Battleship
Overview
 
A battleship is a large armored
Armour
Armour or armor is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual or a vehicle through use of direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action...

 warship
Warship
A warship is a ship that is built and primarily intended for combat. Warships are usually built in a completely different way from merchant ships. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuvrable than merchant ships...

 with a main battery
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

 consisting of heavy caliber
Caliber
In guns including firearms, caliber or calibre is the approximate internal diameter of the barrel in relation to the diameter of the projectile used in it....

 gun
Gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

s. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s and destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea
Command of the sea
A naval force has command of the sea when it is so strong that its rivals cannot attack it directly. Also called sea control, this dominance may apply to its surrounding waters or may extend far into the oceans, meaning the country has a blue-water navy...

 and represented the apex of a nation's naval power from about 1875 up until World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. With the rise of air power, guided missiles, and guided bombs, large guns were no longer deemed necessary to establish naval superiority.

Battleship design evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge.
Encyclopedia
A battleship is a large armored
Armour
Armour or armor is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual or a vehicle through use of direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action...

 warship
Warship
A warship is a ship that is built and primarily intended for combat. Warships are usually built in a completely different way from merchant ships. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuvrable than merchant ships...

 with a main battery
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

 consisting of heavy caliber
Caliber
In guns including firearms, caliber or calibre is the approximate internal diameter of the barrel in relation to the diameter of the projectile used in it....

 gun
Gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

s. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s and destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea
Command of the sea
A naval force has command of the sea when it is so strong that its rivals cannot attack it directly. Also called sea control, this dominance may apply to its surrounding waters or may extend far into the oceans, meaning the country has a blue-water navy...

 and represented the apex of a nation's naval power from about 1875 up until World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. With the rise of air power, guided missiles, and guided bombs, large guns were no longer deemed necessary to establish naval superiority.

Battleship design evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge. The word battleship was coined around 1794 and is a contraction of the phrase line-of-battle ship
Ship of the line
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail
Age of Sail
The Age of Sail was the period in which international trade and naval warfare were dominated by sailing ships, lasting from the 16th to the mid 19th century...

. The term came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship
Ironclad warship
An ironclad was a steam-propelled warship in the early part of the second half of the 19th century, protected by iron or steel armor plates. The ironclad was developed as a result of the vulnerability of wooden warships to explosive or incendiary shells. The first ironclad battleship, La Gloire,...

, now referred to as pre-dreadnought battleships. In 1906, the commissioning of heralded a revolution in battleship design. Following battleship designs that were influenced by HMS Dreadnought were referred to as "dreadnought
Dreadnought
The dreadnought was the predominant type of 20th-century battleship. The first of the kind, the Royal Navy's had such an impact when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built after her were referred to as "dreadnoughts", and earlier battleships became known as pre-dreadnoughts...

s".

Battleships were a symbol of naval
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 dominance and national might, and for decades the battleship was a major factor in both diplomacy
Diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

 and military strategy
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

. The global arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

 in battleship construction beginning in the late 19th century and exacerbated by Dreadnought was one of the causes of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, which saw a clash of large battle fleets at the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

. The Naval Treaties
Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armament
The Limitation of Naval Armament included many separate treaties. In general, the treaties involved the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and France....

 of the 1920s and 1930s limited the number of battleships but did not end the evolution of design. Both the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 and the Axis Powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 deployed battleships of old construction and new during World War II.

The value of the battleship has been questioned, even during the period of their prominence. In spite of the immense resources spent on battleships, there were few pitched battleship clashes. Even with their enormous firepower and protection, battleships were increasingly vulnerable to much smaller, cheaper ordnance and craft: initially the torpedo
Torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

 and the naval mine
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

, and later aircraft and the guided missile
Guided Missile
Guided Missile is a London based independent record label set up by Paul Kearney in 1994.Guided Missile has always focused on 'the underground', preferring to put out a steady flow of releases and developing the numerous GM events around London and beyond....

. The growing range of naval engagements led to the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

 replacing the battleship as the leading capital ship
Capital ship
The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they generally possess the heaviest firepower and armor and are traditionally much larger than other naval vessels...

 during World War II, with the last battleship to be launched being in 1944. Battleships were retained by the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 into the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 only for fire support
Fire support
Fire support is long-range firepower provided to a front-line military unit. Typically, fire support is provided by artillery or close air support , and is used to shape the battlefield or, more optimistically, define the battle...

 purposes. The last US battleships, USS Wisconsin
USS Wisconsin (BB-64)
USS Wisconsin , "Wisky" or "WisKy", is an , the second ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the U.S. state of Wisconsin...

 and USS Missouri
USS Missouri (BB-63)
|USS Missouri is a United States Navy Iowa-class battleship, and was the fourth ship of the U.S. Navy to be named in honor of the U.S. state of Missouri...

, were decommissioned in 1991 and 1992, and finally stricken from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register
Naval Vessel Register
The Naval Vessel Register is the official inventory of ships and service craft in custody of or titled by the United States Navy. It contains information on ships and service craft that make up the official inventory of the Navy from the time a vessel is authorized through its life cycle and...

 in 2006 and 1995, respectively.

Ships of the line

A ship of the line was a large, unarmored wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

en sailing ship on which was mounted a battery
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

 of up to 120 smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

 gun
Gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

s and carronade
Carronade
The carronade was a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Scotland, UK. It was used from the 1770s to the 1850s. Its main function was to serve as a powerful, short-range anti-ship and anti-crew weapon...

s. The ship of the line was a gradual evolution of a basic design that dates back to the 15th century, and, apart from growing in size, it changed little between the adoption of line of battle
Line of battle
In naval warfare, the line of battle is a tactic in which the ships of the fleet form a line end to end. A primitive form had been used by the Portuguese under Vasco Da Gama in 1502 near Malabar against a Muslim fleet.,Maarten Tromp used it in the Action of 18 September 1639 while its first use in...

 tactics in the early 17th century and the end of the sailing battleship's heyday in the 1830s. From 1794, the alternative term 'line of battle ship' was contracted (informally at first) to 'battle ship' or 'battleship'.

The sheer number of guns fired broadside
Broadside
A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous fire in naval warfare.-Age of Sail:...

 meant that a sailing battleship could wreck any wooden vessel, smashing its hull
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

 and masts
Mast (sailing)
The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall, vertical, or near vertical, spar, or arrangement of spars, which supports the sails. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship...

 and killing its crew. However, the effective range of the guns was as little as a few hundred yards, so the battle tactics of sailing ships depended in part on the wind.

The first major change to the ship of the line concept was the introduction of steam power as an auxiliary propulsion system
Marine propulsion
Marine propulsion is the mechanism or system used to generate thrust to move a ship or boat across water. While paddles and sails are still used on some smaller boats, most modern ships are propelled by mechanical systems consisting a motor or engine turning a propeller, or less frequently, in jet...

. Steam power was gradually introduced to the navy in the first half of the 19th century, initially for small craft and later for frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s. The French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 introduced steam to the line of battle with the 90-gun Le Napoléon in 1850—the first true steam battleship. Napoleon was armed as a conventional ship-of-the-line, but her steam engines could give her a speed of 12 knots (24 km/h), regardless of the wind conditions: a potentially decisive advantage in a naval engagement. The introduction of steam accelerated the growth in size of battleships. France and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 were the only countries to develop fleets of wooden steam screw battleships, although several other navies operated small numbers of screw battleships, including Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 (9), Turkey
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 (3), Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 (2), Naples
Kingdom of Naples
The Kingdom of Naples, comprising the southern part of the Italian peninsula, was the remainder of the old Kingdom of Sicily after secession of the island of Sicily as a result of the Sicilian Vespers rebellion of 1282. Known to contemporaries as the Kingdom of Sicily, it is dubbed Kingdom of...

 (1), Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 (1) and Austria
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 (1). In addition, the Navy of the North Germany Confederacy (which included Prussia) bought HMS Renown from Britain in 1870 for use as a gunnery training ship.

Ironclads

The adoption of steam power was only one of a number of technological advances which revolutionized warship design in the 19th century. The ship of the line was overtaken by the ironclad
Ironclad warship
An ironclad was a steam-propelled warship in the early part of the second half of the 19th century, protected by iron or steel armor plates. The ironclad was developed as a result of the vulnerability of wooden warships to explosive or incendiary shells. The first ironclad battleship, La Gloire,...

: powered by steam, protected by metal armor, and armed with guns firing high-explosive shells
Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile, which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot . Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used...

.

