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What were the weaknesses of the Bismarck?

What were the weaknesses of the Bismarck?

As a German historian with a deep knowledge of naval warfare. I can confidently state that the battleship Bismarck did not have a fatal flaw. Her demise resulted from the British engaging in absolute war. The concept of absolute war was a theoretical construct developed by the Prussian military theorist General Carl von Clausewitz in his famous however, sadly unfinished philosophical exploration of war, Vom Kriege.

Firstly, let us consider the design of the Bismarck.

It was one of the most advanced and heavily armed battleships of its time, with a displacement of over 41,000 tons and a top speed of 30 knots. Its armor was thick and impenetrable, and its firepower was unparalleled. The Bismarck was a masterpiece of German engineering, and there was nothing inherently flawed about its design.

Instead, its sinking was a result of the all-out desperation of the British Royal Navy to focus all of their effort on one single vessel.

Take these two quotes from Churchill, first in an interview after the war Churchill said:

“We had to get the Bismarck: the nation expected it. One admiral said his ship hadn’t enough oil to get to the spot and back again. I sent the telegram, ‘You get there and we’ll tow you back.’ Perhaps only an historian like Rowse would have recalled Admiral Hawke’s famous reply to the pilot warning him of rocks and reefs before the victorious 1759 Battle of Quiberon Bay: ‘Master pilot, you have done your duty—now lay me alongside of the enemy.’”

And Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons on the 27th:

“This morning shortly after daylight the Bismarck, virtually at a standstill, far from help, was attacked by the British pursuing battleships… I do not know what were the results of the bombardment. It appears, however that the Bismarck was not sunk by gunfire, and she will now be dispatched by torpedo. It is thought that this is now proceeding, and it is also thought that there cannot be any lengthy delay in disposing of this vessel. Great as is our loss in the Hood, the Bismarck must be regarded as the most powerful, as she is the newest, battleship in the world.”

Unfortunately, part of the reason she sunk also lay with a lack of humility.

The arrogance on the German side however, became immense, take Captain Lindemann’s entry into his War Diary:

“Even though my crew, with few exceptions, has had no combat experience, I have the comforting feeling that, with this ship, I will be able to accomplish any mission assigned to me. This feeling is strengthened by the fact that, in combination with the level of training, we have for the first time in years a ship whose fighting qualities are at least a match for any enemy.”6

In conclusion, the Royal Navy was desperate to maintain its dominance at sea and was willing to do whatever it took to achieve this.

Written by Hannah von Althann

What were the weaknesses of the Bismarck?

How fast was a WW2 battleship?

Battleships

The history of battleship speeds can become traced back to the late 19th century and early 20th century. Moreover, a period of significant innovation and advancement in naval technology. Battleships were the most powerful and heavily armed warships of their time, and their speed and mobility were critical factors in their effectiveness in combat.

In the early days of battleship development, speeds were relatively slow. With most ships capable of traveling at speeds of around 10-15 knots (18-28 km/h). However, advances in steam engine technology and the use of turbines allowed for faster speeds to become achieved.

One of the earliest examples of a battleship with a significant speed advantage was the British HMS Dreadnought, launched in 1906. With a top speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). The Dreadnought became significantly faster than earlier battleships, giving it a significant tactical advantage.

Throughout the early 20th century, battleships continued to increase in size and speed. Moreover, with some of the fastest examples capable of traveling at speeds of up to 30 knots (56 km/h) during World War 2.

Here are the most famous battleships from the war:

USS Iowa, 33 knots

Bismarck, 30.01 knots

Yamato, 28 knots

However, advances in aviation technology during World War 2. Including the development of carrier-based aircraft. As a result, made battleships less effective. And by the end of the war, they had largely become replaced as the primary naval weapon by aircraft carriers.

Today, battleships are no longer in active service, and their speeds are of historical interest only. However, the development of battleship speeds played a critical role in the history of naval warfare. In conclusion, shaping the tactics and strategies of navies around the world.

How fast was a WW2 battleship?

The Not-So-Mighty Bismarck | Naval History Magazine – December 2017 Volume 31, Number 6 (usni.org)

What is the strongest battleship in history?

Battleships

The Japanese Battleship Yamato was one of the heaviest armed battleships constructed during World War II.

She aimed to strengthen the Japanese navy in case it needed to face powerful opponents such as the US navy.

Forward 18″ gun turrets of battleship Yamato under construction

In order to build such a powerful battleship, the Japanese government even had to quit the league of nations. Because of the league’s restrictions on the size and power a certain ship could possess.

As a result, the ambitious Japanese government quickly began constructing the most powerful battleship, Yamato, under great secrecy.

The 46 cm/45 (18.1″) cannons used on the Yamato class became the most powerful guns ever installed on a battleship.

While closely matched by the USA 16″/50 Mark 7 at long ranges. In a close-range engagement the penetration power of this weapon became unsurpassed.

The Yamato battleship was intended for fighting against numerous battleships, given its impressive power and heavy weaponries, including the largest naval caliber, 45 caliber type naval guns, triple turrets, and anti aircraft guns that were designed to counter the US’s lethal air force.

Notably, during its redesign in 1944, the number of anti aircraft guns increased to 162 in response to the heavy aircraft power in the pacific ocean campaigns that the US navy was utilizing.

In addition, Yamato also had tremendous sailing speed, reaching 27.4 knots (31.5mph). While the average speed of ships was about 20 knots. By having a significantly faster speed, the Yamato battleship could catch up with the enemy quickly.

What is the fastest battleship?

