Taffy 3 Total Displacement vs Yamato Using R

Quote of the Day

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour. You don’t have to do it all today. Just lay a brick.

James Clear.

IJN Yamato

Figure 1: IJN Yamato, arguably the most powerful battleship of WW2 (along with its sister Musashi).

I was watching a documentary about the Battle Off Samar on my favorite Youtube naval channel called Drachinifel. During this show, Drachinifel stated that the battleship Yamato displaced more tonnage than the entire Task Group 77.4.3 (call sign Taffy 3) that it was attacking. I found this a remarkable statement and one that I could verify using a little bit of web scraping. Because one of the students I tutor use R, I thought this would be a good exercise to implement using R and Rmarkdown (a great report generation tool).


Battle Details

On 25-Oct-1944, a large Japanese surface fleet consisting of four battleships and six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers attacked a greatly overmatched US force that was protecting a Philippine beachhead. Remarkably, the US force was able to turn back the attack with a defense no less remarkable than David versus Goliath. For example, you cannot read about the USS Johnston and fail to be in awe of the actions of that ship.

The best way to learn about the Battle off Samar is to watch the Drachinifel video shown below. His research coupled with a dry sense of humor makes the viewing enjoyable.

Figure 2: Drachinifel Video on the Battle of Samar.

Web Scraping

Here is the process I used to sum the displacements of the Taffy 3 ships:

  • Gather the list of Taffy 3 ships from US Naval History and Heritage Command
  • Create Wikipedia links from the ship names.
    Wikipedia has a standard format for converting a ship name to a hyperlink, so this involved just concatenating the correct prefix.
  • Using the rvest package with R, grab the ship class and displacement data from Wikipedia.
  • Correct some obvious Wikipedia errors.
    As a person who has authored a number of Wikipedia pages, I know how hard it is to get all the details correct, especially for WW2 ships because sources often differ. In this case, the problems had to do with different authors using different ship displacement definitions. For those interested, Wikipedia normally uses standard displacement. Unfortunately, the editors do not always enforce that convention. I manually corrected the error. The errors were obvious because different ships of the same class had radically different displacements. For the corrections, I used data from the US Navy's History and Heritage Command.
  • Using the kable package, create a table of Taffy 3 ships, their individual displacements, and their total displacement.

I am including my R file and a figure in this zip file for those who like to follow along. I include a PDF of my Rmarkdown file here.


Table 2 shows a screenshot of the key result from this web scraping exercise. The total displacement of Taffy 3 is just under 61K long tons, which is well under Yamato's 64K long tons displacement.

Figure M: Taffy 3 Ships, Classes, and Displacements.

Taffy 3 at Samar took very heavy casualties with five ships being sunk:

The Japanese Center Force also took heavy casualties with three heavy cruisers sunk.

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