Explosive shells

Guns which fired explosive or incendiary shells were a major threat to wooden ships, and these weapons quickly became widespread after the introduction of 8 inch shell guns as part of the standard armament of French and American line-of-battle ships in 1841. In the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

, six line-of-battle ships and two frigates of the Russian Black Sea Fleet
Black Sea Fleet
The Black Sea Fleet is a large operational-strategic sub-unit of the Russian Navy, operating in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea since the late 18th century. It is based in various harbors of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov....

 destroyed seven Turkish frigates and three corvettes with explosive shells at the Battle of Sinop
Battle of Sinop
The Battle of Sinop, or the Battle of Sinope, took place on 30 November 1853 at Sinop, a sea port in northern Anatolia, when Imperial Russian warships struck and annihilated a patrol force of Ottoman ships anchored in the harbor...

 in 1853. Later in the war, French ironclad floating batteries used similar weapons against the defenses at the Battle of Kinburn
Battle of Kinburn (1855)
The Battle of Kinburn/Kil-Bouroun was a naval engagement during the final stage of the Crimean War. It took place on the tip of the Kinburn Peninsula on 17 October 1855...

.

Nevertheless wooden-hulled ships stood up comparatively well to shells, as shown in the 1866 Battle of Lissa
Battle of Lissa (1866)
The Battle of Lissa took place on 20 July 1866 in the Adriatic Sea near the Dalmatian island of Lissa and was a decisive victory for an outnumbered Austrian Empire force over a superior Italian force...

, where the modern Austrian steam two-decker Kaiser ranged across a confused battlefield, rammed an Italian
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 ironclad and took 80 hits from Italian ironclads, many of which were shells, but including at least one 300 pound shot at point blank range. Despite losing her bowsprit
Bowsprit
The bowsprit of a sailing vessel is a pole extending forward from the vessel's prow. It provides an anchor point for the forestay, allowing the fore-mast to be stepped farther forward on the hull.-Origin:...

 and her foremast, and being set on fire, she was ready for action again the very next day.

Iron armor and construction

The development of high-explosive shells made the use of iron armor
Armour
Armour or armor is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual or a vehicle through use of direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action...

 plate on warships necessary. In 1859 France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 launched La Gloire
French battleship La Gloire
The French Navy's La Gloire was the first ocean-going ironclad battleship in history.She was developed following the Crimean War, in response to new developments in naval gun technology, especially the Paixhans guns and rifled guns, which used explosive shells with increased destructive power...

, the first ocean-going ironclad warship. She had the profile of a ship of the line, cut to one deck due to weight considerations. Although made of wood and reliant on sail for most journeys, La Gloire was fitted with a propeller, and her wooden hull was protected by a layer of thick iron armor. Gloire prompted further innovation from the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, anxious to prevent France from gaining a technological lead.

The superior armored frigate Warrior
HMS Warrior (1860)
HMS Warrior was the first iron-hulled, armour-plated warship, built for the Royal Navy in response to the first ironclad warship, the French Gloire, launched a year earlier....

 followed La Gloire by only 14 months, and both nations embarked on a program of building new ironclads and converting existing screw ships of the line to armored frigates. Within two years, Italy, Austria, Spain
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

 and Russia had all ordered ironclad warships, and by the time of the famous clash of the USS Monitor
USS Monitor
USS Monitor was the first ironclad warship commissioned by the United States Navy during the American Civil War. She is most famous for her participation in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862, the first-ever battle fought between two ironclads...

 and the CSS Virginia
CSS Virginia
CSS Virginia was the first steam-powered ironclad warship of the Confederate States Navy, built during the first year of the American Civil War; she was constructed as a casemate ironclad using the raised and cut down original lower hull and steam engines of the scuttled . Virginia was one of the...

 at the Battle of Hampton Roads
Battle of Hampton Roads
The Battle of Hampton Roads, often referred to as either the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack or the Battle of Ironclads, was the most noted and arguably most important naval battle of the American Civil War from the standpoint of the development of navies...

 at least eight navies possessed ironclad ships.

Navies experimented with the positioning of guns, in turrets
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 (like the USS Monitor), central-batteries or barbette
Barbette
A barbette is a protective circular armour feature around a cannon or heavy artillery gun. The name comes from the French phrase en barbette referring to the practice of firing a field gun over a parapet rather than through an opening . The former gives better angles of fire but less protection...

s, or with the ram
Naval ram
A naval ram was a weapon carried by varied types of ships, dating back to antiquity. The weapon consisted of an underwater prolongation of the bow of the ship to form an armoured beak, usually between six and twelve feet in length...

 as the principal weapon. As steam technology developed, masts were gradually removed from battleship designs. By the mid-1870s steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 was used as a construction material alongside iron and wood. The French Navy's Redoutable
French battleship Redoutable (1876)
Redoutable was a central battery and barbette ship of the French Navy. She was the first warship in the world to use steel as the principal building material....

, laid down in 1873 and launched in 1876, was a central battery
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

 and barbette warship which became the first battleship in the world to use steel as the principal building material.

Pre-dreadnought battleship

The term "battleship" was officially adopted by the Royal Navy in the re-classification of 1892. By the 1890s, there was an increasing similarity between battleship designs, and the type now known as the 'pre-dreadnought battleship' emerged. These were heavily armored ships, mounting a mixed battery of guns in turrets, and without sails. The typical first-class battleship of the pre-dreadnought era displaced 15,000 to 17,000 ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s, had a speed of 16 knots (31 km/h), and an armament of four 12 inches (305 mm) guns in two turrets fore and aft with a mixed-caliber secondary battery amidships around the superstructure. An early design with superficial similarity to the pre-dreadnought is the British Devastation-class
Devastation class battleship
The two British Devastation-class battleships of the 1870s were the first class of ocean-going capital ship that did not carry sails, and the first which mounted the entire main armament on top of the hull rather than inside it...

 of 1871.

The slow-firing 12 inches (305 mm) main guns were the principal weapons for battleship-to-battleship combat. The intermediate and secondary batteries had two roles. Against major ships, it was thought a 'hail of fire' from quick-firing secondary weapons could distract enemy gun crews by inflicting damage to the superstructure, and they would be more effective against smaller ships such as cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s. Smaller guns (12-pounders and smaller) were reserved for protecting the battleship against the threat of torpedo attack from destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s and torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

s.

The beginning of the pre-dreadnought era coincided with Britain reasserting her naval dominance. For many years previously, Britain had taken naval supremacy for granted. Expensive naval projects were criticised by political leaders of all inclinations. However, in 1888 a war scare with France and the build-up of the Russian navy gave added impetus to naval construction, and the British Naval Defence Act of 1889 laid down a new fleet including eight new battleships. The principle that Britain's navy should be more powerful than the two next most powerful fleets combined was established. This policy was designed to deter France and Russia from building more battleships, but both nations nevertheless expanded their fleets with more and better pre-dreadnoughts in the 1890s.

In the last years of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th, the escalation in the building of battleships became an arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

 between Britain and Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. The German naval laws of 1890 and 1898 authorised a fleet of 38 battleships, a vital threat to the balance of naval power. Britain answered with further shipbuilding, but by the end of the pre-dreadnought era, British supremacy at sea had markedly weakened. In 1883, the United Kingdom had 38 battleships, twice as many as France and almost as many as the rest of the world put together. By 1897, Britain's lead was far smaller due to competition from France, Germany, and Russia, as well as the development of pre-dreadnought fleets in Italy, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

. Turkey, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 all had second-rate fleets led by armored cruiser
Armored cruiser
The armored cruiser was a type of warship of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Like other types of cruiser, the armored cruiser was a long-range, independent warship, capable of defeating any ship apart from a battleship, and fast enough to outrun any battleships it encountered.The first...

s, coastal defence ship
Coastal defence ship
Coastal defence ships were warships built for the purpose of coastal defence, mostly during the period from 1860 to 1920. They were small, often cruiser-sized warships that sacrificed speed and range for armour and armament...

s or monitors
Monitor (warship)
A monitor was a class of relatively small warship which was neither fast nor strongly armoured but carried disproportionately large guns. They were used by some navies from the 1860s until the end of World War II, and saw their final use by the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.The monitors...

.

