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Pearl Harbor, sixty-nine years ago:

The masts that for decades were a kind of US Navy trademark, suddenly became a striking symbol of the disaster.
Lattice masts, or cage masts, were used most prominently on American dreadnought battleships and armored cruisers of the World War I era. Their purpose was to make the observation posts mounted on the masts and used to direct the fire of the warships' guns less vulnerable to shells from enemy ships, and to better absorb the recoil shock associated with firing main guns, isolating the delicate fire control equipment (rangefinders, etc) mounted on the mast tops. The masts are a type of hyperboloid structure, whose weight-saving design was first used by the Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov.

The South Carolina class battleships (above) were not only the first USN dreadnoughts but also the first class of American battleships to feature lattice masts, which were to become a standard fixture on all American battleships and armored cruisers. Older pre-dreadnought battleships were retrofitted with cage masts - and a pair of masts was better than a single hyperboloid :


All American battleships, up to the Colorado class superdreadnoughts were equipped with lattice masts. The new USS Idaho with her 14-inch guns:

South Carolina class hyperdreadnoughts were also designed with cage masts (their construction was canceled in 1922):

Outside the United States, there were only two battleship classes fitted with lattice masts. One in Russia, the homeland of hyperboloid, included two pre-dreadnoughts, Andrey Pervozvanny (below) and Imperator Pavel I:

Their masts had different, non-hyperboloid conical structure; in the beginning of WWI they were fitted with conventional masts.
In Argentina, a pair of Rivadavia class dreadnoughts, the ARA Rivadavia and the ARA Moreno (the only dreadnought-type battleships built for export by the USA) had lattice masts:

And the the old Idaho and Missisippi pre-dreadnoughts, only battleships sold to foreign power after the service in US Navy, retained their lattice masts under the Hellenic Navy flag. Renamed Lemnos and Kilkis, these ships were destroyed by Luftwaffe during the German invasion of Greece:

In 1920s–30s, the older US Navy battleships had their lattice masts replaced with more modern tripod masts.

However, hyperboloid was still a popular icon, featured in advertisements:

The newer Tennessee and Colorado classes retained their original lattice masts at the start of World War II. Here's another shot from Pearl Harbor, December 1941:

Salvaged and rebuilt battleships lost their cage masts (as well as their rear funnels):

Sources: Naval Historical Center, LIFE, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Vintage Poster

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