Category Archives: china

‘Cognitive Warfare’ and Chinese Aircraft Carriers

A recent photo of the CO and XO of the Flight IIA Burke-class destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89) observing the Chinese Type 001 (Kuznetsov-class) aircraft carrier Liaoning (16)  off the warship’s port side bridge wing is getting lots of heartburn in the Western Pacific.

PHILIPPINE SEA (April 4, 2021) CDR Robert J. Briggs and CDR Richard D. Slye monitor surface contacts from the pilothouse of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin. Mustin is assigned to Task Force 71/Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force. (U.S. Navy photo 210404-N-YA628-2309 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Arthur Rosen)

Largely because of editorial cartoons such as this:

From the South China Morning Post: 

“In the photo, Commander Briggs looks very relaxed with his feet up watching the Liaoning ship just a few thousand yards away, while his deputy is also sitting beside him, showing they take their PLA counterparts lightly,” said Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy in Kaohsiung. “This staged photograph is definitely ‘cognitive warfare’ to show the US doesn’t regard the PLA as an immediate threat.”

The Australian Financial Review: 

The US Navy has released a provocative photo showing senior officers watching a Chinese warship as China and the United States flex their maritime muscle in the East and South China Sea.

The Taiwan News: 

A researcher at the Beijing-based Yuan Wang think tank conceded to the newspaper that there is still a “big gap between the US and Chinese aircraft carrier strike groups.” Meanwhile, Kanwa Defence Review editor-in-chief Andrei Chang asserted the photo was meant to serve as a “warning to the PLA” that the U.S. was fully aware of the carrier group’s movements.

Meanwhile, the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group [USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), USS Russell (DDG 59)] and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group [USS Makin Island (LHD 8), USS Somerset (LPD 25), USS San Diego (LPD 22)] with the 15th MEU embarked, recently joined forces in the South China Sea to conduct Expeditionary Strike Force operations. 

SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 9, 2021) The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group transits in formation with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group in the South China Sea April 9, 2021. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) are conducting expeditionary strike force operations during their deployments to the 7th Fleet area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet routinely operates and interacts with 35 maritime nations while conducting missions to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Terence Deleon Guerrero)

Chainsmokers

A group of Marines having a smoke while checking out what looks to be a shell and fuse for either an 81mm mortar or 75mm howitzer.

Dig the M1917A1 Brodie helmets with EGAs, sewn-on stripes on light khaki uniforms, and the top-charging M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun. The Tommy gunner also has pretty bad trigger D and what looks to be a set of wire cutters in his five-cell stick mag pouch. At least there isn’t a mag in the Chicago typewriter. 

I can’t find a full-fledged source for the image, but reverse sources are all Chinese-language pages for 1938 Shanghai, a tense place and period in history as the country was torn between the Reds and KMT while under aggressive attack by the Empire of Japan as the rest of the world stood by to wish the Chinese the best of luck.

These men are likely of the 4th Marine Regiment, the famed “China Marines” stationed in Peiping, Tientsin, and Shanghai from 1927 to 1941. Pulled out of the continent only weeks before Pearl Harbor, they were withdrawn to the Philipines just in time to defend Bataan.

There is this great follow-up picture of these Devils.

Little Blue Men en masse

It appears that a huge flotilla of 220 People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia vessels are massed at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, notably inside what the Philippines sees as its EEZ.

Via the Philippines National Government:

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) received a confirmed report from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that around two hundred twenty (220) Chinese Fishing Vessels (CFVs), believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) on March 7, 2021.

The Reef is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), located approximately 175 Nautical Miles west of Bataraza, Palawan. It is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS), over which the country enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources which encompass both living resources, such as fish, and non-living resources such as oil and natural gas.

Founded in the 1950s as something kind of akin to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary, the CMM has grown massively in size over the past 20 years and has increasingly been on the “front lines” of China’s expansion into the Pacific in the past decade or so, in short, using government-sponsored fishing ships equipped with PLAN-capable satellite communication terminals and manned by trained paramilitary crews in lieu of official naval assets. This includes the persistent 2009 interference with USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), the 2011 harassment of Vietnam’s survey vessels (Viking II and Binh Minh), swarming the USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM-25) in 2014, the ongoing Scarborough Shoal standoff (Tanmen Militia) and the Haiyang Shiyou-981 oil rig standoff.

