View Full Version : Live fire U.S.S. Wisconsin

March 27, 2008, 07:03 PM
Video of the loading and firing procedure as the guns fall silent for the last time.


March 28, 2008, 06:57 AM
Many thanks for the link !!!:)
I was honored to watch her sister ship, the Big J (BB-62), salvo several fire missions during my tour with Thunder (CA-148). We did a highline excerse with her and damn, she was a giant. We were only 117 and one half feet long.

We compensated with 8 inch guns and cased powder vs bagged but the end result from the giving end was just as impressive.
Big J fired cadillacs and we fired VWs.

Keep the memories going...


March 28, 2008, 06:46 PM
Wow, great vid.

One computer game I have is called "Fighting Steel" it's a WWII naval simulator with the large ships. The best part of the game is when you follow the trajectory of the shells with the camera angle. That and when opening fire, watching the turrets traverse into firing position.:D

Another fun part is with the map editor. Ever wonder how many destroyers it takes to destroy a Yamato class battleship? The answer is "Quite a few".

March 28, 2008, 08:11 PM
Great video. I like how the concussion on the closeup cameras overwhelms the electronics momentarily.

Alas, we will never see such great ships like this again. Not with large guns as a primary weapon. Today it's missles that give ships a big punch.

Another fun part is with the map editor. Ever wonder how many destroyers it takes to destroy a Yamato class battleship? The answer is "Quite a few".
Try it with PT boats! You get a much bigger number! :D

March 28, 2008, 10:49 PM
Try it with PT boats! You get a much bigger number!
I would have, but the game didn't have them.

March 28, 2008, 11:52 PM
Ya'll come to Mobile, Alabama and visit the USS Alabama, BB60, on display along with the submarine USS Drum. Great fun for the whole family, right off Interstate 10.:D

March 30, 2008, 07:24 PM
great video , I remember seeing the uss missouri for first the time (the mighty mo ) as she was fondly called . My ship ,a destroyer was in the brooklyn navy yard for minor repairs in 1955 . i went aboard the missouri and stood on the spot of the signing of the surrender of japan . I still get chills when i think of it . I wonder where she will be one hundred years from now . the uss missouri BB-63

March 30, 2008, 11:56 PM
Its a shame they dont use mighty ships like that any more... obviouslly obsolete but a cruise missile launch just doesnt have the same awe factor

March 31, 2008, 12:39 AM
With the slow burn accelerants and saboted rounds the 16 in guns can lob a five inch round over 100 miles; and ranges of over 400 miles have been suggested. If Gerald Bull (http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=548) were still alive he would likely get one to lob a five inch shell 1,000 miles. PBS Frontline profiled the life of Gerald Bull but all that can now be accessed at their site is the transcript of the show (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/programs/transcripts/911.html).

March 31, 2008, 12:57 AM
An interesting page on battleships and their modern capacity using saboted shells.


March 31, 2008, 09:13 AM
I was surprised there were people on deck. Does anyone know how the charge is actually ignited?

March 31, 2008, 09:42 AM
The shells are 2,200 pounds with five or six 110 pound bags of powder behind them. The bags are made of silk. The ignition is electrical.

March 31, 2008, 01:20 PM
I thought those powder bags would keep me shooting for a couple months!! or so.

April 3, 2008, 07:17 AM
they should have never retired the old Big Gun ships. even if they are outdated there is nothing more demoralizing that a damn 16in shell crashing down and blowing the hell outta everything around. They need to keep them for that simple fact. Lob shells 100+ miles in land and the enemy is gonna run, especially the cowards we are fighting today.

April 3, 2008, 10:53 PM
they should have never retired the old Big Gun ships. even if they are outdated there is nothing more demoralizing that a damn 16in shell crashing down and blowing the hell outta everything around. They need to keep them for that simple fact. Lob shells 100+ miles in land and the enemy is gonna run, especially the cowards we are fighting today.

Ah, but there's the rub. Those 16-inch guns have a range of only ("only" he says-sheesh!) about 20 miles or so. Not 100 miles.

And that's the rub. When you get right down to it, the battleship is just a weapons platform, albeit a mighty frakin' impressive one. Today's guided missle cruisers can launch missles further than those 16-inch guns can reach and with better precision. Carrier-based aircraft can deliver hammer blows several hundred miles away. And if you really want to shove things around, the boomers can launch a missle from underwater over 500nm away. The Battleships' day has come and gone.

