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The Busted Chopin

Here we see the demasted 400-ton, 181-foot Polish brig-rigged schoolship, STS Fryderyk Chopin, as she is towed to Falmouth by the F/V Nova Spiro, a local fishing vessel, Halloween of 2010.

Photo: RNLI Falmouth

Built in 1992 and owned at the time by the European School of Law and Administration, a private university based in Poland, Chopin was on a 100-day cruise from Holland to the Caribbean with 47 souls aboard (including three dozen 14-year-old cadets) when she was struck by a wind of nine gales while about 100 miles southwest of the Isles of Scilly. Although her diesel was online, the ship’s master was unwilling to use it for fear of trailing debris fouling the screw.

The 66-foot trawler Nova Spero answered her Pan/Mayday call and towed her 100 miles to Falmouth Bay over a three-day period.

The teens were brought ashore and spent the next few nights in a hostel before being sent back home. There were no casualties.

Today, the repaired Chopin is owned by 3OCEANS Sp. z o.o. and serves as the ship of The Blue School, a Polish sail training project. She is currently around Spitsbergen on a summer cruise according to her social media page.

Warship Wednesday, June 20, 2018: The last of the drummers

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, June 20, 2018: The last of the drummers

Bundesarchiv_bild_101ii-mw-4260-37

Here we see the German Type IXB U-boat U-123 of the Kriegsmarine as she is returning from a patrol to the pens at Lorient, 8 June 1941. Of the 14 Type IXB’s completed by DeSchiMAG AG Weser of Bremen, all but this hull was destroyed during the war, and, amazingly, the subject of our tale this hump day also had a skipper who made it out alive and only just sounded his last depth this month, aged 105. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The IXB series, a subset of the mammoth 194 Type IX unterseeboots built for the German Navy, was an improved model with an increased range– capable of traveling some 12,000 nm at 10-knots on their MAN diesel engines when running on the surface. This is up from their half-sister’s 10K range. Not bad for a 1,170-ton boat that just went 251-feet in length. Still, they packed 22 torpedoes inside the hull and a relatively impressive 10.5 cm/45 (4.1″) SK C/32 naval gun just forward of the bow, with 180 rounds stowed for its use.

U-123’s 105mm deck gun crew practicing Jan 1942 Photo by Alwin Tolle Propagandakompanien der Wehrmacht Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-4006-31

U-123 was ordered 15 December 1937 as Werke 955 from the yard, almost two years before WWII started, but was only completed 30 May 1940, while France was teetering on collapse and Europe had been in open conflict for nine months. Her first skipper was Kptlt. Karl-Heinz Moehle, a later Knights Cross winner and U-Boat Ace who would conn her for a full year. Following shake down and training which lasted until September, Moehle took U-123 on 4 patrols (126 days at sea) from her forward base in Lorient on the French Atlantic coast. One proved especially eventful– the attack on convoy OB-244 which sank five ships in five hours.

On 19 May 1941, Kplt. Reinhard Hardegen, formerly of the Type IID boat U-147, assumed command and soon took U-123 on her fifth patrol, off the coast of West Africa, which scratched five Allied ships and extensively damaged the British auxiliary cruiser HMS Aurania. A former pilot/observer who transferred to the submarine corps after a crash left him with chronic injuries, Hardegen seemed to have proved himself with the patrol. Admiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler’s sub boss, detailed the lucky (and long-legged) U-123 and her newly-successful skipper as one of the first five boats to bring the war to America’s Eastern seaboard via Unternehmen Paukenschlag (Operation Drumbeat, or more correctly, “roll on the kettledrums”) just days after Pearl Harbor brought the Great Neutral into the conflict.

Sortieing from Lorient two days before Christmas, 1941, U-123 drew first blood in the Americas when on 12 January 1942 she torpedoed and sank the unescorted British steamship Cyclops, inaugurating Paukenschlag and commencing a “blitz” against coastal shipping between New York Harbor and the Outer Banks.

Four days later the submarine shrugged off an air attack off New York and just three days after that narrowly escaped being rammed by a giant 16,000-ton Norwegian whale factory ship, but in a two-week period sank eight Allied merchant ships– Norness (at 9,577-tons, her biggest prize), the big tanker Coimbra (more on her later), Norvana, City of Atlanta, Culebra, Pan Norway and the freighter Ciltvaira— along a brightly-lit seacoast unprepared for modern war.

The accomplishment earned Hardegen the signal “An den Paukenschläger Hardegen. Bravo! Gut gepaukt. Dönitz” (For the drum-beater Hardegen. Well done! Good beating) from his boss, and a Knights Cross. The patrol ended only because the boat was out of deck gun ammo and torpedoes.

The attack on Coimbra:

The patrol was so epic to the Germans that the tale of U-123 was used in the feature-length UFA-produced propaganda film U-Boote westwärts, with some scenes filmed aboard the vessel and featuring members of the crew.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the new and startling offensive along the Gulf Stream sparked a panic wave of the Navy and Coast Guard arming everything that could float to provide a modicum of coastal escort and sub chasing, and FDR called for an old WWI tactic– that of creating fake tramp steamers who were heavily-armed auxiliary cruisers (Q-boats) intended to draw in a submarine with the disguise and then slaughter it with a sucker punch.

