Category Archives: cold war

Warship Wednesday, July 28, 2021: What a Loony Idea

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, July 28, 2021: What a Loony Idea

National Archives Photo 80-G-416714

Here we see, some 73 years ago this month, an LTV-N-2 guided missile going dramatically to pieces over the Balao-class guided-missile submarine USS Cusk (SSG-348), while off Point Mugu, California.

Let’s get another view of that, from the same day.

NH 72684

Of the July 7 Loon explosion, from her Veterans’ group:

Horrified onlookers saw the boat disappear beneath a towering fireball and smoke cloud. “Everyone thought the Cusk had sunk,” remembers Captain Pat Murphy, USN (ret.) another Loon-era veteran. “But the Cusk’s captain [Fred Berry] saw what happened through the periscope and saw that there was no hull rupture. Well, he submerged. They had all the water they needed to put out the fire.” The Cusk survived with minor damage.

We’ll get on to the rest of the story of Cusk, but first, we should probably talk about the German rocket-carrying submarines of WWII.

Gruppe Seewolf and Operation Teardrop

The concept of strapping a primitive vengeance weapon rockets to a U-boat, then allowing it to creep across the Atlantic to get within range of American ports at, say New York or Boston, was attractive to the cropped mustachioed Austrian corporal and was even trialed. In 1942, U-511*, an advanced IXC type, test-fired a variety of rockets in the Baltic.

As detailed by Uboat.net:

A rack for six 30 cm rockets was installed and extensive tests carried out. These concluded with the successful launch of rockets from a depth of 12m (40ft). These amazing tests failed to convince Donitz’s staff of the merit of this innovatory weapon system, and it was not put into service. The rocket in question, the 30cm Wurfkörper 42 Spreng, was not advanced enough to target ships, but it might have been used to bombard shore installations such as oil refineries in the Caribbean. This idea was developed in late 1944 with a proposal for Type XXI electro boats to tow V-2 launchers which would attack shore bases. Neither the launchers nor the type XXI boats became available before the war ended.

*Interesting, but beyond the scope of today’s post, U-511 was handed over to Japan on 16 September 1943 at Kure as a goodwill donation from Germany to the Emperor and became Japanese submarine RO-500, ultimately handed over to the USN and scuttled in 1946.

Fast forward to September 1944 and, although there was no functional German rocket submarine afloat, Abwehr agent Leutnant Oskar Mantel, who was to be landed on the East Coast near NYC to act as a paymaster for German spy rings, instead fell into the hands of the FBI after his U-boat was sunk off the coast of Maine. Spilling his guts, Mantel told tall tales of Vergeltungswaffen-equipped U-boats headed to Amerika. This was later backed up by Abwehr agents William Curtis Colepaugh and Eric Gimpel, the last agents Germany attempted to land in the United States, who were captured in late 1944.

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.

Mark Felton on the German program if you want a deeper dive:

Enter Cusk

The U.S. Navy had, simultaneously with the Germans, attempted to use rockets from submarines in WWII, having mounted and semi-successfully fired a ripple of Mk 10 5-inch unguided rockets from the surfaced Gato-class submarine USS Barb (SS-220) on 22 June 1944, against the Japanese coastal town of Shari from a range of 5,250 yards.

As detailed by DANFS:

She fired 12 rockets that exploded in the town center causing damage but no fires. The Japanese believed that an air raid was in progress and activated air search radar and turned searchlights to the sky while Barb retired safely seaward.

Cusk, meanwhile, was too late for the war. Launched 76 years ago today– 28 July 1945– by Electric Boat Co., Groton, Connecticut, she only commissioned 5 February 1946. Following a Caribbean shakedown, she reported for duty at her planned homeport at San Diego on 6 June to join Submarine Division Fifty-One.

First Publicity Photo USS Cusk 1946. Note her late war “gunboat submarine” layout of two 5″/25cal deck guns and two 40mm singles on her sail. She could also mount two .50 cal BMGs which were kept below deck. 

Crew of USS CUSK (SS-348) Group portrait, photographed by O.W. Waterman at San Diego, about 1946.
Courtesy of Ted Stone, New York. NH 64048

As VE-Day faded to the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, the U.S. was eager to update its technology in the new Atomic era, borrowing where it could from captured German trade secrets to help stay a few steps away from the Russkis. This included snorkel and sonar tricks borrowed from Donitz’s boys, and modified V-1 rockets, cloned by Republic-Ford as the JB-2 (Jet Bomb no 2), popularly just called the Loon. While the Army Air Force soon launched hundreds of these American buzz bombs from ramps near Destin and Santa Rosa Island in West Florida, the Navy was eager to try out a few of their own.

Outfitted with an AN/ANP-33 radar transponder (instead of the V-1’s simple gyrocompass autopilot control) the Navy’s version of the JB-2, of which 399 were ultimately produced, could receive course corrections while in flight via a ship-or trailer-borne microwave radar. The Navy’s model of the Loon was the LTV-N-2 (Launch Test Vehicle, Navy 2) and the idea was that it could be fired from ramps located either on surface ships or ashore. However, instead of either of those, the first test platform was to be our humble little fleet boat.

