Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

Many Hands Make Light Work

An important milestone occurred this weekend across 45 minutes on a humid and foggy Saturday morning for the Biloxi National Cemetery. The unit, which honors well over 17,000 of the nation’s veterans (going back to the war with Mexico) and their spouses, celebrated its 10th annual Christmas wreath drive.

Sadly, the number of wreaths grows each season. Total number of wreaths this year pushed the 25,000 mark

In an effort that costs the government or the VA nothing, a core of volunteers– heavy with youth groups such as Scouts and JROTC– covered the grounds with donated wreaths, making sure every gravesite had one.

Of course, the background work included local businesses donating funds for wreaths and new bows (replaced yearly) and further smaller teams of volunteers who worked all day Thursday unloading and Friday staging the wreaths/affixing new bows, but the work went cheerfully.

I am glad to have participated in this mission for the past several years with my family. 

I try to say a little piece and acknowledge the individual Veteran on each of the wreaths I install, in addition to taking it upon myself to cover the graves of those I knew personally.

A pole/broomstick/piece of PVC pipe (and a buddy to carry the other end) helps greatly.

Of course, the crowds of volunteers will be smaller on Jan. 7th when we go to pick them back up but, that’s part of the job!

If you have a national cemetery in your area that doesn’t do something similar, please think about starting such an effort.

If they already do, please join in the effort. Every pair of hands helps!

The Princess & the Onderzeedienst

Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange, the heir apparent to the Dutch throne, is 18 years old and in a tradition upheld by most modern monarchies, has been making her rounds in her introduction to military service. This has included going on a training flight from an RNAF F-16NB from Volkel Air Base, taking the controls of one of Holland’s last Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks, and, most important to us, visiting Den Helder to tour the Onderzeedienst— the Dutch submarine service– in action.

This included getting underway on the Zr.Ms. Zeeleeuw (S803), one of the country’s four aging but still very capable Walrus-class diesel attack boats.

The Dutch have long treasured their submarine arm, and with good reason as the OZD was the Navy’s most effective branch during WWII and proved to come in handy throughout NATO ops in the Cold War and after.

Of note, the Dutch plan to replace their 30-year-old Walruses with a class of new submarines in the very near future, with the Germans (TKMS Type 212CD), French (conventional Barracuda), and Swedes (Saab A26) all looking to get the nod.

Texan Warming Up

80 Years Ago: A North American SNJ-4 Texan trainer aircraft warms up. The photograph was released on December 5, 1942.

Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.80-G-22075

Dubbed the AT-6 by the Army and the Havard by Commonwealth forces, the Navy used the “J-Bird” as an all-purpose trainer for instrument flight, aerobatics, bombing, and gunnery, acquiring the first 40 in 1936 and then keeping them in the field as late as the mid-1950s.

Many of these wore a distinctive high-viz “chrome” paint livery, giving them the nickname of “yellow perils.” 

View of SNJ-6B Texans on the flight line at Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Barin Field in 1954 Foley

NATC Pensacola, NAAS Barin Field, Foley Alabama. 1943. Rare image of this period. Notice the mixture of national insignias on the SNJs.

If it was not for the thousands of these humble trainers on hand to school future naval aviators at Pensacola and elsewhere, the pilot pipeline for all those beautiful Corsairs, Hellcats, Dauntless, Avengers, and Hellcats that went on to win the Pacific War would have been very narrow indeed.

US Navy SNJ Texan training aircraft making a low-level pass near a three-masted sailing ship Joseph Conrad, built in 1880, photo taken in 1942.

North American production totaled 15,495 of all variants and they have remained durable and popular warbirds in retirement, with over 400 still airworthy in the U.S. alone.

And they went on to fill the void as both Japanese and American carrier aircraft in a number of films. 

A motion picture camera rests on the flight deck during the filming of the ABC-TV movie “War and Remembrance. An SNJ Texan aircraft is in the background. Image from the USNI

Eagle Charlies Fading, replaced by a hope and a prayer

The 18th Tactical Fighter Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, received its first F-15C Eagle on 29 September 1979 with “The Fighting Cocks” of its 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron becoming the first squadron to become fully operational with the big air superiority fighter within the Pacific Air Forces. Now, with the mighty F-15C on its way out of front-line service, the unit is saying goodbye to the big Eagles after an unprecedented 43-year run.