Pretty uniform…

Peacetime training for CMM’s “little blue men” includes target identification, intelligence collection methods, and operation of communication terminals, typically running at least 15 days per year to include one of political education. During times of war, it is expected that CMM trawlers and longliners will be used for scouting and recon purposes, resupply of outposts, and minelaying.

Basically the old “Russian trawlers” of the Cold War, only in supersized numbers. 

USS ABNAKI (ATF-96) Keeping the Soviet Trawler GIDROFON under surveillance in the South China Sea, December 1967. K-43379

Legio III Augusta, via Beijing

Chinese UNPROFOR troops Photo: Xinhua

Ironically one of the first countries to engage the United Nations in open, undeclared combat (see= Korean War), China joined the UN in 1971– taking the seat held by the Republic of China (Taiwan). In 1981, it began chipping in funds to support peacekeeping, then in 1992 embarked on its first major peacekeeping operation, sending 50 military observers and 400 military engineers to the UN mission in Cambodia. By 2016, China became the second-largest financial contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and has since become the largest contributor of the peacekeepers of the permanent members of the Security Council.

With some 2,520 uniformed peacekeepers wearing UN blue (of 81,832), China is only the 9th highest contributor by nation. However, their peacekeepers seem to be part of an Africa-centric policy, deploying almost exclusively to Mali, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Darfur. It shouldn’t be a big surprise as Bejing has been upping weapon sales to the continent– the country was the primary supplier to Zimbabwe for years– maintain military attaches in at least 14 African capitals and, in July 2017, set up its first overseas military base at Djibouti– which is expanding with a pier large enough to accommodate an aircraft carrier. Then there is the whole question of access to vital rare earth minerals on the continent.

A look at the Chinese side of the missions, as told by the totally unbiased SCMP.

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020: All I Want for Christmas is a New SSK

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. 23, 2020: All I Want for Christmas is a New SSK

Photo via the Taiwanese MNA

Here we see the beautifulTench-class diesel attack sub, ROCS Hai Shih (SS-791) of the Republic of China Navy during a celebration at Keelung Port last summer. Formerly USS Cutlass (SS-478), the Taiwanese boat is the oldest operational submarine in the world, at some 76 years young, and is set to continue to hold that title for a few more years.

Designed by the Bureau of Ships in conjunction with the Portsmouth Navy Yard and Electric Boat, the Tenches were the epitome of WWII U.S. Navy fleet boats. Some 311-feet overall, these 2,000-ton boats were an enlarged version of the preceding Balao-class. Strong, with 35-35.7# high-tensile steel pressure hull plating and eight watertight compartments in addition to the conning tower, they had a 400-foot operating depth. Their diesel-electric arrangement allowed a surfaced speed of just over 20-knots and a submerged one of 8.75 while a massive fuel capacity granted an 11,000nm range– enough to span the Pacific.

Some 80 Tenches were planned (some reports say over 120) but most– 51– were canceled in the last stages of the war when it became clear they would not be needed.

Janes’s referred to the class in 1946 somewhat curiously as the Corsair-class.

With construction spread across three yards– Boston NSY, Electric Boat and Portsmouth– the subject of our tale, the first and only U.S. Navy ship to be named after the Cutlass fish, was laid down at the latter (as were most of those that were completed) and commissioned 5 November 1944.

After shakedowns, she headed for the Pacific and left out of Pearl Harbor on her maiden war patrol on 9 August 1945 from Midway. By the night of the 14th she reached the Kurile Islands, some 1,700 miles to the West.

As described in her 17-page patrol report, by 0700 on 15 August, Cutlass received the initial news that the Japanese may be surrendering while surfaced seven miles offshore of the enemy’s coastline.

As noted by a history of Cutlass on a reunion site:

Everyone was at his station when the Chief Radioman yelled up the open hatch from the control room, ‘Sir, they are celebrating, in New York; the war is over”

Nonetheless, Cutlass was still in an active war zone and soon busied her crew with the task of sinking floating mines, a sport she spent the next two weeks pursuing. After detonating one such floating device on the 24th, her log noted, “the explosion came as a surprise because the mine was old, rusty and filled with barnacles.”

Mooring at Midway again on 27 August, Cutlass’s war was effectively over and the next month she departed the Pacific for the East Coast, hosting curious visitors for Navy Day in New York on 24 September.

