The Cost of History

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The Cost of History

Unread postby ConnorM » 8th April, 2017, 11:26 pm

A question I've often wondered, especially after visiting the Buffalo Naval Park is why does it seem that the United States is the only country that preserves its military history?

Ships are an interesting measure of this. Of all the nations on earth, one would think that the United Kingdom would have the most museum ships, being as it was the world's greatest naval power from ca. 1680 all the way to 1922. And yet, Great Britain doesn't come close to having as many preserved warships as the United States.

To break it down, there are currently nine battleships in existence in the world. Other than the pre-dreadnought battleship Mikasa in Japan, they are all US battleships. One New York-class Dreadnought, the Texas, one North Carolina-class fast battleship, the North Carolina, two South Dakota-class fast battleships, the Alabama and Massachusetts, and four Iowa-class fast battleships, the Iowa, the Wisconsin, the Missouri, and the New Jersey. Now, why is it that the United States is the only country that preserved any post-dreadnought battleships? What was it that caused the United Kingdom to scrap all of its remaining battleships after the war, especially ships such as the Warspite, which had seen major action throughout two World Wars?

And what of previous ships? Now, before anyone mentions the Victory, I will state that in 1940, there were three ships-of-the-line in existence throughout the world. The Victory in Portsmouth, the Implacable, and the Wellesley. After September 24th, there were two ships of the line in existence, as the Germans, mistaking the Wellesley for the Victory bombed the ship for propaganda purposes.

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So, with only two of the ships left in the world, in 1949, the Government of the United Kingdom decided to... purposely blow up one of them. Because that makes sense? A veteran of Trafalgar and Cape Ortegal, the Implacable was sailed out to sea flying both a British and a French flag, and sunk, due to budget constraints.

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So why is it that the United States is willing to preserve eight battleships, five carriers, three cruisers, and a multitude of destroyers, submarines, sailing frigates, and other vessels, when other nations hardly bother to preserve their own naval history? And even then, the United States often lends a hand to preserve them. What is the cost of history, and is it worth the price?
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Re: The Cost of History

Unread postby Pity » 9th April, 2017, 12:15 am

They are symbols of strength, especially regarding how quickly and significantly the United States can execute military power. To many, both foreign and domestic, military advancements showcase a country's overall status. It seems logical that a society that has the capability to develop the largest and most lethal machines on the planet would have a high-ranking. By preserving our monumental feats of engineering and wartime accomplishments, Americans are provided a sense of pride and perhaps an underlining feeling of superiority; I feel there is an overall benefit of this social cohesion.

I do not know specifically how much it costs to preserve, renovate, and maintain decades-old, disintegrating battleships; I wish you had provided a precise number, so I could throw in my personal view on using taxpayer money on it. In short and on a much less expensive scale, it is similar to a collector continuously paying to repair and conserving the condition of personal computers from the 1970s. Is there any practical benefit for the collector? No, there is no gain, but it is still important. Even simpler, one could pose the question "Why preserve history at all?"
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Re: The Cost of History

Unread postby rxxli » 9th April, 2017, 6:37 am

Pity wrote:In short and on a much less expensive scale, it is similar to a collector continuously paying to repair and conserving the condition of personal computers from the 1970s. Is there any practical benefit for the collector? No, there is no gain, but it is still important. Even simpler, one could pose the question "Why preserve history at all?"

I do that. Though mine are from the 80s and forward. And believe me... this shit gets expensive.




To be honest I think this is quite straightforward. Other countries see this technology as a tool. And when its usefulness expires they simply replace the tool. They don't look at these ships as a part of the history.

Of course there is always the economic factor. Maintaining these things isn't cheap. And I am not sure if they would make enough money with tourism to cover the cost.

But I do personally find it sad. I've always been interested in naval technology and I love seeing all these big ships. For me it's actually quite painful when I hear that they destroyed yet another mighty machine.
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Re: The Cost of History

Unread postby Mawd » 9th April, 2017, 7:26 am

I hadn't expected the conversation to turn to tools of war so fast.
Most nations prefer to remember the human cost of the war.
Go into any small town in NZ and you find an Anzac memorial, we have a bunch of old preserved aircraft, artillary, tanks and utility vehicles and a few war museums and storage depots so I think its disingenuous to say that we don't preserve military history.

It must be extremely expensive to preserve ships past their use by date. Not only do you have to keep specialists around to maintain those ships, (specialists who are often quite aged), you also have to find space for them at docks to do the restoration.

