How Much Damage Did U.S. Battleships Really Cause to Imperial Japan During World War II?

Robert Farley

Key point: Washington wasn't sure what to do with its battleships towards the end of the war. America did use them to bombard Japan, but doing so was very risky.

In mid-1945 the U.S. Navy (USN) had an unusual, and unexpected, problem.

With the naval war well in hand, the USN had plenty of battleships and little use for them. Had the United States eventually invaded Japan, these battleships would have offered gunfire support to amphibious assaults and to coastal movements, as they had since the beginning of the island-hopping campaign. But with the remnants of the Imperial Japanese Navy uninterested in a fight and the invasion still well in the future, they represented excess capability.

Noting the extent of the destruction caused by the U.S. Army Air Force’s B-29s, the USN decided that it could use the battleship in a similar fashion: to wreak destruction upon what was left of Japan’s industrial base. With luck, shore bombardment would draw out the last dregs of the IJN, or at least lure the kamikazes away from the valuable, vulnerable aircraft carriers. Accordingly, the U.S. Navy decided to use its battleships directly against Japanese cities, in a series of raids that were terrifying in their destruction.


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