With Cusk retrofitted at Mare Island with an airtight missile hangar and launch ramp behind her sail, it was thought she could carry and launch a Loon while at sea. As the ramjet engine had no possible underwater launch capability, the idea was that the submarine would battle surface, unpack the missile from the hangar, make it ready to fire by attaching wings and four JATO rockets, and fire it from the surface with support from the sub’s SV-1 type radar for the first 50 miles or so– no speedy task. Early tests found that it took an hour to accomplish. As Loon could carry a 2,200-pound warhead of conventional explosives (the V-1 only carried 1,870-pounds) to a target approximately 160 miles away, though, it was deemed worth the risk.

USS CUSK (SSG-348) With an LTV “Loon” on launcher and deck hangar during operations off Point Mugu, California, 20 January 1948. 80-G-410665

The arrangement of Cusk’s hangar and launch rail, from a Point Magu report on the Loon.

On 12 February 1947, Cusk made the Navy’s first missile launch from a submarine, ushering in the era of today’s Harpoon, Tomahawk, and Trident-equipped attack boats and boomers. It was not a success. 

USS CUSK (SS-348) First launching of a Loon missile, off Point Mugu, California. Wed, Feb 12, 1947. The missile reportedly traveled 6,000 yards and then crashed. NH 72680

Of course, there were dramatic incidents such as the one shown at the top of this post– Loon had a failure rate of about 45 percent as a whole and it would not be until Cusk’s fifth launch that the missile was considered fully successful– other launches would be more productive. To note her new mission, Cusk was designated Submarine, Guided Missile (SSG) 348, on 20 January 1948.

Launch of a Loon missile from USS CUSK (SSG-348), off Point Mugu, California. Sun, Sep 12, 1948. NH 72688

Same as above, NH 72689

Same as above, NH 72690

Loon Derby launch #586 (SL-160) from USS Cusk (SSG-348), Naval Air Facility, Point Mugu, California, June 29, 1949. 80-G-405931

One other fleet boat, the Balao-class USS Carbonero (SS-337), would join Cusk as a Loon launcher in a series of tests conducted between 1947 and 1952, demonstrating that the Germans, if they had pushed just a little harder or had an extra year or two worth of time, could have produced an Unterseeboot-carried vengeance weapon. The sisters would participate in a fleet operation that would herald today’s missile boats.

As detailed in a scholarly work on the Loon by Gary Francis Quigg:

A November 1949 Navy exercise, off Hawaii, provided convincing evidence. Loon missiles fired from the submarines USS Cusk and USS Carbonero managed to escape unharmed through a gauntlet of anti-aircraft fire from thirty-five surface vessels and elude the machine guns of fighter aircraft from carriers USS Valley Forge and USS Boxer.

And Cusk would set a few records that today sound like footnotes but for the time were incredible. Quigg:

In the most successful transfer of radio guidance control of a missile from ship to shore on March 22, 1950, the USS Cusk launched a Loon just off Point Mugu. The Cusk guided the missile for twenty-five miles before surrendering radio control to a station on San Nicolas Island. Navy technicians on the island guided the missile another twenty-five miles to a splashdown in the Pacific just over a thousand feet from the center of the target. On May 3, the Cusk set a new distance record for the Loon. Diving to periscope depth immediately after the launch, the submarine controlled the missile and tracked its position for 105 nautical miles.

In all, the Navy would launch 46 Loon missiles from shore launchers at Point Mugu, 38 from our two submarines, and three from the seaplane tender USS Norton Sound. Coupled with launches made elsewhere in the Pacific, Cusk would fire at least 77 Loons in her short career, with the last taking to the air on 6 November 1952.

However, the twin Loon boats would be left behind by technology, the program canceled in 1953– although 25 missiles had been married up to warheads and made available just in case they were needed for use in Korean War. Carbonero was redesignated an Auxiliary Submarine (AGSS-337) in 1949 and both subs would soon chop to help develop the follow-on SSM-N-8A Regulus missile program, which would successfully launch a 400-mile range missile in 1953. Meanwhile, Cusk would continue to be a testbed platform for missile guidance equipment but would lose her “SSG” designation in 1954 as she carried no missiles of her own.

Just nine years to the day after Pearl Harbor: USS Cusk (SSG-348) off the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California, 7 December 1950. She has her missile hangar but no Loon present. Courtesy of Jack Howland, 1980. NH 90848

USS CUSK (SS-348), same location and date as above, NH 90846

In 1954, Cusk would receive a basic “Fleet Snorkel” GUPPY conversion at Mare Island and leave her “hangar” and ramp behind, and pick up a new, more streamlined fairweather while still maintaining her advanced missile avionics gear. Her AN/BPQ-1 (XN-1) Regulus missile guidance equipment was only finally removed in 1960.

