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16-in Guns vs Hard Targets : A Reality Check

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  • 16-in Guns vs Hard Targets : A Reality Check

    Nelson to Vanguard : Warship Development 1923-1945 by D.K. Brown (RIP ) :

    Page 199 : I was often argued in the second half of the [second world] war that shore bombardment was invaluable and a major role, justifying the battleship. This argument has been accepted by most writers without any detailed consideration of the evidence.
    Let's examine some of the evidence with a specific focus on those *hard targets* that are supposedly so vulnerable to 16-inch gunfire.
    Last edited by Shipwreck; 17 May 08,, 22:24.

  • #2
    USS Massachussets vs El Hank Battery (8 Nov. 1942)

    El Hank Battery was the main battery defending Casablanca harbor and became as such one of the main targets taken under fire by allied warships during Operation Torch on 8 November 1942.

    El Hank Battery was comprised of :

    a) 4 x 194mm/50 (7.6") Model 1902 guns in Model 1934 single mounts, with a maximum range of 28,390 yards with AP shells. Each mount has an ammunition stowage of 95 rounds, meaning a total of 380 rounds for the battery.

    b) 4 x 138mm/55 (5.5") Model 1910 guns in Model 1919/25 single mounts, with a maximum range of 16,840 yards with SAP shells. Each mount has a ammunition stowage of 160 rounds, meaning a total of 640 rounds for the battery.

    All guns were protected by lightly armored shields.

    El Hank Battery was much criticized by Rear Admiral Marzin (former CO of battleship Richelieu) during his visit in December 1941. Points of criticism were :

    a) El Hank Battery is colocated with a 160-feet high lighthouse, which provides an excellent reference point for counterbattery.

    b) Spacing between the mounts is insufficient (min. 65 meters, max. 165 meters for the 7.6" guns; 45 meters on average for the 5.5" guns; 116 meters between 7.6" mount #1 and 5.5" mount #4).

    c) Ammunition stowage is located in concrete alveoles next to the gun mounts and offers insufficient protection against counterbattery.

    d) Should the needs exceed stowage immediately available at El Hank (380 x 7.6" + 640 x 5.5"), further ammunition would have be brought from Bouskoura, located inland 5 km away from the battery). This proved to be a factor that limited the effectiveness of the battery during Operation Torch, especially for the 7.6" guns (351 rounds fired between 8 November and 11 November 1942).

    e) Anti-aircraft artillery is insufficient (4 x 13.2mm Model 1929 HMGs, 2 in CAS single mounts and 2 in a CAD twin mount) to provide an effective protection against an airstrike.

    Plans were prepared to re-locate the battery further from the lighthouse to the east, but very little had been done in this direction when Operation Torch started.
    Last edited by Shipwreck; 18 May 08,, 00:10.


    • #3
      USS Massachussets vs El Hank Battery (8 Nov. 1942)

      On 8 November 1942, between 0704 and 1558, USS Massachusetts fired 786 x 16" shells in 134 salvos. Of the 134 salvos, 27 were directed at El Hank Battery (first one at 0720, last one at 1558).

      In the AAR of USS Massachusetts, it is reported that El Hank Battery was temporarily silenced at 0740, then hit by three salvos between 1345 and 1351, and that the last salvo at 1558 exploded an ammunition dump of El Hank Battery.

      El Hank Battery straddled USS Massachusetts at 0703, 0710, 0713, 0803, 0828, 0830, 0855, 0943, 0945, 0951, 1000 and 1346. At 0855, one 7.6" shell hit USS Massachusetts' main gaff, holing her battle ensign. At 1000, one 7.6" shell hit the port side between turrets 1 & 2 at frame 48, penetrated the deck armor, and detonated in compartment A-208-L, causing light damage.

      According to French sources, damage on El Hank Battery from naval gunfire was light. Reported casualties from naval gunfire were 1 DIA and 1 WIA.
      Last edited by Shipwreck; 18 May 08,, 00:35.


