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Survey Results: What is The Greatest Warship of All Time?

USNI News asked its readers, “What is the greatest warship of all time and why?” Though what makes a warship great is highly subjective, our readers offered their education and expertise to put forth their ideas as to what the answer to that question should be. And with nearly 900 reader-generated answers and more than 26,000 votes, the results are in.

The answers fell into several themes. Aircraft carriers, whose use in World War II revolutionized naval warfare and strategy, were the most common. Similarly, a common theme was the ships of the two World Wars and of specific navies such as the U. S. Navy and the Royal Navy. But one ship in particular unquestionably led the poll in all aspects: USS Constitution.

USS Constitution is shown in a 1931 photograph shortly after her recommissioning in July of that year after an extensive restoration. Naval Institute Photo Archive

USS Constitution is shown in a 1931 photograph shortly after her recommissioning in July of that year after an extensive restoration. Naval Institute Photo Archive

Constitution was not only one of the original six frigates built for the nascent U. S. Navy, she was, as one reader noted, a “technological marvel for her day”, being heavily-built, well-armed, and fast. Undefeated in combat, “Old Ironsides” — her nicknamed earned during her famous battle with HMS Guerriere in 1812 when the latter’s shots bounced harmlessly off her heavily-braced hull — forced the Royal Navy to reevaluate it tactics against the fledging nation and helped propel the United States onto the world stage. “America’s Ship of State” still looms large in many minds as representing “all that is great and lasting about the United States Navy.”

Korean ‘Turtle Boats’

A fleet of "Turtle Boats” in a never-before published illustration by Yong H. Kim. Naval Institute Photo Archive

A fleet of “Turtle Boats” in a never-before published illustration by Yong H. Kim. Naval Institute Photo Archive

Readers also held particular esteem for the uniquely Korean “turtle boats” that came into form under Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, who in 1591 resurrected and modified the best features from designs from nearly two centuries prior to produce the Kohbukson — “turtle ship” — whose convex-covered decks resembled a turtle shell. Averaging in length from 70-110 feet, these flat-bottomed, boats, studded with spikes to prevent board and spaced with gunports, loopholes for muskets, and sporting a a powerful psychological weapon — a smoke-spewing dragon’s head at the bow — were not only virtually impenetrable, but also fast and maneuverable. The ships played a decisive role in defeating regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s numerically-superior fleets during Japan’s invasion of the Korean peninsula of the Imjin War of 1592-1598. The ramifications of that defeat still resonate to this day.

Aircraft Carriers

USS Enterprise (CV-6) in 1945. National Archives Photo

USS Enterprise (CV-6) in 1945. National Archives Photo

Aircraft carriers were also a popular choice, and none more so than USS Enterprise (CV-6). The “Big E” as she was known, was the most decorated US ship in the whole of World War II. She served in nearly every major campaign of the Pacific War, from the earliest days just after Pearl Harbor, to Guadalcanal to Midway to Iwo Jima. The contributions of the Yorktownclass carrier, subject of the new Naval Institute Press book The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise, as one reader put it, “at Midway alone would earn her consideration, but when you factor in her overall body of work, it’s no contest.”

HMS Dreadnought

HMS Dreadnought in 1906

HMS Dreadnought in 1906

The U.K. Royal Navy’s HMS Dreadnought was not known for a distinguished service record (though she does hold the distinction of being the only battleship to have sunk a submarine), but readers recognized her revolutionary design. So tremendous was the paradigm shift represented by the combination of technologies in her that the statement has often been made that her launching rendered all battleships before her obsolete. Her name came to literally define an era and her launching precipitated an arms race between world naval powers to build the biggest and the best battleship along her lines.


USS Iowa firing in 1984 Naval Institute Photo Archive

USS Iowa firing in 1984. Naval Institute Photo Archive

But those battleships, readers noted, were totally outclassed by the advent of the aircraft carrier during World War I. One reader noted that the power of the carrier as a ship type “transformed along with aviation technology simply because its power comes from the aircraft it carries. This makes it the most adaptable and useful warship type yet. Even when the age of manned aircraft passes, we will still need a launch/recovery platform for high-performance UAVs that can be closer to the operational area.” Of the many aircraft carriers over the years, readers were particularly mindful of the Essex-class carrier, which formed the backbone of the US fleet in World War II and whose adaptability and resilience in the years beyond served the country in Korea, Vietnam and through the early 1990s.

USS Nautilus

USS Nautilus (SSN-571). US Navy Photo

USS Nautilus (SSN-571). US Navy Photo

USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was also recognized as the leader of a new class of weapon: the nuclear submarine. Though submarines had played a decisive role in WWII, the impact of a revolutionary type of ship that could lurk silently under the ocean’s surface for extended periods, yet still “profoundly” affect ground operations through the use of cruise missiles and nuclear weapons when needed, as embodied by the Nautilus, was not lost.

SMS Emden

SMS Emden

SMS Emden

One of the more surprising results was the recognition of SMS Emden, the German light cruiser that raided commerce and attacked Allied shipping in the Pacific during World War I. Though ultimately sunk at the Battle of Cocos, the Emden and her crew, whose subsequent adventures were well-chronicled by Hellmuth von Mücke for the Naval Institute Press, demonstrated, in the words of one respondent, “what a small ship with a dedicated crew and under a good captain can do against a much larger host of foes.”

USNI News is looking for our next question to put to our readers. Tweet suggestions @usninews and use the hashtag #usnisurvey.

  • John Allen

    The CV-6 Enterprise was a Yorktown-class carrier, not Essex-class.

    • John, you’re right and we’ve corrected. Apologies.

