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Why didn't the IJN use the Nagato-class battleships in more sorties?

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Hello!  I thought this was an interesting question.

Out of all the Japanese battleships deployed during WW2, it seems that the Nagato-class battleship sisters, Nagato and Mutsu, weren't used that much in the conflict, despite being one of the more powerful Japanese battleships fielded during the war.  If anything, they mostly just puttered around with training, not really firing their guns in anger like their older Kongo-class battleship and Fuso-class battleship predecessors. 

Why was that?  Could it be because the Nagatos were seen as flagships (more Nagato than Mutsu, but the latter did host the emperor in the 30s) and thus too special for engaging in brawls?  Could it be because the Japanese were looking for that famed decisive battle, which never came? 

I'm just quite curious that these ships, for all their strength in armament and defensive systems, weren't used more effectively by the usually savvy Japanese Navy.

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I suspect it's partially due to being a one off after Mutsu was lost.

Around Guadalcanal which was a big chunk of the action the IJN's battlecruiser and battleship action the Kongo's had 4 units which could operate together with the same range, speed etc. That's why you see Kirishima/Hiei together and Kongo/Haruna.

The other consideration might be speed, for actions in the face of air power in a get-in, get out night situation the 30kt speed of a Kongo may be advantageous over the 25kt of a Nagato. 12 hours of darkness gives you a radius of action of 360 instead of 300 nautical miles.

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19 minutes ago, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

Hello!  I thought this was an interesting question.

Out of all the Japanese battleships deployed during WW2, it seems that the Nagato-class battleship sisters, Nagato and Mutsu, weren't used that much in the conflict, despite being one of the more powerful Japanese battleships fielded during the war.  If anything, they mostly just puttered around with training, not really firing their guns in anger like their older Kongo-class battleship and Fuso-class battleship predecessors. 

Why was that?  Could it be because the Nagatos were seen as flagships (more Nagato than Mutsu, but the latter did host the emperor in the 30s) and thus too special for engaging in brawls?  Could it be because the Japanese were looking for that famed decisive battle, which never came? 

I'm just quite curious that these ships, for all their strength in armament and defensive systems, weren't used more effectively by the usually savvy Japanese Navy.

It's a mix of a few reasons.

The Fuso sisters were used a lot as they had the best endurance range for the oil load than the entire Battleship fleet. This was useful for general patrol's as well as bringing guns to the fight to support landing operations. The Kongo's being the only ships fast enough to stand with the Carrier force is self explanatory on why they were used so much. Nagato was Yamamoto's flagship until Yamato was commissioned but Yamato, Musashi, Nagato, and Mutsu were to be the vanguard of the decisive battle so they were kept in the rear. Ise and Hyuga were kept to protect the home Islands and near China for sometime but later deployed elsewhere. With the accidental loss of Mutsu and the losses of Hiei and Kirishima, they were forced to push Nagato to the front.

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13 minutes ago, mofton said:

The other consideration might be speed, for actions in the face of air power in a get-in, get out night situation the 30kt speed of a Kongo may be advantageous over the 25kt of a Nagato. 12 hours of darkness gives you a radius of action of 360 instead of 300 nautical miles.

Yes I think that is it. The long distances involved and the IJN's clear appreciation of the potency of US airpower, would have been critical in choosing BBs with the requisite speed for sorties.

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3 minutes ago, Stauffenberg44 said:

Yes I think that is it. The long distances involved and the IJN's clear appreciation of the potency of US airpower, would have been critical in choosing BBs with the requisite speed for sorties.

So, the Nagato-class battleships were used as defensive ships rather than the faster, older battleships?

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It was all based on oil and they didn't have a lot of it they weren't going to send it anywhere unless they had to

all their operations have limited Supply budget

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Slower support and training ship. I had assumed she was used for shore bombardments in the war with China but it does not seem to be so.

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Wonder what the battle with the Washington and South Dakota would have been like against a Mutsu, Nagato, or Yamato instead of the Kirshima.

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1 hour ago, Wowzery said:

Wonder what the battle with the Washington and South Dakota would have been like against a Mutsu, Nagato, or Yamato instead of the Kirshima.

