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  • Washington naval treaties. A bad thing.

    The Washington Treaties restricted warship sizes and numbers after WW1.

    The countries most effected were UK, US and Japan. Germany was less effected because she was already heavily restricted by the Versailles treaty.

    If there had been no treaty then the Allies would have gone into ww2 with more modern and superior ships and would have had a much greater advantage over the Germans in particular.
    On the down side there would have been the cost of building the ships in the 20s but I doubt whether the recurrent costs of running the never built ships would have been much more than keeping all the obsolete Ww1 ships going.
    "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

  • #2
    Originally posted by Surrey View Post
    The Washington Treaties restricted warship sizes and numbers after WW1.

    The countries most effected were UK, US and Japan. Germany was less effected because she was already heavily restricted by the Versailles treaty.
    ...yes...

    If there had been no treaty then the Allies would have gone into ww2 with more modern and superior ships and would have had a much greater advantage over the Germans in particular.
    Well. If there is no Washington Naval Treaty, then there's an escalation. If so, by 1935 the Royal Navy is larger than in actual history. And the balanced-fleet force that the British agreed the Germans could have, with the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, was calculated as a 35% of the tonnage of the Royal Navy in each of the various classes.

    Now, the Germans did not, by 1939, max out that percentage in any warship class, but nevertheless, the fact that they initially tried to conform with the provisions meant that they had to build a balanced fleet. Which was exactly to the British liking: what the British feared was an anti-shipping German fleet, made of long-ranged and fast heavy cruisers, long-ranged and slower Panzerschiffe with, however, bigger guns, and long-ranged submarines. Indeed, the upper limit for the heavy cruisers was 51,000 tons at the AGNA, based on a 35% of the Royal Navy tonnage - and the Germans, between 1935 and 1936, laid down the three ships of about 17,000 tons (Hipper, Blücher and Prinz Eugen). With the end of 1936, the Washington Treaty expired, the Germans expected the British would launch new construction programs, and indeed their own was to increase the displacement of these three ships and add the Seydlitz and the Lützow (even though these wouldn't enter service).

    Well, there might be different schools of thought as to the effectiveness of these heavy cruisers, but some would say they gave more of a headache to the Royal Navy than the German battleships. If nothing else, not building the Tirpitz and replacing it with two more heavy cruisers plus a bunch of submarines would have meant having that tonnage ready much earlier than the essentially useless Tirpitz was.

    But what if the Royal Navy, with no Washington Treaty, had invested in unchecked naval construction, and had put together such a tonnage in heavy cruisers as to allow the Germans to not go for a balanced fleet? What if the Germans could start building, right there and then, more than 5 heavy cruisers, even if this meant giving up the 50,000-ton Bismarck class? Would that be of advantage to the Allies?
    I think not.

    ---

    A case could be made that the 5:5:3 ratio advantaged Japan, instead. Yes, 3 versus the USN and Royal Navy of 5+5 seems enough to keep the Japanese well in check, but on the one hand, the ratio behind the 5s was sound: both the USA and the UK had much more far-flung interests to protect (and indeed, when push came to shove, that was the case). On the other hand, unrestricted escalation would have advantaged the powers having the greater industrial output: i.e., not Japan. It's not a given that, without a treaty, and with the USA and the UK striving for, say, 7 and 6, Japan would have been able, industrially, to go beyond its treaty-allowed 3.
    Michele

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    • #3
      I'd say that if there was no WNT, the USN would have built, and then rebuilt the South Dakota (1920's version) class and Lexington class battleships and battlecruisers. That would have been a core of a dozen very good capital ships backed by a fleet of only slightly older and less capable battleships. If you look at the RN historically, they weren't even able to consistently rebuild their older battleships to more modern standards. Most got some sort of austere rebuild on the cheap to get them by. Japan rebuilt her older BB but mostly just to increase their speed by lengthening them and reboilering etc. Improvements in armor and weapons were mostly done almost haphazardly.

      The question would be would the USN adopt large carriers anyway or do something different in this case? Certainly, the USN had a powerful lobby with it's aviation branch that other navies really didn't have.

      Britain would still have been cash strapped and limited in what they could build. It's likely that they'd keep more older battleships in service or reserve and only build a few like they actually did historically. The FAA would have still been hit as the RAF was a powerful competitor and the FAA didn't have the officer advocacy that the USN did. Thus, British carrier development would have still been limited.

      Japan would have built in large part a navy to counter the USN in the Pacific so what the US does is going to be mirrored by Japanese developments.

      The really interesting ships would be what each navy would do with cruisers and destroyers.

