TL-191: Navy Blue and Gray - Naval Forces of the USA and CSA

Discussion in 'Alternate History Books and Media' started by Sierra, Mar 26, 2019.

  1. The Gunslinger NQLA agent

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    I always thought the Great Lakes would have been an absolute gong show just because of the generally small surface area to play with. Add in the alternate development because you don't need anything with serious legs you've got fun little place to play around with.
     
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  2. RaspingLeech Active Member

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    Something I noticed rereading through The Grapple, there's a mention that the reason the naval forces in the Pacific have to deal with converted escort carriers is because every fleet carrier the US builds during the war goes to the Atlantic against the British. I wouldn't imagine that it's unreasonable something along the lines of the Essex-class could exist and be built given how many were produced IRL in just Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Fore River. If even just a third of the number were produced in TL-191 due to the home front and material shortages, that's still 4-5 that could be built and put to use along with the USS Sandwich Islands and other carriers that existed still giving the US a decent carrier fleet here.
     
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  3. Alterwright "You were never even a player."

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    Death Rider --- USS Dakota --- The Great War (1914-1917)

    USS Dakota 2.png

    ^^^ --- USS Dakota (BB-39) --- by @Undeadmuffin

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    Description / Specifications

    Armament
    • 10x 14 in guns - 2x triple turrets, 2x twin turrets
    • 21x 5 in guns
    • 2x 3 in AA guns
    Displacement
    • 27,500 tons standard
    • 28,400 tons full load
    Dimensions
    • Length - 583 ft
    • Beam - 95 ft 3 in
    • Draft - 28 ft 6 in
    Speed
    • 20.5 kt
    Range / Endurance
    • 8,000 nmi at 10 kt
    • 5,120 nmi at 12 kt
    • 1,931 nmi at 20 kt
    Capacity
    • 2,000 short tons fuel oil
    Armor
    • Belt - 13.5 in to 8 in
    • Bulkheads - 13 to 8 in
    • Barbettes - 13 in
    • Turrets - 18 in
    • Deck - 5 in
    Complement
    • 864 officers and men
    Aircraft:
    • 2x floatplanes

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    Background


    The aftermath of the Second Mexican War in 1881-1882 put things into perspective for both the United States government and the United States Navy. Since the end of the War of Secession in 1862, the expansion and technological advancement that the USN enjoyed for a time was all together halted and left to rot like so many of its wooden warships. Financially stricken, with focus geared toward westward expansion, devoting revenue to the maintenance of standing army along the border with the Confederacy, the USN was woefully neglected, severely undermanned, and hopelessly outclassed by the time war started in 1881. Despite still enjoying a numerical advantage over the small Confederate States Navy, the USN was pitifully outnumbered and outperformed by the larger, more modern navies of Great Britain and France, who utilized steel hulls, heavier guns, and steam power to their advantage. The US Navy failed to prevent the Royal Navy and French Navy from attacking their coasts and bombarding their cities, with their ships unable to challenge the more modern fighting vessels on equal terms. Even duels and engagements with the Confederate Navy, which had invested some revenue into purchasing more modern ships, revealed deficiencies in combat capability and performance on US Navy vessels. The simple fact was that the Navy was a overwhelmingly defeated. Battered and humiliated, the war was a harsh lesson for Navy officials and personnel alike, a lesson that they would seek to learn from in the coming years leading up to the Great War.

    From the 1880s to the 1910s, the US Navy underwent a massive reconstruction effort. It sought to completely rebuild and remold itself into a modern fighting force with steel-hull ships that could compete with other European Powers. In the growing debate over the importance of a modern navy, Theodore Roosevelt, despite his support for a large standing army, said, "It is folly for the Republic to rely on antiquated wooden hulks for its defense when one steel ship from one of our foes can sink the entire lot in one fell swoop". A former Secretary of the Navy at the time also reinforced this notion after a thorough review of the Navy, commenting in a report to Congress that, "The condition of the Navy demands the prompt and earnest attention of Congress or it will once again endure another humiliating defeat". Along with massive rearmament and research programs that sought to give the Navy the most modern ships the country could produce, a ruthless culling of the Navy's ranks was also put into effect, with older, stagnant, or incompetent officers being retired, younger officers being trained in new methods of naval war, and with new recruiting drives urging men to join up and fill the ranks of United States' new steel navy.

