The finite element method is used to evaluate the underwater blast resistance of monolithic beams and sandwich beams containing prismatic lattice cores (Y-frame and corrugated core) and an ideal foam core. Calculations are performed on both free-standing and end-clamped beams, and fluid-structure interaction effects are accounted for. It is found that the degree of core compression in the free-standing sandwich beam is sensitive to core strength, yet the transmitted impulse is only mildly sensitive to the type of sandwich core. Clamped sandwich beams significantly outperform clamped monolithic beams of equal mass, particularly for stubby beams. The Fleck and Deshpande analytical model for the blast response of sandwich beams is critically assessed by determining the significance of cross-coupling between the three stages of response: in stage I the front face is accelerated by the fluid up to the point of first cavitation, stage II involves compression of the core until the front and back faces have an equal velocity, and in stage III the sandwich beam arrests by a combination of beam bending and stretching. The sensitivity of the response to the relative magnitude of these time scales is assessed by appropriately chosen numerical simulations. Coupling between stages I and II increases the level of transmitted impulse by the fluid by 20–30% for a wide range of core strengths, for both the free-standing and clamped beams. Consequently, the back face deflection of the clamped sandwich beam exceeds that of the fully decoupled model. For stubby beams with a Y-frame and corrugated core, strong coupling exists between the core compression phase (stage II) and the beam bending/stretching phase (stage III); this coupling is beneficial as it results in a reduced deflection of the back (distal) face. In contrast, the phases of core compression (stage II) and beam bending/stretching (stage III) are decoupled for slender beams. The significance of the relative time scales for the three stages of response of the clamped beams are summarized on a performance map that takes as axes the ratios of the time scales.