Hawaii: Day 3, Pearl Harbor

The third day of my visit involved a trip to Pearl Harbor west of Honolulu, the site of the Japanese attack on the American fleet on December 7, 1941, the “day date that will live in infamy.” That attack brought the U.S. into the Second World War the next day, when Congress declared war.

We couldn’t get timely tickets to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, a floating pavilion above the sunken wreck of that ship, whose hull still holds the remains of 1,102 of the 1,177 men killed when a Japanese bomb hit the ship’s powder magazine. I may return to see that memorial.

In the meantime, the other sights at Pearl Harbor include the battleship USS Missouri, the ship on which the Japanese surrender was signed in Tokyo Harbor on September 2, 1945.

The Missouri wasn’t commissioned until 1944, but fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and was bombarding Japan when the Japanese surrendered. It later participated in both the Korean War and the Gulf War (we were told it fired the war’s first Tomahawk missile) before being decommissioned in 1992. It’s now permanently moored in Pearl Harbor as a memorial  It’s fascinating to visit: you can walk throughout nearly all the ship and see the gun turrets, the captain’s sea quarters, the swabbies’ beds, the canteen, and so on. Here are some photos.

During World War II, the ship held 134 officers and 2400 enlisted men: about 1000 more than during the Korean and Gulf Wars. It was a floating city, with a post office, a snack bar, a dental clinic and dental prosthetic lab—everything you’d need on a long voyage, including of course, fuel, fresh water, and ammunition.

The big guns comprised nine 16 inch (406 mm)/50 cal Mark 7 guns, with each barrel called a “rifle.” They could fire several 2,700-pound armor-piercing shells a minute, with a range of 20 miles. It took about 100 men to handle each turret during firing.

Here are the six forward guns, which of course could be swivelled to fire from the side (they had a 300° radius of fire).

Here’s a shell and one of the four powder packages (each weighing 110 pounds) required to fire each shell:

The firepower was fearsome. Here, from Wikipedia, is “a bow view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing its Mark 7 16-inch/50-caliber guns off the starboard side during a fire power demonstration.” I guess the sailors had some kind of ear protection, as this would have been LOUD. 

Here’s a cool video showing the firing of one of the Missouri’s big guns. It seems to be largely automated, and you can see them load the four powder packages into the barrel after the shell.

I can only imagine what it was like to be cooped up on that small sub with 80 other sailors for a month! And, of course, the soldiers and marines on the Pacific islands had it even worse in some ways, with no showers, only cold rations to eat, and sleeping outdoors.

My dad spoke of what it was like to live in wartime America (he served Stateside, as Jews with economics degrees were put in the Finance Corps). At the beginning of the war, he told me, nobody was sure that America wouldn’t be taken over the the Germans and the Japanese, and everybody knew someone with a family member who died.

American military casualties in the war were about 400,000, but that was much smaller than those incurred by the Soviets (about ten million), the Japanese (ca. two million), and the Germans (about 4 million). Great Britain lost about as many soldiers and sailors as did the U.S.


  1. David Coxill
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    “representatives of all warring nations ”
    I don’t think the Indian Army was represented ,they did more to defeat the Japanese than the French .

    • Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Okay, I’ll change it to “most” warring nations or something.

      • David Coxill
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:21 am | Permalink

        OK ,boss.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      The forgotten army, the largest all-volunteer army in History.

  2. DrBrydon
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Jerry. I’d love to go there. One of these trips to Houston I am going to see the USS Texas. If I recall correctly, when the main guns were fired on a battleship, there weren’t supposed to be any crew on the open decks, as the concusive force could kill you. Also, I’ve heard that when the main guns were fired, it would actually move the ship laterally in the water. Not sure if they called it the snack shop, but during WWII there would definitely have been a ship’s store, where crewman could buy candy bars, gum, razor blades, and other sundries.

    • Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      No, there was almost no movement of the ship when the guns fired; that’s a misconception that was corrected by our guide and also on the Internet.

