Bismarck vs. Iowa

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
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Karl Heidenreich
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:14 pm

Gary
No-one can say that Iowa wasnt a first class ship.
However in Short range North Atlantic combat, Bismarck must not be counted out to easily.
On paper you would expect Iowa to win but then on paper Hood and POW should have defeated Bismarck in the Denmark strait.
Very, very good point. On paper, at Denmarck Straits, the British had eight 15" guns + ten 14" guns mounted in a Battlecruiser and a brand new Battleship against only eight 15" + eight 8" mounted in a Battleship plus a Heavy Cruiser. The Germans were outgunned by the British and, also, the British presented more armour than the Germans. At the end the Hood was blown and the PoW had to escape. Another point against the ratings at Combined Fleet! :?

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Post by Bgile » Wed Apr 19, 2006 4:37 pm

I think combinedfleet.com is an interesting website with lots of good info, especially Nathan Okun's paper on Bismarck's armor scheme. However, his comparison of battleships is by definition his own opinion and he rates things in such a way as to steer it in a particular direction. It has good info, but noone should treat it as gospel and I doubt anyone here does.

I believe Bismarck was built for the purpose of engaging enemy battleships at prevailing visibility in the North Atlantic. For that, I think it was a successful design and maybe the best there was in 1941.

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Apr 19, 2006 8:56 pm

I agree with Bgile that Combined Fleet has a lot of interesting material and info; as a matter of fact it´s a site dedicated to one of my favorites: the Japanese Combined Fleet. My sole objection is against the Battleship Ratings, that´s all.
I also believe that the Admiral Furashita section is very good.
Best regards!

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Re: Biz vs Iowa

Post by ufo » Thu Apr 20, 2006 3:49 pm

turlock wrote: ...Iowa goes down in history, now that they are all stricken, as the best shooting battleship of all time. At a range purportedly to be 47,000 meters, using specially selected hand packed powder charges, in experiment to test the maximum theoretical accuracy of the rifle, some 5 out of 6 rounds from a six gun salvo struck a schoolbus sized target. ..about a 20 meter long target. Most of you have probably never hunted, but such accuracy is about on par with the finest varmint rifle using hand loads.
...
Sounds ... interesting! Is there an official US Navy source for the experiment? I would love to read it!

Thanks a lot!
Ciao,
Ufo

Oh - on the discrepancy between Bismarck being knocked out and to put her under - yes, good point - that was a bit unbalanced, one might say!

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Gary
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Post by Gary » Thu Apr 20, 2006 4:35 pm

At the risk of being a party pooper, Iowa "cheated".
Yes okay, war is not meant to be fair but when Iowa opened fire at very extreme range, her salvo's were radar assisted.
True battleships used optical range finders for gunnery.
Its just not sporting to use radar :lol:

Bismarck was the optimomy of what a battleship should be.
Well armoured, fast, good reliable guns and VERY large.

Larger is better (usually) more body mass to absorb damage.
Why do you think an elephant takes longer to die than a Lion after being bitten by a black mamba?

Yes, like all ships, Bismarck had her faults but for short range North Atlantic combat - you will struggle to find a better ship.

Had Richelieu been in place of POW, she would not have been handicapped by having her A arcs closed (unable to bring Aft turrets to bear) because she didnt have any A arcs to close :wink:

Yet had Richelieu withdrawn she would not have been able to cover her retreat by firing with her aft guns like POW did.

Every ship had good and bad points.
God created the world in 6 days.........and on the 7th day he built the Scharnhorst

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Apr 20, 2006 4:49 pm

Gary
Had Richelieu been in place of POW, she would not have been handicapped by having her A arcs closed (unable to bring Aft turrets to bear) because she didnt have any A arcs to close

Yet had Richelieu withdrawn she would not have been able to cover her retreat by firing with her aft guns like POW did.
Excellent point :!:
And I believe that this observation:
Bismarck was the optimomy of what a battleship should be.
Well armoured, fast, good reliable guns and VERY large.

Larger is better (usually) more body mass to absorb damage.
Why do you think an elephant takes longer to die than a Lion after being bitten by a black mamba?

