You’ve probably heard of the Memphis Belle, especially after the 1990 film starring Matthew Modine and Harry Connick, Jr.
That film took a lot of liberties with the story of the actual B-17 that was the subject of a documentary done during World War II, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress.”
But history can also be very malleable, especially in the hands of Hollywood.
When Hollywood director William Wyler was doing a documentary for the U.S. government on the first Allied bomber crew to complete a 25-mission “tour” over Europe, he took some liberties. Why? Because it was World War II, and the bombing campaign over Europe was a bloody affair. In fact, the Directors Guild of America notes that during the filming of the documentary, cinematographer and World War I vet Harold J. Tannebaum was killed when the Nazis shot down the B-24 Liberator he was in.
According to the memoirs of Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Belle, Wyler had picked a different bomber for the feature film, a B-17 known as “Invasion 2nd.” That plane – and five others – were shot down on an April 17, 1943, mission to Bremen. The Memphis Belle was chosen to replace Invasion 2nd – Morgan related how he was told that another plane had a back-up film crew on a bomber called “Hell’s Angels” in case the Memphis Belle went down. Wyler actually filmed parts of multiple missions for the documentary – the mission portrayed on the film was actually the Memphis Belle’s 24th mission.
Of course, the Memphis Belle did complete the tour – and she got all the accolades of being the “first” to do so. The crew of Hell’s Angels, though, actually flew their 25th mission a week before the Memphis Belle flew her 25th mission. The documentary, though, became a classic.
Wyler went on to direct a documentary about the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt’s operations in Italy, titled, “Thunderbolt!” He was wounded by an exploding anti-aircraft shell, losing some of his hearing.
After the war, he went on to direct the classic films “The Best Years of Our Lives” — a movie about veterans who returned home that won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director — and “Ben Hur,” featuring former B-25 gunner Charlton Heston, which won 11 Oscars.
Today, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress” is available via the Internet Archive and Netflix is also streaming the film. It is also on Youtube. Feel free to watch it below. The Memphis Belle is currently being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.
The technology behind these rifles takes a shooter’s experience, skill, and environment factors out of the equation. Simply tag your target and squeeze the trigger. It’s that simple. The same tracking and fire-control capabilities found in advanced fighter jets are incorporated into these rifles, according to TrackingPoint.
“Being proficient at Call of Duty or Battlefield takes more practice and skill than firing a weapon in the real world does now,” reported Timothy for Engadget. “This is the future we live in.”
The rifle also has a password-protected firing mechanism, which doesn’t fire until you’ve aligned the rifle with your target. It also features the ability to video stream, which allows you to share the view from the scope to any device connected to the Internet.
This three-minute video demonstrates how the rifle works:
But since 1945, submarines have had a mostly dry spell. In fact, most of the warshots fired by subs since then have been Tomahawk cruise missiles on land targets – something Charles Lockwood and Karl Donitz would have found useful.
There are only two submarines that have sunk enemy ships in the more than 70 years since World War II ended.
1. PNS Hangor
The sub that provides the first break in the post World War II dry spell is from Pakistan. The Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor — a French-built Daphne-class boat — was the vessel that pulled it off during operations in the Arabian Sea during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.
According to Military-Today.com, a Daphne-class vessel displaced 1,043 tons, had a top speed of 16 knots, and had 12 22-inch torpedo tubes (eight forward, four aft), each pre-loaded.
On Dec. 9, 1971, the Hangor detected two Indian frigates near its position. The submarine’s captain dove deep and got ready to fight.
India had sent two Blackwood-class frigates, INS Khukri and INS Kirpan, out of three built for them by the United Kingdom to patrol in the area. These frigates were designed to hunt submarines. Only this time, the sub hunted them.
According to Bharat-Rakshak.com, the Hangor fired a torpedo at the Kirpan, which dodged. Then the Khukri pressed in for an attack. The Hangor sent a torpedo at the Khukri, and this time scored a hit that left the Indian frigate sinking. The Kirpan tried to attack again, and was targeted with another torpedo for her trouble.
The Kirpan evaded a direct hit, and Indian and Pakistani versions dispute whether that frigate was damaged. The Hangor made her getaway.
