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WWII’s Largest Battleship Revealed After 70 Years Underwater

WWII’s Largest Battleship Revealed After 70 Years Underwater

Launched in 1942 alongside its sister ship, the Yamato, the Musashi became the flagship of the main fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy the following year. The two ships were among the largest and most powerful ever built, measuring 862 feet (263 meters) long and weighing in at 73,000 tons. Their maximum height reached some 183 feet (56 meters), about the height of a 16-story building. Armed with 46-centimeter main guns—the largest and most powerful of any warship—the Yamato and Musashi were designed to help Japan combat the much larger naval force of the United States during World War II.

Though the Japanese seemed initially reluctant to put their flagships in harm’s way, the loss of other major warships in the Battle of Midway (1942) and the Battle of the Philippine Sea (1944) changed their minds. On October 24, 1944, the Musashi came under heavy fire from U.S. forces in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the clash that followed the Allied landing in the Philippine Islands. Despite its massive size, the Musashi lacked sufficient aerial protection in the battle, and proved vulnerable to enemy torpedoes. After it caught fire and began to lose propeller power, U.S. warplanes zoomed in to finish the job. The Musashi sustained some 25 direct torpedo hits over more than four hours. More than 1,000 members of the ship’s crew were killed, including the captain, while Japanese ships were able to rescue some 1,300 others.

In the nearly 70 years since, shipwreck hunters have tried and failed to locate the wreck of the Musashi, which like other Japanese warship did not bear its name on its side. The research team sponsored by Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, spent eight years searching for the Musashi, sifting through historical records in four countries, as well as undersea topographical data, before deploying a high-tech yacht and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to conduct their search. Earlier this month, Allen announced they had located the wreck of the Musashi strewn across the floor of the Sibuyan Sea in the Philippines, more than 3,000 feet below the surface. The expedition team, led by Robert Kraft, conducted a live streaming video tour of the underwater site late last week, providing the world with its first detailed images of the historic shipwreck.

Though the failing warship disappeared under the water in one piece, it apparently exploded once underwater, as pieces of the ship are strewn across the ocean floor. Amid the debris, the footage revealed a mount for the seal of the Imperial Japanese Navy, a chrysanthemum made out of teak, which had rotted away over seven decades on the ocean floor. This detail, among others, had helped maritime experts to confirm (with 90 percent certainty) that the wreck was in fact the Musashi. The tour also explored the damage caused by U.S. torpedoes, including a warped bow and multiple hits under the Musashi’s main gun.

The discovery of the Musashi has made headlines around the world, including—and especially—in Japan. Among those watching the live video feed was Shigeru Nakajima, a survivor of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. An electrical technician for the sub battery on the Musashi, he survived by jumping overboard after his superior officer ordered an evacuation. Now 94 years old, Nakajima watched the video tour from his home in Tokyo. He told the Associated Press that he was “certain” the shipwreck was the Musashi due to the anchor and the imperial seal, and had no words but “thank you” for the team who found the wreckage.

Japanese battleship Yamato

Yamato ( 大和 ) was the lead ship of her class of battleships built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) shortly before World War II. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tonnes at full load and armed with nine 46 cm (18.1 in) Type 94 main guns, which were the largest guns ever mounted on a warship.

  • 65,027 t (64,000 long tons) (normal)
  • 71,659 t (70,527 long tons) (full load)
  • 256 m (839 ft 11 in) (waterline)
  • 263 m (862 ft 10 in) (o/a)
  • 12 Kampon boilers
  • 150,000 shp (110,000 kW)
  • (1941)
  • 3 × triple 46 cm (18 in) guns
  • 4 × triple 15.5 cm (6.1 in) guns
  • 6 × twin 12.7 cm (5 in) (Dual-purpose gun|DP guns
  • 8 × triple 2.5 cm (1.0 in)AA guns
  • 2 × twin 13.2 mm (0.52 in) AA machine guns
  • (1945)
  • 3 × triple 46 cm guns
  • 2 × triple 15.5 cm guns
  • 12 × twin 12.7 cm guns DP guns
  • 162 × 2.5 cm AA guns
  • 4 × 13.2 mm AA machine guns
    : 410 mm (16 in) : 200–226.5 mm (7.9–8.9 in) : 650 mm (25.6 in) (face) : : :

Named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, Yamato was designed to counter the numerically superior battleship fleet of the United States, Japan's main rival in the Pacific. She was laid down in 1937 and formally commissioned a week after the Pearl Harbor attack in late 1941. Throughout 1942, she served as the flagship of the Combined Fleet, and in June 1942 Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto directed the fleet from her bridge during the Battle of Midway, a disastrous defeat for Japan. Musashi took over as the Combined Fleet flagship in early 1943, and Yamato spent the rest of the year moving between the major Japanese naval bases of Truk and Kure in response to American threats. In December 1943, Yamato was torpedoed by an American submarine which necessitated repairs at Kure, where she would also be refitted with additional anti-aircraft guns and radar in early 1944. Although present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, she played no part in the battle.

The only time Yamato fired her main guns at enemy surface targets was in October 1944, when she was sent to engage American forces invading the Philippines during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. While threatening to sink American troop transports, they encountered a light escort carrier group of the U.S. Navy's Task Force 77, "Taffy 3", in the Battle off Samar. The Japanese turned back after American air attacks convinced them they were engaging a powerful US carrier fleet.

During 1944, the balance of naval power in the Pacific decisively turned against Japan, and by early 1945, its fleet was much depleted and badly hobbled by critical fuel shortages in the home islands. In a desperate attempt to slow the Allied advance, Yamato was dispatched on a one-way mission to Okinawa in April 1945, with orders to beach herself and fight until destroyed, thus protecting the island. The task force was spotted south of Kyushu by US submarines and aircraft, and on 7 April 1945 she was sunk by American carrier-based bombers and torpedo bombers with the loss of most of her crew.

P-40 Kittyhawk And Pilot

After more than seven decades, the body of a missing RAF pilot was discovered in the Egyptian desert. In 1942, an RAF pilot was reported missing when he failed to return to his base. He was flying Curtiss Kittyhawk fighter, and it was said that the aircraft crashed in the desert. It was initially believed that Flight Sgt. Copping’s fighter aircraft was shot down by Luftwaffe near the Libya-Egypt border. However, it was later revealed that Copping got lost in a massive sandstorm, and after flying disoriented over featureless desert Sgt. Copping’s plane crashed.

A group of Polish Oil workers discovered Copping’s Curtiss in 2012. They quickly reported to the authorities, who found a partially destroyed aircraft along with a parachute. This meant that Sgt. Copping somehow survived the crash and attempted to make it on foot. They also concluded that Copping was killed by the smoldering heat of the desert and not by the Luftwaffe.

Sunken Japanese WWII Battleship Located in the Philippines

More than 70 years after it sank during World War II, the legendary Japanese battleship Musashi has been discovered off the coast of the Philippines.

Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has been leading an expedition to find the Musashi — one of the biggest battleships ever built — aboard his high-tech 414-foot-long (125 meters) yacht, the M/Y Octopus. The team announced this week that they finally located the shipwreck in the Sibuyan Sea.

"Mr. Allen has been searching for the Musashi for more than 8 years, and its discovery will not only help fill in the narrative of WWII's Pacific theater, but bring closure to the families of those lost," a statement on Allen's website said. [ See photos of the battleship Musashi's sunken remains ]

The Musashi and her sister ship, the Yamato, were considered the heaviest and most powerful battleships ever built, though neither survived World War II.

The Yamato sank during a fierce battle for Okinawa on April, 7 1945. In the 1980s, shipwreck hunters found the Yamato 180 miles (290 kilometers) southwest of Kyushu, one of the main islands of Japan. The ship was split in two and was found resting at a depth of 1,120 feet (340 m).

American forces sank the 862-foot-long (263 m), 73,000-ton (66,225 metric tons) Musashi on Oct. 24, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, killing more than 1,000 members of the ship's 2,399-person crew. The final resting place of the ship remained elusive for decades, despite eyewitness accounts of the sinking.

Allen's team hasn't revealed too much information about exactly where and how they found the Musashi, but according to a news release, they drew from historical records from four different countries, topographical data and advanced technology aboard the M/Y Octopus. A tweet from Allen indicated that the wreck was discovered about 3,280 feet (1 km) below the water's surface.

RIP crew of Musashi, appx 1023 lost. The pic of the valve 1st confirmation of Japanese origin (clues 2 use apprec). pic.twitter.com/BcJgkhWskb — Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) March 2, 2015

The team released crisp underwater footage taken by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that shows several parts of the ship, including a catapult system that was used to launch float planes, a wheel on a valve from an engineering area that had Japanese script, the turret from an 18-inch (46 centimeters) naval gun, a 15-ton anchor and the battleship's bow.

Allen has a history of bankrolling ambitious tech and exploration projects. He was an early backer of Scale Composites' suborbital spacecraft SpaceShipOne. He later founded his own spaceflight company, Stratolaunch Systems, with Scale Composites founder Burt Rutan. The company is trying to build the world's largest air-launched space rocket. In 2012, Allen lent his yacht to support filmmaker James Cameron's expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the ocean's deepest point.

Allen and his team said they plan to work with the Japanese government to ensure the wreck of the Musashi is treated "respectfully and in accordance with Japanese traditions."

Bismarck Class

Source: Wikimedia Commons via German Federal Archives

The KMS Bismarck and the KMS Tripitz, which were the only two ships in the Bismarck Class, were the two largest battleships that Nazi Germany had during World War II. Both ships were about 823 feet 6 inches (251 meters) in length and had a displacement of over 49,500 long tons (50,300 tons).

The KMS Bismarck is the more famous of the two Bismarck Class ships and was known for its power. Reportedly, the KMS Bismarck single-handedly deterred much of the British Royal Navy, which dedicated numerous ships and resources to hunting down Hitler’s flagship. The KMS Bismarck finally went down in 1941.

Did You Know?

The key to the KMS Bismarck’s survival was its armor. About half of the KMS Bismarck’s weight was made up of the armor that protected the ship’s vital areas.

Underwater "Mountain Goat"

"Your baseline AUV is typically doing work in the oil and gas sector, like the Gulf of Mexico, for example. Usually pretty flat terrain with maybe some hills, but nothing really crazy," explains Will O'Halloran, marine operations manager of Bluefin Robotics, the company that worked with the search team to design and build the AUV to their specifications and supervised its operations.

But the extreme topography was also an advantage in the search, explains O'Halloran, who was not present during the AUV survey but has had communication with the team. Allen's team could zero in on specific areas to deploy the AUV by ruling out the higher elevations of the steep undersea slopes and focusing more on the "spill" areas at their base.

"It's reasonable to expect that something [as heavy as the Musashi] is not going to just sit on a peak," he observes. "A 73,000-ton sinking ship is probably going to slide, right?"

To ensure that nothing was missed, however, the autonomous vehicle was programmed to sweep the sonar sensor along the undersea slopes from top to bottom and back again. "[The AUV] was a little bit of a mountain goat," O'Halloran jokes. "It was stubborn and tenacious."

On average, each AUV dive lasted 24 hours and covered a maximum of 150 square miles (388 square kilometers), after which the vehicle returned to the Octopus. There the sonar data were downloaded and analyzed for anomalies that might indicate the presence of a shipwreck. The vessel's remotely operated vehicle, Octo ROV, then investigated promising anomalies with its high-definition camera.

It took only three AUV dives to locate the target that the Octo ROV subsequently confirmed as the wreckage of the Musashi. Since then, Allen has been tweeting images and videos of the Musashi captured by the Octo ROV, including footage of its enormous 36-by-20-foot (11-by-6-meter) main rudder.


