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mofton's Tactical Tidbits - Destroyer Losses of WWII

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Hello All,

A while back I read a somewhat interesting book called 'Destroyer Down', it chronicled the fates of all the >150 destroyers the Royal Navy lost in WWII. I've seen other tables floating around the internet and the interesting thing for me was that with >100 losses you can start to draw some kind of conclusion from the pattern of loss - assess the threat if you will.

With that in mind I thought it might be interesting to see if I could draw some kind of comparison between the causes of loss for the Destroyer fleets of the major marine powers of WWII, by which I mean the UK, USA, Italy, Germany and Japan. The USSR, Netherlands and France I did not initially bother with due to limited maritime involvement in WWII, though it is on my to-do list.

Methodology

  • There are no 'Bismarck's - It was not infrequent for a ship to survive an initial attack but to be scuttled by friendly forces shortly after, in these cases I've counted the initial cause as the sole cause
  • Limited scuttling - I have not included wholesale scuttling, for instance of Italian ships following the German occupation
  • What is a DD? - This caused some issues, I have generally gone with '~1,000t or more, min 4x 4in and 6x TT or more on the original design' this means the German Elbings are in, but Italian Spica's are out: see specific notes per country
  • What is 'other' - This includes from shore batteries, non-combat losses, grounding, collisions, accidental explosions, intentional explosions (looking at you Campbeltown!) and losses in storms
  • What is 'sunk' - This was slightly tricky given occasional salvage, but being rendered completely unusable counts
  • 'Constructive Total Losses' - In the event that a ship be so badly damaged as to be beyond economical repair I've included it here. This is potentially contentious as it may not reflect damage, but time in the war, availability of repair etc
  • 'Surface ships' - this includes all sizes of surface ships, down to the PT/MTB/E-Boat/MAS etc. in addition if a ship was 'driven ashore' by hostile warships I've counted that as a kill rather than a grounding
  • 'Mine' - Mine ignores what laid the mine, making no distinction between ship, submarine and air dropped

Nation 1 (sorry, Tea-bias): The Royal Navy including Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Australian Navy

01wlwK8.png

Total: 153 losses
Largest Proportion: Land Based Air power -  33%
Second Largest Proportion: Submarine - 22%

Generally the RN's losses are as you might expect. The RN had to operate within close range of hostile land-based aircraft through a lot of the war, losing significant numbers of ships at Dunkirk, off Crete and in the Mediterranean in particular. The RN also had to operate against a large U-boat and Italian submarine arm for prolonged periods, although convoy escorts may not have been the primary objective they were definitely 'targets of opportunity'.  One notable engagement would be HMS Khartoum blown up by an uncontrolled fire sparked by a shell from a submarine, which despite being surfaced I counted as a Submarine rather than Surface Action kill. 

A solid proportion of losses to mines is fairly understandable given operations in the shallow North Sea, English Channel and areas of the Mediterranean again. Given that the Italian and German navies did not operate carriers it's unsurprising that only a handful of ships (on the IJN's Indian Ocean Raid) were lost to hostile carrier aircraft.

Surface actions did account for a small proportion of losses, these are concentrated around Norway and the Med, and early war and include losses to E-boats plus several ships in the disastrous early Far-East campaign.

'Other' losses include a couple to shore batteries and 7 collisions is the greatest number of any Navy and reflects the perils of conducting close escort in often foul conditions through years of bitter war. The Royal Navy did fairly well on the seaworthiness front, with only a couple of losses to the weather including a drag-anchor grounding.

Losses in this assessment include the Hunt Class destroyers (>1,000t and min 4x guns), despite their comparability to Destroyer Escorts, and also older V&W class which might not be considered full Destroyers by WWII.

 

Nation 2: The Regia Marina, Italian Royal Navy including losses as an Allied Co-Beligerant

Wf7I0b7.png

Total: 53 losses
Largest Proportion: Land Based Air Power - 26%
Second Largest Proportion: Tie Mine/Surface Ship - 21%

The immediate stand-out of Italian destroyer loss pie-chart is just how similar in general it is to RN losses. This is perhaps to be expected given they operated significantly in the same theater - the shallow, air-dominated waters of the Med. Land based air losses include early war and later war losses - when resurgent Allied air power began to be able to seriously strike the RM ships in port. Despite the Royal Navy's use of carriers in the Med, I can find only a single instance of a destroyer sunk by a carrier launched air attack, likely because RN carrier air strikes were small in number and generally looking for more important ships as targets.

The losses to surface action (11 ships) are more significant than for the RN, but 8 of the 11 losses resulted from short, sharp night actions several of which were only possible due to Enigma intercepts. This is a general pattern for destroyer surface action losses of all nations.

Submarine losses include one friendly-fire incident and reflect on an active British submarine presence, though that war was particularly bitter with submarines of all nations suffering in the conditions of the Med.