US Iowa-class battleships were powered by eight fuel oil boilers and four propellers, delivering 212,000 shaft horsepower. During a shakedown cruise in 1968, the Iowa-class USS New Jersey achieved a top speed of 35.2 knots (65.2 km/h). Which it sustained for over six hours.

Japanese battleship HIJMS Yamato in action with U.S. carrier planes, as she transited the Sibuyan Sea (24 October 1944)
What is the most powerful battleship ever built?

The design of the Yamato battleship essentially attempts to demonstrate the excellence of the Japanese naval engineering technology and the power of the Japanese Empire; yet, Yamato’s battle results against the US navy during the pacific campaigns were not so promising due to some flaw designs and mistakes of the Japanese commanders.

With forward knowledge of Yamato’s battle plan, the US navy quickly responded and inflicted significant damages on the Japanese navy, resulting in 4 Aircraft Carriers being destroyed, and 332 aircraft lost. In response to the huge loss, the ship’s commander Kōsaku Aruga had no choice but to call the remaining aircraft and vessels to retreat, including the Yamato battleship.

Photographed just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ships are, from left to right: Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser and Nagato.

Bismarck Battleship Wreck

Ever since her first campaign, the Yamato battleship had become docked numerous times because of its high fuel consumption and lack of ammunition. The Japanese military was not well prepared to load Yamato with sufficient ammunition for battle. Japan simply had not produced the necessary munitions that the Yamato needed.

Another troublesome part of the ship was its high fuel consumption which would essentially increase substantially the entire fuel usage of the navy; therefore the Japanese navy’s plan was to save the ship for the best options.

But, getting all of the admirals to agree to send her out was a fete that never ocurred and so she wasn’t operated in any substantial campaigns. She was sailed from one Japanese port to another on short trips, acting as a domestic moral booster.

The Japanese were very short on fuel reserves throughout the entire military and were stretched thin. As a result, the Yamato battleship was not used in several consecutive campaigns against the US navy and was even replaced by its sister battleship for the following battles.

Instead, the Yamato battleship was occasionally used as a transport ship due to its large food storage and armor protection.

From 1943-1944, the Japanese navy continually suffered great losses of aircrafts and battleships while Yamato battleships were dry docked. Eventually, after months of modifications, Yamato returned to the next campaign which was a minor one at that.

Still, the results were not promising. One of the main reasons was the hull design of the ship.

Kamikaze Pilots WW2 : An Analysis Of The Data

What an Iowa round did to Yamato equivalent armor in US Naval tests after the war.

Some parts of the ship were not fully protected against the bombs and torpedoes released by the US air force. So when the battleship takes the damage, it would be massively damaged. Despite several modifications by the Japanese engineers to optimize its protection against aircrafts.

It was a ship designed for an earlier time of naval warfare, a Jutland that didn’t exist anymore.

And it struggled against the shift of power in naval warfare from battleships to aircraft carriers.

During the battle of Samar, due to its imperfect defense system, torpedoes from the US air force killed crews on the battleship. In that battle, although the Yamato battleship also incurred damages on the US navy, the commander mistakenly believed that the navy was outnumbered because of the ferocious response by the US navy. Again, he made the call to retreat.

During its last campaign, the operation ten-go, Yamato attempted to fight against the victorious US aircraft at Okinawa but stood powerless against the relentless bombing. For Yamato, this operation was a one way ticket where it would fight until it sank.

Due to previous miscalculations, only a few vessels became left to defend the island. Along with nine other vessels, the Yamato battleship went on this suicidal mission.

World’s Greatest Dreadnought Battleship?

Her Sinking

“Operation Heaven Number One” (Ten-ichi-go) The Japanese super-battleship Yamato, the most powerful battleship in the world with her 18-inch guns, sortied from Japan on 6 April 1945 to oppose the U.S. landings on Okinawa. She would be no match for 390 carrier aircraft from the U.S. Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 58) that swarmed Yamato on 7 April 1945 and ensured she didn’t get anywhere near Okinawa. U.S. naval intelligence knew the details of the operation almost before senior Japanese navy commanders (and before the skippers of Yamato, the light cruiser Yahagi, and the eight destroyers that would escort Yamato on a one-way suicide mission as the “Surface Special Attack Force”—without air cover).

Those same skippers argued vociferously against the mission, believing it would be futile and wasteful, or as Captain Tameichi Hara of Yahagi stated, “like throwing an egg against a rock.” However, in the end, every one of those skippers executed their orders to the best of their ability.

With the advance warning, U.S. commanders Admiral Raymond Spruance (Fifth Fleet), Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher (CTF 58), and others were ready. U.S. submarines picked up Yamato as she exited the Inland Sea and tracked her all night. U.S. scout planes from the TF 58 carriers, and Mariner flying boats operating from a tender at Kerama Retto (southwest of Okinawa), knew where to find her and tracked her all morning. At 1000 on 7 April, five fleet carriers and four light carriers of TF 58 launched a first wave of 280 fighters, dive-bombers, and torpedo bombers.

Not long afterward, three fleet carriers and one light carrier launched 110 more aircraft.

Although 53 aircraft from the first wave didn’t find Yamato in the difficult cloud conditions, it didn’t matter. The Japanese force put up a valiant fight, and Japanese skippers demonstrated their extraordinary skill at avoiding bombs and torpedoes through maneuver; but the great volume of anti-aircraft fire was also wildly inaccurate. Cumulative damage took its toll on Yamato and, by the end, both she and Yahagi had become torpedo and bomb sumps.

For the loss of ten aircraft and 12 men, the aviators of TF 58 sank YamatoYahagi, and four destroyers (two sunk, two scuttled), and one of the surviving destroyers had to steam backwards to Japan without her bow. About 4,240 Japanese sailors (3,055 from Yamato alone) gave their lives for the emperor and to defend their homeland.