Still... the psychological effect of a dreadnought sitting off your coast and lighting up the sky as it lobs a Chevrolet-sized explosive at you is demoralizing. Especially when you hear the booms about 9 seconds before the shells arrive due to their trajectory.

April 3, 2008, 11:47 PM
Ah, but there's the rub. Those 16-inch guns have a range of only ("only" he says-sheesh!) about 20 miles or so. Not 100 miles.

Au contrere, mon frere.


The firepower of the battleships nine 16-inch guns is well known, and new sabot shells allow ranges in excess of 100 miles. Naval guns are especially effective because they fire shells like bullets, e.g. faster than the speed of sound. While radar and the noise of aircraft, missiles, howitzers, and mortars provide time to take cover, a battleship can explode nine 2000 lbs shells on a target without warning. In addition, troops can fire back at aircraft and ground pieces, but they can only hide and wait for the battleships to go away. Unfortunately, U.S. Navy only has 5-inch guns left in the fleet which deliver only 90lbs projectiles, and its new $50,000 5-inch extended range munition delivers just a 19lbs payload.

And with scramjet round technology the range is extended to 480 miles; and even farther in a saboted round. How would you like to have one of these in a sixteen incher coming your way from 400 miles out?


Lotsa good info on battleship guns HERE (http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_16-50_mk7.htm)

April 4, 2008, 08:02 AM
you'd think the Navy would bring the Missuori(sp?) and other dreadnaughts back into service because of these rounds. I mean how damn demorilizing is that. 480miles from the coast and 9 16in 2000lbs shells pound down around you....if that dont make them curl up like a little bitch idk what will.....

April 4, 2008, 08:12 AM
you'd think the Navy would bring the Missuori(sp?) and other dreadnaughts back into service because of these rounds.

I wish they would have kept at least a few Battleships in service just for fear factor. Carriers are great, but there is nothing like a WWII era battleship sitting off shore to anger the opposing force. Now with GPS and other technologies they can put rounds through a window of the building they target. Awesome.

April 4, 2008, 09:07 AM
Now with GPS and other technologies they can put rounds through a window of the building they target. Awesome.

awesome indeed

The military today is to quick to replace older "big guns" with smaller faster things, like replacing the M14 with the M16 because it was a smaller, lighter weapon, or replacing the old battleships with missile cruisers because they can launch farther. All it takes a little R&D and the weapons we "had" are now just as good if not BETTER than what we "have". With the new "sabot" rounds, the old battleships are now, IMO more deadly than what the missile ships are. More deadly for what they can deliver payload wise(2000lbs of ordanace(sp?) x 9 guns) is more effective and way cheaper than the cost of one tomahawk cruise missile......and 100times more demoralizing......

john in jax
April 4, 2008, 01:06 PM
In Desert Storm (the 1st Gulf War) the 16" battleship guns decimated and demoralized the Iraqi troops along Kuwait's coast. From what I was told back then the shells were every bit as precise as a tomahawk and struck every bit as much terror into the Iraqi's as they rained down as the carpet bombing did further inland.

I agree with the author of the above article WE NEED THE HEAVIES back in action. Just like the C-130 Spectre gunships, there is a role that they can fulfill and do it very well, think about them:

Supporting our ally Israel from Hamas in Lebanon, bound to flare up again sooner or later.

Patrolling the shores of Iran in a conflict I don't think we will be able to avoid.

Would the close fire support a battleship could provide have been able to save American lives in The "Blackhawk Down" tragedy . . . I think so.

April 4, 2008, 04:13 PM
I know it is too late to bring back 2 of the 4 Iowas (Missouri, and New Jersey are now memorials). And the remaining two, Iowa and Wisconsin, were permanently stricken from the naval registry in Mar 17, 2006.


Of course, the coolest thing is that the 210 year old U.S.S. Constitution's status is listed as "Active, in commission" :cool: .


April 5, 2008, 04:13 PM

Au contrere, mon frere.

