Ship models in the Monaco Naval Museum: Battleships (Part 2)Posted: June 27, 2016
Battleship Littorio (Italy, 1937)
Littorio was the lead ship of the Italian Littorio-class of battleships designed during the late 1930s. (The class comprised Littorio, Vittorio Veneto, Roma, and Impero, but only the first three were completed and entered service with the Italian Navy.)
The Littorios were designed to counter the French Navy’s new Richlieu-class battleships, and were fast and well-armed. They utilised the unique Pugliese torpedo defense system, which did not perform as well in real combat as had been hoped. As a result they were susceptible to underwater damage cause by torpedoes and shells, and tended to restrict their use.
When Italy withdrew from the Axis and changed sides, all three Littorios (along with a sizable part of the Italian Navy) set sail from their bases and attempted to reach Allied ports in the Mediterranean. During her passage to Malta, the Roma was hit by two Fritz-X radio-guided bombs. One passed through the ship and exploded under her keel, seriously weakening her, and the second hit near the forward magazines. The latter caused a massive explosion, and the Roma to sink very quickly thereafter. After the Second World War had ended, the remaining two ships (Littorio and Vittorio Veneto) were scrapped in La Spezia during 1948.
Battleship Yamato (Japan, 1940)
Yamato was the lead ship of the Yamato-class of Japanese battleships. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the heaviest (71 590 tons full draft) and most heavily gunned (they carried 9 x 18.1-inch guns) battleships ever constructed.
Yamato was laid down on 4th November 1937, launched on 8th August 1940, and commissioned on 16th December 1941. She took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and Battle of Leyte Gulf, and on 6th April 1945 she was involved in Operation Ten-Go as part of the Surface Special Attack Force. This operation was the Japanese preemptive strike against the Allied forces that were operating in the area around Okinawa.
On 7th April the Japanese ships came under sustained air attack by American carrier-based aircraft. During the first wave of attacks Yamato was hit by two armor-piercing bombs and one torpedo, and during the second wave a further fifteen bombs and eight torpedoes hit her. This did considerable damage to the Yamato, which had to slow down and counter-flood in order to prevent herself from capsizing. A third wave of attackers hit her with a further three torpedoes. Further torpedo hits brought Yamato to a standstill, and at 2:05pm the Captain ordered her crew to abandon ship. At 2.20pm she capsized and began to sink, but before she completely slipped below the surface she exploded.
Battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) (United States of America, 1944)
USS Missouri was the third of the Iowa-class fast battleships to be built. (Two more were laid down, but were never completed). She was laid down on 6th January 1941, launched on 29th January 1944, and commissioned on 11th June 1944. After arriving in the Pacific on 13th January 1945, she was assigned to Task Force 58, which was commanded by Admiral Mitscher. As a result she took part in Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa as well as shelling the Japanese home islands. On 9th May 1945 she became the flagship of Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr.’s 3rd Fleet, and it was on her quarterdeck on 3rd September 1945 that Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the formal Instrument of Surrender that ended the war.
After the war Missouri spent some time in Japanese waters before returning to the USA for a much needed overhaul. She then spent the next few years ‘showing the flag’ around the world and acting as a training ship. When the Korean War broke out Missouri was one of the ships sent to support forces on the Korean peninsula. She remained off the coast of Korea until 19th March 1951 when she returned to the USA. She remained active, and took part in several training cruises for midshipmen as well as acting as a flagship. She was eventually decommissioned on 26th February 1955, and became part of the Reserve Fleet.
She remained inactive until 1984, when she was modernised. She lost he original armament of 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft gun and four of her twin 5-inch guns and received four x MK 141 quad cell launchers that held a total of 16 AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, eight x Armored Box Launchers (ABL) containing a total of 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles, and four Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS) in their place. Her radar and fire control systems were also upgraded and her electronic warfare capabilities improved. Missouri was recommissioned on 10th May 1986 and later that year she embarked upon an around-the-world cruise. She then had spells of duty in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean before returning to the Pacific region.
When the Gulf War broke out in 1990, Missouri was sent back to the Persian Gulf area to support Allied forces, and on 17th January 1991 she fired her first Tomahawk missile at an Iraqi target, and over the next five days she fired a further twenty seven. On 29th January Missouri fired her main armament in anger for the first time since the Korean War when she fired at an Iraqi command and control bunker near the Saudi border. She followed this with an intermittent bombardment of Iraqi beach defenses in occupied Kuwait that began on the night of 3rd February and lasted for three days. During this bombardment she fired 112 16-inch rounds, and on 11th/12th February she fired a further 60 16-inch rounds near Khafji. Missouri‘s final spell of coastal bombardment took place on 23rd February when she fired 133 16-inch rounds as part of a deception operation that was supposed to persuade the Iraqi’s that there was about to be an amphibious landing on coast of Kuwait. She left the Persian Gulf area Persian Gulf on 21st March 1991, and returned home by early April.
Missouri was decommissioned on 31st March 1992, and again became part of the Reserve Fleet. On 4th May 1998 she was transferred to the non-profit-making USS Missouri Memorial Association (MMA) of Honolulu, Hawaii, and on on 29th January 1999 she opened as a museum ship, moored on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbour.
Battleship Richlieu (France, 1939)
The Richlieu was the lead ship of what was intended to be a class of four ships (only two were completed) that were designed in response to the Italian Littorio-class battleships. Their design was based upon that of the earlier Dunkerque-class, and they had a main battery of eight 15-inch guns in two quadruple turrets.
She was laid down on 22nd October 1935 in Brest, and the hull (less the bow and stern sections) was floated out of the dry dock it was built in on 17th January 1939. These were attached once the hull had been placed in the Laninon docks in the Brest Navy Yards. Still incomplete, the Richlieu went to sea for the first time in April 1940, and during May and early June she conducted speed and gunnery trials. On 18th June she set sail for Dakar to ensure that she did not fall into the hands of the advancing Germans, and she reached her destination on 23rd June.
After the Armistice had been signed between France and Germany, the British became concerned that Richlieu might fall into German hands, and on 7th and 8th July she was attacked by carrier aircraft from HMS Hermes. As a result Richlieu was damaged and rendered unable to go to sea for some time.
Further British attacks took place in September 1940, and Richlieu was damaged yet again. She was repaired as best as the limited resources in Dakar allowed, and when the Allied invasion of North Africa took place and the French forces in Africa joined the Allied cause, she sailed across the Atlantic to be fully repaired and refitted in the New York Navy Yard. This was completed on 10th October 1943, and from November 1943 to March 1944 Richlieu served as part of the British Home Fleet. She was then transferred to the British Eastern Fleet, and took part in operations in the western Indian Ocean and around the Dutch East Indies.
She returned to French North Africa in late 1944, and after a further refit in Gibraltar in January 1945, she returned to the Far East, where she remained (except for a short time in Durban, South Africa) until the end of the war. During the last three months of 1945, Richelieu was part of the French force that reoccupied to Indochina. On 29th December 1945, she set sail for France, and she arrived in Toulon on 11th February 1946.
Richlieu spent the next few years as a training ship, showing the flag, or as flagship (in 1948 and 1949) of the Force d’Intervention. She was refitted several times, but by 1956 her role was being taken over by her newer sister ship, Jean Bart. From May 1956 until she was placed in reserve in 1958, she was used as an accommodation ship in Brest. Was eventually sold for scrapping in early 1968.