The reports of Chung Hai’s demise have been premature

During World War II, the 50-ship-strong LST-491 class of tank landing ships, and the hundreds of follow-on LST-542-class near-sisters, proved both effective and remarkably versatile. Some 3,640-tons, these 328-foot vessels could shelp a full-strength infantry company or between 1600 and 1900 tons of cargo, landing them directly to the beach while launching landing craft from their davits to lead the way.

Over time, they served not only as amphibious warfare ships but also mini “L-Bird” aircraft carriers, repair ships, PT-boat tenders, minesweeper support craft, and ersatz ambulances.

USS LST-755, built by the American Bridge Co., Ambridge, PA, was commissioned in August 1944 and would spend 1945 earning her stripes in the Lingayen Gulf and Mindanao landings in the liberation of the Philippines.

After a stint in occupation duty, LST-755, along with her sisters, passed into mothballs in 1946.

By 1948, LST-755 was stricken and passed over to the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the ROCS Chung Hai (LST-201).

Chung Hai would serve Taiwan for over 60 years, and would account for a Chicom patrol boat in a 1958 surface action

She would be joined by more than 30 sisters and, over the course of an amazing second career with the ROCN, steamed 75,126hrs and 556,728nms before she was retired in 2010.

Over the past decade, it was thought she would be retained as a museum ship but the plans repeatedly fell through.

The ship was sold for scrapping, 19 May 2020 after bidding for NT$14 Million according to United Daily News. In poor condition after 76 years afloat, she was reportedly slowly taking in water and sinking.

However, as reported by local media: 

The sale drew condemnation from historians and military enthusiasts who saw the ship as an important cultural heritage artifact.

Even the scrap dealer was concerned about the backlash of public opinion if he were to dismantle the ship.

The navy then decided to postpone signing the sales contract with the winning bidder for one month, while relevant government agencies come up with a plan to possibly keep and restore the ship as an historic monument.

The Kinmen County Government issued a press release earlier this evening saying that it is coordinating with the Ministry of Defense to seek an alternative solutions, and to preserve “this important historical asset.”

The Oldest Gun Store in the U.S. is Now Gone

The John Jovino Co. gun shop opened in 1911 in Manhattan in the middle ground between Little Italy and Chinatown, just a block over from NYPD Headquarters.

Purchased in the 1920s by the Imperato family– who ran the shop and their Henry Firearms Company from its location until they pulled stumps for New Jersey in the 1990s– the store was iconic.

It was featured in films including Mean Streets and Serpico, as well as television shows such as Law and Order.

Crime scene photographer Weegee even lived in a studio apartment directly over the shop in the 1930s and 40s and captured the storefront, with its distinctive revolver sign, in at least one gritty nighttime image of Gotham.

Now, the shop has gone, killed by a combination of rising rents, ever-tougher NYC regs on gun sales, and the COVID-19 lockdown.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Devils in Clean Shakos

Perhaps the most famous and most often-reproduced image of the U.S. Marines in the Civil War is this one, showing a detail of Devil Dogs (before they earned the name) clad in full dress uniforms to include frock coats with large fringed epaulets, crossed buff leather belts, bayoneted rifled muskets and shakos.

Via National Museum of the Marine Corps:

In 1859, the Marine Corps adopted the French-style uniform-cap or shako. The shako remained the standard headgear until replaced by a smaller version in 1875. This enlisted model is adorned with period Marine Corps insignia, an infantry bugle with the silver letter “M.” The red pompom is a reproduction. ⁠

For more on the Corps during the War Between the States, check out the (free) 36-page booklet United States Marines at Harper’s Ferry and in the Civil by War Bernard C. Nalty (PCN 19000410300).

Warship Wednesday, May 27, 2020: The Showboat and the Speedboats

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 27, 2020: The Showboat and the Speedboats

Photograph by Walter E. Frost, City of Vancouver Archives Photo No. 447-2863.1

Here we see the lead ship of her class of “treaty-era” heavy cruisers, HMS York (90) looming out of the fog in Vancouver, British Columbia, 10 August 1938.

Sometimes referred to as the “Cathedral” class cruisers, York and her near-sister HMS Exeter (68) were essentially cheaper versions of the Royal Navy’s baker’s dozen County-class cruisers, the latter of which were already under-protected to keep them beneath the arbitrary 10,000-ton limit imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Weighing in at 8,250-tons, the Yorks were intended not for fleet action but for the role of sitting on an overseas station and chasing down enemy commerce raiders in the event of war.