As Hardegen and U-123 returned to France for more diesel, schnitzel and ordnance, the U.S. Navy bought the old (1912) 6,000-ton Bull Lines steamer SS Evelyn, installed sound gear, armed her, and commissioned her as the Q-ship USS Asterion (AK-100, a cargo ship identification number to complete the subterfuge) while her sister, SS Carolyn, was given the same treatment as USS Atik (AK-101).

With a blistering speed of just 9-knots, these ships were heavily outfitted with a quartet of concealed 4-inch guns, a battery of .50-caliber machine guns, some WWI-era Lewis guns and some half-dozen depth charge projectors. By early March, the two Yankee Q-ships were ready for war after a conversion that lasted about three weeks.

Caption: Carolyn underway in an undated image. (Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. Photograph, Atik (AK-101) Ship History File, History and Archives Division, Naval History and Heritage Command)

According to the Naval History Command:

At the outset, all connected with the program apparently harbored the view that neither ship “was expected to last longer than a month after commencement of [her] assigned duty.” Atik’s holds were packed with pulpwood, a somewhat mercurial material. If dry, “an explosive condition might well develop” and, if wet, “rot, with resultant fire might well take place.” Despite these disadvantages, pulpwood was selected as the best obtainable material to assure “floatability.”

Enter U-123‘s eight war patrol (fourth under Hardegen) and on 22 March she sank the U.S.-flagged tanker SS Muskogee followed quickly by the British tanker Empire Steel off the coast of Bermuda. Then, on 27 March, the submarine met the Q-Ship Carolyn/Atik, who was just three days into her own first war patrol.

It did not go well.

According to DANFS:

The U-boat, on the surface, began stalking Atik at 2200, and at 0037 on 27 March 1942 fired one torpedo at a range of 700 yards that struck the ship on her port side, under the bridge. Fire broke out immediately, and the ship began to assume a slight list, the crippled “freighter” sending out a terse SOS: “S.S. Carolyn, torpedo attack, burning forward, not bad.” As U-123 proceeded around under her victim’s stern, Kapitänleutnant Hardegen noted one boat being lowered on the starboard side and men abandoning ship.

After U-123 turned to starboard, “Carolyn” gathered steerageway. She steered a course paralleling the enemy’s by turning to starboard as well, then dropped her concealment, opening fire from her main and secondary batteries. The first 4-inch shell splashed short of the U-boat, as she made off presenting a small target; the shots that followed were off in deflection. Heavy .50-caliber machine gun fire, though, ricocheted around the U-boat’s decks as she bent on speed to escape the trap into which Hardegen “like a callow beginner [his own words]” had fallen. One bullet mortally wounded Fähnrich zur See Rudi Holzer, on U-123’s bridge.

Gradually, the U-boat pulled out of range behind the cover of the smoke screen emitted by her straining diesels, and her captain assessed the damage. As Hardegen later recorded, “We had been incredibly lucky.” U-123 submerged and again approached her adversary. At 0229, the U-boat loosed a torpedo into Atik’s machinery spaces. Satisfied that that blow would prove to be the coup de grace, U-123 stood off to await developments as Atik settled by the bow, her single screw now out of the water.

Once again, Atik’s men could be seen embarking in her boats. U-123 surfaced at 0327, to finish off the feisty Q-ship. Suddenly, at 0350, a cataclysmic explosion blew Atik to pieces. Ten minutes later, U-123 buried her only casualty, Fähnrich zur See Holzer, who had died of his wounds. Atik’s entire crew perished, either in the blast that destroyed the ship or during the severe gale that lashed the area soon after the brave ship disintegrated.

The next morning, a USAAF bomber dispatched to Atik’s last reported position found nothing.

Atik‘s sister, Asterion, plied the coastal waters and managed to pick up several survivors from other stricken ships but, on the orders of Adm. King himself, was reclassified in 1944 as a weather service ship (WAK-123), never once being able to mix it up with a U-boat of her own to avenge Atik‘s loss over the course of six Q-ship patrols.

Survivor is brought ashore from USS Broome (DD-210) at Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, on 20 April 1942. Alcoa Guide had been sunk by gunfire of the German submarine U-123 on 16 April. Broome rescued 27 of her survivors on 19 April. The last survivor of the ship was not picked up until 18 May. Six of Alcoa Guide’s crew lost their lives as a result of this attack. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-3882

U-123 went on to sink a further five merchantmen and damage three others on her 8th patrol, including the high-profile attack on the tanker SS Gulfamerica off Jacksonville beach on a breezy April night in front of a packed, and shocked audience.

“Many people watched the flames fill the sky about four miles off shore. Others who didn’t see the explosion flocked to the beach over the weekend to catch a glimpse of the wreckage. The bow of the ship bobbed on the surface for six days before finally sinking below the waves,” noted Jacksonville.com on the 75th anniversary of Gulfamerica‘s loss– the event still reverberating across generations.