It didn’t do India that much harm, though. India won that war, securing the independence of what is now Bangladesh. Pakistan, though, has preserved the Hangor as a museum.
2. HMS Conqueror
Just over 10 years after PNS Hangor ended the dry spell, HMS Conqueror got on the board – and made history herself. The Conqueror so far is the only nuclear submarine to sink an enemy warship in combat.
The Conqueror, a 5,400 ton Churchill-class submarine, was armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes. With a top speed of 28 knots, she also didn’t have to come up to recharge batteries. That enabled her to reach the South Atlantic after Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the Falklands, touching off the Falklands War.
In a sense, the Argentinean cruiser ARA Gen. Belgrano — formerly known as USS Phoenix (CL 46) — really didn’t stand a chance. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the 12,300 ton cruisers were armed with 15 six-inch guns, eight five-inch guns, and a host of lighter anti-aircraft guns.
As the Gen. Belgrano approached the exclusionary zone declared by the Brits, the Conqueror began to track the cruiser. Finally, on May 2, 1982, she got the orders to attack. The Conqueror fired three Mark 8 torpedoes and scored two hits on the cruiser. The General Belgrano went down with 323 souls.
The Conqueror’s attack sent the rest of the Argentinean fleet running back to port. The British eventually re-took the Falkland Islands. The Conqueror is presently awaiting scrapping after being retired in 1990.
With at least five littoral combat ships needing time in the repair yard after engineering problems, and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) suffering her own power plant problems, the Navy took another hit when USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) ended up on the binnacle list as well.
According to a report by USNI News, the 16,000-ton destroyer suffered a seawater leak in an auxiliary system for one of the ship’s propeller shafts. The destroyer is currently undergoing repairs at Norfolk Navy Yard. The repairs are expected to take up to two weeks.
The Zumwalt has had other issues – the new integrated power system caused extensive delay – and was cut from a planned purchase of 32 destroyers to three. Each ship in the class is armed with two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, the largest guns to see Navy service since the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships. The vessels also carry 30-millimeter Mk 46 Bushmaster II chain guns, and twenty four-cell Mk 57 vertical launch systems. They have a top speed of over 30 knots.
The three vessels being built with cutting-edge technology will cost a total of $22 billion, including $9.6 billion for RD. Each of the three hulls, therefore, is bearing $3.2 billion in RD costs. Had the original 32 ships been procured, the per-ship RD burden would have been only $300 million per ship.
The cut in program size nearly led to the entire cancellation of the program under Nunn-McCurdy, which requires that the Department of Defense notify Congress if unit cost exceeds estimates by 15 percent. When the unit cost exceeds estimates by 25 percent, Nunn-McCurdy requires that the program is to be terminated unless DOD can certify that certain conditions have been met.
In a release about the incident, the Navy noted, “Repairs like these are not unusual in first-of-class ships during underway periods following construction.”
We’ve all heard of fighter aces. We’re talking legends like Robin Olds, Duke Cunningham, Pappy Boyington, James Howard, Jimmy Thach, and Swede Vejtasa. Germany had their own aces, and while Erich Hartmann and Adolf Galland are just some who attained immortality with their feats in the skies, others, like Otto Kretschmer and Gunther Prien, were renowned for what they did under the sea.
Kretschmer and Prien were both considered “U-boat aces,” and according to uboat.net, they were part of an elite group. Out of 498 men in World War I, and 1,401 in World War II who commanded U-boats, only a total of 71 men sank more than 100,000 tons of enemy shipping. The tonnage totals are eye-popping in comparison to American commanders, many of whom were rotated out of front-line duty to train new crewmen, similar to the policy used for ace fighter pilots like Thach.
America’s top sub skippers, like Eli Reich or Joe Enright, earned their notoriety on single missions. Reich sank the only battleship to be sunk by American submarines during the war, avenging fallen shipmates, while Enright holds the distinction of sinking the Shinano, the largest vessel ever sink by a submarine.
Germany’s U-boat aces pulled some incredible feats, themselves. Prien, for instance, earned his fame by sneaking into the British naval base of Scapa Flow and sinking the battleship HMS Royal Oak. 825 British sailors died when the Revenge-class battleship was hit by three torpedoes.
