Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

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delcyros
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by delcyros » Sun Oct 21, 2012 8:15 pm

An interesting read but apart from aspects of speculation I find it interesting that everybody attempts to explain AGS decision making processes from a gunnery perspective, yet Langsdorff had a determined torpedo background, beeing member and CEO of the Torpedoversuchsanstalt earlier, commanded torpedoboats earlier in his career.
Issues I have with US cruisers in this period:
Practically unreliable base fuses, particularely for 6in ammo as mentioned earlier.
Spotting against a PBB which is targeted by three Cruisers with optical spotting only (note that 6in and 8in impacts are difficult to tell apart) would likely heavily detoriate effectivity unless point blanc range is attained.
Long range accuracy (18000 yard and more) was poor for cruisers in all early pacific actions.
It may also be noted that 11in splinters from near misses may prove dangerous to exposed vitals, including gunhouses.
What I see problematic with AGS:
She wasn't able to make more than 24kts sustained with the state of machinery. She had no scarp- just a 100 mm thick, 4.66m deep and 11 deg inclined main belt (rather extensive for a CA) and seperated from it with a bulwark way, another 40mm thick, similarely inclined and 7m+ deep ATB acting as effective splinter catcher.

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by alecsandros » Mon Oct 22, 2012 5:53 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
Thorsten Wahl wrote:
The KM tried to provide back up in many cases.
Yeap, the accent falls on "tried"... Bismarck remained alone after May 24th; Tirpitz remained alone during the Loffoten raid, SCharnhorst remained alone at North Cape; the panzerschiffes almost always operated alone in their Atlantic missions; even HIpper had one lonely raid in 1940, IIRC.
Usualy, they were to short on capital ships to manage to send more than one...

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RF
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by RF » Mon Oct 22, 2012 8:00 am

Dave Saxton wrote: Regardless of classifications, a Panzerschiff was more a battle cruiser than a heavy cruiser as a surface combatant. That 28cm main battery sets it apart and above a heavy cruiser in terms of fire power. Additionally, a 15cm caliber secondary armament is more powerful than a cruisers secondary armament. Indeed 15cm is the typical main armament of a light cruiser.
I disagree. The panzerschiffe had six eleven inch guns whereas Scharnhorst had nine. Yes those six guns packed substantial hitting power - against one targetted cruiser. But not overwhelmingly so. In WW2 these panzerschiffe, indeed most KM ships never came up against their equals in say the US Navy. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if a US heavy cruiser had encountered a panzerschiff in open seas, with no other forces around to intervene.
The very name is a misnomer for the panzerschiffe weren't that heavily armoured, whereas Scharnhorst was.

With respect to the secondary 5.9 inch guns they aren't as formidable as at first sight. Only four guns in single lightly armoured mounts on either flank, poor fire direction and generally only good for sinking stationery merchant ship targets. The cruises of both Scheer and AGS evidences this.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by RF » Mon Oct 22, 2012 8:05 am

Dave Saxton wrote: In Artic operations German warships always operated in groups. This was intended for Scharnhorst's last operation as well. Scharnhorst sailed in the company of 5 zerstroyers. Scharnhorst was to over power the convoy's close escort or enemy cruisers allowing the destroyers to more efficiently go about their bussiness.
As I understood it, the role of Johanneson and his five destroyers were to act as scouts for Scharnhorst in locating the target convoy rather than take part in direct convoy attack. That is why Bey detached them from Scharnhorst itself?
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by RF » Mon Oct 22, 2012 8:13 am

delcyros wrote:An interesting read but apart from aspects of speculation I find it interesting that everybody attempts to explain AGS decision making processes from a gunnery perspective, yet Langsdorff had a determined torpedo background, beeing member and CEO of the Torpedoversuchsanstalt earlier, commanded torpedoboats earlier in his career.
Langsdorfs' thinking was clearly set out by Rasenack. Langsdorfs' considerations were from a gunnery point of view, taking into account sea conditions in the South Atlantic, and are logically thought out. In the context given there were sound reasons for closing the range with a cruiser to disable it quickly so that it couldn't use its superior speed to shadow the AGS and keep out of range. What upset Langsdorfs' caculations were three cruisers, a factor only recognised after battle had commenced and Langsdorf was fully committed. Up to that point torpedo considerations weren't relevant.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by RF » Mon Oct 22, 2012 8:16 am

