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power, notably aircraft carriers, battleships were no longer able to establish naval superiority, and so all have been withdrawn from active service.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...)
HMS Hood (pennant number 51) was one of the four Admiral class battlecruisers and the last battlecruiser of the Royal Navy (though sometimes regarded as a Fast battleship). Named after Admiral Samuel Hood, she was designed in 1916 to counter the Mackensen-class battlecruiser, but the only one of her class to be constructed. Launched in just before the end of World War I and commissioned on May 15, 1920, she saw significant service in the Merranean Sea during the interwar years as the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet's Battlecruiser Squadron. In 1931, her crew participated in the Invergordon Mutiny, and in 1941, badly in need of a scheduled refit. However, the outbreak of World War II precluded this, and the "Mighty Hood" was pressed into war service despite her degradations and being partially obsolete. In July 1940, she fired on French ships at Mers-el-Kébir to prevent their capture by the Kriegsmarine, then took up station with the Home Fleet to prevent invasion. After a few failed intercepts, she was sent with HMS Prince of Wales to keep the German battleship Bismarck out of the Atlantic Ocean. Catching up to the Bismarck and German cruiser Prinz Eugen, the Battle of the Denmark Strait left the Hood sunk after a magazine explosion. The loss of the "pride of the navy" led to the order to "sink the Bismarck!"
Ernst Lindemann (28 March 1894 – 27 May 1941) was a German naval captain and the only commander of the battleship Bismarck during its eight months of service in World War II. Born in 1894, he joined the German Imperial Navy (German: Kaiserliche Marine) in 1913, and after his basic military training, served on a number of warships during World War I as a wireless telegraphy officer. On board SMS Bayern, he participated in Operation Albion—the German invasion and occupation of the Estonian islands. After World War I, he served in various staff as well as naval gunnery training positions. One year after the outbreak of World War II, he was appointed commander of the battleship Bismarck, at the time the largest warship in commission and the pride of the Kriegsmarine.
In May 1941, Lindemann commanded Bismarck during Operation Rheinübung. The German task force, under the command of Admiral Günther Lütjens, consisted of the battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, was to break out of its base in German occupied Norway and attack British merchant shipping lanes in the Atlantic Ocean. The force's first major engagement was the Battle of the Denmark Strait which resulted in the sinking of HMS Hood. Less than a week later, on 27 May, Lindemann and most of his crew lost their lives during Bismarck's last battle. He was posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes), which was presented to his widow, Hildegard, on 6 January 1942. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross recognized extreme bravery on the battlefield or outstanding military leadership.
The "Baker" explosion, part of Operation Crossroads, was a nuclear weapon test by the United States military at Bikini Atoll on 25 July 1946. 95 target vessels were positioned in various places within the two blast zones, including four battleships. USS Arkansas (the large black spot at the base of the pillar) survived the Able blast with little damage, but was devastated by Baker and capsized. USS Nevada was the target for Able, but a 1,700 yards (1,600 m) miss allowed her to survive, be exposed at Baker, used as a decontamination testbed, and sunk as a gunnery practice target two years later, a fate also shared by USS New York. The Japanese battleship Nagato was spared significant damage at Able, but the underwater explosion at Baker damaged her enough to capsize and sink five days later.
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