I went down to Norfolk for Virginia Forestry Association meeting. I have a lot to write from the meeting, but Norfolk itself was interesting. Among the attractions is the Battleship Wisconsin.
I didn’t know that the battleship Wisconsin was docked there but I really enjoyed the visit. You can find some of the details at this link.
Battleships were the symbol of power for almost a century. They were made obsolete by the advent of sophisticated airpower & precise missiles, at least that is the usual explanation. And it is true as far as it goes. But there is more and it becomes clear as you walk around the ship.
A battleship is very much a product of the mechanical age. It reminds you of an old factory and it is a giant machine in the early 20th Century sense. It is filled with precision instruments and designed to be run by machinists and engineers, lots of them. Loading the guns took big crews. Keeping the rust off the boat took big crews. Oiling the cogs and cranks took big crews. A modern ship doesn’t have to be so big to carry the firepower and it doesn’t need the really big crews to make it work.
As with factories on land, a lot of the tasks once done by vast crews of semi-skilled men are now done by machines. The precision devices are replaced by electronics. The calculations done by scores of engineers are now done instantly by computers. We can no longer afford battleships because we no longer can afford the big crews needed to run them and we no longer need them anyway since a much smaller package can pack a much bigger payload.
Above – the battleship deck is made of teak wood. It protected the steel deck below. I wonder how much it would cost for such a well constructed teak deck now. I don’t think I could afford even a small one at my house.
A battleship is beautiful and graceful. Like a medieval castle, which was also a complicated engine of war, it now seems more a work of artful engineering than a very large lethal weapon. But that is what it was. It is worth seeing for all the reasons above.
Above – battleships were classy. This is the silver set from the Wisconsin. It was a gift from the people of Wisconsin to the USN. My mother and father were taxpayers back then, so I guess my family helped buy it.