    By the turn of the century the United States Navy was resurgent. New technologies, new foes, and new conflicts around the world forced the USN to constantly adapt to the ever changing naval environment. With the introduction of the Royal Navy's HMS Dreadnought, a new level of competition for the already heated naval arms race was added as the great powers sought to build their own renditions of the revolutionary new design. With growing threats to the security of the United States in both the Atlantic, Pacific, and Caribbean in the form of the ever omnipotent Royal Navy and with the rise of the Japanese Empire as a great naval power in the Pacific after the defeat of Spain and the acquisition the Philippines, the US Navy embarked on its newest naval construction program with the utmost urgency.

    Several new classes of dreadnoughts were made during this time by United States. All of them incorporated new or unique design features as the naval arms race between the Great Powers intensified. One of the newest classes of dreadnoughts the United States Navy would produce would be the Dakota-class dreadnoughts, with USS Dakota the lead ship in a family of dreadnoughts that would later be dubbed the "Standard-type" battleships.

    With threats facing the United States across vast stretches of ocean from competing naval powers like Japan and the United Kingdom, the USN set out on building a new type of dreadnought with the capability of matching the Royal Navy's heavy power and the long range endurance of the Japanese Imperial Navy for operations in the Pacific, along with the armor protection to endure hits that would otherwise incapacitate a dreadnought. The result of this long, arduous, and methodical process was the design features incorporated into the USS Dakota. She would prove to be a rather drastic evolution for US dreadnought designs. She was one of first ships in the US Navy to be built with triple turrets, having two triple turrets out of an arrangement of four turrets total, which was very different compared with previous US designs that had more twin turrets in arrangements of five or six turrets total. She was also the first to be built with tripod masts instead of the lattice masts found on other US dreadnoughts and one of the first in the US Navy to be built with a new armor scheme that emphasized the maximum amount of protection for the most vital parts of the ship. This latter feature would later be dubbed the "all-or-nothing" armor protection scheme. She utilized an oil-fired steam power plant with geared turbines, which improved her fuel efficiency and fuel economy, giving her the long range distance and endurance the Navy so coveted when concerning operations in the vast waters of the Pacific.

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    Service History --- 1914-1917

    USS Dakota participated in some of the most critical naval battles of the Great War, with a service record spanning both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

    In August 1914, as the crisis in Europe reached a breaking point that made war all but inevitable, Dakota set sail with three full squadrons of the US Pacific Fleet toward the Sandwich Islands. The objective was to take the British squadron based out of Pearl Harbor by surprise, destroy it, and secure the islands for US occupation. Surprise was critical to the success of the operation. After a lengthy time at sea, with the US Pacific Fleet maneuvering around the islands to avoid detection, the opportunity to strike finally came as US sea planes confirmed that the British squadron at Pearl Harbor remained at anchor.

    Dakota was one of the first ships to open fire on the British squadron still moored at Pearl Harbor. As other US vessels suppressed British shore guns, Dakota was able to maneuver into an ideal shooting range that allowed her to fire all her guns in a full broadside. She was able to score multiple and accurate hits on several ships within the harbor, severely damaging multiple vessels, and generally rendering them unable to be put out to sea. Despite the intense bombardment, a handful of British vessels escaped into open waters, where they were engaged by the waiting US fleet. Dakota was able to sink one vessel as it broke out into the open, sustaining no damage. By the end of the engagement the British squadron was effectively annihilated, allowing the US invasion force composed of infantry and marines to land on Oahu.

    As US forces engaged the British in the Sandwich Islands over the course of several weeks, Dakota was used for shore bombardment, to suppress or destroy the remaining coastal batteries still operable. Efforts by the British to salvage the damaged ships still in Pearl Harbor by repairing their guns were also suppressed by Dakota. The one major obstacle that remained was Fort William Rufus at the mouth of Pearl Harbor. With its two 12 inch guns the reinforced concrete fortress was able to sink one cruiser, two destroyers, and damage two dreadnoughts. Shells from the USS Dakota were unable to penetrate the fortress despite multiple attempts to suppress it, with the ship continually having to disengage from gunnery duels with the fort's guns. Eventually a raiding party consisting of marines and sailors from the Dakota finally destroyed the fort, with the raiding party pouring diesel oil and gasoline into the fort's vents, then igniting the mixture with explosives, creating a massive explosion that destroyed the "Concrete Battleship". With Fort William Rufus neutralized, the last pockets of resistance on the Sandwich Islands surrendered by the end of August 1914. The operation was a resounding success and a strategic victory for the United States.

