Category Archives: china

Coast Guard Keeps tabs on China in Aleutians, Maldives, and West Pac

The Coast Guard, flush with capable new vessels, has been steadily stretching its legs as of late, taking up the Navy’s slack a bit, and waving the flag increasingly in overseas locations. This new trend makes sense as, besides the formal People’s Liberation Army Navy, the growing (200 white hulled cutters) China Coast Guard and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (4,600 blue hulled trawlers) are everywhere.

Case in point, this week the USCG’s 17th District, which covers Alaska, announced the USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756), while on a routine patrol in the Bering Sea, encountered the 13,000-ton Chinese Type 055 “destroyer” (NATO/OSD Renhai-class cruiser) Renhai (CG 101), sailing approximately 75 nautical miles north of Kiska Island. A state-of-the-art vessel comparable to a Ticonderoga-class cruiser but larger, Renhai has a 112-cell VLS system as well as two helicopters and a 130mm naval gun. Compare this to Kimball’s single 57mm MK110 and CIWS, and you see the disparity.

A Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crewmember observing a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, September 19, 2022. (USCG Photo)

Kimball also noted other ships as well.

Via 17th District:

The Kimball crew later identified two more Chinese naval vessels and four Russian naval vessels, including a Russian Federation Navy destroyer, all in a single formation with the Renhai as a combined surface action group operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

As a result, the Kimball crew is now operating under Operation Frontier Sentinel, a Seventeenth Coast Guard District operation designed to meet presence with presence when strategic competitors operate in and around U.S. waters. The U.S Coast Guard’s presence strengthens the international rules-based order and promotes the conduct of operations in a manner that follows international norms. While the surface action group was temporary in nature, and Kimball observed it disperse, the Kimball will continue to monitor activities in the U.S. EEZ to ensure the safety of U.S. vessels and international commerce in the area. A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircrew provided support to the Kimball’s Operation Frontier Sentinel activities.

This is not the first time Coast Guard cutters deployed to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean encountered Chinese naval vessels inside the U.S. EEZ/MARDEZ. Last August, Kimball and her sister Berthoff kept tabs on a surface action group– a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel– transiting within 46 miles of the Aleutians.

Meanwhile, in the Maldives

Kimball’s sister, the Hawaii-based USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757) and crew, on a Westpac patrol under the tactical control of 7th Fleet, arrived in the Maldives last week, the first Coast Guard ship to visit the 1,200-island Indian Ocean country since USCGC Boutwell in 2009.

The class of large (418-foot/4,500-ton) frigate-sized cutters have done numerous Westpac cruises in the past few years. Since 2019, the cutters Bertholf (WMSL 750), Stratton (WMSL 752), Waesche (WMSL 751), and Munro (WMSL 755) have deployed to the Western Pacific.

Micronesia and the Solomans

Capping off a six-week extended patrol across Oceania, the 154-foot Webber/Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) arrived back at homeport in Guam on 19 September.

The 20-member crew, augmented by two Guam-based shoreside Coasties (a YN2 and an MK2) two Navy rates (an HS2 and HM3), and a Marine Korean linguist, conducted training, fisheries observations, community and key leader engagements, and a multilateral sail.

How about that blended blue and green crew? “The crew of the Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) takes a moment for a photo in Cairns, Australia, Sept. 5, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a routine deployment in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission U.S. Coast Guard endeavor promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships with our regional partners.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Ray Blas)

They covered more than 8,000 nautical miles from Guam to Cairns, Queensland, Australia, and returned with several stops in Papua New Guinea and one in the Federated States of Micronesia. They also operated with HMS Spey, the first Royal Navy warship to be forward deployed to the Pacific since Hong Kong went back to China.

The two ships were also– and this is key– refused a port visit in the Solomans which is now under a treaty with China that allows PLAN ships to refuel in Honiara. The local government there later clarified that not all foreign military ships were off limits to their ports, as Australia and New Zealand will be exempt (both countries have significant economic ties with the island nation) but it is still a bad look. Of irony, Spey and Oliver Henry were conducting an Operation Island Chief mission in the region, policing illegal fishing of the kind China is noted for.

The Coast Guard currently has three new FRCs in Guam including Henry, Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139), and Frederick Hatch (1143), giving them options in the Westpac.

Shilling’s photo ‘Hawk

What a great original 80-year-old color photo of the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” posing on one very special aircraft.

A group of AVG pilots poses for the camera. Erik Shilling is on the nose, William Bartling is next, with Frank Adkins is in the cockpit. Charles Bond and Robert Little are standing on the ground, Joe Rosbert and George Paxton are on the wing. The photograph was taken at Kunming on 11 APR 1942 by LIFE photographer Clare B. Luce. Luce was elected to Congress later that year and the photo would appear in the magazine in July, after the Tigers had been disbanded.

The “Blue Lipped” KMT Chinese-marked Tigers’ P-40 Warhawk above is Eriksen Emerson Shilling’s unarmed photo recon aircraft. It had been stripped of its guns and extra weight, then fitted with a 20-inch Fairchild camera in the baggage compartment behind the cockpit. Among other vital missions, Shilling had documented over 90 Japanese military aircraft on airfields around Bangkok at a time when Thailand was considered neutral.

While it took stones to fly against the much more numerous Japanese air forces in 1942 China-Burma, to do it sans armament was even more so.

The Flying Tiger pilots posing are the blonde Shilling (age 26 at the time), ace Bill Barthing, ace and future USAF MGen. Charles Bond, ace Frank Adkins, double ace Robert Laing “Bob” Little, ace Joe Rosbert, and the downright “elderly” paymaster George “Pappy” Paxton.

The same group was shown with Shilling (in a brown jacket and the same blue shirt) along with a uniformed Bartling, Paxton, Rosbert, and Adkins in a photo listed as being taken the next month but could have been the same day.