Yes, like all ships, Bismarck had her faults but for short range North Atlantic combat - you will struggle to find a better ship.
it´s an another excellent one that will be better in the topic of Bismarck General Discussion were there is a discussion over that thread now. :D
After all this come and going I believe that dividing the Battleships into two groups: Atlantic Combat and Pacific Warfare we can be more fair and precise in our conclusions.
Cheers!

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Iowa vs. Bismarck

Post by Ned » Tue May 16, 2006 4:23 am

A number of folks here have noted the difference in techology between '41 and '45 - and it's impressive. However, the Iowa was in service in '43 (not so much difference), and her first combat mission was against the Tirpitz (rumors that the Tirpitz had sailed launched the Iowa from Argentia on August 27, 1943 in a futile attempt to rein in a ship that had remained in port).

So, they really weren't so very far apart in time. And, they had approximately the same overall tonage - they were, in effect, largely equivalent. However, the Bismarck had 8 guns of 15-inch caliber; Iowa had 9 guns of 16-inch caliber; and even setting aside the difference in radar (significant), Bismarck had main fire control outside the primary armored citadel, whereas Iowa had main fire control well-secured behind thick armor. In a stand-up gunfight, a well-protected fire control system could easily be the margin of difference.

Which brings up the issue of who's going to come out on top - the initial challenge posited mid-Atlantic, daylight, no escorts, beautiful weather. In that case, Iowa hands down. Why? Better radar, bigger guns, faster top speed. She could engage from a good 10k yards farther out than Bismarck - a devastating advantage. She could disengage just outside Bismarck's maximum range, then circle back and pound the proud German warship (and do so with larger shells from more guns).

With that advantage, it would take a mechanical breakdown on Iowa to enable Bismarck to even get into range.

This advantage would apply in any weather - as long as Iowa's radar was fully operational, she'd always have the opportunity to strike first - and with her higher top speed, she'd have the sole chance (at least in the open sea) to dictate combat - engaging and breaking off at will.

The Bismarck's one sole advantage (IMO) is that her main armament was in four turrets, not three. That made it harder to disable all guns - and minimized the destructive impact of any single turret direct hit. If each lost one turret, they'd have the same number of guns, and if they each lost two turrets, Bismarck would suddenly have more guns. However, that advantage would only begin to manifest IF Iowa let herself get into Bismarck's effective range - and didn't then immediately get the hell out of Dodge and back into the "safe zone" where she could fire on a defenseless Bismarck.

The relative benefits of bringing heavy cruisers into the battle are nominal - Iowa would still be faster, and would still have better radar. She could stand out of range and pound the enemy, regardless of the number of consorts each had. "Like-era" heavy cruisers, the Americans had better armor and very likely better radar as well - but the more factors you throw into the mix (as the Naval battle of Guadalcanal showed), the more likely that a smaller ship could inflict serious damage to even the most powerful battleship. A melee is always harder to predict than a stand-up slug-fest between two largely equal combatants.

Or so it seems to me.

BTW - this is my first post to this forum. I'm a life-long military historian who's been published a number of times (since '72); I've written one published rather long short story about battleship combat (Mothership), and I've been Historical Consultant and on-camera 'expert' (their terms) on 7 History Channel programs, including Submarine Disasters, D-Day Tech and World War I Tech.

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Tue May 16, 2006 3:49 pm

The problem with all these "what if..." is that everything is on paper. Nominal differences all due to technical data, not involving human factor, audacity, luck and the will to prevail on the battlefield. On paper the Iowa outguns the Bismarck. On paper the Hood and the PoW outgunned Bismarck and PE. On paper the sole idea of blowing a British battlecruiser skyhigh in six minutes of combat is laughable. If that event (the sinking of Hood) would had never happened and someone post it in this forum as an hypothetical scenario, at least half the members would strike out the posibility of such a thing from happening. See?
Nominal: Iowa had better characteristics than Bismarck. Nominal a 2006 F-1 Renault is faster than a 2006 F-1 Ferrari. Is that reason enough to, without competition, give the winning award to the Renault? No, nein, niet!
The Iowa stands the same chances in a one against one combat with Bismarck or Tirpitz in the North Atlantic. Remember all those "impossible" things that use to happen in WWII: Taranto, Pearl Harbor, Maginot Line, Channel Dash, Fall of Singapour, the sinking of Force Z, Winter of 1941, Normandy instead of Calais, etc. etc. etc. Remember what happened with US Navy forces at Guadalcanal in the early operations of 1942? On the other hand I read somewhere about a single US destroyer (Fletcher Class) fighting a group of bigger Japanese ships and standing it´s position. When the guns start to fire havoc break loose and nothing is written.
Bismarck could have win against Iowa due to Clausewitz´"fog of war"

