Category Archives: Korean War

Warship Wednesday, July 28, 2021: What a Loony Idea

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, July 28, 2021: What a Loony Idea

National Archives Photo 80-G-416714

Here we see, some 73 years ago this month, an LTV-N-2 guided missile going dramatically to pieces over the Balao-class guided-missile submarine USS Cusk (SSG-348), while off Point Mugu, California.

Let’s get another view of that, from the same day.

NH 72684

Of the July 7 Loon explosion, from her Veterans’ group:

Horrified onlookers saw the boat disappear beneath a towering fireball and smoke cloud. “Everyone thought the Cusk had sunk,” remembers Captain Pat Murphy, USN (ret.) another Loon-era veteran. “But the Cusk’s captain [Fred Berry] saw what happened through the periscope and saw that there was no hull rupture. Well, he submerged. They had all the water they needed to put out the fire.” The Cusk survived with minor damage.

We’ll get on to the rest of the story of Cusk, but first, we should probably talk about the German rocket-carrying submarines of WWII.

Gruppe Seewolf and Operation Teardrop

The concept of strapping a primitive vengeance weapon rockets to a U-boat, then allowing it to creep across the Atlantic to get within range of American ports at, say New York or Boston, was attractive to the cropped mustachioed Austrian corporal and was even trialed. In 1942, U-511*, an advanced IXC type, test-fired a variety of rockets in the Baltic.

As detailed by Uboat.net:

A rack for six 30 cm rockets was installed and extensive tests carried out. These concluded with the successful launch of rockets from a depth of 12m (40ft). These amazing tests failed to convince Donitz’s staff of the merit of this innovatory weapon system, and it was not put into service. The rocket in question, the 30cm Wurfkörper 42 Spreng, was not advanced enough to target ships, but it might have been used to bombard shore installations such as oil refineries in the Caribbean. This idea was developed in late 1944 with a proposal for Type XXI electro boats to tow V-2 launchers which would attack shore bases. Neither the launchers nor the type XXI boats became available before the war ended.

*Interesting, but beyond the scope of today’s post, U-511 was handed over to Japan on 16 September 1943 at Kure as a goodwill donation from Germany to the Emperor and became Japanese submarine RO-500, ultimately handed over to the USN and scuttled in 1946.

Fast forward to September 1944 and, although there was no functional German rocket submarine afloat, Abwehr agent Leutnant Oskar Mantel, who was to be landed on the East Coast near NYC to act as a paymaster for German spy rings, instead fell into the hands of the FBI after his U-boat was sunk off the coast of Maine. Spilling his guts, Mantel told tall tales of Vergeltungswaffen-equipped U-boats headed to Amerika. This was later backed up by Abwehr agents William Curtis Colepaugh and Eric Gimpel, the last agents Germany attempted to land in the United States, who were captured in late 1944.

The rumors, mixed with intel that seven advanced U-boats, assigned to Gruppe Seewolf, the last Atlantic Wolfpack, were headed across the Atlantic, sparked Operation Teardrop, an extensive barrier program of ASW assets that ranged the East Coast in early 1945. In the end, Gruppe Seewolf was a dismal failure and the German rocket submarine program never got off the drawing board.

Mark Felton on the German program if you want a deeper dive:

Enter Cusk

The U.S. Navy had, simultaneously with the Germans, attempted to use rockets from submarines in WWII, having mounted and semi-successfully fired a ripple of Mk 10 5-inch unguided rockets from the surfaced Gato-class submarine USS Barb (SS-220) on 22 June 1944, against the Japanese coastal town of Shari from a range of 5,250 yards.

As detailed by DANFS:

She fired 12 rockets that exploded in the town center causing damage but no fires. The Japanese believed that an air raid was in progress and activated air search radar and turned searchlights to the sky while Barb retired safely seaward.

Cusk, meanwhile, was too late for the war. Launched 76 years ago today– 28 July 1945– by Electric Boat Co., Groton, Connecticut, she only commissioned 5 February 1946. Following a Caribbean shakedown, she reported for duty at her planned homeport at San Diego on 6 June to join Submarine Division Fifty-One.

First Publicity Photo USS Cusk 1946. Note her late war “gunboat submarine” layout of two 5″/25cal deck guns and two 40mm singles on her sail. She could also mount two .50 cal BMGs which were kept below deck. 

Crew of USS CUSK (SS-348) Group portrait, photographed by O.W. Waterman at San Diego, about 1946.
Courtesy of Ted Stone, New York. NH 64048

As VE-Day faded to the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, the U.S. was eager to update its technology in the new Atomic era, borrowing where it could from captured German trade secrets to help stay a few steps away from the Russkis. This included snorkel and sonar tricks borrowed from Donitz’s boys, and modified V-1 rockets, cloned by Republic-Ford as the JB-2 (Jet Bomb no 2), popularly just called the Loon. While the Army Air Force soon launched hundreds of these American buzz bombs from ramps near Destin and Santa Rosa Island in West Florida, the Navy was eager to try out a few of their own.

Outfitted with an AN/ANP-33 radar transponder (instead of the V-1’s simple gyrocompass autopilot control) the Navy’s version of the JB-2, of which 399 were ultimately produced, could receive course corrections while in flight via a ship-or trailer-borne microwave radar. The Navy’s model of the Loon was the LTV-N-2 (Launch Test Vehicle, Navy 2) and the idea was that it could be fired from ramps located either on surface ships or ashore. However, instead of either of those, the first test platform was to be our humble little fleet boat.

With Cusk retrofitted at Mare Island with an airtight missile hangar and launch ramp behind her sail, it was thought she could carry and launch a Loon while at sea. As the ramjet engine had no possible underwater launch capability, the idea was that the submarine would battle surface, unpack the missile from the hangar, make it ready to fire by attaching wings and four JATO rockets, and fire it from the surface with support from the sub’s SV-1 type radar for the first 50 miles or so– no speedy task. Early tests found that it took an hour to accomplish. As Loon could carry a 2,200-pound warhead of conventional explosives (the V-1 only carried 1,870-pounds) to a target approximately 160 miles away, though, it was deemed worth the risk.

USS CUSK (SSG-348) With an LTV “Loon” on launcher and deck hangar during operations off Point Mugu, California, 20 January 1948. 80-G-410665

The arrangement of Cusk’s hangar and launch rail, from a Point Magu report on the Loon.

On 12 February 1947, Cusk made the Navy’s first missile launch from a submarine, ushering in the era of today’s Harpoon, Tomahawk, and Trident-equipped attack boats and boomers. It was not a success. 

USS CUSK (SS-348) First launching of a Loon missile, off Point Mugu, California. Wed, Feb 12, 1947. The missile reportedly traveled 6,000 yards and then crashed. NH 72680

Of course, there were dramatic incidents such as the one shown at the top of this post– Loon had a failure rate of about 45 percent as a whole and it would not be until Cusk’s fifth launch that the missile was considered fully successful– other launches would be more productive. To note her new mission, Cusk was designated Submarine, Guided Missile (SSG) 348, on 20 January 1948.

Launch of a Loon missile from USS CUSK (SSG-348), off Point Mugu, California. Sun, Sep 12, 1948. NH 72688

Same as above, NH 72689

Same as above, NH 72690

Loon Derby launch #586 (SL-160) from USS Cusk (SSG-348), Naval Air Facility, Point Mugu, California, June 29, 1949. 80-G-405931

One other fleet boat, the Balao-class USS Carbonero (SS-337), would join Cusk as a Loon launcher in a series of tests conducted between 1947 and 1952, demonstrating that the Germans, if they had pushed just a little harder or had an extra year or two worth of time, could have produced an Unterseeboot-carried vengeance weapon. The sisters would participate in a fleet operation that would herald today’s missile boats.

As detailed in a scholarly work on the Loon by Gary Francis Quigg:

A November 1949 Navy exercise, off Hawaii, provided convincing evidence. Loon missiles fired from the submarines USS Cusk and USS Carbonero managed to escape unharmed through a gauntlet of anti-aircraft fire from thirty-five surface vessels and elude the machine guns of fighter aircraft from carriers USS Valley Forge and USS Boxer.

