Battleships in World War II


Battleships in World War II

The Second World War saw the end of the battleship as the dominant force in the world's navies. On the outbreak of war, large fleets of battleships -- many inherited from the dreadnought era decades before -- were one of the decisive forces in naval thinking. By the end of the War, battleship construction was all but halted, and almost every existing battleship was scrapped within a few years of its end.

The battleship's obsolescence occurred because the offensive power of the aircraft carrier reached maturity during the War. In 1939 the relative status of battleship and carrier were controversial. While some naval planners and commanders saw the carrier as the capital ship of the future, it was still possible to plan for a war to expect a war dominated by the battleship. [The Pearl Harbor attack was a radical development of Japanese strategy which only occurred in 1941; it is also likely that the American plan for the Pacific involved a prompt battleship engagement. Evans and Peattie, p.471-7] By the end of the War, this was impossible. Battleships remained the most heavily-protected ships afloat. However, time and again, they had been sunk or crippled by bombs or torpedoes from aircraft, in spite of their massive protection schemes; enough hits would always find a weak spot. To make matters worse, the War had seen the development of the first guided bombs, which would make it much easier for aircraft to sink battleships in future.

Operations

German battleships—obsolete pre-dreadnoughts—fired the first shots of World War II with the bombardment of the Polish garrison at Westerplatte; [Gibbons, p. 163] and the final surrender of the Japanese Empire took place aboard a United States Navy battleship, the USS "Missouri". Between the two events, it became clear that battleships were now essentially auxiliary craft, and aircraft carriers were the new principal ships of the fleet.Fact|date=March 2008

Still, battleships played a part in major engagements in Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean theatres. In the Atlantic, the Germans experimented with taking the battleship beyond conventional fleet action, using their pocket battleships as independent commerce raiders. Although there were a few battleship-on-battleship engagements, battleships had little impact on the destroyer and submarine Battle of the Atlantic, and aircraft carriers determined the outcome of most of the decisive fleet clashes of the Pacific War.Fact|date=March 2008

In the first year of the war, battleships and battlecruisers defied predictions that aircraft would dominate naval warfare. "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" surprised and sank the aircraft carrier "Glorious" off western Norway in June 1940. [Gibbons, pp. 246–247] The vulnerability of unescorted carriers to attack by other ships meant that carriers almost always had escorts, so this engagement marked the last time surface gunnery sank a fleet carrier. In the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir, British capital ships opened fire on the French battleships harboured in Algeria with their own heavy guns, and later pursued fleeing French ships with planes from aircraft carriers.Fact|date=March 2008

Taranto and Matapan

In late 1940 and 1941, a range of engagements saw battleships harassed by carrier aircraft.

The first example of the power of naval aviation was the British air attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto that took place on the night of 11–12 November 1940. A small number of Royal Navy aircraft attacked the Italian fleet at harbour, succeeding in sinking one Italian battleship and damaging two others. Importantly, the attack forced the Italian navy to change tactics and seek battle against the superior British navy, which resulted in their defeat at the Battle of Cape Matapan.Fact|date=March 2008

Bismarck

The battleship war in the Atlantic was driven by the attempts of German capital ship commerce raiders—two battleships, the "Bismarck" and the "Tirpitz", and two battlecruisers—to influence the Battle of the Atlantic by destroying Atlantic convoys supplying the United Kingdom. The superior numbers of British surface units devoted themselves to protecting the convoys, and to seek-and-destroy missions against the German ships, assisted by both naval and land-based aircraft and by sabotage attacks. On 24 May 1941, during its attempt to break out into the North Atlantic, the commerce raider "Bismarck" engaged the British battleship HMS "Prince of Wales" and the battlecruiser "Hood". Due primarily to the "Bismarck"'s superior range-finding and accuracy, it soon sank "Hood" with an apparent hit to her magazines. "Bismarck" and "Prince of Wales" hit each other three times, the damage compelling the "Prince of Wales" to withdraw [Gibbons, pp. 228–229] and the "Bismarck" to call off its commerce raiding operation, as part of its fuel reserve had been contaminated with salt water. While the "Bismarck" was heading for St. Nazaire, the Royal Navy continued to hunt it, and eventually an attack by Swordfish biplane torpedo-bombers from the aircraft carrier "Ark Royal" disabled "Bismarck's" rudder and significantly reduced her speed. This enabled two Royal Navy battleships, cruisers and destroyers to close in for the kill.

