Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
alecsandros
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Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:53 pm

Hello,

I was thinking about the Japanese BB force of WW2, and about its accomplishments. So far, I'm thinking about:

- 20-Fev-42: Hiei and Kirishima fire 297 long-range 14" shells on the destroyer USS Edsall, and only hit it once.

- 13-Nov-42: Hiei fights in the Ist battle of Guadalcanal. Despite the Japanese superiority, Hiei barely manages to sink CA USS Atlanta, and receives some 30 8" and 50 5" shells, which cripple him, it being scuttled the next day.

- 14/15-Nov-42: Kirishima fights in the IInd battle of Guadalcanal. It only scores once, on South Dakota (14" shell), and is scuttled by its own crew after the deluge of fire coming from USS Washington (probably 9 - 16" hits)

- 25-Oct-44: Powerfull Japanese BB squadron engages the escort carriers from the task force "Taffy 3". Despite the huge advantage of the Japanese force (at least early in the battle) only one carrier and 3 destroyers are sunk.

- 25-Oct-44: Fuso and Yamashiro are devastated by torpedoes and heavy gun fire in the Surigao Strait without firing a shot.

Yes, almost each time there were unfavorable factors, but anyway, I expected much more, especially from the First Battle of Guadalcanal and the Battle of Samar.

So, overall, my opinion is that the Japanese BB force fared pretty badly in naval combat.

What do you think?

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:36 pm

Good thread. Today I have a lot to do at work and this week I´m traveling back to Costa Rica. As soon as I can will go on this because that´s exactly what I was thinking one of these days.
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:37 pm

And... I think we must address not the ships but also the people: Kurita, Abe and the lot of them. Lutjens sindrome.
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by lwd » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:50 pm

A couple of minor points/corrections.
alecsandros wrote:Hello,
...
- 20-Fev-42: Hiei and Kirishima fire 297 long-range 14" shells on the destroyer USS Edsall, and only hit it once.
DD's were non trivial targets for BB main guns. If you look at the engagments where it was tried there are not that many hits. At least until or unless the DDs are slowed down. Warspite's probably the champion here but those were pretty close range as well I believe. Might be an interesting thread in and of itself. BB main guns vs DDs.
- 13-Nov-42: Hiei fights in the Ist battle of Guadalcanal. Despite the Japanese superiority, Hiei barely manages to sink CA USS Atlanta, and receives some 30 8" and 50 5" shells, which cripple him, it being scuttled the next day.
In these actions you have to be careful. They were so confused the ships may have scored many more or many fewer hits than the histories seem to point to. Look at the case below for example
- 14/15-Nov-42: Kirishima fights in the IInd battle of Guadalcanal. It only scores once, on South Dakota (14" shell), and is scuttled by its own crew after the deluge of fire coming from USS Washington (probably 9 - 16" hits)
The evidence is that Kirishima was not scuttled. Furthermore recent evidence is that she took at least 20 main caliber hits from Washington. I believe that's in part due to analysis of her wreck but also more detailed analysis of Japanese records. There's also some evidence that she got another 14" hit on SoDak but it was in the superstructure and didn't hit anything signifcant.
- 25-Oct-44: Powerfull Japanese BB squadron engages the escort carriers from the task force "Taffy 3". Despite the huge advantage of the Japanese force (at least early in the battle) only one carrier and 3 destroyers are sunk.
Again wildly maneuvering DDs and DEs are not easy targets. When they are laying smoke and firing tropoes as well as adding their gunfire to the mix, rain squals are also moving through the area, and the ships inquestion are under attack from planes as well a low hit rate is not all that inexplicable.
- 25-Oct-44: Fuso and Yamashiro are devastated by torpedoes and heavy gun fire in the Surigao Strait without firing a shot.
I'll have to look back at my copy of Tully's last book but I'm pretty sure both fired. Neither fired at the US battle line.
So, overall, my opinion is that the Japanese BB force fared pretty badly in naval combat.

