IJN Heavy Cruiser Takao

The Japanese had probably the best cruisers of the early Pacific War era. Their crews were superbly trained and the boats themselves superbly handled, and used very imaginatively as well.

The Takao class was a class of four heavy cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy launched between May 1930 and April 1931.

They were an evolution from the preceding Myoko class, with heavier torpedo armament and had an almost battleship-like, large bridge structure. Their bridges able to accommodate an Fleet staff.

Their main gun armament was ten 8-inch (203 mm) guns in twin mounts and they were also armed with sixteen 24 inch torpedoes (carrying more than the Myokos or Mogamis), making the Takaos the most heavily armed cruisers of the IJN. The only flaw was that they were considered top-heavy and thus prone to capsizing, while Turret #3 had a poor firing arc. These two problems were rectified in the follow-up Mogamis; nonetheless the Takaos were considered the best cruisers that the IJN ever built.

IJN Takao: Early in the morning of 15 November 1942, the battleship Kirishima, supported by Takao and Atago, engaged the American battleships Washington and South Dakota. All three Japanese ships hit South Dakota multiple times with shells, knocking out her radar and fire controls. Takao and Atago fired Long Lance torpedoes at Washington but missed. However, Kirishima was quickly disabled by Washington and sank a few hours later. Atago was damaged. Takao escaped unharmed, but was forced to retreat to Truk.

Takao was launched on 12 May 1930 at the Yokosuka Navy Yard and commissioned on 31 May 1932, and was the lead ship of her class.

At the start of World War II, Takao was commanded by Captain Asakura Bunji and assigned to Vice Admiral Kondo Nobutake’s Cruiser Division 4 together with her sister ships Atago and Maya. In late December 1941, she provided gunfire support for the landings at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon in the Philippines.

In early 1942, Takao operated in the Java Sea in operations culminating in the Battle of the Java Sea in early March. On 1 March, one of Takao’s floatplanes bombed the Dutch merchant ship Enggano. The next night, Takao and Atago overtook the old United States Navy destroyer Pillsbury and sank her with no survivors. Early on 4 March, Takao, Atago, Maya and two destroyers of Destroyer Division 4, Arashi and Nowaki attacked a convoy near Tjilatjap. The Royal Australian Navy sloop HMAS Yarra defended the convoy for an hour and half, but was sunk with 34 survivors of her crew of 151. (Of these 34 survivors, only 13 were alive to be picked up a week later by the Dutch submarine K-XI and taken to Ceylon.) The Japanese cruisers then sank three ships from the convoy: the tanker Francol, the depot ship Anking, and a minesweeper. Two Dutch freighters were also captured.

In June 1942, Takao and Maya supported the invasion of the Aleutian Islands. On 3 June 1942, their reconnaissance floatplanes were attacked by United States Army Air Forces Curtiss P-40 fighters from Umnak and two were shot down; on 5 June, Takao shot down a B-17 Flying Fortress.

In August 1942, she was assigned to Operation Ka, the Japanese reinforcement during the Battle of Guadalcanal, and participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October. A determined attempt to shell the US base at Henderson Field led to the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal: early in the morning of 15 November 1942, the battleship Kirishima, supported by Takao and Atago, engaged the American battleships Washington and South Dakota. All three Japanese ships hit South Dakota multiple times with shells, knocking out her radar and fire controls. Takao and Atago fired Long Lance torpedoes at Washington but missed. However, Kirishima was quickly disabled by Washington and sank a few hours later. Atago was damaged. Takao escaped unharmed, but was forced to retreat to Truk.


Despite everything that Rear- Admiral Shoji Nishimura’s two heavy cruisers (Maya and Suzuya) threw at it during the following night, Henderson Field remained defiantly operational. Its aircraft proved that on the morning of 14 November by attacking the rest of Nishimura’s force (the light cruiser Tenryu and four destroyers) and the units of Gunichi Mikawa’s 8th Fleet (the two heavy cruisers Chokai and Kinugasa, the light cruiser Isuzu and two destroyers) which had been acting as a covering force for the previous evening’s bombardment. Along with carrier aircraft from the Enterprise, the Americans swiftly got their own back on the Japanese for the destruction of TG. 67.4. After waves of attacks, hits and near-misses, the heavy cruiser Kinugasa was sunk, while two others (Chokai and Maya) and the light cruiser Isuzu, along with one of Nishimura’s destroyers, were damaged to the extent that they could not go to Tanaka’s assistance as he brought his transports down `The Slot’ to their landing sites on Guadalcanal later that day. More punishment was meted out to the Japanese when carrier aircraft from the Enterprise, along with planes from both Henderson Field and Espiritu Santo, found these troop transports. Six were sunk and one was damaged in a series of savage attacks that killed 400 troops and left another 5,000 to be rescued and put ashore by their destroyer escorts. Tanaka stoically pressed on with only four transports left and got his troops ashore on the northwest of the island during the hours of darkness(14-15 November). It was just as well because more air attacks followed the next day and all the empty transports were hit and sunk.

As Tanaka was disembarking his troops, Kondo’s 2nd Fleet – comprising the battleship Kirishima, the heavy cruisers Atago and Takao, two escort cruisers and their eight destroyers – were trying to do what Abe and Nishimura’s forces were supposed to have done the previous two evenings and eliminate Henderson Field. Once again, the night time operation was thwarted. On this occasion the perpetrators were the two battleships South Dakota and Washington and four destroyers belonging to Rear-Admiral Willis Lee’s TF 64 which Vice-Admiral William `Bull’ Halsey, the recently appointed C-in-C South Pacific, had sent the previous day from their holding position south of Guadalcanal to go to Turner’s aid after the loss of Callaghan, Scott and their ships. Once again, the nightfighting skills of the Japanese wreaked havoc with the American ships when they confronted one another in Iron Bottom Sound off the northeast coast of Guadalcanal. Three of Lee’s destroyers were swiftly dispatched by a mixture of shells and torpedoes and the other one, Gwin, was damaged. His leading battleship (South Dakota) lost her radar and shortly thereafter the ability to avoid the concentrated fire of her heaviest opponents. Despite being battered, she was still able to defend herself as the destroyer Ayanami found out the hard way when she tried to torpedo her. While all of this was going on, Lee’s other battleship (Washington) remained unseen and unaffected. Captain G. B. Davis, expertly using his radar, brought her to within 8,000 metres of the Kirishima and sank her in a seven-minute bout of shelling. Kondo, on his flagship Atago, had no option but to abandon his mission and withdraw taking the rest of his fleet with him. Henderson Field’s extraordinary durability was set to continue.


In 1943, Takao supported the evacuation of Guadalcanal. Under the command of Inoguchi Toshihira, she operated in the central Pacific from her base at Truk. On 5 November 1943, she was refuelling at Rabaul in the Bismarck Islands when she came under attack by SBD Dauntless dive bombers from USS Saratoga (see Attack on Rabaul). Takao was hit by two bombs, killing 23 and damaging her steering; she was forced to return to Yokosuka in Japan for dry dock repairs.

