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Z Unit, actual

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the suppressed M3 Grease Guns and Attack Force Z, here we see Capt. Henry William Nicholls, MC, (NX15737) of the Royal Australian Army Z Special Unit in 1945. Note his paratrooper’s “cherry beret,” and STEN gun– which was much more commonly used, along with the native Australian Owen, than the M3.

Portrait by Geoffrey Mainwaring IWM ART24249

Prior to joining the Z commandos, Nicholls served and a lieutenant with 2/1 Australian Pioneer Battalion in Benghazi and Tobruk where he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry at the age of 20. He celebrated his 21st birthday during the epic North African siege. After service in Palestine, Nicholls returned to Australia and qualified as a paratrooper with 1 Australian Parachute Battalion.

In 1943 he joined Z Special Unit. Operating in New Guinea, he led a party ashore in the Wewak area prior to its capture by 6th Australian Division and in Borneo helped recover the six survivors of the Sandakan death march.

Nicholls was discharged after the war, but in 1950, he re-joined the army to fight in Korea. As a major with the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, he was twice recommended for decoration in 1952 and 53, a ripe old man at 33.

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2019: Tehran’s Tangs

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 (ish) 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, Mar. 27, 2019: Tehran’s Tangs

NHHC KN-2708

Here we see a P-2H Neptune of Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 as it flies over the Tang-class submarine USS Trout (SS-566), near Charleston, S.C., May 7, 1961. While Trout‘s lines look fine for her era, don’t let them fool you, as she is not one of Rickover’s sleek nukes but is rather a 1940s-designed smoke boat– and one with an interesting story.

By late 1945, the U.S. Navy got the bad news that the Germans had been way ahead of them in terms of diesel-electric submarines. The innovations out of Hamburg and Kiel such as in hull/tower design, battery trunks, torpedo propulsion and the use of a snorkel by Hitler’s late-war “Elektroboot” Type XXI-class U-boats directly led to the American Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) that made similar modifications on the USN’s vast flotillas of WWII-produced Gato, Balao, and Tench-class diesel boats. This was in large part due to both captured plans and reverse-engineering a pair of trophy Type XXIs, U-2513, and U-3008, through 1949.

Ex-German submarine U-3008 underway at sea on 15 April 1948 in USN service, note the similarity to the Trout. National Archives 80-G-442933

As a result, the old fleet boats came to an end when the Tench-class submarine USS Grenadier (SS-525) was commissioned in Feb. 1951. A slew of sisters (SS-526 through SS-549) were canceled. Then came several experimental subs to include the smallish three-ship Barracuda-class “hunter-killer” SSKs optimized for ASW, and the one-off research submarines USS Dolphin (AGSS-555), Albacore (AGSS-569) and Mackerel (AGSS-570).

During this period, came the six-ship Tang-class laid down in 1949/50 at Electric Boat and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that were “GUPPY” from the keel up rather than modified. A nominal seventh vessel of the class, USS Darter (SS-576), was built to an improved design and is largely considered a single-ship class.

The six-pack was all named for famous and very successful WWII submarines– Tang, Trigger, Wahoo, Trout, Gudgeon and Harder— and were all completed by November 1952 as the first practical Cold War-era U.S. Navy sub design. Some 292-feet long and 2,700-tons submerged, they were a tad shorter than the big fleet boats that brought Japanese shipping to its end (Tenches went 311-feet) but were much faster (17.4-knots vs 8.75 knots, submerged) and could dive deeper (700 feet test depth rather than 400 feet). In short, they were the equivalent of diesel Fast Attack boats.

Interestingly, the design included both front and rear torpedo tubes, an old-school WWII call-back, although the arrangement was more 1950s. Besides the half-dozen primary 21-inch tubes forward, the class had a pair of 19-inch torpedo tubes aft for the then-planned Mk 37 ASW torpedo as well as the capability to carry eight MK-49/57 mines.

Note the stubby tubes. Designed in 1946, the downright cute 1,400 Mk37 acoustic torpedo entered service in 1955 and became the primary ASW torp of the Navy for a large part of the Cold War. It’s 330-pound warhead and contact exploder was deemed enough to crack a pressure hull.

How about that six berth/two torp storage

Our direct subject, USS Trout was laid down on 1 Dec. 1949 at EB and at her launch she was sponsored by the widow of LCDR Albert H. Clark, the last commanding officer of the first USS Trout (SS-202), who was lost on the boat’s 11th war patrol in 1944 along with 80 other souls.