    • Mark
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      No – those guns have a recoil slide of up to several feet. That and the mass of the battleship prevents such movement.

      • Don Mackay
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        If one observes the picture carefully it can be seen that the USS IOWA is stationary, yet from the wash off the starboard side it is clear that there is sudden movement toward port as the guns fire; note especially the bow wash. It may be the taking of the photo, but I would say the boat is tilting to port too. I think the photo would have put a smile on Sir Isaac Newton’s face.
        A terrific set of photos: thankyou.

        • Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:00 am | Permalink

          OK let’s apply Newton. The AP shell of the Iowa has a mass of 1,225kg and the main guns were capable of accelerating them up to 762 m/s and there were 9 main guns. The total momentum of the broadside was

          1,225 x 762 x 9 = 8,401,050 kg m/s

          The displacement of the Iowa was 45,700 metric tonnes (I think this is the empty figure, it was much heavier when fully loaded). Thus, if its speed in a sideways direction in the instant after firing a broadside is

          8,401.050 / 45,700,000 = 0.18 m/s or 0.34 knots. This would immediately be attenuated by the recoil damping on the guns and the resistance of the water along the entire length of the ship. Whatever is causing that wake it is not the momentum of the ship following the broadside.

        • Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

          Don, note that those whitish waves you refer to are perpendicular to the direction they would have if they were produced by ship movement! The waves are radiating out from the blasts.

          I am not sure why the bow wave is bigger than those behind it. Maybe a reflection from the shock wave hitting the anchor?

          • Don Mackay
            Posted January 9, 2019 at 12:35 am | Permalink

            You are quite right. On closer viewing it does seem the waves are radiating from the area of the guns, pressure waves sliding forward along the hull to the bow. Thanks for the correction!

    • Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      I’m no physicist but doesn’t the recoil mechanism merely cause the momentum of the shell to be transmitted to the ship over a longer period of time than if it didn’t exist? In other words, the momentum is still transferred to the ship. The purpose of the recoil mechanism is to prevent damage to the ship that would be caused by the faster momentum transfer that would occur without it, possibly bending deck plates and throwing things out of alignment.

      Even so, it is hard to imagine the firing of the guns moving the ship very far. The ship is just too large and water too dense.

      I stand ready now for someone to explain my faulty reasoning. I have my helmet on. 😉

      • Mark
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        “the recoil mechanism merely cause the momentum of the shell to be transmitted to the ship over a longer period of time”

        Yes, which reduces the peak force transmitted through the mounts and ship. That, and the mass of the ship, as I mentioned, prevents any such movement.

        We are in agreement on this.

      • enl
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        I am not a physicist, but I am an engineer and work in the marine field these days (just finished a job on a different WWII era carrier).

        You are correct.

        The momentum is transferred, the ship moves. It actually moves more with the recoil mechanism than it would without, due to the greater time of action (water is viscous), but, for practical purposes, the difference isn’t measurable. The recoil mechanism does reduce the roll induced when firing to to the sides, but again, good luck measuring it.

        Overall, the momentum transferred to the shell isn’t significant relative to the mass of the ship (the mass of the shell is 1000Kg– one metric ton—, give or take 20%, and the mass of the ship is 45000000 to 57000000KG –45000 to 57000 metric tons, light and heavy), call the ship 50000 times the mass of the shell. In free space, if the shell exits at 800m/s, the velocity imparted to the ship will be 0.016m/s, or about 1/100 of a slow walk.

        This motion can be felt, but is lost in the random movements of the ship, and the energy is lost to drag in the water and other parasitic losses win seconds.

        • Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for doing the calculations. It also occurred to me that the recoil mechanism would increase the amount of time for the water to move. We all know that water is not very compressible if hit with speed but moves out of the way if hit slowly.

