October 15, 2021

Open Thread 89

It's time for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not naval/military.

Looking forward to seeing people next weekend in DC. If anyone wants to join me and Cassander at the Navy Museum, let us know by Thursday. And any readers who want to join the DSL group at Air and Space should be welcome.

2018 overhauls are Light AA Guns, Going back to Iowa, the Washington Treaty, Survivability - Flooding, my review of LA maritime sites and Falklands Part 7. 2019 overhauls are Dumb Bombs and LGBs, Riverine Warfare - China Parts two and three and pictures of Iowa's officers quarters. 2020 overhauls are Naval Bases from Space - Hampton Roads, Military Sealift Command Parts one and two, The Midway Rant and List of Battleship Losses.


  1. October 16, 2021Johan Larson said...

    I was looking at the wiki article on the Mid-Atlantic Gap, when I noticed that the map depicting the gap didn't depict any aircraft cover coming from Greenland. It seems to me having aircraft stationed there for anti-submarine patrols would have gone a long way toward filling the gap, particularly if convoys were sent along a more northern route, to take maximum advantage of it.

    Any idea why this wasn't done?

  2. October 16, 2021Anonymous said...

    Would the weather in Greenland have allowed reliable flight operations with the technology of the time?

  3. October 17, 2021muddywaters said...

    Air bases in Greenland were under construction at that time. I don't know if they were later used for ASW patrol, and I agree that the weather is the obvious potential problem. (They were used as fuel stops for delivering aircraft to Europe, but that takes less time than a sea convoy so can make use of shorter periods of good weather.)

  4. October 17, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    I saw an interesting hypothetical on Quora the other day: what if the USA had simply never built any battleships after the Colorado class? What would we have built instead, and how would that have affected the course of the war, and the re-use of WW2-era warships during the cold war?

    One poster guessed that we might instead have abandoned the Washington treaty's cruiser limits and built a larger number of Alaskas or Alaska-like designs, sooner than the actual Alaskas got built, along with some over-10k-ton CLs and a lot more Atlantas or Atlanta-like CLAAs. Another figured we might have built massive numbers of DDAAs - the design he mentioned was basically a Sumner with the 5" guns removed in favor of more 3"/50 mounts. That said, I thought the 3"/50 twin only just barely made it in service in time to see action. Would not having new BBs actually have accelerated that development?

    I do wonder about knock-on effects, though - would the Standards have gotten modernized more thoroughly in the 30s? Would we have seen Kirishima opposed by Standard-types, or would it have been a mismatch against 12"-gun cruisers? Would Samar have happened at all, or would it have been a complete route since Kurita would have known that no Iowa-class BBs were about to come charging over the horizon and banging up his heavies?

  5. October 17, 2021echo said...

    the Chinese military launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space, circling the globe before cruising towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles.

    Well, the carriers are certainly not doomed quite yet, it appears.

  6. October 17, 2021Neal said...

    After my slagging off of Greyhound as a movie, a DVD copy of The Eternal Zero arrived. I found this to be a great film with the CGI being both well done and germane to the plot---something that is not always the case.

    At the beginning one has the sense of awe that is present when looking at an aircraft carrier. Kudos to the production team on that point.

    I hope to follow that up with a look at the film about Yamamoto entitled Isoroku, but I am going to have to use some WD-40 on my wallet as the price on both Ebay and Amazon is quit steep.

  7. October 17, 2021Philistine said...

    "What if the USA had simply never built any battleships after the Colorado class? What would we have built instead, and how would that have affected the course of the war, and the re-use of WW2-era warships during the cold war?"

    I think the answer would depend very much on WHY the USN didn't recommence battleship construction in the 1930s in this what-if. If the answer was "to build more carriers because battleships were obsolete by the 1930s," as seems likely given the general tenor of online discussion (Quora may be an exception for all I know), then I suspect the Navy would build an extra one or two dozen each of the Baltimore, Cleveland, and Essex classes, and perhaps a few extra DDs to screen them. The Standard type battleships would be scrapped instead of modernized, and the Alaskas would never happen - too much like a battleship.

  8. October 17, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    The poster in question seemed to be operating on the assumption that no new treaty BBs were built because battleships were close enough to being obsolete that building new ones didn't make any sense, but retaining and maybe even modernizing the existing ones made sense, since they were around anyway. The envisaged role being the same sort of role that Bean posits for battleships in the immediate post-war period - an insurance policy against enemy large warships (BB/CA) getting close during conditions where planes couldn't operate - and also shore bombardment.