Pre-dreadnoughts continued the technical innovations of the ironclad. Turrets, armor plate, and steam engine
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

s were all improved over the years, and torpedo
Torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

 tubes were introduced. A small number of designs, including the American Kearsarge
Kearsarge class battleship
The Kearsarge class was a two-ship class of battleships built for the United States Navy at the beginning of the 20th century. Its first ship, the , was commissioned in 1900. The lead ship of this class, USS Kearsarge, was the only United States battleship not named for a state.- Ship history :This...

 and Virginia
Virginia class battleship
The Virginia class battleship was designed to be the first truly seagoing U.S. battleships. Five ships were commissioned between 1906 and 1907. The ships participated in the round-the-world cruise of the Great White Fleet. For the second and last time, the U.S...

 classes, experimented with all or part of the 8-inch intermediate battery superimposed over the 12-inch primary. Results were poor: recoil factors and blast effects resulted in the 8-inch battery being completely unusable, and the inability to train the primary and intermediate armaments on different targets led to significant tactical limitations. Even though such innovative designs saved weight (a key reason for their inception), they proved too cumbersome in practice.

Dreadnought era

In 1906, the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 launched the revolutionary . Created as a result of pressure from Admiral Sir John ("Jackie") Fisher, HMS Dreadnought made existing battleships obsolete. Combining an "all-big-gun" armament of ten 12-inch (305 mm) guns with unprecedented speed and protection, she prompted navies worldwide to re-evaluate their battleship building programmes. While the Japanese had laid down an all-big-gun battleship, Satsuma in 1904, and the concept of an all-big-gun ship had been in circulation for several years, it had yet to be validated in combat. Dreadnought sparked a new arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

, principally between Britain and Germany but reflected worldwide, as the new class of warships became a crucial element of national power.

Technical development continued rapidly through the dreadnought era, with step changes in armament, armor and propulsion. Ten years after Dreadnoughts commissioning, much more powerful ships, the super-dreadnoughts, were being built.

Origin

In the first years of the 20th century, several navies worldwide experimented with the idea of a new type of battleship with a uniform armament of very heavy guns.

Admiral Vittorio Cuniberti
Vittorio Cuniberti
Vittorio Emanuele Cuniberti was an Italian military officer who envisioned the concept of the all big gun battleship, best exemplified by HMS Dreadnought.-Cuniberti's article:...

, the Italian Navy's chief naval architect, articulated the concept of an all-big-gun battleship in 1903. When the Regia Marina
Regia Marina
The Regia Marina dates from the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 after Italian unification...

 did not pursue his ideas, Cuniberti wrote an article in Jane's
Jane's Fighting Ships
Jane's Fighting Ships is an annual reference book of information on all the world's warships arranged by nation, including information on ship's names, dimensions, armaments, silhouettes and photographs, etc...

 proposing an "ideal" future British battleship, a large armored warship of 17,000 tons, armed solely with a single calibre main battery (twelve 12-inch {305 mm} guns), carrying 300 millimetres (12 in) belt armor
Belt armor
Belt armor is a layer of heavy metal armor plated on to or within outer hulls of warships, typically on battleships, battlecruisers and cruisers, and on aircraft carriers converted from those types of ships....

, and capable of 24 knots (44 km/h).

The Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 provided operational experience to validate the 'all-big-gun' concept. At the Yellow Sea
Battle of the Yellow Sea
The Battle of the Yellow Sea was a major naval engagement of the Russo-Japanese War, fought on 10 August 1904. In the Russian Navy, it was referred to as the Battle of 10 August. The battle foiled an attempt by the Russian fleet at Port Arthur to break out and form up with counterparts from...

 and Tsushima
Battle of Tsushima
The Battle of Tsushima , commonly known as the “Sea of Japan Naval Battle” in Japan and the “Battle of Tsushima Strait”, was the major naval battle fought between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War...

, pre-dreadnoughts exchanged volleys at ranges of 7,600–12,000 yd (7 to 11 km), beyond the range of the secondary batteries. It is often held that these engagements demonstrated the importance of the 12 inches (305 mm) gun over its smaller counterparts, though some historians take the view that secondary batteries were just as important as the larger weapons.

In Japan, the two battleships of the 1903-4 Programme were the first to be laid down as all-big-gun designs, with eight 12-inch guns. However, the design had armor which was considered too thin, demanding a substantial redesign. The financial pressures of the Russo-Japanese War and the short supply of 12-inch guns which had to be imported from Britain meant these ships were completed with a mixed 10- and 12-inch armament. The 1903-4 design also retained traditional triple-expansion steam engines.

As early as 1904, Jackie Fisher had been convinced of the need for fast, powerful ships with an all-big-gun armament. If Tsushima influenced his thinking, it was to persuade him of the need to standardise on 12 inches (305 mm) guns. Fisher's concerns were submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s and destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s equipped with torpedoes, then threatening to outrange battleship guns, making speed imperative for capital ship
Capital ship
The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they generally possess the heaviest firepower and armor and are traditionally much larger than other naval vessels...

s. Fisher's preferred option was his brainchild, the battlecruiser
Battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

: lightly armored but heavily armed with eight 12-inch guns and propelled to 25 knots (49 km/h) by steam turbine
Steam turbine
A steam turbine is a mechanical device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam, and converts it into rotary motion. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884....

s.

It was to prove this revolutionary technology that Dreadnought was designed in January 1905, laid down in October 1905 and sped to completion by 1906. She carried ten 12-inch guns, had an 11-inch armor belt, and was the first large ship powered by turbines. She mounted her guns in five turrets; three on the centerline (one forward, two aft) and two on the wings
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

, giving her at her launch twice the broadside
Broadside
A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous fire in naval warfare.-Age of Sail:...

 of anything else afloat. She retained a number of 12-pound (3-inch, 76 mm) quick-firing guns for use against destroyers and torpedo-boats. Her armor was heavy enough for her to go head-to-head with any other ship afloat in a gun battle, and conceivably win.

Dreadnought was to have been followed by three Invincible
Invincible class battlecruiser
The three Invincible class battlecruisers were built for the Royal Navy and entered service in 1908 as the world's first battlecruisers. They were the brainchild of Admiral Sir John Fisher, the man who had sponsored the construction of the world's first "all big gun" warship,...

-class battlecruiser
Battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

s, their construction delayed to allow lessons from Dreadnought to be used in their design. While Fisher may have intended Dreadnought to be the last Royal Navy battleship, the design was so successful he found little support for his plan to switch to a battlecruiser navy. Although there were some problems with the ship (the wing turrets had limited arcs of fire and strained the hull when firing a full broadside, and the top of the thickest armor belt lay below the waterline at full load), the Royal Navy promptly commissioned another six ships to a similar design in the Bellerophon
Bellerophon class battleship
The Bellerophon class was a class of three dreadnought battleships that were built in the United Kingdom prior to World War I, and served in the Royal Navy during the war. The Bellerophons were near carbon copies of the previous , with the exception of a second tripod mast...

 and St Vincent
St. Vincent class battleship
The St. Vincent class battleships consisted of three ships of the Royal Navy laid down in 1908, and completed between May 1909 and April 1910. They were St. Vincent, Collingwood, and Vanguard. Vanguard was destroyed in an ammunition explosion, probably due to bagged cordite.Visually, they were very...

 classes.

An American design, , authorized in 1905 and laid down in December 1906, was another of the first dreadnoughts, but she and her sister, , were not launched until 1908. Both used triple-expansion engines and had a superior layout of the main battery, dispensing with Dreadnoughts wing turrets. They thus retained the same broadside, despite having two fewer guns.

Arms race

In 1897, before the revolution in design brought about by HMS Dreadnought, the Royal Navy had 62 battleships in commission or building, a lead of 26 over France and 50 over Germany. In 1906, the Royal Navy owned the field with Dreadnought. The new class of ship prompted an arms race with major strategic consequences. Major naval powers raced to build their own dreadnoughts. Possession of modern battleships was not only vital to naval power, but also, as with nuclear weapons today, represented a nation's standing in the world. Germany, France, Russia, Italy, Austria, and the United States all began dreadnought programmes; and second-rank powers including Turkey, Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Brazil, and Chile commissioned dreadnoughts to be built in British and American yards.

World War I

The First World War was an anticlimax for the great dreadnought fleets. There was no decisive clash of modern battlefleets to compare with the Battle of Tsushima
Battle of Tsushima
The Battle of Tsushima , commonly known as the “Sea of Japan Naval Battle” in Japan and the “Battle of Tsushima Strait”, was the major naval battle fought between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War...

. The role of battleships was marginal to the great land struggle in France and Russia; and it was equally marginal to the First Battle of the Atlantic, the battle between German submarines
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 and British merchant shipping.