Kretschmer was the top-ranking U-boat ace of World War II, sinking 46 ships totaling over 274,000 tons of displacement. Compare that to the JANAC total credited to USS Tang (SS 306), Medal of Honor recipient Richard O’Kane’s command, which sank 24 ships totaling 93,824 tons of displacement.
For years, military sharpshooting instructors taught their students to close their non-dominant eye as a fundamental of shooting. The idea behind this practice is to lower the activity of the half of the brain that isn’t technically being used, freeing it from distractions.
Over the years, well-practiced shooters have determined that closing one eye helps you line up your target more easily. So, why keep both eyes open?
Former Army Green Beret Karl Erickson will break down for you.
When a hectic situation arises, and you need to draw your weapon, you’re going to experience physical and physiological changes. Most noticeably, the gun operator’s adrenaline will kick up, prompting the “fight or flight” response.
During this response, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases norepinephrine and adrenaline from the adrenal glands, which are located right above your kidneys, as shown in the picture below.
Once these naturally produced chemicals surge through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases and your eyes dilate and widen.
These physical changes occur because the human brain is screaming to collect as much information as possible. When these events take place, it becomes much more challenging for the shooter to keep their non-dominant eye closed.
Thoughtfully attempting to keep that non-dominant eye shut can potentially derail the shooter’s concentration, which can result in a missed opportunity for a righteous kill shot.
So, how do we practice shooting with both eyes open?
When using shooting glasses, spread a coat of chapstick across the lens of the non-dominant eye. This will blur the image and help retrain the brain to focus a single eye on the target, and, over time, will eventually lead to good muscle memory.
Check out Tactical Rifleman’s video below to learn the technique directly from a Green Beret badass.
In 1952, an accident at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River, Ontario caused a partial meltdown in an experimental nuclear reactor. Hydrogen explosions followed and hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water flooded the core, heavily damaging the reactor. When the Canadian government turned to U.S. nuclear experts for help, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover sent his protégé – Lieutenant James Earl “Jimmy” Carter – to lead a team of maintainers into the reactor core to shut it down.
The admiral was famous for the demands he put on the people who worked for him. His unorthodox methods almost kept him from making flag rank, but President Truman intervened on his behalf. It was a good call: the Navy’s 300 nuclear warships have never had a single nuclear incident.
Rickover’s team had access to the latest in nuclear energy technology because they were developing nuclear-powered ships for the U.S. Navy (the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was completed in 1955). The Navy knew the technology the Canadians were using and how best to fix it.
Rickover volunteered Carter to the Canadians to take the failing reactor apart so it could be replaced, a testament to the extraordinary faith and training the U.S. Navy places in its sailors – and to the good judgment of Adm. Rickover. First, the reactor had to be shut down, then it could be disassembled and replaced.
Carter, then 28 years old, had been in the Navy for six years. He was assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Rickover’s demanding perfectionism was as instilled in Carter as it is today’s nuclear sailors.
Rickover (left) served 61 years on active duty and saw Carter get elected President.
In his book “Reflections at Ninety,” Carter recalls preparing for the task. The team built a replica of the reactor on a nearby tennis court to practice their next move and track the work they’d already finished. Every pipe, bolt, and nut was rebuilt exactly as it was in the damaged reactor area.
Lieutenant Carter divided himself and his 23 guys into teams of three. Each worked 90-second shifts cleaning and repairing the reactor as per what they practiced on the tennis court. A minute and a half was the maximum time the human body could handle the amount of radiation in the area.
By today’s standards, it was still way too much radiation – Carter and his men were exposed to levels a thousand times higher than what is now considered safe. He and his team absorbed a year’s worth of radiation in that 90 seconds. The basement where they helped replace the reactor was so contaminated, Carter’s urine was radioactive for six months after the incident.
It makes sense that the ship named after President Carter would be a Seawolf-class nuclear submarine, as Carter helped develop the nuclear Navy and was the only U.S. President to be qualified for submarine duty. The USS Jimmy Carter was commissioned in February 2005.
