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The Battleships Portal


The battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing its Mark 7 16-inch/50-caliber guns off the starboard side during a fire power demonstration.

A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. As they were the largest, best-armed and most heavily armored ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a nation's naval power from the late nineteenth century until World War II. With the rise of air power, notably aircraft carriers, battleships were no longer able to establish naval superiority, and so all have been withdrawn from active service. The related battlecruiser, a successor to the armored cruiser, shared the very large main armament, general size, and cost of a battleship of the same generation, but they traded armor or firepower for higher speed.

Battleship design evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge. The word battleship was coined around 1794 as a contraction of the phrase line-of-battle ship, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail. It came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, but these are now referred to as "pre-dreadnoughts". In 1906, the launch of HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design. Later designs that were influenced by this ship were referred to as "dreadnoughts". Battlecruisers were developed around this time by the British First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher. They were envisioned as being more effective armored cruisers, able to destroy any normal cruiser while being able to outrun any ships capable of sinking them.

By 1910, so-called "super-dreadnoughts" were entering service. In the four years between Dreadnought and the first super-dreadnoughts, the Orion class, displacement had increased by 25% and weight of broadside had doubled. Many battlecruisers and battleships of all varieties served in the First World War, most notably in the Battle of Jutland. None were built between the Nelsons of the early 1920s and the Dunkerques of the early 1930s due to various treaties, but quite a few battleships were constructed shortly before or during World War II. The last, HMS Vanguard, was commissioned just after the war, in 1946.

From this time on, most battleships and all battlecruisers were decommissioned and broken up. France's Jean Bart and Turkey's Yavuz were the last to be scrapped. However, members of the American Iowa class lasted until 1992 to aid troops with fire support; four were deployed in Korea, one in Vietnam, and two to Iraq. Nine battleships exist today as museum ships; eight from the United States, and Japan's Mikasa. (more...)

Selected article

Washington steaming at high speed in Puget Sound during post-overhaul trials, 10 September 1945

The North Carolina class was a series of two fast battleships, North Carolina and Washington, built for the United States Navy in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The navy was originally uncertain whether the ships should be fast enough to counter the Japanese Kongō class, which was believed by the United States to be capable of 26 knots (30 mph; 48 km/h), or should sacrifice speed for additional firepower and armor. The Second London Naval Treaty's requirement that all capital ships have a standard displacement of under 35,000 long tons (35,560 metric tons (t)) meant that the desired objectives could not be fully realized within the treaty limits, and the navy considered over fifty designs before one was chosen. Towards the end of this lengthy design period, the General Board of the United States Navy declared that it was in favor of design "XVI-C", which called for a speed of 30 knots (35 mph; 56 km/h) and a main battery of nine 14-inch (356 mm)/50 caliber Mark B guns. The board believed that such ships could fulfill a multitude of roles, as they would have enough protection to be put into a battle line while also having enough speed to escort aircraft carriers or engage in commerce raiding. However, the acting Secretary of the Navy authorized a modified version of a different design, "XVI", which in its original form had been rejected by the General Board. This called for a 27-knot (31 mph; 50 km/h) ship with twelve 14-inch rifles in quadruple turrets and protection against guns of the same caliber. In a major departure from traditional American design practices, "XVI" accepted lower speed and protection in exchange for maximum firepower. After construction had begun, the United States, concerned over Japan's refusal to commit to the caliber limit of the Second London Naval Treaty, invoked the "escalator clause" of that pact and increased the caliber of the class' main armament; nine 16-inch (406 mm)/45 Mark 6 caliber guns replaced the twelve 14-inch guns of the original design.

Read more about the North Carolina-class battleships • Archives

Selected biography

photograph of Rodman in the service uniform of an admiral, leaning against a railing during a fleet review in 1919.

Admiral Hugh Rodman, KCB, (6 January 1859 – 7 June 1940) was an officer in the United States Navy who served during the Spanish–American War and World War I. Graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1880, he served on the USS Yantic, Wachusett, Hartford, and Essex. After a tour at the Navy's hydrographic office and the United States Naval Observatory, he began a four year survey of the Alaskan and British Columbian coats in 1891. During the Spanish-American War, he served on USS Raleigh and fought in the Battle of Manila Bay, then returned to survey duties in 1899. From 1901 to 1904, he commanded USS Iroquois in Hawaiian waters, the transfered to the Asiatic Squadron to serve on USS New Orleans, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and commanded USS Elcano on the Yangtze Patrol.

After attending the Naval War College and acting as Lighthouse Inspector for the 6th Naval District from 1907 to 1909, he commanded the Sangley Point Navy Yard in Cavite, USS Cleveland, Mare Island Navy Yard, USS Connecticut (then flagship of the Atlantic Fleet), and USS Delaware in 1913. After duty as Marine Superintendent of the Panama Canal in 1914, he commanded USS New York (BB-34) and served on the General Board. Promoted to flag officer in 1917, he commanded Battleship Division 9 from New York and joined the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow to became the 6th Battle Squadron under Admiral Beatty and operated in the North Sea. After the war, he served with the Atlantic Fleet, until took command of the Pacific Fleet in July 1919, then the 5th Naval District from 1921 to 1922, with a mission to Peru as diplomatic envoy. After serving on an administrative policy board, he retired in 1923 at age 64. He continued to serve the Navy on various missions, such as accompanying President Harding on his ill-fated inspection of Alaska and attending King George VI's coronation.

The USS Rodman (DD-456) and USS Admiral Hugh Rodman (AP-126) were named for him.

Read more about Hugh Rodman • Archives


Selected picture

USS Colorado (BB-45) steams off lower Manhattan, circa 1932. The battleship had just undergone an overhaul, including the installation of new 5"/25 caliber anti-aircraft guns. She would later provide earthquake relief at Long Beach, California, search for Amelia Earhart, and fight in World War II.
Credit: National Museum of Naval Aviation photo

USS Colorado (BB-45) steams off lower Manhattan, circa 1932. The battleship had just undergone an overhaul, including the installation of new 5"/25 caliber anti-aircraft guns. She would later provide earthquake relief at Long Beach, California, search for Amelia Earhart, and fight in World War II.


Did you know?

Selected quote

During that battle, it's interesting that you have a preponderance on each side of their preferred weapon of choice. The Americans bring much heavier gun power to the fight [9 × 16in vs. 8 × 14in guns]; the Japanese, for their part, bring much heavier torpedo firepower, and yet in this particular fight the Japanese are not able to make that advantage in torpedoes tell.

—Jonathan Parshall, naval historian regarding the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal


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Operation Majestic Titan is the code name for a long-term Wikipedian project with two primary objectives, the first of which is to create the single largest featured topic on Wikipedia, centered around the battleships considered, planned, built, operated, canceled, or otherwise recorded. There are probably a few hundred articles of this nature which will be included, from the earliest pre-dreadnoughts to the last of the dreadnoughts. Once all articles are featured this project will reorient to ensuring that the articles remain up to standard. If you're interested, please view the project page to familiarize yourself with the guidelines, and simply pick an article to improve! There is also ongoing discussion you can participate in.

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