Dreadnought Scorecard, World War I
Dreadnought warships – battleships and battlecruisers – were the ultimate arbiters of sea power during the First World War, the coming of which was in part fueled by the great dreadnought arms race that began in 1905.
|Battleship and Battlecruiser Fleets, 1914-1918|
|Austria-Hungary || 2/0 || 3/0|| 4/0|| 4/0|| 2/0|| 2/0|| 2/0|
|Brazil|| 2/0|| 2/0|| 2/0|| 2/0|| 2/0|| 2/0|| 0/0|
|Britain || 21/9|| 24/10|| 28/10|| 33/9|| 32/12|| 33/11|| 2/3|
|France|| 4/0|| 4/0 || 6/0 || 7/0|| 7/0|| 7/0 || 0/0|
|Germany || 14/4 || 17/5|| 17/6|| 19/5|| 19/6|| 19/6|| 0/1|
|Italy || 2/0 || 2/0 || 5/0|| 5/0|| 5/0 || 5/0 || 1/0|
|Japan || 2/1 || 2/2 || 3/4|| 3/4|| 5/4|| 5/4|| 0/0|
|Russia || 0/0 || 4/0|| 6/0 || 5/0|| 6/0|| 5/0 || 2/0|
|Spain|| 1/0 || 2/0 || 2/0 || 2/0|| 2/0 || 2/0|| 0/0|
|U.S.|| 10/0|| 10/0|| 10/0|| 14/0 || 15/0|| 17/0|| 0/0|
|Total|| 58/14|| 71/17 || 75/20|| 97/18|| 97/22|| 99/21|| 7/4|
|Note: For each entry, the first digit indicates battleships, the second the battlecruisers. “Prewar" indicates the fleets at outbreak of the war, taken as August 1, 1914. All other figures are for the end of each year. “Losses” sums up the losses in battleships and battlecruisers during the war.|
Of course, the figures above are organized by individual country, and thus do not reflect the resources in dreadnoughts of the respective alliances. Such a comparison gives a pretty good picture of the balance of sea power during the war.
|The Dreadnought Balance, 1914-1918
|Year||The Allies|| ||A-H/Ger||Ratio|
|1914|| Br, Fr, Jap, Ru|| 34/12 (46)|| 20/5 (25)|| 56%|
|1915 ||Br, Fr, It, Jap, Ru|| 46/14 (60)|| 21/6 (27)|| 45% |
|1916 ||Br, Fr, It, Jap, Ru|| 53/13 (66)|| 23/5 (28)|| 42%|
|1917 ||Br, Brz, Fr, It, Jap, Ru, US|| 72/16 (88)|| 23/6 (29)|| 32%|
|End ||Br, Brz, Fr, It, Jap, US|| 69/15 (84)|| 21/6 (27)|| 39%|
|Note: Figures in parentheses are totals of battleships and battlecruisers. The "Ratio" gives the German and Austro-Hungarian battle fleets as an approximate percentage of the combined Allied strength.
Considering the enormous investment in battleships and battlecruisers that these countries made, the war actually produced only one genuine battleship shoot out, Jutland, at the end of May 1916, and that with disappointing results. This is not to say that the battleships and battlecruisers did not do useful work. Certainly Allied – primarily British – dreadnoughts made important contributions to winning the war, such as the destruction of the von Spee’s raiding cruiser squadron by two battlecruisers, and, of course, the effective blockade of the German High Sea Fleet, that secured command of the seas for the Allies
The number of dreadnoughts lost during the war was remarkably small, only 11, 8.3-percent of the 131 vessels completed by or during the war, and three of those were the result of internal explosions. This low casualty rate was partially due to the fact that there was a tendency to avoid risking the expensive behemoths. But more importantly, it was a consequence of the fact that for the most part these ships were extremely well constructed and capable of taking an extraordinary amount of damage.
The figures in the tables are somewhat deceptive. Japan never committed her battlefleet to European waters, and the U.S. only committed a portion of its battleships, one squadron to bolster the Grand Fleet and one operating out of southern Ireland to help maintain the security of the convoy routes. And while the Brazilian battleships had been refitted for service with the Grand Fleet, they were not scheduled to report for duty until 1919. Nevertheless, even deducting these uncommitted forces, totaling about a score of ships, by the end of 1917 the Central Powers were still seriously outnumbered, with but 29 dreadnoughts to over 60, less than 50-percent.
Custer’s Italian Connection
On June 25, 1876, when George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry had their encounter with history on the banks of the Little Big Horn River, the rolls of regiment numbered 43 officers and 793 enlisted men. Of these, 320 foreign were born (38.3.-percent). The two largest ethnic groups represented among the foreign-born groups were the Irish, with 129 (16.3-percent), and the Germans, with 127 (16.0-percent). The remaining 64 foreign born (7.7-percent) were drawn from 14 other countries.
Among them were six Italians, just 0.08-percent of the total force. This may not seem like much, but the percentage of Italians in America in the mid-1870s was extremely low, the great migration from Italy not beginning until a decade later. So in fact these six men represented an enormous overrepresentation of Italian-Americans in uniform
- Charles Camillus DeRudio (properly the Count Carlo Camillo Di Rudio), a former Italian Army Officer, 1st Lieutenant, Co. A
- Augustus L. De Voto (Augusto De Voto), Private, Company B
- John James (Giovanni Casella), Private, Company E
- Frank Lombard or Frank Lombardy (Francesco Lombardi), Private, Regimental Band
- John Martin (Giovanni Martini), Trumpeter, Company H
- Felix Villiet Vinatieri (Felice Villiet Vinatieri), Chief Musician, Regimental Band.
By far the most famous Italian-American with Custer was John Martin. A former Zouave in the Papal Army, he had seen consider military service before migrating to the U.S. and enlisting in the 7th in 1874. Martin was the last white man to see Custer and his men and live, as he was sent to by Custer with orders to bring up the supporting elements of the regiment shortly before the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne closed in.
Martin served in the Army 30 years, transferring to the Coast Artillery in later life, before retiring as a sergeant in 1904. In retirement he worked for many years as a ticket agent for the New York City subway system, until he died Brooklyn on December 24, 1922.