USS Cutlass, likely in 1948, with only one 40mm gun mounted. USN photo # 80-G-394300 by Cdr. Edward J. Steichen

Spending most of the next two years on a spate of service around the Caribbean– tough duty– she entered Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in March 1949 for modernization.

A New Life, a New Look

She was to become a GUPPY, specifically an SCB 47 GUPPY II series conversion, ditching her topside armament, picking up a new sail, better batteries, and, most importantly, a snorkel.

Of the 48 GUPPY’d WWII diesel boats that were given a second life in the Cold War. Cutlass was one of the 14 Type II conversions

Cutlass (SS-478) port side view, circa the 1950s with stepped “Portsmouth Sail” as an early Guppy type. Photo courtesy of John Hummel, USN (Retired) via Navsource.

In her Cold War career, she spent the early 1950s at Key West, then shifted to Norfolk for the bulk of her career before returning to Florida to cap it. This included hosting President Truman on at least one occasion in March 1950.

Via NARA

Note the differences in sails. Cutlass (SS-478), Trutta (SS-421), Odax (SS-484), Tirante (SS-420), Marlin (SST-2) & Mackerel (SST-1), alongside for inspection at Key West. Wright Langley Collection. Florida Keys Public Libraries. Photo # MM00046694x

USS Cutlass (SS-478) Torpedoman’s Mate Second Class William Meisel prepares to load a torpedo in one of the submarine’s torpedo tubes, circa 1953. Photographed from inside the tube. #: 80-G-688314

Cutlass: Quartermaster Seaman Ronald Petroni and Henry Seibert at the submarine’s diving plane control, circa 1953. 80-G-688318

On 28 June 1961, Cutlass was given the task of testing Mark 16 War Shot torpedoes, by sinking the ex-USS Cassiopeia (AK-75) (Liberty Ship, Melville W. Fuller, Hull No. 504), 100nm off the Virginia Capes. She did so with a brace of four fish, earning the sub the distinction of claiming 10,000 tons on her tally sheet.

She would later receive the partial GUPPY III treatment in the early 1960s to include a tall, streamlined fiberglass sail and fire control upgrades but not the distinctive BQG-4 PUFFS passive ranging sonar. This much-changed her profile for the third time in as many decades. 

USS Cutlass (SS-478), early 1960s NH 82299

Cutlass photographed 9 May 1962, while operating with USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CVS-29). USN 1107442

Cutlass (SS-478) at Genoa Italy, 29 June 1968. Note the windows in the sail. Photo courtesy of Carlo Martinelli via Navsource

USS Cutlass (SS-478) photographed circa 1970. NH 82301

Busy throughout the 1950s and 60s, she would hold the line during the Cuban Missile Crisis and deploy to the 6th Fleet on Med cruises at least four times, one of which she would extend by a tour around the Indian Ocean, operating with the Pakistani Navy– a fleet that would go on to use a few of her sisters (losing PNS/M Ghazi, ex-USS Diablo in the Bay of Bengal in 1971).

She ended her career as part of the rusty and crusty GUPPYs of SUBRON12 in Key West, tasked primarily with being a target vessel for destroyers, aircraft, and SSNs to test out their sonar and fire control on, often making daily trips out to the Florida Straits to be the “fox” for the hounds.

An anecdote from that time:

While on these operations, CUTLASS was a target for destroyers going through Refresher Training. During the week CUTLASS would outwit the destroyers by firing beer cans from the signal gun, so as to give the destroyers a false target for their Sonar while the CUTLASS evaded them. Then on Saturday CUTLASS went out to get “Sunk” so as to allow the destroyers to pass their exercise.

On her last Med Cruise in early 1972, she was able to get close enough to the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt to fire a signal flare within torpedo distance of her in an exercise, to the reported dismay of FDR’s destroyer screen. It wasn’t just American carriers the 28-year-old diesel boat counted coup upon that cruise, she also came close enough to the Soviet Moskva-class helicopter carrier Leningrad to get a snapshot. 

Nonetheless, she was not long for the U.S. Navy. 

Another New Life

Finally, as SUBRON12 was disbanded and the last GUPPYs were liquidated in the early 1970s, many were gifted to U.S. allies overseas. With that, Cutlass was refurbished, her torpedo tubes sealed, then was decommissioned, struck from the Naval Register, and transferred to Taiwan under terms of the Security Assistance Program, 12 April 1973. 

