Category Archives: cold war

Codename Snake Eyes and Jungle Green

Royal Marines exercise “Codename Snake Eyes” circa 1960 documentary– in Color!— by the Central Office of Information for the Admiralty. A great way to spend a half-hour. 

The exercise involves a combined-arms amphibious attack on a fictitious Mediterranean island nation that looks suspiciously like Cyprus, complete with an airfield and radar station.

It is jolly good stuff, complete with pipe smoking, beards, Denison smocks, a wet predawn paradrop from an RAF Boxcar by SBS frogmen, Fleet Air Arm Vampires launched from an RN carrier conducting rocket attacks to soften things up, dory-landed (and Enfield/Sterling-armed!) Royal Marines from 45 Commando leaping ashore from LCVPs to complete a rock face free climb, then reinforced by Wessex helicopter-delivered 40 Commando (“choppers may be useful but they have no natural dignity”), finished off by LCM-landed 42 Commando (who finally have some FN FALs/L1A1s) on the third wave after NGFS from gun-armed cruisers.

And that’s just in the first 10 minutes!

Enjoy.

For a less varnished but no less fascinating look at Royal Marines at the sharp end, check out “Jungle Green,” a 1964 BBC documentary following an isolated 25-man long-range patrol/listening post of 40 Commando and their two Iban trackers some 50 miles deep in the bush in Borneo during the very Vietnam-ish Konfrontasi, the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation.

Warship Wednesday, August 4, 2021: The Grand Old Lady of the North

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, August 4, 2021: The Grand Old Lady of the North

USCG Photo, National Archives & Record # 26-G-5608

As today is the 231st birthday of the founding of what today is known as the U.S. Coast Guard, you knew this was coming! Here we see the floating football that is the Wind-class Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind (WAG/WAGB-282) mustering up all available power from her six engines to penetrate a pressure ridge in the Bearing Sea during the winter season, July 1953. Note her twin 5″/38 mount forward and her Hedgehog ASW system at the platform under the bridge. Pretty stout armament for an iceboat, but we’ll get into that.

How the “Winds” came to blow

When World War II started, the U.S. Navy was up to the proverbial frozen creek as far as icebreaking went. While some foreign powers (the Soviets) really liked the specialized ships, Uncle Sam did not share the same opinion. However, this soon changed in 1941 when the U.S., even before Pearl Harbor, accepted Greenland and Iceland to their list of protected areas. Now, tasked with having to keep the Nazis out of the frozen extreme North Atlantic/Arctic and the Japanese out of the equally chilly North Pac/Arctic region (anyone heard of the Aleutians?), the Navy needed ice-capable ships yesterday.

The old (read= broken down) 6,000-ton British-built Soviet icebreaker Krassin was studied in Bremerton Washington by the Navy and Coast Guard. Although dating back to the Tsar, she was still at the time the most powerful icebreaker in the world. After looking at this ship and the Swedish icebreaker Ymer, the U.S. began work on the Wind-class, the first U.S. ships designed and built specifically as icebreakers.

Set up with an extremely thick (over an inch and a half) steel hull, these ships could endure repeated ramming against hard pack ice. Just in case the hull did break, there were 15-inches of cork behind it, followed by a second inner hull. Now that is serious business. These ships were so hardy that one, USCGC Westwind (WAGB 281), almost 30 years after she joined the fleet, was heavily damaged by ice in the Antarctic’s Weddell Sea. About 120 feet of the port-side hull was gashed when brash ice forced the ship against a 100-foot sheer ice shelf. The gash was two to three feet wide and was six feet above the waterline. The crew patched the side, there were no injuries, and the breaker returned home under her own power.

At over 6,000-tons, these ships were bulky for their short, 269-foot hulls. They were also bathtub-shaped, with a 63-foot beam. For those following along at home, that’s a 1:4 length to beam ratio. Power came from a half-dozen mammoth Fairbanks-Morse 10-cylinder diesel engines that both gave the ship a lot of power on demand, but also an almost unmatched 32,000-mile range (not a misprint, that is 32-thousand). For an idea of how much that is, a Wind-class icebreaker could sail at an economical 11-knots from New York to Antarctica, and back, on the same load of diesel…twice.