'Other' losses (7 ships) do include a pair of destroyers in a storm, and a pair scuttled in Italian East Africa in an unusual but unwinable position.

The RM loss tally was somewhat complicated by the Italian habit of salvaging sunk ships but I've tried to be fair there without double-counting too much. I also excluded the Spica class torpedo boats despite their size and occasional deployment as 'destroyer-lite' ships. Including them would add another 23 losses to various causes.

 

Nation 3: The German Kriegsmarine

im3Gg6J.png
 
Total: 47 losses (of which 9 were captured TA, ZG or ZH vessels)
Largest Proportion: Surface Ship - 47%
Second Largest Proportion: Land Based Air - 23%
 
German Destroyer losses depart radically from those of Italy and the UK. The single largest cause of loss, almost a majority, is to surface action in which 22 ships were lost. Those losses are concentrated in engagements around Narvik (10 losses - including 'forced scuttles' as surface kills), the Bay of Biscay (6 losses) and around the Baltic to torpedo boats and to the Royal Navy while attacking Arctic Convoys.
 
Given that Germany did not operate a significant convoy system losses to submarines are unsurprisingly rare, opportunities being few. The only example I identified was a single possible loss to a Greek submarine of a captured Italian destroyer. Similarly to the Italians it would seem that Royal Navy and US Navy carrier forces either didn't have the opportunity, or didn't have any success in launching lethal air attacks on German Destroyers - usually having bigger game to hunt, however land-based air was relatively devastating coming in ahead of mines as the second largest killer.
 
I have included captured ships in this list so long as they are 'destroyer sized' and although classed as 'Flottentorpedoboots' I have included the larger Elbing class ships as their displacement of >1,300t, and 4 gun, 6 torpedo armament fit the basic profile of destroyers in most navies.
 
Nation 4: The Imperial Japanese Navy
G1TRZSX.png
Total: 125 losses
Largest Proportion: Submarine - 30%
Second Largest Proportion: Carrier Air Power - 23%
 
The IJN destroyer fleet of WWII suffered the largest proportion of its losses due to a rampaging Allied submarine fleet. Although including losses to some British and Dutch submarines overall it's fair to say that the USN's Fleet Boats made hay and that the IJN's ASW effort was inadequate in response. The 37 losses inflicted by submarines outnumber those suffered by the Royal Navy (33) in a longer war against a significant U-boat threat.
 
Given the nature of the war in the Pacific it's almost a surprise that carrier-launched strikes 'only' accounted for the second larges proportion of losses at 29 ships, which is a similar number to those lost to surface ships (24). In bitter fighting in particular around Guadalcanal the IJN's destroyer Flotilla's suffered considerable attrition without the longed-for decisive battle. Also noteworthy is that mines played a fairly small role in the Pacific, the more fluid nature of combat and larger areas of deeper water were generally ill-conducive to mine warfare compared to the Sicilian Narrows for instance - which are as the name suggests narrow, and near Sicily. A surprise to me was that land-based air power did play a fairly major role in sinking IJN destroyers, both by USMC aviation, for instance the 'Cactus Airforce' and USAAF action later in the war. Mine losses are concentrated in the 'Inner Sea' later war.
 
As a cutoff for the IJN I have not included some of the smaller inshore/torpedo boat type destroyers but have effectively gone with the Minekaze class and later. In addition this chart may be slightly colored by 'Constructive Total Losses' - ships damaged relatively late war which could not be repaired.
 
Nation 6: The United States Navy
847w3QH.png
Total Losses: 81 (of which 8 were CTL/write-offs)
Largest Proportion: Kamikaze - 30% (although 1/3 of what I have counted as losses were CTL)
Second Largest Proportion: Surface Ship - 22%
 
For the US Navy in WWII I had to add another loss category. Kamikaze. Initially I had thought to include it in general air attack but it is unique, distinctive and I think worth separate consideration. Of the 24 losses to Kamikazes however 8 were write-offs, in particular late war of either increasingly out dated classes not worth repairing, or modern ships badly damaged but not worth repairing given new production. In the relatively short period they were operational and especially off Okinawa Kamikaze attacks crippled more USN destroyers than their conventional carrier and land-based air strikes did in the entire war.
 
Secondary sources of loss reflect the IJN's - surface ship losses were sharp on both sides around Guadalcanal, though the USN's tally of losses also includes several '4-stackers' lost in the Dutch East Indies early war. Carrier air strikes clearly didn't prioritize destroyers but did inflict losses as did land-based air. The USN also suffered from land based air strikes in the Mediterranean accounting for several ships and the Mediterranean and D-Day landings account for most of the losses to mines, operating later in the war and in greater numbers with better AA fits and with greater air cover these losses are not as significant as the RN's losses. Submarine losses are also few but split between the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean theater, including the noteworthy USS Borie which fought a murderously close range ramming-fight with U-405 before succumbing to ramming damage (counted as a submarine kill!).
 