USS CUSK (SS-348) Off the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, California, circa 1954, following SCB 47B conversion to a “Fleet-Snorkel” submarine. NH 90849

This unusual view shows 11 vessels of Submarine Squadron Five (nine submarines in a variety of GUPPY configurations, a submarine rescue vessel, and a submarine tender) moored side by side for a recent change of command ceremony at San Diego, California. CPT Eugene B. “Lucky” Fluckey, USN, MOH, relieved CPT Francis B. Scanland, USN, as Commander, SUBRON5 on August 1, 1955. Nested alongside the submarine tender USS Nereus (AS 17) are the Regulus missile boat USS Tunny (SSG 282), USS Cusk (SS 348), USS Carbonero (SS 337), USS Tilefish (SS 307), USS Spinax (SS 489), USS Rock (SS 274), USS Remora (SS 487), USS Catfish (SS 339), and USS Volador (SS 490), and the submarine rescue vessel, USS Florikan (ASR 9). USN photo 681920

Cusk (SSG-348) and Remora (SS-487) in 1963. What might be an SSK, Bashaw (SSK-241), Bluegill (SSK-242), or Bream (SSK-243)) is bringing up the rear. Photo i.d. courtesy of John Hummel, USN (Retired).
USN photo courtesy of flickr.com via Stephen Gower, through Navsource. 

Her homeport shifted to Pearl Harbor, Cusk completed five lengthy Westpac cruises (1958, during which she would participate in Special operations near Soviet ICBM range in Vladivostok; 1960; 1962, where she would serve as the Subplot 7 Mining platform, 1963, where she would spend two months in North Korean water before her and sister ship USS Carbonero were rewarded with a show-the-flag visit to French Polynesia; and 1964-65) as a standard diesel-electric fleet boat in a “smooth” condition. During her 1962 cruise, Cusk made a month-long patrol in the tense South China Sea and spent another month in Yokosuka and Sasebo, serving as a sonar training target for Japanese destroyers and aircraft. Her 64-65 Westpac would include significant time on Yankee Station as an ASW asset, and three close-in patrols of the North Vietnamese coast via the Gulf of Tonkin.

Again, moving homeports, this time to San Diego, in 1966, Cusk would go on to complete two further Westpac cruises in 1967 and 1969, with both spending time in the Vietnam area of operations. On her last tour, she would be submerged on patrol for 43 days in the South China Sea, conducting special operations in Communist Chinese waters, of which her Veteran’s group recalls, “It was an adventurous time that included on one occasion, accidentally straying into an abandoned minefield. Later during the reconnaissance patrol, the Cusk was detected and attacked by unfriendly forces.”

Her time with the Navy coming to an end, Cusk sailed to Hunter’s Point Shipyard, was Auxiliary Research Submarine (AGSS-348) on 30 June 1969, and “she was gutted of virtually all of her equipment by her final crew. Everything that would fit through a hatch was lifted out, stacked on pallets on the pier, and hauled away for scrap.”

Following that, she was decommissioned on September 24, 1969, and the hulk was sold 26 June 1972, to Zidell Exploration, Inc. of Portland, Oregon, for $112,013.

Besides her 77 Loons and title as the world’s first guided-missile submarine, Cusk stood by to deliver said missiles during Korea, was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Award (1964) and four Vietnam Service Awards (1965, 1967, 1968, and 1969) in addition to holding down numerous Battle Efficiency “E” awards.

Epilogue

A former Navy-owned Loon was donated to the Smithsonian in 1965, 12 years after the program shuttered, and is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

One-half right side view of Loon Missile as displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia

Loon launches from the Cusk were featured in an episode of Time for Defense (a radio program broadcast nationally on the ABC network), and in the May 1950 issue of Popular Science along with the January 1953 issue of Parade, where she graced the cover.

On Christmas weekend 1950, Columbia Pictures released the Glenn Ford submarine vehicle The Flying Missile, which features the actor as the skipper of the fictionalized SSG USS Bluefin, including footage of our very own USS Cusk, although the Loon program was on its last legs before the film hit cinemas.

 

There is a Cusk Veteran’s group, that was very active from 1990 through 2019.

 

Specs:

Cusk’s rapidly shifting profile from 1946 to 1947, to 1954, as told by Submarine Sighting Guide Spec VA52.A92 ONI 31SS Rev.1.

(1946)
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 (1946 fit)
Sonar: WFA projector, JP-1 hydrophone (1946 fit)
Armament:
(1946)
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max (typically MK V), or up to 40 mines
2 x 5″/25 deck guns (wet mounts)
2 x 40mm guns (wet mounts)
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)
(1947, as SSG)
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max or up to 40 mines
1 Loon surface-to-surface missile
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)
(1954, as Fleet Snorkel SS)
6 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, forward, 18 torpedoes (typically MK 14), or up to 30 mines.
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)

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Paging Robert German, Mr. German…

The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, in conjunction with the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, Wyoming, is trying to make contact with a former track crewman, for historical purposes:

Mr. Robert German, the National Museum of Military Vehicles found your Dog Tags in the M551 Sheridan you drove at the National Training Center. It looks as if you may have been on the Dragon Team, Operations Group, National Training Center The museum curator would like to speak with you and reunite you with your items. Please contact us!

The Sheridan, as we have discussed in previous posts, the much-maligned but very niche M551 Sheridan light tank err, “Airborne Assault Vehicle” entered service in 1967. The 15-ton tracked vehicle could be penetrated by 12.7mm (.50 cal) gunfire, but in theory, could zap an enemy T-34/55 with its innovative M81E1 Rifled 152 mm Gun/ Shillelagh missile launcher. It provided a lot more punch than a jeep with a recoilless rifle, in other words. 