Thanks for the links - very interesting reading! I guess I should take a hint from the invitation to join AARP as a sign that I've become a certifiable "old phart" now. :)

Last I'd heard, the USN had managed only 38 miles out of their 16" guns by reducing the payload. This shows that I've fallen behind the times. :cool:

November 16, 2008, 03:18 PM
I was in the Navy during Desert Shield/Storm. Whenever the battle group transited the Straits of Hormuz there would be a BB right next to the CV, between the threat (Iranian Silkworm sites) and the carrier. The battleship with its incredible armor plating could absorb a hit far better than the thin-skinned carrier.

As we went through the straits the battleship's guns were kept constantly trained on the missile sites and the carrier had F-18's sitting on the catapults loaded for air-ground. There was a lot of speculation as to which would put ordnance on target first if the threat radar started lighting us up - would the battleship's salvos get done bracketing and fire for effect before the Hornets got there?

Never found out.

November 16, 2008, 03:57 PM
It's kind of ironic that the main rap on battleships is they still use oil for power. Wouldn't it be a great idea if they went nuclear? Swap in a nuclear engine for the current ones, and the cost of operation drops a lot.

Also, it would seem a battleship would easily be fitted to launch missles.

We really need to be as bad as everyone says, and just go in and take the Iraq and Iranian oil, and the profits from it.
That would finance a battleship for a long time...

November 16, 2008, 06:37 PM
The battlewagons did have missles added, had a heavy payload. The plain fact is, they're wearing out. Would you drive a tank built in 1933 into battle today? The battleships are the single most awesome sight afloat, and I had the honor of re-arming one at sea, (those 16" shells come two to a pallet!), and there is nothing ever like the sight of a battleship at sea.

November 17, 2008, 12:46 AM
Would you drive a tank built in 1933 into battle today?
The question really is would you drive an updated version of that 1933 (or 1943) tank into battle today. Which we do, in essence. The M1 Abrams is fairly close to being a modernized King Tiger and so far advanced that its features weren't even wet dreams for the Tiger's designers.

The same could be said for the battlewagons. How would you design a modern battleship? It would include capabilities never dreamed of in the 1940's.

The downside, of course, is that certain realities need to be recognized. When deployed against countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, etc. they can be effective. But when deployed against countries with modern weapons, especially either a navy or air force, the BB's become big tagets just like the carriers.

Admiral Rickover said there were two types of warships in the oceans. Submarines and targets.

He also estimated both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. surface fleets had a life expectancy counted in days if a major war broke out.

Personally, I like the battleships, but always had a large affection for heavy cruisers too.

November 18, 2008, 12:59 AM
I have a Mosin Nagant 44 built about that time. I'd take it to war, and, I use it to protect my house. John Browning designed the 1911 in the early part of the last century. They are still going to war. Likewise the M14, etc.

Genius doesn't come around on our time table...Problem with subs is they tend to be a weapon you launch once, and, that's it baby, we are ALL gone...

November 19, 2008, 01:17 AM
Genius doesn't come around on our time table...Problem with subs is they tend to be a weapon you launch once, and, that's it baby, we are ALL gone...
Not quite. The 14 Ohio-class SSBN's carry 24 nuclear Trident missles with up to 12 MIRV'd warheads each. Launches can be individual or sequential, depending upon misson orders. The 4 SSGN's have 22 launch tubes for Tomahawk cruise missles with capacity to carry 154 onboard. That's quite a few "targets of opportunity" or specific targets provided in misson orders. For seagoing targets, the subs still have their 4 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Nor can we overlook the fast-attack sub fleet that carries both torpedoes and cruise missles (launched via torpedo tube or dedicated vertical tubes). The LA-Class (45 subs) is giving way to the newer Virginia class (5 subs, plust 3 building) with 12 cruise missle tubes and four 27.5-inch torpedo tubes.

So to day that Subs will "shoot their wad" in one all-out session isn't really correct. One SSBN can have up to 288 warheads. I doubt you could find that many worthwhile targets in a country like Iran.

Though, I do agree with you that if those subs do make enmasse launches... well, the Norse call it Ragnarok (twilight of the Gods).

November 19, 2008, 03:17 AM
we definitly got some cool ass military toys! no wonder the UN and NATO come runnin when someone slaps around an other country!

November 19, 2008, 03:57 AM
It is true that they are eclipsed by modern weapons, but it is really interesting reading about the history and use of the 16"x50 caliber guns.


