Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

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. 

Albany Sunsets

70 years ago today: Oregon City-class heavy cruiser USS Albany (CA-123) moored between two British cruisers (appear to be Fiji class) in Valletta Harbor, Malta. Sunset, 28 November 1950

Catalog #: 80-G-429269

Albany, commissioned 15 June 1946, was a 14,000-ton brawler completed too late for WWII– she wasn’t laid down until three months before D-Day– but she did spend some significant time with the 6th Fleet in the Med (hence the image above) and would go on to be extensively converted to a guided missile cruiser (CG 10) by 1962, serving another 18 years.

Speaking of which:

HMS London (D-16), USS Albany, and USS Lawrence (DDG-4) anchored at Malta in 1971.

Albany was sold for scrapping on 12 August 1990.

108 years ago today: 356 millimeters of BOOM

Here we see an early Watervliet-made 14-inch (356mm)/34 caliber M1907 “disappearing” seacoast gun of the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery at Fort Hancock’s Sandy Hook Proving Ground on the New Jersey coast, 27 November 1912.

Photo: George C. Bain Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Official caption:

“The first coast defense gun of 14” bore has just been tested at Sandy Hook. 14” were also on U.S. Navy ships and the Army has been working for a long time to adapt that size of the weapon to the coast defense in Manila Harbor.”

The gun was lit off for the first time the same day.

“In the first test of the gun, six shots were fired in three minutes and forty-five seconds. The projectile fired weights 1660 pound and is 65 inches long. The only point at which the new gun has not the advantage is in the trajectory point at which is more curved and the speed of the shot which is somewhat less.”

Photo: George C. Bain Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

With a range of 25,000 yards, a full dozen M1907s on disappearing carriages were deployed overseas, four in Hawaii and eight in the Panama Canal Zone.

By comparison, the best U.S. Naval guns afloat in 1912, the 12″/50 Mark 7s aboard the newly-built USS Wyoming (B-32) and USS Arkansas (BB-33), fired an 870-pound shell to a theoretical maximum of 24,000 yards, meaning that the Army could out-gun the Navy until at least the 14″/45 Mark 1 guns of the USS New York (B-34) brought parity in 1914. It was not until the Colorado-class battleships, with their 16″/45cal guns firing a 2,100-pound shell to 40,000 yards, that the sea service managed to turn the tables in 1921.

In the 1950s, all of the M1907s were removed from Army service, leaving only their mounting pits behind.

US Army document World War I Fortifications of the Panama Canal – 14-Inch DC Gun Emplacement (Battery BUELL), shown in 1965.

Eight further examples, using a longer version of the same gun, the M1910 14″/40cal, were mounted on the same M1907 disappearing carriage, and emplaced at Fort Frank and Fort Hughes in Manila Bay as well as Fort MacArthur outside of Los Angeles.

Four more 14″/40s, dubbed the Model 1910, were emplaced on twin turning M1909 mounts in the “concrete battleship” that was Fort Drum in Manila Bay, as well.

The M1909 mount being tested at Sandy Hook Proving Ground, New Jersey before shipment to the PI. Only two of these mounts were ever constructed and, to the credit of the Army, are both still in existence despite an epic trial by combat.

Santa’s keeping that list

With “the Season” now underway, this seemed relevant.

191224-N-NF912-1022

Official caption:

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Dec. 24, 2019) A Sailor dressed as Santa Claus directs the launch of an F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the Pukin’ Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. With Abraham Lincoln as the flagship, deployed strike group assets include staffs and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7. U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremiah Bartelt (Released)

Happy Turkey Day. Eat it if you got it

U.S. Army Infantrymen Pfc. William G. Curtis of San Diego, California, and Pfc. Donald R. Stratton of Colville, Washington of the U.S. 102nd Infantry Division has time for a very brief Thanksgiving Day dinner in a shelled house. 23 November 1944.

And for those underway, or have been in the past, here is a primer from the NHHC on Navy pumpkin pies.

