Tuesday, 28 July 2015

INFOGRAPHICS #16 and HISTORY #3: Battleships of WWII!

Written by D-Mitch

IJN Yamato in 1941. The ship, together with its sister-ship,
IJN Musashi, were the only super-battleships that saw action.
This article is devoted to the battleships, the most powerful ships to sail the waves and the pride of every navy from 1880 to the early '40s. These large warships with the impressive gun armament, the so-called "Castles of Steel" or "The Floating Fortresses", were a symbol of naval dominance and national might, and for decades the battleship was a major factor in both diplomacy and military strategy. The following image (compiled by iksanov) depicts individual battleships and battlecruisers of major battleship classes as they were in a specific year (camouflage, prior or after a modernization, etc.). The majority of them served during WWII with very few exceptions such as the España class battleship Jaime I (n.28) or the HMS Vanguard (n.2) that was commissioned in 1946 (I modified the original image because instead of Vanguard, it had the Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleship, a ship that was never completed and commissioned). Somebody can notice also that not all the battleship classes are included, such examples are the Conte di Cavour class of Italy, the New Mexico and Pennsylvania classes of the United States of America, the Ise class of Japan and many more classes of the United Kingdom. For a brief overview of all the battleship classes (ironclads, pre-dreadnoughts, dreadnoughts, battleships and fast battleships), including those that were never commissioned, you can read here (I noticed quickly that some classes are missing though such as the Espana class). About the individual battleships within the classes you can find them here where they are listed alphabetically. Please notice that the silhouettes have not been created by me but by anonymous users in the web (if somebody found an author or the authors please send me a message!)

Battleships and battlecruisers of major battleship classes in WWII (version II). For a high resolution image click here.

I created a third version where I have made the following modifications.

  • The ships are divided according to their displacement at full load.
  • I removed the Jaime I, España class battleship, as she was destroyed in 1937 and thus she did not participate in WWII.
  • I deleted the table and the numbers; now below each figure there is the name, the class, the country that the ship served and the year that has this appearance (camouflage, armament, etc.).
  • I replaced the figures of Yamato, Bismarck, Scharnhost, North Carolina, Kongo, Fuso and Paris with new better silhouettes. The North Carolina was replaced by her sister Washington.
Additions (15 more silhouettes):
  • I added Tirpitz, the heavier sister of Bismarck.
  • I added Hyuga, Ise class hybrid-carrier battleship.
  • I added New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New York and Wyoming classes of USN battleships.
  • I added the French Lorraine, a Bretagne class battleship.
  • I added Ramillies, a British Revenge class battleship.
  • I added Giulio Cesare, an Italian Conte di Cavour class battleship.
  • I added the Turkish Yavuz, Moltke class battlecruiser, though the ship did not actively participated in WWII.
  • I added two cruisers of the Deutschland class, the Admiral Sheer and also her heavier sister Admiral Graf Spee with the dummy turret and funnel. These two cruisers were considered pocket battleships due to their very heavy armament for their size (6x11in guns). I repeat that they are not considered battleships, I added them in order to create a more complete image.
  • The same stands for the last three ships I added. The coastal battleships of the Väinämöinen class and the Sverige class. These ships are not monitors neither they are battleships or cruisers, they are just coastal defence ships but due to their very heavy armament they were considered coastal battleships.
  • And the final ship I added it is the Greek Kilkis, the Mississippi class pre-dreadnought battleship that was used as a floating battery in 1940–1941 until she was sunk by the Germans in 1941.
Battleships and battlecruisers of WWII (version III). For a high resolution image click here. Another version where the coastal battleships, Yavuz, Kilkis, and the Deutschland class cruisers are excluded here.

The third image illustrates the largest and most powerful battleships and battlecruisers ever existed including a modern-day battlecruiser, the Russian Kirov class (one ship in active service and one ship under modernization).

The largest and most powerful battleships and battlecruisers that saw action. For a high resolution image click here.

The last infographic illustrates the parts of HMS Queen Elizabeth (with trunked funnels after her 1926-27 refit), a Queen Elizabeth class battleship of the Royal Navy. The picture is a scan from Burgess, Malcolm William (1936) Warships To-day, London: Oxford University Press, pp. p. 143, fig. 29. Scanner: Andy Dingley, Wikipedia. I have included the table and the photo in one single image.

