HMS Elizabeth Jonas (1559)

The Elizabeth Jonas of 1559 was the first large English galleon, built in Deptford from 1557 and launched in July 1559.

With a nominal burden of 800 tons, she was the largest ship built in England since Henry VIII’s prestige warship, the Henry Grace à Dieu. She was ordered under the reign of Queen Mary and initially named Edward, after her late brother, but was renamed when Elizabeth I came to the throne. She was a square-rigged galleon of four masts, including two lateen-rigged mizzenmasts. The Elizabeth Jonas served effectively under the command of Sir Robert Southwell during the battle of the Spanish Armada in 1588. In 1597-98 she was rebuilt as a razee galleon, but at the time of the Commission of Enquiry in 1618 she was condemned and broken up.


Svetlana class cruiser

By August 1914, the naval powers had produced cruisers in such numbers that they formed the largest class of warship with the exception of destroyers. The fewest but most powerful and expensive were battle cruisers: Great Britain operated nine battle cruisers, Germany five, and Japan two. The numbers of older armored, protected, and light cruisers built in the pre-dreadnought era was staggering. Britain led the world with 94, Germany and France had 36 each, the United States 34, Japan 19, Russia 18, Italy 13, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire had 11 vessels. In terms of modern cruiser construction of all types, Great Britain operated 30, Germany 20, Japan six, Italy four, the United States and Austria-Hungary three each, and Russia one. 5 All told, the world’s navies operated 343 cruisers that would serve a vital role in World War I.

First turbine-driven cruisers of the Russian fleet, projected taking into account experience of the Russian-Japanese war. They were built by two little differing series: Svetlana, Admiral Butakov, Admiral Spiridov and Admiral Greig for Baltic, Admiral Nahimov, Admiral Lazarev, Admiral Istomin and Admiral Kornilov for Black sea. All 8 ships were laid down prior to the beginning of the First World War, but any of them before revolution of 1917 was completed. 24/12/1920 the program has been accepted, according to which Svetlana and Admiral Nakhimov it was supposed to complete under original project.

Black Sea cruisers, according to the project, differed by increased displacement (7600t against 6800), dimensions, and also type and structure of machinery (Parsons turbines and 14 Yarrow boilers instead of 4 Curtis-AEG-Vulkan and 13 Yarrow-Vulkan boilers), in remaining ships were practically identical. Rather low-freeboard hull with a forecastle and a three-funnel outline profile gave them a certain likeness with Novik class destroyers. On trials Profintern made 29.5kts at 6800t displacement and 59200hp power. Chervona Ukraina shown average speed of 29.82kts and maximum 30.9kts To the beginning of Great Patriotic war boilers were converted to pure oil-firing, but speed characteristics nevertheless have notably decreased: so, in 1941 speed did not exceed 27.5kts, and in 1944 Krasny Krym made no more than 22kts.

Protection ensured unvulnerability from gunfire of destroyers. The main 75mm belt reached full ship length and adjoined an upper edge a lower deck. Above it the upper 25mm belt placed. Upper and lower decks had 20mm thickness. The protection of the same thickness covered funnel uptakes below deck level.

Deck-casemates arrangement of artillery and insufficient to measures of the Second World War calibre were a serious lack of the project.

The 6,800-ton cruiser Svetlana, ordered in 1912 for the Baltic Fleet, was completed and commissioned in 1928 as Profintern. Transferred to the Black Sea in 1930, she was renamed once again in 1939 to become Krasnyi Krym. She is seen here exchanging fire with German shore artillery off Odessa in 1941. She was the most successful of the Russian cruisers, taking part in numerous actions but never suffering serious battle damage.

In 1944 she was armed with fifteen 130mm, three twin 100mm AA, four 45mm AA, ten 37mm AA, seven 12.7mm machine-guns and two triple 456mm torpedo tubes. She could also carry 90 mines. Worn turbines limited her speed to 22 knots.

Naval Architecture

The Santísima Trinidad, 1769

The profession of designing craft for use on or in the water. The high art of ship design, known as naval architecture, emerged during the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. The growth of naval architecture marked a departure from the craft tradition of ship design. It resulted in applying abstract mathematics to ship design, drafting designs on paper, and, overall, taking a more rational approach to design.

From ancient times to the Renaissance, one tradition of ship design existed. In this folk art the master shipwright controlled most of the production process, from selecting the trees for ship timber to launching the completed vessel. Design formed only one of the facets of this craft. It required practical experience, a sense of aesthetics, and an eye for hydrodynamic lines. Some of the earliest ship designers modeled their vessels on seaworthy examples. At first they based their designs on natural forms, such as fish and the underwater lines of waterfowl. The phrase used to describe a ship with a bluff bow and fine stern, “cod’s head and mackerel’s tail,” stems from this design tradition.

As certain wooden ships became known for their seaworthiness, shipwrights copied their lines for new vessels. It is, therefore, not extraordinary that ships from various parts of medieval Europe could fall within general classifications, such as the cog. This craft-based form of ship design prevailed in some countries well into the nineteenth century.

Throughout its history, naval architecture has been closely tied to governmental shipbuilding programs because the development of new design methods and supporting institutions requires a significant financial investment. Venetian shipbuilders were the first to try to replace craft-based design methods with theoretical ones. By the early–fifteenth century, they had elevated galley design to its zenith. To help preserve their superior designs, the Venetians developed a formulaic method requiring only the dimensions of the keel, stem, stern, and midship section. Using this sesto e partixon system, they could extrapolate the rest of the hull lines from these few basic proportions. The Venetians became adept at drawing and preserved some of their designs on paper. They recorded their mathematical methods in the first treatises concerning shipbuilding. Beginning in the mid- to late–fifteenth century, Venetian shipbuilders wrote and reproduced by hand several of these treatises.