Speaking of reverberations, George Betts, the father of Muskogee‘s skipper, reached out to Hardegen long after the war in 1986 and struck up an unlikely friendship with the U-boat ace of the deep. Hardegen provided the man with a photo of his late father, who he had last seen on a lifeboat. He told Betts that he gave the survivors bottled water, rations and detailed instructions about how to get to the nearest land, but sadly they never made it. Still, Betts reportedly held no grudge, to which the aging German submariner remarked, “This personal contact with men was one of the moments that shows me that this should be the last war.”

U-123 in front of barracks ship in Lorient, Feb 1942. Photo by Dietrich, Propagandakompanien Der Wermacht. Bundesarchiv-Bild 101ii-mw-3

At the end of U-123‘s eighth patrol, Hardegen was relieved and spent the rest of the war in training assignments due to poor health. His famous submarine would go on to complete four further patrols under a new skipper–Oblt. Horst von Schroeter–which accounted for five more Allied merchant ships and the British submarine, HMS P-615 before she was scuttled at Lorient on 19 August 1944 to prevent her use to advancing U.S. forces that had landed in France after D-Day. According to U-boat.net, she accounted for over 200,000 tons of Allied shipping, including two warships.

The scuttling was not too extensive as she was quickly patched up and went on to serve the French Navy as Blaison (Q165) for another 15 years, only scrapping in 1959.

Under French (and NATO) colors

Of the 48 German submarines turned over to the Allied post-war for further use, she and U-510, a Type IXC half-sister renamed Bouan, were the only ones taken over by France.

The other 13 members of U-123‘s class were not so lucky and were largely destroyed at sea in encounters that left their crews lost to the deep. Sisters U-65, U-105, U-107, U-109, and U-124 were lost with all hands. U-104 and U-122 have both been missing since 1940. Documents and Enigma machines famously captured from sister U-110 before she sank with 15 of her crew helped Bletchley Park code-breakers solve Reservehandverfahren, a reserve German hand cipher. The rest were lost with fewer casualties, but scratched off Donitz’s naval list all the same.

Hardegen, who spent more than 18 months in a British POW camp after 1945, went on after the war to become a founder of Bremen’s Christian Democrats party (the same port city where all the Type XIIB’s including U-123 were built) and serve on the city’s diet for over 30 years. During the same period, he became an oil company executive, which is ironic due to his past work in tankers.

He died last week, aged 105, reportedly the last of the U-boat skippers.

There are still reverberations from his Drumbeat.

This week the U.S. Coast Guard announced they have contracted to conduct an underwater assessment of the tanker Coimbra, set to take place in July over concerns that the rusting tanker has a potential to have an environmental impact on the New York coastline.

“We have assembled a team including members of the Navy Supervisor of Salvage, the Coast Guard Academy Science Department, the Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and New York Department of Environmental Conservation to provide consultation for this assessment,” said Capt. Kevin Reed, commander Sector Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. “This assessment will help determine any potential environmental threat the tanker poses. Our top priorities are safety of the public and protection of the marine environment.”

And the drums still beat…

Specs:


Displacement:
1,051 tonnes (1,034 long tons) surfaced
1,178 tonnes (1,159 long tons) submerged
Length:
76.50 m (251 ft) o/a
58.75 m (192 ft 9 in) pressure hull
Beam:
6.76 m (22 ft 2 in) o/a
4.40 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draught: 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)
Installed power:
4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
Propulsion:
2 shafts
2 × diesel engines
2 × electric motors double-acting electric motors, 1,000 PS (990 shp; 740 kW)
Range:
12,000 nmi (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
64 nmi (119 km; 74 mi)at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Armament:
6 × torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern)
22 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedoes
1 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK C/32 deck gun (180 rounds)
1 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 AA gun
1 × twin 2 cm FlaK 30 AA guns

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, June 6, 2018: The eternal Nordic shark of Sword Beach

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, June 6, 2018: The eternal Nordic shark of Sword Beach

Via the Norwegian military museum (Forsvarets Museer) MMU.941853

Here we see the British-built S-class destroyer (Jageren in Norwegian parlance) His Norwegian Majesty’s Ship KNM (Kongelige Norske Marine) Svenner (RN Pennant G03) of the Free Norwegian Sjøforsvaret in 1944, fresh from the yard and ready to fight. Svenner is deeply associated with today’s date. However, before we can talk about her service, let us discuss the Royal Norwegian Navy in WWII.

The Scandinavian neutral had managed to sit precariously on the fence in the Great War and indeed was a peaceful country who had last seen the elephant during the Napoleonic Wars, skirmishing at first with the British and then the Swedes for independence. Some 130-years of peace behind it, the Norwegian Navy in April 1940 was again an armed neutral, ready to take on all-comers to preserve the homeland. Then came the invasion.

German cruiser Blücher in Drøbak Sound, April 1940 outside of the Norwegian capital Oslo

Two months of tough resistance against German invaders while reluctantly accepting Allied intervention left the Norwegian Navy covered in glory (such as when the tiny 200-ton gunboat KNM Pol III stood alone– briefly– against the mighty heavy cruiser Blücher, the heavy cruiser Lützow, the light cruiser Emden, three torpedo boats and eight minesweepers carrying 2,000 troops to Oslo, or when the ancient and nearly condemned coastal monitors KNM Eidsvold and Norge attempted to stop the Germans at Narvik), but was largely left sunk at the bottom of the fjords they defended.

