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Two Random Thoughts, and a Question About the Long Lance

Discussion in 'Ships & Shipborne Weaponry' started by F8F, Dec 11, 2014.

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  1. F8F

    F8F New Member

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    A few random thoughts about WW2 Naval warfare

    • I've sometimes wondered if it was spooky for sailors to serve on a ship where a bunch of guys had previously died - for example, the USS California or USS West Virginia after Pearl Harbor, HMS Illustrious after Operation Excess or HMS Exeter after River Plate, or IJN Shokaku after Coral Sea and Santa Cruz.

    • Man, the County class cruisers were ugly. I find pretty much every other heavy cruiser in the war - American, Japanese, French, Italian, or German - to be beautiful, especially in comparison. And most battleships were beautiful too, especially the QE2s, the Dunkerques, the Kongos, the Vittorio Venetos, the South Dakotas, and, especially, my favorites, the heavily reconstructed pre-1921 American BBs. I know that many people are fascinated by the heavyweight champs, Iowas and Yamatos, but I find them both relatively ugly, too.

    • It is my understanding that the Japanese Long Lance torpedo was a technological breakthrough, in terms of range, warhead size, and speed. And I believe that the US Navy had an intact copy in their hands in 1942 - and, if not then, then certainly by war's end in 1945. So, I am confused why post-war US torpedoes (and, I believe, other nation's too) had smaller warheads, slower speed, and less range than the Long Lance. Anyone know anything about this?
     
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    I would not call the Long Lance a breakthrough; its advantages stemmed from two things:

    It was larger. A 24" torpedo is about 50% larger than a 21", so even if the technology is identical, it will naturally have longer range, heavier warhead, etc. The British had 24.5" torpedos on Nelson and Rodney, and several German ships in WWI had 60cm/23.6".

    The use of pure oxygen rather than compressed air. This is just basic physics, known and available to anyone. Several navies experimented with oxygen torpedos in the interwar period but decided against using them due to the added danger of fire or explosion with pure oxygen. And indeed explosion of their own torpedos contributed to the loss of several Japanese warships including Mikuma, Furutaka, Suzuya, and Chokai. Suzuya is the most egregious example; fragments from a near-miss bomb struck her torpedos, causing explosions which ultimately doomed the ship.

    Extreme long range didn't do much for the Japanese, although it might have if we had been fighting full-scale battle line engagements. In the daylight phase of the Java Sea battle, they fired over one hundred torpedos for only one hit, and at the Kommandorski Islands 43 for 0.

    Postwar, the dominance of aircraft and radar, and later guided missiles, made ship-to-ship torpedo action less critical, so there was even less need to accept the hazards of oxygen torpedos.
     
  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    The only significant case of 'spooky' that comes to mind is from a account by a salvage diver who worked the Pearl Harbor wrecks, many of which still had remains aboard. He recounted that the partially articulated bones of decaying remains would 'tinkle' off his brass diving helmet, seemingly to grasp out to him. In other account just after battle there were too many things going on to dwell on it. No doubt however during down times moving about compartments where unexpected/unexplained noises occurred there might be speculation of ghost's

    The County Class ships were somewhat plain rather than ugly in my opinion, but I think understandable considering the need for so many Cruisers that the RN required to meet its obligations. Personally I found the Sharnhorst's the most elegant looking ships of the period. All the proportions seemed just right. The Iowa's really projected power and modernity, while the North Carolina's seemed 'squat' to me. Yamato seems a elegant design, if a little 'heavy' looking. Then again she was heavy!

    As for the Torpedo's, Takao as usual said it best.
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The Counties were a functional design, intended for prolonged cruising in distant waters, therefore emphasizing seakeeping and accommodations as much as fighting power - reminiscent of late 1800s cruisers like the Powerful class:

    [​IMG]

    They spent much of their WWII service in areas like the mid- or South Atlantic or Indian Ocean, while theaters like the Med were left mainly to smaller, newer ships like the Towns and Arethusas.
     
  5. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Now that's a ugly ship! :)
     
  6. F8F

    F8F New Member

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    Interesting analysis, Carronade, I appreciate the response. Everything you say makes sense and it answers my question.

    That said, I still don't understand why torpedoes even today, seventy years later, have smaller payloads, slower speed, and less range than the Long Lance. Perhaps it is the flammable oxygen propellant question that you mentioned. Or, as you say, ship to ship, or air to ship, torpedoes may not be important as they were in WW2. I believe however that air/ship to submarines torpedoes still are important. Perhaps a relatively small payload is enough to cripple a submerged submarine, I don't know.