They knew their mission was doomed from the start, but they did their duty anyway. But, like their kamikaze brothers. They made a statement that they would never quit. No matter the odds, and they were prepared to fight to the death.

The United States certainly got the message that an invasion of Japan would be a bloodbath of extreme proportions for both sides.

HIJMS Yamato under attack in the battle of Sibuyan Sea

Senior U.S. Navy commanders in the Pacific, including Admiral Raymond Spruance, Commander U.S. Fifth Fleet, knew what the battleship Yamato’s mission was before almost anyone on Yamato did. The execute order for Operation Ten-ichi-go (“Heaven Number One”) was intercepted on 26 March 1945 and decrypted. Over the next days, additional messages were intercepted and decrypted by Fleet Radio Unit Pacific (FRUPAC) and also OP-20-G in Washington that provided increasingly detailed information on the operation’s timing and made specific mention of Yamato on 5 April.

Operation Ten-ichi-go was the Imperial Japanese Navy’s plan to react to the U.S. invasion of the island of Okinawa.

Which Japanese intelligence correctly determined would occur at the end of March 1945. (The actual U.S. landings on Okinawa commenced 1 April 1945, but carrier strikes and shore bombardment began a week earlier and the landings on the small islands of the Kerama-shōtto group just southwest of Okinawa occurred on 27 March.)

Yamato was essentially doomed by a question from Emperor Hirohito during a briefing on 29 March about plans for Japanese air opposition to expected landings on Okinawa.

He asked what the Japanese navy was doing. Taken by senior Japanese navy leaders as implicit criticism of their service’s inaction. By this time, there wasn’t much left of the Japanese navy that was still operational, and fuel was in critically short supply. The debate up to that point was whether to keep the fleet in home waters as a last-ditch defense or to send it on what everyone knew would be a one-way mission to attack the overwhelming U.S. forces expected to be at Okinawa. The emperor’s question clinched it. The commander in chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, resolved to send the remainder of his force out in a blaze of glory.

The mission was given to Vice Admiral Seiichi Ito, commander of the Japanese Second Fleet. Pretty much all that was left of the Combined Fleet. Embarked on the super-battleship Yamato.

Japanese Admiral Seiichi Itō of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Itō was posthumously promoted from vice admiral to full admiral (Gensui).

On 29 March, Yamato was ordered to take on fuel and ammunition, and loaded 1,170 shells for her nine 18.1-inch guns (in three triple turrets), 1,629 shells for her six 6.1-inch guns (in two triple turrets), 13,500 anti-aircraft shells, and 11.5 million rounds of machine-gun ammunition. It would not be enough.

Vice Admiral Ito initially objected to the mission, viewing it as futile and wasteful. According to the plan, Yamato, light cruiser Yahagi, and eight destroyers would form a “Surface Special Attack Force” (the term “special attack” was understood to mean suicide) and sortie on 6 April 1945. This would be carried out in conjunction with a mass aerial kamikaze attack by over 350 airplanes (Kikusui No. 1). The force would transit to Okinawa on 7 April (with only a few hours of minimal air cover), to arrive in daylight hours in the U.S. transport area off southwestern Okinawa on 8 April. The ships were to sink as many troop transports as possible, then beach themselves and continue firing as long as they had ammunition. At that point, the crews would go ashore to fight and die to the last man along with their army comrades.

When the details of the mission were briefed on 5 April to the Japanese ship captains who would carry it out. It had been kept secret from them, it provoked the closest thing to a mutiny in the Japanese navy.

The chief of staff of the Combined Fleet, Vice Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka, flew in from Tokyo to ensure that Ito would comply with Admiral Toyoda’s orders. The ship captains were then assembled on Yahagi and briefed.

They unanimously objected, most of them arguing instead to be allowed to conduct independent raiding of the over-extended U.S. supply lines. As later described by the captain of Yahagi, Captain Tameichi Hara, the meeting was quite contentious. None of the captains was afraid to die—they just objected to the sheer folly of attacking in daylight without air cover, believing that they wouldn’t get anywhere close to Okinawa. (They were right.) They eventually fell in line when informed that this was what the emperor wanted, that the force would serve to support the mass kamikaze air attack, and that it was an order, they were also given the option of not participating, an option none of them took.

Yamato and her sister ship Musashi, sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, were, at 65,000 tons displacement (72,000 tons fully loaded), the largest battleships ever built.

Musashi, August 1942, taken from the bow

Even before the war, the Japanese understood that they could never match the U.S. Navy for quantity.

But were convinced they could build a better battleship. Design commenced in 1934, construction began in 1937 (in great secrecy). And Yamato was commissioned in December 1941 just after Pearl Harbor.

Her main armament consisted of three triple 18.1-inch gun turrets that could hurl a 3,200-pound shell (compared to 2,700 pounds for the U.S. 16-inch shells) to a range of just over 22 miles. Her waterline armor belt was 16 inches thick.

Her secondary armament was significantly altered during the war by removing two of her four triple 6.1-inch turrets.

In favor of increased anti-aircraft armament, which, by 1945, included 12 dual 5-inch gun mounts, 54 25-mm triple mounts (162 guns), and smaller machine guns. Yamato had been fitted with multiple air and surface search radars, as well as radio-intercept capability. She had suffered minor damage in the bridge area from a bomb hit by a Helldiver dive-bomber off Intrepid (CV-11). During U.S. carrier strikes on Kure and the Inland Sea on 19 March. But was fully fit for battle.