The plate in this photo is a face plate from a Yamato Class battleship turret (yard item) and is 26 inches thick. The plate was pierced by a 2,700 lbs projectile simulating an impact at about 30,000 yards of range. Wow 17 miles away! 26 inches of solid steel, now thats penetration.

From this site (http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_16-50_mk7.htm) I obtained the following info.

The Armor Piercing (AP) shell fired by these guns is capable of penetrating nearly 30 feet (9 m) of concrete, depending upon the range and obliquity of impact. The High Capacity (HC) shell can create a crater 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep (15 x 6 m). During her deployment off Vietnam, USS New Jersey (BB-62) occasionally fired a single HC round into the jungle and so created a helicopter landing zone 200 yards (180 m) in diameter and defoliated trees for 300 yards (270 m) beyond that.

I'm all in favor of modern technological improvements, but we need to keep at least a couple of these old battle wagons running, if for no other reason than the cool factor.:)

November 19, 2008, 05:16 AM
To paraphrase a quote, nothing says "We're really interested in changing your national policy" quite as eloquently as the sight of an Iowa class battleship.


November 20, 2008, 02:19 AM
To paraphrase a quote, nothing says "We're really interested in changing your national policy" quite as eloquently as the sight of an Iowa class battleship.

Nothing says "regime change" like seeing this sight off your coast in the morning... :D

American for "muzzle blast"

November 21, 2008, 05:42 AM
For as cool as they are, and as much psychological weight that they carry, the facts are the for the most part, a few predators or Global hawks or some of the other unnamed new drones can deliver the same Effective payload, with no one in harms way, for a few hundred dollars a day in JP5 vs the 4 million dollars a day the BB's cost now.

I recently saw a flight of 4 unmanneds fly by in formation near an unnamed based. they look like a mix between the F117 and a B2, and they were very hard to pick up against the back ground.

Global hawks can fly from Guam and cover all over the middle east for up to 2 days. autonomously,

November 22, 2008, 12:46 AM
Part of the deterrence factor is that "psychological weight" and that plays a very important part in how the projection of force is perceived.

When the U.S. carrier fleets "project power" they often do high speed flights as close to another country's territory as possible so that people on the ground see/hear those jets. It is a reminder that the fleet is out there, ready to strike. A battleship can sit several miles off the coast and still be visible on the horizon - an ever present reminder that it's just waiting for orders to lob high explosive Volkswagens up to 30 miles.

With UAV's, their cost is low, but the sudden explosion of a weapon on the ground is like a gas main blowing up. There's no warning and people aren't sure of what happened.

I worked with an English woman who's parents survived the Blitz. Her father was part of Operation Market Garden in the ill fated "bridge too far" regiment. The Nazi V1 "Buzz Bomb" was much more of a terror weapon than the V2. The V2 arched up high and simply fell like a big bomb. The V1's, with their distinctive buzzing motor sound could be heard for miles. It was when that motor started popping as it's fuel ran out that people became afraid... because they then knew it was coming down somewhere but not exactly where.

Having a BB off your coast is similar to the V1 buzzing over head.

T. O'Heir
November 22, 2008, 02:43 AM
"...The answer is "Quite a few"..." The answer is none. Yamato's 18" guns would have sunk any destroyer long before said destroyer would have gotten close.
"...From what I was told back then the shells were every bit as precise..." Read an article, long ago, when Iowa, I think, was recommissioned, that said the mechanical gun laying computers were more accurate than the PC's of the time.

November 24, 2008, 10:15 AM
Yes, what I was told in Gunners' Mate "A" School in 1986 was the BBs gun computers were the same ones they used in the war. Newer digital ones just weren't any improvement.
I was wrong about the date, 1942 for the Iowa.
BillCA, I'd love to see a Tiger built to today's standard, but that's the point- they AREN'T. You can add missles, update the guns, but the hull, turrets, armor belt, decks, etc, are the same as they were 60+ years ago. If I put a new engine in a Panther, and update the ammo, I still have a tank that will die moments on a modern battle field.
What I would love to see is an even older design updated to modern specs - the Pocket Battleship. The Graf Spee died being scuttled in a nuetral port, because the 5 inch thick armor belt wasn't enough to stop British heavy cruiser shells, but the armament package was good. Yes, I know it was a Nazi ship, but leaving politics behind, the Pocket Battleship was a nifty design, and with modern armor/engines/etc., could be one heck of a wonder.
I loved the battlewagons, and wish someone would build a new one, but Obum will never entertain the thought.