On 22 October 1944, she joined Takeo Kurita’s “Centre Force” and sailed from Brunei Bay for the Battle of Leyte Gulf. On 23 October, as she was passing Palawan Island, the force came under attack from two US submarines. At 06:34, Takao was hit by two torpedoes from USS Darter, which shattered two shafts, broke her fantail and flooded three boiler rooms. She turned back to Brunei, escorted by the destroyers Naganami and Asashimo, the torpedo boat Hiyodori and the transport Mitsu Maru. This flotilla was tailed by Darter and Dace until just after midnight on 24 October, when Darter ran aground on the Bombay Shoal and Dace remained to rescue her crew.

Takao was so badly damaged that it was considered impossible to send her back to Japan any time soon for full repairs. So the stern was cut off and shored up, and she was moored as an anti-aircraft battery for the defence of Singapore. While berthed there, she was attacked (Operation Struggle) on 31 July 1945 by the British midget submarine HMS XE3, commanded by Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser and Acting Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Magennis attached six limpet mines to Takao’s hull using a piece of rope (the hull was covered with thick layer of seaweed, and the magnets of the limpet mines would not hold them on the hull); when the mines exploded, they blew a hole 20 m by 10 m. Most of Takao’s guns were put out of action, the rangefinders were destroyed and a number of compartments flooded.

On 5 September 1945, the Straits of Johor naval base was surrendered by the Japanese to the British and the formal boarding of the still partially manned Takao took place on 21 September 1945. She was finally towed to the Straits of Malacca to be used as a target ship for HMS Newfoundland and sunk on October 19, 1946 (03°05′05″N 100°41′00″ECoordinates: 03°05′05″N 100°41′00″E).

Other Takao-class heavy cruisers

Continuing in her role as a fleet flagship, Chokai was assigned to the Eighth Fleet in August 1942. As the flagship of Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi, she played a central role in the Japanese victory at Savo Island, although she also received the most damage of any Japanese ship present – American cruisers achieved several hits, killing 34 crewmen. Throughout the campaign, Chokai was a regular visitor to the waters around Guadalcanal, and on 14 October she and Kinugasa bombarded Henderson Field. On November 3, the other three ships of Sentai 4 departed Truk to reinforce the Eighth Fleet. Later, on November 13, Maya and Chokai left Shortland anchorage to conduct a night bombardment of Henderson Field alongside Suzuya. After hitting the airfield with 989 shells, the cruisers were attacked during their withdrawal by aircraft from the carrier Enterprise. Kinugasa was sunk, Chokai slightly damaged, and Maya more heavily damaged when a dive-bomber struck the ship’s mainmast and crashed into her port side, igniting fires. Maya’s torpedoes were jettisoned to avoid a disaster and she was sent back to Japan for repairs.

After her repairs, Maya was assigned to the Fifth Fleet and took part with Nachi in the March 1943 battle of Komandorski Islands, as already recounted. Later that year, Takao, Atago, Maya, and other heavy cruisers were forward-deployed to Rabaul with the aim of launching a massive cruiser attack on the American invasion forces at Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville. To forestall such an operation, the Americans hastily mounted a carrier air attack on the cruisers on November 5, while the Japanese vessels were still anchored in Rabaul Harbor. Takao was hit by a bomb near No. 2 turret, killing 23 men; she departed the same day with Atago for Truk. Atago suffered three near misses that caused flooding in the boiler and engine rooms. Maya was heavily damaged when a dive-bomber hit the aircraft deck above the No. 3 engine room and started a major fire in the engine room itself that killed 70. Maya returned to Japan in December 1943 and underwent major repairs and conversion.

The entire Takao class participated in the Philippine Sea operation. Maya was slightly damaged by near misses from carrier air attack. Leyte Gulf, however, was the death knell of the IJN’s finest class of cruisers. All four were assigned to the First Diversionary Attack Force. On October 23, the force was ambushed by two American submarines in the Palawan Passage. Darter sank Atago with four torpedoes and hit Takao with two others, setting her afire and stopping her dead in the water. Dace sank Maya with four torpedoes, killing 470 of 1,105 crewmen. Takao was able to get under way and arrived in Singapore on November 12. The cruiser was deemed irreparable and was moved to join Myoko in Seletar Harbor as a floating anti-aircraft battery.

Plans for modernizing the Takao class were complete by April 1938, but the approach of war meant that only two ships in the class were fully modernized: Takao at Yokosuka from May 1938 to August 1939 and Atago from April 1938 to October 1939. Chokai and Maya received only limited modernization before the war, including modifications to handle the Type 93 oxygen-propelled torpedo, heavier catapults, and the standard fit of 13mm and 25mm light anti-aircraft guns.

During the modernization, the anti-aircraft armament was increased, though the projected fit of the Type 89 5in twin guns did not begin until after the start of the war: Atago and Takao received theirs in May 1942; Chokai retained the single 4.7in guns until she was lost in 1944; Maya kept hers until reconstruction as an anti-aircraft cruiser began in November 1943. The light anti-aircraft armament was standardized and in the autumn of 1941 the two twin 13mm mounts were replaced with two 25mm mounts. The torpedo armament was augmented by the substitution of quad mounts for the existing double torpedo mounts.

The largest change was to the bridge structure, which was rebuilt to reduce topweight. When completed, the bridge was much smaller in appearance and was the primary feature for distinguishing Atago and Takao from their sisters Maya and Chokai. The bridge accommodated new fire-control equipment and featured the placement of an almost 20ft rangefinder in a separate tower immediately aft of the Type 94 fire-control director.

The other primary change was the alteration of the aircraft-handling facilities and the area of the hangar. To do this, the mainmast was moved 82ft aft. Two heavier catapults were also fitted and moved forward. As on the Myoko class, larger bulges were fitted to increase anti-torpedo protection and stability.

During the war, modifications were made to the ships’ radar and light anti-aircraft fit. In July-August 1943, Atago and Takao received the foremast-mounted No. 21 radar and two triple 25mm guns, making their total light anti-aircraft fit six twin and two triple mounts. Maya and Chokai received the No. 21 radar and two twin 25mm mounts between August and September, making their total anti-aircraft fit eight twin mounts.

In November 1943-January 1944, Atago and Takao were fitted with No. 22 radars and eight 25mm single guns. Chokai could not return to Japan during this period, but was given ten single 25mm guns at Truk. After receiving severe damage in November 1943, Maya returned to Yokosuka in December 1943 for repair and conversion into an anti-aircraft cruiser. Her No. 3 8in gun turret was removed, as were all her twin 25mm mounts, the single 4.7in mounts, and her old twin torpedo tubes. In their place were fitted six twin Type 89 guns with two Type 94 directors, plus 13 triple and nine single Type 96 guns. In addition, 36 13mm machine-guns on moveable mounts and four quadruple torpedo mounts with no reserve torpedoes were fitted. A No. 22 radar was added, and the No. 21 radar received a larger antenna.

