They were designed to be the best…
they met enemies face to face,
endured tragedies and enjoyed victories…
they went down in history due to the bravery of their crews…
they are the ships that deserve to be called
In this episode: Battleship Iowa: a Trump Card That Was Never Played
In the 1930s, the whole world was crazy about two things: swing music and…
The passion that politicians and industrial moguls
showed to the latter had all the signs of gigantomania.
By finding legal loopholes in international arms control treaties and conventions,
or simply ignoring them,
countries were constantly building new and unprecedented weapon systems,
for both land and sea.
They were becoming bigger,
and more powerful.
The global arms race involved the most advanced technologies
of the time and huge financial resources.
In order to compete with any of our potential enemies
enemies it was felt necessary to increase the size of our ships.
So the Iowa was a 45,000-ton battleship.
The prior ships had been less: the South Dakota-class
and the North Carolina-class.
A battleship is basically a floating artillery battery,
so her size directly depends on the size of her primary guns.
The 16-inch main batteries on battleship Iowa,
of which there are three, three turrets.
Each turret has three guns…
Everything about the ship design is structured around becoming…
being a platform for the 16-inch guns.
It’s like small arms: there is a common misbelief that the pistol is designed first,
and then the cartridge.
No, the Defense Ministry always orders the cartridge.
The same for ships: the enemy has 15 inches and 12 inches
Let’s make 16 inches,
because we already have some of the technologies.
But let’s not make it 40, but 50 calibers long. And they made a 16-inch gun.
So the ship was built to carry this particular gun
Key Specifications of Battleship Iowa
Total displacement: 57,540 tons
Length: 887 feet 6 inches
Beam: 108 feet 3 inches
Draft: 36 feet 1 inch
Primary armament: Nine Mark 7 guns in three triple turrets
Caliber: 16 inches
Maximum range: 24 miles
20 Mark 12 guns in 10 coaxial Mark 28 turrets
Caliber: 5 inches
Anti-aircraft armament: 19 quadruple Bofors guns
52 Oerlikon Mark 2/3/4 autocannons
Air group: 3 Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes
During construction, Iowa’s armor was declared
higher than it actually was, in order to mislead the enemy.
The real specifications are as follows:
Main belt: 12.1 inches
Main turrets: 7.2–17 inches
Conning tower: 7.2–17.3 inches
Main armor deck: 6–7 inches
Iowa has the most powerful power plant among battleships.
Four geared turbine engines with
eight turbines produced by General Electric.
Eight boilers produced by Babcock & Wilcox
Power: 212,000 hp
Maximum speed: about 33 knots
Cruising range: about 20,000 nautical miles at a speed of 15 knots
Battleship Iowa had a very unique hull design and the bull nose.
And you can also see that her lines were very tapered, almost aerodynamic.
…and that’s all part and parcel of how they got
this 57,000-ton behemoth up to a speed of 33 knots.
…which is very, very fast and almost…
you could say it’s almost power boat speed,
you know, very unusual for a warship...
This became an important advantage later on,
during the war in the Pacific Theatre.
With a speed like that, Iowa could efficiently escort carrier task forces.
They put about 140 20-mm and 40-mm anti-aircraft guns on the ship,
and the carriers loved them because they were able to protect the carrier.
When Iowa was still under construction, the Americans realized
that she would play a secondary role in battles against the Japanese fleet.
Aircraft carriers were becoming the main striking force of the navy.
But a giant like Iowa played a worthy role in the world war, too.
The battleship Iowa was commissioned in early 1943.
Its first mission on was to go north…
Naval intelligence felt that the Tirpitz, the German battleship,
may be coming into the North Atlantic.
The battleship Iowa was sent on an early mission north to block the Tirpitz.
Suppose battleships Iowa and Tirpitz met in battle.
Iowa had higher speed, greater maneuverability, and longer range of fire.
Tirpitz would be trying to get in close to Iowa,
and Iowa would be looking to keep away,
maneuvering and firing at Tirpitz from a great distance.
Iowa would have definitely won this battle.
But the two naval heavyweight warriors never met,
so we can only imagine how their duel would have ended.
Then, their second mission, on October 12, 1943, was to accompany,
or I should say, carry Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic to North Africa.
From there he went on to visit Churchill and Stalin in the Tehran Conference.
Roosevelt was on board the ship for 15 days.
When President Roosevelt came on board, the first thing he saw was Vicky.
Now, the first captain, Captain John McCrea,
brought this little dog home one day.
And his wife looked at the dog and said,
“Get that thing out of here.”
So Captain McCrea took the dog and brought him on the ship.
And President Roosevelt asked “Who is this little dog?”
And Captain McCrea said, “Well, that’s our little ship’s mascot, named Vicky.”
So Vicky spent the whole 15 days of the
Roosevelt’s passage in the cabin with Roosevelt,
he would roll or play tricks.
While he wasn’t very good as a sailor,
he was very good as a dog.
