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Photo # S-584-009: Preliminary Design Plan for Battleships # 36 & 37, 13 November 1911

Online Library of Selected Images -- Photo Albums

Bureau of Ships' "Spring Styles" Book # 1 (1911-1925) -- (Naval History and Heritage Command Lot # S-584) --
Introduction to the Battleship Preliminary Design Drawings

NOTE: This page features introductory text concerning the battleship plans in the 1911-1925 Bureau of Ships 'Spring Styles' book.

For links to the battleship plans themselves, see:

  • Bureau of Ships' "Spring Styles" Book # 1 (1911-1925) -- Battleship Preliminary Design Drawings.


    The battleship was considered to provide the main fighting strength of the fleet during this time period. As of 1911, battleship design had just passed through a significant period of change. Construction of ships with a mix of main and intermediate caliber guns, such as 12-inch and 8-inch, respectively, had ended in favor of ships having a so-called "all-big-gun" armament comprised of main battery guns but no other weapons intermediate between the 12-inch turret guns and much smaller anti-torpedo craft weapons (typically 3-inch to 5-inch guns in U.S. Navy ships.) The completion of the British battleship Dreadnought in 1907, armed with ten 12-inch guns, marked the beginning of the "all-big-gun" era and ships built to this concept often were referred to as "dreadnought" battleships. The U.S. Navy ordered a total of eight battleships of the "dreadnought" or "all-big-gun" type during 1906 to 1909. All these eight ships, of four separate, successive designs, mounted a main battery comprised of 12-inch guns. None of these earlier designs are included in the 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" book. The first battleship design described in this book was the first subsequent design to be completed, the first U.S. Navy battleship design mounting a main battery comprised of 14-inch caliber main battery guns.

    Discussion of the need to increase the caliber of the main battery gun above 12 inches in caliber dated from at least 1908 and a 14-inch gun was considered the logical next step. The Bureau of Construction and Repair circulated to other bureaus the first draft preliminary designs for a battleship armed with 14-inch guns on 11 November 1908. Two resulting preliminary designs incorporating 14-inch guns, the so-called "Scheme No.404" (with eight 14-inch guns) and "Scheme No.502" (with ten 14-inch guns), were forwarded to the General Board for review on 15 December 1908, together with a third design incorporating twelve 12-inch guns ("Scheme No.601"). (None of these designs is included in the 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book.) In the event, the 12-inch gun design was chosen for the two ships ordered in 1909--Wyoming (Battleship # 32) and Arkansas (Battleship # 33).

    The Bureau of Ordnance commenced construction of a 12-inch/50-caliber and a 14-inch/45-cal. gun in parallel with orders placed on 14 January 1909 for single prototype guns. The ordnance bureau considered the 14-inch gun much riskier than the longer variant of the 12-inch gun. This assessment played a role in the selection of the new 12-inch gun variant for the Wyoming class.

    The Bureau of Construction and Repair watched the development of the 14-inch gun and anticipated that it eventually would be chosen for use in a new battleship. Accordingly, the construction bureau wrote on 16 October 1909 to the Secretary of the Navy to request that the General Board and the Board on Construction, the two primary advisory panels assisting the secretary in policy and technical matters, respectively, to consider the matter and to help obtain a departmental determination. (The Board on Construction, composed of bureau chiefs, was disestablished at the end of 1909, leaving the General Board as the principal senior advisors to the secretary on ship design.) In due course the decision was made to build the next class of battleships armed with 14-inch guns, with the first of these ships placed on contract by December 1910. This design is the earliest battleship design included in this volume (see Photo # S-584-028), illustrating the two ships of this type built under the Fiscal Year 1911 shipbuilding program. These ships, New York (Battleship # 34) and Texas (Battleship # 35), had five twin main battery turrets providing a total of ten 14-inch guns. The drawing in this volume is dated 1 April 1913, after both ships of the class already had been launched, and thus presumably was prepared merely as a reference to assist deliberations concerning future designs.

    The Nevada (Battleship # 36) class that followed the New York (Battleship # 34) class introduced two major design innovations, the adoption of the so-called "all-or-nothing" armor protection concept and the use of triple main battery gun turrets. Both innovations involved risk and were the subject of much internal debate among the U.S. Navy officials involved. This class also was the first battleship design to provide fuel oil rather than coal for propulsion energy. The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book includes a total of seven preliminary designs for the Nevada class (Photos # S-584-001 through S-584-007) plus one drawing of the final design approved for construction (Photo # S-584-009).

    The "all-or-nothing" protection concept was based on the premise that vital elements of the ship should be protected securely against enemy attack, principally by shell fire, and that much of the rest of the ship could be left unprotected by armor without hazarding the loss of the ship's or its major functions.

