Category Archives: littoral

‘Home port Yokosuka’

Caption: “Painting by Arthur Beaumont, 1961. USS Duncan (DD-874) leads USS Mansfield (DD-728) and other destroyers into the Yokosuka, Japan, naval base. In the background is the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CVS-18).”

Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: NH 73366-KN

If you aren’t aware of Mr. Beaumont’s work, the NHHC and Navy Museum have lots of it digitized, most suitable for framing. A true maritime artist, he could make even life on a weather-beaten icebreaker or a slow-poking minesweeper seem just as exotic and stirring as serving on a cruiser with a bone in her teeth– just add humble local sailing craft or penguins.

USS Glacier (AGB 4) passes Beaufort Island, Arthur Beaumont. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 428-GX-KN 1388

USS Prime (MSO 466), artwork by Arthur Beaumont. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Photographed from small reference card. 428-GX-K-42971

NH 94735-KN (Color). USS Providence (CLG-6). Watercolor by Arthur Beaumont, 1965

A Meeting of Racing Stripes

The U.S. Coast Guard has been making great use of its large frigate-sized Berthoff-class national security cutters, showing them off in the past couple of years as true worldwide deployable assets. This has included several Westpac cruises and Fourth Fleet missions, and, as witnessed by the arrival of USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753) at her homeport Wednesday following a 94-day deployment as part of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, even Europe.

While some would grouse that it is out of step for the “Coast” Guard to deploy overseas under the Navy’s control in peacetime, it helps build those national defense/intelligence skills needed should they ever have to do it for real– of note, Hamilton exercised with the Gerald Ford carrier group while the new carrier made its first “warm” deployment— but also allows an easier mesh with allied littoral coast guard types than the Navy would be able to pull off with a 9,000-ton DDG.

Plus, things like migrant interdiction and fisheries enforcement missions aren’t really in Big Navy’s wheelhouse.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Arthur Flaherty, a boatswain’s mate assigned to the USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753), prepares to transfer Hamilton crewmembers onto the Swedish Coast Guard vessel Amfitrite in the Baltic Sea, Oct. 31, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alejandro Rivera)

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Denzel Canty and Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Freiheit, maritime enforcement specialists assigned to USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753), conduct a tactical exercise with members of the Finnish Border Guard’s Special Intervention Unit while underway in the Baltic Sea, Nov. 3, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alejandro Rivera)

As noted by USCG Atlantic Area:

Hamilton began its deployment with a transatlantic voyage to Rota, Spain, and met with operational commanders from U.S. Sixth Fleet. After Spain, the cutter transited through the English Channel and Danish Straits, two vitally significant waterways that provide safe passage for 15% of the world’s shipping.

Immediately upon entering the Baltic Sea region, Hamilton conducted at-sea exchanges with naval, coast guard and border guard forces of multiple Baltic Sea allies and partners, including Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Each engagement was oriented to support either traditional Coast Guard missions or in combination with defense readiness exercises used to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and NATO partners.

As the first U.S. military vessel to visit Turku, Finland in over a decade, Hamilton hosted public tours of the cutter and held a reception for U.S. and Finnish government and military leaders. Guests included the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Finland, the deputy chief of the Finnish Border Guard, the state secretary of the Ministry of Interior, and the mayor of Turku. The visit also served to reinforce the long-standing partnership between the Finnish Border Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Additionally, Hamilton is the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to visit Riga, Latvia in more than 20 years. The crew met with the U.S. Ambassador to Latvia and hosted a reception on board Hamilton for members of Latvia’s navy and coast guard to include the Latvian navy’s chief of staff and the commander of the Latvian coast guard. Hamilton also served as a backdrop to Latvia’s 104th Freedom Day celebration alongside NATO forces.

Modern Day Greenland Patrol

When talking over the weekend in reference to the 80th anniversary of the lost USCGC Natsek (WYP-170) during WWII’s massively unsung Greenland Patrol, these images from the Danish Arktisk Kommando— their all-services joint Arctic command that interfaces both with NATO and the U.S., Icelandic, Canadian and UK forces in the region stretching across the Faeroes and Greenland– seems timely.

The below shows the new Rasmussen-class patrol vessels HDMS Knud Rasmussen (P570), HDMS Ejnar Mikkelsen (P571), and HDMS Lauge Koch (P572) of 1. Eskadre working the Greenland coastline for the last couple of weeks.

The Danes throughout the Cold War kept a trio of purpose-designed ice-strengthened arctic offshore patrol craft in the region and continue to do so, rotating Royal Danish Navy vessels deployed to Greenland to perform coast-guard duties, while an intrepid 14-man Siriuspatruljen (sled patrol) polices the interior, with the benefit of air-dropped supplies.

The Rasmussens replaced the trio of much smaller (300-ton, 11 knots, 2x.50 cal HMGs) Agdlek-class patrol boats that walked the beat from the 1970s through 2017.

The old Agdlek-class OPVs, exemplified by the HDMS Tulugaq (Y388) seen here, were essentially modified steel-hulled trawler/whaler types, mounting just a pair of .50 cal Brownings

The new 1,700-ton 235-foot vessels are much more capable– not to mention downright naval-looking– with a 76mm M/85 OTO Melera main battery, embarked helicopter/UAV support, and space/weight available for both ASW torpedo tubes and Sea Sparrow missiles.

While low-speed (just 17 knots maximum speed) they are meant to poke around and, with their two large RIBs, send VBSS inspection teams out to check on things both ashore and afloat. Speaking to the latter, they are manned by just an 18-person crew but have accommodations for an embarked helicopter det and a small (16-man) platoon of commando types, of which Denmark has a proficient group.

And, of course, there are some other benefits of walking the Greenland beat, such as plenty of ice for your New Year’s drinks!

71st West Pac Christmas Drop

We’ve talked about the long-running Operation Christmas Drop exercise several times in the past.

Besides its obvious humanitarian “hearts and minds” goodwill in stretches of the Western Pacific that often don’t get a lot of attention, it also provides a chance for C-130 units around the Rim to get some real-world training should they be needed to, say, handle low-key resupply for isolated company-sized Marine rocket batteries dropped off on random atolls with little infrastructure but within range of Chinese maritime assets.

Anyway, the 71st OCD just concluded, seeing a few interesting things including seven Herky birds from the U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force (No.37 Sqn), Japan Air Self-Defense Force (401st Tactical Airlift Squadron), Republic of Korea Air Force (251st Tactical Air Support Squadron), and Royal New Zealand Air Force (No. 40 Sqn) taxi in formation during a multinational “elephant walk” at Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam.

“Operation Christmas Drop 2022” graphic placed onto a C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Nov. 16, 2022. The artwork celebrates the 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop which is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian and disaster relief mission. Each year, the USAF partners with countries in the Pacific Air Forces area of responsibility to deliver supplies to remote islands in the South-Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Furnary, 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron director of operations, uses a radio to communicate with C-130 pilots at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 10, 2022, during Operation Christmas Drop 2022. 

(Right to Left) A Japan Air Self-Defense Force C-130H Hercules assigned to the 401st Tactical Airlift Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 37 Squadron, Republic of Korea Air Force C-130H Hercules assigned to the 251st Tactical Air Support Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130H Hercules assigned to 40 Squadron, and U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron sit on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam

Seven C-130 Aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force take part in an elephant walk to signify the end of Operation Christmas Drop 2022, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 10, 2022. 

