Although World War 2 saw the end of Battleship dominance in naval forces, the role of the battleships in the Atlantic and the Pacific theater were key in the defeat of the Axis powers. Throughout the course of the Second World War, large fleets of battleships were used as driving naval forces by allied countries, primarily in bombardment missions and to cover other naval ships. While today, aircraft carriers have largely replaced battleship’s role in the US navy, the history of battleships during WW2 is not only essential to American naval history but world history. Heidi Shave, Museum Education Director for the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, CA, has spent many years educating museum visitors on the importance of battleships within American naval history. Today, Heidi Schave will highlight the importance of battleships during World War 2 and how battleship’s offensive and defensive strength helped the allies in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters.
Growing Popularity in the 20th Century
The first images of modern armored ships first entered the military ware far during the American civil army war when the Confederacy’s CSS Virginia and the Union’s USS Monitor fought in 1862. Although the battle ended in a draw, this was seen as the first instance of a growing trend of combining steam engines with heavy iron armor to protect ships and their crew. In WW1, however, the popularity of battleships skyrocketed as countries from around the world discovered the benefits of battleship’s thick armor and impressive firepower capabilities.
Offensive and Defensive Strength
In both the Atlantic and Pacific, older models of American battleships were used to carry out extensive bombardments on enemy shores, while new, faster American battleships were used to escort aircraft carriers and provide an extra defense of anti-aircraft fire. This bombardment tactic’s goal was to provoke the Japanese military into drawing its reserve aircraft force into battle and disrupt industry production of military goods. While American battleships were used for various missions throughout the war, they were most commonly used to provide cover for other ships and bombard Japan and Japan-occupied islands.
Most Decorated WW2 Battleship
By far, the most decorated WW2 battleship was the USS New Jersey, which earned distinction in WW2 and later the Korean War, Vietnam War, the Cold War, and conflicts in the Middle East. After being launched on the one-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the Battleship New Jersey went on to travel more miles, fire more shells, and fight in more battles than any other battleship in history. During WW2, the Battleship New Jersey fought in battles in Guam and Okinawa and screened aircraft carriers based in the Marshall Islands.