Category Archives: cold war

Farewell, Carpet Beater

The West Germans saw how the ubiquitous UH-1 Huey was used in Vietnam in the 1960s and decided it needed some of that. Through a licensing deal with Bell and the blessing of the Nixon administration, Dornier began making copies of the UH-1D (Bell 205) stretched-fuselage single-engine 15-seat troop carrier variant in 1968, completing 352 birds for the Bundeswehr by 1981 in addition to four American-made models delivered as a control group. KHD in Oberursel was licensed to make the aircrafts’ Lycoming T53-L-13B 1400 shp turboshaft engines.

Unofficially termed the Teppichklopfer (carpet beater) in German service, they were well-liked and proved reliable. In all, the Heer (Army) operated 212 of the aircraft while the Luftwaffe picked up 132 for SAR and liaison, and the Bundesgrenzschutz (BSG) border guards got 12 of their own for use by their elite counter-terror group.

1991: Soldiers of Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 2 from Hessisch-Lichtenau practice airborne surveillance of large areas in cooperation with Hueys der Heeresflieger in the Höxter area. (Photo: Jan-P. Weisswange/Soldat und Technik)

The Kraut Huey proved to be extremely reliable even in difficult operating conditions. They served not only in Germany and on NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia (IFOR, SFOR, KFOR, and EUFOR) but also in Somalia and in Iraq. (Photo: Bundeswehr)

By the early 2000s, the aircraft were showing their age and were replaced by new NH90 and H145 (Eurocopter EC145) production until just one squadron was flying them for SAR use in dets out of Niederstetten, Nörvenich, and Holzdorf.

Putting a cap on over 2.3 million hours of service across almost 50 years, the last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99 (“Full Metal Jacket” fans?), received a “Goodbye Huey” sunset livery and flew into Bückeburg airfield (Airfield Achum) in June to finish its 10,000-hour lifespan before heading to the German Helicopter Museum (Hubschraubermuseum) there, arriving on June 22.

The last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99, in “Goodbye Huey” livery

The last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99, in “Goodbye Huey” livery

However, the swan song on the Teppichklopfer came this last week, halfway around the world from Germany. You see, in 2014, the Philippine Air Force took possession of 21 donated ex-Bundeswehr UH-1Ds. Long-serving and all over 20 years old at transfer, they were to be upgraded to a “Huey II” standard in a $27M program that never really came to play, and the latter deal was criticized over allegations of kickbacks to high-ranking officials. 

Nonetheless, as the PAF had other UH-1 models on hand to include former Vietnam vintage “Hotel” models from the U.S, and commercial Bell 412s, as well as as the boost of donated spare parts from Japan (where the UH-1J was built under license by Fuji Heavy Industries) it has been able to keep their German birds in the air for the past decade, supporting operations throughout the archipelago to fight the local terrorists and conduct relief operations when earthquakes and typhoons struck the archipelago.

Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. service members exit a helicopter during air assault training at Fort Magsaysay, the Philippines in 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael G. Herrero/Released)

Now, as the PAF is moving to newer rotary aircraft– including Turkish-made Augusta T129 ATAKs, Italian AW109s, and American Sikorsky S-70s, S-76s, and MD 500 Defenders– the age of the Huey is almost over, at least in the PI.

October 13 saw the retirement of the last 10 remaining Dornier UH-1Ds acquired in 2014, as the PAF welcomed aboard five S-70i Black Hawks and four ScanEagle UAS at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

Phinal Trap, 35 years ago

Official caption: A U.S. Naval Air Reserve McDonnell Douglas F-4S Phantom II aircraft from fighter squadron VF-202 “Superheats” lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66) on 18 October 1986.

This was the last operational landing by a U.S. Navy F-4 aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, piloted by CDR George “Black George” Kraus. VF-202, the last U.S. Navy unit to fly the F-4, then transitioned to the Grumman F-14A Tomcat.

DN-SN-87-02837 Photo by AE3 Jeff Miller, USN

While the Phantom continued to serve around the globe with allies for decades after the above image was snapped, this was its last carrier landing. The only other flattop Phantom drivers were in the Royal Navy, who retired their F4s when HMS Ark Royal (R09) left the fleet in 1978.

Autumn Forge ’78

NATO’s Historian just posted this, which is awesome for fans of Cold War gear and equipment.

