What was the most powerful battleship in a straight duel, May 1941?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by freebird, Feb 12, 2008.

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What was the most powerful battleship in a straight-out duel, May 1941?

  1. Bismarck

    45.3%
  2. HMS Nelson

    17.4%
  3. N. Carolina

    22.1%
  4. Nagato

    7.0%
  5. Littorio

    3.5%
  6. Richelieu

    5.8%
  1. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Has anyone seen the History channel programs Hunt for the Bismarck?

    The show was on today from A&E's "dogfights" series, great animation, especially the Swordfish attack sequences. However.... There are several obvious errors that seem to keep being repeated about the Bismarck

    Hunt for the Bismarck

    Hunt for the Bismarck DVD

    I have also seen "Sink the Bismarck"

    Sink the Bismarck + Sink the Bismarck DVD Set

    On their blurb about the DVD, they make the same common erroneous claims about Bismarck. :rolleyes:

    1.) Largest Battleship ever built - Wrong
    2.) Most deadly Battleship ever built - Wrong
    3.) Biggest guns on a battleship - Wrong
    4.) Most "powerful" Battleship at that time - also wrong IMO

    So I will see what the opinions are, what is the most powerful battleship? ie. If you were in a battleship for a straight-out duel, in which speed is not a factor, which one would you choose? {both ships are steaming toward each other, intent on mayhem.}

    The AA armament is also not a factor, as in 1941 no battleship's AA was proved very effective without fighter CAP: the Bismarck couldn't shoot down any of the attacking Swordfish, the Prince of Wales Repulse only shot down 4 out of 85 attacking Betty/Nell bombers.

    I would note that in the final battle, the Bismarck had a damaged rudder was leaking fuel, but her hull was intact, all of her guns equipment were functional. However the supposedly "Most Powerful, Deadly Battleship" Bismarck concentrated her fire on HMS Rodney {Nelson class} but was unable to do any significant damage to the British ship.

    Sorry folks, Iowa Yamato are not completed in May 1941.... :cry:

    Stats:

    Bismarck 8 x 15" guns, 10.6" - 12.6" armour belt, 3.1 - 4.7" deck armour

    HMS Nelson 9 x 16" guns, 13" - 14" armour belt, 5" - 6.75" deck armour

    N. Carolina 9 x 16" guns, 7" - 12" armour belt, 4.5" - 5.5" deck armour

    Nagato 8 x 16" guns, 7" - 12" armour belt, 4" - 6" deck armour

    Littorio 9 x 16" guns, 13.8" armour belt, 3.5" - 6.4" deck armour

    Richelieu 8 x 15" guns, 13.6" armour belt, 5.9" - 6.7" deck armour


    One other important point, the placement of the main guns.

    The Bismarck had 4 twin 15" gun turrets, Nagato 4 twin 16" guns, two forward two aft.

    N. Carolina Littorio had 3 triple 16" gun turrets, two forward, one aft.

    French British Battleships had all main guns on the foredeck, the Richelieu with 2 quadruple 15" turrets, the HMS Nelson with 3 triple 16" gun turrets, the middle one superfiring over the other two. {This meant that Nelson could fire all guns at any ship in the forward arc, unless it was within 5' deg. of centerline.} When approaching Bismarck, HMS Rodney could fire all 9 main guns, while Bismarck could reply with only 4 of 8 main guns.
     

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  2. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Good excuse to post some photos! :D

    Pictured: HMS Nelson, IJN Nagato, USS North Carolina, Richelieu

    Also please note on my diagram above "Nagato" has the same firing arc's as Bismarck, with 2 twin 16" turrets forward, 2 twin 16" turrets aft.
     

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  3. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Good question freebird....didn't Bismarck have the superior targeting system?

    Of all the naval pics I have ever seen these has to be two of my favorites... Would love to see the faces of people if they saw these steaming into Pearl Harbor today, eh?
    [​IMG]

    Bismarck....she look bl**dy massive...:lol:
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Another couple of good ones.....again, people, battleships, today, steaming, Pearl Harbor, faces....long...:lol:

    [​IMG]
    The three leading ships are (in no particular order) Colorado (BB-45), Maryland (BB-46), and West Virginia (BB-48), followed by Tennessee (BB-43) and three older battleships.
    Photograph taken from USS California (BB-44).


    [​IMG]
    Photographed from USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62), shortly after the conclusion of the Gilberts Campaign.
    The three battleships, in an anchorage protected by anti-torpedo nets, are (from left to right):
    USS Idaho (BB-42);
    USS New Mexico (BB-40); and
    USS Mississippi (BB-41).
     
  5. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    interesting comparison:

    Battleship Comparison

    Although the nimrod rates the Bismark as having only average fire control
    .
     
  6. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Gotta go with the North Carolina. I think, overall, she was 'baaaaddder"

    Charles
     
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  7. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    I agree Charles. North Carolina's fire control would give her the advantage, although head to head the Bismarck would give her a good fight.

    And the two succeeding American BB classes, South Dakota and Iowa, established a true "Murderer's Row".

    TO
     
  8. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I have to go with the Bismarck. I dont think she was the "most powerful" or the "biggest" or anything like that. I just think that at the time she had the best combination of armour, fire power, and fire control, etc...

    Now having said that I am not an expert on Naval Warfare or ships or anthing like that.

    I think Delycros is the man to talk to here. He seems to have a good grasp of WW2 ships.
     
  9. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    I enjoy talking about the ships just as much as anything else WWII...great threads...
     
  10. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Lucky, you beat me to it - I went Bismarck because of all the other attributes, I believe her fire control was superior. But the others had early radar, at least in HMS.

    I'm not well versed in ships.
     
  11. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Same here not as much as I'd like to....
     
