Battleships are among the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed. They were crucial in naval warfare during the twentieth century, and their names have become linked with some of history’s most memorable battles.
These gigantic war vehicles were designed to fight and destroy other ships, as well as give ground troops with significant artillery assistance.
Many legendary battleships have caught the public’s imagination over the years, either by heroic deeds or terrible losses. Some have become household names, emblems of naval force and dominance.
Battleships have played an important role in creating history, from the renowned HMS Victory of the 18th century to the modern-day USS Missouri.
Whether it’s the sinking of the HMS Hood by the Bismarck during WWII, the catastrophic loss of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, or the iconic image of the USS Missouri as the site of Japan’s surrender in 1945, each battleship has its own distinct tale.
Many of these historical battleships are now preserved as museums or memorials, allowing visitors to witness the awe-inspiring force and history of these renowned boats firsthand.
1. USS Arizona (BB-39)
The USS Arizona was a United States Navy battleship that was sunk on December 7, 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which caused the country’s entry into World War II. The ship was commissioned in 1916 and was part of the US Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania class battleship that measured more than 185 meters in length and weighed more than 34,000 tons. When it was commissioned, it was fully armed and considered one of the most formidable battleships in the world.
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The USS Arizona was hit by many bombs during the attack on Pearl Harbor, causing the ship to explode and sink quickly, killing 1,177 sailors and Marines on board, accounting for more than half of the American deaths.
The USS Arizona is now a national monument and memorial to the sailors and Marines who died on board. The ship serves as a melancholy reminder of the sacrifices made by American service members during WWII, and it has come to represent the country’s determination to defend its freedom and principles.
2. HMS Hood (51)
HMS Hood (51) was a Royal Navy battlecruiser that served during the interwar period and the early years of World War II.
She was one of the largest and most powerful battleships of her era, and her destruction during the Battle of the Denmark Strait in 1941 remains one of the war’s most dramatic and terrible episodes.
HMS Hood was commissioned in 1920 and went through multiple modernizations in the 1930s to stay at the cutting edge of naval technology. She was a symbol of British naval supremacy and was meant to fight enemy capital ships with her powerful cannons. Despite her size and firepower, she was chastised for her lack of armor protection.
HMS Hood and the battleship HMS Prince of Wales fought the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait on May 24, 1941.
During the engagement, a Bismarck shell hit Hood’s ammunition magazine, resulting in a devastating explosion that destroyed the ship. Only three of her 1,400-strong crew escaped. The loss of HMS Hood devastated the Royal Navy and startled the British people.
The HMS Hood’s wreck was discovered in 2001 and is now designated as a war grave. HMS Hood is still recognized and revered today as an iconic symbol of British naval prowess and sacrifice during WWII.
3. HMS Prince of Wales (53)
During World War II, HMS Prince of Wales was a Royal Navy battleship that was commissioned in 1941. The ship played an important part in the war until being lost in battle in 1941.
The HMS Prince of Wales was a King George V-class battleship with a length of over 220 meters and a weight of over 42,000 tons. It was armed with ten 14-inch cannons, sixteen 5.25-inch guns, and a slew of smaller-caliber weapons. The ship’s radar and fire control systems were also upgraded.
In December 1941, the HMS Prince of Wales was tasked with preventing a Japanese invasion force in the South China Sea with the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, which was one of the most pivotal episodes in the ship’s service.
Despite her superior technology, the ship was vulnerable to air raids, and both the HMS Prince of Wales and the HMS Repulse were sunk by Japanese aircraft. The loss of the ships inflicted a significant blow to British naval superiority and marked a turning point in the Pacific War.
The HMS Prince of Wales is remembered today as a symbol of British naval strength during WWII. The ship’s sinking also highlights the vulnerability of even the most advanced battleships in the face of modern warfare, a lesson that has influenced military doctrine to this day.
4. USS Missouri (BB-63)
The USS Missouri is a well-known US Navy battleship that served in WWII and subsequent conflicts. The battleship was the last one built by the US and was commissioned in 1944.
The USS Missouri was an Iowa-class battleship that was almost 270 meters long and weighed over 45,000 tons. It was fully equipped with strong cannons and cutting-edge radar and fire control technologies.