The Pacific battles

In many of the crucial battles of the Pacific, for instance Coral Sea and Midway, battleships were either absent or overshadowed as carriers launched wave after wave of planes into the attack at a range of hundreds of miles. The primary tasks for battleships in the Pacific became shore bombardment and anti-aircraft defense for the carriers. Even the largest battleships ever constructed, Japan's "Yamato" class, which carried a main battery of nine 18.1-inch (460 millimetre) guns and were designed to be a principal strategic weapon, were seldom given a chance to fulfill their potential. They were hampered by technical deficiencies (slow battleships were incapable of operating with fast carriers), faulty military doctrine (the Japanese waited for a "decisive battle", which never came), and defective dispositions (as at Midway). [Willmott, H.P. "Barrier and the Javelin" (Annapolis: USNIPress, 1983).]

Pearl Harbor

Before hostilities broke out in the Pacific Theatre, extensive pre-war planning centered around dreadnoughts. The Royal Navy could not achieve parity with the estimated nine Japanese capital ships in Southeast Asia, since doing so would leave only a handful of ships to use against Nazi Germany. However, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was optimistic about the improving situation in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean and allocating two ships to the defense of Singapore was seen as a compromise. Furthermore, the U.S. Navy later agreed to send its Pacific Fleet with its eight battleships to Singapore in the event of hostilities with Japan. [ [http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/sinking1.html The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse (Forcez-survivors.org)] ]

On 7 December 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Five out of eight U.S. battleships were quickly either sunk or sinking, with the rest damaged. The Japanese thus neutralized the U.S. battleship force in the Pacific by an air attack, and thereby proved Mitchell's theory, and showed the vulnerability of warships lying at anchor, as at Taranto. The American aircraft carriers were however at sea and evaded detection. They in turn took up the fight, eventually turning the tide of the war in the Pacific.Fact|date=March 2008

The sinking of the British battleship "Prince of Wales" and her escort, the battlecruiser HMS "Repulse", further demonstrated the vulnerability of a battleship to air attack, in this case while at sea without air cover. Both ships were on their way to assist in the defense of Singapore when Japanese land-based bombers and fighters found and sank them on 10 December 1941. "Prince of Wales" has the distinction of being the first modern battleship sunk by aircraft while underway and able to defend herself. [Axell, Albert: "Kamikaze", p. 14]

Midway

Commonly understood as a victory of carriers, Midway showed up deficiencies in Japanese operational planning. Yamamoto, considering them his most valuable units, kept his battleships far to the rear, in line with traditional practice. This placed them too far away to assist Nagumo (and they would have been too slow to keep up with him in any case). Yet, when Nagumo's carriers were sunk, Yamamoto lost an opportunity to salvage something. Carriers, for all their evident potency, were virtually defenseless at night, and Fletcher might have been dealt a crushing blow by "Yamato" the night of 6–7 June, had Yamamoto stayed closer. [Willmott, "Barrier and the Javelin", "passim".]