    Also, the wikipedia article for Tassafaronga says, "The Americans were still unaware of the range and power of Japanese torpedoes and the effectiveness of Japanese night battle tactics. In fact, Wright claimed that his ships must have been fired on by submarines since the observed position of Tanaka's ships 'make it improbable that torpedoes with speed-distance characteristics similar to our own'".

    I think that the actual range was not so large that American/Brit/German/etc torpedoes wouldn't have also reached the American cruiser line from the Japanese destroyers firing points, but Tassafaronga does seem to be the poster child for the several early war instances where the power of the Long Lance was an unpleasant surprise for the USN.
     
  7. F8F

    F8F New Member

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    Many American military museum ships (Texas, Hornet, Midway, etc) let groups of schoolkids, families, and vets sleep overnight. And many/most of this ships have a reputation as being "haunted". Googling "USS Texas Haunted" pulls up ~30K hits, Hornet ~25K hits. Reports of hearing ghostly eerie footsteps and chain rattling, and feeling strange invisible presences, are common.

    But, without looking it up, I don't think that many sailors died in combat on those ships. This is in contrast with the Enterprise CV6, the ship in USN most deserving of memorializing, and its long list of casualties.
     
  8. F8F

    F8F New Member

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    Presumably all warships are designed with functionality in mind, and yet many of them also look elegant and beautiful. I curate several pinterest pages of pictures of warships 1910-1950, largely because of how much I enjoy looking at them. As ugly as the Counties look to me, I could spend an hour gazing at pictures of the Towns and Colonies.

    I didn't used to find pre-dreadnought BBs and armored/protected crusiers to be beautiful. But, reading more about WW1 naval history, and maybe the rise of the whole "steampunk" thing too, had me come around to appreciate their athetics. I still find most post-1960 ships to be unpleasant to look at.

    I agree that the lines and superstructures of the Twins were beautiful. I don't find them pleasant to look at, because of the distractingly small size of their main battery.

    Which brings up a pet peeve of mine - when people call the Twins "battlecruiser"s. A battlecruiser is a ship with battleship guns but with armor somewhere between a battleship and a cruiser. The Twins were the precise opposite.
     
  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well, let's see...

    The US Mk 48 submarine torpedo is superior to the Japanese "Long Lance" in every way - even though it does carry a smaller payload, it is roughly the equivalent of the "Long Lance", because it uses a more powerful explosive as it's payload.

    Since anti-ship missile have replaced the torpedo aboard modern warships; The AGM-84 ASM has 5 times more range, umpteen time more speed, but a smaller warhead(although residual fuel will burn adding to the damage done, but that will vary according to range.

    As to ASW torpedoes, range is not as important as you may think...For the simple fact, that if the submarine gets that close, you are probably already screwed. Hence, most surface ships rely on helicopters to persecute submarine contacts while the ships stands off at a safe distance. As to the smaller warhead, most ASW torpedoes use a shaped-charge warhead to penetrate the submarine hull, and let water pressure do the rest.


    What do you expect...It's Wikipedia, it is not cited, and it is wrong.

    Wright makes no such claim in his AAR,which is readily available online: http://destroyerhistory.org/assets/pdf/tf67_421130actionreport.pdf

    that his ships "must have been fired on by submarines." Wright states
    He only assumes the possibility that Japanese submarine may have been involved with
    But Wright is really rather clueless as to what he was facing, because he also assumes that he was facing four cruisers and four or five destroyers in the rear group. Now, given his belief that his forces inflicted heavy damage on the Japanese opposition(Wright claimed sinking two light cruisers and seven destroyers - which they didn't) and the fact that some of the Japanese destroyers were not spotted by the American forces...Wright could only hold these non-existant Japanese submarines or cruisers responsible for the torpedoing of the Pensacola and Northampton. Which he does with
    Well, given that the American destroyers did fire their torpedoes at the Japanese destroyers to open the battle, they did have the range to reach the Japanese. However, there is more to it than that. Wright's delay in giving permission to fire torpedoes meant that the torpedoes had to be fired on their slow speed setting, instead of their medium speed setting, to ensure that they would reach the Japanese. Unfortunately, by using the slow speed setting almost guaranteed a miss.
     