The ship was one of the most modern and powerful battleships of its day, and it played an important role in several battles throughout WWII, most notably the Battle of Okinawa.
The USS Missouri’s most historic event happened in 1945, when it hosted the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, heralding the end of World War II. Senior officers from both the Allied and Japanese troops attended the celebration, which was hosted on the ship’s deck in Tokyo Bay.
During the war, the USS Missouri served in a variety of situations, including the Korean War and the Gulf War. The ship was decommissioned in 1992 and is now on display at the Pearl Harbor Museum in Hawaii.
It is a popular tourist attraction that serves as a reminder of America’s naval history and commitment to protecting freedom and democracy throughout the world.
5. USS Iowa (BB-61)
USS Iowa (BB-61) was a United States Navy battleship and the lead ship in her class. She was commissioned in 1943 and served in both World War II and the Korean War, as well as being briefly reactivated during the Cold War in the 1980s.
The USS Iowa served in the Pacific Theater during WWII, providing fire support for amphibious assaults and fighting in naval combat with Japanese forces. She also served as the Third Fleet’s flagship under Admiral William Halsey.
During the Korean War, she supported United Nations forces and served as the flagship of Admiral Arthur W. Radford’s Seventh Fleet.
The USS Iowa was reactivated in the 1980s as part of the Reagan administration’s plan to modernize the Navy. She received a thorough overhaul and was outfitted with new weaponry systems, including Tomahawk missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
However, her reactivation was met with criticism, with some claiming that battleships were obsolete and that the money would be better spent elsewhere in the military.
The USS Iowa was decommissioned in 1990 and is now a museum ship in Los Angeles. She is still regarded as one of the most famous battleships in American navy history, owing to her strong armament, service in several conflicts, and iconic look, which includes a distinctive nine-gun main battery and elegant lines.
6. HMS Vanguard (23)
HMS Vanguard (23), the last ship of her class, was a Royal Navy battleship. She was commissioned in 1946, just after World War II ended, and served as the British Home Fleet’s flagship.
HMS Vanguard outperformed her predecessors thanks to a more modern weapon system and increased armor protection. Unfortunately, she was finished too late to see combat in World War II, and her post-war mission was essentially one of deterrent and diplomacy.
Throughout her service, HMS Vanguard took part in several naval exercises and international trips, showcasing the Royal Navy’s continued power and reach. She did, however, encounter a number of mechanical problems, particularly with her cannons, which need costly repairs and adjustments.
HMS Vanguard was decommissioned in 1960 and was later scrapped. Despite her brief career, she remains one of the Royal Navy’s most famous battleships, known for her sleek features, strong armament, and status as Britain’s last battleship.
7. USS North Carolina (BB-55)
USS North Carolina (BB-55) was a United States Navy battleship and the lead ship in her class. She received her commission in 1941 and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of World War II, receiving 15 combat stars.
During WWII, the USS North Carolina took part in many of the Pacific’s important naval battles, including the battles of Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea, and Leyte Gulf. She also served as the Fifth Fleet’s flagship under Admiral Raymond A. Spruance.
Although being bombarded by Japanese planes and coastal defenses, she was never struck by enemy fire, a testament to her advanced armor and formidable anti-aircraft armament.
The USS North Carolina was decommissioned after the war and is now a museum ship in Wilmington, North Carolina.
She is still one of the most famous battleships in American naval history, noted for her massive size, cutting-edge technology, and remarkable service in WWII. She is open to the public and receives hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
8. Bismarck (Ger. BB-61)
The Bismarck was a German battleship that was sunk by the British Royal Navy on May 27 and 28, 1941. The Bismarck was a massive and powerful battleship that posed a severe danger to British naval forces in the Atlantic.
The sinking of the Bismarck was a huge success for the Allies, and it is recognized as one of the most critical naval battles of World War Two. During several days, British forces relentlessly chased the ship, crippling and sinking it with torpedoes and gunfire from British warships. Only 114 of the ship’s 2,200 crew members survived.
The destruction of the Bismarck altered the course of the war by removing a significant danger to Allied ships in the Atlantic. During WWII, the engagement highlighted the power and efficacy of naval warfare, and it remains a pivotal event in naval combat history.
