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Fleece’s Faves – Fletcher edition

April 25, 2011

The actual "Fletcher" in which the class was named

If you are unfamiliar with the interim period between the two World Wars, it can most easily be characterized by a naive unilateral disarmament by the Western Nations of Earth.  Following World War I, Britain had the largest navy in the world, by a great margin.  The US was pretty far behind, but our industrial capacity to build whatever we wanted is unquestioned.  The last major power involved in the talks that are known as the Washington Naval Conference, was Japan.  Japan was a newer naval power in the world, showing her chops 20 years earlier in defeating Russia at the Battle of Tsushima.  But Japan had quite a few advantages over the US and Britain, primarily that she was a “one ocean” navy.  The other two parties maintained “two ocean” navies that necessarily required a larger force to properly patrol.

The end result of the talks was a limitation of the tonnage of capital ships and aircraft carriers for the respective nations in a ratio of 5:5:3 (UK:US:JAPAN).  The practical results were rather different, best explained by the curious fact that the majority of the hulls in service in the West at the start of World War II were laid down before World War I!

Many politicians and some military men in the West fully believed that World War I was the “war to end all wars”.  They got complacent, they forsook their prime mission of protecting their charges, and instead focused on “managing the peace”.  Someone forgot to tell them Japan, Germany and Italy didn’t feel the same way.  The equipment the Axis nations fielded at the start of World War II were heads and shoulders above the Western allies.  They ignored treaty limitations on all fronts.  They were bigger, faster, heavily armed and armored, and in Japan’s case, in much higher number than was “allowed”.

Once such piece of hardware that was outclassed by the Axis powers was the American destroyer.  Our Fleece’s Fave this week is the satisfaction of that error.

“Flush-deck Four Stack”

The pre-WWII American destroyer was inadequate to say the least.  Nicknamed “four pipers” because of her 4 exhaust stacks amidships, the nickname actually encompassed 3 different classes of ship built.  The most numerous was the Clemson class.  They were small for World War II destroyers and were severely lacking in anti-air armament, indicative of the United States military’s intransigence in seeing that naval air power was the future.  The Clemsons were designed as an anti-submarine platform, focusing on the new threat of submarines revealed from the last war.  In all, she was not a very good design, her seaworthiness was lacking (she was not too great in foul weather) and her flush deck resulted in a significant “wet deck” most of the time.  Compared to later designs, her range was also limited, though external oil tanks were added as a remedy, unfortunately they added a significant and possibly deadly liability given they were above the water line.

The USS Clemson

Noting the increased bellicosity of Japan in the late 30’s, the US navy worked on several new models of destroyer, slowly increasing in length and weight, but no class was laid down in high enough numbers to count as a replacement for the “four stackers”, and the Clemson class and her relatives were still in service at the start of the war.

The Fletcher Class

The Fletcher class was designed in 1939, and compared to any destroyer previous, she was revolutionary.  First off, she was huge for a class of ship generally considered diminutive.  At 2050 tons displacement, the Fletcher was 60% heavier than the Clemson class (1215 tons).  At 375 feet long, she was also 60 feet longer than her predecessor.  Length is important in a “fleet boat”, or a boat designed to participate within a fleet typically formed around a capital ship.  The length of a ship is the primary dictate of the overall speed of the ship, as expressed in a ratio called the speed to length ratio.  Basically what it means is, the longer a ship is, the less power necessary to reach a given speed (all other variables like sleekness of hull design not factored).  So in its inverse (and in practical ship design), a hull designed at a certain “speed”, which to exceed the speed of the hull requires much greater increase in power.

The negative of a long ship is of course maneuverability, they just can’t turn as fast – definitely a characteristic not desired in a destroyer design charged with anti-submarine duty.  Given that the Fletcher was still pretty short, she needed a ton of power to go her rated 36 knot top speed.  Her power output rated in “shaft horsepower” or shp was 60,000, compared to only 27,600 shp of the Clemson class.

All these characteristics are fun, but what we really want to talk about are guns right?

Armament

The Fletcher had five 5″ Dual Purpose guns as her main armament.  This was specifically the Mark 12 5″/38 calibre gun, considered by many one of the best guns of World War II.  For those metric folks, this was a 127mm gun, with a range of about 16km.  But, the Dual Purpose nature of the gun mount meant she could elevate her barrels to a max of 85 degrees, giving her an anti-air capability.  When shooting at planes, this amazing gun had a max range of 37,500 feet!  Oh and she could shoot fast too.  In the hands of a well-trained gun crew, this baby could fire upwards of 20 rounds a minute, that is incredible for a gun of this size.