A group of “Hell’s Angels” pose for the camera in front of Charles Older’s #68 P-40 at Yunnan-yi on 28 MAY 1942. They are (sitting) Robert Smith, Ken Jernstedt, Bob Prescot, Link Laughlin, and Bill Reed. Standing are Erik Shilling and Arvid Olsen.

The photos were taken shortly before the AVG became the new, by-the-book, 23rd Fighter Group, which may account for Shilling wearing a blue shirt and no uniform.

Rather than join the 23rd FG, Shilling– who had served in the USAAF from 1938-41 and helped pioneer aerial recon at the time– opted instead to remain a pseudo-civilian and, along with several other Tigers, signed up with the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), the Pan Am-KMT operation moving supplies from India to Free China over the Himalayas.

Of note, just five of Chennault’s pilots (and 19 ground crewmen) went to the 23rd FS in July 1942 while at least 16 pilots, Shilling included, elected to go CNAC instead. The Regular Army life did not appeal to men who had already had it and went for something more exotic. 

Other volunteers went back to the states to see what they could find there, with the nation now officially in the war. These included a hard-drinking Marine first lieutenant by the name of Gregory Boyington who had resigned his regular commission in August 1941 as he was leaving for China with an unrealized understanding “that I would be reinstated without loss of precedence when I returned to United States Service.”

As for Shilling, he would go on to make no less than 350 dangerous trips over “The Hump” in WWII and go on to fly post-war for Chennault’s (paid for by the CIA) Civil Air Transport (CAT) line, delivering agents and supplies to places off the record throughout the Korean War and into Dien Bien Phu. CAT would, of course, go on to become Air America.

Meanwhile, Shilling would return to the U.S. in the 1960s and turn to a quieter, less-spooky life, passing in his mid-80s. 

More on Boyington later.

Hey, you got 9mm in my Tokarev…

Back in the 1980s and 90s, you could get a great deal on a 9mm Tokarev copy, if you didn’t mind the wonky lettering on the slide.

In 1951, as part of a short-lived period of Revolutionary Co-Prosperity with Moscow, Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union shared the technology package to build the TT-33 Tokarev pistol design in the land of The Red Dragon. In short order, an estimated 250,000 Tokarev clones, made with a mixture of donated Soviet and new-made Chinese parts, came off the lines as the new Type 51 pistol. A few years later, the design was gently modified into the all-Chinese Type 54, a pistol that remained in Chinese front-line service well into the 1990s and still exists in second-line armories.

Fast forward through Nixon’s rapprochement with Communist China and the normalization of trade between the two Pacific giants, and in 1980, the China North Industries Corporation, better known as Norinco, was formed. Within a few years, tons of new-made Norinco firearms, including SKS and AK pattern rifles, were being shipped to the U.S. for sporting purposes.

This brings us to the Norinco TU90 and 213.

With a 4.5-inch barrel and 31-ounce weight, the Norinco 213 is an 8+1 9mm that is roughly the same size as an M1911 Government Issue and is based on the Chinese Type 54…which is based on the Soviet TT-33 Tokarev…which is based on the…

More in my column at Guns.com.

China’s 100,000 Ton CATOBAR Carrier hits the water

Delayed twice due to technical issues and COVID shutdowns (and a dash of corruption), the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China’s first Type 003 carrier was christened Fujian (CV 18) at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai on Friday.

Though China’s third aircraft carrier, she is the largest and the first in the world–other than the Ford-class supercarriers in the U.S.– to be equipped with electromagnetic (EMALS) catapult technology (give you three guesses where the tech packages came from for that), allowing her to operate larger and more capable aircraft. 

In short, she is the SMS Nassau to HMS Dreadnought. or HMS Warrior to the French ironclad Gloire in terms of naval history.

Fujian could be commissioned as early as 2024, although, with her new and untried EMALS system, it may be a decade or more before she is practically deemed combat-ready. For reference, Ford was delivered to the U.S. Navy on 31 May 2017 and is only slated to go for her first limited deployment– a “service-retained early employment”– later this fall.

Named after mainland China’s southeastern coastal province, Fujian has been under construction since 2015. Using an integrated electric propulsion (IEP) powerplant rather than a nuclear plant like the USN, she is estimated to have an overall length of 1,050 feet at the flight deck, putting her only about 50 feet shorter than Ford/Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

She is also thought to be as much as 30,000 tons heavier than China’s existing 1,000-foot Type 001/002 (modified Russian Kuznetsov-class) STOBAR ski-jump carriers Shandong (CV 17) and Liaoning (CV 16) that they have tinkering around with for the past 25 years.

Chinese carrier family. Note the difference between Fujian (CV18) at the bottom in terms of beam and flight deck size/angle, compared to the slimmer bow-on shots of the existing ski-jump Shandong (CV 17) and Liaoning (CV 16)

When completed in the next few years, Fujian will put the PLAN in the same elite club of CATOBAR operators as the Americans and French, with the latter using a modified U.S. Navy C-13 steam catapult system on their sole 45,000-ton carrier Charles de Gaulle (also the only other nuclear-powered carrier in service outside of the USN). However, another new member of the club is just over the horizon– the Indian Navy’s 65,000-ton Vikrant-class INS Vishal is slated to use a modified American-supplied EMALS system in a CATOBAR format when (if) she becomes operational in the 2030s.

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022: Lucky Herndon

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, Feb. 2, 2022: Lucky Herndon

Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Film Collection, Serial #11-19, courtesy of Marcus W. Robbins, via Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

Here we see the brand spanking Gleaves-class destroyer USS Herndon (DD-638) entering the Elizabeth River at Norfolk Naval Shipyard some 80 years ago this week on the occasion of her launching.

Herndon’s launching program, via “Lucky Herndon.com.” Why was she so lucky? We’ll get to that.