A documentary presented by Robert MacNeil from NATO headquarters in Brussels and showing a 1978 combined NATO exercise, “Autumn Forge”, that took place in September 1978 in the Federal Republic of Germany, testing the capacity for rapid reinforcements to NATO’s central front in Europe, the most vulnerable area the Alliance has to defend.

Chapters

00:00 Introduction

06:23 Day One

11:49 Day Two

18:07 Day Three

22:42 Day Four

25:50 Epilogue

SACEUR, U.S. Army General Alexander M. Haig, placed great emphasis on improving the “Three Rs” – Readiness, Rationalisation, and Reinforcement – in order to counter-balance the growing military capabilities of the Warsaw Pact. One of SHAPE’s major tasks during this period was to study how to improve the command and control and flexibility of NATO forces in Europe. In 1975, Gen. Haig also introduced a major new NATO exercise program called Autumn Forge, whose best-known element was the REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) series. These exercises brought together national and NATO exercises improved their training value and annually tested the ability of the Alliance’s North American members to reinforce Europe rapidly.

55 Years Ago: We have the technology

Such a captivating image of Atomic age wonder, hard to imagine it was real, and that it hails from September 15, 1966.

NASA research pilot William Harvey “Bill” Dana takes a moment to watch NASA’s converted NB-52B Stratofortress mothership (52-0008, Balls Eight) cruise overhead after a research flight in the Northrop HL-10 heavy lifting body. “HL” stands for horizontal landing, and “10” refers to the tenth design studied by engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. On the left, John Reeves can be seen at the cockpit of the lifting body. NASA Photo.

More on the HL-10 here, more on Balls Eight here, and, since you came this far, a word about test pilot Major Steven Austin.

Lurking Around the Bones of CV-67

Via COMNAVSURFLANT:

Sailors from pre-commissioning unit John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) tour decommissioned ship USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) currently moored at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Sailors from CVN 79 are documenting spaces and deployment artwork aboard to preserve the history and heritage of the JFK.

Art mural forward bulkhead in the CPO mess

Be sure to check out this 5-minute video from NHHC, which includes some more scenes of JFK today: 

Named after the 35th President, CVA-67 was built at Newport News and commissioned 7 September 1968– some 53 years ago this week. After four decades of service during the Cold War, Lebanon, Desert Storm, and the like, on 23 March 2007, John F. Kennedy was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 16 October 2009. She was one of the last conventionally-powered U.S. Navy supercarriers in service. 

While laid up at Philadelphia for the past decade, a number of planned museum endeavors have come and gone, so it is looking like she will soon be sent to Brownsville for scrapping. JFK was removed from possible donation status in late 2018 and is pending disposal.

With that, the largest preserved American flattop will be the 65,000-ton USS Midway (CV-41) in California as nuclear-powered carriers are unlikely to be so preserved due to their reactor construction. 

Meanwhile, PCU CVN 79 was christened in 2019– on Pearl Harbor Day– by President Kennedy’s daughter, and is currently fitting out, with expected commissioning in 2024. 

USS John F. Kennedy christened by the ship’s sponsor Caroline B. Kennedy Dec 7, 2019 (U.S. Navy Photo)

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 1st, 2021: Fortunate Son, the Army Flat Top Edition

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, Sept. 1st, 2021: Fortunate Son, the Army Flat Top Edition

Photo by SP4 Ingimar DeRidder, 69th Sig Bn, via U.S. Army CMH files.

Here we see USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVN-1), a 14,000-ton floating aircraft maintenance depot, anchored in Cam Ranh Bay, 12 November 66. Note at least three Army UH-1 Hueys on her deck. The Veteran WWII-era Curtiss-class seaplane tender, disarmed and manned by civilian mariners, was the closest thing the Army had to an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.

The two Curtiss-class tenders, which include class leader USS Curtiss (AV-4) and her sistership USS Albemarle (AV-5) — the latter would become the above-shown Army flattop– were the first purpose-built seaplane tenders constructed for the Navy, with the previous vessels being repurposed minesweepers and destroyers. Ordered in 1938, they were laid down side-by-side at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey, and were commissioned in November and December 1940.