By virtue of geography, the Royal Navy could keep the German High Seas Fleet
High Seas Fleet
The High Seas Fleet was the battle fleet of the German Empire and saw action during World War I. The formation was created in February 1907, when the Home Fleet was renamed as the High Seas Fleet. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz was the architect of the fleet; he envisioned a force powerful enough to...

 bottled up in the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

: only narrow channels led to the Atlantic Ocean and these were guarded by British forces. Both sides were aware that, because of the greater number of British dreadnoughts, a full fleet engagement would be likely to result in a British victory. The German strategy was therefore to try to provoke an engagement on their terms: either to induce a part of the Grand Fleet to enter battle alone, or to fight a pitched battle near the German coastline, where friendly minefields, torpedo-boats and submarines could be used to even the odds.

The first two years of war saw conflict in the North Sea limited to skirmishes by battlecruiser
Battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

s at the Battle of Heligoland Bight and Battle of Dogger Bank
Battle of Dogger Bank (1915)
The Battle of Dogger Bank was a naval battle fought near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea on 24 January 1915, during the First World War, between squadrons of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet....

 and raids on the English coast. On May 31, 1916, a further attempt to draw British ships into battle on German terms resulted in a clash of the battlefleets in the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

. The German fleet withdrew to port at its earliest opportunity after two short encounters with the British fleet. This reinforced German determination never to engage in a fleet to fleet battle.

In the other naval theatres there were no decisive pitched battles. In the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, engagement between Russian
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 and Turkish
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 battleships was restricted to skirmishes. In the Baltic
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, action was largely limited to the raiding of convoys, and the laying of defensive minefields; the only significant clash of battleship squadrons there was the Battle of Moon Sound
Battle of Moon Sound
The Battle of Moon Sound was a naval battle in World War I, fought on 17 October 1917 between naval forces of the German and Russian Empires in the Baltic Sea....

 at which one Russian pre-dreadnought was lost. The Adriatic
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

 was in a sense the mirror of the North Sea: the Austro-Hungarian dreadnought fleet remained bottled up by the British and French blockade. And in the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, the most important use of battleships was in support of the amphibious assault on Gallipoli.

The war illustrated the vulnerability of battleships to cheaper weapons. In September 1914, the potential threat posed to capital ship
Capital ship
The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they generally possess the heaviest firepower and armor and are traditionally much larger than other naval vessels...

s by German U-boats was confirmed by successful attacks on British cruisers, including the sinking of three British armored cruiser
Armored cruiser
The armored cruiser was a type of warship of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Like other types of cruiser, the armored cruiser was a long-range, independent warship, capable of defeating any ship apart from a battleship, and fast enough to outrun any battleships it encountered.The first...

s by the German submarine U-9 in less than an hour. Sea mines proved a threat the next month, when the recently commissioned British super-dreadnought Audacious
HMS Audacious (1912)
HMS Audacious was a King George V-class battleship of the Royal Navy. The vessel did not see any combat in the First World War, being sunk by a German naval mine off the northern coast of Donegal, Ireland in 1914.- Design :...

 struck a mine and sank. By the end of October, the British had changed their strategy and tactics in the North Sea to reduce the risk of U-boat attack. The German plan for the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

 relied on U-boat attacks on the British fleet; and the escape of the German fleet from the superior British firepower at Jutland was effected by the German cruisers and destroyers closing on British battleships, causing them to turn away to avoid the threat of torpedo attack. Further near-misses from submarine attacks on battleships and casualties amongst cruisers led to growing concern in the Royal Navy about the vulnerability of battleships.

The German High Seas Fleet, for their part, were determined not to engage the British without the assistance of submarines; and since the submarines were needed more for raiding commercial traffic, the fleet stayed in port for the remainder of the war. Other theatres equally showed the role of small craft in damaging or destroying dreadnoughts: SMS Szent István
SMS Szent István
SMS Szent István was a dreadnought , the only one built in the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary. The Ganz & Company's Danubius yard in Hungarian-owned Fiume was awarded the contract to build the battleship in return for the Hungarian government agreeing to the 1910 and 1911 naval budgets...

 of the Austro-Hungarian Navy
Austro-Hungarian Navy
The Austro-Hungarian Navy was the naval force of Austria-Hungary. Its official name in German was Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine , abbreviated as k.u.k. Kriegsmarine....

 was sunk by Italian
Regia Marina
The Regia Marina dates from the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 after Italian unification...

 motor torpedo boats in June 1918, while her sister ship, SMS Viribus Unitis
SMS Viribus Unitis
SMS Viribus Unitis was the first Austro-Hungarian dreadnought battleship of the . Its name, meaning "With United Forces", was the personal motto of Emperor Franz Joseph I.Viribus Unitis was ordered by the Austro-Hungarian navy in 1908...

 was sunk by frogmen
Frogman
A frogman is someone who is trained to scuba diving or swim underwater in a military capacity which can include combat. Such personnel are also known by the more formal names of combat diver or combatant diver or combat swimmer....

. The Allied
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

 capital ships lost in Gallipoli were sunk by mines and torpedo, while a Turkish pre-dreadnought, Messudieh was caught in the Dardanelles
Dardanelles
The Dardanelles , formerly known as the Hellespont, is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with its counterpart the Bosphorus. It is located at approximately...

 by a British submarine.

Inter-war period

For many years, Germany
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 simply had no battleships. The Armistice with Germany
Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)
The armistice between the Allies and Germany was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender...

 required that most of the High Seas Fleet be disarmed and interned in a neutral port; largely because no neutral port could be found, the ships remained in British custody in Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. The Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 specified that the ships should be handed over to the British. Instead, most of them were scuttled
Scuttling
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...

 by their German crews on 21 June 1919 just before the signature of the peace treaty. The treaty also limited the German Navy, and prevented Germany from building or possessing any capital ship
Capital ship
The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they generally possess the heaviest firepower and armor and are traditionally much larger than other naval vessels...

s.

The inter-war period saw the battleship subjected to strict international limitations to prevent a costly arms race breaking out.

While the victors were not limited by the Treaty of Versailles, many of the major naval powers were crippled after the war. Faced with the prospect of a naval arms race against the United Kingdom and Japan, which would in turn have led to a possible Pacific war, the United States was keen to conclude the Washington Naval Treaty
Washington Naval Treaty
The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was an attempt to cap and limit, and "prevent 'further' costly escalation" of the naval arms race that had begun after World War I between various International powers, each of which had significant naval fleets. The treaty was...

 of 1922. This treaty limited the number and size of battleships that each major nation could possess, and required Britain to accept parity with the U.S. and to abandon the British alliance with Japan. The Washington treaty was followed by a series of other naval treaties, including the First Geneva Naval Conference
Geneva Naval Conference
The Geneva Naval Conference was a conference held to discuss naval arms limitation, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1927. This is a separate conference from the later general disarmament conference, the Geneva Conference ....

 (1927), the First London Naval Treaty
London Naval Treaty
The London Naval Treaty was an agreement between the United Kingdom, the Empire of Japan, France, Italy and the United States, signed on April 22, 1930, which regulated submarine warfare and limited naval shipbuilding. Ratifications were exchanged in London on October 27, 1930, and the treaty went...

 (1930), the Second Geneva Naval Conference (1932), and finally the Second London Naval Treaty
Second London Naval Treaty
The Second London Naval Disarmament Conference opened in London, the United Kingdom, on 9 December 1935. It resulted in the Second London Naval Treaty which was signed on 25 March 1936.- Description :...

 (1936), which all set limits on major warships. These treaties became effectively obsolete on 1 September 1939 at the beginning of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, but the ship classifications that had been agreed upon still apply. The treaty limitations meant that fewer new battleships were launched from 1919–1939 than from 1905–1914. The treaties also inhibited development by putting maximum limits on the weights of ships. Designs like the projected British N3 class battleship
N3 class battleship
The N3 class was a dreadnought battleship class designed for the Royal Navy after World War I, incorporating all the lessons learned from that conflict. They were very similar in design to the s, but had larger guns and thicker armour...

, the first American South Dakota-class
South Dakota class battleship (1920)
The first South Dakota class was a class of six battleships, laid down in 1920 but never completed. These battleships would have been the last dreadnoughts to be commissioned, if the Washington Naval Treaty not caused their cancellation one-third of the way through their construction, they would...

, and the Japanese Kii-class
Kii class battleship
The Kii class was a planned battleship design of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Designed by Yuzuru Hiraga, the class was to have been armed with ten guns and would bring Japan closer to its goal of an "Eight-eight fleet"...

—all of which continued the trend to larger ships with bigger guns and thicker armor—never got off the drawing board. Those designs which were commissioned during this period were referred to as treaty battleship
Treaty battleship
A treaty battleship was a battleship built in the 1920s or 1930s under the terms of one of a number of international treaties governing warship construction...

s.

