Torpedo strike on a WW2 ship


Arun Vajpey

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Obviously, there were very many torpedo hits on various ships of different countries during WW2. But I want to ask about a very possible scenario in terms of fate of a damaged ship.

Let us imagine that a massive battleship like the Yamato was struck by a single torpedo near its stern in such a way that the rudder was ripped out and all propellers were completely damaged, would that render the battleship dead on the water surface even if the flooding was contained by bulkheads?
 

Rob Lawes

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The German Battleship Bismarck received a single hit from a torpedo launched from a British Fairy Swordfish. The torpedo struck right aft near the rudder which jammed and resulted in Bismarck losing steering.

It didn't leave the ship dead in the water but meant she couldn't escape the chasing British forces.

In the Far East, Japanese torpedo bombers attacked the British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse. Among several others, Prince of Wales received a Torpedo hit near one of her propeller mounts which caused the shaft to shear. There was a massive (and at the time, top secret) inquiry into the loss of the Prince of Wales because her underwater armour was specifically designed to protect the ship from multiple torpedo hits.

The admiralty refused to believe the prop shaft had completely sheared and this was only confirmed when the wreck was discovered and filmed many years later.

For information, it took at least 11 torpedo hits (and 6 bomb hits) to sink the Yamato
 
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Arun Vajpey

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For information, it took at least 11 torpedo hits (and 6 bomb hits) to sink the Yamato
Yes, but I am not asking about sinking such a massive ship. Just what would have happened if she was struck near the bow by a single torpedo that destroyed the rudder and at the same time rendered the propellers completely useless?

If that happened in the mid-pacific, what could be done?
 

Rob Lawes

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Yes, but I am not asking about sinking such a massive ship. Just what would have happened if she was struck near the bow by a single torpedo that destroyed the rudder and at the same time rendered the propellers completely useless?

If that happened in the mid-pacific, what could be done?
As Aaron said, they would try and tow her back. Of course, in reality, as with the damaged Bismarck with her rudder jammed as I explained above, every ship and submarine in the immediate area would be tasked on following up the attack and sinking the crippled ship
 

mitfrc

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Yes, but I am not asking about sinking such a massive ship. Just what would have happened if she was struck near the bow by a single torpedo that destroyed the rudder and at the same time rendered the propellers completely useless?

If that happened in the mid-pacific, what could be done?
Stern, I think you mean.

They would send divers in the water to blow or cut the rudder off and then the deranged shafts would be brought into action with temporary blocks cooling by spraying them with firehoses and she would be steered by engines.
 
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mitfrc

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The German Battleship Bismarck received a single hit from a torpedo launched from a British Fairy Swordfish. The torpedo struck right aft near the rudder which jammed and resulted in Bismarck losing steering.

It didn't leave the ship dead in the water but meant she couldn't escape the chasing British forces.

In the Far East, Japanese torpedo bombers attacked the British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse. Among several others, Prince of Wales received a Torpedo hit near one of her propeller mounts which caused the shaft to shear. There was a massive (and at the time, top secret) inquiry into the loss of the Prince of Wales because her underwater armour was specifically designed to protect the ship from multiple torpedo hits.

The admiralty refused to believe the prop shaft had completely sheared and this was only confirmed when the wreck was discovered and filmed many years later.

For information, it took at least 11 torpedo hits (and 6 bomb hits) to sink the Yamato
In regard to the Prince of Wales, it was specifically that the design made her shaft runs too long, the damage deranged the blocks and then despite the damage, because of the emergency, they ordered the re-starting of a damaged shaft (with not even temporary repairs being done). This shaft began to flex and then sheared in multiple places, opening -- several compartments to the sea, comprehensively. If she had had enough time, the damage could have been patched up to allow to return to Singapore, but she was under air attack and needed power, and so the fateful order was given. Personally I find it the best possible argument for the American Standard Type's turboelectric drive.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Stern, I think you mean.

