Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

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

Post by paul.mercer » Wed Oct 17, 2012 10:47 pm

Gentlemen,
if we forget about US cruisers and omit Ajax or Achilles and add Cumberland or just have Cumberland and Exeter against AGS would that be enough to defeat AGS in a straight fight (no running to harbour)?
Also, if Cumberland with her 8 x 8" had met up with AGS earlier would she have sunk Cumberland? (I'm glad she did'nt as my stepfather was the officer in charge of the Royal Marines turret!)

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

Post by RF » Thu Oct 18, 2012 8:17 am

paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
if we forget about US cruisers and omit Ajax or Achilles and add Cumberland or just have Cumberland and Exeter against AGS would that be enough to defeat AGS in a straight fight (no running to harbour)?
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.
Also, if Cumberland with her 8 x 8" had met up with AGS earlier would she have sunk Cumberland? (I'm glad she did'nt as my stepfather was the officer in charge of the Royal Marines turret!)
If taken by surprise by an alert AGS and Cumberlands' turrets are knocked out quickly, then yes. Remember that the near chance meeting happened in September 1939 prior to the sinking of the Clement, so Cumberland would have had no idea that AGS was at large at the time and hence may not be on full immediate alert.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:36 am

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.

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

Post by RF » Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:10 pm

The River Plate battle offers different evidence, however in that instance it wasn't particulary well handled.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Oct 19, 2012 3:59 pm

Among the complicating factors for the Germans was the ineffectiveness of the 15cm battery (caused mainly by the unknown using of a damaged director to direct it). Had the 15cm battery been more effective in keeping the light cruisers at bay, Langsdorf would not had been obligated to dilute the fire of his effective 28cm battery back and forth among the different targets, but probably could have destroyed or disabled each opponant in turn with his heavy armament.

Another complicating factor was the misidentification of the enemy light cruisers as destroyers until well after the battle had commenced. They probably at first thought the enemy formation was only the escort of the expected convoy and something they could handle without too much risk. The 15cm armament should have been effective enough against destroyers. Once committed to battle they would have to destroy or disable all the enemy in order to prevent them from shadowing them until more powerful forces could be brought in, so they couldn't just run away with their slower warship. However, Langsdorf didn't recklessly rush in.

AGS opened fire at 20,600 meters or about 22,500 yards, with Exeter on a parallel course. It was after firing had commenced that Exeter reversed course. Exeter was now on a parallel but reciprocal course. In hind sight what Langsdorf should have done was to also reverse course-putting the distant "destroyers" well off his port quarter and keeping Exeter on his beam at long range. The "destroyers" would have taken a long time to close range. He must have been intent on getting to that expected convoy rather than being forced away from it, not expecting his 15cm battery to be so ineffective. Just as he was starting to finish off Exeter, his torpedo officer warned him that the enemy light cruisers were getting too close.

I think an important factor in the battle was Langsdorf being injured and knocked out for awhile during the battle.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by RF » Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:11 pm

It is interesting to speculate about these problems if AGS is opposed by Exeter and Cumberland.

If the RN ships divide (as logically they should) then AGS either has to concentrate fire on one (presumably Cumberland) or split fire between the two. At the longer ranges the 5.9 inch guns would be less effective or outranged altogether. Add to this some accurate 8 inch fire, then some 8 inch hits, and AGS having to take rapid evasive action then we have the same degrading effect that started to happen in the actual River Plate battle. Another factor is the Germans fear of torpedo strike, even at long range.
Unless one of the RN ships is sunk quickly then AGS progressively loses the advantage.

One other factor may be even more relevant here, that has been given little coverage in most accounts of the RP battle. Rasenack records that the two actual hits from Exeter left evidence that the shells contained some form of mustard gas. In reality this was never proven, the RN did not use mustard gas shells. But in an action with two heavy cruisers any report of mustard gas shells is likely to carry great alarm for the Germans.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Oct 19, 2012 9:22 pm

Historically cruisers never held up very well to 11" gunfire though. AGS had Exeter on the ropes rather quickly. At the second skirmish during North Cape; Scharnhorst quickly sweep aside Norfolk leaving it hardly fit to carry on the fight for the time being, and was roughly handling Sheffield when Bey broke it off.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by paul.mercer » Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:48 pm

Gentlemen,
Thanks again for your replies.
It seems to me (as a non expert!) that if she had been handled better AGS should have sunk or disabled all the British ships (or am I sticking my neck out!)

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

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Oct 21, 2012 3:34 am

There are no guarantees in war. We must deal in probabilities to a large extent, but how probable was it that a splinter would damage a firecontrol director on AGS? Or dive bombers would arrive over the Japanese flat tops at just the right moment at Midway? Or Scharnhorst's forward radar would be completely destroyed by a hit to the tower foretop? One never knows how the dice will tumble.
Or Scharnhorst's forward radar would be completely destroyed by a hit to the tower foretop?


But maybe that's not all that unlikely. lets see: AGS, Gneisenau, Hood, Bismarck, South Dakota, Duke of York...
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:42 pm

Because of that, having a second ship (if available) as backup for fatal problems appears always as a good choice as it reduces the effect of chance considerably
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by ede144 » Sun Oct 21, 2012 5:21 pm

Thorsten Wahl wrote:Because of that, having a second ship (if available) as backup for fatal problems appears always as a good choice as it reduces the effect of chance considerably
Which was exactly the missery of the KM. Only send lonesome riders out in field with no back up.

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

Post by RF » Sun Oct 21, 2012 5:27 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:Historically cruisers never held up very well to 11" gunfire though. AGS had Exeter on the ropes rather quickly. At the second skirmish during North Cape; Scharnhorst quickly sweep aside Norfolk leaving it hardly fit to carry on the fight for the time being, and was roughly handling Sheffield when Bey broke it off.
This is something of a false analysis, you cannot assume the same of 11 inch fire from Scharnhorst to that of AGS. There isn't the same proportionality against the same type of target.

I recall that in another thread when it was asked what would have happened in the RP battle if AGS was replaced with Scharnhorst and Harwood had Cumberland in company with his other three cruisers, the conclusion was that all four Allied ships would have been sunk pretty quickly. After all in reality Scharnhorst was a battlecruiser - namely a ship designed to smash small groups of cruisers/destroyers AKA convoy escorts. AGS was in a class of ship that the Germans themselves were to later designate as heavy cruisers.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by RF » Sun Oct 21, 2012 5:31 pm

ede144 wrote:
Which was exactly the missery of the KM. Only send lonesome riders out in field with no back up.
But this was a problem in WW1 rather than WW2.

The problem with AGS is that Langsdorf snookered hinself by going to Montevideo. He didn't have to do that. And AGS did have back up, the supply ship Altmark which at the time the British didn't even know about.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Oct 21, 2012 7:05 pm

RF wrote: After all in reality Scharnhorst was a battlecruiser - namely a ship designed to smash small groups of cruisers/destroyers AKA convoy escorts. AGS was in a class of ship that the Germans themselves were to later designate as heavy cruisers.
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.
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Re: Best U.S. cruisers at the river Platte

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Oct 21, 2012 7:26 pm

Thorsten Wahl wrote:Because of that, having a second ship (if available) as backup for fatal problems appears always as a good choice as it reduces the effect of chance considerably

The KM tryed to provide back up in many cases. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau operated together early on, Bismarck was sent with PG.

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.
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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