The effects of this exposure eventually caught up to him. Carter developed cancerous tumors on his liver and brain at age 91 but was screened as cancer-free a year later.
Residents across Chesapeake Bay experience considerably louder noise than other nearby communities because the artillery’s blast sound is highly directional. Something had to be done.
The steel construction allows for it to be lifted into position and used when firing at a 30-degree elevation. But it cannot be attached to the turret, because tests showed it affected recoil and harm the turret barrel.
The Firearm Blog also found a patent for a potential tank silencer, which would attach to the muzzle of the tank’s main turret.
The holes on the silencer are kept as small as possible to keep the decibel levels lower, which is most effective behind and in front of the suppressor. The total cost of the construction is $100,000.
Silencers can reduce artillery noise by as much as 20 decibels, which may not seem like much, but is the difference between listening to your television and listening to your blender.
Avengers: Endgame stars are sharing never-before-seen footage from the filming of Tony Stark’s funeral scene. As revealed by Twitter posts from Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans, none of the actors (including Tom Holland and Chris Hemsworth) knew exactly what was in store for them that day.
In Ruffalo’s Twitter post, he shared that the actors were told they’d be shooting a wedding scene. “We’re filming a wedding scene, they said. #TBT,” he wrote, along with several photos of his castmates on set by the lakefront. In the video, Ruffalo pans to his fellow actors, some of whom are also recording their own videos, while Chris Hemsworth jokingly warns, “Guys, no phones allowed. No cameras.”
Due to the top-secret nature of the film, actors were only given partial scripts of certain key scenes. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have even said that only Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. were given the script in its entirety.
Avengers: Endgame is the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is still killing it at the box office, raking in over .7 billion dollars so far. As its success plays out, Endgame filmmakers continue to reveal behind-the-scenes factoids, like that Tony Stark almost traveled back to the most poorly rated Avengers film, Thor: Dark World. Writers also recently set the record straight regarding that crazy moment when Captain America proved worthy enough to lift Thor’s hammer.
Remember the days of old when fandoms couldn’t immediately get juicy, behind-the-scenes answers from social media? Hard to even imagine.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Many have acknowledged that this has been one of the fastest-moving presidencies in recent memory, as President Donald Trump made moves on many of his campaign promises this week. From international relations, to military administration nominations and exploring ways to shake up long-held views on how things are done, Trump made the most of his first seven days.
1. He will defer to defense secretary and CIA director on torture
Despite firmly believing that interrogation tactics—such as waterboarding, which has been banned in the U.S.—work, he will follow the lead of new Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has said in the past he does not find the practice of torture to be effective.
2. He values a stronger military over a balanced budget
During the campaign, Trump talked repeatedly about the need for a balanced budget, while also advocating for a stronger military. This week, he acknowledged it might not be possible to achieve both at the same time. In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Trump said, “Our military is more important to me than a balanced budget. Because we’ll get there with a balanced budget.”
3. His federal hiring freeze could heavily impact veterans
During his first week, Trump instituted a federal hiring freeze, similar to the ones both former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush implemented during their terms. Many veteran groups rushed to point out the move would have a ripple effect for veterans separating from military life and looking to gain employment at a government position, as well as for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
4. He announced his choices for the USAF and Navy secretary positions
With many positions in his administration left to fill, Trump announced his picks for two of the military secretary positions—both veterans themselves. Former congresswoman and U.S. Air Force Academy graduate Heather Wilson will seek confirmation for the Secretary of the Air Force position, while Army Reserves veteran and career businessman Philip Bilden was nominated to be the Navy secretary.
5. His choice to lead the White House budget office has opposed military increases in the past
Republican Mick Mulvaney took heat from Sen. John McCain during his hearing in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. McCain pointed out Mulvaney’s past votes in favor of withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan and against military funding increase. “It’s clear from your record you’ve been an impediment to that,” McCain said during the hearing, referencing Mulvaney’s support of the military.
6. He has plans to establish refugee camps in Syria
As mentioned during his campaign, Trump announced this week wanting to explore setting up ‘safe zones’ in Syria to house refugees, as an alternative to accepting them into the country, which he plans to ban. The safe zones would require an increase in military presence on the ground in Syria, something former President Barack Obama tried to avoid during his time in office.