Another round of modernization began after the battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944. All four units received a No. 13 radar and Chokai finally received a No. 22 set. In June 1944, Atago and Takao received four triple and 22 single 25mm guns. Maya received another 18 single guns, while Chokai received 12 more single mounts. Plans were made to convert her as Maya, but since she did not return to Japan until June 1944, these was never carried out.

IJN Cruiser Armour

Kako – Belt 79.88m X 4.12m of 76mm NVNC plate at 9 degree slope, AD 35-32mm, 51mm sides and 35mm roofs on magazines, total wt 1200t, 12% of trial displacement
Aoba – as Kako.

Myoko – belt 123.15m X 3.5m of 102mm NVNC plate at 12 degree slope. AD as Kako, total wt 2032.5t, 16.1% of trial displacement.

Takao – belt 119.8m X 3.5m (Amidships) of 102mm NVNC plate at 12 degrees, but thickness and height varied at the ends (38-127mm thick). AD as Kako, total wt 2368t 16.8% of trial displacement.

Mogami – belt over machinery tapered from 100mm to 25mm over magazines tapered from 140mm to 30mm (total length and height not given) at 20 degree slope. AD 35mm flat, 60mm sloped. total wt in 1935 was 2029t 15.6% of trial displacement.

Tone – belt over machinery 77.8m X 6.95m tapering from 100 to 18mm, belt over magazines 44.82m X ? high, tapering 145 to 55mm all at 20 degree slope
AD 31mm flat 60mm slope, total 2053t 14.6% of trial displacement.

Ibuki – similar to Mogami.

Note, none of the above protection schemes were modified during the various reconstructions only minor plating added.

Cold War Aircraft Carriers



1024px-ITS_Giuseppe_Garibaldi_(C_551) Kiev

Aircraft carriers were first utilized in combat in World War I. During that conflict, the Royal Navy converted a merchant ship, the Argus, into the first carrier with an unobstructed flight deck, but the war ended before it could be put into action. The U. S. and Japanese navies soon followed the British example. The first U. S. aircraft carrier was the Langley, commissioned in 1922. Japan’s first carrier, the Hosho (1922), was also the first such vessel designed as a carrier from the keel up. Nevertheless, carriers still remained largely experimental and had yet to be fully tested in war. That all changed in World War II.

On 10-11 November 1940, during a British attack on Taranto, and on 7 December 1941, with a Japanese strike at Pearl Harbor, aircraft carriers proved their worth and opened a dramatic new era at sea. Carriers played leading roles in almost all of the major sea battles of the Pacific theater during the war, including the Coral Sea, Midway, and Leyte Gulf. The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first engagement that pitted fleets in battle out of sight of the other, the fighting being carried out by aircraft alone. Aircraft carriers could deliver more firepower than even the largest battleships. During World War II, carriers came to replace battleships as the indispensable capital ships of modern naval warfare.

In the post-World War II period, aircraft carriers were both enlarged and improved technologically. But because of the great expense involved in building and maintaining carriers, some U. S. policymakers, still skeptical of their true value, sought to limit their production. President Harry S. Truman’s administration, for example, canceled construction of the carrier United States in 1949, leading to the so-called Revolt of the Admirals. But little more than a year later, aircraft carriers in the Far East proved invaluable in projecting U. S./United Nations airpower into the Korean War. Carriers again proved their worth during the Vietnam War, providing floating air bases from which to launch air combat missions well inland.

During the Cold War, U. S. carriers served two primary functions, first as a weapons system for land attacks and second as a defensive system to protect the larger fleet from submarine, surface, and airborne threats from both aircraft and missiles. Generally, a larger carrier costs less per aircraft embarked than a smaller one, and it can also launch larger aircraft, which themselves can dominate wider areas. Moreover, such aircraft carriers usually deliver a lower cost per unit of ordnance or per unit of defensive capability. The larger carriers can also carry more ammunition and fuel, are outfitted with more sophisticated electronic countermeasures, and have more armor protection than the smaller aircraft carriers.

In wartime, power projection and naval striking capacity are integral to naval strategy. Aircraft carriers are routinely deployed as a show of force to an area of potential conflict and can also be rapidly deployed to another region of the world should a crisis erupt, ready to operate as a navy’s most credible, sustainable, and independent base to launch everything from unobtrusive surveillance to devastating air strikes. A carrier with a complement of fifty attack aircraft can deliver more than 150 strikes per day against littoral targets. Together with their onboard air wings, aircraft carriers play vital roles across the full spectrum of naval strategy, deployable worldwide in support of national interests or allied combat missions.

It is important to note that the ability of an aircraft carrier to remain on station in international waters for extended periods of time is dependent upon naval support forces. Although large aircraft carriers can carry great quantities of fuel, food, and spare parts for sustained, unsupported operations, these stocks must still be replenished on a periodic basis.

Carriers built during the Cold War were larger than their World War II predecessors. They also featured armored flight decks. The introduction of jet aircraft posed potentially serious problems because they possessed heavier weight, slower acceleration, and higher landing speeds and had greater fuel consumption than piston-driven aircraft. A number of British innovations contributed to the solution of these problems: the steam-powered catapult, the angled flight deck, the mirrored landing-signal system, and the ski-jump deck and V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing) airplane. The skijump carrier permits a small ship to operate V/STOL aircraft, such as the Hawker-Siddeley Harrier, at the limits of its lifting potential. In September 1960, the United States launched the world’s first nuclear-powered carrier, the Enterprise. Nuclear engines made voyages of up to 1 million miles possible without the need for refueling. When commissioned, the Enterprise was the largest warship in the world, and it was the second nuclear-powered surface warship to enter service behind the U. S. cruiser Long Beach. The immense cost of such large super aircraft carriers has essentially put them out of reach of the British, Russians, and French. The small V/STOL carrier is all the sea-based air capability that most navies can afford, and the United States is alone in its use of the super multipurpose carriers. Carriers may be roughly segmented into three classifications: the super carriers, such as the U. S. Navy’s CNV Nimitz-class (102,000 tons, fully loaded) and CV Kitty Hawk-class (93,960 tons); the middle class, such as the French Charles de Gaulle (42,000 tons) and the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov (58,500 tons); and the V/STOL-class, exemplified by the British Invincible (20,600 tons), the Italian Giuseppe Garibaldi (13,850 tons) and Andrea Doria (26,500 tons estimated, under construction), the Spanish Principe de Asturias (17,188 tons), the Indian Viraat (ex-Royal Navy Hermes, 28,700 tons) and Vikrant (38,000 tons reported, under construction), the Russian modified Kiev class Vikramaditya (ex-Admiral Gorshkov) (23,900 tons), and the Thai Chakri Naruebet (11,485 tons).

References Chesneau, Roger. Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995. Fontenoy, Paul. Aircraft Carriers. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006. Friedman, Norman. Carrier Air Power. New York: Routledge, 1981. Hobbs, David. Aircraft Carriers of the Royal and Commonwealth Navies: The Complete Encyclopedia from World War I to the Present. London: Greenhill, 1996. Jane’s Fighting Ships. London: Jane’s Information Group, 2004.

Japanese Submarines: No.71 & Type ST

Type ST Sentaka type submarine

General arrangements and sections of the type I 201 class submarine.

