The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom is the oldest of the British armed services (and is therefore known as the Senior Service). From the early 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, it was the largest and most powerful navy in the world, playing a key part in establishing the British Empire as the dominant power of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In World War II, the Royal Navy operated almost 900 ships. During the Cold War, it was transformed into a primarily anti-submarine force, hunting for Soviet submarines, mostly active in the GIUK gap.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, its role for the 21st century has returned to focus on global expeditionary operations. The Royal Navy is a constituent component of the Naval Service, which also comprises the Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Marines Reserve. The Royal Navy numbers 37,500 people of whom approximately 6,000 are in the Royal Marines.

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The idea of a World War was something that couldn’t be imagined prior to the 20th century. Then we had two in a matter of 35 years. The number of people killed in the wars was staggering. The fact that people continued to die for forty or fifty years after the end of World War II was all the more shocking until the cause was discovered.

Asbestos has long been considered a miracle material of sort. It is highly resistant to heat, which makes it a great insulator and fire wall wherever heat and electricity are found. This was a known fact for hundreds of years, but never really led to its use in a major way. Then World War II rolled around. Despite being the second of the two huge wars, it was the first that involved a really massive production of military materials.

This led to the widespread use of asbestos and a resulting Mesothelioma nightmare. Hawaii notwithstanding, the World War II battle arena was in other countries ranging from Europe to much of Asia. This necessitated the movement of resources across vast stretches of the ocean.

This in turn called for the construction of a huge number of transport ships to move the resources as well as naval ships to protect them and dominate the seas. To achieve this, ships were put on the fast track in construction. The war effort saw hundreds of thousands flow into factories and docks to help. In the case of ship building, this meant a hoard of people willing to do just about anything to speed up production. A Liberty cargo ship took only two weeks to build at Kaiser Shipyards at one point.

The problem was many shortcuts were taken to make this happen, many that exposed the workers to massive health risks. Asbestos is a cause of Mesothelioma. In the construction of the various types of ships being created, the workers used everything from rope to gloves to caulking to insulation and so on that incorporated asbestos as their key material component.

The war is long over, but it is now believed as many as 100,000 died from Mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by this exposure to asbestos. As a mater of comparison, there were roughly 10,000 casualties of which 2,500 died for the Allies on D-Day. Mesothelioma is a horrible disease and it is a bit shocking that our government would so hastily expose hundreds of thousands to its ravages. The story of asbestos use without notice is a ghastly one that has been repeated throughout history.

ww2 warships

Thirty years after the Navy had acquired its first airplane, and only 19 years after it had acquired its first aircraft carrier, Naval Aviation faced the supreme test of war. When it was called upon to carry the fight to the enemy, it not only carried out its tasks, but forged ahead to become the very backbone of fleet striking power.

If it had not already been shown in combat before the United States entered the war, all doubts as to the potency of naval air power were removed by the infamous, yet skillfully executed attack on Pearl Harbor, when Japanese carrier aircraft in one swift stroke eliminated a major portion of the Navy’s heavy surface power.

That our own forces had the kernel of a similar potential was demonstrated on a much smaller scale as carrier forces struck the first retaliatory blows. The geographic position of the United States put it squarely between two wars that had little in common. Air operations on the Atlantic side, except for participation in three amphibious operations, were essentially a blockade and a campaign to protect ships delivering raw materials to our factories and war munitions and reinforcements to our Allies.

In the Pacific, it was a matter of stopping an enemy advance which, in a few short months, had spread over all the western and parts of the south and central Pacific, and then carrying out the bitterly contested task of driving him homeward across the broad expanse of an island-dotted sea. The country was hardly ready for either campaign.

The Navy and Marine Corps air arms could muster only 7 large and 1 small aircraft carriers, 5 patrol wings and 2 Marine aircraft wings, 5,900 pilots and 21,678 enlisted men, 5,233 aircraft of all types including trainers, and a few advanced air bases. But aided by its distance from the enemy and fortunate in its industrial power, the United States built the ships, planes and equipment.

Operation Sealion

With only Great Britain left as a major adversary to Europe, Hitler focused on destroying both their weapons and the country's morale. Operation Sealion was to include bombardments on both sea and land. Luckily, the Royal Navy was still much stronger than the German Kriegsmarine, as they had larger fleet of ships, more experience with naval battles, and the ability to recover more quickly from attacks.

Thus, the British managed to keep control of the English Channel, and Hitler was discouraged from this path of attack. In July 1940, the Luftwaffe (German air force) began the Battle of Britain with frequent air raids. These battles lasted for about four months, continuing until October 1940, and is still remembered as the most intense period of daylight bombing.

The German attacks were designed to destroy buildings but also decimate British morale; some targets were hit upwards of two hundred times. At first, radar stations and flight bases were targeted so as to damage the British planes, but then the Germans turned toward British cities. This change of tactics proved ultimately advantageous for Britons, as it allowed the Royal Air Force to recoup their air fleet and their bases.

The strong British defence and their ability to recover quickly discouraged Hitler, and he came to recognize that that he would never be able to establish full superiority over Britain, whether by air, sea, or land. Outside of the English Channel, the Battle of the Atlantic was being fought simultaneously; it would stretch on until the end of the War.

Perhaps one of the longest battles during the time-line for WWII, it consisted of nautical campaigns resulting in victories and losses for both sides. One of the significant developments for the Allies was the capture in May 1941 of an intact Enigma machine.

This was a German device that encrypted and decrypted communications, and it assisted the Allies greatly by allowing them to translate and understand German missives. By knowing where the Germans planned to be, Allied fleets could avoid the German U-boats (their submarines) and reach their destinations safely.

Another significant triumph for the Allies was the change in loyalty of the Soviet Union: they entered the war on the Allied side in the summer of 1941, after Hitler turned on them. Additional support came from the United States, when they too entered the war on the side of the Allies in December 1941.

Alongside the events occurring in Europe, similar battles were being fought in Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Maintaining control of these areas was especially crucial for the UK, as a number of their shipping routes depended on traversing the Suez Canal.

When Italy entered on the side of the Axis and declared war on France and Britain in June 1940, it immediately turned its attention to the control of the Mediterranean. Italy began The Siege of Malta, a battle that lasted for nearly three years over an island fortress in the Mediterranean. Despite several close calls, the British kept the base secure through 3 000 Axis raids.

The US 1st Army, V Corps

The US 1st Army, V Corps had the mission of securing the beachhead between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River and to advance towards St. Lo. The Corps was to arrive in 4 stages with the 1st Division (with the 29th attached) leading the landings with about 34,000 men in the morning, followed by another 25,000 men after noon.

The 1st Division was a veteran unit which had served through the campaigns of North Africa and Sicily. While for the most part, Normandy would be the 29th Division's first experience in combat. Two American Regimental Combat Teams (RCTs) of four rifle companies each, were tasked with the initial landing (the US 29th 116th RCT and the US 1st 16th RCT), followed by the remainder of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. 

Fire support included naval gunfire from the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers offshore, heavy bombing by B-24 Liberators, the 741st and 743rd DD (dual-drive amphibious) tank battalions, several battalions of engineers and naval demolition personnel, and several howitzer battalions.