      The US was likely to still build 8" cruisers at some point, possibly and likely in the range of 15,000 to 20,000 tons rather than 10,000 as limited by treaty. The Japanese would have done likewise as a counter to what the US was doing. But, the difference would be the US cruisers would be far more powerful for their tonnage than the Japanese ones.

      The British are likely to stick to 6" guns and smaller but more numerous cruisers simply because they need numbers for commerce protection. They might build some 8" ones as "replies" to US and Japanese moves, but on the whole these would be few in number.

      I don't think the British or Japanese would have changed much about their destroyer designs but the US certainly would have gone to a 2,000 ton to 2,500 ton design PDQ once the 5"/38 was to be fitted. I'd expect they'd want 5 5" guns and 12 to 16 torpedo tubes, but with a greater margin for weight growth on these ships. Hence, the extra 500 + tons in the design.

      The US would and could build a two ocean navy while neither Britain nor Japan could have kept up. Neither had the economic base nor the manufacturing ability and capacity the US did. If you look at build times the US is quicker by six months to a year over their rivals in producing ships.

      For the British, their available drydocks and dockyards would be the limiting factor on size. For the Japanese, its simply the industrial ability of the nation. Sure, they can crank out a few really big ships like the Yamato's, but they trade that for numbers of other vessels. The US has a limitation on beam arbitrarily set by the Panama Canal, but otherwise isn't really limited on tonnage per ship or size.

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      • #4
        Good examination of the building potential, but could the Americans, British, (and any others who wanted) actually afford to build the larger fleets, if the WNT was not signed?
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Herman Hum View Post
          Good examination of the building potential, but could the Americans, British, (and any others who wanted) actually afford to build the larger fleets, if the WNT was not signed?
          The US actually could. They didn't get economically slammed by WW 1 like the Europeans did. Japan simply doesn't have the industry or economy to do more than they did building-wise. Sure, the postwar economic crash will hurt, but it will hurt the US far less than other countries. The US also doesn't have an army or separate air force to syphon off funding from ship construction either.

          So, no WNT, the two classes of "Big Six" battleships and battlecruisers get built. The US also retires every battleship with less than 14" guns by 1940 not needing them as they continue to build two or three new battleships a year through the 30's. They'd also build a larger scouting fleet of cruisers. I suspect that construction of the Ranger would be different and more like the Yorktown class simply because there's no treaty limit that is forcing a tonnage restriction on what would amount to an experimental carrier or three.

          Britain needs a mass of commerce protection ships and that means building lots of cheap cruisers and destroyers. I could see them modernizing more WW 1 battleships on the cheap while sticking many into reserve mothballed for the time being to save cash. While they'd want new, modern battleships, they'd likely dither over designs waiting until the last minute to build new ones which is really what they did with the KGV class.

          With carriers they'd slowly build ones like they did historically: Hermes, Eagle, the Courageous class, and even some of these would end up in reserve since there'd be few planes to use on them.

          So, the RN has a large but aging fleet with often obsolescent ships in it but its perfectly viable for a commerce war flung across the world.

          The Japanese build to match the Americans as much as they can. They might try for a "quality over quantity" solution building what appear to be on paper more powerful ships in smaller numbers. The US builds a Two Ocean Navy that Britain comes to accept as something they can possibly manipulate into allying with them come the next war while trying to maintain their creaking colonial empire with a "make do" Royal Navy.

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          • #6
            On the RN I can see them scraping the ww1 battleships faster, with the Revenge Class gone by 1930. Likewise the Repulse and Renoun. The QEs and Hood may still be in service in 1939 but they would be in the process of being replaced by a new KGV class. Can't see the KGVs being built any earlier than real lifetime to financial reasons. May be less of the,, only four rather than the They would probably be much bigger and armed with 18" guns, essentially a faster version of the N3s. Only 4 rather than five would be planned due to financial reasons.

            So depending on completion dates the RN could go into ww2 with either 12 battleships being 4g3s, 4 n3s and 4 super KGVs. Or with the KGVs still being under construction and the QEs and Hood still in service plus the N3s and G3s.

            The RN would not be bigger, possibly smaller r even than real life but it would have newer and better capital ships.


            On the German navy. I can't see it being any bigger than it was in real life. Even after the Versailles treaty was relaxed there wouldn't be the time or the rescources for them to build much more than they did. Germany would struggle to build an 18" gun battleship due to lack of recent experience with large calibrate guns. The Bismarck itself was essentially an updated Bayern.

            Hence I think the RN would have a greater margin over the German navy than it did in real life. Thus the Washington treaty was a bad thing as it reduced the capability of the RN while not making much difference to the Germans.





