A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. As they were the largest, best-armed and most heavily armored ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a nation's naval power from the late nineteenth century until World War II. With the rise of air power, notably aircraft carriers, battleships were no longer able to establish naval superiority, and so all have been withdrawn from active service. The related battlecruiser, a successor to the armored cruiser, shared the very large main armament, general size, and cost of a battleship of the same generation, but they traded armor or firepower for higher speed.
Battleship design evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge. The word battleship was coined around 1794 as a contraction of the phrase line-of-battle ship, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail. It came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, but these are now referred to as "pre-dreadnoughts". In 1906, the launch of HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design. Later designs that were influenced by this ship were referred to as "dreadnoughts". Battlecruisers were developed around this time by the British First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher. They were envisioned as being more effective armored cruisers, able to destroy any normal cruiser while being able to outrun any ships capable of sinking them.
By 1910, so-called "super-dreadnoughts" were entering service. In the four years between Dreadnought and the first super-dreadnoughts, the Orion class, displacement had increased by 25% and weight of broadside had doubled. Many battlecruisers and battleships of all varieties served in the First World War, most notably in the Battle of Jutland. None were built between the Nelsons of the early 1920s and the Dunkerques of the early 1930s due to various treaties, but quite a few battleships were constructed shortly before or during World War II. The last, HMS Vanguard, was commissioned just after the war, in 1946.
From this time on, most battleships and all battlecruisers were decommissioned and broken up. France's Jean Bart and Turkey's Yavuz were the last to be scrapped. However, members of the American Iowa class lasted until 1992 to aid troops with fire support; four were deployed in Korea, one in Vietnam, and two to Iraq. Nine battleships exist today as museum ships; eight from the United States, and Japan's Mikasa. (more...)
The dreadnought was the predominant type of 20th-century battleship. The first of the kind, the British HMS Dreadnought had such an impact when launched in 1906 that battleships built after her were referred to as 'dreadnoughts', and earlier battleships became known as pre-dreadnoughts. Her design had two revolutionary features: an 'all-big-gun' armament scheme and steam turbine propulsion. The arrival of the dreadnoughts renewed the naval arms race, principally between Britain and Germany but reflected worldwide, as the new class of warships became a crucial symbol of national power. The concept of an all-big-gun ship had been in development for several years before Dreadnought's construction. The Imperial Japanese Navy had begun work on an all-big-gun battleship in 1904, but finished the ship as a pre-dreadnought; the United States Navy was also building all-big-gun battleships. Technical development continued rapidly through the dreadnought era. Successive designs increased rapidly in size and made use of improvements in armament, armor, and propulsion. Within ten years, new battleships outclassed Dreadnought herself. These more powerful vessels were known as 'super-dreadnoughts'. Most of the dreadnoughts were scrapped after the end of World War I under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, but many of the newer super-dreadnoughts continued serving through World War II. While dreadnought building consumed vast resources in the early 20th century, there was only one pitched battle between dreadnought fleets. At the Battle of Jutland, the British and German navies clashed with no decisive result. The term 'dreadnought' gradually dropped from use after World War I, especially after the Washington Naval Treaty, as all remaining battleships shared dreadnought characteristics.
Franz Ritter von Hipper (13 September 1863 - 25 May 1932) was a German admiral of the Kaiserliche Marine during the First World War. He is most well-known for commanding the German battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland. After joining the Imperial Navy at age 18 in 1881, he would move on to command torpedo boats, SMS Leipzig, SMS Friedrich Carl, SMS Gneisenau, SMS Yorck, and the High Seas Fleet's I Scouting Group at the Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, Battle of Dogger Bank and Jutland. Awarded the Iron Cross at Dogger Bank, he was later awarded the Pour le Mérite after Jutland for sinking two Royal Navy ships and ascended to command of the High Seas Fleet in August 1918. Though the war was all but lost by that time, he spent his final days of service attempting to control the Kiel Mutiny and administering the internment of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow (which would later be scuttled), and retired on 30 November 1918. The German cruiser Admiral Hipper, lead ship of the Admiral Hipper-class cruiser, would be named for him shortly after his death.