  10. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Look at some of the "USS Texas Haunted" websites...Many have nothing to do with the battleship being haunted. For example, the second site listed is for converting the battleship Texas for use in the RIFTS roleplaying game
    http://www.kitsune.addr.com/Rifts/Rifts-Earth-Vehicles/Ghost_Vehicles/Ghost_USS_Texas.htm
    Others have little actual information at all.
    http://richardsenate-ghosthunter.tumblr.com/post/26719824421/many-ships-of-the-usn-are-haunted-battleships
    While still others have absolutely nothing to do with the USS Texas(BB-35), but USS Texas(CGN-39)
    http://scotthaefner.com/beyond/mothball-fleet-ghost-ships/
    Several just speculate if the ship is haunted.
    http://netcookingtalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-21782.html
    Only very few are actually concerned with proof that the battleship is haunted.
    http://www.khou.com/story/news/2014/07/11/11297842/
     
  11. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    I always found the Counties to be beautiful ships, as they had the uncluttered look of the early-mid 1920s warships.
    [​IMG]
    But since you appear to like designs that exude power, I would think you would love the County class HMS London
    [​IMG]

    Now, IMNSHO, the Towns look quite ugly and out-of-sorts, very aesthetically unpleasant . I mean, look at that gap between the superstructure and first stack...What is up with that...Did the Brits forget something and then have to add it in at the last minute.
    [​IMG]

    Thankfully, that was corrected in the later Colony class.


    Most post 1960 warships are...For me it is the lack of guns, they just don't look all that powerful. Further, most seem to have a fragile look about them...one sneeze and they are going to sink.

    That being said, I recently came across this photo of the Type 42, HMS Edinburgh and found her to look quite fetching...Nice and sleek
    [​IMG]


    The main battery is in proportion to the rest of the ship...I find them to look rather graceful
    [​IMG]
    if you did not already know the caliber of her main battery, you would be hard-pressed to say exactly what it was from photos showing the entire ship.


    The "Twins" are, or were, battlecruisers, by dint of their 11-inch main guns. Even the German WW1 battlecruisers of the Derfflinger class had 12-inch guns and the earlier German battlecruisers carried 11-inch main guns.

    "A battlecruiser is a ship with battleship guns but with cruiser-ish armor." is only the British(Jacky Fisher's) interpretation of the idea. In the main, German World War I battlecruisers carried battleship armor, at the cost of reduced caliber main guns and a slightly lower top speed than British battlecruisers.

    As always, what the "Twins" were has always been a point of contention.
     
  12. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I live in South East Texas and had the the pleasure of touring USS Texas twice, once in 1981 and again around 2005. (to be fair calling a tour of a massive steel ship with limited ventilation during the late August summer of South Texas might be a bit of a stretch as I did in 1981. My second visit was in the Fall!)

    The Texas is moored at a 90% angle, with her aft facing the Houston ship channel. The Channel is a major artery from the Gulf to the Port of Houston and during any visit you will see several medium to large cargo vessels transiting the channel. Each time the Texas rock's back and forth slightly from ship wakes hitting the Aft of the ship. Notice the pilings to either side of the center hull. They attach by cables to the ship and periodically you can here them adjust the ship after a large wake hits the ship. This is I suppose to act in lieu of a anchor to keep her in proper position.

    There are also ventilation tubes running through and into the ship itself.Throw in the odd fan and you have a host of completely normal sounds that can seem spooky when in some out of the way and cramped spot. There is one ladder right up against a aft Barbette that requires a fair degree of agility to use is you are not as svelte as a 20 year old sailor! There is near constant work being done to keep her in shape, so equipment for repairs are almost always present.

    Then there is the heat. The ship literally bakes during half the year and no doubt for those staying overnight listening to the pops and pings as the this massive steel ship cool's off during the night would certainly work upon someone's imagination.

    In the near future they plan to seal the opening into her berth and fill it with earth. This is a shame, but probably necessary to save her long term. This will, however, eliminate some of the natural ship noises that may be mistaken for apparitions.

    I won't say there are no ghost's aboard her, but if there they seem content to have the decedents of those they fought for come for a visit their home.
     

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  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! As a boy I made the Airfix a plastic model of a county class ship - sold now as HMS Suffolk. I thought it was a very elegant ship compared to many other .

    I knew a man who had served on the Exeter at the River Plate as a stoker.. He is dead now so I canpt put that question to him. He was a regular at his local pub and told lots of "dits." He talked of their respect for the Exeter's captain, and lack of respect for Harwood He told of how Churchiill stole his matches - borrowed from him and not returned at the Guild,Hall. lunch for the crews of the Exeter, Ajax and Achillies in n1940. He told of being arrasted in Archange;l for trying to steal a toaster from the wreck of a US merchentman. He told of runs ashore in the Med with the crew dressed as pirates . But he never mentioned any jinx or any qualms about sailing on her.

    Bratty was lucky and posted to a different ship and missed the Java sea. .
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    By the end of the war USN torpedoes were as powerful as the early long lances. During the war the USN certainly had little incentive to try and deploy a 24" torpedo when all their ships, subs, and aircraft were designed for 21" or less ones. Long range without guidance turned out not to be worth much. Indeed the IJN sunk several IJA transports because if it. There was also a tendency and try to use that range which usually resulted in wasting the torpedoes which weren't cheap. Post war there were guided missiles that could considerably out range torpedoes as well.

