94% of People Can't Identify the WWII Ship Type From an Image! Can You?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo

WWII was started and ended by battleships – sort of. The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein fired on a Polish garrison on September 1, 1939 – starting the war. On September 2, 1945, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri – ending the war.

U-boats are WWI and WWII German military submarines. During WWII, they wreaked havoc on merchant shipping lanes in the Atlantic. Only a handful of restored U-boats survive today, including the U-505 which was captured by the U.S. Navy on June 4, 1944, and is now on display as a museum ship.

Heavy cruiser warships were noted for their high speed and ability to travel long distances. The Maya was among the heavy cruisers put into service by the Imperial Japanese Navy during WWII. She was commissioned before the war (1932) but was sunk by a torpedo attack from a United States submarine on October 23, 1944.

River monitors were typically the largest and most heavily armed warships in a river convoy. The HMS Terror of the Royal Navy was a river monitor in WWII. She was commission on August 6, 1916, and sunk on February 23, 1941.

Sloops were small, slow and lightly armed escort vessels which often took fire meant for other ships in their convoy. Such was the case for the HMS Chanticleer, a sloop of the Royal Navy. She sustained U-boat damage on November 18, 1943, while part of a convoy and was declared a total loss.

The modern Corvette grew out of the Allied forces’s need for large enough warships to take on patrol duty against German submarines (U-boats). One example is the HMCS Regina of the Royal Canadian Navy which was lost to a U-Boat on August 8, 1944.

The magnificence of the HMS Dreadnought when she was launched in 1906 led to an entire generation of battleships being named after her. Several dreadnoughts took part in WWII but the only surviving one is the USS Texas which now operates as a museum ship.

As their name suggests, minesweepers were used in the vital role of clearing explosives to create safe passage for other vessels. One minesweeper active in WWII was the HNMS B of the Royal Dutch Navy. Her crew deliberately sank her on March 2, 1942, when she was in danger of capture by the Japanese.

The USS Eagle Boat 56 was just one of the many patrol boats brought into service during World War II. While some may have been built for that purpose, others were actually civilian craft (such as fishing trawlers) fitted with machine guns and other (often outdated) weaponry.

A net layer, such as the HMS Guardian, had the job of laying and maintaining anti-torpedo and anti-submarine steel meshwork. The HMS Guardian and the HMS Protector were two netlayers in the service of the Royal Navy during the World War II.

Convoys crossing the Atlantic were in need of continuous air cover. This need led to a handful of ships (beginning with the HMS Ark Royal) being fitted with catapults so they could launch the aircraft they carried. They had no means of recovering the aircraft, however, so if there was no land nearby, the pilot had to ditch his plane.

Gunboats were designed specifically to attack coastal and river targets. They were typically small, fast and outfitted with one or more guns. One example is the HNMS Brinio of the Royal Dutch Navy which was lost on May 14, 1940, after being hit by a German aircraft and scuttled by her crew.

The HMS Unicorn was the first of three aircraft maintenance carriers put into service by the Royal Navy in WWII. She was the only one, however, with a deck on which planes could land.

The oil tanker MV Rapana was one of several oil tankers and bulk grain ships fitted with a flight deck and operated as an aircraft carrier in the World War II. In many instances, these vessels continued carrying out their original function.

Both Allied and Axis navies made use of midget submarines during the war. Some, like the Royal Navy’s Sleeping Beauty, were designed for just one person to operate. Others could take crews of up to nine.

Q-ships, or decoy vessels, during WWII, were typically merchant ships which looked unarmed and vulnerable. Once they lured enemy submarines into surfacing, however, the Q-ships would attack. An example of a Q-ship is the USS Asterion.

Rescue or salvage tugs were used during both World Wars. During the Second World War some civilian tugs were requisitioned into active service while other military tugs were built because of the great need for such vessels. The HMS Destiny, one of the many rescue tugs used by the Royal Navy, was actually loaned to the British by the United States.

