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Battleships - Once the Kings of the Oceans, later turned obsolete by Aircraft Carriers. Even so, there were still some ships of these Class that became legends on their own terms.

Like 'BISMARCK' together with 'TIRPITZ' the only real Battleship of the Kriegsmarine, and the largest warship ever built in European Shipyard. And 'YAMATO' together with 'MUSASHI', the largest and most heavily armoured battleship ever put to sea.
I am Jan, and today I shall present their specifications, practical means and crew to determine, which one of these would win a DEATH BATTLE!

In the first corner, the jewel of the Kriegsmarine: BISMARCK
Following Hitler's Rise of Power, a long-term armament program was brought to life. Part of it was Plan Z - designed to turn Kriegsmarine into the actual naval force, later dismissed due to the earlier than thought start of the war. As a result, the newly introduced 'Bismarck' Class warships were the only real Battleships of the Kriegsmarine - with 'Deutschland' Class being later qualified as heavy cruisers, and 'Scharnhorst' Class being more battlecruisers due to their insufficent armament.
'Bismarck' was known as the warship weighing 35 000 tonnes, according to global limits set after WW1. This was of course a lie - as planning and executive meddling became more difficult, she became 35 000 tonnes in name only, giving German engineers freedom in adding whatever was needed for her, while still keeping limits of German Kiel Canal in mind. As a result, the actual 'Bismarck' weighed over 42 000 tonnes standand, and almost 51 000 tonnes in total.
While never actually called 'unsinkable' by Germans, the fact that almost 40% of their weight was the armour shows that the Germans wanted their Battleship to be as durable as possible. The hull armour was made of high-quality 320 mm armour plates, with 110 mm armour plates above the waterline, 110 mm deck armour and 380 mm armour for main battery turrets. The armour protection proved it's durability during 'Bismarck's final curb-stomp battle - For a ship that was hit at least 200 times, the wreck is in very good shape, and 'James Cameron's Expedition Bismarck' showed that not one British torpedo penetrated her anti-torpedo protection, thus confirming she was scuttled by her own crew.
The ship was also very fast for it's class - being able to swim at the speed of 30-31 knots, and with range of 9 280 nautical miles at economical speed of 16 knots for the 'Bismarck', and more than 10 000 nautical miles for the 'Tirpitz'. These performances made those two the fastest and most efficient in 'range/speed' battleships until the introduction of 'Iowa' class battleships. It also marked their possible role as raiders, designed to hunt down Allied convoys on the Atlantic.
The main armament were eight 380 mm cannons, able to fire at 36 kilometres at the highest elevations. These cannons proved their worth by destroying the pride of Royal Navy, HMS 'Hood', and heavily damaging the rushed into service HMS 'Prince of Wales'. The secondary armament comprised of 12 150 mm cannons and 16 105 AA cannons, with 16 37 mm and 20 mm AA cannons. This amount of firepower meant that for her period of time, 'Bismarck' had the best AA protection of all battleships (for comparison, British warships in 1941 barely had 20 or less AA guns).  The irony was that these batteries were designed to destroy modern airplanes, not outclassed Swordfish torpedo biplanes - though 'Bismarck' did in fact manage to damage many of them so much that after returning to aircraft carrier they were deemed beyond repair and thrown overboard.
The Germans had the advantage in one thing - While British used radar for locating enemy, Germans pioneered using it for targeting enemy ships. Unfortunately, their radar equipment wasn't 100% specialized in this, meaning the gunnery control still had to use rangefinders to make proper calculations - hence the use of the iconic Radar Domes, with radar antennas and rangefinders built for naval battles.
The design wasn't perfect, of course. The cigar shape of the hull, although provided very stable platform for the main battery, made her very difficult to make fast turns - which didn't help since the 'three propellers, two steers' system wasn't known for making the ships nimble. Also, due to the use of 'Everything and Nothing' scheme of placing armour, the stern was not protected at all, which showed it's dramatic consequences a few years later on heavy cruiser 'Prinz Eugen' when the entire stern broke off due to torpedo hit. In fact, it is believed 'Bismarck' would have survived the second Swordfish attack and later escaped to France if she went straight instead of attempting to make a turn. All the other flaws were the result of the ship being rushed to Operation 'Exercise Rhine' - because of which for example, while there were drills with steering mechanism jammed, not one included a mechanism jammed at an angle  
The crew of the 'Bismarck' was considered the best of the best in Kriegsmarine,  trained to the most up-dated programs. The battle at the Denmark Strait proved their training did it's job - they managed to zero in on HMS 'Hood' on the second salvo, and sink her with the fifth one.
If anything, the first step to her disaster when it comes to the crew was the commander of the mission, Admiral Gunther Lutjens, whose behaviour over the course of the Operation appeared quite strange and unprofessional, to say the least. But that's a different story.