Shipbuilders in other seafaring countries began to develop sophisticated methods of their own. In the sixteenth century, Spanish shipbuilder Diego Garcia de Palacio published the book Instrucción náutica para navegar. Palacio’s treatise represents the first shipbuilding publication printed in large quantities.

This early European movement to develop theoretical ship design methods and preserve them in books departed from the craft tradition of design. Training new generations of master craftworkers had rested on the foundation of apprenticeship and hands-on experience, not book learning. The Venetians and Spaniards began a process that led to the separation of ship design from ship construction.

By the seventeenth century, France vied with Spain, England, and the Netherlands for control of the seas. King Louis XIV hungered for maritime commerce and naval power, and his finance minister and minister of the navy Jean Baptiste Colbert did his best to satisfy those desires. From 1661 until his death, in 1683, Colbert increased the size and number of French warships, improved training of naval officers, and ordered numerous charts prepared for better navigation. In 1666, he founded the Académie des Sciences, which became a forum for scientific matters, including navigation and ship design. In 1680 Colbert brought together prominent French shipbuilders to determine the best way to maximize speed, maneuverability, and gun positioning on board men-of-war. This group established standard dimensions for each class of warship and eliminated many of the rule-of-thumb methods practiced by private contractors.

During the 1700s Colbert’s campaign to promote navigation and shipbuilding bore fruit in the form of design research. French experimenters pioneered the use of model ship basins to test the performance of ship forms. In addition, the Académie awarded prizes for research on ship design subjects, such as the best method for diminishing the rolling and pitching of vessels or propelling a vessel without the use of sails.

French works on naval architecture became recognized as the world’s leading ship design treatises. Paul Hoste, a Jesuit professor at the Toulon Naval Academy, wrote Théorie de la construction des vaisseaux in 1697. His treatise laid the foundation for later works on naval architecture by employing the principles of statics and mechanics. In 1746 Pierre Bouguer completed his influential work, Traité du navire. Bouguer devised the trapezoidal rule for the mensuration of areas, which became the basis for many of the hydrostatic calculations that enter into modern naval architecture. In 1752, naval architect and instructor Duhamel du Monceau published Elémens de l’architecture navale. Monceau’s book became widely recognized as one of the eighteenth century’s best naval architecture treatises and was translated into Dutch, German, and English.

The French were the first to establish educational institutions to support the profession of naval architecture. During his administration, Colbert had founded schools of naval construction at the Brest and Rochefort navy yards. These schools began the process of separating ship designers from shipwrights and transforming naval architecture into a form of engineering. In 1765, the French continued this process by founding the École d’Application du Génie Maritime to train its naval constructors. This school was the first to educate its students in the science of ship design.

British interest in naval architecture lagged behind that of the French. The British always had a reputation as some of the best shipwrights in Europe, and a number of English master builders, such as Phineas Pett and Anthony Deane, distinguished themselves as warship designers. Britain’s movement to rationalize the craft of shipbuilding might not have begun, however, had it not been for that nation’s dependence on overseas commerce and the influence of the Royal Navy. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Great Britain had to control the ocean lifelines that provided for its economy and support a powerful navy to protect those vital supply lines.

The British began to adopt the methods and institutions of naval architecture during the Napoléonic Wars. Fearing that the superiority of French warship designs might tip the balance of power in favor of their naval rivals, British shipbuilders and naval personnel focused their attention on warship design. Some of Britain’s most accomplished mathematicians perfected naval architecture theory beyond the principles advanced by the French. In the 1790s Colonel Mark Beaufoy undertook a five-year study of the resistance of various wooden shapes to water. Beaufoy’s tests represented the first serious British attempt to understand the resistance of hydrodynamic forms to water. Beaufoy also took a leading role in forming the Society for the Improvement of Naval Architecture in 1796. It comprised civilians and naval personnel who supported the study of ship design and construction.

Royal dockyard officials Samuel Bentham and Robert Seppings made their greatest contributions to warship construction methods during this period. One of Bentham’s many initiatives led to the founding of dockyard schools for the Royal Navy’s shipwrights.

Sea Landings in History

The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the 1066 Norman amphibious invasion of England.
Normandy Landings-1944.

The history of amphibious warfare goes back well before the modern term itself. The massive landing by the Persians at Marathon, the ill-fated Athenian expedition to Sicily in 415 BCE, Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 55 BCE, and some of the Crusades are invoked as examples of assault upon the land from the sea.

Looking back to those earlier ventures can help to clarify the enduring, historic features of this special form of warfare. It is not about raids upon an enemy’s shore, such as Sir Francis Drake’s attack on Cadiz and other Spanish ports in the 1580s. Those were strikes from the sea, but a permanent lodgement on the beachhead followed by an advance upon the rest of the mainland was not intended. Operations such as the assault upon Cadiz usually had a smaller, more specific purpose, such as throwing the enemy’s intentions into disarray (Drake’s assault was a preemptive disruption of the Armada) or hurting his offensive capacities (like the Zeebrugge Raid of April 1918, where the British planned to block egress by U-boats from the German-occupied port), or were simply persistent, small-scale attacks to stretch out and, it was hoped, wear down the defenders. Royal Marine commando units carried out many of that sort of raid throughout much of the Second World War, compelling Hitler to order the stationing of vast numbers of Wehrmacht troops along Europe’s western shores, from northern Norway to France’s border with Spain. In late December 1941, for example, a commando raid successfully destroyed the German power station, factories, and other installations at Vaagso, halfway up the Norwegian coast, and in February 1942 another famous raid attacked and seized vital radar equipment from the Bruneval station, near Le Havre.