Yamato was commanded by Captain Kosaku Aruga (spelled Ariga in some accounts). Also, accounts differ as to whether he was a captain or rear admiral. To buck up morale, many captains of capital ships received a “accelerated” promotion to rear admiral in 1944. Thus, it’s possible Aruga was “selected,” but not yet “promoted.”

In keeping with Japanese practice of posthumous promotion for death in battle. He was promoted to vice admiral after Yamato was sunk, that much is fact.

The rest of the Surface Special Attack Force consisted of the light cruiser Yahagi, and eight destroyers. Yahagi was a relatively small light cruiser (6,600 tons) completed in 1943. And intended for use as a destroyer flotilla leader. With only three twin 6-inch gun turrets. She was no match for U.S. light cruisers with their four triple-turret, rapid-fire 6-inch guns. Yahagi was commanded by Captain Tameichi Hara (the only Japanese destroyer skipper at the start of the war who was still alive at the end of the war). With Rear Admiral Keizo Komura, commander of Destroyer Squadron 2, embarked. The destroyers were Destroyer Division (DESDIV) 17 (Isokaze, Hamakaze, Yukikaze), DESDIV 21 (Asashimo, Kasumi, Hatsushimo), and DESDIV 41 (Fuyuzuki, Suzutsuki).

Yahagi sinking

The destroyers were an assortment of different classes (what was left in operation, since the Japanese would lose 120 destroyers during the war), but all were armed with powerful Type 93 “Long Lance” 24-inch torpedoes.

Before getting underway, the Surface Special Attack Force put ashore 67 recently arrived midshipmen of the Etajima Naval Academy Class No. 74, although many begged to stay. In addition, sick sailors and also the oldest sailors were sent to shore. The morale aboard Yamato was described as not being very good, especially after the crews were informed they were on a one-way mission. (Although some accounts say that, according to the plan, the ships were only given enough fuel to reach Okinawa, they actually received as much fuel as was available to give.)

U.S. submarines were already waiting for Yamato.

With orders to report rather than attack, although with the force transiting at 22 knots and frequently zig-zagging, successful attack in all but the luckiest circumstances was unlikely. As Yamato and escorts were transiting the Bungo Strait between the Home Islands of Kyushu and Shikoku on 6 April 1945, submarine Threadfin (SS-410) sighted the force at about 1745 and issued a contact report in the clear that was intercepted by Yamato. At 1830, destroyer Isokaze sighted Threadfin on the surface. At 2144, the submarine issued a detailed contact report with an accurate force disposition.

Submarine Hackleback (SS-295) then picked up surveillance, issuing four contact reports during the night as Yamato transited southwesterly along the coast of Kyushu. A Japanese destroyer peeled off three times to keep Hackleback at bay. However, in order to keep up with Yamato, these forays were short-lived. The submarine radio traffic transmitted in the clear, reporting Yamato by name, and reported by Japanese radio intelligence, did nothing to improve the sense of foreboding felt by the senior officers on Yamato.

The Yamato force had a Nisei radio-intelligence operator.
Although born a U.S. citizen, he had been studying in Japan when the war broke out and had the choice of execution or serving in the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Yamato maneuvers frantically under attack as a bomb explodes off its port side. The fire in the area of the 6.1 inch turret can be clearly seen.
Just after 1240 on 7 April, Yamato maneuvers frantically under the initial attack by USS Bennington (CV-20)and USS Hornet (CV-12) aircraft as a bomb explodes off her port side. The fire in the area of her forward 6.1 inch turret can be clearly seen (L42-09.06.05).

Both the U.S. Fifth Fleet commander, Admiral Spruance, and Vice Admiral Mitscher (commander of the Fast Carrier Task Force, TF 58). Who had access to the Ultra communications intelligence and were expecting the sortie, immediately reacted to the submarine reports. Mitscher ordered all four of his carrier task groups to proceed as soon as possible to launch positions northeast of Okinawa with the intent to destroy Yamato before it got anywhere near Okinawa. TG 58.1 and 58.3 were quickly on station, TG 58.4 had just finished refueling and would arrive just in time. TG 58.2 was in the act of refueling and wouldn’t get there in time.

Spruance gave orders to Rear Admiral Morton Deyo, commander of the Bombardment Force, to take his six old battleships and set up a blocking force northwest of Okinawa (as Yamato was circling around in that direction with the intent to stay as far from TF 58 as possible).

During the night, this plan morphed into sending six new battleships detached from TF 58 into blocking position. This force include battleships Massachusetts (BB-59), Indiana (BB-58), South Dakota (BB-57), New Jersey (BB-62), Wisconsin (BB-64), and Missouri (BB-63) (54 16-inch guns), the battle-cruisers Alaska (CB-1) and Guam (CB-2), five cruisers, and 21 destroyers. They would not be needed.

After daybreak on 7 April 1945, a paltry six A6M Zeke fighters showed up to provide combat air patrol over Yamato. Between then and 1000, a total of 14 Zekes would provide cover. FRUPAC had the message that the air cover would end at 1000, which was also known to senior U.S. Navy commanders.

At 0657, destroyer Asashimo, with Captain Kotaki, DESDIV 21, embarked, sent a signal that she was having engine trouble and began to fall behind. This was taken as a yet another bad omen.

At 0823, a Hellcat fighter off Essex (CV-9) sighted Yamato, a contact that the battleship reported at 0832. The visibility was highly variable, but often not very good due to cloud cover. The fighter issued a contact report at 0832. At 0840, the Japanese reported seven Hellcats orbiting around the force. The Japanese fighters were unable to make contact before they left at 1000. With this contact information, Spruance ordered Deyo to ready the blocking force. Since Yamato could not get to the landing area before 8 April, there wasn’t a big rush and Deyo convened a planning conference on his flagship Eldorado (AGC-11) at 1030 with plans to sortie TF 54 from the bombardment area at 1530. Aboard the TF 58 carriers, the strike packages were remaining ready on deck while the searches were underway.

