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Cleveland with 12 8 inch guns, the Arms Race that Almost Happened

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I've been thinking for a while about the arms race that almost happened in real life before the Washington Naval Treaty put a stop to it.  Now most people and teachers go straight to the capital ships, Battleships, Battle cruisers, and Carriers along with limits on total size of the fleets.  

However, from reading the background on some of the ships in the game, I noticed something rather American that could have spiraled out of control. Super sizing our snack portions. 

I give to everyone the Pensacola.  It was designed, sold to Congress, and was being built as a light cruiser.......with ten 8 in guns. Wait what?!  Light cruisers have 6 inch or 5 inch guns, not 8 inch.  8 inch belongs to heavy cruisers.  This however is something the treaty imposed on everyone. So with the treaty in effect the Pensacolas became heavy cruisers, just because of their guns. We all know the history from here or lest the designs that the US went with from here.


Now with an idea that has occurred to me if the treaty didn't happen.  American light cruisers would have 8 inch guns and armor to stop 6 inch guns (to fight other light cruisers) and American heavy cruisers would either have 8 inch guns with armor to match or 10 inch guns with armor to stop 8 inch shells (to fight other heavy cruisers.)


Can anyone imagine a Cleveland with twelve 8 inch guns with twelve  5 inch secondaries? Or Des Moines with 9 10 inch guns?  What would we have come up with on this?  We were definitely into supersizing the navy and it's ships at this point in time, with class plans of 20+ or even 30+ ships in a class of cruisers, both heavy and light. Lots of these plans were paired down to only a few due to fleet limit, but it's kinda scary what the US was even thinking of. (Heck, on the eve of 1942 we had what, 200 ships above DD class on order? I know it was a ridicules amount, no matter how you look at it.) 


What do you y'all think how this could have gone? 

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every nation can classify ships as they freakin please. And opponent Nation would also classify the threat as they percive it

One things that people seems to forget were Nation when making Ship class consider Political weight before Traditional Naval practice


The international treaty such as washington Naval Treaty were something that function as mutual agrement on how to settle those things - so they dont spiral out of control


If you go by Japan Naming convention of 1905 by Japan Naval Ministery

Then Kongo, Haruna, Hiei, Kirishima, Amagi were a Cruiser. They were what they called first line cruiser along with Atago, Takao, Maya, Myoko etc

They all bearing the name of Mountain, while Battleship were bearing the name of Province (Yamato, Fusou, Nagato, Mutsu, Tosa, Kaga, Kii (also called Kishu), Musashi...) so the official Japan decree classify those ships mention above as Cruiser (Initialy)

But International Community ofc wont alow such thing to happen. thats what Treaty for, to sort those things out


In cold war (betwen 60-70) American Navy only classify ship as cruiser If the ships carry Heavy Offensive (Nuclear) Missile weaponary

so for USA they only have 4 of them. but The Russian not see Cruiser as the same as American - and from Russian viewpoint American have more than 30 or so Cruiser.

this lead to whats called Cruiser gap. and Agrement betwen 2 Nation. made American reclasify every ship she have 

so both nation can see each other Naval Power more clearly. which important in maintaining power balance or parity with other nations


In modern time

You have JSMDF Izumo, a self proclaimed "Destroyer". which is freakin Small Carrier in every word of sense - since their constitution not allow carrier - forcing them to be creative

and you have Zumwalt that originaly planed as Cruiser, but re-classify as Destroyer so congress wont cut her budget


Thats why When you talk class in Internet, or common coffee talk.

the class description were very loose capability wise or timeline wise. Especialy un-official class like Battlecruiser which preaty much Extinct after Jutland (due to technological improvement the term itself degrade for post Jutland ships).

