Category Archives: hero

8th & I Showing how it’s Done

Via Marine Barracks Washington, Marine Corps Ceremonial Marchers and Body Bearers standing tall: 

Marines of Marine Barracks Washington 8th & I weathered the snowstorm to honor a fallen brother on Monday, 3 January 2022. Retired Colonel Donald C. Morse was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Thank you for your service, sir. Fair winds and following seas.

(Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Donell Bryant/Marine Barracks Washington, 8th & I)

(Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Donell Bryant/Marine Barracks Washington, 8th & I)

(Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Donell Bryant/Marine Barracks Washington, 8th & I)

Notably, Col. Morse, 59, was former Commander, 2nd Tank Battalion.

The battalion-strength “Oldest Post of the Corps” traces its founding to 1801 and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, the second Commandant. Located on the corners of 8th & I Streets in southeast Washington, D.C., the Barracks supports both ceremonial and security missions in the nation’s capital.

Its current CO is Col. Teague A. Pastel (USNA ’96).

Its three primary units are Company A –comprised of 1st and 2nd Platoon, which are ceremonial marching platoons; the Silent Drill Platoon, and the Marine Corps Color Guard Platoon– Bravo Company— consisting of the Ceremonial Marchers of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Platoons along with the  Marine Body Bearers— and the Guard Company which stand post at Camp David and the White House.

The Barracks is also home to the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps as well as the Marine Band and is the site of the Home of the Commandants, which, along with the Barracks, is a registered national historic landmark.

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022: 15-Star Floating Haberdashery

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022: 15-Star Floating Haberdashery

Courtesy of Naval Institute collection, Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 94444.

Here we see the Sims-class destroyer USS Morris (DD-417), some 80 years ago today, as the tin can sits at the Charleston Navy Yard in South Carolina, on 5 January 1942. According to DANFS, at the time “she was equipped with the first fire control radar to be installed on a destroyer.” She is being refitted before sailing for the Pacific, barely a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, as witnessed by her Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage pattern. While Morris had already been highly active in the tense stand-off that was the Atlantic Neutrality Patrol, her pivot to the Pacific would be much more of a shooting war.

The Sims were handsome 1930s ships, a dozen 2,300-ton (fl), 348-foot greyhounds sandwiched between the smaller Benham-class and the slightly heavier Benson-class which used largely the same hull but a different engineering suite. Speaking of engineering, the Sims-class used a trio of Babcock & Wilcox boilers to push Westinghouse geared turbines at 50,000 shp, capable of making 37-knots, and were the last single-stack destroyers made for the Navy.

Designed around a dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes, they could also carry five 5″/38 DP MK 12 guns in a mix of enclosed and open MK 30 mounts– though in actuality they were completed with a smaller array of eight tubes and four main guns, augmented by increasingly heavy AAA and ASW suites. When you threw early radar sets into the mix– an advantage that opposing Axis destroyers could not boast– and you had a serious little surface combatant.

Built during the immediate lead-up to the U.S. entry into WWII, the 12 ships were ordered from seven yards to speed up completion, and half were commissioned in 1939, the other half in 1940.

Named in honor of Robert Morris, a member of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety and Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Navy had already bestowed Mr. Morris’s name to a pair of Revolutionary War vessels, then the follow-on U.S. Navy, doubling down as a salute to Commodore Charles Morris (who fought at Tripoli in 1805 and stormed the HMS Guerriere from the decks of the USS Constitution in 1812) gave it to two circa 1840s schooners, a Herreshoff-built early Coast Torpedo Boat (TB-14), and a Clemson-class destroyer (DD-271). This made “our” Morris the seventh such ship to carry the name.

The seventh Morris (DD‑417) was laid down at the navy yard, Norfolk, Va., 7 June 1938; launched 1 June 1939; sponsored by Mrs. Charles R. Nutter, great‑granddaughter of the late Commodore Charles Morris; and commissioned 5 March 1940.

Haze grey and big hull numbers: USS Morris (DD-417) circa 1940. Note she has not been fitted with radar yet and has shields on her Nos. 1, 2, and 5 Mark 30 5-inch mounts while her Nos. 3 and 4 5-inch mounts are unshielded Mark 30 Mod 1 variants. Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. NH 94441

Morris, flagship of DESRON 2, followed her shakedown with routine training schedules until the summer of 1941 when she joined the North Atlantic Patrol, keeping the sea lanes open and helping run convoys to U.S.-occupied Iceland, walking the razor-sharp line of neutrality. Keep in mind this was a sort of pseudo war, as the old four-piper destroyer USS Reuben James (DD-245) was sunk by a torpedo from German submarine U-552 near Iceland on Halloween 1941, six weeks before the United States had officially joined the war.

What a difference a year makes! USS Morris (DD-417) At Navy Yard, Boston, Mass, 3 September 1941. Note that she has landed her No. 3 mount and only has four 5-inchers at this point. Also, note the extensive depth charge collection. She had been serving with the North Atlantic Patrol during this period. Description: Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. NH 94443.

USS Morris (DD-417) Convoy to Iceland, view of two of the screens of TF-15, C. 7 September 1941. These are two of the following sisterships: ANDERSON (DD-411), WALKE (DD-416), MORRIS (DD-417), MUSTIN (DD-413), or O’ BRIEN (DD-415). NH 47006.

USS Morris (DD-417) Convoy to Iceland, September 1941. Officers on Bridge of USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37) look on as two Destroyers, possibly WALKE (DD-416) and MORRIS (DD-417) hunt down a submarine contact, circa 8 September 1941, while en route to Iceland with T.F. 15. NH 47009.

USS Morris (DD-417) In drydock at the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, in January 1942. She is being refitted before sailing for the Pacific. Note signal flags airing, details of her 5/38 gun houses, and her Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage pattern. Identifiable destroyers in the background are USS Tillman (DD-641), commissioned 9 June 1942; probably USS Beatty (DD-640), commissioned 7 May 1942; probably USS Hobson (DD-464), commissioned 22 January 1942; along with Sims-class sisters USS Anderson (DD-411), USS Hammann (DD-412), and USS Mustin (DD-413). Photograph # 19-N-26590 from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

She and several of her sisters with DESRON 2, after they arrived in Hawaii, became part of battleship-and-cruiserman RADM Frank Jack Fletcher’s soon-to-be famed Task Force 17, centered around the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). As such, Morris guarded Yorktown as her planes struck at enemy shipping in Tulagi Harbor and in the Lousiade Archipelago.

Coral Sea

By early May, Morris was part of the first major sea battle of the Pacific, the Battle of the Coral Sea, downing one attacking Japanese plane and sending another off trailing smoke in the first fleet-to-fleet combat in which the surface vessels involved never saw each other. Proving how deadly the enemy aircraft were, her class-leader and sister, USS Sims, was lost.

