Quote of the Day
The only thing standing between you and your dreams is insomnia.
— The Tweet of God (David Javerbaum)
I just finished reading The Battle of Surigao Strait by Anthony Tully, a battle that saw the final clash of battleships. For a battleship aficionado, the climax of the fight was the contest between two Japanese battleships and six US battleships, where five of the six US battleships had been sunk or heavily damaged during the Pearl Harbor attack – only the USS Mississippi had escaped the carnage of Pearl Harbor. These were old battleships (Table 1), with two having been commissioned during WW1 and the rest shortly after the WW1 ended.
When US folks think of WW2 battleships, they generally focus on the Iowa Class, probably because these ships survived the war and avoided the scrap heap. However, they did not begin deployment until 1944, which was after much of the tough surface combat had passed.
Table 1: US Battleships at Surigao Strait.
|USS Mississippi||BB41||New Mexico||1917|
|USS West Virginia||BB48||Colorado||1923|
Table 1 also shows us that there were four different classes of US battleship at Surigao Strait: New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Tennessee. This seemed like a lot and made me curious about the evolution of US battleships relative to other combatants. Fortunately, Wikipedia has a great table of battleship throw weights (i.e, the weight of a broadside from the main guns). I used Power Query to download and tidy the table, and R to plot the data.
Figure 2 shows the number of battleships classes in service with major combatants. Notice how the US had the largest number of battleship classes. My personal opinion is that the US had so many classes in operation because
- It had a lot to learn about battleships during and after WW1 and the commissioning of new classes shows how the US was working hard to catch up.
- The US operated the old battleships for the entire war because new classes of battleships would not be available until the latter part of the WW2.
An important metric for a battleship is the weight of a broadside. As I read about the Battle of Surigao Strait, it became clear the rate of the broadsides was also import. To understand the broadside weight per minute, I multiplied the rate of fire by the weight of an individual broadside to find the weight of fire per minute.
Figure 3 shows the top ten weights of fire for the different WW2 battleship classes. The Yamato and US 16-inch gun classes clearly dominate this metric.
The weight of a broadside depends on the weight of an individual shell. WW2 saw battleships with a wide range of shell calibers (i.e., diameter in inches). I became curious as to how the shell weight varied by caliber. I also fit a cubic curve (Figure 3) to the data to show that shell weight is roughly related to the cube of the caliber, which follows from the dimensional scaling laws.
My spreadsheet and R markdown document are included here.