedo, with 35km range, should have made at least the Japanese aware that the age of the battleship was coming to an end.
Instead, they built the Yamato's...

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Francis Marliere » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:24 am

Hello Alecsandros,

as you know, the attacks on Ostfriesland were far from conclusive. The ship was immobile, undefended, and Billy Mitchell cheated. Admirals were right to think that a battleship steaming at full speed, steering evasively and fring its AA guns could hardly be hit by the bombers of the time. Anyway, if hit, the ship wouldn't sink because the crew would control the (light) damages.

I guess you also know that the Type 93 torpedo was a secret weapon. The Japanese Navy didn't expect their ennemy to have such a long range torpedo. Building the Yamato made sense in the light of their doctrine and knwoledge of the time. What was silly was to build such big and expensive ships. I don't have the numbers at hand but I guess that Japen could have build 3 to 4 smaller (ie 35-40.000 t) ships for the cost of Yamato and Musashi.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:40 am

Francis Marliere wrote:Hello Alecsandros,

as you know, the attacks on Ostfriesland were far from conclusive. The ship was immobile, undefended, and Billy Mitchell cheated.
Why did he cheat ?
The AA defenses of pre-war battleships were laughable, to say the least...
I guess you also know that the Type 93 torpedo was a secret weapon. The Japanese Navy didn't expect their ennemy to have such a long range torpedo.
There's a reason why battleships were designed to be proof against their own caliber guns: you can never know when the enemy can copy your own armament, or worse, come up with something even better.
Thus, knowing the development and mass production of a 20 miles ranged torpedo was even possible should have raised some doubts high in upper management.

They always assumed they had teh best technology, best pilots, best of everything. This self-painted picture the IJN had was quickly washed away by the realities of war.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Francis Marliere » Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:00 pm

Hello Alecsandros,

as far as I remember, the Navy complained that he did not follow the procedure. Billy Mitchell wanted at all cost to be "right" and claimed that he had sunk a battleship under war conditions (that was wrong because the target was not moving and firing). You are right in saying that anti aircraft guns were in the 20s few and of limited quality. Please consider also that planes were slow, vulnerable and few.

I fail to see your point on the Japanese Navy. I don't understand why the IJN should have cancelled the construction of battleships because of the long range torpedo (may be I miss your point). I am inclined to think that admirals of the late 30s had no other realistic option than building battleships. Submarines and planes were largely at this time unproven concepts and the men who advocated the use of these new weapons were often fools blinded by their own dreams. Genda wrote in the 20s that the Navy should scrap the heavy units and replace them by planes ; but at this time, the numerous problems of torpedo bombing were not solved yet and IJN had no torpedo bomber really operational.
The problem is the same for submarines. The IJN doctrine expected the subs to sink several ennemy battleships before the "decisive battle". The problem is that it never worked in combat or in maneuvers.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:23 am

Francis Marliere wrote:Hello Alecsandros,

as far as I remember, the Navy complained that he did not follow the procedure. Billy Mitchell wanted at all cost to be "right" and claimed that he had sunk a battleship under war conditions (that was wrong because the target was not moving and firing). You are right in saying that anti aircraft guns were in the 20s few and of limited quality. Please consider also that planes were slow, vulnerable and few.
Ah, that's right Francis,
but let's remember they used general purpose bombs in that test. The introduction of AP bombs in the mid-30s, along with the vast improvements in warplanes quality should have made people aware of the threat air power would pose to even the largest ships...
I fail to see your point on the Japanese Navy. I don't understand why the IJN should have cancelled the construction of battleships because of the long range torpedo (may be I miss your point).
Well, there were cases in the First World war of battleships sunk by torpedoes.
And those were slow-moving and limited range torpedoes...

When the new long-lances got into service in the mid 30s, I don't know how could anybody have missed the danger in which even battleships would be put...

===

I read once about 1937 fleet tests by the Japanese Navy.

They used several battleships to fire upon towed sleds simulating a 30km distance.

They estimated 10-12% hit ratio for actual fire at 30km.

They were very happy and certain of themselves.

They lived in this fantasy world of theirs up to the very end of the war, when they sent the main battlefleet with Yamato and Musashi to engage and destroy the ALlied threat in the Philippines (battle of Leyte).

Needless to say, hit ratios of actual battles in the Pacific throughout the war at ranges of 30km and beyond were 0%.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Francis Marliere » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:16 am

Hello Alecsandros,

I fear that your comments on IJN are a bit hard and unfair. You analyze their doctrine and battleplan with hindsight. You know that gunfire accuracy was less than expected. You know that planes and submarines became in WWII more dangerous and important weapons than battleships. But you're living 67 years after the war, not 5-10 years before. As I already said, these man had no cristal ball and could not know what would happen 10 years later.

As far as I know (I may be mistaken because I don't know WWI very well) most of battleships sunk by torpedoes in WWII were either taken by surprise in an unconventional situation or attacked by submarines. HMS Goliath, as exemple was moored when attacked by Turkish torpedo-boat Muavanent-i-Miliet.

Sorry if I failed to be clear, but what I mean is that admirals of the inter war navies were IMHO clearly aware of the vulnerability of the battleship. Battleships could be damaged or sunk by submarines, mines, torpedo-boats (or destroyers) and air attacks. But they were still the most powerfull things afloat. A navy without battleship had to concede the control of the seas to the navies that had heavy ships. The failure of the "Jeune école" during WWI was a proof for the navies of the 20s and 30s that battleships were indispensables.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:00 am

Francis Marliere wrote:Hello Alecsandros,

I fear that your comments on IJN are a bit hard and unfair. You analyze their doctrine and battleplan with hindsight. You know that gunfire accuracy was less than expected. You know that planes and submarines became in WWII more dangerous and important weapons than battleships. But you're living 67 years after the war, not 5-10 years before. As I already said, these man had no cristal ball and could not know what would happen 10 years later.
...
Hi Francis,
My impression is that the Japanese Admirals most of all got stuck in a glass-bubble and refused to get out of it no matter what.