Commissioned 27 June 1952, the new Trout was assigned to SubRon 10 out of New London for the rest of the decade and was hard at work in ASW exercises and NATO support.

Notably, in March 1959, DANFS says “During submerged exercises in polar waters in company with [sister ship] Harder (SS-568), Trout sailed 268 miles beneath Newfoundland ice floes, setting a distance record for conventionally powered submarines.”

Her skipper in 1960 was LCDR William James Crowe Jr. (USNA 1947). Notably, Crowe went on to become a full admiral, was CINCPAC, CinCAFSOUTH, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He was aboard during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where Trout was front-and-center.

As noted by a reunion group for her crews, the 1960s saw her deploy to the Med three times and was utilized in a variety of OPFOR events as a simulated enemy sub– the Soviets also used the Type XXI design as a basis for their huge 200-unit Project 613 (NATO Whiskey-class) vessels. Trout’s group’s history says for example:

-She assisted the surface Anti-Submarine Forces by simulating an unfriendly unit penetrating U.S. waters.

-She also assumed the role of enemy while hindering major fleet amphibious exercises.

-During the latter part of 1965 TROUT participated in a mine laying exercise with several other submarines that Were Opposed by “enemy” aircraft and surface ships. This was followed by an exercise that required TROUT to make an undetected submerged transit through waters controlled by “enemy” ships, planes and submarines.

USS Trout (SS-566) at Genoa Italy, 31 December 1967. She completed three Med deployments including during the Six Day War.

In July 1970, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet during the Vietnam-era, which yielded two Westpac deployments, in 1972 and 1975, “primarily providing submarine services during ASW exercises conducted by warships of the United States, South Korean, or Nationalist Chinese navies.”

West Coast – SubRon 3 (San Diego) from 1970 to 1976. Via Art’s Trout page

A successful boat that earned a number of Battle “E”‘s, by 1978 she was pushing 25-years of age and, like the rest of her class, was eclipsed by the Navy’s obsession with sexy SSNs such as the new Los Angeles-class vessels then on the ways. Sisters USS Trigger (SS-564) and USS Harder (SS-568) had already been removed from the fleet in 1973-74, sent to become the Italian Navy’s Livio Piomarta and Romeo Romei, respectively.

Transferred to Philadelphia, Trout decommissioned and struck from the Navy list on 19 December 1978. Like Trigger and Harder, she was intended for foreign transfer. But first, let’s talk about the Shah.

The Iran connection

With the British Royal Navy withdrawing from the Persian Gulf in the early 1970s, Shah Pahlavi, flush with OPEC cash, decided to step up and build the Great Imperial Iranian Navy.

Within the decade, the IIN acquired two U.S. Sumner-class and one British Battle-class destroyers, four British Vosper-class missile corvettes, 12 French La Combattante-class patrol boats, a dozen cutting-edge British hovercrafts, and a fleet of helicopters, ballooning in strength from 6,000 to 28,000 personnel with the help of American and European companies and experts. Then came the big steps: ordering four Spruance-class destroyers (completed as the Kidd-class DDGs) from Litton-Ingalls, and three surplus Tang-class diesel submarines while negotiating with France and Germany for additional frigates and Type 209 subs, respectively.

As part of this, Tang was to be acquired and renamed IIS Dolfin (SS-100), Trout would be Kousseh “Shark” (SS-101) and Wahoo would become Nahang “Whale” (SS-102). As they could submerge over their masts in anything deeper than 60 feet of seawater, they made sense in the shallow Gulf.

In the summer of 1978, the trio began an extended $75 million Tehran-funded overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard which replaced their engines, batteries, communication gear and firing control systems to essentially roll back the odometer to create “new to you” boats.

Trout/Kousseh was the first sold and turned over to the IIN on 19 December 1978, and the yard was in the process of switching over the data plates and plaques to Farsi when her new Iranian crew, with U.S. ship riders, took her out on the Delaware River for a turnaround. To commemorate the new bubbleheads, the yard even produced a version of the U.S. Navy’s submarine Dolphin badge, modified with a Persian crown, for the Iranians.

Then came the Iranian Revolution and the Shah fled to Egypt on 16 January 1979– less than a month after Trout was turned over. The submarine, at New London with a skeleton crew-in-training who wasn’t feeling it, as a result, became a de facto unit of the Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She was subsequently abandoned by her legacy Iranian crew in March 1979 and towed back to PSNY.