The Gleaves class is an unsung group of some 62 destroyers who began construction pre-WWII and completed into the first stage of the war. With the huge building of the follow-on Fletcher– and Sumner-class destroyers, the Gleaves are often forgotten. What should never be forgotten is the sacrifice these ships made, with no less than 11 of the class lost during WWII.

Slight ships of just 2,395 tons, and 348-feet of steel hull, they were packed with a turbine-powered 50K shp plant that gave them a theoretical speed of over 37 knots and a 6,500-mile range at an economical 12 knot cruising speed for convoy or patrol work. Armed with as many as five 5″/38 DP mounts, up to 10 torpedo tubes, ASW gear, and AAW batteries, they were ready for almost anything and could float in as little as 13 feet of seawater, able to get inshore when needed.

Herndon was named for 19th-century sea-going hero and explorer, CDR William Lewis Herndon. Born in 1813 and admitted to Annapolis as a 15-year-old Mid, he was both cousin and brother-in-law to Matthew Fontaine Maury, the “Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology,” and as such participated in a lot of the Navy’s charting work as a young officer. Hailed for his performance of the brig Iris during the war with Mexico, Herndon later led a two-year expedition to the Valley of the Amazon, traveling over 4,000 miles in the process and penning a 414-page report of the area, one of the first works detailing its biodiversity. Given leave while still on the navy’s rolls in 1855, he was the skipper of the ill-fated SS Central America, which went down in a heavy gale off Cape Hatteras 7 September 1857. A prominent chapter in maritime lore, Central America was one of the noted instances of “women and children” loaded into lifeboats as the men stood stoically by and went to the bottom. Herndon was last seen standing by his doomed ship’s wheelhouse as it went down.

He was honored posthumously with a monument at Annapolis, was the father-in-law of future President Chester A. Arthur, the towns of Herndon, Virginia, and Herndon, Pennsylvania, were named for him, and the Navy issued his name to two destroyers, No. 198 (which went on to become HMS Churchill after the bases-for-destroyers deal and was sunk by a U-boat in the White Sea in 1945) and the subject of our Warship Wednesday, the latter was sponsored at her 1942 launching by Miss Lucy Herndon Crockett, great-grandniece of the late CDR Herndon.

In this image, she is sitting on the destroyer ways at the yard, preparing for her launch on 5 Feb 1942. Next to her is the battleship Alabama (BB 60) on the main ways, she would be launched two weeks later.

Commissioned 20 December 1942, CDR (later RADM) Granville A. Moore (USNA 1927) in command, Herndon was ready to get in the war.

USS Herndon (DD-638) in March 1943. 80-G-45379

Husky

Post-shakedown, Herndon escorted a convoy from New York to Casablanca, returning to New York on 14 May 1943 escorting a tanker.

Sailing from Norfolk on 8 June, she reached Algiers on 24 June and prepared for a key role in the Sicilian campaign, Operation Husky. There, she covered the landings of Maj, Gen. Troy Middleton’s 45th (Thunderbird) Infantry Division, traded blows with shore batteries and was heavily involved in defending the cruiser USS Philadelphia (CL-41) from a series of air wild raids from German aircraft while off Palermo.

Sketches of air attacks USS Herndon 7.31.43 8.1.43, From her reports, now in the NARA. Note that these were all inside about 36 hours

Remarkably, neither our destroyer nor Philadelphia was seriously damaged in Husky. Luck example #1.

Overlord

Following her stint in the barrel off Sicily, Herndon was pulled back to the British Isles and spent nine months crisscrossing the Atlantic from New York to various British ports, shepherding troopships headed to Europe. The greyhound was no doubt a welcome sight for the GIs aboard those vessels.

Dispatched to “Bald-headed Row” off Omaha Beach, she was part of Fire Support Unit Four (Task Unit 125.8.4), consisting of the destroyers Hobson, Corry, Shubrick, and Fitch. Assigned to NGFS Station No. 4 for the landings, Herndon faced the guns just east of the Carentan Estuary and was with the first assault wave to enter the fray off Omaha on D-Day. Her targets included No. 42 (an infantry position with three pillboxes, one casemate, one anti-tank gun, two shelters, and two 150mm guns in open emplacements), a tough nut for the Dog landing area.

Opening fire at 0550 on June 6, 1944, some 40 minutes before H-hour, Herndon dumped 212 rounds of 5-inch in just 40 minutes. She followed this up with two further fire missions before 0735, firing 42 and 53 rounds respectively, silencing the German batteries.

During the support, she was just 6,000 yards off the beach at Grandcamp le Bains, steaming at 5 knots, with splashes from shore batteries falling as close as 600 yards, although leaving the ship unharmed. Others were not so lucky and sister ship USS Corry (DD-463) was sunk within sight of Herndon, the tin can ripped apart by 8-inch shells in her engineering spaces amidships that left jagged foot-wide holes in the deck.

Her report from that day is stunning:

Tom Wolf, an NEA war correspondent who bunked with Cronkite during their time in Europe, was aboard Herndon for D-Day writing, “They call her ‘Lucky Herndon.’ This is the destroyer which led the Allied naval armada in the assault on Fortress Europe. Such were the risks that her sisterships were betting 10 to 1 against Herndon’s coming out whole.”

Wolf’s Lucky Herndon article, via Lucky Herndon.com.

Headed back to refill her magazines on D+1, Herndon returned to Omaha on 8 June, dodging German glider bombs while bomber-dropped mines were sown around her. The destroyer USS Meredith (DD-726), near her, struck one of these infernal devices and sunk the next day, her seams busted. Nonetheless, Herndon delivered a further 592 rounds of 5-inch at German targets ashore on 8 June alone, heading back to Plymouth the next day for more shells.

Assigned next to screen the battlewagons USS Texas and USS Nevada along the “Dixie Line,” German E-boat and U-boat attacks were a fear and, while part of that screen, sistership USS Nelson (DD-623), had her stern and No. 4 mount blown off by a torpedo on 13 June. Remaining part of the line through the 19th, Herndon had a brief pause until her next landings.