            "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Surrey View Post
              On the RN I can see them scraping the ww1 battleships faster, with the Revenge Class gone by 1930. Likewise the Repulse and Renoun. The QEs and Hood may still be in service in 1939 but they would be in the process of being replaced by a new KGV class. Can't see the KGVs being built any earlier than real lifetime to financial reasons. May be less of the,, only four rather than the They would probably be much bigger and armed with 18" guns, essentially a faster version of the N3s. Only 4 rather than five would be planned due to financial reasons.
              What do they replace them with? The KGV class was delayed in production more for economics than anything else. The QE class was only partially modernized, and only Royal Oak got any real upgrades out of the R class. I seriously doubt that after the Furious fiasco with 18" guns the RN would go that route but stick with 16" particularly if the US and Japan were.

              So depending on completion dates the RN could go into ww2 with either 12 battleships being 4g3s, 4 n3s and 4 super KGVs. Or with the KGVs still being under construction and the QEs and Hood still in service plus the N3s and G3s.

              The RN would not be bigger, possibly smaller r even than real life but it would have newer and better capital ships.
              I could see a smaller battleship fleet if the British did build new ships, but that might not be acceptable to the RN if the US and Japanese fleets were larger. The easiest way to ensure some parity would be to put older ships in mothballs as a reserve fleet rather than scrapping them. The downside to that is these ships would be in poor shape until refitted in wartime and that could take as much as a year to get completed on any individual ship.

              You can see what the situation would be from how they went with cruisers. They started with a class of large 8" cruisers with 4 twin turrets. The last two, Exeter and York only got 3 turrets and were smaller. Then it was a switch back to 6" classes with 4 twin turrets that soon became 3 twin turrets because they needed numbers. Wartime production went back to 4 triple 6" turrets, but in peacetime, that isn't likely to be the case.

              On the German navy. I can't see it being any bigger than it was in real life. Even after the Versailles treaty was relaxed there wouldn't be the time or the rescources for them to build much more than they did. Germany would struggle to build an 18" gun battleship due to lack of recent experience with large calibrate guns. The Bismarck itself was essentially an updated Bayern.

              Hence I think the RN would have a greater margin over the German navy than it did in real life. Thus the Washington treaty was a bad thing as it reduced the capability of the RN while not making much difference to the Germans.
              The Germans can't have a big navy and a big army. They have to choose, and the army is going to win that race. I don't see the Germans going larger than 16" guns either. The High Seas Fleet and KM were never keen to build ships with the largest guns and only gradually increased caliber.

              I also think that whatever the ratio of German ships to British really wouldn't matter. The British will always end up ahead in that race being a sea power and needing a large fleet unlike Germany were land power is the need.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post

                What do they replace them with? The KGV class was delayed in production more for economics than anything else. The QE class was only partially modernized, and only Royal Oak got any real upgrades out of the R class. I seriously doubt that after the Furious fiasco with 18" guns the RN would go that route but stick with 16" particularly if the US and Japan were.



                I could see a smaller battleship fleet if the British did build new ships, but that might not be acceptable to the RN if the US and Japanese fleets were larger. The easiest way to ensure some parity would be to put older ships in mothballs as a reserve fleet rather than scrapping them. The downside to that is these ships would be in poor shape until refitted in wartime and that could take as much as a year to get completed on any individual ship.

                You can see what the situation would be from how they went with cruisers. They started with a class of large 8" cruisers with 4 twin turrets. The last two, Exeter and York only got 3 turrets and were smaller. Then it was a switch back to 6" classes with 4 twin turrets that soon became 3 twin turrets because they needed numbers. Wartime production went back to 4 triple 6" turrets, but in peacetime, that isn't likely to be the case.



                The Germans can't have a big navy and a big army. They have to choose, and the army is going to win that race. I don't see the Germans going larger than 16" guns either. The High Seas Fleet and KM were never keen to build ships with the largest guns and only gradually increased caliber.

                I also think that whatever the ratio of German ships to British really wouldn't matter. The British will always end up ahead in that race being a sea power and needing a large fleet unlike Germany were land power is the need.
                The n3 battleships were under order when the Washington treaty was signed. If there had been no treaty they would have been built with 18” guns.

                The RN went into Ww2 with 13 battleships and battlecruisers.
                I can’t see them being able to maintain more than that during peacetime. Any new ships built mean old shops scrapped. Thus the Rs would have been scrapped long before ww2 as they would have been replaced by the n3s
                "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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                • #9
                  An arms race during the Depression sounds like a terrible idea to me.