What do you think?
By the time of Leyte gulf the BBs had been pretty idle for a significant period of time. The fuel situation was creating some real problems and it apparently hurt as far as keeping the crews well trained. Yamato apparently got a first salvo stradle which is pretty impressive firing under optical at the range she opened fire at. On the whole though I believe their performance could be catagorized, at least from the Japanese point of view, as disapointing.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Tue Oct 20, 2009 7:04 pm

lwd wrote: The evidence is that Kirishima was not scuttled. Furthermore recent evidence is that she took at least 20 main caliber hits from Washington. I believe that's in part due to analysis of her wreck but also more detailed analysis of Japanese records. There's also some evidence that she got another 14" hit on SoDak but it was in the superstructure and didn't hit anything signifcant.
lwd wrote: -On the whole though I believe their performance could be catagorized, at least from the Japanese point of view, as disapointing.
I didn't know about that many hits on Kirishima, nor of her second hit on SD. Thanks!

Anyway, it seems to me that the Japanese BBs were not ready for a World War. The Kongo's, Ise's and Fuso's had very thin armour (by 1939 standards at least) and only the first class had at least a moderate speed advantage. But, in a 1-1 duel, I can't think of a single ship WW2 battleship that the Kongo's could take out (just think about Haruna versus Duke of York or North Carolina).

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by lwd » Tue Oct 20, 2009 7:24 pm

For the latest info on Kirishima see:
http://www.navweaps.com/index_lundgren/ ... alysis.pdf

The Japanese weren't really ready for war with the US. However they were caught in a real bind. Congress authorized a huge naval build up prior to the war. These ships would start appearing in 43 and the Japanese simply couldn't keep up with the US in that regard. Furthermore the oil embargo was potentially debilitating. If they had done nothing then they would have essentially run out of oin in 43 or 44. Their production was only sufficient to fuel a small part of their industry and that's if they gave nothing to the military. The strongest postion they were going to achieve was in 41 and 42. Thus there gamble. Some of this was projectable from the late 30s on but the oil embargo was not and it was devistating.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Tue Oct 20, 2009 7:33 pm

Yes, and besides the oil embargo, the Roosevelt administration also froze the Japanese bank accounts located in American banks in June or July 1941.

Anyway, given their situation, I don't know what they hoped to accomplish by striking Pearl Harbour - they were going for the Sumatran oil field with or without it...

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bgile » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:03 pm

It's very important to look at the link lwd posted. Kirishima did really well, all things considered. She may have hit South Dakota as many as five times with her main battery and most of the other hits were probably from her secondary battery. For most of the time she was doing this, she was getting absolutely hammered by Washington.

Also, the superstructure hits were not inconsequential. Richard goes into this in some detail, but IIRC she pretty much wiped out South Dakota's communications and radar capability, killing most of the crew responsible for those systems.

As lwd said about Samar, the IJN ships were under torpedo attack and heavy air attack from the aircraft from all the Taffys, not just the one under attack.

Yamashiro seems never to have seen the US battleships. She was completely overwhelmed by a much larger force.

Hiei was in a point blank melee with two heavy cruisers whose shells could penetrate her armor at that range. She mauled San Francisco pretty badly, but was firing bombardment ammunition so anyone behind armor was safe.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:53 pm

Let's not get to eager about this though:

1)Kirishima fired on a defenseless South Dakota, and the damage incured on the american BB, even if we accept the "multiple 14" shells hit" theory, was minor (SD left the battle scene on its own, and was back in action by February).

2)Hiei had a belt armor so weak that 203mm (8"/L55, 118kg) shells could pierce it. That's bad enough in itself, without the dubious effects of the Japanese squadron's salvos on the American ships.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bgile » Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:26 pm

alecsandros wrote:Let's not get to eager about this though:

1)Kirishima fired on a defenseless South Dakota, and the damage incured on the american BB, even if we accept the "multiple 14" shells hit" theory, was minor (SD left the battle scene on its own, and was back in action by February).

2)Hiei had a belt armor so weak that 203mm (8"/L55, 118kg) shells could pierce it. That's bad enough in itself, without the dubious effects of the Japanese squadron's salvos on the American ships.
What you say is true, and the same thing could happen to the British battle cruisers if they got involved in a confused melee at night.