Guadalcanal

Initially, when the U.S. entered the war in December 1941, it had no battleships available in the Pacific Theatre. Eight of them were sunk or crippled at Pearl Harbor and were sent home for repairs and reconstruction; they would not have been able to keep up with the carriers in any case. The new fast battleships of "North Carolina" and "South Dakota" classes were still undergoing trials. "North Carolina" and "South Dakota" were ready by summer of 1942 and provided crucial anti-aircraft defense during the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz Islands carrier battles.Fact|date=March 2008

By contrast, the Imperial Japanese Navy had the advantage of a dozen operational battleships early in the war, but chose not to deploy them in any significant engagements. The "Fusō"s and "Ise"s, despite their extensive modernization and respectable speeds, were relegated to training and home defense, while the "Nagato"s and "Yamato"s were being saved for a "decisive battle" which never came. In fact, the only Japanese battleships to see much action in the early stages were "Kongō"s, which served mostly as carrier escorts due to their high speed. [Gibbons, pp. 262–263]

During the later part of the Guadalcanal campaign in fall 1942, Japan and the U.S. were both forced to commit their battleships to surface combat, due to the need to carry out night operations, and because of the exhaustion of their carrier forces. During the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, battleships "Hiei" and "Kirishima" were driven off by a force of U.S. cruisers and destroyers. Several USN ships were lost and others were crippled, but they inflicted critical damage on "Hiei", which was abandoned after being subject to repeated air attacks that made salvage impossible. The following evening, at the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 15 November 1942, the United States battleships "South Dakota" and "Washington" fought and destroyed the surviving "Kirishima".Fact|date=March 2008

It was also at Guadalcanal that battleships demonstrated the other primary use to which they would be put, delivering devastating fire against Henderson Field.Fact|date=March 2008

Leyte Gulf

At the Battle of the Philippine Sea, heavy aircraft losses made the carriers ineffectual and forced the Japanese to finally commit their dreadnoughts, both old and new, to the upcoming Leyte Campaign. The objective in this "decisive battle" was to stop the Allies from capturing the Philippines, which would cut off the Japanese oil supply and render their navy useless. The Battle off Samar, on 25 October 1944, proved battleships were still lethal. The American escort carriers of "Taffy 3" had a narrow escape from under the guns of Japanese battleships "Yamato", "Kongō", "Haruna" and "Nagato" and their cruiser escort. American destroyers and aircraft attacked the battleships, enabling the American task force to disengage. Inexplicably, the Japanese disengaged as well, despite being near their intended target - the American amphibious landing forces at Leyte.Fact|date=March 2008

At Leyte Gulf, on 25 October 1944, six old battleships (many of them raised and repaired from Pearl Harbor), led by Admiral Jesse Oldendorf of the U.S. Seventh FleetFact|date=October 2007 sank Admiral Shoji Nishimura's flagship "Yamashiro" and would have sunk "Fusō" if it had not already been broken in two by destroyer torpedoes moments earlier during the Battle of Surigao Strait. This engagement marked the last time in history when battleship faced battleship. It was also the day after an engagement further north (the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea) in which "Musashi", sister ship to "Yamato", was sunk by aircraft long before she could come within striking range of the American force.Fact|date=March 2008

oviet and Finnish battles

During the Soviet-Finnish Winter War, the Soviet battleships "Marat" and "Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya" made several attempts to neutralize the Finnish coastal batteries in order to implement a full naval blockade. The Soviets inflicted little damage on the Finnish positions, and the defenders hit back, claiming at least one hit on "Marat". [Appel, Erik: "Finland i krig 1939–1940", p. 182]

During the German assault on the Soviet Union, the Soviet battleships served as convoy escorts during the evacuation of Tallinn, and as floating batteries during the siege of Leningrad. [Linder, Jan: "Ofredens hav", pp. 50–51] The dense German and Finnish minefields and the submarine nets effectively restricted Soviet traffic in the Gulf of Finland, forcing the larger vessels to remain at port. [Linder, Jan: "Ofredens hav", pp. 50–51] [Brunila, Kai: "Finland i krig 1940–1944", pp. 100–108, 220–225] The German Stuka pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel eventually sank "Marat" at her moorings on 23 September 1941. Still, the vessel was able to serve as a battery for the remainder of the siege. The Soviets later refloated "Marat" and both it and "Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya" served until the 1950s. [Greger, René: "Schlachtschiffe der Welt", pp. 201]

Fire support

With the German capital-ship raiders sunk or forced to remain in port, shore bombardment became the focus of Allied battleships in the Atlantic. It was while covering the Allied invasion of Morocco that the "Massachusetts" fought and disabled Vichy French battleship "Jean Bart" on 27 October 1942. Six battleships came together as part of Operation Neptune, in support of the D-Day landings in June 1944. D-Day also saw the humble sacrifice of two old dreadnoughts ("Courbet" and "Centurion"), which were scuttled as part of the breakwater around the Allied Mulberry harbours.