November 24, 2008, 11:00 AM
There is an ongoing effort to raise and restore the Graf Spee and I applaud that effort. The most difficult part will be emptying the magazines of their still-live ammo.

It is amazing that she sank nine merchant ships with not a single fatality on the allied side. All of the sailors were disembarked and captured prior to the ships being sunk.

The Graf Spee was likely the most beautiful ship of the line ever built. Compare the lines of the Graf Spee with the battleship HMS Resolution and the battlecruiser HMS Hood in the background.

1937, The German heavy cruiser ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE
anchored off Spithead for the 1937 Fleet Review.
In the background are the battleship HMS RESOLUTION
and the battlecruiser HMS HOOD.



Immediately after the scuttling in shallow water, much of the ship's superstructure remained above water level, but then over the years the wreck subsided into the muddy bottom and today only the tip of the mast remains above the surface.

The first salvage from the ship was most likely carried out by Royal Navy intelligence teams which recovered the highly advanced Seetakt radar not destroyed in the scuttling. In late January 1940, the wreck was boarded by US Navy sailors from the light cruiser USS Helena.

Graf Spee's salvaged telemeterIn February 2004 a salvage team began work raising the wreck of the Admiral Graf Spee. The operation is in part being funded by the government of Uruguay, in part by the private sector, as the wreck is now a hazard to navigation. The first major section, a 27-ton gunnery range-finding telemeter, was raised on 25 February 2004. It is expected to take several years to raise the entire wreck. Film director James Cameron is filming the salvage operation. After it has been raised, it is planned that the ship will be restored and put on display at the National Marine Museum in Montevideo.

On 10 February 2006, the 2 metres (6.6 ft) eagle figurehead of the Admiral Graf Spee was removed from the stern of the ship and recovered.[24] To protect the feelings of those sensitive to Nazi Germany, the swastika at the base of the figurehead was covered as it was pulled from the water.

November 24, 2008, 07:35 PM
In addition, troops can fire back at aircraft and ground pieces, but they can only hide and wait for the battleships to go away.Sheesh. So many experts here, so few thinking men. Haven't you folks ever heard of Exocet, Avocet, or Tomahawk missiles? They can hit a battleship from farther away than the ship can shoot. Yes, we have Phalanx guns, but if the enemy fires enough missiles they can overwhelm the Phalanx's capabilities. You think it's demoralizing watching a battleship firing at your people? How do you think it feels to watch your own battleships burning? Ask anyone who was around in 1941, if you want to know. Battleship are a very large, very expensive, and very vulnerable military asset. As much as I hated to see them retired, they represent a strategic mindset that can no longer compete in martial exercises.

November 24, 2008, 10:00 PM

The same could be said about our aircraft carriers. Lucky for us nobody has had the ability AND motivation to sink them.

However, the newer AIP subs, like the Gotland class, simply can't be found if they don't want to be. (Our navy rented one and tried.) AIP subs are the best of both worlds, the quietness and simplicity of a Diesel with the long underwater endurance of a nuke boat. The Gotland class has an official underwater endurance of 14 days at 5 knots. The German Type 212, 3 weeks.

If these subs become common, things will get interesting.

November 25, 2008, 09:01 PM
Exocet, Avocet, or Tomahawk missiles?

Yes, I've seen them in action, when a US ship, the USS Stark, caught an Exocet, and made it port under her own power. Barely, welded patches over the cracks in the deck, and ran lines fore and aft with turnbuckles to keep her together, but unlike the Sheffield off the Falklands, she DID make port. Hit an Iowa class battle wagon amidships with an Exocet, and you MIGHT leave a dent. That's 18 inches of cold rolled steel.
That's why I suggested the Pocket Battleship design, it's made to carry 5 inches of cold rolled steel armor, but with modern armor, could be upgraded considerably. Yes, Exocet, Silkwork, all great missles against todays 99% thin skinned navies. None of them were designed to deal with heavy armor, as the super expensive short range power projection battleships were phased out forthe much longer range power projection thin skinned aircraft carriers, which depends almost completely on it's air wings and escorts for protection.

