back to article Paul Allen hunts down sunken Japanese WWII super-battleship

A team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has located the final resting place of monster Japanese battleship Musashi, some 70 years after she was consigned to the depths off the Philippines during the 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf. The discovery marks the end of an eight-year search for the sunken behemoth, according to …

  1. getHandle
    Pirate

    Now that's what I call a hobby!

    Just call me Dirk.

    1. james 68

      Re: Now that's what I call a hobby!

      Only if you call me Al whilst singing the NUMA NUMA song.

      1. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

        Sad we never got fired at

        " Sadly perhaps, these mighty guns never got the chance to fire at any enemy battleships "

        for Enemy Battleships read "us" , or pehaps more accurately "US"

        I for one am quite happy not to have "the biggest guns ever put to sea" fired at me!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] the vessels proved fatally vulnerable** to air attack if caught without adequate air cover [...]"

    A lesson which the Japanese had already taught the Allies in 1941 with Pearl Harbour - and the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in the attack on Singapore.

    In 1921 William Mitchell in the USA had demonstrated the classic battleships' vulnerability to bombing by sinking the captured Ostfriesland.

    1. dncnvncd

      unappreciated prophets

      Billy Mitchell got court- martialed for his efforts because it upset Navy brass and a few politicians with interests in shipbuilding. At the same time, the U.S. Army refused funding for Goddards rocket tests. The NAZIs bought the patent details on a lot of his experiments. Seven hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese found American airplanes still wingtip to wingtip on the ground in the Philippines. Gen. McArthur on the Philippines was made a hero. Adm. Kimmel and Gen. Short at Pearl Harbor were court-martialed. And this was after the German blitzkriegs, the Battle of Britain and Japanese takeover of French Indo-China. When slow learners have the most political clout, they don't appreciate prophets getting in the way of their profits. But, Japanese naval vessels were rumored to carry plundered gold and sometimes native currencies.

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: unappreciated prophets

        Mitchell managed the test against the Osfriesland to get the result he wanted - a demonstration that aircraft could beat warships, and not a scientific assessment of what it took to beat a warship with an aircraft.

        That included having a target that wasn't fighting back, that was slowly travelling in a straight line, and that didn't take measures to counteract the effects of the bombing.

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: unappreciated prophets

          > not a scientific assessment of what it took to beat a warship including not fighting back, slowly travelling in a straight line, and didn't take counter-measures.

          But would have been assaulted with much smaller bombs. And your point is?

          Mitchell realised that the limiting factor in the experiment was how much a plane can carry and how far it has to go. Everything else is just a matter of practice and experience -for both sides. The Doolittle raid might have accomplished everything he suggested, had the top brass learned anything from Pearl Harbour. But they never did!

          The most incredible lesson from WW2 is that top brass NEVER expect the unexpected. Military training is just not geared for people who have insight.

      2. Malmesbury

        Re: unappreciated prophets

        Billy Mitchell got court martialed because he screwed up the chance to do scientific tests of bomb damage to ships. It was well understood that an unmanned ship at anchor was easy to sink.

        In fact, as a result of his grand standing, the US Army standardised on high level bombing against ships. A tactic that proved totally useless when the unsporting chaps on ships being attacked tried turning the steering wheel thingy when someone dropped a bomb....

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: unappreciated prophets

        "Japanese naval vessels were rumored to carry plundered gold and sometimes native currencies."

        Such items are also entombed under various islands in the Philippines, according to various legends.

        Dumaguete is the most popular site mentioned. To this day there are fortune hunters toiling through jungle both there and on Mindanao trying to find Yamashita's Treasure.

    2. Steve Crook

      Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

      I did read somewhere that it was the RAF...

      1. GreggS

        Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

        Arguably so as they were our Allies against Germany in the First World War and learnt some of their craft during that campaign. William Forbes-Sempill went there in the 20's and was later found to be passing on military secrets to them.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sempill_Mission

      2. Old69

        Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

        "I did read somewhere that it was the RAF..."

        Fairey Swordfish attack on the Italian fleet in Taranto 1940

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Taranto

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

        We did a beta release for Pearl Harbour which the Japanese observed Battle of Taranto.

        Pity the Americans didn't take any notice - probably because it used canvas biplanes to destroy a naval fleet and the Americans didn't have any canvas biplanes so their fleet was safe.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

          The Royal Navy could have made much more damages if it had dive bombers also. Often ships torpedoed in a harbor can be made afloat and repaired - heavy bombs can do much more damage.

          The Japanese fleet used both at Pearl Harbor. Anyway, Swordfish would have survived even less than the Devastator and Vindicator against the Zero...

          But it's interesting to note that both the Italian and British fleet avoided at all cost a battleship battle in the Mediterranean. Both got battleship sunk while in harbor, by canvas biplanes or converted torpedoes to carry special forces...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

            "The Royal Navy could have made much more damages if it had dive bombers also."