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Furnary, 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron director of operations, salutes to an Air Force C-130J Super Hercules’ crewmembers at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 10, 2022, during Operation Christmas Drop 2022. 

In all, the C-130 crewmembers delivered 209 bundles with humanitarian aid totaling more than 71,000 pounds of cargo to more than 22,000 remote Micronesian islanders on 56 islands throughout the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.

This broke last year’s record of 185 bundles.

These included snorkels, flippers and fishing equipment; rice, eskies, containers and cookware; and gifts including colouring pencils, books, sporting equipment and toys.

The box-build process gets a lot of involvement on base from the community, cumulating in a “Bundle Build Day” at Andersen.

After rigging, Andersen’s 734th Air Mobility Squadron and the 44th Aerial Port Squadron (Reserve Component) Port Dawgs partnered to load the 450-pound chute-rigged bundles and service the C-130s for continued sorties.

“It remains the longest-running U.S. Department of Defense humanitarian and disaster relief mission that is supported by multiple Herc fleets from across the region.”

Mines: Still a Thing Even as USN’s MCM Force Fades

Deployed to the Baltic, Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) just found a cluster of old Russian M/12 moored pendulum contact mines laid in 1917 along Parnu Bay on the Estonian coast. Latvian Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams rendered them safe. It is estimated that there are 80,000 sea mines left over from the two World Wars in the Baltic.

Currently, SNMG1 comprises flagship Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Tromp (F803), Royal Norwegian Navy HNoMS Maud (A530), and Royal Danish Navy HDMS Esbern Snare (F342).

Mine warfare has been a task that the U.S. Navy has been fine with increasingly outsourcing to NATO and overseas allies over the past generation, as its own capabilities in this specialty have declined.

Cold War Force fading

Probably the peak of post-Vietnam mine warfare in the Navy was reached in about 1996 when the old amphibious assault ship USS Inchon (LPH-12) was converted and reclassified as a mine countermeasures ship (MCS-12) following a 15-month conversion at Ingalls. Based at the U.S. Navy’s Mine Warfare Center of Excellence at Naval Station Ingleside, it could host a squadron of the Navy’s huge (then brand new) Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon mine-sweeping helicopters.

Going small, the Navy had just commissioned 14 new 224-foot/1,300-ton Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships by 1994 and another full dozen 188-foot/880-ton Osprey-class coastal minehunter (modified Italian Lerici-class design) with fiberglass hulls by 1999.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (1 March 1999). USS Inchon (MCS-12) underway for a scheduled five-month deployment to the Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. US Navy photo # 990301-N-0000J-001 by PH1 Sean P. Jordon.

Ingleside, Texas (Sept. 23, 2005) A cluster of Avenger and Osprey class mine warfare ships at NS Ingleside. The base’s first homeported warship was the new Avenger-class sweeper USS Scout (MCM-8) in 1992. U.S. Navy photo 050923-N-4913K-006 by Fifi Kieschnick

This force, of an MCS mine-sweeping flattop/flagship, 26 new MCM/MHCs, and 30 giant MH-53E Sea Dragons– the only aircraft in the world rated to tow the Mk105 magnetic minesweeping sled, the AQS-24A side-scan sonar and the Mk103 mechanical minesweeping system on four-hour missions– in three Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons (HM)s, was only to last for a couple of years.

As part of the slash in minesweeper money during the Global War on Terror, the increasingly NRF mission dwindled in assets with Inchon decommissioned in June 2002 following an engineering plant fire.

In 2006, USS Osprey (MHC-51), just 13 years old, was the first of her class decommissioned with all of her still very capable sisters gone by 2007.

Naval Station Ingleside, hit by BRAC in 2005, transferred all its hulls to other stations and closed its doors in 2010, its property was turned over to the Port of Corpus Christi.

The first Avenger-class sweeper, USS Guardian (MCM-5), was decommissioned in 2013 and so far she has been joined in mothballs by USS Avenger, Defender, and Ardent, with the eight remaining members of her class scheduled for deactivation by 2027, meaning that within five years, the Navy will have no dedicated mine warfare vessels for the first time since the Great War.

Speaking of shrinking assets, the Navy’s three Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons (HM 12, HM 14, and HM 15) are soon to become just two, with the disestablishment ceremony of HM 14 to be held on March 30th, 2023. HM-15 will absorb “102 full-time and 48 reserve enlisted personnel and four full-time and eight reserve officers” from her sister squadron and keep on rolling for now at least with a mission to “maintain a worldwide 72-hour Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) rapid deployment posture and a four aircraft forward-deployed AMCM and VOD capability in the Arabian Gulf,” in Manama, Bahrain in support of the U.S. 5th Fleet.

HM-12, on the other hand, serves as a fleet replacement squadron for the declining Sea Dragons in service, making HM-15 the sole deployable MH-53E squadron. After 2025, when the big Sikorsky is planned to be retired, the Sea Dragons will be gone altogether without a replacement fully fleshed out yet.

HM-14 currently has a four-aircraft forward-deployed detachment in Pohang, South Korea, in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet, and they recently had a great Multinational Mine Warfare Exercise (MN-MIWEX) with ROKN and Royal Navy assets last month, giving a nice photo opportunity.

The future

The Navy’s Mine Warfare Training Center (MWTC), located at Naval Base Point Loma, looks to have graduated about 18 Mineman “A” School classes so far this year, each with a single-digit number of students. These 150 or so Minemen will join their brethren and be eventually relegated to a few Littoral Combat Ships that plan to have a secondary mine mission with embarked UUVs and supported by MH-60S Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) helicopters that are closer to being a reality.

Let’s hope so.

The planned future is deployable Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures (ExMCM) teams, using UUVs off LCS platforms: 
 

PHILIPPINE SEA (Dec. 28, 2021) – Sailors assigned to Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, transport a simulated Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) during a mine countermeasures exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan M. Breeden) 211228-N-PH222-1507

SEA OF JAPAN (May 15, 2022) – A Mark 18 MOD 2 Kingfish is lowered out Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) during Exercise Noble Vanguard. Kingfish is an unmanned underwater vehicle with the sonar capabilities to scan the ocean floor for potential mines. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign James French) 220515-O-NR876-104

A standard ExMCM company is comprised of a 27-person unit with four elements: the command-and-control element (C2), an unmanned systems (UMS) platoon, an EOD MCM platoon, and a post-mission analysis (PMA) cell, all working in tandem, just as they would in a mine warfare environment.
 
The mission begins with and hinges on the UMS platoon providing mine detection, classification, and identification. The platoon, composed of Sailors from mixed pay grades and ratings, is led by a senior enlisted Sailor and employs the Mk 18 UUV family of systems.
 
The UMS platoon deploys the MK 18 Mod 2 UUVs to locate potential mine shapes. Upon completion of their detection mission, the data from the vehicles is analyzed by the five-person PMA cell using sonar data and produces a mine-like contact listing to the C2 element for review.
 

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022: The Loss of Trap Ship K

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, Nov. 2, 2022: The Loss of Trap Ship K

Above we see a circa 1917 Willy Stöwer painting depicting a dashing German U-boat of the Kaiserliche Marine encountering the British Q-Ship Headley at sea, with the crew pretending to abandon ship to sucker the submarine in close enough to be pounded under the waves by hidden Vickers guns and 12-pounders. While the British extensively used Q-ships/Mystery Ships– heavily armed gunboats disguised as merchantmen– despite Stöwer’s propaganda piece, the Germans also had a few Qs of their own during the Great War, one of which is the subject of our piece this week.

