THE SHIPS OF WWII Essay, Research Paper
World War II was the largest naval war in history. It was also the largest air war in
history, but that’s another story…Ships that fought in the second world war
established technology, and patterns that would be used throughout the 20th century.
thousands of ideas that would have never been tried on ships during peace time were
applied in the then emergency state of the world.
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Battleships. Well into the twentieth century Battleships were the most feared vessel
in the sea. They were by those days standards very large, weighing in at a minimum
of 20,000tons. Their armor was enormous in some cases 12 inch thick belts of steel
along their sides! They were armed with 8 to 12 of the heaviest caliber cannon
possible the largest of these were18.1 inchers that shot shells that weighed 3,200 lbs.
To counter the threat of surface attack from light and extremely fast torpedoe boats
was countered with a secondary armament, the mini gun. Which today has evolved
into the phalanx gun system, which is a last resort point-defense weapon. There are
three main types of battleships. The lightest of these being the battlecruiser. These
were usually very light and therebye very fast. To obtain this maneuverability, they
gave up a lot of armor, although they still had a deadly armament. These forms of
battleships proved very unaffective. They were too light to do battle with a true
battleship. and their speed mattered not against aircraft. Plus they were very expensive
because of the engines, and light weight material they used. Thus, making them not
only an east target, but a good one too. By the end of the war, only 1 of the 40 or so
of these ships that were built was still in service. Next up from these we have the
battleship battleships. These were the regular old descendents of the ship of the line,
back from the day of Admiral Nelson, and John Paul Jones. They usuall weighed
from 17,000 tons to 21,000. They were of medium armor, medium speed, and
medium armament. But one must keep in mind that they were anything but a
medium/normal ship. These ships were before the age of the carrier, the second most
feared ship on the seas, as they carried roughly a dozen 12 inchers, and 1/2 a dozen 5
inchers. One step above this, and the king of all kings was the battlewagons. These
were the equivelant of the 19th century Flag Ship. They were expensive, big, and
could take an unbelievable amount of damage without going down. The two/three
most famous of these were the USS Iowa, and the JIN(Japanese Imperial
Navy)Yamato. 4 Yamato class battleships were scheduled to be made, but only 2
were, before the japanes realized that for the same price they could have 3 Shimanto
class carriers including planes. The Yamato was 244 (800ft, 2 1/2)football fields
meters long, had 9 18.1 inch guns! 12 6.1 inchers, for use against smaller, quicker
ships, and 12 5 inchers, foruse as an Anti Aircraft, or Surface gun. Its crew was
2,500 strong. And it had 16.1 inch thick armor belting around its waterline. The
Yamato class battleships are the biggest ever made. But they were not the best. The
best was the USS Iowa. which was the last battleship ever to fire a shot in time of
war. Doing so in the Persian Gulf as a part of Operation Desert Storm. The Uss Iowa
was longer than the Yamato, went 7 knots faster (32 knots) and at the same time had
roughly the same armament, and armor(a little smaller in both categories…9
16inchers, 13 inch belt).
Cruisers were and are the descendant of frigayes from the navies of past. Cruisers
were much smaller than Battleships, but at the same time 2 or 3 times larger than a
destroyer. Cruisers more than anything were to show the flag in places where locals
needed to be impressed, as they otherwise did not have near as well defined role as the
battleships, or destroyers. Their only real purpose was as a scout with firepower for
the fleet. But the Japanese put cruisers into use as the head of destroyer
squadrons.Light Cruisers were and where from 2500 to 10000 tons, and depending
on size had six to a dozen 5 inch guns. Heavy Cruisers were from 8000 to 17000
tons. And usually had about 6 to 10 8 inch guns plus anti aircraft armaments. Cruisers
by the end of the war lost their scouting effectiveness as radar made scouts obsolete.
This gave them an even more undefined role. Especially BattleCruisers which was
discussed earlier in the battleships section.
Destroyers were the real workhorse of the fleet , anyones fleet… they did everything.