'Other' losses are the highest of any Navy assessed here at 11 ships and 13.5% of losses. Losses include 3 ships to 'Halsey's Typhoon' and 1 to an Atlantic Hurricane making the USN one of the more weather impacted fleets, though one Typhoon accounted for the worst of that.
 
For USN losses I've included those '4-stacker' classes which still resembled destroyers at the time of their loss, so not the extensively rebuilt Transport/Minelayer/Seaplane Tender losses. I have not include the 11 USN Destroyer Escort Losses at this time, despite their heroic performance off Samar and elsewhere though the distinction between including the Hunt class but not the Butler etc. is slight.
 
Nation 7: The Royal Netherlands Navy
Ho7tuvm.png
Total: 9 losses
Largest Proportion: Equal Land Based Air Attack and Surface Ship Attack - 33% each
 
The Dutch Navy Destroyer losses of WWII were primarily (7 of 9) concentrated in the Far East and are associated with the fall of the Dutch East Indies and battles in and around that area. There were a series of naval engagements accounting for 3 ships - including one driven ashore in flames. Air attack accounted for two losses in the DEI and a further one at home in the Netherlands, those include cripplings 'forcing' a scuttle shortly thereafter. During the retreat one destroyer was sunk by carrier based aircraft.
 
The sole submarine loss was Isaac Sweers, lost to a U-boat, perhaps unsurprisingly in the Mediterranean while serving alongside the RN.
 
The single 'other' category loss is a grounding.  There are no losses to mines that I can find, fighting a defensive action around the DEI probably gave few opportunities for Japanese mining and limited service elsewhere reduced the chances of that attack coming off.
 
Nation 8: The Marine Nationale - French Navy
GjX6ywq.png
Total Losses: 24
Largest Proportion: Surface Ship - 54%
Second Largest Proportion:  Land based air attack - 24%
 
Somewhat to my surprise the French Navy of WWII suffered the lions' share of it's destroyers casualties as a result of surface ship action. It is the only nation examined which has a single cause of loss as a majority of the total. Surface ship action losses are from two main causes - E-boat attack off Dunkirk very early war (3 ships) and the doomed defense of Vichy French possessions in the face of overwhelming Allied seapower off Casablanca, Oran and elsewhere (10 ships).
 
The second most frequent cause of loss was land based air power, and the impact of the Dunkirk evacuation is very clear there, with 4 of the 6 air-losses inflicted in the English Channel, plus another off Norway and the final one to RN Swordfish in the Med.
 
Unsurprisingly other causes are limited. There was little mine-vulnerable activity - which usually generates attrition losses - no exposure to carrier air power with France being knocked out before the entry of the only Axis carrier operator, Japan, and without time or significant convoys there are no losses to submarines.
 
Losses characterized as other include 2 internal explosions, one scuttle and a grounding - the scuttling of the majority of the French destroyer arm has been excluded as non-combat loss.
 
 
Nation 9: The Voenno-Morskoy Flot - Soviet Navy
8WUsXwZ.png
Total Losses: 33
Largest Proportion: Mines - 48%
Second Largest Proportion: Land Based Air Attack - 36%
 
The Soviet Navy fought a war almost exclusively in the narrow and congested waters of the Black and Baltic Seas with further activity in the Arctic. The position of the fleet, stuck in narrow choke-points, operating in shallow water makes mines the leading cause of loss (though several losses were fratricidal) with nearly half of all losses to that cause.
 
The second largest cause is also as might be expected - operating for prolonged periods in inshore waters within reach of the Luftwaffe has consequences and 12 ships were lost that way.
 
As with France it's unsurprising that losses to carriers were nil - the USSR entered the war with Japan only weeks before its' conclusion. I have counted a single submarine loss, that of a Lend-Lease ex-Clemson class refitted as an escort in the Barents Sea to a German U-boat. Similarly there is a single loss to surface ships - to a Soviet MTB. 'Other' losses include one each of scuttling, grounding and storm losses.
 
 
 
Conclusions -
  1. Destroyer losses of WWII generally make sense considering the ships and more critically the environments they were called upon to work in: the RN and RM had similar loss patterns, the Kriegsmarine had representative losses for a small offensive force running into a far larger navy. The IJN destroyer fleet bore the brunt of a surprisingly effective and aggressive submarine campaign, but also saw accumulating losses in the eponymous night battles. The USN losses shifted through the war but reflected the wide  open Pacific theater of operations with the unique cause of loss of Kamikaze late war
  2. Across all 8 nations looked at here, land-based airpower was the single biggest Destroyer killer at 121 ships lost, followed closely by surface-ship action at 116 ships and submarines at 90 ships
  3. Losses varied strongly temporally and spatially and in some instances could be strongly attributed to single events (e.g. German destroyer losses at Narvik) while other causes were more attritional in nature
  4. Only the French Navy with a majority of losses to surface action had a single majority cause
  5. The leading cause of French and German losses was surface action, the Dutch suffered surface and air attack equally, the British and Italians suffered proportionally the most from land-based air attack, the Japanese from submarines and the USN from kamikaze attacks

 

Sources -

General use of Navypedia with occasional cross-check to wikipedia and U-boat.net.

http://www.naval-history.net/WW2aBritishLosses04DD.htm

http://www.navsource.org/Naval/losses.htm#dd

Edited by mofton
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Great writeup Mofton!