Rather than “Q-ship,” a code name that referred to the British vessels’ nominal homeport in Queenstown, Ireland, the Germans used the term “U-Boot-Falle Schiff,” literally “Submarine Trap Ship” with each further described simply on naval lists and orders as a support/supply ship (Hilfsschiff). In stark contrast to the no less than 366 British Qs (of which 61 were lost in action while they only took down 14 U-boats for their sacrifice), the Germans only had eight trap ships and five of those were very small coasters and trawlers of under 1,000 tons.

As all were merchant vessels converted to decoys, the Admiralstab decided to keep the ships’ prewar names and simply designate their wartime service with a letter designation as Hilfsschiff A, B, C, well, you get the drift, with the letter typically drawn from the first of the vessel’s name. They often also had alter-identities that would include fake name boards, flags, and shifting profiles.

The Hateful Teutonic Eight:

  • SS Alexandra (Hilfsschiff A) (1909, 1615 t, 4-10,5 cm L/35 guns)
  • SS Belmonte (B, fake name Antje) (1914, 193 t, 2-105/35) three-masted schooner
  • SS Friedeburg (F, fake name Anna) (1912, 211 t, 2-10,5 cm L/35) three-masted schooner
  • SS Hermann (H) (1901, 5000 t, 4-10,5 cm L/35)
  • SS Kronprinz Wilhelm (K, fake named Gratia, then Marie) (1914, 2560 t, 4-10,5 cm L/35)
  • SS Oder (O) (1897, 648 t, 2-10,5 cm L/35)
  • SS Primula (P) (1904, 834 t, 2-10,5 cm L/35)
  • SS Triumph (T) (1907, 239 t, 2-88/27)

Belmonte, Hilfsschiff B, of the German Navy as a submarine trap around 1916 with her 4.1-inch gun

The Germans also had about 20 armed Vorpostenboot (outpost boats), small trawlers that often illegally flew a Dutch flag and served as something of an early warning picket and were sometimes used in sabotage actions such as cutting submarine cables and landing/extracting agents, but, while interesting, they are beyond the scope of what we are covering.

Here, a Vorpostenflottille heading out in 1917.

Of the eight trap ships, Kronprinz Wilhelm/Hilfsschiff K, was the most interesting and most successful, and, as she was sunk by British destroyers in the Kattegat some 105 years ago today (2 November 1917), she is our primary focus.

Meet Hilfsschiff K

Ordered for the Stettin Rigaer Dampfschiff Gesellschaft, a small Baltic passenger, and merchant shipping company that ran a regular route from Stettin to Riga from 1874 until 1937 when it merged with Gribel, Kronprinz Wilhelm was a small cargo steamer with a few passenger berths.

Constructed in 1914 by Stettiner Oderwerke (Yard No. 654), she was 252 feet long and powered by two boilers and a single engine that developed 1,500 hp, making her able to chug along at 14 knots.

SS Kronprinz Wilhelm of the Stettin-Riga line

SS Kronprinz Wilhelm of the Stettin-Riga line

Once the war shut down her cargo route (although the Germans would occupy Riga in 1917 and remain there in one form or another until almost a year after Versailles), Kronprinz Wilhelm was soon requisitioned by the German navy for further use.

One of the largest trap ships, she entered service on 12 November 1915 as Hilfsschiff K and was assigned to the I. Handels-Schutz-Flottille (1st Trade Protection Flotilla) in the Baltic. Her armament was a quartet of 4.1-inch SK L/35 guns recycled from the casemates of turn-of-the-century Kurfüst Friedrich Wilhelm-class pre-dreadnoughts. These were hidden behind fake bulkheads and under on-deck dummy crates.

Her profile was also changed with a second funnel.

The British also did the same thing, so it is likely that the tactic was borrowed after reports from U-boats of the Q ships, after all, Stower knew about it.

Q ship disguises, in this case, on the HMS Farnborough

Hilfsschiff K was tasked with quietly escorting small convoys to Sweden with her “SS Gratia” disguise intact and embarrassingly ran aground in Swedish waters in January 1916. When responding Swede destroyers found out she had four popguns aboard and reported as such to the press, her cover was blown. This led Hilfsschiff K to get a new skipper– Leutnant (der Reserve) Julius Lauterbach, late of a series of Far East escapades.

Herr Lauterbach

Prisenoffizier Lauterbach, des Kleinen Kreuzers SMS Emden

Lauterbach was a Hamburg-America Line officer who joined Admiral Graf Spee’s Squadron when the war broke out and went on to be assigned to the cruiser, SMS Emden. Serving as a prize officer with the famed raider, in November 1914 he assumed command of the seized Admiralty chartered British coaler SS Exford with 5,500 tons of fine Welsh coal aboard and when the planned meet-up to refuel Emden two weeks later fell through after the latter was sunk by the Australian Navy, surrendered his 16-man prize crew to the armed British merchant cruiser Empress of Japan. Imprisoned in Singapore, he escaped during a mutiny of Indian troops there (which some reports say he had a hand in) in February 1915 and made his way across Asia back home.

As he had largely only ever had experience with merchant ships, it made sense to put the hero Lauterbach in charge of Hilfsschiff K once she was repaired.

Back in the Baltic Again!

Sailing alternatively as the “SS Marie,” Hilfsschiff K went on to a string of successes. On 27 May, she rammed and severely damaged the Russian Bars-class submarine Gepard after he fell for the German trap ship, and three months later had a tangle with the managed to damage the British E-class submarine HMS E43 which was operating from the Russian Baltic ports.

The Imperial Russian submarine Gepard and cruiser Oleg in Reval, 1915. The former was damaged by a 4-inch shell and ramming from Hilfsschiff K in early 1916.

Hilfsschiff K was also credited (erroneously) with sinking HMS E18 the same summer after the British boat disappeared while on a patrol off the Estonian coast, but after E18‘s wreck was discovered off Hiiumaa, her hull busted by a mine, this was dispelled.

Regardless, Hilfsschiff K was by far the most successful German trap ship. However, if you live by the gun, you can also die by the gun.

Tasked with protecting German fishing vessels from British gunboats in the Kattegat cod grounds between Denmark and Sweden. There, on the late night of 2 November 1917, Hilfsschiff K met with the 15th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet and made battle with the shiny new destroyer leader HMS Parker (1916, 1700 t, 4-4.1 inch) under Captain Rafe G. Rowley-Conwy, together with the companion S and R-class destroyers Sorceress, Ready, Rigorous, Rocket, Rob Roy, and Trenchant, in a running engagement, complicated by rough weather, that stretched from around 9 p.m. to just before midnight.

At the end of the day, Hilfsschiff K and eight German trawlers (Frankfurt, Frisia, Emmy, Makrele, Julius Wieting, Seadler, Sonne, and Walter) were at the bottom while the British suffered only a few splinters and zero casualties. Of the trap ship’s 81-man crew, 28 were killed or missing while the British plucked 64 prisoners (some of them crewmembers from the lost trawlers) from the icy waters, taking them back to the UK for the duration of the war. Danish steamers, arriving at the site of the battle the next morning, pulled bodies, wreckage, and 17 additional German survivors– Lauterbach included– aboard.

