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power, notably aircraft carriers, battleships were no longer able to establish naval superiority, and so all have been withdrawn from active service.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 Minas Geraes class, spelled Minas Gerais in some sources, consisted of two battleships built for the Brazilian Navy by the British company Armstrong Whitworth. In 1904, Brazil began a major naval building program that included three 11,800-long-ton (12,000 tonne) small battleships. Designing and ordering the ships took two years, but these plans were scrapped after the revolutionary dreadnought concept rendered the Brazilian design totally obsolete. Two of these dreadnoughts were ordered instead, making Brazil became the third country to have ships of this type under construction, before traditional powers like Germany, France or Russia. As such, the ships caused quite a stir among the major countries in the world, many of whom incorrectly speculated the ships were actually destined for a rival nation. Soon after their delivery in 1910, both Minas Geraes and São Paulo were embroiled in the Revolt of the Lash, in which the crews of four Brazilian ships demanded the abolition of corporal punishment in the navy. The ships surrendered four days after it began, when a bill was passed granting amnesty to all involved. In the 1920s and 30s, they participated in multiple revolts. Minas Geraes was modernized in the 1930s, but both battleships were too old to actively participate in the Second World War, and instead were employed as harbor defense ships in Salvador and Recife. São Paulo was sold in 1951 to a British shipbreaker, but was lost in a storm north of the Azores while being towed to her final destination. Minas Geraes was sold to an Italian scrapper in 1953 and towed to Genoa the following year.
Konteradmiral Erich Bey (23 March 1898 – 26 December 1943) was a German naval officer who most notably served as a commander of the Kriegsmarine's destroyer forces and died during the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape. Joining the Kaiserliche Marine on 13 June, 1916, he served on destroyers and earned the Iron Cross during World War I, and continued through the transformation into the Reichsmarine and Kriegsmarine. As a commander at the outbreak of World War II, he commanded the 4th Destroyer Flotilla under Friedrich Bonte, and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during the Battles of Narvik. Promoted, he succeeded Bonte (who had been killed in the battle), and successfully screened for Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen during the Channel Dash.
Promoted to rear admiral on 25 December 1943, Bey led a task force, consisting of Scharnhorst and the destroyers Z29, Z30, Z33, Z34, and Z38 out of Alta Fjord in Operation Ostfront. Intending to intercept the Allied Convoy JW-55B en route to Murmansk, he encountered a superior Royal Navy force led by HMS Duke of York (17). In the ensuing battle, Scharnhorst was sunk with only 36 of 1,968 of her crew rescued. His British counterpart, Admiral Bruce Fraser, later told his officers, "I hope that if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today".