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BB-36 Nevada Class

The Nevada class battleships carried the US Navy's first triple gun turrets, a feature that would be seen in all but a few of its future battleship designs. Even more significantly, they introduced the so-called "all or nothing" armor scheme, in which protection of vital areas was optimized against heavy caliber guns, leaving other parts of the ship essentially unprotected. This reflected a growing awareness that improved gunfire controls would drive battleship engagements out to long ranges, where smaller guns would only serve to defend against torpedo and air attack. Thus, armor intended to counter those guns would be, at best, a waste of valuable weight. The basic concept of the Nevadas' armor system was ultimately adopted by all naval powers.

At the time the submarine was regarded as the one great single threat to large warships. Later it was to be the airplane. The Nevada thus sported heavy armor of about 18 thickness but was woefully lacking in deck protection. The results of this were later to be realized at Pearl Harbor, with Nevada's experience proving that the watertight integrity of older warships was unlikely to be satisfactory.

The naval appropriation act of March 4, 1911, applied the eight-hour employment of labor limitation to the two battleships provided for in that act. The contracts for the Nevada and Oklahoma were awarded to the lowest bidders at a price per ton of normal displacement of $215.49 and $214.36, respectively. The average price per ton of normal displacement of the three preceding contract-built battleships, without any restriction as to hours of labor, was $177.25. The average price per ton of normal displacement of the five preceding contract-built battleships, without any restriction as to hours of labor, was $189.99. The average Erice per ton of normal displacement of the three contract-buut attlesnips, with restrictions as to employment of labor in excess of eight hours, was $215.25.

It will be noted that the increase in cost per ton of normal displacement over the three preceding contract-built battleships, without restrictions as to hours of labor, was 21.5 per cent, and the increased cost over the five preceding contract-built battleships, without restrictions as to hours of labor, was 13 per cent.

With the continuing development and improvement of the fleet, many of the vessels built at this time marked the beginning or conclusion of some phase of naval construction. The Oklahoma, of which the keel was laid in October 1912 and delivery made in May, 1916, was the last of the reciprocating-engined battleships. At the same time she was the first of the ships to carry fourteen-inch guns. These were also the Navy's first to have oil as their primary fuel and the last to have two propellers. This vessel has a displacement tonnage of 28,415 and was 583 feet long, 95 feet in beam and 52 feet in depth. Two four-cylinder triple expansion engines of 24,800 I.H.P. drove her at a speed of 20.58 knots. The Oklnhomn carried twelve of the fourteen-inch guns and a crew of nine hundred and forty-five. They originally were completed with a very large battery of five-inch guns to defend against enemy destroyers. However, several of those weapons, mounted near the bow and stern in very wet positions, were removed within a few years.

The Nevadas were active in the Atlantic before and during the First World War, deploying to the European war zone in 1918 to help protect Allied supply lines. Their service continued after the "Great War", though by the early 1920s they were the oldest of the Nation's main Battle Fleet units.

The Nevada had always been very uneconomical in the performance of the propelling machinery. This has resulted in high expenditures for fuel and definitely limiting the ship's military value on account of short cruising radius. Modernization of this ship was commenced during fiscal year 1922. During the modernization period it was been decided to replace the propelling machinery of the Nevada with that of the U.S.S. North Dakota, the latter being of an excellent design. The North Dakota was exempted from scrapping by the provisions of the Washington treaty. The effect of this replacement will he the reduction in the operating costs of the Nevada and the securing of a ship of much greater military value.

Both were extensively modernized in 1927-29, receiving greater elevation for their heavy guns, modern gunfire controls in new tripod masts, and two catapults for scouting and observation airplanes. Their 5"/51 anti-destroyer guns were moved to dryer locations in the superstructure and a battery of 5"/25 anti-aircraft guns was added. Protection against shellfire, bombs and torpedoes was improved, increasing their width to nearly 108 feet.

The Nevada class numbered two ships, both built in east coast private shipyards. Both ships were sunk in the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The Nevada was the only battleship to get under way during the attack, but she took such a heavy pounding in the meantime that she had to be beached, damaging her rudder in the process and ruining her electric drive. Oklahoma was a total loss, but Nevada was salvaged and again modernized during 1942, exchanging her old secondary battery for a new one of twin-mounted 5"/38 guns, plus many 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft machineguns. She served in both the European and Pacific theaters, providing gunfire support for amphibious operations. Nevada's final mission was as a target for nuclear and conventional weapons in 1946-48.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:35:36 ZULU