The parts of a Queen Elizabeth class battleship. For a high resolution image click here.
The following interesting infographic shows some very interesting figures and facts in relation to the resources required in order to build as well as to operate one of these giants of the seas.

Your Battleship and Her Requirements. High resolution image here.

Interior of Yamato's gigantic foremast
In relation to battleships, you can enjoy some fleets with their battleships and battlecruisers of WWI and WWII (click on the tab FLEETS) as well as some very interesting infographics and photos in the following links:
BB-64 Wisconsin, the final member of the Iowa class fast battleships, now a museum ship.


A modernized Iowa class battleship
next to an aircraft carrier
Many countries during the two World Wars ordered, constructed or planned battleships and battlecruisers. During the late '30s and early '40s the major naval powers of that era designed and began the construction of super-battleships, ships intended to outmatch enemy capital ships in every respect. However, as Sam LaGrone wrote in Popular Science "World War II gave the world’s navies a crash course in the next phase of war at sea. The pointy end of the spear became aircraft, guided weapons (missiles and torpedoes) and submarines—not the guns on board a ship—thus largely ending of the utility of the battleship in the open ocean." After the WWII, the aircraft carrier was clearly the capital ship of the future. In the following paragraphs some of the designs that came very close to reality are presented. This article is compiled mainly from Wikipedia articles.

Soviet Union

12in triple turret of Gangut class battleship Parizhskaya Kommuna
The most heavily armed surface combatants of the Soviet Navy were the three Gangut-class battleships, also known as the Sevastopol class, that were the first dreadnoughts begun for the Imperial Russian Navy before World War I (1909!). The ships had a displacement of about 25,000tons, a length of 182m and they were armed with 4 × 3 – 12-inch (305 mm)/52 guns. These ships were considered obsolete (weak in armament and armor, low speed, obsolete fire control equipment etc.) in comparison to the other classes of battleships and battlecruisers that the main rivals of USSR were constructing or they had them already in active service. Thus the Soviets projected new battleships and battlecruisers in order to renew and strengthen their naval fleet.

Projected battleships and battlecruisers of the Soviet Navy. From up: Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleship (Project 23),
Kronshtadt-class battlecruiser (Project 69) and Stalingrad-class battlecruiser (Project 82)

Project 23 battleship
The Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleships (Project 23, Russian: Советский Союз, "Soviet Union"), also known as Stalin's Republics, were a class of battleships begun by the Soviet Union in the late 1930s but never brought into service. They were designed in response to the battleships being built by Germany. Only four hulls of the sixteen originally planned (!) had been laid down by 1940, when the decision was made to cut the program to only three ships to divert resources to an expanded army rearmament program. As designed, the Project 23-class ships, as Sovetsky Soyuz and her sisters were designated, were 269.4 meters long overall. They had a beam of 38.9 meters and at full load a draft of 10.4 meters. They displaced 59,150 metric tons (58,220 long tons) at standard load and 65,150 metric tons (64,121 long tons) at full load, although weight estimates made in 1940 show that they would have exceeded 60,000 metric tons (59,052 long tons) standard and 67,000 metric tons (65,942 long tons) at full load.

Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleship (Project 23)

Hull of Sovetsky Soyuz, spring 1940
406 mm/50 B-37 naval gun in MP-10 test
mount; for Project 23 battleship in 1940
These ships would have rivaled the Imperial Japanese Yamato class and America's planned Montana class in size if any had been completed, although with significantly weaker firepower: nine 406-millimeter (16in) guns compared to the nine 460-millimeter (18.1in) guns of the Japanese ships and a dozen 16-inch (406.4 mm) on the Montanas. However, they would have been superior to their German rivals, the Bismarck class, at least on paper. The failure of the Soviet armor plate industry to build cemented armor plates thicker than 230 millimeters (9.1in) would have negated any advantages from the Sovetsky Soyuz class's thicker armor in combat. Construction of the first four ships was plagued with difficulties as the Soviet shipbuilding and related industries were not prepared to build such large ships. One battleship, Sovetskaya Belorussiya, was cancelled on 19 October 1940 after serious construction flaws were found. Construction of the other three ships was suspended shortly after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, and never resumed. All three of the surviving hulls were scrapped in the late 1940s.