It was not the only loss at the Coral Sea, as the huge battlecruiser-turned-flattop USS Lexington (CV-2) was scuttled after a serious fire. Going to the carrier’s assistance, Morris went alongside the blazing and exploding Lexington to rescue some 500 survivors under extremely hazardous conditions, with the smaller ship suffering damage to her superstructure.

Battle of the Coral Sea, May 1942. Smoke rises soon after an explosion amidships on USS Lexington (CV-2), 8 May 1942. This is probably the explosion at 1727 hrs. that took place as the carrier’s abandonment was nearing its end. Ships standing by include the cruiser Minneapolis (CA-36) and Sims-class destroyers Morris (DD-417), Anderson (DD-411), and Hammann (DD-412). 80-G-16669.

USS Lexington (CV-2), Battle of the Coral Sea. View from USS Minneapolis (CA-36) as USS Morris (DD-417) and a second unknown destroyer assist with crew rescue from the stricken carrier. Critically damaged, USS Phelps (DD-360) was ordered to sink “Lady Lex” by torpedoes. Note the Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplane on Minneapolis.

Midway

Less than a month later, with her superstructure patched up at Pearl Harbor, Morris was front and center for the Battle of Midway. There, Morris shot down her second confirmed Japanese plane but lost another sister, Hammann, with the latter sunk by a Japanese torpedo.

Again, Morris was sent in to save souls from a sinking carrier, with Yorktown sent to the bottom.

Again, she rescued over 500 Sailors.

This produced an almost identical image, a doppelganger scene fit for Dante.

Battle of Midway, June 1942. Two Type 97 shipboard attack aircraft from the Japanese carrier Hiryu fly past USS Yorktown (CV-5), amid heavy anti-aircraft fire, after dropping their torpedoes during the mid-afternoon attack, 4 June 1942. Yorktown appears to be heeling slightly to port and may have already been hit by one torpedo. Photographed from USS Pensacola (CA-24). The destroyer at left, just beyond Yorktown’s bow, is probably USS Morris (DD-417). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. 80-G-32242

Her plankowner skipper, CDR Harry B. “Uncle Beanie” Jarrett (USNA ’22), was given the Navy Cross following the twin carrier rescues. 

USS Morris (DD 417), damage to ship after alongside emergency collisions with carriers at the Coral Sea and Midway, August 9, 1942. 9-LCM-651-8

Santa Cruz

Following a refit at Pearl, Morris was active again in early October, participating in the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai raid and an independent sweep through the Gilbert Islands where she took a large armed merchantman under fire then had to break the engagement after Japanese aircraft came on the scene. Two days later, she rejoined TF17 in time for another sea battle.

The Battle of Santa Cruz, on 25 October 1942, was an especially tough row to hoe for Morris. She was confirmed to have downed six Japanese aircraft during the engagement– at the time setting a record of 8 “kills” among U.S. Navy destroyers in the theater.

Sadly, she would come to the assistance of a third sinking American aircraft carrier, pulling alongside the blazing USS Hornet (CV 8), and “although ammunition aboard the damaged carrier was exploding fiercely and she was being subjected to vicious dive-bombing attacks by enemy planes,” Morris took aboard 550 of her complement before pulling away.

Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942. USS Hornet (CV 8) listing after the Japanese attack assisted by destroyers to bring her fires under control. Photographed from USS Pensacola (CA 24). 80-G-33895.

This was the third time the little escort would stand by to rescue hundreds of fellow Bluejackets from the turbulent, oil and debris-littered, waters. This led to her crew willingly passing on every stitch of clothing they weren’t wearing to the survivors. Such an expenditure of uniforms across two years of combat led her skipper to remark, “It seems safe to say that the turnover in wearing apparel was greater aboard Morris than any other ship then operating or thereafter to operate in the Pacific Ocean.”

From Morris’s War History, addressing the repeated call to duty to tend hundreds of carrier sailors and aircrew plucked from the water.

Her skipper, LCDR Randolph B. Boyer (USNA ’27), would receive the Navy Cross for the action.

LCDR Randolph B. Boyer, Commanding Officer of USS Morris (DD 417), following being awarded the Navy Cross on January 3, 1943, by RADM Frederick C. Sherman for meritorious and heroic action rendered survivors of USS Hornet (CV 8) during the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, October 26, 1942. The ceremony, conducted onboard Morris, honored two officers and four enlisted men for their work in rescuing survivors adrift in the sea and for helping to extinguish “raging fires” on the carrier. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-33892

She closed out the year off Guadalcanal and for eight weeks was engaged in escorting supply units to the Russell Islands. By May 1943, she was detached for the liberation of Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands, then was sent back to Mare Island for an extensive two-month overhaul that left her looking different.

USS Morris (DD-417) Broadside view of the ship, 21 October 1943 after alterations at Mare Island Navy Yard California. Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. Note her No. 3 5-inch mount has lost its armored shield, but the destroyer still has her 2×4 twin torpedo turnstiles amidships. NH 94445.

USS Morris (DD-417) In San Francisco Bay, 21 October 1943. Look at that big, beautiful SG radar array. At this point, her mainmast stood at 90 feet above her keel. That’s some height on a ship that only runs 348-feet overall. Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. NH 94446.

A Fourth Carrier Tragedy

In November 1943, Morris joined an air support group consisting of a trio of Casablanca-class “jeep carriers,” USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56), USS Coral Sea (CVE-57), and USS Corregidor (CVE-59) in the Gilbert Islands offensive, during which, for a fourth time, our destroyer went to aid a sunk flattop.

On the early morning of 24 November 1943, Liscome Bay’s munitions were detonated by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-175 and sank in an extremely short amount of time— 20 minutes according to some reports– carrying 644 men including RADM Henry M. Mullinnix and Pearl Harbor Navy Cross earner Doris Miller to the bottom. Only 272 of Liscome Bay’s crew were pulled from the oily water, while the responding destroyers dodged further torpedo wakes from I-175.

Back to work

USS Morris (DD-417) Underway at sea on 6 December 1943. Note her rough paint, especially on the bow, her skyward No.2 5-inch mount, and tarps over her No. 3 5-inch mount. NH 107277

Kicking off 1944, on 30 January 1944 Morris led a column of warships in a shore bombardment mission against Wotje– and was bracketed by Japanese shore batteries for her efforts.

She then provided NGF support off Namur, reportedly wiping out a Japanese counterattack force from an adjacent island. Further 5-inch work was delivered in supporting the western New Guinea landings, the Biak Island operation, pounding enemy guns on Noemfoor Island and then at Cape Sansapor and operations against Halmahera and Morotai on the lead up to the liberation of the Philippines where, as part of 7th Fleet, she fought off kamikazes.