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Post by marcelo_malara » Tue May 16, 2006 3:58 pm

Ned, wellcome to the forum.
Bismarck had main fire control outside the primary armored citadel, whereas Iowa had main fire control well-secured behind thick armor.
What do you mean with this? BS transmiting station was located under the armoured deck. The only positions outside the citadel were the RF, the radar RF and the director, clearly no way of putting them behing heavy protection. I think that the same goes to Iowa.

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Post by Bgile » Tue May 16, 2006 6:03 pm

Welcome to the forum, Ned!

I agree with Marcelo - it isn't clear to me that there was any difference in protection to FC systems.

On advantage with Iowa (other than radar) is that she could penetrate Bismarck's turrets at any range out to her maximum.

Between two battleships, anything can happen though.

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Post by Gary » Tue May 16, 2006 6:12 pm

Bismarck had a 4 inch sloped deck behind her armour belt

Did Iowa have a sloped deck behind her belt?
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Iowa vs. Bismarck

Post by Ned » Tue May 16, 2006 7:24 pm

To those who discounted my assessment that the Iowa would win hands-down in any ship v. ship slugging match (using the scenario laid out at the start of this thread), I have to disagree. In that extremely hypothetical action, "fog of war" wouldn't apply. Why? Because you've got two ships (not two fleets) - you've got daylight/clear weather/calm seas. No distractions.

As long as Iowa kept out of range of Bismarck (while keeping Bismarck in range), she would eventually win. With a superior turn of speed, more and bigger guns, and an excellent radar/fire-control system, barring a major engineering casualty/mechanical breakdown (which never happened to an Iowa in battle), she could stay out of range of Bismarck's potent weapons while pounding the proud German flagship with repeated on-target salvoes.

Sure, if the skipper of Iowa was foolish enough to throw away every advantage and close in on Bismarck, then it becomes a matter of luck - who can hit the hardest the fastest - but why on earth would any Iowa skipper choose to close when he can win while remaining out of range? Sorry, but I don't think the USN made skippers that blind to reality.

As to the comment about the Hood's being sunk as unanticipatable and unbelievable (if we didn't know it happened), I have just one word: "Jutland." At Jutland, the Kaiser's battleships proved that British battle-cruiser designs were fatally flawed - and Hood was nothing if not the epitome of British battle-cruiser design. Even the Brits recognized this - they had plans (interrupted by the war) to vastly up-armor the Hood to protect it from plunging fire. They knew it was possible - and Jutland proved it was both possible and (in long-range combat) likely. However, budgetary reasons kept them from fixing it earlier, and the war interrupted plans to modernize when they finally came to the top of the priority pile.

That's an aside, to be sure - the main focus here is on Iowa vs. Bismarck - and I continue to contend that in the hypothetical (and clearly artificial) scenario proposed here - of two ships meeting in open ocean under perfect conditions with no escorts - the Iowa would have to win, unscathed, unless her captain were a congenital idiot (i.e., one who'd close to "whites of their eyes" range when that was not only NOT necessary but clearly counter-productive).

Or so it seems to me.

One final note - my comment on the relative protection of the fire control systems of Iowa and Bismarck were based on research into published third-party sources. If they are wrong, I am wrong - but I took those sources at face value.

Quote: "Despite her excellent qualities, the Bismarck class was not without her flaws. The main fire control system, was located above the main armour deck of the vessel and more vulnerable to shellfire from large and intermediate calibre guns (most British and American capital ships mounted their main fire control systems underneath the main armour deck.) This meant that it could be damaged more easily."

