Category Archives: hero

Odds are, That’s an Ironic Nickname

Sergent Len “Happy” Knox, 2nd New Zealand Division, 2NZEF, cleans an old-school .455-caliber break action Webley revolver Maadi Camp, near Cairo, Egypt, around 1940-41.

Alan Blow Album PH-ALB-497, Collection of Auckland War Memorial Museum / Tāmaki Paenga Hira

2NZEF would spend all of WWII under the British Eighth Army, seeing the elephant in Greece and at Crete, the fighting at Minqar Qaim and El Alamein; and the end of the North African campaign. They then crossed the Med and fought up up the Sangro and Monte Cassino across central Italy, finishing the war on the Northern Adriatic.

By which time, Happy was probably ecstatic.

Vale, Art Cook

After falling in love with smallbore riflery while at Boy Scout Camp as a kid, Arthur Edwin Cook, “Art” or sometimes just “Cookie” to his friends, went on to become pretty good at it, winning two National Junior Smallbore Rifle Championships in high school– and pitching in to help train Navy personnel in marksmanship during WWII although he was too young to enlist himself.

Speaking of youth, while attending the University of Maryland as a member of their All-American rifle team, he took a break to represent the U.S. at the XIV Olympiad in London, pulling down the Gold in the 50m Free Rifle Prone rifle, both setting a world record at the time with a score of 599 in a 60-round course and becoming the youngest American– at age 20– to bring back the gold in Olympic shooting sports until 2008.

Air Force veteran, gold medalist, and renowned shooting sports coach and icon Arthur Cook just left for that big shooting match in the sky last week, aged 92.

The Last American Bayonet Charge at 70

This month remembers the fateful day on 7 February 1951 when the footsoldiers of Company E of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry (Wolfhounds) Regiment, under the command of 30-year-old CAPT Lewis Lee Millett Sr., would undertake a successful bayonet charge on an enemy position atop frozen Hill 180 near Anyang, South Korea.

An understrength unit of just ~100 men, they fought their way up every step of what later became known as Bayonet Hill, and for good reason. 

S.L.A. Marshall described the attack as “the most complete bayonet charge by American troops” since Cold Harbor in 1864.

Millett, who had received a Silver Star for driving a burning ammunition truck away from a group of soldiers before it exploded during WWII, would become a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions. He went on to found the famous Recondo school and left the military in 1973 as a colonel. He passed in 2009.

Here is Col. Millett describing his service and the action at Hill 180.

The U.S. Army in Korea remembered the event earlier this month.

For more on the Army in Korea, please visit the CMH site. 

The Triple Nickels

On 25 February 1943, the 555th Parachute Infantry Company was constituted. The unit, selected from volunteers from the Fort Huachuca-based 92d Infantry Division, was all-black, both enlisted men and officers.

While they never did make it to fight the Germans or Japanese directly, the “Triple Nickels” did see very dangerous stateside service in the Pacific West on Operation Firefly, jumping into remote forest areas to put out fires caused by Japanese Fugo incendiary bombs.

This mission led to today’s Smoke Jumpers.

Deactivated in 1947, the 555th’s members were rolled into the 82nd Airborne, making it the first integrated combat unit in the Army, and many saw service in Korea.

Lt. Clifford Allen, 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion.

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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The Borinqueneers! 70 Years ago today

The Borinqueneers, South Korea — February 2, 1951 — by Dominic D’Andrea

Via the National Guard Bureau:

In August 1950 the Korean War was less than two months old, and Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment was on its way to the combat zone. The regiment landed at the port city of Pusan on the Korean Peninsula’s southern tip, where U.S. forces had been holding a perimeter against the Communist North Korean invaders. Sent into action immediately, the Puerto Ricans took part in the U.S. breakout and drive to the north. Following the brilliantly planned and executed surprise landings at Inchon, U.S. and other United Nations forces drove deep into the mountains of North Korea.

At that point a huge Chinese Army entered the war. The U.S. Eighth Army was overrun, and the 1st Marine Division, with attached U.S. and British Army units, was completely encircled. In one of the greatest fighting retreats in history, the outnumbered Marines battled their way south to the coast. The first friendly troops they saw on the frozen ridgetops were the Puerto Ricans of the 65th Infantry Regiment, sent to hold the perimeter around the vital port of Hungnam. The Puerto Ricans supervised the evacuation of Hungnam, finally sailing themselves on Christmas Eve, 1950.