But these were not invasions; at Bruneval, the commandos actually parachuted in, seized the machinery, and left by the sea. Some of them had specific utility, such as the acquisition of the radar equipment, or the later midget submarine raids on enemy merchant ships in the Gironde (the “Cockleshell Heroes”). Sometimes, perhaps, the merits were psychological; they certainly were to Churchill, who almost immediately after the fall of France—and well before the Battle of Britain—ordered the Chiefs of Staff to propose “measures for a vigorous, enterprising and ceaseless offensive against the whole German-occupied coastline.” Finally, even the smallest raid, whether a success like Vaagso or a failure like Guernsey (July 1940), produced lessons: about training, command and control, land-sea communications, weapons used, vessels used, accuracy of prior intelligence collection, and so on.

It is the lessons of larger and more purposeful amphibious operations that claim attention here. The first was that specialized troops and specialized equipment were needed to carry out a successful invasion against a determined land-based enemy. Sometimes, perhaps, a hastily flung-together unit, if it possessed the element of surprise, could pull off an operational miracle, but when launched against a foe who had prepared its defenses well, such attacks were usually a recipe for disaster. It is therefore not surprising that historians call our attention to two innovations by the army of Philip II, since that service was one of the driving forces behind the “military revolution” of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first was the creation by Madrid of specially trained troops assigned to their various armadas and experienced in moving from ship to land; the Royal Spanish Marines were born in 1560s operations to recover Malta, and other powers followed by establishing their own such units. The second was the establishment of specific weapons platforms and the implementation of suitable tactics for their success in battle. Thus, in the May 1583 Spanish operation to recover the Azores from an Anglo-French-Portuguese garrison, “special barges were arranged to unload horses and 700 artillery pieces on the beach; special row boats were equipped with small cannons to support the landing boats; special supplies were readied to be unloaded and support the 11,000 men landing force strength.” The attackers also practiced deception, a partial force landing on a distant beach and distracting the garrison while two waves of marines got onshore at the main point.

The third, equally important general lesson was that those who ordered an amphibious operation, whether it be the king of Spain in the 1580s or Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Combined Chiefs of Staff in 1942–43, had to eliminate interservice rivalry and create some form of integrated command. Rivalry among allies is one thing (Wellington often claimed that having enemies was nothing like as bad as having allies), but rivalry between the armed services of one’s own nation is altogether more serious. In many cases, operational failure was due to a lack of appreciation of what the other service could or could not do, or even how the other service thought. The doggerel about the Earl of Chatham and Sir Richard Strachan was not chosen merely as an example of puckish Regency satire. The Walcheren invasion of 1809 was a disaster. The place was badly chosen, being a low-lying island ridden with malaria; there were no serious preparations (tools, barges, intelligence) for an advance from the island into the Netherlands; Chatham did little with his 44,000 troops, and Strachan and his ships stood offshore. There was no planning staff and no integrated command structure. It was a total mess, neither the first nor the last of its kind.

The final lesson was the oldest of all: that no matter how sophisticated and integrated the armed forces involved in a landing were, they were always going to be subjected to the constraints of distance, topography, accessibility, and the weather conditions of the moment. The internal combustion engine conquered much of time and space. Against the blunt force of a gale, it was greatly hindered and reduced in its power (as we saw from the physical difficulties that Churchill had in simply getting to Casablanca). Given that the tides changed daily—in the Atlantic, there were very large vertical rises and drops—and that a storm could come up swiftly, there was always great unease at the idea that forces would be landing upon an open shore, even a lee shore.

Wherever possible, then, invasion planners, thinking also of the follow-on troops and supplies, desired a safe, functioning harbor in which their ships could rest securely and through which reinforcements could flow. The problem, of course, was that any good harbor worth its name was going to be heavily defended by cannon, bastions, outerworks, innerworks, and possibly mines and hidden obstacles, while the invading troops and their transports would be offshore, churning away in collective seasickness and the ebb and flow of the tides before the bloody assault was made. The history of amphibious warfare is thus also replete with examples of attacks that were repulsed—in 1741 the British put 24,000 men, 2,000 guns, and 186 ships against Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), yet still were driven off by a much smaller Spanish garrison holding a massive fortress. Trying to seize an enemy harbor naturally provoked an enormous defensive reaction and most probably would be fatal; landing on beaches, whether nearby or farther away, exposed the troops to the watery elements and also forced them to bring their own communications systems (bridging equipment, repair units, spares) until they reached the enemy’s roads. But deciding against any amphibious attack and staying with a land campaign (as the Allies did in Italy between 1943 and 1945, apart from Anzio) meant that one could not take advantage of the opportunities of maritime flexibility and would instead be forced to grind on. One of these operational options might be a winner, but it was impossible to say in advance which one it was.

In sum, assaults from the sea were a gambler’s throw; perhaps only airborne attacks could be riskier. It was not just about ships dropping off soldiers and equipment and then sailing away; it was about integrated combined warfare in the face of hostile fire and often in extremely difficult physical circumstances. It called for an almost impossible construct: a smoothly functioning joint staff under a single commander, with everyone knowing his place and role due to systematic preinvasion training. It relied upon superb communications in the face of enemy efforts to disrupt them, and it required the right weaponry. After that, it might just be feasible.

