Essex class (US):
The last “true” class of battlecruisers built for the US Navy (arguably the Decatur
class of 1987 could be re-classed as battlecruisers – many in the Navy feel that sounds more appropriate than Arsenal Ship) the Essex
class represented a dramatic upscale of the type. Three; Essex, President
, and Cumberland
, were originally authorized in 1918 and all were laid down during 1920. However, changing strategic thinking within the US Navy was turning against the battlecruiser concept, leading to the decision to halt construction on the last two ships in order to re-design them as aircraft carriers. Essex
would be completed as designed and she was launched in 1922 and commissioned the following year. She carried hull number CB-9. Her former sister-ships were completed by the end of 1924 (see Thomas Jefferson
class for more information).
was 805 feet long overall, had a 95 foot beam, and a nominal draft of 31 feet. She displaced 37,119 tons normal and 38,524 tons full load. She was armed with nine 16”/45 Mk.1 guns in three three-gun turrets. The secondary battery was sixteen 6”/50 Mk.11’s – ten in casemates and six in open mounts. Eight 3”/55 Mk.8 anti-aircraft guns were carried originally but would be increased during the War of the Americas. Essex
also mounted four 21” submerged torpedo tubes – two each port and starboard – but would be the last US capital ship to carry torpedoes. A 136,105 shp (101,535 Kw) four-shaft Avondale turbo-electric system propelled the ship to 30 knots with a maximum range of 8,500 nautical miles. Armor comprised a 12” belt tapering to 8” at bow and stern, a 3” armored deck, 12” main turrets with 10” barbettes, 4” casemates, and a 12” conning tower. Normal crew complement was 1,537.
In the nearly three years following her commissioning, Essex
served as flagship for Second Battlecruiser Division and saw only limited combat. In June of 1926, however, she was assigned to the US Combined Fleet which was tasked with destroying the remaining CS ships based in the Philippines. On June 26th, 1926, Second Battlecruiser encountered the CS Navy’s First Scout Squadron led by CSS Surigao Strait
. After a lucky hit at extreme range destroyed Essex’s
Number 3 boiler room preventing her from reaching the rest of the US fleet the two evenly matched ships entered into one of history’s only one on one battlecruiser duels. After only a half hour the two ships’ accurate fire had pounded the other into a flaming wreck. As survivors abandoned ship the rest of First Scout Squadron caught up with the pair of disabled battlecruisers and Veracruz’s
Captain, Cyrus Vought (in temporary command), ordered both ships torpedoed. Essex
quickly sank by the stern – too quickly by some witness’ estimation – which lent credence to the US crews’ claims that they scuttled the ship before the torpedoes struck. This controversy continued to be debated until the wreck of the Essex
was discovered in 2016 about 17 nautical miles off the coast of Luzon at a depth of about 400 feet. A survey of the wreck concluded that the ship was in the process of being scuttled when the torpedoes struck and only hastened the sinking. The wreck site has since been designated as a war grave by the US and further visits are prohibited without special permission from the US Navy.
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