Could a destroyer sink a battleship in open battle?

I just passed by this information on Wiki about the battle of Samar and the US destroyer fire control system. I never knew it was that advanced, and it’s made me think of the battles at Guadalcanal where smaller ships destroyed larger ships by smaller caliber fire into the superstructure, and then torpedoes. A fate that almost fell on South Dakota.

At the battle of Samar it was opposite, and (partly) explains why the US destroyers did so well against the Japanese task force. Incredible that Japan lost 3 heavy cruisers and another 3 heavy cruisers was damaged against a US force of 3 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts. A proper revenge for the battle of Savo Island.

I would love to see a special episode on this issue. Do anyone else have any links to other naval battles where this technology proved decisive?

An advantage the American destroyers had was the radar-controlled Mark 37 Gun Fire Control System, which provided coordinated automatic firing of their 5-inch (127 mm) guns as long as the gun director was pointing at the target. A dual-purpose system, the Mark 37’s gunfire radar and antiaircraft capabilities allowed the destroyers’ guns to remain on target despite poor visibility and their own radical evasive maneuvering. The Japanese reliance on optical range finders aided by color-coded dye loads in each shell and mechanical calculators made it difficult for them to identify their targets through the rain and smoke and limited their ability to maneuver while firing. The different colored splashes the Japanese shells made as they hit the water by the American ships after a near miss prompted one American sailor to quip “They’re shooting at us in Technicolor!”


I was thinking of Samar when reading the subject. If a Fletcher class destroyer pumps 5 torpedoes in a battleship it might well be the end of it. Unless it is blown out of the water himself. A night attack with better radar?


Or som rain, fog or a smokescreen. It’s seems a destroyer has better odds that a heavy cruiser.

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This is my take on it it’s just my personal opinion with general knowledge.

Under normal circumstances there is very little chance that a destroyer could do much more than minimal damage as they have too many things working against them chief being firepower and at best could fire at a target maybe 9km away whereas a battleship could fire up to 40km away. Add to that the shells a destroyer Carries would mostly do superficial damage to a battleship. The one thing in a destroyers favour is speed often being as much as 10-15 knots faster than a battleship.

In say less than ideal conditions with poor visibility, high seas, cloud cover there is a better chance of a destroyer doing significant damage to a battleship as it could get closer to the ship in bad weather but it is still unlikely to sink a battleship unless it hits with a lucky shot or a well placed torpedo the cards just are not in favour of the destroyer.

Just my two cents worth😁


Thank you for your comments. To my surprise the range of the destroyers 5 inch guns was 16 km. And the Japanese could not manually calculate the firing angle fast enough to hit a twisting destroyer while the destroyer kept pumping shells into the target while turning due to the automated target system.

At Guadalcanal Hiei fell to smaller caliber fire into the superstructure

Hiei , with her nine lit searchlights, huge size, and course taking her directly through the U.S. formation, became the focus of gunfire from many of the U.S. ships. The destroyer Laffey passed so close to Hiei that they missed colliding by 20 ft (6 m).[39] Hiei was unable to depress her main or secondary batteries low enough to hit Laffey , but Laffey was able to rake the Japanese battleship with 5 in (127.0 mm) shells and machine gun fire, causing heavy damage to the superstructure and bridge, wounding Abe and killing his chief of staff.[40] Abe was thus limited in his ability to direct his ships for the rest of the battle.[41] Sterett and O’Bannon likewise fired several salvos into Hiei 's superstructure from close range, and perhaps one or two torpedoes into her hull, causing further damage before both destroyers escaped into the darkness.[42]

The same pattern meant that Bismarck could not hit the Swordsfish, because they were to slow to fit the settings of the German guns.

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