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The Great War Superdreadnoughts in WWII

Discussion in 'Ships & Shipborne Weaponry' started by MastahCheef117, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. MastahCheef117

    MastahCheef117 Member

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    Of the many capital ships that served the navies of the nations that participated in the Second World War, an excess of thirty six (thirty seven if the USS Utah is included) super dreadnoughts and battlecruisers had served during or had been built during the course of the First World War. I have compiled a list of the battleships of this category that served during the war (of the major combatants; note that I might have missed several ships, but this is just a general list I compiled in a short amount of time):

    Japan (10)
    • IJN Fuso
    • IJN Yamashiro
    • IJN Kongo
    • IJN Haruna
    • IJN Hiei
    • IJN Kirishima
    • IJN Nagato
    • IJN Mutsu
    • IJN Ise
    • IJN Hyuga
    United Kingdom (13)

    • HMS Queen Elizabeth
    • HMS Warspite
    • HMS Valiant
    • HMS Mayala
    • HMS Barham
    • HMS Revenge
    • HMS Royal Sovereign
    • HMS Resolution
    • HMS Ramillies
    • HMS Royal Oak
    • HMS Hood
    • HMS Repulse
    • HMS Renown
    Italy (4)

    • RN Conte di Cavour
    • RN Giulio Cesare
    • RN Andrea Doria
    • RN Caio Duilio
    United States (11/12)

    • USS New York
    • USS Texas
    • USS Nevada
    • USS Oklahoma
    • USS Pennsylvania
    • USS Arizona
    • USS New Mexico
    • USS Mississippi
    • USS Idaho
    • USS Arkansas
    • USS Wyoming
    • USS Utah*
    *Repurposed as a mobile target in 1931

    All of these warships were ordered/laid down shortly before/during World War I as super-dreadnoughts/battlecruisers, and were finished either during the war or very shortly thereafter (I excluded the Tennessee and Colorado class battleships as they were commissioned at least 3 years after the war's end).

    My main question is this: other than forming as reserves (in the cases of several US battleships, and most of the Queen Elizabeth & Revenge classes) and being destroyed outright (many other US battleships at Pearl), what purpose did these ships serve other than paper strength? And this would be excluding the Battle of Surigao Strait, and bombardments at D-Day and some Pacific Islands. I am also curious as to how the four Italian dreadnoughts were handled throughout the war, as well as what they did (if they did anything at all, anyway).
     
  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Until the outbreak of war, and really until Pearl Harbor in the minds of nearly all politicians and a good number of military men the Carrier was still unproven much as armor was on land. You go with what you know until it slaps you up side the head.
     
  3. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The Naval war isn't really my 'thing', but I'd never thought of the QE class as 'paper strength' during WWII ? I'd somehow got the idea that Warspite, Barham and Valiant saw Fleet action in the Mediterranean ( where Barham was lost ) ?
     
  4. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    If you include Utah you should include HMS Iron Duke as well.
    The four Italian ships were not real super dreadnoughts, they started life as 12" battleships and most were commisioned before Italy's entry in WW1. The 1937 to 1939 conversion was radical but still didn't put them on a par with their larger opponents especially as the guns were the original ones relined to 320mm by removing some of the wiring that gave strength to the the tube. In June 1940 Cesare and Cavour were the only operational Italian BBs the just completed Doria, Duilio and the new Littorio and Vittorio Veneto were still training, so it was up to them facinfg te RN and French navy during the early months. They were relegated to second line duties as the newer ships came on line, after the Taranto damage Cavour repairs had very low priority and she was never recommissioned.
    [​IMG]
    Cavour in 1943.

    Of the ships you listed the four Kongo, the five Queen Elisabeth, and the 3 British battlecruisers had a pretty active employment, the others were more a "reserve" as their slow speed was a big operational limitation. (Sommerville had a lot of bad things to say about his 4 "R" class when facing Nagumo (that BTW had the four Kongo) in the Indian ocean.
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well, the Tennessee and Colorado classes should be included in the list. After all, the HMS Hood was placed in commission only 19 days before the USS Tennessee, and the IJN Nagato would not be placed in commission until several months after her. The USS Maryland was commissioned 3 months earlier than IJN Mutsu. Commissioning dates aside, the Tennessee and Colorado classes were still designed during World War I and laid down during World War I.