U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagles assigned to the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons await clearance for their last take-off from Kadena Air Base, Japan, on Dec. 1, 2022. As a part of its modernization plan, the 18th Wing is retiring its aging fleet of F-15C/D Eagles that have been in service for more than four decades. (U.S. Air Force photo 221201-F-PW483-0008 by Senior Airman Jessi Roth)

The 67th, which just celebrated the 80th anniversary of its first combat, is one of the few who have a Navy Presidential Unit Citation among its lineage, earned flying slow P-400s and P–39s over Guadalcanal supporting Marines in the summer of 1942.

A 67th Fighter Squadron P-400 at Henderson Field in 1942, likely in The Cow Field of Fighter One. Note the same “ZZ” tail flash as they wear today.

To keep it in perspective, the 67th flew no less than 12 different types in the 44 years between the Seversky P–35s at its establishment in 1935 and hanging up its F-4E Phantoms in 1979, giving you a good perspective of just how long the F-15C has been a relevant fourth-generation fighter.

The roughly 48 retrograded F-15C/Ds– all of which have at least 30 years on their frames– will travel to Kingsley Field ANGB in Oregon and some will go on to continue service at various Air Guard ADF units across the U.S. while the rest will head to the boneyard.

To backfill the loss of the old birds, the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, sent about a dozen F-22A Raptors to Okinawa on 4 November to begin the first of several six-months rotations while the 18th Wing (likely) transitions to new F-15EX models sometime in 2023-24.

Now I don’t know about you, but swapping 48 forward deployed F-15Cs on the PLAAF/NorkAF doorstep for 12 (ish) rotating F-22s doesn’t sound like a great idea, even if it will just be for a couple of years, but hey…

“While I’m sad to see the F-15 go, it’s important to maintain an advanced fighter presence here in Okinawa,” said Brig. Gen. David S. Eaglin, 18th Wing commander. “Our adversaries have advanced and progressed since 1979 and we must do the same. I look forward to the future as we work through the challenges of divesting an airframe that served admirably as we modernize our defenses and evolve to the threats we face today.”

Meanwhile, the choice to keep an advanced F-15 series platform like the E/F or EX in the islands after 2023 is important for joint interoperability, as the Japan Air Self-Defense Force bought 213 Mitsubishi-built F-15J/DJ Eagles in the 1980s and still flies 150 updated Kai models, making the type their most numerous combat aircraft. Tokyo has committed to a $5 billion program to upgrade 68 of those under the Japan Super Interceptor (JSI) program and keep flying them alongside new (albeit short-ranged) F-35s in an air defense role.

Battery X at 80

Via the Army’s Center for Military History and the U.S. Army Women’s Museum:

On 5 May 1942, shortly after the United States entered World War II, the War Department formed the Military District of Washington (MDW) to plan and execute the ground and anti-aircraft defense of the nation’s capital. As the Army transformed its wartime stateside logistical structure from nine corps areas to the Army Service Forces (ASF) and its subordinate Support Commands, MDW became one of those commands. In its new role, MDW assumed responsibility for supporting the Army Headquarters commandant and the newly-completed Pentagon, in addition to Walter Reed Army Hospital, as well as ceremonial activities in Washington with the U.S. Army Band as a subordinate unit.

General George C. Marshall, began thinking about allowing women to serve in a limited combat role, in assignments to the anti-aircraft units of the Coast Artillery Corps (CAC) in the Continental United States.

In early December 1942, “Battery X” was formed. About 70 Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACS) members were selected to perform duty in anti-aircraft dugout emplacements. They received six weeks of training as range-finder operators, and in manning (no pun intended) anti-aircraft defenses. These WAACs were the first women in U.S. history to be part of a combat unit and were authorized to wear the branch insignia of the Coast Artillery.

“Battery X” personeel training on a 40mm/60 Bofors

Battery X at Bethany Beach Delaware working with a 90mm M1 AAA battery, 1943

They were expected to train other women to eventually replace male range-finder instrument operators at harbor defense installations in the Continental United States and mixed into the ranks of the 71st and 89th Coastal Artillery Regiments.

Despite the potential it may have unleashed, the experiment proved short-lived, disbanded in August 1943. It remains relatively unknown, not even declassified until the 1970s.

