December 31, 2018

Open Thread 16

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that 2019 will treat you well.

It's our regular open thread. Talk about whatever you like.

Take a look at this selection of panoramas of various compartments aboard Iowa. There's a lot of ones of areas not open to the public, and even a few of areas I've never been to.

The big update this time out is all four parts on armor. Also, we have Dreadnoughts of the minor powers and A Spotter's Guide to Warships of the World Wars.


  1. January 01, 2019bean said...

    I was reading a new book, How the Navy Won the War, and there was a description of Jackie Fisher I thought was worth sharing: "who - if he had lived today - would have been the best ever contestant on Strictly Come Dancing [the show Dancing with the Stars was based on]." This is completely true. Fisher was an excellent and enthusiastic dancer, but I found it hilarious.

  2. January 01, 2019Neal said...

    Not a point of discussion necessarily, but rather a word of thanks as 2019 begins to Bean and the others who post here, with admirable rigor, on all topics Naval. This site strikes a fine balance between the broad overview and technical specificity without steering too close to either. In other words a great primer for land/air lubbers like myself who stop by to learn but also for those more expert.

    Keeping up a site is really time intensive and hard work from the writing aspect alone. I can't imagine the effort required for the research!

  3. January 02, 2019bean said...

    Much appreciated, Neal.

    Keeping up a site is really time intensive and hard work from the writing aspect alone. I can’t imagine the effort required for the research!

    Most of the research is stuff I'd be doing anyway. It's actually a lot of fun to have a reason to do it instead of just reading the books for my own edification.

  4. January 03, 2019bean said...

    The US Navy has an interesting tradition of writing the first log entry of the new year in verse. This is made particularly difficult because it still has to include all of the standard information (speed, position, course, state of the ship). The results are usually surprisingly good. Here's a deeper look at the tradition.

    (As for why I didn't mention this in the OP, I have to say I forgot.)

  5. January 06, 2019Lord Nelson said...

    During my recent trip to Tokyo, I visited two of the three museum ships in the area, Soya and Mikasa. I attempted to visit the third, Nippon Maru, but unfortunately she was closed (for renovations if I understood the signage correctly). I did, however, visit the nearby Yokohama Port Museum, which I will review below.

    Rating: 3.5/5. A very solid museum for the price.

    Price: around 400 yen (~$4 US) for adults. I believe there is also a combined ticket that includes access to Nippon Maru for a discount.

    Location: Yokohama. Specifically, about a 5-10 minute walk from Sakuragicho station, which in turn is about a 45 minute ride from Tokyo via public transportation (cost: 600 yen/~$6 each direction).

    Both Nippon Maru herself and the museum are nestled amidst a backdrop of skyscrapers, shopping malls, an amusement park, and a giant ferris wheel, which makes for a slightly surreal image.

    The permanent museum collection details the history of Yokohama’s port from its opening 150 years ago to the present day and is split into approximately 5-6 main sections. Most, but not all, of the signage for this part included English translations. There were also English audio tour options via a smartphone app, which I did not use. The rotating collection, confined to one room, was entirely in Japanese.

    The museum did not have much on Nippon Maru herself, but it was interesting nonetheless. Highlights included a dozen or so large commercial ship models, a maritime library with hundreds of books (all in Japanese, but it includes a shelf of picture books for children), photographs of Yokohama port from the early 1900s, and some amusing period art depicting Perry’s opening of Japan.

    My one and only complaint about the museum is that photos are prohibited throughout, which seems a bit excessive even by Japanese museum standards.

  6. January 08, 2019ADifferentAnonymous said...

    Happened to reread Why the Carriers Are Not Doomed IV and noticed this in the comments:

    [SSBNs are] strategic forces, and at least in western thinking, not really on the board so far as naval warfare is concerned. (The Soviets thought rather differently, but that’s a matter for another time.)

    Is now a good time? Because I'm pretty curious about how this could have made any sense. As best I can gather, sonar range and ballistic missile range don't really overlap.

  7. January 08, 2019bean said...

    It's been a while, and I've never managed to understand the Soviet navy well enough to be able to understand it very long after I stop reading about it. But I definitely wasn't talking about using SLBMs in a tactical context. I'd guess I was talking about the bastion strategy the Soviets pursued, where the SSBNs were to be protected by a lot of the Soviet fleet. On the other hand, NATO basically assumed that the SSBNs could take care of themselves once they were out at sea, so there was nowhere near the same degree of integration with the overall naval strategy.