Embargoed from final transfer to Tehran by the Carter administration, Trout/Kousseh was put back in the custody of the yard and sealed for the next 13 years as the Iranians fought it out with Washington to get the ship they paid for along with other Shah-era arms such as Hawk missiles, Cobra gunships, and F-14 Tomcats. She was regularly inspected, her interior spaces dehumidified, and her hull electrified to retard rust and crust. Even then, she had something of a museum-like quality to her.

SS-556 at PSNY. Via Art’s USS Trout Page

Meanwhile, Tang was transferred to Turkey as TCG Pirireis (S 343) and Wahoo was cannibalized for parts and sold for scrap in 1984. The last of the class in U.S. service other than Trout, USS Gudgeon (SS-567), was sold to the Turks as TCG Hızırreis (S 342) in 1987.

Finally, in 1992, the near-pristine although 40-year-old Trout was returned to U.S. Navy custody in 1992 for her value in scrap (reportedly $20,000) and two years later was transferred for use an experimental hull and acoustic target sub at NAWCAD Key West. In short, to give Big Blue’s P-3s and SH-60s something more SSK-like to test against.

Trout in Key West via Subsailorscom

By that time, Trout was at the end of the line when it came to smoke boats for the Pentagon as the country’s last diesel boats to be built, the three subs of the teardrop-hulled Barbel-class, had all been decommissioned by 1990. Even the “improved Tang” ex-USS Darter was sunk as a target in 1992 off Hawaii. Only the unarmed deep-diving USS Dolphin (AGSS-555) research boat was still in the fleet, and in 1993 was in a life extension program to keep her poking around off San Diego for another decade.

Without a crew, Trout was to spend a solid seven years in the Keys, helping test and vet the next generation of sonar and weapons under the final control of NAVAIR, Marine, and Targets Detachment. However, by 2001, it was decided to put the ghost boat out to pasture and she was sent back to Philadelphia mothballs. A last-ditch effort to save her for a museum was undertaken.

In mothballs– still looking pretty good for a 50-year-old smoker. Via Art’s USS Trout Page

Subvet Michael Wheeler made an appeal in 2003 to take advantage of the opportunity to save Trout, which was apparently still in excellent material shape at the end of her career, no doubt due to the fact she had been reconditioned for the Iranians but never sailed a mile under her own power since then:

I ask that all submariners that can help save this boat from becoming razor blades or the next SINKEX, please step up to the plate. This boat is a virtual time capsule, with the majority of her systems not only intact but operational. Even her batteries are brand-new (without electrolyte)! Imagine what a magnificent display she’d make for some lucky foundation! I’ve been fortunate to have worked aboard several different memorial submarines and visited several others, but I have not as yet seen or worked aboard a memorial boat that approaches the current condition of the Trout. Hell, if they’d let me, I’d take her out and bottom her in 300 feet of water and I assure you that she’d pop right back to the surface when the MBT’s were blown.

Sadly, it was not to be. The Navy eventually tired of Trout altogether and in May 2008 she was towed to ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Texas, where she was cut up for scrap over the course of the next 10 months.

Recycling of Trout (SS-566) at ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Texas. Scrapping was completed 27 February 2009. Via Navsource

As a legacy, she is remembered in several pages and groups and will live on in a certain sense with fans of King of the Hill for eternity. Korean War-era Navy vet Gary Kasner, Hank Hill’s father-in-law, is shown in Season 2, Episode 11 (The Unbearable Blindness of Laying) with a USS Trout II tattoo.

Of her sisters, the two boats sent to the Turks, TCG Pirireis (ex-Tang) and TCG Hizirreis (ex-Gudgeon), are preserved as museum ships in that country. Harder and Trigger, sent to Italy, were scrapped in 1988. Notably, several racked up battlestars for Vietnam service.

Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf, a frustrated Iran went on to buy three Kilo-class submarines from cash-strapped Russia in the early 1990s: IRIS Tareq (S103), IRIS Nooh (S104), and IRIS Yunes (S105). If you notice, they still recognized the hull/pennant numbers of the three Tangs (S100 – 102) which never made it to the Gulf.

In addition to the Kilos, Iran has purchased an unknown quantity of NorK-made MS-29 Yono-class midget submarines then proceeded to put a Persian Gulf midget into serial production locally as the IS-120 Ghadir-class (with at least 23 in service) and the country is rolling their own indigenous Fateh-class submarines, which aim to be a full-sized boat, though still smaller than their aging Russian Kilos.