            It was 1944 before the RAF had the Tallboy bombs that severely damaged the Tirpitz in Norway.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

              Tallboys were not the bombs and average carrier bomber could lift and put on a ship far away....

            2. JimC Silver badge

              Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

              > It was 1944 before the RAF had the Tallboy bombs that severely damaged the Tirpitz in Norway.

              Operation Tungsten?

            3. Malmesbury

              Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

              Blackburn Skua

              RN doctrine for air power was a mess - read "They gave me a Seafire" to understand the gap between the plan and reality.

            4. Paul_Murphy

              Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

              I don't think a Lancaster counts as a dive-bomber, but with a tall boy or grandslam I doubt people take much notice.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

            [But it's interesting to note that both the Italian and British fleet avoided at all cost a battleship battle in the Mediterranean]

            I disagree; the RN had a serious attempt to engage a battleship-vs-battleship action at the Battle of Cape Matapan, but the Regia Marina legged it for home when their flag ship (Vittorio Veneto) was hammered by an air attack lauched from the Formidable. The RN got a consultation prize however when then managed to sneak three battlkeshipd up on an Italian force of three cruisers + 2 destroyers at night; the results were pretty predictable when the first warning the Italians had was the gun flashes at point-blank range!

            It should be noted that the RN commander subsequently signalled the Regia Marina in the clear giving them the location of survivours and guaranteeing safe passage for a hospital ship.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

              I seem to recall that he opened fire at something stupid like 5,000 yards at Matapan. Which isn't terribly sporting. And the Italians apparently decided that night naval fighting wasn't a great idea and didn't do much training for it. That would have been a pre-radar decision.

              As for the Yamato and Musashi fighting the US battleships, one of the huge problems these two ships had is their horrific fuel consumption. The Japanese simply couldn't afford to use them very often. That's the downside of being so big.

              The Italians had a similar problem, in that they were reliant on Germany for fuel supplies. And the Germans didn't give them enough to use the fleet. It wasn't a priority. At one point (mid 41 I think), the Royal Navy had zero operational battleships in the Med, as the two at Alexandria had been damaged by Italian frogmen - and I can't remember about those in Gibraltar. Torpedo or mine damage and/or being withdrawn for other duties.

            2. LDS Silver badge

              Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

              Sure, but even the British feared the submarines after losing the Eagle, IIRC, and tried to keep "valuable" ships outside dangerous areas. I agree it would have been more in Italian interest to get the RN into a battle - maybe while trying to conquer Malta to clear once for all the supply routes to North Africa, while cutting Gibraltar - Alexandria routes.

              For the same reason, destroying the Italian fleet would have given British forces a great advantage in North Africa, cutting the supply lines. But unlike in the Pacific, where Japan and USA put their largest ships in combat, most of the Mediterranean battles were among cruisers and destroyers. Both high commands were reluctant to engage a "definitive" battle.

          3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

            Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

            The British didn't have a decent aircraft carrier in W2. Not for those newfangled monoplanes. The carrying capacity still remained with biplanes, not just because the Hurricane needed a half mile long airstrip until some numbnuts realised the Merlin could power three blades.

            At sea, aircraft warfare is all about carrying capacity, the Spitfire never ever became a serious gun deck and the Hurricane remained a short range interceptor until the day it retired. The Whirlwind might have made a viable alternative but it only just made it off the drawing board before that too suffered the fate of having half wits in management.

            Good old British blimps. They won the war, don't y'know. Made one of the blighters Prime Minister! No good at war or politics mind you, but the Yanks loved him, what?

            Kicked him out soon as we realised what he done, -too late by then of course. Still, never mind, eh? What?

        2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: Who trained the Japanese to torpedo bomb?

          > Americans didn't have any canvas biplanes so their fleet was safe.

          They did have canvas torpedoes so the Japanese fleets were safe too.

          The RN not the RAF taught the Japanese in WW2 it was also the RN who set up Top Gun after the USN realised their Aircraft Carriers were being run by clockworknobrains.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Not so vulnerable...

      ... if it took 20 bombs and 17 torpedoes to sink it. Just check what was needed to sink HMS Hood in a far shorter time.

      It was clear that the disparity of firepower was so large that a single ship had no chance against waves and waves of airplanes - no matter how powerful it was. Maybe with more AA firepower and in a group protected by something alike British Dido class cruisers and destroyers with enough AA weapons, it could have been a far more difficult target to sink even without air coverage.

      From a pure technical point of view, it's a "pity" the Yamato-class battleship never faced the Iowa-class ones in a pure artillery fight. If Halsey didn't fall fully in Ozawa trap, and had at least left Lee group to protect the landing, it could had happened... but maybe it would have caused even more casualties.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not so vulnerable...