Aerial defense

The sinking of "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse" off the coast of Malaya in 1941 demonstrated that even the most modern battleships could not hold off aerial attacks without decent aerial defenses. The British HACS fire control system had proven useless against the Japanese attackers, and the anti-aircraft artillery had managed to shoot down only a handful of attackers. Afterwards, an aircraft carrier's combat air patrol proved to be the most effective form of defense against enemy bombers; nonetheless a modern fast battleship could provide a vital point defense against attackers that broke through the fighter screen. The "North Carolina" and "South Dakota" demonstrated just that in the battles of the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz Islands, respectively, with "North Carolina" downing between 7 and 14 planes, while "South Dakota" shot down between 26 and 32. The battleships' presence was crucial during these 1942 battles, as the U.S. were still months from being able to realize their material advantage, with too few planes and ships to interdict enough of the skilled Japanese pilots. No American battleships were lost or seriously damaged by aerial attacks in open seas in World War II.Fact|date=March 2008

By 1944, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance had arrayed his forces in a complex defense formation. The first line of protection was a radar-vectored combat air patrol, and any attackers who managed to get through would face anti-aircraft fire from a line of screening battleships and cruisers. This exacted such a heavy toll on the Japanese during the that they failed to cause any significant damage to their main targets, the aircraft carriers. The most damage that the Japanese caused was a bomb hit on "South Dakota" which caused many casualties but did little damage to the battleship. [ [http://www.combinedfleet.com/btl_ps.htm Battle of the Philippine Sea (CombinedFleet.com)] ] Circumstances were vastly different from 1942 as the Japanese aircrews were inexperienced, and they were up against veteran U.S. pilots as well as many new carriers and battleships.Fact|date=March 2008

AA guns

At the outbreak of World War II, most battleships had large anti-aircraft batteries. The battleships used the same light AA guns (the Allies used autocannons such as the Bofors 40 mm gun and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon) as those on smaller ships, but in greater number. The later development of proximity fuzes and radar vastly increased the effectiveness of these batteries.Fact|date=March 2008

Post-WWI battleships, particularly British and American, had discarded the casemates in favour of turret-mounted dual purpose secondary batteries (5-inch or 6-inch caliber). Secondaries were initially designed to deal with rushing destroyers and torpedo boats, but there arose a need for heavy anti-aircraft armament as the potency of aircraft grew, particularly torpedo planes. The rationale was that it is unlikely that a battleship would be simultaneously facing both destroyers and aircraft, but it would take up too much space to have separate types of guns to deal with both threats. Both weapons had similar calibers and so they could be merged into a single battery type, and the turret mountings were less susceptible to flooding and had a better firing arc than casemates. The space saved from combining the two types of guns added to simplification of supply, increased deck armour coverage, stowage of other equipment, more light anti-aircraft batteries, and other needs.Fact|date=March 2008

The Nelson class battleship, incorporating many concepts from the G3 battlecruiser, was the first design to include a dual-purpose secondary battery, useful against both surface and airborne attacks. Compared to light AA they had a slower rate of fire, but they had a greater range and sufficient punch to knock enemy planes out of the sky. This proved a crucial defense against Japanese kamikazes in the latter years of WWII. They could also fire into the sea to create waterspouts that slapped low-flying torpedo planes with tonnes of water. Battleships could mount many more of these DP batteries than cruisers or carriers.Fact|date=March 2008