And Roosevelt really enjoyed Vicky.
In early 1944, battleship Iowa joined the United States Fifth Fleet,
which operated in the Pacific Ocean.
By that time, US forces were already attacking Japanese positions on various islands.
The battleship’s role was to provide fire support to landing troops
and escort aircraft carriers during air raids on the Philippines,
the Ryukyu Islands, and Taiwan.
…the ship crisscrossing across a lot of these
small islands that are really forgotten now.
At one point they went up to support MacArthur's
landing in the Philippines at Leyte Gulf.
And unfortunately they went the wrong way
at Leyte Gulf and chased a Japanese carrier
force that was really a decoy for the landing.
They came back, but a little too late to assist in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
They missed that one opportunity to maybe have a contact with the Yamato.
The two ships never met in combat;
and both countries kept their capital battleships at,
shall we say arm’s length, kept them at distance,
because there was great political risk to having
either one of the ships damaged severely in battle.
Japanese industry, in those days, simply didn’t
have the resources to build ships in large numbers.
The solution was simple: to make huge ships that would
exceed the largest ships of other nations—super battleships.
Battleship Yamato is the biggest battleship in the world.
Her shell velocity was 2,600 ft/s
while its weight could be up to 3,300 pounds
Such a large gun could inflict very serious damage.
They beat us. The Japanese essentially broke the treaty.
On the other side,
Соединённые Штаты Америки.
the United States of America was simply building a ship
that met the contemporary requirements of naval warfare
and could easily, without any extra effort, be built by the American industry…
During the war the Japanese fleet could afford to build only two battleships,
while the Americans were able to construct more and more new battleships…
The Americans were simply building another ship, and she turned out to be a good one...
The Iowa, I think (of course, I would probably say this),
would’ve taken the day in a battle against the Yamato.
She had very accurate fire control for a ship of the 1940s.
And I think that would be an advantage for her if that ship fights such a battle.
It was so accurate that in 1984, when they recommissioned the ship,
they kept the existing system in place, even though they had modern computers.
The Iowa could put a round very, very close to the
target, so accurate that they didn’t need to change it.
Iowa was the most dangerous enemy for Yamato.
If they had met at a range from from 66,000 to 98,000 feet
especially in a one-on-one fight and in fine
weather, Iowa would have no chance of winning.
However, thanks to better radar Iowa could fight in bad weather and at night.
Powerful guns, high speed, and precise radar made Iowa a formidable adversary.
If these two battleships had fought each other,
the victory would depend completely on the battle conditions…
…We could get in quick and fire. But then there’s always the lucky shot.
The changing tactics of naval warfare increased the role of aircraft carriers
and deprived Iowa of a chance to use its primary armament against surface ships.
So the battleship used its firepower against the enemy’s coastal positions.
On August 29, 1945, when the war was virtually over,
Iowa stood side by side with her sister ship Missouri and entered the Tokyo Bay
as part of the occupation force.
We were next to our sister ship, the Missouri.
And the Missouri, of course, is where Douglas MacArthur
accepted the final surrender of the Japanese.
Now, we like to say on the Iowa that had Roosevelt lived,
that signing might have been on the Iowa, because he had been on this ship.
But President Truman was from the state of
Missouri, and so the signing was on the Missouri.
A sailor that was on that trip once told me…
I asked him if he was sad that he didn’t get the signing instead of the Missouri.
And he said, “No, not really.
The war was over, we had lived, we were going home to our wives and children,
and all the guys on the Missouri were busy preparing
a photo opportunity for Douglas MacArthur.”
At the end of the war, we brought back a large number of American POWs,
Japanese prisoners of war…
And we brought them home and sailed through the Golden Gate bridge.
And the war was over.
For her service in World War II, the battleship was decorated with nine battle stars.
In 1949, Iowa was decommissioned into the reserve fleet, but two years later
she was recommissioned and sent on a mission to the coast of Korea.
The battleship returned home with two more battle stars.
From 1958 to 1984, Iowa was kept in reserve, and after
modernization she returned to active service again.
However, the event that took place in the late 1980s showed
that battleships can also sustain losses outside of wartime.
On April 19, 1989, the biggest tragedy that ever struck this ship occurred.
The ship was about 400 miles or so north of Puerto Rico.
As I understand it, they had loaded the shell in the Number 2 turret,
rammed in the powder, and they were about to close the breach when something happened.
There was an explosion that killed 47 men...
It was by far the biggest loss of life on the ship.
Having recovered from the tragedy, the battleship
returned home and joined the reserve fleet.
In 2001, 58 years since her launch by the New York Naval Shipyard,
after she had crossed tens of thousands of miles
and fired thousands of shells at the enemies,
battleship Iowa was berthed in the Port of Los Angeles.
She’s unique, because she did have three careers in the Navy:
World War II, Korea, and the 1980s.
And then now she’s on her fourth career as a museum ship...