        "Just check what was needed to sink HMS Hood in a far shorter time."

        Apparently it was never explained satisfactorily why the Hood's magazine had exploded. It may have been a fluke hit that penetrated a weak spot - a bomb could have had a similar effect.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hood_%2851%29

        1. Adze

          Re: Not so vulnerable...

          For balance, check how much HMS King George V, HMS Rodney, a pair of cruisers and the best part of a squadron of destroyers dealt to Bismarck before rendering it unable to fight back.

          Modern, for the time, battleships were significantly better armoured than the, even refitted, Hood.

          EDIT: Pertinent bit from Thickipedia added; "The four British ships fired more than 2,800 shells at Bismarck, and scored more than 400 hits, but were unable to sink Bismarck by gunfire"

      2. tfb Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Not so vulnerable...

        Well, Hood was a both a battlecruiser and also substantially a pre-Jutland design. She seems to have been talked up into being a battleship but unfortunately that doesn't count for much. Battlecruisers, particularly British ones, were notorious for exploding for various reasons – inadequate deck armour (saving weight budget to allow more of it to be spent on machinery for speed) causing vulnerability at long-range, as well as to bombs later, is the commonly-accepted reason and probably did for Hood, but there's evidence that poor ammunition-handling practices (leaving scuttles open, piling up cordite in turrets to increase rate of fire) did not help at Jutland either. Hood was always going to lose against Bismarck unless she was very lucky, which she was not unfortunately.

        That aside, battleships and battlecruisers both were really done for by air power by the early 30s at the latest: you can afford to throw (and lose) a lot of planes at a ship.

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: Not so vulnerable...

          > That aside, battleships and battlecruisers both were really done for by air power by the early 30s at the latest: you can afford to throw (and lose) a lot of planes at a ship.

          Which is why I don't understand the trend towards a handful of "supercarriers", rather than a lot more smaller models. More flexibility in where you place them, and when a supercarrier gets sunk you're out a LOT of resources.

      3. Shannon Jacobs
        Holmes

        Re: Not so vulnerable...

        According to a book I read on the specific history of the Musashi, there were many Japanese ships nearby when she was first attacked, but the Americans focused their efforts on her until she lagged behind and was finally sunk. If I remember correctly, the Yamato may have been elsewhere in the same loosely organized convoy.

        As I further recall the stories, the Japanese originally had plans to build four ships of this class, but the third was converted into a makeshift aircraft carrier and the fourth was cancelled as the war situation 'developed not necessarily to their advantage', in the famous imperial euphemism. My memory is fuzzier on the third ship, but I think it was named the Shinano and was sunk by an American submarine quite close to Japan. They had launched it and I believe it had been ordered it to head for the Philippines, too, though it was essentially without armament at that late point in the war.

        P.S. More fuzzy recollection, but I think that one of the enabling technologies for Pearl Harbor was a Japanese-designed airplane-delivered torpedo that could be used in relatively shallow water.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not so vulnerable...

        [... if it took 20 bombs and 17 torpedoes to sink it. Just check what was needed to sink HMS Hood in a far shorter time.]

        You really are comparing apples with pears in your statement. A few points to consider:

        1. Hood was built nearly 30 years before the Musashi. Technology had moved on a lot in that time - no WW1-vintage battleship could ever realistically win in a straight-up fight with a WW2 (aka "modern") battleship.

        2. Hood was a battlecruiser, not a battleship. Battlecruisers had heavy guns but thin armour, and were intended to fight and destroy cruisers, not battleships - the Battle of the Falklands in WW1 is a perfect example of how they should have been used. In the Battle of the Denmark Strait, Hood's real job was to smash the Prinz Eugene to scrap, not to take on the Bismark.

        3. Hood had known flaws in her armour protection. She was scheduled for a rebuild to correct those problems in 1940 or so. Not surprisingly the rebuild was cancalled when WW2 kicked off.

        4. Hood was at least sunk in a ship-to-ship fight, which is what she was designed to do. Musashi never fired her guns in anger; she was taken apart by a concentrated aircraft strike.

        It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if the Musashi and Yamato ever came face-to-face with an equivalent US battleship force. I suspect that the USN might have found itself gravely overmatched - the 18" monster guns mounted on the Musashi/Yamato would have seriously out-ranged the American 16" guns, and even a single hit by one them would have probably caused major damage. Fortunately for the Americans, Pearl Harbour forced them to use a much more dangerous weapon - the aircraft carrier.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Not so vulnerable...

          I did a perfect comparison between a vulnerable ship - although heavily armed, and one that wasn't. The British did a big mistake trying to match the Bismarck - a proper battleship, although with some fatal flaws as well - and the Hood, which was by design much more vulnerable. They were victims of their own propaganda.