Dragoon & FDR

Herndon was part of the joint task group (TG 88.2) screening carriers on 15 August when the invasion of southern France, Operation Dragoon, was begun. Acting as plane guard for the British baby flattops HMS Hunter and HMS Stalker on D-Day, she did not have as eventful a time off the Riveria as she did off Palermo and Normandy. She remained in the Med as a convoy escort into October. Again, her luck held.

As detailed by DANFS:

Returning to the States 12 November, she conducted battle exercises in Casco Bay and escorted convoys along the Atlantic coast through February 1945. In that month. Herndon escorted President Roosevelt on the first leg of his historic voyage to Yalta.

Then came the End Game

On to the Pacific!

The veteran destroyer and her crew passed through the Panama Canal on 28 April 1945, just over a week away from VE-Day, and arrived at San Diego on 15 May where she once again clocked in as a carrier plane guard, this time in U.S. waters. Herndon sailed to Eniwetok on 12 July and, no doubt gratefully for her crew, spent the next month escorting convoys between relatively quiet Eniwetok, Guam, and Saipan.

VJ-Day found her as part of DESRON 16 assigned to Task Group 10.3 anchored at Buckner Bay, Okinawa where she was soon sent, acting as an escort to the cruiser USS Louisville (CA-28) to ride out a typhoon at sea.

By 7 September, with the seas calmed, Louisville and Herndon were dispatched to the port of Dairen (Dalian) in Manchuria’s Liaodong peninsula, to help supervise the evacuation of Allied POWs in the area. Arriving there on the morning of 11 September, then a week later headed across to the old treaty port of Tsingtao to accept the surrender of Japanese naval assets in the area, consisting of about a dozen escorts and merchantmen in various conditions.

At 1445 on 16 September IJN VADM Kaneko and the Japanese surrender party came aboard Herndon, followed a half-hour later by RADM Thomas Greenhow Williams “Tex” Settle (USNA 1918), an aviation pioneer of some renown, who had his flag aboard Louisville. By 1540, the unconditional surrender document was signed, ending the Japanese occupation of Tsingtao that had been a reality since the emperor’s troops captured it from the Germans in 1914.

Rear Admiral T.G.W. Settle, USN, left, looks on while Vice Admiral Kaneko, IJN, signs document of surrender turning over 12 Japanese ships to U.S. control: 6 DD and AM and 6 merchantmen. The ceremony took place on the forecastle of USS HERNDON (DD-638) at Tsingtao, China, on 16 September 1945. Description: Courtesy of Vice-Admiral T.G.W. Settle, USN ret., 1975 Catalog #: NH 82027

Transferring prize crews, Louisville and Herndon got underway on 22 September with the most intact of the surrendered ships, the Momi-class second-rate destroyers Kuri and Hasu, Subchasers No. 23 and 38, Minesweeper No. 21, and the freighter Shonan Maru, then escorted the little Japanese flotilla to Incheon (Jinsen), Korea, where they would be demilitarized.

Herndon would spend the remainder of 1945 patrolling the Korean and China coasts and assisting the repatriation of Japanese soldiers and the movement of Chinese Nationalist troops.

On 5 December 1945 she was tasked to become a “Magic Carpet” vessel, picking up returning Veterans from Shanghai, Eniwetok, Okinawa, and Pearl Harbor, and arriving at San Diego two days after Christmas. Arriving at New York on 15 January 1946, she was decommissioned on 8 May and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, first at Philadelphia, then at Orange, Texas.

She never was hit even though she fought in the Med, Atlantic, and Pacific, including supporting all three large amphibious landings in Europe.

Epilogue

Herndon received three battle stars for World War II service. Stricken from the Navy List in June 1971, she was expended in a naval weapons test off Florida on 24 May 1973. The remainder of her class suffered similar fates, and none are preserved as museums.

Her five-page War History and diaries are digitized in the National Archives. Likewise, there are at least two different veterans and family community groups.

Before her sinking, parts of the ship including her wheel, the rudder indicator, and the ship’s bell, were removed and loaned in the 1980s to the Herndon (Virginia) Historical Society by the U.S. Navy.

They are currently on display in the town’s Depot Museum and additional donated artifacts include flags, photographs, shell casings, muster rolls, and an anchor log. Also, note the display of CDR Herndon. 

The Herndon High School Band attended the 75th anniversary of the D-Day events in Normandy, France, in 2019, and each member carried a photograph of one of the veterans who served aboard the Herndon as they march in France. The band carried the ensign that flew aboard the ship off Omaha Beach.

Historical Documentary of the first ship to approach the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and the trip of the Herndon High School Marching Band to honor it on the 75th anniversary, in 2019:

Speaking of D-Day, her skipper during Husky and Overlord, CDR Granville Alexander Moore, earned a silver star for that latter operation, retired from the Navy as a rear admiral in 1957 while Chief of Staff at the Navy War College. Teaching at the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Pete for 13 years, he died there in 1983.

Meanwhile, the 21-foot tall Herndon Oblisk at Annapolis, dedicated to our destroyer’s namesake, remains the focus of the annual “plebes-no-more” ceremony, where first-year cadets race to climb the top and place a dixie cup on its pinnacle.

