... The arrow was approaching 10 pm, but the cruiser continued the meaningless battle. He shot and shot, as if he was afraid not to be in time. He shot for himself, for all cruisers of his type, for all leaving in history class of heavy cruisers. Illuminating with flashes and shaking the coast of Convondo with a roar in an attempt to convince everyone that he and his brothers were not built in vain.
Half a minute before the official truce, at 21 h. 59 min. 27 seconds, "St. Paul" released the last shell autographed by US admirals. After which he withdrew from his position and moved in full swing east.
He met dawn in the open sea, going farther and farther from the war-torn Korean peninsula.
He did not wage this war, but he was honored to end it. Just like eight years ago, when the St. Paul fired the last salvo along the coast of Japan, putting an end to the use of naval artillery in World War II ...
Saint Paul, Baltimore-class heavy cruiser, under fire from a North Vietnamese coastal battery
Baltimore is called the best heavy cruiser, forgetting to clarify that it was not just the best.
Baltimore is the only type of heavy cruiser that was built during the war.
When the pages of previous agreements were charred by the flames of war, no one had the strength to continue the cruising and battleship arms race. The United States continued them alone. But even their industry was not able to quickly rearm the Navy with ships of this level.
Of the 14 Baltimore built, only six were able to get to the war zone. The bulk of these wonderful ships went into operation after the war.
As a result, the Japanese were left to the end with their magnificent Mioko, Takao, Mogami, and the Yankees at the end of the curtain received a small compound of SRTs built without artificial restrictions. But history no longer left them time.
The lead Baltimore went into operation in 1943, two more in 1944, the other three “veterans” came to smash the Japanese in recent months, when the Mikado fleet practically ceased to exist.
The last to enter the bloody battle was St. Paul, already in July 1945. To give symbolic volleys along the shore of a defeated enemy. It is significant that during the service he received 17 stars for participating in military operations, of which only one related to the events of World War II.
Another recruit, the Quincy, immediately after entering service went to plow European waters, where by the summer of 1944 the last chance of a naval battle with the participation of large (and even not very large) surface ships had evaporated. Therefore, the most significant Quincy operation was the delivery of Roosevelt to a conference in Yalta.
Yes, it's good to fight and win weapons of the future. But in life this does not happen. The battle in the Java Sea, Guadalcanal, the “second Pearl Harbor”, the Iron Bottom Strait - all these events date back to 1942. When under the onslaught of the Japanese fleet one by one, the “gray ghosts” died - American SRT of five pre-war projects.
The third point is related to the assessment of the design. If the rivalry in the cruiser class continued with the same excitement, then such a conservative project as Baltimore would hardly have retained the title of "best." Compared to its predecessors, it did not contain any revolutionary changes, being a repetition of the constructions of the pre-war period.
The composition of the armament and the protection scheme of the Baltimore were generally identical to the “contractual” cruiser of the Wichita type (1937).
The Yankees lengthened the Wichita hull by 20 meters and increased its width from 19 to 21,5 meters. Thus, they did what they could not have done before the war: to increase the standard displacement of the cruiser to 14 tons. This at once saved Baltimore from all the issues that worried its predecessors, who suffered from constant overload and who had to sacrifice a reserve of stability.
At this point we will make a military U-turn and bring down a flurry of enthusiasm on American cruisers.
The composition of the weapons and the protection scheme of Baltimore were generally identical to the Wichita-type CRT. But this is not a reason for ridicule.
In terms of armament and armor thickness, the Wichita was one of the best “negotiated” cruisers. whose appearance has become a foundation for the future
Having built a pair of Pensacol, six Notre Hamptons, two Portland and seven New Orleans, Americans by the mid-30s. gained considerable experience in creating ships of this class. They had the opportunity to see the results of certain decisions in practice, and developed a set of optimal requirements for a heavy cruiser.
9 guns in three towers of the main caliber, with a distance between the axes of the barrels of at least 1,7 meters.
8 universal-caliber guns placed according to the rhombus pattern in the central part of the hull.
The “box” reservation, to the greatest extent consistent with the offensive tactics of American SRT, combined with the powerful defense of the towers and their barbets. With a total mass of armor reaching 1500 tons (excluding armored decks).
100 hp powerplant had to provide the cruiser with a quick set of speed, with its maximum value of 000-32 knots.
The only problem was that to implement this set of characteristics, a ship with a standard displacement 1,4-1,5 times higher than the established limit (10 tons) was required.
Wichita at the time of completion afloat
The Americans were one of the few who tried to follow the established rules (exceeding a displacement of 500 tons is a trifle compared to what the Italians did, for example). KRT "Wichita", the only representative of its type, nevertheless acquired the desired characteristics, which made it possible to meet the challenges of the era. But on one condition: the stability of Wichita caused serious concern. The cruiser could tip over in battle, even from minor flooding.