XM551 Sheridan prototype, October 1963 (Rock Island Arsenal Museum) 

Sheridan being LAPES’d out of the back of a C-130

The 82nd Airborne’s 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor could air-deliver 50~ Sheridans anywhere in the world in 24 hours(ish)– provided they had enough lead time!– and did so in Panama in 1989 and Desert Storm in 1990.

Meant to be replaced in airborne service with the XM8 Buford Armored Gun System, which never got off the ground (see what I did there?) the 82nd retired their aging Sheridans in 1997 but the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the NTC kept a few around for use as viz-modded OPFOR vehicles until 2004.

“M551 Sheridan light tanks cross the desert during an Opposing Forces exercise at the National Training Center. The tanks have visual modifications designed to make it resemble Soviet armor.” (NARA 170912-A-VT981-0001)

One of these things is not like the Others

Two Forrestal-class supercarriers, (listed from bottom to top) USS Independence (CVA-62), and USS Saratoga (CVA-60), steaming alongside the Essex-class fleet carrier USS Intrepid (CVA-11). Underway in 1961, with crewmen paraded on deck in their whites to spell out commemorating the (then) 50th Birthday of Naval Aviation (8 May 1911).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97716

While Indy and Sara were laid down in 1954 and 1952, respectively– making them just a couple years past shakedown when this image was snapped– the 80,000-ton, 1,070-foot leviathans were in a whole different league than the Fighting I who had joined the fleet just a decade prior to their keel laying.

Nonetheless, in a real sense of irony, the 40,000-ton, 872-foot Intrepid, who earned five battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation during World War II, and a further three battle stars for Vietnam service has outlived all of the Forrestals, berthed at Pier 86 on the Hudson River in New York City since 1982.

Further, she is still serving today in addition to her museum operations, hosting military events in the NYC area, and standing ready, as needed, for use as an Emergency Operations Center for the Big Apple, complete with a “secure space” installed in 2006 for FEMA and the like. It wouldn’t be the first time. Following Sept. 11th, she was home to the FBI’s response in the city for five weeks.

Interestingly, the Intrepid Museum recently announced the acquisition of a new aircraft to its collection, a Douglas F4D-1/F-6A Skyray. The exact aircraft, (BuNo 134836) acquired from the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn., previously flew from Intrepid in 1961– and is likely in the above image. The Skyray will be added to the Museum’s flight deck on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, becoming the 28th plane in the Museum’s aircraft collection.

How Many Can You ID?

Check out this layout of Warsaw Pact and WWII Allied small arms captured by U.S. Marines of the 22nd MAU from Cuban stores of the Grenadan People’s Revolutionary Army in that briefly-Marxist British Commonwealth nation in October 1983:

Note the Marine in the top left corner in ERDL camo with a slung M16A1, M1 helmet, smoke grenade, and early PASGIT kevlar vest. Notably, the Army’s 82nd Airborne and Ranger units in the same op had kevlar helmets. DOD Photo 330-CFD-DN-ST-85-0202 by PH2 D. Wujcik, USN, via the National Archives. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6395935

Give up?

Official caption: Seized weapons on display are: (clockwise from the back) Soviet-made 82 mm M-36 mortars, 5 Soviet 7.62 mm PK general-purpose machine guns, two Bren light machine guns, 7.62 mm ammunition, two AK-47 assault rifles, an RPG-2 portable rocket launcher, a 7.62 mm Mosin-Nagant rifle, a Czechoslovakian made Model-52 7.62 mm rifle and a US-made .45 cal. M-3A1 submarine gun

Brezhnev’s Big 7

U.S. Army Training Aid, GTA 30-3-23, September 1981, official caption: “A composite view of Soviet combat equipment known as the Big 7.’ Shown are: 1. A ZSU-23/4 armored anti-aircraft weapon, 2. A T-72 tank, 3. An SA-8 Gecko surface-to-air missile system mounted on a three-axle amphibious vehicle, 4. A Mi-24 HIND-D gunship with one nose machine gun and four anti-tank missiles, 5. A BMP amphibious armored infantry combat vehicle with a 73mm smoothbore gun and an anti-tank missile, 6. An M-1974 122mm self-propelled gun, 7. An M-1973 152mm self-propelled gun.”

DOD Graphic DAST8512646 via the National Archives

Commonly seen at the time in Red Square May Day parades and grainy intel photos from along the Iron Curtain and in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, these were all top of the line at the time the training aid was circulated and are still encountered around the world today, making this 40-year-old poster still kinda relevant. 

Warship Wednesday, July 7, 2021: Chatham’s Last Cruiser

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, July 7, 2021: Chatham’s Last Cruiser

Photograph A 8166, taken by LT. EA Zimmerman, from the collections of the Imperial War Museums

Here we see Dido-class AA cruiser HMS Euryalus (42) elevate her forward 5.25-inch guns to shell the Italian Fleet while bound for Malta from Alexandria on 22 March 1942 during what would become known as the Second Battle of Sirte. Her sister ship, HMS Cleopatra (33), is cutting across her bow making smoke. While the Dido class didn’t do exceptionally well in their intended role, they did see lots of action, and Euryalus outlasted them all in Royal Navy service.

