Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

Now that’s a bass boat

In a former life, I spent a good bit of time in and out of Stennis Space Center in that great green buffer zone along Mississippi’s Pearl River back when I was doing a lot more federal contract firearms training and, besides all the NASA stuff and the Navy’s AGOR/METCOM guys, there is also another very low-key tenet DOD tenant on the huge complex– the river rats of Special Boat Team 22 and NAVSCIATTS.

The Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School dated back to the 1960s and was based at Rodman in the Canal Zone for decades, specializing in running a hands-on schoolhouse for teaching riverine warfare, mainly to students from Latin America. Basically the Navy’s version of the old Army’s School of the Americas.

These days, they have expanded their reach but still run regular courses for brown water navies and coast guards from not only down south but from points more Asia, Africa, and the Middle East as well. They recently posted some photos of AFRICOM students on a training ex in the muck of the Pearl River showing some interesting watercraft.

“NAVSCIATTS students from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of operations participate in a Patrol Craft Officer Riverine training exercise on the Pearl River near the John C. Stennis Space Center, Dec. 2, 2020. Our 21-1 semester consists of AFRICOM students from Chad, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierre Leon, and Togo. (Photos by Michael Williams)”

Note the twin M240 GPMGs. Now that’s a go-getter

While SBT22 runs 33-foot SOC-Rs (built here in Gulfport), the NAVSCIATTS schoolhouse seems to be using some pretty neat Gator-Tail aluminum skiffs. Made in Loreauville Louisiana, Gator-Tail is well-known (around here anyway) for their mud motor outboards, which are ideal in moving around in the swamp and bayou where traditional motors would get gummed up by vegetation and sediment every five feet.

Speaking of which, it is getting duck season.

That’s a lot of Guns

One of the best indicators of firearms sales, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System logged 3,602,296 checks in November, an increase of 41 percent over the figure of 2,545,863 for November 2019. In fact, it was the biggest November in the NICS program’s 21-year history.

However, when checks and rechecks for carry permits and the like are subtracted from that figure by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, leaving a more concrete number for over-the-counter checks on gun transfers conducted through federal firearms licensees, it yields 1,949,141 checks, which is an increase of 45.2 percent compared to the November 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,342,155. 

When added to the rest of the year, the 2020 running total stands at some 19.1 million adjusted checks, dwarfing the 2016 annual record of 15.7 million checks, and the year still has another month to go before the books are closed. Of those checks, NSSF estimates that a whopping 7.7 million came from new first-time gun buyers. 

Oof.

Keeping Warm, Operation Newton edition

53 Years Ago Today:

Official Caption: “3rd MarDiv, Vietnam, 3Dec67, L/Cpl Hagarty, GH & L/Cpl Rose, HF flammen with ‘C’ Co. 1st Battalion, 4th Marines help each other with their gear on Operation Newton.”

Photo by PFC Shackhail, Marine Corps A193874, via NARA 127-GVB-204-A193874

Of note, the M9A1-7 flame pack weighed upwards of 50-pounds when full, but allowed a range of 130+ feet when using thickened fuel. Add to that the M-1955 flak vest (10-pounds), M1 helmet (3-pounds), web gear, boots, canteens, sidearm, grenades, patrol rats, et. al. and multiply it by the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, and you realized just how warm Cpls. Hagarty and Rose were, even before the pilot light is lit.

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020: Pickin up a Submarine 6-Pack

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Dec. 2, 2020: Pickin up a Submarine 6-Pack

Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-60939

Here we see the brand-new but humble Buckley-class destroyer escort USS England (DE-635) off San Francisco, California, on 9 February 1944 during her shakedown period. Small in nature and seemingly uninspiring, this 1,700-tons of rock and roll spent just 675 days in commission but in that time racked up an amazing record that included 10 battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. Those kinds of things happen when you sink six of the emperor’s submarines in battle during a 12-day period.

With some 154 hulls ordered, the Buckleys were intended to be cranked out in bulk to counter the swarms of Axis submarines prowling the seas. Just 306-feet overall, they were about the size of a medium-ish Coast Guard cutter today but packed a lot more armament, namely three 3″/50 DP guns in open mounts, a secondary battery of 1.1-inch (or 40mm), and 20mm AAA guns, and three 21-inch torpedo tubes in a triple mount for taking out enemy surface ships. Then there was the formidable ASW suite to include stern depth charge racks, eight depth charge throwers, and a Hedgehog system. Powered by responsive electric motors fed by steam turbines, they could make 24-knots and were extremely maneuverable.

