Throughout the 1920’s and 30’s and toward the end of 1941, the US fleet trained and prepared for surface engagements, and engaging with hostile forces. The strength of the fleet was in its number of battleships, operating with cruisers in support. The constant gunnery training, in effect, resulted in the highest rate of fire, (shells fired per minute) and the extremely high accuracy from efficient gunnery fire control, made the US Navy the highest standard of sea power in the world.
The best way for the fleet to deploy for combat, was the line-ahead formation. Battleships were organized in battleship divisions with three battleships in each division. A line of heavy cruisers deployed next to the battleships, also organized in similar divisions and in line-ahead formation. Destroyers were deployed around the fleet, mainly on the side of the engagement.
As the engagement began, the battleships opened fire with their main battery guns at extremely long range, while the cruisers and destroyers turned toward the hostile fleet at high speed, attacking at close range with guns and torpedoes.
The aircraft carrier’s aircraft were committed to over-the-horizon air protection for the battleships during combat. The carriers were also capable of launching bomber and torpedo aircraft for offensive operations.
This exhibit portrays the line-ahead formation used by the US Navy, with carriers in support, before December 7th, 1941.