          • Mark
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Permalink



            • Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

              Thanks for the reference. Even before seeing all these calculations, it is hard for me to imagine firing the guns would move a ship very much. Perhaps some people have watched too many cartoons where such things are routinely exaggerated.

              • rickflick
                Posted January 4, 2019 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

                The cartoons and comic books draw attention to impossible physical events. Superman jumping in a curved path causing him to “fly” in circles. What gives here? So, the comics may be wrnog., but they make us think about what the real physics is like.

      • Mike Deschane e
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        The assumption of lateral movement possibly comes from the water turbulence on the side of the ship from which the guns are firing as shown in the picture. That water turbulence probably comes from the blast from the guns.

        Thanks for sharing Dr. Coyne and for the discussion Paul Topping and team.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        I am about to look into this further, but, I work on container ships in port and even the huge ones, certainly the smaller ones, move readily in roll when heavy containers are lifted or landed, especially if two or more cranes do it in unison.
        I find it hard to believe that they don’t move when those guns are fired, so I will try and find out why not.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

          Then again those containers could weigh up to 40 tons so that may be much more than the recoil force.

          Also I had thought I saw a film of a broad side and saw the ship move.

        • Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:16 am | Permalink

          Making a ship roll is a lot easier than making it move sideways.

        • Posted January 5, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          The page linked to by someone (not me) above contains a fairly detailed analysis of the battleship gun case.

          The container case you refer to is more about change in the ship’s weight rather than transfer of momentum. When heavy containers are placed on the ship, the weight distribution changes permanently (well, until containers are removed or added) which causes the ship to rise or sink in the water. It will also roll a little unless the container is added/removed near the ship’s centerline.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted January 10, 2019 at 12:42 am | Permalink

            Yes it happens when the action is on the outer cells which are off the center line.

    • David Coxill
      Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:37 am | Permalink

      I visited USS Texas in August 2009 ,very interesting .

  3. loren russell
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    FDR said “DATE [not “day”] that will live in infamy. The phrase always matters to me, as I calculate my “concept-date” to be 7 December 1941, in Bremerton WA [a navy town].

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    In fact, I’m not sure, and we weren’t told, whether sailors had any alcohol on board. I doubt it.

    I strongly doubt it, too, or I would’ve heard some stories about it from my old man, who spent most of the War on a destroyer.

    I think that’s one of the reasons “shore leave” was so eagerly anticipated, and where the idiom “spending money like drunken sailor” comes from. 🙂

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I believe you are correct on the booze. However, back on shore there were liquor stores (we had class six stores) and also the clubs. One of the things that has changed a great deal in the military is the pricing of the booze. It use to be really cheap but not now. Way back when I was in, drinks in the clubs were 25 cents and 15 cents during happy hours. Why so many alcoholics? Now you know.

    • RPGNo1
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      German WWII submarines had beer on board, one bottle for each crew member. The beer was issued in case of the succesfull sinking of enemy ships.

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      I read somewhere that US naval vessels are dry. This contrasts with the Royal Navy where the official rum ration was only abolished in 1970. It’s likely that everybody who fought at the Battle of Trafalgar was drunk.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        “Rum, sodomy, and the lash” — weren’t those the legendary traditions of the Royal Navy?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        “Rum, sodomy, and the lash” — weren’t those the legendary traditions of the Royal Navy?

      • bonetired
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        In fact the RN (and all Commonwealth navies I believe) is still wet.

        • Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Wet in the sense that they allow alcohol on their ships and boats, but they no longer hand it out to their employees as part of their remuneration.

      • rickflick
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        My guess, and it’s just a guess, is that captains knew enough to withhold the booze when battles commenced. They could party afterword if they survived.

  5. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Only halfway through and it’s a great post!

  6. Mark
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    “a day which will live in infamy”

    Isn’t it “date?”

    • Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      Yes, apparently. I was quoting from memory and got it wrong. But does it matter?

      • Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Roosevelt should have said “…a day that will live in infamy.” It sounds more powerful and unforgettable, which is probably why we remember it that way.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    That was a great tour and some very nice photos. Very difficult to get good photos on a ship like that. My first surprise is the tickets thing to see the Arizona. I’m sure that is something they have had to do because of the volume of people. This was not required in the 80s. I did visit the Submarine but the battleship is new.

    I’m pretty sure the navy has the best food and cooks in the military. They are the only ones who have the bakery school. Also, they would be doing their best for the guys at sea. Other services, such as the Air Force tended to get many of their cooks from people who failed in other schools. If you bombed out of aircraft mechanic tech school you were likely on your way to being a cook.

    The Navy has their own Exchange Service separate from the other branches. So those ship stores you see there are part of their exchange or Navy PX. That is why you mentioned – they have to pay for stuff in the store. I worked for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and that is why I know about that stuff. Keeping the ship stores supplied has to be a very difficult job and I am sure they run out of stuff. We had facilities at locations all over the world so the logistics is very difficult. Keeping a floating store would be really hard.

    • Paul S
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Mid 80’s I did a tiger cruise on the Nimitz. Supply ships bring mail, food, and fuel weekly if memory serves. Ship to ship refueling is something to witness.
      10 days at sea I will never forget.

      • Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        But surely they didn’t refuel the Nimitz at sea. That’s a nuclear carrier.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

          I believe the Nimitz is an aircraft carrier so those airplanes gotta have fuel too.

          • Paul S
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

            The emergency vehicles as well. They all use JP8 I believe. My cousin was a “red shirt”.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

              Yes, the newer fighters don’t use the same thing as when I was in the service. The F100 used JP4 and I think many of the later commercial business jets use JP5. Just different blends for different engines I think. But one fill on a fighter could be 1500 to 2000 gallons. So the carrier had to store a lot of it and probably had to be refueled often.

  8. Mark
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I think submarines re referred to as boats rather than ships.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      That’s correct. I believe it dates from the time submarines were carried on ships. A vessel carried on a ship is a boat. Hence, submarines are boats, not ships.

  9. Andrew Hughes
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed seeing your photos of the Missouri. It brought back memories of the time my girlfriend and I raced to see the battleship when it came to Vancouver, B.C. in the 1980’s. Back when Reagan had reactivated the Iowa class battleships. We lived near UBC at the time and when we heard the Missouri was on its way we hopped in her little old Chevette and she drove furiously up to Point Grey as it came in from the Straight of Georgia. We caught up to it again as the ship passed under the Lions Gate Bridge and then drove to the harbor to see it at anchor. Guns at bristle position and sailors lining the deck. She got her first speeding ticket that morning during our drive. But the Missouri was quite a site to see.

  10. Glenda Palmer
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful coverage with photos and comments. Thank you.

    • Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes, very moving and evocative of an heroic era.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:27 am | Permalink

      + 2

  11. Nicholas K.
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Great photos. My wife and I toured Pearl Harbor a couple of years ago. The renovated museum is rather well done. Several Pearl harbor veterans still came by to meet and greet visitors. Their stories were thrilling and tragic.

    A friend from India was touring with us. He was impressed with my knowledge of the events of Dec. 7, 1941. I told him that I have watched “Tora! Tora! Tora!” a dozen or more times. It remains a very entertaining and reasonably historically accurate film. I recall that Japanese crews and directors worked on the film parts that depicted the Japanese side. Remarkably balanced view from that day.

  12. Scott
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Terrific photos and reporting!

  13. Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:34 pm | Permalink


  14. Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful photos, Jerry. Those ships are total steampunk.

  15. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    One of the sad things about the Iowa battleship. Remember it had a terrible accident when a turret blew up and killed several. I think the investigation may have concluded that suicide was a possible reason.

    When I was in Hawaii working for the Exchange, the guy I worked for had been stationed on the Missouri during the war. After the war he got out of the Navy, joined the Air Force and then later worked for the Exchange.