    That's not a particularly good definiton of a battlecruiser. The original British BC did sacrifice armor (although some sacrificed fire power as well) to gain a speed advantage over battleships. German BCs on the other hand tended to sacrifice firepower (and perhaps armor to a lesser extent) for the same speed advantage.

    Except there guns were in many ways the equal of at least the WWI erra battleship guns.
    One also has to consider that there was a change in what was considered an accepteble speed for post WWI battleships. It went from the low 20knot range to mid or high 20 knot range. Using the British defintion one can even make a strong case for the Iowas being battlecruisers. On the other hand the Germans consider the twins to be "Shlachtshiffe" i.e battleships. The British used both terms for them I believe. I personally will go with the owning countries defintion but might rate them as 2nd class battleships by World War 2 standards. Note that the US never built "2nd class" battleships but did rerate older ones to that distinction. I'd place Dunkirque and Strassburg in that class as well.
     
  15. dude_really

    dude_really Doesn't Play Well With Others

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    Nice thread here.

    But regarding the "Type 42, HMS Edinburgh"... of Takao..my god it looks sleek and smart, but effectively it misses a whole lot of superstructure on the midship/ front deck... meaning thus, its bow can be made much shorter (and thus cheaper) than it is .
    More "essentials" of below deck to the superstructure and the whole ship could be made shorter and thus cheaper (and thus more powerful propulsion).

    In short a NOT EFFICIENT design.
     
  16. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Now, IMNSHO, the Towns look quite ugly and out-of-sorts, very aesthetically unpleasant . I mean, look at that gap between the superstructure and first stack...What is up with that...Did the Brits forget something and then have to add it in at the last minute.
    [​IMG]

    Thankfully, that was corrected in the later Colony class.

    In fairness, the gap only pertained to the last pair of Towns, Belfast and Edinburgh, which for some reason had the 4" ammunition spaces located forward of the boiler and engine rooms; this meant that ammunition had to be moved up to 140' to serve the gun mounts. It also put the funnels distinctly further aft. The earlier Towns were more normal looking, as in this photo of Sheffield:

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    In fact they tried that, and it was not successful. The original Type 42 concept was like Edinburgh, but it was shortened by about 40', which turned out to negatively affect the ships' seakeeping. Batch 3 including Edinburgh restored the length and were better seaboats. The added interior volume also allowed them to carry more Sea Dart missiles, 40 vice 22 in the shorter ships.
     
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  18. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    must agree here that long range was not 'normal'/didn't do much....a lot of the 'torpedo' battles--Solomon Islands actions were night time, so close at times big boy guns couldn't aim at the tincans....with longer range, more error probability??
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If a target subtends an arc of 1 degree at a range of x it subtends an arc of half of a degree at .5*x. There for it's effectivly a smaller target. Furthermore it takes more time for the torpedo to get there and since the torpedos aren't moving a whole lot faster than the ships even a minor course change is enough to insure the torpedo will miss. Longer range also makes target id, target speed, and target course more difficult to estimate which makes the solution less sure as well.

    Reading Neptune's Inferno I have come to wonder if the miss ID'ing of the two US BB resulted in neither of them getting hit by Long Lances. As they were ID'd as older US battleships this likely messed up both the range and course and speed estimates. Washington for instance would have been thought to have been further away and thus the torpedos would have a longer run and aimed ahead of her. This is consistent with her escorting DD's which were leading all being hit and Washington being missed. Washington may even have been ID'd as a cruiser at that point. SoDak was ID'd as one of the standards I beleive.
     
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  20. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Unlikely, considering, in the opening engagement of the van forces, the US destroyers were some 5,000+ yards ahead of the US battleships, and from every source I have read on the subject, the US battleships had not been spotted at this point. Although, previous Japanese air reconnaissance had spotted the two US battleships with a US carrier, thus, the Japanese believed they were only facing cruisers and destroyers. And, probably why the Japanese claimed some of the American destroyers as cruisers.

    Therefore, the only torpedo attacks against the US battleships would have come from the Japanese heavy cruisers Atago & Takao, and the destroyers Asagumo & Teruzuki. Here the Atago did fairly well, identifying one North Carolina battleship and one Idaho class battleship. Asagumo has also identified the American battleships as two "new type" battleships. Now, as to who launched torpedoes at whom, several sources vary greatly...some say all four Japanese ships fired torpedoes, some say three(Atago, Takao, and Asagumo), while other say two(Atago and Takao). Their targets also vary between only South Dakota or South Dakota and Washington.

    About the only thing that the many sources agree on, although unstated as such, is that this battle was on gigantic Charlie Foxtrot.
     

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