The 65th landed in Pusan as they had five months before, and again fought their way northward. Late January 1951 found them south of the Korean capital of Seoul, under orders to take two hills being held by the Chinese 149th Division. The assault began on January 31st, and took three days. On the morning of the third day the top of the hills were within reach, and two battalions of the 65th fixed bayonets and charged straight at the enemy positions. The Chinese fled.

During its service in Korea, the men of the 65th Infantry won four Distinguished Service Crosses and 125 Silver Stars. The “Borinqueneers” were also awarded the Presidential and Meritorious Unit Commendations, two Korean Presidential Unit Citations and the Greek Gold Medal for Bravery.

The 65th Infantry Regiment’s gallant service in a difficult war is exemplified by its regimental motto, “Honor and Fidelity,” and the regiment itself exemplifies the National Guard’s leading role in our nation’s military history.

Vale, Great Grandfather Frog

Harry Milton Beal was born Aug. 16, 1930, in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. Not wanting any part of the coal mines, he volunteered for the Navy in 1948 as a gunner’s mate, his first duty was aboard the destroyer tender USS Shenandoah (AD-26). Sounds boring, right? So much so that Harry, after his first three-year stint was up, tried to join the circus but in the end, remained working for Uncle Sam. 

Soon volunteering for more exotic duty, Harry made the ranks of the Navy’s frogmen of Underwater Demolition Team 21 in 1955 where he had a chance to “run around in swim trunks and boondockers all day.”

Then came parachute training, helo casting, and all sorts of other stuff. When the call went out for the SEALs, Harry was on record as being the first on the roster of plankowners in 1962.

“President Kennedy wanted some idiots who could see lightning, hear thunder, bounce a ball off their nose and has stupid written right there and I put my hand up,” said Harry. 

After retiring from the Navy in 1968 after a couple turns in Vietnam, Harry went back home to the Keystone State, where he worked for PennDOT for another 20 years.

He pushed off from the beach for the last time on 26 January, striking out for his next assignment.

Here he is speaking in 2017, at age 87.

Warship Wednesday, Jan.27, 2021: Of Kamikazes, Space Monkeys, and Exocets

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, Jan.27, 2021: Of Kamikazes, Space Monkeys, and Exocets

Photo by Robert Huhardeaux via Wikicommons.

Here we see the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Borie (DD-704), in all her Cold War glory, anchored off Cannes, France, circa 1963. She would have a curious and extremely active 40-year career, bookending two eras of naval warfare with some stops in between.

The Sumners, an attempt to up the firepower on the previous and highly popular Fletcher-class destroyers, mounted a half-dozen 5″/38s in a trio of dual mounts, as well as 10 21-inch torpedo tubes in a pair of five-tube turntable stations. Going past this, they were packed full of sub-busting and plane-smoking weapons as well as some decent sonar and radar sets for the era.

Sumner class layout, 1944

With 336 men crammed into a 376-foot hull, they were cramped, slower than expected (but still capable of beating 33-knots all day), and overloaded, but they are fighting ships who earned good reputations.

Speaking of reputation, the subject of our tale today was named after Adolph Edward Borie, who appreciated bespoke top hats and served for a few months as Grant’s SECNAV in 1869.

Honorable Adolph E. Borie, Secretary of the Navy, and his top hat. Matthew Brady photograph via the LOC

The first ship to carry the former SECNAV’s name was the Clemson-class four-piper tin can, Destroyer No. 215, which joined the fleet in 1920, some 40 years after Mr. Borie’s passing. Earning three battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation, on All Saints Day 1943, DD-215 rammed and sank the surfaced German submarine U-405 in the North Atlantic. With 27 men lost and too badly damaged by the collision to be towed to port, Borie was scuttled by USS Barry (DD-248) the next day.

Painting of the action between USS Borie (DD-215) and German submarine U-405 in the Atlantic, 1 November 1943. Borie rammed and sank the U-Boat but was so badly damaged that she had to be scuttled. Painting by US Coast Guard artist Hunter Wood, 1943. 80-G-43655

The second Borie, our Sumner-class destroyer, was constructed at Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J.; and commissioned 21 September 1944.

By 24 January 1945, she had completed shakedown trials and shipped to the Pacific, announcing her arrival with the fleet in a bombardment of Iwo Jima that day while part of DESRON 62’s Destroyer Division 124, a group of brand-new Sumners that besides Borie counted USS John W. Weeks (DD-701) and USS Hank (DD-702).

