Category Archives: for those lost at sea

Remembering Thresher

Via the U.S. Naval Institute

On this day in 1963, 129 men were lost when the USS Thresher (SSN-593) sank during deep-dive tests in the Atlantic Ocean. After hearing about the disaster, the young son of skipper CDR John Harvey made this crayon drawing of the sub lying on the ocean floor.

The drawing is now in the collection of the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington, D.C.

Sunrise Service Among the Depth Charges

Official Caption: Sunday Services on board a Coast Guard destroyer escort in the Atlantic, during the Easter Season, in 1944-45. Here, the ship’s Chaplain Leads the crew in prayer.

National Archives 26-G-3425

For reference, among the myriad of Army- and Navy-owned vessels the USCG operated during WWII in addition to their own, the Coasties ran no less than 30 destroyer escorts in five divisions, including the ill-fated USS Leopold DE-319, the first of its type to be lost in combat.

Warship Wednesday, March 24, 2021: Nicky’s Dangerous Dolphin

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, March 24, 2021: Nicky’s Dangerous Dolphin

Here we see the primitive one-of-a-kind submarine, Delfin of the Imperial Russian Navy cruising around the Krondstadt roadstead in August 1903, proudly flying the St. Andrew’s ensign. A sometimes-cranky little boat in perhaps the world’s most unlucky fleet, she would nonetheless leave a huge mark on naval history.

On 19 December 1900, Lt. Gen Nikolai Kuteinikov, head of shipbuilding for the Russian Admiralty, authorized a commission to begin work towards a submersible torpednyy kater, or torpedo cutter. While negotiations with Irish engineer John Philip Holland’s concern in American to purchase one of his submarine boats proved fruitless as Holland wanted a 10-unit package deal for a whopping $1.9 million, the Russians decided to roll their own. After all, how hard could it be?

Assigned this task was a team under promising young naval architect Ivan Bubnov. Bubnov, just 28 at the time, was fresh from the construction of the new battleship Poltava. As it would turn out, he would end up as Tsarist Russia’s Simon Lake.

Laid down on 5 July 1901 at the Baltic Shipbuilding & Mechanical Plant on Vasilevskiy Island– today’s historic 165-year-old OJSC Baltic Shipyard– the subject of our story was at first dubbed Torpednyy Kater No. 113, then later switching her pennant to Minonosets (destroyer) No. 150 before leaving the slipways.

The design was simple. Made in two symmetrical halves of rounded 8mm nickel steel then riveted and forge welded together over an internal framework, the submersible was just 64 feet long– the same size as USS Holland (SS-1).

Using flat iron plating on the vessel’s top decks for added strength, her fixed periscope-equipped conning tower/wheelhouse doubled as a hatch. Just 113 tons, she had ballast tanks on each end and could take on nine tons of seawater (in 15 minutes) to submerge to a maximum depth of about 150 feet. Obukhov was contracted for the blow system, which included a small electric air compressor that took four hours to refill completely empty air tanks.

Longitudinal section of submarine “Dolphin” via Ivan Grigorievich Bubnov’s Russian submarines: The history of creation and use of, 1834-1923.

He (Russian warships are never referred to as being female) used a French-made Soter-Garle electric motor and 64 Fullmen lead-acid batteries to achieve 7.5-knots submerged for short periods, and a German-made 300hp Daimler gasoline engine to reach 8.5 knots on the surface. Control was through a series of six rudders.

In short, he has been described as “like the USS Holland (SS-1) but worse.”

By September 1902, he was launched, and the following Spring was undergoing trials under the command of Capt. (3rd Rank) Mikhail Beklemishev, a 44-year-old torpedo tactics instructor on the submarine commission who had learned his trade on destroyers in the 1890s. During the construction of the Russian submarine under his command, he had traveled to the U.S. and met with Mr. Holland ostensibly on a shopping trip, and both observed and went to sea on Holland’s early Type 7 submarines at Electric Boat in Groton. Ironic considering Delfin’s description.

All the plankowners were volunteers recruited by Beklemishev.

Accommodations for the 13-member crew were cramped– remember the boat was shorter than a mobile home today and most of the spaces were taken up by machinery. Berthing was via hammocks and seabags strung over the wooden deck in the bow covering the batteries. A small stove for heating canned food and a novel electric samovar provided tea made up the galley. Fresh water amounted to about 40 gallons and the head consisted of a sand-lined closet. Officers’ quarters in the middle of the boat for the skipper and XO amounted to two stuffed sofas and a small dining table, all bolted to the deck around their own O-club cistern. Workstations had wooden stools similarly affixed to the deck.

He was armed with a pair of 1898 pattern 15-inch Whitehead torpedoes held outside of the submarine in a trapeze arrangement designed by Polish engineer Dr. Stefan Drzewiecki. Termed a “drop collar,” Drzewiecki’s girder launching system would become standard on Tsarist submarines through 1918 as well as a few French classes.

French submarine Espadon seen at Cherbourg, France. Note the 17.7-inch torpedo in the Drzewiecki drop collar external launching system on her deck. Also, note her very Delfin-like main hatch with a periscope on top.

They could launch their steel fish with the submarine either submerged or surfaced and were operated via a hellbox inside the sub. The total price of the new submersible was 388,000 gold rubles.

In two rounds of sea trials in the Gulf of Finland during the summer of 1903, Beklemishev and crew were able to spend several days in a row on the ocean and found the craft to perform satisfactorily, both on the surface and submerged.

The occasion of her launch for sea trials. Note the two Whitehead torpedoes in Drzewiecki drop collars at her stern. Also, Beklemishev is the goateed officer on deck.

The same day, with a better view of the Whiteheads. 

On 16 August, Tsar Nicholas II, aboard his yacht Alexander and with the battleship Slava in escort, reviewed the little submersible torpedo boat and received the details of his trials directly from Beklemishev.

The well-known image of the Tsar (second from center, hands on sword) receiving the report from Beklemishev (far left) aboard Minonosets No. 150 on 16 Aug 1903. Bubnov stands behind the emperor and looks like he is waiting for Beklemishev to say something crazy.

Laid up during the annual Baltic Sea freeze over, Minonosets No. 150 was given several modifications to correct errors observed during her sea trials to include a second periscope as well as redesigned rudders and diving planes.