          As I said already, it would have been interesting to see the Iowa-class ships against the Yamato ones. But in the Surigao battle, the old - although some were rebuilt after being sunk at Pearl Harbor - US battleship with radar controlled fire - like the West Virginia, launched in 1921 - easily hit and destroyed the Japanese battleship before these ones were even able to obtain a firing solution. Even if your guns have a long range and heavy shells (but power doesn't depend on caliber only, as the Bismarck, again, shown), you still need to be able to get a firing solution on a moving target, and that requires some technology beyond the pure guns one. Would have the Iowa class been able to engage and hit the Yamatos before the latter could fire? Nobody will know...

        2. Mud5hark

          Re: Not so vulnerable...

          I also read somewhere (very old naval book of my fathers) that the back deck of the Hood was practically awash in most seas because of the extra weight she was carrying (I assume newer anti aircraft gun systems and extra deck armour)

          1. Mike Smith

            Re: Not so vulnerable...

            Yep - Ernle Bradford's The Mighty Hood describes that. Apparently the Hood was always wet aft in heavy seas because a late design change to add more armour made her float about four inches deeper than was originally intended.

            I gather that the change was made after Jutland had shown the dangers of plunging fire, but it was too late to redesign the ship from the bottom (or the keel in this case) up.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      There's an old saying that's very true. The military leadership doesn't prepare for the next war, they prepare to fight the last one. In the case of Germany and Japan, the political leadership pointed the direction. The Germans learned from their experience in Spain about fast tanks, coordinated air strkes. The lessons were lost on the rest of the world's entrenched thinking.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        The military leadership doesn't prepare for the next war

        > they prepare to fight the last one

        Generally the winners fight the last war - after all they won so they must have been doing it right.

        The losers generally get the opportunity to hire a new set of younger generals (typically after shooting the incumbents) who take a long look at what went wrong and come up with some new ideas.

        In the case where the last war was some considerable time ago it can be quite entertaining - such as the Royal Navy's attempts in WWI to re-fight the Battle of Trafalgar against the Germans.

      2. Twilight Turtle

        "The Germans learned from their experience in Spain..."

        As well as from the likes of B.H. Liddell Hart, J.F.C Fuller and Mikhail Tukhachevsky, all of whom (amongst numerous others) had been proposing combined arms warfare since the late 1920's. Sadly Liddell Hart and Fuller were largely ignored by the British military establishment, and Tukhachevsky's significant impact in developing Soviet Deep Battle doctrine came to a fairly abrupt end when Stalin had him purged. People like Ritter von Thoma and Heinz Guerian, who worked to develop German armoured warfare principles, cited Hart and Fuller by name in their writings on the subject.

  3. Zog The Undeniable
    Mushroom

    The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

    Well, yer big naval guns weren't just designed for firing at other battleships (torpedoes are better for actually sinking ships anyway, unless you get lucky with your shells and hit something vital or explosive) Big 16" and 18" guns are also for coastal bombardment; you can pulverise defences or level a city many miles away, without having to risk bombers (which may, in any case, not be able to get there if we're talking about an enemy on the other side of the Pacific and you haven't captured a few convenient airstrip islands yet). And a battleship could lob shells at a target day and night, whereas bombers only get a few minutes over the target.

    There's a very good Wikipedia photo of USS Iowa firing a broadside. You might not want to be on the receiving end of that.

    1. WraithCadmus
      Mushroom

      Re: The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

      This one? Where the very sea itself is trembling with the force of the firing?

    2. Kevin Turnquist

      Re: The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

      ... though using battleships to "soften" Japanese positions on the Pacific Islands proved to be rather ineffective, as the subsequent landing parties would find out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

        ... though using battleships to "soften" Japanese positions on the Pacific Islands proved to be rather ineffective, as the subsequent landing parties would find out.

        unlike using German battleships to hold off Soviet ground forces pushing towards the Baltic and the cities of Koenigsberg, Danzig, Gdynia ,Kolberg.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

          True, but all of these historically German cities are now either either Polish or Russian, after being captured several days later by Poles under General Stanislav Poplavsky or other Soviet forces (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian). I don't necesssarily agree with the removal of prewar German culture there, mostly by the Poles.

          Additionally a lot of the final push through the Baltics for example by the Armenian general Bagramyan was further inland, so most likely the opposing forces he was facing were a bit more conventional.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

      Landings in the Pacific shown that even heavy artillery was often unable to create much damage to well designed bunkers. Especially at low angle, the shell could bounce and did little damage.

      Those guns *were* designed to counter the enemy battleship, and caliber increased to be able to penetrate heavier and heavier protections. Usually a battleship carried different types of shells (at least two), with the heavier ones created to perforate enemy ships armors, while high explosive ones could be used for different targets. Anyway, each gun can't fire for too long. It gets hot, and also, it wears out. After a given number of shells, it needs a new interior.