    In the Pacific, at least, the battleships were intended to do much of the fighting. The Japanese & US strategies all centered around their battleships fighting "Jutland" style major actions. That is, until Yamamoto turned everything on it's head in 1941. He tossed the decades-old "decisive battle" plan in the garbage can, in favor of a massive surprise carrier assault on Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, the US still clung to it's battleships as their major fighting power in the Pacific. Only after the loss of the battle fleet at Pearl Harbor, did the USN switch over to the carrier as the Navy's primary, read - only remaining, offensive force.

    It is also worth mentioning, had it not been for the "Great Depression", the vast majority of the ships would not have been around by 1939-41. Beginning in 1934, they would have been scrapped and replaced by new construction under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. However, the "battleship" nations did not have the cash to finance the massive rebuilding plans necessary to start replacing the "old" battleships.

    You can find links to the replacement tables toward the bottom of this page:
    CONFERENCE ON THE LIMITATION OF ARMAMENT, 1922.
     
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  6. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    I'd somehow got the idea that Warspite, Barham and Valiant saw Fleet action in the Mediterranean ( where Barham was lost )

    Quite right, the older ships were quite active. Just from memory, at least 14 of the 37* ships listed engaged in surface combat in WWII, as did four of the American "Big Five". Comparable figures for modern battleships would be about 12 of 28. This omits engagements with ships in harbor and incidents like Scharnhorst and Gneisenau declining to engage convoys escorted by old battleships.

    * Wyoming should be omitted along with Utah, she was also converted to a training ship after the London treaty of 1930.

    Only two US battleships were permanently lost at Pearl Harbor, the other three which settled on the bottom were repaired and returned to service. There was even talk of restoring Oklahoma after she was raised, but even if that had been feasible she was of little value at that point.

    Most of the older ships were modernized to varying degrees between the wars; the most thoroughly reconstructed ones like Valiant were comparable to modern ships in most respects other than speed. Indeed there was a significant difference in capabilities between ships like Valiant and their less modernized 'sisters' like Barham.
     
  7. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    USS Arkansas, Wyoming and Utah were no super-dreadnoughts. That term was coined for BB with guns larger that 12". The first US 'supers' were New York and Texas. To answer your question. For decades the only weapon system that could sink a BB was another BB. That only changed in the second half of the 1930 when warplanes really ‘took off’ in a manner of speaking. It´s true that the Pacific War turned out to be a carrier war but in the Med and the Atlantic, British, Italian and German battleships were very actice for much of the war.
     
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  8. scipio

    scipio Member

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  9. Victor Gomez

    Victor Gomez Ace

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    It is kind of a self building conclusion that our Naval ships and armament were not just strength on paper if you consider that certainly there was little detection of enemy on our shores in the course of this war, and most of our troops/equipment succeeded overseas at an extremely high number of different locations around the world. This is due to many factors such as Naval and Air strength combined with increasingly fast wartime industries. I would also point out that although many ships were WWI designs....our wartime production chose a very old design for the Liberty Ships that hauled many cargos and men....old steam engine designs received steam turbine instead that were very economical for their day, some staying in service into the 1970's.
     
  10. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    AFAIK the only two Dreadnoughts sunk at sea by enemy action in WW1 were the Austrian Szent Istvan by an Italian MTB and HMS Audacious by a mine (I count the Austrian/Yougoslav Viribus Unitis by Italian frogmen as really post war and she was moored at the time of the attack). 3 more were lost to accidental explosions/sabotage.
     
  11. freebird

    freebird Member

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    All the British WWI ships except Royal Oak had important roles in the war, although not always glamorous.

    The WWI era BBs were as important as the aircraft carriers in the battle of the Med

    The QE's formed the bulk of the British power in the Med, and were critical in preventing the Axis from establishing control over the central Med.
    Resolution fought against the French in both Dakar & Mers-El-Kebir
    Ramillies participated in Spartivento, bombarded Bardia & Capuzzo in Libya.
    Renown had an exchange with Sharnhorst & Gneisnau during the Norway operations.
    All of the old "R" ships were invaluable as convoy escorts, and there were several instances where Axis capital ships declined attacking convoys after seeing that they had battleship escort.

    The Italian dreadnaughts were important to the RM as they basically had only 1 modern ship operational at a time from the attack at Taranto until the spring of '42.
    They were however hampered by the lack of fuel, and a rather cautious leadership of the top brass, compared to the aggressive stance of the Royal Navy
     
  12. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    that 26,000-yard hit by the warspite on the guilio cesare (in world war 2 that is) co-holds the long range erecord with the scharnhorst. it's like two grumpy old men fighting and one suddenly does a joe frazier left hook or a mike tyson uppercut.
     