A photo of USCGC Eastwind, circa 1944. Note how beamy these ships were. The twin 5-inch mounts on such a short hull make her seem extremely well-armed. USCG Photo

To help them break the ice, the ship had a complicated system of water ballasting, capable of moving hundreds of tons of water from one side of the ship to the other in seconds, which could rock the vessel from side to side in addition to her thick hull and powerful engines. A bow-mounted propeller helped chew up loose ice and pull the ship along if needed.

With a war being on, they just weren’t about murdering ice, but being able to take the fight to polar-bound Axis ships and weather detachments as well. For this, they were given a pair of twin 5″/38 turrets, a dozen 40mm Bofors AAA guns, a half dozen 20mm Oerlikons, as well as depth charge racks and various projectors, plus the newfangled Hedgehog device to slay U-boats and His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s I-boats. Weight and space were also reserved for a catapult-launched and crane-recovered seaplane. Space for an extensive small arms locker, to equip landing parties engaged in searching remote frozen islands and fjords for radio stations and observation posts, rounded out the design.

Two of the class, Eastwind and Southwind, operated against teams of German scientists and military personnel who attempted to establish weather stations in remote areas of Greenland late in the war.

As noted by the USCG Historian’s Office on this chapter of “The Weather War,”:

On 4 October 1944 Eastwind captured a German weather station on Little Koldewey Island and 12 German personnel. On 15 October 1944 Eastwind captured the German trawler Externsteine and took 17 prisoners. The trawler was renamed East Breeze and a prize crew sailed her to Boston.

Our Wind

Northwind was ordered from Western Pipe & Steel Co., Los Angeles, (Builder’s Number CG-184) for $9,880,037 and her keel was laid 10 July 1944, the same week the Allies were fighting for Saint-Lo in France and Saipan in the Pacific. Impressively, she was finished in 54 weeks, commissioning 28 July 1945, just a fortnight before the Japanese threw in the towel. As such, her war service was negligible.

However, she was soon on the cutting edge of modern polar operations. Stationed in Boston, she landed her aft 5-inch mount to clear her decks for a large helicopter platform to accommodate a primitive HNS helicopter of the type the  Coast Guard had pioneered the use of in 1944-45.

Original caption: Preparing for Arctic Cruise, 1946. Especially rigged and outfitted for its arctic cruise, the Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind, is shown in New York Harbor before she sailed last spring. The helicopter, which is proving valuable in the work in hand, needs only a small “platform” on which to take off or land and both operations can be carried on while the vessel is steaming at full speed. NARA 26-G-4936

Shown here just before leaving to participate in the Navy expedition to the North Pole, the Coast Guard Cutter Northwind lies at anchor in New York’s harbor, June 26, 1946. Note the NYC skyline to include the Empire State Building. NARA 26-G-4937

Then came a deployment in the form of Operation Nanook, under the command of Captain Richard Cruzen. The destination: Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, where Northwind would field the first helicopter seen in that part of the world.

As detailed by the Coast Guard Aviation Association

The task force was made up of two Navy AK transports modified for sub-zero operations, fully equipped to construct the stations. In addition, the Seaplane tender USS Norton Sound, with two PBM seaplanes, was part of the Taskforce as was the submarine Atule which conducted tests and carried out operations under the ice in Baffin Bay and to the north. The wooden-hulled net tender Whitewood was used as a survey ship. The Coast Guard ice breaker Northwind joined the group north of the arctic circle providing escort and navigation through the ice fields. The Northwind had on board an HNS helicopter piloted by Coast Guard Aviation Pilot 1/c John Olsen. This was a precursor of things to come in polar operations.

Sikorsky HNS-1 helicopter, CGNR 39047, lifts off from the deck of USCGC Northwind on 1 September 1946, during Operation Nanook. Note insignia of what appears to be an Eskimo girl seated astride a polar bear, with the words “Arctic Annie.” Photograph by Photographer’s Mate Second Class P.R. Zimmerman, USN. 80-G-636441

Inset of the Sikorsky’s insignia.

In November 1946, Capt. Charles Ward Thomas, the famed skipper of her sistership USCGC Eastwind during the Weather War with the Germans, assumed command of Northwind. During the Thomas years, Northwind would participate in Operation High Jump, the fourth Byrd expedition to the Antarctic, and subject of the Academy Award-winning motion picture, “The Secret Land.”