York mounted six 8″/50 (20.3 cm) Mark VIII guns in three twin Mark II mounts. Fairly capable guns, they could fire a 256-pound SAP shell out past 30,000 yards at a (theoretical) rate of up to six rounds per gun per minute. Importantly, they carried 172 rounds per gun, up from the 125-150 carried by the preceding County-class, a factor which allowed a slightly longer engagement time before running empty.

Bow turrets of HMS York. Photograph by Mrs. Josephine Burston, via Navweaps

Notably, Exeter was completed with the same main gun but in Mark II* mounts, which allowed for a shallower 50-degree elevation. That vessel also had a slightly different arrangement for her funnels and masts, giving her a distinctive profile.. (A 3553) HMS EXETER. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205137940

Rounding out the cruisers’ offensive armament was a half-dozen deck-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes and a battery of DP 4-inch guns and Vickers machine guns to ward off aircraft, the latter of which was apparently never installed. Built with overseas service in mind, they could cover 10,000nm at 14 knots. Able to achieve 32.3-knots due to having 80,000-shp via Parsons geared steam turbines, they sacrificed armor protection for speed and magazine space, with just 1-inch of steel on their turrets and a belt that was just 3-inches at its thickest.

As noted by Richard Worth in his excellent tome, Fleets of World War II:

In trimming down the County layout, designers managed to retain several features, though sea keeping suffered. Protection also received low priority; the armor scheme (similar in proportion to the County type) included some advances, but all in all, the Yorks seemed even more vulnerable, especially in the machinery spaces.

Ordered 1926 Build Programme, York was the ninth such RN vessel to carry the name since 1654 and was constructed at Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow. Commissioned 1 May 1930, she was a striking vessel for her age. A true peacetime cruiser.

British Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS York (90) secured to a buoy 1930 IWM FL 4185

York’s motto was Bon Espoir (“Good Hope”) borrowed from Edmund Langley, First Duke of York, and she exemplified that for her early career.

For the next decade she would embark on a series of “waving the flag” port visits around the globe as she shifted between North America and West Indies Station to the Mediterranean Fleet. A beautiful ship, she was often the subject of amazing period photos and newsreel footage.

She would log 61,000 miles at sea between November 1936 and April 1939 alone, as ably told by Robert John Terry on his website.

A British man of war at Washington, D.C. H.M.S. York, the flagship of the British West Indian Fleet, docks at the Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. She brought Vice Admiral, the Hon. Sir Matthew R. Best, K.C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O., R.N., to Washington where he will be the guest of honor at a round of social functions, 30 October 1935. Harris & Ewing photo in LOC collection.

The same day, with bluejackets inspecting the British man-o-war from the Navy Yard docks. Note her Fairey IIIF floatplane, an anemic biplane that dated back to the Great War. LOC Photo.

Same day. This photograph was made from the deck of the USS Sequoia, the yacht used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. LOC Photo.

HMS York in the port of Montreal 20 June 1937 via the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Vieux-Montréal, photo P48S1P01697

“Picking up the Plane at 20 MPH.” Note her 4-inch DP gun in the foreground. The new Supermarine Walrus floatplane was picked up in late 1936. As noted by Leo Marriot, in his book, Catapult Aircraft: Seaplanes That Flew From Ships Without Flight Decks, “By no stretch of the imagination could the Walrus be considered a graceful aircraft and it was universally and affectionally known as the ‘Shagbat.'” Photo via Robert John Terry’s excellent galleries on HMS York https://sites.google.com/site/robertjohnterry/hms-york-gallery-2

HMS York Anchored St Lucia, Walrus on deck. Photo via Robert John Terry’s excellent galleries on HMS York https://sites.google.com/site/robertjohnterry/hms-york-gallery-2

HMS York entering Havana, Cuba, with the historic Morro Castle in the background, 14 January 1938. Created from personal photograph in the collection of RN CPO(Tel) George A (“Art”) Browness, “Sparks” (Wireless Telegraphist) onboard HMS York, by Ian Browness, his son. Via Wikimedia Commons

In the summer of 1939, York would receive a new skipper that would see her throughout the war, CAPT Reginald Henry Portal, DSC, RN, a naval aviator turned surface warfare officer who earned his DSC in 1916, “For conspicuous gallantry during a combat with an enemy aeroplane in the Dardanelles.”