Rise of air power

As early as 1914, the British Admiral Percy Scott
Percy Scott
Admiral Sir Percy Moreton Scott, 1st Baronet GCB KCVO was a British Royal Navy officer and a pioneer in modern naval gunnery.-Early years:...

 predicted that battleships would soon be made irrelevant by aeroplanes
Military aviation
Military aviation is the use of aircraft and other flying machines for the purposes of conducting or enabling warfare, including national airlift capacity to provide logistical supply to forces stationed in a theater or along a front. Air power includes the national means of conducting such...

. By the end of World War I, aeroplanes had successfully adopted the torpedo as a weapon. In 1921 the Italian general and air theorist Giulio Douhet
Giulio Douhet
General Giulio Douhet was an Italian general and air power theorist. He was a key proponent of strategic bombing in aerial warfare...

 completed a hugely influential treatise on strategic bombing titled The Command of the Air, which foresaw the dominance of air power over naval units.

In the 1920s, General Billy Mitchell of the United States Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

, believing that air forces had rendered navies around the world obsolete, testified in front of Congress that "1,000 bombardment airplanes can be built and operated for about the price of one battleship" and that a squadron of these bombers could sink a battleship, making for more efficient use of government funds. This infuriated the U.S. Navy, but Mitchell was nevertheless allowed to conduct a careful series of bombing tests alongside Navy and Marine
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 bombers. In 1921, he bombed and sank numerous ships, including the "unsinkable" German World War I battleship Ostfriesland
SMS Ostfriesland
SMS Ostfriesland "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" was the second vessel of the of battleships of the German Imperial Navy. Named for the region of East Frisia, Ostfrieslands keel was laid in October 1908 at the Kaiserliche Werft dockyard in Wilhelmshaven...

 and the American pre-dreadnought .

Although Mitchell had required "war-time conditions", the ships sunk were obsolete, stationary, defenseless and had no damage control. The sinking of Ostfriesland was accomplished by violating an agreement that would have allowed Navy engineers to examine the effects of various munitions: Mitchell's airmen disregarded the rules, and sank the ship within minutes in a coordinated attack. The stunt made headlines, and Mitchell declared, "No surface vessels can exist wherever air forces acting from land bases are able to attack them." While far from conclusive, Mitchell's test was significant because it put proponents of the battleship against naval aviation on the back foot. Rear Admiral William A. Moffett
William A. Moffett
William Adger Moffett was an American admiral notable as the architect of naval aviation in the United States Navy.-Biography:...

 used public relations against Mitchell to make headway toward expansion of the U.S. Navy's nascent aircraft carrier program.

Rearmament

The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, and Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 extensively upgraded and modernized their World War I–era battleships during the 1930s. Among the new features were an increased tower height and stability for the optical rangefinder equipment (for gunnery control), more armor (especially around turrets) to protect against plunging fire and aerial bombing, and additional anti-aircraft weapons. Some British ships received a large block superstructure nicknamed the "Queen Anne's castle", such as in the Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth (1913)
HMS Queen Elizabeth was the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth-class of dreadnought battleships, named in honour of Elizabeth I of England. She saw service in both World Wars...

 and Warspite, which would be used in the new conning towers of the King George V
King George V class battleship (1939)
The King George V-class battleships were the most modern British battleships used during World War II. Five ships of this class were built and commissioned: King George V , Prince of Wales , Duke of York , Howe , and Anson .The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 limiting all of the number,...

 fast battleship
Fast battleship
Historically, a fast battleship was a battleship which emphasized speed without - in concept - undo compromise of either armor or armament. The term is especially appropriate when applied to a design which was not only faster than the preceding battleship class, but faster than subsequent classes...

s. External bulges were added to improve both buoyancy to counteract weight increase and provide underwater protection against mines and torpedoes. The Japanese rebuilt all of their battleships, plus their battlecruisers, with distinctive "pagoda
Pagoda
A pagoda is the general term in the English language for a tiered tower with multiple eaves common in Nepal, India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other parts of Asia. Some pagodas are used as Taoist houses of worship. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist,...

" structures, though the received a more modern bridge tower that would influence the new Yamato
Yamato class battleship
The were battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy constructed and operated during World War II. Displacing at full load, the vessels were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed. The class carried the largest naval artillery ever fitted to a warship, nine naval...

 battleships. Bulges were fitted, including steel tube array to improve both underwater and vertical protection along waterline. The U.S. experimented with cage masts
Lattice mast
Lattice masts, or cage masts, are a type of observation mast common on major warships in the early 20th century. They were used most prominently on American dreadnought battleships and armored cruisers of the World War I era. Observation posts were mounted on the masts and used to direct the fire...

 and later tripod masts, though after Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 some of the most severely damaged ships such as West Virginia
USS West Virginia (BB-48)
USS West Virginia , a , was the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 35th state.Her keel was laid down on 12 April 1920 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 17 November 1921 sponsored by Miss Alice Wright Mann,...

 and California
USS California (BB-44)
USS California , a Tennessee-class battleship, was the fifth ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 31st state. Beginning as the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, she served in the Pacific her entire career. She was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor at her moorings in Battleship Row,...

 were rebuilt to a similar appearance to their Iowa class
Iowa class battleship
The Iowa-class battleships were a class of fast battleships ordered by the United States Navy in 1939 and 1940 to escort the Fast Carrier Task Forces which would operate in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Six were ordered during the course of World War II, but only four were completed in...

 contemporaries (called tower masts). Radar, which was effective beyond visual contact and was effective in complete darkness or adverse weather conditions, was introduced to supplement optical fire control.

Even when war threatened again in the late 1930s, battleship construction did not regain the level of importance which it had held in the years before World War I. The "building holiday" imposed by the naval treaties meant that the building capacity of dockyards worldwide was relatively reduced, and the strategic position had changed.

In Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, the ambitious Plan Z
Plan Z
Plan Z was the name given to the planned re-equipment and expansion of the Nazi German Navy ordered by Adolf Hitler on January 27, 1939...

 for naval rearmament was abandoned in favour of a strategy of submarine warfare supplemented by the use of battlecruisers and Bismarck
Bismarck class battleship
The Bismarck class was a pair of battleships built by the German Kriegsmarine shortly before the outbreak of World War II. The ships were the largest warships built by the German Navy and the heaviest capital ships ever completed in Europe...

-class battleships as commerce raiders. In Britain, the most pressing need was for air defenses and convoy escorts to safeguard the civilian population from bombing or starvation, and re-armament construction plans consisted of five ships of the King George V
King George V class battleship (1939)
The King George V-class battleships were the most modern British battleships used during World War II. Five ships of this class were built and commissioned: King George V , Prince of Wales , Duke of York , Howe , and Anson .The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 limiting all of the number,...

 class. It was in the Mediterranean that navies remained most committed to battleship warfare. France intended to build six battleships of the Dunkerque
Dunkerque class battleship
The Dunkerque class was a new type of warship of the French Navy built during the 1930s, labeled as 'fast battleships'. Not as large as other contemporary battleships, they were designed to counter the threat of the German pocket battleships of the Deutschland class. They had a specific main...

 and Richelieu
Richelieu class battleship
The Richelieu class battleships were the last and largest battleships of the French Navy, staying in service into the 1960s. They still remain to this day the largest warships ever built by France...

 classes, and the Italians two Littorio
Littorio class battleship
The Littorio class, also known as the Vittorio Veneto class,Vittorio Veneto and Littorio were laid down on the same date, so ambiguity exists in the naming of the class. was a class of battleship of the Regia Marina, the Italian navy. The class was composed of four ships: Littorio, Vittorio Veneto,...

-class ships. Neither navy built significant aircraft carriers. The U.S. preferred to spend limited funds on aircraft carriers until the South Dakota
South Dakota class battleship (1939)
The South Dakota-class was a group of four fast battleships built by the United States Navy. They were the second class of battleships to be named after the 40th State; the first class was designed in the 1920s and canceled under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. The class comprised four...

 class. Japan, also prioritising aircraft carriers, nevertheless began work on three mammoth Yamato
Yamato class battleship
The were battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy constructed and operated during World War II. Displacing at full load, the vessels were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed. The class carried the largest naval artillery ever fitted to a warship, nine naval...

-class ships (although the third, Shinano
Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano
named after the ancient Shinano Province, was an aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. Initially laid down as the third of the battleships, Shinano′s partially complete hull was converted to an aircraft carrier in 1942, midway through construction. Over the next two...

