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Don’t Give Up the (Battle)Ship!

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HIJMS Yamato and HIJMS Musashi at anchor. By Takeo Kanda – U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo L42-08.06.02. Public Domain, Link

Over at the Diplomat I take a look at a recent Journal of Military History article about the relative strengths of battleships and aircraft carriers during World War II:

Is the fundamental technological story of naval battle in the Pacific War wrong? For a very long time, the narrative of the relative effectiveness of battleships and aircraft carriers has been told as one of stunning reversal, with the Pearl Harbor attack and the sinking of two British battleships off Malaya confirming the primacy of airpower (naval or no) and the obsolescence of the battleship. While historians have always had reservations about this narrative, it has retained a firm popular grip and substantial scholarly support. However, a new article in the Journal of Military History argues that the advantages of aircraft carriers over battleships has been wildly overstated in historical memory of World War II, even in the Pacific. James FitzSimonds argues that battleships remained central to naval power in the Pacific, even into 1944 and 1945 when the great U.S. Navy carrier task forces seemed to dominate the sea.

The original article (linked above), is very interesting, and I advise anyone who can get access to take a look. My views are that the FitzSimonds is on to something, but that he significantly overstates his case. For what it’s worth, I recently recorded a podcast with Justin Pyke, and we touched upon this and other subjects pertaining to the Pacific War. I’m on vacation until next week, and unfortunately can’t finish the podcasts while on the road…


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