CAPT Reginald Henry Portal by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, January 1943, NPG x164616

Deployed with the 8th Cruiser Squadron on the America and West Indies Station when Hitler marched into Poland in 1939, York made for Halifax and by 15 September was escorting convoys going across the Atlantic from Canada to Europe. Before the end of the year, she would be a part of a half-dozen Halifax (HX) convoys, keeping an eye peeled for German raiders.

York with her warpaint on

By February 1940, she was reassigned to 1st Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, and worked with the Northern Patrol looking for Axis blockade runners trying to make it back to the Fatherland. With a degree of success in the latter, she sent the 3,359-ton German freighter Arucas to the bottom of the Atlantic off Iceland on 3 March.

HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) intercepts the German passenger ship Arucas, via U-boat.net

HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) intercepts the German passenger ship Arucas, via U-boat.net

April through June saw her extensively involved in the Norway campaign from supporting landings at Andalsnes to the evacuation of Narvik.

Transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in August, she ran the gauntlet from Alexandria to Gibraltar for the next several months, escorting UK-to-Egypt troopship convoys, and often brushing up against the Italian fleet. Once such instance found York stumbling upon the Italian Soldati-class destroyer Artigliere, stopped, and on fire after the Battle of Cape Passero on the morning of 12 October.

Artigliere struck her flag, cleared her crew, and was promptly finished off by a brace of torpedoes from York.

The Italian destroyer Artigliere is finished by torpedoes from HMS York at 9.05 on the morning of October 12th, 1940, after the battle of Cape Passero. The ship’s stern ammunition magazines explode after the torpedo hit. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A lucky ship thus far in the war, York screened the carrier HMS Illustrious during the famous Operation Judgement airstrikes on Italian Fleet at Taranto and increasingly became a player in the actions off Crete, as well as keeping the supply lines open to Malta. This saw her in 1941 start to fend off sustained air attacks by German aircraft.

In March, she took part in Operation Lustre, the move of Allied troops from Egypt to Greece, shepherding fast 3-day convoys from Alexandria to Piraeus. This left her in Suda Bay, Crete with the bulk of the Mediterranean Fleet cruiser force, safely behind a triple torpedo net array that left her impervious to attack from the sea.

Enter Xª Flottiglia MAS

On the night of 25/26 March, the old Italian destroyers Francesco Crispi and Quintino Sella hove to some 10 miles out from Suda Bay. Using special cranes, they deployed LT (Tenente di Vascello) Luigi Faggioni of the 10th MAS Flotilla and his five shipmates. Faggioni & Company each helmed an 18-foot Motoscafo da Turismo (Modified Tourism Motorboat).

The MTs, 18-foot long boats powered by a 95-hp Alfa Romeo AR outboard motor, could make 33-knots while floating in just a few inches of water– shallow enough to jump over torpedo nets.

With the single boat operator hanging 10 off the end of the MT, the bow of the vessel was filled with a 660-pound high-explosive warhead that could be rigged to either detonate on impact or detached and allowed to sink alongside a target for a later, timed, explosion.

Not intended to be a suicide craft, akin to the Japanese Shinyo/Maru-ni, the operator ideally would bail out over the back of the boat on the final leg of the attack run, and paddle to safety on their backrest which, predating today’s air travel briefing, doubled as a flotation device.

To make a long story short three MT boats managed to penetrate the harbor and braved the near-freezing water to make the final attack just before dawn. Two boats, piloted by future admiral Angelo Cabrini and petty officer Tullio Tedeschi, hit York’s portside– although it should be noted that numerous wartime reports are that just one boat struck the British cruiser. The third boat, piloted by Emilio Barberi, hit the 8,324-ton Norwegian tanker Pericles. Faggioni’s boat hit a pier.

The 1954 Dino De Laurentiis action film, Siluri umani, released as “Human Torpedoes” in English-speaking markets, highlighted the MTMs of Xª Flottiglia MAS and the Suda Bay raid.

The highly dramatized meat and potatoes of the raid starts at about the 1:16 mark

York, crippled, was beached with two of her crew dead, five men injured, and most of her below deck machinery spaces full of water.

The British continued to use York as a AAA battery for another two months with her hull resting on the bottom of the Bay as her engineering gang tried to pump out and shore up her spaces in the hope of putting to sea for Alexandria and more repairs.