7. He plans to double down on China in South China Sea
During Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments during his confirmation he said, “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” The China state media responded by saying the U.S. would need to “wage war” to prevent them from the islands in the South China Sea.
In 1968, Rodger “Jim” Lammons had two choices: he could join the military, or he could wait and be drafted. He chose the former, not knowing the effects Agent Orange would have on his life. In March of that year, the native of Smiths Station, Alabama, signed with the Navy where he served six years as a “SeaBee,” an oronym for C.B., or construction battalion.
After finishing basic and advanced training courses in California, including a four-week stint at Camp Pendleton with Marines, Lammons was dispatched to Vietnam out of Port Hueneme, California.
“That’s where we got on the big bird and flew out,” he said.
For more than a year – 13.5 months – Lammons was stationed in Vietnam. He served as a heavy equipment operator, gunner, and, “whatever it took to get the job done.” Lammons said, at times that even meant driving semis and hauling materials up from deep-water piers, or to Red Beach and dispersing them along Route 1.
“We just did what we needed to do, and that meant the job changed from day-to-day,” he shared.
After Vietnam, Lammons returned to the U.S., before taking another overseas stint in Puerto Rico.
“Then my time was up and I went home,” he said, listing not staying in and retiring with the Navy as one of his biggest regrets.
However, his reception back home was less than welcoming. Along with his fellow veterans, Lammons was egged, spat at. They were cussed at and called names, he said, most notably, “baby killers.”
“None of it was true. We were just there to do what our country asked us to do.”
While he remembers his time in the Navy fondly, Lammon’s stories come in spurts. He gives specific details, then pauses, circling around until the whole of it comes together, often out of order. This, he explained, is due to a rough recovery from surgery – a bad combination of anesthesia and gout. His memory hasn’t been the same since.
His wife, Carol, anticipates each gap, prompting him with questions that cause his eyes to light up with moments from years past.
This is just one of his side effects that can be attributed to Agent Orange.
“They would fly over – helicopters, aircrafts. They would spray different things on the foliage to try and kill it. Well, we were in the foliage and it would just coat us.”
“We didn’t understand the dangers at the time.”
Today, Lammons suffers from gout, diabetes and neuropathy, among other illnesses. He was also diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“There’s a thing, some people, it doesn’t bother them,” he said, referencing his brother who served as a Marine in Vietnam, but has never shown symptoms of Agent Orange, despite direct exposure.
Lammons didn’t know the cause of his illnesses until 2016, when he and Carol relocated to Port St. Joe, Florida. A new town meant a new doctor, and a new facility, and the puzzle pieces of Agent Orange began coming together.
“They saw things that were wrong with me that shouldn’t be wrong.” After seeing various specialists, Lammons was referred to the VA representative in Gulf County, who helped relate his symptoms to Agent Orange exposure.
After his years in the Navy, Lammons worked in Columbus, Georgia as a construction superintendent. Then, at the start of the Global War on Terrorism, he applied to work overseas as a civilian contractor, where he would spend nearly four years.
On why he chose to volunteer, he said it was an easy choice. He told Carol, “There’s got to be something I can do. If they need someone to go, I’ll go.”
Once again, stepping up for his country in a time of war, a time of need.
After all, more than 50 years later, Lammons still cites Vietnam as an unforgettable bonding experience.
“We all became brothers – black, white, it didn’t matter what color – to this day we still are brothers.”
Even now, when seeing someone in a Vietnam hat, he greets them.
The infamous Molotov Cocktail got its start in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 when Soviet-backed forces with a large number of tanks were met by forces wielding glass jars with blankets or drapes wrapped around the lid and set on fire.
The rebels took the weapon formerly used in Spain and perfected it. Some earlier versions used fuel that was too thin, causing it to burn out too quickly, so the Finns added thickening agents like tar. And the Finns preferred to use a bottle with some air inside instead of the completely full jars that were common in Spain. The air gap in the bottles made them more likely to break.
