September 05, 2018

Museum Review - USS Salem

I decided to have the second Naval Gazing meetup at the USS Salem, a heavy cruiser preserved at the former Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. Two readers showed up (along with Sister Bean and a few of her friends) and we had a really good time.

sd, Chris Silvia, me, Sister Bean, and a friend of SB1
Type: Museum heavy cruiser
Location: Quincy, Massachusetts
Rating: 4/5, A good place to visit if you like ships
Price: $10 for normal adults

Website

September 02, 2018

Lushunkou and Weihaiwei

In 1895, tensions between Japan and China over control of Korea had flared into all-out war when the Japanese attacked a Chinese troopship and its escorts. World opinion was that the Japanese were doomed by the much larger Chinese Beiyang Fleet, but when the two forces met at the Battle of the Yalu River, the Japanese emerged victorious thanks to better training and more modern ships. The Chinese ships fell back to their base at Lushunkou, better known in the west as Port Arthur.

A month after their victory at sea, the Japanese crossed the Yalu River itself only to find that the Chinese army had mostly fled. The same day, troops landed to begin the siege of Lushunkou itself. Admiral Ding, commander of the Beiyang Fleet, was ordered to withdraw to Weihaiwei, leaving behind the only drydock capable of holding his battleships. This proved to be disastrous when Zhenyuan ran onto a rock while entering Weihaiwei harbor and had to be beached due to the lack of repair facilities. In early November, the Japanese cut the last land links between Lushunkou and the outside world. However, the heavily fortified naval base was considered nearly impregnable, and it was expected the Japanese would have a long fight on their hands. Read more...

August 31, 2018

Understanding Hull Symbols

Ships and ship types are often talked about using a set of shorthand letters to designate types. DDG. CVN. LHA. SSBN. DLG. While there are some fairly good guides online to these, I figured I should explain them here as well.

These codes originate in a standard set by the USN in 1920, to overhaul the designations then in use. All ships were assigned a two-letter code, and numbered sequentially within the code for their type. Around the time of WWII, more letters became necessary to designate the bewildering array of ship types developed for a global naval war. It's continued to evolve since that day, and many of the rules have changed at some point or another over the past century, but the bones of the system are still identifiable.

The most important information is the first letter or two. This will tell you the broad type at a glance, with later letters giving more information.


August 29, 2018

Museum Review - Battleship Cove, Massachusetts

While in Boston visiting Sister Bean, we drove down with a couple of friends to Fall River, home of the USS Massachusetts. I'd been in touch with the crew on the ship, and ended up meeting up with one of the people there, who took the day from good to incredible.

The group at Massachusetts. James Koppel, me, Sister Bean, and one of her friends
Type: Museum battleship, destroyer, submarine, and missile boat
Location: Fall River, Massachusetts
Rating: 4.6/5, Very much worth traveling to visit2
Price: $25 for normal adults


Battleship Cove. L-R: Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., Lionfish, Hiddensee and Massachusetts

Battleship Cove has four vessels. Besides Massachusetts, the only surviving US battleship to have fought another battleship,3 there was the destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., a Gearing class destroyer modernized in the 1960s for anti-submarine warfare, the submarine Lionfish, representing the fleet boats that strangled Japan, and the Hiddensee, a former East German missile corvette. There are also a pair of PT Boats on display nearby, PT-617 and PT-796. Read more...

August 27, 2018

Open Thread 7

It's time for our regular open thread. Talk about anything you want that isn't culture war.

For my readers in SoCal, two reminders. First, we have our meetup on Iowa coming up in slightly less than two weeks. Second, LA Fleet Week is this coming weekend, and that should be a lot of fun. I'd encourage you to go.

And for a bit of fun, I'd encourage you to check out Duffelblog, which is essentially the military equivalent of the Onion. It's mostly from a junior enlisted/veteran point of view, but there's some really good stuff.