With all these lessons of history available (and some earlier campaigns were studied at nineteenth-century staff colleges), one might have thought that pre-1914 armed services would have been better prepared than they were for flexible, carefully prepared strikes from the sea when the Great War finally came. This should have been particularly true of policy makers and senior strategists in London, reared as they were in the “British way in warfare.” But much less attention was given by those strategists to the lessons arising from the Crimean campaign (clumsy, but actually successful in forcing Russia to ask for terms) than to the rapier-like strikes of the Prussian army against Denmark, then Austria, then France, in the 1860s. If future European wars were to be decided so swiftly, in the first summer and autumn of campaigning on the main battlefields, what was the point of peripheral raids? It was a question that advocates of amphibious warfare found hard to answer. There was another reason so little amphibious warfare was practiced during the First World War: the larger strategic situation. This war was overwhelmingly a European land war and thus a generals’ war. The mass armies of the Central Powers were contesting for terrain against the mass armies of France, Britain, and (later) the United States in the west, that of Russia in the east, and Italy’s in the south. Since the Anglo-American armies were already deeply inside France by 1917–18, there was no need for a massive amphibious landing on French shores. Mines, torpedoes, and coastal artillery prevented any Allied thrusts into the Baltic; seaborne operations that did occur there were German-Russian strikes in a secondary theater. All significant nations of the Mediterranean were either Allied (France, Italy, and their colonies, plus Egypt) or neutral (Spain, Greece), which only left Turkey and the Levant as possible target areas. Britain’s Japanese ally controlled the Far East and easily gobbled up the exposed German colonies there.

Thus, for all the pre-1914 talk by Admiral Jacky Fisher and others about the army being a “projectile” fired onshore by the navy, it wasn’t clear where that missile could be fired, even if the British generals agreed to be so dispatched (which, once settled in France, they didn’t). Taking over Germany’s colonies in Africa and the Southwest Pacific was relatively uncontested, except for a disastrous amphibious operation in November 1914 by British-Indian forces against the Tanganyikan port of Tanga, which should have been a salutary lesson in how poor training, communications, equipment, and leadership can turn an imaginative strike into a fiasco. But lessons are salutary only if they are learned.

Alas, the lessons of Tanga were not, as was most readily demonstrated in the greatest example of a failed amphibious invasion of the twentieth century: the 1915–16 Gallipoli campaign, as notable a conflict as the Athenian assault upon Sicily, and just as disastrous. Even today, Gallipoli receives much attention, not just on account of its historical resonances (as witnessed at every ANZAC Day commemoration in Australia and New Zealand, or in the Turks’ celebration of Mustapha Kemal, later known as Ataturk) but also because of our fascination at the spectacular gap between its grand strategic purpose and its disastrous execution. Perhaps no operation other than this one better illustrates the feedback loop—in this case, a wholly unfavorable one—between what happens on the ground and at sea, and how the general course of the war can be affected by tactical mishap. By the single stroke of pushing a force through the Dardanelles, its principal advocate (Churchill) maintained, a tottering Russia would have its sea-lanes to the West restored and thus be kept in the war; on the other side, the supposedly fragile Turkish power (it had joined Germany in November 1914) might be pushed into collapse, and the Balkan states of Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania might be tempted out of their neutrality.

While the strategic reasoning was attractive, the operation itself was a catastrophe. It began with a purely naval attempt in March 1915 to rush the Straits; by the time the Allied fleet escaped from the Turkish-laid minefield, it had lost four capital ships (three British and one French), with a further three badly damaged—an outcome worse than the Royal Navy’s losses at Jutland a year later. After that, infantry units were assembled from various sources—French regiments in the Mediterranean, British units from Egypt, India, and the home country, brand-new Australian and New Zealand divisions en route to the Western Front. In late April 1915, having given the Turks plenty of time to bring up reinforcements, they began to land on the craggy, ravined, thorn-covered hills of the Dardanelles Peninsula. Try as they might, the Allied forces could never get control of the higher ground and suffered appalling losses. Each side threw in more and more divisions, but the situation did not change. In December and January, in swift nighttime moves that surprised the Turks, the Allies pulled away from the beaches, admitting defeat, and sailed for home. They had lost 44,000 men and had another 97,000 wounded (more than all U.S. losses in the Korean War). Turkey’s casualties were even higher, but they had won.

The Western nations had proved to be much better at getting off a Dardanelles beach than landing on one, let alone moving on from their early lodgement to their chief inland destination. In retrospect, the reasons for this defeat became clear. The weather in the Straits was always extremely fickle, ranging from the intense heat of the summer months (without adequate water supplies, an army withers like a bush, and the sickness rate soars) to the intense storms and blizzards that poured out of the Bosphorus as winter advanced. The topography is intimidating, with steep slopes, sudden crevasses, and thornbushes everywhere. The landing areas, especially where the Australian and New Zealand units came ashore, were inhospitable and virtually impossible to move out from. Allied intelligence about what to expect was weak, the forces had not been trained for this kind of operation, and fire support from the offshore vessels was incomplete, in part because it was hard to see where the Turks were, in part because the bombarding squadrons were steadily forced away by enemy mines and submarines (three further capital ships were sunk within the next month). The landing craft that brought the men to the shore were, apart from a few prototypes, not landing craft at all. Finally, both the weaponry and the tactics of the raw units ordered to advance up this craggy terrain were simply inadequate for the job. Supervising this unfolding fiasco was a command structure that brought back memories of Sir Richard Strachan and the Earl of Chatham—except that this time the casualties and the immensity of the failure were far, far greater. In consequence, the line to Russia could not be opened, Turkey stayed in the war and fought to the end, Bulgaria joined the Central Powers, and the other Balkan states stayed neutral. Slightly over a year later, imperial Russia began its collapse.

