The Tennessee and Colorado class battleships were the last of the US 'standard-type' battleships, laid down during the First World War but not completed until after the Armistice. They formed the 'Big Five', the most powerful ships in the US Navy until the two North Carolina class ships were commissioned in the spring of 1941. By that point their low speed meant that they could no longer operate with the main battle fleet, which was built around fast carriers, and so they were relegated to secondary roles during the Second World War (their engines developed around 26,800shp - by 1941 destroyers had reached 50,000shp and the new North Carolina class ships had over 120,000shp!).
Despite their speed limits these ships played a major part in the advance across the Pacific, acting as bombardment ships during most amphibious landings. Ironically they also took part in the last battleship-vs-battleship action of the war, the one sided battle of the Surigao Strait, where four of them helped destroy a Japanese force that included one battleship. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, where two of these ships were sunk (before being raised, repaired and returned to service), suggested that they were vulnerable to air attack, but later in the war their heavy armour made them highly resistant to kamikaze attacks, which could damage the superstructure but not threaten their armoured core.
The structure of this book is somewhat unusual - most histories of this type start with the class by class description of their subject then move onto a combat history. Here that is reversed. We start with a look at their main combat role during the Second World War - shore bombardment - then move onto an examination of the development of the standard type battleship, US battleship guns, fire control systems and radar. The battle of the Surigao Strait is the subject of the chapter on tactics, as the only major surface action to involve these ships. We then move onto the class histories, beginning with class details, modifications and then moving on to a ship-by-ship history.
This structure actually works rather well, as the various types of standard class battleships were closely related, with evolutionary changes rather than major leaps between classes. Putting the classes and individual ship histories last avoids repeating details. As always the text is supported by excellent photos, good side plans showing the overall layout and a cut-out showing their internal layout.
US World War II Strategy and the Role of the Battleship
The Battleship Classes
Analysis and Conclusion
Author: Mark Stille