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United States Atlantic Fleet, Dreadnought Delaware Leading, n.d.

U.S. Atlantic Fleet at Sea Approaching in Column Formation, Dreadnought Delaware Leading

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_4859
Document Description
The USS Delaware was a dreadnought class ship. Dreadnought ships were the centerpieces of the 1906-1914 naval arms race.
What is the Dreadnaught class ship made out of and how are these ships powered?
What were previous generations of naval battleships made out of and powered by?
What tactical advantage does the dreadnaught have over earlier types of ships?
Why might these ships be important to the war effort?
Do you think ships like the USS Delaware were expensive to put out to sea?
Historical Challenges
Compare the dreadnaught class ship to other significant weapon discoveries such as the submarine, the airplane, or the intercontinental ballistic missile.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Research and calculate the firepower of the cannons (range, explosiveness, etc.).
Math: Research and calculate the tonnage of battleships.
Mahan, Alfred Thayer. The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. NY, Little & Brown, 1890.


Historical Context
Before airplanes and aircraft carriers came of age in World War II, dreadnoughts - very large and heavily armed ships - were the most fearsome surface vessels in the world.  
A strong shipbuilding industry was essential if ships like the USS Delaware were to be produced.  The effort of the major world powers to build capital ships - large and powerful warships like the USS Delaware - came to be known as the naval arms race.

The USS Delaware was the first commissioned “dreadnought” class battleship in the fleet of the United States. It and its sister ship, the USS North Dakota, were built in the years immediately after Great Britain claimed sea-power dominance with the HMS Dreadnought (1906). The Dreadnought made all previous naval battleships virtually obsolete in terms of its maximum speed and weaponry. It also marked an important turning point in the pre World War I arms race. The “dreadnought class” for all intents and purposes became the battleship of choice for most modern navies including that of Germany, Imperial Japan, and the United States.

Although extremely expensive to build and prone to mechanical problems, the United States and other industrial powers became attracted to this type of battleship from 1900 through the Great War and into the 1920’s. America’s reliance on the sea power theory of Alfred Thayer Mahan made the Delaware’s 10 12 inch main guns and 21 knot speed an appealing weapon even if its active duty history was less than spectacular.

Massively popular as it was impressive and formidable, the dreadnought, however, soon became a relic of the technological boom that transformed modern warfare in World War II. While they never fully lived up to their hype, the earliest steel battleships set the tone for what would become the swift, powerful, and long range fleets that dueled across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans later in the 20th Century.
Essential Question
How does technology change the way wars are fought?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the way new ship technology changed the way the war was fought.