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020: Scandinavian Shellbacks

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, Nov. 25, 2020: Scandinavian Shellbacks

Sjöhistoriska museet, Statens maritima museer/Swedish Maritime Museum/ Fo229117

Here we see the pansarkryssare, or armored cruiser, HSwMS Fylgia of the Swedish Royal Navy passing through the Weimar Republic’s Kiel Canal in the summer of 1928 during the vessel’s annual goodwill cruises. A beautiful ship that remained a stalwart sentinel in the fleet of the three crowns, Fylgia endured across a career that spanned 50 years– and her guns lasted even longer.

Laid down at Bergsunds Mekaniska Verkstads AB (Finnboda) in October 1902, Fylgia was named for the mythological Norse guardian angel figures, which represented her intended role in the Swedish battlefleet– that of being the leader of the country’s growing flotillas of torpedo boats, vessels that would be the mainstay of the Baltic nation’s coastal defense throughout the 20th Century.

The 4,800-ton, 379-foot cruiser was speedy-ish on her engineering suite of 12 Yarrow-style coal-fired boilers and two triple expansion engines, ginning up 22.8-knots on her trials. In a nod to her auxiliary role as the school ship for the Swedish Navy’s officer corps, her 322-man complement could be expanded by as many as 50 midshipmen. Notably, when launched, she was the fleet’s longest modern warship, running some 65-feet longer than the coastal defense battleship (Pansarskepp) Oscar II.

Relatively protected, her Krupp armor ranged up to 5-inches deep that protected her boiler and engine rooms, making her one of the smallest armored cruisers in the world.

Her armament included eight Bofors 15.2 cm/50 (6″) Model 1903 guns in four twin enclosed armored turrets– rare in an age of cruisers with simple shielded guns– including two on the centerline edges and one each fore and aft. She had 14 smaller anti-torpedo boat guns, mostly in casemates, and a pair of submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes to lend her own “Swedish fish” (see what I did there?) to a torpedo attack against those who would enter the country’s waters. Like most cruisers of her day, she also had the ability to carry and deploy mines. 

Pansarkryssare Fylgia coming into the harbor on her 1922 cruise. Note one of her characteristic oblong 6″ turrets. These guns were effective to 15,000 yards with a 101-pound AP shell. D 13816_178

Her 1914 Jane’s entry. Note her armament arrangement

Once completed in June 1907, she was off immediately on what was to be her calling card– långresor goodwill cruises that waved Sweden’s flag while training her mids. She made 32 such cruises over the coming decades.

With Prince Wilhelm of Sweden aboard, Fylgia visited Norfolk for the Jamestown Exposition in 1907, and her crew was the subsequent talk of the town in New York where the original knickerbocker Teddy Roosevelt hosted a July 4th reception in honor of the midshipmen. They also squeezed in visits in Boston, France, Bermuda, and England before arriving back at Karlskrona in September.

FYLGIA (Swedish Armored Cruiser) Photographed in Hampton Roads on 20 August 1907 during the Jamestown, Virginia 300th Anniversary Exposition. NH 92340

A period postcard showing our cruiser with Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland. The Norwegian-Swedish noble of the Bernadotte family, born in 1884, was married to the Tsar’s first cousin and was something of an author, penning numerous books in his lifetime. Fo220335

Before the Great War hampered her peacetime trips, she would complete another 10 out-of-Baltic cruises in six years, often taking as many as three deployments a year.

In that time, she called at ports in Belgium, Scotland, Spain, Holland, Italy, Algeria, Portugal, Panama, Trinidad, Cuba, Egypt, and other exotic locales throughout the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

Navigation training D 13816_12

Bilden visar pansarkryssaren Fylgia som passerar Kielkanalen vid Levensauer Hochbrücke 1907 D 15032

War was declared!

As the lights went off across Europe, Fylgia had just left Karlskrona on the way to Gibraltar and points Med when she received a signal to return home post-haste. Landing her finery, she made ready for armed neutrality (Neutralitesvakten) and held the line for the next four years, challenging and keeping an eye on foreign ships in Swedish water for the next four years.

Pansarkryssaren Fylgia, wartime postcard. Marinmuseum D 14983

Interbellum

By 1919, with peace once again returned to (most of) Europe, she left Sweden for a winter cruise to the U.S., calling at New York, Hampton Roads, and Savannah before roaming as far south as Cuba and Panama then returning home in time for Easter 1920.

