“Asiatic Fleet, Priority
Japan started hostilities. Govern yourselves accordingly.”
With the Philippines indefensible from a naval standpoint, by 14 December Hart had managed to withdraw his outgunned fleet in good order to Balikpapan, Borneo and continue operations from there. While his submarines kept slipping through the Japanese blockade of the PI, he engaged the Japanese at the Battle of Balikpapan Bay and came out ahead.
Hart held the command of the U.S. Navy Asiatic Fleet in WWII until 5 February 1942, at which point the command ceased to exist though not a single ship was lost while he was in charge of the force.
An excellent 95-page overview of the two months between the two bookend dates is here
New video in from the Philippines of Paul Allen’s RV Petrel exploring and documenting the remains of the Wickes-class destroyer, USS Ward (DD-139/APD-16).
USS Ward fired the first American shot in World War II on December 7, 1941, and of course is a past Warship Wednesday alumnus.
In a twist of fate, she was lost December 7, 1944, in Ormoc Bay and is now found and announced to the world again on that, now hallowed, date.
A Navy officer views the shrine at the Arizona Memorial, where a marble wall bears the names of 1,177 officers and crew killed on the USS Arizona (BB-39) on 7 December 1941.
A view of the USS Missouri (BB-63), site of the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945, from the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. To this day, oil can be still seen rising from the wreckage to the surface of the water. The oil seeping is sometimes referred to as “tears of the Arizona” or “black tears.”
If you aren’t following Paul Allen’s page for the RV Petrel and are a fan of Pacific War shipwrecks, you are missing out.
The Seattle-based ship has been combing the location of some of the greatest battles that occurred in late 1944– those that saw the last stand of the Imperial Japanese Fleet in a last-ditch effort to slow down the U.S. reoccupation of the Philippines. This has included finding all five of the Japanese ships lost in the Surigao Strait: Yamashiro, Fuso, Yamagumo, Michishio & Asagumo.
Destroyers Michishio and Yamagumo:
One half the rangefinder from the very top of the Pagoda used for the 356mm main artillery of IJN battleship Fuso:
“Asashio Class destroyer was the southernmost wreck we found in Surigao Strait leading us to believe it was the IJN Asagumo”:
From the National Museum of the Philippines:
Paul Allen and Navigea Ltd. partner with the National Museum to continue locating and documenting WWII shipwrecks in Philippine waters.
Pursuant to its legal mandate in the areas of underwater exploration, survey and archaeology, the National Museum through its director, Jeremy Barns, recently issued permits on behalf of the Philippine Government to facilitate the location and documentation of World War II-era shipwrecks in Philippine territorial waters, focusing particularly on the areas of the Surigao Strait and Ormoc Bay where key battles took place in October, and November-December, 1944, respectively, as part of the massive Allied undertaking to liberate the country from Japanese occupation.
The permits were issued to Navigea Ltd., which owns the research vessels M/Y Octopus and R/V Petrel on behalf of American businessman, philanthropist, and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, who has in recent years been undertaking undersea explorations locating lost shipwrecks around the world with a multidisciplinary team led by Robert Kraft.
This same team, working with the National Museum and the Philippine Coast Guard, discovered the wreck of the famous Japanese battleship IJN Musashi at a depth of one kilometer in the waters of the Sibuyan Sea, Romblon, in 2015. Earlier this year in August, the wreck of the USS Indianapolis was identified and filmed at the astonishing depth of 5,500 meters in the Philippine Sea about halfway between Guam and the Philippines. In the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Solomon Islands, Mr. Allen’s team explored and surveyed the wrecks of other famous ships, such as the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruiser HMS Hood and battleship Roma and discovered the destroyer Artigliere and 29 wrecks from the Battle of Guadalcanal.
In all instances, the discoveries of the exact locations of these warships of various nations, the filming of their remains and, in the case of the HMS Hood, the delicate retrieval of its ship’s bell to serve as a memorial at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, have allowed for a greater sense of closure for the descendants of the thousands of servicemen who perished at sea aboard these vessels over seven decades ago.
Navigea Ltd. will be collaborating with the National Museum, through its Cultural Properties Regulation Division and Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Division, together with other national agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard as well as concerned local governments, in this latest initiative, which hopes to provide valuable new data and actual discoveries for the benefit of naval and war historians, underwater archaeologists, stakeholder nations in addition to the Philippines and, most importantly, the families of those who were lost.