Lessons learned in her construction and operation were used by Bubnov to create a larger, 100-foot submarine from the Minonosets No. 150 design– the six-boat kerosene/electric Kasatka (killer whale) class– which had four drop collared torpedoes. To compare with foreign types, the Admiralty purchased six 137-ton boats with bottoming wheels from Simon Lake (Osetr-class), three 209-ton subs from Krupp in Germany (Karp, Karas, and Kambala), a gifted midget sub from Krupp (the trailerable 40-foot Forel) and seven 105-ton boats from Mr. Holland (Som-class). Beklemishev was pulled from command and placed in charge of what was effectively the first Russian submariner school. Whereas the Russians only had their sole domestic-made boat in 1903, within a year they had more than two dozen soon on the way from multiple sources.

On May 31, 1904, all Russian destroyer submarines were given names by order of the Tsar, and “Minonosets No. 150” was christened Delfin.

When the ice melted, Delfin was ready for fleet operations but looked slightly different.

Note the second periscope

During regular operations in a rapidly expanding specialty branch, Delfin was used increasingly as a training boat, and on a practice dive while at the shipyard in June 1904, she went to the bottom under the command of LT. Anatoly Cherkasov along with 37 men and, tragically, remained there due to an issue with an improperly closed hatch, filling the sub’s interior with seawater except for a two-foot air bubble at the top of the boat. When finally rescued, Cherkasov and 23 of his crew had perished with the young officer voluntarily giving up his place to allow others to survive on the increasingly fetid air.

The first Russian submariners to be buried as heroes, they would not be the last. Amazingly, the survivors all elected to remain in the branch.

The grievous loss led the Russians to develop some of the world’s first submarine rescue tactics and vessels, including the rescue ship Volkhov, ordered in 1911 (which still, amazingly, endures as the Kommuna in Black Sea Fleet today.)

Raised and repaired, Delfin fired test torpedoes at a target hulk in October and, along with seven other small submarines, were hauled out of the water, fitted to railcars, and shipped via the single track Trans-Siberian Railway some 4,060 miles to the Siberian Flotilla’s base in Vladivostok as a pitched war was on with the Japanese in the Pacific.

Russian submarines on railcars to Vladivostok, 1904. The closest to the photo is Nalim/Burbot, a Kasatka-class boat. Four Kasatkas, notably just larger refinements to the Delfin’s design, were sent to the Pacific along with Delfin and two Holland-produced Som-class boats. 

The trip included a break at Lake Baikal where, as the spur around the world’s deepest freshwater body of water was not complete, they had to be transferred to a ferry to cross to the other side. The sight of submarines on a ferry crossing a lake in Siberia must have been a sight.

By 23 December 1904, Delfin arrived at Vladivostok and, once put in the water through a hole chopped in the iced-in harbor, made a test dive in the Pacific on 12 February. Two days later, along with the Holland-produced Som, he made a cautious combat patrol under the ice to the sea and soon was venturing further out to as far as 120 miles offshore, later operating with Kasatka as well.

Imperial Russian Submarines Delfin and Kasatka prepared to go out to sea for a patrol against the Japanese.

In all, by May, he spent 17 days at sea including eight on patrol. Together, Delfin, Som, and Kasatka reportedly came across two blockading Japanese destroyers 70 miles out and, attempted to get close enough to fire a torpedo volley– the Whiteheads only had a range of 1,500 yards– but were unable to due to the disparity in speed.

Delfin’s war was cut short when, on 5 May, he suffered a gasoline explosion in port that singed crewmembers and popped 29 rivets. The smokey submariners were able to escape before he sank (for the second time in two years). Raised, he needed three months of repairs ashore before she was able to take to the water again.

Imperial Russian Submarine Delfin raised after sinking On May the 5th 1905,

The next Spring, on 11 March 1906, acting on behalf of the Tsar, the Minister of the Sea, Admiral Alexei Birilev decreed that Russia’s submersible “destroyers” were actually submarines and finally listed on the naval rolls as such.

Delfin would spend the next decade in the Far East, becoming the granddaddy of the Pacific Submarine Division. There she underwent a regular cycle of summertime cruises followed by winter lay-ups sans batteries and to keep the hull out of the ice. Each spring, she would receive additional equipment and improvements, making her much less spartan and much more survivable. Notably, she would suffer at least two other fires in her service they were quickly contained. In 1910, he performed a role of a torpedo testing craft, firing no less than 43 fish that summer while submerged.

Russian Siberian Military Flotilla, Ulysses Bay 1908, submarine Delfin (far left) along with submarines Kasatka, Skat, Nalim, Sheremetev, Osyotr, Kefal, Paltus, Bychok or Plotva, with the destroyer Grozovoy offshore. 

In August 1914, with the Great War upon the world, Delfin would take on war shot torpedoes and, along with the other subs of the Siberian Flotilla, would undertake fruitless combat patrols with a weather eye peeled for German and Austrian vessels.

Deflin’s 1914 Jane’s listing as part of the Russian Siberian Flotilla. Note the “Bubnoff” reference. The Russians entered the Great War with over 40 submarines, one of the world’s largest users

In March 1916, with the Kaiser’s wolves long cleared from the Far East except for the occasional surface raider, it was decided to ship Delfin from frozen Vladivostok to equally frigid Archangel in the White Sea, to be used in the defense of Kola Bay. Packed on railcars as far as Kotlas, he was transferred to barges on the Dvina River in June to take up to Archangel. Damaged in transport, he was not repaired and successfully placed in the water at her new homeport until September.

Badly damaged in a storm in April 1917, the commander of the Northern Fleet sidelined Delfin in favor of a new American-built Amerikanskiy Golland (Holland)-class submarine that was soon to arrive in port. Used briefly for training, Delfin was stricken from the fleet’s list in August 1917.

Later transferred to the local White Sea merchant fleet, he would be repurposed to a shift-lifting pontoon for salvage work, and then, on 16 March 1932, it was ordered by the Council of Labor and Defense Commissars that she be scrapped.

Epilogue

Delfin today is remembered in several pieces of maritime art.

As for his fathers, submarine designer Bubnov would design no less than 32 subs for the Tsar including the successful Akula and Bars classes, with the latter seeing service in both world wars. He would also lend his expertise to the Gangut-class battleships, which would cover themselves in glory and endure into the 1950s.