Displacement, surfaced: 2,100 t., Submerged: 2,700 t.
Length 292′-8 1/4″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 18′, snort depth 50ft.
Height: Top of snorkel/antennas (lowered) from the bottom of the keel, 44 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric, Fairbanks-Morse Type 3 diesel engines, HP 4500, two electric motors, HP 5600, 2 shafts/propellers
Speed surfaced 20 kts, Submerged 18 kts
Complement 8 Officers 75 Enlisted (Accommodations as designed 10 officers, 8 CPO, 70 crew = 88men)
Sonar (as designed): AN/BQG-4 PUFFS system (3 “sharkfin” domes topside, 18 arrays), BHQ-2E, BQA-8A
Six 21-inch torpedo tubes forward
Two 19-inch torpedo tubes aft for Mk 37 torpedoes
Eight MK-49/57 mines

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Vale, RADM Ed Keats, (USNA 1935)

Edgar Salo Keats was born in Chicago in 1915.

Let that sink in.

When he was minted, Eugene Ely had just four years before took off in a Curtiss pusher from a temporary platform erected over the bow of the light cruiser USS Birmingham— a first in U.S. Naval Aviation history. He was six years old when USS Langley (CV-1) joined the fleet.

By the time Keats graduated from Annapolis at the ripe old age of 20, the Navy had just commissioned their first ship designed from the keel up as an aircraft carrier, USS Ranger (CV-4). The future icons of Midway, USS Yorktown, and USS Enterprise, were still under construction at Newport News and had yet to be launched.

Keats earned his wings at Pensacola in 1938 and flew Dauntless dive bombers extensively. He was named skipper of Bombing 16 (VB-16) early in WWII but was soon appointed Air Officer for Commander Amphibious Force, Pacific, a role that put him in the driver’s seat for the air attack portion of amphibious landings at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

“I was part of the group that wrote the aviation portion of the amphibious course plans for the capture,” said Keats modestly on the occasion of his 100th birthday bash at Bancroft Hall. “You just don’t go out there with a lot of people. It takes a lot of planning, and everyone doing their part. I don’t claim that I was a hero. I flatter myself that I helped contribute some little bit to our victory.”

After the war, he went on to fly F9F Panthers and command the Air Group on USS Shangri-La before being appointed director of the Armament Division at NATC Patuxent. He continued to rise to the rank of rear admiral before he retired in 1958 after 23 years of active duty across two shooting wars.

After an active career in business once leaving the military, including over a decade spent at Westinghouse, Keats continued to weigh in on naval topics and was a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.

Keats, the oldest Annapolis alumni, died over the weekend while in hospice care. He was 104.

His oral history of the war is in the Library of Congress.

2019 Coming in hot!

Happy New Year to one and all, hope yours gets off to a bang.

Battleship USS New Jersey BB-62 firing a six-gun salvo at an enemy troop concentration near Kaesong, Korea, 1 January 1953.

And also a happy 131st birthday to the man, the myth, the legend, John Cantius Garand, the ultimate New Year’s Baby

The Canadian-born engineer worked at Springfield Armory starting from 1919 (a century ago this year) until he retired in 1953, first on a number of full-auto light machine guns, then on his more famous semi-auto in its various forms.

Warship Wednesday, Sept, 26, 2018: Sideroxylon lanuginosum, everlasting

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018: Sideroxylon lanuginosum, everlasting


Here we see the Mesquite-class buoy tender USCGC Ironwood (WAGL/WLB-297) in the summer of 1996 in Alaskan waters offloading equipment for maintenance on Eldred Rock Lighthouse. A product of WWII, she would over a half-century in U.S. maritime service and is, remarkably, still ticking in the Pacific Northwest.

In 1916 the Revenue Cutter Service and Lifesaving Service were merged to form the Coast Guard, to which the Bureau of Lighthouses was added on 1 July 1939 and as such all U.S. lighthouses, tenders, and lightships became USCG installations and ships. The thing is, the lighthouse and buoy tender fleet was a hodgepodge of antiquated single-use vessels to which the Bureau had been looking to replace with a new series of 177-foot lighthouse tenders modeled after the USLHT Juniper, the last vessel designed by the Bureau.

Taking these plans, the Coast Guard made some changes and produced a 180-foot/950-ton single-screw steel-hulled ship that incorporated some new features that the USLHS never needed (an ice-strengthened bow, search and rescue equipment and mission, allowance for armament, The first of these, USCGC Cactus (WAGL-270) was appropriated for $782,381 on 20 Jan 1941 and laid down at Marine Iron & Shipbuilding Corporation, Duluth, MN on 31 March.