    The Secretary of the Navy sent approved characteristics for the new battleships on 1 November 1910 to the Bureau of Construction & Repair, expanding upon some initial general characteristics established on 28 June 1910 and supplemented by additional guidance provided on 1 December 1910. The bureau sent a set of drawings for one resulting proposed preliminary design to the Secretary of the Navy on 13 February 1911, in fulfillment of this task, but this design is not included in the 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book. (This initial design is described in the bureau's letter File 26162-E.28 that survives, without enclosures, in Bureau of Ships correspondence files (National Archives Record Group 19 Preliminary Inventory # 133 Entry 92, "Correspondence Concerning Ships 1896-1915.) This design provided a ship of 28,000 tons with a main battery of twelve 14-inch guns in four triple turrets, a secondary battery of twenty-one 5-inch guns, and a maximum speed of 21 knots. The plan called for a ship 580 feet long on the waterline and side belt armor of 11 inches maximum thickness.

    The Bureau of Construction & Repair sent a set of three new preliminary design drawings to the General Board on 14 March 1911 that provided a ship of 27,000 tons displacement, which the bureau considered to be the largest likely to be affordable with the amount of money provided by the Congress in the annual appropriation on 4 March ($6 million). One of the new designs provided eight 14-inch guns in four twin turrets (Photo # S-584-001), the second provided ten 14-inch guns in two twin and two triple turrets and 21 knots speed (drawing not included in this book), and the third provided ten guns in four turrets but reduced speed to 20.5 knots to permit increases in protection (Photo # S-584-005).

    By verbal request of the General Board, the bureau prepared three additional "Spring Styles" plans, one dated 17 March with a main battery of eleven 14-inch guns, one dated 21 March with a main battery of ten 14-inch guns, and another dated 21 March with a battery of twelve 14-inch guns. None of these plans, which were delivered to the General Board on 23 March, are included in this book.

    The bureau followed up with four additional drawings on 28 March 1911, providing, respectively, nine, ten, eleven and twelve 14-inch guns on a displacement of 27,000 to 27,700 tons displacement. None of these particular drawings is included in the 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book, although an earlier version of the nine-gun design is included (Photo # S-584-006).

    The President of the General Board recommended on 30 March 1911 that the 27,000 ton design dated 11 March 1911 (Scheme "C", seen in Photo # S-584-005) be approved for construction. The Secretary of the Navy approved this proposal on 31 March 1911. This approved design appears as updated through 13 November 1911 in Photo # S-584-009.

    The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book also includes three early preliminary designs (dated 4 to 9 March 1911) for Battleship # 36 that apparently never were sent to the General Board but rather were developed solely for internal use within the bureau to explore the impact in ship size if armor protection and speed were increased significantly. One plan (Photo # S-584-002) provided twelve 14-inch guns, 17-inch side armor, and a speed of 23 knots, together requiring a ship of 38,000 tons displacement, far over the 27,000 ton goal. Another plan (Photo # S-584-003) retained the heavy armor but reduced the main battery to eight guns and the speed to 21 knots, lowering displacement to 32,800 tons, but still much too large. The third plan (Photo # S-584-004) likewise retained the 17-inch armor and eight-gun main battery, but further dropped speed to 19 knots. Even these sacrifices fell far short, providing a 30,200 ton ship that was approximately 3,000 tons over what was deemed affordable.

    The bureau's interest in provision of very substantial armor protection appears to be consistent with Naval Constructor David W. Taylor's vision that a battleship could be designed with essentially unassailable protection. Taylor's contemporary views can be seen in presentations that he made on 2 and 3 August 1910 at the Naval War College, notes from which were published in the Bureau's Confidential Bulletin No.28 of 1 December 1910. There he offered the following observation: "It seems to me that there is only one common-sense solution of the problem. It is possible to find out the thickness of practicable armor which is reasonably proof against the big guns of to-day and the possible near future. It is possible to utilize this thickness of armor to protect against gun fire the buoyancy, stability, motive power, and offensive power of our battleships. Why not do it? It is possible to adopt means which will effectively defend our battleships against any torpedo now known. Why not do it?..." (p.16.)

    Taylor was assigned in the bureau during this time, succeeding Richard M. Watt as Chief Constructor (and bureau chief) on 13 December 1914. With the original preliminary design workbook for the class lost, it is impossible to know what role Taylor may have had in Nevada's design, but evidently there was serious consideration given within the bureau about the need for such very heavy armor protection.

    Analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of "all-or-nothing" protection depended in part on estimates of the risk of flooding damage in the unarmored ends of a ship built to this concept. One drawing included in the 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book may relate directly to this concern. Photo # S-584-008 provides illustrations of the anticipated changes in flotation trim in the event of flooding of compartments in the forward part of a modern battleship, in this case apparently a Delaware (Battleship # 28) class ship.

