The Mysterious 1944-45 Gibbs & Cox Battleship

Tzoli

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I've post here as well in hope we can find more info on this!

Some time ago I've stumbled upon a discussion and a historical document between Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King and then Secretary of the Navy James Vincent Forrestal in 1945 January for the fleet building programme and mentioning a 60.000ton battleship design from around 1944/45 offered by the Gibbs & Cox company for the navy!

My research into this matter not yet fruit me any results but maybe some of you know something?

Remember that Gibbs & Cox offered at least 4x battleship / battleship-carrier hybrid designs as well as a few destroyer designs for the Soviet Union prior to WW2.

The discussion I've first found is here:

While the official document is here:
 

DWG

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I think the most significant thing in the meeting may be this line:
"It was passed by the General Board."

Which AIUI means it wasn't just waved about as a possibility by Gibbs and Cox, the USN seriously considered it for construction and was willing to proceed, it just didn't make it into the final building plan. That doesn't necessarily mean it had completed detailed plans, but when the Admiralty went through a similar process for UK designs they'd be looking at outline drawings and full stats.

An interesting point in the Construction Program documents is section 6 on page 7 and its discussion of 'the "so-called Insurance Program" of March 1945' for 84 additional ships, which I don't think I'd ever heard of before.
 

natewillcome4you

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Just me spitballing, but if I had to guess at a basic description I would say based on the tonnage and the aforementioned battlecarrier designs It was probably a 4x3 406mm battleship that would have had pretty few differences with the Montana class, perhaps less armor and more speed? I can't really think of any reason for the navy to seriously consider building it, at least compared to the Montanas, perhaps it was able to fit through the Panama canal? I don't know, either way I find it really interesting and I hope the community can find some design specs or technical drawings, I'd love to see this thing.

Edit: with a draft of 39 feet it could not fit in the canal, and even the Montanas had 3 feet less.
 

Tzoli

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It could be a modified Iowa or South Dakota with improved underwater and AA protection.
 

ceccherini

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Just me spitballing, but if I had to guess at a basic description I would say based on the tonnage and the aforementioned battlecarrier designs It was probably a 4x3 406mm battleship that would have had pretty few differences with the Montana class, perhaps less armor and more speed? I can't really think of any reason for the navy to seriously consider building it, at least compared to the Montanas, perhaps it was able to fit through the Panama canal? I don't know, either way I find it really interesting and I hope the community can find some design specs or technical drawings, I'd love to see this thing.

Edit: with a draft of 39 feet it could not fit in the canal, and even the Montanas had 3 feet less.
by 1945 standards 60000 tons is quite small and maybe barely sufficient to replicate the Iowa's armament but 2 triple turrets seems more probable. By late war the main drive to size increase were the anti torpedo defence system and the horizontal belt. Caliber was stabilized to 16", with the only exceptions of some larger soviet studies and some smaller british studies both regarded as less practical than the standard 16" equivalent, the number of main gun was also reduced and there was no interest in increase of the vertical belt thickness. So by a 1945 USN 60000 ton design I expect a ship as large or larger than Montana in length and beam and about as fast as Iowa, armor generally comparable to Iowa's except for the horizontal belt of about 8"/10", armed with two triple 16"/50 gun turrets maybe improved with an improved, faster firing loading arrangement and the usual secondary battery of 20 5" guns of the longer 54 caliber version.
 

Dilandu

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By 1945, the US naval designers should already be accustomed with Italian multi-layered armor belt; is it possible that it may been incorporated in new battleship design?
 

ceccherini

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By 1945, the US naval designers should already be accustomed with Italian multi-layered armor belt; is it possible that it may been incorporated in new battleship design?
I've never heard of any USN report on Littorio class so I don't think so
 

Tzoli

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If only USNI shared this info with Gibbs & Cox. Also we don't know since when the company started designing it. The only sure data that the major naval persons like Admiral King and likely Forrestal already knew about it by January 1945.

The only comparable design was the RN's beast, the first of the 1945 Lion series, Design A:
59.400tons std, 304,8 wl x 36,57 x 10,67m 3x3 16", 12x2 4,5", 10x6 40mm, 20x2,20x1 20mm 2x5 21" Torpedo Tubes, 13/15" belt 4/6" deck
Underwater protection should defend against Uncle Tom threat and 1.200lb TNT charge.
 

ceccherini

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I've never heard of any USN report on Littorio class so I don't think so

Strange, actually...
Maybe such a report actually exist but the general USN seems to have been very unimpressed by Regia Marina efforts. The Royal Navy instead was much more benevolent and the examination by them of the italian vessels after 1943 often produced very positive judgement
 

Colonial-Marine

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Unfortunately I fear this might be one of those designs that has been lost to time.
 