November 25, 2008, 11:36 PM

We are not talking about one or two Exocets, we are talking HUNDREDS. The USS Stark was lucky, only one missile detonated, the seas were calm, AND there was no second strike against her. Last I heard Iran was stocking up on anti-ship missiles.

Anti-armor warheads are not new technology. Current missiles would make short work of any ship armored or not. Sure the hull might be protected, but the suprestructure would be a flaming mess after a dozen or so Exocets. As near as I can find, Exocets are rather cheap, only about a million each vs a billion dollar ship.

Regular Joe
November 26, 2008, 07:39 AM
Seeing that video, it brought to mind how our fighting men in the big wars found themselves able and determined to use the .30~'06 and .308 rifles. After seeing those Naval guns, your MBR would feel very much to be an extension of that same effect.
Yes, Battleships were designed to engage each-other, and prevail. No missile built by anyone can match the power of that 2,700 lb. armor piercing round. At Cubi Pt. on Luzon, there's still a Japanese bunker that sustained a hit from one that worked. The crater is a good 100 feet across, and the shell poked that 30 foot thickness of reinforced concrete clear thru.
I stood on that same spot on the Missouri when she was in the boneyard at Bremerton in '84, along with some other historic megaliths, like the Chicago and Hornet. Those ships are all from a different era. What we have now is different at so many levels that no comparison can be made, and the BB's are just plain obsolete. Too big and heavy and slow. I left the Navy just as the CG-47 class was coming online. That was a long time ago, but consider a Cruiser that can turn 180 degrees in its' own length, at flank speed, and complete an entire mission with no humans on board.

Bart B.
March 31, 2009, 10:57 AM
Good thread on battleship's main battery. Here's some other stuff about 'em.....

Firing: two methods were used; electrical and percussion. A blank-type case about the size of a .45-70 one was inserted in the firing lock in the breech plug after closing the plug on a loaded barrel. It was called a lock-combination primer as it had squibs like a dynamite electric blasting cap as well as a primer the same as the old .45-70 used.

Electric firing was done in either main battery plot or the turret's control room. Closing the firing key sent electricity to the squib in in the case detonating it which made the powder in it shoot through a hole in the plug face into the pound of black powder at the back end of each 110 pound bag of powder. When electric fire was used, a slight delay between each barrel's firing time was made automatically so projectiles would be spaced several yards in range preventing them from "kissing" each other and bouncing off in some wierd direction.

Percussion firing was made by each of the 3 gun captains cocking the percussion arm, pulling the cord and a hammer struck the conventional primer which started the same process.

A friend was the turret captian on the New Jersey' B turret. Talked with one of the chief petty officers running their main battery and he said their mean first shot miss distance at maximum range (about 23 miles) was about 100 yards. Calculate that into minutes of angle.

Bart B.
Main Battery Fire Controlman
USN Retired

March 31, 2009, 12:07 PM
My grandfather was on the Wisconsin. He was a member of the Charter crew and went to the Pacific. I have some photos and copies of "The Badger", that was the ships paper. It is now on display in Norfolk.

I believe he was a loader, so that video was great to see.


Mike Irwin
March 31, 2009, 12:25 PM
Most beautiful capital ship ever built was the Iron Duke.

Not a particularly great picture of her, but I can't find the really good one right now.


March 31, 2009, 04:56 PM
I drive by the USS Iowa nearly every weekday! Beautiful sight, but I always mourn for her. Even though these battlewagons are obsolete, I'd be willing to pay to see them cruising the oceans again.

Bart B.
April 1, 2009, 03:52 PM
Here's two main links to the US Navy's large caliber shipboard guns:

Naval Ordnance & Gunnery Vol. 1; complete information on both gun mounts and gun turrets. Sub links have much details on what really goes on with these monsters. Chapters 6 and 7 are great.

Naval Ordnance & Gunnery Vol. 2; all the main stuff about the radars, computers and machinery used to aim and load main battery shipboard systems. Chapters 19 and 20 are most interesting.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Slover has put together the best on-line information I've seen on US Navy main battery systems. Reading and knowing virtually all this information back in the late 1950's and early 1960's was important if one wanted to be advanced to Petty Officer 1st Class or Chief Petty Officer.

It all kind of went like this when a shore fire control party got a call for fire from some infantry outfit ashore. The target's position had already been set into the MK 8 Rangekeeper in main battery plot. When everything looked pretty good, it started.........