Almost all of these hardy ships were built either at Marine or at Zenith Dredge Company very rapidly in three subclasses: the “A” or “Cactus” class, “B” or “Mesquite” class, and “C” or “Iris” class (with all named for trees and bushes). All ships of the three subclasses have the same general characteristics, but with slight differences, (e.g. the “A/Cactus” class tenders may be differentiated from the other two classes of 180-foot tenders by their unique “A” frame main boom support forward and their large 30,000 gal fuel tanks that allowed an economical 17,000nm cruising range on their gentle diesel suite.) The last to come off the ways was USCGC Woodbrush (WAGL-407) which commissioned 22 Sept. 1944. The building process entailed an average of 192,018 hours of labor per vessel.

USCGC Basswood through the Straits of Mackinac- 12 May 1944, a good example of the “180s.” Note the 3″/50 behind her wheelhouse facing over the stern as well as her 20mm mounts. ASW weapons, firefighting gear, and buoy tending equipment were also shoehorned into these ships as well. Further, as shown above, they could break light ice, a feature that was to serve the units headed to the Pacific well!

Unlike the other 38 of the class that was built by contractors, the hero of our story, USCGC Ironwood, was laid down at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland and commissioned 275 days later on 4 August 1943 for a cost of $1,388,227 (note the difference from Cactus, above). She was the only vessel in active U.S. service named for the Sideroxylon lanuginosum, aka gum bully or ironwood, a small tree native to the Sun Belt and Midwest. According to the USCG’s office, in service, her crew nicknamed her “Ironbush” and “Ironweed” for her small size.

The Hughes Co., Photographers, Baltimore, Maryland 4 March 1943 Ironwood under construction at the U.S. Coast Guard shipyard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. Ironwood was the only 180 built by the U.S. Coast Guard. LOC HAER AK-44-1

Ironwood sailed for the War in the Pacific, arriving in Noumea, New Caledonia via Bora Bora and Pago Pago, in March 1944.

Ironwood in all of her WWII glory

She spent the next nine months in a busy but routine operation of keeping the 3rd Fleet’s vast anchorages up to snuff. This meant tending anti-torpedo nets and mooring buoys, establishing the new-fangled LORAN network, carrying cargo, mail, and servicemembers from island to island, and towing barges as needed– all while looking out for the possibility of Japanese mines, periscopes, and floatplanes on the horizon. She even came to the assistance of the stranded Liberty Ship SS John Lind.

Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

On 26 March1944 Ironwood left Noumea to assist SS John Lind grounded on a reef at 22 28 S, 166 36 E. Ironwood’s attempts to pull the vessel off being unsuccessful, she removed 65 Navy and Marine Corps personnel from the vessel on the 28th and transported them to Noumea on the next day. She remained until 2 April 1944 when she proceeded with Navy tugs USS Sioux and YT-463 to remove the reefed ship. In tandem with the tugs they successfully re-floated John Lind on 6 April.

In January 1945, she sailed for Guadalcanal’s Cape Esperance in the Solomons. There, she moved assisted in the recovery of a Japanese midget submarine. The 78-foot, 47-ton, two-man Type A Ko-hyoteki boat, was found in 30 feet of water and the cutter spent two weeks in the recovery operation as detailed by Combined Fleets:

4 January 1945:
US Coast Guard cutter IRONWOOD (W-297) begins operations to raise an unidentified Japanese two-man midget submarine from about 30 feet of water off Cape Esperance. Divers, working from a small boat, use a water pressure hose and crowbars to clear a space under the bow and stern of the submarine. By 9 Jan, a 1.5” chain sling is rigged around the bow of the midget submarine.

19 January 1945:
After retiring to Gavutu for ten days, IRONWOOD again anchors off Cape Esperance. By now, divers have completed rigging the submarine for lifting, connecting the chain around its bow and stern with a chain bridal.

20 January 1945 :
IRONWOOD is positioned alongside the sunken midget submarine. She lowers the main hoist over the starboard side and hooks it to the chain bridal. The cutter then raises the midget submarine to the surface and secures it alongside. IRONWOOD then tows it to Hutchinson’s Creek, Florida Island, Solomons. The next day, IRONWOOD moves to a new anchorage where the midget submarine is transferred to an unidentified USN crane barge.

Ironwood’s crew works to salvage a Japanese midget submarine found off Guadalcanal in 1945 LOC HAER AK-44-2

The identity of this 1945 salvaged midget submarine is unknown but is possibly HA-22 or HA-37. I can’t find out what happened to the craft but it was likely scrapped at some point. It is not one of the five Type A midgets preserved and on display currently (HA-8: Groton, Connecticut; HA-18: JMSDF Etajima Naval Base, Etajima, Japan; HA-19: Nimitz Museum, Fredericksburg, Texas; and HA-14/HA-21 at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra).