Hood

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I have a vague recollection of this project, but can't remember where, I will have a rummage.
 

airman

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I know this type of Battleship of Gibbs & Cox : the project 1058 that can be found also on book " Hybrid Warships " . I suppose that design for 60.000 ton battleship was uncompleted or a rejected proposal .
 

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Tzoli

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That is from the 1937-39 series of proposals for the Soviets not equivalent to this design.
 

DWG

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Off the direct topic, but there's some interesting stuff in that meeting between King and Forrestal, such as King* saying he doesn't really like the 6" DP cruisers (Worcester class) and would prefer the 5"/54 ones (CL-154 class), despite this meeting happening in the same month the CL-154s were cancelled.

* And Horne, who was VCNO.
 

ptdockyard

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Is this the same as the Gibbs & Cox Battleship Design D that was discussed in WI recently?

Dave
 

Tzoli

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All offers for the Soviets by Gibbs & Cox are pre WW2 so I doubt it, but it could had been used as a basis.
 

Dilandu

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All offers for the Soviets by Gibbs & Cox are pre WW2
Yep, as far as I knew USSR lost all interest to Gibbs & Cox after reviewing their proposals. Ironically, Gibbs & Cox seems to be sincerely trying to produce the most modern and advanced design they imagined - but USSR wanted a pretty standard battleship, not a hybrid, and Gibbs & Cox did not prepare THAT one proposal...
 

Tzoli

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It did as Design D or Project 1058.3
But as war broke out in Europe or when the Soviets attacked Poland the Senate and USN told GIbbs & Cox to stop their offers
 
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Tzoli

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I have a vague recollection of this project, but can't remember where, I will have a rummage.
Hood, did you able to mine out anything from your archives?
 

Hood

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No luck as yet, it wasn't where I thought it might have been. I have a feeling it was in an article but more digging needed sadly.
 

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Seeing as no one can seem to find anymore info on this, what do you personally think this design looks like? The thing that catches me is that it’s 70,000 tons.
 

Tzoli

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Knowing this is likely a private shipyard design.
I could guess 4x2 16" 10-14x2 5"/54 and strong below water defence as well as good speed to keep up with the carriers.
Or just an Updated Iowa with good anti torpedo defence and speed and AA something like the King-Nimitz Redesign but with 5"/54 turrets.
 

that_person

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Knowing this is likely a private shipyard design.
I could guess 4x2 16" 10-14x2 5"/54 and strong below water defence as well as good speed to keep up with the carriers.
Or just an Updated Iowa with good anti torpedo defence and speed and AA something like the King-Nimitz Redesign but with 5"/54 turrets.
What about something like the Kentucky AA conversion, on something like the Montana hull? That would give you the 70,000 ton displacement , the speed to keep up with carrier groups, and enough space to incorporation new technology and design the ship around wartime lessons.
 

Tzoli

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Only this was from late 1944 early 1945 not from 1948.
Montana was 60/71.000tons because of the armour, 4 turrets and large size.
My friend agree that giving the Iowa excellent anti torpedo protection could easily add 10.000tons to it's hull, and to maintain it's speed the hull had to be enlarged thus nearing to Montana displacement.
 

BlackBat242

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Just me spitballing, but if I had to guess at a basic description I would say based on the tonnage and the aforementioned battlecarrier designs It was probably a 4x3 406mm battleship that would have had pretty few differences with the Montana class, perhaps less armor and more speed? I can't really think of any reason for the navy to seriously consider building it, at least compared to the Montanas, perhaps it was able to fit through the Panama canal? I don't know, either way I find it really interesting and I hope the community can find some design specs or technical drawings, I'd love to see this thing.

Edit: with a draft of 39 feet it could not fit in the canal, and even the Montanas had 3 feet less.
Remember that the US had started building a 3rd set of locks for the Panama Canal in 1939, so when the Montana & Midway classed were designed, it was expected that they would be able to use the Panama Canal via the new locks!

After the end of the war, the US spent 1945-48 conducting a new study on the Canal, focusing on security and making it attack-resistant, as well as looking at capacity requirements.