Joining Task Force 58, acting as an escort for the battleships USS New Jersey and South Dakota as well as the carriers Bunker Hill and Essex, they carried out a raid on the Tokyo area in February before switching to the push on Okinawa. This included a close-in destroyer raid on Japanese airstrips on the night of 27/28 March via shore bombardment and star shell illumination.

“After three minutes of rapid salvoes, fires were observed in the vicinity of the airstrips. March proved to be a fighting moth for the Borie with almost continual picket and screening duty with the powerful “58” that was striking Japan a blow from which she would never recover,” noted her war history.

However, she was soon sidelined after smashing into Essex on 2 April while transferring pilots and mail via breeches buoy in heavy seas, demolishing her aft stack, one of her 40mm mounts, and “bending the mast at a crazy angle.”

USS Borie (DD 704) collides with USS Essex (CV 9) while transferring the mail during a storm. Damage to Borie was light and the ship was still operational on 2 April 1945. Note damage to the smokestack. 80-G-373755

Sent to Ulithi for repairs, she returned to Spruance’s merry band on 1 May. Assigned to nearly perpetual radar picket duty against kamikazes, alternating with more shore bombardment runs on Minami Daito Jima, Borie also clocked in as needed for lifeguard duty, plucking one of the battleship USS Alabama‘s Kingfisher pilots from the drink on 23 June and returning him home. She would later pick up an F6F pilot as well as two crewmen of a downed SB2C while tagging along on a carrier air strike against Kyushu.

Then came the afternoon of 9 August– notably just six days before the Japanese surrender. On that day, the four tin cans of Destroyer Division 124 were on radar picket duty just off the Japanese port of Sendai, just hours after a USAAF B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a force of five Imperial Navy Aichi B7A Grace torpedo bombers came out looking for some payback.

As covered in H-Gram 51 from NHHC:

At 1454, somehow the first B7A Grace reached the picket group undetected and without being engaged by combat air patrol fighters. Despite the surprise, the destroyers opened fire and the Grace was hit multiple times but kept on coming. The damaged Grace flew right over Hank at low altitude as fuel pouring from perforated fuel tanks soaked the destroyer’s bridge crew in gasoline. The plane then went into a sharp bank and came in on Borie from the port quarter. The Grace released a large 1,764-pound bomb just before it crashed into Borie’s superstructure just aft of the bridge between the 5-inch gun director and the mast. This started a large fuel fire and blew many men over the side (most of whom were not recovered). Fortunately, the bomb passed clean through Borie and detonated off the starboard side, but the ship was sprayed with many bomb fragments that cut down even more men. All communications from the bridge were knocked out and control was transferred to after steering. Firefighting was complicated by 40-mm ready-use ammunition continuing to cook-off, but, finally, the fires were brought under control and, as the ship had suffered no below-the-waterline damage, she was not in danger of sinking.

Over the next hour, the other four Graces attacked the destroyers, and all were shot down without significant damage. Hank suffered one man missing and five wounded. Despite the fires and damage, Borie remained in her position in the formation and her guns continued to fire on the following Japanese aircraft. Borie’s casualties were high: 48 killed or missing and 66 wounded. Commander Adair was awarded a Silver Star for his actions in saving the ship and continuing to fight despite the severe damage.

This would also be the last battle damage suffered by the U.S. Fast Carrier Task Force.

As detailed in the destroyer’s after-action report, that afternoon alone she fired 191 5-inch, 810 40mm and 1,426 20mm shells at her attackers.

One of the first ships to respond to the stricken Borie, Alabama transferred a medical party to the destroyer in payback for her Kingfisher pilot.

Borie Kamikaze damage

Her men buried at sea were the last lost to the Divine Wind

USS Borie (DD-704) at Saipan in late August 1945, after being damaged by a kamikaze off Japan on August 9. Note wreckage at fore stack and bridge. It was after transferring her wounded to the hospital ship Rescue and while heading to Saipan for emergency repairs that her radio shack picked up the flash that Japan had surrendered. NH 74693

Heading to Hunter’s Point for more permanent repairs, by February 1946 peace had settled on the world, and Borie, made new again, was dispatched to join the Atlantic Fleet. She received three battle stars for her World War II services.

As a sobering aspect, she was luckier than several of her sisters. Between December 1944 and May 1945, USS Cooper, USS Mannert L. Abele, and USS Drexler were all sunk in the Pacific– the latter two by kamikazes.

Jane’s entry for the class in 1946.

The Cold (and sometimes hot) War

Shipping back to the Pacific in 1950, Borie earned four battle stars for her participation in the Korean conflict as part of TF 77, proving key in the Hungnam Evacuation of Chosin survivors. She also supported the Marines at Wonsan and was the only NGFS available to cover the U.S. Army landing at Iwon. Finally, Borie was near the beach for the second Inchon landing.