    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Suicide was suggested early in the investigation (ruining the reputations of a couple of the dead) but pretty much was ruled out in the detailed investigation. Most likely cause of the Iowa turret explosion was the age of the propellant, the design of the bagged charges (with small amounts of powder sewn to both ends of the bag) and over-ramming of the charge bags leading to a spark while the breach was open. The blow back burned out the gun house killing its crew but the antiflash protections built into the design prevented the fire from igniting the powder in the magazines.

      To load the gun, a shell was lined up with the breach and a manually operated rammer would push it in place. The ram for the shell was faster since they had to seat the shell into the rifling. The propellant bags followed but had to be more gingerly rammed to prevent rupture and possible pre-detonation. A tricky task requiring well trained hands.

      • Posted January 4, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Imagine having to do all that while the ship was under fire or air attack!

        • Pliny the in Between
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

          Even worse for those down below. Unless there was local damage, there was no way to tell if the concussions you were feeling was from the firing of your own guns or impacts from enemy shells.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

            I guess the other sad thing about the whole deal was, that was the end of that battleship which probably should never have been put back in service. I think Reagan pushed for this in his big military budget but these battleships were of little use and cost lots of money to operate.

  16. Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    A bunk aboard a vessel is a “rack.” A toilet aboard a vessel is a “head.”

    When Missouri was transiting from Bremerton to Pearl, I was serving in CGC Point Evans out of Kaua’i. We were tasked with providing a security/safety perimeter to the tug and Missouri as they proceeded to Pearl. We met the pair north of Moloka’i. Point Evans has a maximum draft of seven foot and we were in the teeth of the Trades; seas were typically rough and we were typically riding like a bucking bronco. We rushed to the wind shadow of Kalaupapa and waited overnight. We made radar contact early in the morning and headed out into 8-12 sea swells, very uncomfortable. As we approached, the sheer size and mass of Missouri dampened the seas so well, we transited to Pearl in her shadow. The next day, it seemed every small boat on O’ahu met us south of the channel, it was exhilarating. We took aboard an admiral or two, and slowly made our way into the harbor to much fanfare. And finally saw her into her mooring.

    The funniest thing about Missouri then was the vegetable growth on her teak decks, small bushes had sprouted everywhere when she was in mothball.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Oh, that is a sad picture. I guess that shows how out of shape they get when not taken care of. In tropical conditions nearly everything starts to grow. I wonder, is the Missouri a state project (cost wise)? Hard to believe the Navy is managing this but maybe because it’s Pearl.

      • Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        I think the National Park Service takes care of the remains and exhibits, but the Navy supplies the personnel for the tours as it’s still an opérationnel harbor.

  17. Larry Smith
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for taking the time to document this. Even though my father was in the Coast Guard at the end of WWII, and my father-in-law off the coast of Normandy on D-Day, it is easy to forget the effort and sacrifices that have been made by our veterans. As someone who never served in the military (I was a bit too young for Vietnam), this is very humbling.

  18. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    “a bow view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing its Mark 7 16-inch/50-caliber guns”

    Confusing nomenclature there, those are obviously not point-fives.

    Apparently in this context ‘caliber’ means the length/diameter ratio of the barrel. That would be 800″ or 67 feet long. I guess that’s correct. They’re huge.

    It also explains why the main guns often took longer to manufacture than the ship did to build, and why in earlier years guns were sometimes ‘handed down’ from earlier battleships to later ones.


    • RPGNo1
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      “why in earlier years guns were sometimes ‘handed down’ from earlier battleships to later ones.”

