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Sending the Old Battleships in Close at Omaha and Juno

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  • Sending the Old Battleships in Close at Omaha and Juno

    At the time of the Normandy landings the US Navy had a number of older World War I era battleships still in action:


    USS Arkansas with 12 12" guns. Commissioned in 1912.


    USS New York and USS Texas with 10 14" guns commissioned 1914.


    USS Pennsylvania with 12 14" guns. Commissioned 1916


    USS New Mexico, USS Mississippi, USS Idaho with 12 14" guns. Commissioned 1917-1919.


    USS Tennessee and USS California with 12 14" guns. Commissioned in 1920 and 1921.


    By 1944 these 9 ships were getting long in the tooth. They provided valuable service to the USN in World War II just the same. They provided escort to convoys and fire support to landings.


    What if two or three of these old battleships went in as far as they could with the U.S. landing forces at Utah and Omaha Beaches on D-Day in Normandy? Maybe going as far as burying their bows in the sand!


    Strip some of the old battleships such as USS Arkansas down to a minimum crew. Man only those weapons that are protected by a full turret. Sail her as close as possible to the shore. Have her go in right before the first troops land. And lay waste to anything German in sight.


    Have the captain and crew understand that they might lose the ship to enemy gunfire or the hazards of the shore itself. But the support they would give to the first troops would be immense!


    If the ship survives when high tide comes in float away. GO replenish ammo and bring the rest of the crew back on to get ready for the next fight.

    I would probably only man the main guns since these are the best protected. If their was a good place to mount some 4.2" mortars they could come in handy for near targets that were not in direct view such as a ridge line.

    Imagine the USS Arkansas sliding into the sand ahead of the Higgins boats. Its 12" guns plastering any bunker or pill box insight. How demoralizing would that be for any German manning defensive positions.

    And of course the Royal Navy could use some of its older battleships to provide the same support to the Common Wealth forces landing in Normandy.
    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Beatrice Evelyn Hall
    Updated for the 21st century... except if you are criticizing islam, that scares the $hii+e out of me!

  • #2
    One problem that will occur at this range is a increasing number of rounds will skip or ricochet as the range decreases. As the angle of fall of shot drops below 15 degrees from the horizontal the fuzes fail and the projectile goes tumbling back upwards. At Betio island in November 1943 the two USN BB providing preparatory fires were stationed only 5000 yards from their targets. The ships occupying the opposite lagoon several miles away recorded ricochets falling nearby & eyewitnesses mentioned these in their personal accounts.

    When we fired our howitzers on some training ranges safety regulations prohibited firing below 15 degrees elevation of the cannon tube. The impact area was small enough there was a danger of the skipping rounds falling out side the safe zone.

    There is also a problem with the idea the ships will automatically refloat with the rising tide. I'm not a expert in marine salvage, but have read descriptions from experts who commented on the "friction" of silt and sand bottoms holding the ship grounded. The vessels boyancy being insufficient to overcome the friction. USN Rear Adm Ellesberg described this in salvage operations in the Channel in 1944. re: 'The Far Shore' by R Adm Ellesberg USN Ret.


    Originally posted by 17thfabn View Post
    ... Sail her as close as possible to the shore. Have her go in right before the first troops land. And lay waste to anything German in sight. ...
    This assumes the defenses were readily visible. The Germans camoflaged the bunkers & other defense works. The soldiers on the beach could spot them (usually) at under 500 or 600 meters, but the destroyers that closed into Omaha beach after 08:30 had trouble sighting the defense positions from 800 meters or more. They relied on radio and visual signals from the men on the beach to locate the majority of the targets.

    Yet another problem is the casualty danger zone for a 14" projectile is fairly large. Unlike the 5" & 6" naval projectiles used for close support on the beaches the 14" would be as great a danger to the attackers as to the defenders. That is one of the reasons the battleships were used for counter battery fires, on targets well away from the landing sites.
    Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 15 Sep 14, 22:58.

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    • #3
      The USN found out pretty early on in WW 2 that the 5" and 6" gun were the best bombardment weapons. Battleship guns really only had an advantage when dealing with heavy fortifications. Outside that, they had no particular advantage and many disadvantages (slow rate of fire, disparate cost compared to results, slower response time, etc.).

      Basically, you get a diminishing rate of return on guns bigger than 6" for shore bombardment.

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      • #4
        It sounds like an act of desperation, even if these are old battleships. Keeping in mind also that you also increase the risk of hitting mines the closer you get to shore. Damaged or partially sunk ships are next to impossible to salvage and are usually cut up. I think they were historically used as best they could. It's worth mentioning that one of the oldest ships there, the French ship COURBET was scuttled and effectively used as a breakwater as part of MULBERRY. If the US ship were considered that old and obsolete it would have been useful for them to have met the same fate.
        You'll live, only the best get killed.

        -General Charles de Gaulle

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        • #5
          Also, if you're that close, you might have trouble depressing the guns enough to get on target.