Omaha Beach

The beach at Omaha Beach sector was about 7,000 yards long with a gentle slope that forms a crescent with bluffs located at each end. The tidal range averaged about 300 yards between the low and high water mark. At the high water mark, the ocean ends at a shingle that reaches up to several feet high.

On the western part of the sector, the shingle had piled against a seawall which ranged in height anywhere between 4 to 12 feet. Behind the sea wall was a paved beach road from Exit D-1 to Exit D-3. At the middle of the beach, approximately 200 yards stands between the seawall and the bluffs. Near Exit D-1 stood a small number of villas and at Exit D-3 stood the small village of les Moulins.

At four points along the beach were small draws (or valleys) which were thought to offer protected exits off the beach (these were actually heavily defended). At Exit D-1 (the exit to Vierville), the draw had a paved road. The draws offered the only way for armor to reach the high ground. Inland from the beach stood the three farming villages of St. Laurent, Colleville, and Vierville with the hedgerow country beginning immediately behind the beaches.

The immediate objective of the Omaha landings was to secure a beachhead between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire river and then to advance southwards towards St. Lo. Another objective of the V Corps was link with the VII Corps to the east (via the small town of Isigny). Isigny was a small town where the highway from Paris to Cherbourg crossed the Aure river. This highway, as did most that were located near the beach, ran east to west. The Corps was also to advance beyond the Aure river and towards the Cerisy Forest area to the south.

Pegasus Bridge

At 12:05 AM on June 6, 1944, three gliders carrying an element of the British 6th Airborne Division silently cut loose form the their tow planes and drifted towards the Pegasus Bridge, one of the few bridges that led over the Seine towards Normandy. Within fifteen minutes, the British paratroopers inside landed and stormed the bridge with heavy casualties.

The first landings in Europe were made. Around the same time, pathfinders equipped with powerful lanterns dropped all over the Cotentin Peninsula. Alone, outnumbered, and often in the wrong place, they were dropped to mark the way for the thousands of men coming in behind them. In England, hundreds of transports prepared gliders with paratroopers carrying their body weight in food, supplies, and weapons.

One witness recalled the paratroopers “kneeling in prayer“ as they prepared for takeoff. Actually they were too heavy to stand. They boarded the transports and prepared to drop over Normandy. By 2 AM Normandy was alive with anti-aircraft fire. Dakotas carrying the American 101st, 82nd and British 6th Airborne came under fire as soon as they hit the coast.

Pilots struggled to keep their unarmed and unarmored craft stable long enough to drop their stick of eighteen paratroopers. Some drowned in Rommel’s flooded fields, some overshot the Peninsula and landed in the Atlantic. Twenty-five British paratroopers landed inside the German Fifteenth Army Headquarters.

The rest were scattered all over Normandy. Miles from their drop zones, alone and in ones or twos, then platoons and companies, the paratroopers started to accomplish their mission. The Germans were confused by the landings, plus the landings of dummy paratroopers, and did not react in time. 82nd Airborne Division units liberated the first town in France, Sainte Mére Eglise, early in the day.

A stick of troopers from Company F had dropped on the town during a fire and was wiped out by the German garrison guarding the fire fighters. The 101st Division’s medical unit was captured, but the paratroopers occupied the approaches to the beaches and started fighting.

Meanwhile, the 5,000 ships of the Allied landing force were traveling through passages in the minefields in the English Channel. 2,000 ocean going ships, including old World War One battleships, modern cruisers, destroyers, torpedo boats, and the ubiquitous LSTs, escorted 2,000 landing craft of many different types across the Channel. A few ships were lost to mines, but they formed up offshore of the invasion beaches by 5 AM.

 Colonel Walther Pluskat

Colonel Walther Pluskat of the Wehrmacht's 352nd Infantry Division was roused by his commander and sent to what the Allies called Omaha Beach. From his vantage point in his bunker, he could see the Allied armada offshore and made a worried call to his commanding officer, saying 5,000 Allied ships were off the coast. “Don’t worry, Pluskat,” the CO responded, “the Allies haven’t got that many ships.” But they did and they were off the French coast. Bombardment began immediately, the 14" guns of the USS Texas and HMS Warspite and the 12" guns of the USS Arkansas attempting to knock out the hardened casemates of German artillery.

Waiting soldiers could actually see the shells on their way overhead. Tactical aircraft targeted heavy railroad guns and fixed heavy artillery more than a mile behind the beach. Rommel’s designs would not even be breached by direct hits from battleship calibre guns. At Omaha Beach, lack of bomb and shell accuracy neither created shelter for the Americans about to land nor knocked out the guns overlooking the area. At the other beaches, the Allies made progress. At Utah only 200 casualties were suffered before resistance lessened and the troops moved inland.

The British also faced minimal opposition at Gold and Juno. The Canadians took many casualties in the first wave, but made additional landings and were off the beach by early morning. Canadian armor was crucial, at one point driving over the dead and wounded to attack German positions.

US Rangers tasked with eliminating German artillery in the heights overlooking both American beaches took heavy casualties climbing up the rock face of Pointe du Hoc, but despite later legends, located heavy guns inland and destroyed them. Only a handful of the Rangers remained to hold Pointe du Hoc against the heavy counter attack that was coming.

Omaha Beach was the key. The link between the Americans on Utah and the Allied beaches to the west, if Omaha could not be held, the invasion might fail. At 6:20 AM, US 1st Army Group Commander General Omar Bradley watched the first and the second waves go in at Omaha. The men in the boats looked at the untouched church steeples and buildings beyond the beach and realized the air bombardment and naval gunfire had not landed on target.

Operation Overlord


Operation Overlord was the phase in the Western front of World War II that was fought in 1944 between German forces and the invading Allied forces. The campaign began with Normandy Landings on June 6, 1944 (commonly known as D-Day), among the largest amphibious assaults ever conducted when nearly three million troops crossed the English Channel and ended on August 25, 1944, with the liberation of Paris.

Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Substantial Free French and Polish forces also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway.

Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces. Once the beachheads were secured, a three-weekly build up occurred on the beaches before Operation Cobra, the operation to break out from the Normandy beachhead began. The battle for Normandy continued for more than two months, with campaigns to establish a foothold on France, and concluded with the close of the Falaise pocket and the subsequent liberation of Paris in late August 1944.

1942 Battle class


The first years of World War II had shown that British destroyers were ill equipped to deal with concentrated air attacks and the Royal Navy suffered heavy losses as a result. In 1941 urgent consideration of the problem led to a naval staff requirement for a new class of large fleet destroyer with High Angle (HA) twin guns and an HA control system. It was decided that this main armament would be set forward in a superfiring configuration thus allowing all guns to engage a single target. Arcs of fire were increased by setting the bridge structure further aft than normal.

The proposed AA armament were eight 40/60 mm guns in twin mountings set atop the middle and after deck houses to give all around, overlapping arcs of fire. These were to be supplemented by 20 mm guns positioned variously around the ship. Eight 21-inch torpedo tubes were to be carried in two quadruple mounts. A/S armament called for two depth charge rails and four depth charge throwers to be fitted.