And Cusk would set a few records that today sound like footnotes but for the time were incredible. Quigg:

In the most successful transfer of radio guidance control of a missile from ship to shore on March 22, 1950, the USS Cusk launched a Loon just off Point Mugu. The Cusk guided the missile for twenty-five miles before surrendering radio control to a station on San Nicolas Island. Navy technicians on the island guided the missile another twenty-five miles to a splashdown in the Pacific just over a thousand feet from the center of the target. On May 3, the Cusk set a new distance record for the Loon. Diving to periscope depth immediately after the launch, the submarine controlled the missile and tracked its position for 105 nautical miles.

In all, the Navy would launch 46 Loon missiles from shore launchers at Point Mugu, 38 from our two submarines, and three from the seaplane tender USS Norton Sound. Coupled with launches made elsewhere in the Pacific, Cusk would fire at least 77 Loons in her short career, with the last taking to the air on 6 November 1952.

However, the twin Loon boats would be left behind by technology, the program canceled in 1953– although 25 missiles had been married up to warheads and made available just in case they were needed for use in Korean War. Carbonero was redesignated an Auxiliary Submarine (AGSS-337) in 1949 and both subs would soon chop to help develop the follow-on SSM-N-8A Regulus missile program, which would successfully launch a 400-mile range missile in 1953. Meanwhile, Cusk would continue to be a testbed platform for missile guidance equipment but would lose her “SSG” designation in 1954 as she carried no missiles of her own.

Just nine years to the day after Pearl Harbor: USS Cusk (SSG-348) off the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California, 7 December 1950. She has her missile hangar but no Loon present. Courtesy of Jack Howland, 1980. NH 90848

USS CUSK (SS-348), same location and date as above, NH 90846

In 1954, Cusk would receive a basic “Fleet Snorkel” GUPPY conversion at Mare Island and leave her “hangar” and ramp behind, and pick up a new, more streamlined fairweather while still maintaining her advanced missile avionics gear. Her AN/BPQ-1 (XN-1) Regulus missile guidance equipment was only finally removed in 1960.

USS CUSK (SS-348) Off the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, California, circa 1954, following SCB 47B conversion to a “Fleet-Snorkel” submarine. NH 90849

This unusual view shows 11 vessels of Submarine Squadron Five (nine submarines in a variety of GUPPY configurations, a submarine rescue vessel, and a submarine tender) moored side by side for a recent change of command ceremony at San Diego, California. CPT Eugene B. “Lucky” Fluckey, USN, MOH, relieved CPT Francis B. Scanland, USN, as Commander, SUBRON5 on August 1, 1955. Nested alongside the submarine tender USS Nereus (AS 17) are the Regulus missile boat USS Tunny (SSG 282), USS Cusk (SS 348), USS Carbonero (SS 337), USS Tilefish (SS 307), USS Spinax (SS 489), USS Rock (SS 274), USS Remora (SS 487), USS Catfish (SS 339), and USS Volador (SS 490), and the submarine rescue vessel, USS Florikan (ASR 9). USN photo 681920

Cusk (SSG-348) and Remora (SS-487) in 1963. What might be an SSK, Bashaw (SSK-241), Bluegill (SSK-242), or Bream (SSK-243)) is bringing up the rear. Photo i.d. courtesy of John Hummel, USN (Retired).
USN photo courtesy of flickr.com via Stephen Gower, through Navsource. 

Her homeport shifted to Pearl Harbor, Cusk completed five lengthy Westpac cruises (1958, during which she would participate in Special operations near Soviet ICBM range in Vladivostok; 1960; 1962, where she would serve as the Subplot 7 Mining platform, 1963, where she would spend two months in North Korean water before her and sister ship USS Carbonero were rewarded with a show-the-flag visit to French Polynesia; and 1964-65) as a standard diesel-electric fleet boat in a “smooth” condition. During her 1962 cruise, Cusk made a month-long patrol in the tense South China Sea and spent another month in Yokosuka and Sasebo, serving as a sonar training target for Japanese destroyers and aircraft. Her 64-65 Westpac would include significant time on Yankee Station as an ASW asset, and three close-in patrols of the North Vietnamese coast via the Gulf of Tonkin.

Again, moving homeports, this time to San Diego, in 1966, Cusk would go on to complete two further Westpac cruises in 1967 and 1969, with both spending time in the Vietnam area of operations. On her last tour, she would be submerged on patrol for 43 days in the South China Sea, conducting special operations in Communist Chinese waters, of which her Veteran’s group recalls, “It was an adventurous time that included on one occasion, accidentally straying into an abandoned minefield. Later during the reconnaissance patrol, the Cusk was detected and attacked by unfriendly forces.”

Her time with the Navy coming to an end, Cusk sailed to Hunter’s Point Shipyard, was Auxiliary Research Submarine (AGSS-348) on 30 June 1969, and “she was gutted of virtually all of her equipment by her final crew. Everything that would fit through a hatch was lifted out, stacked on pallets on the pier, and hauled away for scrap.”

Following that, she was decommissioned on September 24, 1969, and the hulk was sold 26 June 1972, to Zidell Exploration, Inc. of Portland, Oregon, for $112,013.

Besides her 77 Loons and title as the world’s first guided-missile submarine, Cusk stood by to deliver said missiles during Korea, was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Award (1964) and four Vietnam Service Awards (1965, 1967, 1968, and 1969) in addition to holding down numerous Battle Efficiency “E” awards.

Epilogue

A former Navy-owned Loon was donated to the Smithsonian in 1965, 12 years after the program shuttered, and is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

One-half right side view of Loon Missile as displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia

Loon launches from the Cusk were featured in an episode of Time for Defense (a radio program broadcast nationally on the ABC network), and in the May 1950 issue of Popular Science along with the January 1953 issue of Parade, where she graced the cover.

On Christmas weekend 1950, Columbia Pictures released the Glenn Ford submarine vehicle The Flying Missile, which features the actor as the skipper of the fictionalized SSG USS Bluefin, including footage of our very own USS Cusk, although the Loon program was on its last legs before the film hit cinemas.

 

There is a Cusk Veteran’s group, that was very active from 1990 through 2019.

 

Specs:

Cusk’s rapidly shifting profile from 1946 to 1947, to 1954, as told by Submarine Sighting Guide Spec VA52.A92 ONI 31SS Rev.1.

(1946)
Displacement: 1,570 tons (std); 1,980 (normal); 2,415 tons submerged
Length: 311 ft. 8 inches
Beam: 27 ft. 3 inches
Operating depth: 400 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks Morse main generator engines, 5,400HP, two Elliot Motor Co. main motors with 2,740HP, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Speed: 20 surfaced, 10 submerged
Fuel Capacity: 113,510 gal.
Range: 11,000nm @ 10 knots surfaced, 48 hours at 2 knots submerged, 75-day patrol endurance
Complement 7 officers 69 enlisted (planned), actual manning 10 officers, 76 men
Radar: SV. APR and SPR-2 receivers, TN tuning units, AS-125 antenna, SPA Pulse Analyzer, F-19 and F-20 Wave Traps, VD-2 PPI Repeater (1946 fit)
Sonar: WFA projector, JP-1 hydrophone (1946 fit)
Armament:
(1946)
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max (typically MK V), or up to 40 mines
2 x 5″/25 deck guns (wet mounts)
2 x 40mm guns (wet mounts)
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)
(1947, as SSG)
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max or up to 40 mines
1 Loon surface-to-surface missile
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)
(1954, as Fleet Snorkel SS)
6 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, forward, 18 torpedoes (typically MK 14), or up to 30 mines.
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)

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103 years Ago: I will Hold

Via the National Museum of the Marine Corps:

On 19 July 1918, 1st Lt Clifton Cates, who would later become the 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps, sent this legendary message back to his command during the fighting at Soissons. At the time, his company, No. 79 of the Sixth Marines, was holding the line by its fingernails along with remnants of the regiment’s 2nd battalion, in the face of stiff German opposition. 

Cates, who was Commandant during Korea, would see his Marines involved in the mud once again, albeit 30 years apart. 