, was later completed as a carrier) and a planned fourth was cancelled.

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, the Spanish
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

 navy consisted of only two small dreadnought battleships, España
Spanish battleship Alfonso XIII
Alfonso XIII was an España-class dreadnought battleship of the Spanish Navy which served in the Spanish fleet from 1915 to 1937. She was renamed España in 1931 for her sister ship, an earlier battleship España that served in the Spanish fleet from 1913 to 1923.-Technical...

 and Jaime I
Spanish battleship Jaime I
Jaime I was an España-class dreadnought battleship of the Spanish Navy which served in the Spanish fleet from 1921 to 1937.-Technical Characteristics:...

. España (originally named Alfonso XIII), by then in reserve at the northwestern naval base of El Ferrol, fell into Nationalist hands in July 1936. The crew aboard Jaime I murdered their officers, mutinied, and joined the Republican Navy. Thus each side had one battleship; however, the Republican Navy generally lacked experienced officers. The Spanish battleships mainly restricted themselves to mutual blockades, convoy escort duties, and shore bombardment, rarely in direct fighting against other surface units. In April 1937, España ran onto a mine laid by friendly forces, and sank with little loss of life. In May 1937, Jaime I was damaged by Nationalist air attacks and a grounding incident. The ship was forced to go back to port to be repaired. There she was again hit by several aerial bombs. It was then decided to tow the battleship to a more secure port, but during the transport she suffered an internal explosion that caused 300 deaths and her total loss. Several Italian and German capital ships participated in the non-intervention blockade. On 29 May 1937, two Republican aircraft managed to bomb the German pocket battleship outside Ibiza
Ibiza
Ibiza or Eivissa is a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea 79 km off the coast of the city of Valencia in Spain. It is the third largest of the Balearic Islands, an autonomous community of Spain. With Formentera, it is one of the two Pine Islands or Pityuses. Its largest cities are Ibiza...

, causing severe damage and loss of life. retaliated two days later by bombarding Almería
Almería
Almería is a city in Andalusia, Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the capital of the province of the same name.-Toponym:Tradition says that the name Almería stems from the Arabic المرية Al-Mariyya: "The Mirror", comparing it to "The Mirror of the Sea"...

, causing much destruction, and the resulting Deutschland incident meant the end of German and Italian support for non-intervention.

World War II

The German battleship —an obsolete pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought battleship is the general term for all of the types of sea-going battleships built between the mid-1890s and 1905. Pre-dreadnoughts replaced the ironclad warships of the 1870s and 1880s...

—fired the first shots of World War II with the bombardment of the Polish garrison at Westerplatte
Westerplatte
Westerplatte is a peninsula in Gdańsk, Poland, located on the Baltic Sea coast mouth of the Dead Vistula , in the Gdańsk harbour channel...

; and the final surrender of the Japanese Empire took place aboard a United States Navy battleship, . Between those two events, it had become clear that aircraft carriers were the new principal ships of the fleet and that battleships now performed a secondary role.

Battleships played a part in major engagements in Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean theatres; in the Atlantic, the Germans used their battleships as independent commerce raiders. However, clashes between battleships were of little strategic importance. The Battle of the Atlantic was fought between destroyers and submarines, and most of the decisive fleet clashes of the Pacific war were determined by aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s.

In the first year of the war, armored warships defied predictions that aircraft would dominate naval warfare. Scharnhorst
German battleship Scharnhorst
Scharnhorst was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the lead ship of her class, which included one other ship, Gneisenau. The ship was built at the Kriegsmarinewerft dockyard in Wilhelmshaven; she was laid down on 15...

 and Gneisenau
German battleship Gneisenau
Gneisenau was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the second vessel of her class, which included one other ship, Scharnhorst. The ship was built at the Deutsche Werke dockyard in Kiel; she was laid down on 6 May 1935...

 surprised and sank the aircraft carrier Glorious off western Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 in June 1940. This engagement marked the last time a fleet carrier was sunk by surface gunnery. In the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir, British battleships opened fire on the French battleships harboured in Algiers with their own heavy guns, and later pursued fleeing French ships with planes from aircraft carriers.

The subsequent years of the war saw many demonstrations of the maturity of the aircraft carrier as a strategic naval weapon and its potential against battleships. The British air attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto
Battle of Taranto
The naval Battle of Taranto took place on the night of 11–12 November 1940 during the Second World War. The Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft ship-to-ship naval attack in history, flying a small number of obsolescent biplane torpedo bombers from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea...

 sank one Italian battleship and damaged two more. The same Swordfish
Fairey Swordfish
The Fairey Swordfish was a torpedo bomber built by the Fairey Aviation Company and used by the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy during the Second World War...

 torpedo bombers played a crucial role in sinking the German commerce-raider .
On 7 December 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

. Within a short time five of eight U.S. battleships were sunk or sinking, with the rest damaged. The American aircraft carriers were out to sea, however, and evaded detection. They in turn would take up the fight, eventually turning the tide of the war in the Pacific
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

. The sinking of the British battleship Prince of Wales
Sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse
The sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse was a Second World War naval engagement that took place north of Singapore, off the east coast of Malaya, near Kuantan, Pahang where the British Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse were sunk by land-based bombers and...

 and her escort, the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, demonstrated the vulnerability of a battleship to air attack while at sea without sufficient air cover, finally settling the argument begun by Mitchell in 1921. Both warships were under way and enroute to attack the Japanese amphibious force that had invaded Malaya
Battle of Malaya
The Malayan Campaign was a campaign fought by Allied and Japanese forces in Malaya, from 8 December 1941 – 31 January 1942 during the Second World War. The campaign was dominated by land battles between British Commonwealth army units, and the Imperial Japanese Army...

 when they were caught by Japanese land-based bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

s and torpedo bomber
Torpedo bomber
A torpedo bomber is a bomber aircraft designed primarily to attack ships with aerial torpedoes which could also carry out conventional bombings. Torpedo bombers existed almost exclusively prior to and during World War II when they were an important element in many famous battles, notably the...

s on 10 December 1941.

At many of the early crucial battles of the Pacific, for instance Coral Sea
Battle of the Coral Sea
The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought from 4–8 May 1942, was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia. The battle was the first fleet action in which aircraft carriers engaged...

 and Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

, battleships were either absent or overshadowed as carriers launched wave after wave of planes into the attack at a range of hundreds of miles. In later battles in the Pacific, battleships primarily performed shore bombardment in support of amphibious landings and provided anti-aircraft defense as escort for the carriers. Even the largest battleships ever constructed, Japan's Yamato class
Yamato class battleship
The were battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy constructed and operated during World War II. Displacing at full load, the vessels were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed. The class carried the largest naval artillery ever fitted to a warship, nine naval...

, which carried a main battery of nine 18-inch (46 cm) guns and were designed as a principal strategic weapon, were never given a chance to show their potential in the decisive battleship action that figured in Japanese pre-war planning.

The last battleship confrontation in history was the Battle of Surigao Strait, on October 25, 1944, in which the classic "crossing the T
Crossing the T
Crossing the T or Capping the T is a classic naval warfare tactic attempted from the late 19th to mid 20th century, in which a line of warships crossed in front of a line of enemy ships, allowing the crossing line to bring all their guns to bear while receiving fire from only the forward guns of...

" tactic was employed for the last time to enable a superior American battleship group to decimate a lesser Japanese battleship group with concentration of fire directed by radar, however purists note that the early wave of torpedoes from American destroyers caused a crucial reduction in Japanese firepower, and those remaining lacked the ability to direct fire with radar. All but one of the American battleships in this confrontation had previously been sunk by the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 and subsequently raised and repaired. When Mississippi
USS Mississippi
USS Mississippi, named either for the state of Mississippi or the Mississippi River, may refer to: was a sidewheel frigate that saw action in the Mexican–American War and was lost during the American Civil War. was the lead ship of her class of battleships, saw action before World War I and was...

 fired the last salvo of this battle, the last salvo fired by a battleship against another heavy ship, she was "firing a funeral salute to a finished era of naval warfare."

Cold War

After World War II, several navies retained their existing battleships, but they were no longer strategically dominant military assets. Indeed, it soon became apparent that they were no longer worth the considerable cost of construction and maintenance and only one new battleship was commissioned after the war, HMS Vanguard. During the war it had been demonstrated that battleship-on-battleship engagements like Leyte Gulf
Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.It was fought in waters...

 or the sinking of were the exception and not the rule, and with the growing role of aircraft engagement ranges were becoming longer and longer, making heavy gun armament irrelevant. The armor of a battleship was equally irrelevant in the face of a nuclear attack
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent. Compared to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can be vastly more destructive in range and extent of damage...

 as tactical missiles with a range of 100 kilometres (62.1 mi) or more could be mounted on the Soviet and . By the end of the 1950s, minor vessel classes which formerly offered no noteworthy opposition now were capable of eliminating battleships at will.