"Shore action starboard! All guns, main battery. High capacity, full charge, fuse quick! B turret center gun, 1 round load for spotter correction. All turrets, all other guns load and stand by for shore bombardment action!" sang out the main battery plotting room's Chief Petty Officer after the Gunnery Officer made final decisions on what to to then told the Chief to call for action. Meanwhile the MK 8 Rangekeeper ships range, bearing, and target plotting operators cranked knobs and watched dials for own ships position quickly be what's needed to properly aim the guns at the target's calculated postion.

Meanwhile, folks on the bridge and fire control towers were taking range and bearing readings to known shore objects to triangulate an accurate ships position to the target position on the charts. In fact, during shore bombardment, ships speed was set into the range keeper manually at zero. The target point ashore was cranked in to equal ships speed but whose course was 180 degrees out from own ships course. Ballistic calculations were more accurate doing it this way. They calculated the actual bearing and range to the target and the rangekeeper operators made sure their machine had the same numbers. If they didn't, small corrections to target course and speed would be made until they did match. When it did consistantly match, "Plot set!" was made by the battery chief to the gunnery officer.

When B turret's turret captain phoned back to main battery plot: "B turret center gun loaded!" the Chief told the stable vertical (held the gyro to give the true vertical for aiming guns as well as firing keys, or triggers) operator whose hands were on the firing keys: "B turret center gun....Shoot!"

The stable vertical operator would close the salvo warning key twice quickly with his left hand to sound a pre-firing klaxon in the turret as well as in other key stations on board. Two short blasts on the salvo warning klaxon was followed one second later by the stable vertical operator used his right hand for closing the firing key now connected for B turret. It took about 1 second from closing the key before all hell broke loose, the ship shuddred and a God awful "booooooommmmmm" was heard every where.

As soon as the 16-inch gun counter recoiled 3 feet back into battery and elevated back to its load position, the plug would be dropped and gas ejection air blew all the smoke and residue out the muzzle. When the gun captain could see daylight through the 66-foot long hole: "Bore clear. One round expended. No casualties." was the report from the gun captian to the turret captain in the turret's control room which he passed on to main battery plot.

Many seconds later the main battery plotting room range operator who started his stop watch when the round was fired and knew how long the projectile's time of flight was, would radio the spotter ashore watching the impact area through his binoculars "Standby!" which meant in about 5 seconds the round would hit. "Splash!" was the call the spotter was waiting for; he would see the round's explosing on impact, then make his spot corrections based on his position relative to the target. He radioed back to the ship; "Drop 150, left 4 mils, fire for effect!!!" Which meant the shore fire control party had enough confidence in the ship's crew to do well enough that further spots weren't needed. The target needed to be destroyed now!

Back in the ship's plotting room, they would convert the spots from the spotters position to what was need from the ships position using a round calculator called a Mil Spot Converter. The rangekeepers bearing and range operaters would make spot corrections to change gun orders just enough to move the impact point. "Add 200, right 2 mils!" would be given to the range and bearing operators then they cranked them in on the spot correction knobs. As soon as the rangekeeper's gun order dials had quit shaking from the spot adjustments and settled down, the operators would say "Bearing set." "Range set." The battery Chief would tell the gunnery officer "Plot set!"

The gunnery officer was satisfied with everything going on, he would then tell the battery Chief to fire for effect. So the Chief phoned everyone in the battery saying: "Shore action port, main battery, all guns, high capacity, salvo fire, full charge, fuse quick. Load and be ready!! Some 66 men in each of a battleship's turrets would move 9 projectiles and 54 bags of powder into gun breeches. The fire control switchboard operator would set a couple dozen turret control switches to get orders from the rangekeeper and firing circuits from the stable elements. When all turrets reported ready back to main battery plot, everyone got ready for that klaxon to sound again.......

"Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!" was what the stable vertical operator heard then he closed the salvo warning key twice more, then several hundred people on board who heard those salvo warning klaxon's honking quickly plugged their ears. The firing key was closed and a second later, all hell broke loose in the form of nine 1,900 pounders going up those barrels headed for some poor target ahore. "Bababa- bababa- bababooooooooooommmmmmmmmm" all within one second. Dust and rained down from the over head cables. Coffee cups rattled in their racks. Light bulbs loose in their sockets would fall out. Pencils jumped on the desks they were on. The whole ship went to about 4 on the Richter scale. And that 45,000 ton battleship moved sideways in the water about two thousandths of an inch; .002-inch. That's all.