When the endgame came, a dozen or so small ships and 500 officers and men made it to British waters to carry on the war. These included such Edwardian relics as the destroyer Draug (commissioned in 1908!) and the newer Sleipner, as well as fishery patrol ships such as the Nordkapp, which all soon got to work for the Allies, guarding sea lanes, escorting convoys and protecting the UK and Allied-occupied Iceland from potential Axis invasion.

The mighty KNM Draug, with lines that look right out of the Spanish-American War. MMU.945456

With the small core of exiled prewar Norwegian sailors, an influx of Norwegians living abroad and transfers from the country’s huge merchant fleet, the exiled Free Norwegian Navy was able to rebuild abroad. Soon, the old Draug was in full-time use as a training and support vessel while small trawlers and whalers provided yeoman service as the “Shetland Bus” regularly shuttling spies, SOE operatives and Norwegian resistance agents into occupied Scandinavia and downed Allied aircrew out over the course of some 200 trips. As these operations expanded, the Brits began transferring at first surplus (five ex-Wickes-class tin cans transferred originally to the Brits from the USN under the bases for destroyer deal) and then new-built naval vessels (Flower and Castle-class corvettes, motor torpedo boats, Hunt-class destroyer escorts, and later two S-class destroyers) to the growing Norwegian fleet to perform convoy escort missions.

That’s where Svenner comes in.

The 16 S/T-class destroyers were long ships (363-feet) but thin (just 35-feet) giving them a 10:1 length-to-beam ratio, making them a knife on the water. Tipping the scales at just 2,500~ tons, they were slender stilettos made for stabbing through the waves at nearly 37-knots on a pair of Parsons geared turbines. Armed with a quartet of 4.7-inch guns for surface actions, U-boat busting depth charges and an eight-pack of anti-ship torpedo tubes, they were ready for a fight. Class leader HMS Saumarez (G12) was completed in July 1943, right in time for the Battle of the Atlantic, and the 15 ships that followed her were made ready to go into harm’s way as soon as they could leave the builders’ yards. Of those, one, HMS Success, was transferred on completion to the Free Norwegian forces on 26 August 1943 as KNM Stord (G26), and soon got to chasing the Germans, becoming engaged with the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst just four months after transfer.

Stord, note her Norwegian jack. MMU.945852

One of Success/Stord‘s sisterships, laid down as HMS Shark, transferred to the Norwegians 11 March 1944 on completion and was named KNM Svenner after a Norwegian island. Her skipper, LCDR Tore Holthe, was a prewar Norwegian surface fleet officer and veteran of Stord‘s action against Scharnhorst.

Svenner’s officers, with Holthe center. MMU.945739

Just weeks after her commissioning, Svenner was attached to Bombardment Force S of the Eastern Task Force of the Normandy invasion fleet assembling off Plymouth. Her mission would be to help smother the German beach defenses during the assault on Sword Beach, where British and Canadian forces would land.

Jageren SVENNER (G03) babord bredside MMU.941527

SVENNER (ex SHARK) (FL 22742) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205174978

On the night of the 5th, Svenner, along with the frigates HMS Rowley and Holmes, helped escort the cruisers HMS Arethusa, Danae, and Frobisher, as well as the Free Polish cruiser ORP Dragon, monitor HMS Roberts and the small craft of the 40th Minesweeping Flotilla from Plymouth across the Channel to Sword Beach, where the famous battleships HMS Ramillies, HMS Warspite and ships of Force D stood by for heavy lifting.

At 0500 on 6 June 1944, Jutland veteran Warspite was the first ship in the entire 4,000-strong Allied fleet on any beach to open fire, hitting a German artillery battery at Villerville from some 13 miles offshore.

Hamilton, John Alan; D-Day Naval Bombardment: HMS ‘Ramillies’, HMS ‘Warspite’ and Monitor HMS ‘Roberts’ Bombard the Beaches; IWM (Imperial War Museums); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/d-day-naval-bombardment-hms-ramillies-hms-warspite-and-monitor-hms-roberts-bombard-the-beaches-7683

As the Svenner, Rowley, and Holmes stood by to allow the minesweepers to clear a channel for the bombardment ships to close with the beach while making smoke to obscure the capital ships, three German torpedo boats out of La Havre– Jaguar, Møwe and T28— appeared at 28-knots to conduct a strike against the force, letting lose some 17 torpedoes in all. It was the only effective Kriegsmarine resistance on D-Day.

The torpedo spread came close to ruining Force D, with steel fish passing within feet of both Ramillies and Warspite. The only victim of the German torps: our brave new Norwegian destroyer, who tried in vain to turn from the spread but came up short.

HNoMS Svenner breaking up & sinking after being struck by two torpedoes

Svenner was hit amidships at 0530 by one or possibly two torpedoes and broke in half, sinking quickly after an explosion under her boiler room. Lost were 32 Norwegian and a British signalman out of her crew of 219. Most of the crew, which included some RN ratings, were rescued by nearby ships and returned to the war in days.