Given the same conditions (night, such an ambush case, same year) I don't know how much would change. The Japanese were surprised by seeing a BB, hence why most of the BB rounds fired were HE or bombardment shells.

 

The was only one AP hit, a 14" AP shell to the barbette that had been decapped and, iirc, base-slapped the barbette. No penetration, although for safety concerns the turret was not used until repairs could be made.

 

If it was a Japanese 16.1" shell or, good forbid one of Yamato's 18.1" AP shells...

 

I forget the exact way the shell went in, but that could perhaps have penetrated the No.3 barbette with lethal consequences. I'm not sure how protected magazines were to detentions in the barbette itself, but the whole #3 turret & barbette structure is almost certainly lost with massive loss of life, and potentially we're looking at a situation where the aft magazine goes up.

 

However, it doesn't matter what Battleship is in Kirishima's place, they are sunk. Washington dumped, what, twenty Mk.8's into the poor Battlecruiser? Yeah, bye. No ship in the world is resisting that kind of punishment at that range. Ballgame over, Yanks win...

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On 05/03/2018 at 6:47 PM, Phoenix_jz said:

potentially we're looking at a situation where the aft magazine goes up

It depends on exactly where the struck ship's shells and (more importantly) the propellant charges are in the hoists, where the intruding shell explodes relative to the interlock doors dividing rotating turret from fixed barbette below, and whether the doors to the actual propellant magazines are open or closed at the time it goes off.

The system (across ALL navies, when properly applied) is generally designed to protect against magazine detonation from a shot which enters the rotating gun-house and explodes there. It might or might not protect against one that enters the barbette lower down and detonates in, or across, the entire safety interlock system. The powder magazine doors may or may not withstand that blast, especially if there are charges in the hoists or the interlocks; and if not, the bag charges in the magazine had better be pretty resilient and the flooding accomplished quickly.

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On 3/5/2018 at 2:20 PM, Wowzery said:

Wonder what the battle with the Washington and South Dakota would have been like against a Mutsu, Nagato, or Yamato instead of the Kirshima.

 

I heard somewhere that Ise and Hyuga would have been along but the decision to convert them into battle-carries (or whatever you'd like to call 'em) meant that they were in drydock at the time.

 

Just think about that for a sec....

 

Ise and Hyuga were converted into mostly useless hybrids and never really got to do much anyways...

 

When...

 

A: They could have instead been converted into full aircraft carriers and therefore get all the benefits of a carrier instead of half of the benefits of a battleship and half of the benefits of a carrier (if that)

 

or

 

B: They could have been at Guadalcanal potentially giving the Japanese a 3-2 battleship advantage during the infamous SoDak and Washington V Kirishima battle.

 

If the Japanese fleet manages even so much as to force the American fleet to withdraw.... that means that the Japanese navy can continue to send reinforcement and keep them supplied and the US Marines cant hold Guadalcanal... if the USN isn't successful at Guadalcanal what kind of an effect does that have on the war? In any event, the Japanese being successful at Guadalcanal would almost certainly translate into a longer war. But no, Ise and Hyuga were on the sidelines being converted into useless battle-carrier hybrids. *Slow clap*

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9 minutes ago, dseehafer said:

if the USN isn't successful at Guadalcanal what kind of an effect does that have on the war?

It lengthens it, but utimately Yamamoto was right - it would not have changed the outcome. If the declaration of war had been received and acknowledged an appropriate span of time before the Pearl Harbour attack began, the US might have been persuaded to fight to a negotiated solution in the Pacific, but under the circumstances actually prevailing in history? No.

Of course that negotiated solution then includes the flow-on effect of Imperial Military Japan being left in charge of large swathes of China and Korea, and what the interactions with the Soviet Union are, and I think those are almost impossible to guess. 

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31 minutes ago, Ensign_Cthulhu said:

It lengthens it, but utimately Yamamoto was right - it would not have changed the outcome. If the declaration of war had been received and acknowledged an appropriate span of time before the Pearl Harbour attack began, the US might have been persuaded to fight to a negotiated solution in the Pacific, but under the circumstances actually prevailing in history? No.

Of course that negotiated solution then includes the flow-on effect of Imperial Military Japan being left in charge of large swathes of China and Korea, and what the interactions with the Soviet Union are, and I think those are almost impossible to guess. 