Fylgia in Havanna, 14 Februari 1920. Note the salute being fired and Morro Castle. Photo by Hugo Karlsson. Bohusläns museum collection

Then came a series of increasingly longer cruises, heading to India and Sri Lanka via the Suez in 1921 and an epic Latin American excursion in the winter of 1922-23.

During that South American trip, she left Sweden on 6 November, touching at Kiel and Spain before crossing the line on the way to Brazil.

Archive photos show what looks to be a downright spooky Neptunus Rex ceremony on that occasion.

Calling at Uruguay, Argentina, then rounding the Horn into the Pacific, she continued up the West coast of the continent to the Ditch, then crossed back into the Caribbean and heading for England, arriving back at Karlskrona in April in what was to be her longest mission– making 21 port calls.

Rocking and rolling! This isn’t the Baltic anymore.

Ahh, the improvised underway swimming pool

Under sails on her schooner rig to conserve fuel on her trip down to Sydamerika

Note the rarely-seen Swedish navy tropical officers’ uniform, complete with sun helmets and white leather shoes. Note the shoeless bluejacket to the left

Bilden visar pansarkryssaren Fylgia som passerar Kielkanalen Photo by Cay Jacob Arthur Renard, 1924-25 D 11821

Pansarkryssaren Fylgia firing a salute at Kiel, photo by Cay Jacob Arthur Renard, D 11820

FYLGIA in the port of Alexandria on January 18, 1926, Fo229223

“Swedish armored cruiser Fylgia docks at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Warping the Fylgia to her berth, the cruiser, with a crew of 390 men and twenty-two cadets in training remains here until Saturday, when she leaves for Mobile, Alabama. After visiting the Azores, she will return to Sweden” 1/30/1930. Temple University Collection

By July 1933, she would complete another 16, mostly shorter, overseas sorties. On her 1927 trip, while visiting Latin America once again, she collided with the Brazilian freighter SS Itapura, sending the merchantman to the bottom. Nonetheless, Fylgia’s crew sprang into action, rescuing all of Itapura’s mariners.

Then her mission changed.

Rebuilt for a new era

Thoroughly obsolete and outdated, Sweden’s familiar cruiser was disarmed and laid up as new Italian-designed Tre Kronor-class light cruisers were ordered, capable of 30+ knots and packing new high-elevation 6″/53 Bofors.

By 1939, with Europe again headed to war, it was thought that Fylgia could be reworked for a coastal defense mission, after all, she still had a sound hull and a decent armor scheme.

The armored cruiser FYLGIA under reconstruction at Oskarhamn’s shipyard 1939-1940. Note, all of her funnels are gone. Fo62553A

Transferred to Oskarshamn, Fylgia spent 18 months undergoing a complete modernization. With that, her 12-pack of coal-burning boilers were junked in favor of a quartet of new Penhoët oil-burners, which made one of her three boiler rooms an empty compartment–converted to accommodations– and allowed her No. 1 funnel to be deleted. She could again make 21+ knots.

Note the usual Swedish 1940s scheme that consisted of a mottled grey-on-grey camouflage with white recognition stripes.

And another shown just with stripes, likely late in the war or just after

Topside, her entire arrangement changed with a new superstructure and a redesigned bow. To give her teeth, she picked up eight new 1930-pattern 15.2 cm/55 (6″) Bofors, and a mixed suite of 57mm, 40mm, 25mm, and 20mm AAA guns as well as two larger 21-inch deck-mounted torpedo tubes. For sub-busting, she picked up depth charges and listening gear. 

The result was a new, albeit slow for the era, 34-year-old light cruiser.

Joining the Gothenburg Squadron in October 1941, Fylgia spent her summers on neutrality patrol then embarked midshipmen in the winter for schoolship missions in home waters, a familiar task.

An excellent wartime image of her at Malmo, on 4 May 1944, showing her aerials and armament. Note the three crowns badge on her hull.

Fylgia 1946 Jane’s entry.

Into the Cold War

Once WWII concluded, the rejuvenated Fylgia resumed her old work as a seagoing training ship, sailing on a series of four short tours around Western European ports and a lengthy cruise to West Africa over the winter of 1947-48, calling at Dakar and Freetown.