In more detail:

In the experiment, General George C. Marshall and Colonel Oveta Hobby hand-picked eleven WAC officers and fifty-eight enlisted women to compose the WAC component of Battery X, and the two complimented units worked around the clock in three 8-hour shifts to operate the M1A1 90mm heavy antiaircraft gun batteries and their supporting radar stations. The experiment ran from February to August 1943, when the experiment concluded with a radar tracking and gun-laying test on Bethany Beach, Delaware. In the concluding test, the WACs used radar to aim the connected 90mm gun at a moving target attached to a B-17 heavy bomber. This test was deemed to be successful by General Marshall and Colonel Hobby, though the units were quickly disbanded for other roles in other theaters. The WACs served until the end of the war, where most enlisted women were discharged from service and resumed their civilian lives. Others continued serving in the WACs, creating the core of the peacetime WAC organization.

The End of the Inferno

The U.S. Navy’s darkest nightmare, even worse than Pearl Harbor, was the sea campaign in and around Guadalcanal.

“Fantasma de Guerra,” Battle of Santa Cruz, Pacific, 26 October 1942. Artwork by Tom Lea. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 89605-KN (Color)

Exceedingly well-told by the late (great) James D. Hornfischer in Neptune’s Inferno, while the land campaign, spearheaded by the “Old Breed” of the 1st Marines then closed out by the follow-on 2nd Marines and the Army/s 23rd and 25th Infantry divisions lasted six months and two days (from the first landings on 7 August 1942 to U.S. Army Major General Alexander Patch realizing on 9 February 1943 that the last intact Japanese force of Gen. Harukichi Hyakutake’s 17th Army withdrew two days prior), the Naval conflict was more compressed. It is generally bookended by seven deepwater sea battles conducted between the nights of 9 August to 30 November 1942– a span of just 113 days.

Seven tragic clashes in just 16 weeks:

  • Savo Island (9 August).
  • Eastern Solomons (24 August).
  • Cape Esperance (11 October).
  • Santa Cruz Islands (25/26 October).
  • 1st Guadalcanal/”Cruiser Night Action.”
  • 2nd Guadalcanal/Battle of Friday the 13th/Battleship Night Action (13 November).
  • Tassafaronga (30 November).

While three– Cape Esperance and 1st/2nd Guadalcanal– are narrow Allied victories, the other four went to the Japanese, often lopsidedly so.

Battle of Tassafaronga in Guadalcanal painting by Yoshio Shimizu, 1943, possibly showing the lost Japanese destroyer Takanami getting plastered by the American cruisers USS Minneapolis and New Orleans

As chronicled by Hornfischer, the balance sheet ended up almost balancing in terms of tonnage and warships with the U.S. and Japan each losing 24 ships apiece with a combined tonnage of 160,815 vs 155,330, respectively.

While the Americans/Australians lost six heavy (including HMAS Canberra) and two light cruisers, this compares to the Japanese leaving two battleships along with three heavy and one light cruiser behind. The U.S. lost 14 destroyers against 11 Japanese. When it comes to submarines, the Japanese lost six while American diesel boats suffered no losses in the campaign. Two American flattops (USS Hornet and Wasp) were sunk while the Japanese lost the smaller Ryujo.

Via Hornfischer. Not in Hornfischer’s calculations were 14 Japanese and 5 American auxiliaries nor three U.S. destroyers lost in the periphery nor at least six PT boats lost.

Of note, the last American warship lost during the campaign was MTBRon 3’s PT-37, destroyed by the Japanese destroyer Kawakaze, off Guadalcanal, Solomons, on 1 Feb. 1943, still fighting the Tokyo Express in the last week of the land battle.

Map of the location of World War II shipwrecks in Ironbottom Sound in the Solomon Islands. Some wreck positions are not exactly known. (Photo by Wikipedia user Vvulto)

In terms of aircraft, each side again was balanced, with both leaving over 600 airframes apiece on the bottom of the South Pacific or strewn across jungle impact sites.

The butcher’s bill amounted to over 31,000 Japanese and 7,100 Americans perished. To express how much the conflict was a Japanese land battle lost and a bloody U.S. Naval victory eventually won, of the American losses no less than 5,041 were U.S. Navy personnel KIA while the Empire suffered over 23,800 lost in ground combat or died of disease ashore.

Still Life Guadalcanal By Aaron Bohrod, 1943

As noted by ADM Halsey in 1947:

This battle was a decisive American victory by any standard. It was also the third great turning point of the war in the Pacific. Midway stopped the Japanese advance in the Central Pacific; Coral Sea stopped it in the Southwest Pacific; Guadalcanal stopped it in the South Pacific. Now, nearly five years later, I can face the alternative frankly. If our ships and planes had been routed in this battle, if we had lost it, our troops on Guadalcanal would have been trapped as were our troops on Bataan. We could not have reinforced them or relieved them. Archie Vandergrift would have been our “Skinny” Wainwright, and the infamous Death March would have been repeated. (We later captured a document which designated the spot where the Japanese commander had planned to accept Archie’s surrender.) Unobstructed, the enemy would have driven south, cut our supply lines to New Zealand and Australia, and enveloped them.