Still, the pair of battleships were saved, and they covered the invasion on Sword with heavy naval gunfire. Warspite fired over 300 shells on June 6 alone before heading back to Portsmouth for more rounds and powder and returning to plaster targets on Utah Beach and Gold Beach. Her sidekick Ramillies heaved an impressive 1,002 15-inch shells in that week, hitting not only defensive strongpoints and batteries but also massing German armor well inland and enemy railway marshaling yards near Caen. The work by those two brawlers on D Day and the hours afterward is well-remembered.

The landing at Sword involved the British Army’s I Corps made up of the 3rd Infantry Division and 79nd Armoured Division along with hardlegs of the 1st Special Service Brigade (which also contained Free French and Belgian Commandos) and No. 41 (Royal Marine) Commando against the German 716th Infantry Division and Caen-based 21st Panzer Div (which launched the only major German counterattack of D-Day.) In all, over 680 Allied troops were killed on Sword alone on 6 June.

SWORD beach – 6 Jun 1944. This image is taken from a Royal Air Force Mustang aircraft of II (Army Cooperation) Squadron. IWM

THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE NORMANDY CAMPAIGN 1944 (B 5191) Three Beach Group troops look out from Queen beach,Sword Beach, littered with beached landing craft and wrecked vehicles and equipment, 7 June 1944. A partially submerged D7 armoured bulldozer can be seen on the right. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205205835

Besides Svenner, the Norwegians were well-represented at Normandy, with her sistership Stord present elsewhere on Sword on D-Day, hitting a German battery by Riva Bella with no less that 362 of her 4.7-inch shells.

Maleri av invasjonen i Normandie og jageren STORD MMU.943486

The Norwegian-manned Hunt-class destroyer escort KNM Glaisdale was at Juno Beach and fired more than 400 rounds that day at German positions near St. Aubain while the similarly-crewed corvettes Acanthus, Eglantine and Rose were at Utah Beach. The plucky 130-foot fisheries vessel Nordkapp was there too, as an escort and rescue vessel. Seven Norwegian merchant ships were packed with troops and supplies that day, including some 200 men of the 29th U.S. Infantry Division aboard the SS Lysland off Omaha Beach. Another 43 Norwegian merchant ships were in the follow-on wave starting June 7, including three that gave their last as mole ships.

For more on the vital contribution to the war by the 1,081 ships of the Norwegian merchant service (Nortraship) which saw an incredible 570 vessels sunk and some 3734 men taken down to their last across both the Atlantic and Pacific, please check out the excellent site dedicated to these war-sailors.

The Norwegians went on to purchase Stord from the UK government and kept her in service for another decade, only scrapping her in Belgium in 1959. Of note, she returned Vice Adm. Edvard Danielsen, commander of the Norwegian Navy, home from the UK in 1945. On that occasion, the following signal was sent from RN Adm. Sir Henry Moore:

To: H Nor MS Stord
From: C-in-C HF AFLOAT CONFIDENTIAL BASEGRAM
For Admiral Danielsen

On your return to Norway in H Nor MS Stord I should be grateful if you will convey to Lieutenant Commander Øi and to the officers and ships company my keen appreciation of the honour I feel in having had them under my command in the Home Fleet.

Their efficiency and their fine fighting spirit have been the admiration of us all and although we are glad that they now should be reaping the reward of their contribution to the liberation of Europe we shall miss them in the Home Fleet. We hope that some of us may soon have the pleasure to renew our friendship in Norwegian port. To you personally I send my warm regards and sincere thanks for your helpful cooperation with me at the Admiralty: Good luck and happiness to you all.

By the end of the war, the Royal Norwegian Naval Fleet (outside of Norway) consisted of 52 combatant ships and 7,500 officers, petty officers and men. For more on the Free Norwegian Navy in WWII, click here for an English translation compiled by the Norwegian Naval Museum.

As a footnote, the only other S/T-class destroyer lost during the war was also claimed on Sword Beach. HMS Swift (G46) struck and detonated mine off the beachhead and sank after breaking in two on 24 June with the loss of 52 men.

HMS SWIFT ( G 46) MMU.941445

Other than that, all 14 remaining S/T-class sisters survived the conflict and lead a long life with three going on to transfer in 1946 to the rebuilding Dutch Navy. The last of the class afloat, HMS Troubridge (F09), helped sink U-407 during the war and, converted to a Type 15 frigate, was only decommissioned in 1969, going to the breakers the following year.

In 2003, a French Navy minesweeper discovered the wreckage of Svenner off Sword and salvaged her anchor. It is now preserved as a memorial to the ship some 100 yards inland from the beach at Hermanville-sur-Mer.

The Norwegians remember Svenner with fondness, having recycled her name for a Kobben-class submarine commissioned in 1967 which remained in service until after the Cold War.

Svenner has become part of the country’s military lore.

Via the Norwegian military museum (Forsvarets Museer) http://forsvaretsmuseer.no/Marinemuseet/70-aar-siden-senkningen-av-Svenner

In 2014, King Harald himself helped dedicate the memorial to all Norwegians present at Normandy, accompanied by some of the last of that country’s aging WWII vets.