Ironwood went on to spend a solid year, from August 1945 to July 1946, in the Philippines reestablishing buoys and lighthouses and looking for pockets of Japanese holdouts.

Following her extended wartime service, she was stationed briefly in Monterey, California then returned to the South Pacific soon enough.

Between 19 November 1951 and 2 May 1954, Ironwood made four deployments to support Korean War operations, supplying and supporting radio stations in the region. As such, she was one of just 24 Coast Guard vessels that qualified for the Korean Service Medal.

Ironwood-1962. Note she still has her 3-inch gun aft. She would pick up her racing stripe a few years later.

In 1963, by that time stationed in Honolulu, she took some of the first scientists to return to the Marshall Islands after U.S. nuclear testing. As related by Capt. LeRoy Reinburg, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard-Retired, her skipper at the time, Ironwood spent almost two weeks inspecting radioactive and poorly charted Rongelap Atoll.

“In the course of our travels, we discovered nine uncharted islands and one large reef that bared at low tide. Dr. Held and I decided to assign names to these geographic features. The reef, appropriately, was named ‘Ironwood Reef,’” he noted.

During the mid-1960s, these boats were designated WLBs (buoy tenders) and saw all fixed armament landed in 1966, leaving them only their small arms lockers. If deployed for law enforcement missions or to war zones, 180s would be equipped with up to four Browning M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns or a similar number of M60 7.62mm GPMGs. Lacking its naval piece, the 3-inch Gun Tub served as a lookout perch and occasional storage area for small items including crew bicycles when traveling between ports. Lockers for life jackets and exposure survival suits were later located on this deck, which is encircled by a tubular steel railing.

During the Vietnam conflict, four USCG 180s were dispatched to Southeast Asia to perform aids-to-navigation support and assist with harbor defense and maintenance– Basswood (WLB-388), Blackhaw (WLB-390) Planetree (WLB-307, and, of course, Ironwood, the latter of which deployed there in July 1967.

Vietnamese lighthouse service personnel were assigned to temporary duty on board as they worked to reactivate and automate Vietnamese lighthouses and establish new U.S.-sponsored lights. While deploying work crews, machine gun teams would have to stand by in case they came under fire from passing sampans or the shore as VC constantly shot out navigational lights and sank buoys. Her crew also provided services to the local populace such as MEDCAPS.

Sometime around this period she even clocked in on NASA support duties, helping with recovering boilerplate space capsules in the rush to the moon.

She conducted a number of rescues over the years:

*8 January 1959 Ironwood assisted thegrounded sampan Bellatrix at Molokai Beach, HI.

*6 January 1962 Ironwood rescued the crew of FV Hiroshima Maru aground at 21 17 N, 157 51 W.

*23-25 May 1963 the cutter escorted the disabled MV Dianna to Honolulu, HI.

*18 February 1969 Ironwood towed the disabled FV Widgeon from Augustine Island to Homer, AK.

*April 1969 escorted the distressed tanker Yukon, which was holed by a submerged object in Cook Inlet.

*29 April 1969 the crew fought a fire on the Shell Oil drilling platform in Cook Inlet.

*26 December 1969 she hoisted the disabled FV Arctic Fox on board at MacArthur Cove and carried her to Seward, AK

Ironwood was later given a one-year major renovation (MAJREN) in 1974, envisioned at the time to keep her in service for another 15 years. This involved removing her Cooper-Bessemer inline 8-cylinder engines and rebuilding them, new electrical wiring, piping, and sewage handling systems. She picked up a bow thruster, all-new crew spaces, new cranes, ship heaters, reefers, the works.

After her refit, she was put to work on the Alaska beat, stationed at Kodiak, in all spending the last 26 years of her Coast Guard career in Alaskan waters. During this time she escorted Soviet fishing trawlers out of U.S. waters, participated in Naval exercises, towed disabled fishing vessels to port, medevac’d injured mariners, searched for missing planes– you know, typical Coast Guard stuff.


Between 1979 and 1995, she earned six Coast Guard “E” ribbons. In 1981, she received the Coast Guard Unit Commendation. In both 1989 and 1999, she picked up Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendations for her duty in the frozen and dangerous Bering Sea, in particular assisting with the cleanup operations in Prince William Sound after the grounding of the Exxon Valdez.

