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Thread: Were major capital ships worth it?

  1. #1
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    Default Were major capital ships worth it?

    Some of the biggest and most powerful ships in WWII, notably on the Axis side, spent much of their time waiting to come out to sea because, for various reasons, they could not come out through the waiting enemy or they were felt to be too valuable to risk by coming out.

    If the same effort had been devoted to building and crewing, say, light cruisers, destroyers and submarines which got out among the enemy, would this have been a better use of resources?

    Even if it was, would it have altered the course of the war by much in the end?
    ..
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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    The immense investment of National treasure these ships represented was the chief cause of their being kept in port, only to be used when conditions allowed, or perhaps demanded their deployment. Further, there were engagements where the Capital ships were turned back by their own commands because of possible risks from lesser warships. the Yamato was one such ship, though I do not remember the particular fight.
    The upshot being it does little good to have such dreadful Dreadnaughts if you dont ever use them.This attitude reduces them to little more than psych-war tools. The idea of sending a hoard of smaller warships to actually fight the war is a very good one,well, looking back at the accomplishments of the Destroyers, and Cruisers against much larger ships even Capital ships though hindsight, still shows the idea to be workable, and probably with better results.

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    The Battle of Leyte Gulf is one example of where battleships might have achived some sort of decisive result. The surface battles in the Solomon islands in 1942 are another. In the Indian Ocean in 1942 the British Adm Sommerville had a narrow chance to destroy some japanese aircraft carriers with battleships. his oppoenet saw the trap and avoided it. Of course those actions were in conjunction with air and land battles, but that was the nature of WWII. Very few weapons won or lost a campaign entirely on their own.

    The battleships proved very usefull for supporting amphibious operations. Their immense firepower solved several otherwise difficult problems in amphibious attacks.

    In the Mediterrainian poor Italian leadership prevented their capitol ships from achiving anything of note.

    Had Germany not fought Britian until 1945 when its naval program was complete then perhaps its battleships would be of some value. its a open question.

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    Capital ship absorb huge capitals,. and the imporatance is most questionable,.

    for Germans,. it was much better to build a hundred or two of U boats or few hundreds panzers than to have a Von Hindenburg type Battleship. It might be different if they instead develop the Graf Zeppelin,.

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    I'm not all that up on the Naval events of the War. But couldn't it be argued that the Terpitz and the Bismarck, although requiring great resources to commission and keep in service, that they also forced the Royal Navy to use a lot more resources to counter them?

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    add to it what if Hitler had aircraft carriers???? air power at sea.


    "There are no great men, there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet."- ADM William F. Halsey

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    As far as the Axis powers were concerned, for the most part the only value of their capital ships was as a "fleet in being" Look at the resources the RN devoted to keeping the Tirpitz at bay. As for Japan, much of the US Navy's ship designs was devoted to countering what Japan was building, or at least what the US thought Japan was building. Clearly the battleships were obsolete by 1942 as offensive weapons. The were most useful in gunfire support of landing forces and in protecting the carriers from air attack with their massive anti-aircraft firepower.

    I don't think a carrier or two would have made much difference to Hitler, they would have been under threat from thousands of land based bombers anywhere they would have operated. Germany would have been better off building submarines, Japan building carriers, cruisers and destroyers. Not that it would have changed the results of 1945.
    Last edited by Lambo; 12-26-2008 at 07:26 PM.

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    Quote Originally Posted by namvet View Post
    add to it what if Hitler had aircraft carriers???? air power at sea.
    How come germ,any had no aircraft carriers?. I never thought of it until you mentioned it. Why? Why? I need to know!..........(Please)?
    Wiki is ok. History Channel is ok.
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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    Mainly because the german leadership didn't believe in the value of a weapon like this. A german carrier -the "Graf Zeppelin"- was started but never finished.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    Hitler was convinced he could he sink the British Navy and merchant marine with the U Boats. they did get the results he wanted. so most of the naval effort went there. Germany was ill equipped to start a war as they are a country poor in the essential material to make war. With the overwhelming majority of their steel and petroleum coming from other countries one has to wonder what the benefit of building huge capital ships like the Bismark, Graf Spee, etc? In light of the limited effectiveness of these ships it is apparent that they did more to detract from the war effort. Surely the steel, petroleum and other materials used for these ships could have been used for many many tanks or aircraft. just my opinion


    "There are no great men, there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet."- ADM William F. Halsey

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    In both WWI & WWII, Germany built battleships and battlecruisers - only to find that the relatively inexpensive U-Boat was a more effective strategic weapon. After Jutland in 1916 (the only major fleet action of the war), the major task for the surface units was to protect the U-Boats as they entered or left port. In WWII, superior airpower overcame the Bismarck (crippled by a Swordfish's torpedo, then finished off by RN battleships) and Tirpitz (sunk by Lancaster bombers). The U-Boat fleet was much harder to defeat, and sank a lot more mercantile tonnage than the surface raiders. It's interesting to speculate on the chances of a German aircraft-carrier. Personally, I think they would be out of their league against the much more experienced RN and FAA. It took many years to develop carrier techniques and doctrine; the Kriegsmarine would be starting from scratch, and playing catch-up from day one. (Just my random thoughts on the subject.)

    Cheers,
    Cliff

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    Not to mention the fact that aircraft carriers require a whole panoply of escort ships to act as screens and protection against opposing forces, so the capital expenditure would have been huge for Germany in relation to the potential gain. The Americans could (and did) construct dozens of carriers and their supporting squadrons and the British had a sizable number of high quality carriers as well. One carrier on the German side would have been an absurd waste and the Germans themselves figured this out.

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    I've seen multiple references to the RN being particularly worried prewar about the Germans building a "freak fleet" of light cruisers and submarines only. For a German navy whose primary purpose would always be commerce raiding, that makes a lot of sense.
    So far as the allied navies were concerned, prior to Force Z they had always believed that nothing but another battleship could sink a battleship at sea (note that the Bismark reinforced that view - they crippled but didn't sink it, while a strike only twice as big at Taranto crippled an entire navy in port). In those conditions, a balanced fleet was essential.
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

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    Default Re: Were major capital ships worth it?

    Memories of Jutland (where German capital ships proved superior to their RN counterparts) would've motivated Kriegsmarine planners to build capital ships. Thus, an element of national prestige entered the rationale for rebuilding the fleet for WWII. The focus on commerce raiding - against an island-based maritime power - made sense. The so-called "pocket battleships" (Graf Spee, Deutschland) were an attractive option for this task - as were the U-Boats. Other fleet elements failed to make an impact (for instance, the destroyer force was decimated by the RN at Narvik). The battlecruisers - Scharnhorst and Gneisenau - suffered serious damage in the same campaign, from a combination of heavy sea conditions and accurate shellfire from HMS Renown. Anxious to preserve their meagre resources, commanders of German capital ships were under orders not to engage RN heavy units if such actions could be avoided. Don't forget also that, as a European continental power, German funding went primarily to their land forces: the Reichsheer first, and the Luftwaffe as its supporting arm. The naval effort would always run a distant second to the land war. Aircraft carriers would always be a pipe-dream for German admirals, given the Nazis' spending priorities.

    Cheers,
    Cliff

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