Lieutenant Colonel Ray Murray, commanding the 5th Marines, shows a captured percussion fired, black powder wall gun to Commandant of the Marine Corps General Clifton B. Cates, in Korea. From the Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

Warship Wednesday, June 30, 2021: Cleaning Up After the Queen

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, June 30, 2021: Cleaning Up After the Queen
 
 
Here, in this grainy still from a 16mm camera, we see one of the last organized surrenders of Japanese forces, some 70 years ago today– 30 June 1951– on the island of Anatahan to a whaleboat sent ashore by the Abnaki class fleet tug USS Cocopa, whose hull number (ATF-101) can be seen on the boat. The group of Japanese had previously refused to believe World War II ended in 1945, but surrendered to LCDR James B. Johnson, after losing their queen. 
 
But we will get to that. 
 
The 27 hulls of the Abnaki-class were intended for far-reaching ocean operations with the follow-on tail of the fleet. Constructed during the war, they were large for tugs, stretching out 205-feet in length and weighing almost 1,600 tons when fully loaded. Capable of 16.5 knots, they could steam a whopping 15,000 miles at half that clip on a quartet of economical GM diesels. Fairly well-armed for tugs, they carried a 3″/50 DP main gun, two twin 40mm/60 Bofors, and two Oerlikons. 
 

USS Abnaki (ATF-96) underway at Pearl Harbor, February 1952, showing the simple and effective layout of the class, which kept their WWII-era armament well into the 1950s. Cocopa surely emulated the above impression at Anatahan.

Named for Native American tribes, Cocopa carried the name of an Arizona tribe and was constructed by Charleston Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Charleston, S.C., commissioned 25 March 1944. 
 

Cocopas by Balduin Mollhausen, circa 1860. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Her war history was largely skipped over by DANFS, with just 88 words dedicated it the period, but it was interesting if not the stuff of military legend, taking the tug from the Palmetto State to Shanghai with stops in the English Channel and brushes with German U-Boats while in two cross-Atlantic convoys. 
 
Via NARA
 
Amazingly, she did not earn a single battle star for her WWII service. 
 
Following a postwar overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, she was assigned to Alaskan waters, which at the time were still strewn in wartime wreckage and threats of mines. While operating out of Guam in 1951, she was dispatched to a far-off island to respond to the strange story of a group of Japanese holdouts that the war had forgotten. 
 

Anatahan

 
Located in the Northern Marianas, the natives there were removed by the Spanish in the 17th Century to turn the 8,300-acre volcanic island into a large coconut/copra plantation. This continued under the Germans, who picked up Spain’s remaining Pacific territories in 1899, and by the 1920s or so, the plantations had fallen into disrepair and, with the Japanese in charge, they stayed that way. 
 
 
Fast forward to June 1944 and U.S. air assets from the 15 carriers of VADM Marc A. Mitscher’s TF 58 found a Japanese convoy in the area, sailing from Tanapag to Japan.
 
 
Over the next three days, as a sideshow to the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” they had easy pickings, splashing the torpedo boat Otori, net layer Kokku Maru, transports Batavia Maru, Hinko Maru, Kamishima Maru, Imizu Maru, Nitcho Maru, Reikai Maru, and Tenryugawa Maru: the freighter Bokuyo Maru, Japanese Army cargo ships Fukoku Maru and Moji Maru, and the coaster Tsushima Maru.
 

Marianas Operation, 1944. Caption: Burning Japanese cargo ship that was attacked by USS LEXINGTON (CV-16) planes off Saipan, 14 June 1944. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-236902

In the aftermath, a group of some 31 Japanese soldiers and mariners including navy seamen, army privates, and four merchant ship captains, the survivors of several of the ships that were sunk, made it to the lush shores of Anatahan where they lived with a handful of locals who were leftovers from the old plantation days alongside Mr. Kikuichiro Higa, the Okinawan plantation manager, and one Japanese woman, Kazuko Higa, his common-law wife. The senior-most Japanese military member was Sgt. Junji Inoue. 
 
War came to the island when a Saipan-based B-29 Superfortress, T Square 42 (42-74248), from the 498th Bomb Group, 875th Squadron, 73rd Wing, crashed on 3 January 1945 on Anatahan, with no survivors. Meanwhile, the Japanese hid. 
 
On 10 May 1945, elements of the U.S. Army’s 24th Infantry Regiment, carried by the USS Marsh (DE-669), LCI(L)-1054 and LCI(L)-1082, landed on Anatahan and scouted around a bit, staying for a week. The Japanese continued to hide. 
 
In July 1945, the 6th Marine MP Battalion landed on the island and again the Japanese hid inland. They removed the 45 native Carolinians who remained in the village. Other Navy ships visited the island and, hailing the emperor’s remaining subjects there, urged them to surrender. 
 
After the war, in February 1946, a U.S. Army AGRS search party visited the island, located the crash site near the top of its 2,500 ft volcano, and recovered the remains of the crew. Still, the Japanese remained in hiding, despite messages to them that the war was over, including Japanese newspapers and magazines chronicling the peace, which were dismissed as a trick. 
 
As noted by the National Park Service, the Japanese eventually found the B-29, and their fortunes changed. 
 
Early in September 1946, Kazuko and Kikuichiro Higa were crossing the steaming 2,500-foot volcanic crater atop the island when they stumbled upon the wreckage of an American B-29.  Parachutes found in the aircraft yielded nylon for clothing and cord that was carefully unraveled, then rewoven into fishing lines. Using stone hammers, the men chopped away the duralumin plates and beneath them found aluminum, which was eventually formed into cooking utensils, razors, harpoons, fishhooks, spears, and knives. Wire from the springs in the machine guns was twisted into shark hooks. Oxygen tanks were modified for use as water catchments. Engine bolts were fashioned into chisels and other cutting and drilling tools. Plexiglass and strips of rubber were made into pairs of underwater goggles. Everything that could be carried away from this great prize was taken and zealously guarded.  When one man discovered a method for making a new implement, the less inventive of the group made copies. One man designed a model sailing vessel from duralumin and copper wire from the aircraft. Another produced several banjo-like samisens, traditional Japanese three-stringed instruments.
 
It also provided instruments of death: A pair of 45 caliber automatic pistols. The weapons were seized by two of Kazuko’s suitors. For the remaining months of their lives, the two reigned as kings of the island.
 
Soon, Kikuichiro was killed, as were no less than three other survivors, in a series of feuds over crab fishing and Kazuko, who became something of the Queen of Anatahan.  
 
In June 1950, LCDR James Johnson, Deputy Civil Administrator on Saipan, began to wage a hearts and minds campaign to get the Japanese on Anatahan to lay down their arms and go home. This included regular delivery of care packages under a white flag, amounting to letters from the soldiers’ relatives and Japanese authorities, Tokyo newspapers, magazines, food supplies, Japanese beer, and cigarettes.” 
 
This brought about the “surrender” of Queen of Anatahan, who was eager to leave her subjects behind. 
 

Kazuko Higa, the lone woman on Anatahan, the day of her surrender, June 1950. (N-1993.02). http://libweb.hawaii.edu/digicoll/ttp/ttp_htms/1993.html

 
Johnson kept up his efforts to get the last of the marooned Japanese off the island for eight months. After dropping leaflets promising the 18 men who were left would be returned to their families, a white flag appeared and our tug sailed from Guam, complete with a platoon of armed Marines and a LIFE journalist, Michael Rougier.
 
By Rougier, via the LIFE Archives: 
 
I found these two videos in the National Archives of the event and uploaded them to YT. They are silent but moving. 
 
 

Junji Inoue, the day of his surrender at Anatahan, June 1951. (N-1993.05). Inoue reads a document urging his compatriots to surrender. Scene aboard M.V. Cocopa, Anatahan, June 1951. Inoue’s personal implements. Note fiber zoris, coconut husk hat, knives fashioned from B-29 wreckage. (N-1993.07)

 
Once the men arrived in Guam, they were hospitalized for a week then flown to Japan. 
 

From the Aug. 1951 All Hands

 
The Lord of the Flies tale of shipwrecked soldiers and sailors fighting over a single queen while surviving on coconut wine and crabs was turned into several books and at least one internationally popular film, Josef von Sternberg’s Anatahan (1953).
 
 

Meanwhile, back to our ship!