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) (Foreground) and sistership USS CURTISS (AV-4), fitting out at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. CURTISS departed Philadelphia on 2 January 1941 for shakedown, ALBEMARLE on 28 January. Both ships had been commissioned there in November/December 1940. USS TRIPPE (DD-403) and a sistership are at right; OLYMPIA (IX-40) is visible in the reserve basin at the top, along with an EAGLE boat. Note NEW JERSEY (BB-62) under construction in slipway at far left; two motor torpedo boats are visible just to the left of ALBEMARLE’s bow. NH 96539

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) passing south yard, Sun shipyard, Chester, PA., c 1941. NH 57783

The newly-commissioned USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) on her shakedown cruise, anchored at Havana Harbor, Cuba, on 22 February 1941, “dressed” for Washington’s birthday. Note Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes on the flight deck, aft. NH 96538

Some 527-feet long (keep in mind destroyers of the age were in the 300~ foot range), they had a very wide 69-foot beam and drew over three fathoms under their hull when fully loaded. Packed with four high-pressure boilers that pushed a pair of geared turbines, they could make a respectable 19.7 knots, which was faster than most auxiliaries of the era, and steam for 12,000 miles at 12 knots– enough to halfway around the globe. Equipped with CXAM-1 radars from the time they joined the fleet, at a time when many of the world’s best cruisers and battleships didn’t have such luxury gear, they were well-armed with four 5″/38 singles and an array of Bofors and Oerlikons.

One of Albemarle’s four 5″/38 DP mounts, note the 40mm Bofors tub in the distance. By the end of WWII, they would carry 20 40mm and 12 20mm guns for self-defense against enemy aircraft, more than most destroyers. Not bad for a “tender”

But of course, their main purpose was to support a couple squadrons of patrol bombers such as PBY Catalina or PBM Mariner flying boats, with a large seaplane deck over the stern and extensive maintenance shops in the superstructure forward.

A U.S. Navy Martin PBM-1 Mariner of Patrol Squadron 55 (VP-55) is hoisted on board the seaplane tender USS Albemarle (AV-5), in 1941. Note the Neutrality Patrol paint scheme on the aircraft and the sailors manning the handling lines. U.S. Navy National Naval Aviation Museum photo NNAM.1986.014.022

The third (and last) such U.S. Navy ship named Albemarle— after the sound in North Carolina, a traditional naming structure for seaplane tenders– she commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 December 1940, CDR Henry Maston Mullinnix in command.

Graduating first in the USNA Class of 1916, Mullinnix was a destroyerman until he switched to Naval Aviation in the 1920s. Leaving Albemarle in early 1941 to be the skipper of Patrol Wing Seven, he would go on to command the carrier Saratoga in the Pacific before making RADM. He was killed aboard USS Liscombe Bay (CVE-56) as Task Force Commander off Makin Island on 24 November 1943 when the escort carrier was sent to the bottom by Japanese submarine I-175.

With the Americans and British becoming increasingly cooperative despite U.S. neutrality, Albemarle was dispatched soon after her shakedown to patrol Greenland and the western Atlantic, arriving 18 May 1941 with the PBYs of patrol squadron VP-52 at Argentia, Newfoundland. It should be noted that, just two days later, the Royal Navy was bird-dogging the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen across the North Atlantic. Soon, VP-71, VP-72, and VP-73 would join the tender.

Little Placentia Harbor, Argentia, Newfoundland. USS Albemarle (AV-5), with an AVD alongside, in the harbor, circa 1941. Note PBY Catalinas in the foreground. NARA 80-G-7448

Greenland Expedition by USS Albemarle (AV 5) May-September 1941. East Coast of Greenland with PBY Catalina making observations, May 25, 1941. The PBYs performed long reconnaissance missions to provide data for convoy protection. Caption: Greenland – A Mysterious Land of Mountain and Ice. Majestic fjords indent the coast serrated by rocky buttes some of which are precipitous cliffs attaining elevations of two to three thousand feet. 80-CF-73186-6 Box 126.

Her crew earned the American Defense Service Medal for the ship’s peacetime actions in the Atlantic, 23 Jun 41 – 22 Jul 41, 15 Aug 41 – 1 Nov 41.

She was one of the unsung Brotherhood of the F.B.I. “The Forgotten Bastards of Iceland,” and survived a strong (hurricane-force) storm there in January 1942.

WAR!

After a refit on the East Coast, she would spend most of the rest of 1942 and the first half of 1943 running around much warmer climes, delivering aeronautical material and men to naval air bases in the Caribbean and the Pacific coast of South America, as well as in the northern South Atlantic.

OS2U Kingfishers aboard USS Albemarle AV-5, 14 May 1942

Her relatively fast speed enabled her to keep ahead of U-boats and she, ironically, would carry back captured German submariners from sunken boats– killed by patrol bombers– to POW camps in the U.S.