At the time of her decommissioning, Ironwood was the second-oldest cutter in USCG service (only surpassed at the time by the medium endurance cutter Storis) and was the only remaining US vessel in service awarded the Korean Service Medal. Then, of course, there was her WWII service, nuke sniffing, assistance to the Space program and her Vietnam tour. She served 14 Commandants of the Coast Guard, 34 commanding officers and more than 1,200 crew members in the course of her half-million miles traveled.

Kodiak, Alaska (Oct. 6 2000)– The Coast Guard Cutter Ironwood sits alongside the pier in Kodiak on the morning of the ships decommissioning. USCG photo by PA1 Keith Alholm.

But her story doesn’t end there. The old girl, after 57 years of active duty, she was to be transferred to Nigeria but instead, in 2002, was presented to the Tongue Point Seamanship Academy in Oregon which uses her as a floating classroom to train new mariners in an 18-month program to find seagoing careers.

In 2014, the center threw a 70th anniversary for Ironwood.

Turning 75 years young last month, she is still sailing strong and looking good while doing it, regularly showing up in Portland for Fleet Week.

170607-N-ZP059-167 PORTLAND Ore., (June 7, 2017) – ex-USCGC Ironwood (WLB-297) arrives in Portland for Rose Festival Fleet Week. The festival and Portland Fleet Week are a celebration of the sea services with Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard Members from the U.S. and Canada making the city a port of call. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob G. Sisco/Released)

As for her sisterships, many have proven to be very long in the tooth:

*Balsam (WLB-62) was decommissioned 1975 and has been used as an Alaskan crab boat ever since. She is currently the F/V Baranof.

*Cactus (WLB-270) was seized in Kings County Washington as a derelict vessel in 2013 for dismantling.

*Cowslip (WLB-277), Firebush (WLB-393) and Sassafras (WLB-401) were transferred to Nigerian Navy 2002-2003 as NNS Nwamba, NNS Olepu and Obula respectively. All remain in service. Sedge (WLB-402) was also transferred for parts.

*Woodbine (WLB-289) was donated to be a training ship in Cleveland in 1972 and went on to be a fish processing boat in Alaska before being sold for scrap in 2012.

*Gentian (WLB-290) was transferred to Colombia as ARC San Andrés (PO-45) and is still active.

*Laurel (WLB-291) was sold at a GSA auction in 1999, ultimate fate unknown.

*Clover (WLB-292) and Evergreen (WLB-295) were decommissioned 1990 and sunk by the Navy as a targets.

*Sorrel (WLB-296) was decommissioned in 1996 and is used as SS Reliance operated by Sea Scout Ship #13 of Stockton, California, showing up in an episode of Dexter.

*Conifer (WLB-301) and Papaw (WLB-308) were decommissioned 2000 and 1999 respectively and was used for a number of years as F/V Hope and F/V Mersea, part of the disaster relief fleet of Friend Ships, but have since been removed from that organization.

*Madrona (WLB-302) transferred to El Salvador who used her as General Manuel José Arce and subsequently sunk her as a reef.

*Tupelo (WAGL/WLB-303) was decommissioned in 1975 and has spent the past 30 years as a Bering Sea fishing boat, FV Courageous.

*Mesquite (WLB-305) ran aground December 4, 1989 on a reef off the Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior while in Coast Guard service and was scuttled for underwater diving preserve.

*Buttonwood (WLB-306) was decommissioned 2001 and transferred to the Dominican Republic’s Navy as Almirante Didiez Burgos, still active. USCGC Citrus (WMEC-300), also endures there as Almirante Juan Alejandro Acosta (C-456/P301)

*Sweetgum (WLB-309) was transferred in 2002 to Panama as SMN Independencia (P401).

*Basswood (WLB-388), Blackhaw (WLB-390) and Mallow (WLB-396) were scrapped in 2000.

*Bittersweet (WLB-389) was decommissioned and transferred to Estonian Border Guard, 5 September 1997 who used her until 2014– she is retained as a museum ship.

*Blackthorn (WLB-391) sank in 1980 in a collision near the Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway Bridge, resulting in 23 crewmember fatalities. Raised, she was resunk as a reef.

*Bramble (WLB-392) was decommissioned 2003, and has been retained with a mixed degree of success as a museum ship in the Great Lakes.

*Hornbeam (WLB-394) was decommissioned 1999, and lost near Panama as M/V Rum Cay Grace in 2013.

*Iris (WLB-395) and Planetree (WLB-307) were decommissioned after helping with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1995 and 1999, repectviely, and sit in rusting quiet in the SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA mothballs fleet.

