BB-18 Connecticut Class
The six ships of the Connecticut class were the definitive U.S. Navy mixed-battery battleships, a type shoved from the pinnacle of naval esteem by the "all-big-gun" HMS Dreadnought even before the last four went into commission. However, since it took several years to build a significant fleet of "dreadnoughts", these ships and their immediate predecessors formed the backbone of the U.S. Navy's battle line into the early 'Teens. Five of them took part in the 1907-09 World cruise of the "Great White Fleet", a striking demonstration of the strategic mobility of their type.
The Connecticut class numbered six ships, all built on the east coast. Thev are of about the same siye as USS Michigan, which was delivered the following year, but with different lines and plan of armament. With 17,650 tons displacement, these ships were 456 feet long with a beam of 76 feet. They atttained a speed of between 18.72 knots and 18.09 knots in trials.
The Connecticuts were big ships for their day, with fully a thousand tons more displacement than the largest earlier U.S. battleships. Their main battery of four 12-inch guns in two turrets followed the pattern established before, though these guns fired their shells at a higher velocity. In its secondary battery, eight 8-inch guns in twin turrets at the superstructure corners and twelve 7-inch guns in casemates in the hull sides, the Connecticut class design marked the end of a notable internal debate within the U.S. Navy. There were also twenty single-mounted three-inch guns to drive away hostile torpedo craft.
The battleships of the Connecticut class constituted the first class of battleships designed for American service that was really entitled to the denomination, seagoing; all others, to date, being very properly called coast-line battleships, which vessels, though entirely capable of going to sea, were not adapted to nor intended for long-continued operations at a distance from American coasts. They were used for distant cruising, and no one will attempt to decry the wonderful cruising record of the Oregon, nor to derogate from the good performances, in this regard, of the Iowa, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Illinois; still this was not their proper sphere of action and the reasons for such use of them have been compulsory, much after the manner in which it was found necessary to make use of the torpedo boats during the war with Spain.
The fact remained that the low freeboard, entire or partial, of the coastline battleships detracted from their sea-keeping qualities, and, in heavy weather, is believed to constitute a menace of no small proportions to their sea-going integrity ; which belief the writer has heard emphasized in no mild terms by officers who have cruised in the low freeboard types, particularly the Indiana class.
The offensive power of the preceeding Indiana class was wonderful for a vessel of 10,000 tons, but it is a far cry from the almost insignificant auxiliary battery of four 6-inch guns on the Indiana to the twelve 7-inch of the Connecticut, neglecting the 8-inch and heavier calibre guns as practically common to both; and, when it is also remembered that the Louisiana is, in addition, to carry twenty 3-inch R.F. guns with fair protection for nearly all of them, and that all of the 7-inch guns are to be in separate casemates armored all over, the jump-up in displacement of the Connecticut type is readily understandable; and, too, the arrangements for supply of ammunition, where each isolated gun has its own hoist, costs a considerable total in weight, as do numerous equally valuable incidental features of the design for these fine new battleships. Nor would the Navy lose sight of the hull and battery protection of the new vessels, which are not only -very much more extended but vastly more efficient than the same factors in the Indiana type.
In the illustration showing the interior of a turret and barbette on a modern American battle ship, the section has been carried down through the structure of the ship to the keel. It is taken on a vertical plane in the line of the keel and includes enough of the ship in the fore and aft direction to take in the ammunition and handling rooms, and show the methods of storing the shot and shell and powder and the means for bringing it up to the breech of the gun.
Commencing at the bottom of the section there is, first, the outside plating of the ship; then about four feet above that is the inside plating, or inner bottom, as it is called. This space is divided laterally by the frames of the ship, which run across the bottom and up the sides to the shelf, upon which the side armor rests. Upon the double bottom, and between that and the first deck above, is a magazine where the ammunition is stored in racks as shown in the illustration, this particular ammunition being for the rapid-fire guns of six-inch calibre.
On the deck above and centrally below the turret, is located the handling room into which open by water-tight doors the magazines, where are stored the powder charges and the shells for the 12-inch guns above. Two decks above is the steel protective deck, 2% to 3 inches in thickness. Upon this deck is erected a great circular structure known as the barbette, whose walls will be from eight to twelve inches in thickness. The barbette is actually a circular steel fort, and it is thick enough and its steel protection hard enough, to break up and keep out the heaviest projectiles of the enemy, except when they are fired at close ranges.
At about two- thirds of the height of the barbette is a heavy circular track upon which runs a massive turntable. The framing of this turntable extends to a point slightly above the lop edge of the barbette, and upon it is imposed the massive structure of the turret, which is formed, like the barbette, of heavy steel armor carried upon framing, the form of the turret in plan being elliptical. Its front face, which slopes at an angle of about 40 degrees, is pierced with two ports, through which project the two heavy 12-inch guns. The mounting of these guns is carried also upon the turntable and revolves with the turret.
From the handling room below a steel elevator track extends up through the barbette and curves back to the rear of the gun ; and upon this there travel two ammunition cages which are loaded below upon the handling room floor and carry the projectiles and powder up to the breech of the guns, where it is thrust into the gun by mechanical rammers.
At the end of their great World tour in early 1909, Connecticut, Louisiana, Vermont, Kansas and Minnesota, still resplendent in "white and buff" paint, were welcomed home by their final sister, New Hampshire, wearing the grey recently adopted by the Navy. They were soon modernized, trading in their solid "military" masts and elaborate upperworks for "cage" masts and reduced superstructures, losing a few three-inch guns and gaining submerged tubes for 21-inch torpedos. They also got grey paint, bringing to an end two decades of the Navy's most attractive, if militarily useless, warship color schemes. New Hampshire received a similar overhaul in 1910.
For the next eight years, the Connecticuts were kept busy with fleet maneuvers off the U.S. east coast and in the Caribbean, and in a nubmer of armed interventions in troubled nations "south of the border". Before World War I erupted in Europe there were also occasional trans-Atlantic voyages and spectacular Naval reviews in New York harbor. During the United States' participation in the "Great War", the ships were employed in training and convoy escort. They gave up their seven-inch guns and most of their three-inchers for use afloat on other ships and ashore as heavy field artillery, but received more weather-resistant upperworks. A half-year's duty as transports marked their immediate post-war service, followed by a variety of training, diplomatic and other duties. All but Connecticut were decommissioned in 1920-21. She left the active fleet in 1923, the year that all were disposed of under the terms of the Washington naval limitations treaty.
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