    Development of the triple 14-inch gun turret also was a matter of great concern to Navy officials. The Bureau of Ordnance brought up the potential for triple turrets in March 1910 and secured approval from the Navy Department to design a triple 14-inch gun turret. Orders were sent on 5 April 1910 to the Naval Gun Factory to prepare the design. The Department gave approval on 31 January 1911 to build an initial experimental triple 14-inch mount and the successful initial test took place at Indian Head, Md., on 28 June 1912. Subsequent firings showed unsatisfactory dispersal in fall of shot and a thorough follow-on test program took place during 1 August to 30 October 1912. Progress with the 14-inch gun triple turret was watched closely as design work proceeded with both the Battleship # 36 and the subsequent Battleship # 38 class designs.

    The General Board issued recommended characteristics on 9 June 1911, reaffirmed on 25 October, for the next class of battleships to be built. The characteristics called for an increase in the 14-inch main battery from ten to twelve guns and a significant increase in armor provided underwater to defeat plunging shells, while also reducing designed draught of water. Whereas the Nevada (Battleship # 36) class had approximately 195 tons of underwater armor, new designs that met the Board's characteristics provided over 400 tons of additional armor placed below the waterline.

    The Bureau of Construction and Repair forwarded a set of four preliminary designs to the General Board on 2 March 1912, all of which are included in the 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book. Inevitably, these designs were significantly larger than Nevada in order to meet the characteristics. One, Scheme "G" (Photo # S-584-010) satisfied the Board characteristics, included 411 tons of additional underwater armor, at a designed displacement of 31,300 tons. Scheme "I" (Photo # S-584-011) adopted a deeper hull, illustrating the benefits in design efficiency that could result. The resulting shorter hull allowed more weight to be shifted to armor, with displacement unchanged from Scheme "G". Scheme "J" retained the deeper draught of Scheme "I", reduced length a further 15 feet, and provided less armor, reducing displacement to 30.100 tons. This design had the same speed and protection as the Nevada class but two additional main battery guns. Finally, Scheme "K" followed Scheme "G" but reverted from turbine to reciprocating machinery and a slower speed to save 500 tons displacement. The "Spring Styles" Book includes two pages of tabular data (Photos # S-584-014 and # S-584-015) comparing these four designs with the preceding Nevada (Battleship # 36) class.

    The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book also includes two additional, later designs that apparently were not sent to the General Board but rather reflected bureau interest in the implications of reverting to twin from triple main battery gun turrets. These two designs (Scheme "L", Photo # S-584-016 and Scheme "M", Photo # S-584-017) both mounted eight 15-inch guns in four twin turrets. One design--Scheme "L"--adopted reciprocating steam machinery for 20.5 knots speed while the other--Scheme "M" employed turbine machinery for a 21 knot speed and a 200 ton displacement savings. The selection of a main battery gun of 15-inch caliber, a type not then under development for the U.S. Navy, apparently reflected a hypothetical assumption by the ship design office that such a weapon, lighter than a 16-inch gun, might help facilitate a compromise in qualities that would be more affordable than a 16-inch gun-armed ship and more capable than a 14-inch gun-armed ship. There is no evidence the Bureau of Ordnance was consulted on this matter, which in any case was not pursued.

    The "Spring Styles" Book includes a drawing for Battleship # 38 dated 24 August 1912 (Photo # S-584-023) that shows a significant change in the design of underwater protection. Whereas earlier preliminary designs placed underwater armor on the outer shell below the main side belt, this later plan shifted the underwater armor to an interior location, installed as a vertical bulkhead set inboard of the hull shell plating. This layout was adopted and a still later drawing in the book (Photo # S-584-041), dated 21 November 1913, almost nine months after the construction contract was signed, confirms the final arrangements.

    With only one battleship (Pennsylvania, Battleship # 38) funded in Fiscal Year 1913, the Secretary of the Navy directed on 10 February 1913 that the one further ship authorized and appropriated in Fiscal Year 1914 be built to the same design. This FY 1914 ship became Arizona (Battleship # 39).

    The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book shows that further significant excursions from previously approved designs were considered between the time the design for the Pennsylvania was approved and that for the similar subsequent New Mexico (Battleship # 40) class was selected. The "Spring Styles" Book includes one radical and enigmatic design that apparently represented an early example of the so-called "Ironsides" concept. The book also includes at this point several examples of a large, fast battleship design that proved to be ahead of its time.

    The so-called "Ironsides" concept was based on the replacement of vertical side belt armor by highly sloped armor. Unfortunately, virtually no original documentation describing this concept survives. The Bureau of Construction & Repair prepared in 1915 Research Data Memorandum No.100, entitled ""Ironsides"--Proposed Battleship, Originated by Constructor D.W. Taylor in 1913 Showing Radical departure from Usual Construction, Sloping Armor, etc.--History of", to summarize the history of the design. Unfortunately, that document is missing at the National Archives (Record Group 19 Bureau of Ships, Preliminary Inventory # 133 Entry 118, Box 3) and all that survives is the derivative account of the concept written by Dr. Norman Friedman, who was able to consult the document before its disappearance, in his book U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1985), pp.147-148.