“Plebes,” or freshmen, from the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2010 celebrate after conquering the annual Herndon Climb. This event symbolizes the successful completion of the midshipmen’s freshman year. The plebes must use teamwork, strategy, and communication to climb to the top of the 21-foot obelisk and replace the traditional “plebe” cover with a midshipman’s cover. Midshipman 4th Class Jamie Schrock, from Detroit, reached the top in 1:32:42. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Lussier

Specs:

(As-built)
Displacement: 1,630 tons
Length: 348 ft 3 in
Beam: 36 ft 1 in
Draft: 13 ft 2 in
Propulsion: four boilers; two Allis Chalmers Turbines, 50,000 shp, two propellers
Speed: 37.4 knots
Range: 6,500 nautical miles at 12 kt
Complement: 208 designed. Wartime: 16 officers, 260 enlisted
Armament:
4 × 5 in/38 cal guns (1 deleted in 1945)
4 x 40mm Bofors in two twin mounts.
7 x 20mm Oerlikon in single mounts.
Torpedo Tubes: 5 x 21-inch in one quintuple mount (deleted in 1945)
ASW: 2 racks for 600-lb. charges; 6 “K”-gun projectors for 300-lb. charges, three Mousetrap devices.


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Philippines flexing over demands they unreef their ancient LST

We’ve talked in the past about the 2,000-tons of tetanus shots that is the mighty BRP Sierra Madre (L-57), formerly the ex-USS Harnett County LST-821, which has been grounded on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Reef) in the South China Sea since 1999, serving as a forward base for a squad-sized group of PI Marines and a Navy radioman. The move came as a counterstroke to China’s controversial, and likely unlawful, armed occupation of Mischief Reef— barely 200 kilometers from the Philippine island of Palawan– in 1995.

Well, in recent weeks, the Chinese have aggressively prevented resupply and rotation of the guard force on the Sierra Madre, warning off civilian vessels approaching the condemned LST with water cannons.

Finally, on 22 November, two civilian boats, Unaizah May 1 and Unaizah May 3, were able to tie up next to the Sierra Madre and unload, while a Chinese coast guard ship in the vicinity sent a RIB with three persons to closely shadow the effort, taking photos and videos, acts the Philipines described as “a form of intimidation and harassment.”

To this, China says Ayungin Shoal is “part of China’s Nansha Qundao (Spratly Islands)” and has told the PI to quit the reef and scrap the rusty outpost.

From Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on China’s demand to remove BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal:

Ayungin Shoal lies within our EEZ where we have sovereign rights. Our EEZ was awarded to us by the 1982 UNCLOS which China ratified. China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of. 

Furthermore, the 2016 Arbitral award ruled that the territorial claim of China has no historic nor legal basis. Ergo, we can do whatever we want there and it is they who are actually trespassing.

With that, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, Lt. Gen. Andres Centino, on Monday said that his leadership would ensure better living conditions of the troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre, refurbishing the vessel in place as a permanent government post. 

Mic drop.

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021: From Casablanca to Taipei

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. 17, 2021: From Casablanca to Taipei

U.S. Navy Photo #80-G-219560 from the United States National Archives

Here we see the future Cannon/Bostwick-class destroyer escort USS Carter (DE 112) launching at the Dravo Corporation yard in Wilmington, Delaware, 29 February 1944.

Named for a 20-year-old TBF gunner, AOM3 Jack Carter (2686624), who was lost at sea during the Torch Landings after searching for a Vichy French submarine, Mrs. Evelyn Carter Patterson sponsored the new tin can, the late aircrewman’s aunt.

Carter was a TBF Avenger gunner flying from VGS-27 on the escort carrier USS Suwannee (ACV/CVE-27), which has spent the preceding days raining 325-pound depth charges on French cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and even ground targets between Fedala and Casablanca in Morocco. The carrier’s report from the accident on the morning of 10 November 1942, via NARA

What were the Cannons?

USS Cannon (DE-99) Dravo builder’s photo. USN CP-DE-99-19-N-51457

The Cannon class, ordered in 1942 to help stem the tide of the terrible U-boat menace in the Atlantic, was also known as the DET type from their Diesel Electric Tandem drive. The DET’s substitution for a turbo-electric propulsion plant was the primary difference with the predecessor Buckley (“TE”) class. The DET was in turn replaced with a direct drive diesel plant to yield the design of the successor Edsall (“FMR”) class.

Besides a heavy ASW armament, these humble ships carried a trio of Mk.22 3″/50s, some deck-mounted torpedo tubes to be effective against larger surface combatants in a pinch, and a smattering of Bofors/Oerlikon AAA mounts.

In all, although 116 Cannon-class destroyer escorts were planned, only 72 were completed. Some of her more well-known sisters included the USS Eldridge, the ship claimed to be a part of the infamous Philadelphia Experiment. The vessels were all cranked out in blocks by four yards with Carter— along with class leaders Cannon and Bostwick— among the nine produced by Dravo.

Getting into the war

Commissioned 3 May 1944, with LCDR Francis John Torrence Baker, USNR (Sewickley, Pa.) as her only wartime skipper, Carter reported to the Atlantic Fleet. After two months of shakedowns to Bermuda and back, her first turn in the barrel was, appropriately for her namesake, shepherding Convoy UGS 50 bound for North Africa as the flagship of Escort Division (CortDiv) 79, a task she would repeat before the year was out with Convoy UGS 63 from Norfolk to Gibraltar, arriving at Oran to have Christmas dinner there three days late due to heavy storms.

On her way back through the Med returning home, she had a close brush with one of Donitz’s wolves when U-870 (KrvKpt. Ernst Hechler) pumped a torpedo into the Liberty ship SS Henry Miller on 3 January 1945.

From Carter’s War History, in the National Archives:

While Miller was a constructive loss with no injuries to her crew and managed to unload her cargo once towed to port, this was balanced out three months later when U-870 was herself sunk by Allied bombs while dockside at Bremen. 

Notably, with the likelihood of engaging a German cruiser or surface raider slim to none by this stage of the war, Carter landed her torpedo tubes at Philadelphia Navy Yard.

She was then assigned to regular antisubmarine patrols from Casco Bay in early 1945 as part of an all-DE submarine Killer Group, a tasking she would conduct for the remainder of the war in the Atlantic. It was with this that she was part of the endgame, moving against the last U-boat offensive against the Eastern Seaboard, one that the brass thought (falsely) might contain V1/V2 rocket carrying subs.

