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US 'new' Battleships at D-Day

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by scott livesey, Sep 25, 2018.

  1. scott livesey

    scott livesey Member

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    The question is why were no US 16" battleships at Normandy. 16"/45 and 16"/50 naval guns could have made contributions firing either a 2700 pound armor piercing or 1900 pound bombardment round accurate at 20+ miles. The ships that could do this were not off Normandy, they were on the other side of the world off Saipan. I think all answers went to the grave with King, Marshall and Arnold. They were the ones determined what assets were available to theater commanders.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    With Tirpitz out of the way there was no opposing battleships left in the Atlantic. Not so for the Pacific. The fast battleships were also useful in a secondary role escorting carriers. Even in the Pacific it was the older battleships that conducted most of the naval gun fire support and not the newer ones. Note that there were some older 16" armed standards included in that although they couldn't use the super heavy AP rounds.
     
  3. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The new generation battleships rarely engaged in shore bombardment even in the Pacific; they were almost always attached to the fast carrier task force. The carrier force was our primary weapon for engaging the main Japanese fleet whenever it came out to fight, as it did in response to the invasion of Saipan, and it was still considered that battleships might play a role. The battle line, TG 58.7, was organized for this purpose during the Marianas battle, and the employment of the fast battleships as Task Force 34 was a key issue in the battle of Leyte Gulf. The modern BBs also made a considerable contribution to the carrier forces' antiaircraft firepower.

    Direct support of the landing forces was reserved for the older battleships. Effective naval gunfire support requires considerable training and practice and was best carried out by ships and crews that specialized in the role (by the same token, CVE air groups which trained for and conducted close air support for amphibious forces were more effective in that role than the fast carriers).

    Within the old battleship category, the Navy still considered the Pacific priority 1. The three 16" guns ships of that generation (Colorado class) were all in the Pacific, as were the most extensively modernized ships, West Virginia (Colorado class) and her half-sisters California and Tennessee; in fact their reconstruction after Pearl Harbor increased their beam to 114', too wide to pass through the Panama Canal. The Atlantic/European theater got the four oldest BBs, Nevada, Texas, New York, and Arkansas.

    Ironically the old BBs fought the last big-gun battle of the war, and of history, at Surigao Strait.

    Using the fast battleships at Normandy would have meant taking them away from the Pacific for several months at the time when the biggest naval battles of the war were impending. In addition to transit time, they would have to conduct extensive training for the shore bombardment role, particularly if they were going to continue providing support once our troops were ashore. Against this we should consider how many targets there were that could be engaged by their guns but could not be by 12" or 14" or the 15- and 16" guns of the British battleships present.
     
  4. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Besides, the old BB's did just fine. If you read the German accounts, these "small" shells were a total terror. No infantry bunker or tank could withstand them. Air attack mostly ceased after sundown, not so artillery. To get away from these monsters the Germans would have to pull back so far that they'd often be out of the protective Bocage and stretched much thinner than they already were, guaranteeing an earlier Allied breakthrough. Therefore, they just had to hunker down and take it.
     
  5. scott livesey

    scott livesey Member

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    Could new battleships contribute? yes. Would they be allowed to contribute? no, they were King's toy and he was not going to share. New battleships could place bombardment shells 50% larger than the old ships and AP shells 75% larger than old ships up to 3 miles farther. the ships already had the training in firing, a stationary target would be a gift. 2 or 3 ships of NC or SD class would not make difference in the carriers' AA screen. The ships to clear mines were in theater. After June '44, every warship larger than a DD left for other places. Again, King did not want to share his toys with the Atlantic theater just as Arnold did not want to share aircraft with Kenney in the Pacific.
     
  6. EKB

    EKB Member

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    Cost / benefit? There are less expensive ways to knock out a random tank or bunker.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The Colorado class fired the same HE shells that the new battleships and the burster of the 14" guns is about 2/3 what's in the 16" HE shells. Admitedly the Texas for instance had an even smaller burster but she has 14 guns compared to 8 or 9 for the 16" armed ships so not that much difference in throw weight. Is the weight of the round really that important to take ships that might be needed in the Pacific and really weren't in the Atlantic?. AP was of pretty limited use in shore bombardment. Some of the old battleships got very good reputations for fire support as well. I Mississippi for instance wore out several sets of gun tubes from what I recall reading.
     
  8. scott livesey

    scott livesey Member

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    Aircraft don't have the accuracy or quantity. We could fill pages with stories of 'friendly' bombing. Would not be used to remove random tank or bunker, but to eliminate enemy concentrations before an attack. All naval gunfire should really be in discussion, a St. Louis class CL, could easily put 100 6" rounds(a little heavier with same range as 155mm gun) a minute on target. Again, King's toys and few if any deployed to Atlantic.
    It seems there was a behind the scenes battle. King wanting more to Pacific while Churchhill, Marshall and Arnold wanted "Germany first'.
     
  9. EKB

    EKB Member

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    Naval gunfire could be just as un-friendly.

    A short round from HMS Glasgow landed next to the Rangers command post at Pointe du Hoc. Two men were killed including Capt. Jonathan Harwood of 293rd ASC (naval shore fire-control party). Lt. Colonel Rudder and another man were wounded.
     
  10. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Um, from the Deck Log of Texas, "At 1223 commenced firing direct fire on new target [pill boxes and snipers at Exit D-1 at Vierville-sur-Mer] at range of 3000 yards expending 6 rds 14"/45 cal HC and 11 rds 5"/51 cal HC."