I was surprised that Kamikazes accounted for the highest percentage of USN DDs lost... I had been under the impression that not only were the Kamikazes active for a short period, but that they were more akin to terror attacks (ie more bark than bite).

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1 hour ago, pikohan said:

Great writeup Mofton!

I was surprised that Kamikazes accounted for the highest percentage of USN DDs lost... I had been under the impression that not only were the Kamikazes active for a short period, but that they were more akin to terror attacks (ie more bark than bite).

It IS a really great piece of research; Kudos to the Author! I am not surprised by the high number of Kamikaze kills; though @pikohan is right about the relatively short period of time the suicide bombers were inn action, when they were in action they were very active and Kamikaze strikes during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were happening multiple times each day of the battles. USN task forces were hit just as hard as the IJN could hit them, as the latter was literally fighting for its very existence.

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Hi great write up with some really interesting information thank you  plus 1 

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Thanks for taking the time to provide this information. Good reading.

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I got into a debate about causalities by ship type.  Were casualties on Destroyers greater then the total lost on Battleships or Carriers?  It was insisted to me that most of the crew could get out of a DD when it sank, unlike a capital ship, but I just don't have any figures that are divided by ship type to check.

Edited by Sventex

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Oh, the losses from Kamikazes also surprises me, Like Piko I thought that was more of a terror campaign than an effective method.

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Do one for the NL navy? Shouldn't be hard, we had either 8 or 10 ships that count, depending on whether or not you include ships that were afloat and near completion when the war began and were completed by other navies.

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2 hours ago, Sventex said:

I got into a debate about causalities by ship type.  Were casualties on Destroyers greater then the total lost on Battleships or Carriers?  It was insisted to me that most of the crew could get out of a DD when it sank, unlike a capital ship, but I just don't have any figures that are divided by ship type to check.

Given how many capital ships were lost oflver the course of the war versus destroyers, I would be inclined to believe destroyermen casualties would be higher. Recall that a Battleship or carrier is typically the center of a fleet, and modern one's usually went down slowly - so, time for crew to get off and escape, and have quick rescue.

Destroyers were very often but their lonesome, or, in tight situations, less of a priority. They tended to go down faster - so more time in the water - and their was more likelyhood their floatation equipment would be compromissed by damage.

 

But what hits them matters to. A BB being cut into over and over like Bismarck or Kirishima is bound to have high casualties, but a more gradual one (like that of the famous footage of the Austrian dreadnought going down) with less destructive damage might not.

 

Hood, an elderly battlecruiser, had her aft magazines go up, and they took the entire ship up with them. She went down almost immediately (3 min iirc?) 3 survivors.

Roma, a brand-new BB, suffered even more damage, taking a crippling hit to her engineering spaces before the famous magazine hit (well, next to the magazine), had her forward magazines go up (I haven't mathed out the force of the two blasts, but I suspect the force incurred by Roma's might have been greater), and she took just over 23 minutes to go down. Pretty much all of the 596 survivors came from the aft sections - but had she gone down as fast as Hood it's doubtful it would be anywhere near as high. It is in fact quite probable that she could have survived the devestating magazine hit had she not taken the first hit to the engineering spaces.

 

Circumstance can be very picky, so it's not always clear. It really depends on where the damage occurs and how fast a ship goes down. There were several DDs who's casualties were almost total, so I think the ability to get out of a structure rapidly is offset by the amount of damage might a given hit might inflict on a Destroyer compared to a Battleship.

 

 

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7 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

Given how many capital ships were lost oflver the course of the war versus destroyers, I would be inclined to believe destroyermen casualties would be higher. Recall that a Battleship or carrier is typically the center of a fleet, and modern one's usually went down slowly - so, time for crew to get off and escape, and have quick rescue.

Destroyers were very often but their lonesome, or, in tight situations, less of a priority. They tended to go down faster - so more time in the water - and their was more likelyhood their floatation equipment would be compromissed by damage.

 

But what hits them matters to. A BB being cut into over and over like Bismarck or Kirishima is bound to have high casualties, but a more gradual one (like that of the famous footage of the Austrian dreadnought going down) with less destructive damage might not.

 

Hood, an elderly battlecruiser, had her aft magazines go up, and they took the entire ship up with them. She went down almost immediately (3 min iirc?) 3 survivors.