    The "Spring Styles" Book drawing in question identifies the design with the caption "Possible", implying that the mix of capabilities shown was considered technically feasible, but also perhaps recalling the titles given to a series of innovative battleship designs created by then LCDR Homer C. Poundstone in a 1903 Naval Institute Proceedings article, called "Feasible", "Probable", and "Possible", where "Possible" was an "All-Big-Gun" ship imagined prior to the appearance of HMS Dreadnought.

    The "Spring Styles" Book drawing of this "Possible" design (Photo # S-584-018) was dated 25 March 1912, prior to the earliest date of early 1913 cited for initiation of the "Ironsides" concept. Naval Constructor David W. Taylor was assigned as a senior naval architect in the Bureau of Construction & Repair at this time. The "Spring Styles" Book design is radical in several respects, not just in terms of armor layout. The design incorporates "internal combustion" propulsion--apparently implying diesel power--and shows a complete absence of masts and funnels. (Inconspicuous diesel exhaust vents would have been provided, though with uncertain benefit in clearing the ship of gases.) Very heavy armor protection (17,200 tons, about twice that carried in Nevada) was provided, consistent with Naval Constructor Taylor's known preference for heavy armor. A heavy main battery of ten 16-inch guns is provided, including most notably a midships turret atop an extraordinarily high barbette, apparently to permit longer-range fire and added plunging effect in trajectory. While not extraordinarily fast at 22 knots, the design was faster previous battleships, contributing materially to the very large resulting size of the ship--48,000 tons displacement.

    The "Ironsides" concept was abandoned quickly, contemporary sources citing the potential reduction in stability in the event of flooding on one side, where the unarmored area above the sloping armor would be liable to prompt flooding and risk capsizing the ship. Moreover, as pointed out by Dr. Friedman, the 45-degree slope of the armor in this scheme actually would have reduced its resistance as gun ranges increased in later years, creating an increasingly plunging angle of arrival that would make the armor appear increasingly perpendicular to such diving projectiles.

    The other excursion at this time from contemporary norms focused on creation of a high-speed capital ship. These investigations also involved the introduction of 16-inch guns for the main battery and added much higher speed, in this case, 25 knots. The Bureau of Ordnance already had proposed development of a 16-inch gun in 1911 and construction of a test weapon was approved a year later. The Bureau of Ordnance sent preliminary design drawings for a 16-inch gun turret to the General Board on 6 June 1912 for comment as part of the design process. The first test gun, 16-inch/45-caliber gun Mark I Serial # 1, went to proof at the Naval Proving Ground on 30 September 1914.

    Other surviving records show significant contemporary interest in providing much faster capital ships. Records at the National Archives include evidence that the General Board sent a letter to the Navy War College on 18 January 1913 that was entitled "fast battleships to replace battle cruisers". While the letter has not been found in Washington, D.C. area archives, contemporary "Spring Styles" drawings include designs capable of much more than the standard 20 to 21 knots of contemporary battleships.

    Thus, a battle cruiser preliminary design, the earliest to appear in this collection, was completed on 12 October 1912 (see Photo # S-584-024). This design is described here separately under the battle cruiser ship category. Not long afterwards, a similar design for a battleship completed in February 1913 provided a 16-inch gun main battery in a 25-knot ship (see Photo # S-584-027). No doubt daunted by the estimated 50,000 ton displacement of this design, two subsequent preliminary designs recast this plan with twelve 14-inch guns in lieu of a 16-inch main battery (see Photo # S-584-029) and then, in turn, maintained the twelve 14-inch gun battery and reduced speed to 22 knots (see Photo # S-584-030). The reduction to a 14-inch main battery reduced displacement only by 3,000 tons (to 47,000 tons), still very large, while further reduction to 22 knots maximum speed finally generated significant reduction in size, to 36,500 tons--though still about 5,000 tons larger than the Pennsylvania.

    No other record was found to show Navy interest in advancing these large, high speed battleships at this time. Development began several months later on designs for the new battleships anticipated in Fiscal Year 1915, and these were begun very much on the basis of experience with the Pennsylvania (Battleship # 38) class design. The General Board issued draft characteristics on 20 May 1913 that included three alternative proposals, two that reproduced or slightly modified the Pennsylvania design and one that called for a ship having eight 16-inch guns or twelve 14-inch guns in the main battery, a speed "not less than 21 knots", and side armor 14 inches thick.

    The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book contains a total of twelve drawings for the Fiscal Year 1915 battleship design. The prospect for providing 16-inch guns in the main battery and significantly increasing armor protection appears in these designs, but ultimately the decision was taken to repeat, in most aspects, the Pennsylvania (Battleship # 38) class design.