Class-leader, USS Buckley (DE-51), cutting a 20-knot, 1,000-foot circle on trials off Rockland Maine, 3 July 1943, 80-G-269442

Our ship, despite first impressions, was not named for the country bordering Scotland and Wales but for one promising junior officer, Ensign John Charles England, IV, D-V(G), USNR. Mr. England, a Missouri native, volunteered for the Reserves at 19 as an apprentice seaman then, as an alum of Pasadena City College, was picked for midshipman’s school and earned his commission nine months later following a stint on the battleship USS New York (BB-34).

Ensign John C. England, USNR, NH 85190

Transferred to the West Coast after radio school, England in the radio room of USS Oklahoma (BB-37) on that fateful morning that would go on to live in infamy. Mr. England, just days before his 21st birthday, survived the triple torpedo strike on Oklahoma but voluntarily re-entered to the stricken battlewagon four times, returning the first three of those with other shipmates.

The photograph was taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. The view looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base, and fuel tank farm in the right-center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. U.S. Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fire. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry. Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.

England never made it back from his last sortie, and in 2016 was reburied next to his parents in Colorado Springs.

England’s grieving mother, Thelma, christened the destroyer escort named in his honor in San Francisco Harbor at Bethlehem Steel on 26 September 1943, and the new warship was commissioned on 10 December.

USS England (DE-635) slides down the building ways at the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard, San Francisco, California, during launching ceremonies on 26 September 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-51896

USS England (DE-635) Off San Francisco, California, on 9 February 1944. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-60938

Same, 19-N-60940

19-N-60941

Just four months after she was commissioned, England arrived to begin convoy duty out of Guadalcanal and was very soon in the thick of a Japanese effort to trap Halsey’s carriers in a briar patch of torpedoes as they approached the Palaus. The plan would see seven mainly Kaisho-type (RO-100 class) coastal submarines deployed in a picket line between the Admiralty Islands to Truk, ready to seal the deal.

Tipped off by CDR Joe Rochefort’s Station Hypo, England would sail in a three-ship hunter-killer task force alongside newly completed sisterships USS Raby (DE-697) and USS George (DE-697).

As summarized by DANFS:

On 18 May 1944, with two other destroyers, England cleared Port Purvis on a hunt for Japanese submarines during a passage to Bougainville. During the next 8 days, she was to set an impressive record in antisubmarine warfare, never matched in World War II by any other American ship, as she hunted down and sank 1-16 on 19 May, RO-106 on 22 May, RO-104 on 23 May, RO-116 on 24 May, and RO-108 on 26 May. In three of these cases, the other destroyers were in on the beginning of the actions, but the kill in every case was England’s alone. Quickly replenishing depth charges at Manus, England was back in action on 31 May to join with four other ships in sinking RO-105. This superlative performance won for England a Presidential Unit Citation, and the assurance from the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral E. J. King, “There’ll always be an England in the United States Navy.”

For a more detailed essay on the slaying of the above six-pack of submersibles, see RADM Samuel J. Cox’s H-Gram on the subject, H-030-1.

Following the wild success of her hunter-killer group, England would spend the next several months in a more low-key mode, busy doing unsung work escorting troop and cargo convoys into the Philippines and along the Manus-Ulithi sea-lanes.

Then, on 23 March, she would sail for Okinawa, serving in the screen for, ironically, USS New York, during the pre-invasion bombardment of that Japanese stronghold. There on the early morning of 27 March, she fought off her first of four progressively more dire air attacks.

Detached later that same day to return to Ulithi to escort the cruisers USS Mobile and USS Oakland to join TG 58.2, England would arrive back on station off Okinawa where she remained, observing and protecting the fleet, shepherding another group of ships in from Saipan, and dropping Hedgehogs on sonar contacts.

On the late-night of 25 April, England fought off a four-aircraft kamikaze strike coming out of the low moon. One of the aircraft crashed just 20 feet off of the tin can.

A third attack, on 28 April, splashed a bogie within 800 yards.

On 9 May, England’s luck wore out and she was attacked by a trio of Japanese dive bombers, which her AAA batteries managed to swat down. However, one of these crashed squarely into the escort’s starboard side, just below the bridge, and had its bomb explode shortly after.

The Japanese aviator at the stick likely felt no pain as, in her after-action report, England‘s skipper noted that, “When the Val hit it had been seriously damaged by the ship’s gunfire. One wheel had been shot off, the plane was afire, and the Jap[anese] in the forward cockpit was observed to be slumped over his controls as if dead.”

The ensuing fight to save the ship was successful but left 37 of her crew dead or missing at sea, and another 25 seriously injured.