A new feature was the first use of stabilisers in a destroyer, allowing a steady platform for AA gunnery. With these parameters accepted a sketch design was submitted and approved in the autumn of 1941 and orders for sixteen ships (two flotillas) were placed under the 1942 programme.

Considerably larger than the standard fleet destroyer, these ships were seen as a replacement for the Tribal class which had already suffered very heavy losses. With an overall length of 379 feet they were two feet longer than the Tribals and with a beam of 40 feet 3 inches were just over three feet wider.

It was decided to abandon the usual alphabetical naming of destroyer flotillas and name these ships after famous land and sea battles, thus these ships became known as the 1942 Battle class.

On August 8, 2000, a crowd gathered at Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. They were there to watch the recovery of a vessel that had been underwater for 136 years, a vessel that had been touted as the most important underwater archaeological find of the 20th century.

The crowd was awaiting the recovery of the H.L. Hunley, the Civil War-era submarine that is widely recognized as the first submarine to actually sink a warship. While the excavation of the Hunley was an important and exciting event, the history of the ship is just as intriguing and significant.


While submarines already boasted nearly 100 years of history in the United States, the first being used during the American Revolution, the Confederate Hunley was the first submarine that could truly be considered a precursor to the modern submarine. The story of the Hunley begins in New Orleans in 1862. Horace Lawson Hunley, James McClintock, and Baxter Watson began work on a small submarine dubbed the Pioneer.

Although the Pioneer was tested in the Mississippi River, work on the small submarine was abandoned when the Union Army began to converge on New Orleans. Hunley, McClintock, and Watson moved on to Mobile, Alabama, where they began to work with machinists Thomas Park and Thomas Lyons. Another submarine, American Diver, was constructed and abandoned as too slow before the men began construction on what would become the Hunley.

Known during development and construction as "the porpoise," the Hunley lived up to her nickname; a sleek design with an appearance years ahead of her time, the Hunley was a 40 foot long watercraft made especially for subverting and destroying Union boats. The Hunley was a relatively small watercraft, with a hull height of only a little over four feet, designed to be manned by a crew of eight - seven to turn the hand-cranked propeller, one to direct and steer her. At each end of the vessel were ballast tanks that could be flooded by valves to allow the vessel to travel underwater or pumped dry by hand pumps when the vessel needed to come to the surface.

These ballast tanks were supported by iron weights that were bolted to the underside of the Hunley; if the vessel needed to rise to the surface quickly, these ballasts could be dropped from inside the vessel. After a successful demonstration, the Hunley was shipped to Charleston by rail and drafted into service by the Confederate Navy, with decidedly mixed results; two test runs of the vessel claimed the lives of thirteen men, including her inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley.

 The U-boat

The U-boat War skilfully chronicles the logistical issues and technological gains that worked for and against the U-boats. Early in the war the Germans suffered from torpedo failures that were incredibly similar to that of the Americans in the Pacific; the Germans solved their problems quickly while the American sub crews suffered from defective torpedoes for nearly three years.

German and Allied development of radar is examined. Each side sought to gain a step in this critical technology which led to measures and counter-measures that would swing the fight back and forth.

When the Allies ultimately refined radar midway through the war, it took away the one element that the U-boats needed most to be effective (and indeed, to survive); radar meant U-boats could not use cover of night for surface attacks. Escorts could pinpoint a surfaced U-boat miles away, direct an attack. When the U-boat dived the escorts could strike using Asdic to track it until the boat was sunk or driven to the surface.

The Type XXI U-boat

Doenitz favored simplified design and logistical answers to the problem of developing and constructing boats under the pressure of war. The Type VII was considered his primary weapon. It could dive quickly, had a tight turning radius, and the small size was harder to detect by Asdic. However, its dreadfully slow underwater speed and limited range were no match for experienced Asdic operators. With the entry of the US in the war, the larger, longer-ranging Type IX, which could carry more torpedoes and fuel, began to surpass the Type VII in sinkings.

With the turning of the war in May 1943, it was evident that better designs would be necessary for success against Allied convoys and hunter-killer groups; a "true submarine" was the only hope. The Type XXI U-boat, a larger, dramatically more powerful design with more than twice the underwater speed of the earlier types, was recognized as the German answer in the convoy war. But shipbuilding would be hindered by shortages and Allied attacks. Westwood pays out close attention to the struggle for resources between the Army and Navy over steel and manpower.

The war economy was not running at full stretch at the beginning of the war, and the slack began to be taken up only when the war turned against Germany. This meant that the Type XXI program would not overburden shipbuilding capacity if it were well planned, and the completion targets were not set unrealistically high.... The pace of the program initially resulted in delays, and this, plus the strict completion date of the first of the Type XXIs, led to her being unseaworthy, gaps in welding having wooden plugs....

The program had approximately 50 per cent of German steel production devoted to it; the general priority in all matter was one which would have delighted Doenitz four, or even three, years before, but was now a matter of desperation.

Desperation being the breeding ground for failure, the new, vastly superior U-boats saw very little action in the last stages of the war. Had the Type XXI design been adopted and implemented earlier in the war, there is little doubt the Allies would have suffered great setbacks.

Understanding why the war was lost, what events contributed to the defeat of the German U-boat arm, added measurably to my knowledge. The U-boat War devotes several sections to specific convoy attacks and patrols--the exploits of noted U-boat warriors--which make good reading, but it is Westwood's studied analysis of the tactics, planning, technology, and logistics that elevates his book above mere war chronicle.

Battle of Dunkirk

The Dunkirk evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo by the British, was the large evacuation of Allied soldiers from May 26 to June 4, 1940, during the Battle of Dunkirk. British Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay planned the operation and briefed Winston Churchill in the Dynamo Room (a room in the naval headquarters below Dover Castle which contained the dynamo that provided the electricity), giving the operation its name.

In nine days, more than three hundred thousand (331,226) soldiers 192,226 British and 139,000 French were rescued from Dunkirk, France and the surrounding beaches by a hastily assembled fleet of eight hundred and sixty boats. These craft included the famous "Little Ships of Dunkirk", a mixture of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and RNLI lifeboats, whose civilian crews were called into service for the emergency.

These small craft ferried troops from the beaches to larger ships waiting offshore, which were mainly large destroyer ships. Though the "Miracle of the Little Ships" is a prominent folk memory in Britain (and a great morale booster for the time), over 80% of the evacuated troops actually embarked from the harbour's protective mole onto the 42 destroyers and other large ships.

 The British Eastern Fleet

The British Eastern Fleet (also known as the East Indies Fleet and the Far East Fleet) was a fleet of the Royal Navy during World War II and post war until 1971. The Eastern Fleet was formed by order of the Admiralty on 8 December 1941 from the ships of the China Station and the East Indies Station, with its Headquarters in Singapore.

During the war, it included many ships and personnel from other navies, including the Royal Netherlands Navy, Royal Australian Navy, the Royal New Zealand Navy and the United States Navy. Post-war, the Eastern Fleet became the Far East Fleet and operated in all Far East areas including parts of the Pacific Ocean.

The capture of Okinawa


The capture of Okinawa had elements of Iwo Jima all over again, except it was larger and with more defenders. The landing force was larger than that at Normandy the previously year. The number of defenders was underestimated, so the large invasion force was useful. The landing was almost unopposed on the west-side middle of the island which was flat land with two air fields.

