Warship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017: One Able Sims
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, Sept. 28, 2017: One Able Sims
Here we see an excellent image of the Sims-class destroyer USS Mustin (DD-413) with a Curtiss SBC-3 scout bomber, of Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6) from USS Enterprise (CV-6) during exercises on 26 May 1940. The aviation-heavy image was fitting due to Mustin‘s namesake and of her class’ job in staying close to the flattops.
The Sims were handsome 1930s ships, a dozen 2,300-ton (fl), 348-foot tin cans sandwiched between the smaller Benham-class and the slightly heavier Benson-class which used largely the same hull but a different engineering suite. Speaking of engineering, the Sims-class used a trio of Babcock & Wilcox boilers to push Westinghouse geared turbines at 50,000 shp, capable of making 37-knots and were the last single-stack destroyers made for the Navy.
Designed around a dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes, they could carry 5 5″/38 DP mounts– though in actuality they completed with eight tubes and four main guns, augmented by increasingly heavy AAA and ASW suites.
Built in the tense immediate lead-up to the U.S. entry into WWII, the 12 ships were ordered from seven yards to speed up completion and half were commissioned in 1939, the other half in 1940.
Our ship is named for one Henry Croskey Mustin, USNA 1896, Navy Air Pilot #3, Naval Aviator #11, seen below posing for his pilot certificate as a 40-year-old LCDR with a cigarette in his hand.
Mustin fought in the Spanish-American War, commanded the gunboat USS Samar on Asiatic Station, was court marshaled but pardoned by Teddy Roosevelt and became one of the Navy’s first pilots while serving as XO of the pocket battleship USS Mississippi in Pensacola. There, he went on to become one of the first to fly combat missions in 1914 and in 1915 the first to cat from a warship.
USS Mustin was laid down at Newport News in 1937, 14 years after Capt.Mustin’s untimely death, and commissioned 15 September 1939– just 14 days after Hitler invaded Poland.
The war was on, though the U.S. still on the sidelines officially for the next 28 months. As such, Mustin participated in the sometimes-hairy neutrality patrol along the Atlantic Coast and escorted convoys to Iceland, where U.S. troops took over from the British in June 1941.
On December 7, 1941, Mustin was in Boston and soon received orders to ship to the Pacific.
After cutting her teeth escorting convoys between Hawaii and San Francisco and Hawaii and Samoa, she sailed with TF 17, escorting the carrier USS Hornet to the great brawl off Guadalcanal. The class would earn something of a reputation for giving their last full measure in defense of their flattops.
Surviving the Battle of Santa Cruz in October (where her crews shot down five Japanese aircraft), Mustin closed with the mortally wounded Hornet and rescued over 300 of the stricken ship’s crew, then dutifully attempted to sink the listing hulk along with sister ship USS Anderson (DD-411) with torpedoes and 5-inch fire.
Mustin went on to find herself in every part of the Pacific war. She fought off Savo Island, bombarded Japanese positions at Guadalcanal and on the frozen island of Kiska in the Aleutians, let her 5-inchers warm up off Makin Island, Wotje, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok.
“The continuing operations on and around New Guinea gave Mustin varied duty, on escort, patrol, bombardment, and as fighter-director, as one landing after another moved up the coast to wrest the huge island from the enemy. Noemfoor, Sansapor, Mios Woendi, Humboldt Bay, Biak, all were struck by forces in which Mustin served with vigor and gallantry,” notes DANFS.
Then came the PI campaign– including the great Battle of Leyte Gulf– and Okinawa. She splashed kamikazes, hunted for Japanese submarines, directed landings, and escorted convoys from secure anchorages to the front lines.
By May 1945, she was in poor material condition and, with the war expected to take a couple more years, Mustin was dispatched to San Pedro, California for an extensive refit which lasted until the end of August. She ditched her torpedo tubes as Japanese ships were increasingly few, exchanging them for more 40mm mounts.
Ready for more service, she headed for the Japanese Home Islands in September for occupation duty, with the war finished. In all, she picked up an impressive 13 battle stars.
In all, she picked up an impressive 13 battle stars for her part in the conflict. While this figure is outstanding, and one of the highest in the fleet, she was surpassed by her sisters Russell (16 stars) and Morris (15), a testament to the wringer this class was put through.
The war was especially hard on her class, with Sims sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Hammann sunk at Midway while trying to screen USS Yorktown, O’Brien ultimately sunk by a torpedo she picked up trying to screen the carrier USS Wasp off Guadalcanal, Walke lost in the same campaign, and Buck sunk by a German U-boat. Morris was damaged so bad off Okinawa that she was considered neither seaworthy nor habitable by VJ Day.
With the Navy flush with Fletcher and Gearing class destroyers– which were brand new in many cases and much more capable– the rest of the Sims were on the chopping block. Russell and Roe, undergoing lengthy refits like Mustin‘s when the war ended, never saw service again and were instead sold for scrap.
The four still-mobile Sims left in active service by early 1946: Mustin, Hughes, Anderson, and Wainwright joined 13 other tin cans from two other classes at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands to take part in the Operation Crossroads atomic tests.
The ships were stripped of useful equipment as well as ceremonial items such as bells, nameplates, and commemorative plaques. At Bikini, without crews or ordnance but with a sampling of goats and chickens aboard, the fleet touched the sun.
Mustin was rather close to the Able Shot (number 30 on the above chart) where “Gilda” a Mk III style 23-kt bomb was dropped 2,130 feet away from the old battleship USS Nevada, the designated zero point. Sims-class sister Anderson (number 1 on the chart), who had helped to scuttle Hornet along with Mustin back in 1942, sank within hours
Still radioactive but afloat, Mustin was decommissioned August 1946 and sunk off Kwajalein, 18 April 1948 in deep water by gunfire.
The original destroyer, her namesake, and other famous members of the Mustin family, Vice Admirals Lloyd Montague Mustin and Henry “Hank” Mustin, along with Vietnam era LCDR Thomas M. Mustin, Officer in Charge of Patrol Boat River Section 511, are remembered in the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89), built at Pascagoula and commissioned on 26 July 2003. I took part in her construction there while at Ingalls.
She still looks great 14 years later.
1,570 long tons (1,600 t) (std)
2,211 long tons (2,246 t) (full)
Length: 348 ft, 3¼ in, (106.15 m)
Beam: 36 ft, 1 in (11 m)
Draught: 13 ft, 4.5 in (4.07 m)
Propulsion: High-pressure super-heated boilers, geared turbines with twin screws, 50,000 horsepower
Speed: 35 knots
Range: 3,660 nautical miles at 20 kt (6,780 km at 37 km/h)
Complement: 192 (10 officers/182 enlisted)
5 × 5 inch/38, in single mounts
4 × .50 caliber/90, in single mounts
8 × 21-inch torpedo tubes in two quadruple mounts
2 × depth charge track, 10 depth charges
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