  9. October 18, 2021muddywaters said...

    A carrier that can reliably defeat a battleship by day in normal weather (note: not necessarily the case in actual 1936!) but can't operate any planes at night probably has better than 50% odds against a battleship overall: its greater scouting ability gives it better odds of finding the battleship first, and its (usually) greater speed lets it run away when it can't fight.

    (This can fail if you don't notice the battleship before it starts shooting or if multiple enemies surround you, but so can having a battleship escort. Possibly the bigger problem is if the night attacker is something faster and cheaper, that you can't run away from and can't afford 50% odds against - a cruiser or a few destroyers - so you probably do want some anti-surface escorts, not purely AA ones.)

    A more exotic possibility is that both radio-control airplanes and the concept of using them as what we now call cruise missiles existed in the 1910s, and radio-control torpedoes possibly even earlier. I don't know why these weren't developed further for so long, though they would presumably have shared the difficulty of use and line-of-sight range limit and vulnerability to jamming of later manual command guided weapons.

  10. October 18, 2021Echo said...

    Not even a Kongo-level rebuilding could have gotten the Colorados fast enough to do carrier escort, right?

    How bad would a 5-8kt speed disadvantage be for a carrier fleet? Nobody ever built a slow fleet carrier to the best of my knowledge, so it seems like speed was pretty important. (Although wouldn't destroyers have had trouble keeping up with carriers in heavy weather as well?)

  11. October 18, 2021bean said...


    This is more or less the question I was trying to answer last year with The Battleship and the Carrier with "they wouldn't do that". If I was forced to give a straight answer, then yes, lots of Alaskas, because that's the closest thing to a battleship I can build without technically violating the rules.

    That said, I thought the 3″/50 twin only just barely made it in service in time to see action. Would not having new BBs actually have accelerated that development?

    Depends on which 3"/50 you're talking about. If it's the postwar one, then I don't think that program began until well after the battleship armament was all done. Otherwise, yes, we could do that, but why?


    Not even a Kongo-level rebuilding could have gotten the Colorados fast enough to do carrier escort, right?

    Correct. The Kongos were already pretty fast, and designed for high speed, which makes making them faster a lot easier than the relatively conservative Standards.

    How bad would a 5-8kt speed disadvantage be for a carrier fleet? Nobody ever built a slow fleet carrier to the best of my knowledge, so it seems like speed was pretty important.

    It would be bad. Speed is very important to generate wind over the deck for air operations, hence the lack of slow carriers. You could in theory split the battleships off, but that raises all sorts of coordination issues.

  12. October 18, 2021John Schilling said...

    If the USN were to have stopped building battleships in the 1920s, it would have been because they bought into the Billy Mitchell hype re air supremacy, or because Congress decided to de-emphasize the blue-water navy in favor of coast defense and neutrality.

    In the former case, you still need to screen the carriers but I think the same "logic" that says you don't need battleships is going to say the screening / night surface action mission should be performed by destroyers and light cruisers with lots of torpedoes. And to be fair, that probably would buy enough time for your carriers to escape (see Samar), but it's rough on the screening forces (see Samar).

    In the latter case, you get no new battleships and no new carriers, but lots of B-10s and later B-17s, and probably oceangoing torpedo boats or small destroyers. Plus some light cruisers to maintain a forward presence and police what passed for the American Empire.

  13. October 20, 2021ike said...

    What sort of odds would you give a 'Fortress Guam'-strategy against the Japanese?

    I guess that sort of encourages them to go to war with Britain and Holland only.

  14. October 20, 2021bean said...

    That would have been a violation of the various naval treaties, and it would have taken years to make even vaguely feasible. I don't think it would have worked even then, and a lot of the reason Japan went to war with the US was to secure their flank, which fortress Guam would only make worse.

  15. October 20, 2021Directrix Gazer said...

    It's worth remembering that the IJN itself was quite taken with the prospect of land-based anti-ship aircraft, making them a critical part of the "interceptive operations" scheme by which they hoped to blunt the presumed USN spear-thrust across the Pacific. The balance of resources devoted to that vs. carrier aviation is surprising given the way the carriers tend to be emphasized in the general historical memory of the Pacific War.

  16. October 21, 2021Chuck said...


    hence the lack of slow carriers.

    To be pedantic, the Casablanca class could only make 19 knots. While they weren't fleet carriers and clearly were at a disadvantage compared to their cousins, it can't be said there was a lack of them.

  17. October 21, 2021Philistine said...

    Given that the discussion was explicitly about slow fleet carriers, I can see why the Casablancas weren't mentioned.

    The RN did have a couple of converted carriers, Argus and Eagle, which were particularly slow (among other problems). I'm actually not sure if those were considered "fleet carriers," though - or perhaps Eagle was and Argus wasn't, based on their usage.