As the political situation in Europe and Asia deteriorated in the prelude to World War II, Carl Vinson, the chairman of the House Committee on Naval Affairs, instituted the Vinson Naval Plan, which aimed to get the Navy into fighting shape after the cutbacks imposed by the Great Depression and the two London Naval Treaties of the 1930s. [8] [9] As part of the overall plan, Congress passed the Second Vinson Act in 1938, which was promptly signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and cleared the way for construction of the four South Dakota-class fast battleships and the first two Iowa-class fast battleships (hull numbers BB-61 and BB-62). [10] Four additional battleships (with hull numbers BB-63, BB-64, BB-65, and BB-66) were approved for construction on 12 July 1940, [10] with the last two intended to be the first ships of the Montana class. [11]

The Navy had been considering large battleship design schemes since 1938 to counter the threat posed by potential battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which had refused to sign the Second London Naval Treaty and furthermore refused to provide details about its Yamato-class battleships. Although the Navy knew little about the Yamato class, some rumors regarding the new Japanese battleships placed main gun battery caliber at 18 inches (457 mm). [N 2] The potential of naval treaty violations by the new Japanese battleships resulted in the remaining treaty powers, Britain, France and the United States, invoking the tonnage "Escalator Clause" of the Second London Naval Treaty in June 1938, [N 3] which raised the maximum standard displacement limit from 35,000 long tons (36,000 t) to 45,000 long tons (46,000 t). [14] [10] [N 4]

The increased displacement limit allowed the Navy to begin evaluating 45,000-ton battleship designs, including "slow" 27-knot (50 km/h 31 mph) schemes that increased firepower and protection over previous designs and also "fast" 33-knot (61 km/h 38 mph) schemes. The "fast" design evolved into the Iowa class while the "slow" design, with main armament battery eventually settled on twelve 16-inch (406 mm) guns and evolution into a 60,500-ton design, was assigned the name Montana and cleared for construction by the United States Congress under the Two-Ocean Navy Act on 19 July 1940 funding for the new ships was approved in 1941. The five ships, the last battleships to be ordered by the Navy, were originally to be designated BB-65 through BB-69 however, BB-65 and BB-66 were subsequently re-ordered as Iowa-class ships, Illinois and Kentucky, in the Two Ocean Navy Act due to the urgent need for more warships, and the Montanas were redesignated BB-67 through BB-71. [17]

Completion of the Montana class, and the last two Iowa-class battleships, was intended to give the US Navy a considerable advantage over any other nation, or probable combination of nations, with a total of 17 new battleships by the late 1940s. [N 5] The Montanas also would have been the only American ships to rival Japan's massive Yamato and her sister Musashi in size and raw firepower. [5]

Design Edit

Preliminary planning for the Montana-class battleships took place in 1939, when the aircraft carrier was still considered strategically less important than the battleship. The initial schemes for what would eventually become the Montana class were continuations of various 1938 design studies for a 45,000-ton "slow" battleship alternative to the "fast" battleship design that would become the Iowa class. The "slow" battleship design proposals had a maximum speed of 27–28 knots (31–32 mph 50–52 km/h) and considered various main gun battery options, including 16-inch (406 mm)/45 cal, 16-inch/50 cal, 16-inch/56 cal, and 18-inch (457 mm)/48 cal guns [N 6] a main battery of twelve 16-inch/50 cal guns was eventually selected by the General Board for offering the best combination of performance and weight. [18] The initial design schemes for the Montana class were given the "BB65" prefix. [19] [20]

In July 1939, a series of 45,000-ton BB65 design schemes were evaluated, but in February 1940, as a result of the outbreak of World War II and the abandonment of the naval treaties, the Battleship Design Advisory Board moved to larger designs capable of simultaneously offering increased armament and protection. [5] [19] The design board issued a basic outline for the Montana class that called for it to be free of beam restrictions imposed by the extant Panama Canal, be 25% stronger offensively and defensively than any other battleship completed or under construction, and be capable of withstanding the new "super heavy" 2,700 lb (1,225 kg) armor-piercing (AP) shells used by US battleships equipped with either the 16-inch/45 cal guns or 16-inch/50 cal Mark 7 guns. No longer restricted by treaty displacement limits, naval architects were able to increase armor protection for the new BB65 design schemes, enabling the ships to withstand enemy fire equivalent to their own guns' ammunition. In conjunction with the Montana class, the Navy also planned to add a third set of locks to the Panama Canal that would be 140 ft (43 m) wide to enable ship designs with greater beam these locks would have been armored and would normally be reserved for use by Navy warships. [19] Although freed of the beam restriction from the extant Panama Canal, the length and height of the BB65 designs had to take into account one of the shipyards at which they were to be built: the New York Navy Yard slipways could not handle the construction of a ship more than 58,000 long tons (59,000 t), and vessels built there had to be low enough to clear the Brooklyn Bridge at low tide. [N 7] Consequently, the yard's number 4 dry dock had to be enlarged and the ships would be floated out rather than conventionally launched. [22]

The larger BB65 design studies would again settle on main armament of twelve 16-inch/50 cal guns while providing protection against the "super heavy" AP shells. After debate at the design board about whether the Montana class should be fast, achieving the high 33-knot (38 mph 61 km/h) speed of the Iowa class, or maintain the 27-to-28-knot speed of the North Carolina- and South Dakota classes, the lower speed was chosen in order to rein in size and displacement. [5] Design study of the BB65-8 scheme for a 33-knot battleship resulted in standard displacement over 66,000 long tons (67,000 t), waterline length of 1,100 feet (340 m), and required 320,000 shaft horsepower (239 MW) by returning the BB65 design to the slower maximum speed, the standard displacement and waterline length of the ships could be reduced to a more practical 58,000 long tons (59,000 t) and 930 feet (280 m) respectively as exemplified by the BB65-5 scheme. [23] [24] In practice, the 27-to-28-knot speed would have still been enough to escort and defend the Pacific-based Allied fast aircraft carrier task forces, although the Montanas ' ability in this regard would be considerably more limited compared to the Iowas as the latter could keep up with fleet carriers at full speed. [5] [10] In September 1940, the 58,000-ton BB65-5A preliminary design scheme with 212,000-shaft-horsepower (158 MW) powerplant, the same as the one on Iowa class, was refined and subsequently named BB67-1 after hull numbers BB-65 and 66 were reallocated as Iowa-class ships Illinois and Kentucky. Waterline length was reduced from 930 feet (283.5 m) for BB65-5 to 880 feet (268.2 m) for BB65-5A and then increased to 890 feet (271.3 m) for BB67-1. [25] [24]

By January 1941, the design limit for the 58,000-ton battleship plan had been reached, and consensus among those designing the battleship class was to increase the displacement to a nominal 60,500 long tons (61,470 t) to support the desired armor and weaponry on the ships. [26] At the same time, upon discovering that the propulsion plant was more powerful than needed, planners decided to reduce output from 212,000 shaft horsepower in BB67-2 to 180,000 shaft horsepower (134 MW) in BB67-3 for a better machinery arrangement and improved internal subdivisions. The secondary armament battery of ten two-gun turrets was also changed to mount the 5-inch (127 mm)/54 cal guns instead of the 5-inch/38 cal guns used on the Iowas. The number of 40-mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun mounts also increased, while protection of the propulsion shafts changed from the extension of the belt and deck armor aft of the citadel to armored tubes in an effort to control weight growth. [27] [28]

By 1942, the Montana class design was further revised to BB67-4. The armored freeboard was increased by 1 foot (0.30 m), while the propulsion plant had its power reduced again to 172,000 horsepower (128 MW) the standard displacement became 63,221 long tons (64,240 t) and full load displacement was 70,965 long tons (72,100 t). Aesthetically, the net design for the Montana class somewhat resembled the Iowa class since they would be equipped with the same caliber main guns and similar secondary guns however, Montana and her sisters would have more armor, mount three more main guns in one more turret, and be 34 ft (10 m) longer and 13 ft (4.0 m) wider than the Iowa class. [5] The final contract design was issued in June 1942. Construction was authorized by the United States Congress and the projected date of completion was estimated to be somewhere between 1 July and 1 November 1945. [3] [29]

Fate Edit

The Navy ordered the ships in May 1942, but the Montana class was placed on hold because the Iowa-class battleships and the Essex-class aircraft carriers were under construction in the shipyards intended to build the Montanas. Both the Iowa and Essex classes had been given higher priorities: the Iowas as they were far along enough in construction and urgently needed to operate alongside the Essex-class carriers and defend them with 5-inch, 40 mm, and 20 mm AA guns, and the Essexes because of their ability to launch aircraft to gain and maintain air supremacy over the islands in the Pacific and intercept warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The entire Montana class was suspended in June 1942 following the Battle of Midway, before any of their keels had been laid. In July 1943, the construction of the Montana class was finally canceled after the Navy fully accepted the shift in naval warfare from surface engagements to air supremacy and from battleships to aircraft carriers. [5] [10] [30] Work on the new locks for the Panama Canal also ceased in 1941 owing to a shortage of steel due to the changing strategic and material priorities. [19] [N 8]

General characteristics Edit

The Montana design shares many characteristics with the previous classes of American fast battleships starting from the North Carolina class, such as a bulbous bow, triple bottom under the armored citadel, and twin skegs in which the inner shafts were housed. The Montanas ' overall construction would make extensive use of welding for joining structural plates and homogeneous armor. [33]

Armament Edit

The armament of the Montana-class battleships would have been similar to the preceding Iowa-class battleships, but with an increase in the number of primary guns and more potent secondary guns for use against enemy surface ships and aircraft. Had they been completed, the Montanas would have been gun-for-gun the most powerful battleships the United States had constructed, and the only US battleship class that would have rivaled the Imperial Japanese Navy battleships Yamato and Musashi in armament, armor, and displacement. [5]

Main battery Edit

The primary armament of a Montana-class battleship would have been twelve 16-inch (406 mm)/50 caliber Mark 7 guns, which were to be housed in four three-gun turrets: two forward and two aft. The guns, the same used to arm the Iowa-class battleships, were 66 ft (20 m) long – 50 times their 16-inch (406 mm) bore, or 50 calibers, from breechface to muzzle. Each gun weighed about 239,000 lb (108,000 kg) without the breech, or 267,900 lb (121,500 kg) with the breech. [34] They fired 2,700 lb (1,225 kg) armor-piercing projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 2,500 ft/s (762 m/s), or 1,900 lb (862 kg) high-capacity projectiles at 2,690 ft/s (820 m/s), with a range of up to 24 mi (39 km). At maximum range the projectile would have spent almost 1½ minutes in flight. [34] The addition of the No. 4 turret would have allowed Montana to overtake Yamato as the battleship having heaviest broadside overall Montana and her sisters would have had a broadside of 32,400 lb (14,700 kg) [5] vs. 28,800 lb (13,100 kg) for Yamato. [N 10] Each turret would have rested within an armored barbette, but only the top of the barbette would have protruded above the main deck. The barbettes would have extended either four decks (turrets 1 and 4) or five decks (turrets 2 and 3) down. The lower spaces would have contained rooms for handling the projectiles and storing the powder bags used to fire them. Each turret would have required a crew of 94 men to operate. [34] The turrets would not have been attached to the ship, but would have rested on rollers, which meant that had any of the Montana-class ships capsized, the turrets would have fallen out. [N 11] Each turret would have cost US$1.4 million, but this figure did not take into account the cost of the guns themselves. [34]