I 201 Japanese submarine class. These Type ST submarines were designed after exhaustive tests and trials with the high underwater speed experimental submarine No 71. The hull was fully welded and very carefully streamlined; no gun or other deck obstruction was allowed which might impair the under- water performance. Even the 25-mm (1-in) mount retracted into a streamlined housing in the conning tower. The whole design concentrated on underwater performance, and new electric motors were installed giving the vessels an underwater speed of 19 knots. The high-capacity batteries carried sufficient energy to give the vessels an underwater radius of action of 135 nautical miles at 3 knots. The maximum submerged depth achieved by the submarines was 110m (360 ft), the greatest depth achieved by a Japanese submarine. In many respects the vessels resembled the German Type XXI and when completed they were the first operational GUPPY type submarine in the world. Specially designed lightweight MAN diesels were used for surface propulsion, to keep displacement low. Only small bunkerage was provided, and the surfaced radius of action was only 5800 nautical miles with an endurance of 25 days.

Construction employed full mass-production techniques, with the submarines assembled in section in factories, the completed sections being welded together on the slip. The whole operation from start to finish took on average only ten months. A total of 23 units were ordered from the Kure navy yard under the 1943 Programme, construction commencing in March 1944. A further 76 units were projected under the 1944 Programme, but the progress of the war and the decision to concentrate construction on suicide units led to the cancellation of I 209-122­ in 1945, and the units in the 1944 Programme were never ordered at all. I 201 entered service on February 2, 1945, followed on February 12 by 1202and on May 29 by I 203. I 204-I 208 were laid down but never completed and all the boats were surrendered at the end of the war.

General characteristics
Displacement:1,290 t (1,270 long tons; 1,420 short tons) surfaced 1,503 t (1,479 long tons; 1,657 short tons) submerged
Length:79 m (259 ft) overall 59.2 m (194 ft) pressure hull
Beam:5.8 m (19 ft) pressure hull 9.2 m (30 ft) max. across stern fins
Height:7 m (23 ft) (keel to main deck)
Propulsion:Diesel-electric 2 × MAN Mk.1 diesel (Ma-Shiki 1 Gō diesel), build by Kawasaki and Mitsubishi. 2,750 hp (2,050 kW) 4 × electric motors, 5,000 hp (3,700 kW) at 600 rpm 2 shafts
Speed:15.75 knots (29.17 km/h) surfaced 19 knots (35 km/h) submerged
Range:15,000 nmi (28,000 km) at 6 knots (11 km/h) 7,800 nmi (14,400 km) at 11 knots (20 km/h) 5,800 nmi (10,700 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h) Submerged: 135 nmi (250 km) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h)
Test depth:110 m (360 ft)
Complement:31 (plan) approx. 50 (actual)
Armament:4 × 533 mm (21 in) bow torpedo tubes 10 × Type 95 torpedoes 2 × Type 96 25 mm AA guns

China’s First Nuclear Missile Submarine

by Kyle Mizokami

While China’s first ballistic-missile submarine was meant to be a real, operational submarine and part of China’s nuclear deterrent, the obstacles encountered during construction forced lower expectations. The boat was more of a test bed, allowing China to test new underwater technologies as it gradually placed more emphasis on naval forces in general. Today the ship has been replaced by the Type 094 Jin-class submarines. Although by no means perfect (the subs have their own noise issues) the four Jin submarines are closer to China’s original vision of a sea-based nuclear deterrent capability, and they almost certainly owe their existence to the groundbreaking Type 092.

During the early 1980s, the People’s Republic of China attempted to modernize its nuclear deterrent force. One concrete results of the effort was the construction of a single nuclear ballistic missile submarine, a “boomer” in arms-control parlance. Constructed at enormous cost, the Xia class of submarines was such a disappointment that a follow-on class was not fielded for twenty years.

For a country with a population of more than a billion, the People’s Republic of China has a remarkably small nuclear force—and a restrained nuclear policy. The country detonated its first nuclear device in 1964, and its first thermonuclear device in 1957. The country’s nuclear weapons, under the control of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, are estimated to total approximately 260 weapons, equipping both land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and sea-based submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

China’s nuclear policy is a pragmatic one, largely anchored in the country’s former poverty. Rather than pursue a first-strike capability and thousands of nuclear weapons, something it could not afford during the Cold War, the country largely pursues a countervalue strategy that places an emphasis upon survivable weapons that can stage devastating revenge attacks against enemy cities. As a result, land-based missiles dominated the PLA during the early years.

Upon coming to power in 1978, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping cut military research and development spending, concentrating what was left on the “Three Grasps”—the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a submarine-launched ballistic missile and a communications satellite. Sea-based nukes, which are much more difficult to locate and destroy than other basing strategies, were more in line with China’s countervalue strategy. This made a ballistic-missile submarine a national priority, and construction began that same year.

The Type 092 was designed by the Nuclear Powered Submarine Overall Design Section of the Seventh Academy, with Chief Designer Huang Xuhua overseeing the project. Despite most of China’s submarines using a traditional World War II–derived submarine hull, Huang pressed for a teardrop hull, the kind pioneered by the U.S. Navy with great success in the experimental sub USS Albacore. The first draft of the submarine plans was finished in October 1967. China’s nuclear-submarine development effort, code-named Type 09, would produce two ships: the Type 091 attack submarine and Type 092.

The priority given to the Three Grasps accelerated the Type 092’s developmental pace, which had been stalled by political maneuvering and even the carnage of the Cultural Revolution. The first submarine of the so-called Xia class was launched in 1981, and went to sea for the first time in 1983.

The Xia class was designed to carry twelve Julang (“Great Wave”) JL-1 ballistic missiles. The JL-1 was a solid fueled design with a range of just 1,770 kilometers and a 250-kiloton warhead. The JL-1 was first test-fired from a modified Golf-class submarine in September 1982. The missile’s range was disappointing: fired from the Yellow Sea, it could barely hit the northern half of Japan, and while it could hit the Soviet city of Vladivostok, it could not range as far as the important military hub of Khabarovsk. Indeed, a PLA boomer would have to be parked in the Baltic Sea to place Moscow at risk.

The single Xia-class submarine was not a military success. Ship construction was notoriously difficult and likely strained the limits of China’s submarine building abilities. The ship became operational in 1983, but faced enduring problems with reliability and radiation leakage from its onboard reactor. The ship is also allegedly the noisiest of all U.S., Russian and Chinese ballistic missile submarines underwater, making it easy to detect and track.

The sub undertook a single patrol and then never sailed again, staying pierside for so long there were rumors it had caught fire and sank in 1985. It has allegedly never sailed beyond Chinese waters. The Xia-class boat was thought to have gone into refit in 1995, and was not seen for years. It surfaced briefly in 2000 at a military exercise, but then resumed its fairly indolent career. It went back to drydock at the Jianggezhuang Submarine Base between 2005 and 2007.

