Warship Wednesday, Oct 30, 2019: Some Dazzle from Rio

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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, Oct 30, 2019: Some Dazzle from Rio

Photo by the Diretoria do Patrimônio Histórico e Documentação da Marinha (DPHDM)

Here we see the “Classe M” contratorpedeiro NAeL Marcílio Dias of the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil) in 1944. If at first, you thought this looked like a U.S. destroyer during the Battle of the Atlantic, you aren’t wrong.

In the mid-1930s the Brazilian Navy was a formidable force on paper for a Latin American fleet with two Jutland-era dreadnoughts battleships and two companion Armstrong-built light cruisers. What it lacked, however, were submarines and modern destroyers. To solve the first, Rio ordered a series of new submarines from Italy then went big on tin cans with a six-pack of H-class destroyers (planned Jurua class) from Vickers and a further three modified Mahan-class destroyers from the U.S.

The Mahan-class was the quintessential early 1930s American destroyer design, being very fast– 37 knots on steam turbines– and well-armed for the era with a full dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes and five 5-inch/38 DP guns, all in a ship that could float in just 10 feet of water. A full 18 ships were completed for the USN between 1934 and 1937, which went on to earn over 100 battlestars in WWII.

USS Mahan (DD-364) Running trials, 1936. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 60643

USS MAHAN (DD-364) anchored, with her rails manned, circa the later 1930s. NH 101681

The three Brazilian Mahans would use American equipment and technology transfers but, importantly, would be built in Brazil at the Arsenal de Marinha, on the Isles of Snakes, in Rio de Janeiro, notably making them the largest warships built domestically until then.

Laid down in 1937, they would carry “M” pennant numbers (M-1, 2, 3) and the names of former Brazilian naval heroes — Marcílio Dias, Mariz e Barros, and Greenhalgh— which had previously been used on a class of 1890s English-built torpedo boats. For instance, Marcílio Dias was a 27-year-old sailor who lost his arm when his ship engaged three Paraguayan warships during the Battle of Riachuelo in 1865 during the War of the Triple Alliance while trying to save the ship’s flag.

However, the vessels took a lengthy time for Brazilians to crank out, as everything was being done for the first time. Whereas the U.S.-made ships typically went from keel laying to breaking out a commissioning pennant after about two years in yards that were accustomed to the work, the Marcílio Dias class only made it to the fleet after an extended six-year gestation period, completing in November 1943.

Brazilian destroyers Marcílio Dias, Mariz e Barros, and Greenhalgh at their commissioning ceremony, 29 Nov 1943. DPHDM

And it was just in time.

Brazil, along with the bulk of Latin America, was neutral for most of the Great War– only declaring war on the German Empire on 26 October 1917– and had high hopes to remain out of WWII. This was not to be.

Mounting Brazilian merchant ship losses to German U-Boats and Italian submarines in the Atlantic, coupled with British pressure, led President Getulio Vargas to declare war on both Germany and Italy on August 22, 1942. With the stroke of a pen, on 15 September 1942, VADM Jonas Ingram was appointed ComSoLant (which soon became the U.S. 4th Fleet), with the Brazilian Navy folded into his overall command. The force’s mandate was to hunt down Axis blockade runners, submarines and surface raiders prowling about the region.

The Brazilian Navy was ordered to take the gloves off and soon was sending men to the U.S. to train on new weapon systems while American ships increasingly operated from ports in the country.

U.S. Submarine Chaser Training School, Miami, Florida. Shown are officers and enlisted men of the Brazilian Naval Mission at the School. Lieutenant Aristides Pereira Campos, Jr., looks on as Jose Bezarra da Silva loads with a dummy shell. Jose Avelino da Silva receives orders through the earphone as Chief Petty Officer Corintho Jose de Goes directs the crew. At the controls are Joaquim Brasil da Fonesca (foreground) and Josephat Alves Marcondes, above gun, December 28, 1942. NARA 80-G-40162

Eight 170-foot PC-461-class sub chasers were supplied in 1942-43 via Lend Lease (eventually purchased by Brazil) for coastal patrol. Added to this were B-25s, PBY flying boats, Lockheed Hudsons and Venturas sent to join U.S. Navy patrol squadrons operating from Brazil. Notably, several U-boats and an Italian submarine, (U-164, U-128, U-590, U-513, U-662, U-598, U-199, U-591, U-161, and Archimede) wrecked by air-dropped depth charges and machine guns, rest off the coast of Brazil today.

PBYs in flight over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are flown by Brazilian pilots who received training from US Naval Aviators. Far below is Ipanema Beach, and in the center background is the famed Copacabana Beach. NARA 80-G-59581

Anyway, back to our destroyers.

As 1943 was not 1937, once the balloon went up, the Marcílio Dias-class underwent a radical change in armament, shipping to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for installation of 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikons as well as sonar and updated ASW weapons. To compensate for space and weight, they only had four rather than five 5-inchers installed and just one quad torpedo tube launcher rather than three.

This left them with warpaint to boot.