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  13. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Although old, both Warspite and Guilio Cesare had been extensively reconstructed just a few years earlier, including upgrades to their guns and turrets and state-of-the-art gunfire control systems. Thoroughly modernized ships were in most respects comparable to new ones. 26,000 yards was a long range for any ship to score a hit, but no more remarkable for Warspite than for Scharnhorst or any other.
     
  14. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    ... HMS Centurion. She had served as a target ship, but was rebuilt to resemble a KGV to fool the Italians, convoyed to Suez where she remained for AA protection (the Canal had been mined and closed several times). While not "Superdreadnought's, the Erebus Class monitors had busy wars, from serving as AA protection for Valletta's Harbour, Malta when Italy declared war, to shelling French invasion ports in the late summer of 1940.

    Also, you completely forgot the French:

    The 2 surviving Courbet Class ships (Courbet & Paris) provided fire support against the invading Germans before escaping to the UK, where they were "seized", provided AA protection for Portsmouth. Paris became an HQ/barracks ship for the Polish Navy, Courbet became part of a Mulberry breakwater, Paris was returned to France. A 3rd ship, the hulked Jean Bart (senior, so to speak), was captured by the Germans. NOTE - Courbet & Paris were available to counter Seelöwe, if required.

    The 3 Bretagne Class ships; Bretagne, Provence & Lorraine served much like the RN's R's & older QE's until the Fall of France. The first 2 were sunk by Force H at Mers-el-Kebir (Provence was raised, repaired then scuttled at Toulon). Lorraine was demilitarised in Alexandria with the rest of Force X, but was Recommissioned by the Free French to serve in several shore bombardment roles.
     
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  15. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    i'm also curious about the USS new mexico class. slow but armored like hell and armed with 12 14-inch guns. that's a mean ship.
     
  16. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The American "standard type" battleships - Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Colorado classes - were the most advanced ships of their age, introducing the "all or nothing" protection scheme which became almost universal in capital ships thereafter. They were "post-Jutland" ships although designed five years before the battle, with a continuous 3-3.5" armored deck over their vitals.

    Within the group, changes were incremental. The Pennsylvanias stepped up from ten to twelve guns and were about 4000 tons larger than the Nevadas. The New Mexicos probably had the most significant changes within the type; 14"/50 vice 45 caliber guns, mounted individually whereas the earlier ships had two/three on one slide, clipper bow, deck armor increased to 3.5", and secondary armament relocated from the hull to the superstructure. NM herself pioneered turbo-electric drive, which was installed in the following classes and in ships cancelled under the Washington Treaty. The Colorados changed from twelve 14"/50 to eight 16"/45, which had the same total weight of metal but better armor penetration.

    In the 1920-30s the classes began to be modernized, in the order they had been built, but the depression intervened before the "Big Five" - Tennessee/Colorados - could be done. This left the New Mexicos the most modern of their generation. Their 1931-34 reconstruction included a new-style tower superstructure and the Mark 31 gunfire control system; they were the first to get it, so it was state of the art at that time.

    The standard type arrived at a time when construction of capital ships, including armored cruisers, exhausted the available state names. Thus several of them were named for the newest states of the Union. That was still not sufficient, so the "Big Ten" armored cruisers had to renamed, for cities within the respective states, for example USS Pennsylvania became USS Pittsburgh and the new battleship took the name. The "Big Five" also had recycled "Big Ten" names.
     
  17. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Showing my ignorance on Capital ships...Wasn't HMS Furious a one too?
     
  18. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Fisher designated Furious and her half-sisters Glorious and Courageous "large light cruisers" in order to get around Parliament's reluctance to fund new capital ships, but they are usually referred to as battle cruisers or by the unique term light battle cruisers and listed in the capital ship section of most references. "Large light cruiser" was actually not a bad term for them; there were at the time no size-based or gun-caliber definitions of "cruiser" as there would be in the interwar treaty era, their construction and 3" armor were like a light cruiser, and their engines were two sets of C class machinery.

    "Battle cruiser" covers a multitude of sins, and these could be the best examples. Their conversion to aircraft carriers was the best thing from both naval and nomenclature viewpoints.
     
  19. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    so, was there a jutland veteran who managed to fire a shot in battle after 1939?
     
  20. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    HMS Warspite.......

    ( and what a shot - one of the longest-ever recorded ship-to-moving-target hits on the battleship Giulio Cesare at the Battle of Calabria - 26,000 yds )
     

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