      • #4
        USS Massachussets vs El Hank Battery (8 Nov. 1942)

        Abstracts from USS Massachusetts After Action Report dated November 13, 1942 :

        3. Toward the end of the first run, I was informed that El Hank had not replied for a period of four or five minutes and the consensus appeared to be that El Hank was out of commission. This later proved totally in error. El Hank also was covered by a large dust cloud or made a smoke screen. We believe that shells from this force probably temporarily disabled El Hank causing the crew of the battery to seek shelter. After we had ceased firing, they repaired whatever damage took place and through the remained of the day continued to fire spasmatically whenever we were in range.
        6. In the future, if it is intended for men of war to bombard land fortifications, the ships so doing must be equipped with bombardment ammunition as armor piercing shells apparently do not accomplish extensive damage unless they made a direct hit.
        Last edited by Shipwreck; 18 May 08,, 00:03.


        • #5
          USS Massachussets vs El Hank Battery (8 Nov. 1942)

          Abstract from an article entitled "Amphibious Operations" by Lt. Col. R. C. Williams published in Field Artillery Magazine, May-June 1950 Issue :

          Page 113 : An inspection of El Hank after the battle had ended revealed that these enormous [16-inch] rounds, designed as armor piercing projectiles for use against enemy battleships and cruisers, did not burst into fragments upon hitting. The rounds might pierce armor, but they hurt nobody in El Hank because they did not land squarely on a gun. The Navy learned this lesson quickly, as they changed their ammunition for naval gunfire support immediately after TORCH.



          • #6
            HMS Rodney vs Fort du Santon Battery (8 Nov. 1942)

            Fort du Santon was one of the main battery defending Mers El Kebir harbor and became as such one of the main targets taken under fire by allied warships during Operation Torch on 8 November 1942.

            Perched on a 1,000-foot high ridge looming over Mers El Kebir, with a commanding view of surrounding waters, Fort Du Santon was comprised of 4 x 194mm/50 (7.6") Model 1902 guns in Model 1934 single mounts. Layout was similar to that of El Hank Battery.

            Fort du Santon was fired upon by HMS Rodney's 16-inch and 6-inch guns between 8 November and 10 November 1942.
            Last edited by Shipwreck; 18 May 08,, 00:24.


            • #7
              HMS Rodney vs Fort du Santon Battery (8 Nov. 1942)

              HMS Rodney by Iain Ballantyne :

              Page 195 : Admiral Cunningham took a keen interest in the bombardments of Fort Santon, making the important judgement that it was not necessarily the accuracy of the shooting which was decisive.

              "Once again, this operation proved that naval bombardments, however accurate, do not get direct hits on guns in protected emplacements", he wrote.
              Page 196 : Cunningham thought it highly significant Santon "capitulated shortly after the 16-inch fire was augmented with rapid and accurate fire with 6-inch guns".

              He suggested "better results can be achieved by firing 6-inch full broadsides with a high rate of fire into a small area than by deliberate fire with heavier shell".


              • #8
                USS Iowa and NJ vs Mili Island, 18 March 1944

                Mili Island during World War 2 :

                In order to create a suitable defense system at its perimeter, the Japanese navy decided to develop some of the atolls of the Marshall Islands into bases for seaplanes, for naval surface units submarines, and, with the advent of long-range land-based bombers, as airfields. Mili was only to become a small lookout, radio direction finding and weather station. After the begin of the war and the Japanese occupation of Kiribati, however, the strategic concepts changed. The development of Mili air base began in in autumn 1942 when the Korean and Marshallese labour force building the seaplane base on Majuro was transferred.

                However, as the base was begun very late in the war, when Japanese resources were being stretched and when Japanese shipping was under attack by U.S. submarines, the base development is characterised by a relative absence of large concrete structures, such as command buildings, power stations or bunkers. In a very short time, between late 1942 and late 1943, the Japanese had constructed an airfield with three runways (4750', 4550' + 4400'), two hangars and a service apron. By end of 1943 there were also several hundred buildings, mainly of wooden construction, a wooden pier and several repair shops.

                There was one radar set (range 50 miles) on island, giving the air wing some 10 minutes warning. During the war two squadrons of planes were temporarily stationed here many of which were destroyed on the ground. A large number of plane wrecks, mainly Zero-fighters (Mitsubishi A6M) and Betty-bombers (Mitsubishi G3M) are scattered about on the island.