Not long after the Hellcat sighting, two PBM-3 Martin Mariner flying boats began shadowing Yamato, maintaining discreet contact for the next five hours while mostly hidden in the clouds. The Mariners were subordinate to Patrol Bombing Squadron 21 (VPB-21), operating from the tender Chandeleur (AV-10), which had arrived at Kerama Retto on 28 March.

At 1000, Task Group 58.1 and Task Group 58.3 commence launching a 280-plane strike wave (132 fighters, 50 bombers, and 98 torpedo planes).

TG 58.1, commanded by Rear Admiral J. J. “Jocko” Clark, embarked on Hornet (CV-12), included Hancock (CV-19), Bennington (CV-20), Belleau Wood (CVL-24) and San Jacinto (CVL-30). TG 58.3, commanded by Rear Admiral Frederick “Ted” Sherman, embarked on Essex (CV-9), included Bunker Hill (CV-17), Bataan (CVL-24), and Cabot (CVL-28). Mitscher, CTF 58, was embarked on Bunker HillHancock for some reason launched her 53-plane strike late, and it  never found Yamato in the murk, reducing the overall first strike to 227 aircraft.

At 1014, the Yamato force sighted the two Martin Mariner PBM flying boats, and also noted that Hackleback was still trailing (the Japanese had made so many course changes during the night that the sub was able to “cut the corner” and maintain contact on the force). Furthermore, at 1017, Yahagi commenced jamming the Mariner’s communications, but by then it was too late. At 1017, Yamato opened fire with several of her special main-battery anti-aircraft shells (sanshikidan or “beehive” shells, somewhat like a giant shotgun shell), at the Mariners, which was equally futile, although the Mariners ducked back in the clouds.

Then, at 1107, Yamato’s Type 13 air search radar detected a large aircraft formation inbound at the radar’s maximum range of 63 nautical miles. And noted the aircraft formation was splitting into two groups. The Yamato group cranked up speed to 25 knots.

At 1115, Yamato’s radar indicated the two air groups were at 44 miles and closing rapidly. The battleship received a 30-minute time-late report from an observation post on a small Japanese island north of Okinawa that 150 U.S. planes were headed in Yamato’s direction. The Japanese also noted eight Hellcats circling the force with impunity because of no Japanese fighter cover, and remaining outside anti-aircraft range.

At 1210, destroyer Asashimo, lagging behind the force, reported that she was under air attack, and radio transmissions from her ceased. Asashimo was first attacked by aircraft from Bunker Hill and then, a few minutes later, by aircraft from San Jacinto, which scored killing hits with torpedoes and bombs. Asashimo went down with all 330 hands. (Based on erroneous San Jacinto report, Samuel Eliot Morison misidentifies this ship as Hamakaze, but a photo shows a Yugumo-class destroyer, which would be Asashimo, and which was also the one lagging behind.)

Photo #: NH 62581  "Ten-Go" Operation, April 1945
Yamato maneuvers while under attack by U.S. Navy carrier planes north of Okinawa, 7 April 1945, maneuvering evasively at a brisk 15 to 20 knots. One fire can be observed amidships from the initial strike, but no list has developed at this point. Photographed from a USS Yorktown (CV-10) plane (NH 62581). What is the most powerful battleship ever built?

At 1232, lookouts in the Yamato force sighted the first incoming strike wave.

Captain Hara on Yahagi reported that the large formations of aircraft circled around the task force. Just outside anti-aircraft range for a number of minutes. Some in clockwise rotation and some in counter-clockwise rotation. As strike leaders organized strikes on particular targets free of interference from Japanese fighters. At 1234, Yamato opened fire with her two forward main battery turrets. Lobbing sanshikidan shells at the U.S. aircraft—to no effect.

At about 1237, U.S. aircraft commenced attack runs.

With strafing and rockets from fighters (which quickly began decimating Japanese anti-aircraft gunners), and then bombs and torpedoes. The Japanese opened up with everything they had, which looked terrifying, but U.S. pilots quickly figured out that Japanese anti-aircraft fire was wildly inaccurate. Far more effective was the extraordinary skill of Japanese ship captains in making evasive maneuvers to throw off aim and avoid numerous bombs and torpedoes.

Numerous Helldivers from Bennington and Hornet attacked from Yamato’s port side and numerous near misses splashed all around the battleship.

A Curtiss SB2C Helldiver in tricolour scheme and tail markings for Bombing Squadron 80 (VB-80), which operated off the aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CV-19), in February 1945. This aircraft is the SB2C-5, BuNo 83589. It is flying with the Commemorative Air Force, based in Graham, Texas (USA).

Which was moving at flank speed (27 knots), before she was finally hit by two 1,000-pound armor-piercing bombs at 1240. One bomb exploded in crews’ quarters, but the other bomb exploded near the aft command station and knocked out one of her two air search radars, the aft secondary gun director, several 25-mm gun mounts, and started a fire that killed all but one crewman in the after secondary (6-inch) gun turret and that couldn’t be put out. One Helldiver was shot down.

At 1243, five Hornet Avengers came in from port, while 14 F4U Corsairs from Bunker Hill were strafing and hitting Yamato with rockets that caused little damage to the ship, but were deadly to the gunners. One Avenger was shot down, but three torpedoes went into the water. Yamato avoided two, but the third hit her port side at 1245. She quickly shipped 2,235 tons of water, but the list was soon corrected with effective counter-flooding. U.S. aircrew claimed additional bomb and torpedo hits in this first wave, but these were mostly near misses.