 
With the war in Korea increasingly drawing in naval assets after the entrance of Chinese volunteers by the hundreds of thousands, USS Cocopa (ATF-101) was soon off to combat. Deployed to the region in the summer and fall of 1953, she was key in saving the Canadian Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Huron (G24), which had grounded while in range of Nork shore batteries. The mighty tug took the damaged Canuck, stern-first, to Sasebo. 
 
Cocopa did receive a battle star for Korea. 
 

USS Cocopa (ATF-101) moored pier side, date, and location unknown. Note The tug’s engineers have managed to paint their battle efficiency “E” on their ship’s tiny smokestack. NHHC

 
By 1954, she was supporting Operation Castle, a series of atomic tests at Bikini Atoll.
 
Then came numerous trips to Vietnam, deploying there five times between 1963 and 1972, earning five stars for her service in Southeast Asia. One of the most interesting taskings during her time there was as a “Yankee Station Special Surveillance Unit” to deceive and jam Soviet Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and Electrical Intelligence (ELINT) trawlers that were monitoring American operations in the Gulf of Tonkin.
 

USS Cocopa (ATF-101) underway,1969, still with her 3-inch gun but with her Bofors and Oerlikons removed. L45-54.04.01

Decommissioned, 30 September 1978, she would go on to continue her service in more North American waters. 

Viva Armada!

 
Sold under the Security Assistance Program to Mexico, 30 September 1978, Cocopa was commissioned into the Republic of Mexico Navy as ARM Jose Maria Mata (ARE-03) until 1993, then as ARM Seri with the same hull number. 
 
She is still on active duty, based in Tampico. 
 

ARM Seri ARE03 Tampico Mexico 2016 via ShipSpotter IMO 7342691

Check out this video of her underway in 2017, looking good for her age. 
 
 

Epilogue 

 
Of Cocopa’s 26 Abenaki-class sisters, they have been very lucky with two exceptions– USS Wateree (ATF-117) was sunk during a typhoon, 9 October 1945 with a loss of eight crew members; and USS Sarsi (ATF-111) met her fate during Typhoon Karen in 1952 at the hands of a drifting naval mine off the coast of Korea. The rest lived to a ripe old age with the U.S. Navy, eventually being retired by Uncle Sam in the 1960s and 70s. While the last of her class in U.S. service, USS Papago (ATF-160), was disposed of in 1997, many were transferred overseas– such as Cocopa, who continues to serve alongside classmates ARM Yaqui (ex-Abnaki) and ARM Otomi (ex-USS Molala ATF-106)
 
 
As for Anatahan, it is uninhabited these days but is still home to one very testy queen. Home to a stratovolcano that consists of the largest known caldera in the Northern Mariana Islands, it blew its top in 2003, producing a cloud that was seen 600 miles away and burying the island in ash. 
 
Specs:  
Displacement 1,205 t.(lt) 1,675 t.(fl)
Length 205′
Beam 38′ 6″
Draft 15′ 5″ (lim)
Propulsion: (As-Built) four Busch-Sulzer (mod 12-278) Diesel-electric engines, single propeller 3,000shp
Ship’s Service Generators: two Diesel-drive 100Kw 120V/240V D.C., one Diesel-drive 200Kw 120V/240 D.C.
Modernized: (the 1960s) four Alco Diesel engines driving four General Electric generators and three General Motors 3-268A auxiliary services engines
Speed 16.5 kts.
Radar: SPS-5
Complement 5 Officers, 80 Enlisted
Armament (as completed)
one single 3″/50 dual-purpose gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
two single 20mm AA gun mounts
 
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! 

MIG Alley

70 Years Ago Today.

Air Guard in MIG Alley by William S. Phillips, via the U.S. Air Force National Guard’s Heritage Collection

MIG Alley, North Korea — June 26, 1951 — During the Korean War over 45,000 Air Guardsmen, in 22 wings and other units, were called into active Federal service. The 136th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Texas ANG, was among the first Air National Guard units to be called. Flying the F-84E Thunderjet, the Texas Guardsmen moved to Japan in May 1951 and, shortly thereafter, became the first Air Guardsmen to enter combat in the Korean War. During the winter and spring of 1951, the Chinese Communist Air Force mounted a major air offensive against the United Nations air forces. The major contested area were the skies over northwestern Korea known as MIG Alley.

The U.S. Air Force retaliated by mounting a counteroffensive aimed at destroying the enemy’s aircraft and bases. In June 1951 the 136th’s 182d Fighter-Bomber Squadron was given the mission of protecting B-29 flights on bombing missions over North Korea.

On June 26, 1951, the pilots of the 182d were escorting four B-29s to an enemy airfield near Yongyu when five MIG-15s attacked the American bombers. Although relatively new to combat, the pilots of the 182d turned back the veteran MIG pilots. During the ensuing dogfight, 1st Lt. Arthur E. Oligher, assisted by Captain Harry Underwood, shot down a MIG-15–the first Air Guard jet kill. The Air National Guard went on to make an impressive combat flying record.

Today’s 182d Tactical Fighter Squadron, Texas Air National Guard continues to add to its impressive flying record.

Farewell, 4th Tanks (as well as its Active Sisters)

U.S. Marines with 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, salute during the 4th Tank Bn. deactivation ceremony on Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center San Diego, in San Diego, California, May 15, 2021. The Marines bid their final farewell to the battalion as it was deactivated in accordance with the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 modernization and capabilities-realignment efforts in order to stay prepared for the future fight against near-peer enemies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose S. GuerreroDeLeon)

Formed 12 May 1943 and rushed into battle with their M5 Stuart tanks at Kwajalein, the 4th Tank Battalion fought its way across the Pacific in WWII. By Iwo Jima and the occupation of Japan, they had upgraded to Shermans, including some “zippo” variants. 

Marine flamethrowing Sherman tanks set fire to Japanese aircraft in Sasebo, Japan, on November 2, 1945 127-GW-137979

Transitioned to the reserves, the battalion stood back up for Korea, landing at Inchon just 53 days after it was reactivated. Then came Vietnam, Desert Storm (where it reactivated in just 42 days, and Bravo/4 knocked out 34 Iraqi tanks in just 90 seconds, in both the biggest and fastest tank battle in the United States Marine Corps history), Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom.

All that tradition is gone as the Marines “lighten up” for future wars.

 

Its active duty sister battalions, 1st, and 2nd Tanks, which were founded in 1941, were likewise deactivated last month.

3rd Tanks, which had a string of battle honors from Bouganville and Iwo Jima to Hue, Khe Sahn, and Task Force Ripper, preceded the rest, casing their colors in 1992 as part of the post-Cold War peace dividend.

Until further notice, the Marines have lost all of their heavy armor after 80 years. The end of an era. 

Warship Wednesday, June 2, 2021: Flattop of the Americas

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, June 2, 2021: Flattop of the Americas

Library and Archives Canada 4950939/WO-A057319

Here we see an incredible original color photo of the Colossus-class light aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior, Canada’s first flattop, at sunset circa 1946. She would fly three different flags across her short career and get close enough to an H-Bomb to almost touch the sun.

British birth

Warrior was one of 16 planned 1942 Design Light Fleet Carriers for the RN. This series, broken up into Colossus and Majestic-class sub-variants, were nifty 19,500-ton, 695-foot-long carriers that the U.S. Navy would have classified at the time as a CVL or light carrier. They were slower than the fast fleet carriers at just 25-knots with all four 3-drum Admiralty boilers were lit and glowing red, but they had long legs (over 14,000 miles at cruising speed) which allowed them to cross the Atlantic escorting convoys, travel to the Pacific to retake lost colonies or remain on station in the South Atlantic or the Indian Ocean for weeks.

The classes’ 1946 Jane’s entry under the RN’s section. Note that Warrior is missing. 

Capable of carrying up to 44 piston engine aircraft of the time, these carriers had enough punch to make it count.

The thing is, only seven of these carriers were completed before the end of World War II and even those came in during the last months and weeks. They effectively saw no service. Laid down beginning in 1942, most of the ships were launched but when the war ended, construction was canceled. Two were completed as a peculiar RN invention of a “maintenance carrier,” intended just to repair and ferry but not operate aircraft. Some were immediately transferred to expanding Commonwealth fleets. Suddenly, the Australians, Canadians, and Indians became carrier operators. The Dutch (then Argentines) and Brazilians soon followed. Class leader Colossus was sold to France as Arromanches.