The Didos were very light cruisers indeed, designed in 1936 to weigh just 5,600 tons standard displacement, although this would later swell during wartime service to nearly 8,000. Some 512 feet long, they were smaller than a modern destroyer but, on a powerplant of four Admiralty 3-drum boilers and four Parsons steam turbines, each with their own dedicated shaft, they could break 32.5 knots on 62,000 shp. They were intended to be armed with 10 5.25″/50 (13.4 cm) QF Mark II DP guns in five twin mounts, three forward and two over the stern, although most of the class failed to carry this layout.

Bow 5.25″/50 turrets on HMS Hermoine as she enters Malta Harbor in September 1941. The muzzles of her third forward “Q” turret can just be seen above the crane at the upper left. She, along with Euryalus, Naiad, and Sirius, was the only Didos that completed with the full battery of five twin 5.25-inch mounts, largely due to a shortage of such guns. IWM A 5772.

The Dido class had provision for up to 360 rounds for “A”, “B” and “Q” turrets, 320 rounds for “X” turret and 300 rounds for “Y” turret and a properly trained crew could rattle them off at 7-8 shots per minute per gun out to a range of 23,400 yards or a ceiling of 46,500 feet when used in the AAA role. The fact that one of these cruisers could burp 70-80 shells within a 60-second mad minute gave them a lot of potential if used properly. However, this didn’t play out in reality, at least when it came to swatting incoming aircraft.

As noted by Richard Worth in his Fleets of World War II, “Often referred to as AA cruisers, the 16 Dido type ships shot down a grand total of 15 enemy planes. The entirety of British cruiser-dom accounted for only 97 planes, while enemy planes accounted for 11 British cruisers.”

Nonetheless, Euryalus carried extensive secondary AAA batteries as well. Originally fitted with two quad .50-caliber Vickers guns, these were augmented with five single 20mm Oerlikons whose numbers were further expanded until the ship carried over a dozen in twin mounts by the end of the war. She was also completed with three quadruple 2 pdr 40mm MK VIII pom-pom guns on Mk.VII mountings.

WRNS visit cruiser Euryalus of the Mediterranean Fleet, 3 May 1942, Alexandria. A Wren with her bearded Supply Petty Officer escort on the pom-pom platform. IWM A 8830 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205142750

The Dido class was largely named after figures in ancient mythology with Euryalus carrying the moniker of the storied Augustan warrior of Jason and the Golden Fleece fame who, with his battle buddy Nisus, forfeited his skin for the sake of war booty. Our cruiser was the fifth such vessel to carry the name “Euryalus” in the Royal Navy since 1803, with past ships serving under Nelson, bombarding Ft. McHenry, serving as the ride for Prince Alfred and becoming immortalized at Gallipoli.

Laid down 21 October 1937 at the famous Royal Navy Dockyard in Chatham, which dated back to the mid-16th Century, Euryalus was the last cruiser completed by that facility. She commissioned 30 June 1941, roughly 80 years ago last week. At the time, just Britain and stood alone against the Germans and Italians, having only recently been joined by the Soviets due to the German invasion of Russia the week before.

British light cruiser HMS Euryalus at a buoy on completion. June 1941. IWM FL 5242

Two hard years in the Med

After a short shakedown, she was dispatched to the Med to join RADM Sir Philip Vian’s 15th Cruiser Squadron which was soon involved in a series of close convoy escorts between Gibraltar and Alexandria to increasingly besieged Malta.

HMS Euryalus (right) and HMS Galatea, with guns raised for firing while on patrol in the Mediterranean. 14 December 1941

Besides convoy work, she went to sea with the fleet on a few occasions for bombardment raids against Derna and Rhodes.

British cruisers and destroyers en route to bombard Rhodes. 14 and 15 March 1942, onboard the cruiser HMS Euryalus in the eastern Mediterranean. Sunday morning service onboard HMS Euryalus under the 5.25″ guns on the quarterdeck. IWM A 8580 Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205142517

In March 1942, Euryalus joined a covering group under Sir Philip to include four other light cruisers and 18 destroyers to protect convoy MW10 out of Alexandria, bound for Malta. The force was fresh out of battleships as HMS Queen Elizabeth and Valiant had just been sidelined after Italian frogmen attacks and HMS Barham was sunk by a U-boat the previous November.

The afternoon following the departure from Alexandria, a heavy Italian force that included the battleship Littorio (45,000t, 9×15″/50 guns) and heavy cruisers Gorizia (14,000t, 8×8″/53) and Trento (13,000t, 8×5″/50), which far outgunned anything the British had, made contact with the British in the Gulf of Sidra. Cutting the cargo ships to the South, Sir Philip ordered smoke and turned to charge the Italians.

Over the next five hours, an artillery and torpedo duel between the two squadrons swirled.

Six forward 5.25-inch guns of HMS Euryalus ready to fire on the enemy on 22 March 1942 at an extreme elevation. Facing the camera is Captain Eric W Bush, DSO, DSC, RN. IWM A 8172 (Zimmerman) Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205142147

As dusk set Second Battle of Sirte, the Italians had fired some 1,511 shells, almost all from Littorio and her companion cruisers, while the British, who were able to get their destroyers close enough to the action to lend their guns, were able to get off some 2,850 shells and at least 38 torpedoes. Damage to each fleet was slight but could have been much worse.