      • draeger24

        Sam, do pushups….lol….great article. You could have also mentioned the Japanese 400 class submarines that could launch aircraft…something we still look at in SPECWAR. Keep up the great work…GOD Bless…

        • publius_maximus_III

          Had a hangar with watertight doors located in front of the conning tower, for carrying a sub-launched seaplane. Was the only Japanese aerial attack on mainland USA. Dropped incendiaries into forests along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately for us, unfortunately for them, the huge forest fires they hoped to ignite never happened. One thing that area receives is plenty of rain; hard to start a fire in a soggy forest.

          • draeger24

            I don’t know if they ever did a launch of the sea-planes for that purpose – I’ll take your word on it, but they did have the “incendiary balloons” that did try to accomplish that…lol…I ran a survival course in the Olympia forest – trying to start a fire was very frustrating. Japanese submarines did shell Santa Barbara oil facilities.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Sandy, truth is always stranger than fiction. Sorry I cannot post a link here, das ist verbotten on USNI News. However, you can do a BING search (or if you must, an accursed Google search) for any of the following terms, to find a Wiki article about these unusual Imperial Japanese Navy craft.

            Here is a quote, less all the Japanese characters:

            “The I-400-class submarine (I-yon-hyaku-gata sensuikan?) Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) submarines were the largest submarines of World War II and remained the largest ever built until the construction of nuclear ballistic missile submarines in the 1960s. The IJN called this type of submarine Sentoku type submarine (Sen-Toku-gata sensuikan, Submarine Special?). The type name, was shortened to Toku-gata Sensuikan (Special Type Submarine?). They were submarine aircraft carriers able to carry three Aichi M6A Seiran aircraft underwater to their destinations. They were designed to surface, launch their planes, then quickly dive again before they were discovered. They also carried torpedoes for close-range combat.”

            I will search for the information I recall reading about the Pacific NW raid by one such submarine-ferried aircraft, and post it as another entry…


          • publius_maximus_III

            Found it. Do a BING search on the following string:

            japanese plane bombed oregon in 1942

            The first search hit should be a link to a very detailed article from a website “eugeneleesloverDOTcom” (except replace the DOT with a “.”) and further down the BING search results is a YouTube video with some interesting still photos. Those incendiary balloons happened, too, but that low-tech effort was not a part of this high-tech effort, except in the sense that both were due to a WW-II enemy trying to set our country on fire.

            Also see “Lookout Air Raids” Wiki article.

          • draeger24

            thanks, brutha…that is a welcome piece of info, as one hears so many times…”no one has ever struck America – we need to bring all troops home”. How quickly they forget 9/11 or the British burning DC in 1812. I know they shelled SB, but didn’t know they actually launched and dropped ordnance. Good stuff! I thank you, Sir!

          • publius_maximus_III

            It was certainly nothing in comparison to Jimmy Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo that same year. But as somebody already mentioned, could have been far worse if the Japs had chosen the tenderbox of Southern California for a target instead of those dripping wet forest lands of Oregon.

            Seriously, a float plane aboard a submarine? Who would have ever thought such a thing possible? Something for our Naval/Marine planners to consider for future covert operations.

          • draeger24

            I was think about beefing up/extending the Dry Deck shelters for an MH-6 to be able to be launched when surfaced. Those I-400s were huge. Glad they never had any appreciable rocket capability….GOD Bless!

  • Steve Martin

    “The contributions of the Essex-class carrier, subject of the new Naval Institute Press book The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise,” She isn’t an Essex class she is a Yorktown class.

    • You’re right and we’ve amended.

    • John B. Morgen

      The book is a reprint…

  • Curtis Conway

    The USS Constitution deserved the win. The very aspects that gave it the win through demonstrated capability within the context of the age in which she was built, that capability utilized by US Navy sailors, and its accomplishment record, are a testament to American determination, ingenuity, and how we not only rise to the challenge, but eclipse that challenge and prevail in the tasks at hand. The LCS Program is the Polar Opposite in its current form in almost every compared aspect, except perhaps speed!

    • PolicyWonk

      I was outside Boston Harbor watching as the Constitution set her sails and cast off from her tugs for the first time in many a decade. A lot of studies regarding how they expected her to perform had been done for speed and maneuverability (computer modeling, etc) in a wide variety of sea/wind combinations.

      But when she cut loose she astonished everyone with how fast and maneuverable she was. She was built and designed to be able to defeat anything her size or smaller – and readily outrun anything bigger.

      Unfortunately, the only astonishment there is for LCS, is that they’re still being built.

      • Curtis Conway

        Amen to that. We may be able to fix the combat system, but survivability of the platform is not looking good.

    • John B. Morgen

      The USS Constitution had no effect on foreign affairs, except for the battles that she won. I would not counted her as the greatest warship.

      • Curtis Conway

        Well obviously you have been reading different books than I and the rest of the readership. Go Navy!

        • John B. Morgen

          Facts are facts, and what I have read can be found in the United States National Archives; furthermore, the books that I read art same that many other Americans have also read. Go Navy!

  • Curtis Conway

    In the context of its time, the USS Constitution was larger, faster, and had more guns that its counterparts, and truly earned the title “Ship of the Line”.

    • John B. Morgen

      The Constitution is a frigate and nothing more than that, she’s not a ship of line (battleship) like the ship of lines the USS North Carolina or the Pennsylvania..

      • Curtis Conway

        Actions and the Record speak louder than words. The USS Constitutions record speaks for itself, as does the character of the United States of America.

        • John B. Morgen

          The USS Constitution was better built than her foreign counter-parts, if she was built about the same as those counter-parts that she defeated. Then she could have been sunk, just as well. Her record did [NOT] changed the paradigm of the leading sea power nation-state during the “Post-Colonial Period” nor reshaped foreign policies of other nation-states. Her character is the reflection of her crew and captains, nothing more than that.

          • Curtis Conway

            The USS Constitution was a landmark construction and capability in her day that persisted for awhile, and demonstrated US ingenuity, and resolve . . . and was Blessed with success for it. I fail to understand why ANYONE would want to belittle, or take away from that accomplishment, or the things it represents . . . then claim the title – Patriot!