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                  • #10


                    I have on a number of occasions put the following summary of the essence of the naval war in WWII from the point of view of the German naval effort:

                    "Germany faced impossible odds in the World War Two naval war from day one but only recently have historians like Clay Blair for example, in his benchmark opusHitler’s U-Boat War Vol.1 & 2’ shown that the old conventional wisdom of Germany’s submarines ‘almost winning the Battle of the Atlantic’ is virtually a total myth with vast majority of convoys getting through not only unmolested but undetected by the subs!

                    There was certainly a WWII U-boat ‘nuisance’ and much tonnage was taken out by them in six years and enormous ‘hype’ expended by the allied propaganda machine on the menace they posed.

                    In overall terms however, they had no chance to overcome the massive naval superiority, ship-building capacity, Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft and vast advantage in global network of bases, established sea-lanes, naval training infrastructure and naval warfare experience the Anglo-allied maritime powers enjoyed.

                    The German surface fleet was always miniscule compared to the UK/US armadas.

                    The Germans had some great publicity coups in surface actions with vessels like the Graf Spree, the ‘Channel Dash’ (Gneisenau and Scharnhorst) and of course the Bismark but the idea that their tiny numbers were in any way a ‘serious challenge’ to the allies is laughable.
                    Doesn’t stop the same old ‘German naval threat’ line being peddled by some historians even today!

                    Most crucially for Germany’s naval effort in WWII of course was the reality that Hitler was quite simply a ‘land animal’, a central European whose ‘strategic mindset’ was focused overwhelmingly on Germany’s relations with her continental neighbors (of course the list of ‘neighbors’ kept growing as Adolf kept invading and occupying lands outside Germany’s original 1938 borders).
                    He had no real ‘feel’ or for that matter serious interest in things maritime. After all he did order the surface fleet scrapped in mid war!"

                    Please keep the above
                    in mind when discussing the naval was in the West.
                    Germany was an underdog with zero chance of even leveling naval strength with just the British let alone seriously challenging the combined Anglo-America horde.

                    Perspective people for Pete's Sake!!!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Phaing View Post
                      An arms race during the Depression sounds like a terrible idea to me.
                      The Treaty was in 1922.
                      "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Surrey View Post

                        The Treaty was in 1922.
                        There was a serious world economic recession/depression in 1920-21; certainly a motivating factor for the US calling for government savings, arms reduction, and US willingness to hold a conference to that end. But there was more, American women had gained political power with the 19th Amendment i.e. the Federal right to vote, folks were more worried about getting a job than foreign enemies. There was little support for government spending to build weapons for a war that was over, and there should never be another one like it.

                        In the 3 US elections between 1920-1932, Americans elected 3 parsimonious Republican Presidents; Harding, Coolidge, Hoover. The Washington Naval Treaty was Harding's doing, Coolidge seriously reduced taxes while pursuing disarmament and reducing government expenditures to pay federal debt, Hoover, along with British Labour PM Ramsay MacDonald was willing to to further reduce Washington Treaty limits to the 25,000 Ton, 12" main battery max limit battleship. This conformed to the political will of the people across the Atlantic, as did Appeasement in Europe a decade later.

                        The following explanation of the Washington Naval Treaty to the American people is from “Naval Policy and the Naval Treaty”, dated May 1922, by then R/Adm. William V. Pratt, USN, who had commanded the battleship USS New York, and the US Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force before being assigned to the US Washington Conference Delegation, and later the London Conference in 1930. He was promoted to Chief of Naval Operations i.e. CinC of the US Navy, upon his return from London, serving 1930-33.

                        It is thus seen that the great experiment now attempted has historical precedent {Pratt's referring to the successful 1902 Disarmament Agreement between Chile and Argentina, brokered by the British}. To be thoroughly successful the purpose of our present agreements must be transmitted to future generations, otherwise that purpose is lost, and a sacrifice may have been made in vain.

                        The Naval Treaty, signed by the five Great Powers gathered in Washington to consider Far Eastern problems and a limitation of armament, has a very direct bearing upon the naval policy which this country should, in the future, pursue. The outstanding policies of the United States, to wit: That of "no entangling alliances", the Monroe Doctrine, and the Open Door, particularly the last, must in the future, and so long as the Naval Treaty runs, be greatly influenced by agreements just entered into. The material backbone of these agreements is the Treaty on the Limitation of Naval Armaments. It is the foundation upon which all of our international policies, now permeated by that atmosphere of better understanding arrived at through the results of this Conference, must be based.