USS England (DE-635) Damage from a Kamikaze hit received off Okinawa on 9 May 1945. This view, taken at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 24 July 1945, shows the port side of the forward superstructure, near where the suicide plane struck. Note scoreboard painted on the bridge face, showing her Presidential Unit Citation pennant and symbols for the six Japanese submarines and three aircraft credited to England. Also, note the fully provisioned life raft at right. 80-G-336949

Burned-out officers’ stateroom in the forward superstructure, from a Kamikaze that hit near her bridge while she was off Okinawa on 9 May 1945. This view was taken at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 24 July 1945. 80-G-336950

This photo shows the interior of the wrecked deckhouse just forward of the bridge, looking toward the #2 3″/50 gun. Photographed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, 24 July 1945.

Fire damage in the pilothouse, near where a Japanese Kamikaze struck England while she was off Okinawa on 9 May 1945. This view was taken at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 24 July 1945. 80-G-336952

England would have to be towed to Kerama Retto, then was able to make Leyte. After further repairs, she limped the long way home to Philadelphia for reconstruction to an APD high-speed transport, a “green dragon,” for the final push on the Japanese Home Islands.

What a difference two years makes! USS England (DE-635) off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 21 July 1945. She was there for repairs after being hit by a Kamikaze off Okinawa on 9 May 1945. 80-G-336947

VJ Day interrupted this plan and she was instead decommissioned on 15 October 1945. Left in an unrepaired state, she was essentially unusable and was sold for scrap, 26 November 1946.

The name “England” would return to the Navy List in 1962 after a 17-year hiatus from ADM. King’s promise, assigned to the Leahy-class destroyer leader/guided-missile cruiser DLG/CG-22, which would go on to serve 31 years during the Cold War.

A starboard bow view of the guided-missile cruiser USS ENGLAND (CG 22) underway, 1/10/1983 NARA 6404285

England’s wartime diaries and reports are digitized and available in the National Archives.

She is also remembered in maritime art and in scale model form.

(Image from Jane’s Fighting Ships 1971-72 via Navsource)

USS England by Paul Bender

 To this date, England’s record has not been bested

Specs:

Drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for escort ships of the Buckley (DE-51) class. This plan, approved by Captain Torvald A. Solberg, USN, is dated 7 September 1944. It shows the ship’s port side. Note that this camouflage scheme calls for painting the ship’s starboard side in the darker tones of Measure 32. #: 19-N-104889

Displacement: 1400 tons (light), 1740 tons (full)
Length: 300′ (wl), 306′ (oa)
Beam: 36′ 9″ (extreme)
Draft: 10′ 6″ (draft limit)
Propulsion: 2 “D” oil-fired Express boilers, G.E. turbines with electric drive, 12000 shp, 2 screws
Speed: 24 kts
Range: 6,000 nm @ 12 knots
Complement: 15 / 198
Armament:
3 x 3″/50 Mk22 (1×3)
1 1.1-inch “Chicago Piano” AA
8 x 20mm Mk 4 AA
3 x 21″ Mk15 TT (3×1)
1 Hedgehog Projector Mk10 (144 rounds)
8 Mk6 depth charge projectors
2 Mk9 depth charge tracks
200 depth charges

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!

The Zero-Gravity Zone

The below short shows the Type 23 (Duke-class) frigate HMS Westminster (F237) going after it in heavy seas, with a great view of her new MDBA CAMM/Sea Ceptor battery.

The 4,900-ton FFG has been on HMs naval list since 1992 and in her career has shown up in a Bond film (not one of the good ones), and been involved in the Persian Gulf, off Libya, and the HOA. She recently saved the life of father and son from the capsized fishing boat Ocean Echo in Weymouth Bay, racing through high seas to pluck the two out of the drink.

All in a day’s work.

Navy to consign Bonnie Dick to the scrappers

200716-N-WD349-1423 SAN DIEGO (July 16, 2020) Sailors depart the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) after combating a fire on board. On the morning of July 12, a fire was called away aboard the ship while it was moored pier side at Naval Base San Diego. Base and shipboard firefighters responded to the fire. Bonhomme Richard is going through a maintenance availability, which began in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jeffrey F. Yale/Released)

After an epic four-day fire that captured headlines around the world and scorched or flooded 11 of 14 decks, the Navy has decided that USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) will not be going back to her Pascagoula birthplace for a $3B/5-year rebuild, or get a cheaper $1B conversion to a non-combatant hospital ship, command ship, or submarine tender, and will instead be decommissioned, stripped of all useable components and materials to keep her sisters in service, then sent to the breakers.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her.

