Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:04 pm

How did they confirm this? I hope it wasn't the same way that Capt. Gatch confirmed first salvo hits, hit after hit after hit, and enemy ships sunk, by the South Dakota vs Hashimoto's force at GCII.
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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by yellowtail3 » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:11 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:How did they confirm this?
I can't say for certain, but I'd guess by... observation. By the phrasing of your question, I'm guessing you don't believe it? One can hope and speculate or... one can have specific knowledge of the engagement. Do you have any to share? I'd like to learn more about this.

Of course, the Yamashiro did sink...
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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by dunmunro » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:21 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:How did they confirm this? I hope it wasn't the same way that Capt. Gatch confirmed first salvo hits, hit after hit after hit, and enemy ships sunk, by the South Dakota vs Hashimoto's force at GCII.
From WV's gunnery report:

0353 - Could hear gunnery officer chuckle and announce hit first salvo. Watched the second salvo through glasses and saw explosions when it landed. [Note: target later identified as Yamashiro.]

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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Aug 11, 2010 3:47 am

But how did the gunnery officer know this for sure, and with such detail? Was it the MkI Eyeball, radar, or what? The South Dakota’s command had observed or thought they observed hits on the enemy, and enemy ships disappearing from their radar scopes, and therefore credited themselves with some pretty spectacular shooting and results. In reality Hashimoto’s warships remained unscathed.

Hits could only be inferred from radar returns, not confirmed. This was what lead the South Dakota’s gunnery officers astray. They could track the shells as they merged with the target and assumed this meant hits.

Visually determining such results with such detail and certainty from 23,000 yards at night would pretty remarkable. According to Morison, the visibility was 2 to 3 miles that night. Night fighting optical equipment, if they had any, was usually limited to an effective range of around 10,000 meters during the WWII era. They could have observed fires and explosions over a great distance at night of course, but there was also a lot of that going on down range at that time anyway.

Yamashiro was heavily engaged with the cruisers and Desron 54 at that time. It was firing main battery salvoes at our cruisers and secondary battery salvoes at Desron 54 and so had quite a few gun flashes at intervals. The Fuso was in the act of blowing up, breaking up with flaring fires, and sinking from the torpedo hit it had taken from Desron 56. Some of the destroyers or wreckage from the IJN destroyers was still afloat and flaring. Yamashiro was taking some HC cruiser rounds itself, which would have exploded upon contact. It had numerous fires flaring up from the small and medium rounds it was taking.

The US battleships had set up their ammo trains so that the first five salvoes would be AP before switching over to HC. An AP hit would not normally cause an explosion that would be visible over a distance of over 20,000 yards if it was functioning properly. It should detonate inside the enemy warship. There were also torpedo explosions.

The two big explosions observed on Yamashiro during the period were two of the four torpedoes that hit Yamashiro during the battle. These explosions occurred at the exact moment that the Desron 54 torpedoes should have hit Yamashiro. A surviving officer later detailed all four torpedo hits and their damage but said little about mortal damage from artillery hits. The Yamashiro probably would have sunk based on the torpedo hits with or without possible heavy artillery hits.

I’m not disbelieving that WV and possibly others scored hits, but there is ample reason to suspect some BB57 like over claiming as well.
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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by yellowtail3 » Wed Aug 11, 2010 4:23 am

Dave Saxton wrote:But how did the gunnery officer know this for sure, and with such detail? Was it the MkI Eyeball, radar, or what?
Probably both.
Visually determining such results with such detail and certainty from 23,000 yards at night would pretty remarkable. According to Morison, the visibility was 2 to 3 miles that night.
Let's not attribute too much to Morison - isn't he that peevish Harvard writer who bad-mouthed Admiral Fletcher, because Fletcher wouldn't work with him on his book? Besides... West Virginia's action report says visibility was 22K yards. Was Morison there on somebody's bridge that night, taking in the night air? Maybe they were blowing tubes, and he couldn't see very clearly...
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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:11 am

yellowtail3 wrote:
Dave Saxton wrote:But how did the gunnery officer know this for sure, and with such detail? Was it the MkI Eyeball, radar, or what?
Probably both.
Visually determining such results with such detail and certainty from 23,000 yards at night would pretty remarkable. According to Morison, the visibility was 2 to 3 miles that night.
Let's not attribute too much to Morison - isn't he that peevish Harvard writer who bad-mouthed Admiral Fletcher, because Fletcher wouldn't work with him on his book? Besides... West Virginia's action report says visibility was 22K yards. Was Morison there on somebody's bridge that night, taking in the night air? Maybe they were blowing tubes, and he couldn't see very clearly...
In that case the claim is not confirmed. Radar could not confirm such detailed claims with such certainty.