There, she was renamed Hai Shih (Sea Lion) (SS-1) and was intended to serve as an ASW training platform, essentially an OPFOR for Taiwan’s destroyer and S-2 fleet.

1973 entry in Jane’s, noting that Cutlass and Balao-class near-sister USS Tusk (SS-426), were the country’s first submarines.

As a matter of course, the long-held belief is that the Taiwanese soon got both Cutlass and Tusk’s combat suite up and running with a combination of assistance from freelance Italian experts and West German torpedoes.

While the GUPPY combat record in 1982 wasn’t impressive, it should be noted that even old SSKs can prove extremely deadly in a point defense role of an isolated island chain when operating on home territory. They can basically rest with almost everything but their passive sonar off and wait for an enemy invasion force to get within torpedo range. After all, there are only 13 beaches that are believed suitable for an amphibious landing in Taiwan.

She recently underwent extensive refurbishments of her hull, electronics, and navigational systems to allow her to continue operations for another six years. 

Those tubes sure look well-maintained for being sealed dead weight.

Check out the below video of Cutlass/Hai Shih in action (go to the 2:58 mark).

 

While Taiwan currently has Cutlass on the books until 2026 (Tusk is sidelined as a pier-side trainer) and operates a pair of 1980s vintage Dutch-built Zwaardvis/Hai Lung-class boats, the country is set to produce their own design moving forward and is requesting MK-48 Mod6AT torpedoes and UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles from the under FMS sales. 

It would be interesting if Cutlass came “home” in 2027 after her then-54-year career with Taipei. At that point, she will be well into her 80s.

As for her remnants in America, the Cold War logbooks, WWII war diaries, and ship drawings of USS Cutlass remain in the National Archives, with many of them digitized. Two of her classmates, the “Fleet Snorkel” converted USS Requin (SS-481) and USS Torsk (SS-423), are preserved as museums in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, respectively. 

A Cutlass reunion site was updated as late as 2018 and has some interesting ship’s lore archived. 

Specs:
(1945)
Displacement: 1,570 tons (std); 1,980 (normal); 2,415 tons submerged
Length: 311 ft. 8 inches
Beam: 27 ft. 3 inches
Operating depth: 400 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks Morse main generator engines, 5,400HP, two Elliot Motor Co. main motors with 2,740HP, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Speed: 20 surfaced, 10 submerged
Fuel Capacity: 113,510 gal.
Range: 11,000nm @ 10 knots surfaced, 48 hours at 2 knots submerged, 75-day patrol endurance
Complement 7 officers 69 enlisted (planned), actual manning 10 officers, 76 men
Radar: SV. APR and SPR-2 receivers, TN tuning units, AS-125 antenna, SPA Pulse Analyzer, F-19 and F-20 Wave Traps, VD-2 PPI Repeater
Sonar: WFA projector, JP-1 hydrophone
Armament:
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max or up to 40 mines
1 x 5″/25 deck gun
2 x 40mm guns
2 x .50 cal. machine guns

(1973, as GUPPY II+)
Displacement: 1,870 tons (std); 2,420 tons submerged
Length: 307.5 ft.
Beam: 27 ft. 3 inches
Propulsion: 3 Fairbanks Morse (4) (FM 38D 8 1/8 x 10) diesels, 2 Elliot electric motors, 504 cell battery, 5400 shp, 2 shafts
Speed: 18 surfaced, 15 submerged
Range:  
Complement: 80
Armament:
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft

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Formosa becomes Taiwan, again, 75 Years Ago Today

Chinese Nationalist Army (Kuomintang) Gen. Chen Yi, right, accepts the surrender of disarmed Japanese Gen. Rikichi Andō, the garrison commander and governor-general of Formosa, in compliance with Douglas MacArthur’s General Order No. 1, at Taipei City Hall, 25 October 1945 as delegates from the other Allied Powers look on.

On 2 September 1945, the Imperial Japanese Forces totaled 6,983,000 troops including construction units, naval, and air forces. Of these, Army and Navy forces stationed within the home islands numbered 3,532,000, which meant that nearly as many, some 3.4 million, were still scattered around the Pacific from Manchuria to the Solomons.