But we didn’t lose the battle. We won it. Moreover, we seized the offensive from they. Until then he had been advancing at his will. From then on he retreated at ours.

Verdict on the New (and Improved) FN High Power

FN one-upped the now resurgent Browning Hi-Power race by distancing itself from the clone wars to deliver an improved and modern take on the pistol, the High Power (note the difference in spelling).

I’ve been looking at this new generation of the pistol over the past few months and, with 500 rounds and lots of careful evaluation and testing, have a lot to talk about.

Stoked with 17+1 rounds of Federal Hydra Shok Deep 135-grain JHPs in condition one, the High Power hit the scales at 43.5 ounces. While a hefty carry, for those who are fine with a full-sized pistol, you could do much worse than the High Power.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Seabee Technical

30 years ago this month: Members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FORTY (NMCB 40)’s Air Detail drive through the streets of Mogadishu shortly after their arrival in Somalia, December 1992.

Dig the M16A1s and the Milverado

As noted by the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, “The Seabees established base camps at each of the humanitarian relief sites and provided construction support to U.S. and Coalition Forces during Operation Restore Hope. They also built and repaired schools and orphanages for local Somalian children.”

Nicknamed “Fighting Forty,” NMCB 40 was formed 6 November 1942 and carved facilities out of raw Pacific foliage throughout WWII– earning an Army Distinguished Unit Citation while attached to the 1st Cavalry Division– then continued its mission in Vietnam and the Cold War. Then came a series of deployments throughout the GWOT.

Based out of Port Hueneme, California, it was decommissioned on 12 September 2012.

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022: Crescent City Blues

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Nov. 30, 2022: Crescent City Blues

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives, 80-G-216014.

Above we see the lead ship of her class, the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans (CA-32) camouflaged at Tulagi in the then hotly contested Solomon Islands, shortly after she was torpedoed during the Battle of Tassafaronga on 30 November 1942– some 80 years ago today. Note that her stern is riding high and that her forward end is low in the water as the Japanese Type 93 Long Lance she caught had severed her bow between # 1 and # 2 eight-inch gun turrets, killing 182 men and lopping off almost a fifth of her length.

About the class

Classified as the “Second Generation of Treaty Cruisers” by Friedman who has an entire chapter on the subject in his USNI Press U.S. Cruisers book– a bible on the subject– the seven New Orleans class vessels came after America flirted with the more cramped and often extremely lightly armored Pensacola class (Pensacola and Salt Lake City) Portland class (Portland and Indianapolis), and Northampton-class (Northampton, Chester, Louisville, Chicago, Augusta, and Houston) cruisers. For reference, the P-colas, which carried 518 tons of armor, had just 4-inches of armor at their thickest, with just a maximum of 2.5 inches on their turret face and 1.25 inches on the conning tower, making them vulnerable to 5-inch shells and derided as being “tin clads” or “eggshell” cruisers.

Some 588 feet overall with a 61-foot beam, the New Orleans class carried 1,507 tons of protection (three times as much as Pensacola) and ran a belt and central conning tower that carried up to five inches of plate while the thickest parts of the turret faces went eight, making them capable of withstanding hits from the 8-inch shells of the day– if they were fired from far enough away.

In a further improvement, while carrying nine 8″/55 Mark 9 main guns of the same type as the previous U.S. Treaty heavy cruisers, the New Orleanses carried them in better-designed turrets with more room and would be upgraded during the war to Mark 12, 14, or 15 guns.

8-inch guns of the New Orleans-class cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37), Norfolk, VA. December 1940

As noted by Friedman concisely, “The New Orleans class represented a shift in U.S. cruiser priorities toward protection, gained in part because of a determined use of the entire available treaty tonnage.”

Speaking to which, while rated as 10,000 tons on paper– in line with the Washington Naval treaty limits– during WWII they pushed almost 13,000 when fully loaded and carrying scores of AAA guns for which they weren’t designed. By comparison, the standard weight of the 585-foot P-Colas and 600-foot Northamptons were just 9,138 and 8,997 tons, respectively, leaving a lot of treaty weight on the table.

