Warship Wednesday, May 24, 2017: The leopard of rum row turned magic-eyed U-boat buster

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time 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 24, 2017: The leopard of rum row turned magic-eyed U-boat buster

Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1972. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 76377

Here we see the Clemson-class “four-piper” flush-decker destroyer USS Hunt (DD-194) at anchor in New York Harbor when new, circa 1920. One of a tremendous class of vessels some 156-strong, she had a long and varied career.

An expansion of the Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk. Another thing they were was built too late for the war.

The hero of our story, USS Hunt, was laid down at Newport News 10 weeks before Armistice Day, named in honor of William Henry Hunt, Secretary of the Navy under President Garfield. Peace delayed her completion until 30 September 1920 when the above image was taken.

After shakedown, Hunt participated in training and readiness exercises with the Atlantic Fleet and conducted torpedo trials on the range out of Newport, R.I. before moving to Charleston.

With the looming idea of naval limitations treaties, the USN rapidly scrapped 40 of their new Clemsons (those built with British style Yarrow boilers) and put whole squadrons of these low mileage vessels in ordinary. One, USS Moody (DD-277) was even sold to MGM for making the film “Hell Below” where she was used as German destroyer and blown up during filming!

Our Hunt decommissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard 11 August 1922, with only 23 months of gentle Naval service under her belt.

While the Hunt was sitting in Philly, a funny thing happened. The country got sober. Well, kind of.

As deftly retold in a paper by the USCG Historians Office, the service, then part of the Treasury Department, was hard-pressed to chase down fast bootlegging boats shagging out to “Rum Row” where British and Canadian merchants rested in safe water on the 3-mile limit loaded with cases of good whiskey and rum for sale.

This led the agency to borrow 31 relatively new destroyers from the Navy, an act that would have been akin to the USN transferring most of the FFG7 frigates to the Coast Guard during the “cocaine cowboy” days of the 1980s.

USCGD Ammen (CG-8) in pursuit of a rumrunner

U.S. Coast Guard destroyers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, 1926, note the “CG” hull numbers

From the USCG Historian:

In the end, the rehabilitation of the vessels became a saga in itself because of the exceedingly poor condition of many of these war-weary ships. In many instances, it took nearly a year to bring the vessels up to seaworthiness. Additionally, these were by far the largest and most sophisticated vessels ever operated by the service and trained personnel were nearly nonexistent. As a result, Congress authorized hundreds of new enlistees. It was these inexperienced men that made up the destroyer crews and contributed to the service’s greatest growth prior to World War II.

A total of 31 destroyers served with the Coast Guard’s Destroyer Force. These included three different classes, the 742-ton “flivver-class,” “1,000-ton class”, and the 1,190-ton “Clemson-class” flush-deckers. Capable of over 25 knots, the destroyers had an advantage in chasing large rumrunners. They were, however, easily outmaneuvered by smaller vessels. The destroyers’ mission, therefore, was to picket the larger supply ships (“mother ships”) and prevent them from off-loading their cargo onto smaller, speedier contact boats that ran the liquor into shore.

Hunt was one of the last tin cans loaned to the service.

She only served three years with the Coasties, transferring 5 Feb 1931 and placed in commission at Philadelphia Navy Yard, then deploying to Stapleton, NY where she became the flag for the Special Patrol Force there.

Coast Guard Historian’s office

While chasing down rum boats along the New York coastline, she apparently had a very serious mascot:

On 6 Jan 1933, she was transferred to Division II, Coast Guard Destroyer Force, and, along with other Treasury Department-loaned tin cans, supported the Navy on the Cuban Expedition based out of Key West for several months as the country watched how the troubles down there were going on.

Hunt arrived back at Stapleton 9 November 1933 and, with the Volstead Act repealed, was decommissioned from USCG service 28 May 1934 and returned to the Navy, who promptly sent her back to red lead row.

There she sat once more until the country needed her.

On 26 January 1940, she once again was taken out of mothballs and brought to life by a fresh crew as the Navy needed ships for the new neutrality patrol in the initial stages of WWII. Shipping for the Caribbean, she escorted the USS Searaven (SS-196), a Sargo-class submarine, from the Canal Zone to Florida then performed training tasks in the Chesapeake.