          • John B. Morgen

            When steam engines were installed inside existing sailing warships, designing and building new warships; especially, when the Royal Navy came out with the HMS Warrior. The USS Constitution and other American sailing warships became obsolete overnight. Being a good Patriot requires one to keep one’s eyes open, and [NOT] closed the world around them—-comrade!

          • Curtis Conway

            You are just NOT going to get this . . . are you. Everything has a time and context, and the USS Constitution was a superstar in its time. RECOGNIZE that, and pay it homage. Then learn from HiStroy, and teach us poor underlings the truths you hold so dear.

          • John B. Morgen

            I don’t think you understand that you’re looking at the USS Constitution (AXS) with too much emotions that has fogged your ability to look at this matter objectively or rationally about the subject at hand. The USS Constitution (AXS) is just a sailing frigate that has survived 219 years, and now it is acting as a museum ship for the Navy. There’s only two Post-Colonial warships that are left in the world, and one of them is the Constitution (AXS). This ship gained fame after defeating her counter-parts with equaled fire power, but she was saved by many times because of her timbers that were used in her construction. She did not change or influenced the politics of the super powers of the time. However, saving the USS Constitution (AXS) was one of outstanding acts that the Navy has done for the nation-state—saving a piece of naval/American history.

          • Curtis Conway

            Hey man, I pick Nuclear Attack Submarines as the technological advancement, and did not give the USS Constitution a second though. Then the survey come out, and the OVERWHELMING winner was the USS Constitution. Why, because almost EVERYBODY is getting emotional about our country while those who do not understand it, or are comfortable with it, understand American Core Values, or even understand the Miracle this Democratic Republic Experiment represents within the context of HiStory, begin to change it and take it apart . . . and most of those people are just like the professor in the White House, an Academic, and these cold hard facts you speak of is All they understand. No Spirit in them. They strive to carve the Facts on a stake and drive it through you heart because they have no intention of understanding others, just their cold facts point of view. Well the cold facts is NOT what the respondents in the survey wanted to communicate. I suspect that the previous combat record, and that of the previous commanders, had something to do with this result.

          • John B. Morgen

            Your choice of nuclear attack submarines or nuclear powered submarines in general was quite prudent because nuclear powered submarines have affected, if not changed, the paradigm of seapower. Nuclear powered attack submarines have affected political-military politics within a short amount of time, and also produced such political concourse that resulted in a few nuclear disarmament treaties and fear; ever since the Falklands War when a British nuclear attack submarine sank an Argentine light cruiser—without any effort.

            As for the USS Constitution (AXS), preserving it as a museum ship is the same as saving the Spirit of the Navy in itself. Unfortunately, the [Nation] did not saved the USS Enterprise (CV-6), the icon for fighting World War II, or those warships were at Pearl Harbor 1941. I have [nothing] against saving a Spirit of a warship, regardless of the nationality, but when judgement is going to be required to make then emotions must be put aside, and judge objectively without bias. Your rebuttal has been noted without bias, and understood but a balance must be reach between both sides. The other hand, the side that you are referring to [must] understand that people like me, and what we have to go through by analyzing the facts—it’s not easy because we too have emotions just like you. In our case, we have to place our emotions aside in order to be truthful and honest in order to reach nonpartisan conclusions. I can say this with a 100% certainly that there is [NOT] one warship will be given the title, “the greatest warship,” except for some unnamed floating log during prehistoric times. When some prehistoric men got on it, and started throwing rocks at the other people on shore. Of course, I have no evidence that supports such a claim; nevertheless, there is a strong possibility it could have happen….

          • Curtis Conway

            Point well taken. My continuing rebuttal is that Letter without Spirit accomplishes noting. G-d blesses who he will, and man’s ingenuity can be of no affect. In every example quoted the enabling technology could not have been used to effect without the human factor of unwavering spirit to do ones duty and meet ones fate knowing G-d is the judge.

          • John B. Morgen


  • KC135TopBoom

    I agree that “Old Ironsides” deserves the win.
    I also agree that without the Essex class CVs, we could have lost the war in the Pacific.
    It was the then new BBs of the North Carolina and South Dakota classes that held the line, until the CV fleet (at one point down just 3 CVs in the Pacific and 1 in the Atlantic) could be built up.
    The USS Massachusetts, BB59 brought our first victory against the Axis Powers at the Naval Battle of Casablanca, defeating a Vichy French BB and the 2nd Light French Squadron. A few days later the USS Washington, BB56 and USS South Dakota, BB57 held the line at the 2nd Naval Battle of Guadalcanal and kept the US Marines from getting pounded by an IJN BB and her supporting CAs, CLs, and DDs.
    South Dakota also shot down some 29 IJN aircraft trying to attack USS Enterprise, CV6. The anti-aircraft protection provided by all the “Fast Battleships” (NCs, SoDaks, and Iowas) to the Fleet Carriers kept them in the war. No Fleet carrier under the direct protection of a Fast Battleship was ever lost to enemy aircraft attacks, although some4 were damaged.
    Massachusetts went on to earn 11 Battle Stars (BSs), was in 36 combat engagements, and never lost a man. Washington got 11 BSs and was in some 28 engagements. South Dakota was the most decorated BB of WWII with 13 BSs. North Carolina, Indiana, and Alabama all also received 10 or more BSs.
    I would give the nod to USS Massachusetts, BB59 for best of the best combat in performance of WWII, with at least 9 enemy ships sunk, including the French BB Jean Bart and a floating dry dock, protecting CVs, Marines, and Army troops in both the Atlantic and Pacific wars and downing at least 15 enemy aircraft.