alecsandros wrote:
Dave Saxton wrote:
Thorsten Wahl wrote:
The KM tried to provide back up in many cases.
Yeap, the accent falls on "tried"... Bismarck remained alone after May 24th; Tirpitz remained alone during the Loffoten raid, SCharnhorst remained alone at North Cape; the panzerschiffes almost always operated alone in their Atlantic missions; even HIpper had one lonely raid in 1940, IIRC.
Usualy, they were to short on capital ships to manage to send more than one...
Rheinubung was designed as a concept to overcome this, being originally a four ship, two pronged operation.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:11 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
In Artic operations German warships always operated in groups. This was intended for Scharnhorst's last operation as well. Scharnhorst sailed in the company of 5 zerstroyers. Scharnhorst was to over power the convoy's close escort or enemy cruisers allowing the destroyers to more efficiently go about their bussiness. However, Bey became seperated from the destroyers by turning off a planned recon course and not telling anybody. There were two destroyers (as per the original plan) to stay with Scharnhorst should the destroyers operate seperately from the battle cruiser, and these two broke away from the main destroyer group to regain contact with their charge. They failed to locate the Scharnhorst and SH operated alone until the end. There is evidence that Bey may have been attempting to re-group his scattered forces and/or he didn't known how far he was seperated from his own destroyers prior to the first skirmish.
That really shows how far the KM had fallen from the WW1 German Navy. In WW2 the KM repeatedly failed to coordinate even a few destroyers and heavy ships, both North Cape and Barents Sea are examples of this. In WW1 they could coordinate 20 battleships and scores of destroyers at Jutland, not that there weren't messups at Jutland, but the difference is striking. IMHO a problem of the WW2 KM was that it apparently lacked experience in coordinating larger formations. Individually, ships fought well, in formations, mistakes were the rule.

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:17 am

Ersatz Yorck wrote:
RF wrote:
On paper, yes, but subject to certain caveats. These will relate to range at which the action commences and the immediate British tactics. If the RN commander opts for Harwoods' tactic of splittiing the AGS fire by attacking on two flanks then the AGS will be in trouble once the British cruisers are within range. Rasenack records that one 8 inch shell from Exeter at long range secured a near miss from entering one of the AGS engine rooms, which could have immobilised the ship. From what Rasenack has to say the British 8 inch shells posed far greater menace to AGS than the 6 inch.
If the RN commander acts as Holland did at the DS battle with Bismarck and keeps his two ships as one unit, the advantage passes to AGS particulary while the British ships are out of range.
Why would the GS be in so much more trouble if the British ships split up? Provided the GS concentrates her fire on one target, the distance between the two British ships shouldn't really matter. Also, the speed difference is not that great so provided the GS maneuvers reasonably sensibly, they shouldn't be able to achieve that much distance between themselves anyway.
I am really interested in the answer to this one. Splitting the fire of the main battery as AGS did at River Plate was a big mistake IMHO, especially with only 3 guns in each group. But provided the AGS keeps its main battery fire concentrated on one enemy, is there really an advantage in having a wide separation of the attacking ships? An advantage that is larger than the coordination difficulties and the risk that one of the ships should find itself unsupported if it is crippled and the AGS closes?

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:22 am

RF wrote: With respect to the secondary 5.9 inch guns they aren't as formidable as at first sight. Only four guns in single lightly armoured mounts on either flank, poor fire direction and generally only good for sinking stationery merchant ship targets. The cruises of both Scheer and AGS evidences this.
I always thought KM secondary batteries in general were strangely ineffective. Does anyone know of any example of the secondary battery of any German ship hitting anything at all in WW2?

S&G vs Renown - no
S&G vs Ardent & Acasta: Don't know, but the accounts I have read mention no 5.9 in hits.
Bismarck - no
Channel dash - Only mention is 8 in and 11 in hits on the Worcester.
Barents sea - not AFAIK, only 8 in hits are mentioned.
North Cape - no

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by alecsandros » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:30 am

RF wrote:
Rheinubung was designed as a concept to overcome this, being originally a four ship, two pronged operation.
However, the outcome was 2 ships, later 1 ship...

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:47 pm

Tirpitz remained alone during the Loffoten raid, SCharnhorst remained alone at North Cape;
No, in both cases they operated with several destroyers. At the time of the air attack Tirpitz had recently detached two destroyers to refuel, but Friedrich Ihn had returned from refuelling solo. Friedrich Ihn was with Tirpitz during the air attack. As for Scharnhorst becoming separated from its destroyers I will comment on what I know below.
As I understood it, the role of Johanneson and his five destroyers were to act as scouts for Scharnhorst in locating the target convoy rather than take part in direct convoy attack. That is why Bey detached them from Scharnhorst itself?
The original plan drawn up by Kummetz and adopted by Bey was to use the destroyers as the main strike force against convoys and to have the heavy ships deal with the escorts to allow this to happen. This was in keeping with previous experience in the Artic when German destroyers were rendered less effective by large numbers of escorting destroyers or cruisers, without support from a friendly heavier unit. This was something not done at Barents Sea.