Epilogue

Julius Lauterbach (später Lauterbach-Emden) would evade internment, return to Germany from Denmark, and go on to be promoted to Kapitänleutnant. Subsequently, he was given command of the raider SMS Mowe, although the war ended before he could ever try to break out with her.

He spent the last days of the Great War writing a sensationalized autobiography, “1000 Pds. Kopfpreis – tot oder lebendig” (£1000 Head Prize – Dead or Alive) which dealt principally with his time as the former prize officer of the famous SMS Emden, a ship that had much more name recognition than Hilfsschiff K. As part of that, he often toured around Weimar-era Germany on lecture tours about his experiences, often appearing in conjunction with Count Felix Graf von Luckner, “Der Seeteufel” of the commerce raider SMS Seeadler

Lauterbach passed in 1937 in Sonderborg, aged 59. From what I can tell, he never served in the interwar Reichsmarine or follow-on Kriegsmarine

In July 1920, the British Admiralty would grant HMS Parker and the rest of her flotilla a bounty for sinking the “Auxiliary Cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm.”

The wreck of Kronprinz Wilhelm was discovered in 1999. Resting in just over 100 feet of water off Torekov, Sweden it has become a popular dive site, inhabited by large eels and cod. At least two of her 4.1-inch guns and “piles” of shells are reported intact.


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Explosive drone jet skis make a difference in the Black Sea

Although the Russians by far outstripped Ukraine’s naval forces (which were mostly coast guard in nature) at the outset of the war in February, the smaller country has proved an underdog with a lot of bites when it comes to littoral operations. Besides sinking the 14 April 2022 sinking of the cruiser Moskva and a handful of other incidents, the Ukrainians keep slugging away.

Russia’s current Black Sea flagship vessel, the relatively newly commissioned 4,000-ton Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate Admiral Makarov, was damaged and possibly disabled during an audacious Ukrainian drone attack on Sevastopol over the weekend. The attack included a swarm of aerial drones coupled with a flotilla of small water-borne USVs. TASS reported that all the air drones had been destroyed, but it nonetheless seems Makarov is badly hurt and possibly two or three other ships damaged as well with the Russians confirming at least some problems with the Natya-class minesweeper Ivan Golubets.

The attack videos, widely available, look like something out of a Bond movie.

HI Sutton has been chronicling the Ukrainian explosive USVs over at Covert Shores for the past few months. They first popped up back in September when Russian naval forces in Sevastopol found one aground there.

They appear made of several commercial off-the-shelf components including a jet ski drive train with a contact exploder on the bow and a Starlink antenna for uplink

Via Covert Shores

While the propaganda victory to Kiev/Ky’iv is great, the Russians soon retaliated by canceling the ongoing grain shipping program from Ukraine ports to hungry third-world countries, which is kind of a bummer for places like Ethiopia and Sudan.

Still, those who are interested in anything expeditionary who are not paying attention to the great possibilities– and the great threats– that go with drones are not really paying attention. 

Cordon on Steel at 60

No less than 102 assorted American “greyhounds”– destroyers, destroyer escorts, destroyer radar picket ships, guided missile destroyers, destroyer leaders, and destroyer group leaders– received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for participating as part of the extended Naval Quarantine task force in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, with the period extending from 24 October to 31 December.

In other words, a period starting some 60 years ago this week.

Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962 The Lebanese freighter MARUCLA is boarded by a party from the USS JOSEPH P. KENNEDY JR. (DD-850), on 26 October 1962. The MARUCLA is an old “liberty” USN 711187

Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 USS MULLINIX (DD-944) and the Venezuelan destroyer ZULIA (D-21) leave the US Naval Station Trinidad, on the first mission of the joint US-Latin American quarantine task force on 12 November 1962. MULLINIX is the force flagship. USN 1063363

Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962 Soviet freighter VOLGOLES carrying missiles away from Cuba on 9 November 1962. USS VESOLE (DDR-878) is alongside. The wingtip of the photo plane, an SP-2 Neptune is also visible. USN 711204

The oldest of the lot was the soon-to-be-disposed-of Fletcher-class destroyer USS Saufley (DD/DDE/EDDE-465), which was laid down in January 1942– and earned 16 battle stars during World War II, making her one of the most decorated ships of World War II– while the newest included the Charles F. Adams-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sellers (DDG-11) which had only just finished her post-shakedown yard period a couple of months prior to the Crisis and would still have 28 years of service ahead of her.

Abbot (DD 629), 11 – 22 Nov 62.

Allan M. Sumner (DD 692), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Bache (DD 470), 25 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

Barry (DD 933), 24 Oct – 1 Nov 62.

Barton (DD 722), 24 Oct – 30 Nov 62.

Basilone (DD 824), 24 Oct – 18 Nov 62.

Beale (DD 471), 25 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

Bearss (DD 654), 4 – 16 Nov 62.

Beatty (DD 756), 16 – 24 Nov 62.

Biddle (DDG 5), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Bigelow (DD 942), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Blandy (DD 943), 24 Oct – 1 Nov 62.

Bordelon (DD 881), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62; 3 – 21 Dec 62.

Borie (DD 704), 24 Oct – 1 Dec 62.

Bristol (DD 857), 4 Nov – 3 Dec 62.

Brough (DE 148), 25 Oct – 1 Dec 62.

Brownson (DD 868), 28 Oct – 18 Nov 62.

Calcaterra (DER 390), 31 Oct – 14 Nov 62.

Charles F. Adams (DDG 2), 24 Oct – 30 Nov 62.

Charles H. Roan (DD 853), 27 Oct – 24 Nov 62.

Charles P. Cecil (DDR 835), 29 Oct – 6 Dec 62.

Charles R. Ware (DD 865), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Charles S. Sperry (DD 697), 24 Oct – 1 Nov 62.

Claud Jones (DE 1033), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62.

Conway (DD 507), 25 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

Cony (DD 508), 25 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

Corry (DDR 817), 24 Oct – 12 Nov 62; 18 – 21 Nov 62.

Dahlgren (DLG 12), 27 Oct – 11 Nov 62.

Damato (DD 871), 24 Oct – 4 Nov 62.

Davis (DD 937), 13 – 24 Nov 62.

Decatur (DD 936), 4 Nov – 7 Dec 62.

Dewey (DLG 14), 24 Oct – 12 Nov 62.

Dupont (DD 941), 26 Oct – 22 Nov 62.

Dyess (DDR 880), 3 – 23 Dec 62.

Eaton (DD 510), 25 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

English (DD 696), 24 Oct – 24 Nov 62.

Eugene A. Greene (DD 711), 24 Oct – 20 Nov 62.

Fiske (DDR 842), 24 Oct – 1 Dec 62.

Forrest B. Royal (DD 872), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Furse (DD 882), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62.

Gainard (DD 706), 18-20 Nov 62.

Gearing (DD 710), 24 – 30 Oct 62.

Hank (DD 702), 24 Oct – 26 Nov 62.

Harlan R. Dickson (DD 708), 4 Nov – 5 Dec 62.

Harwood (DD 861), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Hawkins (DDR 873), 24 Oct – 1 Dec 62.

Haynsworth (DD 700), 24 Oct – 14 Nov 62

Henley (DD 762), 27 Oct – 22 Nov 62.

Hissem (DER 400), 24 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

Holder (DD 819), 1 – 18 Nov 62.