Once again, her service with the Navy was brief.

Hunt got underway from Newport 3 October 1940, and reached Halifax, Nova Scotia two days later, where she took on 103 British sailors and, three days after that, she decommissioned from the U.S. Navy, was struck from the Naval List, and taken up by the Royal Navy as the Town-class destroyer HMS Broadway (H80) as part of the infamous “Destroyers for Bases Agreement” between the two countries.

(For the six-page original 1940 press release, see this page at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Collections)

As noted by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason’s service histories, “Broadway” had not previously been used for any RN ship but did represent both a city in the UK and one in the U.S.

Changes to her by the Brits included removal of mainmast and shortening of the foremast, trimming the after funnels and replacing the 3in and 4in guns mounted aft with a 12pdr British HA gun in X position. The aft torpedo tubes were also jettisoned and the U.S style depth charges were replaced with British ones.

THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC 1939-1945 (A 8291) British Forces: HMS BROADWAY, a destroyer built in 1918. BROADWAY was one of the fifty American destroyers loaned to Britain in September 1940. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205125169

She also picked up an “Evil Eye” or “Magic Eye” on her bow, painted by her crew to ward off bad spirits.

The huge ‘Magic Eye’ on the bows of the BROADWAY as she leaves on another trip. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205152830

Joining 11th Escort Group, she had an eventful career in the Atlantic, joining in no less than 29 convoys between and 10 December 1940 and 21 June 1943– a span of just 18 months!

During this time, she directly helped shorten the war on 9 May 1941 when assisting the destroyer HMS Bulldog and corvette HMS Aubretia, she captured German submarine U-110 between Iceland and Greenland. The Type IXB U-boat provided several secret cipher documents to the British as part of Operation Primrose and was one of the biggest intel coups of the war, helping to break the German Enigma codes.

She also helped chalk up a second German torpedo slinger when on 12 May 1943 she joined frigate HMS Lagan and aircraft from escort carrier HMS Biter in destroying U-89 off the Azores.

SUB LIEUT ROY A GENTLES, RCNVR, OFFICER ON LOAN TO THE ROYAL NAVY, WHO WAS FIRST LIEUTENANT ON BOARD HMS BROADWAY IN THE SUCCESSFUL ANTI-U-BOAT ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC.  (A 17288) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205150178

Hunt/Broadway, showing her age, was relegated to training duties by 1944 in Scotland, where she was a target ship for non-destructive bombing and practice strafing runs by new pilots. For this much of her armament to include her radar, anti-submarine mortar, torpedo tubes, and HF D/F outfit was removed.

The destroyer HMS Broadway off the East coast of Scotland April 1944 after becoming an Air Target Ship (Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120270

She did get one last hurrah in at the end of the war, sailing for Norwegian waters where she performed occupation duties that included taking charge of several surrendered German U-boats in Narvik and Tromso as part of Operation Deadlight.

Hunt/Broadway, who served more in the Royal Navy than she ever did in the naval service of her homeland, was paid off 9 August 1945 and placed in an unmaintained reserve status. She was eventually sold to BISCO on 18th February 1947 for demolition by Metal Industries and towed to the breaker’s yard in Charlestown near Rosyth in 1948.

As for her sisters, seven Clemson‘s were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy.

From what I can tell the last one in U.S. Navy service was USS Semmes (DD-189/AG-24), like Hunt a former Coast Guard destroyer, stricken in November 1946 after spending the war testing experimental equipment at the Sonar School in New London.

The last of the 156 Clemsons still afloat, USS Welborn C. Wood (DD-195), also a former Coast Guard destroyer, became HMS Chesterfield on 9 September 1940. She was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948. None of the class were retained and few relics of them exist today.

However, the codebooks and Enigma machine that Hunt/Broadway helped capture from U-110 are on display at Bletchley Park.

And the event is recorded in maritime art.

The Capture of U-110 by the Royal Navy, 9 May 1941 (2002) by K W Radcliffe via the Merseyside Maritime Museum

Specs:

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length:     314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam:     30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft:     9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed:     35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range:  4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1919)
5-4″/50 guns
12 × 21 inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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!

