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Warships

The first battle between armored warships took place during the American Civil War (April 12th 1861 - April 9th 1865). On March 8th 1862, the confederate ironclad ship CSS Virginia engaged a fleet of wooden Union ships at Hampton Roads. Virginia managed to destroy two large Union ships and damage others as her armor proved too much for the opposition. As the night drew in, she was withdrawn from the battle while plans were made to sink the damaged ships the following morning. The Union took that opportunity to rush their iron ship USS Monitor to the scene for an eagerly awaited confrontation.

During the lengthy battle that followed the next morning, each ship was unable to sink the other as Virginia’s 9-inch and Monitor’s 12-inch projectiles just bounced off the armor, this forcing both ships to accept a draw and retreat. Virginia was 4,636 tons, 275 feet long, 38 feet wide with two inches of armor on top of her 24-inch thick wooden hull. Her top speed of around 9 knots was obtained from 1200 hp steam engines. Monitor had an iron hull with up to 9 inches of armor, was 987 tons, 179 feet long and 41 feet wide. Her 320 hp steam engines also produced a top speed of around 9 knots.

By the 1904 - 1905 Russo/Japanese war, battleships had become large/powerful war machines. The Japanese main battleships were the British built Mikasa class. These ships had a displacement of 15,000 tons, were 440 feet in length, had up to 14 inches of armor and were armed with 4 - 12 inch guns and 4 - 18 inch torpedoes. The Russian main battleships were the Bordino class with a displacement of 13,000 tons, were 397 feet in length, had up to 10 inches of armor and were armed with 4 - 12 inch guns and 3 - 18 inch torpedoes. The Russo/Japanese war grew out of Russia and Japan's interests in Manchuria and Korea. After Japan broke off negotiations and attacked the Russian fleet based at Port Arthur, the world’s military experts were amazed when the mighty Russian Eastern Fleet had either been sunk or blockaded in port.

The Russian Government responded to that attack by sending their main fleet of warships from the port of Libava to engage the Japanese. They had to travel around the African coast as the deep draught of their battleships prevented them from transiting the Suez Canal. The Russian fleet was then instructed to call at the port of Vladivostock, and from there, pursue the Japanese Navy and cargo vessels. After covering 18,000 miles, the Russian’s were approaching the Tsushima Strait May 27th 1905 when they engaged the entire Japanese fleet. The following battle ended with the Russian fleet destroyed to an extent that only a few ships managed to flee to safety. After that defeat, Russia was forced to sign a peace treaty with Japan, this signaling Japan's status as a world power.

With the outbreak of World War One in 1914, warships were destined to fight the largest naval battle in history (the battle of Jutland May 31st 1916). That engagement involved 23 German battleships supported by over 70 other warships and 28 British battleships supported by over 120 other warships.

World War One war was sparked off by the assassination of the heir to the Austro/Hungarian throne ‘Archduke Franz Ferdinand’ in Sarajevo June 28th 1914. It was believed the Serbian Nationalist Secret Society the ‘Black Hand’ had planned the assassination. With Serbia refusing to hand over the conspirators, Austro/Hungary declared war on Serbia July 28th 1914. As Russia had signed a treaty with Serbia, they began mobilizing their troops to defend Serbia. With Germany having signed a treaty with Austro/Hungary, they declared war on Russia August 1st 1914.

France declared war on Germany and Austro/Hungary August 3rd 1914 as they too had signed a treaty with Russia. With Britain and France being Allies, Britain declared war on Germany August 4th 1914. Japan declared war on Germany August 23rd 1914 as they had signed a treaty with Britain in 1902. At that time, America declared a policy of absolute neutrality. Italy had signed a treaty with Germany stating they would help defend Germany in the event of war. With Germany being the aggressor, Italy declared a policy of neutrality. Italy maintained that stance until they joined the war on the side of the Allies in 1916. America joined the war against Germany in April 1917 as their policy of unrestricted submarine warfare was seriously threatening United States commercial shipping.

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