Fylgia passing the Hembrug bridge across the North Sea Canal headed to Amsterdam, 28 May 1948, Dutch Nationaal Archief 902-7703. Note some of her wartime AAA guns have been stripped but her long-barreled 6-inchers remain aboard.

It was during that cruise that the Swedish Olle Lindholm musical comedy, Flottans Kavaljerer, was filmed aboard and it has remained a classic.

However, the turn-of-the-century vessel was showing her age and remained in Swedish waters after 1949. By 1953, she was again decommissioned and disarmed, turned into a floating target ship, an inglorious but still useful tasking.

As target ship, 1956 Fo155A

In 1957, Fylgia was sold for her value in scrap and dismantled in Copenhagen.

Nonetheless, Fylgia’s still-young Bofors 6″/55s would live on much longer. Emplaced in the Siknäs battery as part of the Swedish Kalix line (Kalixlinjen), all eight were positioned in four new purpose-built emplacements to cover the deepwater port of Töre and the approaches to towards Boden along Highway 13 (E 4).

Note the camo screening is scarce, but the framework remains. Via SiknasFortet Museet

The battery was served by a local defense battalion of over 300 men and was, when it was finished in 1960, considered the largest and most modern of the Kalix line’s approximately 3,000 installations.

And a better look at how it would look netted up. Via SiknasFortet Museet

Each battery system was constructed of concrete with four floors based on springs to mitigate shockwaves and was extensively camouflaged. They included self-contained generators, magazine facilities, barracks with showers, and kitchens and were fully protected against nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Outside of the emplacements, they were protected by a ring of 40mm AAA guns and counter-assault pillboxes manned by infantry.

The trees have grown up in the past 20 years, but you get a general idea. Via SiknasFortet Museet

Despite being 1930s technology, these could still ruin a perfectly good Russian destroyer moving about the Swedish littoral well into the 1990s. Via SiknasFortet Museet

The Siknäs battery, operated by the Swedish Army until as late as 1998, is preserved as a museum today.

Echos 

Other parts of the old cruiser survive, such as her elegant porcelain tea set, which has been broken out on at least five continents.

Sjohistoriska museet O 10224.J

And of course, there is a ton of maritime art in circulation, particularly in postcard format.

O 11892

Painting by Jacob Hägg 1908 depicting H.M. armored cruiser Fylgia meeting H.M. the corvette Saga in the open sea O 10037

Pansarkryssaren HMS Fylgia

Specs:

Fartygsmodell av pansarkryssaren Fylgia MM 25577

(1907)
Displacement: 4,800 tons
Length: 379 feet
Beam: 48 ft 7 in
Draft: 16 feet
Propulsion: 12 Yarrow coal boilers 2 Finnhola steam triple expansion, 2 screws, 12,000 ihp
Speed: 22 knots
Range: 8,000 nmi at 10 knots with maximum 900-ton coal load
Complement: 322 but at times would run over 400
Armor:
Side belt 100 mm (3.9 in)
Turrets 50–125 mm (2.0–4.9 in)
Deck 22–35 mm (0.87–1.38 in)
Conning tower 100 mm
Armament:
8 x 152 mm/50cal. Bofors M/1903
14 x 57 mm/48cal. QF M/1889 (10 in casemates)
2 × 37 mm/39cal. cannons M/1898B
2 × 45 cm torpedo tubes M/1904
Mine rails (max 100 mines)

Fylgia original compared to her 1940 format, model by H Biärsjö MM 18071

(1941)
Displacement: 4,800 tons
Length: 378 feet
Beam: 48 ft 7 in
Draft: 20 feet
Propulsion: 4 oil-fired boilers, 2 4cyl-triple expansion, 2 screws, 13,000 ihp
Speed: 21.5 knots; 5,770nm endurance @10kts on 500 tons oil
Complement: 341
Armor:
Side belt 100 mm (3.9 in)
Turrets 50–125 mm (2.0–4.9 in)
Deck 22–35 mm (0.87–1.38 in)
Conning tower 100 mm
Armament:
8 × 152 mm/55cal. Bofors M/1930
4 × 57 mm/55cal. AA M/89B-38B
4 × 40 mm/56cal. Bofors AA M/1936
2 × 25 mm/58cal. Bofors AA M/1932
1 × 20 mm/66cal. Bofors AA M/1940
2 × 533mm torpedo tubes
2 depth charge throwers

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!