HMS WARRIOR (FL 21271) At a buoy. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205121624

Speaking of being sold off, Warrior was ordered, originally as HMS Brave, on 7 August 1942 from Harland and Wolff (builders of the Titanic) at their yard in Belfast. Launched on 20 May 1944, just two weeks before D-Day, she was the last of the Colossus class to finish construction in WWII on 2 April 1945, just as Berlin was falling. Intended for use in the Pacific, she was made available to Ottawa on a “try it before you buy it basis” while Japan was still in the war.

Oh, Canada

The Canadians were not entirely neophytes to carrier operations, having used a couple of Ruler/Bouge-class escort or “Jeep” carriers (the RN-flagged HMS Nabob and HMS Puncher) during the war already. Outfitting four squadrons (803, 825, 826, and 883 for the RCN), she would soon be ready to fly Supermarine Seafires (later replaced by Hawker Sea Fury) fighters, and Fairey Firefly IV strike aircraft (later replaced by TBM Avengers). Commissioned as HMCS Warrior on 24 January 1946, she was the largest warship Canada operated up until that time, having previously just had cruisers and escorts.

She arrived at Halifax in March 1946 and, had Japan not surrendered six months prior, would have likely gotten in on Operation Coronet, the planned and likely very bloody Allied invasion of Honshu, where the British Pacific Fleet was scheduled to play a big part. After all, her sisters HMS Colossus, Glory, Venerable, and Vengeance had already joined the BPF in Sydney in 1945.

Instead, Warrior never went to war under a Canadian flag.

HMCS Warrior, broadside view taken from shore, 14:30 hours, 23 Aug. 1946. LAC 3198949

Warrior underway, circa 1946. Original color. LAC 4950938/WO-A057319

The batsman on HMCS Warrior, signaling aircraft to land on the flight deck, circa 1946-48. Original color. LAC 4950874/WO-A057319

R.C.N. PR434. Vickers “Seafire” Mk15. R/R Griffon 6. 803 SQD. H.M.C.S. Warrior 30 August 1946 LAC

HMCS-Uganda (C66) as seen from the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior circa 1946, note the Fairey Firefly and Maple Leaf insignias. LAC-MIKAN-No 4821077

Fairey Firefly on the deck of HMCS Warrior, circa 1946-48. Original color. WO-A057319

Crowded hangar deck of Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior

Warrior passing under the Lions’ Gate Bridge in Vancouver 10 February 1947. Photo by Jack Lindsey/City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-3461

HMS Warrior (R-31) passing under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, Vancouver. Feb 9, 1947. Jack Lindsey/City of Vancouver Archives

Deck Landing Control Officer (DLCO) signaling Hawker Sea Fury to take off, on an RCN aircraft carrier, circa 1947-57. Original color. LAC 4950873/WO-A057319

RCN 881 Anti-Submarine Squadron Grumman Avenger in flight LAC 4951377

Canada’s first proper flattop was returned to the Royal Navy on 23 March 1948 at Portsmouth, replaced by the Majestic-class near-sister HMCS Magnificent.

London Calling

Upon her return to Britain, Warrior was used as a trial ship for flexible deck experiments and then was laid up. Reactivated for Korea, she was used as a transport carrier to haul troops and aircraft to the epic battle for the Peninsula, arriving there in August 1950. 

 

 

HMS Warrior off Gibraltar MOD 45139702

HMS Warrior (R31), USS Des Moines (CA-134), and HMS Gambia (48) at Malta, circa in 1951. IWM A32043

Same, IWM A32044

After a refit with new commo gear and radars, she would embark Sea Furies and Fireflies for a West Pac cruise in 1954, where she would have the White Duster in both South Africa and Hong Kong.

FAR EAST FLEET EXERCISES. 3 OCTOBER 1954, AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM AIRCRAFT OF THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS WARRIOR OF THE BRITISH FAR EAST FLEET. EXERCISES CARRIED OUT OFF THE CHINA COAST AND WITH THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY. (A 33037) HMS BIRMINGHAM and HMS WARRIOR in line ahead while exercising off Hong Kong. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016333

FAR EAST FLEET EXERCISES. 3 OCTOBER 1954, AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM AIRCRAFT OF THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS WARRIOR OF THE BRITISH FAR EAST FLEET. EXERCISES CARRIED OUT OFF THE CHINA COAST AND WITH THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY. (A 33035) HMS WARRIOR sailing from Hong Kong for the exercises. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016331

During this cruise, she served as a “floating nursery,” clocking in to carry refugees from newly independent North Vietnam down to the Republic of Vietnam.

THE FRENCH INDOCHINA WAR, VIETNAM 1945 – 1954 (A 33001) The aircraft carrier HMS WARRIOR evacuates 1,455 refugees from Haiphong, North Vietnam to Saigon during Operation PASSAGE TO FREEDOM, 4 September 1954. Rice and other food are issued to refugees in the forward lift well. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187799

As above. Note the spare wings on her hangar deck bulkheads. IWM A 33003

HMS WARRIOR VISITS SOUTH AFRICA. ON 11 NOVEMBER 1954, ONBOARD THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER AT PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA. (A 33059) A section of the large crowd of South Africans who visited HMS WARRIOR at Port Elizabeth. More than 10,000 visitors went aboard on one afternoon. Here some are looking at A Sea Fury on the WARRIOR’s deck. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205163735

Given another refit to add an angled deck– the Brits were the first to use such a novelty, she would embark both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft on occasion. This included another trip to the Pacific where she would standby of the Grapple X test at Christmas Island– the first British hydrogen bomb.

Grapple test as seen from HMS Warrior via Histarmar. The carrier would be very close to three separate bombs during the tests. 

There, her Avengers, Vampires, and HAR3/4 Whirlwinds would collect fallout samples the old-fashioned way, by flying through it.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Warrior (R31). The photo was taken circa 1957, as Warrior wears the deck code “J” which had been assigned to HMS Eagle (R05) from 1951 to late 1956. Eagle then received the new deck code “E”, whereas deck code “J” was assigned to the newly refitted Warrior. NNAM No. 1996.488.037.025

Same, different view, NNAM 1996.488.037.024

 

HMS Warrior on speed trials in 1957, note her “J” deck designator. 

On her way back from the Grapple tests, Warrior stopped off in Argentina, then a British ally, for a very special set of tours. You see, the carrier was surplus to RN needs and was very much for sale.

Back to the Americas

Sold to Argentina, HMS/HMCS Warrior was renamed ARA Independencia (V-1) on 6 August 1958 while at Portsmouth undergoing refit. Leaving for her new homeland, she arrived in December and wasn’t officially commissioned until mid-1959 with the first Argentine carrier landing in history taking place on her deck in June.

Her initial airwing would be made up of Korean War-era F4U-5L Corsairs complete with wing-mounted radars, a few navalized SNJ-5Cs Texans, the occasional T-28A Trojan, and, after 1962, a handful of early S-2A Trackers.

Argentina carrier ARA Independencia with Corsairs on deck, colorized by Diego Mar of Postales Navales

Aviacion Naval Argentina F4U-5 corsair carrier

F4U-5NL Vought Corsairs of the Aviacion Naval Argentina, circa 1962, original color. The country operated 26 F4U-5/N/5NL Corsairs from 1956 to 1968, primarily flying from Independencia

In August 1963, an ex-U.S. Navy F9F-2B Panther flown by Capt. Justiniano Martínez Achával became the first jet to land on an Argentine carrier when it was trapped on Independencia. However, it had to be craned off as her catapults were not thought to be powerful enough to launch it safely.

At least one of the country’s two F9F-8T Cougar trainers was photographed aboard as well.

First aircraft carrier of Argentina ARA Independencia (V-1) and Vickers G-class destroyer ARA Misiones (E-11) via Histamar, circa 1965

Argentina carrier ARA Independencia y ARA Punta Médanos Foto By N del Sr Adolfo Jorge Soto‎ Buques de guerra colorised by Diego Mar Postales Navales

With the delivery of the more modern Colossus-class sister HNLMS Karel Doorman (ex-HMS Venerable) from Holland in 1968– which could launch Panthers and Cougars and would later carry A-4 Skyhawks– the Argentines commissioned the new flattop as ARA 25 de Mayo (V-2) on 12 March 1969 and Independencia’s days were numbered. Laid up, she was sold on 17 March 1971 and scrapped.

