The Navy's USS Missouri Was The Most Dangerous Battleship Ever

Robert Farley

Key point: All of the late American battleship designs combined a grim practicality with a streamlined aesthetic.

The North Carolina– and South Dakota–class battleships were designed with the limits of the Washington Naval Treaty in mind. Although much more could be accomplished in 1938 with thirty-five thousand tons than in 1921, sacrifices still had to be made. As had been practice in the first round of battleship construction, U.S. Navy architects accepted a low speed in return for heavy armor and armament. Consequently, both the South Dakotas and the North Carolinas had speeds a knot or two slower than most foreign contemporaries. The Montanas, the final battleship design authorized by the Navy, would also have had a twenty-eight-knot maximum speed. In any case, Japan’s failure to ratify the 1936 London Naval Treaty bumped the maximum standard tonnage from thirty-five to forty-five thousand, giving the designers some extra space to work with. The result was the Iowa class, the most powerful and best-designed battleships ever built.

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