An ammunition supply party bringing up shells for the 5.25-inch guns, during a lull in the action, onboard HMS Euryalus, on convoy duty in the eastern Mediterranean. Both the SAP and HE variants of the shell weighed some 80-pounds. Photo likely March 1942. IWM A 11908

During the fight, Euryalus was straddled by 15-inch shells from Littorio— who roared 181 shells from her main battery towards the smoke-shrouded British warships– on two different occasions and was damaged by splinters. Importantly, the Italian surface fleet never got within range of the convoy itself.

The next convoy to Malta, Operation Vigorous, was less than successful and, running short of ammo after fighting determined waves of Axis air attacks, had to turn around 600 miles short of the battered island.

The guns of HMS Euryalus open on incoming enemy dive bombers during Operation Vigorous in the Mediterranean, 12th -16th June 1942. Note the 20mm Oerlikon at work and the flash gear on the gunner.

Euryalus continued in her tasks, running convoy support in the Eastern Med, shelling Axis positions– for instance plastering Mersa Matruh in July along with sister ship HMS Dido and a quartet of destroyers– and just generally trying to remain afloat.

Two officers of HMS Euryalus, with Commander Celal Orbay the nephew of the Turkish Ambassador in London. 11-12 August 1942. Note the high-angle 5.25-inch mounts and stack of ready life rafts. IWM A 11902 Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145401

HMS Euryalus passing an Egyptian mine spotting post on the Suez Canal, 27 October 1942. IWM A 13496 Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205146792

8th Army Victory Helps Malta- Convoys, Protected from Libyan Air Bases, Bring Enough Supplies for Months. 4 December 1942, in the Central Mediterranean, Aboard HMS Euryalus. Note the details of the cruiser’s bridge and her forward 5-inch mounts. IWM A 13677 (Zimmerman)

Same official caption as above, taken through the silhouette of a 20mm Oerlikon. A few singles were fitted in late 1941 and by the end of the war, she carried six twin mounts of the same. IWM A 13680 (Zimmerman)

In January 1943, with the tide turning against the Axis in the Med, HMS Euryalus, sister HMS Cleopatra and four destroyers formed Force K, shelling the withdrawal of the German-Italian forces in Libya.

In the same vein, she was there for the Allied offensive, joining the Husky landings in Sicily that July where she supported the 1st British Infantry division’s seizure of the fortress island of Pantelleria (Operation Corkscrew).

Then came the Avalanche landings at Salerno in September where Euryalus, operating with Sir Philip’s Task Force 88, screened the British carrier group. Subjected to the hell of the Luftwaffe’s radio-controlled bombs off that shore, Euryalus stood by the heavily damaged battleship HMS Warspite (03) after she was hit by a Fritz X on 15 September. A week later, she embarked C-in-C Mediterranean, Sir Andrew Cunningham, for passage to Taranto for meeting with Italians to arrange disposal of Italian Fleet.

By the end of the month, with Italy sort of knocked out of the war, Euryalus was withdrawn to Clyde for a much-needed refit, having spent 24 months in the middle of some of the worst combat the Mediterranean Theatre had to offer.

Norwegian vacation

Spending eight months in the yard, she missed out on D-Day but emerged in late June 1944 much modified. She landed her Q mount, reducing her main armament to eight 5.25″/50s, and picked up additional 20mm guns in trade. The cruiser was also outfitted as an escort carrier squadron flagship and given an aircraft direction room, swapping out her radar for more advanced models.

HMS Euryalus post her 1943-44 refit. Note pom-pom in place of Q turret and extensive radar and fire control suite. 

After shakedown and repairs due to a galley fire, in October she joined a task force made up of the escort carriers HMS Trumpeter and HMS Fencer along with a half dozen destroyers to mine the Aarmumsund Leads off Norway as part of Operation Lucidas. She would head to Norway again the following month, shepherding the jeep carrier HMS Pursuer to attack enemy shipping off Trondheim.

Then, with the formation of the British Pacific Fleet, her number came up to switch from the Barents Sea to the Far East.

To Tokyo

In mid-December, Euryalus left Liverpool as an escort to MV Rimutaka, a steamer with “The Unknown Soldier,” Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (brother of both Edward VIII and George VI), aboard, who was headed to Australia to take up his appointment as Governor-General. Making the Pacific by way of the Suez in mid-January, our cruiser left Prince Henry’s service and was soon tagging along with British armored carriers to raid Japanese occupied oil fields in Dutch Sumatra.

By March, she joined RN TF 57, which was detached to serve with the U.S. Fifth Fleet and arrived at Ulithi to ship out in the American-British carrier force to plaster the Japanese Sakishima-Gunto islands group in the lead up to the Iwo Jima operation.

April saw the U.S./UK group running amok off Formosa while May saw operations in the Philippines.

Task Force 57 at anchor, HMS Formidable (foreground) and HMS Indomitable with 4th Cruiser Squadron- (L-to-R) Gambia, Uganda, and Euryalus, San Pedro Bay, Leyte, April 1945

June saw the cruiser return to Australia to refit before shipping out again with TF57/37 for operations attacking the Japanese home islands from the Tokyo-Yokohama area to Northern Honshu and Hokkaido.