  12. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    The German BB fire control system did not perform very well in practice, although it's hard to judge the fire control with Bismarck class, there were only 2 engagements (1 vs. Hood P of W, 2nd vs Rodney KGV) Tirpitz never had a ship vs ship encounter. However in the battle vs Rodney the Bismarck had trouble hitting the target, while Rodney was quickly ably to zero in on the German BB.
     
  13. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I went for the Nelson as the best in 1941. At the end of the day in a straight fight, you cannot beat the thickest armour, biggest gun and a FC Radar that was probably the best of its time.
    Also its AA suite was also ahead of most equalled possibly only by the Bismark.
     
  14. delcyros

    delcyros Well-Known Member

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    I disagree. It´s not Tirpitz fault that it didn´t had seen major surface combat (as most ww2 BB´s). HMS Duke of York and USS Washington were ordered to return as soon as Tirpitz left it´s harbour, leaving PQ-17 doomed. If firecontroll suites are Your concern, include the sets of Scharnhorst Gneisenau, both used an earlier mark which was later upgraded to Bismarcks main firecontrol standart with respect to computing. These sets had plenty of action in ww2 and worked as fine as one could hope to. Not mentioning that Scharnhorst still holds the title for the longest gunfire hit on a moving target. Bismarck´s performance at Danmark street against two targets which changed courses repeatedly from platforms which evaded torpedoe tracks on their own was remarkable. With ww2 FC You cannot expect to land hits even from a perfect firing solution. The closest You can come with is straddling the target due to salvo dispersion issues. Sometimes, Your straddle will end up in a hit, that´s it, statistically spoken. Bismarck achieved straddles against Norfolk, Hood, Prince of Wales, later agains against Prince of Wales, some destroyers (by night), Rodney and KGV. I do not need to stress what it means to achieve firing solutions at heavy sea by an exhousted crew from a ship which turns unpredictibly to one side or the other. That´s exact Bismarck´s conditions at her final battle.
    Compare the "quickly" zeroing in of Rodney (at clear weather but heavy sea) against the 6-8 kts fast Bismarck with that of Bismarck against the 28+ Kts fast Hood (at calm sea). Rodney opened 09:47 and scored her first straddle at 09:55, the first hit at 09:59, a full 12 minutes later. Bismarck opened at 05:55 and scored her first straddle, resulting in a hit at 05:57 on Hood. If You think this was lucky use the target change to HMS Prince of Wales. Bismarck opened 06:01 on PoW and scored her first straddle at 06:02, resulting in a hit. If this qualifies for weak performance in practice, I cannot help You.
    There is only one parallel performance in BB shooting. The well laid out trap at Surigao-street against Yamashiro under superimposed, perfect environmental and tactical conditions (Fuso was by this time crippled by torpedoes, even if the remains of the broken hull remained afloat for some time).

    A straight duel by may 41? By this time none of the new US BB´s nor Yamato nor the french BB´s are ready. The best contender is IMHO Bismarck in may 1941.
     
  15. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    I did already state that the Yamato Iowa's were not in service May 1941. The North Carolina was commissioned in April 1941, the Richelieu was 95% complete before escaping from France in June 1940, so it could have been ready in May 1941, I don't have exact information on the damage it suffered in the British attack or if any repairs were made. If you consider "ready" to be after the "working up" cruise the N. Carolina is in about the same situation as the Prince of Wales in May 1941, ready but with a crew still in need of practice on the new ship.

    :D I don't count it against Tirpitz. :)

    I'm not claiming that the Bismarck's fire control was "faulty", only that it was comparable to the British ships. Obviously a ship's crew that has had many years of practice plays a huge part in this. The situation was completely different in the 2 engagements, the first (in calm seas) resulted in both sides scoring hits, with significant damage to the German BB, some damage to the POW and one (catastrophic!) hit on the Hood. The german ships also had the advantage of superior position (crossing the "T" if you will)

    The second engagement was in heavy seas as you state, and i have read reports that the Bismarck's main guns were unable to hit Rodney at all, in any event was unable to any significant damage.

    TREATY BATTLESHIPS

    It's a matter of opinion which would be the best in a duel, I certainly don't dispute that the Bismarck was a very fine ship. I aslo stated in a "straight duel" BB to BB {such as the Bismarck engagements} if the ship was judged also on its capability as a surface raider or fast BB, the Nelson can't compare. but in this example, I think the larger number of heavier guns, heavier armour, concentration of firepower forward give the edge in combat to the Nelson's

    P.S. I picked the Nelson as the best in a BB vs. BB fight, I'm giving second place to the Richelieu, partly for sentimental reasons, as I think its a shame that circumstances of war didn't allow these fine French ships to play an active part during the early war years, when it really counted.

    I can't really fault any of the designs, these were all fine ships. The Nagato was way ahead of it's time as a fast battleship {in spite of the goofy looking "Pagoda" top}, the US BB's were also solid designs, and the Littorio's were a very good effort from the Italians.
     
  16. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    Does anybody have any photos of the Richelieu firing a forward salvo? It would be a cool pic.

    .
     
  17. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    For all these reasons, I vote for the Nelson also.
     
  18. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    One also has to take into account that when the Bismarck was engaged by the KGV and Rodney she was not able to maneuver. She was allready doomed by the Swordfish attack.

    The KGV and Rodney were a maneuvering pair of ships with Destroyers attacking a ship that was pretty much dead in the water. Yes she was able to move but her maneuvering was severely hampered.

    This engagement is not one that I would really judge the Bismarcks Fire Control ability or her crews ability.
     
  19. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Have to agree with that.
     
  20. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

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    I'm biased towards the Richelieu, and also the Jean Bart of the same class. However, the Strasbourg (Dunkerque class) has always been my favorite, and I would have prefered her.
     
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