Could the Hood *possibly* Have Whipped the Bismarck?

Brief gunnery chart for the 16 inch, Mark 8 AP shell. Your WAG looks pretty close, LSLGuy.

Surprising that the AP shell had a lower MV than the HE shell. Speed is really helpful in defeating armor. OTOH, more speed means more wear, and it’s not like these guns had great barrel life anyway.

Also surprising how much velocity the AP shell lost, in such a ‘short’ range, considering the maximum range of those shells. I wonder if modifying the geometry of the projectile, like adding or extending a boat tail, or incorporating a base-bleed, would lower drag appreciably?

Ref your cite, the AP round weighed 2700#. The HE weighed 1900#. Assuming each could be fired with the same propellant charge that’s most of the difference right there.

I can’t figure out which specific numbers you’re referring to so can’t speak to velocity loss.

Agree that the flat base of the shells both AP & HC is poor aerodynamics. By the 1980s they’d invented discarding sabot rounds and those shells did have a boat tail.

Sorry. Referring to this specific part of the reference:

Losing 20 percent of velocity in the first 10,000 yards struck me as not good at first. Though with further looking, it’s better than the performance of e.g., the faster 8"/55 Mark 19 AP shells. (MV 2800 fps, yet down to 2166 at 6,000 yds, an over 20 percent loss. From here:

They really did need better projectiles. And eventually got some. That 8"/55 version on the Newport News class cruiser St. Paul, eventually had ~4 inch subprojectiles built for it, enabling it to conduct shore bombardment at ranges exceeding 70,000 yards, during the Vietnam War.


I’ll 2nd what DesertDog said, a 10” gun would not penetrate the main armor of any WW2-era battleship.
After the war, the USN tested a turret faceplate intended for the 3rd Yamato class BB. They determined that the USN 16”, firing a 2700 pound shell at 2500fps, would not penetrate the Japanese plate at any range.

While I believe the 10" bore assertion is a bit stretched, the above paragraph can’t be used as a counter-argument. It’s implying that not even a 16-inch shell is adequate to kill Yamato.

You’re right, I didn’t make that clear. Only the turret faceplates are completely immune to penetration from the USN 16” 50.


I don’t believe an admiral will sacrifice a capital ship and more than 1,000 lives to throw them into a battle they are sure to lose. We know of suicide attacks during the war and Denmark Strait wasn’t one of them.<

I did not say “sacrifice.” I said that the RN considered that it might cost at least one capital ship to take out the Bismarck. Hood was not the ideal choice to face the Bismarck, nor was the brand new PoW, but they were available and also fast enough. The RN knew that battlecuisers were vulnerable, that was why Hood got extra armor on the basis of the lessons of the battle of Jutland. As always, you fight a war with what you have, and not what you would like to have.

To answer your question, the Hood and the POW should have immediately ganged up on Bismarck…"

Yes, of course, and the fact that Hood mistook the Prinz Eugen for the Bismarck cost it valuable time in getting the range.

“How could Holland have deployed his ships?”

You can argue what you want with hindsight, but at the time the RN did not know much about the Bismarck, or that it had been constructed for another battle of Jutland, with strong side armor at the cost of deck armor. Obviously, it would have been good if the British ships could have delayed B and PE until another cruiser or two came up and could have dealt with PE by themselves.

I don’t think there was ever any satisfactory deck armoring for any warship in WWII. The all-or-nothing concept was limited to the main magazines and the “citadel” of the ship. All other parts of the battleship were vulnerable even to secondary battery fire. Deck armor of 3.5 inches were just meant to detonate the explosive charge of the shell while subsequent thinner armor below the main deck was meant to withstand splintering. Well this didn’t work very well for the South Dakota, the Yamato and the Musashi.

This isn’t particularly relevant, but it’s something I thought should be recorded for posterity, having failed to do take the opportunity on a previous WW2 ship thread. In 2014 I met a man who’d joined the Royal Navy in WW2 aged 15, which was the style at the time. He served in the Pacific, I don’t remember what kind of ship but it might have been an aircraft carrier. He was telling me about how the US ships had wooden decks and the British ships had steel covered decks. He said that the joke was that when a Kamakaze hit the decks, on an American ship it would cause a lot of damage, but on a British ship they would just sweep the wreckage over the side.

That was a conscious design decision. The armored deck in the UK CVs was also the strength deck, and not part of the superstructure. This meant that the air groups had to be smaller. The US went with the wooden decks and open hangars, which allowed a larger air group. The Japanese CVs were similar to the UK ones in structure, but didn’t have armored flight decks, tho they had large air groups by virtue of having two hangar levels.

That was the “we can always make more” philosophy the USN had, especially regarding the Essex-class CVs – they went with the larger air groups rather than smaller but better protected ones.

Here is an hour-long analysis by Drach comparing USN and IJN damage control practices. Executive summary: Both were very good at what they did but in the IJN there were special, highly trained DC teams and if they happened to get wiped out, your typical Japanese sailor with a rigid, do-what-your-told mindset was not nearly as effective as a more flexible US sailor in the same situation.