188 votes
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On 1941 Dec 7, could Japan have targeted the Panama Canal instead of Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack?

So I want to know, did the Japanese Navy have the ability to destroy it in a surprise attack, let's say on 1941 Dec 7? I'm asking if the Japanese Navy had the ability. I'm not asking if it was a ...
Schwern's user avatar
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124 votes
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Why were ships-of-the line not supposed to open fire on frigates during fleet actions?

In age-of-sail fleet actions, the primary use of frigates (and smaller vessels) was to relay messages (usually in the form of flag signals) between the flagships and the rest of the fleet. They ...
Steve Bird's user avatar
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111 votes
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Why did the British scuttle the u-boats surrendered after WWII?

SHORT ANSWER The short answer is that this was considered by the British to be the simplest and most economical way of disposing of the German U-boat fleet. The decision to sink the U-boats rather ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
109 votes
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Why didn't Hitler have more submarines in the English channel?

The English Channel is too shallow in many places to be safe for U-Boats. The operating depth for the Type VII submarine was up to 230 meters, while the English Channel is only 45 meters deep in many ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
72 votes
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Were ancient ships named?

Xenophon in his Hellenica (an account of the last yearsof the Peloponessian War and its aftermath) mentions several named ships, for example, "Paralus" and "Salaminia". Thus, we can infer that at ...
Danila Smirnov's user avatar
64 votes
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How did they cook on ancient ships?

That's a good question. As far as we know, most ancient voyages didn't venture that far from land. Ships like the Bronze Age Uluburun and Cape Gelidonya shipwrcks are thought to have been coastal ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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63 votes
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Why didn't the British Grand Fleet force an engagement with the German Imperial Navy in WW1?

tl;dr Sea control is good. Sea denial is not that much worse. Sinking an enemy ship at the cost of significant damage to your own is less desirable than keeping your enemy holed up in port (where his ...
DevSolar's user avatar
  • 14k
60 votes

How did passengers keep warm on sail ships?

Long ago, in 16 century they used open fire in fair weather (with all possible precautions) on the deck to cook (ref. Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea). When the sea was rough, only cold food could ...
Alex's user avatar
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59 votes
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Why were British ships not of the same quality as French and Spanish ships until the latter part of the 18th century?

I think that N.A.M Rodger covers this quite well in chapter 27 of his book "The Command of the Ocean". It was for long an article of faith among naval historians that eighteenth century British ...
Steve Bird's user avatar
  • 19.9k
59 votes

Were ancient ships named?

The autobiography of Ahmose, son of Abana, a Egyptian soldier in the early Eighteenth Dynasty (1550-1600 BC), mentions the names of a few the ships he was on. "Wild Bull", "Northern" and "Rising in ...
pboss3010's user avatar
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58 votes
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Why didn't the British consider the USS President's attempted flight as a fake surrender?

I think a key part of this is whether the President's captain intentionally faked the initial surrender. Since Decatur could not know the exact condition of the Endymion but was well aware of the ...
Steve Bird's user avatar
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57 votes
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Why were Royal Navy ships forbidden to attack the ARA Veinticinco de Mayo in Argentinian waters?

The exclusion zone mentioned in the article is described in the Wikipedia article as follows: The Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) was an area declared by the United Kingdom on 30 April 1982 covering a ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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55 votes

Why didn't Hitler have more submarines in the English channel?

In addition to the other answers, WWII submarines were primarily surface vessels which could submerge for combat. They had very limited speed, visibility, and battery range underwater. The batteries ...
Schwern's user avatar
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55 votes
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Has there been a naval battle where a boarding attempt backfired?

The most famous example of this would be Blackbeard's defeat. The Wikipedia article is quite thorough, so I'll focus on the last battle. The local governor organized a pirate hunt to capture or kill ...
Dulkan's user avatar
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53 votes

In the Battle of the Coral Sea, how could two Japanese scouts grossly mis-identify two American ships?