      The old "doctrine", was all about battleship firing at each other with heavy guns until one fleet destroyed or made the other retreat. Carries changed that doctrine.

      UK tried to build cruisers with large guns for coastal bombardment in mind in WWI. They were the Courageous-class ones. So little useful they were converted into carriers.

      Torpedoes could be effective (but battleship had heavy underwater protection as well) were slower, and visible on approach. Hood was not sunk by a torpedo. Some well places shell destroyed it in a while. A torpedo disabled the Bismarck, but didn't sunk it. Usually, torpedoes were much more effective against less protected targets, like cruisers, and especially carriers.

      1. ian 22

        Re: The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

        @LDS: the Iowa is now a museum in Long Beach, California. I had the opportunity to visit her recently, and was shown a faint scuff mark somewhere on her superstructure. It seems she was struck by a Japanese 5-inch shell- it barely scratched the paint!

    4. tfb Silver badge

      Re: The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

      Actually they really were designed just for dealing with other ships. People later tried to use them for coastal bombardment but they were not very effective for that: a lesson which should have been learnt at Gallipoli, but wasn't. To a great extent people seem to have justified expensive but essentially obsolete ships by trying to make various claims that they could be used for other purposes which in fact they were not very good for.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Astounding stuff

    Paul has an astonishing skillset and list of accomplishments. His years playing for Tottenham Hotspur are a bit of a stain on his character, but I think we can forgive him.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Astounding stuff

      Personally, I thought his run for the title in "So You Think You Can Dance" was the nadir of his ambition :)

  5. Khaptain Silver badge
    Flame

    What is this "closure" that we here about nowadays

    "bring closure to the families of those lost"

    Can someone actually provide me with a clear definition of what "closure" actually means.

    I have no idea why but I always have the impression that this word was invented purely for the media,lawyers or those that believe that people can come back from the dead.

    If it simply means "coming to terms with someone death" or the "finally accepting someone's death" why not just use those term. Closure sounds "pityfull", it makes people appear weak even when this is not necassarily the case. It feels as though it is just another one of those words that the media or soap operas like to use to dramatize things unnecessarily.

    I really can't imagine that many Japanese famillies have had difficulty sleeping for the last 70 years because they still had some doubts about whether their son's ship really did sink and whether he did or did not die in consequence..

    1. james 68

      Re: What is this "closure" that we here about nowadays

      While they do in fact fully understand that their loved one is dead and gone it is comforting to loved ones to know the location so that they can pay their respects close to the remains, even simply knowing the location is often enough.

      Honestly this is something I hope you never have to understand, because to understand it you would have to experience it.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: What is this "closure" that we here about nowadays

      Although if they are like a couple older Germans I've met, they're attitude is probably more "My father? What father? I've never had one of those....my mother gave virgin birth"

  6. Ken 16 Silver badge

    New Yacht?

    One up on Larry Ellison...

    1. AdamT

      Re: New Yacht?

      I think he's had it a few years. I watched it leaving the docks at Canary Wharf after the London Olympics. It's very nice...

  7. fnj

    AA guns

    Musashi did not have "36" 25 mm antiaircraft guns. That would have been an absurdity in 1944. By then she had 130 of them.

    Unfortunately the 25 mm was a very poor weapon, especially compared to the excellent 40 mm Bofors on US ships. Musashi, like all Imperial Japanese Navy ships, was wholly incapable of mounting a credible AA defense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AA guns

      An article elsewhere said that the ship's larger anti-aircraft? guns were aimed at the sea to produce spouts of water that could bring down a low-flying torpedo bomber. Can't find the link though - so possibly that has been withdrawn..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AA guns

        She could also use her main guns.

    2. Dapprman

      Re: AA guns

      Musashi/Yamato also had 127mm guns for AA, but you're right about an effective AA defence. It was a weakness of the IJN that was never really remedied.

      However, the reason the US did so much better was not doing to number of guns, but the invention of the close proximity fuse, which when used with shrapnel AA shells, proved to be highly effective. The key point was the naval battle at Guadalcanal (first time the proximity fuse was used in numbers), where the IJN aviators caused huge amounts of damage and destruction but lost virtually every attack plane, irreversibly crippling Japanese naval air power.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: AA guns

        > irreversibly crippling Japanese naval air power.

        Didn't the Japanese also have a problem as the war dragged on with having too few competent pilots (some of the reason for the Kamikaze)? The experienced US aviators were often pulled back from the front lines to train new pilots where this was done a lot less by the Japanese (as well as Japanese insisting on a far too long and complete training regime than was needed to rapidly scale up an efficient fighting force). That whole personal and family honor thing was a lot less important than winning by any means necessary to the US side. Probably though the lack of fuel was more of a problem even than the lack of planes or pilots at the end.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: AA guns

          They did have a pilot training issue. And couldn't scale their aircraft industry up to cope with the losses. I'm sure it didn't help that the army and airforce did everything separately as well. I read a piece somewhere about how one of the late-war aircraft carriers was actually built by the army. They wanted to show the navy how to do it right.