I’ve seen it: Possibly the neatest 3-pound pistol on the market

Florida-based Diamondback Firearms announced their new DBX 5.7x28mm pistol earlier this year and the neat little gun is now filtering out to the market.

Teased at SHOT Show when the gun was in pre-production, the large format pistol uses an adjustable dual gas piston action– no buffer tubes here– with a stainless steel 8-inch threaded barrel that ends in the company’s DBX series muzzle device. Using a receiver crafted from 7075 aluminum and an M-LOK-compatible 6061 aluminum handguard, the gun is light, coming in at a hair under 3-pounds on my scales right out of the box.

I’ve been messing with one for the past couple of weeks and my initial thoughts are up in my column at Guns.com.

How you Know you are Getting older

I saw this great image today, taken at the  Van Nuys Airport circa 1957, and the first thing I thought was, “Man, that F-86 Sabre is sweet.”

Whomp Whomp

For reference, in 1955, a gently modded California Air National Guard Sabre (F-86A-5-NA 49-1046) piloted by 1LT John M. (“Jack”) Conroy, dubbed the California Boomerang, pulled off a high-speed run from Van Nuys Airport to New York and back in record-setting time.

North American Aviation F-86A-5-NA Sabre 49-1046, “California Boomerang.” (California State Military Museum)

“John Conroy’s Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast dawn to dusk flight covered 5,058 miles (8,140.1 kilometers). The total elapsed time was 11 hours, 26 minutes, 33 seconds. His average speed was 445 miles per hour (716.2 kilometers per hour).”

Let’s talk about Dirty Ammo Hamsters

In March, when the whole “we have an epidemic in progress” balloon went up, I gave away roughly two dozen boxes of self-defense and practice ammo to half as many friends and relatives, knowing what they had in the closet, safe or nightstand, and, also knowing that they did not habitually stock the same quantities of brass and lead that I am accustomed to.

I got a few quizzical thanks at the time as said ammo drops were unsolicited. However, since then, the Great Ammo Shortage of 2020™ has fully blossomed and I have gotten a few messages from the same crew, asking if I had more to give/trade/sell as none can be had at either the local gun stores or online vendors.

Since 2014, displays like this one have been full as sporting goods retailers had almost a glut of ammo to move– at great prices. That all changed this year, fueled by panic and over 5 million new first-time gun owners.

While sites like gunbot and ammoseek have helped those in need find some– often wildly inflated– boxes-o-boolits for sale online, small gun stores who normally relied on in-stock distributors to supply their occasional ammo buys have been frozen out of the marketplace and their shelves have remained bare for weeks or even months at a time.

This brings us to big box stores like Cabelas, Academy, Wal-Mart, and the like who do large annual buys which are for a fixed amount of ammunition at a fixed price delivered monthly or quarterly. As the prices and profit margins have been set months ago, these stores are still typically restocking ammo at pre-panic prices, typically a couple days a week.

To spread the love and actually have some rounds on the shelf, the big boxes have installed daily limits, which is reasonable and fair. After all, if there was a nationwide bread shortage, wouldn’t you expect the same thing?

Then you have these guys…

I see this multiple times a day across the gun groups I am a member of on social media.

The trend, when you find it, is to “get it all and laugh about it later.” Trust me, I have the opinion that you can never have enough ammo, but this is kinda lame in my opinion.

The crux of my soapbox: if you have been desperately searching for ammo and haven’t found any, try to pace yourself if you stumble upon 15 boxes of your particular caliber on the local big box shelf. While you — could– take it all and adopt the attitude of “screw ’em, I got mine!” how about maybe downsizing a bit and just get half of what’s there, or maybe a quarter, and check back next week.

Give other people a shot at a box or two, as they may be completely out. Remember, besides sporting and protection needs, this is hunting season and a lot of folks count on being able to harvest game over the winter to put protein on the table. 

Thus ends the sermon.

 

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