    • UKExpat

      Congratulations! It seems that you have found one of the very few US Battleships that actually ever did any fighting and even managed to temporarily sink an enemy warship though you forgot to mention that 50% of her main armament was missing and it had little or no secondary armament installed as it was moored in harbour whilst waiting for it’s construction work to be completed. For the record the Vichy French Battleship “Jean Bart” was eventually completed in the US after the war. Even so Well done

  • KC135TopBoom

    Don’t forget the finest hours for the US Navy was the Battle off Samar, where DDs and DEs faced off against a large IJN force of 4 BBs (including the Yamato and Nagato), several CAs, a few CLs, and about 14 DDs. The battle raged for close to 3 hours with the loss of 1 DE (USS Samual B Johnson), 2 Fletcher class DDs, and 3 IJN CAs. The IJN BBs and other fleet units of the Center Force were turned away from the CVEs of Taffy 3 and kept out of the US Troop Ship filled Leyte Gulf.
    It was just the night before the Samar action that the old gal Battleships who survived the Attack on Pearl Harbor got revenge against two IJN BBs and several CAs of the Southern Force.

    • nkawtg


    • Mook

      For my money pound for pound an man for man and weld for weld? The Sammie B.

  • tominwv

    If you’re going to include Emden then you may as well throw if CSS Alabama too.

    • apacherat

      The CSS Alabama, probably the most successful merchant raider in history. No other ship in history ever came close to the CSS Alabama.

      • John B. Morgen

        Are you referring to the number ships sunk or by tonnage?

      • pismopal

        How about USS Kearsarge which sank the Alabama?

    • John B. Morgen

      The Imperial German Navy studied the CSS Alabama Affair, and applied it during both world wars, with great effect of enemy losses.

  • Scott Mccord

    Agree on USS Constitution…. The original survey, I thought, was for “types”… given “types” as opposed to individual ships, what did the survey say?

    • jack anderson

      I read it as the reverse, and individual ship so I went with HMS Dreadnaught, whose launching set off an arms race of weapons named for her, nothing else comes close for an single ship.

      • UKExpat

        Except HMS Victory which spawned a 100+ years of RN command of the world’s seas!

        • jack anderson

          She was slow and wormy but well manned.

          • UKExpat

            No warship is perfect in all respects. However nothing can take away the fact that HMS Victory’s achievements surpassed those of any other warship in the history of sea warfare.

          • jack anderson

            I don’t buy that at all, she had one major success and a piffle, USS Enterprise or USS Constitution had many more wins. Nor was HMS Victory in any way a technological marvel, she was more of the same for her day.

          • UKExpat

            Sorry but saying that being a major instrument in gaining command of the worlds seas for over a century is a “Piffle” is completely and utterly ridiculous. Unlike the, HMS Victory has an outstanding battle record having fought in various large scale major sea battles, not skirmishes against a few grossly inferior separate single little ships. As Nelsons flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) she led the RN fleet into the centre of the large joint Spanish / French fleet which eventually led to Nelson’s great history changing victory. This was not her only sea battle as, to name but a few, she also played her part in the 2nd Battles of Ushant and the Battle of Cape St. Vincent both major sea battles. In WW2 She was even damaged by German aircraft in 1941. Her credentials for the title of “The greatest warship of all time” are of a far higher order than that of USS Constitution, What needs to be remembered is that within the annals of the RN there are numerous other ships that have far better war records than USS Constitution which would win the title before her for example Ark Royal (1587), Revenge (1591), HMS Warspite (1913), HMS Onslow (1941) etc. etc. etc. USS Constitution would be way way down the list,

          • UKExpat

            Sorry for typo error. Please insert ” USS Constitution, ” at the end of the second line.

          • jack anderson

            I am not minimising the strategic importance of Trafalgar, I am saying that there were many ships in the fleet at that time that could have served just as well as Lord Nelson’s flagship.

          • UKExpat

            True there were a few, but not many ships, that could have served as flagship but they didn’t. Nelson specifically chose to keep HMS Victory as his flagship and arranged for his old and very experienced friend Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy to be her Captain. Legend has it that it was Hardy who many years later, when he was the most senior admiral in the navy, squashed the order to have the Victory scrapped. The fact remains that HMS Victory was the flagship of choice and thus deserves the honour of having lead the charge against the enemy fleet. She was the ship that all others looked to for guidance and reassurance during the battle. Admiral Nelson and HMS Victory are absolute icons in naval history and are almost always spoken of together as a pair.

          • jack anderson

            what was his ride for the Nile? Copenhagen? I don’t know but pretty sure it was not the Victory.

          • UKExpat

            During the time when the battles of the Nile (1798) and Copenhagen (1801) took place HMS Victory was being scheduled for and having a very large and extensive major refit and became available for active combat in 1803 in time for Trafalgar.(1805). Nelson was initially on HMS St. George (98 gun) at Copenhagen but transferred to HMS Elephant (74 gun) a ship with shallower draft, before the battle started. He was on HMS Vanguard (74 gun) at the Nile. I trust that answers your questions.

          • jack anderson

            I am very impressed! but I think you made my point, great leadership doesn’t depend on the platform and bad leadership can still get a great ship sunk, see Lutjens and SMS Bismarck. Nelson was extraordinary, but he didn’t build the platforms, which is why I stand by HMS Dreadnaught, largely the vision of Fisher and Bacon.

          • UKExpat

            Thank you for your reply but I am sorry but I think that you have completely and utterly missed the point. The point of the survey was to find the greatest warship of all time. It is not about good or bad leaders or visionaries or ship builders or what future ships / classes they may have inspired etc. etc. it is about what the greatest actual fighting battles and the direct consequences of such by a specific ship during it’s existence. Any experienced sailor will tell you that a warship is not a platform it is a “ship” (or “boat” if it is small or a submarine) and is also referred to as “she” or “her” The greater the battle achievements or difficulties she over comes the greater the soul and admiration the ship acquires. Unfortunately, HMS Dreadnaught cannot be classed as a great warship, she didn’t even get to Jutland, I think her only fighting victory was to ram and sink a German submarine in WW1. However if you examine the war record another Dreadnought type battleship, HMS Warspite (nicknamed by RN sailors in WW2 as “The Grand Old Lady”) who’s spectacular career not only covered both WW1 and WW2 but even extended to her final trip to the scrapyard, you will see that her incredible fighting record surpasses all single battleships of the post Dreadnought era. I apologise if you think that this may sound a bit hairy fairy but I can assure you that virtually all sailors treat their vessels as living female entities, even if at times they do not always admit it. It is this female entity that is being judged in this survey.