The rumors, mixed with intel that seven advanced U-boats, assigned to Gruppe Seewolf, the last Atlantic Wolfpack, were headed across the Atlantic, sparked Operation Teardrop, an extensive barrier program of ASW assets that ranged the East Coast in early 1945. In the end, Gruppe Seewolf was a dismal failure and the German rocket submarine program never got off the drawing board.

From Carter’s War History, on the engagement she shared with USS Neal A. Scott (DE 769) west of the Azores against U-518, an experienced and successful Type IXC under Oblt. Hans-Werner Offermann, on her seventh patrol. The submarine would not have an eighth:

In May, Carter and her group oversaw the surrender of two U-boats– U-234 (Kptlt. Johann-Heinrich Fehler) and U-858 (Kptlt. Thilo Bode), the latter a Type IXC/40 that had never successfully fired a torpedo in anger, and, true to form, was the first German warship to surrender to U.S. forces without a shot.

U-234, on the other hand, was a big Type XB U-boat built as a long-range cargo submarine with missions to Japan in mind. Commissioned 2 March 1944, she left Germany in the last days of the war in Europe with a mysterious cargo that included dozen high-level officers and advisors, technical drawings, examples of the newest electric torpedoes, one crated Me 262 jet aircraft, a Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb, and 1,210 lbs. of uranium oxide. She never made it to Japan as her skipper decided to make it for Canada instead after the fall of Germany. Two Japanese officers on board committed suicide and were buried at sea while the sub– packed with her particularly important glow-in-the-dark stuff– surrendered south of the Grand Banks, Newfoundland on 14 May, a week after VE Day.

Former U-234 is torpedoed by USS Greenfish (SS-542), in a test, on 20 November 1947, 40 miles northeast of Cape Cod.

Former U-234 is torpedoed by USS Greenfish (SS-542), in a test, on 20 November 1947, 40 miles northeast of Cape Cod.

Speaking of Japan, after three weeks in New York City, during which the veteran destroyer escort saw “an almost complete turnover in personnel” as it was thought “the Carter would be readied for Pacific duty,” instead the tin can was dispatched to Florida to clock in for lifeguard work on plane guard duty for new aircraft carriers working up in the warm waters down south, carrying 64 members of the USNA’s Class of 1946 with her on their Mid cruise.

Post-VJ Day saw Carter make for the big round of victory celebrations including “Nimitz Day” in Washington, D.C. (where 10,000 locals visited the ship), followed by Navy Day in Pensacola anchored alongside with USS Guadalcanal (CVE 60), Floyd B. Parks (DD 884), and Gunnel (SS 253) where the tiny warship, her glad rags flying, was “open for inspection with myriads of people getting the thrill of being on a warship.”

With the fighting over, at least for now, Carter continued her role as a plane guard in Florida into April 1946, where she was placed “out of commission in reserve” at NAS Green Cove Springs in the St. Johns River and added to the 500-strong mothball fleet that swayed at a series of 13 piers built there just for the purpose.

Carter received one battle star for World War II service.

Jane’s 1946 listing for the 57 strong semi-active Bostwick class, including Carter and noting numerous transfers to overseas allies.

A long second life

While Carter’s initial service would last 23 and ¾ months, others could desperately put the low-mileage destroyer escort to good use.

Ultimately 14 of the Cannon/Bostwick class went to France and Brazil during the war, followed by another eight to the French– who apparently really liked the type– four to Greece (including USS Slater which returned home in the 1990s to become the only destroyer escort afloat in the United States), three to Italy, two to Japan, six to the Dutch, three to Peru, five to the Philippines, two to South Korea, one to Thailand, and two to Uruguay.

When it comes to Carter, she and three sisters: Bostwick, Thomas (DE-102), and Breeman (DE-112), in a short ceremony on 14 December 1948, were transferred to Nationalist (Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT) China. Carter became Tài zhāo (also seen transliterated as Taizhao, T’ai Chao, and Tai Chao) after the capital city in central Jiangsu province in eastern China, with the hull/pennant number DE-26.

The four destroyer escorts were soon put into emergency use. During the last phase of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the 26 loyal ships of the ROCN engaged in the protection of supply convoys and the withdrawal of the Nationalist government and over 1 million refugees to Taiwan.

Carter/Tài zhāo was captured in great detail during this time period in Nationalist use by LIFE magazine.

In this image, she still has her 3″/50 Mk22s up front

Fuzing 40mm Bofors rounds. Note the traditional crackerjack and flat cap used by the Nationalists

Crackerjacks combined with M1 helmets and US Navy Mk II talker helmets

The No. 3 mount now has an additional 3″/50 rather than the 40mm Bofors it held as Carter. Also, that is A LOT of depth charges for those 8 throwers and two rails! Ash cans a-go-go

Needing bigger guns for the work envisioned of them, the Chinese quickly upgraded their two forward 3-inchers to a pair of 5″/38 singles in open mounts, as well as substituting the stern 40mm mount for one of the same which gave the ships a 2+2 format with twin 5-inchers over the bow and a 5-inch over a 3-inch over the stern. 

The 1950s saw the fleet heavily involved in the pitched and tense engagements around Kinmen (Quemoy), Matsu (where Carter/Tài zhāo fired 160 5-inch shells against a Red artillery battery ashore), and the Yijiangshan and Dachen Islands in the Taiwan Straits as well as the clandestine Guoguang operations in which the KMT tried to retake the mainland by landing would-be guerilla organization teams in Red territory.

Propaganda shells fired into Red-controlled areas. By John Dominis LIFE

In all, Carter and her three sisters continued to hold the front lines of the Taiwan Straits for 25 years and, for the first decade of that, were the most powerful assets available to the ROCN, a title they held until two Benson-class destroyers (USS Benson and USS Hilary P. Jones) were transferred in 1954. They were also later fitted in the 1960s with Mk.32 12.75-inch ASW torpedo tubes for Mk 44s– which were a lot more effective than depth charges.