The Cocktails are thrown against the tanks. Today, throwers either need to hit the intake or the fuel storage of the tank in order to really threaten it. During World War II, the treads of many tanks were propelled via rubber wheels which could be targeted and the crew was susceptible to cocktails thrown against the air intake for their cabin.
And of course, a tank with the hatches open becomes a rolling oven if someone gets a cocktail inside.
Prior to WW2, knowing that they couldn’t compete with the numbers of the US navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy quietly authorized the construction of the two largest battleships by weight ever seen in warfare — the Musashi and her sister ship, the Yamato.
The origins of these two behemoths can be traced back to Japan’s 1934 withdrawal from the League of Nations. Amongst other things, doing this allowed Japan to ignore rules set by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930, both of which aimed to limit the size of battleships as well as the right of participating nations to construct them.
Almost immediately following Japan’s withdrawal, a team working for the Japanese Navy Technical Department helmed by an engineer called Keiji Fukuda began submitting designs for a class of battleships superior in size and firepower to anything ever seen before.
While initially planning to build five of these battleships, ultimately only two were completed, with a third being converted to an aircraft carrier mid-way through construction.
The two completed ships, the Musashi and the Yamato, were quite literally in a class of their own, designed to displace some 73,000 long tons when fully equipped. For reference here, the United States’ Iowa class battleships created around the same time, while of similar length, weighed about 40% less.
Japanese battleship Yamato under construction at the Kure Naval Base, Japan, Sept. 20, 1941.
As one Japanese officer, Naoyoshi Ishida, described, “How huge it is! When you walk inside, there are arrows telling you which direction is the front and which is the back—otherwise you can’t tell. For a couple of days I didn’t even know how to get back to my own quarters. Everyone was like that…. I knew it was a very capable battleship. The guns were enormous.”
On that note, not just big, these ships also featured nine of the largest guns ever put on a battleship, featuring 460 mm barrels and weighing an astounding 3,000 tons each, with all nine combined weighing approximately as much as the United States’ Wyoming, New York, and Nevada class battleships.
These weapons were capable of firing shells that weighed up to 3200 pounds (1450 kg)- or, in other words, in the ballpark of what a typical full sized sedan car weighs. While you might think the range when shooting such an object must have been poor, in fact, these guns could hit a target over 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. They could also be fired at a rate of about once every 40 seconds.
The shockwave produced by one of these guns firing was noted as being powerful enough to tear the skin off of a human if an unlucky individual stood within 15 metres of it without proper shielding. This shockwave also resulted in nearby anti-aircraft guns having to be specially armored to protect them from this.
Speaking of anti-aircraft guns, ultimately these ships were equipped with approximately 150 25 mm guns. In between these and the massive 460 mm cannons previously described, the ships also featured six 155 mm and 24 127 mm guns.
Further, if not needing the 460 mm cannons for hitting ships far away, these battleships were equipped with so-called “beehive rounds” to fire from those cannons. In a nutshell, these rounds were filled with nearly a thousand incendiary tubes and hundreds of shards of steel. The round also included a fuse and explosive that would cause the shell to explode out, with the incendiary tubes igniting shortly thereafter, producing a wall of flame and molten steel meant to absolutely obliterate enemy aircraft. Essentially, the idea here was to convert these guns into comically large shotguns, able to pick any enemy birds out of the air.
Japanese Battleship Musashi taken from the bow.
Armor-wise, each ship possessed on its outer shell a protective layer some 16 inches thick.
While you might think this all combined must have made these ships slow as molasses, it turns out, they had a top speed of about 27 knots (31 mph). While not the fastest battleship in the world, this compared favorably to, for instance, the aforementioned Iowa class battleships that weighed about 40% less, but could only go about 6 knots faster.
Despite their awe-inspiring power and the full confidence of Japanese military brass that each ship was “unmatchable and unsinkable”, neither saw much combat. In fact, the Yamato spent so much time protecting Japanese ports that it was nicknamed the “Hotel Yamato”.
The reluctance of the Japanese navy to commit either ship to combat was motivated by both the scarcity of fuel in Japan during the war, with these battleships taking copious amounts of such to go anywhere, and the fact that military brass believed losing either ship would be a massive blow to the morale of the rest of the Japanese military.