Today, of course, on the 74th anniversary of Overlord/Neptune and the 156,000 Allied troops that landed across that wide 50-mile front, we remember all the Allies of the Greatest Generation.

Specs:
Displacement:
1,710 long tons (1,740 t) (standard)
2,530 long tons (2,570 t) (deep load)
Length: 362 ft 9 in (110.6 m) (o/a)
Beam: 35 ft 9 in (10.9 m)
Draught: 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m) (deep)
Installed power:
40,000 shp (30,000 kW)
2 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Propulsion: 2 × shafts; 2 × Parsons geared steam turbines
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 4,675 nmi (8,658 km; 5,380 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Sensors:
Radar Type 290 air warning
Radar Type 285 ranging & bearing
Armament:
4 × single 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mark XII dual-purpose guns
1 × twin Bofors 40 mm AA guns
4 × twin QF 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns
2 × quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes
4 × throwers and 2 × racks for 70 depth charges

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Combat Gallery Sunday: War and Peace, as seen 76 years ago…

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: War and Peace

As a diversion to Midway, a fairly strong task force under Japanese Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryūjō (10,000 tons) and Jun’yō (25,000 tons) as well as their escorts and a naval landing force, attacked the Aleutians in Alaska.

One engagement, where Katutka sent his 80~ strong combined airwing to plaster the only significant American base in the region, socked the base and port facility over the course of two raids on 3-4 June, sinking the barracks ship Northwestern, destroying a few USAAF bombers and USN PBYs, and killing 78 Americans.

The Japanese in turn got a bloody nose from the old school 3-inch M1918s and .50 cal water-cooled Browning of Arkansas National Guard’s 206th Coast Artillery (Anti Aircraft), which splashed a few Japanese planes, a PBY stitched up 19-year-old PO Tadayoshi Koga’s Zero (which crashed and was recovered in remarkable condition– an intelligence coup) and a group of Army Col. John Chennault’s P-40s out of Unamak accounted for a few more.

Below is a great representation of the 206th’s 50cals in action, a bit of martial art by Navy war artist William Draper, done in 1942, entitled “War and Peace”

Painting, Oil on Board; by William F. Draper; 1942; Framed Dimensions 23H X 28W Accession #: 88-189-AS. The peace of an Aleut grave, marked by a Russian Orthodox Cross, is shattered by the staccato barking of a 50-caliber gun as it unleashes a barrage of bullets at attacking Japanese planes.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Memorial Day is not about amazing deals on mattresses and home furnishings

The Army’s 7th Engineer Dive Detachment on a recent recovery mission they conducted in support of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency off the coast of Nha Trang, Vietnam.

From The Army:

NHA TRANG, Vietnam — Full of sediment from the bottom of the sea, a gray metal basket slowly rose out of the turquoise water. While it appeared to only contain muck, it offered hope to the U.S. military divers waiting to inspect its contents.

The divers — mainly from the Army’s 7th Engineer Dive Detachment — were archaeologists of sorts. As they sifted through the mud the consistency of wet cement, the divers searched for personal effects or aircraft wreckage to prove they were on the right path.

The ultimate discovery, though, would be the remains of the six Soldiers who went missing after their Chinook helicopter crashed off the coast here during the Vietnam War.

Each year, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency oversees more than 70 joint missions around the world in search of the remains of American service members at former combat zones. In Vietnam, there are still over 1,200 service members who have not yet been found.

Some of those operations are underwater recovery missions, which rely heavily on the Army’s small diving force.

“Everybody in the military signs up to go to war. We fight the nation’s battles. That’s what we do,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Kratsas, the agency’s only master diver. “But I know if I ever got killed in battle somewhere, I would want my remains brought home to my family and I know they would want the same.”

ZERO VISIBILITY

As the most senior diver on the recent 45-day mission near Nha Trang in southern Vietnam, Kratsas helped ensure the safety of the divers who plunged 80 feet into the dark waters.

Depending on the weather, four two-man teams from the dive detachment spent about an hour each day on the sea floor. While hidden beneath the waves, they used 8-inch vacuum systems to dredge sediment within specified grids of the archaeological site.

At times, the divers stood on the sea floor buried in thick silt up to their shoulders. Divers sucked out the silt until they reached the hard-packed seabed, where pieces of the helicopter had been resting for decades.

The next day, much of the silt had to be dredged out again due to the sea currents that brought in more.

The painstaking efforts of these underwater missions, especially in the murky waters off the coast of Vietnam, are repeated daily in hopes to reunite those lost in war with their loved ones.

“We do exactly what the land team does,” said Kratsas, 46, of Lordstown, Ohio. “We dig a hole in the earth, we put it in a bucket and we screen it. The same exact process that they do, except ours is at 80 feet and we can’t see it.”

Side-scan sonar and magnetometer work helps pinpoint metal objects on the sea floor to better focus diving operations. But sites can often cover a vast area, particularly if an aircraft or ship has broken into pieces.

