Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Jun 15, 2012 9:13 pm

The initial power failure happened during battle. Right after salvo number 14. The problem was momentary power failures as the result from the shock of firing 16" salvoes (a problem with all the USN fast battleships during WWII as it turns out). To prevent the circuits for the secondary battery from tripping each time, they tied together the circuit breakers with other circuits. The shock from salvo 14 knocked out the breakers that were tied together causing a general electrical power failure, mainly to the aft part of the ship. Gyros, radars, firecontrol systems, and gun aiming systems all went dead. This occured at about 11:33 hours or about 1/2 hour before it was pounded by Kondo's cruisers and Kirishima. It was still firing harmlessly at Hashimoto's retreating forces east of Savo Island.

After several minutes the power began to slowly come back on line. The main problem was the magnetron powered radar sets. Its not a simple matter of switching back on magnetron radars. It's big long proccess to re-start magnetrons. The 40cm firecontrol radars required at least 30 minutes to settle in after re-start and re-calibration before they could be used. The firecontrol radars were useless for the rest of the night with gunnery officers switching from spot 1 to spot 2 to sky control in an effort to get usefull ranging data. The optics were blinded by the ship's and Washington's gun flashes.

As the power came back on, the SD fired over its stern at a target it thought was Sendai (after they thought they had already sunk it once?). It wasn't Sendai. It was USS Gwin which was following Lee's orders to withdraw. We know this from first hand accounts from Gwin. Gwin flashed its recognition lights. South Dakota interputed this as the IJN "cruiser" as blowing up, crediting itself with another enemy ship "sunk".

Just about this time the SG radar broke down (not related to the power failure but also magnetron powered) so SD became mostly blinded. SD passed to the north of the burning US destroyers and so highlighted itself to the Japanese forces. South Dakota had also set itself on fire by firing over the stern, thereby setting the scout planes on fire and also the aviation gasoline which was spraying out like a geyser from a broken hose fitting, creating plume of flame that could be seen for many, many, miles.

Just as the SG was coming back online, SD started to get pummelled by Kirishima and cruisers. Kirishima scored a 1st salvo direct hit with its 6-inch battery on South Dakota's foretop destroying the foretop radars and main firecontrol director. Other hits quickly cut cabling to the forward radar set and other top side equipment, creating numerous short circuits and starting the circuit failures all over again. The shock from the 14" hit to number 3 turret's barbet apparently knocked out the main battery which would not even fire on local control.
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.

steffen19k
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Re: Bismarck against BB-57 South Dakota

Post by steffen19k » Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:16 am

Thanks for the info, Mr. Saxton.
Here is everything I know about war: Someone wins, Someone loses, and nothing is ever the same again. Here is everything I know about life: The only certainties are death and taxes.
The enemy of freedom are those who proclaim only they can uphold it.

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