To provide power to her ship’s systems, the submarine HMS Rover tied up alongside and arranged electrical lines enough to work the big ship’s guns and communications. This, however, left her in a fixed position in an increasingly German part of the globe, which left her a target.

Various sources list a range of German air attacks by JU-88 bombers on 12, 21, 22, and 24 April– two of which caused further damage to the ship– with one such raid leaving a pair of divers working over the side on her broken hull dead from a near miss.

At the same time, some of the ship’s company were detailed to provide beach parties for the evacuation of Greece.

On 18 May, the party was over and York was hit and seriously damaged by a German JU-87 dive-bomber attack, ending her usefulness, at the time the largest surface ship chalked up by Stuka pilots (Hans-Ulrich Rudel would later be able to claim a kill on the Great War-era Soviet Battleship Marat/ex- Petropavlovsk in Leningrad in November).

With the endgame in Crete being written and the German airborne invasion starting on the 20th, York was abandoned and blown up in place on the 22nd, her remaining crew withdrawn to Egypt where the understrength Mediterranean Fleet was licking their wounds.

The hype

By June, the Italians outnumbered the British in the Eastern Med four operational battleships to two and with 11 cruisers stacked up against three, nonetheless, this would soon be rectified by coming events after December.

Sir Henry, York’s skipper, would go on to become commander of the battleship Royal Sovereign, serve as an ADC to King George VI, become a member of the Bath in 1946, and retire as an admiral in 1951.

As a result of her damage from the Luftwaffe, the Germans claimed to have destroyed York in battle for the remainder of the war, although the Italian Navy cited their own MTM attack as her principal method of death. Half a dozen of one, six of the other, I suppose.

Both countries circulated images of her smashed hull and deck spaces for their own purposes.

Epilogue

After the war, the rusty hulk of York was raised and towed to Bari, where it was scrapped by an Italian shipbreaker in March 1952.

Her boat badge is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

She was also remembered in maritime art and several scale model companies over the years have recreated her in plastic.

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Her only sister, Exeter, would famously go toe-to-toe with the “pocket battleship” KMS Adm. Graf Spee in December 1939 and be left nearly crippled after seven 11.1-inch shells found a home in her spaces. Patched up, she would be sunk at the Java Sea by 8-inch Japanese shells in 1942.

York’s name was recycled in 1981 for a new Batch III Type 42 Destroyer, HMS York (D98), the last of her class. She was decommissioned in 2012 after more than three decades of hard service to the Crown and is the 12th in an exceptionally long line of HMS Yorks.

Type 42 Destroyer, HMS York (D98) making a turn on her 2005 Far East deployment. MOD Photo 45145563 by LA(Phot) Kelly Whybrow. She was broken up in Turkey in 2015, and the name “York” has not appeared on the RN List since.

As for the MTM drivers, the six Italian frogmen were picked up floating around Souda Bay by the British, and kept as POWs until after the Italian armistice in 1944 although they would be decorated in absentia with the Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare, Italy’s highest military honor. Faggioni would become an admiral, working with COMSUBIN commandos after the war, and died in 1991.

Likewise, Cabrini and Tedeschi would later lend their names to a class of high-speed multipurpose patrol boats for the modern Italian Navy, intended to carry frogmen on deeds of daring-do.

Tullio Tedeschi was launched in 2019 by Tullio Tedeschi’s daughter, Rosangela Tedeschi.

The Angelo Cabrini-class patrol boat, Tullio Tedeschi (P421). Some 144-feet oal, they can carry a team of 20 commandos at speeds up to 50 knots

Specs:

1932 Jane’s listing. Both ships of her class would be gone from Janes by 1942

Displacement:
8,250 long tons (8,380 t) (standard)
10,620 long tons (10,790 t) (deep load)
Length: 575 ft
Beam: 57 ft
Draught: 20 ft 3 in
Propulsion: 8 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, Parsons geared steam turbines, 4 shafts 80,000 shp
Speed: 32.25 knots
Range: 10,000 nmi at 14 knots
Complement:628
Armor:
Belt: 3 in
Decks: 1.5 in
Barbettes: 1 in
Turrets: 1 in
Bulkheads: 3.5 in
Magazines: 3–4.375 in
Aircraft: FIVH style catapult, one Fairey IIIF seaplane (1930-) Walrus flying boat (1936-)
Armament:
3 × twin 8-inch (203 mm) guns
4 × single QF 4-inch (102 mm) anti-aircraft (AA) guns
2 × single 2-pounder (40 mm) AA guns
2 × triple 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Talking Serpent: King Cobra

In honor of the Colt’s 150th Anniversary in 1986 a new revolver hit the market, the .357 Magnum Colt King Cobra.

