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183 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 ...
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121 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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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83 votes
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Why didn't battleship Bismarck have more support?

The Germans wanted to send more, but there were none available. Most were unsuitable to escort Bismarck. Those which were suitable were damaged. A good warship for commerce raiding is fast, both to ...
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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 ...
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63 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 ...
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62 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 ...
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59 votes
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Did a kamikaze ever impact the hull of a ship, as opposed to the deck?

Also, correct me if I'm wrong but the heavy AA guns appear like they can't point down over the deck. They can only point upwards or parallel to the surface, but not down at the surface. This ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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59 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 ...
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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 ...
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58 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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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50 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 ...
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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 (...
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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 ...
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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)....
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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41 votes

Can anyone identify this warship?

That photo is of the HMS Liberty, retouched to remove identifying information. This Google image search1 finds images identified as both HMS Lysander and HMS Liberty.2 Looking at those two pages, ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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