Marines on the north edge and the army on the south quickly occupied the two airfields and marched 6-miles across the island by day 2 and secured a stretch of 20-miles north to south by day 6. There they ran into prepared Japanese defences.

Fighting continued for two months with progress measured in yards most days. Okinawa is a long, skinny island located 450 miles and an easy flight distance from Kyushu, Japan; Singapore, China; and Taiwan (Formosa). Naval air and B-29s made all airfields on Kyushu inoperable for that first week. British TF-57 held off air attack from Formosa.

Escort carriers provided combat air patrols over the island and ships nearby. The US 5th Fleet operated in support. The operation began with the capture of a small island group, Kerama Retto, March 26-27, to act as ship anchorage, supply and repair facility and seaplane base.

An island 8-miles from Okinawa was occupied for use by army long-range artillery support for the invasion. The assault on April 1 included 81,165 marines, 98,567 army, and 2,380 sailors from 77 transports and 187 LSTs.

Troops landed almost unopposed and enveloped the airfields by noon, a task which had been scheduled for day 4. On day six : Troops confronted the prepared underground defenses. The first and largest "floating chrysanthemum" kamikaze attack on warships. And Yamato, the world's largest battleship was detected making a run to Okinawa to attack remaining ships.

Kamikazes pilots

Kamikazes attacked every day with one to 20 one-way flights between March 26 and the end of July. Ten mass kamikazes attacks were made, the first on 6 April was of 355 planes. Conventional bombing took place throughout the battle. The second big attack on April 12 included 185 kamikazes, 45 torpedo bombers along with 150 fighters. Yamato, 68,000 tons, 9- 18.1" guns with sufficient fuel for a one-way voyage to Okinawa, escorted by a squadron of 8 destroyers and their flagship, light cruiser Yahagi, was detected.

While a battleship force advanced to intercept, the suicide force was attacked by 280 planes from 5th fleet ; Yamato, Yahagi, and four destroyers went under in less than 2-hours. On April 8 a Marine fighter wing of 82 Corsairs arrived ; by April 15 radar equipped night fighters could help cover the fleet from dawn and dusk attack. Ie Shima island and airfield was taken April 16-21.

Attacks on Kyushu began from there on 17May. The 3rd Fleet withdrew to Leyte for rest and refit. Hard fighting continued for two months until the southern end of Okinawa was secured on 2 July. Mopping up continued until the island was surrendered 7 Sept. By the end of June, 100,000 construction troops were converting the island into an advanced base for the attack and invasion of Japan. 750 aircraft were already based there.


The fleet lost 32 ships and craft with 368 damaged; Sailors : 4,900 killed and 4,824 wounded ; Marines : 2,899 dead, 11,677 wounded.. Other troops : 2,789 killed, 20,130 wounded plus 26,000 non-combat casualties (shell shock). The Japanese lost 7,830 planes; the U.S. 768. The ships sunk were mostly destroyer-sized radar picket ships.

Capital ships were also targets and damaged, tho they survived. For example, one kamikaze hit on Enterprise put her out of service for 48-hours. In planning for the invasion of Japan, we must note that the kamikazes were delayed for 6-days and missed getting the thin-skinned transports loaded with troops. In the summer of 1942, the Japanese had to be stopped in their drive to cut off Australia by severing the US shipping lanes.

Pearl Harbor

So far in the Pacific War, the Japanese had destroyed the US battle fleet at Pearl Harbor; destroyed the US Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines; sunk the combined Dutch, British, Australian and American fleet in the East Indies (Java); punished the British fleet in Malaya and Ceylon and pushed the Indian Ocean fleet back to Africa; captured southeast Asia, the Philippines, the resource rich East Indies, and many island chains for defense in the central Pacific, an outpost in the Aleutians in the North Pacific, and Rabaul in the Bismarcks in the South Pacific.

The southern advance on Australia by way of New Guinea had been stopped by Admiral Fletcher at the Battle of Coral Sea and the eastern Pacific was saved at the Battle of Midway. The Imperial Japanese Navy, even after the losses at Midway, still outnumbered the naval forces of the combined US Pacific and the Australian fleets. The Japanese continued to progress south to isolate Australia.

America had established a Germany first policy. Eighty-five percent of US military production, shipping and supplies was devoted to the Atlantic Theater against Germany, Italy, and their allies, and to aid England and Russia. US troops had started to arrive in the United Kingdom.

The Pacific Theater was divided into North, Central, and South Pacific under command of the Navy (Nimitz) and the Southwest Pacific (Australia to Philippines) under the Army (MacArthur). These areas shared the remaining 15% of war production with the China-Burma-India area. Nimitz had two major war aims in 1942. . Protect Hawaii and the West Coast of the US with Midway Island as his first line of defense. . And to protect the shipping lanes to Australia. 



The Australian sea lanes were a line from the West Coast and Hawaii to Samoa, Fiji, New Hebrides to Brisbane, Australia. The Japanese move down the Solomons would allow them to control the Java Sea and threaten America bases in New Hebrides and Australia itself. Fletcher had reacted immediately to the Japanese occupation of Tulagi where a seaplane reconnaissance base was established and had turned back the invasion force coming around to the south side of New Guinea that faced Australia. He then had to race north to the major sea battle at Midway.

During this period, the Marine Corps had been building up forces in New Caledonia south of the New Hebrides. When the Japanese started to build an airfield on Guadalcanal across Savo Sound from their base at Tulagi, the United States felt it had to act before the airfield was completed. The Solomons are a double string of eight main islands and many small islands spread along 700 miles of ocean about 1,200 miles northeast of Australia.

The island chain runs northwest to southeast with Bougainville in the northwest, New Georgia in the middle and Guadalcanal in the southeast. Fighting for New Guinea is going on 700 miles to the west. Guadalcanal is 92 miles long and 33 miles wide and 700 miles southeast of Rabaul on New Britain. New Britain is part of the Bismarck Island chain which is a northwest extension of the Solomons.

The waters between the Solomon Islands is called The Slot. Immediately north of Guadalcanal at a distance of about 20 miles is the 20 mile long Florida Island where the Japanese have established one of their several seaplane reconnaissance bases in the Solomon Islands at Tulagi. The eastern end of the 400 mile long Slot is Savo Sound named for tiny Savo Island. The entrance to Savo Sound from the east is Indispensable Straight leading to several narrow channels. The entrances from the west are the north and south passages around Savo Island.


The military submarine USS LOUISIANA (SSBN 743) is the 4th United States Naval vessel to be named in honor of the 18th state admitted to the union, and is the 18th and last of the Trident Submarines to be commissioned into the United States Navy. The first ship named LOUISIANA, a sloop built in the shipyards of New Orleans in 1812, played a key role in the defense of the city of New Orleans during the War of 1812. From Dec. 23, 1814 to Jan. 8, 1815, the sloop ship LOUISIANA pounded the advancing redcoats, providing essential naval gunfire for General Jackson's troops.

When the British troops advanced far up river and beyond the range of the very effective cannon fire of the sloop LOUISIANA, the ship's crew did not let the reduction of wind slow down their support of their fellow countrymen. Crew members went ashore with long mooring lines and pulled their sloop up the river against the currents of the raging Mississippi to re-engage the enemy.