          • jack anderson

            I focused on technological advancement rather than results so yes, HMS Warspite or USS Enterprise would win under your metrics. Did Warspite make it to the “Windy Corner” where Betty began his Run to the North while the Fifth (?) Battle Squadron took on the whole High Seas Fleet, alone?

          • UKExpat

            First I must say that hindsight clearly shows that Admiral Beatty (Not Betty), even though he was promoted after Jutland, was without doubt an egotistic loud mouthed incompetent Admiral, The 5th Battle Squadron, consisting of four modern 15in gun Queen Elizabeth Class Fast Battleships; HMS Valiant, HMS Warspite, HMS Barham and HMS Malaya, had been seconded to Beatty’s Battlecruiser squadrons. Beatty failed to take advantage of this powerful asset. After the run North the 5th BS tagged on to Admiral Jellicoe’s main Grand Fleet and were the first to engage Admiral Scheer’s main High Seas Fleet. Early In this engagement HMS Warspite’s steering gear jammed, due to either shell damage or hard use. as a result she turned towards the enemy and made three large circles before the jam was cleared. and she could return to the 5th BS During the course of this manoeuvre she faced the whole German Battle fleet and sustained 13 shell hits from 12in guns. These plus 2 previous shell hits received from 11in guns made her the most heavily shelled battleship in the whole battle. Curiously, despite many refits and major rebuilds throughout her 30 year career HMS Warspite’s steering gear problems seemed to resist all efforts to repair them and remained with her until she was scrapped.

          • jack anderson

            Didn’t her rudder jam over and put her on the rocks while she was being towed to the breakers? Regarding Beatty, while his staff’s work was poor he had a hot wife with a large yacht!

          • UKExpat

            From what I remember I do not think that the rudder jamming caused her to go on the rocks in Cornwall but rather the tug’s tow lines breaking in bad weather. Yes I understand that Beatty was well off and had a rich and attractive high society wife but he was also well renowned for his various mistresses. Though nothing can detract from the numerous fundamental errors he committed at Jutland where he failed in his basic mission to keep Admiral Jellicoe informed of both his actions and the whereabouts of the main German fleet, he created confusion by his failure to give clear and specific orders to his ships, he continued to use flag signals which couldn’t be seen because of the smoke, he let the 5th BS run closer to the German fleet by not sending the right signal to turn about, he completely failed to get the 5th BS involved in the battle against the German battlecruisers etc. etc. Probably his worst error of all was his failure to ensure that his ships had been trained to shoot accurately, it is said that when questioned by a newspaper reporter on this subject his ridiculous reply, in effect, was that his ships did not need this training as they would soon learn it when they charged the enemy. As I said before I think his ego was far more important to him than his duty to his men and their ships.

          • jack anderson

            Our battlecruiser admiral did not see himself as subservient to Jellicoe, scouting as a chore for lesser individuals, and all is forgiven due to his order to get closer to the enemy while “there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today” his battlecruisers were blowing up around him. Regarding the 5th BS it was just recently attached so there had been no training. It is hard to imagine managing multiple engagements in very poor visibility at closing speeds approaching 50 knots from a flying bridge without satellite or drone coverage. His staff , especially signalling, performed very poorly, for which Beatty alone was to blame. Jellicoe should have sacked him, but alas, Beatty was far more popular than “the only man who could lose the war in a day”.

          • UKExpat

            Whilst it is true that the 5th BS consisted of the newest battleships in the RN I do not believe they suffered from lack of training as they transferred from the Grand Fleet and Jellicoe would not have had them in his line if they were not properly trained. The problem that the 5th BS had was that not only did Beatty virtually ignore them but the few signals he sent were almost unreadable due to poor visibility. I do not understand why he didn’t use electric light or radio to back up his signals with morse code for the flag letters. I suspect that Jellicoe did not have the authority to sack him but I wish that Churchill had also made a similar statement about Beatty along the lines of “the only man who TRIED TO lose the war in a day”.

          • jack anderson

            The Tirpitz tied down an entire fleet for years without firing a shot.

        • jack anderson

          The frigates were what gave the RN global domination, ships of the line were too slow, too expensive, and too rare to patrol from the North American to China stations. Nor were they used that much as “the storm tossed ships” that trapped Napoleon on the continent.

    • UKExpat

      As the title of the survey was “What is The Greatest Warship of All Time?” is singular I think it is fair to presume that the authors were looking for a single ship not types or classes. Sorry but I am sure that you are way of the mark with the USS Constitution as HMS Victory’s credentials for the title are in a higher league on her own being way superior to any other ship.

  • childof68

    No Monitor, or Merrimack?

    • John B. Morgen

      Both warships had profound influences on naval architecture, naval history and naval policies of many other foreign navies. They should have been added to the lists.

  • Ed L

    Wonder how much it would cost to build three vessel similar to the USS Constitution, like a windjammer. Windjammers were equipped with semi-mechanized rigging, steel profile masts and yards and steel cables as running rigging where possible. Often also the running rigging was handled by motor winches instead of manpower Crew size number from 20 to as many as 40, including ships officers. The Russians still use a windjammer as a sailing school

  • old guy

    ALL great ships. This is one of the many”GREATEST” comparisons we find. Lots of fun…..and contention.

  • Dan L

    I nominate the LCVP. The Higgins boat was not big, armed, loved, or in any way safe, but it carried troops to the fight in WWII.

