Naval history comprises more than just epic battles, massive structures, combat tactics, and tragic defeats. It also includes situations that could usually seem impossible in real life. In this episode of ‘Almost Historical’ we’ll try to find an answer to one of the most common questions asked by our players: can destroyers withstand battleships in the open?
In order to do this, we will dive deep into naval history. Despite large difference in size and armament, destroyers can withstand battleships in the open. We’ll provide a few examples.
A notable case occurred on Friday, November 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Amidst the night battle, lines of American and Japanese ships blended, gun flashes and explosion fireballs followed one another, and salvo cannonade fused with the screams of injured sailors. The battle resembled true chaos, during which American destroyers began their attack on battleship Hiei, which had been left uncovered. The battle range was so short that the Japanese battleship couldn’t fire her main battery guns, while destroyers Laffey, Sterett, O’Bannon, and Cushing covered the battleship with 127-mm shells. The battleship blazed on fire, with superstructures destroyed or damaged. A shell injured Vice Admiral Abe, and his executive officer was killed. The Japanese flagship became almost useless because its communications had been lost. At dawn, Hiei was found and attacked by US torpedo and dive bombers, finishing what the destroyers had started. The battleship sank to the north-east from Savo Island.
Another case happened at night on May 27, 1941, during the famous Hunt for battleship Bismarck. After torpedo bombers from Ark Royal hit the German colossus and deprived it of the ability to perform maneuvers, British destroyers rushed into battle. A flotilla comprising Cossack, Sikh, Zulu, Maori, and Polish Piorun detected the battleship performing strange maneuvers around 10:30 PM. In order to distract the opponent’s attention, Piorun’s commander turned the forward end towards Bismarck. Despite the close blasts of main battery shells, the destroyer kept on approaching the battleship, firing several salvos in its direction. After that it suddenly turned away and hid behind a smoke screen. The flotilla attacked unsuccessfully, but they preserved contact with Bismarck even at night, and guided allied battleships and destroyers to its location. Moreover, the destroyers ran the battleship’s crew into exhaustion with their actions: the crew didn’t have a chance to rest before the decisive battle against British battleships. The next morning, the main British forces would reach Bismarck and sink it.
These cases show that despite battleships being one of the most formidable enemies in battle, they can’t counter destroyers all the time.