Based on the company’s Mark V system shared by the medium-frame Trooper series of double-action six-shooters, the King Cobra got its name as an ode to smaller Colt Cobra wheelguns which dated back to the 1950s but were only chambered in .22LR, .32 Colt and .38.

Borrowing the solid rib heavy barrel/full underlug profile of Colt’s Python series but coming in at a more affordable $400 smackers at the time, it was half the price of the iconic serpent.

This made it appealing to budding target shooters, law enforcement, and personal protection. Likewise, the price point made more competitive with other full-lug magnums of the time, namely Ruger’s then-new GP-100, S&W’s Model 586, and Dan Wesson’s 15HB.

This Colt King Cobra, a 4-inch model with a serial number that dates to 1988 production, is in what the company billed as “Ultimate Bright Stainless,” a finish that was only used on this model for four years.  

Today, this classic “snake gun” now is in at least its third generation, a transformation I cover more in my column at Guns.com. 

The last measure of the House of Hohenzollern, 80 years ago today

Note this official Christmas card of Kaiser Wilhelm II sent to Hugh, 5th Earl of Lonsdale in 1910. The card features a portrait of the Kaiser with his first grandson Wilhelm, eldest son of the Kaiser’s heir, Crown Prince Wilhelm. The card bears the Kaiser’s handwritten greetings in English.

IWMHU68361

Although the Kaiser fled his country for exile in Holland in November 1918 and never returned to Germany, a number of his sons and grandsons remained in the Vaterland, often falling back on the “family business” of becoming Army officers.

While the Crown Prince had nominally led an Army Group in the Great War (and was held by the French as a war criminal because of it in 1945), he was blackballed and kept under close Gestapo surveillance after 1933, lest he would go on to inspire monarchists.

Ironically, the Crown Prince’s brother, Prince August Wilhelm, was allowed to serve in the SA, reaching the rank of SA-Obergruppenführer. Another brother, Prince Oskar, who had been wounded twice in the great war, was allowed to join the Wehrmacht as a “Generalmajor zur Verfügung” (Major general, unassigned). Prince Louis Ferdinand, an aviation buff, flew in the recently-restored Luftwaffe.

Further, two of the Crown Prince’s sons, Prince Hubertus– who joined the Wehrmacht in 1934 and served as an officer in the 8th Infantry Regiment– and Prince Wilhelm, the young boy seen with his grandfather at the top, saw line service in WWII. Tragically, their first cousin, Prince Oskar’s son, Prince Oskar Wilhelm Karl Hans Kuno, was killed as a lieutenant in the opening act of the conflict on 5 September 1939 at Widawka in Poland, aged 24.

Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, the former Kaiser’s favorite grandson and the former Crown Prince’s no. 1 son, died of wounds in a field hospital in Nivelles on 26 May 1940, aged 33. At the time, he was an Oberleutnant der Reserve in Kleffel’s 1. Infanterie-Division, serving as a company commander in the elite 1st Regiment.

The high profile of his death, and that of Prince Oskar Wilhelm’s death in Poland the previous September, led Hitler to issue the so-called Prinzenerlass, or “princes’ decree” which removed all of the remaining Hohenzollerns from the German military.

Nonetheless, they would not be the last of their line to die for Germany.

In 1977, Prince Louis Ferdinand Oskar Christian of Prussia, grandson of the Crown Prince and great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, was killed while on maneuvers with the Bundeswehr, which he had joined in 1967 as a reserve officer. He was 33.

Navy zaps drone via laser

Just missed May the 4th, but this just happened last week.

“Amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) successfully disabled an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0 on May 16. ”

As noted by U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs:

LWSD is a high-energy laser weapon system demonstrator developed by the Office of Naval Research and installed on Portland for an at-sea demonstration. LWSD’s operational employment on a Pacific Fleet ship is the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser. The laser system was developed by Northrup Grumman, with full System and Ship Integration and Testing led by NSWC Dahlgren and Port Hueneme.

“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” said Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of Portland.

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