The firepower of a battleship demonstrated by USS Iowa
(c. 1984). The muzzle blasts distort the ocean surface.
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a fleet of battleships was considered vital for any nation that desired to maintain command of the sea.
The word battleship was coined around 1794 and is a contraction of the phrase line-of-battle ship, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail. The term came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, now referred to by historians as pre-dreadnought battleships. In 1906, the commissioning of HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design. Subsequent battleship designs, influenced by HMS Dreadnought, were referred to as "dreadnoughts", though the term eventually became obsolete as they became the only type of battleship in common use.
Battleships were a symbol of naval dominance and national might, and for decades the battleship was a major factor in both diplomacy and military strategy. A global arms race in battleship construction began in Europe in the 1890s and culminated at the decisive Battle of Tsushima in 1905, the outcome of which significantly influenced the design of HMS Dreadnought. The launch of Dreadnought in 1906 commenced a new naval arms race. Three major fleet actions between steel battleships took place: the decisive battles of the Yellow Sea (1904) and Tsushima (1905) during the Russo-Japanese War, and the inconclusive Battle of Jutland (1916) during the First World War. Jutland was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of battleships in the war, and it was the last major battle fought primarily by battleships in world history.
The dreadnought was the predominant type of 20th-century battleship. The first of the kind, the British HMS Dreadnought had such an impact when launched in 1906 that battleships built after her were referred to as 'dreadnoughts', and earlier battleships became known as pre-dreadnoughts. Her design had two revolutionary features: an 'all-big-gun' armament scheme and steam turbine propulsion. The arrival of the dreadnoughts renewed the naval arms race, principally between Britain and Germany but reflected worldwide, as the new class of warships became a crucial symbol of national power. The concept of an all-big-gun ship had been in development for several years before Dreadnought's construction. The Imperial Japanese Navy had begun work on an all-big-gun battleship in 1904, but finished the ship as a pre-dreadnought; the United States Navy was also building all-big-gun battleships. Technical development continued rapidly through the dreadnought era. Successive designs increased rapidly in size and made use of improvements in armament, armor, and propulsion. Within ten years, new battleships outclassed Dreadnought herself. These more powerful vessels were known as 'super-dreadnoughts'. Most of the dreadnoughts were scrapped after the end of World War I under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, but many of the newer super-dreadnoughts continued serving through World War II. While dreadnought building consumed vast resources in the early 20th century, there was only one pitched battle between dreadnought fleets. At the Battle of Jutland, the British and German navies clashed with no decisive result. The term 'dreadnought' gradually dropped from use after World War I, especially after the Washington Naval Treaty, as all remaining battleships shared dreadnought characteristics.
Franz Ritter von Hipper (13 September 1863 - 25 May 1932) was a German admiral of the Kaiserliche Marine during the First World War. He is most well-known for commanding the German battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland. After joining the Imperial Navy at age 18 in 1881, he would move on to command torpedo boats, SMS Leipzig, SMS Friedrich Carl, SMS Gneisenau, SMS Yorck, and the High Seas Fleet's I Scouting Group at the Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, Battle of Dogger Bank and Jutland. Awarded the Iron Cross at Dogger Bank, he was later awarded the Pour le Mérite after Jutland for sinking two Royal Navy ships and ascended to command of the High Seas Fleet in August 1918. Though the war was all but lost by that time, he spent his final days of service attempting to control the Kiel Mutiny and administering the internment of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow (which would later be scuttled), and retired on 30 November 1918. The German cruiser Admiral Hipper, lead ship of the Admiral Hipper-class cruiser, would be named for him shortly after his death.