Under this agreement, the major navies consented to severely restricting battleship construction and limiting the design and numbers of other types of warships.
From this process grew the new treaty cruisers, which were later called heavy cruisers. Meanwhile, light cruisers and destroyers grew in size and capability.
Nearly all naval war planners believed that the principal role of warships was to sink other warships in surface naval engagements. Finally, at least the Japanese and U. In the U. Navy enjoyed a tradition of success.
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From its official founding in , it had fought victorious naval wars against the French, the Barbary Pirates, the British, the Confederate States, Spain, and Germany. By the s, after fifty years of growth, the U. Indeed, in the U. Army ranked beneath those of Belgium and Bulgaria in terms of manpower, but the U. Navy stood second to none. The Navy was a mature and confident force, ready to fight its enemies, especially Japan.
Navy planners believed a single surface naval battle could decide a Pacific War. They, like their peers in Japan and Britain, looked forward to waging one decisive battle between whole fleets. Triumph in this duel would give the U. Navy control of the sea and ultimate victory ashore.
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Thus the Navy believed the battle line constituted a war-winning weapon. The Imperial Japanese Navy harbored similar beliefs based upon a shorter, but remarkably congruent tradition. The victory against Russia, in particular, provided a template for defeating the United States. Thus, the concept of the Japanese and the American navies [pitting] fleet against fleet and fighting out the whole war in one decisive stroke likewise became the cornerstone of Japanese naval doctrine. While many of the conditions of war vary from age to age with the progress of weapons, there are certain teachings.
Advances in weaponry and the science of fire control encouraged the U. Navy to regard long range gunfire as the key to victory. Navy strategists envisioned fighting in four range bands, with extreme range being beyond 27, yards and close as less than 17, yards. They believed that "the five battleships of the Colorado and Tennessee classes represented the most powerful collection of battleships with extreme range capability in the world.
As a result, planners considered combat in the extreme range band very advantageous. Japan built a class of super battleships to out-range the Americans and also developed a super torpedo that was bigger, deadlier, faster, and effective from beyond the extreme range band. The Japanese fleet also practiced night fighting and attritional tactics, and it concentrated on quality, planning to defeat the Americans with better ships manned by better crews. Before World War II, most strategists thought that gun and torpedo fire had been developed to such a point that naval battles would be decided in a few minutes, at the end of which one side would either be annihilated or so crippled that it could fight no more.
Battle of Savo Island Orders of Battle
Navy went to war with some very good and some very bad weapons Table 1. American naval guns proved generally robust and capable of sustaining excellent rates of fire. Merrill wrote, The Bureau of Ordnance is to be congratulated on the excellent ordnance equipment that is installed aboard these ships. Lighter Japanese guns could not compare to their American counterparts in terms of rate of fire and barrel life Table 1.
Some interesting relationships appear when comparing guns using the raw measure of pounds of shells fired per minute under ideal conditions.
The true difference between American and Japanese artillery can be appreciated by comparing cruisers and destroyers—the ships that did most of the fighting. Only the Japanese eight-inch weapon excelled, at least by this standard. And, as the fates of the Hiei and the USS South Dakota demonstrated, the weight of metal delivered on a target did matter, regardless how heavily armored that target was.
Guns, however, do not sink ships. Projectiles do, and as the Royal Navy discovered to its cost at Jutland, the details of projectile design, quite as much as those of guns and fire controls, could determine battle effectiveness. Navy as much as any. High-explosive HE shells had fuzes designed to detonate on impact while armor piecing AP shells, which contained less explosive, had fuzes that delayed detonation for an interval or until the shell encountered a certain degree of resistance, theoretically permitting the shell to penetrate a layer of armor.
Fuzes operated in a tough environment however.
They had to survive launch, flight, and impact. They also sat in storage for years and had to function when needed. At best, random sampling verified their quality. Defective fuzes plagued both navies. Hitting a moving target up to fifteen miles away with a projectile fired from another moving platform is a formable task. Four major variables need to be considered:. Correction by observation spotting and by mechanical prediction; this is the process of converting enemy speed and course into a rate-of-change to project future position.
Bearing deflection , or the deviation from the straight line caused by wind, barrel wear, humidity, and variations in charge. Dispersion, which is the scattering of the shells from a salvo when they arrived at their destination. Generally, guns fired deliberately until spotters could observe shells splashing on either side of—straddling—their target.
An observed straddle provided the best evidence the guns were on target. Only after spotters observed a straddle or hits would guns commence shooting at their maximum rate of fire for effect. When fire control radar became available to the U.
Navy, it provided a means of obtaining initial range and calculating corrections more quickly. But even to the end of the war, many gunnery officers preferred visual over radar correction, at least during the day. Modern American light cruisers were an aberration, divided between torpedoless gunfire ships, the Brooklyns and Clevelands armed with 15 and 12 rapid-fire six-inch weapons, respectively, and the torpedo-equipped, anti-aircraft AA Atlanta class.
Feeling that the treaties it signed unjustly restricted the size of its navy, Japan emphasized surface fighting capability. In the test of combat, of which these vessels saw plenty, they proved capable and deadly. Japanese destroyers compromised their antisubmarine and anti-aircraft roles to become deadlier ship killers. Key to this ability was a quick torpedo reloading system that doubled their torpedo armament. Its impact on the Navy is nearly as heavy as the advent of steam or of modern shooting weapons. Radar was the new technology that had the biggest impact on surface warfare during World War II.
Navy began developing radar in The first air search sets became available in November and were installed shipboard in By the navy had developed adequate search and fire control radar for its larger vessels. Japan began experimenting with radar in the early s, but considered it a defensive technology without immediate application and did not invest in the research required to develop an effective prototype. It completed its first crude production model, a land-based air-search set that November.
Shipboard radar finally appeared operationally by mid, but its introduction was far too little, far too late. As two leading historians of the Japanese navy concluded, Without doubt, the prewar American advance in radar and the Japanese failure to match it were some of the principal reasons for American naval victory and Japanese naval defeat in the Pacific War.