Today, little of Warrior remains, with her bell still washed up in Canada at the Shearwater Aviation Museum in Nova Scotia.

HMCS Warrior’s bell at Shearwater Aviation Museum via Wiki Commons

There are, also, assorted scale models of her aircraft, including those flown by the FAA, RCN, and Armada.

The last of her class in the Royal Navy, Triumph, was kept around as a repair ship until 1975 then scrapped. The final vessel of her class sent to the breakers, the third-hand ex-HMS/HMAS Vengeance/ex-NAeL Minas Gerais, was sold for scrap by the Brazilian owners in 2004, torched to man-portable pieces on the beach at Alang.

There is one, more somber legacy of Warrior as well. Members of her Grapple crew, many of which have long-term generational health issues, are often represented by the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association. 

George Baulch on the deck of HMS Warrior after the first explosion. “One of his daughters was born with severe learning disabilities, which Mr. Baulch blames on the radiation. She died in her 30s of unexplained reasons.”

Specs:

Warrior’s 1946 Entry in Janes

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!

No More Negative Waves from Moriarty and the Passing of the Bluejacket SECNAV

Two former enlisted men who had an outsized effect on naval history and culture shoved off for the great libo party in the sky last week.

Allan George See was born in Mount Kisco, New York in 1931, growing up in WWII, and spent two years in the Air Force during Korea before launching a film and television career in the late 1950s under the screenname of Gavin MacLeod. From there, he was a regular in just about every good military TV series or movie for decades. MacLeod appeared in Operation Petticoat, Pork Chop Hill, War Hunt, The Sand Pebbles, The Thousand Plane Raid, Kelly’s Heroes (“Why don’t you knock it off with those negative waves”), and guest starring in Combat!, Hogan’s Heroes (where he played four different German officers in rotation), The Rat Patrol, JAG, and others.

However, he is best known as PT-boat sailor “Happy” Haines in the McHale’s Navy movies and TV series and, of course, as Captain Merrill Stubing from The Love Boat. He was so well-known during the 1970s and 80s in that role that the Navy Officers’ Tropical White Uniform became known as the “Captain Stubing” before it was phased out.

Photo via the USNI.

MacLeod passed away last week at age 90.

John Warner

John William Warner III was born in Washington D.C. in 1927, joining the Navy in early 1945– at the same time, the service was losing thousands every day during the Battle of Okinawa– at age 17 right out of high school on the advice of his father. Finishing his wartime enlistment as an ET3 while helping fellow sailors who couldn’t read or write, he had finished A-school too late to fight and wound up reporting to the large cruiser/battlecruiser USS Hawaii (CB-3) when the ship was still fitting out (and would never commission). He later transitioned to the Marines and, after using his GI Bill to earn both his college and law degrees, served with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) near Pohang during the Korean War.

Leaving the Marine Corps Reserves as a Captian, Warner went on to help negotiate the U.S.-Soviet Incidents at Sea agreement as Nixon’s gravely-voiced Secretary of the Navy during the latter stages of the Vietnam War on his way to a five-term stint as a U.S. Senator from Virginia. While in Congress he was kinda controversial, being pro-gun control and helping pave the way for the suspension of habeas corpus for the somewhat moody definition of “unlawful combatants,” he also was a big wheel on the Armed Services Committee for years, shaping military policy via control of the purse strings.

After his service ended on Capitol Hill, he was the first recipient of the National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal while the Senator John W. Warner Center for Advanced Military Studies at the Marine Corps University in Quantico and a Virginia-class attack boat (SSN-785) were named in his honor, although he never served in submarines.

Warner died, age 94, at his home in Alexandria on 25 May.

Col. (Ret.) Ralph Puckett Jr., new to the MOH at age 94

Born 8 December 1926 in Tipton, Georgia, Ralph Puckett Jr. was still at West Point when VE and later VJ Day came, and, when he joined the service as a freshly-minted butter bar in 1949, wanted to be a Ranger so bad that he volunteered to “take a squad leader’s or rifleman’s job” with the 8th Army Ranger Company since no officer billets were available.

It was with the Rangers that Puckett shipped out for Korea the next fall, having a meeting with destiny at a place remembered as Hill 205, where his 57 Rangers and Korean soldiers held on against six battalion-sized attacks over two days and nights in freezing conditions.

From his, eventual, MOH citation:

First Lieutenant Puckett distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Unsan, Korea, on 25 and 26 November 1950. With complete disregard for his personal safety, First Lieutenant Puckett led his company across eight hundred yards of open terrain under heavy enemy small-arms fire and captured the company’s objective. During this operation he deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire to enable his men to spot locations of the machine guns. After capturing the objective, he directed preparation of defensive positions against an expected enemy counterattack. At 2200 hours on 25 November 1950, while directing the defense of his position against a heavy counterattack, he was wounded in the right shoulder. Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back. During these attacks, he left the safety of his foxhole in order to observe movements of the enemy and to direct artillery fire. In so doing, he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy small-arms and mortar fire. In the sixth counterattack, at 0300 hours on 26 November 1950, he was wounded again, so seriously that he was unable to move. Detecting that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind so as not to endanger their withdrawal. Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety. First Lieutenant Puckett’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army

Initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his Korean tour, Puckett would remain on active duty, picking up a second DSC in Vietnam in 1967 to add to two Silver Stars; two Legions of Merit; two Bronze Stars with V device for valor; five Purple Hearts; ten Air Medals; the Army Commendation Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.

He picked up his MOH upgrade last week at the White House, dressed in newly issued Army Greens, which ironically are almost identical to his 1949 service uniform.

Queen City Slammer

Here we see, 70 years ago today, the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83) alongside the ammunition ship USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) at Wonsan Harbor, Korea, on 3 May 1951. To save time the re-arming took place within sight of enemy-held Wonsan. Rows of propellent canisters can be seen on the deck of Mount Katmai, projectiles, and canisters on the deck of Manchester.

NARA 80-G-428168.

USS Manchester (CL-83) replenishing ammunition while alongside USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) in Wonsan harbor, North Korea, within sight of enemy gun batteries, circa early 1951. Note projectiles on deck on both ships, powder tanks stacked on Mount Katmai, and wooden planks laid on Mount Katmai’s decks. It appears that projectiles are being brought on board Manchester, while empty powder tanks are being carried off of her. Projectiles are being hoisted into Manchester’s turret number two (in the lower left). NH 97184

Completed too late for use in WWII, Manchester was commissioned on 29 October 1946. All of her 26 sisters were decommissioned before the Korean War with Manchester being the only active Cleveland during the conflict.

And she was very active.

Operating with TF 77, she provided support for the Inchon landings in September 1950, go on to bombard North Korean troop concentrations on Tungsan Got, supported the invasion at Wonsan, stood by for the evac of Hungnam then switched back to the Wonson area to lend her guns to the blockade there.

In her second tour in Korea, the cruiser covered the grounded Thai corvette Prasae where she prevented the vessel from being swarmed by Norks. In addition, “Manchester patrolled along the Korean peninsula shelling military targets in areas such as Chinampo, Chongjin, Tong-Cho‑Ri as well as regularly returning to Hungnam, Songjin, and Wonsan to add to the destruction of those tightly held enemy positions,” notes DANFS.

Although completed with catapults for seaplanes, they had been removed by Korea and replaced with a wooden deck for a whirlybird.

Sikorsky HO3S helicopter, of squadron HU-1, lands on the cruiser’s after deck after a gunfire spotting mission off the Korean coast, March 1953. Note Manchester’s wooden decking with aircraft tie-down strips and hangar cover tracks; 6/47 triple gun turrets; 5/38 and 3/50 twin mounts in place of WWII-era 40mm Bofors– the only such Cleveland to receive this conversion. NH 92578

Speaking of which, one of Manchester’s choppers, an H03S1, flown by enlisted pilot Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic ADC(AP) Duane “Wilbur” Thorin of HU-1, became a lifesaver of international renown. Besides earning a DFC in saving 126 Thai sailors from Prasae over the course of 40 sorties, the NHHC elaborates that he:

[M]ade over 130 rescues in hostile territory before his helicopter crashed under fire during an attempted rescue in February 1952 and he was captured. He escaped from a POW camp in July 1952 but was recaptured. He was awarded a Silver Star and two more DFCs for his rescues. With his trademark green scarf, he was the inspiration for the fictitious Chief Petty Officer (NAP) Mike Forney in James Michener’s book, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, played by Mickey Rooney in the movie adaptation. Thorin was commissioned after the war and served as an analyst at the National Security Agency.