                The perimeter of the island, especially the ocean side, bristled with guns, which were a mixture of British and Japanese manufacture: 8 6" and 3 14cm coastal defense guns, 4 127mm dual purpose guns, 2 10cm mortars, 35 heavy and over 70 light anti-aircraft guns as well as an assortment of small guns.

                Between mid-1943 and Aug. 1945, the US aircraft dropped 3350t bombs and US ships shot 450t shells onto Taroa. While the first attacks were carried-based and irregular, daily attacks were started after Majuro and Kwajalein had fallen to the US. At the same time, all supply lines to Mili were cut off, and the Japanese garrison was left to starve. Of the originally 5100 strong Japanese garrison (2600 Navy, 2500 Army,) only 2500 (50%) survived. Casualties occurred from air raids, diseases, accidents, and suicides, but mainly from starvation.


                • #9
                  El Hank was one of the first bombardments in WWII by an American battleship, so therefore some allowance has to be made for that fact. The battleships were at the beginning of a learning curve. By the time 1945 came around, there would have been a different ending with the upgrades in fire control and munitions.


                  • #10
                    USS Iowa and NJ vs Mili Island, 18 March 1944

                    While Malcolm Muir's Iowa Class Battleships or the DANFS entry for USS Iowa both mention Japanese 4.7" guns on Mili Island, research conducted at Charles Sturt University (Albury, Australia) established that the coastal defenses on Mili Island were mainly comprised of :

                    a. 8 x 6"/45 guns in single mounts

                    The breechblock numbers of 5 of the 6"/45 guns on Mili Island could be read and traced to give evidence of the origin of the guns (see this paper, pages 123 to 127) and it was speculated that these guns were of British origin and came from the old pre-dreadnoughts Katori and Kashima.

                    The guns were protected by lightly armored shields (as shown on pages 124-125 of this paper), and had a maximum range of about 16,000 yards with 100-lb AP projectiles.

                    b. 3 x 5.5"/50 Model 1914 guns in single mounts

                    These were the most numerous coastal defense guns used by Japan during WW2. Protected by a lightly armored shield, these guns had a maximum range of 22,500 yards with 84-lb HE/common projectiles.

                    c. 4 x 5" DP guns in single mounts

                    These were either the 5"/50 3rd Year Type (maximum range of 20,100 yards with a 50.7-lb projectile) or most likely, the 5"/40 Type 89 (maximum range of 16,185 yards with a 50.7-lb projectiles).

                    d. 2 x 10-cm Type 7 guns in single mounts

                    This was a built-up gun on a barbette pedestal mount with a shield protecting the gun pointer and range setter. It was emplaced in a shallow concrete pit. Recoil and counter-recoil were hydra-spring. The breechblock was of the sliding block type and was semi-automatic. Ammunition was semi-fixed and the rate of fire was 12 rounds per minute. The gun had 360° of traverse, and a maximum range of 11,000 yards.


                    • #11
                      USS Iowa and NJ vs Mili Island, 18 March 1944

                      Upon arrival off Mili Island on the morning of 18 March 1944, USS Iowa and USS New Jersey commenced shore bombardment according to plan at 0704, distance approximately 20,000 yards.

                      Range was then closed at 0906 to approximately 15,000 yards, firing with both 16" and 5" guns according to plan. Counterfire from Japanese shore batteries commenced at 0907.

                      Between 0929 and 1007, both USS Iowa and USS New Jersey was straddled several times (20 times for USS Iowa alone). USS Iowa was hit twice, first time at 0940 (hit on the left side plate of Turret II, believed to be of 6" caliber) and second time at 0956 (hit on the hull, port sideframe 134, 4 feet below the main deck, believed to be of 5" caliber).

                      As a result of counterfire from Japanese shore batteries, the original bombardment plan, which contemplated final phase on the 10,000 yards track line, was abandonned and the battleships drew off to 20,000 yards. Another two Japanese shells landed close to starboard when USS Iowa was retiring, distant some 20,000 yards from the nearest island.