German vessels such as the "Bismarck" class possessed dedicated secondary anti-ship batteries as well as dedicated heavy anti-aircraft batteries, rather than adopting the dual-purpose secondaries like the British or Americans. "Bismarck" for instance had a battery of twelve 5.9 inch (150 mm) cannon and another sixteen 4.1 inch (105 mm) battery was mounted to deal with air threats. The cannon could be used against ships only, as they could not be elevated to fire on high-level targets. This tended to complicate ammunition supplies, take up more space, and reduce the numbers of both guns (reducing the anti-ship "or" anti-aircraft broadside). The Imperial Japanese Navy suffered similar problems to the Germans', as their secondaries were too slow to track aircraft. [ [http://www.combinedfleet.com/127_50.htm Japanese Naval Ordnance (CombinedFleet.com)] ]

The Japanese even used the "San Shiki" (the Beehive) Model 13 anti-aircraft shell for the main gun armament of the Yamato class battleships, which would have in theory functioned as a super-sized "shotgun", though this was not considered a success. [ cite web|url=http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/academic/history/marshall/military/wwii/Japanese.navy/jap_yamoto_bat.txt |title=Jap Yamoto bat |accessdate=2007-10-15 |format=txt |publisher=Ibiblio.org ]

Armour

In the aftermath of the Battle of Jutland and post-WWI era, designers began drawing up armour schemes that protected against ordnance dropped by aircraft or submarines. The five ships of the American "Tennessee" and "Colorado" classes had considerably improved underwater hull protection over previous battleships, as the result of extensive experimentation and testing. The new class of Battleship was to include 40" of armored plating.Fact|date=February 2008 The proposed G3 battlecruiser was planned to incorporate a thoroughly tested torpedo defense scheme, which was later used in the "Nelson"-class. Not surprisingly, as many WWI battleships lacked such a protection system, they fared poorly against torpedoes, which in WWII were increasingly being delivered by submarines and aircraft.Fact|date=March 2008

Battleships had an armoured belt along the waterline. It was intended to stop shells that hit their sides and to prevent flooding by underwater explosions due to near misses. WWI battleship, German and Italian WWII battleships had lighter upper armoured belts to protect sides up to the main or weather deck. Main belt thickness along the waterline ranged from 10" to 15", upper belt thickness ranged from 4" to 10". Most ships of the WWII period had a sloped main belt (internal in some classes), to increase resistance to incoming shells; and no upper belt, to save weight. Thicknesses of belt armour ranged from 10" for "Strasbourg" class - large battlecruisers rather than pure battleships - or from 12" "South Dakota" and "Iowa" classes) to 16" ("Yamato" class). [Gardner 1980, pp.98-99] Gardner 1980, p.178]

WWI ships had a light upper armoured deck to protect the secondary guns and a main armoured deck whose sides sloped down to meet the lower edge of the belt, but their thickness was usually no more than 1.5", or 2" for the slopes. As soon as long-range engagements became common and aerial threats increased, crash programs to improve deck and turret roof protection started. US Navy "all-or-nothing" armour layout introduced a flat heavy armour deck, which abutted the upper edges of the armoured belt, and light armoured weather and lower decks: this design was used by all WWII ships except Reichsmarine units, that kept a heavier lower deck and a lighter upper deck. Main deck armour thickness ranged from 4" to 6" or even 9" for "Yamato" class, usually increased over magazines: lighter decks were 1.5" to 2" thick.