A site’s depth can also limit how long a diver can safely stay under the water. At 80 feet below, the Army divers only had 55 minutes to work during each dive. Once back on the floating barge, they were rushed into a pressurized chamber to ward off chances of a decompression illness by gradually returning them to normal air pressure.

“Bottom time is definitely a premium,” said Spc. Lamar Fidel, a diver with the detachment, which falls under the 8th Theater Sustainment Command in Hawaii. “That’s where we make our money.”

In a previous mission, Fidel said they were able to dive for about six hours at a time. That site, which was in search of two pilots from an F-4 Phantom fighter jet that crashed in the Gulf of Tonkin near northern Vietnam, was only about 20 feet deep.

It was also Fidel’s most memorable diving mission so far.

For 14 years, he said, the agency had gone to the site unable to recover any human remains. Then last year, using the work of past missions, his team discovered a bone that led to the identification of one of the missing pilots.

“As soon as you see that, that hits you right in the heart,” said Fidel, 28, of Atlanta. “It makes you realize what you did … wasn’t all for nothing.”

EXCLUSIVE GROUP

While DPAA depends on Army divers for many of its missions, there are only about 150 of them across the service.

The small, elite career field has a high failure rate of roughly 60 to 80 percent for those training to become a diver. Much of the reasoning behind the tough entry course is that lives are always at stake during missions.

“Every time we get in the water, you have a chance of having a diving-related casualty,” said Staff Sgt. Les Schiltz, a diving supervisor assigned to the agency.

The deeper a person dives, the more at risk they are to suffer from a decompression illness. The two main problems divers face are decompression sickness, or the “bends,” and an arterial gas embolism. While the “bends” results from bubbles growing in tissue and causing local damage, the latter can have bubbles travel through the arteries and block blood flow. It can eventually lead to death.

Divers also need to watch out for sharks, jellyfish and other dangerous marine life.

“There are a lot of things in the water that can hurt you,” Schiltz said. “You plan accordingly, you look ahead to where you’re going to be, and you try to mitigate all those risks as much as you can.”

The thrill of diving often outweighs the dangers for many of the Soldiers. When under the water, Schiltz, 28, of Vernal, Utah, says it is like being in a different world.

“It’s probably the same reason someone will explain to you why they skydive or why they snowboard off cliffs,” he said. “There’s always a danger to it and that just makes it even better.”

Army divers are tasked to do a variety of missions that can have them repairing ships and ports or conducting underwater surveys. For many divers, though, the recovery missions have the most impact on them.

“It takes you to a more emotional point in your life,” Schiltz said.

While every diver wants to be the one who discovers the remains of a service member, the master diver describes the somber event as a shared win whenever it happens.

“Everybody’s out here to do one job and just because you happen to be the one diver on the job when you find something, it’s not you that found it,” Kratsas said. “It was a team effort.”

When not diving, Soldiers have several side jobs to keep operations afloat. They monitor oxygen levels and depth of fellow divers or serve as back-up divers to assist in an emergency. They also tend to umbilical cords that connect divers to the barge or help run a water pump for the suction hose.

When a basket is brought up to the barge, they all scoop out the sediment into buckets and screen it.

Some divers are surprised by the condition of some items pulled from the water. Even if items are buried at sea for a long time, salt water can sometimes preserve them better than at land sites where the acidity of soil breaks them down faster.

“A lot of times the wreckage is in such good condition, you can still read serial numbers,” said Capt. Ezra Swanson, who served as the team leader for the recent mission.

Pieces of an aircraft can also put things into perspective for the divers when they hold them in their hands.

“The last time someone was with that, it was the aircrew when they were going down,” said Swanson, 30, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. “It’s like a connection between you and that crew.”

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

Decades of sediment often buries human remains in an underwater tomb. To unearth them, dig sites are properly logged with historical data from previous missions.

Dive teams may pick up where they left off before or continue another team’s work at a site. An underwater archaeologist will direct a team where to dredge using grids, typically 2 by 4 meters wide, which are marked off on the seabed.

Similar to the guessing game of “Battleship,” if a certain grid has a successful hit with evidence being dredged up from it, divers will concentrate on nearby grids.

Even one fragment, such as a bone or tooth, could solve a case if it can be identified by laboratory staff back at the DPAA headquarters on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

“Sometimes you only find small fragments, but with today’s technology and with DNA [testing], we can still get a lot of information even from tiny little bits,” said Piotr Bojakowski, an underwater archaeologist with the agency.

Personal effects, such as rings, wallets or dog tags, can also produce a strong case for identification.

Since the recovery process can be slow and methodical, Bojakowski will remind divers to stay patient to ensure no evidence is overlooked.

“Take your time, don’t rush the process,” he tells them. “It’s more important that you do screening properly and find this small piece than to rush it through. Because once you lose it, we will never find it again.”

If years of careful research do not provide clues of human remains at a site, the agency may be forced to redirect efforts elsewhere.

“It’s a difficult, difficult decision to make,” Bojakowski said. “The ideal situation is to find the remains and material evidence. But providing an answer that the remains are not at the site is also an answer to some degree. Sometimes that’s the only answer we can get.”