Hugh Purvis (DD 709), 28 Oct – 18 Nov 62.

Ingraham (DD 694), 6-10 Nov 62.

John King (DDG 3), 7 Nov – 6 Dec 62.

John Paul Jones (DD 932), 4 Nov – 5 Dec 62.

John R. Perry (DE 1034), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62.

John R. Pierce (DD 753), 24 Oct – 2 Dec 62.

Johnston (DD 821), 10-31 Dec 62.

John W. Weeks (DD 701), 24 Oct – 14 Nov 62.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr (DD 850), 24 Oct – 5 Dec 62.

Keppler (DD 765), 24 Oct – 1 Nov 62.

Kretchmer (DER 329), 27 Nov – 20 Dec 62.

Lawrence (DDG 4), 24 Oct – 6 Dec 62.

Leary (DDR 879), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62.

Lowry (DD 770), 24 Oct – 8 Nov 62; 17-30 Nov 62.

Mac Donough (DLG 😎, 24 Oct – 20 Nov 62.

Maloy (DE 791), 6-29 Nov 62.

Manley (DD 940), 24 Oct – 24 Nov 62.

Mc Caffery (DD 860), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Mills (DER 383), 24 – 31 Oct 62.

Mullinnix (DD 944), 24 Oct – 6 Dec 62.

Murray (DD 576), 25 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

New (DD 818), 2-19 Nov 62.

Newman K. Perry (DDR 883), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62; 3-21 Dec 62.

Norfolk (DL 1), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Norris (DD 859), 4 Nov – 5 Dec 62.

O’Hare (DDR 889), 24 Oct – 3 Dec 62.

Peterson (DE 152), 25 Oct – 1 Dec 62.

Purdy (DD 734), 17 – 24 Nov 62.

Rhodes (DER 384), 24 Oct – 26 Nov 62; 21 – 31 Dec 62.

Rich (DD 820), 2 – 18 Nov 62.

Richard E. Kraus (DD 849), 29 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Robert A. Owens (DD 827), 27 Oct – 20 Nov 62.

Robert L. Wilson (DD 847), 24 Oct – 3 Nov 62.

Roy O. Hale (DER 336), 14-16 Nov 62.

Rush (DDR 714), 24 Oct – 1 Dec 62.

Samuel B. Roberts (DD 823), 24 Oct – 3 Nov 62.

Saufley (DD 465), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62.

Sellers (DDG 11), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

Soley (DD 707), 24 Oct – 2 Dec 62.

Steinaker (DDR 863), 24 Oct – 14 Nov 62; 20-22 Nov 62.

Stickell (DDR 888), 24 Oct – 6 Dec 62.

The Sullivans (DD 537), 17 Nov – 17 Dec 62.

Thomas J. Gary (DER 326), 15-27 Nov 62.

Vesole (DDR 878), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62; 3 – 21 Dec 62.

Wallace L. Lind (DD 703), 24 Oct – 22 Nov 62.

Waller (DD 466), 25 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

Willard Keith (DD 775), 24 Oct – 15 Nov 62.

William C. Lawe (DD 763), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

William M. Wood (DDR 715), 28 Oct – 24 Nov 62; 10 – 24 Dec 62.

Willis A. Lee (DL 4), 7 – 21 Nov 62.

Witek (DD 848), 24 Oct – 1 Nov 62; 16 – 20 Nov 62.

Zellars (DD 777), 24 Oct – 21 Nov 62.

For a deeper dive into the Crisis from a Navy point of view, check out the digitized 57-page “Cordon of Steel: The U.S. Navy and the Cuban Missile Crisis” by Curtis A. Utz. No. 1, in The U.S. Navy and the Modern World series, 1993.

Fittingly, the cover of the piece included a destroyer in the foreground, the old Fletcher-class USS Eaton (DD-510), which earned 11 battle stars in WWII and then served on Caribbean duty through the early 1960s, including standing off Cuba during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Eaton also earned the AFEM for the Quarantine, serving on the line from 25 Oct – 5 Nov 62.

Warship Wednesday, Oct.19, 2022: Baron Carl’s Commando Taxi Service

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct.19, 2022: Baron Carl’s Commando Taxi Service

Photo via the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) in The Hague, No. 2158_008953

Above we see the K XIV-class submarine (onderzeeboot) Hr.Ms. K XV of the Royal Dutch Navy (Koninklijke Marine) during an exercise in the Dutch East Indies, shown transporting V-2, a Fokker C-VII W light naval reconnaissance floatplane, on her deck on 29 June 1935. Built expressly for overseas service, she would round the globe, sideline one of the emperor’s tankers, and deliver sneaky commando types behind enemy lines throughout the upcoming war.

Paid for by the oil-rich government of the Dutch East Indies in 1930 to serve as “colonial” submarines with the “K” for “Koloniën,” the five K XIV-class boats were designed by Dutch Navy engineer J. J. van der Struyff, who already had the smaller 0 9 and K XI-classes under his belt.

A bit larger and more modern than previous Dutch classes, they leveraged input from across Europe. Using a pair of 1,600 hp German-made MAN diesel engines and two 430 kW domestically built Smit Slikkerveer electric motors lined up on two shafts, these 1,045-ton vessels could push their 241-foot welded steel hulls at speeds approaching 17 knots on the surface (they made 19 on trials) and nine while submerged. The plant enabled them to cruise at an impressive 10,000nm at 12 knots, ideal for West Pacific patrols.

Using double hulls with a test depth of 250 feet, they carried both search and attack periscopes provided by Stroud and a periscopic radio antenna that could be used while submerged. Ideally, for their intended use around the 18,000-island East Indies archipelago, they could float in just 13 feet of water and submerge in anything over 50.

When it came to armament, they were outfitted with help from the British, including tubes for a batch of 200 Weymouth-built dialed-down Mark VIII torpedoes (dubbed II53 in Dutch service) that could hit 42 knots and carry a 660-pound warhead– not bad performance for the era.

A British-made II53 torpedo on board the destroyer Hr.Ms. Evertsen in 1929. The Dutch used these on both surface ships and subs. NIMH 2173-224-077

The torpedo tube layout in the class was interesting, and not repeated in another Dutch class. They mounted eight 21-inch torpedo tubes–four bows (two on each side of the hull), two in the stern, and a twin external trainable mount forward of the conning tower– with room for 14 fish.

Hr.Ms. K XIV, seen in a Colombo drydock in December 1942, shows a good view of her bow tubes and the inset cavity forward of the fairwater for her trainable twin tubes.

A good view of the twin tubes mounted outside of the hull under the deck, prior to installation in 1931.

Besides their torpedoes, they were armed with a Swedish 88mm/42cal Bofors No.2 deck gun and two British Vickers 2-pdr QF Mark II (40mm/39cal) large-bore AAA machine guns, the latter contained in neat disappearing installations, a novel idea for guns that weighed over 500-pounds including a water-cooled jacket.

The crew of Dutch submarine Hr.Ms. K XV with her 40mm Vickers “ack-ack” machine gun in position and 88mm Bofors gun pointing over the bow. Note the mixed crew, common for boats in the colonies. Circa late 1930s. NIMH 2158_005757

The first three boats– K XIV, K XV, and K XVI— were ordered from Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij on the same day in 1930 as Yard Nos. 167-169. The final two– K XVII and K XVIII— were ordered in 1931 as Yard Nos. 322 and 322 from neighboring Wilton-Fijenoord, Schiedam. All five were complete and ready to deploy by early 1934.