The remaining battleships met a variety of ends. and were sunk during the testing of nuclear weapons in Operation Crossroads
Operation Crossroads
Operation Crossroads was a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. It was the first test of a nuclear weapon after the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945...

 in 1946. Both battleships proved resistant to nuclear air burst but vulnerable to underwater nuclear explosions. The Italian Giulio Cesare
Italian battleship Giulio Cesare
Giulio Cesare , motto Caesar Adest was a Conte di Cavour-class battleship that served in the Regia Marina in both World Wars before joining the Soviet Navy as the Novorossiysk. Her keel was laid down on 24 June 1910 at Cantieri Ansaldo, Genoa...

 was taken by the Soviets as reparations and renamed Novorossiysk; she was sunk by a left over German mine in the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 on 29 October 1955. The two Andrea Doria class
Andrea Doria class battleship
The Andrea Doria class was a class of dreadnought battleships of the Regia Marina . Only two were built, in the La Spezia and Castellammare shipyards, in Italy, between 1912 and 1915....

 ships were scrapped in 1956. The French Lorraine
French battleship Lorraine
The Lorraine was a French Navy battleship of the Bretagne class named in honour of the region of Lorraine in France.- Construction :...

 was scrapped in 1954, Richelieu in 1968, and Jean Bart
French ship Jean Bart
Jean Bart may refer to one of the following ships of the French Navy or privateers named in honour of Jean Bart , a French naval commander and privateer....

 in 1970.
The United Kingdom's four surviving King George V class
King George V class battleship (1939)
The King George V-class battleships were the most modern British battleships used during World War II. Five ships of this class were built and commissioned: King George V , Prince of Wales , Duke of York , Howe , and Anson .The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 limiting all of the number,...

 ships were scrapped in 1957, and Vanguard
HMS Vanguard (23)
HMS Vanguard was a British fast battleship built during World War II and commissioned after the end of the war. She was the only ship of her class and was the biggest, fastest and last of the Royal Navy's dreadnoughts, and the final battleship to be launched in the world...

 followed in 1960. All other surviving British battleships had been sold or broken up by 1949. The Soviet Union's Petropavlovsk was scrapped in 1953, Sevastopol in 1957 and Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya (back under her original name, Gangut, since 1942) in 1956-7. Brazil's Minas Gerais was scrapped in Genoa in 1953, and her sister ship São Paulo
Brazilian battleship Sao Paulo
São Paulo was a dreadnought battleship designed for the Brazilian Navy by the British company Armstrong Whitworth. She was the second of two ships in the Minas Geraes class, and was named after the state and city of São Paulo....

 sank during a storm in the Atlantic en route to the breakers in Italy in 1951.

Argentina kept its two Rivadavia class
Rivadavia class battleship
The Rivadavia class was a two-ship group of battleships designed by the American Fore River Shipbuilding Company for the Argentine Navy...

 ships until 1956 and Chile kept Almirante Latorre
Chilean battleship Almirante Latorre
Almirante Latorre, named after Juan José Latorre, was a super-dreadnought battleship built for the Chilean Navy . She was the first of a planned two-ship class that would respond to earlier warship purchases by other South American countries...

 (formerly HMS Canada) until 1959. The Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 battlecruiser Yavuz (formerly Goeben
SMS Goeben
SMS Goeben was the second of two Moltke-class battlecruisers of the Imperial German Navy, launched in 1911 and named after the German Franco-Prussian War veteran General August Karl von Goeben...

, launched in 1911) was scrapped in 1976 after an offer to sell her back to Germany was refused. Sweden had several small coastal-defense battleships, one of which, Gustav V
HMS Gustav V
HMS Gustav V was a Sverige-class coastal defence ship of the Swedish navy.-External links:...

, survived until 1970. The Soviets scrapped four large incomplete cruisers in the late 1950s, whilst plans to build a number of new Stalingrad-class
Stalingrad Class Battlecruiser
The Stalingrad-class battlecruiser, also known in the Soviet Union as Project 82 , was intended to be built for the Soviet Navy after World War II. Three ships were ordered, but none were ever completed....

 battlecruisers were abandoned following the death of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 in 1953. The three old German battleships , , and Hessen
SMS Hessen
SMS Hessen"SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" was the third of five pre-dreadnought battleships of the Braunschweig class. She was laid down in 1902, launched the following year, and commissioned into the German Imperial Navy in 1905. She was named after the state of Hesse. Her sister ships...

 all met similar ends. Hessen was taken over by the Soviet Union and renamed Tsel. She was scrapped in 1960. Schleswig-Holstein was renamed Borodino, and was used as a target ship until 1960. Schlesien, too, was used as a target ship. She was broken up between 1952 and 1957.

The Iowa class battleships
Iowa class battleship
The Iowa-class battleships were a class of fast battleships ordered by the United States Navy in 1939 and 1940 to escort the Fast Carrier Task Forces which would operate in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Six were ordered during the course of World War II, but only four were completed in...

 gained a new lease of life in the U.S. Navy as fire support ships. Radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 and computer-controlled gunfire could be aimed with pinpoint accuracy to target. The U.S. recommissioned all four Iowa class battleships for the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 and the for the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. These were primarily used for shore bombardment, New Jersey firing nearly 6,000 rounds of 16 inch shells and over 14,000 rounds of 5 inch projectiles during her tour on the gunline, seven times more rounds against shore targets in Vietnam than she had fired in the Second World War.

As part of Navy Secretary
United States Secretary of the Navy
The Secretary of the Navy of the United States of America is the head of the Department of the Navy, a component organization of the Department of Defense...

 John F. Lehman's effort to build a 600-ship Navy
600-ship Navy
The 600 Ship Navy was a strategic plan of the United States Navy during the 1980s to rebuild its fleet after cutbacks that followed the end of the Vietnam War...

 in the 1980s, and in response to the commissioning of Kirov
Soviet battlecruiser Kirov
Kirov, the lead ship of her class of nuclear-powered missile cruisers, is one of the major and biggest surface warships of the Russian Navy, though it was originally built for the Soviet Navy. It is similar in size to a World War II battleship...

 by the Soviet Union, the United States recommissioned all four Iowa class battleships. On several occasions, battleships were support ships in carrier battle group
Carrier battle group
A carrier battle group consists of an aircraft carrier and its escorts, together composing the group. The first naval task forces built around carriers appeared just prior to and during World War II. The Imperial Japanese Navy was the first to assemble a large number of carriers into a single...

s, or led their own battleship battle group. These were modernized to carry Tomahawk missiles, with New Jersey seeing action bombarding Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 in 1983 and 1984, while and fired their 16 inch (406 mm) guns at land targets and launched missiles during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Wisconsin served as the TLAM
BGM-109 Tomahawk
The Tomahawk is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile. Introduced by General Dynamics in the 1970s, it was designed as a medium- to long-range, low-altitude missile that could be launched from a surface platform. It has been improved several times and, by way of corporate divestitures...

 strike commander for the Persian Gulf, directing the sequence of launches that marked the opening of Desert Storm, firing a total of 24 TLAMs during the first two days of the campaign. The primary threat to the battleships were Iraqi shore based surface-to-surface missiles; Missouri was targeted by two Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

i Silkworm missile
Silkworm missile
The Shang Yo or SY-series , and the Hai Ying or HY-series were early Chinese anti-ship missiles. They were derived from the Soviet P-15 Termit missile.The HY-1 and HY-2 received the NATO reporting name Silkworm...

s, with one missing and another being intercepted by the British destroyer .

All four Iowas were decommissioned in the early 1990s, making them the last battleships to see active service. USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin were, until fiscal year 2006, maintained to a standard where they could be rapidly returned to service as fire support vessels, pending the development of a superior fire support vessel. The U.S. Marine Corps believes that the current naval surface fire support gun and missile programs will not be able to provide adequate fire support for an amphibious assault
Amphibious warfare
Amphibious warfare is the use of naval firepower, logistics and strategy to project military power ashore. In previous eras it stood as the primary method of delivering troops to non-contiguous enemy-held terrain...

 or onshore operations.