Still, in daylight they are cruiser killers. At one time they could outrun anything they couldn't out fight. The USN was worried enough about them that they designed the Iowa class battleships to counter them.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:44 am

Bgile wrote:
What you say is true, and the same thing could happen to the British battle cruisers if they got involved in a confused melee at night.

Still, in daylight they are cruiser killers. At one time they could outrun anything they couldn't out fight. The USN was worried enough about them that they designed the Iowa class battleships to counter them.
Yes, but I was thinking about their actual combat achievements, not their combat potential

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:39 am

alecsandros wrote:Let's not get to eager about this though:

1)Kirishima fired on a defenseless South Dakota, and the damage incured on the american BB, even if we accept the "multiple 14" shells hit" theory, was minor (SD left the battle scene on its own, and was back in action by February).

2)Hiei had a belt armor so weak that 203mm (8"/L55, 118kg) shells could pierce it. That's bad enough in itself, without the dubious effects of the Japanese squadron's salvos on the American ships.


..... KIRISHIMA may have inflicted only minor damage on SOUTH DAKOTA, but the overall damage was not minor in terms of tactical ability. SODAK was hit by forty plus 5.5-in, 8-in, and 14-in shells which knocked out all but one of her radars and all her communications; she was tactically blind, unable to acquire targets, and unable to communicate. It was a total mission kill that forced her to immediately withdraw from the battle.

..... The effect of Japanese fire upon the US squadron on the previous night at the 1st Battle of Gudalcanal was hardly dubious. Adm Callahan went into that battle with 13 ships, listed as follows with damage notations:

DD Cushing............SUNK
DD Laffey..............SUNK
DD Sterett.............Back to US for repairs
DD O'Bannon..........OK
AACL Atlanta..........SUNK
CA San Francisco......Back to US for major repairs
CA Portland............Back to US for major repairs
CL Helena..............Light damage repaired at Noumea
AACL Juneau..........SUNK
DD Aaron Ward.......Back to Pearl Harbor for repairs
DD Barton.............SUNK
DD Monssen..........SUNK
DD Fletcher............OK

Out of US 13 ships committed to action:

6 were sunk outright
4 were damaged severely enough to require a return stateside for major repairs
1 suffered light damage and was locally repairable
2 survived intact


Byron

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:03 am

There's no question about the ferocity of the Ist battle of Guadalcanal. However, IMO the Japanese had a significant firepower advantage, fielding 2 battleships, 1 CL and 14DD against 2CA, 3CL and 8DD.

And we have to think about the overall result of the Japanese mission: a failure, because they didn't manage to bomb Henderson Field, nor to destroy the US naval forces. Abe decision, to withdraw from battle, was not a very inspired one...

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by lwd » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:34 pm

alecsandros wrote:...
2)Hiei had a belt armor so weak that 203mm (8"/L55, 118kg) shells could pierce it. That's bad enough in itself, without the dubious effects of the Japanese squadron's salvos on the American ships.
Let's take a closer look at this.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_battleship_Bismarck
gives Bismarck's belt as Belt: 145 to 320 mm
http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_8-55_mk12-15.htm
indicates that at 10,800 yards the US 8"/55 can penetrate 254mm of armor so much of Bismarck's belt could be penetrated at the ranges this battle was taking place at.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:46 pm

lwd wrote: Let's take a closer look at this.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_battleship_Bismarck
gives Bismarck's belt as Belt: 145 to 320 mm
http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_8-55_mk12-15.htm
indicates that at 10,800 yards the US 8"/55 can penetrate 254mm of armor so much of Bismarck's belt could be penetrated at the ranges this battle was taking place at.
:D
That's right, on paper at least. But let's don't forget that, in fact, Bismarck suffered a severe mauling, from 8", 14" and 16" shells, and her machinery was still in good order, while her armor belt had only been penetrated 4 times, probably by 16" shells. Hardly the same for Hiei.

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