On Manchester’s third Korean war tour, she was again a regular sight on the gunline, often dueling with enemy shore batteries.

USS Manchester (CL-83) returns enemy counter-battery fire with her forward turret’s 6/47 guns, while operating off the North Korean east coast, March 1953. Note life rafts and floater nets stowed atop turret two. NH 97186

USS Manchester (CL-83) fires the left 6/47 gun of turret three at enemy shore batteries while operating off Wonsan, North Korea. NH 97185

USS Manchester (CL-83) engaging shore batteries off Wonsan, North Korea. Note splash from an enemy shell that has hit over. The small island on right is Hwangto-Do. 80-G-483203

She wrapped up her last tour just a week before the truce at Panmunjom.

A lone sailor observes the enemy coastline as the cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83), her shore bombardment completed, steams away from Wonsan Harbor. Photo and caption released by Commander Naval Forces Far East, under date of 7 July 1953. NH 97187

In all, she earned nine battlestars for the conflict and suffered no major battle damage. It would be her only war, being decommissioned 27 June 1956 after just 10 years of service and was scrapped four years later.

Of the rest of the Clevelands, most never left 1940s mothballs and were sent to the razor blade factory by 1960. Five were given a new lease on life and modified post-Korea as Galveston- and Providence-class guided missile cruisers, going on to see duty in the Vietnam era– with some receiving shells from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) ironically. Just one of the class, the converted USS Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4), is preserved, serving since 1977 as a museum ship at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Referred to as the “Queen City” reportedly due to being the most populous city in northern New England, Manchester, New Hampshire’s name is currently carried by an Independence-class littoral combat ship, LCS-14, commissioned in 2018.

Warship Wednesday, April 21, 2021: Let’s Vote on It

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, April 21, 2021: Let’s Vote on It

Library and Archives Canada 4951041

Here we see a beautiful original color photo of the Improved Fiji-class (alternatively described as Colony-class, Mauritius-class, or Ceylon-class) cruiser HMCS Quebec (31) in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, 21 April 1954– some 67 years ago today. She battled the Germans, Italians, and Japanese withstood the divine wind and “Fritz X” only to have her reputation mired in undeserved controversy.

A borderline “treaty” cruiser of interwar design, the Fijis amounted to a class that was one short of a dozen with an 8,500-ton standard displacement. In WWII service, this would balloon to a very top-heavy weight of over 11,000. Some 15 percent of the standard displacement was armor. As described by Richard Worth, in his Fleets of World War II, the design was much better off than the previous Leander-class cruisers, and essentially “the Admiralty resolved to squeeze a Town [the immediately preceding 9,100-ton light cruiser class] into 8,000-tons.”

With a fine transom stern, they were able to achieve over 32 knots on a plant that included four Admiralty 3-drum boilers driving four Parsons steam turbines, their main armament amounted to nine 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIII guns in three triple Mark XXI mountings in the case of our cruiser and her two immediate full sisters (HMS Ceylon and HMS Newfoundland).

The standard Fiji/Colony-class cruiser had four Mark XXI turrets, as shown in the top layout, while the “Improved Fijis/Ceylon-variants of the class mounted three, as in the bottom layout. Not originally designed to carry torpedo tubes, two triple sets were quickly added, along with more AAA guns, once the treaty gloves came off. (Jane’s 1946)

Ordered from Vickers-Armstrong’s, Walker in March 1939, just six months before Hitler sent his legions into Poland, Quebec, our subject vessel was originally named HMS Uganda (66) after that African protectorate. A war baby, she commissioned 3 January 1943.

HMS Uganda sliding down the slipway at the Walker Naval Yard, 7 August 1941. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM ref. DS.VA/9/PH/12/17).

HMS UGANDA, MAURITIUS CLASS CRUISER. JANUARY 1943, SCAPA FLOW. (A 22963) Broadside view. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205155098

After workups and interception patrols on the lookout for German blockade runners, in May she escorted the RMS Queen Mary (with Churchill aboard) across the Atlantic for a meeting with President Roosevelt at what later became known to history as the Washington Conference.

Transferred to the Mediterranean for service with the 15th Cruiser Squadron, she helped escort convoy WS31/KMF17 on the way before arriving in Malta with Admiral Cunningham aboard on 4 July. Then came the Husky landings in Sicily, where she was very busy covering the landings of the British 1st Airborne Division near Syracuse, rescuing 36 survivors from the hospital ship Talamba, and delivering naval gunfire support.

Cruisers HMS Orion and HMS Uganda on patrol with Mount Etna towering in the distance, some 40 miles away. Taken from HMS Nubian, 12th July 1943. The ships had bombarded Augusta the previous day.

A pom-pom crew of HMCS Uganda examining Kodak pictures. Note the “tropical kit” to include sun helmets and shorts. NAC, PA 140833

Then came the Avalanche landings at Salerno in September, where she provided NGFS for the British X Corps. Four days after reaching the beachhead, she was hit by a 3,000-pound German Fritz X precision-guided, armor-piercing bomb at 1440 on 13 September. Passing through seven decks and through her keel, it exploded under her hull, crippling but not quite killing the ship. When the smoke cleared, amazingly just 16 men of Uganda’s complement were dead.

The damage was very similar, albeit much less costly in lives, to the hit that the same-sized treaty cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) suffered off Salerno two days prior. In the Fritz attack on that Brooklyn-class light cruiser, the early smart bomb hit the top of the ship’s number three 6/47-gun turret and penetrated deep into her hull before its 710-pound amatol warhead exploded. The damage was crippling, blowing out the bottom of the ship’s hull, immediately flooding her magazines– which may have ironically saved the ship as it prevented them from detonating– and killed 197 of her crew. In all, she would spend eight months being rebuilt.

As for Uganda, she was moved to Charleston Naval Shipyard in South Carolina for extensive repairs– just in time to become the most capable warship in another navy.

Oh, Canada!

By 1944, the Royal Canadian Navy could rightfully claim to be about the third strongest in the world when it came to warship tonnage. However, it was almost all in small escorts such as sloops, corvettes, frigates, and destroyers as well as armed yachts, trawlers, and torpedo boats. The RCN did have three armed merchant cruisers– the “Prince” class Canadian National Steamships passenger liners, which, at 6,000 tons, carried a dozen 6-, 4- and 3-inch guns, as well as depth charges and assorted Bofors/Oerlikons– but Ottawa had no proper cruisers on its naval list.

To rectify this, the brand-new light cruiser HMS Minotaur (53), transferred to Royal Canadian Navy in July 1944, and became HMCS Ontario (C53), although she did not finish working up in time to contribute much to the war effort. She was soon joined by Uganda, who kept her name when she was recommissioned 21 October 1944– Trafalgar Day– but replaced HMS with HMCS.

Uganda’s new crew, drawn from throughout the Canadian fleet, was assembled in 80-man teams and shipped out on a range of British 6-inch cruisers to train on their vessel while it was being repaired. These included a team that, while on HMS Sheffield, braved the Murmansk run and the Boxing Day 1943 fight against Scharnhorst. Curiously, and a bone of contention with the crew, she carried an RN duster rather than a Canadian ensign.

The Canadian cruiser would be commanded by Capt. Edmond Rollo Mainguy, who had previously served on several large RN warships including the battleship HMS Barham in the Great War.

Dispatched for service with the British Pacific Fleet, which was preparing for the final push against Japan, she stopped in the UK for sensor upgrades on the way, swapping Type 284 and 272 radars for newer Type 274 for fire control and Types 277 and 293 for surface warning and height finding. Nonetheless, the choice of the ship for tropical service, as it at the time lacked both onboard exhaust fans for air circulation and a water distillation plant capable of supporting the crew, was questionable. Belowdecks, when not on duty, many men simply wore “a towel and a pair of shoes.”