The LOUISIANA was credited with playing a key role in the victory over the British and keeping the valuable seaport of New Orleans in American control. The second ship named LOUISIANA, a side wheel steamship, was commissioned in August of 1861.

It was originally posted to the Union's North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and the LOUISIANA operated along the Coast of Virginia against Confederate blockades. The steamship LOUISIANA was integral in the defense of Washington, D.C. in Dec. of 1862, where Maj. Gen. John J. Foster noted in his cruise journal that LOUISIANA "had rendered most efficient aid, throwing their shells with great precision, and clearing the streets, through which her guns had range." The ship was later was involved in many engagements off the coast and in the rivers of the State of North Carolina.

The second LOUISIANA was sacrificed to the sea on Christmas Eve, 1864, when she was towed, stripped of essentials, and packed with explosives, to the base of Ft. Fisher in Wilmington, North Carolina, and detonated in an effort to completely destroy the fort without much loss of life. The huge explosion had little effect, and it required Union forces many more weeks to capture this essential Confederate stronghold. The US Navy battleship LOUISIANA (BB- 19) was the 3rd ship to carry the name.

She was commissioned on June 2, of 1906, and the LOUISIANA was soon called on to serve, and was sent to Havana on a Peace Commission at the request of the National Cuban president for help in putting down an insurrection.

In Nov. of 1906, the LOUISIANA carried President Theodore Roosevelt for a cruise to inspect the ongoing construction and progress of the great Panama Canal. On December 16, 1907, LOUISIANA left Hampton Roads along with 15 other Battleships as the "Great White Fleet", and embarked on an around the world cruise by then President Teddy Roosevelt as a means of warning against hostile action toward the United States of American and positioning America to the world as a global naval power to be reckoned with.

This cruise served a duration of a little more than a year, and the fleet returned to Hampton Roads in Feb of 1909. The LOUISIANA later saw duty in World War One as a training ship and later as a convoy escort. A collection of the silver service from the battleship is on display, proudly, on board the submarine LOUISIANA.

The word battleship refers to ships that were built for war between the 15th and 20th century. These ships had powerful guns, armor, and were mostly used in times when major world powers were trying to expand their colonies and establish their trade routes. The word "battleships" is often used interchangeably with "warships," which is incorrect. Warship is the category of naval vessels that are built to fight wars, whereas battleships had typical specifications and belonged to a particular period of time.

The earlier battleships used to make "castles" aboard ships, which were raised platforms used by archers, and later they were strengthened enough to mount large guns. The British naval supremacy was maintained over the other rival naval powers, such as France, Spain and Netherlands, for a considerable time due to constant improvements to their shipbuilding technology. In the 17th century, a fleet would consist of two-decker, three-decker and four decker ships that later went on to be used in the historical Napoleonic wars.

The 18th century battleships used the revolutionary exploding-shell technology, which not only resulted in the introduction of iron/steel armor, but also rendered other ships obsolete. The irony however, is that even though British naval superiority was widely prevalent, the French were almost always the first to produce better versions, such as the largest three decker Valmy, the first steam battleship Le Napoléon, or the first "Ironclad" La Gloire.

The last decades of the 18th century saw a number of experimental ships being built, which resulted in the induction of the turbine engines that laid foundation for the "Dreadnought" class of warships. During World War I, the German and British battleships hardly left their ports, for they were considered too expensive to be sunk. They waited for each other to attack first.

Due to agreements such as the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, the production was cut down, before the full-fledged arms race in preparation for the Second World War. Yamato and Musashi, the Japanese warships sunk by American forces were two of the biggest battleships to be ever constructed.

HMS Ark Royal

HMS Ark Royal, the last Invincible-class light aircraft carrier to be completed, is the fifth ship of the Royal Navy named in honour of the flagship of the English fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada. Ark Royal is slightly larger than her sister ships and during construction she was fitted with a steeper ski-jump ramp, (twelve degrees, as opposed to seven degrees of the Invincible) to improve STOVL take-off performance for the Harrier aircraft.

She is currently the flagship of the active fleet. Swan Hunter, formerly known as "Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson", was one of the best known shipbuilding companies in the United Kingdom. Based in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, the company was responsible for some of the greatest ships of the early 20th century most famously, the RMS Mauretania which held the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, and the RMS Carpathia which rescued the survivors from the RMS Titanic.

As the name suggests, the company represented the combined forces of three powerful shipbuilding families: Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson. The company has effectively ended all shipbuilding and is now concentrating on ship design with just under 200 people employed.

The Normandy invasion

The Invasion of Normandy was the invasion and establishment of Allied forces in Normandy, France during Operation Overlord in World War II. It covers from the initial landings on June 6, 1944 until the Allied breakout in mid-July. The invasion was the largest seaborne invasion at the time, involving over 156,000 troops crossing the English Channel from the United Kingdom to Normandy.

Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on June 6 came from Canada, Free French Forces, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. In the weeks following the invasion, Polish forces also participated and there were also contingents from Belgium. Czechoslovakia, Greece, and the Netherlands.

Most of the above countries also provided air and naval support, as did the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Norwegian Navy. The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks, naval bombardments, an early morning amphibious landing and during the evening the remaining elements of the parachute divisions landed.

The "D-Day" forces deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important of these being Portsmouth Utah Beach was the codename for one of the Allied landing beaches during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as part of Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944.

Utah was added to the invasion plan toward the end of the planning stages, when more landing craft became available. Despite being substantially off course, the U.S. 4th Infantry Division landed there with relatively little resistance, in contrast to Omaha Beach where the fighting was fierce. Utah beach, about 3 miles (5 km) long, was the westernmost of the five landing beaches, located between Pouppeville and La Madeleine.

The Battle of Okinawa, fought on the Japanese island of Okinawa, was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater.It lasted from late March through June 1945.

The battle has been referred to as the "Typhoon of Steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or tetsu no("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of gunfire involved, and sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. Okinawa had a prewar civilian population of 435,000, of whom an estimated 75,000 to 140,000 died during the battle.

The Allies were planning to use Okinawa as a staging ground for Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese mainland. However, this need was obviated after a significant series of events which included the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war on Japan in August 1945. Japan surrendered and World War II ended.


Following their retreat to the western side of the Indian Ocean in 1942, British naval forces did not return to the South West Pacific theatre until May 17, 1944, when an Anglo-American carrier task force implemented Operation Transom, a joint raid on Surabaya, Java. The U.S. was liberating British territories in the Pacific and extending its influence. It was therefore seen as a political and military imperative to restore a British presence in the region and to deploy British military assets directly against Japan. The British government were determined that British territories, such as Hong Kong, should be recaptured by British forces.

The British establishment, however, was not unanimous on the commitment of the BPF. Churchill, in particular, argued against it, not wishing to be a visibly junior partner in what had been exclusively the United States' battle. (The Australian and New Zealand forces that were active had been absorbed into US command structures.)

He also considered that a British presence would be unwelcome and should be concentrated on Burma and Malaya. Naval planners, supported by the Chiefs of Staff, believed that such a commitment would strengthen British influence and the British Chiefs of Staff considered mass resignation, so strongly held were their opinions.