Highjump and the follow-on Windmill operation in 1947-48 to this day were the largest naval task forces to operate in Antarctica, consisting of 13 ships including an aircraft carrier and 33 aircraft. Many crackpot legends hold it was to scout out possible secret Nazi bases in the region where Hitler, who was still thought missing at the time, may have escaped to via U-boat.

Northwind spearhead of the expedition, clearing the way through the Ross Sea ice pack for Navy cargo ships. For the mission, she carried both a Grumman J2F Duck floatplane and a whirlybird.

Original caption: Coast Guard ‘Copter Scouts for Leads. From the deck of the Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind, the ship’s helicopter takes off, to look for the “leads” in the ice packs, into which the super ice crusher can smash her way, opening a passage for the thin-hulled vessels of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition. Here the Northwind is followed by the Merrick, Yancey, and the Mt. Olympus. The ‘copter proved of special value, being able to hover and study ice conditions for the benefit of the Northwind’s skipper.” 1/1/1947 NARA 26-G-5024

Sikorsky HNS-1 helicopter, CGNR 39043, landing on the deck of USS Northwind (WAG-282) on 2 January 1947. 80-G-612006

It was during Highjump that Northwind successfully completed the first major rescue mission involving a submarine, freeing USS Sennet (SS-408) along with the supply ships Yance and Merrick, who were stuck in a thick ice flow in the Antarctic Circle.

7 January 1947- Operation Highjump, Coast Guard icebreaker NORTHWIND completed the first rescue mission involving a submarine. USS Sennet (SS-408) supply ships Yance and Merrick

Original caption: “The Northwind Hits It! The Antarctic. The World of Ice. With her diesel-electric motors, with power ranging up to 10,000, going full blast, the Coast Guard’s icebreaker Northwind charges the ice pack at top speed. Following the terrific crash, the Northwind rides half a ship’s length up onto the ice before she is stopped. She backs away and charges again and again until the area is broken up and ready for the thin-hulled vessels which follow her. This arduous duty of the Northwind was a day after day routine, as her part of the work of the Byrd Expedition to the Antarctic. This photo was taken from the Northwind’s helicopter, which proved so valuable in scouting out loads in the ice, far in advance of the ships.” 1/5/1947. Note the J2F Duck on her deck. NARA 26-G-03-18-47(7)

On 15 January 1947, Northwind’s chopper made the first helicopter flight to the base “Little America” in Antarctica. The pilot was LT James A. Cornish, USCG and he carried Chief Photographer’s Mate Everett Mashburn as his observer.

Icebreaker USS Northwind (AGB-5) cuts across the bow of USS Mount Olympus (AGC-8) to clear a path for her, through pack ice off the Ross Sea, Antarctica 1947-02-28 L45-209.06.01.

Original caption: Cargo being transferred from the USS Philippine Sea to the Coast Guard Ice-Breaking Cutter Northwind, on Operation Highjump, the Navy’s venture of exploration to the Antarctic. The Coast Guard Ice-Breaker has the task of opening lanes through heavy ice when other vessels with thinner plating could not force their way through. NARA 26-G-5062

Stationed in Seattle from 1947 to 1973, she fell into a cycle of polar ice operations, alternating trips from the Arctic to the Antarctic. In 1948, with the Northwind, Captain Thomas re-established the annual Bering Sea Patrol, which had been discontinued during the war, conducting the first such patrol in eight years, and compiled an oceanographic report of the waters navigated in the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean.

Northwind’s crew, by nature of the cutter’s work, saw some amazing things.