I.G. Bubnov near to submarine Akula on the dock of Baltic factory

Made a Major General, Bubnov was ushered out of the design bureau with the fall of the Tsar but never left St. Petersburg, dying in the city’s Typhus epidemic in 1919 during the Civil War at the ripe old age of 47. The Soviets later named two merchant ships after him in the 1970s and 80s.

Beklemishev, Delfin’s first and most successful skipper, remained with the fleet until 1910, retiring as a Major General in charge of diving and submarine training. After teaching at various universities in the capital, he was appointed to the shipbuilding commission during the Great War, a position he was surprisingly able to keep for a while even after the Reds took over, even though he was arrested several times. Comrade Beklemishev retired for good in 1931 and passed away five years later in St. Petersburg, err Leningrad, and his grave was lost during the siege of the city in WWII. Both his son and grandson would go on to be Soviet merchant officers of some renowned, with the latter having a rescue tug named in his honor.

Speaking of honors and rescues, the grave of Delfin’s lost 24 submariners remain at Smolensk Orthodox Cemetery on Vasilevskiy Island in St. Petersburg, not too far away from that of Bubnov, who is celebrated today and has his likeness on several stamps and institutions.

Since 1996, a new holiday, the “Day of the Submariner” has been a national occasion. Implemented by order No. 253 of Admiral of the Fleet Felix Nikolayevich Gromov the “Day of the Submariner” is celebrated annually on 19 March, citing the 1906 order given by Adm. Birilev adding the term to the fleet and changing the submersible “destroyers” into official submarines, of which the Russians have had several hundred since then.

Last week, on the 115th anniversary of Birilev’s order, the Russian Navy, submarine vets, and their families held services across the country, including at the graves of the Delfin’s crew and the monument for the lost submariners of the Kursk, a more recent disaster.

Specs:

Via ‘“Submarines of the Tsarist Navy” (Spassky, I. D., Semyonov, V. P., Polmar, Norman), an excellent English primer to early Russian subs. 

Displacement: 113 tons surfaced; 126 tons submerged
Length: 64 ft
Beam: 11 ft
Draught: 9 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 1 shaft petrol / electric, 300 hp/120 hp
Speed:
10 knots surfaced; 6 knots submerged after 1910.
Complement: 22 officers and men after 1910
Armament:
2 external 15 in torpedoes in Drzewiecki drop collars.

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Saving The Sullivans: A Call to Action

The Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans (DD-537) was launched at Bethleham Steel on 4 April 1943, sponsored by the grieving Mrs. Thomas F. Sullivan, mother of the five late Sullivan brothers, and was commissioned five months later. The brothers Sullivan had requested (“We will make a team together that can’t be beat,” one had written) to be ship out together and joined the light cruiser Juneau (CL-52) at the New York Navy Yard on 3 February 1942, just before that ship’s commissioning, and were all lost just before Thanksgiving in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

The destroyer received nine battle stars for World War II and two for Korean service. Laid up in 1965 at Philadelphia, in 1977, she and cruiser Little Rock (CG-4) were processed for donation to the city of Buffalo, N.Y., where they now serve as a memorial.

However, 78 years of water have not proved kind to her hull and today The Sullivans is in serious risk of sinking. The Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park is urgently seeking $100,000 to fund emergency repairs of her hull.

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021: Full Fathom Five

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Feb. 24, 2021: Full Fathom Five

Here we see a painting by noted British maritime artist Charles David Cobb of HM Submarine Shakespeare (P221) acting as a beacon marker for the Allied invasion fleet at Salerno, 9 September 1943. If she looks at ease in the task, it was the vessel’s third set of landings in just 10 months– and she had a lot of war left to go.

As her name would suggest, our boat is a member of the Royal Navy’s expansive S-class or Swordfish-class of smallish diesel submarines completed across a 16-year run from 1929 to 1945. In all, some 62 of these 200-foot/900-ton (ish) subs were completed in three generations. Small enough for operations in constrained seas, they were ideal for work in the Mediterranean, a place where, sadly, many of the class are still on eternal patrol.

Our vessel is the second of the Royal Navy’s vessels to be named for the bard, English playwright William Shakespeare, with the first a Thornycroft-type destroyer leader of the Great War era that had been scrapped in 1936. While Old Bill stuck primarily to events on land, one of his more memorable lines has always stuck with me when concerning a battered ship on rough seas.

*Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell
Hark! Now I hear them � Ding-dong, bell.
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, Sc. II

*Incidentally, the title Full Fathom Five was also used for an installment of the WWII serial docuseries Victory at Sea on the U.S. Navy’s submarine campaign in the Pacific. 

Initial Service

Ordered in a 27-hull block of the 1940 shipbuilding Programme, Shakespeare was built at Vickers Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness, originally as P71. Her subclass could carry extra fuel in their main ballast tanks, giving them a longer range than previous classmates. Further, they had air conditioning, a vital bonus for vessels working in hot and tropical climes.

Leaving her builders on 8 July 1942, she worked up at Holy Loch and by 15 August 1942– a span of just five weeks– she left on her first war patrol from Lerwick, a short and uneventful stalk in the Norwegian Sea.

HMSM P 221, Stationary, undated. IWM FL 23028

British S class submarine HMSM SHAKESPEARE underway passing a quayside. 6 August 1942. IWM FL 6117

Her second patrol, from 7-23 September, was likewise quiet, helping to screen Northbound convoys PQ 18 and QP 14 headed to Russia.

Upon return, she was off to the Med, where her services were much in demand.

North Africa

Arriving at Gibraltar in late October, Shakespeare began her 3rd war patrol from there on All Saints Day 1942, on the eve of the Torch landings in North Africa. As part of that operation, she conducted periscope reconnaissance of the landing beaches off Algiers over a four-night period, launching a collapsible folbot kayak/canoe with two lieutenants to get a closer look– only to have them promptly captured by the Vichy French! On the night of 7/8 November, she surfaced and marked her two designated landing zones, Apple White Beach and Apple Green Beach, flashing her beacon seaward and transmitting a low-powered radio pulse to guide in the approaching landing craft.

After the landings started, she was immediately dispatched to run interference against responding Axis ships, staking out a patrol zone to the West of Sicily. In this, she came across a small convoy and fired four torpedoes at a big German freighter, no doubt taking supplies to Rommel. However, instead of chalking up a kill, all Shakespeare logged that night was a depth charge run from an escorting Italian subchaser.

Her new engines increasingly cranky, our sub made for Portsmouth by way of Gibraltar, arriving there 18 December.