Dutch submarine Hr.Ms. K XV central control 1935 NIMH 2158_005759

Dutch submarine K XV at Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij Jan 1931 NIMH 2158_008934

Dutch submarine K XV at Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij Feb 22 1934 NIMH 2158_008935

Commissioning of Hr.Ms. K XV at the Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij, 30 December 1933. On the right is her sister, K XVI, fitting out. Note the large “15” on her fairwater and the caps over her stowed Vickers guns. Note the winter heavy blue uniforms, soon to be discarded. NIMH 2158_008948

With the class complete, they self-deployed as a unit some 9,000 miles for the East Indies, stopping along the way at Lisbon, Cádiz, Palermo, Port Said, Suez, Aden, and Colombo. In theory, they could have done this on one tank of diesel oil without having to refuel.

The departure of the submarines Hr.Ms. K XIV and sister Hr.Ms. K XV from Den Helder, Holland, for the Dutch East Indies, 7 February 1934. In the background can be seen sisters K XVI and K XVII, waiting offshore. NIMH 2158_008920

Dutch submarine K XV on the Tagus River, Lisbon, likely on her way to East Asia. Photo via the Direcção-Geral de Arquivos of Portugal.

The arrival of Hr.Ms. K XV in Surabaya, April 1934. In the background is the destroyer Hr.Ms. Van Nes, which would be lost in February 1942, was sunk by Japanese aircraft. The white ship in the distance is Hr.Ms. Koning der Nederlanden, a 70-year-old 5,300-ton ramtorenschip ironclad that had been disarmed and turned into a barracks ship in 1920. NIMH 2173-223-089.

DOZ 3 (Divisie Onderzeeboten), consisting at this time of the colonial submarines Hr.Ms. K-XIV, Hr.Ms. K-XV and Hr.Ms. K-XVI, seen here in anti-aircraft exercises ca 1938. Note you can see both Vickers 40mm being extended from the sail. You have a good view of the trainable twin external torpedo mounts via the opening just under the deck forward of the 88mm gun and the large escape hatches (drägervests) near the bow and aft of the saii. NIMH 2158_019998

Dutch submarines including sisters K XVI, K XIV, K XII, and K XV (1933-1946) along with the older (circa 1925) and smaller (216-feet/688 tons) Hr.Ms. K XI, alongside the supply ship Hr.Ms. Zuiderkruis, circa 1936. Of note, the obsolete little K XI, armed with more primitive Italian-made I53 torpedoes, would complete seven war patrols in WWII. Meanwhile, the 2,600-ton Zuiderkruis would escape from Java in February 1942 and spend the rest of WWII in Ceylon, operating as a depot ship and transport for the British Eastern Fleet. She would return home in 1945 and go on in 1950 after Indonesia’s independence to become the flagship of the Indonesian Navy (as Bimasakti) and President Soekarno’s personal yacht. NIMH 2158_019986

The sisters spend the lead-up to World War II in a series of exercises and drills, their history noting the most important occasion in the “happy time” being the 23-ship September 1938 naval review associated with the 40th coronation Jubilee of Queen Wilhelmina held in Soerabaja for the benefit of visiting French and British admirals.

Onderzeeboot Hr.Ms. K XV in Nederlands-Indië ca late 1930s. Note the awning and tropical whites. NIMH 2158_008950

Dutch submarine K XV in Soerabaja circa 1939. Note the sealed hatch for her 40mm Vickers machine gun in the sail. Also, it seems like one of her sisterships is tied next to her with a floatplane stored on her bow similar to the top 1935 image. NIMH 2158_008951

War!

On 10 May 1940, German swarmed over neutral Holland’s borders and, within a week, had overrun the country despite the best efforts of the Dutch Army and the Queen joined the government in exile in Britain. This left the Dutch East Indies in an odd place, as the country was at war with Germany but largely on its own as there were few Germans to fight in the Pacific. The closest thing was the scare later that year that the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer would transition to the area, one that would not materialize. One that did was the deployment of five auxiliary cruisers (HSK) — Orion, Pinguin, Komet, Atlantis, and Michel —although only one, Komet, would capture a Dutch ship, the freighter Kota Nopan, near the Galapagos Islands.

Then came the increasingly close encroachment of the Japanese including moving into Vichy French-controlled Indochina in September 1940. This was obviously a springboard for further aggressive expansion.

On 25 November 1940, K XV would welcome her fourth and final skipper, Luitenant ter zee 2e klasse Carel Wessel Theodorus, Baron van Boetzelaer. Born in 1905, the good baron had received his commission and spent 11 years in the navy before arriving on board. He would remain her commander throughout the war.

By November 1941, it was clear to everyone across the Pacific that the Japanese– cut off from American commodities including av gas since June 1940– were preparing to take the East Indies from the Dutch.

With that in their mind, DOZ 3 was sent from Soerabaja to guard the oil fields off Tarakan along the coast of Borneo against supposed Japanese intrusions on 18 November 1941. There, the trio of submarines received the flash at 08:07 on 8 December that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor and both the U.S. and the Dutch government in exile– to which the Dutch East Indies was loyal– had declared war on the Empire.

Ordered to remain submerged as much as possible during the day and maintain a brisk patrol schedule, the Dutch subs, working in conjunction with Dutch Navy Dornier Do 24 flying boats and Dutch Army Martin B-10 bombers, were soon sinking Japanese transports and small craft in the South China Sea. The first Japanese ship to feel Dutch lead was the fishing lugger Celebes Maru No. 3, forced to beach on Tobi Island on the afternoon of 8 December after being strafed by a Dornier, while the first submarine kill was of the transport Awajisan Maru (9,794 GRT) sent to the bottom on 12 December by the old Hr.Ms. K XII off the Malayan coast.

Before the year was out, Dutch subs in the region would account for 21 Japanese warships and auxiliaries (78,639 tons all told) exchanging four of their own number (O 16, O 20, K XVI, and K XVII) in the process. 

K XV achieved the last significant success of the KM in East Indian waters during the Indonesian campaign when, during her 4th war patrol on 1 March 1942, she attacked the 15,400-ton Japanese Navy Notaro-class oiler SS Tsurumi just after the Allied defeat in the Java Sea and the withdrawal from the Dutch East Indies.

From Combined Fleets:

Bantam Bay, E of Nicholas Point. That same day, Dutch Ltz/II Carel W. T. Baron van Boetzelaer’s submarine Hr.Ms. K-XV attacks TSURUMI. Van Boetzelaer fires two torpedoes. At least one hits and damages TSURUMI. This causes a hole with a length of 12.5 meter and depth of 5 meter below the waterline from ribs [frames] 108 to 128 on the port side, a square 1.5 meter hole from ribs 109 to 111 on the starboard, other small holes below the waterline and over a dozen points of breakage and distortion of the inner partition wall rib material.

Tsurumi would have to spend two months in occupied Singapore before she would sail again and K XV, who survived a 60-depth charge attack directly after the tanker was hit, would live to fight again.