Taizhao anchored at the Kaohsiung Xinbin Wharf, late 1940s.

Jane’s 1973-4 listing for the Taiwan Bostwicks, including Carter.

As part of the pressure on Communist China in the tail end of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the Nixon administration transferred a huge flotilla of more advanced warships to Taiwan between late 1970 and early 1973 that included two GUPPY’d Tench-class submarines (one of which is still active), five Gearing-class destroyers, six Sumner-class destroyers, four Fletchers, and USS McComb (DD-458)— a late Gleaves-class destroyer that had been converted to a fast minesweeper. With all these “new-to-you” hulls, the long-serving destroyer escorts could be retired and, by the end of 1973, Carter and her three sisters in Formosan service had been disposed of for scrap.

While Tài zhāo’s name was not recycled by the ROCN– probably as it is the name of a 4-million person city on the mainland– the ChiCom People’s Liberation Army Navy has had two Taizhous including a Type 053 frigate commissioned in 1982 and a Russian-built Sovremenny-class destroyer (ex-Vnushitelnyy) commissioned in 2005.

PLAN destroyer Tài zhāo, photographed by the Japanese in 2015.

Epilogue

A number of Carter’s WWII war diaries, as well as her war history and plans, are in the National Archives.

Besides the museum ship USS Slater (DE-766), now sitting dockside in Albany New York, and the pier side training ship USS Hemminger (DE-746) (now HTMS Pin Klao DE-1) in Thailand, there are no Cannon-class destroyer escorts still afloat.

USS Slater is the only destroyer escort preserved in North America– and is Carter’s sistership

The Destroyer Escort Sailors Association honors the men of all the DEs, regardless of class. Sadly, their 45th annual convention last year was their last as their numbers are rapidly declining.

In 1967, Revelle released a 1:248 scale model of “Nationalist Chinese frigate Tai Chao,” complete with box art that showed her racing among bracketed ChiCom shell plumes, no doubt a fitting tribute to those years of the warship’s life spent fighting an undeclared shadow war in the Taiwan Straits.

Specs:

Cannon class DE’s via USS Slater.com

Displacement: 1,240 tons standard, 1,620 tons full load
Length: 306.1 ft
Beam: 36.1 ft
Draft: 11.5 ft full load
Propulsion: 4 GM Mod. 16-278A diesel engines with electric drive 4.5 MW (6000 shp), two screws
Speed: 21 knots
Range: 10,800 nm at 12 knots
Complement: 15 officers 201 enlisted men
Armament:
(1944)
3 × single Mk.22 3″/50 caliber guns
3 × twin 40 mm Mk.1 AA gun
8 × 20 mm Mk.4 AA guns
3 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
1 × Hedgehog Mk.10 anti-submarine mortar (144 rounds)
8 × Mk.6 depth charge projectors
2 × Mk.9 depth charge tracks


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DOD Annual China report: Could have 1K Nukes by 2030, has 355 Naval Units

Fresh from the folks over at the Pentagon/DIA:

The Defense Department today released its annual 192-page report on military and security developments involving China, commonly referred to as the China Military Power Report.

The report provides background on China’s national strategy, foreign policy goals, economic plans and military development.

“The report provides a baseline assessment of the department’s top pacing challenge, and it charts the modernization of the PLA throughout 2020,” a defense official said Tuesday. “This includes the PLA developing the capabilities to conduct joint, long-range precision strikes across domains; increasingly sophisticated space, counterspace, and cyber capabilities; as well as the accelerating expansion of the PLA’s nuclear forces.”

A key revelation in the report are China’s advancements in its nuclear capability, including that the accelerated pace of their nuclear expansion may enable China to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027.

“The accelerating pace of the PLA’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to about 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027,” the official said. “And the report states that the PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030 — exceeding the pace and the size that we projected in the 2020 China Military Power report.”

The report also reveals that China may have already established a nuclear triad, which includes the ability to launch such missiles from the air, ground and sea.

“The PRC has possibly already established a nascent ‘nuclear triad’ with the development of a nuclear-capable, air-launched ballistic missile and improvement of its ground- and sea-based nuclear capabilities,” the report reads.

New to the report this year is a section on the Chinese military’s chemical and biological research efforts. It says China has engaged in biological activities with potential dual-use applications and that this raises concerns regarding its compliance with the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The report concludes that China continues to be clear in its ambitions to be competitive with world-class military powers, the DOD official said.

“The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen its ability to fight and win wars, to use their own phrase, against what the PRC refers to as a ‘strong enemy’ — again, another phrase that appears in their publications. And a ‘strong enemy,’ of course, is very likely a euphemism for the United States,” he said.

According to the report, a big part of China’s effort to match the strength of a “strong enemy” involves major modernization and reform efforts within China’s army. Those efforts include an ongoing effort to achieve “mechanization,” which the report describes as the Chinese army’s efforts to modernize its weapons and equipment to be networked into a “systems of systems” and to also utilize more advanced technologies suitable for “informatized” and “intelligentized” warfare.

Also of significance are China’s efforts to project military power outside it’s own borders.

“The PRC is seeking to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow the PLA to project and sustain military power at greater distances,” the DOD official said. “We’re talking about not just within the immediate environments, environments in the Indo-Pacific, but throughout the Indo-Pacific region and indeed, around the world.” The official said China’s army has sought to modernize its capabilities and improve its proficiency across all warfare domains, so that, as a joint force, it can conduct the range of land, air, and maritime operations that are envisioned in army publications, as well as in space, counterspace, electronic warfare and cyber operations.