“Refitting of H.M. Submarine Shakespeare.” 1941 watercolor by Sir Muirhead Bone N.E.A.C., H.R.W.S., H.R.S.A, via National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. PAJ2875

Back at it

By March 1943, with two new motors, Shakespeare was on the prowl in her 4th war patrol along the edges of the Bay of Biscay on the lookout for German blockade runners. After a brief stay at Gibraltar and from there Algiers, she was back in the Med.

Starting her 5th war patrol on 9 April, she made for Sardinia and survived a near-miss from Axis patrol planes.

British Submarine Shakespeare on the Warpath. 14 and 16 April 1943, Algiers. HM SUBMARINE SHAKESPEARE setting out on patrol. IWM A 16328

Her 6th patrol, leaving Algiers on 8 May for Corsica, was her first successful surface action, bagging a pair of old Italian schooners near the Strait of Bonifacio five days later, peppering the vessels with 52 shells from her deck gun. Releasing her battery again on the afternoon of 20 May, she loosed 20 rounds at the Italian-held airfield at Calvi.

Her 7th patrol left Algiers on 5 June and soon tangled with a German U-boat (unsuccessfully) that was spoiled by a blue-on-blue air attack.

Husky

Meanwhile, her 8th patrol, in early July, saw Shakespeare once again act as a submersible beacon during the Allied operations at off Sicily, as part of the Husky Landings. There were seven beacon submarines used in Husky: Safari, Shakespeare, and Seraph from Algiers lighting the way for the three American amphibious forces of the Western Naval Task Force, and Unrivalled, Unison, Unseen and Unruffled from Malta shepherding the four British amphibious forces of the Eastern Naval Task Force. Specifically, Shakespeare walked in Dime Force (TF81), landing the 1st “Big Red One” Infantry Division at Gela.

On our submarine’s 9th war patrol, leaving from Malta on 25 July, she carried four canoeing covert beach surveyors of No 5 COPP (Combined Operations Pilotage Party) who reccied off the Gulf of Gioia over a four-night period.

Robin Harbud (to the rear) and Sgt Ernest COOKE, Cookie to his friends, as they manhandle their canoe, used for Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP), through the forward hatch of a submarine. IWM MH 22715 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205087979

It was during the patrol that Shakespeare brushed up against the two Italian light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia and Raimondo Montecuccoli, firing three torpedoes at long range (6,000 yards) with no success. There would be other occasions.

Avalanche

Her 10th war patrol, leaving Algiers on 24 August, included a mixed group of five No. 5 COPP and SBS cockleshell commandos, as well as a special Mine Detection Unit (MDU) for her Type 138 ASDIC set, bound for Salerno as part of the Avalanche Landings. Over the next two weeks, she undertook numerous periscope and folbot-borne beach reconnaissance missions while keeping a weather eye (and ear) peeled for mines. And boy did she find them.

As detailed by the NHHC:

Minefields in the Gulf of Salerno were first detected by HMS Shakespeare (P221), a British beacon submarine active in the area since August 29, 1943. Using magnetic detection devices, the submarine located a plethora of German “V” and Italian “I”, “J”, and “K” mines in the gulf, thus setting the stage for an extensive mine countermeasures operation.

The recon moved the planned release positions for the transports further offshore into safe water while arrangements for sweeps could be made. In all, special teams of sweepers would clear 275 sea mines from the waters around Salerno by the conclusion of the operation there and Shakespeare’s warning likely saved hundreds of lives.

But back to our sub and the Salerno landings.

Just before the balloon went up, Shakespeare was resting off Licosa Point on 7 September and sighted two large southbound Italian cruising submarines operating on the surface at sunset. The boats, the Argo-class Velella and Brin-class leader Benedetto Brin, had been dispatched as part of Piano Zeta (Zeta Plan) to interrupt the landings. However, it was our sub that did the interruption in the form of six torpedoes fired rapidly at a range of 800 yards, hitting Velella with at least four of those, sending the boat to the bottom with all hands.

Italian submarine Velella, Atlantic ocean, 9 March 1941 when she was operating from occupied France as one of the Regina Marina’s BETASOM boats. She was torpedoed by HMS Shakespeare on 7 September 1943

Velella was to be the last Italian submarine lost in combat, and her wreck was found in 2003, 8.9 miles from Licosa Point, in 450 feet of water.

The next day, she surfaced at 2135, lit her beacon seaward, and was soon met by the incoming Wickes-class destroyer USS Cole (DD-155), then two hours later transferred her COPP and SBS beach pilots to USS PC-624 for the run in to shore in individual LCMs acting as lead vessels headed to Green Beach with men of the 142nd Infantry Regiment from the Coast Guard-manned transport Dickman— the first landing by U. S. forces in Europe.

Her epic 10th war patrol ended four days later with arrival back at Algiers.

Shakespeare’s 11th patrol was uneventful and, switching to Beirut, she left on her 12th patrol, a sweep of the Aegean, on 21 October. She would sink the Greek two-masted caique Aghios Konstantinos with gunfire, a feat repeated with the caique Eleftheria on her 13th patrol in December.

Her work in the Med done, she sailed for Britain, arriving at Devonshire on 4 January 1944 for a six-month refit.

HMS/M SHAKESPEARE returning to Devonport after 19 months of operational activity in the Mediterranean. On the bridge of the SHAKESPEARE are, left to right: Lieutenant N D Campbell, RN, of Sevenoaks (Gunnery Officer); Lieutenant W E I Little-John, DSC, RANVR, of Melbourne, Australia (First Lieutenant); Lieutenant M F R Ainlie, DSO, DSC, RN, of Ash Vale, Surrey (Commanding Officer); Sub Lieutenant R G Pearson, RNVR, of Hitchin, Herts (Torpedo Officer); Lieutenant L H Richardson, RN, of Jersey, Channel Islands (Navigating Officer). Naval Radar: The conning tower of the submarine is showing a 291W Air Warning Set and 20mm DP Oerlikon over the stern. IWM A 21261

Officers of the SHAKESPEARE. Left to right: Sub Lieut R G Pearson, RNVR, of Hitchin, Herts (Torpedo Officer); Lieut W E Little-John, DSC, RANVR, of Melbourne, Australia (First Lieutenant); Lieut N D Campbell, RN,, of Sevenoaks (Gunnery Officer); Lieut L H Richardson, RN, of Jersey, Channel Islands (Navigating Officer); and Lieut M F R Ainslie, DSO, DSC, RN, of Ash Vale, Surrey (Commanding Officer). Note the QF 3-inch 20 cwt and the wavy stripes of the RNVR officers. IWM A 21262 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205153611

HMS SUBMARINE SHAKESPEARE, OF SICILY LANDING FAME, BACK HOME. 5 JANUARY 1944, DEVONPORT. THE SUBMARINE RETURNS AFTER 19 MONTHS OPERATIONAL ACTIVITY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. (A 21263) The ship’s company of the SHAKESPEARE. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205153612

Her 14th patrol, a sortie off Scotland in the fall of 1944, was uneventful and served as more of a post-refit shakedown. By October, with the naval war in Europe rapidly sunsetting, Shakespeare was reassigned to the Far East.