    The Bureau of Construction & Repair submitted five alternative designs to the General Board on 10 October 1913 and a sixth on 14 October, in support of their deliberations over design priorities. The General Board's Executive Committee met on 21 October to evaluate and select one design of the six for Battleship # 40. Five of the six are included in the 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book, Photos # S-584-032 through S-584-035. The missing sixth design ("Design # 2") was similar to the so-called "Design # 1" mounting ten 16-inch guns except that protection was reduced, with only 13.5-inch side belt armor instead of 16 inches as provided in Design # 1. In a Committee vote on 21 October, Design # 3 (Photo # S-584-032) was preferred, but the Chief Constructor was asked to determine if a revised variant could be created that would shift weight from side protection to underwater protection.

    The Chiefs of the Bureaus of Construction and Repair (Chief Constructor R. M. Watt) and Ordnance (Rear Admiral Joseph Strauss) presented their views on battleship design to the General Board on 1 November, and were asked to return with a "joint recommendation of the type of ship preferred by both." The two bureau chiefs returned on 21 November with two designs.

    The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book meanwhile includes three preliminary designs for Battleship # 40 dated 24 October through 3 November 1913 that apparently were not presented to the General Board and that apparently reflected internal investigation of the implications of various design options. The first, dated 24 October 1913 (Photo # S-584-036) was similar to Design # 4 (Photo # S-584-031) but provided 6-inch guns in the secondary battery rather than 5-inch and had two additional torpedo tubes. The second, dated 29 October 1913, resembled the design of 24 October but provided much heavier protection (9,382 tons compared to 8,162 tons, see Photo # S-584-037). The last of these three designs (Photo # S-584-038) was much smaller, mounting a main battery of only eight 14-inch guns in four twin turrets and having 13.5-inch side armor protection.

    The bureau chiefs presented two designs on 21 November 1913, both proposing a main battery of twelve 14-inch guns in four triple turrets but differing in secondary battery and protection. The first design (Photo # S-584--039) was 36,000 tons while the second (Photo # S-584-040) was 33,200 tons. The first provided 6-inch guns in the secondary battery and 16 inch side armor; the second retained a 5-inch gun secondary battery and had 15-inch side belt armor. The retreat from the 16-inch gun in the main battery is most notable, reflecting a sense that the new weapon was not yet ready for service use. Instead, a new Mark of 14-inch gun in development, the 14-inch/50-caliber gun Mark IV was selected for this class. The first 14-inch/50-caliber gun, Serial # 82, went to proof at the Naval Proving Ground on 18 April 1916.

    The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book includes another very different design for Battleship # 40 dated 13 December that may reflect lingering concern with the new triple main battery gun turret. This design (Photo # S-584-042) provides a main battery of twelve 14-inch guns but disposed in six twin turrets, requiring a ship that was longer and heavier than the designs incorporating triple turrets. No record has been found of any circulation of this design outside the Bureau of Construction & Repair.

    Ultimately, the Secretary of the Navy decided on 3 January 1914 that Battleship # 40 would replicate the design of Pennsylvania (Battleship # 38) with the exception that the 14-inch main battery guns would be mounted independently rather than in a single common sleeve. The separate mountings permitted operation and elevation independent of the other two guns in each turret, but also incorporated a provision to cross connect all three guns to permit firing on a single elevation angle. To incorporate this change, Chief Constructor Watt stated in his transmission letter dated 21 November 1913 for the design of 19 November 1913 (Photo # S-584-040) that "the barbettes have been increased in diameter 30 inches in diameter, and the turrets 30 inches in transverse direction, to provide the necessary room around the guns for their operation and for separate slides. It is possible that this dimension may be somewhat reduced in working out the detailed design of turrets and turret mountings." Photo # S-584-043 in the "Spring Styles" Book shows the design as of 8 January 1914, following departmental approval. Further refinement, taking the hull design closer still to that of the Pennsylvania, took place later in the month, reflected in the "Spring Styles" Book drawing dated 13 January 1914 (Photo # S-584-044).

    It is noteworthy that the Bureau of Construction and Repair's preliminary design of 19 November 1913 (Photo # S-584-040) for the New Mexico class battleships carries the designation as "Preliminary Design No.101". This is the earliest known designation in this common series in the long history of numbered preliminary designs that was sustained into the 1930s (e.g., battleship South Dakota (BB-57) was Preliminary Design # 454). This designation system later was paralleled by and ultimately replaced by the World War II years (1941-1945) with a new alphanumerical system categorized by ship type (e.g., B for battleships, C for cruisers, etc., with, for example, the South Dakota design being Design B-19). (There is no known single common designation system for preliminary designs prior to 1913.)