          Bad decisions don't help. Another piece I read was that the Japanese navy stopped building torpedo bombers before the war. They'd got enough for the carriers they operated, and so why keep building them? Odd, given that they were planning for a war, and you might expect to lose the odd plane in a war, not to mention normal training accidents.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: AA guns

            The Germans pulled a similar thing. The could produce X number of aircraft and thus figure they needed X number of pilots. When the fighters started getting knocked out of the air, the pilots found they didn't have a plane to fly as the rest were all assigned. Seems that many militaries didn't take well to the concept of "spares".

            1. x 7

              Re: AA guns

              thats because pilots were assumed not to survive - they were expected to die with their aircraft

  8. Old Used Programmer

    And the third ship...

    Is Allen now going to go look for the Shinano, which was the planned 3rd ship in series, but which was completed as an aircraft carrier?

    And on those 18" guns...the IJN developed an AA shell for them. It was intended for use against high altitude air attacks, but the US planes attacked at low level.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the third ship...

      A report elsewhere suggested those AA guns were redirected to create waterspouts to obstruct the torpedo bombers.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > The Type 94s' actual calibre was kept a secret, the intention being that the Allies would think they were relatively normal 16-inch weapons of the sort found on US and British battleships.

    The British 18 inch gun was known as the "15 inch version B".

    They were made during the great war for Jackie Fisher's idea of a big gun battle-cruiser with the armour of a light cruiser. The experience at Jutland proved this concept was somewhere between "fucking stupid" and "genuinely suicidal". Luckily someone saw sense and turned the thing into an aircraft carrier.

    The RN ended up strapping the 18" guns to little gunboats and using them to vaporise Belgian cows. From 20 miles away.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Jackie Fisher's original idea for the battle cruisers was that they weren't supposed to fight battleships. They were for use as sea-lane protection, because they were almost as fast as cruisers, and could blast them out of the water. I think the problem was they were very expensive and very shiny - so got collected into the main fleet. Plus they had these big guns, and could therefore sink battleships (if they could survive long enough), so if you got into counting guns, and weight of shell, you suddenly started getting delusions of adding them to the battle line.

      Obviously they were useful for scouting ahead of the fleet, because they could beat up the enemy's screening force and then run away from the battleships. The problem was failing to run away at the right time.

      At Jutland the British battlecruisers also suffered more losses than the Germans. Partly this is because the Germans chose to have more armour on theirs, because they didn't have a huge empire and so carried less fuel and could burn more. But another suggestion is that the Royal Navy spent a lot more timei on training for speed of gunnery than they did on saftety, so they opened all the blast-proof hatches between turrets and magazines, with the obvious danger that explosion could then travel down into the magazines and destroy the ship with one hit.

      Convenenience so often trumps safety. The General Belgrano was sailing in waters its officers knew had enemy submarines in, and yet had not closed its internal watertight doors. This meant that it got sunk very quickly by 2 WWII vintage torpedoes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today."

        > But another suggestion is that the Royal Navy spent a lot more time on training for speed of gunnery than they did on safety, so they opened all the blast-proof hatches between turrets and magazines

        The crews were safety trained and actually forbidden from leaving the hatches open like this, but gunnery doctrine of the time emphasised weight of fire more than anything else.

        Beatty essentially looked the other way (or allowed his captains to do so) whilst they stacked ammo and propellant ALL along the corridors between the turrets and the magazines in order to maintain the rate of fire he wanted, which was fine until the damned Germans rather unsportingly started lobbing shells through their (relatively) thinly armoured decks. This tended to make a battle cruiser do a rather impressive disappearing trick.

        It wasn't so much convenience over safety as it was political expediency. Failing to keep up with what was expected of him could easily see a captain reassigned to a the navy's rustiest gunboat on it's way to the arse end of the empire, a fate apparently worse than getting atomised in a magazine explosion.

  10. M7S
    Pirate

    "Sister ship - The Yamato"

    No pithy space cruiser quips yet?

    For shame commentards, for shame......

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: "Sister ship - The Yamato"

      Still awaiting delivery of the engines.

      They are being made in China.

    2. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: "Sister ship - The Yamato"

      You can't really say much about the Yamato. The last that was heard of that ship was that some teen-agers had raised her, souped her up and were on their way to some place called Gamalon....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and expect a new anime to follow out of Japan

    where the rusted hulk is reborn as a starship/submarine, run by a young impetuous kid, an impossibly proportioned schoolgirl, and a smart-aleck robot, where they fight against an oppressive, thinly veiled Western oppressor who unfairly picked on an innocent Japan in the past....

