Home » Submarine Forces » Survey: What is the Greatest Warship of All Time and Why?

Survey: What is the Greatest Warship of All Time and Why?

From the biremes of the ancient Greeks and Assyrians to contemporary guided missile destroyers and cruisers, naval vessels have been used by nations the world over to control the seas and exert influence far from shore. USNI News wants to know what our readers think is the most influential warship or warship class in history on or under the ocean and why.

Please enter your thoughts in our survey that will stay open for a week. Once the results are tabulated we’ll share our findings in a follow-on piece.

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Categories: Submarine Forces, Surface Forces, Survey
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • sferrin

    Class or specific ship?

    • Steven Schulz

      My thoughts exactly. USNI article says class, but the article’s title and the survey both say ship.

      • The intent was for class, but we wanted to leave it open for class or ship not to exclude the historical one offs like Victory or Constitution.

  • Phil Verhey

    Class of ship: British navy 1st rate ship of the line.

    Individual Ship: USS Enterprise

    Honourable mention: every damn concoction devised by the Vikings … from Africa to Canada, across the ridiculous north Atlantic & down every river, then portaging to the next… as powerful as Mongol horseback Archers but with more utility

    • @USS_Fallujah

      I’d actually say the 70gun 3rd Class Ship of the Line, if we’re talking “class” of ships (they didn’t really have that in the Napoleonic Era) were the real difference makers for the RN.

      • Noble

        I’m thinking the Royal Navy’s 5th-rate frigates myself, such as the Lively and Apollo classes. Can’t maintain a far-flung empire without the frigates. I’ll agree with the 3rd rates for “most significant capital ship design”.

        • Ed L


          • Secundius

            USS Constitution, was a Super Frigate (Heavy Frigate) with a 54-Gun Rating (32×24-pounders Long-Guns, 20×32-pounder Carronades and 2×24-pounder Bow Chasers)…

    • Bhess

      Individual ship it’s got to be CV-6. I’m fairly well read on the subject but I am open to argument but for an individual ship I can’t see another ship beating her. It’s still an embarrassment she wasn’t preserved.
      Class of ship I got to say I am leaning towards the cruiser class. Just in WWII the cruiser class kept the Brits in the Atlantic and the Americans in the Pacific re: Guadalcanal. Plus their utility all over the world. The Brit cruisers did the real work in the Atlantic. In the Solomons cruisers took it on the chin to keep the US in the fight.

      • James B.

        In single ships; I could also see an argument for HMS Warspite: she was commissioned in 1915, fought from Jutland to Normandy, including surviving two Fritz-X glide bombs in 1943. Warspite has more battle honors than any other RN ship, even surpassing Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory.

        Personally, I still give it to Enterprise, because she fought the duration of the Pacific War and survived all the major battles without any notable damage until very late in the war.

  • Florian Lecourtois Brenot

    HMS Northumberland, 70-gun third-rate, both Royal Navy and captured by the Marine Royal, before scrapped and rebuildt and captured by the Royal Navy…return to sender

  • John B. Morgen

    The German battleship Tirpitz affected the naval strategy during the Second World War, by forcing the allies to keep a small fleet of battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers; just to go up against one German battleship. A small fleet naval force that could have been deployed elsewhere where capital warships were in very short supply.

  • Hugh

    HMS DREADNAUGHT – the basis of 20th century battleships.

    • IanK98

      agree….at the time a revolutionary design and essentially rendered all navy ships obsolete. Every navy started over with their own “dreadnaught” style ships.

  • Matt Eiffel

    The vote options are mainly Enterprise and Constitution. Both good options.

    • RobM1981

      Emotionally they are my favorites, but what made them “best” was largely seamanship and luck. Enterprise was not intrinsically superior to, say, Zuikaku. She carried more planes, which is a big deal, but not earth-shaking.

      Constitution and her sisters were inarguably the finest frigates afloat, but they could easily have been defeated by a superior foe.

      Only USS Nautilus and the other early SSN’s approach the point where they were truly unstoppable. The only thing that would have kept Nautilus from sinking 100 Soviet ships in 1958 would have been her supply of torpedoes.

      The other contender is Polaris. Ike even counseled JFK, “you have Polaris.” That was revolutionary.

      • El_Sid

        Constitution and her sisters were inarguably the finest frigates afloat, but they could easily have been defeated by a superior foe.

        Not just a superior foe – the fates of President and Chesapeake emphasise the part played by luck, seamanship and preservation in the fame of Constitution.

        Only USS Nautilus and the other early SSN’s approach the point where they were truly unstoppable.