Mistaking the Sims for a cruiser is easy: a Sims-class destroyer has the same number of turrets (3) as the majority of American cruisers, while most American destroyers of the time had two, four, or ...
Mark's user avatar
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51 votes
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Why did Europeans (and not people in other regions) dominate oceans?

Europeans had an incentive to explore the Atlantic because they were dependent on the trade routes which pass through Arab territory. The Arabs and other peoples living in the Middle East made a lot ...
Pablo's user avatar
  • 633
51 votes
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When did humans develop the ability to sail any direction regardless of wind direction?

From lateen sail history we note that the first known type of fore-and-aft rig capable of working upwind is the spritsail: The earliest fore-and-aft rig was the spritsail, appearing in the 2nd ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
47 votes
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In WW2, why did Germany sink allied supply convoys instead of capturing them?

The options that submarines had were, in practice, limited to sinking Allied shipping and leaving the area as quickly as possible to avoid detection. U-boats had a disadvantage compared to destroyers (...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
46 votes

Why did navies abandon armour?

Analysts concluded that battleships were killed by carrier aircraft, not by other battleships. This conclusion might have been influenced by several factors: The US became the clear naval winner when ...
o.m.'s user avatar
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46 votes
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How was the USA able to win naval battles in the Pacific?

USA was outnumbered or outgunned only during the first year of war. After that they always had naval supremacy. While the number of ships was similar most battles were mostly ties (except for Midway)....
Santiago's user avatar
  • 4,901
45 votes

How did ships acquire targets beyond the horizon in WWI?

Battleships were built to engage at range. Even at that time, the rangefinding gear was fairly extensive. Concerning the HMS Barham, one of the ships in the engagement: Barham was completed with ...
justCal's user avatar
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44 votes

Were ancient ships named?

The idea of naming ships goes back several thousand years but, unsurprisingly, there is very little evidence from the earliest days of sailing. EGYPT Possibly the earliest evidence of an individual ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
43 votes
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Capturing a much larger ship?

Yes, the bit in Master and Commander was based upon the real life action between the 14-gun H.M.B Speedy and a Spanish 32-gun Xebec-frigate named El Gamo in 1801. The British commander, Lord Thomas ...
Steve Bird's user avatar
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41 votes
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Why did piracy thrive in the late 17th and early 18th centuries?

The creation and expansion of European empires during the Age of Discovery resulted in the expansion of trade routes to new colonies and trading posts across the world. The vast areas of these trade ...
Steve Bird's user avatar
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40 votes
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Was the tugboat ever part of a WWII battle group?

The US Navy certainly had ocean-going tugs during the Second World War. One example you mentioned was the Navajo-class, or Cherokee-class ocean-going fleet tugs (ATF), another were the Abnaki-class ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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39 votes
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What was the "Favorable result" that the German admiralty was expecting from the naval attack on the Royal Navy in 1918?

The point was not to cripple the Royal Navy, or even win the war. The point was to "go down in glory". (Edit: Or having a moment of glory, if you like that better.) Admiral Scheer's take on ...
DevSolar's user avatar
  • 14k
37 votes
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Why wasn't sauerkraut used to combat scurvy?

The problem was that during the 18th Century, they didn't know that scurvy was caused by lack of Vitamin C (mainly because they didn't know what vitamins were). Therefore, they didn't go looking for ...
Steve Bird's user avatar
  • 19.9k
36 votes

Why didn't Hitler have more submarines in the English channel?

Other answers have explained why basing the U-boats in the English Channel was a poor idea for the Germans. Here's what actually happened: In spring 1944, most of the U-boats were based in the ports ...
John Dallman's user avatar
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36 votes
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How were horses disembarked from sail ships?

Basically three options: 1. Ramp or gangway: The easiest and most preferable way. Might require specialised or retrofitted ships: (extreme left, vertically centered, click to enlarge) (Ottomans ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar

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