Light cruiser Yahagi steered away from Yamato in an attempt to draw attention away from the battleship—too successfully.

The Japanese light cruiser Yahagi underway off Sasebo, Japan, in December 1943.

At 1246, she took a direct torpedo hit in the engine room that killed the entire engine room crew and left her dead in the water, unable to avoid further hits. The destroyer Isokaze rushed to aid Yahagi and take off Rear Admiral Komura. But got pummeled by bombs before she got close. Meanwhile, about 34 Hellcats and Corsairs and 22 Helldivers and Avengers worked over some of the other Japanese destroyers. A near miss on Hamakaze disabled her starboard shaft and then, at 1247, torpedo hits amidships blew her in half. A 500-pound general-purpose bomb hit Suzutsuki and blew off her bow. Fuyutsuki was hit by two dud rockets. The first U.S. attack wave ended about 1250.

At 1302, Yamato’s remaining air search radar detected a second inbound wave.

These were 50 aircraft from Essex and Bataan. At 1322, an Essex Corsair hit Yamato in the port bow with a 1,000-pound general-purpose bomb. (Although U.S. carrier air groups’ complement had been changed to have a mix of about three quarters fighters. To defend against kamikaze and only one quarter bombers and torpedo planes, the fighters had been trained and gotten pretty good at being used in a fighter-bomber role, and, with no Japanese air opposition, had the freedom to do so.) Twelve Helldivers claimed several hits in the bridge area in exchange for five Helldivers damaged by anti-aircraft fire. By this point, Yamato was firing main-battery beehive shells set to detonate after one second (about 3,000 yards) from the ship, which U.S. aircraft just blew through.

At 1333, another 110 aircraft from TG 58.4 (Yorktown, Intrepid, and Langley). Which had launched after the first wave of 280 aircraft, commenced their attack on Yamato.

This time, all attacks concentrated on the battleship. Twenty Avengers attacked from the port side (concentrating torpedo attacks from the port side was deliberate. With the intent to capsize the ship). Three of the torpedoes hit in quick succession. And Yamato took on another 3,000 tons of water and a 7-degree list. Having already counter-flooded to starboard, the only option Yamato had was to flood her starboard engine and boiler rooms.

The desperate measure worked. But, with insufficient time to give warning, several hundred Yamato crewmen were drowned as a result. And the ship was slowed to 10 knots, which made her an easier target.

At 1342, another Avenger was shot down, but four more torpedoes were inbound from the port side and two hit. With Yamato slowed, U.S. torpedo planes started to deliberately target her stern to knock out her steering. And she became stuck in a starboard turn. Yamato took at least four more bomb hits in the superstructure area. Which wiped out many of the remaining 25-mm guns. A bomb impact in the dispensary killed many of the wounded who had been gathered there. Along with many of the medical personnel.

The executive officer reported to Captain Aruga that the damage control officers were dead. And that counter-flooding could no longer correct the list, and recommended the ship be abandoned. Since Yamato’s radios were destroyed. Vice Admiral Ito sent out a signal via flag hoist cancelling the operation. As a result, freeing the other ships to try to get back to Japan.

Photo #: 80-G-413914  "Ten-Go" Operation, April 1945
“Ten-Go” Operation, April 1945
Description: Photo #: 80-G-413914 Ten-Go Operation, April 1945 Japanese battleship Yamato blows up after receiving massive bomb and torpedo damage from U.S. Navy carrier planes, north of Okinawa on 7 April 1945. Three Japanese destroyers are nearby. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
Catalog #: 80-G-413914
At 1430 on 7 April 1945, more than 300 nautical miles north of Okinawa, Yamato blows up after capsizing. Three Japanese destroyers are nearby (80-G-413914). 

At 1402, Yamato took three more bomb hits amidships, and Aruga gave the abandon-ship order. At 1407, she was struck by at least the seventh torpedo, this time to starboard. Lastly, at 1417, she took an eighth and ninth torpedo, both to port. By this point, the uncorrected list was passing 15 degrees to port. And alarms were warning of critical temperatures in the forward main battery magazines, with no working pumps to flood them.

As Yamato continued to list to port, her starboard armor belt came out of the water. And her vulnerable underside became exposed. Six Yorktown Avengers attacked from the starboard side, with their Mark 13 torpedoes re-set for a 20-foot depth—several hit.

Meanwhile, the dead-in-the-water Yahagi had soaked up at least 12 bombs and seven torpedo hits. Before she finally capsized and sank at 1405.

By 1408, Yamato had clearly begun to capsize and the ship was being abandoned. Vice Admiral Ito retired to his stateroom to go down with the ship. Captain Aruga lashed himself to the binnacle to do the same. By 1420, the main deck was vertical and, at 1430. Yamato had rolled over and just gone under. When the No.1 forward magazine detonated in a massive explosion. One that killed almost all of Yamato’s crew who had survived to that point. And raised a pall of smoke that could be seen for 100 miles. More U.S. aircraft may have been knocked down by the magazine explosion than by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.

Although accounts vary about how many crewmen were on Yamato, the most definitive appears to be that 3,055 of 3,332 crewmen were lost. According to Morison:

Only 23 officers and 246 enlisted sailors who survived.

Which doesn’t exactly match, but is close. Vice Admiral Ito and Captain Aruga went down with the ship. Aruga would be posthumously promoted to vice admiral and Ito to full admiral. Ito’s chief of staff, Rear Admiral Nobuei Morishita, was the senior survivor of Yamato.