        Compared to steam over sail? Or the screw propeller? Or the trireme? The trouble with US SSN’s is that they haven’t even sunk a ship yet, perhaps HMS Conqueror should be taken as representing a nuclear-powered submarine _war_ship?

        • grandpabluewater

          Sank one ship and isolated the Falklands, Argentinian Navy stayed in port after that. Most Decisive single ship? In the running, anyway.

  • Mike Marotta PO3 (TXSG)

    The tally must gather all duplicate answers. CV6 Enterprise is offered about 20 times. Other duplicates also are in the mix.

  • Redskin

    The USS Constitution – first and foremost is the most important ship ever built!! Naval Act of
    1794 started the building of (6) frigates (United States, Constellation, Constitution,
    Chesapeake, Congress, and President.
    They were the bell ringers of the U S NAVY!! The Constitution identified itself as the start
    of Naval Sea Power by the then fledging government—Untied States. Let us not forget our start!!

    • @USS_Fallujah

      Constitution had great success in the early parts of the War of 1812, but spend most the war bottled up in port. Arguably the USS Essex had more affect on the outcome of the war by raiding the whaling grounds of the SE Pacific. I voted for the Essex class CV, but I can see the appeal of Big E as the greatest ship.

    • Ed L

      And being from the Frigate family of the late 18th century to the early 19th century. A game changer in warfare Plus she was in service for over 80 years and still able to do 9 knots under sail

  • NEIL44

    HMS President (formerly USS President) to remind everyone that Britannia ruled the seas for 300 years

  • El_Sid

    Poor poll structure, because people are obviously confused whether they are meant to vote for a single unit, a class or a category of ship. And it would make it a lot more interesting if people were required to vote for a ship from another country, otherwise it just turns into a poll of what country people come from. I suspect very few non-USians would ever vote for USS Constitution for instance, it’s very symbolic locally but not that important on a global scale.

    And bias means that there will be lots of votes for CV-6, but none for the Akagi, even though she (and her sisters/nieces) was what enabled the attack on Pearl Harbor in the first place. And if you’re making a case for sea-launched air power, then HMS Illustrious got there first with the attack on Taranto. Although CVN’s are sexy and big and visible, the whole “no need to supply” thing only works if you have nuclear-powered escorts and nuclear-powered planes, worked by robot, nuclear-powered, sailors. Nuclear propulsion is far more significant for submarines, so Nautilus goes ahead of CVN-65. But is nuke power more important than steam (HMS Comet) or the screw propeller (HMS Rattler)?

    Talking of subs, there’s a good argument for U-boats of both WWI and WWII – and the RN’s most important ship class of all time being the Flower-class corvettes. In terms of geopolitical impact, the carrier probably trails in comparison to the trireme, the Viking longship, the carrack (which enabled the Age of Discovery, from Magellan to Columbus) and the galleon (which allowed the exploitation of those discoveries and led to all sorts of economic impacts). In terms of influence, how about a 10-gun sloop called HMS Beagle, who carried a young naturalist called Charles Darwin to the Galapagos and beyond?

    In terms of individual ships, I’d go for the Tirpitz over the Bismarck for tying up more enemy assets for longer, but the Admiral Scheer must be in with a shout, I think it sank the greatest tonnage of any ship in WWII. Most Brits will probably go for HMS Victory, but arguably Quiberon Bay was more important than Trafalgar, it’s just that few people these days have heard of Hawke and his flagship HMS Royal George. Certainly she’s the most important ship in the history of Canada. And if you’re looking for battle honours, then HMS Warspite is worth a shout – from Jutland to firing the opening shots on D-day, by way of Taranto, Cape Matapan, the Far East and one of the first hits by a guided missile.

    • Sid, thanks for the comment. We’re trying something a little different with surveys and our intent was to leave the question as open-ended as possible, ship or class, for example it’s tough to call Constitution or Victory part of a class but we did not want to exclude them from the poll. We’ll take your suggestions for the next series of surveys and see what we can learn.

      • El_Sid

        I think most people are comfortable with the idea of a one-ship class (and both the ones you mention have cousins that were at least as similar as members of eg the Leander or Krivak “classes”). It’s more the other end that gets awkward – comparing even a class of ships up against “the aircraft carrier” or “submarine”.

        Be interested to see how the votes would fall for “greatest French ship of all time” ;-/

    • Henry Sirotin

      Why the U-boat? The USN fleet boats waged the only _successful_ submarine campaign in history.

      • grandpabluewater

        Das U Booten….close, but no cigar. Fleet Boats, walked away with all the chips in the pot.