Despite the long, hot days that had baskets come up empty during their recent mission, the Soldiers still kept at it for weeks. And when the time comes again, they will likely return to the same spot to do the same work.

To them, the mission is bigger than themselves.

“They know the cost and the sacrifice and have a very high appreciation for the guys who lost their lives,” said Swanson, the team leader. “They’re willing to push through the challenges and make sure they do everything they can to bring those guys home.”

A special Warship Wednesday: Remembering Scorpion

Whereas normally this post would be some vintage ironclad, battleship or steam sloop, today we honor the men who lost their lives 50 years ago this week when USS Scorpion (SSN-589) a Skipjack-class nuclear powered submarine sunk some 750-miles south-west of Azores under 9,600 feet of cold Atlantic water.

Her brave crew of 99 Sailors lost their lives in one of the greatest non-wartime tragedies in the U.S. Navy’s history.

Gratefully, it was over in moments.

Time based on hydroacoustic events of the Scorpion sinking recorded at the Canary Islands. Source: Supplementary Record of Proceedings of Court of Inquiry by commander-in-chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet:
1859:35: Torpedo warhead explosion on port side of middle of sub causes rapid flooding of control room and other areas amidships. Water passes through access tunnel to reactor and auxiliary machinery room.
1901:06: Torpedo compartment bulkhead collapses, causing rapid flooding.
1901:10 Engine room bulkhead collapses aft into engine room, causing 85-foot stern section of submarine to telescope forward into auxiliary machinery and reactor compartments.

Today, we honor their courage, their service to our country and their commitment to duty.

Vale, Scorpion, may your final crew rest peacefully and on eternal patrol.

Franklin’s Guardians

A watercolor of the HMS Terror exploring the Canadian Arctic, which she would never leave (Canadian Museum of Civilization)

Ownership of the two ships, Adm. Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, two of the most archaeologically important wrecks in the world, was formally transferred to the Canadian government with the signing of a Deed of Gift at a ceremony last month with the Inuit of Nunavut, who played a key role in their discovery, recognised as joint owners of the wrecks and artifacts.

After a local Canadian Forces Ranger pointed out where Franklin’s lost Arctic survey ship HMS Terror was in 2016, a group of 17 Inuit was enlisted by Parks Canada last year to camp out in rotating four-person shifts to protect the historic site and that of Franklin’s other ship, HMS Erebus, which was discovered in much the same way in 2014.

The two ships, under the command of Sir John, set sail from England in 1845 through the Canadian Arctic to find the Northwest Passage. During the treacherous journey, the ships became trapped in thick sea ice. The crews abandoned the ships to trek overland to safety, but tragically none survived.

Painting depicting the fate of Sir John Franklin’s expedition. ”They forged the last links with their lives’ by William Smith Via Royal Maritime Museum Greenwich

“The story behind these vessels is both fascinating and incredibly important to the history of both our nations. The UK joined forces with the Canadian government and Inuit population to search for these ships for 172 years and I’m delighted they will now be protected for future generations,” said UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Artifacts from the wrecks will be available for display at museums in both countries. Currently, there are examples on display at the Canadian Museum of History as part of the “Death in the Ice” exhibit.

The Expedition’s timeline, from the Canadian Museum:

Franklin’s expedition and the dozens of follow-on missions to find him made headlines around the world, such as in this German print, for decades

May 19, 1845: The Franklin Expedition departed from Greenhithe, near London, England.

July 4, 1845: The ships arrived at the Whale Fish Islands, Greenland, after a stormy Atlantic crossing.

July 12, 1845: Officers and crewmembers mailed their last letters home.

July 29 or 31, 1845: HMS Erebus and Terror were sighted in Baffin Bay by whaling ships. This was the last time the ships and their crews were seen by Europeans.

Winter 1845 to 1846: The expedition spent its first winter in the Arctic off Beechey Island. Three members of the crew died and were buried on Beechey Island.

Summer 1846: The expedition headed south into Peel Sound.

September 1846 to Spring 1848: The ships were beset — surrounded and stuck in ice — northwest of King William Island.

June 11, 1847: Sir John Franklin died. He was 61 years old and had served in the Royal Navy for 47 years.

April 22, 1848: The expedition had been stuck off King William Island for over a year and a half. Fearing they would never escape, the men deserted the ships.

April 25, 1848: The men landed on King William Island. Nine officers and 15 seamen had already died. There were 105 survivors. Officers left a note stating their plan to trek to the Back River.

January 20, 1854: Franklin’s Expedition is missing for more than eight years. The Admiralty announced that its officers and men will be declared dead as of March 31, 1854.

1847–1880: More than 30 expeditions sailed, steamed or sledged into the Arctic from the east, west, and south. Very few found any trace of the expedition.

2008: A renewed search for Franklin’s ships began under the leadership of Parks Canada.

September 1, 2014: An important clue is found on an island in Wilmot and Crampton Bay: an iron davit pintle (fitting). Parks Canada refocuses its efforts near that island.

September 2, 2014: 167 years after the British Admiralty’s search began, the first wreck, HMS Erebus, is found.

2016: Almost two years to the day after the discovery of Erebus, Terror is located in Terror Bay, off the southern coast of King William Island.

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