Roma, a brand-new BB, suffered even more damage, taking a crippling hit to her engineering spaces before the famous magazine hit (well, next to the magazine), had her forward magazines go up (I haven't mathed out the force of the two blasts, but I suspect the force incurred by Roma's might have been greater), and she took just over 23 minutes to go down. Pretty much all of the 596 survivors came from the aft sections - but had she gone down as fast as Hood it's doubtful it would be anywhere near as high. It is in fact quite probable that she could have survived the devestating magazine hit had she not taken the first hit to the engineering spaces.

 

Circumstance can be very picky, so it's not always clear. It really depends on where the damage occurs and how fast a ship goes down. There were several DDs who's casualties were almost total, so I think the ability to get out of a structure rapidly is offset by the amount of damage might a given hit might inflict on a Destroyer compared to a Battleship.

 

 

What started the debate was when I mentioned that the USN only lost 3 Battleships vs 81 destroyers, which gave me the idea that serving on a Battleship was a safer job then serving on a destroyer.  But that belies the fact many USN Battleships were very temperately sunk at Pearl Harbor and other Battleships damaged and remained afloat meaning crew were lost, even if the ship was not.  And when I look at individual incidents, like the loss of USS Hammann, which was torpedoed next to the Yorktown, immediately split in two and jackknifed, the majority of the crew still survived, with a loss of only 80 crewmembers.  So it's hard to say which was the more dangerous ship type to serve on.

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10 hours ago, Lert said:

Do one for the NL navy? Shouldn't be hard, we had either 8 or 10 ships that count, depending on whether or not you include ships that were afloat and near completion when the war began and were completed by other navies.

Nation 7: The Royal Netherlands Navy

iQ6khnT.png

Total: 9 losses
Largest Proportion: Equal Land Based Air Attack and Surface Ship Attack - 33% each
 
The Dutch Navy Destroyer losses of WWII were primarily (7 of 9) concentrated in the Far East and are associated with the fall of the Dutch East Indies and battles in and around that area. There were a series of naval engagements accounting for 3 ships - including one driven ashore in flames. Air attack accounted for two losses in the DEI and a further one at home in the Netherlands, those include cripplings 'forcing' a scuttle shortly thereafter. During the retreat one destroyer was sunk by carrier based aircraft.
 
The sole submarine loss was Isaac Sweers, lost to a U-boat, perhaps unsurprisingly in the Mediterranean while serving alongside the RN.
 
The single 'other' category loss is a grounding.  There are no losses to mines that I can find, fighting a defensive action around the DEI probably gave few opportunities for Japanese mining and limited service elsewhere reduced the chances of that attack coming off.
10 hours ago, Kapitan_Wuff said:

Oh, the losses from Kamikazes also surprises me, Like Piko I thought that was more of a terror campaign than an effective method.

It surprised me too, but I think the factors behind it are:

  1. Destroyers have a limited ability to withstand damage
  2. Kamikaze's have a high hit likelihood where a destroyer would more typically attempt to maneuver around an attack
  3. Poorly trained Kamikaze pilots targeted the first ships they came across, which were frequently destroyers

In my accounting I've included 8 CTL casualties. If I removed those ships it would drop Kamikaze losses to 16 and below (though still close to) surface ship losses.

By mid-1945 with the war clearly going one way and a huge materiel advantage I can see why the USN didn't bother to repair some destroyers - especially older types, though 4 of the 8 'not worth repair' were modern Fletcher class.

12 hours ago, Sventex said:

I got into a debate about causalities by ship type.  Were casualties on Destroyers greater then the total lost on Battleships or Carriers?  It was insisted to me that most of the crew could get out of a DD when it sank, unlike a capital ship, but I just don't have any figures that are divided by ship type to check.

It's a good question. Do you mean proportional, or total casualties? I'll use the USN as a representative example.

Destroyer personnel losses were a pretty wide range - some went down with all hands: the US lost the Pillsbury and Jarvis with all hands in different scenarios - that's 370 men from those two ships, although not 'with all hands' the Edsall has only 6 confirmed survivors (from ~150) and they were all murdered in captivity.

Some others were close to 100% casualties - Truxtun lost 90% or more of her ~125 crew in a grounding in a storm, Hull, Monaghan and Spence going down in Typhoon Cobra cost 775 lives with only 91 survivors.

On the more positive side the least loss of life is miraculously zero on the William D. Porter (yes, that one that nearly torpedoed the President!)

 

Overall I would guess that more USN personnel were lost on destroyers than battleships. From just the above examples (8 of 81 ships lost) that's 1,401 killed. The brunt of the USN's battleship casualties came from Pearl Harbor alone with 1,890 men on battleships killed. After that there would be no further battleship losses, though some would be damaged and a quick tally looks like additional losses were rare - South Dakota taking 39 killed at Guadalcanal - without going through forensically I'd guess less than 500 additional casualties in total.

I would overall expect casualties in destroyers to be higher than in battleships in totality.

The proportion of the crew lost would vary greatly but the disadvantage for a destroyer is that it may sink very quickly and be lower priority to rescue.