One of the last large groups to lay down their arms was Ando’s 10th Area Army in Formosa.

However, it should be noted that the force, which numbered six divisions and seven separate brigades on paper– some 170,000 men– actually consisted of poorly trained reservists, conscripted students, and local Boeitai home guard militia with some units equipped with nothing more than sharpened bamboo pikes and longbows. Officially disbanded in September, the Army had largely stacked arms before Chen’s arrival.

To be sure, British and American naval assets had appeared off Formosa as early as 1 September and, liaising with the Japanese, soon evacuated 1,300 Allied POWs being held there. Meanwhile, representatives of the KMT landed on the island on 5 September, tagging along with an OSS team.

TBM-3 Avenger no 60 of VMTB-233 from USS Block Island (CVE-106), at Matsuyama Airfield on Formosa, 5 September 1945. Piloted by Capt. Dick Johnson and carrying Major Peter Folger as a liaison officer in the back seat, the unarmed torpedo bomber became the first Allied aircraft to land in Taiwan after Japan’s defeat and surrender.

Prior to the 25 October handover, a “Peace Preservation Corps” of 1,000 Chinese gendarmes and 12,000 light infantry of the KMT’s 62nd and 70th Divisions were carried to the island using commandeered Japanese ships escorted by the U.S. Navy.

Of note, Formosa became part of the Empire of Japan in 1895 after the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan Province in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the shellacking they received during the 1894 Sino-Japanese War. Japan only formally renounced sovereignty over Formosa/Taiwan in the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco, at which point it had become home to the KMT diaspora. 

October 25, 1945, KMT officers of the new Taiwan Garrison Command photographed after the “Taiwan Province Acceptance Ceremony of the Chinese Theater” was held in the Taipei Public Hall. Note the Kuomintang party flag on the left and the Republic of China cog is hung on the right half.

In the end, Andō, who had invaded French Indochina in September 1940 at the head of his Southern China Area Army without authorization from Tokyo and had been cashiered to Formosa for his efforts, was charged by the KMT with war crimes. He had the last laugh, however, and committed suicide by taking poison while in prison in Shanghai before he could go to trial.

As for Chen, he was caught up in the fallout of the KMT’s evacuation from mainland China to Taiwan Province and, branded a spy, Chiang Kai-shek ordered a military court to sentence the old general to a firing squad in 1950, aged 67.

Meanwhile, October 25 is remembered as Retrocession Day in Taiwan, celebrating the province’s liberation from Japan and return to China. Or something like that.

How far will the Chinese walk to smoke a camel?

They called it a Camel gun for a reason…

Camels and their single-humped dromedary cousins have been used in warfare for millennia, with U.S. Marines notably riding them in the Tunisian campaign against the Barbary Pirates in 1805 and the U.S. Army (as a pet project of then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis) had an unsuccessful Camel Corps in Texas during the interbellum between the war with Mexico and the Civil War.

However, just like horses are still often seen in conflict around the world (and still used by many European militaries in mountain units) the day of the camel is not yet over.

“The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation said on September 21, 2020, that the nation’s army will use Bactrian camels to help patrol the tense India-Chinese border in Ladakh.”

75 Years Ago: The What-the-Hell! pennant

“What-the-Hell!” pennant. Used by Naval Group China, during World War II.

Collection of Vice Admiral Milton E. Miles, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 92737-KN (Color)

(Legend in the pennant’s hem, front side):

“This pennant was hoisted on 4 September 1945 on the Glen Line Building when that building was captured by the Naval Group China. The U.S. Flag, Chinese Flag, and Rear Admiral M.E. Miles’ personal flag were hoisted first by Lt. Comdr. Webb Heagy and Lt. S.I. Morris in order to signal the success of the operation.”

(Legend on the pennant’s hem, backside):

“This is an exact copy of the *original ‘What-the-Hell’ pennant which was made onboard the USS Wickes (DD-75), Lt. Cdr. R.U. Hyde ’17, Commanding, and Lt. M.E. Miles, Exec. – August 1934. The original was carried by its designer to the USS John D. Edwards (DD-216) and used in China by Lt. Cdr. M.E. Miles when his ship was ordered to Hainen Island to witness that island’s capture on 14 Feb. 1939. This insignia used as a shoulder patch by U.S. Naval Group China as a shipping designator for SACO supplies in China, 1942-1945. This pennant presented to Rear Admiral M.E. Miles at Shanghai, 4 September 1945 at # 2 Peking Road.”