USS New Orleans artist impression by I.R. Lloyd, circa early 1930s NH 664

USS New Orleans (CA-32) builder’s model, photographed circa 1936. NH 45123 and NH 45122.

Earlier heavy cruisers USS Salt Lake City (CA-25) and USS Pensacola (CA-24), left, alongside USS New Orleans (CA-32) to the right, seen nested together at Pearl Harbor, 31 October 1943. Ford Island is at the left, with USS Oklahoma (BB-37) under salvage at the extreme left, just beyond Salt Lake City’s forward superstructure. Note the radar antennas, gun directors, and eight-inch guns on these three heavy cruisers as well as how much different their bridges, turrets, and masts are. The rounded roofs of early Mark 9 twin and triple turrets of USS Salt Lake City and USS Pensacola contrast greatly with the later turrets of USS New Orleans on the right.80-G-264236

They also had extensive floatplane facilities including two catapults and a large hangar, with corresponding avgas bunkerage and aviation magazines. They typically operated up to four Seagulls, though the number of catapults and extremely dangerous gasoline stores were whittled down late in the war and only a pair of floatplanes carried.

New Orleans class mate USS Quincy (CA-39) looking forward over the boat deck from the secondary conn over her hangar, while the ship was at the New York Navy Yard after her last overhaul, 29 May 1942. Crude # 1 in white circle (center) marks the location of the 5″/25cal loading practice machine. Other notable items includeboats and boat cradle in foreground; four Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplanes atop the catapults; crated food piled by the after smokestack; and USS Marblehead (CL-12) at left. NHHC 19-N-30725

 

Curtiss SOC Seagull scout-observation aircraft leaves the port catapult of a New Orleans-class heavy cruiser, circa 1942

Our subject

The Mississippi River city of New Orleans, the site of two different battles in 1815 and 1862, had previously lent her name to a ship-of-the-line that was begun the same year as the former and sold while still in the stocks over 20 years past the latter.

Then came a protected cruiser — laid down by Armstrong in England as Amazonas for the Brazilian Navy— that was rushed into service in 1898 and would remain in the line through the Great War. 

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans (later PG 34 and CL 22), port bow. Reproduction of a painting by Koerner & Hayes, circa 1897-98.

As such, our cruiser is the only the second USS New Orleans to reach the fleet. Laid down on 14 March 1931 at the New York Navy Yard, she was commissioned on 15 February 1934.

A great pre-war shot of the USS New Orleans shows her profile. NH 660

Her brief peacetime period took her as far as Scandinavia, a showboat for the Navy and the country before finding herself increasingly after 1936 in Pacific waters.

May 1934– heavy cruiser USS New Orleans at Stockholm along with the pansarskeppet Gustav V Sverige. Marinemuseet Fo39197

A superb image of USS New Orleans (CA-32) in English waters, in about June 1934. Note her gunnery clock and no less than four Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplanes on her catapults. Photographed by Wright & Logan, Southsea, England. Donation of Captain Joseph Finnegan, USN (Retired), 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 71787

USS New Orleans (CA-32) in port, circa 1937. Note the broad band painted on her after smokestack, probably a recognition feature. NH 50757

Cruiser USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32) under St John Bridge, Portland

War!

In it from the very first bullet, on 7 December 1941, New Orleans was moored at Berth 16, Navy Yard Pearl Harbor undergoing engine repairs on shore power.

As noted by her report of the attack:

At 0757 sighted enemy planes “dive bombing” Ford Island and went to General Quarters immediately. At 0805 sighted enemy torpedo planes on port quarter flying low across our stern. Rifle fire and Pistol fire was opened from our fantail as the first planes flew by to launch their torpedoes at the battleships. This ship saw several planes launch their torpedoes headed in the direction of the battleships. Our 1.1/75 battery and Machine Guns aft were manned in time to actually fire at three or four enemy planes passing our stern. About 0810 all batteries, except the 8″ battery, were in action engaging such enemy planes a presented themselves as targets.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 9 February 1942, two months after Pearl Harbor. NH 97846

Lightly damaged– her crew found no less than 29 small holes in her above water-line hull and superstructure due to flying fragments but she suffered no casualties– with the Pacific Fleet’s battleships out of service, she was soon expected to fill the gap along with her sisters.