      • El_Sid

        U-boats started it, in WWI and WWII – their main problem was the enemy they chose. For instance, in WWII, the Allies sank less than 10 million tons of Japanese shipping, the U-boats sank 50% more than that but couldn’t compete against the size of the British merchant navy (a third of world tonnage) and her capacity to replenish them, let alone once the US came along. If you look at percentages, the Allies in the Pacific were about 55% of total sinkings by submarines, the U-boats scored 68% – and that was despite all the political problems which could have seen much more emphasis on submarines.

  • Matt

    It is poorly worded. USS Monitor- impact, use of steel! All carriers and subs constructed of it. Revolving enclosed turret, ALL subsequent main batteries revolved. Impact to this day !

    • El_Sid

      HMS Trusty had a revolving turret before the Monitor, and the Lady Nancy barge had one in the Crimean War, designs for turrets go back to Napoleonic times.

      As for steel – surely that’s just a variation on the ironclad (so La Gloire), and steel had been used for rams etc before Monitor. If you regard steel as the big innovation then you have to wait until the Redoutable for a ship to be principally made of steel.

      • Tim Dolan

        My understanding was it was not the Monitor itself, it was the clash between the Monitor and Merrimack that was the historical significance. The first time two steel clad ships faced each other. And thus the name of the battle and later the bridge-tunnel near me.

  • RobM1981

    USS Nautilus and her sisters/near-sisters. Until there was another SSN, they were unique and undoubtedly ruled the waves. Nothing – zero – could have stopped them for something like ten years.

    George Washington and the SSBN’s are close behind. Nuclear powered submarines carrying nuclear tipped missiles that could be fired from underwater? That’s as revolutionary as it gets. No other navy had anything close for, again, at least ten years – and even then it can be argued that the RN couldn’t have done it without us, and that the Soviet response was “weak” if you are charitable.

    Essex, Gato, Type VIIC, the Fast Frigates, and other such vessels certainly had huge impacts, but they weren’t unique.

    The Essex was better than anything that the IJN or RN built, but not radically better. The VIIC’s were a scourge, of course, but they were defeatable. The Gato’s were actually pretty mediocre boats, manned by extraordinarily brave and talented sailors.

    Even Constitution would have been lost to the British if not for some amazing seamanship. She was better, one on one, than anything in the RN – but she was hardly invulnerable.

    Nautilus comes as close to invulnerable, in her day, as exists. She truly could have engaged any fleet, including our own, at will. She could have torpedoed ships until she ran out of fish, and then left. Very unlikely that she could have been stopped.

    Even today a good SSN (or SSK) is still extremely asymmetric. The SSN, in general, is the type. Nautilus, as the first, is the boat.

    • El_Sid

      Nothing – zero – could have stopped them for something like ten years….huge impacts, but they weren’t unique…she was hardly invulnerable….

      OK, we get it, your criterion for “greatness” is tech coolness and a brief period of uniqueness and invulnerability. I bet you have a poster of the Death Star on your wall.

      I suspect that for most people a fighting ship achieves greatness by fighting, in which technology is just one factor along with the courage, training and smarts of the crew. USS Johnston is a great ship – a very ordinary Fletcher-class made great by what happened off Samar. Changing history also has to be a factor – Trafalgar being the classic example. SSBNs clearly haven’t fought and it could be argued they haven’t changed history. Nuclear weapons of all kinds kept the “peace” in the Cold War regardless of submarines, history would have worked out pretty similarly if the great powers had only truck-mounted ICBMs. It’s true that launching a ballistic missile from a sub was a real landmark – but that honour goes to B-62, the prototype Zulu IV. There were SSB’s before there were SSBN’s.

      If invulnerability is a criterion, then La Gloire and HMS Warrior must be in with a shout.

      • johnbull

        Great point- in the states we get all excited about the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, but the French and Brits both had vastly superior ironclads in service when our unpleasantness broke out.

      • grandpabluewater

        In terms of historic strategic role, the 41 SSBNs were rated the greatest threat and check on the success of the Soviet Union and the advance of the Communist ideology…by the Russians themselves, in Q&A after an official speech by a Soviet General Officer, to the US Armed Forces Staff College in 1991. Heard it myself.

        The most sincere professional compliment I ever had.

        • El_Sid

          That doesn’t prove the alternative. What constrained the USSR was the threat of Moscow becoming a lot warmer and sunnier. The SSBNs represented the greatest threat of that happening, but if they didn’t exist then that didn’t mean there was no way for Moscow to be wiped out. The same investment in truck-based missiles would still have threatened armageddon. The probability of it happening might have been a little less, but it’s still such a threat that it would constrain the USSR.