In the second corner, the Flagship of the Empire of Japan: YAMATO

Yamato is considered the largest battleship ever put to sea, and it shows. With total weigh of nearly 70 000 tonnes, she was eventually surpassed by modern American aircraft carriers.
With nine 460 mm main battery cannons, able to fire up to 45 kilometres, and armour measuring from 650 (main command post), 410 (hull armour) to 200 mm (deck armour), one would think they were one hard challenge. This can be true, given the fact it took 11-13 torpedoes and 7 bombs to sink 'Yamato' (with bombs being no factor due to her deck armour), and 10-19 torpedoes with 17 bombs to sink 'Musashi'. However, what looked great on the paper, in reality made it all 'Awesome, but Impractical'.
The nail in the coffin was the Japanese philosophy and downright paranoia at the time. Since Imperial Army and Imperial Navy were in constant conflict with each other, many resources were wasted, and the obsession with keeping everything classified top secret meant that many ideas were poorly manufactured, untested and rushed beyond believe. It also affected some of the crew's performance - the actual caliber of 'Yamato's main battery wasn't known until the end of the war, even for her crew.  This meant that her crew probably never knew how to use it's full potential.
Even if they knew, it probably wouldn't matter because of Japanese's cripplied overspecialization with what they called 'Diving Shells'. The idea was that the shell was fired at flat trajectory, it entered the water, travelled underneath it and then hit the bottom part of the enemy ship before exploding. Since hitting water could ignite the warhead, the igniters were set in time, meaning that many shells went through the ship and exploded in water, causing no serious damage at all. In fact, the only time when diving shell did what it was supposed to do was on 12th of October 1942, when a light cruiser 'Boise' was hit by heavy cruiser 'Kinugasa'. Although the warhead hit the ammunition magazine and killed a firefighter crew, water pouring through the hole extinguished the fire. As a result, though heavily damaged, 'Boise' survived to fight another day, which makes the idea of diving shells debatable.
Also, Japanese crew put too much emphasis on attempting to hit the enemy with the very first salvo, instead of attempting to zero-in with each next salvo. This meant that Japanese artillery crew wasted a lot of time making proper calculations to score a hit - made worse by outdated radar equipment, which the best rangefinders in the world that 'Yamato' had could not compensate for.
While the armour of the 'Yamato' was the biggest in the world, it was not the best. Japanese steel was considered the worst at the time, a single armour belt was cripplingly overspecialized against diving shells, even though the Allies never even attempted to copy this idea, and like mentioned before, paranoia to hide everything from everybody lead to poor execution of many elements. These flaws showed themselves in 1943, when a single torpedo from USS 'Skate' ripped through 'Yamato's armour belt, damaging the internal skeleton and allowing 3000 tonnes of water to enter the hull. Not to mention, Japan's flagship had no Torpedo protection at all.
When it comes to the crew, While 'Yamato's crew was skilled and well-trained at the beginning, the Japanese doctrine of 'Final Battle' meant that for most of the time Japanese battleships never left their ports - a condition more or less forced on 'Yamato's since with maximum speed of 27 knots, and range of 7200 nautical miles at 16 knots she was too slow to even protect aircraft carrier groups. The constant stopovers in port meant that many of trainings became routines, and crew quickly lost their skills and turned clumsy - in fact, the loss of battleship 'Mutsu' in 1943 due to ammunition explosion is attributed to crew's loss of skill as a result of constant stagnation.