Some U.S. planners had also considered, in 1944, that a strong British presence against Japan was essential to an early end to the war and American home opinion would also be badly affected if Britain did not put itself in the line. The Admiralty had proposed an active British role in the Pacific in early 1944 but the initial USN response had been discouraging. Admiral Ernest King, Commander-in-Chief United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, and alleged Anglophobe, was reluctant to concede any such role and raised a number of issues, including the requirement that the BPF should be entirely self-sufficient. These were eventually overcome or discounted and, at a meeting, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt "intervened to say that the British Fleet was no sooner offered than accepted.

In this, though the fact was not mentioned, he overruled Admiral King's opinion". The Australian Government had sought U.S. military assistance in 1942, when it was faced with the possibility of Japanese invasion. While Australia had made a significant contribution to the Pacifc War, it had never been an equal partner with its U.S. counterparts in strategic decision-making.

It was argued that a British presence would act as a counter-balance to the powerful and increasing U.S. presence in the Pacific. When the BPF arrived at Sydney, its new home base, in February, 1945, it was well received.

The Australian government had prepared necessary facilities, supplies had been stock-piled and civilian homes were available for crews to rest and experience home life. The deployment of the BPF would not be straightforward.

The Pacific War was a radically different operating environment requiring warships to remain at sea for extended periods, without ready access to land bases. Britain had previously depended on land bases for replenishment, and had to develop a fleet train to support its efforts at sea, far away from British bases. The effort made by Britain and its Commonwealth partners in the final stages of the Pacific war did manage to repair British prestige and influence.

Battleship Graf Spee

At the outbreak of war (as in World War I), the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) used auxiliary cruisers (converted merchant ships) and the Pocket Battleship Graf Spee to both threaten the sea lanes and tie down the British Royal Navy. In mid-1940, Italy declared war and the Italian vessels based in Italian East Africa posed a threat to the supply routes through the Red Sea.

Worse was to come when the Japanese declared war in December 1941 and, after Pearl Harbour, the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse, and the occupation of Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies, there was an aggressive threat from the east.

This became reality when an overwhelming Japanese naval force operated in the eastern Indian Ocean, sinking an aircraft carrier, other warships and disrupting freight traffic along the Indian east coast. At this stage, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke wrote: We were hanging by our eyelids! Australia and India were threatened by the Japanese, we had temporarily lost control of the Indian Ocean, the Germans were threatening Iran and our oil, Auchinleck was in precarious straits in the desert, and the submarine sinkings were heavy.

The fear was that a concerted Japanese stroke could chase the Royal Navy from the Indian Ocean, with dire implications for India, and that German success in the Caucasus and in Egypt would threaten the Persian Gulf. Although World War I was fought mostly on land, ships were a necessary technological development as they helped to acquire resources and manpower.

Commanding the sea allowed allies to prevail on the western front. “With more than two thirds of the earth’s surface covered by water, it would have been unnatural for man to neglect this playground as an idea site for thousands of battlefields…..” (Newman, Pg 204) Naval technology of the battleship prevailed during World War I. The battleship during the war was a symbol of naval dominance and played a major role in military strategy.

The term battleship derived from the 19th century term “ship-of-the-line,” which was classified as being large in size, heavily armored, and carried large and small caliber guns. The “line” is in reference to the battle line ships formed in order to attack the enemy’s formation of ships. British battleships were built with large guns and were able to fire much quicker than the guns on German battleships.

With time, modern designed battleships made several improvements in gunnery and were effective in aiming at the enemy with a shooting range of over 10,000 yards. With naval technology improving, it was important to stay ahead and therefore it was necessary to continually build bigger and better armoured ships. The quality of the battleship depended on the combination of armour protection, gun power and speed.

world war 2 submarines

Another ship that was a result of advanced naval technology was the battle cruiser. The first British construction of the battle cruiser was designed with much less armor than the battleship. This was an advantage at war as it made the ship lighter and enabled them to move faster across the water.

The purpose of the battle cruiser during the war was to be better armored than the smaller ships of the sea, but fast enough to escape larger ships that were fully equipped. In addition to battleships and cruisers, the introduction of the submarine was one of the more important constructions in naval warfare history. Military submarines had several advantages when used in warfare.

Being an underwater vessel, the submarine was safe from the firing guns from surface ships. Submarines were mainly used for defense as they were hard to locate under the depths of the water. Because of this, submarines were able to navigate quietly while sneaking up on their enemy.

Tactically submarines improved during WWI and were very effective; they became an important and useful technological advancement in naval warfare. Aerial technology began in China with hot air Balloons which were initially used for early military communication. Balloons were not effective at war because they were large targets, clearly visible to the enemy, and unable to fly in foggy or windy weather conditions.

Balloons were used for observation purposes only as well as gather information on the enemy while directing where to fire. “The air was a strange, intangible, and unpredictable medium, much more difficult to observe and understand than the sea.” The United States was late to support aerial technology and aviation. The US navy did not purchase its first airplane until 1911, and soon after congress granted the funds in support of military aviation.

Countries that felt vulnerable to attack developed their military aircrafts much sooner, therefore the Europeans had many more trained pilots and aircrafts than the United States. By 1912 France, Germany, Russia, Great Britain and Italy all had a significant number of planes and aviators.

Although they were ahead of the United States in that respect, none of the countries listed above had any aircraft that were specifically designed for war. They didn’t yet have the bombs or machine guns that were necessary for combat.

The US fell behind in using aerial technology for a few different reasons. One reason was that they didn’t feel as vulnerable and were much less threatened by the other countries in the industrial world. In addition, the United States had a military doctrine in place from 1914 until 1923. In order for US aircraft's to be constructed for military use, the doctrine had to have stated that an aircraft’s purpose was for bombing and fighting.

The doctrine included neither of these things as it only stated that military aircraft missions were for strategic purposes and the examination and surveillance of grounds only, not for air-to-air combat. When aircraft technology was developed it was for several different reasons for example commercial use, passenger transportation and air patrol.

Eventually though, airplanes became a dominant military arm during combat. It wasn’t really until World War Two that airplanes were used for military purposes and that aerial technology was advanced enough for airplanes to be a determining factor in the outcome of war.

Great air battles during World War Two

Great air battles during World War Two involved innovative technology, and the decisive use of strategic air power. With air power many new strategies of war evolved and enabled the military to view the battlefield from an entirely different perspective. Strategic bombing was one tool of air warfare used as its purpose was to cripple a nation or states ability to wage war.

As a result of an aerial attack fear is installed in the enemy breaking their morale and leaving them weary of another attack. “The airplane is an incomparable tool of war, as a combat weapon, as a means of gathering information, as a transport carrier of troops and supplies, as a destroyer of civilian centers and industry far behind actual battle lines.

Where air defence is inadequate or poorly organized, the military airplane has shown itself to be an irresistible weapon….” The topic of the use of technology in war has a lot of significance especially in developing a better understanding for the history of warfare. Throughout history, the technology used for warfare has been both detrimental to us as a nation, as well as beneficial.