Coastal defence ships were small, well-armed, well-armored and built for the express purpose of coastal defense. One such vessel was the HDMS Niels Juel of the Royal Dutch Navy. She was scuttled by her crew in order to avoid capture after an aerial German attack on August 29, 1943.

During WWII, oilers played the vital role of refueling warships while underway. The USS Rapidan was built just after the First World War and served as an oiler in the Second World War, ending her service on September 17, 1946.

Most of the submarine chasers used by the various Allied forces in WWII were built by the United States. Submarine chasers were small, fast and equipped specifically for anti-submarine warfare. The USS PC-815 was commissioned on April 20, 1943, but lost on September 11, 1945, after she collided with a United States Navy destroyer.

The term “armed merchant cruiser” refers to passenger vessels which were fitted with weapons and placed into military service. One example is the British liner HMS Jervis Bay. She was sunk by a German battleship on November 5, 1940, while escorting a convoy.

During WWII, Allied armies requisitioned civilian yachts, outfitted them with weaponry and set them to patrol coastal waters. The armed yachts, such as the HMCS Ambler of the Royal Canadian Army, were on the lookout for U-boats (German submarines).

Seaplane carriers fall within the category of seaplane tenders. They, however, offered more than support services to seaplanes, as they were also able to transport them. Some seaplane carriers like the Chitose of the Imperial Japanese Army, were later converted into full-fledged aircraft carriers.

Small, fast cutters in WWII were assigned a range of duties, including coastal patrol and ferrying of people and cargo. The USCGC Modoc was a 240-foot cutter best remembered for sighting the Bismarck (a German battleship) and alerting Allied forces to her position, leading to her destruction.

Escort carriers (or escort aircraft carriers) were smaller and slower than typical aircraft carriers. The very first escort carrier was actually a captured and converted German merchant vessel aptly renamed HMS Audacity by the Royal Navy. She was lost in a U-boat attack on December 21, 1941.

Dock landing ships, such as the USS Gunston Hall, grew out of the British need for vessels to quickly transport large numbers of troops and armored vehicles across the sea and directly to shore. Once unloaded, the dock landing ship typically remained offshore and provided repair services.

Destroyer tenders, such as the USS Denebola, were meant to provide maintenance support to small fleets of destroyers. The tenders had accommodation and dining facilities for the destroyers’s crew. They also carried specialist workers who were available to each destroyer in the fleet.

Nine steam gunboats, including the HMS SGB 9/Grey Goose, were built by the Royal Navy for service during the Second World War. They were used to hunt fast attack German vessels (called E-boats by the Allies). The HMS Grey Goose was commissioned on July 4, 1942, served through the war and was hulked in 1958.

The HMAS Adelaide of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) was just one of many cruisers used during the Second World War. She was a light cruiser commissioned on various occasions by the RAN. Her last duty was to serve as a tender to the HMAS Penguin in Sydney.

The tank landing ship is also known as the “landing craft, tank” or LCT for short. Many of these amphibious LCTs were put into service by both the British and United States armies during the Second World War. Mark 8 versions of the LCT, such as the HMS LCT 4042 of the Royal Navy, could carry up to eight heavy tanks.

The USS Atlanta was one of several anti-aircraft cruisers in operation during the WWII. She was scuttled by her crew after sustaining heavy damage (from friendly fire) in a battle with Japanese warships.

The Abdiel class consisted of minelayer cruisers (or cruiser minelayers) chiefly used by the Royal Navy. They were very fast, with the ability to go from Malta to Gibraltar overnight. One example is the HMS Abdiel which was lost on September 10, 1943, when she hit mines and was sunk in Taranto Harbor, Italy.

Torpedo boats were small and fast. They were produced at relatively low cost and in large numbers. The CSS David was the very first vessel built specifically as a torpedo boat.

The main function of an aircraft carrier is to act as a seagoing airbase, deploying and recovering aircraft. Of the 61 aircraft carriers put into service by the Allied forces, 36 were from the United States Navy, 24 from the Royal Navy and one from the French Navy – the FR Bearn.