Morison is held in high regard by naval historians and the USN in general. Richard B Frank calls him The Historian of the Pacific War. He was a scholar in every sense. He was given carte blanch by FDR and Adm King, with total access and as result he wrote the closest thing to the USN's official history of WWII. He may well have been there on a bridge that night (I'll have to check on that). He spent a lot of time at the front. He served several months aboard USS Washington with Adm Lee's staff and was a close friend of Willis Lee. AFAIK, his comments on Fletcher are based on Fletcher's command decisions, and specifically those that led to Savo, and are generally reflective of the view of many in USN officers corps then and now. I don't question that he was most likely correct in his description of the visibilty and conditions as he would of had direct acccess to those who were there and their records, if he was not actually there in person.
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: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by yellowtail3 » Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:15 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
Morison is held in high regard... .
Yeah, I know all about him, I've read his stuff. He may or may not have been right about the weather, but he was wrong in his dismissive and disrespectful treatment of Admiral Fletcher, as were some others.
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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by alecsandros » Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:58 am

Dave Saxton wrote:But how did the gunnery officer know this for sure, and with such detail? ...
The Japanese survivors remembered a similar version of events - with the first heavy salvo striking one hit in the foremast (non-exploding)

I'll post a longer explanation when I'll get home and re-read the book.

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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by dunmunro » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:45 am

I know the USN had 25 x 150mm binoculars for night engagements, and they work pretty good, as I've looked through them. I don't know if WV had these or if they were in WW2 service. I know that 9 x 63 binos were in USN service, during WW2.

More than likely, though, WV was seeing HMAS Shorpshire's 8" shells landing on target... :wink:

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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:37 am

This document, available from Stinet, should tell you everything you might ever want to know about the Surigao Strait action, which is, basically, all that it deals with. Enormous as it is, it's only one of a five or six volume series...

Title: The Battle for Leyte Gulf. October 1944. Strategical and Tactical Anal...
Personal Author: Bates, Richard W
Corporate Author: NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI
Source Code: 252900
Page Count: 1089 page(s)
AD Number: ADA003030
Report Date: 01 JAN 1958
Distribution Code: 01 - APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE
Report Classification: U - Unclassified
Collection: Technical Reports

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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:06 pm

Thanks Bill. I trust this is available at College Park.
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: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:21 pm

Hello Dave:

It -- and at least some of the other volumes in the series -- are available for free download from the STINET website. Google STINET. Go to 'guided search' Fill in "Leyte Gulf" in the appropriate field in the search boxes. Download. It's big -- maybe 40 mb or so -- but downloads just fine on high speed...

In this day and age it astonishes me why anyone would still resort to secondary sources, i.e. books like Tully's, when primary source material is so easily available. That's no to say the Tully book -- and others of similar ilk -- aren't good -- but really, when highly reliable primary-source reports like this one (and on a variety of other USN naval actions as well) are available for free on-line, why would one want to read a precis?

Hope you find it OK...

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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:28 pm

West Virginia's action report says visibility was 22K yards.
The problem with that is experience of the non Mk8 equipped battleships had in not being able to aquire the target and develop a firing solution. If the target could be observed optically, then they could of used their optics combined with radar ranging, or used all optics. As it was, Maryland eventually focused its radar on West Virginia's shell splashes picked up on its radars as an aiming point, because it could not find the target otherwise. This would indicate that the target was not readily observable visually.
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: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:37 pm

Much thanks again Bill!
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: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Aug 12, 2010 1:50 am

Curious: South Dakota was only 8K from it's "targets" at IIGC. Which was the same distance those targets were when they nailed her.
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