USS Morris (DD-417), with her second stint in camo, this time in the new Measure 32C/2C, seen at Humboldt Bay in October 1944. The destroyer in the background is a Fletcher-class also in Design 2C. NARA photos via USNDazzle.

As part of the 5th Fleet for the push on Okinawa, she arrived off Kerama Retto with TG 51.11. on April Fool’s Day, 1945. Six days later she felt the divine wind.

As detailed in RADM Samuel J. Cox’s H-044-2: “Floating Chrysanthemums”—The Naval Battle of Okinawa:

Destroyer escort Witter was operating with destroyer Gregory (DD-802) on anti-submarine patrol duty off southern Okinawa when they were attacked by two Japanese aircraft at 1612. Gregory shot one down and Witter gunners hit the other, but the burning plane kept coming and hit Witter at the waterline, with the plane’s bomb exploding in the forward fire room, and killing six crewmen and wounding six. Damage control parties got the flooding under control and Witter was steaming on her own power toward Kerama Retto at ten knots, accompanied by Gregory, destroyer Morris (DD-417), Richard P. Leary (DD-664), and the tug Arikara (ATF-98).

Morris detached from the group, but then came under attack by a single Kate torpedo bomber. Although Morris gunners hit the Kate repeatedly, it kept coming and crashed on the port side between 5-inch gun mounts Number 1 and 2, igniting stubborn fires that took two and a half hours to put out. Richard P. Leary arrived to assist and escorted Morris to Kerama Retto. Morris suffered 13 killed and 45 wounded. 

USS Morris (DD-417) was hit by a ‘Kate’ that came in low off the port bow and blew a hole completely through her forecastle between mounts 51 and 52. Morris with a tug alongside is seen at Kerama Retto, on 7 April 1945. Despite the gaping hole that reached almost down to the waterline, it was decided to make her seaworthy again, and work commenced immediately to render her able to steam across the Pacific. Photo via NARA.

USS Morris (DD-417) Damage received from a kamikaze hit off Okinawa, 6 April 1945. 80-G-330101

USS Morris (DD-417) Showing damage inflicted by a Japanese suicide plane while operating off Kerama Retto after much of the debris had been cleared away in early 1945. Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. NH 94447.

From her War History on the strike: 

On 22 May, some three weeks after VJ Day she started out across the Pacific and on 18 June entered the Hunters Point Drydock, San Francisco. “Declared neither seaworthy nor habitable, she was decommissioned 9 November; struck from the Naval Register 28 November; stripped and sold to Franklin Shipwrecking 2 August 1947 and then resold to the National Metal & Steel Corp., Terminal Island, Calif., 17 July 1949.”

Epilogue

Morris received 15 battle stars for her action in World War II while pulling almost 2,000 Sailors from sinking ships or the ocean waves. While this battle star figure is outstanding, and one of the highest in the fleet, she was surpassed by her sister Russell (16 stars), a testament to the wringer this class was put through.

The war was especially hard on her class, with Sims sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Hammann sunk at Midway while trying to screen USS Yorktown, O’Brien ultimately sunk by a torpedo she picked up trying to screen the carrier USS Wasp off Guadalcanal, Walke lost in the same campaign, and Buck sunk by a German U-boat. 
 
With the Navy flush with Fletcher and Gearing class destroyers– which were brand new in many cases and much more capable– the rest of the Sims were on the chopping block. Russell and Roe, undergoing lengthy refits like Mustin‘s when the war ended, never saw service again and were instead sold for scrap.
 
The four still-mobile Sims left in active service by early 1946: Mustin, Hughes, Anderson, and Wainwright joined 13 other tin cans from two other classes at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands to take part in the Operation Crossroads atomic tests.

Joint Task Force One press release chart depicting scrap costs of Operation Crossroads. (U.S. Naval Institute)

The ships were stripped of useful equipment as well as ceremonial items such as bells, nameplates, and commemorative plaques. At Bikini, without crews or ordnance but with a sampling of goats and chickens aboard, the fleet touched the sun.

CDR Harry Bean Jarrett, Morris’s first c/o and the man who was in charge of the destroyer for both the Coral Sea and Midway (along with the corresponding rescues from the doomed aircraft carriers Yorktown and Lexington), ended the war in charge of nine Fletchers in the famed DESRON 53, who aggressively covered the landings across the Marshall and Marianans Islands. He retired in 1954 as a Vice Admiral and commander of Commander Carrier Division Four, and passed in 1974, aged 75. He is buried at the USNA’s Cemetery, and the Perry-class frigate USS Jarrett (FFG-33) was named in his honor.

Sadly, her skipper for the Hornet rescue, Capt. Randolph Boyer, was lost post-war on August 16, 1947, when the converted B-17 he was aboard along with Ambassador George C. Atcheson, crashed while en route from Hawaii to Japan.

The Commissioning Pennant that Morris had fluttering in the breeze above Tack Force 17 at the Battle of the Coral Sea and at Midway, where Morris attended to the broken carriers Lexington and Yorktown in tandem, is preserved in the NHHC collection.

The esteemed destroyer’s 12-page War History and most of her monthly war diaries are digitized in the National Archives.

She has a Memorial Wall plaque at the National Museum of the Pacific War, in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Location: East Wall, Courtyard. Row: 2. Section: Past 19C.

A small group of Vets and families associated with the destroyer noted in May 2021 that, “Les Wawner has passed away at 100. To our knowledge, he was the last of our USS Morris DD-417 sailors.”

She is also remembered in maritime art.

January 30, 1944, 0630 hours, “Destroyer Morris under fire from Japanese shore batteries on Wotje Island in the Marshall Islands.” Painting by Frank McCarthy.

Unfortunately, the Navy has not (*seriously) reissued the name, so the 7th Morris is, as of 2022 at least, the last on the Naval List to carry it. Certainly, it would be befitting for an as-yet-to-be-named Burke.

*A 173-foot PC-461-class submarine chaser, USS PC-1179, was renamed as the eighth USS Morris in 1956 while she was in mothballs at Astoria, and never served in commission with the name, scrapped just five years later.

Specs:

USS Morris (DD-417) Booklet of General Plans – Outboard Profile, as updated at Mare Island 10.24.43, with SG radar installed.


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Happy New Year, Gang

Offical caption, some 70 years ago this month: Missouri infantrymen with the 19th Infantry Regiment (24th Infantry Division) along the Kumsong front in Korea wish Happy New Year to the stateside folks.

Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-387519. National Archives Identifier: 531422

Here’s to 2022! As the man says, “Maybe this year will be better than the last.”

