The real question to be asked is how would a battle have gone if the Missouri and Iowa took on the Super-Battleships Yamato and Musashi. Â
As Samuel Eliot Morison, author of the History of US Naval Operations in World War II, once said…“What a brawl that would have been!”
Even though the Yamato and Musashi had 18.1 inch guns compared to the 16 inch of the Iowa class, the Iowas were still faster and still had better range. Â
But who knows. Â
IMO it would have depended on the tactics and strategy of the captains in a great battle at that time.
And it was a match-up that nearly happened. Yamato and two of the Iowa-class battleships, Iowa and New Jersey, missed each other by only a few hours in the area of the San Bernadino Straight during the closing stages of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. And if Musashi hadn’d been sunk the previous day, there would have been the potential for a two-on-two fight. I’d have given a lot to get tickets to watch a slugging match like that.
One interesting technical difference is that even though the belt armour of the Yamatos was thicker than that of the Iowas, its performance might not have been better by comparison. Japanese industry wasn’t capable of producing 16-inch armour as a single block, so the Yamato belt armour was in two layers rather than monolithic, which reduced its effectiveness. Also, the Class-A armour components of the Iowa’s defenses were more advanced than the grade of armour used on the Yamatos, and thickness-for-thickness had better resistance to penetration. On the offensive side, the 16-inch AP shells fired by the Iowas were heavyweight designs, with a greater weight relative to their diameter than the 18.1-inch AP shells fired by the Yamatos (2,700 lb vs. 3,219 lbs), and they were fired at nearly the same muzzle velocity (2,500 ft/s vs. 2,600 ft/s) because the Iowa guns had longer barrels relative to their bore (50 calibers vs. 45 calibers).