Navy painting of Kronshtadt by Vladimir Emyshev
The Kronshtadt-class battlecruisers, with the Soviet designation as Project 69 heavy cruisers, (Russian: Тяжёлые крейсера проекта 69), were ordered for the Soviet Navy in the late 1930s. Two ships were started but none were completed due to World War II. These ships had a complex and prolonged design process which was hampered by constantly changing requirements and the Great Purge in 1937. The Project 69-class ships were 250.5 meters long overall and had a waterline length of 240 meters. They had a beam of 31.6 meters and at full load a draft of 9.45 meters. As designed they displaced 35,240 metric tons (34,683 long tons) at standard load and 41,539 metric tons (40,883 long tons) at full load. The displacement of the two Project 69-I-class ships increased to 36,250 metric tons (35,677 long tons) at standard load and 42,831 metric tons (42,155 long tons) at full load. The main armament consisted of three electrically powered MK-15 triple turrets, each with three 54-caliber 305mm (15in) B-50 guns.

Kronshtadt-class battlecruiser (Project 69)
Luftwaffe reconnaissance photo of Kronshtadt under construction
in late 1941; her stern section is in the right midsection of the photo
They were laid down in 1939, with an estimated completion date in 1944, but Stalin's naval construction program proved to be more than the shipbuilding and armaments industries could handle. Prototypes of the armament and machinery had not even been completed by 22 June 1941, almost two years after the start of construction. This is why the Soviets bought twelve surplus 38-centimeter (15.0 in) SK C/34 guns, and their twin turrets, similar to those used in the Bismarck-class battleships, from Germany in 1940. The ships were partially redesigned to accommodate them, after construction had already begun, but no turrets were actually delivered before Operation Barbarossa. Only Kronshtadt‍ '​s hull survived the war reasonably intact and was about 10% complete in 1945. She was judged obsolete and the Soviets considered converting her into an aircraft carrier, but the idea was rejected and both hulls were scrapped in 1947.

Painting of Stalingrad
The Stalingrad-class battlecruiser, also known in the Soviet Union as Project 82 (Russian: Тяжёлые крейсера проекта 82), was intended to be built for the Soviet Navy after World War II. Three ships were ordered, but none were ever completed. The ships of the Stalingrad class were 260 meters long at the waterline and 273.6 meters long overall. They had a beam of 32 meters, a maximum draft of 9.2 meters forward, 8.8 meters aft, and they displaced 36,500 tonnes (35,900 long tons) at standard load and 42,300 tonnes (41,600 long tons) at full load. They were the first large Soviet-built ships with a flush deck. Rather than use the Tsarist-era 305-millimeter (12.0 in) MK-3-12 gun as originally planned, or use the 305-mm/54 guns ordered for the Kronstadt class battlecruisers, it was decided in 1947 to adopt a new and more powerful 61-caliber gun of the same size that was to use three newly designed triple SM-6 gun turrets.

Stalingrad-class battlecruiser (Project 82)

A heavy cruiser was designed before the Second World War as an intermediate between the light cruiser Kirov and Chapayev classes and the Kronshtadt-class battlecruisers. The specification, or OTZ in Russian, was issued in May 1941, but plans were shelved with the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany. Construction was proposed again in 1943. After a lengthy design period, which Premier Joseph Stalin—a major supporter of the project—often had a hand in, keels for two ships were laid at the Marti South Shipyard in Nikolayev (1951) and the Baltic Works in Leningrad (1952) and a third ship was planned for the shipyard in Severodvinsk. The Project 82 design which was ordered would have been much larger than the original intermediate design, so much so that they were considered the successors to the Kronshtadts, which had been canceled at the outbreak of World War II. As envisioned by Stalin, the Stalingrad battlecruisers' role would be to disrupt and break up an enemy's light cruisers when they approached the Soviet coast. However, after his death in March 1953, the ships were canceled by the Ministry of Transport and Heavy Machinery. Only the incomplete hull of Stalingrad was launched; used as a floating target for anti-ship missiles, it was scrapped around 1962.


Bridge and superstructure of a Yamato
class battleship; notice the 18in gun.
Japan's Yamato class battleship
Japan was the first and the only country in the history that completed and put in service two super-battleships, the two Yamato class, Yamato and Musashi. Displacing 72,000 long tons (73,000 t) at full load and with a length of 263m, the vessels were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed. The class carried the largest naval artillery ever fitted to a warship, nine 460-millimetre (18.1 in) naval guns, each capable of firing 1,360 kg (3,000 lb) shells over 42 km (26 mi). A third battleship of the class, the Shinano, was converted to an aircraft carrier during construction.