    The only problem? At that time the only target there to receive those rounds was BG Cota and the men of the 2d and 5th Rangers and 116th Infantry he had led over the bluffs east of D-1 to attack the German positions from the rear. They were very impressed by Texas's bombardment. :D
     
  11. scott livesey

    scott livesey Member

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    minor issues really. you read American unit histories, friendly fire by air happened almost daily if not hourly. Again, a what-if as King would not allow deployment of any USN first team assets to Atlantic. At the same time, except for transport and ASW, Marshall and Arnold had no use for USN, USMC, or any 'lessons learned' by MacArthur and his crew. Reading all the upper level(Joint Chiefs, Armor vs. Anti-tank, YB-40 vs. NA_73 Mustang) nonsense that went on, I am still a little surprised we won. Maybe it was a case of who made the last and biggest mistake.
     
  12. EKB

    EKB Member

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    Government surveys don't give proof that stray aircraft bombs were a greater hazard than stray artillery shells.

    Exposure of infantry to naval fire was brief and limited to number of tubes and range of guns. Battleships could not follow the troops inland so there is no comparison to the weight of sustained fire delivered by field artillery and air forces.

    http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a278291.pdf
    http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.261.1513&rep=rep1&type=pdf
    http://www.airforcemag.com/DocumentFile/Documents/2005/Fratricide_OTA_060193.pdf
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    That's not quite right. Mass was involved in Torch. I'm pretty sure a couple of the fast battleships were based in Britain for at least part of the time that Tirpitz was considered a problem. One of the big CL's played a prominent role during the invasion of Sicily as well. The new battleships and indeed what you seem to be calling the "first team" wasn't needed that badly in the Atlantic and it was in the Pacific.
     
  14. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Good discussion but one correction, Texas had (and has) ten 14". Arkansas had twelve 12". The only battleship since ironclad days with 14 main guns was HMS Agincourt of WWI, ex- Sultan Osman I, ex-Rio de Janeiro, with 12".

    Another oddity was the five Italian battleships with thirteen 12", three triple turrets (one amidships), two twins. Four triples would probably have been just as effective, but the midships turrets "proved their worth" when they were removed during reconstruction, allowing more space for boilers and engines to increase speed from 23 to 27 knots.

    As you say, the older battleships and cruisers that specialized in NGFS were very effective. There's more to it than just sending a ship to D-Day.
     
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  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Not sure where I got the 14 from. I wish I could claim it was a typo. :)
    Thanks for the correction.
     
  16. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Yep. We might note that Torch was at the same time the Guadalcanal campaign was reaching its peak. SoDak and Alabama spent a couple of months with the Home Fleet while the majority of Britain's best battleships were supporting the invasion of Sicily, which was soon followed by the surrender of Italy and its battle fleet.

    USS Washington helped escort several Russian convoys in the 1942, including the ill-fated PQ-17. Iowa also did a brief stint with the British and transported President Roosevelt across the Atlantic for the Cairo and Tehran conferences.

    The primary mission of our first-line battleships was to confront their Axis counterparts. They were only deployed in European waters when there was a possibility of such action.

    CAs Wichita, Tuscaloosa, and Augusta were at Torch; the latter two also at D-Day along with the new Quincy. Augusta was of four CAs built with expanded flag facilities and spent the entire war in the Atlantic, including Torch, Overlord, and Dragoon and transporting FDR several times.

    CLs Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Savannah were at Torch and subsequent operations. Boise, which spent most of the war in the Pacific, was at Sicily. New CL Cleveland was in Torch and Birmingham in Husky.

    In 1942-43 we sent eighteen heavy and light cruisers into surface battles with the Japanese. Every one was sunk or crippled. The first division of Clevelands, the ones which fought the battle of Empress Augusta Bay, were most welcome.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
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  17. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Well, there was a 14 in there somewhere :)
     
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    There was little difference at the target end between the 16" shells of the latest US Battleships and those of the USS Arkansas Texas and Nevada - or for that matter the British 16" shell from HMS Nelson or Rodney or a 15" shell from HMS Warspite or Ramillies.

    Accuracy is a relative concept. 16" naval guns have a zone, like any other gun, with cigar shaped dispersion in range and azimuth. It took a lot of rounds and time or luck to hit a target as small as an anti tank or machine gun bunker.

    There were far too many targets to be engaged by battleships. Each of the beaches assaulted on D Day was defended by between five and fifteen platoon sized defensive position each containing somewhere between five and ten firing positions with most of the heavy weapons and half of the machine guns behind concrete.

    The Battleships did make a difference. Their part of the fireplan was to silence the coastal batteries that would otherwise sink the invasion fleet. These were the high priority targets. The field positions were subject to drenching fire from smaller warships.

    The fireplan worked. The seaborne assault succeeded on every beach assaulted. Casualties were a fraction of the worst case, and within expectations of an assault on prepared defences.

    ....and the latest US Battleships were available for the Pacific campaign where surface action was a likely scenario.
     
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  19. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The wiki article on HMS Rodney credits her with bombarding 22 miles inland, although she would practically have to have run onto the beach to do so:

    HMS Rodney (29) - Wikipedia

    I recall reading Paul Carell's Invasion! They're Coming! A long time ago, which mentioned gunfire from HMS Rodney striking fairly far inland and making quite an impression on the German troops who received it. Carell was criticized for his favorable portrayal of German soldiers, but that would not seem to affect his comments on bombardment.
     
  20. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If Rodney only used guns with the Mk II rifeling then
    United Kingdom / Britain 16"/45 (40.6 cm) Mark I - NavWeaps
    Gives here at a range of 41,690 yards or 23.7 miles
    The bit about mixing the riflleing on a ship is a bit odd. Here's a bit about it:
    Source the link above.
     

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