The main 5" guns

This gun would be nothing without the equipment used to aim her, in this case it was the Mark 37 Gun Fire Control system.  This was a “computer” that could develop targeting solutions for aircraft moving up to 400 mph.  Using the Gun Director, a set of optical sights and range finders (later a radar), the crew would sight the target and the computer would direct the guns where to fire – pretty amazing stuff for the early 40’s.

Other armament spoke to the primary mission of fleet destroyers in World War II, anti-air defense.  The Fletcher equipped up to fourteen 40mm Bofors cannons, the venerable anti-air cannon still in use today.  She also equipped up to twelve more 20mm Oerlikon cannons, another design still in use today.  This large number of guns required a major increase in crew compliment over her pre-war ancestors, the Fletcher had a crew of around 330 men, the Clemson only about 120.  Needless to say, the Fletcher was a tad cramped for her men.

But the Fletcher did not just use her big guns for ship-to-ship combat, she also had torpedoes.  Anchored amidships, were two rotating quintuple mounts of 21 inch torpedo launchers.  This was a cool design that took a while to perfect, the concept being the destroyer could launch torpedoes from either side, something earlier destroyer designs could not do because of the fixed emplacement of their launchers.This greatly increased the Fletcher’s combat effectiveness in close ship-to-ship combat.

Lastly, the Fletcher had a bevy of depth charges.  On her sides, she mounted 6 K guns, a system that fired depth charges away from the side of the ship, and on her stern she held two depth charge racks, where the charge was dropped off the back.

Conclusion

In total, 175 Fletchers were built during World War II, the most numerous destroyer built during the war.  She primarily served in the Pacific campaign against the Japanese, and her battle record is unquestioned.

The most telling aspect of a successful ship design is the adoration of the men who served on them.  The Fletcher is one of the most adored ships in the history of the US Navy.  I have never served on any ship in my life, but I trust the men who have, and if their fave is a Fletcher, then that’s more than enough for it to be one of Fleece’s Faves.

Depth charges are freaking sweet

The links

Planet Moron – he gets prime position due to a brilliant must read article about New York’s banning of wiffle-ball, hilarious and poignant you seriously need to read it

Always on Watch – He Died for Me

American and Proud – Lady Gaga…Courageous

America’s Watchtower – Obama claims the Republican budget would “fundamentally change America”

Be Sure You’re RIGHT, then Go Ahead – There Oughta be a Law

Blog de KingShamus – Detroit – The eternal punchline of the leftist mind

Bread Upon the Waters – Thine be the Glory – Frideric Handel

Bunkerville – Paul Ryans admiration for Ayn Rand make him pro-terrorist? UPDATE: David Cay Johnston Comments

Capitol Commentary – Burning a Koran: America vs. England

Conservative Hideout – Putting a human face on the abortion debate

Conservatives on Fire – S&P warning, what does it mean?

conservativetickler – Obama, the Messiah

Disrupt the Narrative – Gas pump activism

Mind-numbed Robot – Happy Easter – He is risen!

motorcity times – Earth day 2011: “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket”

NoOneofAnyImport – The Dog

Political Realities – Do we really need govenment insurance agents?

Questioning with Boldness – Video: President Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on the Observance of Easter and Passover – 4/2/83

Republican Redefined – Herman Cain / Allen West Ticket for 2012 Says Breitbart

rjjrdq’s America – Pastor Jones falls victim to Sharia law

Sentry Journal – It’s time to change the conversation and dump the birth certificate debate

Edge of the Sandbox – Gaia is a baby-eating goddess

Spellchek – A Constitutional crisis

The Swash – Milton Friedman – The welfare establishment

ThatMrgguys Blog – TSA pedophile screener arrested (via Phoebe’s Detention Room)

The Daley Gator – Government Handouts Top Tax Revenues For First Time Since Great Depression

New to Fleece’s Faves

Answering Muslims – an excellent site hosted by a courageous group of Christians who have on multiple occasions revealed how Sharia law is making its way into America – Pastor Jones may have brought Dearborn, MI to the forefront of the news, but these folks have been on the problems there for years, you should definitely go check them out

Manhattan Infidel – not sure why I am so slow on adding this blog to my faves, I am sure the answer lies somewhere in the large amount of space between my ears, excellent writing, easy to read and often humorous, like this post Morale Low among Free Range Chickens

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2011 1:45 pm

    Thanks for the link! Are you already familiar then, with Answering Muslim’s YouTube channel, Acts 17 Apologetics? really really good stuff, especially when the videos filmed at Dearborn’s Muslim Festival every year.