An artist's interpretation of a Design A-150 battleship by Richard Allison.

Japan projected even more powerful ships than Yamato class. Design A-150, also known as the Super Yamato class, was an Imperial Japanese plan for a class of battleships. Begun in 1938–39, the design was mostly complete by 1941. However, so that a demand for other types of warships could be met, all work on Design A-150 was halted and no keels were laid. Authors William H. Garzke and Robert O. Dulin have argued that Design A-150 would have been the "most powerful battleships in history" because of the massive size of their main battery of six 510 mm (20in) guns as well as numerous smaller caliber weapons. As the Japanese expected that the Americans would be able to obtain the true characteristics of that class (namely the principal armament of 460 mm), the use of 510 mm guns was vital to keep with Japan's policy of individual ships' superiority over their American counterparts; the A-150s were meant to counter the United States' reply to the Yamatos. The displacement was to be similar to the Yamato class, which was around 60,000–70,000 tonnes. The side armor belt was probably going to be 460 mm (18in). This was so large that steel mills in Japan were incapable of manufacturing it; instead, "double strakes of armor plates" were going to be utilized, which would have been much less effective than just one single plate. Both of the ships' keels were supposed to be laid in late 1941 or early 1942, launched in 1944/45, and finished in 1946/47. However, the war's turn against the Japanese after the Battle of Midway meant that the need for ships other than battleships never abated.


Richelieu, lead ship of the Richelieu class battleships
The Alsace-class battleships were planned to succeed and enlarge the Richelieu class. They were designed in the 1930s to counter the threat of the Italian Vittorio Veneto-class battleships. Richelieu class ships were essentially scaled-up versions of the preceding Dunkerque-class battlecruisers. They featured a main battery of eight 380mm (15in) guns in two quadruple turrets in forward superfiring positions. The Alsace design planned for an improved Richelieu design with triple or quadruple 380mm turrets (two fore, one aft). Six names were proposed, and two had to be chosen from this list: Alsace, Normandie, Flandre, Bourgogne; two more units were not given names. The laying down of the lead ship of the class, Alsace, was planned for 1941; with the Fall of France in 1940, none of the ships were built. The ships would had a displacement of nearly 50,000tons at full load and 250m length.

Alsace class battleship with 3x3 16in guns
Alsace class battleship with 3x4 15in guns

Three types of battleships were studied, all with the same main artillery arrangement, two turrets forward, one turret aft, and the same secondary artillery arrangement (152mm caliber), all on center line, one triple turret forward, two triple turrets in superfiring position aft, between the funnel and the aft main artillery turret, as on the C3 version of projects for 1938 bis program. They differed on two points: First, the main artillery consists in triple 380mm turrets, for type n°1, in 406mm triple turrets, for type n°2, in 380mm quadruple turrets, for type n°3. Second, the anti aircraft artillery, consisting in every case of dual mountings of 100mm caliber (so-called pseudo turrets), would have counted eight mountings, on types n° 1 and 2, twelve mountings on type n° 3. The French Admiralty is reported to have chosen the type n°1, the nearest of Richelieu design, and discarded the type n°2, because of the delays to perfect the 406mm guns, a new device for the French Navy, and considered the type n°3 dimensions excessive, being nearly those of Iowa-class battleships (270 m, 212,000 hp (158,000 kW), 45,000 tons).

United Kingdom

HMS Anson in 1945
The Lion-class battleships were a class of six fast battleships designed for the Royal Navy in the late 1930s. They were a larger, improved version of the King George V class with nine 16-inch (406 mm) guns in three triple turrets. Only two ships were laid down before World War II began in September 1939 and a third was ordered during the war, but their construction was suspended shortly afterwards. Their design changed several times in response to the removal of treaty restrictions on size and in light of war experience. None of the other ships planned were laid down, although there was a proposal to modify one of the suspended ships into a hybrid battleship/aircraft carrier with two 16-inch gun turrets and a flight deck. The two ships already begun were scrapped after the end of the war. Those that were laid down (initial design) might have been approximately 242m long and they might have displaced about 49,000t at full load. A later Lion design called for even larger ships that those two ships were laid down. Naval historians William Garzke and Robert Dulin speculate that the ships might have been 830 feet (253.0 m) long, with a beam of 115 feet (35.1 m), and a draught of 35 feet (10.7 m). They might have displaced about 56,500 long tons (57,400 t).