Original caption: “The Antarctic. The World of Ice. Desert of Death. Seldom indeed has the eye of man looked at this bleak desert of ice. This is a tiny portion of the limitless icepack that stands guard around the Antarctic continent. The Coast Guard’s icebreaker Northwind smashes its way into the virgin ice, making a passage for the thin-hulled vessels which made up the central group of the Byrd Expedition to the Antarctic.” 1/11/1947. NARA 26-G-03-18-47(11)

Original caption: “Bering Sea Patrol, its scenery on the grand scale for the Northwind as she roses into an Alaskan fjord. Views rivaling the ethereal beauty of the Alps, are typical of the stale and abound fringed coasts of Alaska.” 11/14/1948 NARA 26-G-5300

Original caption: The Artist is Mother Nature – On a refueling mission in Alaskan waters, the U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind (WAGB-282) passes snow-capped Mt. Shishaldin in this picturesque scene, taken on the Bering Sea side of the Aleutian Islands. Mt. Shishaldin is one of 80 active volcanoes in the Aleutians. 11/26/1950 NARA 26-G-5477

Her Cold War career (see what I did there) consisted largely of a series of Operation Deep Freeze resupply missions to the Antarctic, alternating with Bering Sea patrols with the latter including missions to install and support the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line.

Original caption: Postman Artic Style. Swooping down over the ice, a Coast Guard PBY from the Air Detachment at Kodiak, Alaska, makes an aerial pick-up of the Northwind’s mail. Note the plane’s tailhook, poised to snatch the line. The postman had to ring only once. On the first attempt, he hooked the line from which the mailbag was suspended. Members of the Northwind’s crew crouch on the ice as they steady the vertical poles which hold the line. 7/12/1953. NARA 26-G-5613

Northwind and USS Glacier (AGB-4), the Navy’s last icebreaker, working ice during the winter 1953 Bearing Sea Expedition. Original caption: “In this solid field of ice in the Bering Sea, the two icebreakers try a tandem method of breaking ice. Ramming, backing, and ramming again, the vessels try forcing their wayside by side in a parallel line.” NARA 26-G-5609

McClure Strait and CGC Northwind. 13 August 1954 – The USCGC Northwind breaks the west-to-east entrance to previously impassable McClure Strait, the ice-locked western entrance to the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. Pushing along the southern edge of the Strait, the icebreaker heads toward Mercy Bay, about halfway to Banks Island. The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind, commanded by Captain William L. Maloney, USCG, made the first passage through McClure Strait from west to east between August 13 – 21, 1954. The Navy icebreaker USS Burton Island, commanded by Comdr. Everett Trickey, USN, executed the first passage through the Strait from east to west between August 11 – 16. Both ships accomplished the historical fete while conducting oceanographic and hydrographic surveys in the Beaufort Sea and McClure Strait areas on a Joint U.S. – Canadian Expedition participated in by scientists from both countries. The U.S. ships were the first to push through McClure Strait, connecting the Arctic Ocean and Viscount Melville Sound. McClure Strait was the only link left unconquered by explorers who for more than 450 years sought the famed Northwest Passage route between the Atlantic and the Pacific. The ships left San Diego on July 12 and returned to Seattle on September 29, 1954. NARA 26-G-5676

The 269-foot cutter also performed standard Alaska patrol tasks, such as holding “floating courts” that roamed from port to port and providing a modicum of military presence in far-away towns as needed.

Original caption: “This is the main street of the far northern little frontier-like town of Nome, Alaska, on the 4th of July 1955. Natives and Servicemen watch a parade that shows a group of sailors from the Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind marching. The icebreaker was at Nome from July 1 to 6, en route to the Arctic with a Navy Pacific Task Force on last summer’s Military Sea Transportation Service’s sealift operations for the “Dew Line” (Distance Early Warning) radar stations. Leaving Seattle July 16 this year for the summer “Dew Line” operations, the Northwind’s crew will not be at Nome to participate in holiday celebrations.” NARA 26-G-5732

USCGC Northwind in Antarctic waters, 16 December 1956. K-21429.

USCGC Northwind and USS Glacier (AGB-4) in Antarctic waters, 26 December 1956. K-21428.

Crew members from U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind (WAGB-282) hold the first pistol tournament ever held in the Antarctic (January 10, 1957). Chilled thumbs pulled the triggers at targets lined up at McMurdo Sound. During the tournament, a light breeze blew down some of the targets. USNS Private John R. Towle (T-AK-240), a U.S. Navy cargo ship, lies to the back. Operation Deep Freeze was from December 1956 to April 1957. Official U.S. Coast Guard Photograph.