Mariz e Barros (DPHDM)

Coming late into the conflict, the three Brazilian Ms got into the war in a very active sense when they shipped out of Recife to join Task Force 41.1, centered around the cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4), in February 1944 to escort the first contingent of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force to Europe, a task that brought them back and forth across the Atlantic from Rio to Gibraltar through January 1945, a convoy mission that was repeated no less than five times successfully.

The Brazilain M-class destroyers spent 1944 and 1945 rotating between 14-day patrols of the South Atlantic and running convoys between South America, Africa the Caribbean and Europe, notably never losing a ship under their care. Photo: Marinha do Brasil

The First Division of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, first South American troops to arrive in the European theatre of war, swing into Naples, Italy, after their crossing of the South Atlantic on USS General W.A. Mann (AP 112). Released July 16, 1944. NARA 80-G-46176

The 25,000-strong Brazilian Expeditionary Force fought like lions in Italy from late 1944 through 1945 and lost nearly 950 men to combat along the Gothic Line. They also bagged two German Generals including Generalleutnant Otto Fretter-Pico, shown here surrendering his 148. Infanterie-Division to Brazilian FEB General Euclides Zenóbio da Costa. Italy, 1945

Brazilian soldiers celebrate the Brazilian Independence Day in Italy during World War II, September 1944

After escorting a Brazilian task force of marines (Fuzileiros Navais) from Rio to Trinidad in early 1945, where they relieved U.S. Marines for service in the Pacific, the three Brazilian M-class destroyers joined the Allied Northeast Naval Force (South Atlantic) and rode shotgun over JR/RJ convoys between Rio de Janeiro to Recife and BF/FB runs from Bahia to Freetown as well as standing by for weather station/sea rescue for US planes from Africa to America via Ascension Island.

Although late in the war, U-boats were still active in the SouthLant region, with U-977, the final German unit at sea to surrender, only pulling into an Argentine port in August 1945. Sadly, they also searched for the survivors of the lost cruiser Bahia, which was destroyed at sea in July.

Following the end of the conflict and escorting the FEB home from Europe as part of Task Force 27.1.1, the three M boats formed the First Destroyer Flotilla with new pennant numbers (D24, D25, D26) and remained in service for generations. Notably, they rolled out the welcome mat to USS Missouri in August 1947 when that storied battlewagon brought President Harry Truman to Brazil for a state visit.

Over the next 15 years, they took part in a series of UNITAS, VERITAS and SPRINGBOARD exercises with the U.S. Navy and Latin American fleets, worked up with the Portuguese Navy off Africa, and waved the green banner of Brazil from the Cape of Good Hope to the Caribbean. In 1964, Barros even picked up a British Sea Cat missile launcher for use against aircraft, which lived on as a training ship slightly longer than her two sisters.

Contratorpedeiro Marcílio Dias (D25) late in her career. Via Marinha do Brasil

Contratorpedeiro Mariz e Barros (D26) late in her career. Via Marinha do Brasil

Speaking of which, Marcílio Dias and Greenhalgh were stricken in 1966, with Barros lingering until late 1972. The ships were replaced in service by former FRAM I Gearing-class destroyers (ex-Henry W. Tucker, ex-Brinkley Bass) in 1973 that were given the same names, with these latter tin cans remaining in service until the 1990s.

NAeL Marcílio Dias (D25) (ex-USS Henry W. Tucker (DD-875)) during exercise Unitas XIX in 1978

Today, the spirit of these WWII Brazilian Mahans is carried in the Marinha do Brasil by the Type 22 frigate NAeL Greenhalgh (F46) (ex-HMS Broadsword (F88))

Further, they have been memorialized in maritime art which, in turn, was used by Brazil in 2004 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the FEB and the country’s efforts in WWII.

Specs:

Marcílio Dias class destroyers, 1945 Jane’s, although the armament listed is incorrect

Displacement:
1,524 t (1,500 long tons) standard
2,235 t (2,200 long tons) full load
Length:
357 ft oa
341 ft pp
Beam: 34 ft 10 in
Draught: 10 ft mean
Propulsion: 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
2-shaft General Electric Company geared turbines, 42800 HP
Speed: 36.5 knots
Range: 6,500 nmi @15 knots on 559 t fuel oil
Complement: 190 to 210 men, maximum of 250 in wartime
Sensors: QCR-1 sonar (1943), by 1950s SPS-4, SPS-6C, Mk 28 (1962) AN-SQS-11A
Armament: (1937 design)
5 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × .50 caliber water-cooled machine guns (4×1)
3 × quad 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes with Bliss–Leavitt Mark 8 torpedoes
2 x stern depth charge racks
Armament: (1943)
4 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × 40mm/60 twin Bofors guns (2×2)
8 × 20mm/70 Oerlikons (8×1)
2 × quad 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes for Bliss Leavitt MK 8 Mod. 3D fish
4 × depth charge throwers, K-guns
2 x stern depth charge racks
Armament: (1970)
2 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × 40mm/60 twin Bofors guns (2×2)
4 × depth charge throwers, K-guns
2 x stern depth charge racks
Hedgehog Mark 15 ASW launcher
Sea Cat GWS-20 SAM system

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.

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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, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, 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 U.S. 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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