She was also a familiar sight in the Med, where she helped evacuate American citizens and UN truce teams from Israel and Egypt in 1956. It was then that she was the first U.S. warship through the Suez Canal after its nationalization by Nasser.

Borie, like many ships, also clocked in as a recovery vessel for NASA.

Before Alan Shepard lifted off on Freedom 7 in 1961 and became the first American astronaut in space, there were over 20 unmanned Program Mercury launches with boilerplate capsules and animals. The one most related to Borie was that of a seven-pound rhesus macaque named Sam who hailed from the U.S. Air Force School of Aviation Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas.

Sam was locked into a restraining couch then buckled into an erector-set-like cradle in the capsule of a boilerplate Mercury vehicle dubbed Little Joe 2 (LJ-2). Lit off from Wallops Island, Virginia on 4 December 1959, Sam flew 194 statute miles, reaching a suborbital altitude of 53 miles above ground, and did so in just 11 minutes, 6 seconds, which works out to a max speed of 4,466 miles per hour, grabbing over 14 G in the process.

The same type of rocket fired the next month: LITTLE JOE IV LAUNCH, 1/21/60, FROM WALLOPS ISLAND, VIRGINIA. LAUNCH VEHICLE-LITTLE JOE SUBORBITAL MERCURY CAPSULE TEST, MONKEY “MISS SAM” USED. REF: NASA HG LITTLE JOE 1/13. (MIX FILE)

And the little guy made it, landing in 20-foot seas while Borie made for the splashdown site, arriving “several hours later.”

As noted in an interview with a Borie crewman who was there:

“The monkey was inside in a large aluminum can, which was bolted down. We took the top off, and I crooked my finger and put it down in there. He took a hold of it. So, we got some [diagonal wire cutters] to cut him out of his contour couch. I set him down and told the chief petty officer to go get some apples and oranges. The monkey was hungry. He ate up most of the oranges.”

“After his ride in the Little Joe 2 Spacecraft, Sam the Monkey is safely aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer,” NASA photo via Johnson Space Center.

Other notable recoveries that Borie was a part of was Gemini VI-A in 1965– carrying Wally Schirra and
Thomas Stafford– although our destroyer was in a supporting role to USS Wasp.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

FRAM!

Noting that their WWII-era destroyers were increasingly anachronistic against nuclear-powered submarines and jet aircraft, the Navy in the late 1950s/early 1960s embarked on a sweeping Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization program. As part of it, no less than 33 Sumners were given the FRAM II treatment while others received the less invasive FRAM I upgrade. Borie picked her modernization in 1961, just in time to take part in the Quarantine of Cuba during the Missile Crisis.

Gone were the myriad of anti-aircraft guns, 21-inch torpedo tubes, depth charges, and obsolete sensors. Added was an AN/SQS-29 fixed sonar dome on the bottom of the bow, an AN/SQR-10 variable depth towed sonar on the stern, Mk. 32 ASW torpedo tubes amidships, a stubby helicopter deck for QH-50 DASH drones in place of the aft torpedo tube station, lots of EQ antennas, and a big SPS-40 surface search radar.

1968 Charleston Naval Shipyard plans for USS Allen M. Sumner (DD-692), Borie’s FRAM II sister/class leader. Via DD692.com. Click to big up.

Borie post-FRAM underway at sea, June 1968. NH 107165

Borie at sea, pounding in hard, as the class was notorious for. Note the AS-1018/URC UHF antenna on the forward mount and broadband whip antenna receiver on the No. 2 mount.

USS Borie (DD-704), post FRAM

A Navy Memorial Interview with a radioman who was part of her crew at the time:

Showing up for her third war, the destroyer made for Vietnam where she worked as part of the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club, delivering over 7,000 rounds of naval gunfire support against NVA and VC targets ashore in a repeat of her 1944-45 and 1950-51 days.

By 1969, she was back home from the gunline and placed in semi-retirement as an NRF training vessel for reservists, a role she maintained until 1972, at which point the Navy had tired of the class.

Some 29 Sumners, all FRAM vessels, were sold/transferred to overseas allies around the world, with a dozen serving as the backbone of the Taiwanese Navy throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Among those shipped overseas were four vessels to Argentina– USS Hank (DD-702), USS Collett (DD-730), USS Mansfield (DD-728), and our own Borie.