Modern times

With the decommissioning of the last Iowa-class ships, no battleships remain in service (including in reserve) with any navy worldwide. A number are preserved as museum ship
Museum ship
A museum ship, or sometimes memorial ship, is a ship that has been preserved and converted into a museum open to the public, for educational or memorial purposes...

s, either afloat or in drydock. The U.S. has a large number of battleships on display: , , , , , and . Missouri and New Jersey are now museums at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 and Camden, New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey
The city of Camden is the county seat of Camden County, New Jersey. It is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 77,344...

, respectively. Wisconsin was removed from the Naval Vessel Register
Naval Vessel Register
The Naval Vessel Register is the official inventory of ships and service craft in custody of or titled by the United States Navy. It contains information on ships and service craft that make up the official inventory of the Navy from the time a vessel is authorized through its life cycle and...

 in 2006 and now serves as a museum ship in Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. With a population of 242,803 as of the 2010 Census, it is Virginia's second-largest city behind neighboring Virginia Beach....

. Texas, the first battleship turned into a museum, is on display at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site includes the location of the Battle of San Jacinto, and the USS Texas. It is located off the Houston Ship Channel in LaPorte, Texas. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960....

, near Houston. North Carolina is on display in Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington is a port city in and is the county seat of New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States. The population is 106,476 according to the 2010 Census, making it the eighth most populous city in the state of North Carolina...

. The only other 20th Century battleship on display is the Japanese pre-Dreadnought .

Doctrine

Battleships were the embodiment of sea power. For Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan was a United States Navy flag officer, geostrategist, and historian, who has been called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His concept of "sea power" was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide...

 and his followers, a strong navy was vital to the success of a nation, and control of the seas was vital for the projection of force on land and overseas. Mahan's theory, proposed in 1890's The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783
The Influence of Sea Power upon History
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783 is a history of naval warfare written in 1890 by Alfred Thayer Mahan. It details the role of sea power throughout history and discusses the various factors needed to support and achieve sea power, with emphasis on having the largest and most...

, dictated the role of the battleship was to sweep the enemy from the seas. While the work of escorting, blockading
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

, and raiding might be done by cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s or smaller vessels, the presence of the battleship was a potential threat to any convoy escorted by any vessels other than capital ships. (This concept came to be known as a "fleet in being
Fleet in being
In naval warfare, a fleet in being is a naval force that extends a controlling influence without ever leaving port. Were the fleet to leave port and face the enemy, it might lose in battle and no longer influence the enemy's actions, but while it remains safely in port the enemy is forced to...

".) Mahan went on to say victory could only be achieved by engagements between battleships, (which came to be known as the "decisive battle" doctrine in some navies
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

), while guerre de course (developed by the Jeune École
Jeune Ecole
The Jeune École was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, powerfully equipped units to combat a larger battleship fleet, and commerce raiders capable of ending the trade of the rival nation...

) could never succeed.

Mahan was highly influential in naval and political circles throughout the age of the battleship, calling for a large fleet of the most powerful battleships possible. Mahan's work developed in the late 1880s, and by the end of the 1890s it had a massive international impact, in the end adopted by many major navies (notably the British, American, German, and Japanese). The strength of Mahanian opinion was important in the development of the battleships arms races, and equally important in the agreement of the Powers to limit battleship numbers in the interwar era.

The "fleet in being" suggested battleships could simply by their existence tie down superior enemy resources. This in turn was believed to be able to tip the balance of a conflict even without a battle. This suggested even for inferior naval powers a battleship fleet could have important strategic impact.

Tactics

While the role of battleships in both World Wars reflected Mahanian doctrine, the details of battleship deployment were more complex. Unlike the ship of the line
Ship of the line
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

, the battleships of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries had significant vulnerability to torpedoes and mines, weapons which could be used by relatively small and inexpensive craft. The Jeune École school of thought of the 1870s and 1880s recommended placing torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

s alongside battleships; these would hide behind the battleships until gun-smoke obscured visibility enough for them to dart out and fire their torpedoes. While this tactic was vitiated by the development of smokeless propellant, the threat from more capable torpedo craft (later including submarines) remained. By the 1890s the Royal Navy had developed the first destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s, which were initially designed to intercept and drive off any attacking torpedo boats. During the First World War and subsequently, battleships were rarely deployed without a protective screen of destroyers.

Battleship doctrine emphasised the concentration of the battlegroup. In order for this concentrated force to be able to bring its power to bear on a reluctant opponent (or to avoid an encounter with a stronger enemy fleet), battlefleets needed some means of locating enemy ships beyond horizon range. This was provided by scouting forces; at various stages battlecruisers, cruisers, destroyers, airship
Airship
An airship or dirigible is a type of aerostat or "lighter-than-air aircraft" that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms...

s, submarines and aircraft were all used. (With the development of radio, direction finding
Direction finding
Direction finding refers to the establishment of the direction from which a received signal was transmitted. This can refer to radio or other forms of wireless communication...

 and traffic analysis
Traffic analysis
Traffic analysis is the process of intercepting and examining messages in order to deduce information from patterns in communication. It can be performed even when the messages are encrypted and cannot be decrypted. In general, the greater the number of messages observed, or even intercepted and...

 would come into play, as well, so even shore stations, broadly speaking, joined the battlegroup.) So for most of their history, battleships operated surrounded by squadrons of destroyers and cruisers. The North Sea campaign of the First World War illustrates how, despite this support, the threat of mine and torpedo attack, and the failure to integrate or appreciate the capabilities of new techniques, seriously inhibited the operations of the Royal Navy Grand Fleet, the greatest battleship fleet of its time.

Strategic and diplomatic impact

The presence of battleships had a great psychological and diplomatic impact. Similar to possessing nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s today, the ownership of battleships served to enhance a nation's force projection.

Even during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the psychological impact of a battleship was significant. In 1946, USS Missouri was dispatched to deliver the remains of the ambassador from Turkey, and her presence in Turkish and Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 waters staved off a possible Soviet thrust into the Balkan
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 region. In September 1983, when Druze
Druze
The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism. The Druze have an eclectic set of beliefs that incorporate several elements from Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism...

 militia in Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

's Shouf Mountains fired upon U.S. Marine peacekeepers, the arrival of USS New Jersey stopped the firing. Gunfire from New Jersey later killed militia leaders.

Value for money

Battleships were the largest and most complex, and hence the most expensive warships of their time; as a result, the value of investment in battleships has always been contested. As the French politician Etienne Lamy wrote in 1879, "The construction of battleships is so costly, their effectiveness so uncertain and of such short duration, that the enterprise of creating an armored fleet seems to leave fruitless the perseverance of a people". The Jeune École
Jeune Ecole
The Jeune École was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, powerfully equipped units to combat a larger battleship fleet, and commerce raiders capable of ending the trade of the rival nation...

 school of thought of the 1870s and 1880s sought alternatives to the crippling expense and debatable utility of a conventional battlefleet. It proposed what would nowadays be termed a sea denial
Sea denial
Sea denial is a military term describing attempts to deny an enemy's ability to use the sea but at the same time making no attempt to control the sea itself. It is a far easier strategy to carry out than sea control because it requires the mere existence of a navy...

 strategy, based on fast, long-ranged cruisers for commerce raiding and torpedo boat flotillas to attack enemy ships attempting to blockade French ports. The ideas of the Jeune Ecole were ahead of their time; it was not until the 20th century that efficient mines, torpedoes, submarines, and aircraft were available that allowed similar ideas to be effectively implemented.

The determination of powers such as the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 to build battlefleets with which to confront much stronger rivals has been criticised by historians, who emphasise the futility of investment in a battlefleet which has no chance of matching its opponent in an actual battle. According to this view, attempts by a weaker navy to compete head-to-head with a stronger one in battleship construction simply wasted resources which could have been better invested in attacking the enemy's points of weakness. In Germany's case, the British dependence on massive imports of food and raw materials proved to be a near-fatal weakness, once Germany had accepted the political risk of unrestricted submarine warfare
Unrestricted submarine warfare
Unrestricted submarine warfare is a type of naval warfare in which submarines sink merchantmen without warning, as opposed to attacks per prize rules...

 against commercial shipping. Although the U-boat offensive in 1917–18 was ultimately defeated, it was successful in causing huge material loss and forcing the Allies to divert vast resources into anti-submarine warfare
Anti-submarine warfare
Anti-submarine warfare is a branch of naval warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, or other submarines to find, track and deter, damage or destroy enemy submarines....

. This success, though not ultimately decisive, was nevertheless in sharp contrast to the inability of the German battlefleet to challenge the supremacy of Britain's far stronger fleet.

See also


External links

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