The Evolution of the United States Navy Battleship (Monitors to Missiles)
This is intended primarily as a pictorial history of U.S. Navy battleships. While researching the USS Delaware (BB 28) I found it interesting to see how the monitors slowly rose up from the waterline and, gaining armament, evolved into the battleships we know today. Monitors also initiated the development of armed cruisers but the Navy's method of classification prior to the early 1900's was a haphazard affair and cruisers are particularly hard to follow . The concept of hull numbering did not begin until the ‘New Navy Battle Monitors’ of 1882.
The Monitor Concept Designed in 1861 by John Ericsson, this was the US Navy's first armored monitor. The concept was meant to reduce the amount of required armor by using an extremely low freeboard. This also reduced the target area for the enemy gunners. Because of this design monitors were typically not suited to the open ocean as they were susceptible to taking on water. The Monitor was commissioned in 1862 and classified as a ‘ coastal monitor' but she sank in a gale off of Cape Hatteras that same year.
Monitor Class coastal monitor– 1862 (single ship)
Passiac Class coastal monitor – 1862 (10 ships) USS Comanche USS Catskill USS Lehigh USS Montauk USS Nahant USS Nantucket USS Passiac USS Patapsco USS Sangamon USS Weehawkeen
Neosho Class river monitor – 1863 (2 ships) USS Neosho USS Osage
Casco Class river monitor – 1863 (20 ship class but none saw action) USS Casco USS Chimo USS Cohoes USS Etlah USS Klamath USS Koka USS Modoc USS Napa USS Naubuc USS Nausett USS Shawnee USS Shiloh USS Squando USS Suncook USS Tunxis USS Umpqua USS Wasuc USS Waxsaw USS Yazoo USS Yuma
Milwaukee Class coastal monitor – 1864 (4 ships) USS Chickasaw USS Kickapoo USS Milwaukee USS Winnebago
Onondaga Class seagoing monitor – 1864 (single ship) Onondaga was the first ironclad to deploy rifled guns. Muzzle loading rifled cannons known as Parrott Rifles.
Ozark Class river monitor – 1864 (single ship) USS Ozark
Monadnock Class seagoing monitor – 1864 (2 Ships) USS Agamenticus USS Monadnock
Kalamazoo Class Planned as a class of four and first laid down in 1863, they were never completed. Designed to be built at U.S. Navy yards, which lacked the facilities to construct metal-ribbed vessels, she was built with improperly seasoned timber, and left exposed to the elements. All four hulls began to rot while still on the stocks and the last was broken up in 1884.
Kalamazoo Class monitor – 1863 (4 ships) USS Kalamzoo USS Passaconaway USS Quinsigamond USS Shakamaxon
Canonicus Class coastal monitor – 1864 (9 ships) USS Ajax USS Catawba USS Canonicus USS Mahopac USS Manhattan USS Oneota USS Saugus USS Tecumseh USS Wyandotte
Dictator Class seagoing monitor – 1864 (2 ships) USS Dictator USS Puritan
Miantonomoh Class seagoing monitor – 1865 (2 ships) USS Miantonomoh USS Tonawanda
Armed with naval rifles as opposed to smoothbore cannons, these are the beginnings of the shift towards the modern battleship design. Their appearance is that of a battleship with a very low freeboard.
The first class commissioned, the Monterey, saw service from 1893 through the Spanish-American War. The Puritan class was originally started in 1862 as a standard, Dictator class, monitor. Building was suspended and then completely modified thus Puritan’s designation (BM 1) in 1896 after the Amphitrite & Monterey classes were in commission.
The Amphitrite, 1895, showed the shift to a more battleship like design. Commissioned the same year as the Indiana (BB 1) it marked the transition from monitor to battleship.
Monterey Class battle monitor – 1893 USS Monterey (BM 6)
Amphitrite Class Battle Monitor – 1895 USS Amphitrite (BM 2) USS Monadnock (BM 3) USS Terror (BM 4) USS Miantonomoh (BM 5)
Indiana Class battleship - 1895 USS Indiana (BB 1) USS Massachusetts (BB 2) USS Oregon (BB 3)
Second Class Battleships Considered such owing to their armament and machinery, these were essentially a bigger gunned Armored Cruiser. The main batteries on the Maine were arranged in echelon with the forward turret on the starboard side and the after turret on the port side thus eliminating an effective broadside salvo. This arrangement was reversed on the Texas. Neither Maine nor Texas received hull designations The explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor was a prime catalyst for the Spanish-American War.
USS Maine (2 nd Class Battleship) – 1895 (single ship)
USS Texas (2 nd Class Battleship) – 1895 (single ship)
Puritan Class Battle Monitor – 1896 USS Puritan (BM 1)
In 1906 the Royal Navy commissioned the battleship HMS Dreadnought. A revolutionary design at the time she was laid out with a uniform main battery of eight 12” guns. Dreadnought was the first major warship powered by steam turbines and upon her completion, she was the fastest battleship in the world.
Her concept and design became the standard for all following battleships and made previous classes obsolete. These became known as ‘Pre-Dreadnoughts’. Designs that followed were known as ‘Dreadnought Era Battleships’.
The name Dreadnought came from a boastful quote that onboard you may: “Fear God but Dread Naught”.
The Kearsarge class was the first U.S. battleship design of the 20 th century and the only U.S. battleship not named for a state. By act of Congress, she was named in honor of the famous American Sloop-of-War Kearsarge.
The Illinois class was the first U.S. design to use the “British” style turrets. Previously gun turrets were the ‘cheese box’ style that had a turret over a gun. The new design incorporated the gun into the turret and increased the elevation available thus extending the range of her guns. With greater freeboard she was also blessed with much better sea keeping abilities.