Several of the technological advances throughout history have helped aid us at war and enabled us to become a nation of mobilized force. There is no doubt that technology helps ensure victory during times of war, but it is with these advancements that we must take on the responsibility for what we’ve created. I’ve gained knowledge of not only how technology affects war, but how our experiences at war help us determine what new technologies we must create to benefit us when at war in the future; the two I’ve learned are interchangeable.

Researching technology and its influence on warfare has given me insight on how far we’ve come in terms of how we use technology on land, in water, and air in order to defeat enemies during battle. The tools that we have created in order to conquer our foes are the very tools that have shaped us as an army, a navy, and an air force.

Enterprise class aircraft carrier

Most of us are familiar with the various words used to describe different types of Navy ships, but few of us actually understand which terms refer to which ships, or what the letters before each ship's name stands for. All commissioned Navy ship names begin with USS, which stands for "United States Ship". Civilian, non-commissioned ship names begin with USNS, for "United States Naval Ship". There are three basic types of Navy ships: aircraft carriers, surface combatants and submarines. Submarines are either of the attack or ballistic variety.

Ballistic submarines, such as the Ohio class, act as launch pads for nuclear ICBMs. Attack submarines are used in tactical missions, intelligence gathering operations and as cruise missile launching platforms. There are 3 classes of attack submarines: the Virginia, Seawolf and Los Angeles classes. Aircraft carriers are the behemoths of American defence, running over 1,000 feet in length. The U.S. Navy has the world's largest carrier fleet, making our sea power unparalleled.

Aircraft carriers bring fixed wing and rotary aircraft and fire power to wherever they are needed around the globe. There are currently three classes of aircraft carrier: the Enterprise, the Nimitz and the Ford. There has been only one Enterprise class aircraft carrier ever built. Currently, there are ten Nimitz class aircraft carriers and only one Ford class, with two more planned for construction. Surface combatants are the ships that assist aircraft carriers and submarines.

They can also attack on their own. While there are many smaller classes of ships used, the three major classes of surface combatants are the destroyers, the frigates and the cruisers. These ships act as amphibious assault ships, aircraft carrier escorts, as well as auxiliary and civilian craft that provide missile defense. Amphibious assault ships are the Marine Corps' equivalent to the Navy's aircraft carrier.

There are two classes of amphibious assault ships being used today: the Wasp and the Tarawa. Ticonderoga class guided missile cruisers are powerful and versatile ships used in anti-submarine warfare, as well as for air and surface warfare. Destroyers were originally known as torpedo boat destroyers.

The Zumwalt and Arleigh Burke classes of destroyers started out as deadly and agile attack ships which have evolved into significantly larger and far more deadly primary weapons. Frigates are designed primarily to protect other ships, being smaller than destroyers. Their secondary function lies in anti-submarine actions. All operational frigates are of the Oliver Hazard Perry class.

One of the first sail powered frigates, the USS Constitution, was operational from 1797 to 1881. In 1907, the USS Constitution began serving as a museum ship. The versatility, power and accuracy of these ships continue to garner the respect and admiration of governments around the world. In war and in peace keeping missions, these Navy ships are able to span the globe, halting terror and destruction, often without firing a single shot, simply by their presence. The enemies of freedom know full well the deadly capabilities of U.S. Navy ships and their crews.

The Roberts class of monitors of the Royal Navy consisted of two heavily-gunned vessels built during the Second World War. They were the Roberts, completed in 1941, and Abercrombie, completed in 1943. Features of the class, apart from two 15" guns in a twin mounting (taken from two First World War era Marshall class monitors), were shallow draught for operating inshore, broad beam to give stability (and also resistance to torpedoes and mines) and a high observation platform to observe fall of shot.

The A class was a flotilla of eight destroyers built for the Royal Navy as part of the 1927 naval programm. A ninth ship, Codrington, was built to an enlarged design to act as the flotilla leader. Two similar ships, Saguenay and Skeena were built for the Royal Canadian Navy.


The way warships are classified tends to be controversial, and there is no set definition for the meaning of a term. Everyone have their own views with their ships. For example Russian destroyers on which I served for many years are known as SNF (Soviet Naval Frigate) in USSR. Since modernisation of navies size of the ship doesn't matter in classifying the ships. However size was the main factor in the early days in classification. Secondly weapon carried and purpose of ship.

The World's Navies classifies the ships as follows:

Cruisers: +10,000 tons
Light Cruisers: 5000 to 10,000 tons
Destroyers: 3000 to 4000 tons
Frigates: 1100 to 3000 tons
Corvettes: 500 to 1100 tons
FAC: +25 Knots
Large PC: 100 to 500 tons
Coastal PC: -500 tons

There are, however, some nearly "standard" classifications that can be applied to most major warships. The designations listed here attempt to be "universal" to the greatest degree possible. Keep in mind that many nations chose to "do things their own way" at one time or another.

A typical destroyer built during WWII and still in service and would still be classified as a destroyer, but it would be more similar to a modern frigate, corvette or offshore patrol vessel depending on its level of modernization.
In the British Navy the pendent number is written with an alphabet in front which distinguish what type ship it is.

A - Auxiliary
B - Battleship
C - Cruiser
D - Destroyer
F - Frigate
M - Minesweeper
N - Minelayer
R - Aircraft Carrier
S - Submarine
H - Hydrographic Vessel
L - Amphibious Warfare
P - Fast Patrol Boat

Cruisers: Cruisers are an extremely large and varied group.

Guided Missile Cruiser: Modern guided missile cruisers generally have only one of the traditional cruiser roles--they are either offensive or defensive, but not both. Typically offensive ships are equipped with heavy anti-ship missile batteries; defensive ships have anti-aircraft missiles to defend task forces. Neither type is truly capable of independent offensive operations as traditional cruisers were. A few guided missile cruisers have combined the offensive and defensive batteries in one large hull.

Destroyers: The destroyers have seen numerous changes in role over the years, as can be seen from the descriptions below

Definitions based on size comparison (i.e. a destroyer is larger than a frigate but smaller than a cruiser) and displacement have become meaningless in this category and the same will likely happen to the escort classes (corvettes and frigates) in the next two decades.

Destroyer: (DD/DDG(Destroyer /Guided Missile Destroyer) Small, fast, heavily armed escorts intended to protect the battle fleet, Carriers from enemy surface, air or undersea threats, depending on the era. Destroyers originated as "torpedo-boat destroyers", intended to sink enemy torpedo boats. Anti-submarine warfare was added when submarine became a threat.

As aircraft became more important the destroyers added an anti-aircraft role. Destroyers are primarily defensive in nature and generally operate in groups rather than independently. In a modern context, DDs are the major anti-submarine ships and DDGs are anti-aircraft ships, but they retain multi-mission capabilities.
In addition to these defensive capabilities, it can support strike operations with long-range gunfire and land-attack missiles. It is this strike ability, mostly with Tomahawk missiles, that distinguish destroyers from frigates.

Frigates: Frigates are larger than corvettes. They are about the same size or just smaller than. Frigates today are multi-purpose platforms capable of long-range, long-endurance independent low and medium intensity missions. They are with advanced weapons, sensors and computer processing ability to defeat multiple air, surface and subsurface threats simultaneously and surviving in a high intensity environment. Stealth frigates are getting popular in the many navies.