Proportionally of all the men who served in destroyers vs. in battleships I would expect the destroyermen to take greater losses.

 

image.png

Edited by mofton
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Thank you! All fascinating.

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10 minutes ago, mofton said:

It's a good question. Do you mean proportional, or total casualties? I'll use the USN as a representative example.

Destroyer personnel losses were a pretty wide range - some went down with all hands: the US lost the Pillsbury and Jarvis with all hands in different scenarios - that's 370 men from those two ships, although not 'with all hands' the Edsall has only 6 confirmed survivors (from ~150) and they were all murdered in captivity.

Some others were close to 100% casualties - Truxtun lost 90% or more of her ~125 crew in a grounding in a storm, Hull, Monaghan and Spence going down in Typhoon Cobra cost 775 lives with only 91 survivors.

On the more positive side the least loss of life is miraculously zero on the William D. Porter (yes, that one that nearly torpedoed the President!)

 

Overall I would guess that more USN personnel were lost on destroyers than battleships. From just the above examples (8 of 81 ships lost) that's 1,401 killed. The brunt of the USN's battleship casualties came from Pearl Harbor alone with 1,890 men on battleships killed. After that there would be no further battleship losses, though some would be damaged and a quick tally looks like additional losses were rare - South Dakota taking 39 killed at Guadalcanal - without going through forensically I'd guess less than 500 additional casualties in total.

I would overall expect casualties in destroyers to be higher than in battleships in totality.

The proportion of the crew lost would vary greatly but the disadvantage for a destroyer is that it may sink very quickly and be lower priority to rescue.

Proportionally of all the men who served in destroyers vs. in battleships I would expect the destroyermen to take greater losses.

Total causalities. 

I had considered Destroyers almost cannon fodder in their lack of armor, protection and weaponry, but I hadn't really considered their ease of escape and thus their actual causality rate.  A Battleship that's going down could potentially lose over a thousand sailors, but in my mind, Battleships rarely went down fast, and in most cases, withstood their damage and made it back to port.  The person who I was talking (whose thread I cannot remember) was advocated that the USN should have been using smaller ships, cruiser and light CVs instead of the big capital ships, and I was thinking that would have made the fleet highly fragile and demoralizing for the crews to have little armor.

Then again, we haven't been discussing CV causality rates vs DDs either.  Did USN DDs have more total causalities then the USN (large) CVs?

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1 hour ago, Sventex said:

Total causalities. 

I had considered Destroyers almost cannon fodder in their lack of armor, protection and weaponry, but I hadn't really considered their ease of escape and thus their actual causality rate.  A Battleship that's going down could potentially lose over a thousand sailors, but in my mind, Battleships rarely went down fast, and in most cases, withstood their damage and made it back to port.  The person who I was talking (whose thread I cannot remember) was advocated that the USN should have been using smaller ships, cruiser and light CVs instead of the big capital ships, and I was thinking that would have made the fleet highly fragile and demoralizing for the crews to have little armor.

Then again, we haven't been discussing CV causality rates vs DDs either.  Did USN DDs have more total causalities then the USN (large) CVs?

Well, right now I CBA to trawl through all 81 US DD losses, so I'm going to assume that they averaged about 50 casualties per ship, the bigger ones had crews of 300+ so that's about 15%. In addition there were casualties on destroyers which did not sink, for instance the USS Laffey losing about 35 crew to kamikaze strikes/strafing.

That gives me a total highly conservative loss estimate of 4,050.

Based on the Pearl Harbor losses plus a conservatively high estimate I would put battleship crew fatalities at <2,500.

Aircraft carriers are less numerous so it's easier to tally.

Fleet and Light Carrier losses (not including CVE's) were:

Hornet - 140 KIA
Lexington - 216 KIA
Wasp - 193 KIA
Yorktown - 141 KIA
Princeton (CVL) - 108 KIA

In addition attacks that didn't sink the carriers did inflict large casualties on several occasions:

Franklin (Kamikaze hit) - 807 KIA
Bunker Hill (Kamikaze hit) - 390 KIA
Enterprise (bombx2 kamikaze x1) - 130 KIA
Yorktown (Coral Sea) - 30 KIA
Saratoga (submarine torp, later bomb) - 130 KIA
Belleau Wood - 100 KIA

I'm definitely missing some casualties on damaged but not sunk carriers - though it's interesting to note that the greatest loss of life was not on carriers which were sunk and that mostly the crews survived. I have a total tally there of 2,385 which if I added again a conservative 1,000 casualties to would still come out below destroyer casualties.

 

Destroyers were definitely hazardous, but you'd need to determine the percentage casualties of all the 300+ destroyers the USN put into service to make it a relevant 'which ship type is the most dangerous' analysis.

I would also like to stress that all servicemen of all branches of all navies in WWII took very significant risks and there were few if any 'safe' postings.