After Gallipoli, British interest in amphibious operations waned, not surprisingly. More and more resources were needed for the colossal struggles along the Western Front, and in consequence exotic and difficult landings from the sea were now frowned upon. At French urging, an Allied army did establish a beachhead in Salonika later in 1915, but it never really got very far from the shore for the next three years—the battalions there were aptly named the “Gardeners of Salonika.” By the next spring the French were fighting for survival in Champagne and Flanders, and therefore opposed all eastern adventures. If the British were much more tempted to campaign for the territories of the Ottoman Empire after 1915–16, it was by large-scale land assaults, eastward from Egypt, northward from Basra. The army leadership simply wasn’t interested in its divisions being dropped off on hostile shores; the navy was concentrating upon bottling up the High Seas Fleet in the North Sea and trying to avoid losing the Atlantic convoys’ battle against the U-boats. The Zeebrugge Raid of 1918, however well executed, was just a raid, nothing more. Nor did the American entry into the war change attitudes; millions of doughboys sailed safely into Le Havre and were marched overland to the front. During 1917–18 the U.S. Marine Corps was located far inland, fighting along the Aisne and the Meuse rivers.

In sum, the First World War discredited the notion of amphibious warfare. And when the dust of war had settled and the new global strategic landscape revealed its contours—roughly by 1923—there were obvious reasons this type of operation had few followers. To be sure, in a badly defeated and much-reduced Germany, in a badly damaged and scarcely victorious France and Italy, and in an infant Soviet Union, there were many thoughts of war, but none of them involved the projection of force across the oceans. Japan was in a liberal phase, and the military had not yet exerted its muscle—even when it moved to take Manchuria in 1931, that was a land operation that had nothing to do with attacking beaches or seizing ports. By the late 1930s things would be different, with large Japanese merchant ships carrying landing craft and vehicles during their attack upon the lower Yangtze. During this post-1919 period, then, only two of the seven great powers gave any thought to amphibious warfare.

One of those two powers was Britain, although economic stringency and the embarrassment of Gallipoli (refought in many a wartime memoir) pushed combined operations into a dark and dusty corner; the result was the occasional small-scale training exercise, a theoretical training manual, and three prototype motor landing craft. Only the 1937 Japanese invasion of mainland China and then the 1938 crisis over Czechoslovakia would force a resumption of planning and organization. On paper, things began to improve. The Inter-Service Training and Development Centre (ISTCD) was set up, specialized landing craft and their larger carrier ships were designed, and the manual for amphibious assaults was updated. But this was all theory. The midlevel officers worked well together and had fine, advanced ideas, but they still lacked the tools. A large-scale exercise off Slapton Sands, Devon, in July 1938 was badly affected by near-gale conditions and ended in chaos. This galvanized the ISTCD into further serious planning, and it is to their credit that they anticipated virtually all of the practical difficulties that amphibious operations would throw up during the Second World War itself.

Yet at the outbreak of that conflict, remarkably, this truly interservice unit was disbanded. The army was off to France, the air force was bombing Germany, and the navy was awaiting high-seas battle with the Kriegsmarine—so where on earth would one carry out combined operations? And who was interested? All but one of the ISTCD officers returned to their fighting units in September 1939.

The other country interested in amphibious warfare was the United States, because of its lengthy shores, multiple harbors, and flat beaches; because of its cherished memories of the War of 1812; and because it had possessed, since the founding of the Republic, its own Marine Corps with special campaign memories (“From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”).

The End of IJN Sōryū

It is not known who scored the last hit. Indeed most early sources say that the Soryu only received two hits which certainly would have been enough to doom the ship. However later sources as well as Japanese sources say a third and last bomb did hit near the rear of the flight deck. All three divisions of VB3 attacked and it appears they attacked according to doctrine. The first to dive was the 1st division lead by Leslie. Holmberg, the second to dive right behind Leslie, scored the first hit. The next 2 divisions dived in order. This is backed up by Bottomly scoring the second hit. He was in the second part of the 2nd division. This left only three other pilots to actually dive on Soryu, that being Lane, Butler, and Shumway who was leading the 3rd division. The last four aircraft from the 3rd division dived on other targets as Soryu was a mass of flames by then. While I’m inclined to give the last hit to either Lane or Butler it is curious that Shumway dove on Soryu while the other aircraft in his division decided that Soryu was no longer a worthwhile target. So I cannot discount that Shumway quite possibly was the last to hit Soryu. In some way that makes sense. Shumway never claimed credit for the hit but he might never have seen it as the rear of Soryu’s flight deck was most likely obscured by smoke at that point. Only later when Japanese sources confirmed a 3rd hit was it positively known a third bomb hit her. Shumway also hit Hiryu later in the day confirming that he was a good dive bomber pilot which kind of plays into the theory as Best and Kleiss also had hits in each of their two attacks that day.

According to the conventional accounts of the action, it was just after 1020 hours – less than ten minutes before the carriers would supposedly start launching their planes for the attack on the American fleet – when the first of the Enterprise’s dive-bombers attacked Kaga. Parshall and Tully are scornful of the idea (often depicted as incontrovertible fact) that the Japanese were so close to flying off their carrier aircraft from the decks of the Kidō Butai. They claim it is a myth – castigating it as ‘A Fallacious Five Minutes’ – because the Japanese were simply in no practical position to do so at this time. After three misses, four large bombs struck home, the first of which exploded in an inferno amongst the ‘Kates’ on the starboard quarter of the deck, two more smashed into the deck near the carrier’s island wrecking the bridge and a fourth landed in the middle of the flight deck before carving its way like the other bombs before it through to the hangars below. Kaga became almost an instant blazing wreck. Akagi was not spared either. Two bombs exploded near to the flagship, but a solitary hit from Lieutenant Richard Best’s dive-bomber was sufficient to turn Nagumo’s flagship into yet another exploding furnace. His 1,000-pound bomb drove through the flight deck and exploded in a huge ball of flame in the upper hangar amongst the carrier bomber planes that were parked there. Although badly damaged, Akagi was far from dead in the water. In fact, she was making battle speed 3 at 1040 hours when she spotted a lone American plane off her starboard bow. In heeling the carrier over to starboard and opening up with her A.A. guns, the flagship survived this latest attack. In doing so, however, the steering failed – the rudder jamming at 30º to starboard.

