Revenge of the Battleships: How the U.S. Navy's Warships Got Revenge for Pearl Harbor

Warfare History Network

Warfare History Network

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The big guns make a comeback. 

Revenge of the Battleships: How the U.S. Navy's Warships Got Revenge for Pearl Harbor

Why the Japanese attack failed was even easier to answer. The Japanese underestimated American power and resilience, as they had all through the war, and overestimated their own resolve. Bushido code was not enough against American technology and determination. Japanese gunnery and torpedo efficiency was far below the glorious standards of 1942. Even Japanese seamanship, as evidenced by the collision of Nachi and Mogami, was faulty. Nishimura and Shima did not coordinate their forces—they did not even seem to know where their own ships were. Probably the single most intelligent Japanese decision in the entire battle was Shima’s—to withdraw.

In the distance, they could see the jagged flashes of lightning, an incoming squall in the dark. Just before the rain arrived, so did St. Elmo’s Fire, and the gun barrels and radio antennas on the PT boats crackled with blue sparks and streamers of static electricity.

Then there was another lightning flash, and suddenly Lieutenant (j.g.) Terry Chambers, the executive officer of PT-491 saw them—a column of seven Japanese warships advancing in the dark, headed for Surigao Strait and the waiting U.S. Seventh Fleet. It was the extremely early morning of October 25, 1944, and two battleships and a heavy cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy were steaming toward what would become one of the most one-sided battles in naval history, and the last duel between battleships of the line.

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