Slow Salute to CAPT Dole and COL Shames

The “Greatest Generation” included over 16 million Americans who served during WWII in uniform. Today, the VA estimates that barely 300,000 of these Vets remain, a number that is growing smaller literally every day.

Case in point, over the weekend we lost esteemed Kansas lawmaker, and the man who charged at the windmill that was an incumbent Bill Clinton in 1996 at a time when the economy was peaking, Robert “Bob” Dole.

Dole, born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, interrupted his college studies at the University of Kansas to enlist in the Army, serving with the famed 10th Mountain Division in Italy where he was gravely wounded and initially left for dead on the battlefield. In postwar rehabilitation, he had to learn to write with his left hand after his right was left with limited mobility. He was medically discharged as a captain in 1947 and returned to his studies, eventually becoming a lawyer. 

Dole died Sunday, aged 98.

He was the last WWII Veteran to be nominated by any party for President. With that, check out his 2008 interview with the National WWII Museum about his service.

Edward Shames

The last surviving officer of the “Band of Brothers,” Edward D. Shames,  died at age 99 on Friday. Participating in some of the most critical WWII battles, Shames parachuted into Normandy during the Overlord as Operations Sergeant with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne. Earning a battlefield commission for his actions on D-Day, he transferred shortly thereafter to Easy Company as leader of 3rd platoon and fought in Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.

Notably, Shames, who was Jewish, was credited as being one of the first in Easy Company to enter Dachau to liberate the death camp in 1945.

As noted in his obit, “When Germany surrendered, Ed and his men of Easy Company entered Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest where Ed managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac, a label indicating they were ‘for the Fuhrer’s use only.’ Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.”

Postwar, he remained in the military and retired as a full colonel in the reserves in 1973, and worked for “No Such Agency” at Fort Meade until 1982.

Shames was played by actor Joseph May in Band of Brothers.

Shames is survived by his sons Douglas and Steven, four grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

A graveside service will be held at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at 11 a.m. with Cantor David Proser officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in his honor (memory) may be sent to Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, Kansas 66675-8516 and the American Veterans Center, 1100 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 910, Arlington, VA 22201. Online condolences may be offered here. 

Lost Battalion Actual

Other than Sgt. York, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Pershing himself, perhaps the best-known American Soldier of the Great War was a bookish lawyer from New York City, Charles Whittlesey.

The bespectacled 33-year-old unassuming Harvard-grad– a reformed Socialist of all things– took leave from his succesful Manhattan law firm partnership (Pruyn & Whittlesey) and joined the forming National Army for the great push against the Kaiser in May 1917.

Within a few months, with no prior military service, Whittlesey was a captain and then a major, placed in command of 1st Battalion, 308th Infantry Regiment, a unit with no prior lineage and few veterans. The battalion shipped out for Europe as part of the 77th “Liberty” Division, so-called due to the Statue of Liberty patch it carried, a reference to the fact that its men hailed largely from NYC and its boroughs and trained on Long Island in the summer and winter of 1917. Because of this, it was often referred to as “The Metropolitan Division and “The Times Square Division.”

Receiving additional training from British cadres in France, the 308th entered the trenches in the dreaded Baccarat Sector in July 1918.

After moves to the Vesle front and a subsequent shift to the Argonne Forest to participate in the Oise-Aisne campaign, the regiment was embroiled in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive where, overextended with no flank support, nine companies– mostly of 1-308 with other elements of the 77th– under Whittlesey and Captain George McMurtry found themselves encircled in a ravine by at least two enemy regiments (IR122 and IR254) behind German lines following a counterattack.

Holding out for five days under hellish conditions in the pocket before they were finally relieved, the group became known to history as “The Lost Battalion,” later the subject of at least two films of the same name.

“Our Famous ‘Lost Battalion’ in the Argonne Forest. Seven hundred of our boys were surrounded by thousands of Huns. For thirty-six hours they had had no food. Death seemed inevitable. In answer to the enemy’s messenger with an offer to spare them if they would surrender, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Whittlesey roared his historic “Go to Hell!” –which was at once “refusal, malediction, and prophecy.” By Frank Schoonover.

For much more detail on The Lost Battalion, see the extensive piece over at the WWI Centennial’s site.

Hailed for their five days against all odds and refusal to surrender, Whittlesey and McMurtry received the Medal of Honor, feted as “Heroes of the Charlevaux Ravine.”

Whittlesey’s citation:

Although cut off for five days from the remainder of his division, Major Whittlesey maintained his position, which he had reached under orders received for an advance, and held his command, consisting originally of 46 officers and men of the 308th Infantry and of Company K of the 307th Infantry, together in the face of superior numbers of the enemy during the five days. Major Whittlesey and his command were thus cut off, and no rations or other supplies reached him, in spite of determined efforts which were made by his division. On the 4th day Major Whittlesey received from the enemy a written proposition to surrender, which he treated with contempt, although he was at the time out of rations and had suffered a loss of about 50 percent in killed and wounded of his command and was surrounded by the enemy.

When it came to adjusting back to the breakout of peace following the Armistice, Whittlesey became something of a hounded rock star of the day on his return to the City. Constantly hunted down to appear at events and engagements, he worked with the Red Cross and was installed as a colonel of the 108th Infantry Regiment in the NYANG. He was likewise a lightning rod for the demobilized veterans of the 77th who found themselves cast off by the Army with no support in a slack post-war economy.

He told a confidant in 1919 that, “Not a day goes by but I hear from some of my old outfit, usually about some sorrow or misfortune. I cannot bear it much more.” To another, following a Red Cross dinner in which he made the now-expected speech about his experience with the Lost Battalion, “Raking over the ashes like this revives all the horrible memories. I can’t remember when I had a good night’s sleep.”

The final straw, it seems, was serving as a pallbearer for the Unknown Soldier at Arlington on Armistice Day 1921.

He was haunted by the thought that the nameless Soldier in the casket could have been one of the 63 members of his command that disappeared in the Charlevaux Ravine, telling McMurtry, who was also at the ceremony, “George, I should not have come here. I cannot help but wonder if that may not be one of my men from the Pocket. I shall have nightmares tonight and hear the wounded screaming once again.”

With that, just 13 days after the interment, the most eligible bachelor in Manhattan got his affairs in order and, on 24 November 1921– 100 years ago today– boarded the banana boat SS Toloa, bound for Cuba. He had told no one of his sudden trip to the Caribbean, only mentioning to his housekeeper that he would be gone for a few days over the Thanksgiving weekend. 

Two days later, he disappeared after dinner, joining the missing of the Great War in a very real sense. 