While China’s first ballistic-missile submarine was meant to be a real, operational submarine and part of China’s nuclear deterrent, the obstacles encountered during construction forced lower expectations. The boat was more of a test bed, allowing China to test new underwater technologies as it gradually placed more emphasis on naval forces in general. Today the ship has been replaced by the Type 094 Jin-class submarines. Although by no means perfect (the subs have their own noise issues) the four Jin submarines are closer to China’s original vision of a sea-based nuclear deterrent capability, and they almost certainly owe their existence to the groundbreaking Type 092.


The galleass, which was also known affectionately by the playful nickname “The Bastard.” Combining characteristics from both sailing ships and galleys, these ships, a type yet to be seen in other countries, were the latest weapons dreamt up by the late-sixteenth-century Venetian navy.

At forty meters long, they seemed small compared to the flagships. Yet they were close to ten meters wide and could function as sailing ships since they rose ten meters high from the surface of the sea.

Sailing ships primarily used triangular sails, but the galleasses were also equipped with square sails. While most ships had three main masts, the galleasses had a fourth on the stern. As a hybrid sailing ship and galley, oars were naturally part of the design to ensure free movement regardless of whether or not winds were favorable. Unlike those on war galleys, however, oarsmen on these ships were stationed directly below, rather than atop, the deck. Galleasses fired on the enemy from a distance; they didn’t engage in close-quarter combat like the galera sottile warships, thus obviating the need for oarsmen to double as soldiers. Placing oarsmen below deck also protected them from enemy fire.

The bulkier galleasses generated more water and wind resistance than the low-lying galera sottile and thus maneuvered less easily. They were conceived, however, as floating batteries. Artillery positioned on the bridge used the entirety of the ship’s circular bow, which was divided into three levels to allow ten cannons to fire across a 270- degree range. The left and right flanks were both equipped with four cannons, and ten to twelve small cannons were attached to the stern bridge: calling the ship a “battery” is thus no exaggeration. Including muskets, these ships were theoretically capable of firing sixty rounds simultaneously.

The number of sailors on board had to increase accordingly: each galleass required four to five hundred men. Venice had a limited population and it was out of the question for it to fight by using the kinds of “human waves” that the Ottoman Empire was able to muster. Mobilizing cannons at sea was the most economical and effective use of its limited resources.

That said, Venice couldn’t fight naval battles with galleasses alone. The Turks often attacked using small galleys, which rendered the hulking vessels’ lack of mobility a major drawback. Venice’s strategy was thus to use both galleasses and galera sottile. They couldn’t rely too much on sails when fighting on the Mediterranean, where winds shifted rapidly.

By early 1570, Venice’s shipyard was launching one war galley per day. It continued at this pace over several months and produced a hundred and fifty war galleys, twelve galleasses, and over thirty large sailboats. Although the sailing ships played no direct role in battle, they ferried food and ammunition. In the late sixteenth century, only Venice could build ships in such numbers.

But victory in war is not determined by technical prowess alone. This was particularly true in the sixteenth century, which saw the rise of large nations possessing far more territory than a mere city-state like Venice. And Venice’s opponent in this case was the Ottoman Empire, which controlled more territory than any other state at the time.


While many of the Venetian ships were compelled to take on Spanish soldiers, those vessels that would play a decisive role in the battle fought fiercely to maintain a Venetian-only crew. There wasn’t a single foreign soldier on any of the six galleasses. Capitano Generale de Mare Veniero’s ship and that of Barbarigo, Provveditore Generale, along with those of Provveditore Quirini and Provveditore Canale, also faithfully upheld this policy.

The six galleasses followed the vanguard out of the harbor. There was no wind early that morning, so they were towed out by scout ships. These six “floating batteries” were to move to the frontmost line as soon as they encountered the enemy. By wreaking havoc on the enemy with their cannon fire, they would create the perfect opening for the war galleys, which were in fact the backbone of the force.

The six galleasses had been stationed in pairs on the front line directly ahead of the left flank, main force, and right flank. The two that had been in front of the right flank were no longer in proper position. Galleasses couldn’t maneuver as well as the galleys, so these two were now positioned in the gap between the right flank and the main force.

To occupy the middle part of a bow formation, the main force of sixty-two ships assumed positions recessed behind the left flank and right flanks.

Don Juan’s flagship was in the center, with Veniero and his Venetian flagship on his left, and Colonna and his papal flagship on his right. The flagships of Savoy, Florence, and various other contingents filled out the core of flagships that secured Don Juan’s flanks. The leader of the Maltese Knights of the Order of St. John commanded the flagship on the far right of the main force and the far left was held by the flagship of the Republic of Genoa.

Like the Muslim fleet, the Christian fleet had braced the extreme left and right positions with experienced sea captains, but they were not able to place similarly experienced naval officers everywhere along the tripartite battle formation.

The two ships containing the palace guard of the Spanish king had their prows virtually attached to the stern of Don Juan’s ship. Additionally, the reserve flotilla led by the Marquis de Santa Cruz held its position directly behind the main force, the reinforcement of which was its main priority. In truth, as retainer of the King of Spain, the Marquis de Santa Cruz had no concern other than protecting Don Juan’s ship.

Two galleasses had positioned themselves in front of the main force. Francesco Duodo, the overall commander of the six galleasses, was in one of them. The remaining galleass captains were from the Venetian aristocracy, but in actuality the power displayed by the galleasses owed to the Venetian middle class, its engineers and master shipbuilders.

It was a little past noon when the cannon sounded from Ali Pasha’s flagship. Don Juan’s ship immediately answered with its own cannon.

The cannons of the six galleasses on the front line belched fire almost simultaneously in a thunderous signal for battle. They made several direct hits on the Turkish warships, which were advancing with their oars. After this initial round, the “floating batteries” of the Christian forces continued the bombardment. They made direct hits again and again on a number of ships, some of which caught fire and listed in the water. The Turks’ crescent-shaped battle formation was broken in several places as they attempted to advance. Seeing the Turkish formation break up like this greatly lifted the spirits of the alliance fighters waiting behind the galleasses.

The Turkish ships seemed to be trying to get past the galleasses as quickly as possible. Christian slaves were chained to the decks, and the slave drivers whipped them like madmen to make the ships move at top speed. The Turkish ships started to surge past the galleasses. The gun ports on both the left and right gunwales of the “floating batteries,” however, were open, and they certainly weren’t silent.

The battle formation of the Turkish fleet was in complete disarray, but the relatively small size of their ships saved them from falling prey to the large cannons. The ships that did make it through the galleasses plunged ahead toward the allied fleet, which was also advancing.

It would take time for the galleasses that had been bypassed to change position. Now the galleys were the main players.

The galleasses, now in a supporting role, provided cannon fire to assist the galleys in their close-quarter combat. The barrage coming from the far left galleass commanded by Ambrosio Bragadino was particularly intense and amply demonstrated the awesome power of the “floating batteries.” Ambrosio was a relative of Marcantonio Bragadino, the commander on Cyprus who had been flayed alive. Ambrosio Bragadino had repositioned his massive ship faster than any of the other galleass captains and was showering the enemy’s right flank with artillery fire.