Kearsarge Class Battleship – 1900 USS Kearsarge (BB 5) USS Kentucky (BB 6)
Illinois Class Battleship – 1901 USS Illinois (BB 7) USS Alabama (BB 8) USS Wisconsin (BB 9)
Arkansas Class Battle Monitor Laid down in 1899 but not commissioned until 1902 this was the end of the "New Navy" battle monitors. The battleships of the pre-dreadnought era had demonstrated their design superiority over the monitor concept.
Arkansas Class Battle Monitor – 1902 USS Arkansas (BM 7) USS Nevada (BM 8) USS Florida (BM 9) USS Wyoming (BM 10)
Maine Class Battleship – 1902 USS Maine (BB 10) USS Missouri (BB 11) USS Ohio (BB 12)
Virginia Class Battleship – 1903 (Virginia was sunk by Gen. Billy Mitchell in his air power demonstration of 1923) USS Virginia (BB 13) USS Nebraska (BB 14) USS Georgia (BB 15) USS New Jersey (BB 16) USS Rhode Island (BB 17)
Connecticut Class Battleship - 1906 USS Connecticut (BB 18) USS Louisiana (BB 19) USS Vermont (BB 20) USS Kansas (BB 21) USS Minnesota (BB 22) USS New Hampshire (BB 25)
Mississippi (2 nd Class Battleship) - 1908 USS Mississippi (BB 23) USS Idaho (BB 24)
South Carolina Class - 1910 USS South Carolina (BB 26) USS Michigan (BB 27) (This was the first US design of the ‘Dreadnought Era’.)
Delaware Class - 1910 USS Delaware (BB 28) USS North Dakota (BB 29) (This was the first true US ‘Dreadnought’ design)
Florida Class - 1911 USS Florida (BB 30) USS Utah (BB 31) * * Sunk Dec 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor
Wyoming Class - 1912 USS Wyoming (BB 32) USS Arkansas (BB 33)
New York Class - 1914 USS New York (BB 34) USS Texas (BB 35) (USS Texas became the first museum battleship in 1948. Moored at San Jacinto State Park.)
The Nevada class was the first of the ‘Standard’ battleships. A design concept which gave the US Navy a consistent line of battle. Previously, tactics were dictated by the various gun calibers and arrangements present of differing classes. The "Standard" concept included long-range gunnery, moderate speed of 21 knots, a tight tactical radius of ~ 700 yards and improved damage control. The other Standards were the Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Tennessee and Colorado classes.
There were no new US designs between 1923 and 1941. The North Carolina was the first of what would become the ‘World War Two’ classes. Previously the Navy favored staying power and fire power over speed. The North Carolina class had a speed of 27 knots versus the 21 knots of the Colorado class. The North Carolina was completely different from all previous US battleships, and set the pattern for all subsequent vessels (as well as the reconstructions of vessels wrecked at Pear Harbor). New features included a massive columnar mast replacing the familiar "cage" mast, main armament in two triple turrets forward, one aft, and dual-purpose secondaries along the sides of the superstructure.
Nevada Class - 1916 USS Nevada (BB 36) * USS Oklahoma (BB 37) * Nevada Point at Pearl Harbor, HI is named in her honor
Pennsylvania Class - 1916 USS Pennsylvania (BB 38) USS Arizona (BB 39) * * USS Arizona remains as a memorial at Pearl Harbor, HI.
New Mexico Class - 1918 USS New Mexico (BB 40) USS Mississippi (BB 41) USS Idaho (BB 42)
Tennessee Class - 1920 USS Tennessee (BB 43) USS California (BB 44)
Colorado Class - 1921 USS Colorado (BB 45) USS Maryland (BB 46) USS Washington (BB 47) USS West Virginia (BB 48) (BB 47 was laid down but not completed.)
North Carolina Class - 1941 USS North Carolina (BB 55) USS Washington (BB 56)
South Dakota Class - 1942 USS South Dakota (BB 57) USS Indiana (BB 58) USS Massachusetts (BB 59) USS Alabama (BB 60)
Iowa Class - 1943 USS Iowa (BB 61) USS New Jersey (BB 62) USS Missouri (BB 63) USS Wisconsin (BB 64) USS Illinois (BB 65) USS Kentucky (BB 66)
Designed in 1940 with an intended standard displacement of 60,500 tons, the proposed Montana class ships were nearly a third larger than the preceding Iowa class, and would have been the largest warships in the American fleet until the postwar Forrestal class aircraft carriers, first of the “supercarriers.”
The Montana's were intended to carry twelve 16 inch/50 caliber guns, three more than their Iowa class sisters. Had Montana been completed, she would be one of the most powerful battleships to ever set sail. Only the Japanese Yamato class would have had stronger armor and heavier shells, though Montana had superior fire control and would have overtaken the Yamato as the battleship having the heaviest broadside, at 32,400 pounds.
Montana was the only state during the battleship era not to have a ship named in it’s honor
The Iowa Class was the final U.S. Battleship design commissioned. Of the class, BB’s 66 & 67 were canceled at the end of World War-II before commissioning. Illinois was scrapped immediately but Kentucky’s hull was kept for possible future use as it was 73% complete .
Several plans were proposed to complete Kentucky as a guided missile battleship (BBG) by removing the aft turret and installing a missile system. The plan was dropped and Kentucky’s hull was scrapped in 1958.
Concept artwork of the proposed missile conversion for Kentucky shows her aft end fitted with a pair of RIM-2 Terrier missile launchers, which physically resemble the Mk. 26 twin arm missile launchers later installed aboard the first five Ticonderoga class cruisers in the early 1980s.