As noted by Arlington National Cemetery: 

In Whittlesey’s stateroom, crew members found a letter to the captain requesting that his belongings be thrown into the sea. They also found nine letters addressed to relatives and friends. The letters had not been written on the ship’s stationary, suggesting that the colonel had composed them prior to his trip. After an investigation, the U.S. consul in Havana determined that Charles Whittlesey had “drown[ed] at sea by own intent,” with “no remains found.”

The Lost Battalion marker by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission. 

Plastic Reminders

While visiting the offices of my local parish, I came across this and thought it was a good idea. For a sub-$20 donation, something small like this can have a big impact on people’s hearts and minds. These little plastic soldiers are a tangible reminder that can lead to folks reaching out to help support their local Veterans groups, USOs, and military non-profits. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 100

On 11 November 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery was installed as a solemn final resting place for one of America’s unidentified service members.

The mortal remains of that initial Soldier, whose identity was only “Known but to God,” was selected from unknown Americans who gave up their lives in France during the Great War. Over 38,000 Americans were buried in French soil at military cemeteries in the Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel, Somme, and Aisne-Marne regions. One set of unidentified remains were selected from each cemetery for review.

From those four sets of identical flag-draped caskets, a decorated GI who had served in the conflict and had been twice wounded, Sgt. Edward F. Younger, selected one to become the Unknown Soldier by resting a bouquet of white roses on its cover. The Unknown was then taken to the port of Le Harve under a ceremonial escort provided by French and American troops and attended by thousands of locals along the way.

André Maginot, the French Minister of Pensions, presented the French Legion of Honor– the country’s highest order of merit– to the Unknown Soldier.

French Minister of Pensions M. Maginot pinning the Cross of Legion of Honor upon the casket.in Le Havre, France, October 25, 1921. Maginot was a Great War veteran himself, who as a sergeant had both of his legs shattered in the conflict. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The casket was carried aboard Dewey’s old flagship, the armored cruiser USS Olympia (C-6; CA-15; CL-15; IX-40) on 25 October by Sailors and Marines while the warship’s band played both the American and French national anthems as well as Chopin’s “Funeral March.”

Unknown Soldier’s body going aboard USS Olympia, Le Havre, France, October 25, 1921. The original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521763.

Installed on one of the cruiser’s topside hatches, the Unknown was guarded by Marines and Sailors for the voyage across the Atlantic to the Washington Navy Yard, where Olympia arrived on 9 November.

Casket of the Unknown Soldier in its transporting case on the after end of the superstructure of USS Olympia. (Original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521778.)

USS Olympia (CL-15, originally Cruiser # 6) Arriving at the Washington Navy Yard, D.C., with the remains of the Unknown Soldier, 9 November 1921. She had transported the remains from France. Among the destroyers in the background, immediately beyond Olympia’s bow, are: USS Barney (DD-149) and USS Blakeley (DD-150). Courtesy of Edward Page, 1979. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89731

A detail of Marines and sailors lift the body of the unknown soldier as the funeral party disembarks USS Olympia (CL-15) at Washington, DC after its trip from Le Harve, France. (Original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521811)

There, the remains were transferred to the escort of the Army.

After laying in state at the Capitol Rotunda for two days and being visited by 90,000 people, the casket was transported to Arlington on Armistice Day, celebrating the end of the Great War that had occurred three years prior on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

The procession from the Capitol to Arlington included several military units to include those from nine allied nations as well as nurses who served in France, while Gen. John Persing, who commanded the American forces in Europe during the war, walked behind the horse-drawn funeral caisson.

Honors rendered that day included the presentation of the Medal of Honor by President Harding. Four military chaplains (to include a rabbi) participated in the funeral service. A national two-minute silence augmented the thousands in attendance. Flowers and wreaths were massed while salutes were fired. Pershing deposited some soil from France into the tomb. The chief of the Crow Nation rested his coup stick across the tomb as a tribute to the fallen and presented his war bonnet.

Today, Armistice Day is known as Veterans Day and the Tomb has had other Unknowns interred to include the World War II and Korean War Unknowns in 1958 and 1984, respectively. Guarded originally by details from nearby Fort Myer and, since 1948, by an elite group of Sentinels provided by the 3rd Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard,” the Tomb has been reverently secured 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no matter the weather.

In honoring the 100th anniversary of the interment of the WWI Unknown Soldier, for the first time in a century, the public has been allowed entrance to the normally off-limits Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza this week to place flowers near the memorial.

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the public is invited to observe a joint full honors procession, meant to replicate elements of the World War I Unknown Soldier’s 1921 funeral procession. Following this, there will be a combined services flyover of the cemetery and the National Mall in conjunction with the Armed Forces Full Honors Wreath Ceremony to honor the Unknowns and the centennial of the Tomb, set for 11 a.m.

For more information on the Tomb, here is a tour of the display room in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery.

As for Olympia, she lingered on in Naval service, decommissioned in 1922 and preserved as a relic/floating office space at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard until 1957 when she was stricken and transferred to a local non-profit for use as a civilian-run museum ship, a task she continues to perform today.

A lead plaque was installed on the cruiser’s hatch in the 1920s where the Unknown had rested for the trip from France but, sadly, is not on the ship today, being removed when she was decommissioned. However, it is preserved at the NMUSN. 

A commemorative plaque, part of the exhibit of the cruiser USS Olympia at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy (NMUSN), hangs on display during a symposium held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Unknown Soldier to U.S. soil after WWI. The plaque identifies where the casket containing the remains of the Unknown Soldier was placed aboard the cruiser USS Olympia during the voyage from Le Havre, France to Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jalen D. Walton)

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021: The Navy’s Here

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021: The Navy’s Here

Imperial War Museum Photo FL 1657

Here we see the Royal Navy Tribal (Afridi)-class destroyer HMS Cossack (L03, F03 & G03) underway just after her completion in the summer of 1938. Today is the 80th anniversary of the vessel’s loss, but she had the heart of a lion and got in some good licks against the Axis in her short WWII career.

Background on the Tribals

The Afridi‘s were a new type of destroyer designed for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s off experience both in the Great War and to match the large, modern escorts on the drawing boards of contemporary naval rivals of the time.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Huron (G24), in dazzle camouflage, sailing out to sea during the Second World War during one of her countless trans-Atlantic escorting runs. The Tribal-class destroyer, commissioned on July 28,1943, also served in the Pacific theatre during the Korean War under the new pennant number 216.

These 378-foot vessels could make 36+ knots on a pair of geared steam turbines and a trio of Admiralty three-drum boilers while an impressive battery of up to eight 4.7″/45 (12 cm) QF Mark XII guns in four twin CPXIX mountings gave them the same firepower as early WWI light cruisers (though typically just three turrets were mounted).