The turrets would have been "three-gun", not "triple", because each barrel would have elevated and fired independently. The ships could fire any combination of their guns, including a broadside of all twelve. Contrary to popular belief, the ships would not have moved sideways noticeably when a broadside was fired. [38] The guns would have had an elevation range of −5° to +45°, moving at up to 12° per second. The turrets would have rotated about 300° at about 4° per second and could even be fired back beyond the beam, which is sometimes called "over the shoulder". Within each turret, a red stripe on the wall of the turret, just inches from the railing, would have marked the boundary of the gun's recoil, providing the crew of each gun turret with a visual reference for the minimum safe distance range. [39]

Like most US battleships in World War II, the Montana class would have been equipped with a fire control computer, in this case the Ford Instrument Company Mk 1A Ballistic Computer, a 3,150 lb (1,430 kg) rangekeeper designed to direct gunfire on land, sea, and in the air. [40] This analog computer would have been used to direct the fire from the battleship's big guns, taking into account several factors such as the speed of the targeted ship, the time it takes for a projectile to travel, and air resistance to the shells fired at a target. At the time the Montana class was set to begin construction, the rangekeepers had gained the ability to use radar data to help target enemy ships and land-based targets. The results of this advance were telling: the rangekeeper was able to track and fire at targets at a greater range and with increased accuracy, as was demonstrated in November 1942 when the battleship Washington engaged the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Kirishima at a range of 18,500 yd (16.9 km) at night the Washington scored at least nine heavy caliber hits that critically damaged the Kirishima and led to her loss. [41] [42] This gave the US Navy a major advantage in World War II, as the Japanese did not develop radar or automated fire control to the level of the US Navy. [41]

Philip Simms, naval architect [43]

The large caliber guns were designed to fire two different 16-inch shells: an armor-piercing round for anti-ship and anti-structure work, and a high-explosive round designed for use against unarmored targets and shore bombardment. The Mk. 8 APC (Armor-Piercing, Capped) shell weighed in at 2,700 lb (1,225 kg), and was designed to penetrate the hardened steel armor carried by foreign battleships. At 20,000 yd (18.3 km), the Mk. 8 could penetrate 20 inches (510 mm) of vertical steel armor plate. [44] For unarmored targets and shore bombardment, the 1,900 lb (862 kg) Mk. 13 HC (High-Capacity – referring to the large bursting charge) shell was available. [44] The Mk. 13 shell could create a crater 50 ft (15 m) wide and 20 ft (6.1 m) deep upon impact and detonation, and could defoliate trees 400 yd (370 m) from the point of impact.

The final type of ammunition developed for the 16-inch guns, well after the Montanas had been cancelled, were W23 "Katie" shells. These were born from the nuclear deterrence that had begun to shape the US armed forces at the start of the Cold War. To compete with the United States Air Force and the United States Army, which had developed nuclear bombs and nuclear shells for use on the battlefield, the Navy began a top-secret program to develop Mk. 23 nuclear naval shells with an estimated yield of 15 to 20 kilotons. The shells entered development around 1953, and were reportedly ready by 1956 however, only the Iowa-class battleships could have fired them. [44] [45]

Secondary battery Edit

The secondary armament for Montana and her sisters was to be twenty 5-inch (127 mm)/54 cal guns housed in ten turrets along the superstructure island of the battleship five on the starboard side and five on the port. These guns, designed specifically for the Montanas, were to be the replacement for the 5-inch (127 mm)/38 cal secondary gun batteries then in widespread use with the US Navy. [46]

The 5-inch/54 cal gun turrets were similar to the 5-inch/38 cal gun mounts in that they were equally adept in an anti-aircraft role and for damaging smaller ships, but differed in that they weighed more and fired heavier rounds of ammunition at greater velocities, thus increasing their effectiveness. However, the heavier rounds resulted in faster crew fatigue than the 5-inch/38 cal guns. [46] [47] The ammunition storage for the 5-inch/54 cal gun was 500 rounds per turret, and the guns could fire at targets nearly 26,000 yd (24 km) away at a 45° angle. At an 85° angle, the guns could hit an aerial target at over 50,000 ft (15,000 m). [46]

The cancellation of the Montana-class battleships in 1943 pushed back the combat debut of the 5-inch/54 cal guns to 1945, when they were used aboard the US Navy's Midway-class aircraft carriers. The guns proved adequate for the carrier's air defense, but were gradually phased out of use by the carrier fleet because of their weight. [46] (Rather than having the carrier defend itself by gunnery this would be assigned to other surrounding ships within a carrier battle group.)

Anti-aircraft batteries Edit

While the Montana class would not be designed principally for escorting the fast carrier task forces, they would have nonetheless been equipped with a wide array of anti-aircraft guns to protect themselves and other ships (principally the US aircraft carriers) from Japanese fighters and dive bombers. If commissioned, the ships were expected to mount a considerable array of Oerlikon 20 mm and Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft weapons.

The Oerlikon 20 mm anti-aircraft cannon was one of the most heavily produced anti-aircraft guns of World War II the US alone manufactured a total of 124,735 of these guns. When activated in 1941, these guns replaced the .50 in (12.7 mm)/90 cal M2 Browning MG on a one-for-one basis. The Oerlikon 20 mm AA gun remained the primary anti-aircraft weapon of the United States Navy until the introduction of the 40 mm Bofors AA gun in 1943. [48]

These guns are air-cooled and use a gas blow-back recoil system. Unlike other automatic guns employed during World War II, the barrel of the 20 mm Oerlikon gun does not recoil the breechblock is never locked against the breech and is actually moving forward when the gun fires. This weapon lacks a counter-recoil brake, as the force of the counter-recoil is checked by recoil from the firing of the next round of ammunition. [48] Between December 1941 and September 1944, 32% of all Japanese aircraft downed were credited to this weapon, with the high point being 48% for the second half of 1942. In 1943, the revolutionary Mark 14 gunsight was introduced, which made these guns even more effective. The 20 mm guns, however, were found to be ineffective against the Japanese kamikaze attacks used during the latter half of World War II. They were subsequently phased out in favor of the heavier 40 mm Bofors AA guns. [48]

The Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft gun was used on almost every major warship in the US and UK fleet from about 1943 to 1945. Although a descendant of German, Dutch, and Swedish designs, the Bofors mounts used by the US Navy during World War II had been heavily Americanized to bring the guns up to the standards placed on them by the Navy. This resulted in a gun system set to British standards (now known as the Standard System) with interchangeable ammunition, which simplified the logistics situation for World War II. When coupled with hydraulic couple drives to reduce salt contamination and the Mark 51 director for improved accuracy, the Bofors 40 mm gun became a fearsome adversary, accounting for roughly half of all Japanese aircraft shot down between 1 October 1944 and 1 February 1945. [49]

Propulsion Edit

The propulsion plant of the Montanas would have consisted of eight Babcock & Wilcox two-drum boilers with a steam pressure of 565 psi (3,900 kPa) and a steam temperature of 850 °F (454 °C) feeding four geared steam turbines, each driving one shaft with 43,000 hp (32 MW) this would result in a total propulsive power of 172,000 hp (128 MW), which gave a design speed of 28 knots at 70,500 tons displacement. [50] [N 12] While less powerful than the 212,000 hp (158,000 kW) powerplant used by the Iowas, the Montana ' s plant enabled the machinery spaces to be considerably more subdivided, with extensive longitudinal and traverse subdivisions of the boiler and engine rooms. The machinery arrangement was reminiscent of that of the Lexington-class aircraft carrier, with the boiler rooms flanking the two central turbine rooms for the inboard shafts, while the turbine rooms for the wing shafts were placed at the after end of the machinery spaces. [28] Montana ' s machinery arrangement combined with increased power would eventually be used on the Midway-class aircraft carrier. [52] The Montanas were designed to carry 7,500 long tons (7,600 t) of fuel oil and had a nominal range of 15,000 nmi (27,800 km 17,300 mi) at 15 kn (28 km/h 17 mph). Two semi-balanced rudders were placed behind the two inboard screws. The inboard shafts were housed in skegs, which while increasing hydrodynamic drag, substantially strengthened the stern structure. [N 13]

To meet the high electrical loads anticipated for the ships, the design was to have ten 1,250 kW ship service turbogenerators (SSTG), providing a total of 12,500 kW of non-emergency electrical power at 450 volts alternating current. The ships would also be equipped with two 500 kW emergency diesel generators. [26]

Armor Edit

Aside from its firepower, a battleship's defining feature is its armor. The exact design and placement of the armor, inextricably linked with the ship's stability and performance, is a complex science honed over decades. [54] A battleship is usually armored to withstand an attack from guns the size of its own, but the armor scheme of the preceding North Carolina class was only proof against 14-inch (356 mm) shells (which they had originally been intended to carry), while the South Dakota and Iowa classes were designed only to resist their original complement of 16-inch (406 mm) 2,240 lb (1,016 kg) Mk. 5 shells, not the new "super-heavy" 2,700 lb (1,225 kg) Mk. 8 armor-piercing shells they actually used. The Montanas were the only US battleships designed to resist the Mk. 8, [10] and were designed to give a zone of immunity against fire from 16-inch/45-caliber firing 2,700 lb shell, between 18,000 and 31,000 yards (16,000 and 28,000 m) and 16-inch/45-caliber firing 2,240 lb shell, between 16,500 and 34,500 yards (15,100 and 31,500 m) away. [55]

As designed, the Montanas used the "all or nothing" armor philosophy, with most of the armor concentrated on the citadel that includes the machinery spaces, armament, magazines, and command and control facilities. Unlike the previous Iowa and South Dakota classes, the Montana class design returned to an external armor belt due to the greater beam providing sufficient stability while having the required belt inclination this arrangement would have made construction and damage repairs much easier. The belt armor would be 16.1 in (409 mm) Class A face-hardened Krupp cemented (K.C.) armor mounted on 1 in (25 mm) Special Treatment Steel (STS), inclined at 19 degrees. Below the waterline, the belt tapered to 10.2 in (259 mm). To protect against potential underwater shell hits, the ships would have a separate Class B homogeneous Krupp-type armor lower belt, 8.5 in (216 mm) by the magazines and 7.2 in (183 mm) by the machinery, that would also have served as one of the torpedo bulkheads, inclined at 10 degrees this lower belt would taper to 1 inch at the triple bottom and was mounted on 0.75 in (19 mm) STS. The ends of the armored citadel would be closed by Class A traverse bulkheads 18 in (457 mm) thick in the front and 15.25 in (387 mm) in the aft. The deck armor would be in three layers, consisting of 0.75 in (19 mm) STS laminated on 1.5 in (38 mm) STS for a total of 2.25 in (57 mm) STS weather deck, 5.8 in (147 mm) Class B laminated on 1.25 in (32 mm) STS for a total of 7.05 in (179 mm) second deck on the centerline, and a 0.625 in (16 mm) splinter deck the outboard section would have 6.1 in (155 mm) Class B laminated on 1.25 in (32 mm) STS for a total of 7.35 in (187 mm) second deck and a 0.75 in (19 mm) splinter deck. Over the magazines, the splinter deck would be replaced by a 1 in (25 mm) STS third deck to protect from spalling. [55]

The main batteries were designed to have very heavy protection, with turret faces having 18 in (457 mm) Class B mounted on 4.5 in (114 mm) STS, resulting in 22.5 in (572 mm) thick laminated plate. The turret sides were to have up to 10 in (254 mm) Class A and turret roofs would have 9.15 in (232 mm) Class B. The barbettes would have been protected by up to 21.3 in (541 mm) Class A forward and 18 in (457 mm) aft, while the conning tower sides would have 18 in (457 mm) Class A. [56]

Montana ' s torpedo protection system design incorporated lessons learned from those of previous US fast battleships, and was to consist of four internal longitudinal torpedo bulkheads behind the outer hull shell plating that would form a multi-layered "bulge". Two of the compartments would be liquid loaded in order to disrupt the gas bubble of a torpedo warhead detonation while the bulkheads would elastically deform and absorb the energy. Due to the external armor belt, the geometry of the "bulge" was more similar to that of the North Carolina class rather than that of the South Dakota and Iowa classes. [N 14] Like on the South Dakota and Iowa classes, the two outer compartments would be liquid loaded, while two inner ones be void with the lower Class B armor belt to form the holding bulkhead between them. The greater beam of the Montanas would allow a higher system depth of 20.5 ft (6.25 m) compared to 18.5 ft (5.64 m) of the North Carolinas. [58]

Until the authorization of the Montana class all US battleships were built within the size limits for the Panama Canal. The main reason for this was logistical: the largest US shipyards were located on the East Coast of the United States, while the United States had territorial interests in both oceans. [10] Requiring the battleships to fit within the Panama Canal took days off the transition time from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean by allowing ships to move through the canal instead of sailing around South America. [N 15] By the time of the Two Ocean Navy bill, the Navy realized that ship designs could no longer be limited by the extant Panama Canal and thus approved the Montana class while simultaneously planning for a new third set of locks that were 140 ft (43 m) wide. [10] This shift in policy meant that the Montana class would have been the only World War II–era US battleships to be adequately armored against guns of the same power as their own.