    Congressional authorization and appropriations were provided in Fiscal Year 1916 for the construction of two battleships, which became the Tennessee (Battleship # 43) class. A brief design history of the class survives in the National Archives Bureau of Ships (Record Group 19) collection in Washington, D.C. This history, Research Data Memorandum No.151 (located in Preliminary Inventory 133 Entry 118), was dated 10 April 1916 and summarizes the main sequence of events in the design of these ships. (The Preliminary Design Book on this class apparently never was accessioned by the Archives and is unlocated.) According to this memorandum, preliminary design work began sometime in 1914, and was "started with the idea of adopting the type of vessel familiarly known as "Ironsides"" (see Photo # S-584-018). The history states that "the radical feature in the ["Ironsides"] design was the 45° sloping side armor, extending to the main deck. Due to questions of stability in damaged condition, this design was considered impractical, and on January 14, 1915, it was decided to proceed with a modified California [i.e., Battleship # 40, renamed New Mexico on 22 March 1916] type of vessel. For history of "Ironsides", see Design Book, pages 27 to 30 inclusive" [this last reference is an example of proof that such class design books were created]. In due course, the Secretary of the Navy directed that characteristics for Battleship # 40 approved on 30 July 1914 be adopted (modified with a reduction in speed by 0.5 knots to 20.5 knots), rather than a more ambitious set (requiring thicker armor) issued by the General Board on 10 June 1914.

    The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book includes two preliminary design drawings for these ships that date from an intermediate phase of design development. The first design (Photo S-584-047), dated 4 October 1914, shows a design very similar to that of Battleship # 40 (see Photo # S-584-044), except that the side protection system of vertical bulkheads on each side has been altered. In this design, the depth of the side protection system inside the hull shell envelope has been increased by 4 feet 3 inches to a total of 15 feet and one additional vertical bulkhead added. The second intermediate design (Photo # S-584-048) appears to represent an attempt to economize in the overall design of the ship. In this design, dated 28 October 1914, the same, shallower side protection system approved for Battleship # 40 is used, plus the ship's length is reduced by 20 feet. Note the so-called "knuckled bulkheads" employed in the side protection system in these two plans, where a right-angle attachment is made to the underside of the sloping armor deck. Contract plans reflected this system of side protection but the contracts were drawn up with provisions for alterations if need be to incorporate desired changes based on planned testing.

    Meanwhile, the Navy was conducting a new series of live fire tests of new designs for side protection systems. The so-called "Caisson No.2", a full-scale section of a battleship side protection system, was tested on 20 July 1915, followed by a series of quarter-scale models that began tests on 29 September 1915. Once analysis of these tests was complete, the side protection system on Battleship # 43 was changed significantly, to a system incorporating five straight, vertical bulkheads set inside the ship's outer shell. While the 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book does not include a final version of the Battleship # 43 design, the layout was very similar to that used in the subsequent class of ships, the Colorado (Battleship # 45) class, and is illustrated most closely here in Photo # S-584-094, showing an alternative design proposed for Battleship # 45 that replicated the final Tennessee (Battleship # 43) design in almost all aspects.

    A total of ten battleships were authorized in Calendar Year 1916 but appropriations (funding) was provided only for four ships in the next forthcoming Fiscal Year, 1917, the other six receiving appropriations during Fiscal Years 1918 and 1919. The first four ships were built to one design while an entirely new design was selected for the six ships built under the latter two fiscal years' shipbuilding programs.

    The Navy Department approved characteristics proposed by the General Board for battleships to be built in Fiscal Year 1917 on.6 October 1915. These characteristics were based on repeating many of the design parameters for the preceding battleship design, the Tennessee (Battleship # 43) class. Changes were directed by increasing steaming radius (from 8,000 to 10,000 miles at 10 knots) and shifting the officers' quarters from aft (in Battleship No.43) to forward. The approved characteristics called for a significant increase in the main battery to ten 16-inch guns, to be mounted in five turrets all placed on the ship centerline.

    Meanwhile, questions had been raised more generally about several design features in Battleship # 43. There was an open question concerning the desirability of shifting from submerged to above water torpedo tubes in battleships, both because of concern about an inability to launch torpedoes at higher speeds and also because the tube doors weakened the ship's underwater integrity. The prospect of shifting to turret mounting for the secondary 5-inch gun battery had been raised, as well as the possibility that ongoing experimental work might develop new and improved concepts in underwater protective systems. Finally, there was an expectation that the Battleship # 43 design would need to be modified to provide specialized spaces needed to fit the new ships as flagships.

    The Bureau of Construction and Repair developed seven alternative preliminary designs to illustrate different main battery arrangements and sent them on 28 March 1916 to the Navy Department via the Bureaus of Ordnance and Steam Engineering. The Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering endorsed the package on 18 April 1916, recommending that any one of the three designs represented in drawing numbers S. & C.B. 002554 (Preliminary Design # 162, Photo # S-584-094), 002555 (Preliminary Design # 163, Photo # S-584-095), or 002556 (Preliminary Design # 164, Photo # S-584-096) be adopted because they "will require very little modification of the designs…and can be gotten out in a short time." In the event that the Department selected a scheme provided five main battery turrets, the Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering recommended that a design placing the turrets outside the machinery spaces be adopted, preferably No.002559 (Preliminary Design # 167, Photo # S-584-099). The other designs would complicate machinery layout and also might require a return to magazine refrigeration for safety in the midships turret powder supply.