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: and expect a new anime to follow out of Japan

      You are making shit up, I don't recognize a story by Leiji Matsumoto at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: and expect a new anime to follow out of Japan

        ever watch Ghost in the Shell? or almost every major anime production of the last 5-6 years? A lot of heavy nationalism and borderline revisionism in there.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: and expect a new anime to follow out of Japan

          When a country is more concerned about its enemies taking over its sacred war shrine than how they treat the citizens once conquered you get a feel for its past.

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: and expect a new anime to follow out of Japan

          ever watch Ghost in the Shell?

          I didn't notice the Yamato making a guest appearance either in GiTS or GiTS: Innocence.

          A lot of heavy nationalism and borderline revisionism in there.

          Totally unlike the U.S., then?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and expect a new anime to follow out of Japan

      It already exists... about the battleships, anyway...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kantai_Collection_%28anime%29

  12. Kernel Silver badge

    Re: And the thrid ship

    "Is Allen now going to go look for the Shinano, which was the planned 3rd ship in series, but which was completed as an aircraft carrier?"

    I have a vague memory of reading somewhere in the distant past that all three ships were originally laid down as aircraft carriers, but the Musashi and Yamato were completed as battleships - if I'm right (and I'm open to correction on this) the Shinano would then be the only member of the class that was completed per the original design.

    1. Dapprman

      Re: And the thrid ship

      All three were laid down as battleships but the 3rd, the Shimano (note the M) was redesigned to be a fleet support carrier. It was not intended to be a launch platform for attack/defensive aircraft, but rather a floating repair station in support of the 1st carrier division.

      The Shimano was never completed, but was launched. She was sailing, unaccompanied round the coast for fitting when she was spotted by a US submarine and torpedoed.

      Interesting side note. Anywhere where dimensions for these ships are given are giving misinformation. The exact size was never known, only estimated from photos. The Japanese were so paranoid of spies that they were built in three sections, each with separate plans which were destroyed upon completion. Second interesting note. Rumour of the Yamato and Musashi got out, but not what they were, so the IJN published some launch postcards of two new light cruiser ships (Mogami class I seem to remember) using the battleship names.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: And the thrid ship

        each with separate plans which were destroyed upon completion

        Sure is gonna help repairs.

      2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: And the thrid ship

        I think the Shinano actually had an escort of destroyers when she was torpedoed. As I remember, the submarine involved was the U.S.S. Archerfish.

      3. fnj

        Re: And the thrid ship

        Ahem, it is Shinano, not Shimano.

        It is true that details were a closely guarded secret at the time, but with the passage of history all has become known in intricate detail.

        See "Design and Construction of the Battleships Yamato and Musashi", by Kitaro Matumoto. Anyone who didn't buy this massive painstaking work when it came out in 1961 is not a serious historian. The main text is Japanese, but there is an English table of contents and appendix with copious tables and diagrams. From this we know such details as:

        The exact dimensions of course[*]

        details of 24 progressive designs leading to the final design

        For secrecy the gun was officially termed Type 94 40cm, 45 caliber - actual bore was 46cm

        Weights: gunnery, 11,802; armor, 23,500 tonns

        The exact number of watertight compartments (1147)

        The side armor being manufactured in 88.5 ton segments, 5.9x3.6m x410mm

        The engine room floor area was 640 square metres

        Superheated steam at 25 kg/mm^2 and 325 C from 12 boilers

        [*] length overall, 263m; waterline, 253m; between perpendiculars, 244.0m

        breadth, 38.9m

        mean draft at full load, 10.86m

        prismatic coefficient, 0.612

        tactical turning diameter, 640m (heel 9 degrees)

        period of roll 17.5 seconds

        metacentric height at trial conditions, 2.88m

        Mr. Matumoto defied an official order to destroy all documentation, saving voluminous notebooks.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: And the thrid ship

          Wasn't one of the reasons for secrecy that they were in massive violation of the Washington Naval Treaty. Which is why the Bismarck and Tirpitz were officially supposed to be only 35,000 tonnes or some such silliness.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: And the thrid ship

            Wasn't one of the reasons for secrecy that they were in massive violation of the Washington Naval Treaty

            Apparently not:

            "Preliminary studies for a new class of battleships began after Japan's departure from the League of Nations and its renunciation of the Washington and London naval treaties"

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: And the thrid ship

              Destroy all Monsters,

              Thanks for the correction. I'd completely forgotten that the Japanese pulled out first.

              I believe a bunch of their cruisers were absolutely huge, and simply ignored the treaty size limis. But Japan didn't have enough cruisers. One of the things that Churchill complained about was the admiralty building bigger and bigger destroyers, to match the enormous German ones - that he said were getting towards light cruisers in size. I don't think they were close really, but they were twice the size of normal destroyers. And his argument was that you should have enough good ships, not too few great ones. The Germans suffered a shortage of destroyers. Especially after the Norwegian campaign.