Of course, in the closing months of WW2 with their forces almost completely obliterated, Japan reluctantly began committing both battleships to naval engagements. Unfortunately at this point these super battleships were so absurdly outnumbered in the limited engagements they’d ultimately take part in that they mostly just functioned as sitting ducks.
Most notably, they proved especially vulnerable to aircraft attacks. Even the aforementioned beehive rounds, which the Japanese believed would decimate aircraft, proved to be little more than a visual deterrent, with some American pilots simply flying straight through the flaming shrapnel they produced.
And while the near couple hundred anti-aircraft guns made it so it took a brave pilot to dive bomb the ships, the sheer number of aircraft that the Americans could throw at these battleships at the same time and how chaotic the battles got, ultimately saw these guns prove just as worthless in practice.
It didn’t help that at this point in the war Japan’s own aircraft were ridiculously outnumbered and outclassed, providing little to no air cover to try to protect the massive battleships. (See our article, How Were Kamikaze Pilots Chosen?)
Ultimately the Musashi was lost during the battle of Leyte Gulf in October of 1944, taking 19 torpedo and 17 bomb strikes to sink it.
As for the Yamato, it took part in her final engagement in April of 1945 in operation Ten-Go, which was an intentional suicide mission.
Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret.
The Yamato was to be the tip of the spear of this final, last-ditch effort to repel the American advance. Its crew was ordered to beach the ship near Okinawa and use its main battery to destroy as much of the invading force as possible. Essentially, the ship would function as a base on the island, and members of the near 3,000 strong crew not needed to operate weaponry aboard the ship were to wage a land battle with any enemy forces encountered.
The mission plan was flawed from the outset, however, and performed under protest of some of the Japanese Navy brass involved, who noted there would be no chance of even reaching the target island in the first place given the stated plan, including no air support whatsoever, and time of day they were to execute the plan (broad daylight).
This turned out to be correct- en route on April 7, 1945, the Yamato and handful of accompanying ships were completely, and quickly, overwhelmed by a combined assault from 6 cruisers, 21 destroyers, 7 battleships, and a few hundred aircraft.
One surviving member of the Yamato crew, junior officer Yoshida Mitsuru, had this to say of the battle that they all had known was a suicide mission from the start,
How many times, in target practice, have we conducted such tracking? I am possessed by the illusion that we have already experienced searches under the same conditions, with the same battle positions, even with the same mood. What is going on before my very eyes, indisputably, is actual combat — but how can I possibly convince myself of that fact? The blips are not an imagined enemy but an enemy poised for the kill. The location: not our training waters, but hostile waters. More than one hundred enemy planes attacking!” Is it the navigation officer who calls this out? … The battle begins…. As my whole body tingles with excitement, I observe my own exhilaration; as I grit my teeth, I break into a grin. A sailor near me is felled by shrapnel. In the midst of the overwhelming noise, I distinguish the sound of his skull striking the bulkhead; amid the smell of gunpowder all around, I smell blood…. The tracks of the torpedoes are a beautiful white against the water, as if someone were drawing a needle through the water; they come pressing in, aimed at Yamato from a dozen different directions and intersecting silently. Estimating by sight their distance and angle on the plotting board, we shift course to run parallel to the torpedoes and barely succeed in dodging them. We deal first with the closest, most urgent one; when we get to a point far enough away from it that we can be sure we have dodged it, we turn to the next. Dealing with them calls for vigilance, calculation, and decision…. That these pilots repeated their attacks with accuracy and coolness was a sheer display of the unfathomable undreamed-of strength of our foes.
In the end, it took only 2 hours for American forces to destroy the single most powerful ship constructed during WW2, along with most of the tiny fleet it set out with. When the smoke cleared, around 4,000 were dead on the Japanese side vs. just around a dozen dead on the American side and a few more wounded.
Early in WW2 the Imperial Japanese Navy had plans to construct even bigger ships than the Yamato and Musashi as part of an even more powerful class of ships they called the Super Yamatos. These ships, if constructed, would have possessed 510 mm guns, displaced upwards of 82,000 tons and could have moved at speeds approaching 30 knots. Lack of resources stopped Japan from ever building the ships however.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.