    • publius_maximus_III

      There’s a restored one on display inside the D-Day museum in New Orleans, which is where the Higgins boat inventor was from, and where they were built.

      • Ed L

        I loved coxswaining the LCVP, . I must have over 1,000 hours on one. I carried everything from a JEEP M151 with Trailer to 3 pallets of beer.

        • publius_maximus_III

          And we thank you for your service to your country, Ed. As do your fellow servicemen, for those welcome pallets of 3.2% beer…

  • CJL

    What about the Flower Class corvettes? Not as glamorous, but without them, the Germans might have won the U-boat war before America even got involved.

    • John B. Morgen

      Don’t forget about the Black Swan class sloops; and also the River class, Bay class and Loch class frigates.

  • jconover

    Every single one of these ships or types are worthy of all the honor and admiration. I didn’t know about the survey before now, but there is one ship type not mentioned here that I hope at least some of your respondents included: the trireme. Without them and the Greeks who fought in them there might be no Western civilization as we know it. Contra-factual history is tricky, but it is possible to identify certain pivotal moments. The naval battle of Salamis can claim to be such a moment. If the Greeks had lost the Battle of Salamis, Greece would have become a province of the Persian Empire. Homer would have been forgotten. No Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle. Or Alexander. Maybe no Roman Empire. And you can forget every Western political document or Constitution. Maybe even no Christianity. The trireme was a masterpiece of naval architecture at the time, and in (literally) the hands of a trained crew, fast, maneuverable, and lethal, The badly outnumbered Athenians and their allies defeated the vast Persian naval contingent of the invasion force by placing their trust in the “wooden walls” of their trireme navy. Few ship types ever fought in a battle fraught with such existential consequences.

    • CJL

      Excellent point.

  • Bill

    I would have preferred two contests – a greatest type and a greatest specific ship.

    I did vote for the USS Constitution.

  • Jamawani

    Where is the HMS Victory?
    The USS Constitution had a great career, but had little impact on a broader history.
    The HMS Dreadnought revolutionized battleship design, but had an uneventful and short career.
    Only the USS Enterprise could compete with the range of battles and overall impact.

    Of course, the HMS Victory is most famous for being Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.
    Trafalgar must rank as one of the most important naval battles in history.
    A 50-year career for one of the most powerful ships of its time.
    And HMS Victory remains in commission in the Royal Navy.

    Where, indeed, is the HMS Victory?

    • Canberra

      It’s being eaten by the worms, about the only thing the type was good for.

      • UKExpat

        On the contrary HMS Victory is currently having an extensive refit in Portsmouth where she proudly sits, as the oldest commissioned warship in the world (launched 250 years ago in 1765), in the oldest functioning dry dock in the world. Unlike the USS Constitution, HMS Victory has an outstanding battle record having fought in various large scale major sea battles, not skirmishes against a few grossly inferior separate small single ships. As Nelsons flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) she led the RN fleet into the centre of the large joint Spanish / French fleet which eventually led to Nelson’s great history changing victory. The direct consequence of this victory was that the RN became the undisputed master of the seas for the next centaury or so. Incidentally she even got caught up with WW2 when she suffered bomb damage from German planes in 1941. HMS Victory’s right to the title of the worlds greatest warship is clearly a complete no brainer which cannot be cannot be realistically and sensibly disputed.

        • nonniey

          Unfortunately this was a survey of primarily US Naval personnel and retirees. Of course their love of their service skewed the results. OK this is a US soldier’s view – Obviously Victory is broadly recognized by everyone else as the greatest Warship of all time. I would put Enterprise at #2 but the travesty is that the HMS Warspite isn’t on the list. She was the most successful Battleship of all time – she’s #3 (The Brits really should have called the 2d QE carrier Warspite – Warspite was the 2d QE class battleship). #4 would be the U-48 which sank 55 ships. #5 USS Constitution which demonstrated her technical superiority in battle. As for the The Turtle ship that is a is a class of ship so I wouldn’t include them as I’m looking at individual ships.

  • David Lever

    Determining the “greatest” of anything is very subjective, and heavily biased. If the greatest warship of the United States was in question it would be a choice of three in my mind. The CSS Hunley, USS Monitor and USS Constitution

  • RDF

    History’s greatest warship is without question HMS Victory – the pinnacle of the 250-year-long Age of Sail and the flagship of the great Nelson. Second greatest is Nautilus (SSN-571). Third greatest is Nautilus circa 1800. Fourth greatest is HMS Dreadnought and fifth greatest is HMS Ark Royal.

    Constitution is a great ship but was active in a minor conflict. By contrast, HMS Victory changed the world in the First World War (i.e., the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic War). Nelson not only carried the day at Trafalgar – he, and Victory, inspired and spurred the Royal Navy for a century as the British Empire became the greatest such domain since Ancient Rome.

  • John B. Morgen

    The KMS Tirpitz should have been mentioned because she affect the naval strategy during World War II. She was responsible for almost destroying the Allied convoy PQ-17 without firing a shot. She also caused two cancellations of Allied convoys to the Soviet Union. She kept three of our fast battleships on standby in the Atlantic where they badly needed in the Pacific, among with several British capital warships tied down, just because of the Tirpitz being based in Norway.

    • Bhess

      What ships did it sink? What engagements did Tirpitz participate in? It tied up assets that had basically nothing else to do. The Kriegsmarine was not a major threat outside of the U-boats. The Brits were far and away superior in surface combatants.

      • John B. Morgen

        I’m responding to you in two parts; the first part will be Part II instead of Part I.

        The High Seas Fleet of the Kriegsmarine was quite active at during the beginning of the war, and up to the very end of the war in May 1945. I have listed the number Allied ship losses that were inflected by the Kriegsmarine battleships down to destroyers and also auxiliary merchant cruisers; however, I did not list motor torpedo boats or minesweepers, etc. German U-boats were [NOT] the only weapons systems that were on the Allies’ minds.