If there was an opportunity to build Wichita in a 14-ton building, he would have no price. You understand who we are talking about.
The Wichita design contained a ton of interesting solutions. However, it also contained flaws ...
The American box reservation was the ultimate version of the all-or-nothing scheme, providing maximum armor thickness in the area of important compartments, and leaving virtually the entire hull and superstructure unprotected.
Wichita had a very short stronghold, only 55 meters long (less than 30% of the length), to protect engine rooms. Protection was expressed as a gradually thinning armored belt, which had a thickness: on the upper edge - 6,4 inches (160 mm), on the bottom - four inches (102 mm). The horizontal armored deck adjoining the belt was 2,25 inches (57 mm) thick.
Aft cellars defended internal "Box" with a wall thickness of 102 mm. The protection of the nasal cellars consisted of a belt of the same thickness, passing through the outer skin in the underwater part side.
In other words, the Defense Ministry and the Wichita cellar received exceptional protection from six or eight inch caliber armor-piercing shells. However, a significant part of the hull, both in the upper part of the side and in the area of the waterline, remained defenseless before the explosions of air bombs and high-explosive shells.
The destruction of the cubicles and the chain box could be neglected if we did not take into account the format of the naval battles of that time, in which there was a real threat of loss of progress and death from flooding of the extremities, scattered by the numerous hits of "land mines".
For comparison: the armored belt of the main rivals, the Japanese heavy cruisers, with a smaller thickness (102 mm) covered over 120 meters of the length of their side!
The Americans considered their scheme a virtue in the framework of the offensive tactics of the SRT. However, the war proved its unpredictability. Instead of “little blood on foreign territory,” situations arose when cruisers needed to perform various tasks. Act as part of the diverse forces of the fleet. Do not attack yourself, but fight off sudden attacks. Steadily transferring blows of the opponent.
All the advantages and disadvantages described above were proudly passed on to heavy cruisers of the Baltimore type
When once again raptures will be heard about the 160-mm belt armor, remember that this applies only to the middle part of the hull (bow artillery group of the Civil Code and engine room).
The thickness of the Baltimore armored deck compared to its predecessor was slightly increased, from 57 to 64 mm (from 2,25 to 2,5 inches). Such values provided reliable protection against the penetration of 250 kg of air bombs and, probably, from bombs of larger caliber dropped from lower heights.
Excellent performance for the cruiser of the time.
The Baltimore and Wichita armored decks were one and a half to two times greater in thickness than the Japanese SRT, in which the main deck had a differentiated thickness: 32 ... 35 ... 47 mm. But there were two nuances.
Firstly, the armored deck of American ships, like belt armor, extended only over the Moscow Region and over the “boxes” of artillery cellars. It becomes clear why its mass was not even taken into account separately, counting along with the mass of hull structures.
Secondly, the Japanese have a third of the horizontal protection area did not fall on a flat deck, but on its armored slopes 60 mm thick! And this already matches the performance of the best Baltimore.
What conclusion follows from the above circumstances?
The "best in the world" cruisers with a standard displacement of 14500 tons had a very unobvious superiority in security over their rivals!
In terms of armaments, the main difference between Baltimore and Wichita was in six two-gun installations of universal caliber. It is worth recognizing that the Baltimore carried more than five inches than any ship of its class.
The main caliber artillery is a complete delight. The ammunition of the American cruisers included the heaviest, having no analogues armor-piercing shells weighing 152 kg. The small persistence of the trajectory was dictated by the ideal weather conditions of the tropics - the main area of confrontation with the Imperial fleet. Where sea battles could take place at extreme distances.
For other conditions, there were the usual 118-kg "armor-piercing".
The mineslifters contained almost 10 kg of explosives - also a record for ship shells of 8-inch caliber.
Unlike the projects of other countries where they tried to make universal units of cruisers (a vivid example is “Hipper”), the Baltimore did not receive sonars, hydrophones, or torpedoes. In accordance with the American concept, large surface ships were purely artillery platforms, whose zone of interest ended at the surface of the water. The means of searching for surface targets were observation posts and seaplanes, to which wonderful radars were later added. Anti-submarine defense and torpedo attacks were entirely assigned to escort destroyers. A fair solution for the Navy, with hundreds of destroyers.
The very concept of "cruiser" has long lost its original meaning. From now on, it was not a lone hunter, but a large squadron ship that performed the tasks of artillery support and air defense. Also able to take on the functions of the flagship of the compound or an armored tow truck for damaged ships.
We can only guess what the rivals of Baltimore could be ...
The most realistic was the Japanese Ibuki project. Two SRTs of this type were laid in 1942. They managed to launch the hull of one into the water, but did not finish building - neither as a cruiser, nor as a high-speed tanker, nor an aircraft carrier.