Crossing the Line Neptunus Rex Party onboard USS Albemarle (AV 5). September 28, 1942. NARA 80-G-22195, 80-G-221182, 80-G-22193

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) underway in the Atlantic, with a PBY Catalina on her seaplane deck, 30 December 1943. 80-G-450247

Her role as a high-speed aviation transport continued with convoys to North Africa in 1943, delivering 29 dive bombers on one such trip.

U.S. Navy seaplane tender USS Albemarle (AV-5) underway in the Atlantic Ocean on 10 August 1944. She is painted in Camouflage Measure 32, Design 5Ax. The photo was taken by a blimp of squadron ZP-11. 10 August 1944. Note her heavy armament for an aviation support ship. 80-G-244856

Same as above. Note the array of emergency brake-away rafts. She carried a 1,000+ man complement and often carried 200 or more transients. 80-G-453347

Post War Mushroom Collecting

In May 1945, just after VE-Day, she was detailed to begin carrying flying boat squadrons from the Atlantic Theatre to the U.S. for transfer to the Pacific Theatre, which was still active. Likewise, our broadly-traveled seaplane tender was planned to receive extra AAA mounts and gear in preparation for her own transfer Westward to take part in the final push to Tokyo. Her sistership, Curtiss, had a much more active war in the Pacific, being in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and going on to earn seven battlestars supporting island-hopping operations.

However, VJ-Day halted things and, when Albemarle finally arrived at Pearl Harbor in November 1945, it was to join the “Magic Carpet” fleet returning American veterans home from the Pacific. This would include carrying the entire 658th Tank Destroyer/Amphibian Tractor Battalion back from the Philippines, landing them at San Francisco on 13 January 1946.

She went on to support Operation Crossroads Atomic tests, moored in Kwajalein lagoon during the Able and Baker drops at Bikini Atoll, and otherwise taking part in staging for and follow up from those mushrooms from May to August.

After a brief East Coast stint, she was back in the Pacific with Joint Task Force Switchman, arriving at Eniwetok in March 1948 to serve as a floating lab ship for the triple nuclear tests during Operation Sandstone– “X-Ray” with an experimental 37 kt A-bomb made from a 2:1 mix of oralloy and plutonium. (15 April 1948), the 49 kt oralloy “Yoke” (1 May 1948) and 18 kt oralloy “Zebra” (15 May 1948) bombs.

Swapped back to the East Coast after the conclusion of the tests, she was attached to the New York Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, decommissioned on 14 August 1950 and berthed at Brooklyn where she rested for six years. Meanwhile, sistership Curtiss, who had operated helicopters in Korea, was decommissioned on 24 September 1957 and would only leave mothballs again in 1972 when she was scrapped.

Seamaster

Albemarle was recommissioned at Philadelphia on 21 October 1957 after a 20-month conversion to be able to operate the planned Martin P6M Seamaster jet-equipped flying boats. Intended to be a nuclear deterrent, the Seamaster program was one of the Navy’s top priorities.

Martin P6M Seamaster. Just 12 of these strategic bombers in the guise of high-speed mine-laying flying boats were made. They could carry a 70-kt B28 nuke to a combat radius of 700 miles.

However, as Seamaster never reached the fleet, Albemarle ended up spending the next three years quietly tending more traditional Martin P5M Marlin flying boats off and on while participating in operations with the Atlantic Fleet. As Seamaster was canceled– it turned out the Polaris FBM submarines were a better idea– she was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 21 October 1960 before being laid up with the James River Fleet. Transferred to MARAD, Albemarle was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 September 1962 and likely would have been scrapped.

However, her special services were soon needed by someone else.

Vietnam War – Project Flat Top – USNS Corpus Christi Bay

On 7 August 1964, MARAD transferred ex-Albemarle back to the Navy and six months later she was transferred to the Navy’s Military Sea Transportation Service (which became today’s MSC in 1970), entered on the NVR as USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1). She was sent to the Charleston Naval Shipyard for an $11 million conversion to become a maintenance depot at sea for Army helicopters in Vietnam.

The idea was that, instead of shipping damaged helicopters back to the U.S. for refit, Corpus Christi Bay could, with her 32 on-board repair and fabrication shops, blueprints for every model helicopter in service, and cargo of 20,000 spare parts, could rework them. Meanwhile, her sister Curtiss, which had been laid up since 1957 and had been stricken in 1963, was robbed of everything useful to keep Albemarle/Corpus Christi Bay in shape.

USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1) In port, probably at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, South Carolina, in 1966. Photographed by Captain Vitaly V. Uzoff, U.S. Army. This ship was originally USS Albemarle (AV-5). Official U.S. Army Photograph, from the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Military Sealift Command collection. Catalog #: NH 99782

Delivered for sea trials in December 1965, on 11 January 1966 she was placed into service.

Dubbed an Aircraft Repair Ship, Helicopter as part of “Project Flat-Top,” Corpus Christi Bay lost her seaplane ramp, had her superstructure reconstructed to include a 50×150 ft. landing pad to accommodate just about any of the Army’s choppers. Damaged helos could be dropped via sling loads from CH-47s or CH-5s or barged out to the ship and lifted aboard by a pair of 20-ton cranes. All her remaining WWII weapons were removed. She picked up extensive air conditioning, a cobbler shop, barbershop, modern dining facilities, a dental clinic and medical center staffed by Army flight surgeons, and other amenities that the Navy’s flying boat aviators of 1940 could have only dreamed of.

The MSTS crew would be just 130~ civilian mariners and 308 green-uniformed helicopter techs of the Army’s specially-formed 1st Transportation Corps Battalion (Seaborne), which she picked up at Corpus Christi, Texas on 22 January.

 

As a lesson learned from the sinking of the former Bogue-class escort carrier-turned transport USNS Card (T-AKV-40) in 1964 by Viet Cong sappers, the MSTS made assorted security changes to vessels operating for extended periods in Vietnamese ports. This included helmets and flak vests for topside personnel, sandbags around the bridge, grenade screens secured on portholes, extra medkits and firefighting equipment kept at the ready, bilge and ballast pumps warmed up, and towing wires ready for a tow without assist from the ship’s crew. In addition to this, her Army techs maintained an extensive small arms locker to include several machine guns to replace damaged ones on gunships.

She had two Hueys assigned to her full-time for liaison work, Flattop 086 (68-16086), and Flattop 045 (69-15045).

Corpus Christi Bay operated out of Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam as a Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility, or FAMF, arriving 2 April 1966, and would remain overseas until 19 December 1972, spending almost seven years overseas, rotating crews and Army maintainers out regularly.

USNS Corpus Christi Bay at dock during the Vietnam War era, TAMUCC collection

As a seaborne asset of the United States Army Material Command, she was designated a floating Helicopter Repair Depot. Ostensibly manned by civilian merchant mariners of the MSTS, she was still owned by the Navy but, for all intents and purposes, was an Army ship.

Army Veteran Peter Berlin remembers her fondly and in detail:

The Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility was designed for use in contingency operations, initially for backup direct support and general support and provided a limited depot capability for the repair of aircraft components. It was equipped to manufacture small machine parts and also to repair items requiring extensive test equipment operating in a sterile environment such as avionics, instruments, carburetors, fuel controls, and hydraulic pumps. The mobility offered by the ship also contributed to the effectiveness of aircraft support since it could move from one deep water port to another as the density of aircraft units shifted with changing tactical situations. The guys aboard this FAMF could fix anything..

Ultimately determined by MSC to be “in excess of current and future requirements”. Corpus Christi Bay was taken out of service in 1973 and berthed in ready reserve status at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Corpus Christi Bay served six tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam and earned four Meritorious Unit Commendations. Determined by MSC to be “in excess of current and future requirements,” she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 December 1974, just two weeks after she returned to Corpus Christi from overseas. On 17 July 1975, she was sold to Brownsville Steel and Salvage, Inc. for the princely sum of $387,777 and subsequently scrapped.

Epilogue

The Army is a good caretaker of the vessel’s relics, with a scale model, the ship’s bell, and other artifacts on honored display at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas, an important cradle of Army aviation maintenance. Former members of the ship’s crew meet at CCAD from time to time. 

The USS Albemarle bell, which stands at the entrance of the CCAD Headquarters along with other relics from her day as USNS Corpus Christi Bay.

The U.S. Army Transportation Museum this month unveiled a large scale model of Corpus Christi Bay, saluting her service.

A private Facebook group, the USNS Corpus Christi Bay Alliance, is out there for Vets to reconnect. 

Her Navy war history and logbooks are digitized in the National Archives while the Army has numerous films of her Vietnam “Project Flat-Top” days in the same repository. 