Gun crew on Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin cleaning up their 4.7″/45 (12 cm) Mark XII guns after firing at the Normandy Beaches on 7 June 1944. Note that the crewman kneeling in the rear is holding a 4.7″ (12 cm) projectile. Library and Archives Canada Photograph MIKAN no. 3223884

Some 32 Afridi‘s were planned in eight-ship flights: 16 for the RN (named after tribal warriors: HMS Eskimo, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, et. al), eight for the Royal Australian Navy, and eight for the Canadians. Of the Canadian ships, four were to be built by Vickers in the UK and the other four by Halifax shipyards in Nova Scotia. All the Canadian ships were to be named after First Nations tribes (Iroquois, Athabaskan, Huron, Haida, Micmac, Nootka, Cayuga, etc.)

An unidentified Tribal class destroyer in profile

Meet Cossack

The subject of our tale, HMS Cossack, was laid down at Vickers- Armstrong 9 March 1936– the week Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland– and commissioned 7 June 1938, some three months after his Anschluss annexation of Austria. She was the sixth RN warship to carry the name, which had been introduced in 1806 when the 6th-Rate sloop Pandour was renamed. As such, she carried two previous Battle Honours forward (“Baltic 1835” and “Dover Patrol 1914-19.” Still, as the Royal Navy had fought the Bolsheviks on several fronts during the Russian Civil War only a generation prior, it was an odd choice of name.

Assigned the pennant L03, she became part of the 1st Tribal Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean where she pitched in on the international patrols during the Spanish Civil War in between Fleet exercises.

In April 1939, the Tribal Flotilla was reflagged as the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, resulting in a change of her pennant to F03.

When WWII broke out, she was with the battleship HMS Warspite at Istanbul and was soon part of convoys escorting French colonial troops from North Africa to Marseilles. By October 1939, she and her flotilla were ordered to the British Isles for Home Fleet duties in the North Sea, primarily enforcing the blockade of Germany to prevent that nation’s huge fleet of merchant ships left at sea around the world from returning home with their precious cargo.

This leads us to…

Troßschiff Altmark

One of the five Dithmarschen-class of 20,000-ton specialized tanker/supply ships built at Kiel for naval service between 1937 and 1939, Altmark could carry 7,933 tons of fuel, 972 tons of munitions, 790 tons of supplies, and 100 tons of spare parts for German surface raiders. The class was also well-armed and considered capable of being auxiliary cruisers, carrying three 150mm L48s as well as a variety of 37mm and 20mm flak guns.

Altmark’s sister ship, USS Conecuh (AOR-110), photographed in 1953-1956. She was originally the German navy replenishment oiler KMS Dithmarschen, built in 1938, and turned over as a war prize in 1946. She was stricken from the Naval Register on 1 June 1960. NARA 80-G-678091

On the outbreak of war, Altmark was at sea in the Atlantic and met with the commerce-raiding “pocket battleship” KMS Graf Spee on 1 September to transfer vital fuel stores. Over the next four months, under the control of her skipper, 66-year-old Capt. Heinrich Dau, she would meet Spee nine times at sea and trade supplies for prisoners that the raider had captured under gentlemanly “cruiser rules,” meeting Spee on 6 December for the final time.

After Spee was scuttled in Uruguay on 17 December after being run to ground by a trio of fearless cruisers, Altmark was left alone at sea with 299 captured Commonwealth merchant seamen aboard. Rather than blow her cover and parole them in a neutral port, the huge tanker somehow eluded the Royal Navy and made it back to Northern Europe, threading the needle to appear in the territorial waters of neutral Norway by mid-February 1940.

As Altmark had ditched her larger guns and changed her topside appearance several times, the mystery ship, passing herself at first as the French tanker Chirqueue, was granted grudging Norwegian permission to pass from Trondheim, where she first arrived. Soon the call went out and, after being directed by RAF Hudsons of 220 Squadron that had spotted the German, the British made a move.

Altmark, hiding out in Norway

On 16 February, Cossack– with a task force consisting of the cruiser HMS Arethusa and the destroyers Intrepid, Sikh, Nubian, and Ivanhoe— intercepted Altmark in an attempt to force her out of Norwegian territorial waters, firing a shot across her bow. However, the tanker instead slipped into a narrow inlet in Jossingfiord, effectively trapped.

Meanwhile, the neutral Norwegians only raised protests but did not actively defend Altmark, although the armed torpedo boats HNoMS Skarv and Kjell were on hand.

Following several hours of negotiations with the Norwegians to (kind of) allow a single ship to inspect Altmark and Cossack, under Capt. Philip Louis Vian, was sent in. Creeping close and according to some reports, getting lost in the fjord at night, Cossack drew close to the German tanker and LCDR B.T. Turner led the 32-man (4 officers and 28 ratings) boarding force aboard, armed with rifles and bayonets and at least one cutlass, purportedly the last combat use of that weapon in Royal Navy history.

Wilkinson, Norman; HMS ‘Cossack’ and the Prison Ship ‘Altmark’, 16 February 1940; National Maritime Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/hms-cossack-and-the-prison-ship-altmark-16-february-1940-176104

Altmark tried to fight back, with Capt. Dau ordering spotlights to blind the Cossack’s bridge and engines astern to ram the oncoming destroyer. In a confused action that saw the boarding party leap across the gap between the two ships, and several Germans killed and wounded (reports vary, with the better ones citing from 8 killed and 5 wounded in exchange for no British losses), the tanker was seized and grounded.

A hatch was opened and a call– attributed to Warrant Officer John James Frederick Smith, who won the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 16 February-– was made; “Are there any Englishmen down there?”

Following a loud response, the prisoners were told; “Then come up. The Navy’s here.”

In all, from empty shell rooms, fuel tanks, and storerooms, some 297 British mariners were found while two merchant captains (Brown and Starr) were located in a double cabin aft. The men had been on a bread and water diet and came from at least seven ships. Elsewhere on the ship, “timebombs” were found set to explode as were two concealed “pom-poms,” three 6-inch guns, and four machine guns, none of which were brought into action.

While Cossack suffered slight damage to her bows in closing with the prison ship and her port propeller cracked, Altmark was hard aground and could not be seized as a prize for return to Britain. Instead, her prisoners were liberated, and the German was left in place.

The next day, the released prisoners were landed at Leith with substantial press coverage, a delightful distraction from the “Phony War” then going on in France.

HMS Cossack returns to Leith on 17 February 1940 after rescuing the British prisoners held in Graf Spees’s supply ship Altmark. IWM

Vain earned a DSO, issued 12th April 1940: 
 
Captain Philip Louis Vian, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Cossack;
 
for outstanding ability, determination and resource in the preliminary dispositions which led to the rescue of 300 English prisoners from the German Armed Auxiliary Altmark, and for daring, leadership and masterly handling of his ship in narrow waters so as to bring her alongside and board the enemy, who tried to blind him with the glare of a searchlight, worked his engine full ahead and full astern, tried to ram him and drive him ashore and so threatened the grounding and loss of Cossack

While the Norwegians lodged toothless official protests with London, the Germans later used the Altmark incident as part of their excuse to invade that Scandinavian neutral, saying the Allies had no intent to recognize said neutrality and the country needed some extra Teutonic protection.