    The Bureau of Ordnance, in its endorsement on the package of 4 May 1916, emphasized the "the advantage of duplicating the hull and machinery arrangements of [Battleships #] 43 and 44." This bureau noted that "considerable success has been attained at the recent fleet torpedo practice in firing submerged torpedoes at 20 knots. These torpedoes, however, are not as long as the Mark VIII with which the new ships will be armed." The bureau also stated that "it would be well to retain the single 5-inch mount" until the first twin 4-inch pedestal mount could be tested.

    The Secretary of the Navy reviewed the package and its endorsements and forwarded them to the General Board on 13 May 1916, noting that "the time element" to develop working drawings for construction was "important". The General Board took an aggressive posture, recommending in an endorsement dated 31 May 1916 that 50-caliber 16-inch guns be adopted "if practicable", or 45-caliber 16-inch weapons if not. The board further recommended a ten-gun design, stating that it was "preferable to take 8 weeks for Design No.002558 (Preliminary Design # 166, Photo # S-584-098) rather than accept what it considers an inferior design [i.e., either ships mounting 14-inch guns or only eight 16-inch guns.] (The first 16-inch/50-caliber test gun, 16-inch gun Mark II Serial # 42, went to proof at the Naval Proving Grounds on 8 April 1918.)

    The Secretary of the Navy rebuffed the board's recommendations, starting that it was "the Department's intention to duplicate Battleships No.43 and 44 as nearly as possible in regard to size, armor, and general arrangement" and asking the board on 28 June 1916 to answer the question of preference between eight 45-caliber 16-inch guns or twelve 50-caliber 14-inch guns.

    The General Board returned its answer on 30 June in an endorsement signed by Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger, stating a preference for the 16-inch 45-caliber gun design, but also reiterating a recommendation that the ships be built instead with ten 16-inch 50-caliber guns, believing "that there will be little, if any, delay in the completion of these ships…" The Secretary of the Navy ended the exchange in a letter dated 22 August 1916, directing the provision of eight 16-inch 45-caliber guns in the main battery of the 1917 battleships, duplicating the Tennessee design in most other respects as previously sought. The ships that were built became the Colorado (Battleship # 45), Maryland (Battleship # 46), and West Virginia (Battleship # 48). A fourth unit of the class, Washington (Battleship # 47) was canceled under terms of the Washington naval arms limitation treaty terms of 1921-22 and expended as a target.

    Each of the original drawings shown is a blueprint copy of an original ink on linen plan. The original ink drawing currently is unlocated. Each of the blueprint copies includes a pencil annotation in the left margin, written sideways, that records the fact that blueprint copies of each were provided on 28 March 1916 to a correspondence record book, to the Preliminary Design Book, and--in two copies--to Navy Department headquarters.

    This account of the development of the preliminary design for the Colorado (Battleship # 45) class battleships was taken from correspondence in the National Archives Record Group 19, Bureau of Ships, Bureau of Construction & Repair Correspondence Concerning Ships 1916-1925, File 22-B45 to 48, filed in Preliminary Inventory # 133 Entry 105, Box 1247.

    The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book includes a set of four preliminary designs (Photos # S-584-104 through # S-584-106 and # S-584-114) illustrating the development of the next battleship design adopted for the U.S. Navy, the South Dakota (Battleship # 49) class of the Fiscal Year 1917-1918 shipbuilding programs. Keels were laid for these six ships only in 1920-1921 after some delays and all were canceled prior to launch as a result of the 1922 Washington Treaty on armaments limitation.

    The Bureau of Construction & Repair forwarded the first three alternative preliminary designs (Photos # S-584-104 through # S-584-106) to the Secretary of the Navy on 21 December 1916. The Secretary in turn forwarded the drawings to the General Board for comment. The Board replied to the Secretary on 2 January 1917, recommending against Scheme # 3's taller barbette for Turret II that both supported the turret and housed a large armored conning tower. The Board also recommended some modifications in the location of secondary battery guns, placement of the forward cage mast abaft rather than on top of the conning tower, and the combining of smoke uptakes into one single funnel. The Secretary of the Navy approved the General Board's position on 25 January 1917. These changes, as well as some other modifications, are reflected in a preliminary design drawing dated 18 January 1918 (Photo # S-584-114). The final design for the class is reflected in Photo # S-584-132.