Aircraft Edit

The Montana class would have used aircraft for reconnaissance and for gunnery spotting. [5] The type of aircraft used would have depended on when exactly the battleships would have been commissioned, but in all probability they would have used either the Kingfisher or the Seahawk. [N 16] The aircraft would have been floatplanes launched from catapults on the ship's fantail. [5] They would have landed on the water and taxied to the stern of the ship to be lifted by a crane back to the catapult.

Kingfisher Edit

The Vought OS2U Kingfisher was a lightly armed two-man aircraft designed in 1937. The Kingfisher's high operating ceiling of 13,000 feet (4.0 km) made it well-suited for its primary mission: to observe the fall of shot from a battleship's guns and radio corrections back to the ship. The floatplanes used in World War II also performed search and rescue for naval aviators who were shot down or forced to ditch in the ocean. [60]

Seahawk Edit

In June 1942, the US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics requested industry proposals for a new seaplane to replace the Kingfisher and Curtiss SO3C Seamew. The new aircraft was required to be able to use landing gear as well as floats. [61] Curtiss submitted a design on 1 August, and received a contract for two prototypes and five service-test aircraft on 25 August. [61] The first flight of a prototype XSC-1 took place on 16 February 1944 at the Columbus, Ohio Curtiss plant. The first production aircraft were delivered in October 1944, and by the beginning of 1945 the single-seat Curtiss SC Seahawk floatplane began replacing the Kingfisher. Had the Montana class been completed, they would have arrived around the time of this replacement, and would likely have been equipped with the Seahawk for use in combat operations and seaborne search and rescue. [5]

Five ships of the Montana class were authorized on 19 July 1940, but they were suspended indefinitely until being canceled on 21 July 1943. The ships were to be built at the New York Navy Yard, Philadelphia Navy Yard and Norfolk Navy Yard.

USS Montana (BB-67) Edit

Montana was planned to be the lead ship of the class. She was the third ship to be named in honor of the 41st state, and was assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Both the earlier battleship, BB-51, and BB-67 were canceled, so Montana is the only one of the (48 at the time) US states never to have had a battleship with a "BB" hull classification completed in its honor. [62] [63] [N 17]

USS Ohio (BB-68) Edit

Ohio was to be the second Montana-class battleship. She was to be named in honor of the 17th state, and was assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for construction. Ohio would have been the fourth ship to bear that name had she been commissioned. [64] [65]

USS Maine (BB-69) Edit

Maine was to be the third Montana-class battleship. She was to be named in honor of the 23rd state, and was assigned to the New York Navy Yard. Maine would have been the third ship to bear that name had she been commissioned. [66] [67]

USS New Hampshire (BB-70) Edit

New Hampshire was to be the fourth Montana-class battleship, and was to be named in honor of the ninth state. She was assigned to the New York Navy Yard, and would have been the third ship to bear that name had she been commissioned. [68] [69]

USS Louisiana (BB-71) Edit

Louisiana was to be the fifth and final Montana-class battleship. She was to be named in honor of the 18th state and assigned to the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. Louisiana would have been the third ship to bear that name had she been commissioned. [70] [71] By hull number, Louisiana was the last American battleship authorized for construction. [N 18]

Sunken US WWII plane revealed in stunning seabed images

The wreck of a U.S. World War II aircraft has been revealed in stunning detail 77 years after it was lost off Oahu, Hawaii.

Experts from Project Recover and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego on the private research vessel RV Petrel used sophisticated technology to image the wreck of the Grumman TBF Avenger. The site, which was first discovered in 1999 by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, is thought to be associated with three U.S. servicemen who are missing in action since 1942.

RV Petrel is part of Vulcan Inc., a research organization set up by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The latest images were scanned as part of Project Recover, which harnesses technology in an attempt to find and repatriate Americans missing in action during World War II.

“On October 11, 1942, three U.S. TBF-Avenger aircraft from squadron VT-3 collided during a training flight off Naval Air Station Kaneohe, now Marine Corps Base Hawaii,” explained the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego in a statement. “Two of the aircraft crashed into the water immediately at the time of the incident. All six crew members of these two aircraft were killed and remain missing in action. The crew of the third plane bailed out successfully and were rescued.”

Image of the crashed off Hawaii created from high-resolution video data from a remotely operated vehicle from RV Petrel. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

The plane wreck is lying on the seabed at a depth of about 330 feet and the engine is about 164 feet away. "The type of aircraft, location, and distribution of aircraft wreckage at the site are all consistent with the historical loss of the two VT-3 Avengers on October 11, 1942,” continued the Scripps statement.

There is, however, no sign of the plane’s tail and researchers are unable to say which aircraft it is.

Details of the site will be shared with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The plane's engine resting on the seabed. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

RV Petrel is no stranger to seabed discoveries. Researchers aboard the ship recently discovered the wrecks of the Japanese aircraft carriers Kaga and Akagi 77 years after they were sunk by U.S. forces during the Battle of Midway.

“This project was a great bookend to our Midway Survey,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan Inc., in a statement. “VT-3, assigned to the USS Yorktown, was one of three Torpedo Squadrons that took part in the battle of Midway.”

In 2019, experts on RV Petrel also discovered the wreck of World War II aircraft carrier USS Wasp in the Coral Sea more than 70 years after the ship was sunk during the Guadalcanal campaign.

Separately last year, researchers aboard the RV Petrel discovered one of the first Japanese battleships to be sunk by U.S. forces during World War II. Imperial Japanese Navy ship Hiei sank on Nov. 14, 1942, in the Solomon Islands.

Experts revealed the plane wreck in new detail. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego/RV Petrel/Vulcan Inc./Project Recover)

Paul Allen died in October 2018 from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. His research organization has discovered a host of historic military shipwrecks, such as the wrecks of the USS Helena, USS Lexington and USS Juneau.

The group’s biggest discovery, however, came in 2017, when Allen and his team found the long-lost wreck of the USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

US Submarine That Vanished on 1st Mission in WWII Is Found Off Alaskan Islands

Nearly 80 years ago, the USS Grunion submarine sank on its inaugural mission during World War II, taking the lives of 70 sailors with it as it plunged to the bottom of the Pacific. Now, after years of searching, a team looking for WWII-era submarines has found the Grunion's bow about 2,700 feet (820 meters) under the water's surface, off the coast of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

Upon finding the long-lost bow, the team used autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and advanced photogrammetry imaging to create 3D images of the underwater vessel.

"This goes so far past video or still imagery, it truly is the future of recording historical underwater discoveries," ocean explorer Tim Taylor, of the Lost 52 Project, a group searching for the 52 submarines that went missing during WWII, said in a statement. [Photos: WWII Shipwrecks Found Off NC Coast]

Taking these detailed 3D images is useful to science, as "archaeologists and historians [can now] spend months back home performing detailed research," Taylor noted.

The United States commissioned the USS Grunion on April 11, 1942, putting it under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Mannert Abele. The submarine helped the Allied forces from the get-go when the sub was traveling from the Caribbean to its first posting at Pearl Harbor, it rescued 16 survivors from the USAT (United States Army transport ship) Jack, which had been torpedoed by a German U-boat.

The USS Grunion's first war patrol, however, was also its last. In June 1942, the submarine was sent to the Aleutian Islands. Once in Kiska, Alaska, the sub sank two Japanese patrol boats. Then, on July 30, the USS Grunion was ordered back to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the naval operating base in the region. Along the way, the Grunion ran into disaster and was never heard from again. The submarine was declared lost on Oct. 5, 1942.

But the Grunion's story didn't end there. In 2006, Abele's three sons &mdash Bruce, Brad and John &mdash began searching for the sub's remains after receiving a tip from "a remarkable Japanese gentleman, Yutaka Iwasaki, and help from numerous other sources" according to the Lost 52 Project. The brothers enlisted in the services of Williamson & Associates, a marine geophysics and ocean engineering firm, as well as a side-scan sonar, a system that can create images of large areas on the ocean floor, which helped them locate the missing submarine.

The submarine's bow was missing, however. In October 2018, the Lost 52 Project searched the vicinity and discovered the bow had slipped down a steep volcanic embankment, about a quarter mile (0.4 kilometers) from the main wreckage, Taylor told CNN.

To give families, the Navy and researchers a glimpse of the submarine, the Lost 52 just released the 3D images. You can see more in the video below.


Naval production during WWII
Country Aircraft carriers [nb 1] Battleships [nb 2] Cruisers Destroyers Convoy escorts Submarines Merchant tonnage
United States 28 (71) 23 72 377 420 232 33,993,230
British Empire and Commonwealth 19 (46) 19 57 335 875 264 21,000,000 (1939) - 22,000,000 [5] [6] (Canada) includes 434 commissioned vessels including cruisers, destroyers, frigates, corvettes and auxiliaries
Soviet Union 3 7 59 150 218
Japan 20(10)+10 seaplane tender 2 52 209 189 [7] 213 4,152,361
Germany 0 [8] 4 12 17 22 1,140 [9]
Italy 1 3 6 6 28 1,469,606
Romania 0 [10] 0 [11] 5 [12] 9 [13] 8 [14] 516,000 [15]
Poland 4 [16] 5 [17]
  1. ^ Figure in parentheses indicates escort carriers built on merchant vessel hulls.
  2. ^ Not including ships built before the war

United States Edit

The United States Navy grew rapidly during World War II from 1941–45, and played a central role in the Pacific theatre in the war against Japan. It also played a major supporting role, alongside the Royal Navy, in the European war against Germany.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) sought naval superiority in the Pacific by sinking the main American battle fleet at Pearl Harbor, which was built around its battleships. The December 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor did knock out the battle fleet, but it did not touch the aircraft carriers, which became the mainstay of the rebuilt fleet.