*The use of the original WTH pennant is covered in the Saturday Evening Post, Nov. 10, 1945, ed, below.

DOD: Chinese Navy now largest, Beijing doubling nuclear capability

The latest Defense Department 200-page report, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China — 2020”  has some startling facts in it.

Below are some of the starkest excerpts, in the report’s language, not mine:

> The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)—the largest navy in the world—is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing previous generations of platforms with limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants. As of 2019, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.

> Naval Shipbuilding and Modernization: The PLAN remains engaged in a robust shipbuilding and modernization program that includes submarines, surface combatants, amphibious warfare ships, aircraft carriers, and auxiliary ships as well as developing and fielding advanced weapons, sensors, and command and control capabilities.

The country’s rocket forces are increasingly advanced.

Nuclear Deterrence

> China’s strategic ambitions, evolving view of the security landscape, and concerns over
survivability are driving significant changes to the size, capabilities, and readiness of its nuclear
forces.

> China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms.

> Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile—currently estimated to be in the low200s—is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernizes its nuclear forces.

> China is pursuing a “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improving its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities.

> New developments in 2019 further suggest that China intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force

The last surface action of World War II

While the daring overnight anti-shipping raid in July 1945 by the nine American destroyers of DesRon 61in Tokyo Bay, an action remembered today as the Battle of Sagami Bay, is largely seen as the last fleet combat involving commissioned warships in WWII as they tied up with a Japanese minesweeper and submarine chaser, it was not the last surface action.

No, that claim goes to a scrap between (sail-powered) gunned-up junks off the coast of China 75 years ago today, a full week after VJ Day. Ironically, by American military personnel who were previously training pirates to fight to the common enemy.

A junk in Chinese waters, prior to World War I. A U.S. Navy armored cruiser is in the background. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, Corte Madera, California, 1973. NHHC Catalog #: NH 77414

A force of two Ningpo junks with Chinese fishermen crews under the command of one LT Livingston “Swede” Swentzel, Jr., USNR manned by six other Americans along with 20 Chinese guerrillas, were set upon by a heavily-armed Japanese junk– carrying a crew of 83 as well as a 75mm pack gun– while at sea between Haimen and Shanghai, China.

From Swentzel’s citation:

The first round from the 75-mm. howitzer struck Swentzel’s junk shearing off the foremast. The Chinese crew left their posts and Swentzel took over the helm. Meanwhile, he established contact by means of handy talkie with his second junk and gave orders to close with the enemy. He also ran up the American Flag…

The ensuing 45-minute action saw the Americans fight it out with everything from bazookas and Thompson submachine guns to carefully tossed grenades. When the smoke cleared, the Allied junk force counted 10 casualties across their two vessels while the Japanese craft, boarded by a prize crew while dead in the water and smoking, held 45 dead and another 35 injured.

Not a lot of ballistic protection in a junk, it would seem.

The story ran in the October 5 Stars & Stripes (CBI Edition) and was picked up by papers stateside. 

Both Swentzel and Gunner’s Mate Third Class James Ralph Reid, Jr., USNR each received the Navy Cross in February 1946 from Commander Naval Group China, “in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” They were the last two Navy Crosses issued in WWII.

The Pirate Connection

The reason why Swentzel and Company were in China was that they were assigned to the Sino-American Special Technical Cooperative Organization (SACO), working at Camp Eight training local forces against the Japanese, with their first clients being the rather infamous Chang Kwei Fong’s pirate group, the “Green Circle Brotherhood.” 

It would seem that Swentzel and his boys learned a little bit from the pirates as well.

Of course, it would not be the last time the U.S. Navy fought from junks– with Tommy guns.

Tommy guns, aviators, and khakis! “Ensign Caldwell of Houlton, Maine, stands guard in a motor whaleboat with a .45 caliber submachine gun M1928AL (it is actually an M1A1) off the coast of South Vietnam. The Vietnamese men wait as their junk is searched by USS FORSTER (DER-334) crewmembers, 15 April 1966.” Catalog #: K-31208. Copyright Owner: National Archives Original Creator: Photographer, Chief Journalist Robert D. Moeser

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