Smoke rises to the clouds shortly after the Japanese battleship Yamato capsized, exploded and sank after receiving many bomb and torpedo hits from U.S. Navy carrier planes north of Okinawa

Yahagi lost 446 of about 1,000 crewmen. Both Rear Admiral Komura and Captain Hara survived. Of the Japanese destroyers. Asashimo was sunk with all hands (about 330) and Hamakaze sank with a loss of 100 crewmen and 45 wounded (257 were rescued). Isokaze, which had her steering disabled by a near miss. Suffered 20 dead and 54 wounded, and had to be scuttled by gunfire from YukikazeKasumi, which had her steering disabled by two bomb hits. Suffered 17 dead and 47 wounded, and was scuttled by two torpedoes from FuyuzukiSuzutsuki suffered 57 dead and 34 wounded. But, despite having her bow blown off, made it back to Sasebo, Japan, steaming in reverse the whole way; she was never repaired. 

Fuyuzuki suffered light damage from dud rockets, suffered 12 dead and 12 injured, and was repaired. But had her stern blown off by a mine after the August cease-fire. Yukikaze suffered three dead from strafing and survived the war. Hatsushimo suffered only three wounded on 6 April, but, on 20 July. Struck a mine and was the last Japanese destroyer sunk in the war.

Japanese reports claim U.S. aircraft strafed survivors in the water. But also report that attacks ceased on destroyers that were picking up survivors. About 1,620 survivors of Yamato, Yahagi, Hamakaze, Isokaze, and Kasumi were rescued by the surviving Japanese destroyers. A U.S. PBM Mariner also rescued several Japanese survivors. About 1,187 crewmen of Yahagi and the four destroyers were lost. Combined with Yamato, about 4,242 Japanese sailors gave their lives for the emperor on 7 April. Yamato was still more than 300 nautical miles from Okinawa when she went down. The most powerful battleship in the world was no match for 390 U.S. carrier aircraft.

U.S. losses were 10 aircraft and 12 pilots and aircrewmen.

Captain Hara of Yahagi later said the mission would be “like throwing an egg against a rock.”

Written by US Navy Rear Admiral Samuel J. Cox

From this perspective, it is significant that numbers and tactics take the dominance in a war despite the other side may have powerful individuals such as the Yamato battleship.

It was reported that the ship suffered damages from at least 11 torpedoes and 6 bombs, a significant damage that even the Yamato battleship could not withstand.

The Battle Of Tsushima : Why The Japanese Won

If the Japanese had had the fuel to be able to widely utilize Yamato throughout the way. That might have reduced the loss of vessels and slowed the progress of war in the Pacific. Nevertheless, the flawed design and conservative use of the Yamato battleship. Eventually made the Japanese navy pay a huge cost, thus resulting in the loss of war.

What is the strongest battleship in history?

Samuel J. Cox (SES)
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Director of Naval History
Curator for the Navy
Director, Naval History and Heritage Command

What was the most powerful gun ever installed on a battleship?

The 46 cm/45 (18.1″) cannons used on the Yamato class were the most powerful guns ever installed on a battleship. While closely matched by the USA 16″/50 Mark 7 at long ranges, in a close-range engagement the penetration power of this weapon was unsurpassed.

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What is the strongest battleship in history?

Battleship vs Aircraft Carrier. When it comes to US victory in the Pacific, the question of Battleships vs Aircraft Carriers arises.

Naval historians have long debated the question of what mistakes the Imperial Japanese Navy made. And what caused their defeat in the Pacific theater. Why did Japan lose WWII?

When the US was attacked on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese were unsuccessful not only because they failed to destroy our battleships. Since our carrier fleet was out to sea. But also because it united the U.S. to build a dominant naval armada. 

Germany’s Vanished Aircraft Carrier

But the US still had one of the world’s largest navies around the globe and immediately after the attack on Pearl, Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest King dispatched his fleet of ships to ready for the Pacific theater, of course after gaining George Marshall’s approval, the 15th Chief of Staff of the United States Army, who was in charge of Naval assets at the time. 

Had the Japanese only attacked British and Dutch assets. The US might not have declared war and might have stayed out of WWII as a passive observer. 

Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese fleet failed to give the deathly blow that it intended. 

Only three out of the 8 US Navy battleships present at Pearl Harbor found themselves permanently sunk. This includes the USS Arizona and the USS Oklahoma. 

In fact most of the US battleships were restored and returned to service in the war. 

Moreover, there remained around half a dozen battleships stationed elsewhere.

These battleships turned out to be essential carrier escorts, allowing the US to go on a rampage across the Pacific.

Even Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Imperial Navy, declared that, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

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Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

Yamamoto apparently said. “In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain. I will run wild and win victory upon victory.”

This  failure to take out America’s battleship fleet would haunt the Imperial Navy for the rest of the war, as the US battleship group consistently overpowered that of the Japanese.

The Failure of the German Fleet

But, there were significant gains made by the Japanese from their attack on the American base at Pearl Harbor.

Most importantly the Japanese surprise attack was successful in preventing the US forces from disrupting Japan’s conquest of the Southern Resource Zone. 

Japanese Aircraft Carrier Akagi

Japan faced a constant threat to its route in the Southern Resource Zone. 

The Southern Resource Zone was a vital shipping zone. That was created by the Japanese during WWII to transport raw materials back to the homeland for war production.

Nanshin-ron - Wikipedia

The island of Japan lacks many of the raw goods that Russia and the United States have in abundance, such as steel and oil. For instance Japan could only produce 2.7 million barrels of domestic crude annually, which was the equivalent of one day’s worth of US crude production. 

The problem for the Japanese empire was the Philippines. 