  8. January 09, 2019Directrix Gazer said...

    @bean and ADifferentAnonymous

    This difference in SSBN strategy is partly due to the tyranny of geography. To reach their patrol areas, earlier Soviet SSBNs with shorter-range missiles had to traverse choke points (e.g. GIUK Gap), the shores of which were held by nations friendly to the US. This meant that we could deploy fixed seafloor listening apparatus (SOSUS) with cables running a relatively short distance to land-based data processing centers in those friendly nations. US SSBNs did not have to pass any such choke points to reach their patrol areas and there were no USSR-friendly nations near enough to those patrol areas to make such an acoustic ocean surveillance approach feasible for them.

    The only option for the Soviets was to give their boomers longer-ranged missiles so that they wouldn't have to penetrate the surveillance barriers, moving their patrol areas inwards. Later it became apparent to them that, thanks to the Deep Sound Channel, SOSUS could still track their boats even inside that ring. This forced them to retreat even farther, into the shallow waters of the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk where there is no DSC for their noise to be transmitted along. These became the "bastions."

    Now, the bastions have the problem that they're of geographically limited extent, meaning that it's a viable strategy for the enemy to simply send their SSNs in to find the boomers the old-fashioned way. To keep them safe, the Soviets devoted much of the balance of their navy to the defense of the bastions (in addition to a lot of land-based patrol/ASW aircraft and small ASW corvettes - there being some of the advantages to the bastions being so close to home).

    As Owen R. Coté recently noted, this response only makes sense if you've already made a massive investment in an SSBN force and you're just trying to keep them viable. I would add that it also fits with the traditional Russian coastal-defense oriented approach to naval matters. Indeed, there have been only a few brief times in their history that the Russians have thought about their navy as anything but the means by which to guard their seaward flank while events are decided on land. Not at all an unreasonable perspective for a nation with their geography, but it can be hard to wrap your head around if you're used to thinking of things from a more fundamentally maritime-focused American or British perspective.

  9. January 09, 2019Directrix Gazer said...

    Whoops, sorry, that should be "Barents Sea" not "Bering Sea."

  10. January 09, 2019bean said...

    That makes a lot of sense of a couple things that hadn't previously been clear. Do you know of any books on the Soviet navy that are recent enough to be reliable? I know we get new archives every few years, so a lot of the stuff from the 90s and earlier is of only limited value now. I checked the current USNI catalog, and didn't see anything, but it's a subject I'd like to blog about soonish.

  11. January 10, 2019bean said...

    And the side of sanity has just suffered another defeat in the ship-naming wars, with the announcement of the latest pair of Burkes. One was named after Jeremiah Denton, which is a very reasonable choice. He was a POW in North Vietnam for eight years, and made major contributions to naval tactics. The other is named after former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who never spent a day in naval uniform. His war service as a pilot in the AAF was reasonably distinguished, but he wasn’t USN or USMC.

    Shame on SECNAV Richard V Spencer, and on anyone else involved in this decision. While Spencer does have the important advantage of being not Ray Mabus, this is a terrible decision. I can think of literally dozens of more deserving names offhand. More than that, I find the timing somewhat interesting, coming as it does days after Mattis left the Pentagon.

    (I previously awarded Stevens the “worst destroyer namesake” trophy, but on further investigation, it remains with the previous holder, Carl Levin. Stevens at least served in the military, even if I am revolted that both of these men were given ships that should have gone to naval heroes.)

    (I should also point out that Denton served a single term as a Senator for the GOP. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that anyone who held high elected office should not be allowed to have a ship named after them for at least a century after they leave office, regardless of any other qualifications they may have.)

  12. January 10, 2019AlphaGamma said...

    I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that anyone who held high elected office should not be allowed to have a ship named after them for at least a century after they leave office

    So no ships named after Winston Churchill until 2055?

    The first naval vessel to be officially named after him was launched in 1968, 3 years after his death. There was an HMS Churchill during WW2, but that was officially named after some unspecified village (or possibly Churchill, Manitoba).

  13. January 10, 2019bean said...

    That's a bullet I'm willing to bite. As much as I admire Churchill, I really don't like stuff like this, or the equally stupid stuff Mabus did, and I'll sacrifice his ships for the next 40 years to get it.

  14. January 16, 2019Directrix Gazer said...


    I can't think of any books I would recommend, unfortunately. There are some papers that cover aspects of the topic, but they aren't explicitly focused on the Soviet side of things for its own sake. That is definitely an area I'd like to see more comprehensive work done in.

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