Original caption: “A closeup view from the stern of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind shows all four sections and the weatherproof door of her new telescopic helicopter hanger. The aluminum hanger is 67 ft. long, 23 ft. wide, and 21 ft. high. These measurements are gauged with the size of the Coast Guard’s largest helicopter in use – the gas turbine HH-52A “flying boat” helicopter. The icebreaker Northwind which is based in Seattle and works in the frigid Arctic region most of her time is the first American ship to carry this type of hangar. It was previously developed and used by the Canadian Ministry of Transport, however, here, the Northwind is carrying the hangar on an extended mission into the Bering Sea and the Arctic where it will undergo initial cold weather experiments.” 6/17/1963. NARA 26-G-6034

Original caption: “A starboard broadside view of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind shows her newly installed telescopic helicopter hanger in the closed extended position. The icebreaker is seen here en-route to the Bering Sea and the Arctic on an extended mission which will keep her away from her homeport in Seattle for a few months. During that time the hanger will receive initial experience in colder weather operations.” 6/17/1963 NARA 26-G-6033 

In 1965, Northwind pulled another “first.” That July, she conducted an oceanographic survey between Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland and was the first Western vessel to operate in the Kara Sea off the Soviet Union.

Between 1966 and 1989, Northwind hosted a series of Icebreaker Support Section (IBSEC) deployments, each consisting of a pair of Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguards, which picked up a red (officially orange) paint scheme.

USCGC Northwind (WAGB-282) in the ice, circa 1967. Note her retracted hangar with an HH-52 tail poking out. The second Sea Guardian is likey the aircraft taking the photo. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1977. NH 85275.

USCGC Northwind (WAGB-282) nighttime photo, in the ice, circa 1967. Note her extended hangar. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson. NH 85274.

Between 9 June and 22 September 1969, Northwind transited 14,000 miles from the Bering Sea through the Northwest Passage then made it back to Seattle via the same route, the first vessel to conduct both a West-to-East and East-to-West transit of the Northwest Passage in a single season.

From 1973 to 1975 Northwind underwent extensive machinery modernization and electronic modification at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland, which included landing the rest of her WWII-era heavy armament (she still had a small arms locker and four stowed .50 cal M2s) and picking up the familiar red-hull seen on today’s American icebreakers.

USCGC Northwind breaking ice at Winter Quarters Bay January 1977 via Antarctica New Zealand.

From 1978 to 1989, Northwind was stationed at Wilmington, North Carolina, and used for general ice-breaking, including in the Great Lakes, which her lack of fixed gun mounts kept her under Canadian treaty restrictions. Rather than Bering Sea cruises, she alternated Deep Freeze trips with Arctic East cruises, sailing in Baffin Bay and supporting Thule AFB in Greenland with side trips to Iceland and Norway.

Operation Deep Freeze 80. Antarctica. From left to right, the icebreakers USCGC Glacier (WAGB 4), Northwind (WAGB 282), and Polar Sea (WAGB 11) moored in the ice below Mount Erebus. Photographed by PH2 Jeff Hilton. January 5, 1980. 428-GX-K-129186.

Northwind, 1982, Inglefield Bredning, Greenland Tracy Glacier in the background

Clocking in on the war on drugs at a time when the service was hull poor, on 4 November 1984 Northwind seized the P/C Alexi I off Jamaica for carrying 20 tons of marijuana, becoming the first icebreaker to make a large narcotics seizure.

USCGC Northwind in Baffin Bay on 10 July 1986. USCG Photo.

It was during her 1986 cruise that Northwind assisted in a joint Denmark-U.S. relocation operation, shuttling arctic musk ox around Greenland via her Sea Guards, likely another first.

Seamen move a crated musk ox into position aboard the US Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind (WAGB 282) during a joint Denmark-US relocation operation, 7/10/1986. Note her WWII-era wooden decks and the sex orientation markings on the crates. TSgt Jose Hernandez. DFST8708199

An HH-52A Sea Guard helicopter from the US Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind (WAGB 282) airlifts a crated musk ox to its new habitat during a joint Denmark-US relocation operation, 7/10/1986. TSgt Jose Hernandez. DFST8708196

Northwind outlived her seven sisters. Weather War vets Eastwind and Southwind/Atka, along with the former Navy-owned Staten Island, Burton Island, and Edisto were all scrapped in the 1970s. In the Frozen North, the Canadian Coast Guard’s CCGS Labrador lingered until 1987. Only USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281), who had served the Soviets for six years under Lend-Lease as Severni Polius (North pole), endured, surviving another decade on the salvaged parts of her sisters.