Goebbels also launched an over-the-top propaganda broadside over the “Crime against the Altmark,” painting the British tars of the Cossack as bloodthirsty pirates murdering honest and defenseless German mariners with dum-dum bullets while flouting Norwegian sovereignty, all while leaving out the tanker’s own role as a prison ship for a notorious commerce raider.

The German propaganda booklet surpassed a half-million copies in print.

The rest of Cossack’s War

Sent back to Norway in April to blunt the German invasion of that country, Cossack was damaged at the Second Battle of Narvik, running around and suffering serious damage that required two weeks of local repair under enemy pressure. In that destroyer-on-destroyer clash, she suffered 11 killed and 23 of the ship’s company wounded but got licks in on the KMS Eric Giese (Z12) and KMS Diether von Roeder (Z17).

She received eight direct hits and one near miss from German 5-inch guns, keeping afloat due to skilled damage control.

HMS Cossack damage control lessons learned poster after Narvik

On 5 May, while under repair, her pennant shifted to G03.

Rejoining the 4th Flotilla in June 1940 after more permanent repairs that included installing a Type 286 gunnery radar, she stood by for the expected invasion of Britain following the Fall of France.

Once that threat dissipated, Cossack was sent towards Norway again in October with classmates HMS Ashanti, HMS Sikh, and HMS Maori to harass German maritime traffic and received a shell hole in her while attacking a convoy off Egersund.

On Board the Destroyer HMS Cossack during Torpedo and Anti-submarine Exercises. 1940. Captain Vian (in the center) of Altmark fame, on the bridge during exercises. Note the Lewis gun. Photo by Beadell, S J (Lt). IWM A 1595

Pluto the dog, the mascot of HMS Cossack stood on the lap of one of the ship’s company as a group of them pose during torpedo and anti-submarine exercises Photo by Beadell, S J (Lt). IWM A 1598

A view from the other side of the above

Further operations were more mundane until, in late May, she and the rest of the 4th Flotilla were dispatched to join the urgent “Hunt for the Bismarck,” which had its endgame on the 27th when she, along with HMS Maori and Zulu, carried out close torpedo attacks on the feared German battlewagon.

Painting made in 1942 by artist Walter Zeeden depicting Captain Vian’s destroyer, Cossack, engaged by the Bismarck during the night of 26-27 May 1941. Via KBismarck

Supposedly, in a great sea story, her crew managed to recover a black and white cat found afloat in the Bismarck’s wreckage. Unaware of what the stray name of said Katze had been on Bismarck, the crew of Cossack termed their new mascot “Oscar” after the term for the dummy used in man overboard drills.

Then came coastal convoy protection from German E-boats operating from occupied France and, in October 1941, an assignment with her flotilla sisters to join Operation Substance, the reinforcement of Malta’s embattled garrison.

While just out of Gibraltar as part of convoy HG 075 on 23 October, Cossack was hit by a torpedo from the Type VIIC U-boat U-563 (Oblt. Klaus Bargsten), which was operating with Wolfpack Breslau. With massive flooding and the loss of 158 men, the destroyer was abandoned. However, the battered tin can remained afloat and, reoccupied by a 27-strong salvage crew, she was taken under tow by HM Tug Thames under escort from the corvette Jonquil.

Sadly, the damage proved too much and four days later, still short of Gibraltar, she foundered in rough weather. While her salvage crew was taken off safely, Cossack went to the bottom at 1043 on 27 October in position 35.12N 08.17W.

Her death was avenged in May 1943 when U-563 was sent to the bottom with all hands by RAF and RAAF Halifax and Sutherland aircraft off Spain. 

Epilogue

Cossack is remembered primarily for her role in the Altmark incident, an engagement that has been retold in maritime art several times.

HMS Cossack, by Anthony Cowland.

HMS Cossack comic by Jim Watson. Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant cover, dated 13 August 1977.

Cossack at Narvik April 1940 by Rudenko

She has also been reproduced in model format off and on over the past several decades.

Her skipper during the Altmark incident also survived the war, later rising to become the commander in charge of air operations of the British Pacific Fleet in the final push against Japan, and went on to become Fifth Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Philip Louis Vian GCB, KBE, DSO & Two Bars. Among the foreign decorations held by the “Fighting Admiral” was St. Olav’s Medal With Oak Branch, given to him by the Norwegians after the war to show there were no hard feelings. He died in 1968 on dry land at his home in Berkshire, aged 73.

Sir Philip Louis Vian by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, December 1942. NPG x76877

Speaking of Altmark, she was renamed Uckermark and returned to Kriegsmarine service including supporting Operation Berlin, the early 1941 anti-shipping sortie of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and being assigned twice (unsuccessfully) to back up Graf Spee’s sistership, the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. Sent to the Far East with “Raider H,” the auxiliary cruiser HSK Michel— the last operative German raider of World War II– Altmark/Uckermark ended in a column of smoke in an unexplained explosion in Yokohama in November 1942.

During her Indo-Pacific deployment in November 2021, an honor guard from the German frigate Bayern went ashore at Yokohama to lay a wreath and flag at the memorial for the Uckermark’s lost crew, killed in the 1942 explosion.

Another famed German survivor, the seasick cat Oscar was supposedly rescued when Cossack was initially abandoned off Gibraltar and picked up on a Carley Float with a handful of her crew by the L-class destroyer HMS Legion and all were later transferred to the carrier HMS Ark Royal. Amazingly, Ark Royal was sunk just two weeks later off Malta but Oscar, renamed “Unsinkable Sam,” somehow escaped meeting Davy Jones for the third time and was retired to shoreside service in Gibraltar and, postwar, to the old sailor’s home in Belfast where he reportedly passed in 1955, a German cat with lots of tales to tell, no doubt.

Oscar/Sam’s legend, which is likely more sea yarn than anything else, nonetheless resulted in a portrait that is now hung at Greenwich for the believe it or not crowd.

Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat by Georgina Shaw-Baker National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

Greenwich also sells prints of Cossack’s plans. 

The Royal Navy used Cossack’s name for a sixth time, issuing it to a C-class destroyer (D57) that became leader of the 8th Destroyer Squadron in 1945, fought in close actions in Korea, and was broken up in 1961 after a career in the Far East.

For more details on Cossack, visit the HMS Cossack Association, which has a range of information about the famous ships that have carried the name.