From the lessons of Jutland, the protection scheme incorporated a sophisticated torpedo defense system (TDS). [ [http://www.combinedfleet.com/b_underw.htm Best Battleship: Underwater Protection (CombinedFleet.com)] ] By adopting a turbo-electric drive, this allowed a wholesale rearrangement and close subdivision of the machinery spaces, while simultaneously narrowing them and permitting more space outboard for a layered system of voids, liquid-filled tanks and thin armored bulkheads. [ [http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-071.htm A Survey of the American "Standard Type" Battleship (navweaps.com)] ] By contrast, "thin-skinned" cruisers and carriers relied only on numerous compartments to prevent flooding from spreading. Some were upgraded with anti-torpedo blisters, though these were much inferior to the battleship's armoured belt. During Pearl Harbor, TDS and damage control counterflooding saved "West Virginia" from nine torpedo hits, while "Oklahoma", which lacked it, capsized after just three.Fact|date=March 2008

For the attack on Pearl Harbor the JNAF adapted 16" shells from Nagato class battleships into an aerial bomb specifically designed to penetrate the deck armour of the American battleships. It was one of these weapons, dropped from a Nakajima B5N level bomber, which resulted in the destruction of the USS Arizona. [Note: This weapon was called "800 kg armour-piercing bomb Type 99, No 80, Mark 5". The development of this bomb is described in "At Dawn We Slept". ] [Prange, Gordon W. "At Dawn We Slept: The untold story of Pearl Harbor". New York, USA: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981. ISBN 0-07-050669-8 p.161.]

During the attack on "Yamato", according to a PBS documentary, U.S. torpedo bombers were taught to aim for either the bow or the stern, where the protective belt did not extend. In order for torpedo planes to make their runs successfully, it was the job of fighters to strafe the battleship to suppress the AA guns, and for dive bombers to wreak havoc on the upper decks, destroying AA weapons and fire control systems. Pilots were also instructed to focus on one side of the ship, causing massive flooding which was difficult to counteract, leading to the ship capsizing. A bow hit was deadly, since the onrushing water from the battleship's high speed could wrench the hole open wider and collapse compartment bulkheads, which was why "Yamato"'s sister, "Musashi", foundered at Sibuyan Sea. [ [http://www.combinedfleet.com/eclipkong.html The Loss of Battleship KONGO: As told in Chapter "November Woes" of "Total Eclipse: The Last Battles of the IJN - Leyte to Kure 1944 to 1945". (CombinedFleet.com)] ] The stern attacks are best demonstrated by the cases of "Bismarck" and "Prince of Wales"; the rudders and screws were similarly vulnerable.Fact|date=March 2008

Fleet Air Arm planned to release their armour-piercing bombs from above a certain height in order to penetrate "Tirpitz"'s thick armour during Operation Tungsten. [ [http://www.combinedfleet.com/b_armor.htm Best Battleship: Armor (CombinedFleet.com)] ] As the British pilots did not release their ordnance from the optimal altitude, "Tirpitz" suffered extensive damage to her upperworks but her deck armour remained intact. [ [http://www.bismarck-class.dk/tirpitz/history/tiropertungsten.html Tirpitz: The History (www.bismarck-class.dk/tirpitz/history/tiropertungsten.html)] ] While the suicide air attacks—the so-called kamikaze—struck many U.S. battleships, none were seriously damaged due to their thick armor. "Kamikaze" were much more successful against lesser-armored ships. [Axell, Albert: "Kamikaze", pp. 205–213]

There were limits to the battleship's protection scheme, since it could not keep pace with the faster pace of developments in ordnance. For instance, the TDS in the "South Dakota" and "Iowa" battleships were designed to absorb the energy from an underwater explosion equivalent to 700 pounds (317 kg) of TNT — the Navy's best guess in the 1930s about Japanese weapons. But unbeknownst to U.S. Naval Intelligence, the Japanese 24-inch (60 cm) Type 93 torpedo, carried a charge equivalent to 891 pounds (405 kg) of TNT. And no amount of armour that could be practically incorporated would have saved the "Tirpitz" from the massive 12,000 lb (5.4t) Tallboys dropped by RAF Lancaster bombers during Operation Catechism. [Tamelander, Michael: "Slagskeppet Tirpitz"] [Jacobsen, Alf R.: "Dödligt angrepp"]