With ARA San Juan (S-42) now going on two weeks overdue, with no verified communications or items found from the vessel in that period, it is looking bleak for the prospect that the German-made Type TR-1700 SSK will be found intact and the 44 souls aboard her smiling and happy, especially after word that an explosion was detected on 15 November near her last known location.
Now, the Argentine Navy has advised the search for her is no longer considered a rescue mission and has now switched to recovery. In all, some 4,000 personnel from more than a dozen countries have been combing the South Atlantic for the missing submarine.
“Despite the magnitude of the efforts made, it has not been possible to locate the submarine,” navy spokesman Capt. Enrique Balbi said on Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Balbi told reporters that water had entered the submarine’s snorkel while she was submerged, which is never a good thing.
If you have ever gone to sea, and known the joy that it is to return, count yourself forever lucky.
For the San Juan: Eternal Father, Strong to Save, as performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and chorus.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017: The bruised-up U-boat bruiser of the Outer Banks
Here we see the brand-new steel-hulled fishing boat Cohasset in Feb. 1942, just before she assumed her military guise as U.S. Navy Patrol Vessel, District (YP) #389, an anti-submarine trawler, and sailed off into a fateful, if one-sided battle.
Laid down at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts for R. O’Brien and Company of Boston as hull #1512 along with three sister ships on the eve of the U.S. entry into World War II, the 110-foot trawler was meant to ply the fishing grounds off Gloucester and the Georges Bank.
R. O’Brien was reportedly a top-notch operation, and one of the first in the country to equip their whole fleet with R/T sets in the 1930s, and they landed in excess of 20 million pounds annual catch at the canneries in the area.
When war seemed unavoidable, the four new boats were quickly evaluated to be useful to the Navy and on 6 December 1940 the sister trawlers Salem, Lynn, Weymouth and Cohasset were signed over to the federal government in lieu of taxes by O’Brien and delivered under their ordered names as they were completed throughout October and November 1941. Cohasset was taken into custody by the Navy in February 1942 as a coastal minesweeper, USS AMc-202. This was changed to YP-389 on 1 May and she was refitted into a patrol craft at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Armed with a single 3″/23cal deck gun taken from naval stores, two Great War-era. 30 cal. Lewis machine guns, six depth charges on a gravity rack and assorted small arms, she was placed under command of one LT. R.J. Philips, USNR who sailed her with a crew that consisted of two ensigns and 21 enlisted (none higher than a PO1) with a mission to keep the U-boats terrorizing the Eastern Seaboard at bay– though she did not have sonar, ASDIC or a listening device of any kind.
In June 1942, USS YP-389 headed south to North Carolina with the primary duty to patrol the Hatteras minefield on her economic 6-cylinder diesels– just 9 knots when wide open.
There, in the predawn hours of 19 June, she came across Kptlt. Horst Degen’s Type VIIIC submarine, U-701, of 3. Unterseebootsflottille operating out of the pens at La Pallice, France.
The battle should have been over before it started, as the patrol boat’s 3-inch popgun was out of operation with a broken firing pin and Degen’s 88mm and 20mm guns far out-ranged the 389‘s Lewis guns. Still, the surface action took place over a 90-minute period and saw the small patrol craft resort to dropping their depth charges set as shallow as possible in the U-boat’s path in an unsuccessful effort to crack its hull.
In the end, the trawler-turned-fighter was holed several times and sank in 320-feet of water, carrying five of her crew with her to Davy Jones’ Locker some five miles off Diamond Shoals. The crew of YP-389 had fired more than 24 drums from her Lewis gun as the gunners took cover behind trawling winches, answered by 50 shells of 88mm. In all, she had been in the Navy for just five months, most of that undergoing conversion.
The 18 survivors and one body floated overnight, with no life rafts or lifebelts, until they were rescued by Coast Guard picket boats (CG-462 and CG-486) the next morning. Four required treatment at Norfolk Naval Hospital.
In 1948, a Naval Board found that her sinking was in large part avoidable, as she was ill-fitted and suited for the detail assigned to her and, in effect, never should have been there.