If that's wrong, I'm wrong and glad to admit it - I have been onboard several US battleship memorials, but not an Iowa - and of course, none of us has been aboard the Bismarck - so all I know is what I read. Not all sources, obviously, are fully accurate. Since I like to know the truth, if anybody has a better source which contradicts the above, please enlighten me ...

Thanks

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Post by Bgile » Tue May 16, 2006 7:51 pm

Gary wrote:Bismarck had a 4 inch sloped deck behind her armour belt

Did Iowa have a sloped deck behind her belt?
No, no modern US battleship had such a slope. That would make Bismarck's lower protected area almost invulnerable at short range, whereas Iowa's becomes more vulnerable at short range.

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Post by marcelo_malara » Tue May 16, 2006 8:45 pm

Despite her excellent qualities, the Bismarck class was not without her flaws. The main fire control system, was located above the main armour deck of the vessel and more vulnerable to shellfire from large and intermediate calibre guns (most British and American capital ships mounted their main fire control systems underneath the main armour deck.) This meant that it could be damaged more easily
Totally untrue. Take for example the AOTS volume about Bismarck and you will find UNDER the armoured deck, ahead of the boilers a compartment labeled Control Station (or something like this). It has on top the armoured trunk that leads to the armoured conning tower, where you have an armoured director. In fact there were three directors, two unarmoured and the one already mentioned.
At Jutland, the Kaiser's battleships proved that British battle-cruiser designs were fatally flawed - and Hood was nothing if not the epitome of British battle-cruiser design. Even the Brits recognized this - they had plans (interrupted by the war) to vastly up-armor the Hood to protect it from plunging fire. They knew it was possible - and Jutland proved it was both possible and (in long-range combat) likely.
As posted in another thread, Hood´s protection was far better than previous battlecruisers. Her construction was stopped after Jutland and was not restarted until the protection scheme was redesigned and vastly improved, making it equal (or even better) than the best contemporary British battleship, the Queen Elizabeth class.

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Iowa vs. Bismarck

Post by Ned » Tue May 16, 2006 8:58 pm

marcelo_malara wrote:
Despite her excellent qualities, the Bismarck class was not without her flaws. The main fire control system, was located above the main armour deck of the vessel and more vulnerable to shellfire from large and intermediate calibre guns (most British and American capital ships mounted their main fire control systems underneath the main armour deck.) This meant that it could be damaged more easily
Totally untrue. Take for example the AOTS volume about Bismarck and you will find UNDER the armoured deck, ahead of the boilers a compartment labeled Control Station (or something like this). It has on top the armoured trunk that leads to the armoured conning tower, where you have an armoured director. In fact there were three directors, two unarmoured and the one already mentioned.


Marcello - I'd take it as a given that AOTS is more authoritative than my source. However, the section described there as "control station" is IMO ship control, not fire control. As you yourself noted, the fire control directors were unarmored, which is my point.
At Jutland, the Kaiser's battleships proved that British battle-cruiser designs were fatally flawed - and Hood was nothing if not the epitome of British battle-cruiser design. Even the Brits recognized this - they had plans (interrupted by the war) to vastly up-armor the Hood to protect it from plunging fire. They knew it was possible - and Jutland proved it was both possible and (in long-range combat) likely.
As posted in another thread, Hood´s protection was far better than previous battlecruisers. Her construction was stopped after Jutland and was not restarted until the protection scheme was redesigned and vastly improved, making it equal (or even better) than the best contemporary British battleship, the Queen Elizabeth class.
I'd have to disagree with the conclusions, if not the facts of stop/start in construction - the Hood was scheduled in the late 30s for a major armor upgrade BECAUSE she remained as vulnerable as her earlier-generation sisters, at least to plunging fire. Those upgrades were first put off for budgetary reasons and then because the war had started - she was re-scheduled for the upgrade to be undertaken in 1942, obviously a year too late. If she was so well-protected, why had the RN planned to upgrade her armor against plunging fire (the kind that killed her - and RN's WW-I battle-cruisers)? The answer - like other British battle-cruisers, she was not well-protected, and this was widely acknowledged by Admiralty. Which was my point.

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