      The HMS Vanguard was such a ship. It got its BL 15-inch Mk I naval guns from the Courageous-class battlecruisers from WWI. 🙂

  19. mikeyc
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Back in the day I did a SCUBA dive on the U-853, a German U boat sunk on the day after the war in Europe ended. Tragically, she did not get the order to stand down and after sinking a collier (I believe) near Block Island in Long Island Sound she was hunted down and sunk. She went down with all hands and lies on her keel in about 150 ft of water. She can be entered near the forward radio room where depth charges holled her and the very first impression one gets is how incredibly cramped it was. Must have been a horrific service, few (only ~20%) survived. I don’t think I could have been a submariner. At least not a same one at the end.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      ^…not a sane one at the end.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      I think the submarine service is totally voluntary. On the new nuclear subs they stay out for two or three months. When they come back the guys are the color of milk.

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Most of the losses occurred later in the war, after the technology edge shifted to the Allies’ anti-submarine warfare. The German navy wanted to curtail U-boot actions until more advanced boat designs in the works were ready, but … some crazy guy had other thoughts on the matter.

      Before that, U-boot service was very prestigious, and had certain perks despite the obvious hardships.

      A fascinating glimpse of the U-boot service can be gained from the first-hand accounts found in Leonce Peillard’s The Laconia Affair.

  20. SnowyOwl
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Understanding submarine confinement?
    Check out The Village People’s In the Navy:

    • SnowyOwl
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

  21. Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Nice tour Prof(E) for someone like me who will probably never visit.
    Just incidentally i have been YouTubing major WWII sea battles in the Pacific.
    Catastrophic failures and accidents of good fortune seem to be the order of the day for both Japanese and American navies.
    A battle could be won but strategically lost and visa versa. Luck be the decider.

    Here’s a tour of Turret Crawl Battleship Iowa BB61

    there’s heaps of this stuff.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Interest stuff but we still have to understand that basically, the events at Pearl Harbor in 1941 kind of made the battleship obsolete. They still went ahead and built the Iowa class boats but they really had little use.

      • Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        Wouldn’t they have been useful to soften up beaches where invasions were about to take place?

        • Rob Aron
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

          Battleships were used primarily as aircraft carrier escorts towards the end of the war and proved to be pretty adept at shooting down attacking aircraft as well. Earlier in the war, they were magnificent at sinking and disabling Japanese (at Guadalcanal) and French (at Casablanca) warships.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 6, 2019 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

          I doubt a big, heavily armoured capital ship with enormous guns would have been the optimal weapon for shore bombardment. I would have thought a cruiser with 6″ or 8″ would have been much more cost-effective.

          Amongst other things, a battleship represented such a large asset and such a prime target it couldn’t be risked in dangerous waters near enemy coasts, unless it was well defended by a screen of destroyers. And expending its 16″ armament making holes in a beach just wasn’t very economic. I’m guessing that when battleships were used for that, most of the work was done by their secondary armament.

          As soon as aircraft got large enough to carry a bomb large enough to do serious damage, with any useful range, or carry a 18″ torpedo, the writing was on the wall for battleships.


          • Posted January 7, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

            I agree. The increase in gun size was to pierce thicker armor. This has not been required for shore bombardment since they stopped making castles with thick walls.

          • rickflick
            Posted January 7, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            Now that smart missiles and bombs exist, it makes less sense to spend money on big ships.

      • David Coxill
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:36 am | Permalink

        Don’t wish to wave the union jack here ,but the Royal Navy sank a few Italian Battleships in Taranto harbour during the night of 11-12 November 1940 .

      • Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:38 am | Permalink

        I disagree. Both at Taranto and Pearl Harbour the ships were at anchor. It was possible to claim that the ships were only at a disadvantage because they were at anchor (and taken by surprise at Pearl).

        A better argument can be made for the sinking of the Prince of Wales and Repulse a few days after Pearl Harbour. However, even in the First World War, it would have been apparent to some that the day of the battleship was already over. At Jutland, for example, some of the actions of the Royal Navy were constrained by concerns about the U-boat threat.

        • David Coxill
          Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:30 am | Permalink

          I was going to mention the Prince of Wales and Repulse ,but even Battleships at anchor were not always sitting ducks .The Tirpitz was attacked by the RAF a few times before it was sunk .