Doria moved his fleet far to the south at the beginning of the battle in an attempt to block Uluch Ali’s mobility by circling to his right. Because of this, Doria’s right flank didn’t benefit from the artillery support from the galleasses enjoyed by the left flank and the main force. The lumbering galleasses couldn’t keep up with Doria’s sudden change in tactics and thus simply remained in their predetermined locations, turning their attention to the enemy’s main force instead. In other words, Uluch Ali’s fleet didn’t sustain much damage at all from the galleass bombardment.

In fact, all of this had been Uluch Ali’s plan from the very beginning. He intended first to go around the left side of Doria’s fleet and then to strike Don Juan’s main fleet from behind. Doria had sensed this and moved his ships to prevent him from outflanking him. Uluch Ali wasn’t foolish enough to face Doria’s fleet head-on, quickly and skillfully turning the prow of his ship towards the northwest. Doria’s movement towards the south had opened up a gap between his fleet and Don Juan’s main force. Uluch Ali now focused on this gap, which presented an opening for him to attack Don Juan’s fleet from the rear-his intention all along.

Even at sea, a “battleground” of sorts was formed when war galleys locked oars. Hand-to-hand combat became the only possible way of engaging the enemy, which rendered the galleasses essentially ineffective. They could still knock down enemy masts with their cannons, but there was also a real possibility that the falling masts and yardarms would kill friendly forces fighting beneath them. The galleasses thus inevitably became mere observation posts after the middle stage of the battle. Francesco Duodo, the commander in charge of the six galleasses, gave the following official report when he returned to Venice after the battle:

“The Christians and the Muslims were like hunters in a forest. Though a lot was happening in other parts of the forest, the hunters remained focused on their own quarry, not paying any attention to what was happening elsewhere. This was the case at Lepanto, time and again.”

Prinz Eugen – Heavy Cruiser


Norway 1941.





In the sheltered anchorage of Bergen in Norway, the newly commissioned Bismarck was now readying itself for action. A plan had originally been made for a combined sortie into the North Atlantic with the two battlecruisers. This plan was now not possible. The damage to the Brest ships resulted in their being confined to the dockyard for between three and six months whilst repairs were completed. Even then their seaworthiness would depend on not suffering further damage by the RAF. The Kriegsmarine leadership was, however, still anxious that the Bismarck should be used as soon as possible against Britain’s merchant fleet. The original plan would now have to be changed. It was decided that the Bismarck would still make its sortie into the Atlantic, but would be escorted by just the heavy cruiser, the Prinz Eugen.

The two warships set sail on 20 May 1941. Their departure was quickly detected by the British, and the Admiralty despatched ships of the Home Fleet from Scapa Flow to intercept them near the Denmark Straits off Iceland. On 24 May the battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Hood engaged the Bismarck and its escort in an action that demonstrated the great power of the German warship. HMS Hood was sunk and the Prince of Wales badly damaged. The Bismarck then made to escape into the open waters of the Atlantic, but was continually tracked by British cruisers and destroyers.

Try as they might, the two German warships could not shake off the shadowing force. British radar was so effective that each time they disappeared into the mist and rain, they remained visible on radar screens. With the German ships’ exact location in the Atlantic known, other Royal Navy capital ships were sent from Gibraltar to intercept. In the meantime, the carrier Victorious was diverted to attack the Bismarck. Swordfish aircraft from 825 Squadron, led by Lieutenant-Commander Eugene Esmonde, made a night attack. They came at the battleship at low level, flying just above the wave tops, and were able to release their torpedoes at a range of less than 1,100yds. Bismarck was hit amidships. The explosion was not enough to sink it, but it was severe enough to slow it down considerably.

The heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen slipped away from the net that was closing around the German ships and disappeared into the wide Atlantic Ocean. The fate of the Bismarck had by then been sealed, and the heavy cruiser’s presence could do little to avert the inevitable. Nothing more was heard of Prinz Eugen for several days, for it maintained radio silence to avoid detection by the British. A search was made for the cruiser by ships and reconnaissance aircraft, but it could not be found. Then, on 1 June, Prinz Eugen appeared out of an early morning mist at the harbour entrance to Brest – it had made its escape and had reached the safety of a German-held port. The Prinz Eugen was quickly brought into the dockyard and secured alongside one of the quays that lined the Rade Abri, joining the battlecruisers. Germany now had a complete battlefleet holed up in Brest.


The Prinz Eugen had one of the most c1ctive careers of any unit of the Kriegsmarine. After being damaged by a magnetic mine in April 1941 she was repaired in time to accompany Bismarck on her sortie into the Atlantic. On May 24 she joined in the action against the British battlecruiser Hood in the Denmark Strait. She scored hits on the British ship, and it was proossible her 8-in (203- mm) shells, rather than 15-in (381-mm) shells from Bismarck which caused the fatal fire and explosion. As she was running low on fuel Prinz Eugen was ordered to breakaway to Brest ­and so she escaped the fate of Bismarck three days later. In February Prinz Eugen accompanied Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Opercltion Cerebus, the daylight dash through the Channel from Brest to the North Sea, but in 1943 she was relegated to training duties in the Baltic.

After a period in the Baltic Fleet Training Squadron was in action in 1944 against the Russians advancing through Poland and East Prussia. The fire of her eight 20.3-cm (8-in) guns proved most effective against Russian tanks though by 1944 the barrels were heavily worn.

On October 15, 1944, while helping to evacuate German troops from the eastern Baltic she rammed the cruiser Leipzig amid- ships, badly damaging her. Prinz Eugen was surrendered at Copenhagen in May 1945 and handed over to the US as a prize. She was subjected to the Bikini atomic-bomb tests in 1946 and was sunk as a target on November 15, 1947, off Kwajalein Island in the western Pacific.

The German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen which surrendered to the Allies in Copenhagen in 1945.

Units: Admiral Hipper, Blücher, Prinz Eugen

Type and Significance: These vessels were among the largest heavy cruisers in the service of the German Navy in World War II.

Dates of Construction: Laid down between 1935 and 1936 and completed between 1939 and 1940.

Hull Dimensions: 665′ 8″ x 69′ 10.5″ x 19′ (Admiral Hipper, Blücher); 679′ 1.5″ x 70′ 6″ x 21′ 8″ (Prinz Eugen)

Displacement: 14,050 tons (Admiral Hipper, Blücher); 16,974 tons (Prinz Eugen)

Armor: A belt between 1.5 inches and 3.25 inches thick, a deck up to 1.25 inches deep, and a maximum of 6.25 inches of protection for the main turrets.

Armament: Eight 8-inch guns in four dual-gunned turrets, two each being located fore and aft. Also 12 4.1-inch pieces, 12 1.5-inch antiaircraft guns, eight .8-inch antiaircraft weapons, 12 20.8-inch torpedo tubes, and three aircraft.

Machinery: Turbines that produced 132,000 horsepower.