The Bismarck wreck is currently a popular diving location and has been the subject of numerous films and articles. The ship is still a symbol of war’s might and devastation, as well as a reminder of the human toll.
9. Tirpitz (Ger. BB-62)
Tirpitz was a German Navy battleship and the second and final member of the Bismarck class. She was commissioned in 1941 and participated in World War II’s Atlantic and Arctic theaters.
Tirpitz was a fearsome foe, with strong armor, modern weaponry, and powerful engines that made her one of the quickest battleships of the period.
She was an important part of the German naval strategy, acting as a deterrence to British forces and endangering vital convoy routes that supplied Britain with food and supplies.
Tirpitz was regularly attacked by British forces throughout the war, despite its strong defenses. She was finally sunk by British bombers in a daring strike on her Norwegian mooring in 1944. The attack killed over 1,000 of her crew members, including her commander.
The Tirpitz lies on the seafloor off the coast of Norway today, and her legacy is remembered as one of the most formidable and iconic battleships of the German Navy during World War Two.
10. Yamato (Jpn. BB-62)
Yamato (Jpn. BB-62) was the Imperial Japanese Navy’s lead battleship of her class. She was commissioned in 1941 and served largely in the Pacific Theater during WWII.
Yamato was one of the most powerful and largest battleships ever built, with a sophisticated armor system and a main battery of nine 18.1-inch cannons, the largest ever installed on a battleship. She was meant to serve as a flagship in significant naval conflicts and was regarded as a symbol of Japanese naval supremacy.
Yamato had limited success during the conflict, despite her size and capability. She took part in the Battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, but was unable to cause considerable damage to the Allied fleet.
She was eventually lost by American aircraft during the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945. The attack killed about 3,000 of her crew members, including her commander.
Today, the ruin of the Yamato may be found off the coast of Japan, and her legacy is remembered as one of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s most formidable and renowned battleships.
11. Musashi (Jpn. BB-63)
Musashi (Jpn. BB-63) was the second ship of the Yamato class in the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was commissioned in 1942 and served largely in the Pacific Theater during WWII.
Musashi, like her sister ship Yamato, was one of the largest and most powerful battleships ever constructed. With a main battery of nine 18.1-inch guns and the intention of serving as a flagship in significant naval conflicts, she was strongly armed and armored.
Musashi took part in both the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but was lost by American aircraft during the latter in October 1944. The attack killed over 1,000 of her crew members.
Musashi’s ruin is still visible off the coast of the Philippines, and her legacy is remembered as one of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s most formidable and renowned battleships. Despite her modest combat success, her size and power continue to captivate naval historians and enthusiasts alike.
12. USS Texas (BB-35)
The USS Texas (BB-35) is a United States Navy battleship and the flagship ship in her class. She was commissioned in 1914 and served in both World Wars, collecting five battle stars for her efforts.
During World War I, the USS Texas provided cover for convoys and assisted British naval operations in the North Sea. She took part in multiple amphibious landings during WWII, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, where she provided fire support for the troops ashore.
She also saw action in the Pacific Theater, where she provided fire support for landings in the Philippines and Iwo Jima.
Following the war, the USS Texas was decommissioned and turned into a museum ship in 1948. She is presently in Houston, Texas, and she receives thousands of visits each year.
She is still one of the most famous battleships in American navy history, having served honorably in both World Wars and being one of the world’s oldest remaining battleships.
13. USS New Jersey (BB-62)
USS New Jersey (BB-62) is a United States Navy battleship and the lead ship in her class. She was commissioned in 1943 and served in both World Wars, collecting a total of 19 combat stars for her efforts.
During WWII, the USS New Jersey took part in a number of Pacific naval actions, including those in the Philippine Sea and the Leyte Gulf. Admiral William Halsey utilized her as a flagship and provided fire support during amphibious operations.
During the Korean War, she once again provided fire support for UN forces and assisted in the evacuation of American citizens.
The USS New Jersey was decommissioned and placed in reserve following the Korean War. She was briefly revived for action in the Vietnam War and the Gulf War before being decommissioned for good in 1991.
She is now a museum ship at Camden, New Jersey, and she is still one of the most famous battleships in American navy history, noted for her meritorious service in several conflicts and her tremendous weaponry, which includes a nine-gun main battery.