NZ does have a maritime museum in Auckland and while I haven't visitied it in a while I do think they show off old navy relics. I think many of our famous ships might have been purposefully scuttled to create artificial reefs. Diving tourism gets a new wreck to look at and a whole bunch of sea life have a new home.
For the people that can't dive there's a photo board around along with some artefact.

When talking about ships that NZ would want to preserve you don't go much further than The Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace ship bombed by French Foreign Intelligence in 1955 (killing one person -a photographer). However after it was sunk the govt towed it out to a bay and turned it into an artificial reef. Only large piece of it on land is a propeller.

This all said we've done a shit job of preserving military battlegrounds in NZ mostly because European NZers don't remember much about the Crown led civil war for NZ against the Maori which occured after the Treaty of Waitangi.
I went on a tour of the battlesites and most of it is completely overgrown and forgotten. There's even a highway going down one. Most locals don't even know the Great South road of NZ was built as a troop highway during that war.

On the flipside Maori remember the war distinctly, the slash and burn policies of the Crown at the end of the war led to their almost total impoverishment.

Either way though I don't think anyone has the money to preserve the harder to keep artefacts of war in NZ and few have the inclination to teach the history of our more shameful wars.

P.s The UK does preserve some famous ships, the most notable I can think of is Captain James Cook's ship The Endevour (it might just be a replica) and I think Robert Falcon Scott's ship is about somewhere.
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Re: The Cost of History

Unread postby ConnorM » 9th April, 2017, 9:50 am

Pity wrote:They are symbols of strength, especially regarding how quickly and significantly the United States can execute military power. To many, both foreign and domestic, military advancements showcase a country's overall status. It seems logical that a society that has the capability to develop the largest and most lethal machines on the planet would have a high-ranking. By preserving our monumental feats of engineering and wartime accomplishments, Americans are provided a sense of pride and perhaps an underlining feeling of superiority; I feel there is an overall benefit of this social cohesion.

I do not know specifically how much it costs to preserve, renovate, and maintain decades-old, disintegrating battleships; I wish you had provided a precise number, so I could throw in my personal view on using taxpayer money on it. In short and on a much less expensive scale, it is similar to a collector continuously paying to repair and conserving the condition of personal computers from the 1970s. Is there any practical benefit for the collector? No, there is no gain, but it is still important. Even simpler, one could pose the question "Why preserve history at all?"

It's hard to gauge precise numbers, especially since many of the ships are owned by (or loaned to) non-profit historical groups that maintain themselves by public donations. As for the only major museum warship that is still owned and maintained directly by the US Navy, the Constitution, she undergoes major repairs every 15 to 20 years, which costs around $15 million each time. Thus, she costs in repairs alone approximately $1 million per year. Her half-sister (depending on your opinion of the Ship of Theseus paradox) the Constellation undergoes similar repairs every few years, and likely costs the same amount, however, it is again owned by a not-for-profit charity.

The best estimates I can guess at for the steel warships are that painting the Mikasa, given as it's approximately the same size as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, is approximately $1 million per paint job, which the United States Navy provided due to the Mikasa not receiving enough funding from the Japanese Government to cover the cost. At a rough guess, painting a warship seems to cost $1 million per 10,000 tons displacement, which would mean that the Texas costs Texan taxpayers (the ship is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) around $2.7 million per paint job, and likely quite a bit higher than that during her last refit, though I can't find the actual numbers, which involved welding approximately 175 tons of steel to her hull below deck. The fast battleships would therefore, going by this estimate, cost around $3.5-4.5 million per paint job. Painting ships seems to need to occur every five years or so for ships at moorings, though they rarely seems to actually get paintings when needed as museum ships, which means that their structural integrity is reduced each time, eventually costing more in the long run as they have to be taken to drydock and refitted more often.

Mawd wrote:P.s The UK does preserve some famous ships, the most notable I can think of is Captain James Cook's ship The Endevour (it might just be a replica) and I think Robert Falcon Scott's ship is about somewhere.

Endeavour is indeed a replica, as the actual Endeavour was deliberately wrecked off of Newport Harbor, Rhode Island as a block-ship in 1778. Divers haven't conclusively identified her except that she's in a cluster of five ships that were all scuttled to block the harbor. The Discovery, Scott's ship, is indeed in Dundee, Scotland. Other preserved Royal Navy ships include the Victory, a first-rate (note that that is a descriptor of the number of guns, not of quality) ship-of-the-line, the Trincomalee, a fifth-rate frigate, the Warrior, the oldest surviving ironclad warship, and the Belfast, a Town-class light cruiser.
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