What Happens When a Battleship Fights an Aircraft Carrier?

Michael Peck

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If you are the captain of an aircraft carrier, these are the words you do not want to hear: Enemy battleship in sight!

Showdown: What Happens When a Battleship Fights an Aircraft Carrier?

Pearl Harbor marked the eclipse of the battleship by the aircraft carrier. Now, major fleet battles would be fought without the opposing ships actually seeing each other. However, the Glorious tragedy is a reminder that nothing in certain in war. Even when the aircraft carrier is king, the battleship can still have its day.

If you are the captain of an aircraft carrier, these are the words you do not want to hear: Enemy battleship in sight!

Yet on June 8, 1940, the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious discovered why carriers should need to stay far away from enemy surface fleets. The Glorious encountered not one, but two German battleships off the Norwegian coast. What ensued was a disaster that cost the lives of more than 1,500 sailors.

Not that the Glorious was ever a lucky ship. Built in late 1916 as a battlecruiser, it did manage to avoid the fate of its three sisters that blew up at the Battle of Jutland. However, one of its fifteen-inch guns exploded at the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917, when a shell detonated in the barrel.

In 1930, the Glorious was converted into an aircraft carrier, just as the U.S. Navy did with the Lexington and Saratoga. Battlecruisers had proven fragile in World War I, but they could travel thirty knots and had large hulls suitable f....

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