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          • #6
            Ramming them bows-on means you just cut the BBs firepower to 1/3rd.

            With a minimum crew, damage control would be difficulty, and air or gunfire starting a fire could ravage a vessel. Going in with a full crew would mean casualties.

            And think if the Germans got lucky and hit a magazine or had a fire reach one? If a BB became a write-off, the emotional impact on public opinion would be bad-I don't think we lost a single BB after Pearl Harbor, did we?

            Major risk, minor reward.
            Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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            • #7
              The soldiers suggesting such a thing would be flogged and then hung from the highest yard arm by sailors who would man these vessels.

              Give your head a shake

              Navies do not take high prestige capital ships and run them aground for show. A battleship is best used with broadsides from a range its guns can make use of plunging fire.
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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              • #8
                Well they'd certainly draw a lot of fire.
                Not sure the ship's crews would see that as a beneficial side effect though.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                  The soldiers suggesting such a thing would be flogged and then hung from the highest yard arm by sailors who would man these vessels.Give your head a shake

                  Navies do not take high prestige capital ships and run them aground for show. A battleship is best used with broadsides from a range its guns can make use of plunging fire.
                  Our time will soon be gone," he said
                  "It's all we've left to lose
                  We've shot our ammunition
                  And we're all but out of booze
                  So here's to Irma Donegal
                  Here's to Nellie Blye
                  And here's to my old friend," he said
                  And kissed his ass goodbye

                  "Give off! give off! You sorry lot.
                  Give off!," the Captain cried
                  "we've lost our bloody anchor
                  And we're driftin' with the tide
                  The swollen surf is pounding
                  Like a thousand cannons roar
                  And I shake the hand of any man
                  Who guides us into shore."

                  "We're saved! We're saved!"
                  The soldiers said
                  "We're saved!," the sailors cried
                  And soldiers climbed aboard
                  While sailors left from either side
                  Some swabbies hit the minefield and
                  The rifles got the rest
                  And somewhere there's a schooner
                  Sinkin' slowly in the west


                  Read more: Kris Kristofferson - Rescue Mission Lyrics
                  |
                  The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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                  • #10
                    Isn't this what the japanese wanted to do with the Yamato at Okinawa: beach her and fire off every 18" round in to the Americans at point blank range?!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by asterix View Post
                      It sounds like an act of desperation, even if these are old battleships. Keeping in mind also that you also increase the risk of hitting mines the closer you get to shore. Damaged or partially sunk ships are next to impossible to salvage and are usually cut up. I think they were historically used as best they could. It's worth mentioning that one of the oldest ships there, the French ship COURBET was scuttled and effectively used as a breakwater as part of MULBERRY. If the US ship were considered that old and obsolete it would have been useful for them to have met the same fate.
                      Courbet had been a disarmed hulk since mid-1941. She spent most of the time between then and April 1944 as a target ship at Loch Striven, and for part of this period was used as a 'Highball' target, Highball being a smaller version of Wallis' bouncing bomb, intended for use by Mosquitoes.

                      She was towed from Weymouth on 7 June, and scuttled on 9 June. Her engine room and boiler spaces were partially filled with concrete, the boilers and engines having already been removed.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Doveton Sturdee View Post
                        Courbet had been a disarmed hulk since mid-1941. She spent most of the time between then and April 1944 as a target ship at Loch Striven, and for part of this period was used as a 'Highball' target, Highball being a smaller version of Wallis' bouncing bomb, intended for use by Mosquitoes.

                        She was towed from Weymouth on 7 June, and scuttled on 9 June. Her engine room and boiler spaces were partially filled with concrete, the boilers and engines having already been removed.
                        Big difference between a target hulk and an obsolete ship. The former is scrap metal, the latter is still a valuable asset.
                        Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mifletz View Post
                          Isn't this what the japanese wanted to do with the Yamato at Okinawa: beach her and fire off every 18" round in to the Americans at point blank range?!

                          Given the reefs and small islands surrounding Okinawa there may have been zero Americans in point blank range of where the Yamamoto beached.

                          Actually the target of the Yamamoto was the support fleet offshore, the same as the kamakaze aircraft. The Japanese recognized correctly ships were more vulnerable than soldiers and supplies dispersed ashore. Their aim was to inflict the 'unacceptable casualties' on the ships & crews.

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                          • #14
                            By late 1943 early 44 I would think that the major reason to use old battleships for shore bombardment would be to use up their available ammunition by war's end.
                            It was obvious even contemporarily that the Battleship had a very limited future in naval warfare. There was no real Axis threat (German or Japanese) that required a large number of old slow battleships. So, using up all the ammunition already manufactured for them along with the guns themselves would be the most cost effective way to go. The ships could bombard effectively and they had lots of ammunition available. Fire it until it was gone then scrap the ship.

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                            • #15
                              How about ploughing some old monitors in to the Normandy shale?

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