Northwind, “The Grand Old Lady of the North,” was decommissioned on 20 January 1989, just shy of 44 years with the service and 11 months after Westwind was taken out of service. She had no less than 27 skippers and never saw a period of mothballs until she was shipped off in 1990.

After a decade floating in the James River, ex-Northwind was scrapped at International Shipbreakers, Port of Brownsville, Texas in 1999.

Epilogue

Like Northwind, the other members of her class pulled down several “firsts.” For instance, USCGC Eastwind (WAGB-279) was the first Coast Guard cutter of any type to circumnavigate the globe after departing Boston on 25 October 1960 bound for Antarctica and arriving back in Boston 5 May 1961. This was followed up by a similar Antarctic summer cruise by her sistership, USCGC Southwind (WAGB-280) [ex-USS Atka (AGB-3)] in 1968-1969.

While all eight Winds have long been scrapped, their unarmed half-sister, USCGC Mackinaw, which broke ice on the Great Lakes for six decades, is a floating museum in Michigan, and her grandfather, the old now 98-year old Krassin, is preserved at Saint Petersburg.

A bell from Cutter Northwind, perhaps from our icebreaker, is on display behind the Highland County Historical Society building in Hillsboro, Ohio, a town that made such bells for the Navy and Coast Guard.

The bulkhead on Northwind where various IBSEC avdets chronicled their cruises among the icebergs from 1966 to 1989 was removed after the cutter was decommissioned and restored by ATC Mobile personnel (where the IBSEC was stationed) in 1991. The bulkhead art is on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. 

There is also a public FB group on the ship. 

She is remembered in maritime art in the USCG’s collection. 
 

“Northwind” by David Rosenthal. The icebreaker Northwind breaks a pressure ridge in the permanent polar ice pack on its last mission before decommissioning. The mission was to break a path through the ice for the research vessel “PolarBjorn” as far north as possible.

“Arctic Cutter” by Ellen Leelike. The Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind is shown at work doing its specialty.

With the Coast Guard building a new class of Polar Security Cutters, basically modernized and better-armed icebreakers, it would be nice if they brought the old “Wind” names back. 

Specs:

Winds, 1946 Jane’s entry

Winds, 1973 Jane’s entry

Displacement: 6,515 tons (1945)
Length: 269 ft oa
Beam: 63 ft 6 in
Draft: 25 ft 9 in max
Installed power (1945): 6 × Fairbanks-Morse model 8-1/8OP, 10-cylinder opposed-piston engines at 2,000 shp (1,500 kW), each driving a Westinghouse DC electric generator.
Propulsion: (1945) 2 × Westinghouse Electric DC electric motors driving the 2 aft propellers, 1 × 3,000 shp (2,200 kW) Westinghouse DC electric motor driving the detachable and seldom-used bow propeller.
Propulsion (1973): Four 3,000 horsepower DeLaval diesel engines, two GE electric motors
Speed: Top speed: 13.4 knots (1967)
Economic speed: 11.6 knots
Range: 32,485 nautical miles
Complement:
21 officers, 295 men (1944)
13 officers, 2 warrants, 160 men (Post-1967 USCG service)
14 officers, 137 crew + room for 12 scientists and 14 AvDet personnel (Post 1975)
Sensors and processing systems:
Radar:
SA-2, SL-1 (1944, removed 1949)
SPS-10B; SPS-53A; SPS-6C (1967)
Sonar: QCJ-8 (1944-45)
Armament:

(1946)
4 × 5″/38 (twin mounts)
12 × 40mm/60 (3 quad mounts)
6 × 20mm/80 (single mounts)
2 × depth charge tracks
6 × “K” guns
1 Hedgehog
M2 Browning machine guns and small arms (1944)
Aircraft carried: 1 Grumman J2F Seaplane, later two helicopters in telescoping hangar

(1967)
1 x5″/38 single mount
20mm Mk 16 cannons (singles)

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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:

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