She was soon escorting convoys throughout the South Pacific and screened the carrier USS Yorktown at Coral Sea (taking 580 of Lexington’s survivors off) in May, USS Enterprise at Midway in June, and was standing by USS Saratoga at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in August 1942.

USS New Orleans underway during exercises in Hawaiian waters, 8 July 1942. This was just weeks after Midway, where she screened Enterprise. Note the extensive float nets and rafts on her superstructure and turrets. 80-G-10115

When Sara was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, New Orleans spent almost 12 weeks escorting the precious flattop back to Pearl, waiting for her to be repaired (and picking up more AAA guns of her own), then escorting her back to the Solomons.

As the Japanese had fought a string of cruiser/destroyer vs cruiser/destroyer night actions at Savo Island in August (with three of New Orleans’s sisters– Astoria, Quincy, and Vincennes— lost in minutes), Cape Esperance in October (Salt Lake City lost) and Guadalcanal in November (Portland and sister San Francisco seriously damaged) in which the U.S. attrition rate when it came to heavy cruisers became untenable, it was inevitable that New Orleans would soon find herself in a scrap. One that would be the last large surface ship clash of the Solomons campaign.

This brings us to…

Tassafaronga!

RADM Carleton H. Wright’s Task Force 67– including the heavy cruisers USS Minneapolis (CA-36), USS New Orleans (CA-32), USS Northampton (CA-24), and USS Pensacola (CA-26), the light cruiser USS Honolulu (CL-48) and the destroyers USS Drayton (DD-366), USS Fletcher (DD-445), USS Maury (DD-401), USS Perkins (DD-377), USS Lamson (DD-367), and USS Lardner (DD-487)— had a rendezvous with destiny when it acted against a partially surprised and all-around inferior (on paper) Japanese “Tokyo Express” force of RADM Raizō Tanaka’s eight cargo-burdened destroyers of the IJN’s DesRon2 on the night of November 30, 1942, on the surface of Iron Bottom Sound near Lunga Point.

It went…badly.

As described by the National Museum of the Navy:

U.S. force of five cruisers and six destroyers intercepted eight Japanese destroyers bringing reinforcements to Guadalcanal and were crippled by a brilliantly executed Japanese torpedo counterattack. Heavy cruiser Northampton was sunk, while Pensacola, New Orleans, and Minneapolis were badly damaged. The Japanese only lost the destroyer Takanami. In this action, the last of the Guadalcanal campaign’s five major surface battles, the Japanese once again demonstrated their tactical superiority at night. The Navy was learning though, as would be demonstrated in 1943.

It turned out that, while the New Orleans class had better armor than the first generation of American Treaty Cruisers, they suffered from a lack of below-waterline protection and dramatic bow loss ran in the family, at least at Tassafaronga.

Sister Minneapolis, who scored many of the hits on Takanami, took two torpedo hits from Japanese destroyers, one on the port bow, the other in her number two fireroom, and her bow collapsed.

USS Minneapolis (CA-36). En route to Pearl Harbor for repairs, circa January 1943. She had lost her bow when hit by Japanese torpedoes during the Battle of Tassafaronga, off Guadalcanal on 30 November 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-44544.

New Orleans also took her lumps.

Detailed from DANFS:

When flagship Minneapolis was struck by two torpedoes, New Orleans, next astern, was forced to sheer away to avoid collision, and ran into the track of a torpedo which ripped off her bow. Bumping down the ship’s port side, the severed bow punched several holes in New Orleans’ hull. A fifth of her length gone, slowed to 2 knots, and blazing forward, the ship fought for survival. Individual acts of heroism and self-sacrifice along with skillful seamanship kept her afloat, and under her own power she entered Tulagi Harbor near daybreak on 1 December.

For New Orleans, her Battle Damage Report is stark:

  1. During the night of 30 November 1942, NEW ORLEANS was a unit of a task force which engaged a Japanese force in the action subsequently named the Battle of Lunga Point. NEW ORLEANS, firing with her main battery and steaming at 20 knots, had just started to swing to the right to avoid MINNEAPOLIS when a torpedo struck the port bow in way of turret I and detonated.
  2. The torpedo detonation was followed immediately by a second and much heavier detonation. As a result, the bow, including turret I, was severed almost completely between turrets I and II. It swung out to port and tore loose, probably due to the starboard swing of the ship. It then floated aft and banged against the port side. Holes were torn in the shell at frames 53, 130 and 136 and the port inboard propeller was wrecked.