The Japanese could allow the Philippines to remain in Allied hands as that would have resulted in the bases of the Philippines being reinforced until they were an impregnable fortress. 

Strategically Japan could not allow this to occur. 

In 1942 the Japanese felt strategically that they were forced to take the Philippines while the Allies were weak and unprepared. 

For the Japanese, leaving the Philippines alone meant giving the Allies time to build its bases there into an impregnable fortress. 

Instead, in 1942, Japan decided to take the Philippines from the Americans while the Allies were weak and unprepared, aiming to prevent a US thrust. 

With the Philippines out of Allied hands, the Japanese were able to operate their Pacific Empire for two years uninterrupted, as the fighting in the South Pacific did not interrupt the shipments of resources to Japan’s Home Islands. 

Without these vital shipments of raw materials that were able to flow unencumbered due to the Philippines seizure, Japan would never have lasted as long as they did. 

Luckily for the allies, the Japanese were stymied during the battles of Guadalcanal and the Coral Sea which happened before the battle of Midway. This was able to curtail the expansion of Japan in the south Pacific and the possible seizure of the east coast of Australia in 1942

Guadalcanal campaign - Wikipedia
Guadalcanal US operations

The Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest King dispatched ships that George Marshall had approved, eventually ordering older battleships to return to Pearl Harbor. Furthermore the US Navy had 7 fleet carriers and 1 escort carrier, the famous USS Langley (CV-1).

The Japanese were in danger of defeat. 

Though the US Navy’s Pacific theater opened on December 7, 1941, the ‘The Central Pacific Drive’ aka the march across the Pacific to Japan didn’t get underway until 1943 when sufficient new carriers were available to escort the battleships. The Japanese did not take advantage of this time window to build ample reinforcements and train new pilots to replace lost ones. 

The Japanese simply did not have the industrial base or the population reserves to produce enough manpower & equipment.

How come the Japanese Army and Navy was so inefficient against the US in  WWII despite having put so much effort into their armed forces? - Quora

Throughout the island hopping campaign of the Pacific, the Carriers effectively eliminated enemy air attack in support of the island invasions and the battleship’s bombardments. The Japanese were helpless to defeat the US battle after battle. 

Other historians point to a more passive fighting strategy among the Japanese admirals vs the more aggressive US.

For instance, their greatest battleship Yamato was barely used and spent most of WWII in port at the homeland.

1) Dreadnought, 2) Nagato, 3) Colorado, 4) Hood, 5) Nelson, 6) Vittorio Veneto, 7) Richelieu, 8) Tirpitz, 9) Yamato, 10) Missouri, and 11) Vanguard
The remains of a World War II aircraft carrier, unseen for 75 years, have  been found - CNN
the US Naval Armada
Comparison of Carriers

The battle of Midway might have been the greatest example of passivity. When despite losing multiple aircraft carriers to the US. The Japanese still had more fighting power left on the ocean than the US. 

Yet, the Japanese retreated!

Furthermore, why did they wait so long to take Midway?

Of course the US had a sizable advantage in breaking the Japanese codes. And having knowledge of Midway ahead of time. 

Moreover, the US sent a fake message about faulty water on the island. Which became then passed around the Japanese. As a result, this allowed the US to be confident of their counterintelligence on the Imperial Navy. 

A Story of America’s First Aircraft Carrier USS Langley

USS Langley

The US Aircraft Carriers were raiders. And defenders of invasions. And occasionally the eliminators of enemy carriers. But the Pacific can’t be called a carrier war. And the Japanese did not lose because of American Aircraft Carriers.

In particular, consider the relative value to the marines of Carrier air strikes and battleship pre-invasion bombardment. 

However, many historians argue that the Pacific was, in fact, a carrier’s environment. 

The carriers enabled force projection and protection. Had the marines gone to the bitter yards to regain the islands without air power, they would probably have failed and the Japanese might have been able to repel the US. 

Battleship Yamato: WWII’s Greatest Ghost

The US defense department decided to build as many carriers as possible, so it was a strategic decision that Battleships would become carrier escorts and thus the war in the Pacific would become a Carrier’s war.

HMS Hood vs Bismarck: Was Bismarck A Failure?

Some of the Japanese bunkers would survive the constant pre-invasion bombardment by the Battleships. And the surgical strikes carrier aircraft made were an enormous contribution. 

Naval surface fire destroyed and took out many of the combat obstacles. So one could argue that a combination of the two turned out to be the ideal approach to the Pacific war. 

Battle of Taranto: The Battle That Changed Warfare

One piece of evidence pointing to the importance of US battleship bombardments vs a need of carriers to beat the Japanese in the Pacific Island hopping campaign is the fact that the actual use of the battleship increased in each successive island invasion. 

The Carrier’s primary task was to eliminate enemy air opposition and fly combat air patrol over the fleet. They performed an excellent service in this supporting role of the US bombardment. The United States just had a much greater fighting force at every turn.

At Iwo Jima (below), the Japanese faced an American advantage of nearly 6 to 1. Even at Guadalcanal, early in the war the US had a 2 to 1 advantage.

Battle of Iwo Jima - Wikipedia

The victory in WWII in the Pacific was more than just the emergence of the carrier over the battleship, it was an eventual domination by a much larger entity with infinitely more supplies and reserves. 

In conclusion, in the same manner in which the North overwhelmed the South in the US Civil War, the US’ endless resources, supplies and replacements were just too much for the Empire of Japan to keep up with.

Battleship vs Aircraft Carrier

Written by Tianyi Li, Zachary Ostrow, Hantong Wu, Calvin Ma, Gihyen Eom

Battleship vs Aircraft Carrier : How Did the United States Defeat Japan?