Osprey - New Vanguard 220 - US Standard-type Battleships 1941-1945

© Osprey Publishing • www.ospreypublishing.com NEW VANGUARD 220 US STANDARD-TYPE BATTLESHIPS 1941–45 (1) - pdf za darmo

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US STANDARD-TYPE BATTLESHIPS 1941–45 (1) Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Mexico Classes



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CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 4 • The Impact of Naval Treaties on USN Battleship Development



• Interwar Reconstruction of American Battleships • American Battleship Weapons • USN Battleship Radar



• Nevada Class • Pennsylvania Class • New Mexico Class




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US STANDARD-TYPE BATTLESHIPS 1941–45 (1) NEVADA, PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW MEXICO CLASSES INTRODUCTION The United States Navy (USN) went to war in December 1941 with 17 battleships in commission, which gave it the largest battle fleet in the world. The commissioning of the two North Carolina-class battleships in 1941 created the USN’s first new battleships since 1923. These were the first of ten modern battleships that recorded productive and high-profile wartime careers. However, of the 17 battleships in service, 15 were older units, with the earliest dating back to 1912. These were still seen as the heart of the fleet and critical to the Navy’s war plans. Though these ships did not play the central wartime role forecast by many of the Navy’s admirals, they did have active careers and made real, and often overlooked, contributions to victory. This book covers the seven ships of the Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Mexico classes, which were the first “superdreadnoughts” in USN service. These ships were the first to combine the 14-inch gun with armor designed to protect the ships in long-range gunnery engagements. The five ships of the Tennessee and Colorado classes, together with the ships of the unfinished South Dakota class of battleships and the Lexington class of battlecruisers, will be covered in a separate title. A detailed treatment of USN battleship fire control and radar systems will also be included in the next part of this study on the USN’s older battleships.

The Impact of Naval Treaties on USN Battleship Development

The dreadnought1 building race going into World War I reflected the importance of these ships to the major naval powers. The battleship was both a political symbol and a measure of naval power. A nation that could produce such a complex and powerful weapon system was in the forefront of industrial and technological progress. The cost of battleships and their maintenance was prohibitive, meaning that only the wealthiest nations could afford more than a token one or two ships. The total number of battleships, acting as part of a balanced battle fleet, was the measure of a nation’s naval strength. Coming out of World War I, the position of the battleship as the arbiter of naval power was unchallenged. In the aftermath of the war, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States all had plans for a major battleship1 The term dreadnought is synonymous with battleship. It derives from the first all-big-gun battleship HMS Dreadnought, launched in 1906, which made all earlier “pre-dreadnought” battleships obsolete.

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building spree. The ambitious USN plan would have moved it ahead of the British Royal Navy (RN) and greatly surpassed Japan’s battle fleet. None of the three naval powers was in a position to fully execute incredibly expensive building programs, so when the Americans proposed a naval disarmament conference to be convened in Washington at the end of 1921, the offer was accepted by all the major naval powers of the day. The resulting Washington Naval Treaty of February 8, 1922, contained a limit to overall battleship tonnage for each power (for the USN it was 525,000 tons, which gave it parity with the RN, but this was not actually achieved until 1931) and also set limits for the ships themselves. Each ship could be no larger than 35,000 tons and could not carry a main gun larger than 16 inches. The treaty was binding for 15 years. Because the USN was already over its allowable limit, it had to scrap older dreadnoughts and scrap or cancel new ships already begun or projected. With new battleship construction forbidden, the USN was forced to concentrate on modernizing existing units during the interwar period. The London Naval Treaty of 1930 kept the building limits in place until the system of naval arms control collapsed at the end of 1936. The USN battle fleet had to be able to execute War Plan Orange, which was developed between the wars to handle a postulated war with Japan. Conflict with Japan was considered the most likely conflict scenario for the USN and was at the center of 1930s war planning. In short, Orange assumed a threephase war. In the initial phase, Japan would overrun the Philippines and other US possessions in the western Pacific. The next phase centered around the dispatch of the US Pacific Fleet to conduct a series of islandhopping battles in the Japanese-held mandate islands in the central Pacific. The final phase included a decisive fleet battle, which would feature a clash of Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and USN dreadnoughts. The plan was underwritten by the strength of the USN’s battle fleet, which would have to operate at unprecedented distances from its main base in Hawaii. As the USN’s battle fleet moved into the central and western Pacific, it would have to contend with Japanese submarine and air attacks before eventually gaining the opportunity to engage the Japanese battle fleet. To prevail in this campaign, USN battleships had to have superior protection, long-range hitting power, a high level of protection against destroyer and aircraft attack, and great endurance.