Within a few minutes the situation was complicated still further by a fire breaking out on the flight deck which in turn spread to a Zero parked by the bridge. As a result of the acrid smoke that arose from the resulting inferno, the command centre became uninhabitable. Akagi’s days as the flagship of the First Mobile Striking Force (Kidō Butai) were at an end. While Kaga and Akagi were bearing the brunt of the Enterprise’s Dauntelesses, the dive-bombers from the Yorktown concentrated primarily on Sōryū and at 1026 hours the first of three bombs smashed into the starboard bow of the ship by the No.1 A.A. gun and obliterated the forward bulkhead and everything around it. A second bomb had carved its way through the middle of the flight deck and penetrated deep into the lower hangar before exploding venomously rupturing boiler steam pipes as it did so. A third struck the flight deck aft igniting in a ball of flame and thereafter engulfing everything from the command centre to the stern. By 1030 hours this whirlwind of destruction had signalled the active end of Sōryū’s existence. Like the other two carriers, she did not sink immediately but hung around as a smoking ruin for several more hours before sliding beneath the waves at 1913 hours taking 718 crew members with her as she did so.

Sinking of Akagi

At 07:55, the next American strike from Midway arrived in the form of 16 Marine SBD-2 Dauntless dive bombers of VMSB-241 under Major Lofton R. Henderson. Akagi’s three remaining CAP fighters were among the nine still aloft that attacked Henderson’s planes, shooting down six of them as they executed a fruitless glide bombing attack on Hiryū. At roughly the same time, the Japanese carriers were attacked by 12 B-17 Flying Fortresses, bombing from 20,000 feet (6,100 m). The high altitude of the B-17s gave the Japanese captains enough time to anticipate where the bombs would land and successfully maneuver their ships out of the impact area. Four B-17s attacked Akagi, but missed with all their bombs.

Akagi reinforced the CAP with launches of three Zeros at 08:08 and four at 08:32. These fresh Zeros helped defeat the next American air strike from Midway, 11 Vought SB2U Vindicator from VMSB-241, which attacked the battleship Haruna starting around 08:30. Three of the Vindicators were shot down, and Haruna escaped damage. Although all the American air strikes had thus far caused negligible damage, they kept the Japanese carrier forces off-balance as Nagumo endeavored to prepare a response to word, received at 08:20, of the sighting of American carrier forces to his northeast.

Akagi began recovering her Midway strike force at 08:37 and finished shortly after 09:00. The landed aircraft were quickly struck below, while the carriers’ crews began preparations to spot aircraft for the strike against the American carrier forces. The preparations, however, were interrupted at 09:18 when the first American carrier aircraft to attack were sighted. These consisted of 15 TBD Devastator torpedo bombers of VT-8, led by John C. Waldron from the carrier Hornet. The six airborne Akagi CAP Zeroes joined the other 15 CAP fighters currently aloft in destroying Waldron’s planes. All 15 of the American planes were shot down as they attempted a torpedo attack on Soryū, leaving one surviving aviator treading water.

Minutes after the torpedo plane attacks, American carrier-based dive bombers arrived over the Japanese carriers almost undetected and began their dives. It was at this time, around 10:20, that in the words of Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, the “Japanese air defenses would finally and catastrophically fail.” Twenty-eight dive bombers from Enterprise, led by C. Wade McClusky, began an attack on Kaga, hitting her with at least four bombs. At the last minute, one of McClusky’s elements of three bombers from VB-6, led by squadron commander Richard Best who deduced Kaga to be fatally damaged, broke off and dove simultaneously on Akagi. At approximately 10:26, the three bombers hit her with one 1,000-pound (450 kg) bomb and just missed with two others. The first near-miss landed 5–10 m (16–33 ft) to port, near her island. The third bomb just missed the flight deck and plunged into the water next to the stern. The second bomb, likely dropped by Best, landed at the aft edge of the middle elevator and detonated in the upper hangar. This hit set off explosions among the fully armed and fueled B5N torpedo bombers that were being prepared for an air strike against the American carriers, starting large fires.

At 10:29 Captain Aoki ordered the ship’s magazines flooded. The forward magazines were promptly flooded, but not the aft magazines because of valve damage, likely caused by the near miss aft. The ship’s main water pump appears to have been damaged, greatly hindering firefighting efforts. On the upper hangar deck, at 10:32 damage control teams attempted to control the spreading fires by employing the one-shot CO2 fire-suppression system. Whether the system functioned or not is unclear but, regardless, the burning aviation fuel proved impossible to control, and serious fires began to advance deeper into the interior of the ship. At 10:40 additional damage caused by the rear near-miss made itself known when the ship’s rudder jammed 30 degrees to starboard during an evasive maneuver.

Shortly thereafter, the fires broke through the flight deck and heat and smoke made the ship’s bridge unusable. At 10:46 Admiral Nagumo transferred his flag to the light cruiser Nagara. Akagi stopped dead in the water at 13:50 and her crew, except for Captain Taijiro Aoki and damage-control personnel, was evacuated. She burned through the night but did not sink as her crew fought a losing battle against the spreading fires. The damage-control teams were eventually evacuated as well, as was (under duress) Aoki.