August 26, 2018

Underwater Protection Part 2

While battleship designers had long tried to protect against underwater attack, the first months of World War One showed the full extent of the threat posed by torpedoes and mines. The existing underwater protection systems installed in pre-dreadnoughts proved totally inadequate, and numerous vessels were lost to these causes. Even the dreadnoughts were not immune, as shown most notably by the loss of Audacious in the first months of the war.

Bulge on monitor HMS Glatton

The British quickly began to look for ways to improve protection, finding one in the form of the bulge. In their simplest form, these were simply expansion chambers mounted on the outside of an existing hull, with a free-flooding liquid layer behind the air chamber. This increased the depth of the TDS, and provided an effective air-liquid layer system. Bulges were first used on ships operating close inshore, a particularly good area for submarines and small torpedo craft, and proved very successful. Even the earliest bulged ships took torpedo hits with no damage. The only drawback was a slight reduction in speed,4 and even battleships were soon being fitted with bulges. Ramillies and later capital ships were fitted with them while under construction, while other ships gained them in refits. Read more...

August 24, 2018

The Battleship of the Future?

I recently ran across the following spread from a 1940 edition of Popular Mechanics. It's an interesting study in the way that outsiders get warship design very, very wrong.

I can sort of see where the designer of the main ship was coming from. He was trying to solve a few real problems, but did so in bizarre ways. Smoke interference was a fairly big issue for most warships, and finding another way to dispose of it would be nice, and would simplify topside arrangement, possibly leaving space for more guns. But his solution was the sort of thing that only a lunatic would come up with. Similar exhaust ducting had been tried on HMS Argus, an early carrier, with poor results. Heat was a major problem, and Argus was slow and low-powered compared to this ship. I suspect that backpressure would have given issues, too. Worse, the duct literally could not have been placed for greater vulnerability to underwater damage. Whoever drew the picture of it deflecting torpedoes had no idea how torpedoes worked. It would have been utterly destroyed by the first hit, and at very best, that would merely have forced half the boilers to be shut down. More likely, it would have provided a ready flooding path deep into the ship. I honestly cannot fathom how anyone believed this would be a good solution. Read more...

August 22, 2018

Museum Review - Constitution and Cassin Young

While visiting Sister Bean in Boston, we took the Freedom Trail, and ended up at the Charleston Navy Yard, home to the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy, and the destroyer Cassin Young. It was an enjoyable visit, although I wasn't blown away.

Me at Constitution
Type: Museum sailing frigate and destroyer
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Rating: 4.4/5, Definitely worth a visit
Price: Free

Let me start with the good. Constitution is basically the bedrock on which the traditions of the US Navy, the greatest navy the world has ever seen, were built. She was one of the original six frigates built for the USN when the United States decided to build a proper navy in 1794 to fight the Barbary Pirates. After a treaty with the Barbary States was concluded, George Washington managed to convince Congress to complete Constitution, and two other ships, Constellation and United States. Read more...

August 19, 2018

The Standard Type

As it gained seagoing experience, the US Navy's dreadnoughts began to diverge from their British sisters. The Americans believed that long-range battle would be prevalent in future wars, and thus had begun with the New York class to fit the ships with the necessary fire control gear. However, it was not until the 1912 battleship design that the change took full effect.

Nevada, the first of the Standards

The USN concluded that at long ranges, the use of AP shells would dominate, as there was no way to control where on a ship hits would be made, and HE shells would be useless against belt and deck armor. As a result, it wasn't worth armoring against anything but AP shells, which required thick armor. Light armor would be a waste of weight and merely serve to burst the AP shells.5 This scheme became known as all-or-nothing protection, and within a decade, the lessons of Jutland had resulted in its wide adoption by other nations. Read more...

August 17, 2018

Museum Review - International Museum of World War II, Boston

On my first day in Boston, I met up with my sister in Natick, and we visited the International Museum of World War II. It was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours for us both, and she's way less into this stuff than I am.

They had a model of New Jersey, even if not of Iowa6
Type: Museum of WWII artifacts
Location: Natick, Massachusetts
Rating: 4/5, Worth including on a trip to Boston
Price: $25 for normal adults

Website