“Although it saddens me that it is not cost-effective to bring her back, I know this ship’s legacy will continue to live on through the brave men and women who fought so hard to save her, as well as the Sailors and Marines who served aboard her during her 22-year history,” Braithwaite said.

As noted by USNI News, “Decommissioning the ship – and the inactivation, harvesting of parts, towing and scrapping the hull – will cost about $30 million and take just nine to 12 months.”

Of ominous note, the loss of BHR will go in the books as the worst U.S. Navy casualty in terms of tonnage, even eclipsing the destruction of the battleships USS Arizona (BB-39) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) at Pearl Harbor.

As for a replacement? The well-used Tarawa-class gators USS Nassau (LHA-4) and USS Peleliu (LHA-5), whose keels were laid in the 1970s, have spent much of the past decade growing rust and greenery in the backwater of Pearl Harbor’s lochs. Bringing either one back– Peleliu has only been sidelined since 2015– would surely be a headache, especially for their crews as their huge CE boilers by all accounts didn’t age well, but may prove a useful stopgap until the current America-class LHA pipeline can take BHR’s place in the Western Pacific.

“Harry Greene flies his Boeing Stearman Kaydet Primary Trainer airplane over the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, May 30, 2016. Greene is a helicopter pilot at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point and an aircraft enthusiast in his off-duty time.” Note Peleliu and Nassau in the foreground. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/Released)

A U.S.-made Consumer MP-5?

What’s not to like about an MP5?

Zenith Firearms has been a partner with the Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation, best known as MKE, since 2011, and as such long imported MKE’s MP-5 clones to the U.S. consumer market. However, with the Turkish company reportedly teaming up with Century Arms on the promised AP-5, Zenith has made the call to go it alone.

They advise an all-American MP-5 will be available sometime in 2021.

However, as I may have covered here before, PTR and Palmetto State Armory in South Carolina have both been going down that road since 2018 with varying degrees of success. There are also a host of smaller shops that specialize in the platform, for those who like to get on waiting lists. These include Pennsylvania’s Black Ops Defense, Brethren Arms in Utah, Dakota Tactical in Michigan, and TPM Outfitters in the Lone Star State.

Bottom line: we’ll see.

Frozen Chosin at 70

Take a minute sometime in the next couple of weeks to remember the Marines– along with Navy Corpsmen and U.S. Army troops— who were trapped in what could be called the Chosin Pocket along the Changjin Reservoir in North Korea.

But today, we do not remember the Chosin as a pocket that was surrounded and reduced, because, well, the Marines “attacked in another direction” and broke the hell out.

“First Division Leathernecks Counter Fire with Fire When Attacked by Well Entrenched Chinese Reds During the Division’s Heroic Breakout from Chosin.” 7 December 1950. Note the WWII tropical “frogskin” camo, of little use in Korea in winter, along with an M1919 LMG and an M1903 Springfield, the latter likely a sniper rifle Marine Photo 127-N-A5434, taken by Sgt. F. C. Kerr, via NARA 

Can I borrow that pen?

Pen guns have (officially) been around since 1925, and were likely in circulation well before then. And by “pen gun,” yes, I do mean a gun-shaped to look as if it was a pen.

Thus:

The OSS Stinger of WWII fame.

While most in-line guns of this sort are illegal if they are not made on a Form 1 (and a tax paid) and transfer on a Form 4 (with another tax stamp) under the AOW section of NFA-regulated devices, there was a breed of transforming pen guns that morphed into a traditional Title I pistol and needed no such stamps.

Behold, the Braverman:

More on this bad boy, which I recently got to play with, in my column at Guns.com.

Vale, Lt. Col. D’Este

With over 40 works in and out of print, almost all focused intensely on WWII-era Western military history, odds are you have a couple of books by Lt. Col. Carlo D’Este, USAR, ret. on your shelves.

Born in Oakland in 1936, D’Este graduated magna cum laude from Norwich University in 1958, then went on to serve 20 years on active duty with the Ordnance Branch, including two tours in Vietnam.

As noted by Col. Jerry D. Morelock in the late author’s obituary over at Osprey, “D’Este’s stature as an unrivaled historian/biographer was recognized in 2011 when he was awarded the Pritzker Military Library’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Military Writing which recognizes a living author for a body of work that has profoundly enriched the public understanding of American Military History. D’Este’s significance goes well beyond his published works.”

D’Este died suddenly last week at age 84 in his Cape Cod home.

Thank you for your work, sir. 

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