Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
User avatar
José M. Rico
Administrator
Posts: 920
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 10:23 am
Location: Madrid, Spain
Contact:

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by José M. Rico » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:54 pm

lwd wrote:
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.
I really don't know why you bring Bismarck out. The 145mm corresponds to the upper belt covering the battery deck. Following your example: so much of any battleship's belt could be penetrated at the ranges this battle was taking place at, since all the other modern battleships did not have any protection at all above main lower belt. Yamato had a 25mm thick upper belt, right?

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by lwd » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:59 pm

alecsandros wrote: ..., 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.
It's not clear how many times Bismarck's belt was penetrated. I thought the penetrating hits that have been identified were thought to be a mix of 14 and 16 inch hits. Also while her machinery may have been in good order her armament and fire control were out. But the point of bringing it up was that for a BB/BC built 20 years previously penetration of the belt by an 8"/55 wasn't that out of line at the ranges where the battle took place.

Bgile
Senior Member
Posts: 3658
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:33 pm
Location: Portland, OR, USA

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bgile » Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:08 pm

alecsandros wrote:
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.
If I understand some material that I've read over the years, the ballistic formulas tend not to predict actual penetration very well with naval AP projectiles when armor is thicker than the diameter of the shell. They tend to deform or break up rather than penetrate. I don't think there were any 8" penetrations of Bismarck's belt.

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by lwd » Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:16 pm

Bgile wrote: ...If I understand some material that I've read over the years, the ballistic formulas tend not to predict actual penetration very well with naval AP projectiles when armor is thicker than the diameter of the shell. They tend to deform or break up rather than penetrate. I don't think there were any 8" penetrations of Bismarck's belt.
I'm pretty sure none have been identified. On the otherhand there's a big difference between the armor penetration capabilities of the British and the US 8" rounds.

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 4344
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:51 pm

lwd wrote: It's not clear how many times Bismarck's belt was penetrated. I thought the penetrating hits that have been identified were thought to be a mix of 14 and 16 inch hits. Also while her machinery may have been in good order her armament and fire control were out. But the point of bringing it up was that for a BB/BC built 20 years previously penetration of the belt by an 8"/55 wasn't that out of line at the ranges where the battle took place.
Point taken. Hiei was an old BC, with refits and a "fast battleship" designation. But that further leads us to the question: was the Japanese BB force ready for a war? We must bear in mind that Kongo, Haruna, Kirishima, Hiei, Ise, Hyuga, Fuso and Yamashiro were very poor ships (and behaved as such), while Nagato/Mutsu were slow and, despite their displacement, had a rather weak armour defense (over the magazines and machinery more exactly). So that would leave only 2 ships to wage a modern war (as "mdoern" as it gets with battleships at least..) on the vast Pacific theatre.

I'm going to take a guess, and say that you're thinking of "the aircraft carrier doctrine, that the Japanese first developed and applied with great success". It's true, but I think they overestimated the capabilities of their aircraft carriers (that weren't so many, by the way)

Cheers

Byron Angel

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Oct 21, 2009 3:51 pm

alecsandros wrote: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...


..... I disagree as to firepower advantage. To the best of my knowledge, both HIEI and KIRISHIMA fired exclusively indendiary bombardment ammunition from their 14-in main batteries on that night. These projectiles were relatively ineffective against even unarmored warships, except for incendiary effect. I know of no US ship which was hit by any 14-in AP round. So the two Japanese BB's were effectively the equivalent of very large well armored warships with the offensive capabilities of old light cruisers. In any case, KIRISHIMA took only a very small part in the battle. The Japanese light cruiser was an old post-WW1 ship whose main firepower threat rested in her torpedo battery.

It is an undeniable fact that the Japanese abandoned their plan to bombard Henderson Field. On that basis, the USN can justifiably claim a strategic victory. It is. however, also an undeniable fact that the Japanese crushed the US naval force opposing them. At the end of the battle, only two US destroyers and perhaps one cruiser remained in battleworthy condition.

