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Bringing Back the Battleships

June 7, 2005

Congress is planning to dispose of the last 2 American battleship, Iowa and Wisconsin. Both, along with 2 sisters New Jersey and Missouri, now museums, were designed in the 1930’s, built in the 40’s, and refurbished in the 80’s. There is a large block of veterans, media, and politicians who want to keep them around for the War on Terror. Read this from Washington Times:

What can a supposedly antiquated battleship bring to the fight? During the Vietnam War, the New Jersey was on station for 6 months. It wreaked havoc on the DMZ and in the North, including destruction of the deeply buried North Vietnamese Army (NVA) command headquarters. Had this ship been deployed throughout that war, a fair fraction of the 2,000 aviators killed, missing in action or captured as prisoners of war would have been spared. No statistic conveys the impact of the New Jersey’s assault on the NVA better than the fact that North Vietnam demanded the withdrawal of the ship — not the B-52s — before it would continue with the Paris peace talks.

I have mixed feelings on all this. As a naval enthusiast, I’m enamored about the idea of the last battlewagons sailing the seas again. Also, I am a big believer in getting the most out of weapons as opposed to expensive new platforms. In this latter role the battleships would be a bargain, and could operate as flagships, missile platforms, operate SEAL teams, ect.

On the other hand, they are very old, and would need constant servicing. Crew complement in the 80’s was over 1000, and the Navy just can’t spare the manpower at the moment, when it plans to let go 50,ooo sailors. Last, in this era of cheap precision weapons, is naval shore bombardment as important as in the great Pacific and European Wars?

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