Crossing the T
Crossing the T or Capping the T is a classic naval warfare
Naval warfare
Naval warfare is combat in and on seas, oceans, or any other major bodies of water such as large lakes and wide rivers.-History:Mankind has fought battles on the sea for more than 3,000 years. Land warfare would seem, initially, to be irrelevant and entirely removed from warfare on the open ocean,...

 tactic attempted from the late 19th to mid 20th century, in which a line of 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...

s 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 the enemy.

It became possible to bring all of a ship's main guns to bear only in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries with the advent of steam-powered battleships with rotating gun turrets, which were able to move faster and turn quicker than sailing ships, which had fixed guns facing sideways. The tactic became largely obsolete with the introduction of missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

s and aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 as long-range strikes are not dependent on the direction the ships are facing.


When going into battle, ships would assume a battle line formation called "line astern", in which one vessel followed another in one or more parallel lines. This allowed each ship to fire over wide arcs without lofting salvos
A salvo is the simultaneous discharge of artillery or firearms including the firing of guns either to hit a target or to perform a salute.Troops armed with muzzleloaders required time in which to refill their arms with gun powder and shot...

 of projectiles
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...

 over friendly vessels. Each ship in the line generally engaged its opposite number in the enemy battle line which moved in a parallel
Parallel (geometry)
Parallelism is a term in geometry and in everyday life that refers to a property in Euclidean space of two or more lines or planes, or a combination of these. The assumed existence and properties of parallel lines are the basis of Euclid's parallel postulate. Two lines in a plane that do not...


However, moving ahead of the enemy line on a perpendicular
In geometry, two lines or planes are considered perpendicular to each other if they form congruent adjacent angles . The term may be used as a noun or adjective...

 course (crossing the T) enabled a ship to launch salvoes at the same target with both the forward and rear turrets, maximizing the chances for a hit. It also made ranging error less critical for the ship doing the crossing, while simultaneously more critical for the ship being crossed. In military terms, this is known as enfilade
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 fire. The tactic, designed for heavily armed and armored battleships, was used with varying degrees of success with more lightly armed and armored 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 heavy cruiser
Heavy cruiser
The heavy cruiser was a type of cruiser, a naval warship designed for long range, high speed and an armament of naval guns roughly 203mm calibre . The heavy cruiser can be seen as a lineage of ship design from 1915 until 1945, although the term 'heavy cruiser' only came into formal use in 1930...


Advances in gun manufacture and fire-control system
Fire-control system
A fire-control system is a number of components working together, usually a gun data computer, a director, and radar, which is designed to assist a weapon system in hitting its target. It performs the same task as a human gunner firing a weapon, but attempts to do so faster and more...

s allowed engagements at increasingly long range, from approximately 6,000 yards (5.5 km) at 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...

 in 1905 to 20,000 yards (18 km) 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...

 in 1916. The introduction of brown powder
Brown powder
Brown powder or prismatic powder, sometimes referred as "cocoa powder" due to its color, is an explosive agent similar to black powder, but with a slower burning rate...

, which burned less rapidly than black powder, allowed longer barrels, which allowed greater accuracy; and because it expanded less sharply than black powder, it put less strain on the insides of the barrel, allowing guns to last longer and to be manufactured to tighter tolerances. The addition of 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...

 allowed World War II ships to fire further, more accurately, and at night.


Notable battles in which warships crossed the T include:
  • 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...

     (1905) – Japanese Admiral Togo, by use of wireless
    Wireless telecommunications is the transfer of information between two or more points that are not physically connected. Distances can be short, such as a few meters for television remote control, or as far as thousands or even millions of kilometers for deep-space radio communications...

     communications and the proper deployment of reconnaissance
    Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

     had positioned his fleet in such a way as to bring the Russian
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

     fleet to battle, "irrespective of speeds." Togo had preserved for himself the interior lines of movement, while forcing the longer lines of movement upon his opponent, which ever course the Russian admiral should take; and by his selected positioning had the effect of "throwing the Russian broadsides more and more out of action." "He had headed him" (crossed his T). The Russian admiral, other than retreat or surrender, had no other option(s) other than "charging Togo's battle line" or "accepting a formal pitched battle." Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky
    Zinovy Rozhestvensky
    Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky was an admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy. He was in command of the Second Pacific Squadron in the Battle of Tsushima, during the Russo-Japanese War....

     chose the latter, resulting in his total defeat in naval history's only decisive fleet action fought solely by modern battleships.

  • Battle of Elli
    Naval Battle of Elli
    The Battle of Elli , also known as the Battle of the Dardanelles, took place near the mouth of the Dardanelles on as part of the First Balkan War between the fleets of Greece and the Ottoman Empire...

     (1912) – Rear Admiral
    Rear Admiral
    Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

     Pavlos Kountouriotis aboard the Greek
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

    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...

     Georgios Averof
    Greek cruiser Georgios Averof
    Georgios Averof is a Greek warship which served as the flagship of the Royal Hellenic Navy during most of the first half of the 20th Century...

     at a speed of 20 knots crossed the T of the Turkish
    Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

     fleet on December 13, 1912. The Averof concentrated her fire against the Ottoman
    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...

     flagship, forcing the Turks to retreat.

  • 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...

     (1916) – Admiral Sir John Jellicoe
    John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
    Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO was a British Royal Navy admiral who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in World War I...

    , leader of the British Grand Fleet
    British Grand Fleet
    The Grand Fleet was the main fleet of the British Royal Navy during the First World War.-History:It was formed in 1914 by the British Atlantic Fleet combined with the Home Fleet and it included 35-40 state-of-the-art capital ships. It was initially commanded by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe...