That secondary explosion was later determined to be from one of New Orleans’s aviation bomb and mine magazine, A-502-1/8-M, which “contained the 160-pound demolition charge and forty-nine 100-pound bombs” and that of an adjacent small arms magazine, A-502-M, which contained five 325-pound depth bombs.

From her battle damage report

She limped into Tulagi some eight hours after the battle and remained there shoring up her bow with coconut logs under a camo net for 11 days.

Port bow view as she entered Tulagi harbor about 8 hours after being struck by a torpedo, 1 December 1942

USS New Orleans (CA-32) under camouflage at Tulagi, December 1942

USS New Orleans (CA 32) Cruiser shown soon after the battle. 80-G-44447

Minneapolis did much the same, with the help of Seabees. 

New Orleans then slowly sailed for Sydney, Australia, arriving on Christmas Eve 1942, her crew finally getting some much-needed rest. She would remain there until March, when, after a temporary stub bow was fitted in dry dock, she left for Puget Sound and arrived on the West Coast on 3 April 1943 after stops at Pago Pago and Pearl Harbor

USS New Orleans (CA 32) comes into the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for a new bow after battling with Japanese warships in Southwest Pacific. In this view, she is almost ready for joining to a new bow. The photograph was released 11 January 1944. 80-G-44448

USS New Orleans (CA-32) steams through a tight turn in Elliot Bay, Washington, on 30 July 1943, following battle damage repairs and overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard. She is likely “creating a slick” for recovering a sea plane– making a smooth patch of becalmed water for the aircraft to land upon. NH 97847

USS New Orleans (CA-32) off the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, following battle damage repairs and overhaul, 5 August 1943. NH 97848

Back in the fight

After post-rebuild workups, New Orleans sailed 5-6 October 1943 with RADM Alfred E. Montgomery’s Task Force 14 to shell Japanese-occupied Wake Island.

Wake Island Raid, October 1943. A heavy cruiser’s 8-inch guns bombard Wake, as seen from USS Minneapolis (CA-36), 5 October 1943. The two following ships are (in no particular order): USS San Francisco (CA-38) and USS New Orleans (CA-32). National Archives photograph, 80-G-81973

New Orleans would also help support Allied landings at Hollandia and the invasion of the Marianas.

Saipan Invasion, June 1944. Units of Cruiser Division SIX bombard Saipan on 14-15 June 1944. The nearest ship is USS New Orleans (CA-32). Beyond her is the light cruiser USS St. Louis (CL-49). 80-G-K-1774

She would lend her increased AAA batteries to help swat down Japanese aircraft during the Battle of the Philippine Sea while revisiting her old days of screening carriers. Then came the big shows in the Philippines and at Iwo Jima.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 8 March 1945. The city of Vallejo is in the background. Note the ship’s welded bow structure (forward of her second 8/55 triple gun turret). This replaced her original riveted construction bow, which was lost during the Battle of Tassafaronga at the end of November 1942. Circles mark recent alterations to the ship. 19-N-80232

A rare shot at the same time and place as the above that shows her hangar open. Note that her portside catapult has been landed by this time in her career.

After a final wartime refit at Mare Island, she was back at it, hammering Japanese positions at Okinawa and was at Subic Bay when hostilities ceased.

After supporting the post-war occupation of Korea and Manchuria, she made two trips back stateside on Magic Carpet missions returning Pacific War vets to the U.S. Arriving at Philadelphia Navy Yard in March 1946, she spent an 11-month period preparing for mothballs and was decommissioned 10 February 1947.

She had earned 17 battle stars for her war– tying for third most in the theater– and gained a new bow.

From her nine-page War History in the National Archives.

Of her seven-ship class, only four were still in commission on VJ Day and three of those were so grievously damaged in action against the Japanese off Guadalcanal that they had to be extensively rebuilt. Only sister USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37), which had “luckily” fought most of her war in the ETO, was never damaged in battle.

The remainder of the New Orleans class in the 1946 edition of Janes.

Cruisers and other warships laid up in the Philadelphia Yard Reserve Fleet Basin, circa 1947. The outboard ship in the left group is USS St. Louis (CL-49). Ships in the background include (in no order): USS San Francisco (CA-38), USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37), USS Minneapolis (CA-36), USS New Orleans (CA-32), USS Louisville (CA-28), and USS Portland (CA-33). Courtesy of “All Hands” magazine. Catalog NH 92254

After spending 12 years along Philly’s red lead row, the vaunted USS New Orleans had her name struck from the Navy List on 1 March 1959 and was sold for scrapping on 22 September 1959 to the Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, Md. Similar fates were met by her three remaining sisters at the same time.