  18. October 21, 2021bean said...

    I have visited the model basin, and it was very cool! Full writeup coming in a couple weeks.

  19. October 22, 2021Neal said...

    I just noticed this article on the release of the investigation report re. The Bonhomne Richard.


    Had any or all of this previously made its way into the public domain? Interesting to read about the SDFD's crews not being quickly and fully integrated into the firefighting efforts as well as nearly 90% of the on-board fire response equipment being out of service. Wouldn't have guessed it would have been this much unless the quayside infrastructure was in place as a substitute/adjunct.

    Seems to have been a very thorough investigation.

  20. October 23, 2021CatCube said...

    Am I reading this right? They discovered the fire at 0810 and it was 0951 before somebody started putting water on it?

  21. October 23, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    Crap, if that's true, someone dropped the ball hard. Rapid response team should have at least been dousing it with an extinguisher before that.

  22. October 23, 2021Neal said...

    @CatCube @Jade

    I was also wondering if I had read that correctly. Nearly two hours after detection until the first efforts at extinguishing the fire? Am I missing something?

  23. October 24, 2021Johan Larson said...

    Ultimately, blaming 36 individuals is about the same as blaming no one. This was not an individual problem; it was a larger-scale, systemic one. The ship was in a uniquely vulnerable state, because it was undergoing repairs, and the Navy personnel on site did not respond effectively after the fire started.

    I'm a bit surprised at the haplessness, actually. I mean, sure, everyone does worse than expected when things go wrong. But sailors have damage control training and that includes firefighting. It seems to me they should have been able to act more effectively.

  24. October 24, 2021Johan Larson said...

    I think this is the most damning bit right here:

    The fire had spread unabated for nearly two hours before the first firefighters – crews from the San Diego Fire Department – poured water onto the flames.

  25. October 24, 2021ike said...

    Is the Richard the first US Navy ship to be lost to sabotage?

  26. October 24, 2021muddywaters said...


  27. October 24, 2021ike said...

    Why do we lose so many more to treason now then we did in the 40s?

  28. October 24, 2021Anonymous said...


    Why do we lose so many more to treason now then we did in the 40s?

    Could it be better investigations?

    In the middle of a war if something goes wrong getting the ship repaired and back into action is the first priority, nowadays finding out what happened is.

    Also there's no wartime censorship.

  29. October 25, 2021muddywaters said...

    The other side officially did lose at least one in a similar way, though this is disputed.

  30. October 25, 2021Johan Larson said...

    Are you going to do any sort of writeup based on this report, bean?

  31. October 25, 2021bean said...

    I wasn't planning to. I'm on break right now, more or less.

  32. October 27, 2021quanticle said...

    Crap, if that’s true, someone dropped the ball hard. Rapid response team should have at least been dousing it with an extinguisher before that.

    I think the problem is that there wasn't a rapid response team. Or really any other sort of formal damage control party.

    Another factor seems to have been the fact that, even though there was smoke spreading through the ship and fire alarms were going off, the crew that was on-site seemed to take a long time to actually investigate what was going on rather than writing off the smoke to people starting diesel generators or something. The article states that a junior sailor noticed a "hazy white fog" around 08:10. However, she didn't report it. The fire was first noted around 08:20, when the duty officer recorded that a fire had been reported. By that time, it seems like the fire was already starting to get out of control.

    Finally, what I found strange was the total disconnect between the sailors fighting the fire and Damage Control Central. It seems like DC Central didn't even hear the calls over the 1MC, something that was very surprising to me, because my understanding was that the 1MC is the primary all hands announcement channel.

    The rest of it is basically what we all suspected when the fire was initially reported: there was a bunch of equipment strewn everywhere, and, as a result the crew couldn't establish proper fire boundaries. It's unclear whether the ship's built-in firefighting foam system was down for maintenance or whether it was just that nobody on-site knew how to activate it, but in either case it wasn't activated, and the initial response was water only.

    Overall, it seems like the people onsite who were supposed to lead did not, and this forced others to step up into the vacuum, leading to lost time and worse coordination, which eventually resulted in the loss of the ship.

  33. October 28, 2021Johan Larson said...

    The New York Times does not appear to have published an article based on this report, though other mainstream news outlets such as the BBC, the Washington Post, and CBS News did.

  34. October 28, 2021Blackshoe said...

    @Johan Larson: I wouldn't be surprised that NYT hasn't written about it, given that their primary audience (upper-class elites who live or wish they could live in the Upper East Side of Manhattan) don't care about the Navy or DoD in general. So that checks out!

    However, WaPo will care because it's a big deal in at least some circles in Washington, so it's important to them.

    I will have some more thoughts once I finish digesting some of it and reading the overall report. Nothing surprises me so far, though.

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