On to the Orient

Crossing the Line, the age-old naval tradition. Via WWII Submarines’ page on Shakespeare 

Sailing via Gibraltar, Malta and Port Said to reach Aden in November, Shakespeare arrived at Trincomalee from where she sortied on her 15th war patrol on 20 December.

Shakespeare in the Far East. Note the camouflage and her jacks’ tropical uniform. Via WWII Submarines’ page on Shakespeare 

Assigned to sweep through the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, she drew her first Japanese kill on New Year’s Eve, sending the freighter Unryu Maru to the bottom after she fired a six-torpedo spread into a passing convoy in the Nankauri Strait, surviving the resulting depth charging.

Then, on 3 January 1945, our lucky British sub became the subject of a 50-hour running battle when she attempted to tangle on the surface with a Japanese supply ship in the Nicobar Islands. The action soon went wrong, and reinforcements in the form of the IJN minesweeper W-1 and land-based aircraft were called in. Before it was over, Shakespeare would fight off 25 air attacks, dodge 50 assorted bombs, shoot down a Japanese seaplane, and gunfight an armed freighter until it was dead in the water. For this, our submarine would see two of her crew killed and 14 wounded.

From VADM Sir Arthur Hezlet’s work on HM Submarines in WWII:

On 3rd January, she attacked a small, unescorted merchant ship, firing four torpedoes from a range of 3500 yards and missed. She then surfaced and opened fire with her gun, but almost at once sighted a patrol vessel approaching and prepared to dive. At this moment, the return fire from the merchant ship scored a hit on Shakespeare penetrating the pressure hull just abaft the bridge and causing very serious damage. Her wireless office was destroyed and an auxiliary machinery space flooded and a great deal of water was taken in to the engine and control rooms. She was unable to dive and furthermore her steering gear was damaged, one main engine was out of action as well as both electric motors.

Nevertheless, she struggled away on the surface and fought off both the merchant ship and the patrol vessel. She was unable to call for assistance but made for Trincomalee several days away across the Bay of Bengal. During the rest of the day, she repulsed no less than twenty-five air attacks with her guns, shooting one of them down but suffering fifteen casualties. She withdrew at her best speed all night and next day

For a detailed description of this fight, which could probably fill its own book, check out the WWII Submarines page which includes an amazing wartime photo album of Stoker James Patterson, one of her crew.

Some of the damage after she made it back to Trincomalee. Via WWII Submarines’ page on Shakespeare

You aren’t going to dive with that! Note the sandals and whites of the officers. Via WWII Submarines’ page on Shakespeare

Her salty crew, a much different image than in Devonshire the year before. Note the shell hole in her conning tower. Via WWII Submarines’ page on Shakespeare

A detail of the Roger, slightly different from the above, with three torches showing her role as an invasion beach beacon ship. Via WWII Submarines’ page on Shakespeare

A detail of some of the common symbols used on HMSMs during WWII

With all the damage to her pressure hull, it was decided that she could only be corrected back in the UK and as such she sailed, slowly and on the surface, back to Portsmouth, arriving 30 June. There, she was ultimately deemed unfit for repair post-war and was written off, the last Shakespeare in the Royal Navy.

She was scrapped at Briton Ferry in July 1946.

Specs, S-class, Group 3:

Displacement: 842 tons surfaced, 990 submerged
Length overall: 217 feet
Beam: 23.5 feet
Depth 11 feet
Diving depth: 350 feet
Machinery: 2 x 950hp diesels, 2 x 485 kW electric motors, 2 shafts
Speed Surface 15 knots, Submerged 10 knots (design)
Surface 14.75 knots, Submerged 9 knots (service)
Range: Surface: 6700 miles at 8 knots (design) on 92 tons fuel oil
Complement: 49
Radar: Type 291W Air Warning Set
Sonar: Type 129/138 ASDIC, augmented in 1943 with Mine Detection Unit (Type 148 40kHz?)
Armament :
6 x 21-inch bow tubes
1 x 21-inch stern tube
(13 Mark VIII torpedoes carried, max)
1 x QF 3-inch deck gun, forward
1 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA cannon, abaft the tower
3 x .303 Vickers guns on the tower

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Remember The Maine! Revolver edition

From the Artifact Collection, Naval History, and Heritage Command:

NHHC 1960-45-C

One double-action Colt “New Navy” [ Model 1892 Army and Navy Colt] Revolver. The revolver shows extensive damage and loss of material due to exposure to water. The trigger guard, cylinder center pin and the muzzle, including the front sight, are all missing. The trigger and hammer spur are thin and weak as are major portions of the frame. The revolver is completely non-functional due to corrosion and loss of material. The hard rubber grips are present and in relatively good condition aside from some discoloration. The grips both carry the Colt assembly number of 310 hand engraved on the reverse side. The Colt serial numbers for the Navy Model 1895 revolvers fall in the 16XXX to 18XXX range. Based on information available from Colt, the serial numbers 16310, 17310 and 18310 were all assigned to Model 1895 revolvers manufactured in 1895. This would indicate that the grips are at least appropriate to this revolver, if not original.

The heavily corroded condition of this revolver is attributed to the approximately thirteen years it spent underwater aboard the wreck of the USS Maine (ACR-1). In 1898, an explosion caused the Maine to sink in Havana Harbor, Cuba. The ship was raised and salvaged from 1910 to 1912, at which time material was removed as souvenirs and for memorials. It is assumed that the revolver was recovered at this time as the ship was subsequently towed out to sea, scuttled and sunk.