Edited by mofton

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7 minutes ago, mofton said:

I'm definitely missing some casualties on damaged but not sunk carriers - though it's interesting to note that the greatest loss of life was not on carriers which were sunk and that mostly the crews survived. I have a total tally there of 2,385 which if I added again a conservative 1,000 casualties to would still come out below destroyer casualties.

 

Destroyers were definitely hazardous, but you'd need to determine the percentage casualties of all the 300+ destroyers the USN put into service to make it a relevant 'which ship type is the most dangerous' analysis.

I would also like to stress that all servicemen of all branches of all navies in WWII took very significant risks and there were few if any 'safe' postings.

That is interesting that a sinking CV was less fatal then a damaged one.  I did not know that.

 

I'm not really trying to determine what was the "safest" ship type, but rather test someone else's theory that capital ships were some folly that cost the most lives.  I had always assume for the past decade that bigger ships were in fact safer because they had more armor, damage control and safety features, but I never really looked hard at the numbers before.

Edited by Sventex

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Pretty sensible, at least from my better knowledge with Pacific Theater naval engagements compared to the Atlantic & Mediterranean Seas.

 

I knew long ago that Submarines were big problems for Japan.  Even in the book, "Japanese Destroyer Captain," the author repeatedly speaks of the danger of American Subs, even talking about various DDs that were lost to them and the sadness of such an event.  DDs should be the ones hunting Submarines, but it was increasingly the other way around in the Pacific.  But such was the state of the war for Japan.

 

Yes, Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands Campaigns was where you saw both sides wreck each other in ships with surface engagements.  That wasn't really a thing for quite a bit of the war after, until Leyte Gulf in 1944.

 

As for the tons of losses to land based air, it's why the Pacific War was fought to have airfields.  Blood was spilled to have an airstrip in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific so that planes could operate around the area.

 

And the USN DD losses to Kamikazes, that's intentional by the US Navy.  After the first encounters with Kamikazes in the Philippines, the USN put their DDs on Picket Duties far away from the main forces, supported by fighters.  The US knew what it was doing and the simple, cold logic that it was better to put smaller, cheaper, expendable ships like DDs on Picket / Sentry Duty to act as barriers against the Kamikazes.  You never saw something like the high AA capable NC, SD, Iowa-class BBs out there with the Picket Duty DDs.  Was there even a Cruiser out there with them?  I doubt it.  I know in WOWS, it makes Cruisers seem like cheap, common fodder, but in real life, Cruisers were precious.  So I doubt Cruisers were out there for Picket Duty.

 

Side note:  I remember watching some Pacific War documentary, some Sailors and Marines from WWII were interviewed.  A Sailor that was aboard one of the newer Battleships was watching some of his Marine friends from the BB disembark to go land and participate in the fighting at Okinawa.  The Sailor was sailing "Good luck" to his Marine buddies, but the Marines were joking they were happy to leave the boat.  Big Ships tended to attract a lot of attacks.  They rather take their chances on Okinawa itself :Smile_teethhappy:

Edited by HazeGrayUnderway

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4 minutes ago, Sventex said:

That is interesting that a sinking CV was less fatal then a damaged one.  I did not know that.

 

I'm not really trying to determine what was the "safest" ship type, but rather test someone else's theory that capital ships were some folly that cost the most lives.  I had always assume for the past decade that bigger ships were in fact safer because they had more armor, damage control and safety features, but I never really looked hard at the numbers before.

It might depend on the nation.

For instance if we take the lazy '50 casualties per ship' metric for German DD's that's 2,350 casualties. Bismarck cost 2,086 sailors. Scharnhorst cost 1,932, Tirpitz cost ~1,200 over several attacks. Battleships were potentially more costly, but also potentially more productive.

 

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19 minutes ago, HazeGrayUnderway said:

Pretty sensible, at least from my better knowledge with Pacific Theater naval engagements compared to the Atlantic & Mediterranean Seas.

 

I knew long ago that Submarines were big problems for Japan.  Even in the book, "Japanese Destroyer Captain," the author repeatedly speaks of the danger of American Subs, even talking about various DDs that were lost to them and the sadness of such an event.  DDs should be the ones hunting Submarines, but it was increasingly the other way around in the Pacific.  But such was the state of the war for Japan.

 

Yes, Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands Campaigns was where you saw both sides wreck each other in ships with surface engagements.  That wasn't really a thing for quite a bit of the war after, until Leyte Gulf in 1944.

 

As for the tons of losses to land based air, it's why the Pacific War was fought to have airfields.  Blood was spilled to have an airstrip in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific so that planes could operate around the area.