    From September 1914 to June 1916, operations in the Pacific were largely characterized by small scale naval raids and combat patrols between the Entente Powers and the Central Powers. Smaller British, Australian, and Japanese ships continually harassed and engaged ships from the United States and Germany. Despite losing its colonial possessions in China and the South Pacific early in the war, the German East Asia Squadron under the command of Admiral Graf Spee was able to find a safe and secure haven in the Sandwich Islands once it had been captured by the United States upon the outbreak of the war. During this period Dakota conducted numerous combat patrols and missions, scouting the waters around the Sandwich Islands with other ships of the US Pacific Fleet or linking up with German vessels to provide support to screening their escape from British ships. Despite this level of activity, Dakota would not see any major action until 1916 - before then, the majority of engagements across the Pacific were conducted by smaller vessels of the opposing navies.

    At the beginning of 1916, Dakota sustained severe damage during a combat patrol off the coast of the Sandwich Islands while pursuing a Japanese surface force that had laid a trap. Japanese submarines fired on Dakota, scoring a hit, that forced her captain to disengage from the pursuit and sail back to Pearl Harbor. She would undergo repairs in dry dock for the next couple of months, while the rest of the US Pacific Fleet conducted patrols without her. By the end of June 1916 her repairs were complete and she was put to sea again.

    During the Battle of the Three Navies, USS Dakota helped played a critical role in turning back the British and Japanese fleets sent against the Sandwich Islands, gaining massive fame in the process. South-west of the islands on a combat patrol, the squadron that Dakota was attached to spotted the British squadron from Singapore. Initially deployed in a disadvantageous position that would have allowed the British to cross their T, the US ships turned hard to bring their guns to bear on the British, attempting to form a battle line under intense fire. Dakota's deck was showered with shrapnel from near misses, but no serious damage had been sustained as she got into formation to fire her full main armament. By this time the US battle line had closed to within range of the British battle line with screening cruisers and destroyers closing in and fighting for space within their respective formations.

    By this time, the battle was fully underway. Dakota's main battery was able to zero in on one British dreadnought, bracketing the ship with accurate fire until the opposing ship was destroyed and long range. It was at this time that a British cruiser closed to within effective range of Dakota, with the US ship's secondary battery of 5 inch guns firing on the enemy vessel. Multiple hits were registered that effectively rendered the cruiser dead in the water. Soon after, however, a chance hit to the Dakota's rudder, which jammed it, forced the dreadnought to turn to port in a long arc. The jammed rudder took Dakota out of the US battle line, sending it sailing to within 9,000 yards the British battle line. Dakota was subjected to intense fire, bracketed and raked with shells, with multiple hits slamming home across many parts of the ship. Flooding occurred below the water line, while fires broke out on multiple sections within the hull and on the deck. Despite the dire situation, the ship's guns continued to fire on the British battle line, with gun controllers and spotters choosing targets as best they could under the hail shells and smoke. Gunners in the main turrets struggled to adeptly correct their shots in coordination with spotters, having to take into account the turning angle of the ship, making constant calculations and corrections. Despite the chaos of having to sail so close to the British line the ship was miraculously still afloat, its gunners and spotters registering hits on multiple British vessels, forcing several enemy ships to zig-zag and turn away, bending the British battle line out of shape as it took fire from other US warships.


    As Dakota continued her turn to port and away from the British battle line, with its crew still struggling to get the rudder under control, spotters identified the vanguard of the Japanese battle line sailing into position from the north, attempting to sandwich the US line between it and the British. Once again the stricken ship came under fire, finding itself caught between the guns of the British and Japanese. While the repair crews tried frantically to get the rudder under control, the gunnery crews prepared for another fight with the Japanese as they sailed into range. Again the ship was bracketed by the enemy and again the ship took on water, fire, and multiple hits from the Japanese. Dakota was now positioned behind the US battle line as it continued to sail forward, leaving the stricken ship behind. Again despite their vulnerable position the main battery and secondary battery on the Dakota continued to fire away at any and all targets. Multiple hits were also scored on several Japanese vessels, forcing them to zig-zag away from the Dakota's chaotic fire. Finally, after frantic work, the rudder on the ship was finally brought under control. Quickly assessing the damage done to the ship and having been taken out of formation with the rest of the US fleet, leaving it dangerously alone and vulnerable to torpedo boats, destroyers, and the concentrated fire from other heavier ships, Dakota sailed away and back to Pearl Harbor.