When the USS Maine (ACR-1) was fitted out in 1895 it was provided with the latest design in small arms, including the Colt “New Navy” revolvers. Small arms were carried aboard ship primarily for the use of the US Marine detachment and the ship’s company when engaged in landing party operations. Officers, Petty Officers and personnel such as signalmen, buglers and color bearers would be armed with revolvers while part of a landing force. The Officer of the Deck and the Master at Arms would also carry a sidearm while performing their duties aboard ship.

Notably, the A-SECNAV when Maine went down, Teddy Roosevelt, resigned his post and, with the help of a few of his hard-charging (although horseless) cowboy friends, climbed San Juan Hill (actually Kettle Hill) during the resulting Span-Am War, with one of Maine’s recovered Colts in his holster, brought away to Key West by a survivor.

TR’s historic gun went missing from Saginaw Bay for 16 years and showed up at a gun “buy back” before it was recovered by the FBI. 

The Titanic and Lusitania of the Baltic

From the Royal Navy:

While on operations in the Baltic, HMS Echo mapped two shipwrecks from the Second World War. Using her specialized multibeam echo sounder, the ship was able to show the destruction caused to German ships Wilhelm Gustloff and Goya.

HMS Echo (H87), a 3,700-ton multi-role hydrographic survey ship commissioned in 2003.

Goya was a 5,000-ton Norwegian freighter, sent to the bottom by Soviet submarine L-3, taking “over 6,000” souls to the bottom with her

The 25,000-ton German liner Wilhelm Gustloff, sunk by Soviet submarine S-13, took over 9,400 people to a watery grave, the worst maritime disaster in history

The ships were used in Operation Hannibal – a mass seaborne evacuation of German civilians and soldiers from East Prussia in 1945 during an effort to escape the onrushing Soviet Red Army. Around 16,000 lives were lost when Wilhelm Gustloff and Goya sunk after being hit by Russian torpedoes.

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021: Savior of the Sea of Marmora

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Feb. 10, 2021: Savior of the Sea of Marmora

Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

Here we see the Clemson-class “four-piper” destroyer USS Bainbridge (DD-246) with her flags flying at Boston Navy Yard in March 1930, possibly in a nod to the city’s often epic St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Let’s take a closer look at those flags, courtesy of Mr. Jones.

Bainbridge, when these great images were taken, was only nine years with the fleet– commissioned 100 years ago this week as a matter of fact– but she had already written a worthy page in maritime history and still had another 15 years of service ahead of her.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Bainbridge came too late to help lick the Kaiser. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

Living up to the legacy

The subject of our story today was the third warship named in honor of the Navy’s legendary Commodore William Bainbridge, who, fought in the Barbary Wars and, as commander of the frigate Constitution, destroyed the British 38-gun frigate HMS Java (ex-Renommée) in a three-hour-long single-ship broadside battle off Brazil on 29 December 1812.

Action between U.S. Frigate Constitution and HMS Java, 29 December 1812. Painting in oils by Charles Robert Patterson./Commodore William Bainbridge, USN (1774-1833). Oil on wood, 30″ by 21″, by John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840). Painted circa 1814. Paintings in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection.

The first USS Bainbridge was a 12-gun brigantine built at Boston Navy Yard in 1842 and named in honor of the old, and at that time recently passed Commodore. She would serve in the Civil War, capturing three Confederate blockade runners before being lost in 1863 during a severe storm off Cape Hatteras, taking all but one member of her crew to the bottom with her.

The second Bainbridge was the Navy’s first “Torpedo-boat Destroyer,” laid down in 1899. Of note, one of her skippers was a young LT Raymond A. Spruance. After service in the Great War, she was sold for conversion to a banana boat.

How about that beam-to-length ratio! Some 250-feet long and 23 at the beam, she could make 28.13 knots. The second USS Bainbridge (Destroyer # 1). Fitting out at the Neafie & Levy Ship & Engine Building Company shipyard, circa June-November 1902. USS Denver (Cruiser # 14) is at right, also fitting out. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. 19-N-13135

The Third Bainbridge

Our ship was laid down on 27 May 1919 at New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard, Camden, New Jersey, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 9 February 1921, just missing out on WWI.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Launching, at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard, Camden, New Jersey, 12 June 1920. NH 56312

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Underway, circa 1921. NH 56317

As noted by DANFS, “Going into service in a Navy suffering the effects of manpower shortages caused by postwar demobilization and magnified by the completion of the massive shipbuilding program begun during the war, Bainbridge spent her first 10 months of active duty almost becalmed in her assignment to the Atlantic Fleet’s Destroyer Squadrons.”

However, by 1922, her crew would finally be fleshed out and she would engage on a series of shakedown and training cruises along the east coast. Then, in response to the boiling unrest in Europe between Greece and Turkey– at the time engaged in open combat in Anatolia– Bainbridge sailed from Hampton Roads on 2 October 1922, for the Mediterranean Sea along with 11 other Squadron 14 destroyers to protect American interests and lend muscle to the High Commission overseeing the end of the old Ottoman Empire.

482 Souls

Besides American forces, those of the European Great Powers were highly visible in the Eastern Med and its related seas at the time. One of these was the old 5,500-ton French military transport/hospital ship Vinh-Long, packed with almost 500 soldiers, sailors, and their families– along with a cargo of munitions.

French Transport Vinh-Long transits the Suez Canal, c. 1880-90, Zangaki Brothers photo 

On 16 December while in the Eastern Sea of Marmora off San Stefano Point, Vinh-Long caught fire and burned furiously, fueled by years of old varnish and oil, not to mention shells, powder, and cartridges. With time of the essence, Bainbridge, who was nearby, raced in to help.

Vinh-Long aflame from stem to stern in the Sea of Marmora near Constantinople, Turkey, in the morning of 16 December 1922. This view was taken from USS Bainbridge (DD-246), soon after she had removed Vinh-Long’s survivors. Note that the transport’s mainmast has fallen overboard, the result of a series of explosions that spread flames into the forward part of the ship. Donation of Frank A. Downey, 1973. NH 78333

Securing to the flaming troopship’s sides under a rain of fiery debris, Bainbridge began transferring personnel side to side, while her boat crews worked the waves to rescue jumpers. Then, as the Frenchman’s forward magazine was beginning to catch, the destroyer’s skipper, LCDR Walter Atlee Edwards (USNA 1910), ordered the warship to gently ram the vessel to lessen the exposure should it go.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) noses into Vinh-Long’s port bow to remove her survivors, in the Sea of Marmora near Constantinople, Turkey, on the morning of 16 December 1922. This view was taken shortly before the series of explosions that spread flames into the forward part of the ship. 19-N-11575

In the end, before pulling away from the blazing vessel, Bainbridge rescued 482 of the 495 people aboard Vinh-Long.