Regrouping

While the Dutch subs had inflicted lots of damage on the Japanese, the fall of the Dutch East Indies to the onslaught left the remaining boats without a home. Sisters K XV and K XIV made it out and, along with the three smaller boats K VIII, K IX, and K XI, would retire to Ceylon and operate from there. The four boats would remain there alongside their depot ship Colombia. Meanwhile, the larger oceangoing (and snorkel-equipped) “O” boat Hr.Ms. O 19, which had made for Australia, was sent to Britain for extensive work (and so that the Brits could examine both her snorkel and German-made Atlas Werke sound gear firsthand).

Hr.Ms. K XV in dry dock at Colombo, Ceylon, late April 1942. Note her twin stern tubes near the top of her deck and two shafts on each side of the centerline rudder. NIMH 2158_008980

Getting back in the fight, K XV would embark on her 5th War Patrol from Ceylon and conduct her first “special mission” landing one LT Henri Emile Wijnmalen on the West coast of Japanese-occupied Sumatra on 12 May with an aim to link up with guerilla groups inland. Wijnmalen never made his planned rendezvous with the Dutch sub 12 days later, having been captured by the Japanese on the 16th and allowed to commit suicide after an extended period of torture and interrogation. He would be posthumously awarded the Bronze Lion in 1951.

While K VIII, K IX, and K XI would remain with the British in the Indian Ocean, conducting local patrols and training duties, it was decided to send the newer K XV and K XIV to the U.S. for extensive modernization.

This saw K XV leave Colombo on 1 August for Philadelphia via the Cape of Good Hope and a slow South Atlantic cruise, arriving at Philly on 1 November. The subsequent update saw her equipped with a new sonar fit, and the deletion of her topside torpedo tubes and an escape hatch in the interest of hull integrity. Also gone were her complicated 40mm Vickers mounts, replaced with simpler “wet” 20mm Oerlikons.

While in post-refit shakedown, one of her officers, Ltz. I Dirk van Beusekom, was killed in a torpedo accident at New London and buried at Arlington with full military honors.

Then came a trip to Dundee, Scotland for more updates and to pick up a British Type 291W radar and take on a load of Mark VIII torpedos. 

Hr.Ms. K XV in the Atlantic Ocean, late June 1943. NIMH 2158_008971

Dutch submarine Hr.Ms. K XV 1943-44 NIMH 2158_008966

Hr.Ms. K XV loading a torpedo, 1943-44. NIMH 2158_008967.

Bow tube room of the submarine Hr.Ms. K XV, 3 October 1943. Note the Queen’s portrait and the mixed crew, made up, like most colonial warships, of a combination of Indonesian and Europeans. NIMH 2158_004350

On 4 November 1943, K XV pulled out of Holy Loch, bound for East Asia once again via the Med and Suez, arriving at Colombo on Christmas.

She was soon back in the special mission business, working with the Australian-based Netherlands East Indies Forces Intelligence Service, or NEIFIS, whose business was running resistance and surveillance networks in the Dutch East Indies. This saw K XV busy schlepping Indonesian commandos around the islands and generally avoiding all contact with the Japanese.

K XV participated in at least six operations, typically landing small parties by folbots under the cover of darkness and beating feet, a task that was often impossible if local patrols were encountered or the beach was not suited. Sometimes, the mission would involve landing a shore party in the pre-dawn morning, submerging, and moving back in the following night to exfil the commandos, only to drop them a few miles further down the coast the next morning. Other times, a two-man recon team would be put ashore for the day, then make contact later that night via blinker lamp to either land the rest of the party and supplies for an extended stay or pick up the two men and keep looking for a better spot.

It must have been an interesting spectacle to see the good Baron Boetzelaer, clad in tropical whites, reeking of diesel, and pouring sweat, anxiously peering out over those enemy-held beaches for signs of either returning commandos or rushing Japanese as he puffed away on his pipe.

  • Operation Prawn. April 1944. Landing seven commandos at the coast of Sorong, New Guinea.
  • Operation Apricot. January 1945. Landing 10 commandos at the coast of the Djiko Doped Bay, northeast Minahassa, in the Celebes.
  • Operation Firtree/Poppy. February-March 1945. Involved a 5-man NEIFIS team landing on the Soela Islands to access the situation there. The detailed report on the Firtree shore party by its English-speaking Christian Ambonese commander, LT (and future Indonesian minister) Julius Tahija, shines a light on the types of operations these groups conducted. The companion 5-man Poppy team tried repeatedly to land at Wijnskoopbaai on Java.
  • Operation Parsnip. June 1945. K XV attempted three times to land a NEFIS shore party on the coast of Mandalika, the north coast of Java.
  • Operation Inco I. July 1945. Landed a shore party at six separate places along on coast of the Damar islands.

Hr.Ms. K XV in the Far East, circa 1944-45. Note her deck gun. NIMH2158_008975

Work on the deck of submarine Hr.Ms. K XV in the Indian Ocean, circa 1944. Engineer Corporal Samson Socraya and Sailor Pardo prepare a sea turtle for soup. As a side, that is a tremendous amount of meat. NIMH 2158_008974

Provisioning in Freemantle before leaving on a mission, in early 1945. NIMH 2158_008973

She also got a couple of kills, such as while on her 8th War Patrol in April 1944 when she sank a small Japanese patrol vessel off Waigeo Island by naval gunfire and fired a small coastal sailing ship. In all, she would complete 13 war patrols.

Hr.Ms. K XV presumably at Bass Strait (Tasmania) Dec 1944 NIMH 2158_008964

In September 1945, following the Japanese surrender, she was one of the only pre-war Dutch naval vessels to return to the liberated Dutch East Indies.

K XV returns to Tandjong Priok (the port of Batavia ) in 1945, more than three years after escaping the invading Japanese. Lieutenant C W T van Boetzelaer is possibly the officer in the peaked cap. AWM Accession Number: P00039.015

Conducting the occasional post-war sovereignty patrol, by April 1946 she was laid up at Soerabaja, used as a floating generator.

Retired and disarmed submarine ex-Hr.Ms. K XV lists at the quay in Soerabaja, Republic of Indonesia, on 20 September 1950, four years after decommissioning. Ready to be destroyed, she would be sold for scrap in December and towed out to the Java Sea the following January, headed for the breakers. NIMH 2158_008930.

Epilogue

K XV‘s British style Jolly Roger, or bloedvlag in Dutch parlance, is preserved.

Her jolly roger details 13 daggers, one for each commando landing, two depth charge attacks with 67 cans counted, a warship sunk by naval gunfire, and two hits on merchantmen. “WP 13” denotes 13 war patrols.

Of her four sisters, all gave hard service in East Asia in WWII, opposing the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies. Three were lost during the conflict.

Hr.Ms. K XVI sank the Japanese Fubuki-class destroyer Sagiri on Christmas Eve 1941 then was, in turn, sunk by the Japanese submarine I-66 on Christmas Day, lost with all hands.

Hr.Ms. K XVII was believed lost in a newly laid Japanese minefield on or about 21 December 1941 in the Gulf of Siam and is still on patrol with 38 crewmembers. There are wild rumors she was lost in the “cover-up” in the Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory, but they are, most assuredly, groundless.

Hr.Ms. K XVIII in January 1942 sank the Japanese transport Tsuruga Maru (7,289 tons) and just missed the cruiser Naka but was crippled in a depth charge attack the next morning. Scuttled in Surabaya when that key Dutch stronghold fell in February, she was later refloated by the Japanese and put back in service as an air warning picket hulk in the Madoera Strait, then sent to the bottom a final time in June 1945 by the British submarine HMS Taciturn.