Destroyers were created at the turn of the century to defend heavier shps(Battleships)
against smaller more maneuvarable ships such as the torpedo boats. This is where they
got their name: “torpedo bat destroyers,” which was eventually shortened to just
destroyer. Originally very small, about 200- 300 tons, which throughout the war grew
to about 1500 to 2500 tons. Meanwhile their missions expanded. From scout, to sub
hunter, to torpedo boat destroyer, to anti aircraft gun platform. These ships did
everything! And destroyers were fast. They could keep up with any other ship in the
fleet and could maneuver around convoys and the fleet to get at a pesky torpedo boat,
or sub. They were also small cramped, and not real fun to be on in foul weather. But
becasue they were so light and fast… they used a lot of fuel. The typical destroyer
would run out of gas after 4 days at full steam. Today, our whole fleet is destroyers.
Although much bigger, the biggest reaching 5000tons. They can take the place of 4 0r
5 battleships. The best of these being the Arleigh Burke and Ticoronda class
destroyers. Which use the new Aegis itnergrated radar system, which is capable of
tracking and engaging up to 150 multiple targets, sea, air, and land all included.
The Little Guys
These ships include all ships that are smaller than a destroyer.
Gunboats-a catch all designation which included vessels that ranged in size from 30 to
Frigates- essentially cut rate destroyer escorts of about 500tons, in some navies called
Torpedo Boats- Speedy vessels much smaller than destroyers 600 to 800tons.
designed primarily to give torpedo attack to larger surface vessels.
Mine Warfar Vessels- Small ships specializing in the planting and clearing of mines.
Carriers made their mainstage appearence in WWII. First used in WWI made from
converted battleships with planks of wood layed down on the main guns. Carriers
pretty much are the reason the pacific theatre of war was won by the alied armies. The
Japanese while launching the first major carrier strike on Pearl Harbor, never fully
grasped the true potential of carriers. This along with the fact that the Japanese seemed
to hav the worst luck ever with aircraft (Marianas Turkey shoot the Japanese lost over
400 aircraft to America’s 28). This is very suprising however seeing how the Japanese
started the war with better and more pilots. But unlike the Americans who brought
their great fighters back to teach new ones, the Japanese kept their greatest pilots on
duty. Eventually they died, and their knowledge was not, could not be passed on. So
by the end of the war the Japs as they were known, were using carriers as bait. Which
the Americans took, and proceded to destroy the bait, and the ambush that was set up.
It seems that the Japanese with all their supreme bravery did not know how to fight a
smart war. They made 2 super batltleships, long after they had been proven inferior to
carriers. These battleships, the biggest ever made (Yamato class) cost each the same as
about 3 or 4 fleet carriers with aircraft. Perhaps this was the stupidity of the Japanese,
perhaps the frustration with the pilots, and their unbelievable lossto win ratio against
american pilots. Anyhow… Carriers came in different classes. Light carriers, escort
carriers, and fleet carriers. Escort carriers usually carried up to 30 aircraft, but usuallt
less like 9. They were used mostly as bait by the Japanese to draw out the american
aircraft, so the Japanese could folllow the planes back to base, and attack the carriers.
But usually all would go according to plan, but then the Japanese planes would get
decimated. In one battle a battleship got 3 dozen kills alone. This was partly due to the
new invetion on proximity shells. When AA shells came within a certain distance of an
object they would detect it with a small radar, and explode. The Japanese did not have
this technology.Light carriers, were usually converted vessels, such as battleships.
They carried up to 50 or so aircraft. But the real prize was the Fleet Carriers. These
were huge carriers that in the case of the USS YTorktown carried up to 96 aircraft.
These eventually gave way to the Essex class carriers. These were unbelievable ships,
serving as a front line fighting vessel well into the 80’s. They had their own AA
defenses, and were basically a carrier with the same armor as battleships, and the
power of a carrier.
Most/ almost all WWII ships were destroyed in the Bikini Island A- Bomb tests. as a
matter of fact about 80% of them were put at ground zero, and turned into literally
molecules and dust.All Japanese vessels at the end of the war were either converted to
mine sweeprers, or became target practice.