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Pearl Harbor

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In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, a brief excerpt from The Battleship Book:

Scrapping outpaces all other causes of battleship loss, by a wide margin. Next comes scuttling, including the losses at Scapa Flow, at Toulon, and in the American atom bomb tests at Bikini. Surface ships, air attacks, and accidents come next. Curiously, only three battleships were lost to submarine attack, despite (or perhaps because of) major concerns before both wars.

The single greatest permanent loss of battleships came at Scapa Flow, where eight German battleships and battlecruisers scuttled themselves under a mistaken assumption. Four battlecruisers were lost at Jutland. Three battleships were permanently destroyed at Pearl Harbor, three at Leyte Gulf, three at Toulon, and three in a great air raid against Kure in late July, 1945.

We can interpret this distribution of losses in several ways. It is surely true that battleships saw open combat much less often than there architects envisioned, especially against one another. It is also clear that while the architects prepared battleships well for certain kinds of threats, they underestimated the threat that aircraft could present, and that navies (at least in World War I), misallocated resources to battleships that should have gone to a more multifaceted approach to naval power.

Speaking of which, somebody in comments asked whether signed copies are available. Answer is yes; e-mail me and we’ll work something out.

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