        Scharnhorst & Gneisenau: (Both battleships operated together as a single unit, for most of the time during the war.)

        …………………………………….sunk 22 ships– 115,622 tons; 4 warships—41,800 tons

        Bismarck sunk 1 warship—42,100 tons

        Tirpitz (see text from Part I.)


        Deutschland sunk 2 ships 6,902 tons

        Admiral Graf Spree sunk 9 ships 50,089 tons

        Admiral Scheer sunk 17 ships 113,223 tons; 1 warship– 14,164 tons

        Heavy cruisers:

        Admiral Hipper sunk 12 ships 62,466 tons; 4 warships—4,105 tons

        Destroyers: (Between 17th October 1939 to 10th February 1940, 17 destroyers took part in 11 mine-laying sorties in British waters.)

        Sunk 76 ships 163, 158 tons; 11 warships—7,258 tons

        Auxiliary Merchant Cruisers:

        Orion sunk 11 ships 61,988 tons ; 1 warship– 927 tons

        Atlantis sunk 22 ships 145,697 tons

        Widder sunk 10 ships 58,645 tons

        Thor sunk 11 ships 83,357 tons; 1 warship—13,245 tons

        Pinguin sunk 28 ships 136, 551 tons

        Stier sunk 4 ships 29,406 tons

        Komet sunk 7 ships 42,959 tons

        Kormoran sunk 11 ships 68,264 tons; 1 warship— 6,830 tons

        Michel sunk 18 ships 127,107 tons

        Grand Total sunk 232 ships 1,265,434 tons; 24 warships—130, 429 tons

        I profoundly suggest that you read up about the Kriegsmarine, and also about the Royal Navy as well because I’m not going get into the Royal Navy, except for the fact that HMS Vanguard (BB [23]) was a much better “sea boat” than the USS Iowa (BB-61) in heavy swells. Besides there’s too much information that needs to be cover, but you are wrong about the Royal Navy’s warships. I hope this information helps you.

        Sorry for the belated response, but I had to find and reviewed my notes.

        • Bhess

          I have read up on the Kriegsmarine and I agree with Adm Raeder who believed his fleet inadequate to face the RN. Most of the losses you list are merchant ships. After 1942 the German major surface combatants were bottled up or sunk and never posed a major threat again. The RN had the Kriegsmarine cowed and rightly so.

          My RN comment regarding the RN being superior far away in surface combatants is in relation to the Kriegsmarine. The RN was just too much for the Kriegsmarine. Raeder knew that too.

          • John B. Morgen

            The Kriegsmarine still posed a major threat to the Russian convoys, it was until on 26 December 1943 that threat disappeared; after the KMS Scharnhorst was sunk by the Royal Navy. Thus leaving the Tirpitz all alone, so I disagreed. The Kriegsmarine the built most modern warships, but lack the numbers of the Royal Navy; although, Germany slipped on radar development. I will be sending Part I later.

          • UKExpat

            A major point that has been completely ignored here is that the Royal Navy was not just restricted to neutralizing the Kriegsmarine surface fleet, it also had to contend with it’s submarine fleet, which was the world’s largest, also substantial Italian and Vichy French Fleets and the odd attacks by the Japanese navy. During WW2 the European enemy navies had about 25 Battleships between them of which about a half were relatively new build to fight against the RN. To put this into perspective one should, and no offence is intended to our USN friends, compare the size and number of battleships that the USN deemed necessary to contain the Japanese Navy’s battleship fleet of 10 WW1 era battleships and 2 new built dinosaurs, A comparison shows that the USN deemed it necessary to have about TWICE as many battleships as the RN had in order to subdue about HALF the number of enemy battleships that the RN had to contend with.. By any standards, this clearly indicates that the RN executed a very effective and efficient naval war It certainly did not have it easy in the European theatre as some have implied

      • John B. Morgen

        Part I
        The German battleship Tirpitz had the most unusual history than any other battleship during World War II. When the Tirpitz was being fitted out, and going out on sea trials, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the Tirpitz as the number one top priority target for both the RN and the RAF. Prime Minister Churchill said, “that crippling this ship [Tirpitz] would alter the entire face of the naval war.” The Tirpitz never left from the prime minister’s mind.

        During World War II the Kriegsmarine was restricted by Hitler in how the German Admiralty deploys its the major warships against the Allies. Each operation had to be approved by Hitler; such restrictions hampered the Kriegsmarine effectiveness’ as a fighting force. However, another factor that restricted all major naval units was fuel oil; and the Tirpitz oil capacity was 8,297 metric tons; enough to fuel several panzer divisions. .

        The Tirpitz did not sink any allied ships with her 8-15 inch guns, unlike her sister the Bismarck did by sinking the HMS Hood; however, the Tirpitz had direct affect on Allied convoys heading for the Soviet Union by the Arctic sea route. After the sinking of the Bismarck on 27th May 1941 the Royal Navy made a point of maintaining a naval force that consisted of 2 modern fast battleships, 1 fleet aircraft carrier, a couple cruiser squadrons and destroyer flotillas..

        Her existence caused the British to take several counter measures: On 27 May 1942 the British used an ex-American destroyer the HMS Campbeltown (ex-USS Buchanan (DD-131) to ram the dry-dock gates of Normandie Dock at St. Nazaire, France. The Campbeltown was linden with high explosives which exploded and destroyed any usage of the Normandie Dock, which prevented the Kriegsmarine from basing the Tirpitz on the Atlantic coast..

        Another counter measure was the Royal Navy designed and built midget submarines, which six of them were deployed against the heavy warships of Kriegsmarine in Norway. On 23 September 1943 three British midget submarines attacked the Tirpitz in Kaafjord, Norway. The attack was very successful in damaging the Tirpitz, which took till 15th March 1944 to complete the repairs. All three midget submarines were lost..