And that was happening while their navy was building some of the most formidable weapons of the war (40km range torpedoes, long range heavily armed submarines) and while naval aviators were training specifically to deliver crippling attacks against enemy counterparts.

It was some sort of autism...
As far as I know (I may be mistaken because I don't know WWI very well) most of battleships sunk by torpedoes in WWII were either taken by surprise in an unconventional situation or attacked by submarines. HMS Goliath, as exemple was moored when attacked by Turkish torpedo-boat Muavanent-i-Miliet.
Szent Istvan was torpedoed and sunk while under way and heavily escorted, in 1918...

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Francis Marliere » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:00 pm

Alecsandros,

I don't think that they were so stpupid and incompetent. The Type 93 torpedo, as good as it was, was not, and was not considered as a magic weapon that could win the war by itself. Torpedo hits are few, especially at the distance the Japanese expected to use them. If I understand you well, the Japanese should have build cruisers and destroyers instead of battleships and fight the "decisive battle" with torpedoes only. In these scenario, the Japanese cruisers-destroyers fleet would sink/damage a few (if any !) of the ennemy battleships with torpedoes but would be defenceless against the big guns of the surviving heavy ships ... As far as I know, the Type 93 was designed to help the IJN battleships against the US line of battle, not replace them.

The Japanese admirals were not the only ones who failed to see the potential of planes. No one did, because no one could. The planes, weapons, tactics, training, etc. were not ready until the very last years of the 30s, and the effectiveness of planes against heavy ships remained unproven until the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse in December 1941. The few air advocates in the major navies often defended unrealistic thesis and proposed nothing that could really be done.

IMHO, the Japanese admirals were competent professionals who, like everybody, couldn't know what the future would be. Their major mistake was to push for (or for a few not to oppose strongley enough) a war against China then against USA.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:49 pm

Francis Marliere wrote:Alecsandros,

I don't think that they were so stpupid and incompetent. The Type 93 torpedo, as good as it was, was not, and was not considered as a magic weapon that could win the war by itself. Torpedo hits are few, especially at the distance the Japanese expected to use them. If I understand you well, the Japanese should have build cruisers and destroyers instead of battleships and fight the "decisive battle" with torpedoes only. In these scenario, the Japanese cruisers-destroyers fleet would sink/damage a few (if any !) of the ennemy battleships with torpedoes but would be defenceless against the big guns of the surviving heavy ships ... As far as I know, the Type 93 was designed to help the IJN battleships against the US line of battle, not replace them.

The Japanese admirals were not the only ones who failed to see the potential of planes. No one did, because no one could. The planes, weapons, tactics, training, etc. were not ready until the very last years of the 30s, and the effectiveness of planes against heavy ships remained unproven until the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse in December 1941. The few air advocates in the major navies often defended unrealistic thesis and proposed nothing that could really be done.

IMHO, the Japanese admirals were competent professionals who, like everybody, couldn't know what the future would be. Their major mistake was to push for (or for a few not to oppose strongley enough) a war against China then against USA.

Best,

Francis

..... Francis, I broadly agree with your comments above. While it is true that navies almost never have enough light craft when war breaks out, the small ship are easy to build quickly and in quantity. The big ships require much greater lead time to produce. And it is not realistic to expect large corporate entities like the military services to completely abandon established strategies and embrace essentially unproven theories. The truth of it is that substantial funds were in fact spent on the "new technologies" (Japan's six aircraft carriers at Pearl Harbor for example), but prudence dictated retention of the proven weapons as well.

Re Japanese expansion into the Asian mainland - IIRC, it was the leaders of the Japanese Army who led the drive to do so (although I'm not completely certain of the exact position ofthe navy leadership in that regard)

Re Mitchell - I have a detailed account and analysis of Mitchell's bombing tests versus Ostfriesland, which I can hopefully find in my files. My memory is that, although Mitchell's fundamental thesis was ultimately proved correct by later events, he did cheat rather blatantly when his initial efforts failed to achieve the desired result. The scope of the drama extends rather beyond Mitchell 's personal belief in air power. The real issue at hand was the great struggle between the well established US Navy and a fledgling US Army Air Corps for scarce government budget funds after WW1. Mitchell's highly publicized court martial makes much more sense when viwed from this perspective.

B

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:50 pm

Francis Marliere wrote:Alecsandros,

I don't think that they were so stpupid and incompetent.
I don't think they were stupid or incompetent either.
Just lacking a better vision for their navy.

And that lack of vision was persistent pre-war and during the war.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:44 pm

The interesting thinmg with the Japanese Navy was that they developed a lot of equipment to attack the enemy battlefleet in assymetric ways, like long range torpedoes, submarines, carrier borne aircraft, long range torpedo bombers, night attacks by destroyers etc, all in the belief that they needed to cripple the enemy battlefleet because it was the ultimate key to naval supremacy. What they did not realize was that that the development of all those weapons and tactics made the battleship obsolete. They hoarded their own battleships for the decisive engagement, skirmishing with forces they saw as expendable. Thus they gambled and lost the true queen of the naval battlefield, their carriers, at Midway, while safekeeping what they thought was the trump card of their own battlefleet. I think the Japanese naval leadership managed to be both visionary and bold and at the same time utterly conservative!

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