They would send divers in the water to blow or cut the rudder off and then the deranged shafts would be brought into action with temporary blocks cooling by spraying them with firehoses and she would be steered by engines.
Sorry, of course I meant the stern. Extending this further, during those stopgap repairs, the Yamato (or a similar ship) would have been almost dead on the water and so an easy target for further torpedo and bomb attacks.
 
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Aaron_2016

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If they could not steam out of enemy controlled waters and were a sitting target, then they would not jeopardise other vessels from suffering the same fate. They could send out a distress message informing other vessels to 'keep away' from their location, and they would abandon ship and perhaps scuttle her, and row towards land, or rendezvous with another allied vessel that was in safer waters, out of range of U-boats and enemy aircraft. It would take a brave captain to ignore the danger and steam towards the damaged ship. The enemy U-boat might be lying in wait for this opportunity. Although is some cases the U-boat would surface and flash a morse lamp message indicating that he will sink the stricken vessel in a short time, and they could pick up survivors and take the lifeboats in tow e.g. SS Laconia sinking.
 
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mitfrc

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Sorry, of course I meant the stern. Extending this further, during those stopgap repairs, the Yamato (or a similar ship) would have been almost dead on the water and so an easy target for further torpedo and bomb attacks.
A national asset like Yamato would be taken under tow. Probably by two heavy cruisers in her screen towing in tandem. They would probably be able to make 3 - 4 kts with the destroyers circling and pinging continuously for submarines. There's plenty of examples of this from both sides in the Pacific theatre, though unless engines were re-started within hours it rarely went well.

Oh, and let's not forget that to the ship could be underway while danger persisted. USS Portland at Guadalcanal simply steamed in circles with her screws deranged and rudders jammed because moving was safer than being stopped.
 

Arun Vajpey

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I suppose it would also matter at what stage of the war my hypothetical situation took place. By April 1945, when the Yamato was actually attacked and sunk, the Japanese had practically no air cover for their ships and the towing operation would have come under very heavy American attack. Would the Japanese have risked 2 heavy cruisers and maybe 5 destroyers to try and rescue their national asset? The Pacific is rather large.
 

Rob Lawes

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No, they wouldn't have done.

When the Yamato was sent on a mission to attack the US ships landing against Okinawa it was pretty much always going to be a one way mission. The Japanese were becoming increasingly desperate by that stage.

The Yamato class battleships were big white elephants compared with the fleet carriers that redefined naval warfare in the Pacific.
 
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Exactly. It was even in thier official orders to fight to the last man. They knew it was a kamikaze mission when they set sail. The Yamato and Musashi were technologocally facinating ships but they were very expensive and difficult to maintain and used a lot of fuel oil which Japan couldn't squander. Battleships were already not a priority ship in the time of the carriers. Still it took 19 torpedos and 17 bombs to send Yamato's sister ship the Musashi to the bottom.
 

mitfrc

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Aerial torpedoes, generally 18" diameter models, versus full-length 21" diameter submarine torpedoes. That's an important caveat.
 
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No problem and no need to apologize. I could see where the confusion could come from as modern day aerial torpedos are much small in diameter than their WW2 counterparts. Aviation Ordnance is just a quirk of mine as its what I did when I was in the navy.
 

mitfrc

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It was actually that the US was anomalous (and successfully so, it seems), to other wartime practice. The British used the 18" as their standard aerial torpedo; Japan used 17.7", as did Italy and Germany.
 
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No, they wouldn't have done.

When the Yamato was sent on a mission to attack the US ships landing against Okinawa it was pretty much always going to be a one way mission. The Japanese were becoming increasingly desperate by that stage.

The Yamato class battleships were big white elephants compared with the fleet carriers that redefined naval warfare in the Pacific.
I read up a little more on the Yamato. It seems their actual plan was to beach her so she couldn't be sunk and use her as a gun platform. They knew from start it was a one way mission. The captain had all the cadets transfered off the ship the day before leaving because he didnt want them killed.
 
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Rancor

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I understand they only had enough fuel for a one way trip also.
 
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