At 04:50 on 5 June, Yamamoto ordered Akagi scuttled, saying to his staff, “I was once the captain of Akagi, and it is with heartfelt regret that I must now order that she be sunk.” Destroyers Arashi, Hagikaze, Maikaze, and Nowaki each fired one torpedo into the carrier and she sank, bow first, at 05:20 at 30°30′N 178°40′W. Two hundred and sixty-seven men of the ship’s crew were lost, the fewest of any of the Japanese fleet carriers lost in the battle. The loss of Akagi and the three other IJN carriers at Midway, comprising two thirds of Japan’s total number of fleet carriers and the experienced core of the First Air Fleet, was a crucial strategic defeat for Japan and contributed significantly to Japan’s ultimate defeat in the war. In an effort to conceal the defeat, Akagi was not immediately removed from the Navy’s registry of ships, instead being listed as “unmanned” before finally being struck from the registry on 25 September 1942.

Shortly afterwards 14 Devastators from VT-6 from the US carrier Enterprise, led by Eugene E. Lindsey, attacked. Lindsey’s aircraft tried to sandwich Kaga, but the CAP, reinforced by an additional eight Zeros launched by Akagi at 09:33 and 09:40, shot down all but four of the Devastators, and Kaga dodged the torpedoes. Defensive fire from the Devastators shot down one of Akagi’s Zeros.

United States – Ticonderoga-class

During the 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union continued production and ultimately produced some of the most powerful surface warships that have ever put to sea. In the United States, the penultimate cruiser resulted from a 1973 plan for a vessel known as a strike cruiser. American naval officials envisioned a nuclear-powered vessel that shipped the latest targeting systems, defensive missiles, antiship missiles, and cruise missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads as well as conventional explosives. The latter two systems were deemed important. An antiship capability was believed to be necessary given that the Standard missile, although it could be fired at a surface target, was too small to cause significant damage to a surface warship, and cruise missiles were needed to offset those of the Soviets. The cost of such a ship, however, was deemed too high by Congress, and the plan was consequently cancelled.

Even so, the idea of a vessel equipped with the newest missile control system did not die with the abandoned strike cruiser. The AEGIS Combat System was designed to not only control and coordinate the defense of a ship command the defense of entire task forces through the use of complex computers. First tested in 1973, AEGIS relies on a powerful radar, AN/SPY-1, that can simultaneously conduct searches and track more than 100 targets. This data is fed to the command center of a ship (CIC), where a computer evaluates which targets pose the greatest threat to the ship or task force and uses the vessel’s weapons accordingly to address the situation.

In order to make the best use of such a system, U. S. naval officials believed that a hull the size of a cruiser’s was necessary. The result was the completion of the 27 ships of the Ticonderoga-class between 1983 and 1994. The Ticonderoga cruisers measure 563 feet by 55 feet and displace 9,600 tons when fully loaded. In order to save money, these vessels are fitted with gas turbine engines that provide a maximum speed of 30 knots. The key feature is the AEGIS system, housed in the superstructure. Radar panels are mounted on the sides of the superstructure and provide a 360-degree arc of coverage; sonar systems provide underwater coverage. The data from these sensors are fed into the command center, which houses massive computer screens on the walls that reveal images of the space surrounding the ship and all ships, submarines, and aircraft within it. This system is directly linked to the weapons of the vessel. The first five ships are equipped with a primary armament of two twinarmed launchers, one each being located fore and aft. Both possess magazines that hold 88 missiles of varying types. Normally each magazine stores 68 Standard SAMs and 20 ASROC missiles. In ships constructed after the first five, the twin-armed missile launchers have been replaced by a vertical launch system (VLS) located in the forward section. This system is comprised of 144 canisters built into the hull.

Besides being able to launch SAMs and ASROC missiles, the Ticonderoga-class is also equipped with cruise missiles capable of being fired at naval and land targets. This addition greatly enhances the offensive capability of U. S. cruisers through the deployment of SSM systems that are far better than the limited surface ability afforded by the Standard system, originally intended as a surface-to-air defense. The smaller of these two weapons is the Harpoon missile.

The naval version of this missile was first deployed in the early 1980s and resembles the French Exocet antiship missile. It is still a primary weapon of the United States Navy and was first deployed on the Virginia-class cruisers when they were retrofitted. A Harpoon weighs 1,385 pounds and is 15 feet long. It carries a 488-pound warhead at a speed approaching Mach 1 and has a maximum range of almost 70 miles. Like Exocet, its guidance system allows it to home in on a target while skimming the ocean surface before striking the hull of an enemy vessel and exploding within. In the first five Ticonderoga-class cruisers, these missiles are mounted in box launchers that each contain four missiles. In later vessels, the Harpoon is shipped in the vertical launch system (VLS).

A larger and more powerful weapon, the Tomahawk cruise missile was deployed in 1986 and is among the most powerful offensive missiles in the arsenal of the United States Navy. This weapon weighs 2,900 pounds, but can weigh 3,500 pounds if it is equipped with a booster rocket for greater distance. It measures 18 feet, 3 inches, but length increases to 20 feet, 6 inches when the booster is included. The Tomahawk can carry a 1,000-pound conventional warhead or a nuclear payload out to 1,000 miles. The guidance system is extremely complex and allows for control that is largely independent of the ship that fires it. This guidance includes a targeting computer equipped with the Terrain Contour Mapping System (TERCOM). This system uses the missile’s radar to examine the topography ahead of it in order to match it to a three-dimensional map stored in the missile’s computer memory. The computer can correct the course of the weapon based on variations between the two maps. The Tomahawk is also equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS), which improves the reliability of the targeting data. Tomahawks also use Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) during the final stages of flight. As the missile nears its target, DSMAC uses a camera to take a picture of the target, which the computer verifies. This equipment provides for great accuracy. The missile is extremely difficult to detect as it flies at a low altitude.