It’s a knife, but for your gun…

Ah the old reliable Bayonet, Rifle, M7. The most common M16/AR15/M4-series pigsticker there is with literally “millions and millions sold” to borrow a phrase from the burger joint.


The two shown are GI surplus BOC-marked weapons denoting they were made by the Bauer Ordnance Co of Detriot, Michigan, who was the most prolific M7 maker of the Vietnam-era, filling an order for 1,835,392 in FY1969 according to noted bayonet authority Gary Cunningham.

For those curious, the specs on the M7– which is still in current military use though is supplemented by the M9 (by the Army since 1989) and OKC-3S (by the Marines since 2003)– are a 6.75-inch blade length, 11.875-inch overall length, and a .880-inch/22.4mm muzzle ring diameter to be able to clear the standard NATO 22mm rifle grenade attachment.

The PVH code on the standard green M8A1 scabbards these bayos came with means they were among the 4 million made by the Pennsylvania Working Home for the Blind between 1965-1970 for Vietnam-era M7s.

The rifles, of course, are a couple of my PSA builds, which are not Vietnam-era, lol.

More on picking out a bayo of your own for your black rifle in my column at Tac44.com.

Not your average Grease Gun

Ian with Forgotten Weapons takes a close look at an SMG used for clandestine operations by the OSS — as well as a booby trap attachment for the same.

While the M3 was a simple .45ACP burp gun popular with the late-war regular GI’s of the day and designed as a cheap and easy replacement for the much more complex Thompson, the gun in Ian’s hands was made for use in more covert operations. Specifically, for an assassination team behind the lines in German-occupied Europe.

The war ended before this specimen could be used, leaving it in collector-grade condition including its wire mesh screened over-barrel suppressor.

As for the booby trap trigger device, stick around and check that little dirty trick out separately.

Happy 100th to the most forgotten service

This week is the 100th birthday of one of the most unsung of the U.S.’s seven uniformed services– the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.

USS Albatross, or as NOAA thinks of her now, Albatross I

Dating back to the Coast & Geodetic Survey and United States Fish Commission which used seconded Navy ships for its blue water work (see former Warship Wednesday alumni, the USC&GSS Pathfinder and USS Albatross) and Army officers for land surveys (the first commander of the Corps was an Army colonel from the intelligence branch), the force today amounts to some 400 uniformed officers who operate the agency’s dozen ships (some as large as frigates) and half-dozen aircraft including two converted P-3 Orions used as Hurricane Hunters.

NOAA Ship (NOAAS) Albatross IV

They are the smallest of the U.S. uniformed services and, while they have a provision for a single O-9, the branch typically exists with a RADM as a senior officer. They wear Navy dress blues and dress whites and Coast Guard working uniforms, all with NOAA devices. Since 2013, they have conducted their 18-week OCS at the USCGA in New London, Conn.

NOAA 42 “Kermit” (N42RF) is a Lockheed WP-3D Orion used by the service for the past quarter-century.

The corps was born in battle.

From NOAA:

With America’s entry into the World War I, a commissioned service of the C&GS was formed on May 22, 1917 to ensure the rapid assimilation of C&GS technical skills for defense purposes. During World War II, officers and civilians of the C&GS produced nautical and aeronautical charts, provided critical geospatial information to artillery units, and conducted reconnaissance surveys.

Continuing in the tradition of their C&GS predecessors, NOAA Corps officers continue to play a vital role in the acquisition and analysis of environmental data that aid NOAA and other agencies in meeting the national security, economic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. NOAA Corps officers command ships that scan the seafloor for potential hazards to shipping, monitor oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, and study ocean resources. They also pilot NOAA’s highly specialized aircraft that collect environmental and geographic data necessary for weather and flood prediction, nautical charting, disaster response, and resource management.

As noted by John Hopewell of the Washington Post’s Weather Gang:

There are two clear advantages of having nearly 400 uniformed specialists. Unlike civilians, they can be moved rapidly from project to project and — in the case of war — can be deployed quickly to support the military itself.

In fact, that’s why the NOAA Corps was established as a commissioned officer group 100 years ago. If one of the officers is captured by an enemy, they could not be executed as a spy — something their civilian predecessors risked.