Epilogue

Our cruiser was remembered by the (apparently now defunct) USS New Orleans Reunion Association and most of her war diaries along with some architectural and engineering drawings are digitized in the National Archives.

Her ship’s bell– presented to the cruiser by the Louisiana State Museum in 1933– is on display in New Orleans City Hall, just outside the Mayor’s Office.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has other artifacts including a piece of the coconut log shoring from Tulagi.

With the old New Orleans sent to the breakers, the Navy soon recycled her name for a new Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship commissioned in 1968 and would go on to serve three decades.

The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS New Orleans (LPH-11) underway in San Diego Bay, California (USA), on 16 June 1988. AH-1 Cobra, CH-53E Sea Stallion, and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters line the flight deck. In the background is the submarine tender USS McKee (AS-41) and the submarine rescue ship USS Florikan (ASR-9). Date 16 June 1988. NH 107677-KN

Then came the Ingalls-built USS New Orleans (LPD-18), a massive 25,000-ton San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, commissioned in the Crescent City in 2007 and still in service.

The U.S. Navy (Pre-Commissioned Unit) San Antonio Class Amphibious Transport Dock Ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) sails beneath the Huey P. Long Bridge as it moves on the Mississippi River towards New Orleans, La., on March 5, 2007, in preparation for its commissioning ceremony on March 10, 2007. MCS Kurt Eischen, USN.


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NATO Flattop Interoperability

In the Med last week, three very different NATO Carrier Strike Groups got some important joint exercises while underway in the Ionian Sea. The ANTARES/Mare Aperto 22-2 exercise saw the George H.W. Bush CSG, the French de Gaulle CSG, and the Italian Cavour CSG operate side-by-side and even do some cross-decking, something made easy as the de Gaulle uses the same CATOBAR system and methods as the U.S. while Cavour’s rotary aircraft and F-35s (at least in theory) can land on either. The “Plug and fight” capacity is more important than one would think.

From images and videos released, F-18s, Rafales, and C-2s conducted landings, launchings, and touch-and-goes across at least the French and U.S. carriers.

(Nov. 23, 2022) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Roberto Cerdas assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), directs a French Rafale fighter jet onto the catapult during multi-carrier operations between the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG), Charles de Gaulle CSG, and the Italian Cavour CSG Nov. 23, 2022. The George H.W. Bush CSG is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied, and partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Samuel Wagner)

A French Rafale fighter jet is launched off the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during multi-carrier operations between the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG), Charles de Gaulle CSG, and the Italian Cavour CSG, Nov. 23, 2022. (U.S. Navy Courtesy photo)

A U.S. C-2 Greyhound COD on de Gaulle’s cat.

A U.S. F-18E trapping on de Gaulle.

There was also some swapping of escorts, with a U.S. DDG operating with the French and Italian forces separately, while the latter contributed tin cans to steam along with USS George H.W. Bush over the horizon.

“Opportunities for interoperability between forces and CSGs as a testament to the strength of our Alliance. Currently, we have Italian Frigates embedded with both the George H.W. Bush and French Strike groups participating alongside our Allies in their daily operations, and last month the Italian Navy fully integrated the Standing NATO Forces Group Two units into our major bi-annual fleet exercise Mare Aperto 22-2,” said Rear Adm. Vincenzo Montanaro, commander of Italian Maritime Forces and the Italian Carrier Strike Group, while aboard George H.W. Bush. “Our dedication to cross-training during both exercises and real-world operations demonstrates the Alliance’s collective resolve as well as our collective capacity as a NATO force.”

The French also operated with Greek land-based F-4Es, and have a great video of the Phantoms with de Gaulle in the background. If you don’t love Phantoms and flattops, why are you even alive?

For reference:

George H.W. Bush is the flagship of CSG-10 and the GHWBCSG. CSG-10 is comprised of George H.W. Bush, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26, the Information Warfare Commander, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).

The ships of DESRON-26 within CSG-10 are the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Truxtun (DDG 103), and USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119).

The squadrons of CVW-7 embarked aboard George H.W. Bush are the “Jolly Rogers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, the “Pukin Dogs” of VFA-143, the “Bluetails” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, the “Nightdippers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5, the “Sidewinders” of VFA-86, the “Nighthawks” of VFA-136, the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, and the “Grandmasters” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46.

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