While this study eventually supported abandoning the Third Locks project in favor of a new sea-level canal, in 1944-45 it would have been expected by the USN that the project would be resumed and completed after the end of hostilities.:
THE FIRST THIRD LOCKS PROJECT

The first Third Locks Project was authorized by Congress with an appropriation of $277 million in the spring of 1939. It proposed to enlarge the canal’s locks; from 1050 to 1200 ft long, from 110 to 140 ft wide, and from 31 to 45 ft deep. Excavations for the Third Locks at either end of the canal were essentially completed between mid 1939 and early 1942, but the project was shut down shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and never completed. The massive excavations for the Third Locks Project are usually mistaken for the old French excavations at either end of the canal (Figure 1).
Interestingly, the current, Chinese-built completed "Third Locks" did use the excavations for the abortive US work.

3rd locks after suspension in 1941, Miraflores:

3rd locks after suspension in 1941.jpg


And in 1953:

Miraflores locks 1953.jpg


Here is the under-construction modern set of locks for the same location and the reverse viewpoint:

Miraflores 3rd under construction.jpg


And the completed Cocoli Locks:

Cocoli locks.jpg
 
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CV12Hornet

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@Tzoli The forum post link is dead, do you of anyplace else where the conversation linked there can be found?
 

Tzoli

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At page 38 after a brief discussion about the USN having 10 modern Battleships, 6 "Alabamas", 4 Iowas and 2 more Iowas under construction. Fleet Admiral King says:
"we have designs for the future"
On page 40 Fleet Admiral King mentions a new 60.000ton design which Secretary Forrestal adds:
"Admiral King is referring to this new Gibbs design -- 60.000 ton monster."

They mention if it is possible to improve the underwater defense of the two Iowas in construction but they are too well advanced for that modification. Also "repeater" ships are mentioned I presume repeat Iowas if new construction had be started soon, otherwise different and improved designs are in order.

This indicates that especially Admiral King and likely Nimitz together with Forrestal advocated new battleship construction!
 
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fishpond

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This is somewhat strange, because for major warships the USN did its own basic designs. Gibbs sometimes tried to sell his own, but he was generally rebuffed -- in connection with a 1952 carrier, the BuShips designers wrote that 'he still has amateur status' (it was an Olympic year). He would not have had the slightest idea of USN thinking about underwater or other protection, as these ideas were closely held. Saying that 'we have our own designs' for the future is also odd, because no one has found the relevant BuShips designs, at least yet. Too, battleships did not figure in the projected late-war programs, apart from continued work on the two last Iowas. All of this makes me wonder where the King-Forrestal discussion was found.
 

fishpond

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This gets stranger. I found the January 1945 paper (the transcript of a discussion between King and Vinson, mainly) on the Princeton archives web-site, and it certainly refers to a Gibbs design. But I have gone through the General Board file on battleships (420-6), and I am pretty sure that you don't find any 1944-45 Gibbs design there. All you find for Gibbs is a 1939 discussion of some of the proposed designs for the Soviets. You can find a very detailed account of these designs in a recent Warship International article. If you know about U.S. battleship design practice, it is clear that Gibbs didn't. Now, Gibbs had strong political connections in the Democratic Party at this time, and I wonder whether the reference to that design was intended to deal with that influence. Otherwise it is weird, to put it mildly. Everything else in the file lines up with what we know of King's thinking. I think that Vinson was primed to ask about a new battleship, and that King knew that it was about Gibbs. I'd bet that Gibbs kept working on his design, and kept pushing the Navy to build it.

Again, I know that other Navy files don't mention a battleship design beyond the Iowas. King clearly was not too enthusiastic about building more battleships in 1945, and he mentions that the existing design has little margin for improvement. The Preliminary Design organization had limited manpower, and it was working on improved cruisers -- there was a sort of super-Atlanta (CL 154 class) and improved destroyers, as well as an improved submarine. Soon there would also be work on a new carrier design. All of these ships are well documented, and a new battleship would not have been more highly classified. So my guess is that nothing was being done.
 