And, of course, you didn’t come all this way and not expect this:

Specs:

Jane’s 1946

Jane’s 1973

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Just when DID the Battleship Era End?

In one of the battleship groups that I am a member of on social media, the subject of the “end of the battleship era” came about with the suggestion that, after the Battle of the North Cape in December of 1943, the importance of post-Washington Treaty battleships had diminished so significantly that any WWI vintage battleship would have sufficed for the remainder of the war as battleships became shore bombardment (which the Iowas were still around for as late as Desert Storm) and anti-aircraft platforms rather than meant to kill other battleships in surface warfare.

Of course, this neglected the glaring fact that the October 1944 Battle of Surigao Straits existed.

As far as my take, I’d argue that the end of the “battleship v. battleship era,” in which opposing vessels of the type could have possibly met in combat, was the mid-to-late 1950s.

Between the three Sovetsky Soyuz-class (Project 23) battleships still somewhat under construction until the late 1940s (canceled 47-49), as well as the elderly Great War-era Gangut-class dreadnoughts (Petropavlovsk/Volkov, stricken 1953; Gangut/Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya, stricken 1956; and Sevastopol stricken 1957), and the old Italian Cavour-class battleship Giulio Cesare which was taken over after WWII as Novorossiysk until she blew up in 1955, the Soviets had several kinda operational battlewagons as well as some intermittently on the drawing board.

The Soviet battleship Sevastopol underway, circa 1947-48. Note her much-changed profile from the Great War era she came from

Meanwhile, arrayed against the Red Banner Fleet were a number of active NATO-controlled battleships including the Turkish battlecruiser Yavuz (old SMS Goeben, retired 1950, scrapped 1973), two French Richelieu-class battleships (Richelieu and Jean Bart moved to reserve in 1957), the Royal Navy’s HMS Vanguard (retired in 1960), USS Mississippi (still in commission as a test ship until 1956 and retaining her No. 4 turret with working 14-inch guns as late as 1952), and the four Iowas (mothballed between 1955 and 1958, although they would make a rapid comeback). Plus, the reformed Italian Marina Militare (which was a NATO fleet from the organization’s first days) still had the ancient Andrea Doria and Caio Dulio on the rolls as late as 1956. Going even further, the U.S. Navy had 11 very recently modernized dreadnoughts (nine with 16-inch guns) of the Tennessee, Colorado, SoDak, and North Carolina classes in mothballs but still on the Naval List as mobilization assets until 1959. 

Jean Bart in true color, anchored at Toulon during the late 1950s after her brief participation in the Suez Crisis and the termination of her short service life

In short, had there been some sort of East vs. West dustup in the early days of the Cold War, especially in the Black Sea/Eastern Med, it could have resulted in a scenario where battleship-on-battleship violence could have occurred as late as 1956 or so.

Or at least that is my take on the debate, anyway. 

Farewell, Broadsword/Greenhalgh

Following 16 years of service with the Royal Navy and another 26 with the Marinha do Brasil, the veteran Type 22 frigate HMS Broadsword (F 88)/ fragata Greenhalgh (F 46) was retired on 10 August 2021.

Frigate HMS Broadsword, Irish Sea, 1990. Taken by Royal Yacht photographer contributed by Harvey Page, via the HMS Broadsword Association

Broadsword was laid down at Yarrow 7 February 1975, intended to face off with the growing Red Banner Fleet in the North Atlantic, and joined the RN in 1979– just in time to face off against the nominal Western-allied Argentine Navy in the South Atlantic.

During the Falklands conflict, Broadsword stood by the stricken HMS Coventry, recusing 170 of that destroyer’s crew. Broadsword was hit by one bomb herself, which bounced through the frigate’s helicopter deck before exploding just off her stern. In retribution, Broadsword was credited with downing an Argentine Dagger and a partial kill on an A-4C Skyhawk.

After continued Cold War service, and a stint enforcing UN sanctions off Yugoslavia in the 1990s, she was decommissioned on 31 March 1995 and sold to the Brazilian Navy three months later. She had been the second and final Broadsword in the Royal Navy, following in the footsteps of HMS Broadsword (D31), a Weapon-class destroyer launched in 1946 and broken up in 1968. Jeffrey Archer’s novel First Among Equals mentions the frigate and the ship has a very active veterans association. 

She is also remembered extensively in maritime art for her Falklands service.

