The Bora Bora battleship batteries at 75

Back in the days of the Great White Fleet, the six Connecticut-class pre-dreadnought battleships (Connecticut, Louisiana, Vermont, Kansas, Minnesota, and New Hampshire; BBs 18-25) were initially designed by BuOrd to carry a secondary battery of twenty-four new model 7″/44 (17.8 cm) Mark 1 rapid-fire naval guns. Designed around 1900, they could rocket out four 165-pound AP shells a minute to 16,500-yards and were considered able to penetrate 9.6-inches of armor at point blank range.

Postcard of USS Connecticut (BB-18) from 1909, the casemated guns above her waterline are 7-inchers.

Postcard of USS Connecticut (BB-18) from 1909, the casemated guns above her waterline but below her decks are 7-inchers.

In actuality, the ships only mounted 12 each in the hull casemates on completion due to topside weight issues, with the slightly longer 7″/45 Mark 2 being the gun of choice. The only other vessel to carry these popguns were the follow-on USS Mississippi and her sistership USS Idaho, which were quickly sold to Greece in 1914.

When WWI came, 54 of these older guns were dismounted to be used in France as tractor and train-mounted mobile artillery though they did not make it there before the Armistice, and indeed not all were converted as such.

Seven-inch tractor mount, Mark five Caption: Developed during World War I. Gun in preparation for proof firing, barrel at 40 degrees elevation. The first gun to be fired at the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia, was this 7-inch caterpillar gun. Taken on a glass plate in October 1918. This gun is still (December 1963) on the station, though no longer used, it is a tourist attraction. Description: Catalog #: NH 70232

Seven-inch tractor mount, Mark five Caption: Developed during World War I from casemated guns taken from the Connecticut-class battleships. Gun in preparation for proof firing, barrel at 40 degrees elevation. The first gun to be fired at the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia, was this 7-inch caterpillar gun. Taken on a glass plate in October 1918. This gun is still (December 1963) on the station, though no longer used, it is a tourist attraction. Description: Catalog #: NH 70232

USS Minnesota (Battleship # 22) At the Philadelphia Navy Yard, circa 1919. Note that all of her 7-inch broadside guns have been removed. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 61215

USS Minnesota (Battleship # 22) At the Philadelphia Navy Yard, circa 1919. Note that all of her 7-inch broadside guns have been removed. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 61215

The Connecticuts? They were used as training ships after scant WWI service and under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, they were all sold for scrap by 1924 and broken up– but their Mark 2 7/45″ guns were saved. Still sitting around at the opening stages of WWII, some (originally from USS New Hampshire) were mounted at Ft. Derussy at Pearl Harbor. Others went to the Azores and USVIs.

Then, eight were sent to Bora Bora, northwest of Tahiti in French Polynesia’s Society Islands just weeks after the war in the Pacific set off. Known as “Operation Bobcat” the Navy maintained a supply force of up to 7,000 men on the island for the duration of the war. The eight 7/45’s were set up in two, four-gun batteries overlooking strategic points around the island to protect it against potential Japanese attack.

Seabees placing a Navy 7”/45 Gun on a hill overlooking Teavanui Harbor, circa February 1942. The town of Vaitape is on the point of land at right. National Archives photograph, 80-G-K-1125 (Color).

Seabees placing a Navy 7”/45 Gun on a hill overlooking Teavanui Harbor, circa February 1942. The town of Vaitape is on the point of land at right. National Archives photograph, 80-G-K-1125 (Color).

Emplacing a Navy 7"/45 gun on a hilltop over looking Teavanui Harbor, February 1942. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1119 Copyright Owner: National Archives

Emplacing a Navy 7″/45 gun on a hilltop overlooking Teavanui Harbor, February 1942. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1119 Copyright Owner: National Archives

two-four-gun-batteries-of-7-inch-coastal-defense-guns-on-bora-boras-heights-were-emplaced-by-seebees-in-wwii-all-are-still-there
These guns never fired a shot in anger and the U.S. pulled out 2 June 1946, turning the airstrip (French Polynesia’s only international airport until 1960), new port facilities and guns over to the locals.

The century-old guns are still there and are a popular tourist attraction, now celebrating their 75th year on the island this month. A little of the Great White Fleet still on watch.

0221 7inch-45-mark-ii

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as GUNS.com, Univesity of Guns, Outdoor Hub, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the US federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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