As for our Cossack’s Tribal-class sisters, no less than 12 of the 16 Tribals in British service were lost during WWII and the remaining quartet were all paid off by 1949. All the Tribals in Canadian service were sold to the breakers by 1969. The three Australian ships that were completed (five were canceled) likewise were turned to razor blades.

The only Tribal that remains afloat is HMCS Haida which was preserved and opened as a museum ship in 1965. Please visit her if you get a chance.

Haida (Parks Canada)

Specs


Displacement:
1,891 long tons (1,921 t) (standard)
2,519 long tons (2,559 t) (deep load)
Length: 377 ft (114.9 m) (o/a)
Beam: 36 ft 6 in (11.13 m)
Draught: 11 ft 3 in (3.43 m)
Installed power:
3 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
44,000 shp (33,000 kW)
Propulsion 2 × shafts; 2 × geared steam turbines
Speed 36 knots
Range 5,700 nmi at 15 knots
Complement: 190
Sensors: (1941) ASDIC, Type 268M radar
Armament:
4 × twin 4.7 in (120 mm) guns
1 × quadruple 2-pdr AA guns
2 × quadruple .50 cal Vickers anti-aircraft machineguns
1 × quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes
20-50 depth charges, 1 × rack, 2 × throwers


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

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021: The Story of an Unsinkable Carrierman, and his .45

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, Oct. 20, 2021: The Story of an Unsinkable Carrierman and his .45

With this month marking the Navy’s 246th Birthday, the 79th anniversary of the loss of USS Hornet (CV-8) at the Battle of Santa Cruz (a ship commissioned 80 years ago today), and the 77th anniversary of the loss of USS Princeton (CVL-22) in the Philippine Sea, I’m breaking from our typical Warship Wednesday format to bring you the story of a Colt Government model in the Navy’s archives and the resilient young officer who carried it.

The below pistol itself at first glance would seem to be an otherwise ordinary M1911A1 Colt Military, martial marked “US Army” and “United States Property” along with the correct inspector’s marks. The serial number, No.732591, falls within Colt’s circa 1941 production range.

Accession #: NHHC 1968-141 (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)

We often say, “if only a gun could talk,” but in this case, the voyage through history that the above .45ACP took is well-documented.

Also joining the fleet in 1941 was Ensign Victor Antoine Moitoret, a Californian who was admitted to the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1937 and graduated with the Class of ’41.

Moitoret’s first ship was the brand-new aircraft carrier USS Hornet, which he joined three months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that ushered America into World War II.

Moitoret served as an assistant navigator on Hornet during the flattop’s secret mission to carry the Doolittle Raiders to bomb Tokyo in 1942— possibly best remembered among today’s youth as the third act of Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2001 film “Pearl Harbor”– and was also aboard the carrier for the massive naval victory at Midway (where Hornet was something of a mystery).

Flanked by torpedo boat escorts, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet arrives at Pearl Harbor after the Doolittle Raid on Japan, 30 April 1942, just five weeks before the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. National Archives 80-G-16865)

When Hornet was irreparably damaged by enemy torpedo and dive bombers during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942, Moitoret was armed with the above pistol while serving as the carrier’s Officer of the Deck on the bridge. The young officer still had it buckled around his waist when he was pulled out of the ocean more than two hours after Hornet went to the bottom in 17,500 feet of water off the Solomon Islands, carrying 140 sailors with her.

Moitoret’s pistol belt, consisting of an M1936 Belt, M1918 Magazine Pocket, and russet leather M1916 Holster. (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)

Two years later, Moitoret, with his relic of the lost Hornet still with him, was a lieutenant aboard the new light carrier USS Princeton, fighting to liberate the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

USS Princeton (CVL-23) steaming at 20 knots off Seattle, Washington, 3 January 1944. Moitoret was a plankowner of the new flattop, which had originally been laid down as the Cleveland-class light cruiser Tallahassee (CL-61) (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Historical Center. Catalog #: NH 95651)

In October 1944– almost two years to the day that Hornet was lost– Moitoret was on the bridge of Princeton when the ship was hit by a Japanese bomb and was wounded by shrapnel from the resulting explosion.

According to his Silver Star citation for that day, Moitoret “remained on board for a period of seven hours, fighting fires, maintaining communication with other ships in the area, preserving confidential publications and obtaining all available lengths of fire hose for use where most needed.”

Leaving his second sinking aircraft carrier, Moitoret reportedly kissed the hull of Princeton before boarding a whaleboat, one of the last men off the stricken ship.

After the war, he remained in the Navy through the Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring in 1972 at the rank of Captain. On 30 May 1999, while aged 80, he delivered the Memorial Day Address to the assembled cadets at Annapolis, continuing to serve as a proud link in the long blue line up to the very end.

Moitoret died in 2005 and is buried at Fort Bayard National Cemetery in New Mexico, next to his wife, Rowena, and son, Alan.

His well-traveled sidearm and pistol belt are in the collection of the NHHC, held in the Headquarters Artifact Collection

As noted by the Navy,

“The central theme of this year’s 246th Navy Birthday and Heritage week is ‘Resilient and Ready,’ which speaks to the Navy’s history of being able to shake off disaster, such as the loss of a ship or a global pandemic, and still maintain force lethality and preparedness. It allows the messaging to showcase readiness, capabilities, capacity, and of course the Sailor—all while celebrating our glorious victories at sea and honoring our shipmates who stand and have stood the watch.”

Happy Birthday, Navy, and a slow hand salute to Capt. Moitoret.

Back to our regular Warship Wednesday format next week.

***
 
If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International
 
They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm 
 
The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.
 
With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.
 
PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.
 
I’m a member, so should you be!

Dugan Ashley Brought the 2A Community light, now he needs our help

A lowkey Vet who gave a ray of light and humor to the gun community that has yet to be surpassed, has signaled that he is “going to be sitting this one out.”

Dugan Ashely, through his slapsticky yet educational firearms videos on YouTube, thrilled millions around the globe with his antics, producing content that, although imitated, is hard to match. Ashley was a legend for years but in 2015 dropped out of the public eye and deleted his CarniK Con Show channel, although mirrors exist of some of the more sensational clips.

Plus, despite the bargain bin outfits and campy humor, his weapon manipulation skills were absolutely on-point as this circa 2014 video on LMGs displays:

While making brief cameos on other channels from time to time, Ashley has been keeping a low signature for the past half-decade.

However, last Thursday, he surfaced in a video on a new channel, soberly informing fans of his ongoing battle with Multiple Sclerosis.

A GoFundMe has been authorized to collect money to help him combat his debilitating illness.

I gave. If you have the ability to do so, I am sure every little bit helps.

As Dugan would say, “$20 dollars is $20 dollars.”

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