Regardless, she was a beautiful ship and her crew, most of whom were Battle of the Atlantic vets, were ready to fight.

A great shot of HMCS Uganda with a bone in her teeth. H.F. Pullen Nova Scotia Archives 1984-573 Box 1 F/24

British light cruiser HMS UGANDA underway. 14 October 1944. IWM FL 17797

HMS UGANDA, BRITISH CRUISER. 1944, AT SEA. (A 27728) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205159166

HMCS Uganda in 1945 while in the British Pacific Fleet. IWM ABS 698

She joined the BPF on 9 March, arriving that day in Sydney via the Suez and the Indian Ocean. Joining British TF 57 as part of the U.S. 5th Fleet, Uganda soon became a close escort for the fleet’s carriers, particularly HMS Formidable and HMS Indomitable. This included fighting off kamikaze raids, delivering NGFS, and acting as a lifeguard for downed aviators as the fleet pushed past Formosa, through the Philippines, and on to Okinawa.

Task Force 57 at anchor, HMS Formidable (foreground) and HMS Indomitable w 4th Cruiser Squadron- (L to R) Gambia, Uganda, and Euryalus-San Pedro Bay, Leyte April 1945

Japanese aircraft attacking H.M.C.S. UGANDA. Ryukyu Islands, Japan, 4 April 1945. LAC 3191649

Bombardment by H.M.C.S. UGANDA of Sukuma Airfield on Miyoko Jima, 4 May 1945, the ship’s QF 4 in (102 mm) Mark XVI guns in action. LAC 3191651

Decks of HMCS Uganda after her bombardment of the Sakishima Island airstrip of Sukama, south of Okinawa, 12 May 1945, with her 6-inch guns swamped with powder tubes. The ship in the distance is her Kiwi-flagged sistership, HMNZS Gambia (48). (Photo: CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, VR2014.1.1)

Ratings sleep amidst 4-inch shells on HMCS Uganda, 1945 (Photo: CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, VR2014.1.26)

HMCS UGANDA and HMS FORMIDABLE, the latter burning after a Kamikaze airstrike, May 9, 1945, Royal Canadian Naval photograph. (CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum /Photo Catalogue VR2014. 1.24 from the museum collection.)

Life aboard the ship continued to decline for the crew. Compounding the uncomfortable heat aboard– which led to rounds of tropical bacteria, viruses, and fungus infections among the crew– the BPF had logistical issues trying to supply its ships. This led to mechanical issues as spare parts were not available and poor food.

As noted by Bill Rawling’s A Lonely Ambassador: HMCS Uganda and the War in the Pacific, a 25-page article in The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du nord, VIII, No. 1 (January 1998), 39-63, one firsthand report of the time detailed:

In the tropics everything multiplied — of a crew of 900, two men were detailed for spraying cockroach powder through the mess decks to at least try to control them. It was not out of the ordinary to be munching on your de-hydrated peas and carrots to feel a sharp “crunch.” That was another roach being broken up. Flour deteriorated into a life form — a tiny worm with a white body and a little black head. It would be found in the bread which was baked aboard ship. At first, we would pick the worms out, but as we were told, and came to realize, they would not hurt us, we just ate them with the bread and called it our meat ration for the day.

This set the stage for what became known as the “Uganda Episode.”

As explained by the Naval and Marine Museum at CFB Esquimalt:

Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced on 4 April 1945 that the Canadian Government no longer intended to deploy personnel, other than volunteers, to the Pacific Theatre. The “Volunteers Only” policy, as it was called, required that all naval personnel specifically re-volunteer for service in the Pacific Theatre before they would be dispatched to participate in hostilities.

On the eve of the vote, in which it seemed many of Uganda’s crew were on the fence about going home, Capt. Mainguy reportedly gave a tone-deaf speech that went as high as a lead balloon with one crew member’s recalling that he, “Called us four flushers and quitters. Those who were in doubt soon made up their minds at a statement like that.”

The June 22 crew vote found that 556 of Uganda’s men preferred to head home, while just 344 re-volunteered to stay in the Pacific despite the daunting risk of kamikaze attack and a war that, at the time, was expected to drag out at least another year. With the prospect of swapping out so many of the cruiser’s complement while still deployed a non-starter, the plan was to send her back to Esquimalt, update her for continued service, and sail back to the war with a reformed crew in time to join Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyūshū which was slated for November.

Relieved on station by the British cruiser HMS Argonaut on 27 July, ironically the Japanese signaled they were ready to quit the war just two weeks later, making the Uganda vote– which left a bitter pill with the RN– almost a moot subject. Uganda arrived at Esquimalt on 10 August, the day the Japanese officially threw in the towel.

While labels of mutiny and cowardice were unjustly lobbed at her crew by historians, her skipper would go on to become a Vice Admiral.

Better years

Postwar, Uganda would spend the next two years in a training role.

Cruiser HMCS Uganda photographed on 31 November 1945.

A color shot of HMCS-Uganda (C66) as seen from the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior circa 1946, note the Fairey Firefly and Maple Leaf insignias. LAC-MIKAN-No 4821077

Transferred to the reserves in August 1947, her slumber was brief.

Recommissioned as a result of the Korean War on 14 January 1952 as HMCS Quebec (C31), she soon sailed for Halifax to continue her service, notably under a Canadian flag and with belowdecks habitability improvements.

Guard of Honor and Band at the recommissioning of H.M.C.S. QUEBEC, Esquimalt, British Columbia, 14 January 1952 LAC 3524549

For the next four years, she was a global traveler, heavily involved in NATO exercises.

HMCS QUEBEC coming alongside for a ship-to-ship transfer receiving supplies from HMCS Magnificent, during  Exercise Mainbrace in 1952. LAC 4951392

A closer view, from HMCS Magnificent. Note the carrier’s 40mm mount and the folded wing of a fighter, likely a Hawker Sea Fury judging from the pair of wing-root 20mm cannons. LAC 4951382

H.M.C.S. QUEBEC heeling in rough seas during exercises. 18 Sept 1952 LAC 3524551

HMCS Quebec (C-31) leads HMCS Magnificent (CVL-21), HMAS Sydney (R-17), and multiple destroyers as they return from the Queen’s coronation, July 1953

Sperry radar scan of Gaspé Bay anchorage, HMCS Quebec 12 July 1953 LAC 3206158

HMCS QUEBEC Parading the White Ensign in Rio-South America cruise, 1954. Note the Enfield rifles, with the rating to the right complete with a chromed bayonet. Also, note the local boy to the left giving a salute to the RCN duster. LAC 4950735

Port broadside view of H.M.C.S. QUEBEC after having been freshly painted by ships’ company, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 29 June 1955 LAC 3524552

She also became the first Canadian naval ship to circumnavigate Africa, during her 1955 cruise. In 1946, she had claimed the first such Canadian warship to “Round the Horn” of South America.  

King Neptune and the pollywogs! Original color photo of HMCS QUEBEC’s crossing the line equator ceremony during her fall cruise to South America, 1956. LAC 4950734

HMCS Quebec (C-31) and USS Newport News (CA-148) at Villefranche.

With all-gun cruisers that required a 900-man crew increasingly obsolete in the Atomic era, Quebec was paid off 13 June 1956 and laid up in Nova Scotia. Four years later, she was sold for her value in scrap metal to a Japanese concern.

She is remembered in period maritime art, specifically in a piece by official war artist Harold Beament, who was on the RCNVR list and later president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

HMCS Uganda in Drydock, Esquimalt, during a post-war refit. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art CWM 19710261-1030

Today, the RCN remembers Quebec fondly. Narrated by R.H. Thomson, the script in the below tribute video is based on a memoir by LCDR Roland Leduc, RCN (Ret’d) who served on the post-war cruiser. 

An exceptional veterans’ site is also online, with numerous photos and remembrances. 

For a great deep dive into HMS Uganda, especially her 1945 service, check out Bill Rawling’s A Lonely Ambassador: HMCS Uganda and the War in the Pacific, a 25-page article in The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord, VIII, No. 1 (January 1998), 39-63.

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