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 6, 2019 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

            As I recall, the Tirpitz was heavily defended by flak and shore emplacements and land-based fighters, without which it would indeed have been a sitting duck.

            It took the RAF several raids before they actually hit it, but just one 6-ton Tallboy bomb sank it (it was hit by two, but one failed to detonate).


  22. Don McCrady
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    One of the interesting tidbits I learned on that tour, and which I hadn’t noticed when viewing the surrender ceremony, was that the ship’s guns were pointed at Tokyo during the surrender. In case there was to be any Japanese treachery.

  23. Mark R.
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Excellent and stirring virtual tour. I love how they turned the Missouri into a museum. I wasn’t expecting the level of detail in the bakery, donut shop, mess hall, post office etc. Extremely well done; I’m glad it’s still open during Trump’s gov’t shutdown.

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      Some of the most important members of the crew worked in the kitchens. They were vital for the ship’s safety any time a gang of ruthless killers took over the ship and tried to steal the Tomahawk missiles.

      • Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Ha! That’s one of my favorite movies. A military movie that doesn’t take itself seriously.

      • Mark R.
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        Ha, I forgot about Under Siege…my memory barely reaches back to 1992 movies. LOL!

        • Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

          The only problem is that Under Siege was filmed aboard USS Alabama, probably because Missouri was still in commission where they were filming.

      • Posted January 6, 2019 at 3:09 am | Permalink


  24. David Harper
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    My wife’s uncle was a submariner in the U.S. Navy in the 1950s in a boat similar to the USS Bowfin. He said that when the boat was submerged, the toilets were flushed out to sea by operating a set of valves in a specific sequence. If you opened the wrong valve, you could flood the entire compartment with … well, let’s just say effluent. That kind of mistake would NOT endear you to your crewmates!

  25. Posted January 5, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I noticed that menu board includes, creamed corn beef on toast, known in the service by a certain nickname….

    I once enjoyed a private tour of the USS Pampanito (same class as Bowfin, yes I looked it up) in San Francisco. Three vets jammed into that tiny kitchen served up an amazing, hearty breakfast, with mounds of pancakes & sausages on platters, accompanied by perfect coffee.

    • Mark R.
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      My grandfather was a B-17 pilot during the war and to the day he died, he couldn’t eat mutton (nor bear the smell), or “shit on a shingle” aka SOS, or creamed corn beef on toast.

  26. bonetired
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I was interested in seeing the film in which shells and cordite charges were brought up from the magazines deep within the ship. Extreme care was taken to prevent explosions in the turret flashing back down the main trunk to the magazines which would almost certainly destroy the ship – as happened to a number of British ships at Jutland (HMS’s Queen Mary, Invincible and the Indefatigable)

  27. littleboybrew
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I hope you get a chance to visit the Arizona Memorial, Dr. Coyne. Very moving, and I am not often touched by such things.

  28. Gord Legg
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    A terrific site to see – the USS Arizona Memorial representing the start of WW11 for the US and the USS Missouri where the Japanese surrendered and ended WW11!
    I’ve never been to Hawaii but if I ever visit there is exactly what I would enjoy seeing!
    The photos of the USS Iowa firing all 9 x 16: guns is truly an amazing show of firepower and a SITE TO SEE!
    The photos of the USS Bowfin are truly amazing as well – couldn’t imagine being confined under the sea in such close quarters with a crew of 80 men for a month at a time!


  29. Posted January 5, 2019 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    My son was in the Navy for 20 years and served on the Nimitz as well as other ships. He tells me that aircraft carriers are still essential for delivering aircraft, war materiel and personnel to a war zone expeditiously.

    My husband also took a Tiger Cruise on the Nimitz and it was a thrill of his life. I probably still have the great many photos he took.

  30. Posted January 7, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I’ve been to the USS Arizona Memorial, and that was one of the most sobering, solemn places I’ve ever visited. Haunting is the best word to describe it, I think.

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