HMS Formidable and HMS Euryalus (center) being oiled from a tanker of the British Pacific Fleet Train. HMS Euryalus is transferring stores to HM destroyer Undaunted (right). July 1945. IWM A 30072 Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161262

Upon the Japanese signal to surrender on 15 August, Euryalus chopped back to RN control from the Americans and was assigned to British Commonwealth Task Group 111.2 which liberated Hong Kong on 29 August, sailing into the harbor alongside the cruiser HMS Swiftsure and the Canadian armed transport HMCS Prince Robert.

Aerial view of HMS Euryalus in the Pacific in 1945, note the sunray and wingtip

HMCS Prince Robert arrives at the Kowloon docks in Hong Kong, August 1945. Members of the ship’s crew, most in tropical uniforms, crowd the ship’s rails, while an armed Canadian sailor can be seen in the foreground. (RCN Photo)

Shore parties from Prince Robert along with those from Euryalus and Swiftsure helped disarm Japanese military personnel, liberate survivors from Japanese prisoner of war camps, and maintain order ashore. Curiously, the rating in the front seems to be armed with a circa 1890s Lee-Metford .303 rifle (RCN Photo)

Euryalus would remain in Pacific waters for over a year past VJ Day, policing the region for British interests and supervising both the repatriation of Japanese POWs and the thorny reoccupation of British (as well as Dutch and French) overseas possessions. The cruiser only returned to the British Isles in February 1947.

Her Pacific deployment lasted for 792 days, 502 of which were spent underway.

Post War

Jane’s 1946 entry for the Dido class. Note, the publication separated the ships of the Bellona sub-class (“improved Didos”) into a separate listing as they carried eight 4.5-inch guns rather than the 8-to-10 5.5s of the class standard.

Six of the 16 Didos never made it to see peacetime service: HMS Bonaventure (31) was sunk by the Italian submarine Ambra off Crete in 1941. HMS Naiad (93) was likewise sent to the bottom by the German submarine U-565 off the Egyptian coast while another U-boat, U-205, sank HMS Hermione (74) in the summer of 1942. HMS Charybdis (88), meanwhile, was sunk by German torpedo boats Т23 and Т27 while during a confused night action in the English Channel in October 1943. HMS Spartan (95) was sunk by a German Hs 293 gliding bomb launched from a Do 217 bomber off Anzio in January 1944. HMS Scylla (98) was badly damaged by a mine in June 1944 and was never repaired.

Some of the rest were immediately sent to mothballs including HMS Argonaut (61), who had been seriously damaged by two Italian torpedoes and had undergone a seven-month rebuild in America that didn’t seem to be entirely successful. She would eventually be stricken in 1953.

Others went overseas. Smallish cruisers that could still give a lot of prestige to growing Commonwealth navies, several saw a second career well into the Cold War. Improved-Didos HMS Bellona (63) and HMS Black Prince (81) were put at the disposal of the Royal New Zealand Navy for a decade with simplified armament until they were returned and scrapped. HMS Royalist (89) likewise served with the Kiwis until 1966 then promptly sank on her way to the scrappers. HMS Diadem (84) went to Pakistan in 1956 as PNS Babur, after an extensive modernization, and remained in service there into the 1980s, somehow dodging Soviet Styx missiles from Indian Osa-class attack boats in the 1971 war between those two countries.

HMS Diadem (84)/PNS Babur’s listing in the 1973 Janes. At the time she was surely one of the last all-gun cruisers carrying a battery of anti-surface straight running torpedo tubes in the world!

Just four Didos continued with the Royal Navy past 1948, going on to pick up “C” pennant numbers: HMS Phoebe (C43), HMS Cleopatra (C33), HMS Sirius (C82), and Euryalus (C42). Of those, our cruiser was the last ship on the Admiralty’s active list, serving primarily on the South Atlantic station, in the Med, and in the Persian Gulf after a lengthy postwar modernization at Rosyth in 1947–48.

HMS Euryalus leaving Grand Harbour in C 1950.

HMS Euryalus leaving Grand Harbour in C 1952 note pom-pom in place of Q turret and extensive awnings, the latter a sure sign of peacetime duty 

HMS EURYALUS Malta 1951

HMS Euryalus band marching in Port Said 1952

HMS Euryalus in the 1950s, apparently identified by it being the sole Dido with Type 279 radar

Mothballs Devonport mid-1950s Fairmile D MTBs HMS Howe HMS Belfast and Dido class light cruiser, possibly HMS Euryalus

Still, the RN was cash strapped and, after the great drawdown following the Korean War from “East of Suez” operations, Euryalus was placed out of commission on 19 September 1954, having just served 13 years. She was subsequently sold to BISCO in 1958 and towed to the breakers.

Epilogue

The historic vessel is remembered in numerous works of maritime art.

Just a few years after our cruiser was sent to the scrappers, the Royal Navy commissioned the sixth and (as of 2021) final HMS Euryalus, a Leander-class frigate that gave over 25 years of hard service during the Cold War and was sold for dismantling in 1990.