David Lidd-HMS ‘Broadsword’ Rescuing Survivors from HMS ‘Coventry’, 25 May 1982.

HMS ‘Broadsword’ with HMS ‘Hermes’ by John Alan Hamilton via MoD (c) Mrs. B.G.S. Hamilton (widow); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Renamed “Greenhalgh” in honor of Brazilan naval hero João Guilherme Greenhalgh, fragata Greenhalgh (F 46) continued to deliver another quarter-century of service in the South Atlantic, familiar stomping grounds for the warship. The name had previously been used for a British-built torpedo boat in the 1900s as well as a Marcílio Dias-class destroyer that operated against the Germans in WWII. 

Brazilian frigate Greenhalgh F-46, former HMS Broadsword of Falklands fame

Tomcat Wing vs Hornet Wing, 30 Years Ago Today

The Forrestal-class aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV-62) (top), and USS Midway (CV-41) moored beside each other Naval Station, Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, 23 August 1991. Midway was en route from Naval Station, Yokosuka to California, where she was decommissioned the following April, while Independence traveled to Japan to take over as the U.S. Navy’s forward-based aircraft carrier.

Click to big up 2830×1850. Photo by PH Omar Hasan, U.S. Navy. National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6478213

On the occasion of the homeport swap between the two carriers, the above meeting gives a good view of their respective but very different air wings.

Although roughly similar in overall size (for Indy, compared to for Midway), the older carrier was designed in the age of the famed “Sunday Punch” of a carrier wing made up of some 108 prop-driven aircraft– F6F Hellcats, TBM Avengers, and SBD Dauntless dive-bombers, or equivalents. With that, the hangar deck height was a couple feet lower than that of the Forrestal class and later supercarriers. This meant that the hangar was too short to allow for all maintenance tasks (primarily removal of ejection seats) for such tall birds as the F-14 Tomcat and S-3 Viking.

And it is reflected on the decks of the two flattops, with Indy’s crowded by at least 16 visible Tomcats, with their wings swept closed, as well as a trio of Vikings.

Meanwhile, Midway’s mass of F-18s– she carried three squadrons at the time rather than the traditional two and two more of Tomcats for other carriers not in her class– is in full display with no less than 30 early model Hornets on deck along with five A-6E Intruders and two EA-6B Prowlers. To make up for the lack of ASW aircraft, they could carry more SH-3H Sea Kings. She also carried an extra squadron of Intruders to make up for the increased CAP taskings on the F-18s. 

For the record, Midway’s last carrier air wing consisted of:

Compared to Indy’s CVW-14:

The more you know…

Germany’s Last ‘Cruiser’

A series of at least 84 cruisers of all sorts served first the Kaiserliche Marine, then the interbellum Reichsmarine, and finally, the WWII-era Kaiserliche Marine, starting with the protected cruiser SMS Irene’s circa 1886 keel laying to the handover of the famed but worn-out heavy cruiser KMS Prinz Eugen in May 1945.

And you would think that the book of Teutonic cruisers closed with the sinking of Prinz Eugen in December 1946 off Kwajalein Atoll, and the scrapping of the Soviet light cruiser Admiral Makarov (ex-KMS Nurnberg) in 1960.

Soviet light cruiser Admiral Makarov, formerly Nurnberg of Germany’s Kriegsmarine, in Tallinn for Navy Day, 1946 – Rahvusarhiiv

But then again, there was one more.

The schulschiff, or schoolship, Deutschland (A59) was commonly referred to by West Germany’s Bundesmarine as a “training cruiser” throughout her 24-year career.

Just 5,700-tons at the max, she wasn’t much of a “cruiser” when compared to contemporary Atomic-era designs (she was ordered in 1958). The 453-foot vessel had no armor, was capable of just 22 knots at maximum speed, and her main battery consisted of four 4″/55cal guns, making her more of a very slow gun-armed destroyer.

To be fair, the French at the same time fielded a lightly armed “training cruiser,” Jeanne d’Arc. She served from 1964 to 2010

Nonetheless, FGS Deutschland was the fifth “Deutschland” in 80 years of German naval history, following in the footsteps of an ironclad, a pre-dreadnought-era battlewagon, and a well-known “pocket battleship.”

Unlike her forerunners, FGS Deutschland was a happy ship, carrying out three-month training cruises each summer for up to 250 naval cadets and chief petty officers.

Check out this great 10-minute Cold War German film, covering the 2.5-month “School at Sea” during her 1984 cruise.

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