Naval doctrine had to be changed overnight. The United States Navy (like the IJN) had followed Alfred Thayer Mahan's emphasis on concentrated groups of battleships as the main offensive naval weapons. [18] The loss of the battleships at Pearl Harbor forced Admiral Ernest J. King, the head of the Navy, to place primary emphasis on the small number of aircraft carriers. [19]

The U.S. Navy grew tremendously as it faced a two-front war on the seas. It achieved notable acclaim in the Pacific War, where it was instrumental to the Allies' successful "island hopping" campaign. [3] The U.S. Navy fought five great battles with the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN): the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of Okinawa. [20]

By war's end in 1945, the United States Navy had added thousands of new ships, including 18 aircraft carriers and 8 battleships, and had over 70% of the world's total numbers and total tonnage of naval vessels of 1,000 tons or greater. [21] [22] At its peak, the U.S. Navy was operating 6,768 ships on V-J Day in August 1945, including 28 aircraft carriers, 23 battleships, 71 escort carriers, 72 cruisers, over 232 submarines, 377 destroyers, and thousands of amphibious, supply and auxiliary ships. [23]

1941–42 Edit

The American war plan was Rainbow 5 and was completed on 14 May 1941. It assumed that the United States was allied with Britain and France and provided for offensive operations by American forces in Europe, Africa, or both. The assumptions and plans for Rainbow 5 were discussed extensively in the Plan Dog memo, which concluded ultimately that the United States would adhere to a Europe first strategy, making the war against Germany a higher priority than the war against Japan. However President Roosevelt did not approve the plan—he wanted to play it by ear. [24] The Navy wanted to make Japan the top target, and in 1941–43 the U.S. in effect was mostly fighting a naval war against Japan, in addition to its support for Army landings in North Africa, Sicily and Italy in 1942–43. [25]

U.S. strategy in 1941 was to deter Japan from further advances toward British, Dutch, French and American territories to the South. When the Allies cut off sales of oil to Japan, it lost 90% of its fuel supply for airplanes and warships. It had stocks that would last a year or two. It had to compromise or fight to recapture British and Dutch wells to the South. in November 1941, U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall explained the American air war strategy to the press—it was top secret and not for publication:

We are preparing for an offensive war against Japan, whereas the Japs believe we are preparing only to defend the Philippines. . We have 35 Flying Fortresses already there—the largest concentration anywhere in the world. Twenty more will be added next month, and 60 more in January. If war with the Japanese does come, we'll fight mercilessly. Flying fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There won't be any hesitation about bombing civilians—it will be all-out. [26]

Marshall was talking about long-range B-17 bombers based in the Philippines, which were within range of Tokyo. After Japan captured the Philippines in early 1942, American strategy refocused on a naval war focusing on the capture of islands close enough for the intensive bombing campaign Marshall spoke about. In 1944, the Navy captured Saipan and the Mariana Islands, which were within range of the new B-29 bombers.

After its Pearl Harbor victory in early December the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) seemed unstoppable because it outnumbered and outgunned the disorganized Allies—US, Britain, Netherlands, Australia, China. London and Washington both believed in Mahanian doctrine, which stressed the need for a unified fleet. However, in contrast to the cooperation achieved by the armies, the Allied navies failed to combine or even coordinate their activities until mid-1942. Tokyo also believed in Mahan, who said command of the seas—achieved by great fleet battles—was the key to sea power. Therefore, the IJN kept its main strike force together under Admiral Yamamoto and won a series of stunning victories over the Americans and British in the 90 days after Pearl Harbor.

Outgunned at sea, with its big guns lying at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, the American strategy for victory required a slow retreat or holding action against the IJN until the much greater industrial potential of the US could be mobilized to launch a fleet capable of projecting Allied power to the enemy heartland.

Midway Edit

The Battle of Midway, together with the Guadalcanal campaign, marked the turning point in the Pacific. [27] [28] [29] Between June 4–7, 1942, the United States Navy decisively defeated a Japanese naval force that had sought to lure the U.S. carrier fleet into a trap at Midway Atoll. The Japanese fleet lost four aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser to the U.S. Navy's one American carrier and a destroyer. After Midway, and the exhausting attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign, Japan's shipbuilding and pilot training programs were unable to keep pace in replacing their losses while the U.S. steadily increased its output in both areas. Military historian John Keegan called the Battle of Midway "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare." [30]

Guadalcanal Edit

Guadalcanal, fought from August 1942 to February 1943, was the first major Allied offensive of the war in the Pacific Theater. This campaign saw American air, naval and ground forces (later augmented by Australians and New Zealanders) in a six months campaign slowly overwhelm determined Japanese resistance. Guadalcanal was the key to control the Solomon Islands, which both sides saw as strategically essential. Both sides won some battles but both sides were overextended in terms of supply lines.

The rival navies fought seven battles, with the two sides dividing the victories. They were: Battle of Savo Island, Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Battle of Cape Esperance, Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Battle of Tassafaronga and Battle of Rennell Island. Both sides pulled out their aircraft carriers, as they were too vulnerable to land-based aviation. [31]

1943 Edit

In preparation of the recapture of the Philippines, the Navy started the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign to retake the Gilbert and Marshall Islands from the Japanese in summer 1943. Enormous effort went into recruiting and training sailors and Marines, and building warships, warplanes and support ships in preparation for a thrust across the Pacific, and to support Army operations in the Southwest Pacific, as well as in Europe and North Africa. [32]

1944 Edit

The Navy continued its long movement west across the Pacific, seizing one island base after another. Not every Japanese stronghold had to be captured some, like the big bases at Truk, Rabaul and Formosa were neutralized by air attack and then simply leapfrogged. The ultimate goal was to get close to Japan itself, then launch massive strategic air attacks and finally an invasion. The US Navy did not seek out the Japanese fleet for a decisive battle, as Mahanian doctrine would suggest the enemy had to attack to stop the inexorable advance.

The climax of the carrier war came at the Battle of the Philippine Sea. [33] Taking control of islands that could support airfields within B-29 range of Tokyo was the objective. 535 ships began landing 128,000 Army and Marine invaders on June 15, 1944, in the Mariana and Palau Islands. The Japanese launched an ill-coordinated attack on the larger American fleet its planes operated at extreme ranges and could not keep together, allowing them to be easily shot down in what Americans jokingly called the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot." [34] Japan had now lost most of its offensive capabilities, and the U.S. had air bases on Guam, Saipan and Tinian for B-29 bombers targeted at Japan's home islands.

The final act of 1944 was the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the last naval battle in history in which the battle line of one navy "crossed the T" of the battle line of its enemy, enabling the crossing line to fire the full broadsides of its main batteries as against only the forward guns of only the enemy's lead ship. The Japanese plan was to lure the main body of the U.S. fleet away from the action at Leyte Gulf by decoying it with a dummy fleet far to the north, and then to close in on the U.S. Army and Marines landing at Leyte with a pincer movement of two squadrons of battleships, and annihilate them. The movements of these Japanese fleet components were terribly uncoordinated, resulting in piecemeal slaughter of Japanese fleet units in the Sibuyan Sea and the Surigao Strait (where "the T was crossed"), but, although the ruse to lure the main body of the U.S. fleet away had worked to perfection, the Japanese were unaware of this, with the result that an overwhelmingly superior remaining force of Japanese battleships and cruisers that massively outnumbered and outgunned the few U.S. fleet units left behind at Leyte, thinking it was sailing into the jaws of the more powerful U.S. main body, turned tail and ran away without exploiting its hard-won advantage. After which Japan had now lost all its offensive naval capability.

Okinawa 1945 Edit

Okinawa was the last great battle of the entire war. The goal was to make the island into a staging area for the invasion of Japan scheduled for fall 1945. It was just 350 miles (550 km) south of the Japanese home islands. Marines and soldiers landed on 1 April 1945, to begin an 82-day campaign which became the largest land-sea-air battle in history and was noted for the ferocity of the fighting and the high civilian casualties with over 150,000 Okinawans losing their lives. Japanese kamikaze pilots exacted the largest loss of ships in U.S. naval history with the sinking of 38 and the damaging of another 368. Total U.S. casualties were over 12,500 dead and 38,000 wounded, while the Japanese lost over 110,000 men. The fierce combat and high American losses led the Navy to oppose an invasion of the main islands. An alternative strategy was chosen: using the atomic bomb to induce surrender. [35]

Naval technology: US vs Japan Edit

Technology and industrial power proved decisive. Japan failed to exploit its early successes before the immense potential power of the Allies could be brought to bear. In 1941 the Japanese Zero fighter had a longer range and better performance than rival American warplanes, and the pilots had more experience in the air. [36] But Japan never improved the Zero and by 1944 the Allied navies were far ahead of Japan in both quantity and quality, and ahead of Germany in quantity and in putting advanced technology to practical use. High tech innovations arrived with dizzying rapidity. Entirely new weapons systems were invented—like the landing ships, such as the 3,000-ton LST ("Landing Ship, Tank") that carried 25 tanks thousands of miles and landed them right on the assault beaches - invented by the British and delivered by industrial capacity of the USA. Furthermore, older weapons systems were constantly upgraded and improved. Obsolescent airplanes, for example, received more powerful engines and more sensitive radar sets. One impediment to progress was that admirals who had grown up with great battleships and fast cruisers had a hard time adjusting their war-fighting doctrines to incorporate the capability and flexibility of the rapidly evolving new weapons systems.

Ships Edit

The ships of the American and Japanese forces were closely matched at the beginning of the war. By 1943 the American qualitative edge was winning battles by 1944 the American quantitative advantage made the Japanese position hopeless. The German navy, distrusting its Japanese ally, ignored Hitler's orders to cooperate and failed to share its expertise in radar and radio. Thus the Imperial Navy was further handicapped in the technological race with the Allies (who did cooperate with each other). The United States economic base was ten times larger than Japan's, and its technological capabilities also significantly greater, and it mobilized engineering skills much more effectively than Japan, so that technological advances came faster and were applied more effectively to weapons. Above all, American admirals adjusted their doctrines of naval warfare to exploit the advantages. The quality and performance of the warships of Japan were initially comparable to those of the US.

The Americans were supremely, and perhaps overly, confident in 1941. Pacific commander Admiral Chester W. Nimitz boasted he could beat a bigger fleet because of ". our superior personnel in resourcefulness and initiative, and the undoubted superiority of much of our equipment." As Willmott notes, it was a dangerous and ill-founded assumption. [37] Nimitz would later make good on his boast by defeating a larger Japanese force in the Battle of Midway and turning the tide in the Pacific War. [38]

Battleships Edit

The American battleships before Pearl Harbor could fire salvos of nine 2,100-pound armor-piercing shells every minute to a range of 35,000 yards (19 miles). No ship except another battleship had the thick armor that could withstand that kind of firepower. When intelligence reported that Japan had secretly built even more powerful battleships, Washington responded with four Iowa-class battleships. The "big-gun" admirals on both sides dreamed of a great shootout at twenty-mile (32 km) range, in which carrier planes would be used only for spotting the mighty guns. Their doctrine was utterly out of date. A plane like the Grumman TBF Avenger could drop a 2,000-pound bomb on a battleship at a range of hundreds of miles. An aircraft carrier cost less, required about the same number of personnel, was just as fast, and could easily sink a battleship. During the war the battleships found new missions: they were platforms holding all together dozens of anti-aircraft guns and eight or nine 14-inch or 16-inch long-range guns used to blast land targets before amphibious landings. Their smaller 5-inch guns, and the 4,800 3-inch to 8-inch guns on cruisers and destroyers also proved effective at bombarding landing zones. After a short bombardment of Tarawa island in November 1943, Marines discovered that the Japanese defenders were surviving in underground shelters. It then became routine doctrine to thoroughly work over beaches with thousands of high-explosive and armor-piercing shells. The bombardment would destroy some fixed emplacements and kill some troops. More important, it severed communication lines, stunned and demoralized the defenders, and gave the landing parties fresh confidence. After the landing, naval gunfire directed by ground observers would target any enemy pillboxes that were still operational. The sinking of the battleships at Pearl Harbor proved a blessing in deep disguise, for after they were resurrected and assigned their new mission they performed well. (Absent Pearl Harbor, big-gun admirals like Raymond Spruance might have followed prewar doctrine and sought a surface battle in which the Japanese would have been very hard to defeat.) [39]