The Ticonderoga-class cruisers ship others weapons that augment missile capacity. Other than ASROC missiles, these ships carry two torpedo launchers that fire homing torpedoes, as well as two helicopters for use against submarines and surface vessels. They also carry two 5-inch fully automated guns in single mounts. One each is located in the forward and rear section of the ship. Finally, these vessels carry two Vulcan Phalanx Cannons for short-range defense. This technological innovation was ready for service in 1977 and is still in use in the United States Navy. This weapon is a 20mm Gatling gun that is fed by a magazine that holds 1,000 rounds. It was designed as a last measure of defense to destroy incoming missiles at close range, but it can also be used against aircraft. The gun can fire 100 rounds per second. It’s computer-controlled tracking system is built into the gun mount and can direct effective fire to a range of 500 to 1,500 yards.

The Vulcan Phalanx is viewed as a successful defense weapon, but the defensive measures on board the Ticonderoga-class vessels extend past the weapons systems to the inclusion of armor. This feature had been discarded in U. S. cruisers since the construction of Long Beach, but advances in technology have allowed its return as the lightweight, extremely strong material known as Kevlar. Although this armor, mounted primarily on the sides of the hull, cannot completely negate the destructive effects of larger missiles, it can localize the effects of a blast and thus decrease the damage caused by a hit.

These cruisers, in light of the computer systems, weapons, and armor, are certainly among the most powerful warships ever built.

AEGIS ships have a more effective radar at their disposal, however: the AN/SPY-1B/D/E passive phased array S-band radar can be seen as the hexagonal plates mounted on the ship’s superstructure. SPY-1 has a slightly shorter horizon than the SPS-49, and can be susceptible to land and wave clutter, but is used to search and track over large areas. It can search for and track over 200 targets, providing mid-course guidance that can bring air defense missiles closer to their targets. Some versions can even provide ballistic missile defense tracking, after appropriate modifications to their back-end electronics and radar software.

The 3rd component is the AN/SPG-62 X-band radar “illuminators,” which designate targets for final intercept by air defense missiles; DDG-51 destroyers have 3, and CG-47 cruisers have 4. During saturation attacks, the AEGIS combat system must time-share the illuminators, engaging them only for final intercept and then switching to another target.

In an era of supersonic anti-ship missiles that use final-stage maneuvering to confuse defenses, and can be programmed to arrive simultaneously, this approach is not ideal.

The US Navy’s Dual-Band Radar relies on products from 2 different manufacturers, but they’re integrated in a different way. They also use a different base technology. The use of active-array, digital beamforming radar technology will help DBR-equipped ships survive saturation attacks. Their most salient feature is the ability to allocate groups of emitters within their thousands of individual modules to perform specific tasks, in order to track and guide against tens of incoming missiles simultaneously. Active array radars also feature better reliability than mechanically-scanned radars, and recent experiments suggest that they could have uses as very high-power electronic jammers, and/or high-bandwidth secure communications relays.

Many modern European air defense ships, from the British Type 45 destroyers, to the Franco-Italian Horizon destroyers and FREMM frigates, to Dutch/German F124 frigates, use active array search and targeting radars.

Raytheon’s X-band, active-array SPY-3 Multi-Function Radar (MFR) offers superior medium to high altitude performance over other radar bands, and its pencil beams give it an excellent ability to focus in on targets. SPY-3 will be the primary DBR radar used for missile engagements. Many anti-ballistic missile radars are X-band, and the SPY-3 could also be adapted for that role with the same kinds of software/hardware investments and upgrades that some of the fleet’s S-band, passive phased array SPY-1s have received.

On surface combatants, the AN/SPY-3 would also replace the X-band AN/SPQ-9 surface detection and tracking radar that is used to guide naval gunfire, and even track the periscopes of surfacing submarines. On carriers, it would take over functions formerly handled by AN/SPN-41 and AN/SPN-46 PALS air traffic radars, and would work in conjunction with the new GPS-derived Joint Precision Approach Landing System (JPALS).

Lockheed Martin’s Volume Search Radar (VSR) is an S-band active array antenna, rather than the SPY-1’s S-band passive phased array. The Navy was originally going to use the L-band/D-band for the DBR’s second radar, but Lockheed Martin had been doing research on an active array S-band Advanced Radar (SBAR) that could potentially replace SPY-1 radars on existing AEGIS ships. A demonstrator began operating in Moorestown, NJ in 2003. That same year, its performance convinced the Navy to switch to S-band, and to make Lockheed Martin the DBR subcontractor for the volume search radar (VSR) antenna. It also convinced Lockheed Martin to continue work on the project as a complete, integrated radar, now known as “S4R”.

S-band offers superior performance in high-moisture clutter conditions like rain or fog, and is excellent for scanning and tracking within a very large volume. While Lockheed Martin makes the VSR antenna, the dual-band approach means that Raytheon is responsible for the radars’ common back-end electronics and software.

The VSR/S4R’s nearest competitor would be Thales’ SMART-L, an active array L-band/D-band radar that equips a number of European air defense ships, and South Korea’s Dokdo Class LHDs. Unlike the DBR, however, the ships carrying it use the conventional approach of completely separate radar systems, integrated by the ship’s combat system.