Speed: 32.5 knots

Complement: 1,600

Summary: Two of these units did not survive World War II. The Blücher was sunk on 9 April 1940 by land-based gun and torpedo installations during the German invasion of Norway. The Admiral Hipper was scuttled on 2 May 1945 after sustaining heavy damage from Allied bombing raids. The Prinz Eugen has the distinction of being the only large German warship to survive World War II. It was used as an experimental ship in the atomic bomb blasts at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. It sank on 22 December 1946 as a result of damage sustained in the experiments. Two other units were never completed. In 1942, construction on one of these, Seydlitz, was nearing completion when the decision was made to convert it to an aircraft carrier. This plan was soon cancelled, and the hull remained unused for most of the war. On 10 April 1945, the vessel was scuttled to prevent its capture by the Russians. It was refloated by the Russians and scrapped. The other incomplete ship, Lutzow, was sold to the Soviet Union in early 1940. It served as an accommodation ship from 1945 to 1956, when it was scrapped.

From ‘Run the Gauntlet’ by Ken Ford. ISBN 978 18490 085700.

German WWII Submarine Designs

German submarine designs exerted a major influence, either directly or indirectly, on most of the world’s submarine development in the years between the two world wars-except in Britain and, to a lesser extent, the Soviet Union. All the major navies of the victorious Allies-Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and the United States-received examples of the latest German U-boats under the terms of the Armistice and the Treaty of Versailles. They intently examined and analyzed these German craft to determine the applicability and suitability of their features for incorporation into their own types and, in several instances, commissioned former German submarines into their own services to acquire operational experience in their use. Both Italian and French designers were very much influenced by studying and operating examples of the later Mittel-U and UB-III types prior to developing their first new postwar boats. The big U-cruisers had even more impact. The first French oceangoing submarines, the Requin class, benefited substantially from their designers’ study of U-cruisers. The big U. S. Navy fleet boats owed a great debt to the German boats (including even their diesel engines, in some cases), and German engineers were intimately involved in the development of the early Japanese kaidai and junsen types.

German design influence spread to lesser fleets too, largely through the activities of the Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw (IvS). The IvS was established in July 1922 at Den Haag in The Netherlands by a consortium of the Krupp and Vulcan shipbuilding yards to circumvent the Versailles Treaty’s prohibition on submarine design and construction. The engineering staff was led by Hans Techel, who had headed Krupp’s submarine design team since 1907, and the firm also received clandestine financial support from the German Navy, which was desirous of maintaining German submarine design expertise despite the treaty. IvS engineers produced submarine designs that were constructed for Turkey, Finland, the Soviet Union, Spain, and Sweden, and also served as prototypes for the German Navy’s Type IIA coastal, Type IA long-range, and Type VII oceangoing U-boats.

German submarines were developed clandestinely, inasmuch as the Versailles Treaty prohibited them in the German Navy. Design work, both at IvS and by the Blohm und Voss firm, continued for foreign navies with production undertaken in the customer’s yards under German supervision. These boats also served as prototypes for domestic production, which made it possible for the first new German submarine, the U-1, to be completed on 29 June 1935, only five weeks after the repudiation of the Versailles Treaty.

The overwhelming majority of the 1,150 U-boats commissioned between 1935 and 1945 belonged to two groups: the so-called 500- ton Type VII medium boats, and the 740-ton Type IX long-range submarines. The Type VIIC actually displaced between 760 and 1,000 tons on the surface, had a cruising range of 6,500 to 10,000 miles at 12 knots on the surface and 80 miles at 4 knots submerged. They had a battery of 5 torpedo tubes with 14 torpedoes, an 88mm deck gun, and ever-increasing numbers of light antiaircraft weapons. Almost 700 of these boats in all of their variants entered service during World War II. The Type XIC actually displaced 1,120 tons; it had a cruising range of 11,000 miles at 12 knots on the surface and 63 miles at 4 knots submerged. They had a battery of 6 torpedo tubes with 22 torpedoes, a 105mm deck gun, and ever-increasing numbers of light antiaircraft weapons. Almost 200 of this type and its variants were commissioned.

Germany also commissioned a number of other important types during World War II. Among the most important were the Type X minelayers and the Type XIV supply boats. Both types operated as resuppliers for the operational boats during the Battle of the Atlantic, providing fuel, provisions, medical supplies, reload torpedoes, and even medical care and replacement crew members. Consequently they became prime targets for Allied antisubmarine forces, and few survived. The other major vessels were the radical Type XXI and Type XXIII boats, designed for high submerged speed and extended underwater operation. Revolutionary streamlined hull shapes, greatly increased battery space, and the installation of snorkels allowed these boats to operate at submerged speeds that made them very difficult targets for Allied antisubmarine forces. Confused production priorities, however, and the general shortage of materials late in the war prevented more than a very few from putting to sea operationally.


The outbreak of World War II found the German submarine arm well trained but deficient in numbers. From the moment of its reestablishment, the submarine force had concentrated much of its effort on validating Kommodore Karl Dönitz’s concepts for an all-out assault on enemy trade using concentrated groups of submarines under central shore-based control to locate and destroy convoyed shipping, primarily through surfaced night attacks (wolf-pack tactics). Dönitz was promoted Konteradmiral in October 1939, but shortages of U-boats, Adolf Hitler’s initial insistence on Germany’s adherence to the Prize Regulations, and demands on the submarine force for its support of surface naval operations prevented him from exploiting the potential of the wolf-pack tactics for most of the first nine months of the conflict. On average only six boats were at sea at any one time during this period, forcing them to attack individually, although some attempts were made to mount combined attacks whenever possible.

As a result of its World War I experience after 1917, Britain was quick to begin the convoying of merchant vessels. There was some initial hesitation because of the feared detrimental effect that convoys could have on the efficient employment of shipping, but when the liner Athena was torpedoed and sunk without warning on 3 September 1939, Britain took this to indicate that Germany had commenced an unrestricted campaign of submarine warfare against merchant vessels. Regular east coast convoys between the Firth of Forth and the River Thames started on 6 September and outbound transatlantic convoys from Liverpool two days later.

The conquest of Norway and the collapse of France in June 1940 brought substantial changes to the U-boat war against trade. From French bases, German reconnaissance and long-range bomber aircraft operated far into the Atlantic, while the operational range of the U-boats sailing from Norway and French Biscay ports increased dramatically. Italy’s simultaneous entry into the war terminated all commercial traffic in the Mediterranean except for very heavily escorted operational convoys bringing supplies into Malta. It also substantially increased the number of submarines available for the Atlantic campaign against shipping, inasmuch as Italian submarines began operating from Biscay ports, effectively doubling the total Axis force at sea. This situation allowed Dönitz to introduce his wolf-pack tactic on a large scale into the Atlantic shipping campaign, just as the British faced an alarming shortage of oceanic convoy escorts because of the neutralization of the French Fleet and their decision to retain destroyers in home waters to guard against a German invasion. The results vindicated Dönitz’s belief in the effectiveness of wolf packs. In the first nine months of the war, German U-boats sank a little more than 1 million tons of shipping, whereas they and the Italians together destroyed more than 2.3 million tons between June 1940 and February 1941. However, the release of destroyers from their guard duties, the addition of new escorts, and the transfer of fifty obsolete destroyers from the U. S. Navy improved the situation. The dispersal point for westbound transatlantic convoys and the pickup point for escort groups meeting eastbound shipping gradually moved westward as the range of the escorts was increased. This pushed the main arena of Axis submarine operations more toward the mid-Atlantic zone, which reduced the time that boats could spend on station. In mid-1941 the United States imposed its socalled Neutrality Zone on the western Atlantic and began escorting British convoys in conjunction with Royal Canadian Navy escorts, operating from Argentia in Newfoundland. North Atlantic convoys now were escorted throughout by antisubmarine vessels. Nevertheless, these additions to the escort force had only a limited impact on losses, since German and Italian submarines succeeded in sinking a further 1.8 million tons in the following nine months prior to the U. S. entry into the war.