Here is how Degen described the action to Navy interrogators a few weeks later:
On the night of June 17, U-701 surfaced off Cape Hatteras close to a U-boat chaser which challenged her with a series of B’s from a signal lamp. Thinking he was going to be rammed, Degen put about and drew away, without answering the challenge. The following day he saw what he thought was the same cutter escorting a tanker and a freighter in line ahead. Degen believed the cutter had made contact with him in passing, for as soon as the convoyed ships were out of range, the cutter returned and dropped depth charges near U-701. Degen said that on this occasion he did not hear the “ping” of Asdic.
The next night, June 19, U-701 surfaced off Cape Hatteras and again sighted what Degen took to be the same cutter. He opened fire with his 8.8 cm gun to which the cutter replied with machine-gun fire. U-701 expended a large number of shells. Apparently, the gun crew, groping over-anxiously in the dark, seized every available shell in the ready-use lockers without discrimination. Thus, fire was an unorthodox mixture of SAP, HE and incendiary shell, but it sank the cutter. Prisoners considered this a wasteful and “untidy” piece of work, and the captain gave the impression that he was ashamed of it.
Degen said he approached to look for survivors with the intention of putting them ashore, but he found none. He said he thought the crew made off in a boat. Prisoners gave the position of the attack as near the Diamond Shoals Lightship Buoy.
The 389 was not the only YP lost during the war and no less than 36 were destroyed while at least 17 earned battle stars (one, USS YP-42, the ex-Coast Guard cutter Gallatin, picked up three battle stars on her own). Though many of those lost foundered in heavy weather, sank after collisions, or were written off due to grounding, a number matched our YP’s combat service:
YP-16 (ex-CG-267) lost in Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands
YP-17 (ex-CG-275) lost in Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands
YP-26 destroyed by undetermined explosion in the Canal Zone, Panama, 19 November 1942.
YP-97 lost due to Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands
YP-235 destroyed by undetermined explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, 1 April 1943.
YP-277 scuttled to avoid capture east of Hawaii, 23 May 1942.
YP-284 (ex-San Diego tuna clipper Endeavor) sunk by surface ships off Guadalcanal, 25 Oct 1942.
YP-345 sunk southeast of Midway Island, 31 October 1942.
YP-346 sunk by surface ships in the South Pacific, 9 September 1942.
YP-405 destroyed by undetermined explosion in the Caribbean Sea, 20 November 1942.
YP-492 sunk off east Florida, 8 January 1943.
As for U-701?
Commissioned 16 Jul 1941, her career lasted but 12 months and, after claiming YP-389 and 25,390 GRT of merchant ships, was herself sunk on 7 July 1942 off Cape Hatteras by depth charges from an A-29 Hudson patrol bomber of the 396th Bomb Sqn, taking 39 dead to the bottom in 100 feet of water. Degen and six survivors suffered at sea for two days and were taken into custody and interrogated by Naval Intelligence extensively.
Known to researchers looking for the lost USS Monitor since the 1970s, in 2009, NOAA announced they had verified the wreck of YP-389, and documented the patrol boat and her combat as part of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
U-701 rests near her and is a popular dive attraction in the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Both ships are protected.
Displacement: 170 long tons (170 t)
Length: 110 ft. oal, 102.5 wl
Beam: 22.1 ft.
Propulsion: 4 6cyl diesel engines, 1 × screw
Speed: 9 kts, max.
Crew: 3 officers, 21 enlisted (1942)
1 × 3 in (76 mm)/23 cal dual purpose gun (broken)
2 × .30 cal (7.62 mm) Lewis light machine guns
6 depth charges
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With ARA San Juan (S-42) now more than 10 days overdue, with no verified communications or items found from the vessel in that period, it is looking bleak for the prospect that the German-made Type TR-1700 SSK will be found intact and the 44 souls aboard her smiling and happy.
Especially with news from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization and others that, on 15 November, they picked up an underwater non-nuclear explosion from within the area that she is thought to be lost.
If San Juan is indeed gone, it would be the largest loss of life for the Argentine Navy since the Falklands Islands conflict in 1982 and the worst peacetime submarine loss since the Russian Navy’s Kursk (K-141), a Project 949/Oscar II-class cruise missile sub, sank with all hands in 2000, reminding all that venture to sea that there is no guarantee they will come back home.
Still, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said the search will go on.
“I’m here to guarantee you that we will carry on with the search, especially now that we have the support of all the international community,” said Macri in a speech Friday.
More than a dozen countries have assets in the region– including the U.S.– concentrating on an area the size of Spain.