 

And the USN DD losses to Kamikazes, that's intentional by the US Navy.  After the first encounters with Kamikazes in the Philippines, the USN put their DDs on Picket Duties far away from the main forces, supported by fighters.  The US knew what it was doing and the simple, cold logic that it was better to put smaller, cheaper, expendable ships like DDs on Picket / Sentry Duty to act as barriers against the Kamikazes.  You never saw something like the high AA capable NC, SD, Iowa-class BBs out there with the Picket Duty DDs.  Was there even a Cruiser out there with them?  I doubt it.  I know in WOWS, it makes Cruisers seem like cheap, common fodder, but in real life, Cruisers were precious.  So I doubt Cruisers were out there for Picket Duty.

    You beat me to it. That's why a lot of the late war DD's got modified as well to boost AA power. They were the outside RADAR ring around a fleet that would park off of island for extended periods and were literally the first thing the Kamikaze pilots would see and were more isolated so they got a lot of attention. USS Laffey is one to look up if you have the time, some of the picket ships logs of attacks are quite telling.

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3 minutes ago, mofton said:

It might depend on the nation.

For instance if we take the lazy '50 casualties per ship' metric for German DD's that's 2,350 casualties. Bismarck cost 2,086 sailors. Scharnhorst cost 1,932, Tirpitz cost ~1,200 over several attacks. Battleships were potentially more costly, but also potentially more productive.

 

Assuming that Das Boot isn't lying to me, there's just weren't enough German Battleships to compete with the casualties of the smaller ships.

Kh1ddG6.jpg

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3 hours ago, Sventex said:

Assuming that Das Boot isn't lying to me, there's just weren't enough German Battleships to compete with the casualties of the smaller ships.

 

I believe Das Boot was broadly correct, those numbers look right.

U-boat losses were over 750 boats - https://uboat.net/fates/losses/chart.htm, with an average crew of 50+ and a significant chance of going down with all hands losses were enormous.

 

 

 

 

Edit - Updated with Dutch losses in the OP and French and Soviet losses added.

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There's some great battle damage stuff out there, if you look for it.

 

The Royal Navy created a set of Damage Control posters after the war, detailing examples:

?format=750w

IMG_0302.JPG?format=1000w

(I cant remember where I found the original pdf of these summaries ... but this site gives a transcript https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/w/war-damage-reports/summary-of-war-damage-17-oct-1941-to-7-dec-1942.html)

2015-04-17+10_05_51-Summary+of+War+Damag

2015-04-17+10_44_25-SUMMARY+OF+WAR+DAMAG

 

Here and there you'll find complete battle damage reports reproduced, with their drawings etc. Elsewhere, you can simply stumble upon images of documents.

?format=750w

HMS Illustrious damage report

And this one is just fascinating:
txug3qyyj7cx.jpg?format=1000w

 

And this is the original constructor's report/analysis of the battle damage to USS Franklin.

 

  • Cool 1

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On 4/11/2018 at 8:05 AM, mofton said:

Total: 153 losses
Largest Proportion: Land Based Air power -  33%

makes sense

On 4/11/2018 at 8:05 AM, mofton said:

Second Largest Proportion: Submarine - 22%

*cough.

A very nicely written summary Mofton, thanks for this.

 

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49 minutes ago, HMS_Formidable said:

There's some great battle damage stuff out there, if you look for it.

 

 

2015-04-17+10_05_51-Summary+of+War+Damag

2015-04-17+10_44_25-SUMMARY+OF+WAR+DAMAG

 

 

The second illustration here presents a useful example of a bomb causing flooding (something which WOWS does not simulate).

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The OP graphs show one interesting thing not commented on yet.  If you parse out the Kamikazes (which are more akin to an anti-ship missile than an aircraft attack), the USN singularly lost few destroyers to air attack compared to other nations whose destroyers generally had that as a leading cause.  It argues that most nations keeping their destroyer main batteries single purpose surface weapons, even if given some marginal AA capacity was a major mistake.  In the Japanese case, it's just their 5" gun was a crappy design in terms of rate of fire rather than ignoring a dual purpose battery which they did fit.

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1 hour ago, Murotsu said:

The OP graphs show one interesting thing not commented on yet.  If you parse out the Kamikazes (which are more akin to an anti-ship missile than an aircraft attack), the USN singularly lost few destroyers to air attack compared to other nations whose destroyers generally had that as a leading cause.  It argues that most nations keeping their destroyer main batteries single purpose surface weapons, even if given some marginal AA capacity was a major mistake.  In the Japanese case, it's just their 5" gun was a crappy design in terms of rate of fire rather than ignoring a dual purpose battery which they did fit.

 

Later Japanese 12.7 cm/50 mountings also totally abandoned the DP feature in order to lower costs as well IIRC. Then they built the Akizukis which were almost entirely AA focused with the 10 cm/65, before intending to switch back to the 12.7 cm/50 with new power ramming and other modernizations so that they could have one gun that filled both roles.

 

The major failing of the Japanese destroyers is that they were essentially useless in terms of being a fleet escort. For all intents and purposes their only AA weaponry was light machine-canon, which does nothing to protect the ships they're supposed to be escorting. All they can really do in case of an aerial attack is offer themselves up as additional targets.

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