 

Oh, I'm sure the US would have still won, no doubt.... but now at a much greater cost (in terms of money, machines, and lives) and at a much later date.

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25 minutes ago, dseehafer said:

 

Oh, I'm sure the US would have still won, no doubt.... but now at a much greater cost (in terms of money, machines, and lives) and at a much later date.

Well, this doesn't take place in vacuum either. It would be interesting to see how an American defeat at Guadalcanal would affect other fronts, such as North Africa & the Med.

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13 minutes ago, Phoenix_jz said:

Well, this doesn't take place in vacuum either. It would be interesting to see how an American defeat at Guadalcanal would affect other fronts, such as North Africa & the Med.

 

Oh certainly.

 

Great Britan all of a sudden has to defend Australia, or at least provide for its defense. That's, men, supplies, and especially ships being taken out of the European/African campaign. I doubt very much that the forces Great Britain already had in the Pacific would be enough and I'm sure the Americans wouldn't appreciate being asked to "hold down the fort" on their behalf. 

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1 minute ago, dseehafer said:

 

Oh certainly.

 

Great Britan all of a sudden has to defend Australia, or at least provide for its defense. That's, men, supplies, and especially ships being taken out of the European/African campaign. I doubt very much that the forces Great Britain already had in the Pacific would be enough and I'm sure the Americans wouldn't appreciate being asked to "hold down the fort" on their behalf. 

Yup. Also consider the fact that America was supplying much of the shipping used by the British to supply Malta, and supplied most of the material behind Operation Torch and much the manpower. How much as to be diverted, then, to the Pacific?

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1 hour ago, dseehafer said:

 

I heard somewhere that Ise and Hyuga would have been along but the decision to convert them into battle-carries (or whatever you'd like to call 'em) meant that they were in drydock at the time.

 

Just think about that for a sec....

 

Ise and Hyuga were converted into mostly useless hybrids and never really got to do much anyways...

 

When...

 

A: They could have instead been converted into full aircraft carriers and therefore get all the benefits of a carrier instead of half of the benefits of a battleship and half of the benefits of a carrier (if that)

 

or

 

B: They could have been at Guadalcanal potentially giving the Japanese a 3-2 battleship advantage during the infamous SoDak and Washington V Kirishima battle.

 

If the Japanese fleet manages even so much as to force the American fleet to withdraw.... that means that the Japanese navy can continue to send reinforcement and keep them supplied and the US Marines cant hold Guadalcanal... if the USN isn't successful at Guadalcanal what kind of an effect does that have on the war? In any event, the Japanese being successful at Guadalcanal would almost certainly translate into a longer war. But no, Ise and Hyuga were on the sidelines being converted into useless battle-carrier hybrids. *Slow clap*

Ise and Hyuga weren't put into Drydock until 4 months after the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Both were at the time under going minor refits and supply along with homeland defense as they were on stand-by alert while Fuso and Yamashiro were tasked with duties beforehand. Hyuga was actually the one originally outlined for a full carrier conversion due to No. 5 Turret's destruction and removal.

The main reason why Ise and Hyuga were chosen overall was their inability to be modernized to the same extent that the Fuso class received. It's a bit complicated but it mostly stemmed from issues with gun elevation on the aft guns and the depth the gun wells could be lowered; however, there were a lot of other issues that ironically cropped up from the placement of the turrets. The biggest issue was crew location or the lack there of. Even if they had been sent, there was no guarantee they would have done much more than the others although it might have had it on a 2 vs 2 fight instead of Kirishima alone, but the truth is it most likely would have cost them both ships since they were heavily laid down for a bombardment mission leaving them little in the way of AP rounds.

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Fuel was the main reason.  Battleships are fuel hogs, and the IJN simply never had large stock piles of fuel.

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On 3/5/2018 at 5:17 PM, Phoenix_jz said:

Given the same conditions (night, such an ambush case, same year) I don't know how much would change. The Japanese were surprised by seeing a BB, hence why most of the BB rounds fired were HE or bombardment shells.

 

The was only one AP hit, a 14" AP shell to the barbette that had been decapped and, iirc, base-slapped the barbette. No penetration, although for safety concerns the turret was not used until repairs could be made.