The German declaration of war on the United States on 10 December 1941 brought a major westward expansion of U-boat operations against shipping. A disastrous period followed, while the U. S. Navy struggled with the problems of finding the escorts and crews required to convoy the enormous volume of merchant traffic along the East Coast of the United States, and with the very concept of convoy itself. Axis submarines sank more than 3 million tons of Allied shipping between December 1941 and June 1942, well over 75 percent of it along the East Coast of the United States and Canada. Nevertheless, by mid-1942 an elaborate and comprehensive system of interlocking convoy routes and sailings was established for the East Coast of North America and the Caribbean.

As Dönitz became aware of the extension of convoy along the Atlantic East Coast, he shifted U-boat operations back to the mid-Atlantic. His all-out assault on the North Atlantic convoy systems inflicted heavy losses: between July 1942 and March 1943, Axis (almost entirely German) submarines destroyed more than 4.5 millions tons of Allied shipping, over 633,000 tons in March alone. Nevertheless, new Allied countermeasures became available at this crucial moment, and U-boat successes fell to 287,137 tons in April, 237,182 tons in May, and only 76,090 tons in June. Dönitz’s reaction was to deploy his U-boats in areas where Allied antisubmarine forces were weak, anticipating that this would compensate for the lack of success in the North Atlantic. Initially this plan to some extent met his expectations, since sinkings rose to 237,777 tons in July, but the success of the Allied assault on U-boats in transit to their patrol stations rendered the German accomplishment transitory; merchant ship sinkings dropped to 92,443 tons in August, never to surpass 100,000 tons per month at any subsequent time during the war.

The collapse of the U-boat offensive in mid-1943 resulted from the Allies’ concurrent deployment of a series of new countermeasures and technologies that reached maturity almost simultaneously: centrimetric radar aboard both ships and aircraft, efficient shipborne high-frequency direction finding, ahead-throwing weapons that permitted ships to fire antisubmarine bombs forward and thus retain sonar contact, very-long-range shore-based antisubmarine aircraft, escort carriers and escort support groups, and advances in decryption of German communications codes. The U-boat arm attempted to defeat these countermeasures by deploying its own new weaponry, the most important elements of which were radar warning receivers, heavy antiaircraft batteries, and acoustic torpedoes designed to hunt antisubmarines vessels. Not only did these fail to stem the tide of Allied success against the U-boats, but new convoy communications codes also defeated German cryptographers, rendering locating targets much more difficult. Then, in 1944, Allied military successes in France began to force German U-boats to make more extended passages to their patrol areas as their home ports moved farther from the Atlantic; German air bases also ceased to give aircraft quick access to British coastal waters.

During the final year of this conflict, U-boats equipped with snorkels entered service. The production of new, fast elektroboote (the radical new Type XXI submarines with high underwater speed) allowed the first examples to become operational, but their numbers were far too few to make any difference. Also, there were insufficient experienced crews available to exploit their potential and they had design and manufacturing faults. Such was the success of Allied antisubmarine measures during this period that full-scale convoying became unnecessary in some areas, and much of the focus of their escorts turned to hunting U-boats rather than directly protecting merchant shipping. The full measure of the defeat of the U-boats is indicated by the fact that more than two-thirds of the 650 German submarines lost during World War II were sunk in the last two years of the war.




Fulton’s Demologos (1813 preliminary design).

During the final months of the War of 1812 against Britain, the United States made the first use of a steamship in a military campaign and also laid down the world’s first steam-powered warship. In January 1815 General Andrew Jackson used the Mississippi river steamer Enterprise to transport troops and supplies and to carry dispatches before the Battle of New Orleans. Meanwhile, the American steamship pioneer Robert Fulton, whose earlier river boat Clermont (1807) was the first commercially successful merchant steamer, in June 1814 laid down the steam warship Demologos at New York. The innovative 1,450-ton vessel was designed to defend New York harbor against British ships of the line and frigates. It had a centerline paddle wheel between twin hulls, engines placed below the waterline capable of 5.5 knots, wooden “armor” five feet thick, and thirteen 32-pounders in each broadside. Fulton died shortly before the Demologos made its first sea trial in June 1815; by then the War of 1812 was over, and it was never commissioned. The last of three trials took place that September, after which it was laid up in reserve. The Demologos made only one further voyage under its own power, in 1817, when it ferried President James Monroe from New York to Staten Island. Its engines were removed in 1821 and it served as a receiving ship until it blew up in an accident in 1829.

In the years after 1815, a slow and subtle revolution in naval ordnance coincided with the gradual acceptance of the steamship as a potential warship. Except for Fulton’s Demologos and Cochrane’s Rising Star, the first generation of armed steamers consisted entirely of vessels with side paddles.

With anti-Mexican sentiment running high in the wake of Texas’ successful war for independence (1836), the United States chose not to invoke the Monroe Doctrine in defense of Mexico. If it had, the American navy may have been hard-pressed to do battle on even terms with Baudin’s squadron. After the engines were removed from the Demologos in 1821, the US navy was without an armed steamship until the 1,010-ton Fulton of 1837. This unsuccessful ship was in commission just five years before being laid up for a decade and eventually re-engined. Its failure may have set back the introduction of steam in the US navy if not for the sensation created by the maiden voyage of Isambard Brunel’s Great Western, which arrived in New York in April 1838. The 2,370-ton Atlantic liner was an excellent advertisement for steam power, built to naval standards and equipped with powerful engines, capable of steaming continuously for three weeks. It influenced the construction of large paddle steamers in the British, French, and American navies, the latter leading the way with the Missouri and the Mississippi, 3,220-ton warships designed by a committee chaired by the captain of the Fulton, Matthew C. Perry. Reflecting Paixhans’ concept of the future capital ship, upon their completion in 1842 they were armed with two 10-inch and eight 8-inch guns. The engines, a British-style side lever plant in the Mississippi, an American design in the Missouri, were built by Merrick and Towne, and were capable of almost 9 knots. The vessels were monuments to the progress of American industry but their domestic construction and components made them the most expensive warships of their era. Tragically the Missouri had a very short service life, burning accidentally at Gibraltar in 1843. The loss left the Mississippi as the navy’s only active steamer. Later in 1843, amid rumors of an impending British annexation of Hawaii, the United States defended its interests there by sending the United States and the Constellation, sailing frigates completed in 1797.