Specs:

HMS Euryalus, circa 1942, via On the Slipway https://ontheslipway.com/gallery-euryalus/


Displacement: Standard: 5,600 tons; Full load: 7,600 tons
Length 512 ft overall
Beam 50 ft 6 in
Draught 14 ft
Machinery: Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers, Four Parsons steam turbines, Four shafts, 62,000 shp
Speed: 32.25 knots
Range: 1,100 tons fuel oil; 1,500 mi at 30 kn; 4,240 miles at 16 knots
Complement: 480 (designed) to 600 (wartime)
Sensors: Type 279 radar (1941), later replaced by Types 272, 281, 282, and 285 in 1943-44, later replaced by Types 279b, 277, and 293 by 1946.
Armor: belt: 76mm, bulkheads: 25mm, turrets: up to 13mm, deck: 51 – 25mm

Armament: (As-built)
5 x twin 5.25″/50 (13.4 cm) QF Mark II DP guns in A, B, Q, X, Y turrets
1 x 4-inch gun
2 x quad Vickers .50-caliber MGs
3 x quad 2-pdr 40mm/39cal MK VIII pom pom guns on Mk.VII mounts
2 x triple 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Armament: (1945)
4 x twin 5.25″/50 (13.4 cm) QF Mark II DP guns in A, B, X, Y turrets
15 x 20mm/70 Oerlikon Mk II/IV in six twin and two single mounts
3 x quad 2-pdr 40mm/39cal MK VIII pom pom guns on Mk.VII mounts
2 x triple 21 in torpedo tubes.

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Bicentennial Minuteman Corsairs

Last July 4th, we covered the NAVAIR Bicentennial schemes of 1976 so this is a good turnaround.

A pair of Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D Corsair IIs of the New Mexico and Colorado Air National Guard, respectively, flying over the Rocky Mountains. The “Sprit of 76” is 70-1048 of the 188th TFS, 150th TFG, NMANG out of Kirtland AFB. It was one of two Air National Guard A-7s that wore a special bicentennial scheme.

70-1048 served in the New Mexico Air Guard, first in the 188th and then in the 146th TFS under a more traditional scheme until it was transferred to AMARC in 1991 when the unit switched roles to become a refueling squadron. It was scrapped in 1997.

The second “Independence Day” bird was 72-0223 of the Louisiana ANG from the 75th TFS, 23rd TFW, at England AFB.

72-0223 went on to serve in the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia ANG and was sent to the boneyard at AMARC in 1991. It was scrapped in 1998.

And another 1976 holdover, since you came this far:

Sprite Underbelly

Here we see an unusual 1982 shot, not so much for its subject, but for the angle, a bottom view of an SH-2 Seasprite Mark 1 Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS I) helicopter in flight. Note the surface search radar, ASQ-81 Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD), and anti-submarine warfare torpedoes (Mk 44s?).

DOD photo 330-CFD-DN-SC-82-10553 via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6349820

The smallest of the Navy’s Cold War-era sub-busting helicopters, falling well behind the SH-3 Sea King and its replacement, the SH/MH-60 Hawk series, the Kaman Sea Sprite came about its name honestly. First introduced in 1962, only 184 were built for the U.S., with hoped-for export sales never really materializing.

The compact Sea Sprite, with a length of 38 feet, a rotor diameter of 44, and an empty weight of just 7,000 pounds, was small enough to operate from Knox1class destroyer escorts (later reclassed as frigates) and larger Hamilton-, Reliance– and Bear-class Coast Guard cutters in time of war, something the 15,000-pound, 65-foot SH-60 couldn’t pull off.

They even made stops on battleships when required. 

Crew members aboard the Iowa (BB-61) wait for a Helicopter Light Anti-Submarine Squadron 34 (HSL-34) SH-2F Seasprite helicopter to be secured before transporting a badly burned sailor injured during NATO exercise North Wedding 86. Official USN photo # DN-ST-87-00280, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

This meant that, even as the Sea Hawk was meeting widespread acclaim from the fleet, there was still a need for the smaller chopper. This led to the SH-2G Super Seasprite, an upgraded version of the original with the same footprint, in 1993. The Navy kept two squadrons of Super Seasprites (or Triple Ss) around in the reserve until 2001, by which time the last of the NRF Knoxes were all being put out to pasture and the Coast Guard was out of the ASW biz. A shame about the latter.

The SSS went on to serve much more extensively overseas and is still kicking with the Poles, Kiwis, Peruvians, and Egyptians.

The top aircraft, BuNo 147980, was an original Kaman HU2K-1/HU2K-1U later converted to the SH-2F standard. Used as a test helicopter at the factory from 1962-63, it eventually saw service with “every LAMPS squadron on the East Coast,” including HU-1/HC-1, HC-4/HSL-30, HSL-32, HSL-34, and HSL-36.

Loyal Wingman, 1974 Edition

Of course, you have probably seen this, the first successful mid-air refueling of an F-18 from an MQ-25 UAV in naval history, which occurred 4 June. The fact that this could eliminate tying down tactical aircraft as buddy stores refuelers is huge for the use of carrier air wing tactics. 

The current “Loyal Wingman” or “Airpower Teaming” concept– matching up high-performance UAVs with a manned aircraft in a single flight– is seen as revolutionary to the future of naval warfare, and it is, but keep in mind that it is not wholly unheard of/unseen in the past with more analog technology.

Check out this Naval Missile Center (NMC) Point Mugu Vought DF-8F Crusader drone controller (BuNo 145528, NMC-105) in-flight with its unmanned McDonnell QF-4B Phantom II NOLO (no on-board live operator) drone (BuNo 149466, NMC-41) in 1974.

Beautiful picture.

These QF-4s could often prove death-defying. 

Either way, interesting concept, then and now.

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