    • April 25, 2011 3:15 pm

      You are most welcome, and yes, their videos of Dearborn’s ARAB International Festival are a must see for Americans who think Sharia creep is hyperbole. The amazing thing, if you look at the actual title of the festival is Arab, not Muslim, but since they don’t allow free expression (unless you are Muslim) at the fest they probably should change the name.

  2. KingShamus permalink
    April 25, 2011 2:07 pm

    Dude, thanks for the linkage. Your blog wrap-ups are some of the best in the biz, and always informative. Great work.

    Also, the Manhattan Infidel is a tremendous writer who should be on everybody’s must-read list. I’ve been on his bandwagon for a while now. Good to see him getting some props.

    • April 25, 2011 3:18 pm

      You are welcome, and thanks for the props. =)

      Yeah, like I said, I don’t really have an excuse for not finding Infidel’s blog before now, but it is rectified. And he definitely deserves the props.

  3. Dr. Tickles permalink
    April 25, 2011 2:28 pm

    Thanks for the plug. I have a link to your blog on mine. I like your articles, oh yeah, I have no trouble with the paraphernalia either. Don’t know about your wife, though…Dr. Tickles

    • April 25, 2011 3:19 pm

      It was totally my pleasure. =)

  4. April 25, 2011 4:57 pm

    Thanks for the link Fleece!

    • April 25, 2011 7:04 pm

      My pleasure Steve. =)

  5. April 25, 2011 5:40 pm

    Thanks for the link Colin. Manhattan Infidel is one of my Favs. Funny stuff with a very clever twist.

    • April 25, 2011 7:05 pm

      Yeah, I was very impressed when I visited there for the first time this week. And you are welcome John. =)

  6. April 25, 2011 7:26 pm

    Thanks for the link, Colin. Your Faves is always a learning expeience. Good stuff.

    • April 25, 2011 8:47 pm

      You are welcome and thank you. =)

  7. April 25, 2011 7:58 pm

    Thanks for the link Colin. The article you linked, actually came from my wife’s new blog. 😉

    Mike

    • April 25, 2011 8:47 pm

      Oh, well wasn’t that auspicious, lol. I’m glad I could giver her and you some link love. =)

  8. April 25, 2011 8:30 pm

    Thanks for the link and the info!

    • April 25, 2011 8:48 pm

      You are most welcome my friend. =)

  9. April 25, 2011 10:27 pm

    Many thanks for the link!

    • April 25, 2011 10:32 pm

      My pleasure, great post. =)

  10. April 26, 2011 7:05 am

    I’m quite late in thanking you for the link. Sorry!

    • April 26, 2011 7:20 am

      No worries, and you are welcome. =)

  11. April 26, 2011 7:05 am

    Off topic, but possible of interest to you:

    • April 26, 2011 7:23 am

      Ah yes, MLB Network was showing little 5 minute specials about this all day. Great stuff.

      My favorite part is when Monday, who had a 16 year career, is asked how he feels about only being remembered for saving the American flag from being burned, he replies, “If that is all I remembered for, that’s not a bad thing to be remembered for.” I couldn’t agree more.

  12. JustFacts permalink
    April 27, 2011 3:24 am

    The Fletchers saw some of the most fierce action of WWII. In particular the Battle of Leyte Gulf following the Battle for Midway, the Fletcher class performed with great effectiveness in helping drive off the Japanese invasion fleet. In particular Battle Group Taffy 3 inflicted severe destruction to the Japanese battelships and cruisers which had numerous 18 in. guns versus the max 5 in. guns and torpedoes of Taffy 3.

    For those who are interested, a documentary of this action can be read at The Battle Off Samar – Taffy III at Leyte Gulf Hollywood should make this into a movie. The Fletchers acquitted themselves magnificently.

    • April 27, 2011 12:11 pm

      Yeah, the Fletchers were some tough and nasty little ships. Considering one 18 in round would annihilate a single destroyer, I think it says volumes to the courage and dedication of the men who served and commanded our tin-can navy.

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