Naval aviation Edit

In World War I the US Navy explored aviation, both land-based and carrier based. However, the Navy nearly abolished aviation in 1919 when Admiral William S. Benson, the reactionary Chief of Naval Operations, could not "conceive of any use the fleet will ever have for aviation", and he secretly tried to abolish the Navy's Aviation Division. [40] Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt reversed the decision because he believed aviation might someday be "the principal factor" at sea with missions to bomb enemy warships, scout enemy fleets, map minefields, and escort convoys. Grudgingly allowing it a minor mission, the Navy slowly built up its aviation. In 1929 it had one carrier (USS Langley), 500 pilots and 900 planes by 1937 it had 5 carriers (the Lexington, Saratoga, Ranger, Yorktown and Enterprise), 2000 pilots and 1000 much better planes. With Roosevelt now in the White House, the tempo soon quickened. One of the main relief agencies, the PWA, made building warships a priority. In 1941 the U.S. Navy with 8 carriers, 4,500 pilots and 3,400 planes had more air power than the Japanese Navy. [41]

Germany Edit

Submarines Edit

Germany's main naval weapon was the U-boat its main mission was to cut off the flow of supplies and munitions reaching Britain by sea. Submarine attacks on Britain's vital maritime supply routes in the "Battle of the Atlantic" started immediately at the outbreak of war. Although they were hampered initially by the lack of well-placed ports from which to operate, that changed when France fell in 1940 and Germany took control of all the ports in France and the Low Countries. The U-boats had such a high success rate at first that the period to early 1941 was known as the First Happy Time. The Kriegsmarine was responsible for coastal artillery protecting major ports and possible invasion points, and also handled anti-aircraft batteries protecting major ports. [42]

In 1939–1945 German shipyards launched 1,162 U-boats, of which 785 were destroyed during the war (632 at sea) along with the loss pf 30,000 crew. The British anti-submarine ships and aircraft accounted for over 500 kills. At the end of the war, 156 U-boats surrendered to the Allies, while the crews scuttled 221 others, chiefly in German ports. In terms of effectiveness, German and other Axis submarines sank 2828 merchant ships totaling 14.7 million tons (11.7 million British) many more were damaged. The use of convoys dramatically reduced the number of sinkings, but convoys made for slow movement and long delays at both ends, and thus reduced the flow of Allied goods. German submarines also sank 175 Allied warships, mostly British, with 52,000 Royal Navy sailors killed. [43]

Surface fleet Edit

The German fleet was involved in many operations, starting with the Invasion of Poland. Also in 1939, it sank the British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous and the battleship HMS Royal Oak, while losing the Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate.

In April 1940, the German navy was heavily involved in the invasion of Norway, where it lost the heavy cruiser Blücher, two light cruisers, and ten destroyers. In return it sank the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and some smaller ships.

Great Britain Edit

The Royal Navy in the critical years 1939–43 was under the command of First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound (1877–1943). As a result of the earlier changes the Royal Navy entered the Second World War as a heterogeneous force of World War I veterans, inter-war ships limited by close adherence to treaty restrictions and later unrestricted designs. Though smaller and relatively older than it was during World War I, it remained the major naval power up until 1944-45 when it was overtaken by the American navy.

At the start of World War II, Britain's global commitments were reflected in the Navy's deployment. Its first task remained the protection of trade, since Britain was heavily dependent upon imports of food and raw materials, and the global empire was also interdependent. The navy's assets were allocated between various fleets and stations. [44]

Fleet / station Area of responsibility
Home Fleet Home waters, i.e., North-East Atlantic, Irish Sea, North Sea, English Channel (sub-divided into commands and sub-commands)
Mediterranean Fleet Mediterranean Sea
South Atlantic Station and Cape of Good Hope Station South Atlantic and South African region
America and West Indies Station Western North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Eastern Pacific
East Indies Station / Eastern Fleet Indian Ocean (excluding South Atlantic and Africa Station, Australian waters and waters adjacent to Dutch East Indies)
China Station / Eastern Fleet North-west Pacific and waters around Dutch East Indies

There are sharply divided opinions of Pound's leadership. His greatest achievement was his successful campaign against German U-boat activity and the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic. Winston Churchill, the civilian head of the Navy (1939–40) and of all the forces as Prime Minister (1940–45) worked with him closely on naval strategies he was dubbed "Churchill's anchor". [45] He blocked Churchill's scheme of sending a battle fleet into the Baltic early in the war. However his judgment has been challenged regarding his micromanagement, the failed Norwegian Campaign in 1940, his dismissal of Admiral Dudley North in 1940, Japan's sinking of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales by air attack off Malaya in late 1941, and the failure in July 1942 to disperse Convoy PQ 17 under German attack. [46]

During the early phases of World War II, the Royal Navy provided critical cover during British evacuations from Norway (where an aircraft carrier and 6 destroyers were lost but 338,000 men were evacuated), from Dunkirk (where 7,000 RN men were killed) and at the Battle of Crete. In the latter operation Admiral Cunningham ran great risks to extract the Army, and saved many men to fight another day. The prestige of the Navy suffered a severe blow when the battlecruiser Hood was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941. Although the Bismarck was sunk a few days later, public pride in the Royal Navy was severely damaged as a result of the loss of the "mighty Hood". [ citation needed ] The RN carried out a bombardment of Oran in Algeria against the French Mediterranean Fleet. In the attack on Taranto torpedo bombers sank three Italian battleships in their naval base at Taranto and in March 1941 it sank three cruisers and two destroyers at Cape Matapan. The RN carried out an evacuation of troops from Greece to Crete and then from that island. In this the navy lost three cruisers and six destroyers but rescued 30,000 men.

The RN was vital in interdicting Axis supplies to North Africa and in the resupply of its base in Malta. The losses in Operation Pedestal were high but the convoy got through.

The Royal Navy was also vital in guarding the sea lanes that enabled British forces to fight in remote parts of the world such as North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Far East. Convoys were used from the start of the war and anti-submarine hunting patrols used. From 1942, responsibility for the protection of Atlantic convoys was divided between the various allied navies: the Royal Navy being responsible for much of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Suppression of the U-boat threat was an essential requirement for the invasion of northern Europe: the necessary armies could not otherwise be transported and resupplied. During this period the Royal Navy acquired many relatively cheap and quickly built escort vessels.

The defence of the ports and harbours and keeping sea-lanes around the coast open was the responsibility of Coastal Forces and the Royal Naval Patrol Service.

Naval supremacy was vital to the amphibious operations carried out, such as the invasions of Northwest Africa (Operation Torch), Sicily, Italy, and Normandy (Operation Overlord). For Operation Neptune the RN and RCN supplied 958 of the 1213 warships and three quarters of the 4000 landing craft. The use of the Mulberry harbours allowed the invasion forces to be kept resupplied. There were also landings in the south of France in August.

During the war however, it became clear that aircraft carriers were the new capital ship of naval warfare, and that Britain's former naval superiority in terms of battleships had become irrelevant. Britain was an early innovator in aircraft carrier design, introducing armoured flight decks, in place of the now obsolete and vulnerable battleship. The Royal Navy was now dwarfed by its ally, the United States Navy. The successful invasion of Europe reduced the European role of the navy to escorting convoys and providing fire support for troops near the coast as at Walcheren, during the battle of the Scheldt.

The British Eastern Fleet had been withdrawn to East Africa because of Japanese incursions into the Indian Ocean. Despite opposition from the U.S. naval chief, Admiral Ernest King, the Royal Navy sent a large task force to the Pacific (British Pacific Fleet). This required the use of wholly different techniques, requiring a substantial fleet support train, resupply at sea and an emphasis on naval air power and defence. In 1945 84 warships and support vessels were sent to the Pacific. It remains the largest foreign deployment of the Royal Navy. Their largest attack was on the oil refineries in Sumatra to deny Japanese access to supplies. However it also gave cover to the US landings on Okinawa and carried out air attacks and bombardment of the Japanese mainland.

At the start of the Second World War the RN had 15 battleships and battlecruisers with five more battleships under construction, and 66 cruisers with another 23 under construction. To 184 destroyers with 52 more under construction a further 50 old destroyers (and other smaller craft) were obtained from the US in exchange for US access to bases in British territories (Destroyers for Bases Agreement). There were 60 submarines and seven aircraft carriers with more of both under construction. [47] At the end the RN had 16 battleships, 52 carriers—though most of these were small escort or merchant carriers—62 cruisers, 257 destroyers, 131 submarines and 9,000 other ships. During the war the Royal Navy lost 278 major warships [47] and more than 1,000 small ones. There were 200,000 men (including reserves and marines) in the navy at the start of the war, which rose to 939,000 by the end. 51,000 RN sailors were killed and a further 30,000 from the merchant services. [47] The WRNS was reactivated in 1938 and their numbers rose to a peak of 74,000 in 1944. The Royal Marines reached a maximum of 78,000 in 1945, having taken part in all the major landings.

Norway campaign, 1940 Edit

Finland's defensive war against the Soviet invasion, lasting November 1939 to March 1940, came at a time when there was a lack of large scale military action on the continent called the "Phony War". Attention turned to the Nordic theater. After months of planning at the highest civilian, military and diplomatic levels in London and Paris, in spring, 1940, a series of decisions were made that would involve uninvited invasions of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark's Faroe Islands, with the goals of damaging the German war economy and assisting Finland in its war with the Soviet Union. An allied war against the Soviet Union was part of the plan. The main naval launching point would be Royal Navy's base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. [48] The Soviet invasion of Finland excited widespread outrage at popular and elite levels in support of Finland not only in wartime Britain and France but also in neutral United States. The League of Nations declared the USSR was the aggressor and expelled it. [49] "American opinion makers treated the attack on Finland as dastardly aggression worthy of daily headlines, which thereafter exacerbated attitudes toward Russia." [50] The real Allied goal was economic warfare: cutting off shipments of Swedish iron ore to Germany, which they calculated would seriously weaken German war industry. The British Ministry of Economic Warfare stated that the project against Norway would be likely to cause "An extremely serious repercussion on German industrial output. [and the Swedish component] might well bring German industry to a standstill and would in any case have a profound effect on the duration of the war." [51] The idea was to shift forces away from doing little on the static Western Front into an active role on a new front. The British military leadership by December became enthusiastic supporters when they realized that their first choice, an attack on German oil supplies, would not get approval. Winston Churchill, now head of the Admiralty, pushed hard for an invasion of Norway and Sweden to help the Finns and cut the iron supplies. Likewise the political and military leaders in Paris strongly supported the plan, because it would put their troops in action. The poor performance of the Soviet army against the Finns strengthened the confidence of the Allies that the invasion, and the resulting war with Russia, would be worthwhile. However the civilian leadership of Neville Chamberlain's government in London drew back and postponed invasion plans. Neutral Norway and Sweden refused to cooperate. [52] Finland hoped for Allied intervention but its position became increasingly hopeless its agreement to an armistice on March 13 signalled defeat. On March 20, a more aggressive Paul Reynaud became Prime Minister of France and demanded an immediate invasion Chamberlain and the British cabinet finally agreed and orders were given. [53] However Germany invaded first, quickly conquering Denmark and southern Norway in Operation Weserübung. The Germans successfully repelled the Allied invasion. [54] With the British failure in Norway, London decided it immediately needed to set up naval and air bases in Iceland. Despite Iceland's plea for neutrality, its occupation was seen as a military necessity by London. The Faroe Islands were occupied on April 13, and the decision made to occupy Iceland on May 6. [55] [56]