                      • #12
                        USS Iowa and NJ vs Mili Island, 18 March 1944

                        The Iowa Class Battleships by Malcolm Muir :

                        Pages 48-49 : The Iowa had fired 180 rounds of 16-inch HC (high capacity or bombardment) ammunition; the New Jersey 187.

                        The gunnery officer of the Iowa felt that the ship should have used AP (armor piercing) shells against the coast defense batteries.

                        "We put several salvos right on the emplacements, and after each, as the smoke and dust rose, four gun flashes would appear as the Japs [sic] got off another salvo. Our HC projectiles (...) had no effect on the heavy concrete emplacements."


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by DaveinCoalinga View Post
                          By the time 1945 came around, there would have been a different ending with the upgrades in fire control and munitions.
                          Regarding FC :

                          Range and bearing were obtained by USS Massachusetts on El Hank lighthouse at 0704 and were maintained throughout the engagement (with the exception of 24 salvos fired against Jean Bart between 0748 and 0802, radars being inoperative at the time).

                          The Iowas were the only fast BBs to receive Mark-48 shore bombardment computers in the mid-50s, so all fast BBs got their FC solutions for shore bombardment from their Mark-38 directors. The Mark-13 radar was arguably an improvement over the Mark-8 radar for surface engagements, but wouldn't have made much of a difference in the shooting against El Hank.

                          Air spotting conditions were not ideal in Casablanca, but Allied forces enjoyed complete air superiority during the engagement and not much could be done against smoke and dust anyway.

                          Regarding ammunitions :

                          While the CO of USS Massachusetts blames AP shells for the modest results achieved against El Hank Battery (see post #4), the gunnery officer of USS Iowa blames HC shells for the modest results achieved against Japanese coastal batteries on Mili Islands.



                          • #14
                            HMS Rodney vs Blücher Battery, 12 August 1944

                            HMS Rodney by Iain Ballantyne :

                            Page 253 : Despite glowing contemporary Royal Navy reports of the bombardment's effectiveness, and also a widespread belief in its devastating effect aboard Rodney, only one [150mm] gun [out of four] was actually taken out of action for any length of time, which was transported to Guernsey, repaired and soon returned to its emplacement.

                            There were no civilian victims of the bombardment, although two German soldiers were killed, neither of them belonging to the gun crews, all of whom retreated into bunkers.

                            A trench system around Batterie Blucher received heavy punishment and Rodney's fall of shot was indeed accurate - forty shells [out of 75 fired by the British battleship against the German coastal battery] fell within a 200 meters radius of the battery's centre.

                            But there was no escaping that, overall, results were very disappointing, especially as Batterie Blucher's guns had no overhead protection.

                            Three of the German [150mm] guns were firing at Allied shipping by 30 August and by November all four were in commission, with plans afoot to resume bombardment of the Cotentin.
                            Last edited by Shipwreck; 18 May 08,, 21:47.


                            • #15
                              USS New Jersey vs 8-inch guns at Guam (8 August 1945)

                              The Iowa Class Battleships by Malcolm Muir :

                              Pages 65-66 : The Pennsylvania, a veteran of World War One, had just worked the island over with her 14-inchers and reported the destruction of two 8-inch coast defense guns on Peacock Point. (...)

                              The New Jersey and the light cruiser Biloxi, escorted by four destroyers, planned a methodical bombardment. (...)

                              For over an hour, the exercise proceeded routinely, but suddenly at 1032, a large splash erupted 600 yards off the starboard bow, followed three minutes later by a second miss. Viewing the size of the splashes, New Jersey officers decided that the Peacock Point 8-inchers silenced by the Pennsylvania had been resurrected. (...)

                              Consequently, the New Jersey shifted her guns to the offending Japanese weapons, although she kept to a very deliberate rate of fire. (...)

                              She caved in one side of the revetment at Peacock Point with a 16-inch shell, but a lone afternoon splash 200 yards off the port bow led to report that the 8-inchers were probably still in commission.
                              Last edited by Shipwreck; 18 May 08,, 21:48.