A big takeaway is the number of naval battle force units (355 including more than 145 major surface combatants) which, for those keeping count at home, would make the PLAN the largest naval force on the planet in size although not likely in tonnage as the U.S. Navy still fields a smaller number of much larger units (10 CVNs vs 3 smaller CVs, 9 carrier-sized LHDs, 68 x ~9,000-ton Burkes and more building et. al)

The PLAN is arranged in three primary fleets, all, by nature of geography, very central to the Western Pacific

Then there is the country’s increasingly capable Rocket Force, which is all about area denial out to the Second Island Chain.

Do you see what I see?

Then the growing nuclear arsenal, which can reach all of the U.S. save for South Florida. 

Of course, this is all theoretical MADness…

The full report, here.

National Security Cutters Get Chance to Flex National Security Muscle

Via the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska (emphasis mine):

During a routine maritime patrol in the Bering Sea and Arctic region, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750), spotted and established radio contact with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) task force in international waters within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, Aug. 30, 2021. All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international laws and norms. At no point did the PLAN task force enter U.S. territorial waters. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Bridget Boyle.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Bridget Boyle.

The U.S. Coast Guard demonstrated its commitment to the Bering Sea and Arctic region with deployments of national security cutters Bertholf (WMSL-750), and Kimball (WMSL-756), and a U.S. Arctic patrol by icebreaker Healy.

“Security in the Bering Sea and the Arctic is homeland security,” said Vice Adm. Michael McAllister, commander Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The U.S. Coast Guard is continuously present in this important region to uphold American interests and protect U.S. economic prosperity.”

Crews interacted with local, national and international vessels throughout the Arctic. During the deployment, Bertholf and Kimball observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast. While the ships were within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, they followed international laws and norms and at no point entered U.S. territorial waters.

The PLAN task force included a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel. The Chinese vessels conducted military and surveillance operations during their deployment to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.

All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international standards set forth in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium’s Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

While the PLAN doesn’t “officially” have any cruisers, the brand new Type 55 DDGs (NATO designation Renhai-class) are big ships, running to 13,000-tons, and having a 112-vell VLS launcher installed with missiles cued by a phased array radar. In other words, a bigger, newer version of a Tico. They are the largest and most advanced Chinese surface combatant. 

PLAN’s Nanchang (DDG-101) Type 55, from a Japanese MOD intel picture/press release earlier this year. Look at all those VLS cells…

Bertholf. At 4,500-tons and armed with a 57 mm gun, a 20mm Close-In Weapons System, four .50-caliber machine guns, two M240B 7.62mm GPMGs, and space for two helicopters, along with passive EW and SRBOC systems, it is about as heavily armed as current US Coast Guard cutters get. Of course, I’d like to see a few Harpoons/NSSMs, Mk 32 Torpedo tubes, and maybe a RAM missile system on her, but that’s just me.

Facing off against this, the pair of 4,500-ton Legend-class National Security cutters combined had two 57mm Bofors, two CIWS, and some mounted machine guns.

In all seriousness, such interactions, coupled with the use by the Navy of the same class of white hulls to cruise through the contested South China Sea on Freedom of Navigation Patrols, point to the USCG’s larger cutters at a minimum getting an armament upgrade to swap out CIWS for C-RAM and pick up a few Naval Strike Missiles to at least put them on-par with the admittedly under-armed littoral combat ships. 

If you act like a frigate, no matter the color of your hull, you better be able to back it up. 

September 2021, Royal Australian Navy fleet oiler HMAS Sirius (AO-266) conducts a dual replenishment at sea with the amphibious assault dock HMAS Canberra (LHD-2) and USCGC Munro (WMSL-755), during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021. (RAN Photo by LSIS Leo Baumgartner)

Frigate-sized Goodwill

Via Kazuhiko Koshikawa, the Ambassador of Japan in the Philippines, yesterday, on the occasion of the launching of the largest cutter ever for the Philippine Coast Guard (Tanod Baybayin ng Pilipinas), from the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding launching ramp in Japan:

Attended the virtual launching ceremony of the 94m class patrol vessel with (Philipines Department of Transportation Secretary Art Tugade). This huge vessel was unveiled through a nautical tradition of blessing the ship and its crew on its voyage, and will become the PCG’s largest flagship in early 2022!

The new 308-foot Multirole Response Vessel (pennant number 9701), as Koshikawa noted, will be the largest ship in the 17,000-member PCG, a force that has been beefing up in recent years to confront interlopers (See: China) into the huge Filipino Maritime Zone.

Remember, if you can’t police your EEZ, you don’t have an EEZ.

The two building 94m-MRRVs are funded through a ¥16.5-billion ($150M) grant from the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and are set to become the largest vessels in the PCG. At that price, you can be sure they are constructed to commercial standards rather than military but they do have a frigate profile with significant at-sea endurance and helicopter handling capabilities, as well as the capability to host a platoon-sized VBBS force. 

Part of the Philippine Department of Transportation, the PCG– which has a lineage going back to 1901– has long just fielded a force of several hundred small (day running) brown water craft such as whalers, RIBs, and Swift boats.

However, the fleet has expanded greatly in recent years with the adoption of true blue water assets such as the 274-foot French-built OPV BRP Gabriela Silang, four Australian (Tenix)-built 184-foot San Juan-class OPVs, 10 Japanese (JMU)-built 146-foot Parola-class OPVs, and four Ilocos Norte-class 115-foot Tenix patrol boats, all of which have been added in the past ~15 years. Note that the Parolas, the PCG’s most numerous over-the-horizon vessels, were also built in Japan with JICA funds.

Lightly armed for constabulary use, they generally have M2 .50 cal machine guns installed for muscle, in addition to the small arms of their landing teams, as well as soft-kill devices such as LRADs and water cannons.

Also, you have to love the traditional launching festivities used by the Japanese. Compare the above joyous image above to this one, taken some 96 years ago this week:

Launch of Lead Ship, Destroyer Mutsuki at Sasebo Naval Arsenal on July 23rd, 1925

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