          • grandpabluewater

            The topic is greatness of ships. Trucks, and missile systems on trucks which were never built, do not bear on the question. Neither are missiles on an orbiting space station, or in a converted merchant ship, or suitcase bombs concealed under the back seat of automobiles shipped to Moscow for the use of the US Ambassador and his staff. Just imaginary alternatives, never existed.

            In point of fact the SSBN SLBM systems were the only delivery system that could not be located and countered at their home base by some method or another. The Soviets tried, but even reading the FBM broadcast when the Walker Ring delivered its Crypto keylists for a very considerable period of time before their operation was blown was not enough.

            No Soviet ever tracked a USN Boomer when on patrol. Ever. Still true. Delivery Guanteed. Sunrise on the Kremlin and a great deal more, any time, any direction. Also still true. China and Jihadi HQs take note.

            And the Bears knew it. Deterrance held. Rock solid. Fact. No speculation about what if can negate that achievement.

            So the Red Army never got to wash its socks in the waters of the English Channel. And now you know why, and how, and who.

            Submarines once, Submarines twice…..

          • El_Sid

            Your argument is that SLBM’s were solely responsible for the Cold War going hot – my suggestion is that it was the threat of Moscow disappearing that was the real threat. And land-based weapons could make that happen. They may have had more confidence in taking out land-based weapons – but could they be 100% certain? Certainly land-based weapons seemed effective enough when they were based in Cuba.

            Even without any strategic nukes, the tactical nukes probably provided sufficient deterrent – they would have made a bit of a mess of Germany, but supposedly one of the scariest things the Soviets was our low stocks of conventional weapons in Germany, implying we would have escalated very quickly in response to a move west.

            SSBNs helped build this picture – but they were just one member of the team, rather than a unique game-changer like the ironclads or steam propulsion.

          • grandpabluewater

            Not what the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces General said in the Q&A in 1990. The target of all deterrent forces is the mind of the enemy. Bulleye: Boomers, QED.
            All that other stuff is speculation, the SSBN’s invulnerability and undetectability is historical fact.
            Somebody in the five sided rat maze must held similar views, given Colin Powell’s early 1990’s statement that the “Nuclear Triad” was likely moving to become the “Nuclear Tricycle”, with the FBM force the big wheel. Which proved prophetic. As the AF’s problems with their Bombers’ and Poles in the Holes’ problems with nuclear weapons safety, security and troop morale in the last decade. Lead to a slight change in senior staffing for the guys and gals in the sky blue suits, a few years ago, as I recall.
            The Army’s nuclear weapons equipped trucks and jeeps are a solidly dumb idea, since Spetznaz (sp?) could drop into the motor pools and ammo storage activities where they were kept (somewhere in (Germany?) when not trotted out for maneuvers, grab ’em and turn ’em around and nuke SHAEF while it was fast asleep… if they really exerted themselves. How’s that for a speculation?

          • sferrin

            But they DID exist. The truck-based missiles did not.

    • grandpabluewater

      Nautilus had no sister ship. One ship class and prototype. In terms of engineering innovation and revolutionary change, reasonable choice.

      The US fleet submarine of WWII and the various GUPPY variants, in terms of combat record, cold war record, and sustained utility and lethality is the King of types… in my humble opinion. Heroic, ship after ship after ship, decade after decade.

      A single ship? USS Parche (the SSN). In terms of unit awards, no other is even close.

      In terms of strategic effect, the first 41 (for freedom) SSBNs. For sustained superior performance and adaptablility, USS Tunny – the SS, SSG and LPSS (same ship).

      But any of those in the pantheon will do. Harder, Darter, Trigger, Trout, Tang, Wahoo, Gudgeon, Silversides, Flasher, Dace, Sailfish, Sculpin. No objection.

      • RobM1981

        Emotionally I have to agree that the Fleet subs, particularly the Gato’s and earlier but even up through the Tench’s, have combat records that are unmatched in the USN. Perhaps there are some VII-C’s that are comparable.

        The fact that they went out, again and again, until destroyed or needing a total refit, is simply unbelievable.

        However: I’ve read many a story that makes it clear: the boats themselves weren’t anything special. They were noisy and rather shallow diving until post-Gato. They were large because they had to be – 10 tubes, 24 fish, and a lot of fuel – but that also made them less than maneuverable when submerged. The large armament and long range was great, but the torpedo issues will always be a stain on the Navy (NOT the crews, of course).