Vinh-Long aflame from stem to stern in the Sea of Marmora near Constantinople, Turkey, in the morning of 16 December 1922. This view was taken from USS Bainbridge (DD-246), soon after she had removed Vinh-Long’s survivors. Note that the transport’s mainmast has fallen overboard, the result of a series of explosions that spread flames into the forward part of the ship. Catalog #: 19-N-11576

Badly overloaded, she would make for Constantinople and transfer the troopship’s survivors to the French Edgar Quinet class armored cruiser, Waldeck Rousseau.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Off Constantinople, Turkey, on 16 December 1922, with 482 survivors of the French transport Vinh-Long on board. Bainbridge is flying her ensign at half-mast height, in mourning for the victims of the disaster. Donation of Frank A. Downey, 1973. NH 78344

The story flashed around the globe. 

For his part in the rescue operations, Edwards, who had already earned a Navy Cross during the Great War, would receive a rare peacetime Medal of Honor, the French Legion of Honour, and the British Distinguished Service Order.

LCDR Walter Atlee Edwards, in full dress including fringed epaulets and sword, receives the Medal of Honor from President Calvin Coolidge, in ceremonies on the White House lawn, Washington, D.C., on 2 February 1924. NH 52667

His MOH citation:

For heroism in rescuing 482 men, women and children from the French military transport Vinh-Long, destroyed by fire in the Sea of Marmora, Turkey, on 16 December 1922. Lt. Comdr. Edwards, commanding the U.S.S. Bainbridge, placed his vessel alongside the bow of the transport and, in spite of several violent explosions which occurred on the burning vessel, maintained his ship in that position until all who were alive were taken on board. Of a total of 495 on board, 482 were rescued by his coolness, judgment and professional skill, which were combined with a degree of heroism that must reflect new glory on the U.S. Navy.

No rest

Remaining in Turkish waters until after the Lausanne Conference wrapped, Bainbridge returned home from her epic first deployment in June 1923, a month before the Lausanne Treaty was finally signed. She would spend the next two decades heavily involved in a series of exercises, fleet problems, training cycles, protecting American interests “during Latin American political turmoil” as noted by DANFS, and supporting the Marines during the various Banana Wars in Central America. In this myriad of taskings, she ranged not only across the Caribbean and South Atlantic but into the Pacific as far north as Alaska.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Underway at sea, March 1924. NH 56314

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) (outboard), and USS Childs (DD-241) Backing out of drydock at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, Hawaii, on 6 June 1925. Note the stern depth charge racks and extensive awnings. 80-G-451211

Another of Mr. Jones’ March 1930 Boston Navy Yard snaps

One more Leslie Jones shot, this time of Bainbridge’s stern. Note the covered 5″/51 and the hanging laundry. Compared to the flags on her mast, it is definitely “party in the front, business in the back.”

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Leaving the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 5 May 1932. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. NH 64555

The same day, NH 64556

Then, to free up crew for new and more modern destroyers, on 20 November 1937, Bainbridge was placed out of commission at San Diego and entered mothballs after a very hard 16-year career.

Laid up Clemson-class destroyers Barry, Bainbridge, Reuben James, Williamson, Fox, Lawrence, and Howie in San Diego before WWII

The Balloon Goes Up

Pulled out of retirement and obsolete by even 1930s standards, Bainbridge recommissioned 26 September 1939– some three weeks after Hitler’s legions marched into Poland. By early 1940, she was part of Roosevelt’s tense Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic with an eye peeled for U-boats. This included joining in the American occupation of Iceland, escorting USS Mississippi (BB-41) and USS Wasp (CV-7) as part of TF16, and plying the hazardous waters between that Danish possession and New England.

Once the U.S. entered the war officially, Bainbridge served with TF 4, running coastwise convoys during the German Drumbeat U-boat offensive, a mission that kept her busy for the next 15 months.

Then, on 1 March 1943, she stood out TF 37 bound for North Africa on her first wartime Atlantic crossing. This led to a spell with a task group built around the escort carrier USS Santee (CVE-29) with sub-busting VC-29 aboard, during which they fought no less than seven German U-boats in a two-week period in July, splashing three (U-43, U-160, and U-509). Bainbridge’s 40-page handwritten War Diary for July 1943 makes interesting reading.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) highlines Ensign Thomas Edward Jamson to USS Santee (CVE-29), at sea in the Atlantic on 29 July 1943. He had been rescued by Bainbridge after a flight deck crash on the previous day. Note the convoy in the background. 80-G-74807

In this work, she had been extensively updated with radar, advanced listening gear, Hedgehog ASW devices, and the like. 

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) view on deck, looking aft from the bow, showing the pilothouse face and foremast. Photographed at the New York Navy Yard on 17 August 1943. Note 20mm gun installed atop the pilothouse; searchlight; and radar antennas on the foremast. 19-N-50558

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) in New York Harbor, 19 August 1943. 19-N-50552

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) In New York Harbor, 19 August 1943, with the Manhattan skyline in the right distance to include the Empire State Building. Note that the ship carries a Hedgehog launcher just aft of her forward 3/50 gun. 19-N-50553

She would remain with Santee’s group until the year-end of 1943, escorting four cross-Atlantic convoys. She would also be part of the screen for the fast battleship USS Iowa (BB-61), carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Allied conferences at Cairo and Teheran.

By 1944, she had returned to her role in coastal escort, roving as far south as Galveston and Gulfport, and would go on to serve as close escort/plane guard for new capital ships that were constructed on the East Coast during their shakedown cruises to the relatively safe grounds of the Caribbean before they, in turn, shipped out for the Pacific. This included work with the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64), the “heavy cruiser that’s not a battlecruiser” USS Alaska (CB-1), and the Essex-class fleet carriers USS Hancock (CV-19) and USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31).