Oklahoma leads two other battleships in March 1930 in a line ahead. The ships have their main batteries trained to starboard probably for a gunnery exercise. This was the epitome of naval power during the period, and USN strategy and tactics rested upon the power of its battleships.

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Oklahoma passing through the Panama Canal in October 1936. This view shows the improved placement of the secondary battery in casemates on the main deck and the location of the ship’s catapults. Three aircraft could be carried as shown here.

The battleship was the most powerful ship of its era because of its balance of offensive and defensive strengths. The most obvious attribute of a battleship was its big guns, which gave it immense hitting power and range. This made it superior to all smaller ships. Most battleships were designed to include protection against a counterpart armed with weapons equivalent to those carried by the battleship itself. For example, American battleships armed with 14-inch guns were protected against the fire of an enemy ship equipped with 14-inch guns. This level of protection meant that only a battleship could sink another battleship unless the ship was placed in an unfavorable tactical situation where it could be threatened by torpedoes or mines. Of course, aircraft became the principal enemy of battleships during World War II, but when the USN designed its superdreadnoughts the advent of aircraft as a real threat against a heavily armored warship was not foreseen. The USN built a large number of pre-dreadnoughts, but the advent of HMS Dreadnought in 1906, the world’s first all-big-gun ship, made this fleet obsolete. The USN responded by embarking on a program of building dreadnoughts, beginning with the South Carolina (BB 26), which was commissioned in 1910. Up through 1914, the USN brought into service ten dreadnoughts in five classes. The four earliest classes were equipped with 12inch guns, but the New York class, commissioned in 1914, jumped up to 14-inch guns. Of these early dreadnoughts, only three (Arkansas, New York, and Texas) were still in commission by the start of World War II. Two others, Utah and Wyoming, had been demilitarized under the terms of the London Naval Treaty of April 22, 1930, and had been converted to training ships. The other five dreadnoughts had been scrapped in accordance with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. The high costs of building dreadnoughts and the displacement restrictions of the naval treaties meant that each USN battleship design had to carefully weigh the requirements for firepower, speed, and protection and find an appropriate balance among the three. Generally, American designers emphasized firepower and then protection, with speed coming in a distinct third.    Beginning with the Nevada class, the USN produced a series of battleship classes that were remarkably alike. The basic features of these classes were a main battery in four turrets (as opposed to five or six turrets in previous classes), the “all or nothing” protection scheme, and a move to oil fuel (as opposed to mainly coal). The power of these ships compared to earlier dreadnoughts prompted naval observers to dub them superdreadnoughts. The Nevada class introduced the concept of “all or nothing protection.” This was a significant improvement over previous inefficient armor arrangements. Traditional armored protection schemes focused on a heavy main belt, since battle ranges were 10,000 yards or less. Engagements at this range meant that enemy shells would strike the ship at a

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nearly horizontal angle, making the main belt over the ship’s vital areas key. This arrangement was no longer viable as engagement ranges were extended. Now shells could hit anywhere, not just on the side of the ship when limited battle ranges meant a low shell trajectory. Most likely, armor-piercing (AP) shells would be used against battleships, and these could only be defeated by increasing the thickness of armor over key areas. Areas that did not cover vi...

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