On to Puerto Belgrano

From Jane’s 1972

Entering Argentine service as the ARA Hipolito Bouchard (DD-26) in honor of the Latin American corsair of the same name, Borie was modernized in 1978 to include a four-pack of MM38 Exocet anti-ship missiles and a French-made Aerospatiale SA-319B Allouette III in place of a Sea Sprite/OH-50.

Argentine Sumners, 1978. Note the Exocets between the stacks of the closest destroyer. Photo via Histamar

During the Falklands conflict, at one point it was thought that the Bouchard and her sisters could close within 20 miles of the British fleet and ripple off their Exocets, then beat feet. Thankfully for their crews, this crash test dummy plan was not attempted. Photo Via Histarmar

Via Histamar

She was a proud vessel and served more than a solid decade on active service with the Argentine fleet.

When the Falklands conflict erupted, Borie/Bouchard and her sister Collett/Piedra Buena were assigned escort duty for the Argentine carrier Veinticinco de Mayo during the initial invasion of Port Stanley on 2 April 1982. Soon after, the two destroyers picked up screening duty for the pride of the fleet, the Brooklyn-class light cruiser ARA General Belgrano (ex-USS Phoenix).

What the two dated destroyers didn’t know was that a very quiet British hunter-killer, the Churchill-class SSN HMS Conqueror (S48), stalked Belgrano for three days before her skipper was cleared to splash the 12,500-ton Pearl Harbor veteran. Firing a trio of appropriately WWII-era Mk 8 mod 4 torpedoes rather than the new and unproved Mk 24 Tigerfish, two hit the Argentine cruiser and sent her to the bottom, making Conqueror the sole nuclear-powered submarine to have a combat kill (so far) in history.

By many accounts, Borie/Bouchard was hit by the third British Mk 8, which luckily for her did not explode, but did cause flooding and hull fissures. Together with Collett/Piedra Buena and a passing Chilean vessel, they stood by a rescued 772 men from the Belgrano.

Returning to the mainland, Borie/Bouchardaccording to Argentine reports — tracked a British Sea King HC.4 carrying eight SAS men on 18/19 May off Rio Grande, leading to the commandos aborting their mission to take out the country’s small stockpile of air-launched Exocets. The “Plum Duff” recon element was a prelude to a raid to be carried out either by SBS landed by the diesel attack sub, HMS Onyx, or 55 SAS men on an Entebbe-style assault via C-130 crashlanding, then displace 50 miles overland to Chile.

Her fourth war over, Borie/Bouchard was deactivated in early 1984 at Puerto Belgrano and on 15 November 1988 was authorized to be used as a naval target for airstrikes.

While repeatedly mentioned as being scrapped in 1984 by U.S. sources, several images are circulating that contend the vessel, in hulked and holed condition, was still around in the shallows near Puerto Belgrano as late as 1992 and perhaps beyond.

Either way, she may have outlived her old foe Conqueror in usefulness, as the submarine was decommissioned in 1990.

Epilogue

Today, little remains of the Borie in the U.S. besides a range of war diaries, logs, and histories in the National Archives, many of which are digitized. The Navy has not recycled her fine name.

Her 1945 battle flag is reported to still be in circulation, although I cannot find out where.

Tin Can Sailors has a Shipmate Registry for the Borie, where the former crew can get in touch with each other.

The last two Sumners in foreign service– USS Stormes (DD-780) and USS Zellars (DD-777) — were used by the Shah until 1979 and then inherited by the modern Islamic Republic of Iran Navy who retained them in a semi-active state into the mid-1990s.

Of note, the only Sumner retained in the U.S. as a museum ship, USS Laffey (DD-724) located at Patriots Point in Charleston, South Carolina, is a FRAM II vessel like Borie.

USS Laffey, DD-724 as a museum ship today

As for Sam, the intrepid space monkey that Borie fished from the Atlantic during the Eisenhower administration, according to a 2017 story by Richard A. Marini published in the San Antonio Express-News:

Sam underwent 11 years of medical scrutiny by researchers at the School of Aerospace Medicine — formerly the School of Aviation Medicine — at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio. He retired to a quiet life at the San Antonio Zoo.

“Sam died Sept. 19, 1978, at 21, several years short of the expected rhesus monkey lifespan,” the Express-News reports. “Even after death, Sam served the cause. A necropsy performed at Brooks found no space-related abnormalities, only that Sam had signs of old age and arthritis.”

In Riga, Estonia, a 36-foot tall simian in an astronaut’s pressure suit was installed in honor of the early furry space pioneers in 2016. Known by the artist as “First Crew” the statue is commonly referred to today simply as “Sam.”