*Mariposa (WLB-397) was decommissioned in 2000 but has been retained by the Navy as a hulk until 2009 and has been spotted in the Seattle area since then.

*Redbud (WLB-398) was transferred to the Philippines as Kalinga (AG-89) in 1972.

*Sagebrush (WLB-399) was scuttled off St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia on 28 April 1988.

*Salvia (WLB-400) was decommissioned 1991 and used as a salvage operations training vessel for U.S. Navy at Little Creek.

*Spar (WLB-403) was decommed 1997 and sunk as a reef in 2004.

*Sundew (WLB-404) was decommissioned 2004, used as a museum for a while, then sold to private interests in 2010.

*Acacia (WLB-406), the last 180 in Coast Guard service, was decommissioned 2006 after 63 years of service and is now a museum in Manistee, Michigan.

*Woodrush (WLB-407) and Sweetbrier (WLB-405) were transferred to Ghana in 2001 where she still serves as GNS Anzone (P30) and GNS Bonsu (P31) respectively, which means “shark” and “whale” in the native lingo.

For interior pics, the LOC has a great series of images from the Planetree, a Mesquite subclass sister.


Displacement: 935 fl (1944); 1,026 fl (1966); 700 light (1966)
Length: 180-feet oa
Beam: 37 feet mb
Draft: 12 ft. max (1944); 14′ 7″ (1966)
Propulsion: 1 electric motor connected to 2 Westinghouse generators driven by 2 Cooper-Bessemer-type GND-8, 4-cycle diesels; single screw
Top speed: 13.0 kts sustained (1945); 11.9 kts sustained (1966). 28,000 gals diesel
Economic speed: 8.3 kts (1945); 8.5 kts (1966)
6 Officers, 74 men (1944);
5 Officers, 2 warrants, 41 men (1966)
Radar: Bk (1943); SLa-1 (1945), SPS-64(V) 1979
Sonar: WEA-2 (1945-66)
1-3″/50 (single), 4-20mm/80 (single), 2 depth charge tracks, 2 Mousetraps, 4 Y-guns
Small arms

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Always remember to put them up clean

If ever there was a lesson in why you should store your guns in good condition, here we see the Iowa-class battlewagon, USS New Jersey (BB-62), as she was put to pasture after her WWII service.

The Sailors are removing the muzzle seals from two of her forward turret’s 16″/50cal Mark 7 guns, while she was being reactivated at the Naval Supply Depot, Bayonne, Oct. 1950, for use in Korea.

New Jersey, of course, would go back into retirement following Korea, only to be recommissioned a third time for Vietnam, and a fourth in the 1980s to help the Reagan-era 600-ship Navy make weight.

Happy 68th anniversary, Regiment van Heutsz

On this day in 1950, the Netherlands formed a new infantry regiment specifically for overseas service. Taking its moniker from Aceh war hero Joannes Benedictus van Heutsz as the torch bearer for the old traditions of the KNIL– the 65,000-man Dutch Indies colonial army that was disbanded the same year after it left newly-independent Indonesia.

With the UN looking for forces to fight in Korea, the all-volunteer Regiment van Heutsz formed the bulk of the Nederlands Detachement Verenigde Naties (NDVN) and was soon shipped to the ROK. The initial battalion-sized force (636 officers and men) arrived at Pusan on November 23. Attached to the U.S. 38th Infantry Regiment (part of 2ID) they were armed and equipped in U.S. fashion and were engaging the Norks/Chinese by January 1951.

Sergeant Wedei Huizen, of the Netherlands detachment of the UN forces in Korea, in position to return sniper fire. Note the sniper variant M1C rifle complete with the M82 scope and distinctive M2 flash hider Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

By the time the Dutch left Korea in 1954, a total of 5,322 volunteer soldiers from the Netherlands and Suriname rotated through the unit, suffering 768 casualties in total. They fought at Hill 325 and 340, in the Battles of Hoengseong and Wonju, and helped put down the Koje-do Island POW revolt. They were augmented by six Royal Netherlands Navy destroyers who worked the gun line offshore.

Commonly referred to just as the Dutch Battalion, they picked up both a ROK and U.S. Presidential Unit Citation. The Dutch government conferred 156 military merit medals for individual service while each of the battalion’s members received the UN Service Medal, Korean War Service Medal, and the Cross for Justice and Freedom of the Netherlands.

An air assault battalion today, Regiment van Heutsz’s lineage is carried by the 12th battalion of the 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade and has served in the former Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan.

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