In terms of size, frigates like the USS Gallup, fall somewhere in-between a Destroyer and a Corvette. In WWII, they were fitted with anti-submarine weaponry and carried out mainly escort duties.

The HMS Euryalus is one example of light aircraft carriers used in WWII. They were smaller than typical aircraft carriers and were depended on for their superior speed.

Super dreadnought battleships weren’t just much more massive than their dreadnought predecessors, they were also much more powerfully armed. Many were built prior or during the First World War but only a few of those, like the HMS Queen Elizabeth, survived to the Second World War.

Monitors were small, slow and very heavily armed. One example is the HMS Roberts which was commissioned on October 27, 1941, and served throughout the rest of the war.

Destroyers, such as the HMS Skate, were among the most feared vessels in the service of the Allies. A destroyer was used to escort other ships in a convoy but it was larger, faster and more heavily armed than a destroyer escort.

The USCGC Eastwind of the United States Coast Guard was commissioned as an icebreaker on June 3, 1944. She was well-armored and like others in her class, she was also very well armed.

Submarines, surface craft and aircraft have all been used as mine layers by various armies. One noted minelayer (and convoy escort) of WWII is the NMS Amiral Murgescu of the Romanian Army. The Soviet Union captured her in September of 1944.

River gunboats had shallow drafts which allowed them to be used for river navigation. One such vessel was the USS Tutuila which was decommissioned by the United States Navy on 18 January 1942 and shortly after loaned to China before being permanently transferred to that country on February 17, 1948.

The destroyer leaders or flotilla leaders were large destroyers placed in charge of groups of smaller warships. One example is the Royal Yugoslav Navy’s Dubrovnik which was commissioned before the war but captured by Italian forces on April 17, 1941.

The word “light” in the description of these vessels refers to their small size. Their full description is “light armored cruiser” since they have a protective belt and deck. One such vessel is the HMS Caledon which saw action in both World Wars.

Amphibious infantry landing ships (or landing craft infantry, LCI) served the vital role of transporting large numbers of troops onto a beach. Many LCIs were lost during the war but some, like the USS LCI(L)-713, have been restored and are open for viewing by the public.

During WWII, motor launches, such as the ML 104, were small, fast boats called on to serve in a variety of capacities. These included the rescue of downed troops, minelaying, harbor defense and submarine chasing.

Battlecruisers, like the HMS Hood, were large but fast battleships. She was built in 1916 but was sunk by the Germans on May 4, 1941.

Allied forces fielded over 50 repair ships during the Second World War. Axis armies also had their own repair ships, like the Asahi of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was a battleship recommissioned first as a coastal defense ship, then as a submarine depot ship and finally as a repair ship.

The USS PT 107 was just one of the many motor torpedo boats which fought in the Second World War. Like other torpedo boats, the USS PT 107 was fast and agile. She was lost on June 18, 1944.

The United States Navy used the term “destroyer escort” for the same type of vessels called “frigate” by the Royal (British) Navy. More than 500 destroyer escorts were commissioned during the Second World War. One of these is the USS Buckley which was brought into service on April 30, 1943.

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About This Quiz

From epic land battles to air campaigns, World War II is known for the devastation of war. But, it was control of the sea that helped America aid the Allies forces and eventually defeat the Axis in battle. From medical and supply ships to ships that launched aircraft and sought out the death-tolling U-boats command of the sea was a priority of the war. Tens of thousands of lives were lost in harrowing battles and even maritime accidents, but it is the carriers, battleships, the sloops, and subs that protected millions of others. 

How well do you know your maritime World War II ships?  Could you identify a minesweeper from a cruiser? Would you know the difference between a battleship and sloop? Or, if lost and injured at sea how do you think you would identify a medical ship? They're probably not as hard to identify as you'd think. Do you know what a net layer is? Or, do you think you've seen a fighter catapult ship? 

These are the ships that helped lead the Allied forces to defeat the Axis in the second world war. It's time to prove your worth sailor, and figure out these ships from an image!

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