    At Congressional request, the Navy prepared a series of designs during the winter of 1916-1917 for a hypothetical battleship that would be the largest possible vessel that could use the existing facilities of the Panama Canal to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Produced at the request of South Carolina Senator Benjamin Tillman (U.S. Senator from 1895 until his death in 1918), these designs never were considered as likely to be adopted for construction. They represent, however, illustrations of how such large vessels might have developed had circumstances allowed. The 1911-1925 "Spring Styles" Book includes six designs prepared for Senator Tillman and the Congress. As expected, no practical use was made of any of them.

    The Navy devoted very serious interest, on the other hand, at this time to the question of increasing speed in capital ships. The Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, Rear Admiral David W. Taylor, called on 9 April 1918 to his design team to examine "combining the principal features of the battleship and battle cruiser classes…to get as much speed as practicable in a vessel carrying a maximum battery and as much protection as possible." While well smaller than the "Tillman Battleship" designs, they still proved very large, about 50,000 tons displacement.

    One very unusual aspect of these designs is that two parallel series of designs were created, one by the U.S. designers, led by civilian James L. Bates, and a second drawn independently by the British exchange officer Stanley Goodall, serving at this time in the Bureau of Construction and Repair. (U.S. Naval Constructor Lewis McBride represented the United States in the British Navy's ship design office at this time, in exchange.) Two designs were prepared by Bates (Photos # S-584-133 and # S-584-134), captioned as "Fast Battleships", and two by Goodall (Photos # S-584-136 and # S-584-137), captioned as "Battleship Cruisers." The collection also includes one rough draft by Bates (Photo # S-584-130) and one detail plan of armor arrangements by Goodall (Photo # S-584-138)

    The material bureaus took their interest in such a high-speed capital ship to the Secretary of the Navy in what appears to have been an independent initiative, lacking instructions from the Navy headquarters, on 3 June 1918. The Bureaus of Construction & Repair, Ordnance, and Steam Engineering sent a joint memorandum on that date to the Secretary of the Navy entitled "Capital Ships--Preliminary Design". Delays with progress on the 1917-1918 battleships and continuing major changes in the battle cruiser design (see battle cruiser section) caused the bureaus to question the merits of the currently approved capital ship designs. The letter asked "whether the time has come to abolish the distinction between battleships and battle cruisers and combine the two types in a high-speed battleship, or heavily armed and armored battle cruiser…" The bureaus attached two preliminary designs, admittedly "in no sense complete…" but offered as "illustrative" of future possibilities, those prepared by Mr. Bates in May (Design "C", Photo # S-584-134) and Design "D" (Photo # S-584-133). Two additional attachments, Scheme "A" (the latest representation of the design for Battleship # 49, Photo # S-584-132) and Scheme "B" (a modified version of the current Battle Cruiser # 1 design, Photo # S-584-135), were provided for reference.

    The Navy's leadership declined at this time to adopt such a radical, and costly recasting of capital ship design at this point, preferring to proceed with construction of the South Dakota (Battleship # 49) and Lexington (Battle Cruiser # 1) classes, the latter substantially modified. Preliminary design work on new fast battleships continued, however, and two later "Spring Styles" Book drawings (Photos # S-584-146 and # S-584-147) show how thinking on such a ship had advanced by early 1919. These designs were part of the work undertaken under Preliminary Design # 215, entitled "1920 Capital Ship", but unfortunately this particular design workbook is missing from the collection at the National Archives and so no background on design goals and priorities is available. The end of the war, however, with subsequent significant reductions in military spending, made such ambitious concepts increasingly problematical, and none were pursued beyond such initial stages.

    The final set of eight battleship drawings (Photo # S-584-149 through Photo # S-584-156) provides preliminary designs and design data for a series of designs of so-called "Small Battleships". The origin and purpose of this set of designs is not well documented. The preliminary design workbook for these designs survives at the National Archives in Record Group 19, Preliminary Design Data for Ships 1914-1927 (Preliminary Inventory # 133 Entry 449, Box 26), as Preliminary Design 214. An entry in this design book states that the Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair (Rear Admiral David W. Taylor) asked the Preliminary Design Branch on 8 March 1919 to develop a set of comparative studies for such a ship type, providing some summary characteristics as a guide. Unfortunately, no other documentation concerning these designs has been found, leaving modern researchers to speculate that this design program was undertaken as a timely internal investigation within the Bureau to gain insights into the feasible lower limits on capital ship size, in light of postwar retrenchment in military budgets. It is interesting to see that the designers used pre-dreadnought type battleships as their precedent (see the tabular data in Photos # S-584-155 and # S-584-156) in evaluating the validity of the mix of capabilities foreseen in the new preliminary designs.

    This page features introductory text concerning the battleship plans in the 1911-1925 Bureau of Ships 'Spring Styles' book.

    For links to the battleship drawings in this book, see:

  • Bureau of Ships' "Spring Styles" Book # 1 (1911-1925) -- Battleship Preliminary Design Drawings.

    For general information on this album, see:

  • Bureau of Ships' "Spring Styles" Book # 1 (1911-1925) -- General Description.


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