What exactly is a battleship

May 4, 2024

The battleship is the biggest and heaviest of all the ships in a fighting navy. Long ago the biggest and heaviest ship was called a “ship of the line,” or “ship of the battle line,” and from that we got the name “battleship.” The first battleships were made of wood, and were sailing vessels. The famous British admiral, Lord Nelson, won important battles at the Nile and at Trafalgar with the greatest battleships of this kind. They had heavy guns on three decks, and could fire a more powerful salvo (discharge of shells from many guns at once) than any other warship. This is the real test of a battleship. But these were still wooden ships, with no steel armor to protect themselves.

The first armored ships were the Monitor and the Merrimac, built in America during the Civil War. They had steel sides. This made the wooden battleship go out of date overnight. An armored battleship could always beat a wooden one. At about the same time came the steam engine, which made the battleship faster and more powerful. It could carry bigger guns and heavier armor. In 1906 the British Navy produced a ship called the Dreadnought, which was the first of the modern battleships. This was the first “all big gun” ship. It was 490 feet long, and carried ten 12- inch guns. Previous battleships had carried three or four big guns, but all their other guns were smaller. After the Dreadnought came along, battleships increased in size and power, but never changed in design. The largest and heaviest battleships in the United States Navy are ships of the “Iowa class” (because they are like the battleship Iowa). All United States battleships are named for states.

The most famous of them is perhaps the Missouri, known as the “Big Mo,” on which General MacArthur received the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in September, 1945. The Missouri has been retired from active service, but like the other ships of that class, could be brought out and recommissioned if it were necessary. Through World War I, the battleship was unquestionably the most important ship in the fighting navy. After that, there was an argument about whether the aircraft carrier or the battleship is more important. World War II proved that the carrier is more important. Even so, the battleship is very useful in many ways. It can protect an aircraft carrier while its planes take off and land, because it carries antiaircraft batteries to be used against enemy planes. It is also the most powerful floating artillery, and can be used to bombard enemy coasts and protect the landing of troops in amphibious operations.