 

If it was a Japanese 16.1" shell or, good forbid one of Yamato's 18.1" AP shells...

 

I forget the exact way the shell went in, but that could perhaps have penetrated the No.3 barbette with lethal consequences. I'm not sure how protected magazines were to detentions in the barbette itself, but the whole #3 turret & barbette structure is almost certainly lost with massive loss of life, and potentially we're looking at a situation where the aft magazine goes up.

 

However, it doesn't matter what Battleship is in Kirishima's place, they are sunk. Washington dumped, what, twenty Mk.8's into the poor Battlecruiser? Yeah, bye. No ship in the world is resisting that kind of punishment at that range. Ballgame over, Yanks win...

USN magazines were less prone to detonation that say...RN magazines.  Our powder was much less volatile.  Our powder was more likely to burn than to explode.  Is it possible that a barbette penetration would have sunk a USN battleship?  Sure.  Is it likely?  I don't think so.  After Jutland the British should have gotten rid of their Cordite and replaced it.  It may have saved the Hood had they done so.

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1 hour ago, Azumazi said:

Ise and Hyuga weren't put into Drydock until 4 months after the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Both were at the time under going minor refits and supply along with homeland defense as they were on stand-by alert while Fuso and Yamashiro were tasked with duties beforehand. Hyuga was actually the one originally outlined for a full carrier conversion due to No. 5 Turret's destruction and removal.

The main reason why Ise and Hyuga were chosen overall was their inability to be modernized to the same extent that the Fuso class received. It's a bit complicated but it mostly stemmed from issues with gun elevation on the aft guns and the depth the gun wells could be lowered; however, there were a lot of other issues that ironically cropped up from the placement of the turrets. The biggest issue was crew location or the lack there of. Even if they had been sent, there was no guarantee they would have done much more than the others although it might have had it on a 2 vs 2 fight instead of Kirishima alone, but the truth is it most likely would have cost them both ships since they were heavily laid down for a bombardment mission leaving them little in the way of AP rounds.

 

Well then I heard wrong. Good to know!

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I wonder if fuel might have played a factor as well as a few other likely factors.

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On ‎3‎/‎4‎/‎2018 at 8:40 PM, silverdahc said:

It was all based on oil and they didn't have a lot of it they weren't going to send it anywhere unless they had to

all their operations have limited Supply budget

Fuel was one major issue.

The Japanese islands had an abundance of coal, but no oil. That was one reason for their drive into the Dutch East Indies, the oil fields there.

Battleships burn a lot of fuel moving from place to place, that is even why the US did not deploy battleships in the earlier part of the Guadalcanal campaign. The Kongo-class, being quick and reasonable armed, were sent to blast the US forces at Henderson field. They both did a lot of damage, but not a killing blow.

On ‎3‎/‎5‎/‎2018 at 5:17 PM, Phoenix_jz said:

Given the same conditions (night, such an ambush case, same year) I don't know how much would change. The Japanese were surprised by seeing a BB, hence why most of the BB rounds fired were HE or bombardment shells.

The was only one AP hit, a 14" AP shell to the barbette that had been decapped and, iirc, base-slapped the barbette. No penetration, although for safety concerns the turret was not used until repairs could be made.

If it was a Japanese 16.1" shell or, good forbid one of Yamato's 18.1" AP shells...

I forget the exact way the shell went in, but that could perhaps have penetrated the No.3 barbette with lethal consequences. I'm not sure how protected magazines were to detentions in the barbette itself, but the whole #3 turret & barbette structure is almost certainly lost with massive loss of life, and potentially we're looking at a situation where the aft magazine goes up.

However, it doesn't matter what Battleship is in Kirishima's place, they are sunk. Washington dumped, what, twenty Mk.8's into the poor Battlecruiser? Yeah, bye. No ship in the world is resisting that kind of punishment at that range. Ballgame over, Yanks win...

At the range they were fighting, it wouldn't have mattered the size of the BB AP shell or what the armor was designed to protect against. They would have penetrated. South Dakota was likely saved from being taken out completely because the IJN wasn't expecting US BBs and had loaded the Kirishima with HE for the airfield bombardment, (as well as apparently the BB crews couldn't hit anything).