    , was able to cross the T twice against 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...

    s, but the German Fleet was both times able to escape by reversing course in poor visibility. Although the High Seas Fleet was thereby rendered strategically impotent, being unwilling to face the Grand Fleet again, the British were unable to gain the crushing "Second Trafalgar
    Battle of Trafalgar
    The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

    " they had desired. Jutland
    Jutland , historically also called Cimbria, is the name of the peninsula that juts out in Northern Europe toward the rest of Scandinavia, forming the mainland part of Denmark. It has the North Sea to its west, Kattegat and Skagerrak to its north, the Baltic Sea to its east, and the Danish–German...

     is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Lost Opportunities.

  • Battle of Cape Esperance
    Battle of Cape Esperance
    The Battle of Cape Esperance, also known as the Second Battle of Savo Island and, in Japanese sources, as the , took place on 11–12 October 1942, and was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and United States Navy...

     (1942) - First United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     (U.S.) naval night battle victory over the Japanese when a U.S. force of 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
    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 under Norman Scott crossed the T of a cruiser–destroyer force under Aritomo Gotō
    Aritomo Goto
    was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.-Early career:Gotō was born in Ibaraki prefecture in 1888. He graduated from the 38th class of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1910, ranked 30th out of a class of 149 cadets. As a midshipman, he served on the cruiser and...

    . Gotō's force was approaching Guadalcanal
    Guadalcanal is a tropical island in the South-Western Pacific. The largest island in the Solomons, it was discovered by the Spanish expedition of Alvaro de Mendaña in 1568...

     on October 11, 1942 to bombard Henderson Field
    Henderson Field
    Henderson Field is the name of several airports:* Henderson Field on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands, renamed to Honiara International Airport in 2003....

     in support of a Tokyo Express
    Tokyo Express
    The Tokyo Express was the name given by Allied forces to the use of Imperial Japanese Navy ships at night to deliver personnel, supplies, and equipment to Japanese forces operating in and around New Guinea and the Solomon Islands during the Pacific campaign of World War II...

     reinforcement mission when it was surprised and defeated by Scott's force in a confused night battle.

  • Battle of Surigao Strait (1944) – The last time a battle line crossed the T, this engagement took place during the Battle of 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...

    , in the Philippines
    The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

     during 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...

    . Early on October 25, 1944, Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf
    Jesse B. Oldendorf
    Jesse Bartlett "Oley" Oldendorf was an admiral in the United States Navy, famous for defeating a Japanese force in the Battle of Leyte Gulf during World War II...

     was guarding the southern entrance to the Leyte Gulf
    Leyte Gulf
    Leyte Gulf is a body of water immediately east of the island of Leyte in the Philippines, adjoining the Philippine Sea of the Pacific Ocean, at . The Gulf is bounded on the north by the island of Samar, which is separated from Leyte on the west by the narrow San Juanico Strait, and on the south by...

     at the northern end of Surigao Strait
    Surigao Strait
    Surigao Strait is a body of water in the Philippines located between the islands of Mindanao and Leyte. This strait connects the Bohol Sea with Leyte Gulf and is regularly crossed by ferries that transport goods and people between Visayas and Mindanao...

    . He commanded a line of six battleships (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,...

    USS Tennessee (BB-43)
    USS Tennessee , the lead ship of her class of battleship, was the third ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 16th US state. During World War II in the Pacific Theater, she was damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 but was repaired and modernized...

    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,...

    USS Maryland (BB-46)
    USS Maryland , a , was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the seventh state.Her keel was laid down 24 April 1917 by Newport News Shipbuilding Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 20 March 1920, and sponsored by Mrs. E. Brook Lee, wife of the...

    USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)
    USS Pennsylvania was a United States Navy super-dreadnought battleship. She was the third Navy ship named for the state of Pennsylvania....

    , and
    USS Mississippi (BB-41)
    USS Mississippi , a , was the third ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 20th state, and the second battleship to carry the name. Commissioned in 1917, too late to serve in World War I, she served extensively in the Pacific in World War II, for which she earned eight battle stars...

    ), flanked by numerous heavy and light cruisers. A smaller 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...

    ese force under Vice Admiral
    Vice Admiral
    Vice admiral is a senior naval rank of a three-star flag officer, which is equivalent to lieutenant general in the other uniformed services. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral...

     Shoji Nishimura came up the strait, aware of the formidable strength of the American force but nonetheless pressing on. Half of Nishimura's fleet was eliminated by the Americans' destroyer torpedoes, but the Japanese admiral continued on with his remaining few ships. Oldendorf's battleships were arrayed in a line, and they unleashed their radar-directed firepower upon Japanese vessels, whose return fire was ineffectual due to the lack of radar fire control and earlier battle damage. Nishimura went down with his ship. This was the last time the 'T' was crossed in an engagement between battleships, and was history's last occasion in which battleships fought each other.

External references

  • Mahan, Alfred Thayer (1906). Reflections, Historic and Other, Suggested By The Battle Of The Japan Sea. By Captain A. T. Mahan, US Navy. US Naval Institute Proceedings
    In academia, proceedings are the collection of academic papers that are published in the context of an academic conference. They are usually distributed as printed books either before the conference opens or after the conference has closed. Proceedings contain the contributions made by researchers...

    magazine, (Article) June 1906, Volume XXXVI, No. 2, Heritage Collection.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.