        The last counter-measure was the development of the world’s heaviest bomb, The “Tall Boy bombs were 12,000 ibs. The RAF bombed the Tirpitz three times by using the Tall Boy bombs in 1944, which the last bombing raid capsized the battleship on 12th November 1944. The RAF bombed the Tirpitz nine times, and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm attacked her ten times, and the Soviet Red Air Force only attacked her once.

        The Tirpitz was involved in five major operations during her naval career:

        1. On 23rd to 24th September 1942 the Tirpitz was sent into the Baltic to prevent the Soviet Baltic Fleet from breaking out. The Soviet Red Navy did not challenge the Kriegsmarine task force.

        2. On 1st January 1942 the Tirpitz was transferred to Norway, whereby she will spending her entire wartime against the Allies.

        3. On 5th March 1942 the Tirpitz was ordered out to sea to attacked the British convoy PQ 12, along with 3 destroyers. The Tirpitz failed to find the convoy PQ 12, but her destroyers did found a Soviet straggler Ijora, which the destroyers quickly dispatched. However, the Tirpitz was found by British aircraft from aircraft carrier from the HMS Victorious, which only six torpedo bombers attacked the Tirpitz but failed to inflect any damage. The whole operation was a failure because the Tirpitz failed to find the convoy PQ 12.

        4. On 5th July 1942 the Tirpitz, Admiral Scheer, Admiral Hipper and six destroyers set sailed to find the British PQ 17. The British were unaware that the Tirpitz had left her port and was out at sea, until she was discovered by Allied submarines. The British Home Fleet ordered the convoy to scattered once it was learned that the Tirpitz could not be located, and there was no British battleships to challenge the Tirpitz. The end result was a total of 23 merchant ships sunk out of 34, but only 11 merchant ships reached the Soviet Union. The German U-boats and the Luftwaffe took its toll on convoy PQ17, which costs the Allies the following : 430 tanks, 210 aircraft and 3,350 vehicles. It was the Tirpitz’s greatest victory without firing a shot. The Arctic convoys were suspended during the summer of 1942 after convoy PQ18 was sent to the Soviet Union.

        5. On 6th September 1943 the Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and 10 ten destroyers attacked and destroyed British/Norwegian base at Spitzbergen.

        The Tirpitz tied down the following American fast battleships, which could have been deployed in the Pacific:

        USS Iowa (BB-61) 27TH August to 27th October 1943

        USS South Dakota (BB-57) June to July 1943

        USS Alabama (BB-60) March to July 1943

        USS Washington (BB-56) 4th April to 14th July 1942.

        I apologized for the belated Part I response due to family health issues, but I hope this information explains my position of picking the KMS Tirpitz.

  • Rolf Steiner

    If you have not read Ian Toll’s Trilogy of the Battle in the Pacific you have to check it out. Also, he wrote a book called “Six Frigates” about the birth of the US navy, an excellent read as well.

  • Bhess

    This is BS. USS Enterprise CV-6 was mentioned many times in the survey. The question was about the greatest warship of all time, that’s singular. Also it didn’t ask what was the most influential ship. CV-6 is unquestionably one of the greatest warships of all time. Just because many people have reading comprehension problems doesn’t mean you’re obligated to include their submissions.

    • Ed L

      The USS Enterprise was to modern warfare like the Sailing Frigates were to their era. Both were instrumental when it came to power projection at sea. But I voted for the Constitution since I am a big fan of Sailing Vessels. On my first ship when training as a small boat coxswain our 1st LT. took us over the Norfolk Sailing center. There we learn to sail using Coronado 15 and Lightings. Made us all better coxswains.

  • PappyStu

    The world’s first operational SSBN, USS George Washington (SSBN-598) with 16 Polaris A-1 missiles, which entered service in December 1959 should have made the list. The political impact of implementing nuclear deterrence from mobile platforms was extremely significant.

  • Barrie Dent

    Its a a shame that Nobody Metioned the HMS Victory Lord Nelsons Flagship

  • Tonghff

    A turtle ship is a ship on the vision which exists only in the novel.
    A record of a naval base, a sailor and armament is left at all neither a made place nor the material, a description of a turtle ship was written after it was the 17th century approximately 80 years later.
    It’s said that they appeared in the popularity poll by the Korean net user without a fabricated record’s being corrected.

    U.S.S. It’s fact that a spacecraft as Enterprise is strongest, but you don’t appear on this questionnaire, right?

    • cello

      Given the scarcity of the turtleships back then: only three turtleships existed as available to take part in the maritime combats during the japanese invasion to then chosun, it’s pretty plausible no trace of any turtleships was identified so far. Yet, written historical records of that time bolsters its existence, with one of them being 高麗船戰記, written by a defeated japanese admiral 外岡甚左衛門.

    • idiot

      wut? lol stupid idiot

      have you ever learned history before?

  • William Dorrit

    The best ship of war were the 4 mast Yankee Clippers who took more than 1800 British Merchant Ships as prizes including in the Irish Sea.

    Winning is everything.

  • John B. Morgen

    There’s really no single warship can be claimed as the greatest warship of all time. The survey should have been broken down into time periods, then the reasons why.

  • John B. Morgen

    Although the HMS Dreadnought changed the Pre-Dreadnought era paradigm forever, and also affected foreign polices of many nation-states; however, there’s one more dreadnought had the same affect for naval architecture and naval history. And that dreadnought was the American battleship the USS South Carolina (BB-26) This class set tone for all future battleship construction because all main armament was mounted on the centerline.

  • Jeremy Bateman

    One ship I see as highly significant is the current USS Bunker Hill CG52. She was the first ship with the Mk41 launch system, so she carries up to 122 cruise missiles. This gave the USN a huge precision strike capability way beyond gunfire yet not risking any personnel.
    Also mention USS George Washington SSBN598, 1st ballistic missile sub.