Alright, the combatants are set, let's end this debate (possibly) once and for all. It's time for a

Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, late 1942. The Third Reich had defeated the British Empire, and India is now part of the German Empire. Meanwhile, the Empire of Japan is still struggling with the United States of America, which still shows it poses a serious threat. Japan sends her flagship 'Yamato' to visit German Allies now residing in India.
At the same time, German flagship 'Bismarck' arrives to Mumbai, together with her sister ship 'Tirpitz'. At the notice of 'Yamato' making appearance, 'Bismarck' being the first to refresh her supplies in Mumbai, sails to welcome the ally.
But as soon as the two warships get 20 kilometres from each other, both ships receive a message: 'The Alliance with Germany/Japan has fallen. They are now our enemy! Attack by their forces considered immiment! Strike first before they do!' . On both ships, the mood changes fast -the two warships are no longer coming to welcome each other. They are coming to destroy each other.
Crew of the 'Bismarck' - Fur Deutschland!
Crew of the 'Yamato' - Tennoheika BANZAI!


Both warships train their main battery guns on each other. 'Yamato' fires her full broadside first, thanks to their superior rangefinders. All rounds hit water in front of German's bow, without scoring a single hit. 'Bismarck's forward turret Anton fires a first salvo, which barely misses, exploding just behind 'Yamato's stern. shortly afterwards, turret Bruno fires a second salvo, and this time almost hits 'Yamato'. When the German artillery commander sees it, he orders adjustment to after turrets Cesar and Dora, which fire their salvos afterward, zeroing in on 'Yamato'. The Germans have their mark.
In a meantime, surprisingly, 'Yamato's main guns remain silent, their artillery commander preoccupied with attempting to score a hit with the very next salvo, slowing the fire rate down with his calculations. It's not after 'Bismarck' fires her second full broadside, scoring a hit on the after superstructure, putting the after fire control station out of action, that 'Yamato' fires her second full broadside. Once again, the shells go into water in front of the German warship, according to Japanese's doctrine of Diving Shells, without scoring a single hit.
'Bismarck' fires a third full broadside, this time scoring two hits: one on the forward 155 mm secondary armament turret, second on the command post. While the turret is put out of action, people onboard the command post are saved by 500 mm armour, although crushed glass and debris of parts from the equipment ripped off by the force of the hit manages to wound many of them. Once again, for the next two full German broadsides, Japanese guns stay silent.
With those full broadsides, the Germans score three more hits on the hull of 'Yamato', above the waterline. Those who survive quickly realize the internal structure of the hull starts to fall apart - poor quality construction at Kure shipyard takes it's toll.  This time, 'Yamato' fires her third full broadside, and this time there is a hit. One diving shell hits 'Bismarck' in the bow, almost near a place where the armour belt starts. It flies through the hull and detonates in water, behind the German. Emergency crew quickly deals with the crisis.
The hit has one effect on the German crew - they now know what the Japanese are attempting to achieve, and the commander allows 150 mm secondary armament turrets to fire at the Japanese battleship, instructing them to concentrate fire on the superstructure. His plan - cover the fire control tower with thick black smoke, blinding it, and kill as many Japanese crewmen as possible.
The 150 mm guns take aim and start bombarding the 'Yamato'. Their faster rate of fire quickly turns the deck of the Japanese warship into inferno at sea. In the meantime, Bismarck attempts to use her speed to get ahead and cross 'Yamato's T - position to fire her full broadside, while Japanese warship can only use her forward guns. But just as the German flagship makes a turn, to her commander's horror, Japanese commander predicted that move perfectly and makes a turn of his own. What is worse, 'Yamato' turns much faster than 'Bismarck' and now the two are much closer than at the beginning. The distance came from 20 km to just 10 - 'Yamato' cannot miss with her full broadside.
But at the last moment, all guns of the 'Bismarck' take aim of their own and fire almost simultaneously. While the 150 mm shells hit 'Yamato's superstructure, blowing up her main fire control and knocking down the relay tower, the 380 mm shells plunge through the hull, tearing the shabby construction apart and allowing water to enter the hull. One salvo hits 'Yamato' right where the armor belt begins at the front, it's explosion almost rips the bow off the hull. Hundreds of tonnes of water enter the hull, flooding the main ammunition magazines for turrets 1 and 2, rendering them useless. It's a stunning success - two of 'Yamato's main battery turrets are put out of action.
After this attack, 'Bismarck' turns away from 'Yamato' attempting to get as far away from 'Yamato's as possible, before 'Yamato' can make a turn and use her last 460 mm cannons. Cesar and Dora turrets still fire at the Japanese, scoring one hit each.  At the distance of 25 km, the maximum for German radar systems, 'Bismarck' once again turns and fires full broadside. Shells dropping from the steep angle plunge through and explode inside 'Yamato'. The Japanese flagship is burning, but Honor demands to fight to the last man. The after turret prepares to fire her salvo. But before her shells can leave the barrels, there is a huge explosion. Thick, black cloud hides the Japanese warship from German's sight. Once the wind wipes it out, their target is nowhere to be seen. 'Yamato' is gone, all that's left of her a trail of oil on the ocean.