The designers of Ibuki were a little less risk averse than the Americans when creating the Baltimore. The result was a polished Mogami polished to a shine.
With such conservative approaches of both warring parties, the situation of the pre-war period was repeated. The Japanese project, speaking as the development of the best designs of the 1930s, still surpassed the American project in offensive power, security and power of the power plant.
The main advantage of American surface ships, which became obvious by the middle of the war, was the quantity and quality of air defense systems. The ships under the flag of the Land of the Rising Sun also received a set of radars and means for centralized control of anti-aircraft fire, but the Japanese did not have their own counterpart to Bofors, as well as shells with a radio fuse.
Nevertheless, during the war, the air defense of Japanese cruisers remained the most powerful in comparison with cruisers of other countries of the world, second only to the Americans. In situations where Japanese SRTs died from air strikes, Zara, Algeri, or York would have died even faster. An example of this is the sudden death of Dorsetshire and Cornwall.
Yielding in terms of air defense capabilities, the Ibuki was superior to Baltimore in the aggregate combat qualities. The possibilities of its design allowed more than could be achieved in the American project.
It was the Ibuki, being completed, that would become the main contender for the title of the best cruiser of the era.
The Germans with the Admiral Hipper cruiser advanced significantly farther than all
Hipper appeared before Baltimore for five whole years. The lack of strict international control allowed Germany to acquire cruisers with a standard displacement of 14 tons before the start of the war. What immediately put the Hippers on a par with the Baltimore and Ibuki.
A series of three cruisers that flew into the Reich at a cost like building two Bismarck-type battleships!
If we abandon unsuccessful design decisions, going to the essence of the concept, then the Admiral Hipper can be called the most advanced among all the cruisers of that time. The Germans were the first to rely not on the brute power of a volley, but on automation and high-quality fire control. At least, they tried to implement their plans in practice.
Automation "in German" led to an explosive increase in the number of crew. 1350 people - one and a half to two times larger than all peers! The fragile analog instruments on the upper deck were doomed almost immediately. Innovative powerplant recognized as a disaster. And on the magnificent platforms stabilized in three planes floorautomatic 37-mm anti-aircraft guns, firing four times slower than the "pom-pom" of the allies.
In traditional categories (caliber and number of guns), the Germans did not even try to compete with competitors, hoping to achieve superiority due to the concept of an “intellectual” cruiser.
As a result, in the technological reserve of the 30s, neither the “brute power of the volley” nor any high-quality fire was obtained.
But even the German designers, no matter how hard they tried, could not completely ruin the 14500-ton ship. In terms of security, “Hipper” has shown excellent results.
The thickness of a Hipper reservation cannot be evaluated without a general protection scheme in front of it. For example, the armored bevels of the main deck were connected not with the upper, but with the LOWER edge of the belt. In other words, the real thickness of the vertical defense reached 130 mm (the shells had to break through the 80 mm belt + 50 mm bevel). Even taking into account the fact that one thick barrier is stronger than two thin ones, having the same thickness in total, the vertical protection of the Hipper was hardly inferior to the 102 mm belts of the Japanese TKR.
But the main thing - “Hipper” was booked almost completely: from the stem to the stern!
Why is Baltimore still the best?
Unlike the Ibuki, it was built. And unlike the Hipper, it did not contain such a mass of stupid and critical flaws.
It’s hard to compare with the Japanese cruisers of the Baltimore pre-war projects. After all, they belong to different technological eras.
The design of Baltimore felt the breath of the future. Portholes completely disappeared in his case (to increase survivability), all compartments switched to artificial lighting and ventilation. The cruiser was equipped with turbogenerators of unusually high power - 3 MW (almost twice as much as that of Wichita, and 1,5 times as much as that of German Hipper). Also, at times compared with its predecessors, the capacity of backup power sources has increased.
Simple technological design, smooth decks, exceptionally high freeboard along the entire length.
The crown of development? No, what are you. The legendary series served as the basis for the even more advanced CRT "Oregon City" and eight-inch machine guns such as "Des Moines", making 90 rounds per minute of the main caliber. It was these designs (1946-49) that became the apotheosis of the development of artillery cruisers of the twentieth century.
14 Baltimors were clearly late for the battle with Japan, but, like other mass projects of the end of the war (AB Essex, destroyers Giring), they became the basis of the post-war fleet.
The quantity and quality of equipment built during 1945 and in the first post-war years covered all the needs of the Cold War fleet for decades to come. With units such as Baltimore, the Americans did not think about laying new warships until the end of the 1950s.
When the time came, the Baltimore formed the basis for two missile-guided cruiser projects. The illustration shows the salvo of the cruiser "Albany" (years of service 1946-1958; in a new look - 1962-1980)