Tzoli

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On the other hand many WW2 and pre-WW2 related ship development documents were lost or got destroyed in the 1960's and 70's see the missing Springstyle books (1925-1939) (1944-xxxx) and the missing Montana development files. It is likely that evidence for any other battleship projects of that era too got destroyed. :(
 

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Tzoli, a lot was destroyed, but a lot remains. It would have been difficult to bury something as big as a battleship design. There is another issue, too, which is which designs you count as worth a look. My own view is that only designs which had a real chance of being built count; the others are fantasies which aren't part of navies' stories. I don't mean to exclude super variations on the Yamatos here. The major navies all had their own in-house designers. Apart from early destroyers, torpedo boats, submarines and most motor torpedo boats, I think everything they built (combatants, anyway) was an in-house design (I'm not as sure about Germany after 1918). Gibbs doesn't count. His contribution is obscured by the fact that he claimed his firm had designed several classes of U.S. destroyers. That reflected normal U.S. practice, in which the preliminary and contract designers produced plans in which the machinery spaces were blank; the U.S. machinery authority didn't produce plans. The machinery designers normally said that they had designed ships, but that referred only to machinery (Rickover operated similarly). At the end of the war Gibbs & Cox produced a classified brochure listing its wartime contributions, which included a variety of auxiliaries (I forget which), possibly iincluding the 'Wind' class icebreakers and the 250-foot Coast Guard cutters. The company claimed that it had designed the escort carriers, which may refer to the Kaiser-built ships (Gibbs & Cox was probably design agent for the Maritime Commission).

My view on the Gibbs & Cox design (or, rather, how seriously it should be taken) is based in part on having seen the boxes of U.S. preliminary design material on battleships, now probably destroyed. There was nothing beyond the Montana class. You might wonder whether the files in question had been removed, but the boxes were labelled with their contents. The only missing file, according to the list, was one describing the prewar project to modernize the 'big five' battleships. That means we don't have a drawing of what was planned, but there is plenty of paper about the project. That is, we may not know what the prewar navy planned to do, exactly, but we know that a lot was going on.

Another hint is King's comment that the Gibbs & Cox design was 'passed by the General Board.' King was on the General Board in 1939, when Gibbs was trying to get permission to sell the design to the Soviets. There are no later General Board documents referring to another Gibbs & Cox design. Again, I think what you saw in the January 1945 document is a reference to something Gibbs was trying to sell via Vinson, who was the senior Democrat on the House Naval Affairs Committee, the grand old man of Congressional bills supporting U.S. naval expansion. The main theme of the meeting was King's attempt to tell Vinson what the Navy wanted. You can read his reaction to the battleship question as a gentle brush-off. Again, remember that Gibbs had very little idea of what the U.S. Navy wanted or needed in terms of battleships. I am pretty sure that he was involved in the (roughly 1937) Battleship Board convened by the Secretary of the Navy, to bless the design of the new North Carolinas. I'm not sure how much that taught him about subtleties like underwater protection or protection in general, both of which were kept pretty quiet by the U.S. designers. I'd guess that his involvement was limited to the new high-temperature, high-pressure steam plants which his company designed for U.S. warships.

You can bet that I and many others have been hot to find U.S. battleship projects pursued after the Montanas. We have never found anything. I would guess that the Soviets had the world's last battleship design projects, and that the last Western project was the British 1945 battleship. I would guess, too, that it became more and more difficult to design a viable battleship after the Germans demonstrated (in 1943) that they could hit a battleship from high altitude with a guided armor-piercing bomb. Presumably that meant that deck armor had to be comparable to side armor. Unfortunately there is a lot of deck to cover, so that makes for something too big to build -- as witness those weird German projects.

It is certainly true that a lot has unfortunately been lost. But in some cases we seem to have a sense of what existed. For example, the General Board papers seem to have survived intact, with a list of all their studies to give a sense of completeness. There are also a lot of Bureau of Ordnance and Bureau of Ships papers -- so many that they are still not completely explored by researchers. They do, however, fit filing practices which suggest that the relevant bits of the BuShips material are known.
 

Dilandu

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would guess, too, that it became more and more difficult to design a viable battleship after the Germans demonstrated (in 1943) that they could hit a battleship from high altitude with a guided armor-piercing bomb. Presumably that meant that deck armor had to be comparable to side armor.
Not only that, but also USAAF tests in 1945 of shaped-charge warheads for RAZON guided bomb. "Guided missiles and techniques" of NDRC, 1946, have a description of shaped charge warhead in 1000-pdr bomb body test against a full-scale model of battleship's horizontal protection. The test rig was composed of several layers of armor abd deck plates, with deck-size spaces between them. And the bomb punched through it.
 
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