The corps operates and maintains much of NOAA’s hardware, including Hurricane Hunter aircraft fisheries ships (but not satellites). They conduct special missions after disasters, such as the 2016 blizzard or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to gather data and provide support. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the corps surveyed the seafloors of New York City and Virginia channels and ports for hazards.

Masters of the Desert

Pathfinders attached to the British Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade hone their long-range patrolling skills, both mounted and on the ground, in the arid plains of Aqaba Governorate in southern Jordan on Exercise Olive Grove.

A Pathfinders soldier covers the rear of an observation post while his colleague searches for targets. MoD Crown Copyright. Note the HK 416s and the very U.S. SF looking kit, including contractor caps.

Pathfinders, mounted in a Coyote and Jackal patrol vehicles, stop to confer during a long range desert patrol on Exercise Olive Grove. Photo: MoD Crown Copyright

A Pathfinder photographs targets from an observation post in the mountainous deserts of Jordan on Exercise Olive Grove. Photo: MoD Crown Copyright

Like all pathfinders, “the unit is an advance force, trained in specialist airborne insertion techniques and capable of conducting offensive action tasks at very short notice. Soldiers are trained to operate behind enemy lines in small, self-sufficient patrols finding and relaying vital information back to Brigade HQ to enable it to plan and execute missions.”

3 Para dropped it like it was hot in Olive Grove.

Major Rick Lewin, Officer Commanding of C Company, 3 Para told said:

    What we’re trying to do is demonstrate the way we operate and give the Jordanians an opportunity to decide if they like that. Simultaneously, our soldiers are doing precisely the same thing, they’re watching the Jordanians whose shooting on the range is incredibly accurate, and also they were moving through the cover incredibly efficiently and quickly, so this is very much going both ways all the way through.

Interested in the Coyote above? The Supacat-designed/Lockheed-Martin built Coyote tactical support vehicle, (TSV) light, is based on a 6×6 derivative of the Jackal 2 and supports the go-anywhere, high-mobility Jackals across the harsh Afghanistan terrain.

Inside the CMP, and the word on M1s coming back from overseas and possible 1911s…

To see just what the non-profit has on the shelf, I visited the Civilian Marksmanship’s South operations in Anniston. Co-located near the Anniston Army Depot — which is actually in nearby Bynum — and stores much of the Army’s stockpile of guns and items not needed for current operations, the CMP has a series of warehouses dotting the rolling hills of the area.

Unfortunately, most of them are nearly empty.

While now-retired CMP boss Orest Michaels told me back in 2010 the organization had 125,000 M1 rifles on hand including complete rifles, stripped receivers, and welded drill rifles, the group is coy about just what the numbers are today after several years of brisk sales and surging interest in U.S. martial rifles.

As Jim Townsend, CMP’s business development officer, walked me through a tour of their largest warehouse, he swept his arms over a large expanse of empty floor space and said, “When I first started here, this whole side of the building was full of M1s.” Repurposed crates that once contained M1s returning from allies in Greece and Denmark now hold everything but.

Repurposed crates that once contained M1s returning from allies in Greece and Denmark now hold everything but.

Why keep the empty space?

Check out my column at Guns.com for the answer.

King Kong and Khe Sanh, 50 years ago

A U.S. Marine shows a message written on the back of his flak vest at the Khe Sanh combat base in Vietnam on Feb. 21, 1968 during the Vietnam War. The quote reads, “Caution: Being a Marine in Khe Sanh may be hazardous to your health.” Khe Sanh had been subject to increased rocket and artillery attacks from the North Vietnamese troops in the area. (AP Photo/Rick Merron)

Michael B. Taft, an ironworker and dairy farmer, was an infantryman in A Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines from 1966 to 1967. He spent some time in a place called Khe Sanh. He tells his story in a gripping account at the NY Times entitled “A Patrol Called King Kong”

Astride the old French colonial Route 9 and just six miles east of Laos, the Khe Sanh Special Forces base sat on a plateau in a valley, deep within the Annamite Mountains. Immediately north of the plateau and hundreds of feet below, the spectacular, fast-moving Quang Tri River had cut a deep gorge on its way to the South China Sea at Dong Ha. To the west sat a mass of 3,000-foot hills, both an extraordinary spectacular beauty and a forbidding terrain of dense, triple-canopy forest growing in laterite soil. It would also soon be the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

More here

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