A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. As they were the largest, best-armed and most heavily armored ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a nation's naval power from the late nineteenth century until World War II. With the rise of air power, notably aircraft carriers, battleships were no longer able to establish naval superiority, and so all have been withdrawn from active service. The related battlecruiser, a successor to the armored cruiser, shared the very large main armament, general size, and cost of a battleship of the same generation, but they traded armor or firepower for higher speed.
Battleship design evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge. The word battleship was coined around 1794 as a contraction of the phrase line-of-battle ship, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail. It came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, but these are now referred to as "pre-dreadnoughts". In 1906, the launch of HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design. Later designs that were influenced by this ship were referred to as "dreadnoughts". Battlecruisers were developed around this time by the British First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher. They were envisioned as being more effective armored cruisers, able to destroy any normal cruiser while being able to outrun any ships capable of sinking them.
By 1910, so-called "super-dreadnoughts" were entering service. In the four years between Dreadnought and the first super-dreadnoughts, the Orion class, displacement had increased by 25% and weight of broadside had doubled. Many battlecruisers and battleships of all varieties served in the First World War, most notably in the Battle of Jutland. None were built between the Nelsons of the early 1920s and the Dunkerques of the early 1930s due to various treaties, but quite a few battleships were constructed shortly before or during World War II. The last, HMS Vanguard, was commissioned just after the war, in 1946.
From this time on, most battleships and all battlecruisers were decommissioned and broken up. France's Jean Bart and Turkey's Yavuz were the last to be scrapped. However, members of the American Iowa class lasted until 1992 to aid troops with fire support; four were deployed in Korea, one in Vietnam, and two to Iraq. Nine battleships exist today as museum ships; eight from the United States, and Japan's Mikasa. (more...)
The Yamato-class battleships were a class of Imperial Japanese Navy battleships constructed and operated during World War II. Displacing 72,000 long tons (73,000 t) at full-load, the vessels of the class were the heaviest and most heavily-armed battleships ever constructed. The class carried the largest naval artillery ever fitted to a warship, nine 460-millimetre (18.1 in) naval guns, each capable of firing 2,998-pound (1,360 kg) shells over 26 miles (42 km). Two battleships of the class (Yamato and Musashi) were completed, while a third (Shinano) was converted to an aircraft carrier during construction. Due to the threat of American submarines and aircraft carriers, both Yamato and Musashi spent the majority of their careers in naval bases at Brunei, Truk, and Kure—deploying on several occasions in response to American raids on Japanese bases—before participating in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, as part of Admiral Kurita's Centre Force. Musashi was sunk during the course of the battle by American carrier airplanes. Shinano was sunk ten days after her commissioning in November 1944 by the submarine USS Archer-Fish, while Yamato was sunk in April 1945 during Operation Ten-Go.
Konteradmiral Erich Bey (23 March 1898 – 26 December 1943) was a German naval officer who most notably served as a commander of the Kriegsmarine's destroyer forces and died during the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape. Joining the Kaiserliche Marine on 13 June, 1916, he served on destroyers and earned the Iron Cross during World War I, and continued through the transformation into the Reichsmarine and Kriegsmarine. As a commander at the outbreak of World War II, he commanded the 4th Destroyer Flotilla under Friedrich Bonte, and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during the Battles of Narvik. Promoted, he succeeded Bonte (who had been killed in the battle), and successfully screened for Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen during the Channel Dash.
Promoted to rear admiral on 25 December 1943, Bey led a task force, consisting of Scharnhorst and the destroyers Z29, Z30, Z33, Z34, and Z38 out of Alta Fjord in Operation Ostfront. Intending to intercept the Allied Convoy JW-55B en route to Murmansk, he encountered a superior Royal Navy force led by HMS Duke of York (17). In the ensuing battle, Scharnhorst was sunk with only 36 of 1,968 of her crew rescued. His British counterpart, Admiral Bruce Fraser, later told his officers, "I hope that if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today".