However, because of the severe weather conditions Schniewind had recommended that Scharnhorst go it alone. Bey’s thinking was the exact opposite. In the weather conditions Bey thought Scharnhorst would be vulnerable to enemy torpedo attack, and would not be able to use its chief asset of long range gunnery as effectively as it should- in defense or offense. Bey thought the 5 destroyers should go it without assistance from Scharnhorst. Bey may have thought that weather on the other hand would hinder the enemy cruisers in effectively defending against German destroyers. Doenitz weighed in on the side of Schniewind by stating that Scharnhorst’s superior firepower was essential. Schniewind then changed his mind and recommended that the entire operation be canceled. Doenitz rejected cancellation.

The role of the destroyers was left up to Bey, but Scharnhorst had to go. Bey asked Johannessen after putting to sea if the destroyers could handle the heavy seas, and Johannessen stated that they were doing okay. Johannessen later stated that he wasn’t going let Bey send him back on the pretext of the weather, and then go it alone.

Once the convoy was found he would need those destroyers to act aggressively to avoid a repeat of Barents Sea (forcing the heavy ship to act too timid by the very real threat of torpedo attack) as there were ten British destroyers with the convoy. Bey never detached his destroyers. They became separated instead.

Once they arrived were they expected the convoy and found it not there, Bey started a recon to the west on the assumption that the convoy had been slowed by the weather. The destroyers took up a recon formation with Scharnhorst following from a distance of ten miles. The weather worsened with visibility dropping at times to 300 meters. Bey had forbad the use radar by his destroyers as they approached the convoy to avoid giving away their positions and loosing the element of surprise. After more than an hour the Scharnhorst suddenly turned away to investigate radar contacts, and this was not noticed by the destroyers. Some accounts read that there was a signaling problem, and a message explaining things was not received on Z29. This may be correct as the two destroyers that were to stay with Scharnhorst did attempt to find Scharnhorst. One or more of these may have been in fragmented communication with Scharnhorst. There are some radio messages during this period that have no context other than Bey trying to regroup his forces. It is very possible that the Scharnhorst was having radio problems because of icing of the radio antennas. Furthermore, the fleet B-Dienst (radio intel) team was not embarked.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:56 pm

Ersatz Yorck wrote:That really shows how far the KM had fallen from the WW1 German Navy. In WW2 the KM repeatedly failed to coordinate even a few destroyers and heavy ships, both North Cape and Barents Sea are examples of this.
You not taking into consideration the conditions. At Barents Sea the visbility when they made contact with the convoy was extremely limited. So much so that friend from foe could not be determined. Kummtez re-called his destroyers so he could use the Hipper's long range artillery without sinking his own destroyers. Stange didn't send in his distroyers or open fire because he didn't know if the radar only contacts were the enemy or not. He, like Kummetz, didn't want to confuse his own destroyers with enemy ships once he joined battle with his pocket battleship. See my previous post about how Scharnhorst became seperated from its destroyers.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Oct 22, 2012 4:16 pm

Ersatz Yorck wrote:I always thought KM secondary batteries in general were strangely ineffective. Does anyone know of any example of the secondary battery of any German ship hitting anything at all in WW2?

S&G vs Renown - no
S&G vs Ardent & Acasta: Don't know, but the accounts I have read mention no 5.9 in hits.
Bismarck - no
Channel dash - Only mention is 8 in and 11 in hits on the Worcester.
Barents sea - not AFAIK, only 8 in hits are mentioned.
North Cape - no

Gneisenau hit Ardent with its first salvo from a range 15km using its 15cm guns. This occurred before they opened fire at Glorious with their main batteries from a range of 26km.

Against Renown niether ship used their secondary batteries initially. Scharnhorst later did but this was at extreme long range for 15cm guns. Gneisenau never fired any 15cm rounds during these actions.