        If “greatest” is meant to be one ship, meaning crew and vessel, then there are quite a few to choose from. I’d choose an SS because, unlike CV-6, the crew did all of the fighting. There was no air group that came and went, to share in the honors.

        Which sub? I couldn’t choose. Harder leaps to mind, but that’s without a lot of thought.

        No, I’m sticking with Nautilus. I don’t believe that her crew was any less than the others. I believe she was crewed by very brave men who, thankfully, didn’t have to face combat.

        And one of the main reasons that they didn’t was because of the boat they manned. That boat changed things, like no other submarine ever did. Even the early Holland boats were seen as “promising” but hardly “menacing.”

        Nautilus was a direct, obvious, and clear threat. Yes, she was noisy. Yes, her hull form certainly didn’t help her. But there was never any doubt that she could approach any Task Force in the world, gut it, and get away clean.

        She, to quote Crimson Tide, “gave the other guy Pause…”

        That’s pretty unique.

        • grandpabluewater

          Actually, the fixes that made the Mk 14 torpedo a reliable weapon were fixed by the Torpedo shop at Subase Pearl and the TM’s and officers on the boats and at the Squadron level, with the support and protection of Rear Admiral Lockwood, the force commander.
          The problems stemmed from errors made in peacetime. They were quickly fixed or compensated for. The boats were superbly handled and the tactics developed in house to compensate for the flaws. They continuously improved until they were decisive. None of the shortcomings were, ultimately, close to decisive.
          20% casualties, never wavered. Daunting problems solved. 6% of the Navy sank half of the enemy’s warships and most of the enemies merchant marine, kept the Philippine resistance in the fight, and did amazing special missions. Won the submarine campaign and put Japan on the ropes. The only strategically successful submarine attrition campaign in history. Others tried, but ultimately failed.
          Modified by lessons learned, the boats served effectively as a potent fleet asset for another 20 years and just kept getting better. Eventually, put out to pasture while still potent. Age and advancing science eventually ended their careers. Comes to all the works of man.
          Nobody has ever done it better. Ever. Oh, and Wahoo and Flasher and Silversides and Parche own the patents on gutting task forces and getting away clean.
          Cue Ms Tina Turner:
          “Simply the best;
          Better than all the rest…”

          • publius_maximus_III

            You probably already knew this, grandpabluewater, but the original WW-II torpedoes were often duds. Many sub skippers swore they had an enemy ship dead to rights in their crosshairs, only to see them steaming away after their launch of a perfectly aimed spray. The higher ups discounted such reports, at least for a while, thinking they were just CYA’s. But as they became more and more frequent, one fellow took such reports seriously, and in one instance ran a number of tests where the suspect torpedoes were launched at a “can’t miss” cliff. No boom. Further investigation revealed that the trigger mechanism would jam if the direction of impact was close to being perfectly perpendicular to the target (i.e., the more perfect the shot, the more likely a misfire –glancing blows no problem.)

          • Secundius

            Are you Sure. One Report claimed a Faulty Depth Gauge which was a Factory Faulty Setting. Actual Depth was Between 8 and 11-feet of their Setting Depth. Some Boat Skippers Ran the Torpedoes a 0.0-feet…

          • publius_maximus_III

            Yes, I am. But you are right, too, Secundius. There were multiple problems, which unfortunately had to be solved one at a time. Here is a description of the one verified by firing several suspect torpedoes into a Hawaiian cliff face (quote is from http://www-DOT-public-DOT-navy-DOT-mil/subfor/underseawarfaremagazine/issues/archives/issue_47/torpedo_2.html):

            (replace “-DOT-” with “.” )


            The Last Problem

            Elimination of the influence detonator exposed grave defects in the impact detonator. On July 24, 1943, yet another skipper went to great lengths to document torpedo failures, systematically firing torpedo after torpedo at the same tanker under near-perfect conditions until he had recorded 11 hits with no effect. Lockwood then authorized the experimental firing of impact torpedoes against a Hawaiian cliff face, which began on Aug. 11.

            Examination of the first failed torpedo revealed that the fragile detonator mechanism, distorted by the impact, prevented the firing pin from striking with sufficient force to initiate an explosion. Subsequent drop tests on land with dummy warheads showed that a perfect hit at 90 degrees crushed the detonator and prevented it from working, whereas a glancing blow at 45 degrees left it sufficiently intact to set off an explosion. Twenty-one months after Pearl Harbor, the last major torpedo malfunction was finally identified. While the fleet made interim fixes, the Torpedo Station conducted follow-up tests and ordered a redesign.