I don't believe that Abe had any part in the decision to withdraw; he had been killed on the bridge of HIEI during the height of the engagement. The withdrawal order most likely came from Rabaul HQ, which actually instucted KIRISHIMA to attempt to take HIEI under tow. In any case, the overriding concern of the Japanese was always to be out of range of US strike aircraft by morning of the following day.


Byron

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 4344
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Wed Oct 21, 2009 4:53 pm

It's not clear to me if Hiei switched to AP rounds. From http://www.combinedfleet.com/hiei2.htm, it apears that the order was given, but, as you said, we don't know of ships being hit by AP rounds, so maybe they didn't have the time to execute it.

Abe wasn't killed, but wounded in the crossfire, as far as I know..

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by lwd » Wed Oct 21, 2009 5:25 pm

José M. Rico wrote: I really don't know why you bring Bismarck out. The 145mm corresponds to the upper belt covering the battery deck. Following your example: so much of any battleship's belt could be penetrated at the ranges this battle was taking place at, since all the other modern battleships did not have any protection at all above main lower belt. Yamato had a 25mm thick upper belt, right?
I wasn't sure the critique of Hiei having abismal armor was correct. So I checked Bismarck and the penetration of the US 8" gun and saw that at least parts of the belt were at least theoretically possible for the 8" gun to penetrate at those ranges. The point was not that Bismarck's protection was weak but that post WWI battleships were simply not designed to fight at ranges under 10,000 yards. A rough extrapolation has that gun penetrating 12" (300mm) of armor at 5,000 yards at least some of the engagements that night were well under that range. Hiei may not have been the best armored BB around but this wasn't a fight that anybody for saw happening.

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by lwd » Wed Oct 21, 2009 5:31 pm

alecsandros wrote: .... But that further leads us to the question: was the Japanese BB force ready for a war?
I guess it would depend on what you mean by "ready".
We must bear in mind that Kongo, Haruna, Kirishima, Hiei, Ise, Hyuga, Fuso and Yamashiro were very poor ships (and behaved as such),
Compared to what? Other ships of their generation or WWII era BBs?
while Nagato/Mutsu were slow and, despite their displacement, had a rather weak armour defense (over the magazines and machinery more exactly).
I've seen it posted (here I think) that they were very well protected especially after thier refits.
I'm going to take a guess, and say that you're thinking of "the aircraft carrier doctrine, that the Japanese first developed and applied with great success". It's true, but I think they overestimated the capabilities of their aircraft carriers (that weren't so many, by the way) ...
From what I've read they were as much surprised by the rise of the aircraft carrier as anyone. After all if you saw it coming why build the Yamatos. As for CVs they were on a par with the other powers of the time in numbers. Which they weren't in BBs.

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 4344
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:03 pm

lwd wrote:
alecsandros wrote: We must bear in mind that Kongo, Haruna, Kirishima, Hiei, Ise, Hyuga, Fuso and Yamashiro were very poor ships (and behaved as such),
Compared to what? Other ships of their generation or WWII era BBs?
Compared to their most probable foes, including the refitted WW1 era American battleships.

Byron Angel

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:49 pm

alecsandros wrote:It's not clear to me if Hiei switched to AP rounds. From http://www.combinedfleet.com/hiei2.htm, it apears that the order was given, but, as you said, we don't know of ships being hit by AP rounds, so maybe they didn't have the time to execute it.

Abe wasn't killed, but wounded in the crossfire, as far as I know..

..... You are indeed correct about Admiral Abe. My mistake.


Byron

Byron Angel

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:18 pm

lwd wrote: I wasn't sure the critique of Hiei having abismal armor was correct. So I checked Bismarck and the penetration of the US 8" gun and saw that at least parts of the belt were at least theoretically possible for the 8" gun to penetrate at those ranges. The point was not that Bismarck's protection was weak but that post WWI battleships were simply not designed to fight at ranges under 10,000 yards. A rough extrapolation has that gun penetrating 12" (300mm) of armor at 5,000 yards at least some of the engagements that night were well under that range. Hiei may not have been the best armored BB around but this wasn't a fight that anybody for saw happening.