Coordination and waves

In a well-planned attack, fighter planes strafed the battleship to suppress the AA guns, while dive bombers used their armour-piercing bombs to cause topside damage and havoc. The fighters and dive bombers, however, were diversions in order to allow the torpedo planes to deliver their ordnance.Fact|date=March 2008

Battleships were able to sustain more punishment and had fewer vulnerable spots than cruisers and carriers, so it was difficult to rely upon scoring a critical hit (the cases of the "Bismarck" and "Prince of Wales" are considered exceptional). Instead, the way to defeat battleships was by attrition, inflicted accumulating damage, by overwhelming them with repeated waves of attacks. This is best demonstrated at the Battle of Leyte Gulf; at the Sibuyan Sea where the super-dreadnought "Musashi" eventually succumbed to her damage, after being beset by waves of U.S. carrier aircraft and with her being the primary focus of their attacks. The U.S. planes would have accomplished less if they spread out to attack the rest of the ships in Kurita's powerful force. By contrast, the October 24 air attack on Nishimura's southern pincer did little damage, even though both of his battleships were slow WWI-era dreadnoughts and his force had far fewer screening ships, as he only faced a single wave from U.S. carriers "Franklin" and "Enterprise".Fact|date=March 2008

Innovative Attacks

The Axis Powers implemented some unconventional methods. The Italians used with success their tested method of having frogmen delivering explosive charges to the ships, managing to severely damage HMS "Queen Elizabeth" and to a lesser extent HMS "Valiant" in the shallow waters of the harbor of Alexandria, putting "Valiant" out of action until mid-1942 and "Queen Elizabeth" until mid-1943. Other more or less successful Italian methods included manned torpedoes and small motor assault boats, which were filled with explosives, aimed at the target, sped up to full speed, while the pilot catapulted himself out from the dashing craft. [Taylor, A. J. P.: "1900-talet", p. 139]

The Germans developed a series of stand-off weapons, "e.g." the guided bomb Fritz X, which scored some early successes. On 9 September 1943, the Germans managed to sink the Italian battleship "Roma" and severely damage her sister ship, the "Italia", while they were underway to surrender. The first one hit "Roma" amidship between 90 mm AA gun mounts, piercing deck and side, then exploded, halving her speed; the other one hit above deck between turret #2 and the conning tower. It caused an explosion that threw the turret outboard and affected the boilers, starting a major fire that detonated the main magazines. 1,353 lives were lost; only 596 survivors, most badly burned, were rescued. Among those killed was the Italian Commander in Chief of Naval Battle Forces, Admiral Carlo Bergamini. One week later, the Germans scored another hit on the British battleship "Warspite". The bomb penetrated six decks before exploding against the bottom of the ship, blowing a large hole in her. The ship took in a total of 5,000 tonnes of water, lost steam (and thus all power, both to the ship herself and to all her systems), and had to be taken in tow. She reached Malta but was out of action for the next 12 months. [Ireland, Bernard: "Jane's War At Sea", pp. 190–191]

The British further developed their ability to sink battleships in harbour with minisubs and very heavy bombs dropped by strategic bombers. The last active German battleship, "Tirpitz", lurked until late into the war in Norwegian fjords protected by anti-submarine weapons and shore based anti-aircraft guns. She was severely damaged in September 1943 during Operation Source, a daring covert attack by British mini-subs. After several air strikes, including Operation Tungsten which was made with carrier aircraft, "Tirpitz" was finally sunk in harbour by RAF heavy bombers carrying massive tallboy bombs. During that action, codenamed Operation Catechism, two of the bombs penetrated her armour, one holing her portside and the other starting a fire that eventually detonated her magazines and blew off her Caesar turret, causing her to capsize and killing 1,000 of the 1,700 men aboard. [Tamelander, Michael: "Slagskeppet Tirpitz"] [Jacobsen, Alf R.: "Dödligt angrepp"]

Notes

References


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* Corbett, Sir Julian. "Maritime Operations In The Russo-Japanese War 1904–1905." (1994). Originally Classified and in two volumnes. ISBN 1-5575-0129-7.

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