          • grandpabluewater

            Firing pin was too heavy and not strong enough to keep the inertia effect of the sudden deceleration at time of striking the target from distorting the pin so it couldn’t move cleanly and unimpeded to strike with the prescribed force. The solution was to machine new pins from aircraft propellers in the boneyard at NAS Barbers Point. Worked just fine. The irony is the scrap chosen was from shot down Japanese aircraft from the battle at Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 41.

          • grandpabluewater

            Torpedo Station’s action was taken with a gun to its head. The Subase Pearl shops were already installing the firing pin fix on every torpedo before it was loaded on a sub going on Patrol. Eventually the modified exploder from the TorpSta made its way into the system. Much later.

          • grandpabluewater

            The torpedoes were shot through a vertically hung fishing net, which stopped the argument since the hole where the torpedo ran through the net was (as you report) 8-11 feet off from the running depth set into the fish prior to launch. That stopped the argument. Lesson learned? Bunch of guys sitting around a table arguing get trumped by one real world test. Problem was time lost arguing before the guys in the theater of war went and checked by real world test what the facts were.

            But there were still problems. Tests came quicker and the solutions did too.

            Moral of the story….in Theory there should be no differences between theory and practice. In Practice there usually are. Really world trumps theory world.

          • Secundius

            If you Bothered Reading ANY of my Past Posting, I’ve Saying the Samething For Years. “You Can Program VIRTUAL, You Can’t Program REAL”…

          • grandpabluewater

            Interesting speci a l case of my general principle. How can I but agree.

  • johnbull

    I cast my ballot for a ship type- the frigates of old and their modern equivalent the cruiser. One could make a great case for CVN 65, CV 6, the submarine, the Nimitz class, for the Viking longboat, the ship of the line. I’m surprised at no love for the Iowas though?

  • vincedc

    Yorktown CV-5. Almost sunk in one battle and was still able to return for the Battle of Midway. But it was more about the crew and people who repaired her, than the actual hull.

    • Bhess

      If it wasn’t for that sub she would have made it. A battlecruiser hull turned into a carrier was awesome.

      • DepDawg

        Yorktown was a separate class than the USS Lexington/Saratoga, which were built on battlecruiser hulls made available by the Washington Naval Treaty limitations on capital ships. Lex and Sara built in early 20’s, Yorktown built in mid-30’s.

  • sferrin

    Let’s not forget the Iowa class BBs, specifically the New Jersey. Fought four different wars.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    I gotta go with the Starship “Enterprise”! What a ‘franchise’, eh?

    On a more serious note, two ships come to my mind based on the success they had. They are the CSS Alabama and the CSS Shenandoah. Do they qualify as ‘the greatest’ to ever take to the seas? Probably not, but they did make quite an impact when they were around and employed.

  • Bhess

    USS Enterprise CV-6. The ship and crew did more than any other ship. Especially early in the war she was a big reason the USN was able to survive and go forward. There was no oil for the BB’s so the CV’s carried the load in the Pacific. The CV-6 was also in many battles, it did not shy from the fight.
    It asks “greatest” warship not “most influential”.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Noah’s Ark — for although she had no armament, and only limited reconnaissance aircraft, safe within the confines of her hull during the squall to end all squalls were the ancestors of all future sailors, marines, Naval aviators, defense contractors, BUPERS personnel, USNI News contributors and commenters, Commanders-in-Chief, and scuttlebutt manufacturers, to name just a few.

    • old guy

      Did you know that the Liberty ships of WW2, closely matched the dimensions of the Ark?

      • publius_maximus_III

        No I didn’t, old guy, but thanks for the info. I doubt their plans were dimensioned in cubits, though.

        Speaking of the Liberty Ships, I recall seeing row-after-row of them tied up next to each other in the Hudson River when I was a kid, on our way up to visit West Point. They were apparently awaiting their turn to be cut up into razor blades. That was in the mid-1960’s, so they would have been at least 20 years old then. I later found and built a scale model of one, kind of a “Plain Jane” sitting there on the shelf with the BB’s, CV’s, DD’s, and SSBN’s.

        If I’m not mistaken, the Liberty Ship was how we discovered certain steels become brittle at low temperature, and began adding alloys to the melts to increase their impact strength at lower temperatures. I believe they were making a weld on one that was tied up at a dock, and it just cracked right in half. An investigation eventually found the cause. No telling how many went to the bottom of that cold North Atlantic, and not from a U-boat’s torpedoes, before the problem was discovered.