 

https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/w/war-damage-reports/uss-south-dakota-bb57-war-damage-report-no57.html

 

22 hours ago, Ensign_Cthulhu said:

It lengthens it, but utimately Yamamoto was right - it would not have changed the outcome. If the declaration of war had been received and acknowledged an appropriate span of time before the Pearl Harbour attack began, the US might have been persuaded to fight to a negotiated solution in the Pacific, but under the circumstances actually prevailing in history? No.

Of course that negotiated solution then includes the flow-on effect of Imperial Military Japan being left in charge of large swathes of China and Korea, and what the interactions with the Soviet Union are, and I think those are almost impossible to guess. 

 

22 hours ago, dseehafer said:

Oh, I'm sure the US would have still won, no doubt.... but now at a much greater cost (in terms of money, machines, and lives) and at a much later date.

 

21 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

Well, this doesn't take place in vacuum either. It would be interesting to see how an American defeat at Guadalcanal would affect other fronts, such as North Africa & the Med.

Roosevelt and Churchill had an agreement, priority would be on Germany, then the Japanese. So the European theater of war had a priority on all supplies. For the most part, the US Navy is responding in a defensive fashion to the Japanese advances. Guadalcanal was primarily fought to keep supply lines between the US and Australia open. Had the Japanese finished the airfield and begun to fly planes from their, they could harass and disrupt allied shipping as well as be a staging area for further Japanese advances.

 

Had Guadalcanal not been won by the Allied Forces, Japan would now be in a position to move further south towards Australia, as well as disrupt allied shipping between the US and Australia. Ships would likely need to make a further, southern route rather then a more direct one, using more fuel.

European Theater would not be disrupted much, as it was mostly an US Army show there. The Pacific at first was a Navy/Marine show.

 

There would be some likely tension between the US and Australian leadership due to priorities. Japanese bomber would be within range of Australia, so more fighters might be sent to Australia. That would mean less P-40s somewhere. Possibly transferred from Hawaii or the West coast.

While the war would likely last longer, it would likely only do so for maybe a half year, if that. Remember, the US submarine force is still out in force. And while their torpedos are questionable, they do take a eventual toll on Japanese shipping. Shipping the Japanese need to move vital supplies around. So while the Japanese might take more territory, in the end they will wither on the vine like the other Japanese forces when supplies can no longer reach them.

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1 - the Kongos were fast enough to get in and out of the Solomons quickly.

2 - the Kongos burned a lot less fuel, which Japan was short of.

3 - they were holding back the Nagato, Mutsu, Yamato, and Musashi for the "decisive battle".

Even with all these, I think the underused their BBs.  Maybe at 2nd Guadalcanal it would have made no difference (although South Dakota would have suffered more), but Nagato would have survived 1st Guadalcanal a lot better than Hiei did.

The Fuso sisters were used a lot as they had the best endurance range for the oil load than the entire Battleship fleet. 

This is true by their listed statistics, but is unlikely. The Fusos and Ises were old and creaky and generally more poorly-maintained than the other battleships.

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On 3/12/2018 at 10:07 AM, Lord_Slayer said:

At the range they were fighting, it wouldn't have mattered the size of the BB AP shell or what the armor was designed to protect against. They would have penetrated. South Dakota was likely saved from being taken out completely because the IJN wasn't expecting US BBs and had loaded the Kirishima with HE for the airfield bombardment, (as well as apparently the BB crews couldn't hit anything).

It did matter, hit 26 which struck No. 3 turret's barbette was probably an AP round based on this analysis - http://www.navweaps.com/index_lundgren/South_Dakota_Damage_Analysis_Hit_26-27.pdf

Due to the thickness and quality of the armor and the angle of incidence the 14in round was defeated, but at 16in round would have had far greater penetration potentially changing everything.

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Had the Japanese driven off both the Washington and the South Dakota... I think you would continue to see the same sort of stalemate on Guadalcanal as they had seen for the last 3 months.  Americans moving supplies in during the day under air cover and the Japanese moving supplies at night.   

At that point the Americans would probably start pulling battleships from the Atlantic fleet and sending them to the pacific.  People seem to forget that the Colorado, the New Mexico’s, and the Massachusetts were all available on the east coast. 

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