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) refueling from USS Hancock (CV-19), during the carrier’s shakedown cruise in the western Atlantic and Caribbean areas, 14 June 1944. Can you imagine what the new bluejackets on “Hanna” that had only been carrier sailors thought looking down on the swaying WWI-era tin can below? 80-G-235276

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) steaming in the Atlantic area, 23 July 1944. Note her newly applied pattern camouflage, which appears to be Measure 32, Design 3d. 80-G-237711

Finally, in mid-1945, with the Navy having literally hundreds of modern new Fletcher, Gearing, and Sumner-class destroyers, it increasingly made less and less sense to waste trained crews and resources on elderly greyhounds like Bainbridge. Therefore, on 21 July 1945, she was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Stricken before the war ended, she was scrapped by the Northern Metal Co. in November 1947.

Bainbridge earned one battle star during World War II.

The rest of the class

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war.

Those Clemsons not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield was decommissioned on 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap on 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the U.S. Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Bainbridge lives on

Few elements of the third Bainbridge remain today other than her logs and diaries which are in the National Archives.

LCDR Edwards, MOH, her skipper in the Vinh-Long rescue passed at age 41 and is buried in Section 4 of Arlington National Cemetery. His widow sponsored later USS Edwards (DD-619) when that destroyer was launched on August 28, 1942. The ship would earn an impressive 14 battle stars in WWII.

Bainbridge’s name was reissued to the lead ship of a new class of guided-missile frigate/destroyer leaders, commissioned on 6 October 1962. Later deemed a cruiser, this vessel would earn eight battle stars for her Vietnam service and remain in the fleet for 34 years.

USS Bainbridge (CGN-25) Underway in the Suez Canal on 27 February 1992, while en route to the Mediterranean Sea with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) battle group. Photographed by CWO2 A.A. Alleyne, USN. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The fifth Bainbridge commissioned 12 November 2005 is, true to form, a destroyer, currently assigned to DESRON 28 in Surface Force Atlantic.

Today’s USS Bainbridge, DDG-96, is an Arleigh Burke Flight IIA-class guided-missile destroyer, here seen conducting a missile exercise in the Kennebec River, Maine, on June 14, 2005. Photo by Paul R. Shepard, Second Mate, TSV-1 Prevail. 889711-J-YNQ63-062

In a case of history repeating, on 13 June 2019 the modern USS Bainbridge received a distress call from the merchant vessel Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman while operating with the 5th Fleet. The Japanese tanker had suffered a major engineering casualty (likely due to Iranian intervention) and needed aid. Bainbridge responded to the call, rescuing the entire 21-member crew, and providing assistance as needed.

Specs:

Inboard and outboard profiles for a U.S. Navy Clemson-class destroyer, in this case, USS Doyen (DD-280)

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 knots
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4- 4″/51 cal guns
1 x 3″/23 cal AAA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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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.

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The Sad Irony Surrounding a Submarine

Here we see the former Imperial Japanese Navy’s Type B3 “cruiser submarine” I-58 at the American-occupied Sasebo Naval Arsenal, Japan, 28 January 1946, some 75 years ago today.

U.S. Marine Corps Photograph. NHHC USMC 139990

A large boat by WWII standards, some 357-feet overall, I-58 was completed 7 September 1944. Besides her six torpedo tubes and 19 Type 95 torpedos, she could also accommodate as many as four Kaiten human-torpedoes on her deck.

Under the command of LCDR Mochitsura Hashimoto throughout her career, she took part in the unsuccessful attack on Guam in January 1945 as well as Operation Ten-Go off Okinawa, which was also unsuccessful. As a hat trick in failed missions, two of her Kaiten tried to make a run on the 6,214-ton cargo ship Wild Hunter, escorted by the Sumner-class destroyer USS Lowry (DD-770) north of Palau on 28 July, without luck.

Then, to Hashimoto’s great surprise, late on the night of 29 July he came upon the unescorted heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35). The mighty ship, identified at the time by I-58’s nav officer as an Idaho-class battleship– whose profile it did resemble– was not zigzagging and only steaming at 12 knots. What Hashimoto of course did not know was that it had just dropped off the key components of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs to the B-29 base carved out of windswept Tinian Island.

Firing all six tubes at the Indy, a lucky ship that had hosted FDR on peacetime cruises, at least two hit, and the cruiser sank just after midnight on 30 July. While I-58 would make a number of further attacks on other American vessels before the end of the conflict, Indianapolis was her only success.

Surrendered and disarmed after VJ Day, on April Fool’s Day 1946, I-58, long stripped of all usable equipment and material, was towed from Sasebo to an area off the Gotō Islands by the submarine tender USS Nereus and scuttled in 660 feet of water.

As for Hashimoto, he had already controversially testified at the December 1945 trial of Charles B. McVay III, the commanding officer of Indianapolis, saying that zigzagging would have made no difference in his attack on the cruiser– a key charge in the case against McVay.

The son of a Shinto priest, the former submarine commander and Imperial Japanese Naval Academy graduate would himself become a priest as well. Ironically, most of his family had been killed in the A-bomb drop over Hiroshima.

In a 1990 trip to Pearl Harbor to attend a December 7th commemoration, he told a survivor of the Indianapolis that, “I came here to pray with you for your shipmates whose deaths I caused,” and spent the rest of his life involved in the effort to clear McVay’s name.

Hashimoto died in 2000, aged 91, only a week before McVay’s posthumous exoneration.

Distant Escort

Distant Escort: The cruisers HMS Sheffield (C24) and HMS Jamaica (44) along with the King George V-class dreadnought battleship HMS Duke of York (17) on patrol along the Convoy Route to Russia.

Painting by maritime artist John Alan Hamilton (1919–1993), via the Imperial War Museum London (LD7427-001) Courtesy of the Art UK Trust. ‘ 

Just over the horizon from the convoys, such sluggers would be on tap in case German surface raiders sortied out from occupied Norway to ambush passing by on the way to Murmansk, with the idea to bushwack said Kriegsmarine vessels.

Of note, the wrecking crew of Duke of York & Co would deliver Winston Churchill an excellent Boxing Day present in 1943 by utterly smashing KMS Scharnhorst in just such an engagement at what became known as the Battle of North Cape, some 77 years ago today. 

Another of Hamilton’s paintings:

The Battle of the North Cape: HMS ‘Duke of York’ in Action against the ‘Scharnhorst’, 26 December 1943, by John Alan Hamilton (1919–1993) via the Imperial War Museum London. Painted 1972, transferred from the Belfast Trust, 1978.

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