        • publius_maximus_III

          From NIST_CharpyHistory.pdf:

          Evolution of the Impact Testing up to the Beginning of the 1950s

          “Impact testing seems to have been adopted for internal use by some organisations around the world, but was not a common requirement in purchase specifications and construction standards until the recognition of its ability to detect the ductile-to-brittle transition in steel. Probably the greatest single impetus toward implementation of impact testing in fabrication standards and material specifications came as a result of the large number of failures in Liberty ships (a U.S. design) that occurred during World War II. These fractures occurred without any remarkable plastic deformation. Understanding the circumstances and elimination of these failures became a national effort during the war and a large research project was launched where impact testing was found to reveal a brittle-ductile transition behaviour of steels. These problems were so severe that the Secretary of the U.S. Navy convened a Board of Investigation to determine the causes and to make recommendations to correct them. The final report of this Board stated that of 4694 welded-steel merchant ships studied from February 1942 to March 1946, 970 (over 20 %) suffered some fractures that required repairs (Anon 1947). The magnitudes of the fractures ranged from minor fractures that could be repaired during the next stop in port, to 8 fractures that were sufficiently severe to force abandonment of these ships at sea. Remedies included changes to the design, changes in the fabrication procedures and retrofits, as well as impact requirements on the materials of construction. The time pressures of the war effort did not permit thorough documentation of the effect of these remedies in technical reports at that time; however, assurance that these remedies were successful is documented by the record of ship fractures that showed a consistent reduction in fracture events from over 130 per month in March 1944 to fewer than 5 per month in March 1946, even though the total number of these ships in the fleet increased from 2600 to 4400 during this same period (Anon 1947).”

          • grandpabluewater

            Also, when sold off for a song in the late ’40s, the Liberties kept sailing and turning a profit until the late sixties. At ten knots and a crew of 50+.

          • old guy

            BOY, this place is better than Wikipedia.

          • old guy

            Thank you for the reports. Part of the problem was the sad state of our merchant fleet, the critical war needs and the lack of support for the earlier ships, in favor of building combat ships. Most of the shortcomings were overcome in the VICTORY class. I came home from my stint in Alaska on the Marshall Victory, after the war.

          • publius_maximus_III

            And thank you, for your service to your country. Can you really see Russia from up there? Just kidding with ya… (Sarah Palin jab)

          • old guy

            LOL. HA,HA,HA. No, I couldn’t. The farthest west I got was at SHEMYA, one island away. Incidentally, she never said that.

          • Secundius

            Actually you can see Russia from Alaska! Little Diomede Island (USA) and Big Diomede Island (Russia), are within 2,000-meters of Each Other and INSIDE Each Other’s 12nmi. Territorial Waters…

        • publius_maximus_III

          From Wikipedia:

          Hull cracks

          “Early Liberty ships suffered hull and deck cracks, and a few were lost to such structural defects. During World War II, there were nearly 1,500 instances of significant brittle fractures. Twelve ships, including three of the 2,710 Liberties built, broke in half without warning, including the SS John P. Gaines, which sank on 24 November 1943 with the loss of 10 lives. Suspicion fell on the shipyards which had often used inexperienced workers and new welding techniques to produce large numbers of ships in great haste.

          “The Ministry of War Transport lent the British-built Empire Duke for testing purposes. Constance Tipper of Cambridge University demonstrated that the fractures were not initiated by welding, but instead by the grade of steel used, which suffered from embrittlement. She discovered that the ships in the North Atlantic were exposed to temperatures that could fall below a critical point when the mechanism of failure changed from ductile to brittle, and thus the hull could fracture rather easily. The predominantly welded (as opposed to riveted) hull construction then allowed cracks to run for large distances unimpeded. One common type of crack nucleated at the square corner of a hatch which coincided with a welded seam, both the corner and the weld acting as stress concentrators. Furthermore, the ships were frequently grossly overloaded and some of the problems occurred during or after severe storms at sea that would have placed any ship at risk. Various reinforcements were applied to the Liberty ships to arrest the crack problems, and the successor design, the Victory ship, was stronger and less stiff to better deal with fatigue.”

        • old guy

          So far as I know all you say is correct. The outfit that got to scrap them more than doubled their investment just on the pig iron ballast in the bilge. They sold them to Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore. Incidentally, there is a fully operational Liberty in Baltimore Harbor. Name S.S. JOHN BROWN. They take it out for a ride every so often. I belong to the association. You might want to join. The money ALL goes into maintenance.