German invasion threat 1940 Edit

Operation Sea Lion was Germany's threatened invasion across the English channel in 1940. The Germans had the soldiers and the small boats in place, and had far more in the way of tanks and artillery than the British had after their retreat from Dunkirk. However, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force were fully prepared, and historians believe that an attempted invasion would be a disaster for the Germans. British naval power, based in Scotland, was very well-equipped with heavily armored battleships Germany had none available. At no point did Germany have the necessary air superiority. And even if they had achieved air superiority, it would have been meaningless on bad weather days, which would ground warplanes but not hinder the Royal Navy from demolishing the transports and blasting the landing fields. [57] The German general Alfred Jodl realized that as long as the British navy was a factor, an invasion would be to send "my troops into a mincing machine." [58]

Collaboration Edit

With a wide range of nations collaborating with the Allies, the British needed a way to coordinate the work. The Royal Navy dealt smoothly with the navies-in-exile of Poland, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece using a liaison system between senior naval officers. The system produced the effective integration of Allied navies into Royal Navy commands. [59]

France Edit

When France fell in June 1940, Germany made French soldiers into POWs but allowed Vichy France to keep its powerful fleet, the fourth largest in the world. [60] France sent its warships to its colonial ports or to ports controlled by Britain. The British fought one of the main squadrons in the attack on Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria (near Oran), on 3 July 1940. The attack killed 1300 men and sank one or badly damaged three of the four battleships at anchor. The Vichy government was angry indeed but did not retaliate and maintained a state of armed neutrality in the war. [61] The British seized warships in British harbors, and they eventually became part of the Free French Naval Forces. When Germany occupied all of France in November 1942, Vichy France had assembled at Toulon about a third of the warships it had started with, amounting to 200,000 tons. Germany tried to seize them the French officers then scuttled their own fleet. [62]

Italy Edit

The Italian navy ("Regia Marina") had the mission of keeping open the trans Mediterranean to North Africa and the Balkans it was challenged by the British Royal Navy. It was well behind the British in the latest technology, such as radar, which was essential for night gunnery at long range. Regia Marina Strength

6 battleships, 19 cruisers, 59 destroyers, 67 torpedo boats, 116 submarines.

Two aircraft carriers were under construction they were never launched. The nation was too poor to launch a major shipbuilding campaign, which made the senior commanders cautious for fear of losing assets that could not be replaced. In the Battle of the Mediterranean the British had broken the Italian naval code and knew the times of departure, routing, time of arrival and make up of convoys. The Italians neglected to capture Malta, which became the main staging and logistical base for the British.

Japan Edit

Strength Edit

On 7 December 1941, the principal units of the Japanese Navy included: [63]

  • 10 battleships (11 by the end of the year)
  • 6 fleet carriers
  • 4 light fleet carriers
  • 18 heavy cruisers
  • 18 light cruisers
  • 113 destroyers
  • 63 submarines

The front-line strength of the Naval Air Forces was 1753 warplanes, including 660 fighters, 330 torpedo bombers, and 240 shore-based bombers. There were also 520 flying boats used for reconnaissance. [64]

1942 IJN Operation Edit

In the six months following Pearl Harbor, Admiral Yamamoto's carrier-based fleet engaged in multiple operations ranging from raids on Ceylon in the Indian Ocean to an attempted conquest of Midway Island, west of Hawaii. His actions were largely successful in defeating American, British and Dutch naval forces, although The American fleet held at the battle of Coral Sea, and inflicted a decisive defeat on Yamamoto at Midway. [65] Guam fell in mid-December, and the Philippines were invaded at several points. Wake Island fell on December 23. January, 1942 saw the IJN handle invasions of the Dutch East Indies, Western New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. IJN built major forward bases at Truk and Rabaul. The Japanese army captured Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Bali and Timor also fell in February. The rapid collapse of Allied resistance had left the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command split in two. At the Battle of the Java Sea, in late February and early March, the IJN inflicted a resounding defeat on the main ABDA naval force, under the Dutch. The Netherlands East Indies campaign subsequently ended with the surrender of Allied forces on Java. [66]

Netherlands Edit

The small but modern Dutch fleet had as its primary mission the defence of the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. [67] The Netherlands, Britain and the United States tried to defend the colony from the Japanese as it moved south in late 1941 in search of Dutch oil. [67] [68] The Dutch had five cruisers, eight destroyers, 24 submarines, and smaller vessels, along with 50 obsolete aircraft. Most of the forces were lost to Japanese air or sea attacks, with the survivors merged into the British Eastern Fleet. The Dutch navy had suffered from years of underfunding and came ill-prepared to face an enemy with far more and far heavier ships with better weapons, including the Long Lance-torpedo, with which the cruiser Haguro sank the light cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter. [69]

As Germany invaded in April 1940, the government moved into exile in Britain and a few ships along with the headquarters of the Royal Netherlands Navy continued the fight. It maintained units in the Dutch East Indies and, after it was conquered, in Sri Lanka and Western Australia. It was decisively defeated defending the Dutch East Indies in the Battle of the Java Sea. The battle consisted of a series of attempts over a seven-hour period by Admiral Karel Doorman's Combined Striking Force to attack the Japanese invasion convoy each was rebuffed by the escort force. Doorman went down with his ships together with 1000 of his crew. During the relentless Japanese offensive of February through April 1942 in the Dutch East Indies, the Dutch navy in the Far East was virtually annihilated, and it sustained losses of a total of 20 ships (including its only two light cruisers) and 2500 sailors killed. [69] [70]

A small force of Dutch submarines based in Western Australia sank more Japanese ships in the first weeks of the war than the entire British and American navies together, an exploit which earned Admiral Helfrich the nickname "Ship-a-day Helfrich". [71]

Around the world Dutch naval units were responsible for transporting troops for example, during Operation Dynamo in Dunkirk and on D-Day, they escorted convoys and attacked enemy targets.


Building a Soviet fleet was a national priority, but many senior officers were killed in purges in the late 1930s. [72] The naval share of the national munitions budget fell from 11.5% in 1941 to 6.6% in 1944. [73]

When Germany invaded in 1941 and captured millions of soldiers, many sailors and naval guns were detached to reinforce the Red Army these reassigned naval forces participated with every major action on the Eastern Front. Soviet naval personnel had especially significant roles on land in the battles for Odessa, Sevastopol, Stalingrad, Novorossiysk, Tuapse (see Battle of the Caucasus), and Leningrad. The Baltic fleet was blockaded in Leningrad and Kronstadt by minefields, but the submarines escaped. The surface fleet fought with the anti-aircraft defence of the city and bombarded German positions. In the Black Sea, many ships were damaged by minefields and Axis aviation, but they helped defend naval bases and supply them while besieged, as well as later evacuating them. [74]

The U.S. and Britain through Lend Lease gave the USSR ships with a total displacement of 810,000 tons. [75]

Although Soviet leaders were reluctant to risk larger vessels after the heavy losses suffered by the Soviet Navy in 1941-2, the Soviet destroyer force was used throughout the war in escort, fire-support and transport roles. Soviet warships, and especially the destroyers, saw action throughout the war in Arctic waters and in the Black Sea. In Arctic waters Soviet destroyers participated in the defense of Allied convoys. [76]

Romania Edit

The Romanian Navy was the largest Axis naval force during the naval war in the Black Sea. When the country joined the war in mid-1941, its main force comprised 5 destroyers (two Regele Ferdinand-class and two Mărăști-class plus the sea-going torpedo boat Sborul), 1 submarine (Delfinul), 1 minelaying frigate (Amiral Murgescu), five sea-going monitors (four Mihail Kogălniceanu-class and one Sava-class), three coastguard cruisers (all Bistrița-class), six escort corvettes (four of the French-built Sublocotenent Ghiculescu-class plus the converted torpedo boats Năluca and Smeul). Two more submarines, Marsuinul and Rechinul, were launched a short while prior to Romania's entry into the war, but they were commissioned only in May 1943. Also acquired in 1943 were five Italian CB-class midget submarines. By May 1944, two Romanian motor torpedo boats (Viscolul and Vedenia) were fitted for escort service.

The Romanian Navy was the only navy to fight for over three years without losing a single unit of its main force of destroyers and submarines. [78] At the same time, it caused the sinking of one destroyer and over a dozen submarines, all Soviet.

Pacific Edit

Submarine war in Pacific Edit

U.S. Navy submarines (with some aid from the British and Dutch), operating from bases in Australia, Hawaii, and Ceylon, played a major role in defeating Japan. Japanese submarines, however, played a minimal role, although they had the best torpedoes of any nation in World War II, and quite good submarines. The difference in results is due to the very different doctrines of the sides, which, on the Japanese side, were based on cultural traditions. [ citation needed ]

Allied doctrine and equipment Edit

Allied submarines concentrated on destroying Japanese logistics, for which the island nation depended on shipping. Within hours of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt ordered a new doctrine into effect: unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan. This meant sinking any warship, commercial vessel, or passenger ship in Axis controlled waters, without warning and without help to survivors. U.S. torpedoes, the standard issue Mark XIV torpedo and its Mark VI exploder were both defective, problems not corrected until September 1943. Worst of all, before the war, an uninformed Customs officer had seized a copy of the Japanese merchant marine code (called the "maru code" in the USN), not knowing U.S. communications intelligence had broken it [79] Japan promptly changed it, and it was not recovered until 1943.

Thus it was not until 1944 the U.S. Navy learned to use its 150 submarines to maximum effect: effective shipboard radar installed, commanders seen to be lacking in aggression replaced, and faults in torpedoes fixed.

Japanese doctrine and equipment Edit

For the Imperial Japanese Navy, however, submarines, as part of the Japanese warrior tradition of bushido, preferred to attack warships rather than transports. Faced with a convoy, an Allied submarine would try to sink the merchant vessels, while their Japanese counterparts would give first priority to the escorts. This was important in 1942, before Allied warship production came up to capacity. So, while the U.S. had an unusually long supply line between its west coast and frontline areas that was vulnerable to submarine attack, Japan's submarines were instead used for long range reconnaissance and to supply food for the scores of thousands of soldiers stranded on strongholds which had been cut off, especially Truk and Rabaul. [80]

Supply runs were a lesser drain on Allied resources. The need to supply MacArthur's forces trapped in the Philippines led to diversion of boats to "guerrilla submarine" missions. As well, basing in Australia placed boats under Japanese aerial threat while en route to patrol areas, inhibiting effectiveness, and Nimitz relied on submarines for close surveillance of enemy bases. A small number of oversized submarines handled much of the resupply, submarines that were less agile than their sisters attacking escorted convoys.

Requirements of the Japanese Army to supply cut-off garrisons by submarine further reduced the effectiveness of Japanese anti-shipping warfare. [81] [82] In addition, Japan honored its neutrality treaty with the Soviet Union, and ignored U.S. freighters shipping millions of tons of war supplies from San Francisco over northern routes to Vladivostok. [83] [84]

A small number of Allied submarines—less than 2 percent of the fleet tonnage—strangled Japan by sinking its merchant fleet, intercepting many troop transports, and cutting off nearly all the oil imports that were essential to warfare. By early 1945 the oil tanks were dry. [ citation needed ] [85]

Results Edit

The Japanese commercial fleet was 6.4 million tons in December 1941 during the war 3.9 million tons of new shipping was built. Japanese merchant losses came to 8.9 million tons, leaving 1.5 million tons afloat at the end of the war. [86] Although estimates differ, U.S. submarines alone probably accounted for 56% of the Japanese merchantmen sunk most of the rest were hit by planes at the end of the war, or were destroyed by mines. U.S. submariners also claimed 28% of Japanese warships destroyed. [87] Furthermore, they played important reconnaissance roles, as at the battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, when they gave accurate and timely warning of the approach of the Japanese fleet. Submarines operated from secure bases in Fremantle, Australia Pearl Harbor Trincomalee, Ceylon and later Guam. These had to be protected by surface fleets and aircraft.