Specs:
Displacement: 2610 tons standard displacement
Length: 376’6″
Beam 40’10”
Draft 14’2″
Machinery: 2-shaft G.E.C. geared turbines (60,000 shp), 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Maximum speed (designed) 36.5 knots, actual usually about 33.
Range: 3300 nautical miles (5300 km) at 20 knots on 504 tons fuel oil
Complement: 336
Sensors: SC air search radar, SG surface search radar, QGA sonar
Post FRAM II: Variable Depth Sonar (VDS), SQS-20, SPS-40
Armament
3 x 2 5″/38 dual-purpose guns
2 x 4, 2×2 40mm Bofors AA guns
11 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
2 x 5 21″ torpedo tubes
6 depth charge throwers
2 depth charge tracks (56 depth charges)
(1961, post-FRAM-II)
6 x 5 in/38 cal guns (127 mm) (in 3 × 2 Mk 38 DP mounts)
2 x triple Mark 32 torpedo tubes for Mark 44 torpedoes
2 x single 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes for Mark 37 torpedoes
1 x Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH)
(1982)
6 x 5 in/38 cal guns (127 mm) (in 3 × 2 Mk 38 DP mounts)
2 x triple Mark 32 torpedo tubes for Mark 44 torpedoes
4 x MM38 Exocet AShMs
1 x SA-319B helicopter

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Snow panther

75 years ago today with the Army of Occupation in soon-to-be West Germany.

Original Caption 2: “Private Eugene Hamilton of Huntington, Long Island, New York, guards the 761st Tank Battalion tanks.” 

Photographer: Kirschaum 1/22/1946. NARA 111-SC-364381

The famed “Black Panthers” of the 761st earned a Presidental Unit Citation while part of Patton’s Third Army. A segregated unit, its 30 black (of 36) officers included Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson.

In the distance in the above photo are M4 Sherman medium tanks under tarps while PVT Hamilton is passing “Devil Dogs,” what looks to be an early model M24 Chaffee light tank, which may be new as the unit had used M5 Stuarts as their light track during the push across Northern Europe the year before.

They have been called “one of the most effective tank battalions in World War II.” In all, the battalion earned almost 300 Purple Hearts– impressive for a 700-man unit. This is in addition to a Medal of Honor for SSG Ruben Rivers, 11 Silver, and 69 Bronze Stars. All were garnered in their seven-month drive from Normandy to the Gunskirchen concentration camp in Austria where they linked up with the Russians pushing from the East.

The 761st was deactivated on 1 June 1946 in Germany. When it was reactivated in 1955, it was fully integrated.

‘Who do you think you are kidding, Mr. Hitler?’: So Long, Dad’s Army, 75 Years Ago

LDV ( Local Defence Volunteers – the forerunner of the Home Guard) in instructed on how to fire a rifle at the National Shooting Centre in Bisley, Surrey, 22 June 1940.  

On 31 December 1945, with Hitler long gone and Tojo under Allied custody, the final, skeletonized units of the British Home Guard were formally disbanded.

Initially founded as the Local Defence Volunteers, or LDV, on 14 May 1940, the force took on a new urgency and

meaning after Dunkirk when it became seen as very real insurance against a looming German invasion (Unternehmen Seelöwe) that never left port. From motley beginnings, they grew to a peak strength of 1.6 million men and boys.

Their most common tasking was in guarding downed Luftwaffe aircraft and UXO, and rounding up German aircrews that hit the silk over the British Isles.

They did, reportedly, down at least one Dornier with “concentrated rifle fire.”

One of the most popular arms in the Home Guard, at least after 1941, was the M1917 “American Enfield,” with a whopping 500,000 transferred, replacing the sorry state of affairs the lads began with that included everything from old fowling pieces and Napoleanic War relics to homemade pikes and fireplace pokers. 

The December 1945 disbandment was quiet and without much ceremony. The closest that Dad’s Army came to a public farewell was when a massed 7,000-man force paraded through Hyde Park the year prior as the operations were increasingly being drawn down.

Service was unpaid, although men who completed three years with the Home Guard could petition for a Defense Medal in recognition of their, wholly voluntary, service. 

Most were simply mustered out with a handshake, a bit of kit they were able to squirrel away as a memento, and a certificate that read simply:

In the years when our Country was in mortal danger, (name) who served (dates) gave generously of his time and powers to make himself ready for her defence by force of arms and with his life if need be. George R.I.

 

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