          • Secundius

            The “Original” Liberty Ship’s Design, wasn’t even American. It was British, and ONLY expected to Last 5-Years under “Normal” Operations. The Problem the British had was a Manpower Shortage, it took them (the British) 8-months to Complete One Ship. Harry Kaiser, “ONE-UPPED” the British, by Pre-Fabrication of the Ship Hull Design and Basically making the Ship Itself “Cargo”. By Scrapping the Ship’s upon Destination as a War Industry Resource, “the Metal of the Ship”…

          • grandpabluewater

            Perhaps we should contract for the labor to scrap and sell the stuff taken off and the steel, brass, glass, and etc. ourselves, and put the profit back into the shipbuilding budget.
            Save the taxpayers a ton o money. Let’s start with the LCS’s…tomorrow.

          • old guy

            See, I told you guys. With AGE comes WISDOM.

  • Brad Golding

    Viking Longships. They have been around for over a thousand years and are still being built!

  • old guy

    Impossible to pick, Too many different requirements. But how about a vote for the “NUMANCIA”, the world’s first ironclad.

    • El_Sid

      First ironclad for Spain, first ironclad to circumnavigate the globe, but she was built by the French some 5 years after La Gloire.

      • old guy

        I have been spoofed. I was the US rep for Numancia (F82) in the late ’80s.
        Funny story. Slnce the Grupe de Combate Primero was to be activated in 1992, 500 years after Colunbus, it was decided to call the 3 frigates the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. At the naming conference (which I attended) an Admiral Gamboa pointed out that NINA means little girl, and PINTA literally means painted lady, (whore) in Seville. The names were promptly changed to Numancia and Victoria (Magellan’s ship).

  • Tim Dolan

    I went for Trireme (as a class), although somewhat generic, it commanded the seas in several empire’s navies for over 3 centuries and even when it wasn’t actually a Trireme involved it still got the credit for being there both before and many centuries after it was actually in wide spread use. It was also part of the Navy that eventually let to the basis of the entire western civilization. So as much as I like some more modern choices, that one has to be there and I think it is the most influential of ALL time.

    Individual ship is much more difficult, but if allowed possibly mythical ships I would go with The Argo. If I have to stick with reality it is very very close, but I have to go with HMS Dreadnaught. I can think of no other ship that by itself changed how the world viewed warships, most other naval influences tended to be the commanders not the ships or a class of ships. The Nautilus being a rare exception. Most other choices I can think of are kind of US only centric.

  • Dan Passaro

    I’m going with the Battlestar Galactica

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Given how the author of this ‘survey’ has clarified the criteria for defining ‘the greatest warship (class) ever’, then I gotta go with the Nimitz class carriers, and they will no doubt be supplanted by the Ford class ships. They are proven designs that have been tested in combat and by other means, such as humanitarian missions (don’t know if that counts, but I’ll put it here none the less). They can engage in combat in all warfare dimensions, i.e., anti-sub, anti-air, anti-surface, land attack, etc., thanks to their deployed air wings (though I acknowledge that some capabilities tend to improve/decline at times, as with the retirement of the S-3 Viking anti-sub planes, their ability to hunt down subs has been impacted). They can launch and recover aircraft that can deploy Special Forces and other troops. They are superb in both offensive and defensive modes. They have their vulnerabilities but what ship or ship class doesn’t from the past or in the present? Previous classes of carriers might have more extensive combat records and even suffered and overcame instances of great damage, but the ships of today reflect the lessons and legacies that such adversity and success have wrought, i.e., they are overall superior ships today compared to those of the past.

    Given how subjective and hence selective these kinds of discussions tend to be, the Nimitz ships certainly rate being in the debate. But like arguing ‘which is the greatest ball team ever?’, the responses here will always be all over the place. And THAT is the real fun of it all!

  • BB-63.

    End of WW2

    • grandpabluewater

      Certainly the best setting for a table to have the enemy sign the surrender documents on.

  • Secundius

    My “Two-Cent’s” is, the Flower class Corvette of WW2. Eleven “Allied” Navies used them During the War, and at Least Twelve “Navies” After the War…

  • Ed L

    Greatest warship USS Constitution over 80 years of active service as a fighting ship before going through various changes as a training ship, receiving ship to icon Best warship type, the late 18th and early 19th Century Sailing Frigate. With number of guns ranging from 24 to 50 of various sizes capability. Why, extreme versatility in Exploration, Raiding, prize taking and fighting ability. 2 frigates could take a ship of the line. 3 or more frigates could reduce a squadron of first rates to a shambles. Plus frigates routinely change there armament around, long guns, smashers, of various sizes for example 8, 9, 12, 18, 24, 32, 36 pounders etc.

  • Secundius

    The Greatest Watercraft of ALL Time, was the “Dug-Out Log”. It Got People to Start Exploring, what was THEN Just Out of Reach…