K.O. !!!

Well, this was a curb-stomp battle, indeed. Although perhaps not the way most people would have thought of. 'Yamato' turned out to be a very tough enemy, but in the end it's the Japanese philosophy and technical deficencies that brought her demise.
The persistance on hitting the target with the very first salvo meant that 'Yamato' fired very slowly, and wasted precious time while the Germans attempted to fire as close to their target as possible as they got theit range. The Diving Shells idea has failed - only one shell actually hit 'Bismarck' without causing any serious damage. Not one stroke the vital parts of the ship.
The Germans had a technological advantage, with their radar allowing them to make proper calculations faster than their Japanese counterpart - in fact, even the actual Japanese knew that, because they did in fact attempt to salvage HMS 'Prince of Wales's radar system, and were infuriated to learn the wreck is upside-down, it's radar lost forever.
The only advantage that 'Yamato' had over 'Bismarck' was that she was more manouverable than the German battleship - which didn't matter anyway once she turned into a target practice for German gunners.
As for the tactic - while Japanese went for debatable diving shells (also with their armour protection), German preferred the modern tactic of  so-called 'plunging fire' - shells dropping from the steep angle, punching through the enemy and exploding inside. This rendered Japanese armour useless for most of the fight, and the only thing that probably kept her alive for a longer period of time was her 200 mm deck armour. Not to mention all the cases of poor quality labour which weakened the Japanese warship even more.

What happened in the final moments? There might be two explanations:
1. The final salvo of the 'Bismarck' managed to penetrate the deck armour and hit the after ammunition magazine, starting a chain reaction that sank 'Yamato'.
2. More plausible is that as the 150 mm turrets of 'Bismarck' ravaged 'Yamato's superstructure, their salvos started multiple fires inside the ship, and killed most of Japanese emergency crews. As the battle went on, fires spread through the hull, incapacitating the Japanese sailors with heat and poisonous gases, until they reached the main ammunition magazine, which instantaneously detonated, dooming the warship.
Well, one could say this skirmish proved quite literally that 'Size doesn't mean anything'.
The Winner is 'BISMARCK'.
Well, I gave than one a trial. Note, I tried to make it as short as short, so as not to bore the reader, and as simple as possible, so that an average reader could understand. Don't blame me for certain parts.
warrior1944 Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2014
To me you could have written it longer, English isnt a problem for me :)

Like you know your stuff and the details are correct, especielly about Lutjens mistakes during the operation, I would also claim it was a mistake to send out Bismarck that early, the crew were trained on the main guns but they hadnt had the time to practice on anti aircraft and how that works hence the bad results on that part. One crewmember said in a interview they had only shot with their anti air guns once before they left. Also they should had waited til Tirpitz was done and she could had join the operation as well, perhaps a joint operation with scharnhorst and gneasihnau (how that now was spelled) leaving ports at the same time?

Most war historians seems to count out Bismarck in vs situation to the yamato due to bigger size and guns and armour thickness etc but like you show here it isnt all about that. Bismarck had the fastest firing rate of them all and advanced radar to help aiming the guns which most people seem to miss, and the japanese ships used different tactics and were slower.
Something which is important to remember: Lucky shots or bad luck have big influence too, one lucky shot could cripple a battleship no matter how big you are.
Also the armour and protection on Bismarck was probably the best in the world, if we count out the stern and the not too armoured gun turrets.

Well done and hope to see more stuff like this :)

I would also dare to say a modern battleship wouldnt be as weak against aircraft as they were in WW2, now they have just as dangerous weapons to hit back on the aircrafts or jam them etc.
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