    Although the Battle of the Three Navies was tactically inconclusive for all sides involved, it was a strategic victory for the United States. Despite loosing several ships and and thousands of seamen, the Sandwich Islands remained firmly in US hands. Having lost the element of surprise, their fleets savaged from a determined US defense and far away from any friendly ports, the British and Japanese were forced to turn away. USS Dakota received 29 hits from the enemy during this battle, gaining six feet of water due to flooding and having several sections of the ship completely burned away. Despite the ferocious damage only 14 sailors were killed and 17 were wounded throughout the course of the battle. Newspapers in the US affectionately dubbed Dakota as "The Death Rider" and her actions within the larger battle became known as "The Death Ride of Dakota". The warship stayed in Pearl Harbor for several months to undergo extensive repairs. During this time the war in the Pacific once again settled into minor skirmishes and raids between smaller vessels. The main battle fleets of each opposing navy would not sortie for a major confrontation for the rest of the war.

    With the British and Japanese checked in the Pacific, US Navy officials turned their attention to the South Atlantic and ongoing naval war between Chile and Argentina. Chile, a Central Powers aligned belligerent, had been engaged in a difficult war with its long time rival, the Entente aligned Argentina. On land the Chilean Army made no progress against the Argentine Army over the difficult terrain of the Andes. At sea the Chilean Navy was unable to strike with much force against the Argentine Navy as it protected the vital sea lanes to Great Britain, relying on commerce raiding and harassment tactics against the combined numbers of the Argentine Navy and the Royal Navy. Dakota sailed for the South Atlantic with her squadron to assist the Chilean Navy in cutting off the sea lanes between Great Britain and Argentina.

    Before breaking into the South Atlantic, the US squadron stopped over in Valparaiso, Chile, to take on supplies and work on refits, with US officers meeting with Chilean officers to strategize their next move. Once Dakota was refitted and supplied, she sailed south with the squadron to link up with the Chilean Navy. It was decided that they would sail around the heavily mined Straight of Magellan, through the stormy waters of Cape Horn, and toward the Falkland Islands, going north from there to cut off the supply line between Argentina and Great Britain. Despite successes against the Chilean Navy in smaller clashes, the Argentine Navy made an effort to avoid fighting the combined US-Chilean force in any open battle, relying on sea mines deployed in critical areas that the two navies may navigate through.

    Despite attempting to avoiding battle, the US-Chilean naval force was able to engage Argentinian surface ships on several occasions around the Falkland Islands and in the South Atlantic, denying the seas to Argentine Navy with their presence. Dakota, for her part, was kept back from these skirmishes while the smaller US ships were used to either clear mines or engage smaller Argentine ships. She was used primarily for coastal raiding along with the other dreadnoughts, bombarding Argentine ports that stockpiled supplies bound for Britain and sinking cargo ships still anchored at port. These raids, along with the arduous maneuvering of the two allied fleets in difficult waters to clear vital areas of Argentine sea mines, helped to finally cut off Great Britain from the supplies she so desperately needed.

    When the Great War finally ended in a Central Powers victory in 1917, Dakota was part of a combined US-Chilean-Brazilian naval force that was about to engage a British-Argentine force of roughly equal size. The cease fire came minutes before the engagement started, sparing the crew and ship from further fighting.

    USS Dakota ended the war with an impressive service record. She played an active role in almost every major action in the Pacific, helping to seize the Sandwich Islands by annihilating the British force stationed there, going on to survive the Battle of the Three Navies and helping to turn back the combined British-Japanese force sent to take the islands back. She played another critical role in helping to cut off supplies to Great Britain, assisting Chilean allies in gaining superiority of the seas in the South Atlantic and bombarding Argentine ports stocking-piling supplies. President Theodore Roosevelt, upon a visit to the ship in New York City after the the victorious end of the war, called her "the finest example of American naval superiority ever put to sea" and commented that her crew "were some of the most exceptional heroes of the United States Navy".
     
  4. Alterwright "You were never even a player."

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    Ah, if only that were the case, right? In the books Canada, Great Britain, and the United States all thought the same thing. Although very important, it seems that surface ship actions were very minimal due to the amount of mines and submarines used in the area here. Each side had built "Great Lakes Battleships" in anticipation for the battles would come to try and control the Great Lakes, but it seems that major confrontation never happened. Would have been nice to see though, kind of like a 20th century version of the Battle of Lake Erie to go along with the other naval engagements during this time. I guess Turtledove wasn't interested in that, or was very aware of the time period in this case.

    They definitely would have been a bit different in terms of design compared to a regular coastal defense ship or monitor, that's for sure.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
  5. Alterwright "You were never even a player."

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    Hm. I don't know enough about that to really say at the moment, but its an interesting choice in strategy given the circumstances. One would think that sending another fleet carrier to the Pacific, along with other ships and escort carriers, would be prudent as well. Escort carriers can only do so much given their size and speed and a fleet carrier in the Pacific to take the place of Remembrance would be the better choice to me, if possible.

    Again though, I don't really know much on that at this time to really say.