It all happened again about 40 seconds later. Then again. And again. And again...... until those blessed words came back from the shore fire control party's spotter: "Cease fire! Cease Fire. Target destroyed." And a few mintes later, the shore fire control party would get a call from some infantry unit that another target was found, so the beleaguered US Army platoon's second lieutenant radioed the shore fire control party the coordinates of a column of enemy tanks moving towards him but were behind a high hill between them and the ship. But only three guns were needed for those tanks. No more celebrating; back to work. So the plotting room sets up a new target on the rangekeeper after shifting its ballistics section to "reduced charge" to arc the projectiles over that hill and down on the tanks. Turret crews get ready to load only four bags of powder instead of the normal six, then pay attention to the new orders: "Shore bombardment, port. Main battery, C turret. High capacity, reduced charge for reverse slope target, fuse quick! C turret center gun, 1 round load for spotter correction. All other guns stand easy"

As Paul Harvey (bless his departed soul) said so many times: "Now you've heard the rest of the story."

Bart B.
Chief Fire Controlman
USN Retired

July 21, 2009, 10:19 PM
Still... the psychological effect of a dreadnought sitting off your coast and lighting up the sky as it lobs a Chevrolet-sized explosive at you is demoralizing.

...well, consider that we bombarded both the European shorelines and, more significantly, multiple Japanese (in WWII) and Vietnamese fortifications for weeks, and had basically no effect. We shot millions of tons of steel at some Jap targets and in the end, they would crawl out and be ready to fight off a ground invasion.

Unfortunately for the battleship enthusiasts, the Napoleonic style of warfare is no longer applicable. Hence the "island hopping" theory in the Pacific theatre, where instead of trying to overtake strongly held larger islands, Allied forces would simply maneuver around them, regardless of their strategic advantages. Fact is, islands don't move.

Even the erudite teachings and tactics of Jomini and Clausewitz need some revision for the modern battlespace, because of 1) the speed at which munitions can be delivered and 2) the wide variety of terminal effects those munitions can produce and 3) that cladded fortifications of our enemies are relatively impervious to dumb shells, even 100s of them.

The plate in this photo is a face plate from a Yamato...26 inches of solid steel, now thats penetration.

Alas, 26 inches of steel might as well be paper mache for a large shaped charge jet with a signifcant HE charge behind it. Hence the development of active and reactive armor solutions, rather than merely hanging more and more armor on the platform.

July 22, 2009, 08:52 PM
The days of the Battleship are gone simply because it has been overtaken by airpower and modern delivery systems. Still, if you've ever stood along the coast and looked out 8 miles to see this huge BB steaming up the coast, it'll send shivers down your spine. When the Missiouri came to SF decades ago, we saw it alongside the Big E... and it looked formidible as hell. Both ships look like city blocks on the move.

Today's guided missile frigates and cruisers are cheaper to run, can put more firepower on target and at greater ranges. And in some cases, the choice of munitions runs from anti-personnel up to tactical nukes.

The ability of modern aircraft to aerial refuel for strategic operations goes back to 1949. With that ability, risking 150 men in 15 B-52's makes more sense than risking 1500 aboard a BB.

Though a BB could be "modernized" by removing the rear gun mount to install quad launching rails, adding SLCM cruise missle launchers midships and adding a butt-load of Phalanx 20mm & 30mm defensive turrets, in the modern battlespace, the BB's are just what Admiral Rickover said they were -- large floating targets.

A side effect of the UAV programs now underway may be the elimination of supercarriers. Smaller, cheaper UAVs taking off from smaller carriers can stay aloft longer, range further and be replaced easier (in theory). And you don't lose your top pilots when one is shot down.

Re: Shore bombardment - the Japanese did, in fact, dig tunnels deep into mountains and hills as shelter from bombardment. But it is disingenious to say the shelling had no effect. Survivors from some of the Pacific campaigns tell of the terrible toll it took on the sanity of some of their men. One Japanese Lt. said two days of shelling had psychologically ruined 25% of the men in his unit, some of them would simply tremble or defecate in their pants from a loud noise.