Lion class battleship

HMS Vanguard, a modified Lion-class battleship
By early 1939 it was clear that the first two Lion-class battleships could not be delivered before 1943 at the earliest and that further battleship construction would be necessary to match the German and Japanese battleships already under construction. The British had enough 15-inch (380 mm) guns and turrets in storage to allow one ship of a modified Lion-class battleship design to be completed faster than the ships of that class that had already been laid down. Work on this fast battleship was started and stopped several times during the war and even after construction had begun, her design was revised several times to reflect war experience. These stoppages and changes prevented her from being completed during the war. This new modified Lion-class battleship was the HMS Vanguard that was commissioned on 12 May 1946. She was the only ship of her class and was the biggest, fastest and last of the Royal Navy's battleships, and the final battleship to be launched in the world. She had a very short career; Vanguard was decommissioned officially on 7 June 1960.

United States of America

Iowa class battleship
The Montana-class battleships of the United States Navy were planned as successors to the Iowa class, being slower but larger, better armored, and having superior firepower. Five were approved for construction during WW II, but changes in wartime building priorities resulted in their cancellation in favor of the Essex-class aircraft carriers and Iowa class before any Montana-class keels were laid. With beams of 121 feet (37m), they would have been the first U.S. battleships as originally designed to be too wide to transit the 110 foot wide locks of the Panama Canal.The ships would have a displacement of over than 71,000t and a length of over than 280m!

Artist's conception of the Montana class battleship

Intended armament would have been 12 - 16-inch (406 mm) Mark 7 guns in four triple turrets, up from the Iowas' three triple 16s. With an increased anti-aircraft capability and thicker armor belt (409mm!), the Montana-class would have been the largest, best-protected, and most heavily armed U.S. battleships ever, the only class to come close to rivaling the Empire of Japan's immense Yamato-class battleships. 

Montana class battleship
A 1944 model of a Montana-class battleship
Preliminary design work for the Montana-class began before the US entry into World War II. The first two vessels were approved by Congress in 1939 following the passage of the Second Vinson Act. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor delayed construction of the Montana class. The success of carrier combat at the Battle of the Coral Sea and, to a greater extent, the Battle of Midway, diminished the value of the battleship. Consequently, the US Navy chose to cancel the Montana-class in favor of more urgently needed aircraft carriers, amphibious and anti-submarine vessels. Because the Iowas were fast enough to escort the new Essex-class aircraft carriers, their orders were retained, making them the last US Navy battleships to be commissioned. Thus, 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.


The giant Tirpitz battleship (Bismarck class) of Germany
The H class was a series of battleship designs for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine, intended to fulfill the requirements of Plan Z in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The first variation, "H-39," called for six ships to be built, essentially as enlarged Bismarck-class battleships with eight 40.6 cm (16in) guns. The "H-41" design improved the "H-39" ship with still larger main guns, with eight 42 cm (17in) weapons. Two subsequent plans, "H-42" and "H-43", increased the main battery yet again, with 48 cm (19in) pieces, and the enormous (and imaginary..) "H-44" design ultimately resulted with 50.8 cm (20.0 in) guns. The ships ranged in size from the "H-39", which was 277.8 m long on a displacement of 56,444 t (55,553 long tons), to the "H-44", at 345m on a displacement of 131,000 t (129,000 long tons)!
Comparison of three projected battleship classes.
From top: H-44 class, Montana class, H-39 class

A model of an H-39 class battleship  during Marinedagen 2012
H-39 class, Marinedagen 2012

H-39 class, Marinedagen 2012

Most of the designs had a top speed in excess of 30 knots (56 km/h). Due to the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, none of the ships were ever built; only the first two of the "H-39" ships were laid down. What work that had been accomplished was halted; the assembled steel remained on the slipway until November 1941, when the Oberkommando der Marine ordered it be scrapped for other purposes. Contracts for the other four "H-39" type ships had been awarded, but no work was begun on any of them before they were canceled.

H-39 class battleship

None of the subsequent designs progressed further than planning stages. Several of the 40.6 cm guns were constructed before work on the ships was halted; these were later employed as coastal guns, including at Battery Lindemann in France.

One of the 40.6 cm guns at Batterie Lindemann

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