A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. As they were the largest, best-armed and most heavily armored ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a nation's naval power from the late nineteenth century until World War II. With the rise of air power, notably aircraft carriers, battleships were no longer able to establish naval superiority, and so all have been withdrawn from active service. The related battlecruiser, a successor to the armored cruiser, shared the very large main armament, general size, and cost of a battleship of the same generation, but they traded armor or firepower for higher speed.
Battleship design evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge. The word battleship was coined around 1794 as a contraction of the phrase line-of-battle ship, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail. It came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, but these are now referred to as "pre-dreadnoughts". In 1906, the launch of HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design. Later designs that were influenced by this ship were referred to as "dreadnoughts". Battlecruisers were developed around this time by the British First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher. They were envisioned as being more effective armored cruisers, able to destroy any normal cruiser while being able to outrun any ships capable of sinking them.
By 1910, so-called "super-dreadnoughts" were entering service. In the four years between Dreadnought and the first super-dreadnoughts, the Orion class, displacement had increased by 25% and weight of broadside had doubled. Many battlecruisers and battleships of all varieties served in the First World War, most notably in the Battle of Jutland. None were built between the Nelsons of the early 1920s and the Dunkerques of the early 1930s due to various treaties, but quite a few battleships were constructed shortly before or during World War II. The last, HMS Vanguard, was commissioned just after the war, in 1946.
From this time on, most battleships and all battlecruisers were decommissioned and broken up. France's Jean Bart and Turkey's Yavuz were the last to be scrapped. However, members of the American Iowa class lasted until 1992 to aid troops with fire support; four were deployed in Korea, one in Vietnam, and two to Iraq. Nine battleships exist today as museum ships; eight from the United States, and Japan's Mikasa. (more...)
SMS Radetzky was the lead ship of the three Radetzky class of pre-dreadnought battleships (Schlachtschiff) of the Austro-Hungarian Navy (K.u.K. Kriegsmarine), named for the 19th century Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz. Radetzky and her sisters, Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand and Zrinyi, were the last pre-dreadnoughts built by the Austro-Hungarian Navy—they were followed by the larger and significantly more powerful Tegetthoff-class dreadnoughts. Radetzky was built at the Stabilimento Tecnico in Trieste and commissioned into the fleet on 15 January 1911. The ship conducted training cruises in the Merranean Sea before the outbreak of World War I in mid-1914. During the war, Radetzky operated largely as a fleet in being alongside her two sisters and the four Tegetthoffs; in doing so, the ships tied down considerable naval forces from the Triple Entente. Radetzky did participate in some offensive operations, primarily shore bombardments in the Adriatic Sea against French, Montenegrin, and Italian targets. With the war going against the Austro-Hungarians by the end of 1918, Radetzky was prepared to be transferred to Yugoslavia. On November 10, 1918—just one day before the end of the war—Yugoslav navy officers sailed the old battleship out of Pola and eventually surrendered to a squadron of American submarine chasers. In the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the transfer was not recognized; instead, Radetzky was given to Italy and broken up for scrap.
Gensui Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō, OM, GCVO (東郷 平八郎 Tōgō Heihachirō), (27 January 1848 - 30 May 1934) of the Imperial Japanese Navy was nicknamed "Nelson of the East". One of Japan's greatest naval heroes, he fought in the Anglo-Satsuma, Boshin, First Sino-Japanese, and Russo-Japanese wars. After some skirmishes at age 16, he attended the Royal Naval Academy and Old Royal Naval College before returning as a Japanese naval officer. Rising to success aboard the Japanese cruiser Naniwa, he would rise in the ranks and command the Japanese Naval War College, Sasebo Naval Arsenal, Combined Fleet, and serve as Chief of the Navy General Staff. In 1914, he tutored Crown Prince Hirohito, the future Shōwa Emperor, and would receive many honors in his retirement, such as the Orders of the Chrysanthemum, Paulownia Flowers, Sacred Treasure, Golden Kite 1st Class, and the Tōgō Shrine built after his death. In 1958, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz financed the restoration of the Japanese battleship Mikasa, Tōgō's flagship.