As I understand it Hipper scored hits with both its 4.1-inch and its 8-inch batteries at Barent Sea, and Luetzow scored with its 11-inch and (IIRC)5.9s under full radar direction from 15.4km range during this action.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by delcyros » Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:28 pm

RF wrote:
delcyros wrote:An interesting read but apart from aspects of speculation I find it interesting that everybody attempts to explain AGS decision making processes from a gunnery perspective, yet Langsdorff had a determined torpedo background, beeing member and CEO of the Torpedoversuchsanstalt earlier, commanded torpedoboats earlier in his career.
Langsdorfs' thinking was clearly set out by Rasenack. Langsdorfs' considerations were from a gunnery point of view, taking into account sea conditions in the South Atlantic, and are logically thought out. In the context given there were sound reasons for closing the range with a cruiser to disable it quickly so that it couldn't use its superior speed to shadow the AGS and keep out of range. What upset Langsdorfs' caculations were three cruisers, a factor only recognised after battle had commenced and Langsdorf was fully committed. Up to that point torpedo considerations weren't relevant.
I disagree with Rasenack and Your interpretaion of Langsdorffs moves. his concepts and decision making processes were clearly not made from a gunnery point of view. I base my position on the comments of the IGO of AGS, who was in charge of directig the main batteries. He complained heavily about Langsdorffs overacting and occupation of possible an imaginary torpedo tracks, a solid gunnery solution was impossible to sustain under conditions of multiple course changes in rapid successions and overruling to shift fire to a different target.
Rasenack created his book with his own agenda, which can be found in painting a favourable picture of Langsdorff, nevertheless, Langsdorff violated standing orders and messed up the action with his repeated interference.

Langsdorff was an officer with background of the Torpedo inspection. He was a torpedo school officer for very much of his career.
The command over ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE indeed was his first primary artillery fighting ship command (!). Throughout the battle he changed courses repeatedly, organised speed and set course changes after potential torpedo lanes and dictated the distances about what he guessed was on the edge of effective torpedoing distance.
All this pretty much ruined the work of the gunnery officer, who preferred a steady course, loosing his firing solutions with every change and had little hope to engage effective rapid fire (order "gut- schnell", requiring at least two successive straddles for confirmed range). That Langsdorff choose his GO´s platform to command the ship from and not the armoured CT probably didn´t made the IGO´s task any easier...
With all respect for him as a respective and sensible personality, he handled the pocket battlship like a DD, not like a cruiser armed with capitalship guns. It´s pretty easy to compare his actions with suggestions entitled in the "Unterlagen zur Bestimmung der Hauptkampfentfernung" and such a comparison is not favourable for Langsdorffs decision making process from a tactical point of view.

Assuming Langsdorff expected a heavy cruiser of the SUFFOLK class to engage, the H.K.E. suggests a desired range of in between 190hm and 260hm (20,780 yard to 28,440 yard) and additionally always keeping a target angle of nearly 40 deg.
Thus, the correct range would have been in excess of 190hm, which Langsdorff ignored and choosed to close in early in the engagement. He also choose a different approach angle and presented the enemy more favourable target angles than those suggested by GKdos-100. This was a very risky move. From long range, he could mainten a steadier course for longer and let his GO doing his job best to exploit the benefits of the bigger 11.1in naval rifles and C/38k firecontroll gear in long range superiority.
That way he really messed up things. That´s at least what can be read in period primary sources dealing with conclusions based on interrogations of the crew. His AO´s from both, the fore and aft FC stations complained much about this and agreed that the poor hitting rate can be attributed primarely to these violations of GKdos-100 and steady heading.

The problem I have with his engagement in the first place is that assuming he expected a valuable convoi than he should also have expected more escorts. You don´t run into all escorts seperated from the convoi at once. There were no merchants spotted but I speculate that he may have been looking for the HIGHLAND PRINCESS which was reported in this area three days ago. Assuming he expected a minor element of the RN than he should have known that he was confronted with parts of a task force searching for him and he should have denied contact (in fact he was informed by the B-service about multiple TF´s set up to look for him and he was lucky not to run into the TF formed around ARK ROYAL and DUNKERQUE). That would have been possible by the time, Diesels take only minutes to go from cruise to full speed while some boilers in case of ACHILLES and EXETER needed to be lit up in the first place to make steam for speed. Langsdorff had an initial ID advantage (even assuming he miss ID ´ed) and the Ar-196 float planes were more often than once used to drive off scout planes before off Spain and later off Norway. Radar was only aviable to AGS so he could have made good his escape in the night.

Langsdorff violated the suggestions written down in GKdos-100 particularely for such a tactical condition, he also messed up the gunnery element of the ship and handling a Panzerschiff like a torpedoboat represents a poor substitute for compromising the single most important asset of the Panzerschiff: It´s battleship guns and firecontroll gears cramped in a cruiser´s hull.


Independent of this, I also firmly believe that british 8in SAP are both, more reliable and more destructive than US 8in APC.

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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Mon Oct 22, 2012 7:25 pm

As always an interesting post Delcyros.

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