                        In a great measure results have been accomplished by agreeing to scrap almost entirely the great building programme laid down in 1916 at a time when the fate of Europe hung in the balance, and the United States felt that she must be in a position to safe guard her interests in case Germany should prevail over the Allies. The day of that need having passed, the United States willingly gave up its great naval programme and asked the other nations to meet her in the same spirit. In point of fact, we made the greatest sacrifices. It was just and fair that we should. It was the United States that called the Conference, and her contribution could in no wise be less than that of the other nations sitting with her. Actually the United States scrapped some thirteen new ships with the money spent upon them, in addition to many older ships already built. Let us review the conditions of the treaty.

                        The United States has, under the terms of the treaty, retained eighteen capital ships, her cruisers and submarines, and the right to build five aircraft carriers. Two of the aircraft carriers may be converted from the capital ships which otherwise would be thrown away. The auxiliary ships necessary to support the fighting fleet in an efficient condition also have been retained under the terms of the Naval Treaty …
                        As it was, a US entrenched across the Atlantic and Pacific from possible conflict took forever to build up to Washington treaty limit numbers when it came to 8" cruisers, you're not likely to see much by way of South Dakota and Lexington class capital ships and their like in any numbers until FDR and the 30's, and the behind the scenes agreements between the the US and Britain to build to contain Japan between them. The Washington Naval Conference and Treaty was only the US's successful attempt at naval arms control, but the League of Nations had their own disarmament efforts as well; the Geneva Naval Conferences of 1927 and 1932, and the World Disarmament Conference at Geneva, 1932–1934. Historically the League was willing to let the major navies limit themselves, but if there's no early US effort, there's still the League.
                        Last edited by Marmat; 10 Nov 19, 17:20.
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                        • #13
                          The early 1920s saw some ups and downs in the global economy, sure. Nothing comparable to the 1929 crisis. Who knows whether an arms race beginning in 1923 wouldn't have had some unpredictable economic effect?
                          Michele

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Marmat View Post

                            There was a serious world economic recession/depression in 1920-21; certainly a motivating factor for the US calling for government savings, arms reduction, and US willingness to hold a conference to that end. But there was more, American women had gained political power with the 19th Amendment i.e. the Federal right to vote, folks were more worried about getting a job than foreign enemies. There was little support for government spending to build weapons for a war that was over, and there should never be another one like it.

                            In the 3 US elections between 1920-1932, Americans elected 3 parsimonious Republican Presidents; Harding, Coolidge, Hoover. The Washington Naval Treaty was Harding's doing, Coolidge seriously reduced taxes while pursuing disarmament and reducing government expenditures to pay federal debt, Hoover, along with British Labour PM Ramsay MacDonald was willing to to further reduce Washington Treaty limits to the 25,000 Ton, 12" main battery max limit battleship. This conformed to the political will of the people across the Atlantic, as did Appeasement in Europe a decade later.

                            The following explanation of the Washington Naval Treaty to the American people is from “Naval Policy and the Naval Treaty”, dated May 1922, by then R/Adm. William V. Pratt, USN, who had commanded the battleship USS New York, and the US Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force before being assigned to the US Washington Conference Delegation, and later the London Conference in 1930. He was promoted to Chief of Naval Operations i.e. CinC of the US Navy, upon his return from London, serving 1930-33.



                            As it was, a US entrenched across the Atlantic and Pacific from possible conflict took forever to build up to Washington treaty limit numbers when it came to 8" cruisers, you're not likely to see much by way of South Dakota and Lexington class capital ships and their like in any numbers until FDR and the 30's, and the behind the scenes agreements between the the US and Britain to build to contain Japan between them. The Washington Naval Conference and Treaty was only the US's successful attempt at naval arms control, but the League of Nations had their own disarmament efforts as well; the Geneva Naval Conferences of 1927 and 1932, and the World Disarmament Conference at Geneva, 1932–1934. Historically the League was willing to let the major navies limit themselves, but if there's no early US effort, there's still the League.
                            I suspect the US would have built two or three of the South Dakota's and Lexington's. That follows typical US peacetime practice with capital shipbuilding. It would likely be done because the materials for the first two or so of both classes had already been procured and all twelve ships laid down. Scrapping several so that a few could be completed in a peacetime setting seems likely.

                            The cruiser situation would be in greater flux. This was a ship type the US hadn't built in any numbers before. That resulted in a number of designs of 6 and 8" gun ships with a greater degree of variability. I think here, it would depend on exactly what other nation's were building in this class of ship.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Phaing View Post
                              An arms race during the Depression sounds like a terrible idea to me.
                              \good point. \Britain was paying off its first war debts until 1937. \a battleship race means no mechanised British \army.

                              Otoh, a horse drawn \British army perhaps, means no declaration of war in 1939....
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