It carries bad stigma. and one of the reason US Navy insist not calling Alaska class a battlecruiser

Destroyer leader were Frigate in other navies, Destroyer escort were Corvette and such. Every Naval power have classify things diffrently based on their doctrine

somewhat common folk like us bassed our view from RN, with USN criterria mixed in ( They both have many diffrent view on how to classifying things) -


Indonesia for example have upscaled sigma class corvette. which capability wise equivalent to Multirole frigate.

they Called it new Class - PKR or Perusak Kawal Rudal

it litteraly translated as Missile Destroyer Escort


Ship class is more often Political, since Navy and by extention their ships present soverignity, Power, and Influence of a Nation

and also the means of "Diplomacy"

some countries like to downplayed it a bit, and some countries overplayed it a bit



Edited by humusz

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True, each nation classified things differently.  However, there was and is today a broad, general acceptance that this is what makes a ship of a certain class. For example, the Amphibious Assault Ships or Helicopter Carriers or the small carriers of the world are not put into the same class as a Nimitz.  One, because of size, but also what they can do.  Often when talking about carriers, AAS and HC are not even talked about as carriers, but part of amphibious support.


My point is, if the US got to go with Light Cruisers with 8 inch guns, what would have the other nations done?  Battleships started out with 12 inch guns, but ended up having 15 to 16 inch guns to even be current.  BBs with 14 inch got a lease on life with the naval treaties, but nations were already thinking in 1920 about having ships built with 18 inch guns or even 20 inch!  (Talk only for the 20 nothing serious at the time.)  This is almost double what they started out with from little more than a decade before.  Where would have the cruisers have gone?



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US goes proclaim 8inch light cruiser doesnt matter.


As I said above, the adversary (like IJN or RN) would classify it according to their own level of threat.

for example IJN just consider it as equivalent to their own First class cruiser since the displacement were above 7500 tons



Without definition stated in washington treaty "Light cruiser" "heavy cruiser" would interperted diffrently by each naval power

If you confused. The Classification were not UNIVERSAL (yet)

every country that signed the Washington Treaty, then must accept the current known classification leading to what you known today


If you ask, what would happen if the treaty not exist

what happen to the ever escalating arms race

the answer were, The economy of the participant were going to collapse

what makes the treaty were so well recived. is because the US, Brits and Japan economy were in the brink of going kaput


Royal Navy have a doctrine where they must have strenght parity with number 2 and 3 Naval power above her (that means Brits need to have same naval power with US and Japan combined! - do you know how horror their economy would be)

and they just suffer from WW1, their economy is exhausted and in the brink of collapse

Japan, use 40% of their GDP for naval building. They also in the brink of collapse if the arms race continue. (The less wealthy betwen those 3, but need to keep up with trend. its like your poor co-worker that need to keep buying new iPhones because others buy it too)

if for not percived American agresive expansion during Anexation of hawai, Bloody colonization of philiphines (predicted almost 1-2 million died), spanish - american war (that triggered by USS maine detonation, which US (falsely) accused caused by spanish sabotage), Show of force by Great white fleet - the anti japanese movement and law in US for Japanese/Japanese decent

the action of US further fueled Japan militanism. uniquely after short burst of sudden imperialism the US switch to pacifism just as fast

IMO Japan would not being so agressive trying to match American navy in pasific, if the sudden american agresiveness not happen

American Economy also not that healthy, as 1929 saw The Great Depression (though positioned itself as emerging global power, there is bubble going to burst, and dark cloud looming in horizon)

at that time, American is not that sole superpower as its today. and not as roburst either


German have not signed treaty, but they are the loser of WW1. and need time to recover and rebuild their navy

French and Italian basicly just trying to match each other. British agrement with french gurantee their trade route open as long as French keep tab with Italians

it save to say French and Italian wont made things that bigger than what british would build. Italian also only obsesed with mediteranian and not ready to going full ham with British


I imagine under those volatile condition,  if the treaty not happen and those 3 major participant continue their pace. a social unrest and economic collapse would happen. and sometimes external enemies would be picked to quell the splitting of the nation

its wont be supprising that the World war 2 to start early betwen US and British

yes, you hear that right war betwen US and British


There is high chance that if Arms race continue, there would be aglo saxon war betwen those 2. with tension building all over the place

Rossevelt call British the most evil empire, and war plan red were drafted


there wont be naval buildup following our timeline where it happen in 1939

there not much time nor money to build 20inch battleship. because high possibility were without the treaaty war will happen sooner - and carrier usefullnes would be known in war since there is not a glimer of hope to avoiding that fate (though aircraft might not be as domineering due to pace of aviation technology)

Edited by humusz

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