Japanese anti-submarine practices were careless and badly managed. [88] Japanese convoys were poorly organized and defended compared to Allied ones, a product of flawed IJN doctrine and training. The number of U.S. submarines on patrol at any one time increased from 13 in 1942, to 18 in 1943, to 43 in late 1944. Half of their kills came in 1944, when over 200 subs were operating. [87] By 1945, patrols had decreased because so few targets dared to move on the high seas. In all, Allied submarines destroyed 1,200 merchant ships. Most were small cargo carriers, but 124 were tankers bringing desperately needed oil from the East Indies. Another 320 were passenger ships and troop transports. At critical stages of the Guadalcanal, Saipan, and Leyte campaigns, thousands of Japanese troops were killed before they could be landed. Over 200 warships were sunk, ranging from many auxiliaries and destroyers to eight carriers and one battleship.

Underwater warfare was especially dangerous for the submarine crews. The U.S. submarine service included only 1.6% of Navy personnel or 50,000 men. Most were shore based. Of the 16,000 who went out on patrol, 3,500 (22%) never returned, the highest casualty rate of any American force in World War II. [89] The Japanese losses were even worse.

Atlantic Edit

Mediterranean Edit

While the Royal Navy spent a great deal of energy dealing with German surface and submarine attacks on its merchant marine, it also launched its own attack on Axis shipping, especially in the Mediterranean. The British sank 3082 Axis merchantment in the Mediterranean, amounting to over 4 million tons. The loss of supplies proved fatal to the Axis armies in North Africa. [90]

  • The 26ft-long LVT-4 landing craft was uncovered in April by a team of dedicated volunteers in Crowland
  • It was one of 16 brought in to act as a flood defence in the village Crowland, Lincolnshire during 1947 floods
  • However, when water was pumped back into the flood plain, several of the LVT-4s floated away
  • The one dug up in April sank into a hole, whilst a further two of them remain in fishing pits

Published: 12:18 BST, 9 June 2021 | Updated: 20:14 BST, 11 June 2021

A World War Two amphibious vehicle that was buried for 74 years is seen up close for the first time in a new documentary after it was dug up in April.

The 26ft-long LVT-4 landing craft was uncovered by a team of dedicated volunteers who spent five days digging in an area beneath the Lincolnshire Fens on the outskirts of Peterborough.

It was one of 16 brought in to act as a flood defence in the village of Crowland during the 1947 floods after high tides, rain and wind caused the River Welland to burst its banks.

However, when the water was pumped back into the flood plain, several of the LVT-4s floated away.

The one dug up in April sank into a hole, whilst a further two of them remain in fishing pits. At least another five have been located beneath the ground and are set to be excavated.

Now, in a new short documentary on streaming platform History Hit, the LVT-4 dug up in April is revealed for the first time since being cleaned by a team led by local man Daniel Abbott.

Because the 13-tonne vehicle was buried in clay and many of its parts were made from brass, which is resistant to corrosion, the vehicle is in incredible condition.

A plate bearing its name – 'Water Buffalo' – is still clearly visible, as are its internal engine dials whilst its rear ramp still opens, supported by its original stainless steel cables.

Mr Abbott, chairman of Crowland Buffalo LVT, also shows presenter Dan Snow bullet holes in the craft – evidence of his revelation that it took part in the key operation to cross the Rhine at the end of the Second World War.

He also reveals that, beneath the vehicle's floorboards, his team found a ration pack which stated it was used during battle.

A World War Two amphibious vehicle which was excavated from the Lincolnshire Fens in April after being buried for more than 70 years is seen up close for the first time in a new History Hit documentary, presented by historian Dan Snow

The 26ft-long LVT-4 landing craft as a flood defence in the village of Crowland, Lincolnshire, during the 1947 floods after high tides, rain and wind caused the River Welland to burst its banks

The discovery of the LVT in April made global headlines and captivated locals, who gathered to watch as the vehicle was pulled out of the earth with two cranes.

Mr Abbott said to Mr Snow that he spent three years carrying out research and speaking to pensioners who remembered the floods during his quest to find the LVTs.

An RAF bomb disposal team then scanned an area of ground and found 'blobs' which turned out to be two of the tanks.

Around 4,500 tonnes of earth was then excavated to uncover the one which has now been cleaned up.

It was then moved to a nearby crane yard, where Mr Abbott and his fellow volunteers have been working to clean it up.

The team used hammers and chisels to get the dirt off the metal.

Remarkably, the team believe this LVT took part in the operation to ferry troops across the Rhine during the final days of fighting against Adolf Hitler's retreating forces.

The LVT's ramp still opens, supported by its original stainless steel cables. They have been preserved by the clay the craft was buried in

Presenter Dan Snow is amazed when Mr Abbott releases the ramp and it unfolds in front of him

Mr Abbott, chairman of Crowland Buffalo LVT, also shows presenter Dan Snow bullet holes in the craft

Known as Operation Plunder, it was the largest amphibious airborne operation since the D-Day Normandy invasion in June 1944.

The Daily Mail's original report about the floods

As well as ferrying troops, the Buffaloes also carried equipment and Jeeps.

Mr Snow is seen getting inside the craft, where he sees that its dials are still visible.

A Bakelite sign which reads 'Danger' in capital letters above a warning stating 'before starting engine, always run blower for five minutes' is still fixed to its side.

He is also amazed when Mr Abbott releases the ramp and he tells him that the cables supporting it are the original ones which have survived for 74 years beneath the ground.

Mr Abbott and his fellow volunteers hope to fully restore the LVT and put it on display.

Later in the programme, Mr Snow is taken to a nearby field where the team believe 'at least another five' of the LVTs are buried.

He said: 'We have measured the inside of these humps and bumps and these are the same measurement as the inside of a buffalo.'

In March 1947, the Buffalo LVTs were deployed by the Government to Crowland after floods, which came after a combination of heavy snow, a sudden thaw, high tides, rain and wind, caused the River Welland to break its banks.

Around 30,000 acres of land around Crowland were flooded and some people were made homeless temporarily.

The Buffalo, also known as the Landing Vehicle Tracked, was an American cargo carrier originally designed to bring stores from ship to shore.

However, it soon became an assault vehicle bringing troops ashore during amphibious operations.

The craft was designed by engineer Donald Roebling who adapted his previous military tank, which he called the Alligator, so that it could be used by the Navy and Marine Corps during the Second World War.

The LVT-4 was able to protect the men inside with its armoured construction and its rear ramp also allowed troops to make a swift exit when facing incoming fire.

The US Marines used them extensively in the Pacific against Japanese forces, even arming them with deadly flamethrowers.

In Europe, the British Army used 600 of them to cross the Rhine in 1945, armed with 20mm cannon and machine guns.

The Royal Marines also used them in Burma and Malaya and in the ill-fated 1956 Suez Crisis.

In 1943, the US Marines used the vehicles when landing on the island of Bougainville, which is part of Papua New Guinea, during the Second World War.

The tanks were also used by the US Army in Europe in small numbers between 1944-45 for river crossing operations.

In 1945, the LVT-2s and LVT-4s were used by US troops crossing the Roer River, between Roermond in the Netherlands and Düren in Germany, during Operation Grenade.

The Second World War operation marked the beginning of the allied invasion of Germany.

A plate bearing its name – 'Water Buffalo' – is visible after Mr Abbott spent several weeks chipping away at the clay which covered the craft

The original dials, complete with their varying labels, are also seen inside the craft - with their glass coverings still in place

A Bakelite sign which reads 'Danger' in capital letters above a warning stating 'before starting engine, always run blower for five minutes' is still fixed to its side

Mr Abbott and his fellow volunteers hope to fully restore the LVT and put it on display. Pictured: A view of the cleaned craft from the front

The craft was designed by engineer Donald Roebling who adapted his previous military tank, which he called the Alligator, so that it could be used by the Navy and Marine Corps during the Second World War. Pictured: The craft from above

Although they are rusted, the craft's tracks are still fitted to the vehicle and have been well-preserved by the clay they were buried in

Mr Snow is seen getting inside the craft and is amazed by its remarkable condition despite its age and the fact it was buried for so long

Later in the programme, Mr Snow is taken to a nearby field where the team believe 'at least another five' of the LVTs are buried

In April, Mr Abbott said his team had to carry out 'a lot of digging by hand' as well as using a machine from the North Level Drainage Board in order to uncover the vehicle.

'I've always wanted to get one of the tanks out before the 75th anniversary of the floods and we started planning this a couple of years ago,' he said.

'I'm over the moon with what we've achieved, it's very exciting.'

He said the gun mount was found first and was in 'fantastic condition'.

The discovery of the LVT in April made global headlines and captivated locals, who gathered to watch as the vehicle was pulled out of the earth with two cranes

The craft was dragged out before being taken to a nearby crane yard, where Mr Abbott and his team have been working to clean it up

Daniel Abbott poses holding a Union flag by the 26-foot-long craft shortly after it was pulled from the earth in April

The volunteers spent five days digging the area after years of research to find the craft's location

The tanks were first used North Africa in 1942 in order to tow vehicles and also for boat salvage operations.

After the Second World War some of the tanks were used during the Korean War for the landing in Incheon and the subsequent Han River crossing.

The amphibious vehicles were also used in the evacuation of Hungnam Harbour when Chinese forces attacked.

Following the war, the oldest Buffalo's were disposed of or sold to other countrie,s however the LVT-3 and LVT(A)-5s remained with the US army.

How were Buffalo amphibious vehicles used during the Second World War?

The Buffalo, also known as the Landing Vehicle Tracked, was an American cargo carrier originally designed to bring stores from ship to shore in the 1920s and 30s.

It soon became an assault vehicle bringing troops ashore during amphibious operations after engineer Donald Roebling adapted his previous military tank, which he called the Alligator.

The US Marines used them extensively in the Pacific against Japanese forces, even arming them with deadly flamethrowers.

In Europe, the British Army used 600 of them to cross the River Rhine in 1945 during Operation Plunder, armed with 20mm cannon and machine guns.

The Buffalo tank was originally a American cargo carrier

The Royal Marines used them in Burma and Malaya and in the ill-fated 1956 Suez Crisis.

During the Suez Canal crisis, the Royal Marines made a landing in Port Said using the US-tanks while being supported by a number of Centurion tanks from the Royal Tank Regiment.

In 1943, the US Marines used the vehicles when landing on the island of Bougainville, which is part of Papua New Guinea, during the Second World War.

The tanks were also used by the US Army in Europe in small numbers in 1944-45 for river crossing operations.

It was first used in North Africa in 1942 in order to tow vehicles and also for boat salvage operations.

After the Second World War, some of the tanks were used during the Korean War for the landing in Incheon and the subsequent Han River crossing to re-take Seoul.

The amphibious vehicles were also used in the evacuation of Hungnam Harbour when Chinese forces attacked.

Following the war, the oldest Buffalo's were disposed of or sold to other countries however the LVT-3 and LVT(A)-5 remained with the US army.