..... I looked into "The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal", by J W Grace. It is a good account of the action, as Grace had access to Japanese archives during his research. According to Grace, the damage to HIEI was as follows:

The hit which disabled HIEI's steering and sealed her fate was an underwater penetration of the stern by a dud 8-inch round, which opened up a ventilation duct to the sea. Water passing down the duct shorted out the steering motor. Further flooding ultimately filled the compartment where it was possible to operate the rudder by manual means and left the ship with the rudder at a slight angle and unable to regain steering control.

Main battery control had been hit twice and destroyed. Turrets I and IV suffered barbette hits (9-in armor), but remained undamaged and fully operable; turrets II and III were both hit on their turret roofs (6-in armor) and likewise remained fully operable.

Gun numbers 6, 7, and 8 of the 6-inch secondary battery were out of action. The secondary battery control station had been hit and the gunnery officer killed. Electrical power to the secondary directors was out. A severe ammunition fire was raging amidships.

5-inch AA mounts 1, 2, and 3 were hit and out of action. The ammunition handling rooms for mounts 1 and 3 had been hit and major fires were burning there as well.

A number of 25-mm AA gun and crews were casualties as well.

6 waterline hits caused flooding and a modest list to starboard which proved difficult to correct due to disablement of several pumping stations.

The superstructure had suffered about two dozen hits and had been burned out; all radio communications were lost.

An additional 8 or 9 fires were burning in various locations.

The ship's machinery remained intact, however speed was limited due to the flooding problem aft.



Altogether, the Japanese identified 102 hits on HIEI, of which approximately one-third were dud shells.



Byron

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 4344
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by alecsandros » Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:24 pm

Thanks for the detailed assesment of Hiei's damage. It's the first time I see this. Thanks!

So, it seems like the belt armor held, after all... From what I've read, all the other shells failed to to critical damage. So it was only the dud 8" shell sealed the fate of the ship! Interesting...

Bgile
Senior Member
Posts: 3658
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:33 pm
Location: Portland, OR, USA

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bgile » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:05 pm

alecsandros wrote:Thanks for the detailed assesment of Hiei's damage. It's the first time I see this. Thanks!

So, it seems like the belt armor held, after all... From what I've read, all the other shells failed to to critical damage. So it was only the dud 8" shell sealed the fate of the ship! Interesting...
The belt armor may have held, but I don't see that in his post at all, only turret roof and barbettes. And waterline hits causing flooding which may or may not have penetrated belt armor.

Foggy
Junior Member
Posts: 12
Joined: Sat Jul 12, 2008 11:47 pm
Location: South Jersey, USA

Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Foggy » Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:07 pm

Hello, all!

The projectile types used by the Japanese heavy units in the Guadalcanal battles has been discussed, but what of the propellant charges?

I've just read something interesting in one of the reports of the US Naval Technical Mission to Japan from just after the war, specifically in its report on Japanese Interior Ballistics (Fascicle O-1, Target O-21, Feb 46), page 7, section I, Ballistics in General. Referring to propellant charges, it states that, in addition to the full service charge: "Two types of low-velocity charges were usually provided: "weak", rated at one-half of an equivalent service charge, and "reduced", rated at one-sixteenth." It provides a table of propellant weights and muzzle velocities for guns from 3" to 16".

Here's the interesting part. On that same page, it states: "Japanese naval doctrine called for the use of full service charges in all actions. An exception, however, was made in the Guadalcanal operations in 1942, when "reduced" charges were used in shore bombardments with 36cm and 20cm (14 inch and 8 inch) guns." So, if Kirishima and Hiei were loaded for shore bombardment, according to this, they used 1/16th charges?!

I've not seen this discussed in any other references. Could this help account for the purported poor performance of the Japanese guns in these battles?
-- Wayne

Post Reply