Corvette is a small, manoeuvrable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft, although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role.Corvette Small, generally slow escort-type vessel, generally intended for ASW.

They are also sufficiently habitable and have the endurance for long-range operations. Best suited for coastal work but sometimes employed as a seagoing vessel. Often seem to be heavily armed for their size, but generally are lacking in things like sensors, electronics, reloads, range and accommodations.

Corvettes have a displacement between 540 and 2,750 long tons (and measure 180-330 feet (55-100 meters) in length. They are usually armed with medium- and small-caliber guns, surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and underwater warfare weapons.

FAC: Fast attack craft are smaller than corvettes and distinguishable from similar sized patrol craft by their higher speed (at least 25 knots). They are distinguishable also from inshore vessels by size, being around 50m in length, whereas the smaller craft are 30m or less. Due to their small size, FAC specialise in one discipline and cannot be considered multi-purpose platforms. Most are optimised for surface warfare using missiles and guns, and increasingly rarely, torpedoes.


Battleships were the primary warships in the era of ship-to-ship combat with guns. They were equipped with the largest and greatest number of guns possible, and were heavily armoured to protect them from similar enemy ships. Battleships were intended to engage in ship-on-ship or fleet-on-fleet combat with forces of enemy battleships. Battleship armor was generally heavy enough to protect the ship against it's own main armament.
Offshore Patrol Vessel: (OPV) Modern classification for vessels similar in purpose to the 3rd class cruisers. Intended for duty in areas requiring presence but not major fighting power. Vessels tend to be optimized for good seakeeping, long range, good accommodations, easy maintenance and reliability. Generally slow and seemingly underarmed for their size

The World's Navies classifies the ships as follows:
Cruisers: +10,000 tons
Light Cruisers: 5000 to 10,000 tons
Destroyers: 3000 to 4000 tons
Frigates: 1100 to 3000 tons
Corvettes: 500 to 1100 tons
FAC: +25 Knots
Large PC: 100 to 500 tons
Coastal PC: -500 tons

HMS Valiant

In the autumn of 1969 I was a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve and the long-serving navigator of the first, all-British nuclear submarine, HMS Valiant (SSN 02) at that time on a courtesy visit and berthed in the inner basin of La Spezia Harbour on Italy's west coast. HMS Valiant was the second nuclear vessel in the Royal Navy, the first being the submarine HMS Dreadnought (SSN01) which had an American S5N reactor.

Due to some misunderstanding with Vice-Admiral Herman Rickover, America refused further to supply submarine pressurised water reactors to Britain and so we had to build our own. HMS Valiant was therefore all British and was given a very advanced and silent 80 megawatt reactor and turbine propulsion unit, elements of the design of which were, paradoxically, later copied by the US Navy for their submarines.

After three weeks of strenuous exercises with NATO warships in the Mediterranean, all keen to gain valuable and rare experience in tracking a nuclear submarine, we docked in the inner basin of the port of La Spezia. As was the custom during courtesy visits, the local dignitaries and senior Italian naval officers were invited to an official wardroom party.

That night I was doing ‘meet and greet' duty on the casing of the submarine for the party being held in the control room. A somewhat grizzled Italian Vice Admiral came up the brow, saluted the quarterdeck and approached me as I stood in my best uniform (with sword) next to the hatchway down to the party.

"Good evening sir," I greeted him, saluting, "welcome to HMS Valiant."

"I sank the last HMS Valiant!" he growled, returning my salute.

"Well sir, try not to sink this one please," was all I could think of in reply; for it was Vice Admiral de la Penne. He much enjoyed the subsequent party, took me out to a big lunch in town the next day and told me, in his own words, how he sank the previous HMS Valiant in 1941. This is his story.

On December 19th 1941 when he was a Lieutenant-Commander in the Italian Regia Marina, he led three teams of two Italian frogmen into Alexandra Harbour riding on two-man chariots. On December 3rd 1941 the Italian submarine Scire left La Spezia with three torpedo chariots secured to her upper casing and en-route, embarked Commander de la Penne with his five trained frogmen from the Island of Leros in the Aegean Sea.

The Serce proceeded to a position just over a mile off the entrance to Alexandra harbour, came up to periscope depth and released the chariots. The three chariots proceeded into the harbour when the boom protecting the entrance was opened to let three British destroyers out. Most of the British Mediterranean fleet was at anchor inside including the WW1 battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant.

De la Penne's companion, Lieutenant Emilio Bianchi lost his Oxygen supply and had to surface for a few minutes. De la Penne proceeded towards HMS Valiant alone. When he was a few yards short, the chariot's motor ceased to function and he had to push it under the battleship which had about four feet clearance from the flat, sandy bottom of the harbour.

After placing their charge both de la Penne and Bianchi had to surface near the stern of HMS Valiant and were captured. Bianchi had broken his arm and was taken to the sick bay, treated, and then, after questioning which elicited no more than name, rank and serial number from each of them, they were locked in a lower deck compartment, coincidentally only just over the charge that they had placed under the battleship.

With fifteen minutes to the intended time of the explosion, de la Penne warned HMS Valiant's captain Charles Morgan in time for all the ship's personnel to be cleared from the lower decks. Both de la Penne and Bianchi were slightly injured when their charge went off but were evacuated to the upper deck in time to witness the charges placed by the other two maiales going off under HMS Queen Elizabeth, the British Destroyer HMS Jervis and the Norwegian tanker Sagona. After all the charges detonated, both battleships sank onto the sand and remained immobile for some months until temporary repairs could be completed and the ships refloated.

Full ceremonial colours, sunset with bugle calls, parades on the upper decks and gun drills were carried out in the interim while the battleships were resting on the bottom of the harbour, so that it appeared from the shore that they were still afloat and fully operational, if somewhat heavily laden.


Italy agreed an armistice with the Allies on September 8th 1943 and de la Penne was released from his prisoner of war confinement. He agreed to assist the Royal Navy with their underwater weapons and frogman programme.

He was involved in the planning and execution of the raid by Royal Naval frogman on the German fortifications at La Spezia when a mixed team of Italian and British frogmen sank the cruisers Gorizia and Bolzano in the harbour.

Admiral Charles Morgan, who had been the Captain of HMS Valiant when Luigi Durand de la Penne sank her back in 1941, never forgot de la Penne's chivalry in warning him of the danger to the British personnel in the lower decks of HMS Valiant and thus saving many lives when those decks were evacuated. He had tried to get de la Penne a British medal, but failed as Italy was not officially allied to Great Britain. In March 1945 Crown Prince Umberto of Italy, with Admiral Sir Charles Morgan, now commanding the British Naval forces in the Adriatic, was inspecting the Italian naval barracks at Taranto and awarding medals to personnel for bravery in service.

Crown Prince Umberto of Italy, who knew of Admiral Morgan's attempts to obtain a British medal for de la Penne, asked him to present de la Penne with Italy's highest medal for valour, the ‘Valor Militare' on the Prince's behalf.

Vice-Admiral Luigi Durand de la Penne died on January 17th 1992. He was a very brave man and I am honoured to have met him and heard his story of the sinking of the battleship HMS Valiant from his own lips

Thanks to David Arnold

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