        2. asdf Silver badge

          Re: And the thrid ship

          You didn't list the most important of all stats of the ship. How many other actual useful war machines could have been made instead for the massive amount of time and resources wasted on this red herring. Just like the V2 (cost as much as a me-262) these capital ships did as much to assure allied victory as any allied general.

  13. Florida1920

    Last gasps of the battleship

    In "Counterinsurgency Warfare" (Free Press: 1965) Maj. John S. Pustay mentioned Britain's effective use of battleships against Malayan insurgents. Battleships could operate in all weather conditions, while planes were useless when targets were obscured by low clouds. The U.S. Navy brought the USS New Jersey back into action during the Vietnam War; I have personal experience of seeing the grotesque effects of its 16-inch guns against dug-in troops -- less than 1 mile inland, though.

    Don't know what effect the clouds have in Afghanistan, but the country is well out of range of any sea-based artillery I know of. Cannon shells aren't inexpensive, but cruise missiles cost a lot more. Our Navy has ordered a class of "littoral combat ship," but aside from helicopters I don't see any weaponry specifically useful against shore-based adversaries. We seem still to be fighting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with little thought for how future conflicts will evolve.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Last gasps of the battleship

      Iowa-class ships were used in the First Gulf war, and IIRC one Iraqi unit on one of the islands in the Persian Gulf surrendered to the "drone" used to guide fire after being mauled by the ship fire. Also, those ships were retrofitted to launch cruise missiles, IIRC. In some ways, those ship would be useful today, suicidal terrorists attacks against those armor won't likely succeed. Long range heavy cruise missiles like the Silkworm would be a different matter, though.

      Anyway, Cheney did his best to neuter the US Navy, and remove its long range weapons. Probably because it wasn't a good Halliburton customer.

      1. Florida1920

        Re: Last gasps of the battleship

        Anyway, Cheney did his best to neuter the US Navy, and remove its long range weapons. Probably because it wasn't a good Halliburton customer.

        Yeah, buddy. They want to do away with aircraft carriers. Cheney had "other priorities" during Vietnam so he has no idea what it might feel like to wait for a cruise missile to arrive. I remember waiting for DASC Alpha to approve Spooky missions, when the planes were less than 30 miles away at Phu Cat AB, sitting on the ground while the brass thought it over. Having aircraft on cap ready to go is very comforting. Even drones aren't as good IMO, because their use has to make its way through the bureaucracy.

        Despite having the world's largest military budget, we were totally unprepared for Iraq, and neither Cheney, Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz gave a damn. We need to go back to the times when leaders rode into battle ahead of their troops.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Last gasps of the battleship

          we were totally unprepared for Iraq

          Why not stay home in that case?

          1. ian 22

            Re: Last gasps of the battleship

            @Destroy All Monsters

            "Why not stay home in that case?"

            That is a question best put to the likes of Messrs. Bliar, Bush, and Cheney.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Last gasps of the battleship

      > Our Navy has ordered a class of "littoral combat ship,"

      Back in WW1 and to lesser degree in WW2 there used to be a type of small coastal ship known as a "monitor", after the USS Monitor. They were small (relatively speaking), cheap (relatively speaking) and re-used the guns from obsolete battleships.

      These guns were disproportionately large for the size of ship that carried them. In one case they used 18" guns only slightly smaller than the Musashi's (but with a heavier shell). They also looked awesome. Sort of a baby battleship.

      Shame we don't still have one or two really.

      1. Rick Brasche

        Re: Last gasps of the battleship

        don't forget the Landing Craft Support that was built in WWII. True littoral capability and rather impressive firepower for the size.

        Disclaimer: my grandfather in law is William Mason so he's always "hassling" me to help with maintenance on this little gem:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_LCS%28L%29%283%29-102

  14. x 7

    "Sadly perhaps, these mighty guns never got the chance to fire at any enemy battleships"

    Or more accurately, "thank god these guns never got to fire at our battleships........"

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will the Battleship return?

    Just considering the implications of a reliable (and effective) rail gun......

    By the time the Musashi went down, the Battleship was pretty much finished. Pity, really; they might have been obsolete for combat at sea, but as the US proved later, they made great shore bombardment weapons.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Will the Battleship return?

      ...against peasants, mainly.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    "Using historical records from four different countries"

    As opposed to records from four identical countries?

    1. Diogenes

      Re: "Using historical records from four different countries"

      well played sir. I do this to my students all the time.

      1. DocJames
        Windows

        Re: "Using historical records from four different countries"

        With that username you'd need to.

        Icon - well, I'm not going to bother explaining :-)

  17. Matthew 26

    It should be mentioned that, in addition to being white elephants, the ships were flawed

    The joint between the upper and lower armor was seriously flawed.

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