Class leader Hr.Ms. K XIV (N 22) was the most successful when it came to chalking up “kills,” is credited with three Japanese troopships — SS Katori Maru (9,848 tons), SS Ninchinan Maru (6,503 tons), and SS Hiyoshi Maru (4,943 tons)– sunk along with a fourth — MS Hokkai Maru (8,416 tons)– damaged in late December 1941 alone. Updated in America like K XV, she spent the rest of the war in Freemantle and would damage the 4,410-ton Japanese minelayer Tsugaru and bag numerous small vessels. She was retired in 1946, having completed nine war patrols. Also, like K XV, she languished in Soerabaja during the Dutch war against Soekarno, then was towed out and sunk in deep water following independence.

Hr.Ms. onderzeeboot K XIV (1933-1946) z.g.n. getrimd dieselen. NIMH 2158_005756

The K XIV class Bloedvlaggen.

In all, “Free Dutch” submarines accounted for 168,183 tons of enemy shipping and warships between May 1940 and August 1945, sinking no less than 69 ships– a figure that doesn’t count the myriad of small craft they also sent to the bottom. They also lost 16 boats, with seven on eternal patrol.

In an ode to these old K boats, Indonesian rice (Indische rijsttafel) is a staple meal on Dutch submarines today.

As for Baron Boetzelaer– the only Dutch officer to remain in charge of his warship throughout the war– he went on to become an aide-de-camp adjutant and chamberlain to Queen Beatrix, later serving as naval attaché in London and commanding the cruiser Hr.Ms. Tromp in the 1950s. He would retire as Chief of Staff Inspector General in 1958 and pass in 1987, aged 82.

Kapitein ter zee C.W.Th., Baron van Boetzelaer, seen in 1953 as skipper of the cruiser Hr.Ms. Tromp.

LTZ.I Dirk van Beusekom, KMR, killed at New London in 1943, remains one of the few Dutch military figures buried at Arlington, forever 35.

Specs:

Schaalmodel van Hr.Ms. K XVIII NIMH 2158_054141

(As-built)
Displacement: 865 tons surfaced; 1045 tons submerged
Length: 241 ft 7 in
Beam: 21 ft 4 in
Draught: 12 ft 11 in
Propulsion
2 x 1,600 bhp diesel engines
2 x 430 kW electric motors
Speed: 17 knots surfaced, 9 submerged
Range: 10,000 nmi at 12 knots on the surface
Complement: 38
Armament
4 x 21-inch bow torpedo tubes
2 x 21-inch stern torpedo tubes
2 x 21-inch external-traversing torpedo tubes forward of the conning tower
1 x 88 mm gun
2 x 40 mm guns (replaced with 1 x 20 mm gun during WWII)


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USCG Updates: Healy makes North Pole while Austal Gets Closer to making Cutters

On a solo mission, the one-of-a-kind medium icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) reached the North Pole last week after traversing the frozen Arctic Ocean, marking only the second time a U.S. ship has reached the location unaccompanied, the first being Healy in 2015.

Healy departed Dutch Harbor, Alaska on 4 September for a months-long, multi-mission deployment with the intention to reach latitude 90 degrees North in support of oceanographic research in collaboration with National Science Foundation-funded scientists throughout their transit to the North Pole and recently helped keep tabs on a Sino-Russian surface action group that was poking around the Aleutians– the latter a sort of empty gesture as the icebreaker is unarmed. 

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) cuts a channel through the multi-year pack ice and snow as Healy transits the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole, September 27, 2022. This is the third time the icebreaker has traveled to the North Pole since its commissioning in 1999 and the second time she has reacehed the pole unescorted. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Deborah Heldt Cordone, Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist 1.

Capt. Kenneth Boda, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20), monitors the passage of the cutter as the crew approaches the North Pole, Sept. 30, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Deborah Heldt Cordone, Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist 1.

The U.S. Coast Guard Healy (WAGB-20) transits through multi-year pack ice in the Arctic Ocean as the cutter approaches the North Pole, Sept. 27, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Deborah Heldt Cordone, Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist 1.

More details from USCG HQ:

“The crew of Healy is proud to reach the North Pole,” said Capt. Kenneth Boda, commanding officer of the Healy. “This rare opportunity is a highlight of our Coast Guard careers. We are honored to demonstrate Arctic operational capability and facilitate the study of this strategically important and rapidly changing region.”

Healy, which departed its Seattle homeport on July 11, currently has thirty-four scientists and technicians from multiple universities and institutions aboard, and nearly 100 active duty crew members.

During the cutter’s first Arctic leg of the patrol throughout July and August, Healy traveled into the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, going as far north as 78 degrees. As a part of the Office of Naval Research’s Arctic Mobile Observing System program, Healy deployed underwater sensors, sea gliders and acoustic buoys to study Arctic hydrodynamics in the marginal and pack ice zones.

In addition to enabling Arctic science, Healy also supported U.S. national security objectives for the Arctic region by projecting a persistent ice-capable U.S. presence in U.S. Arctic waters, and patrolling our maritime border with Russia.

On their second Arctic mission of the summer, while transiting to the North Pole, Healy embarked a team of researchers as a part of the Synoptic Arctic Survey (SAS). SAS is an international collaborative research program focused on using specially equipped research vessels from around the world to gather data throughout the Arctic across multiple scientific disciplines. Dr. Carin Ashjian, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, is currently serving alongside Dr. Jackie Grebmeier as co-chief Scientists onboard Healy with support from the National Science Foundation.

“We are excited to reach the Pole!” said Ashjian speaking on behalf of the embarked science party. “We have little information from the ocean and seafloor at the top of the world so what we collect here is very valuable. It also fills in data from a region, the western Central Arctic, which was not sampled by other ships in the SAS. Our joint efforts with the Healy crew are producing important science results.”

After deploying a series of scientific equipment to collect valuable data at the North Pole, crew members and the science team were granted ice liberty. During this time, they enjoyed taking pictures and posing with a “North Pole” that had been erected on the ice. Healy also used the unique setting to advance two crewmembers and conduct a cutterman ceremony for three crewmembers who each recently achieved the career milestone of five years of sea service.

OPCs

We’ve talked about the 25-ship Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program of record several times in the past few years and it is one of the most exciting shipbuilding initiatives for the American maritime service. Intended to complement the capabilities of the service’s 418-foot frigate-sized National Security Cutters, growing flotillas of 154-foot Fast Response Cutters, and planned (armed) Polar Security Cutters “as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered maritime security strategy.”

The OPCs will replace the 12 remaining 1960s-built 210-foot Reliance-class and 13 1980s-built 270-foot Bear-class cutters, on a hull-per-hull basis, with a larger and much more capable class of large OPVs or “surveillance frigates” that can likely still serve in lots of constabulary roles around the world, freeing up Navy destroyers for more combat-oriented tasks.

OPC Characteristics:
•Length: 360 feet
•Beam: 54 feet
•Draft: 17 feet
•Sustained Speed: 22 Plus knots
•Range: 8500 Plus nautical miles
•Endurance: 60 Days

The main armament is a Mk 110 57mm gun forward with a MK 38 Mod 3 25mm gun over the stern HH60-sized hangar, and four M2 .50 cal mounts. 

I say replace the Mk38 with a C-RAM, shoehorn a towed sonar, ASW tubes, an 8-pack Mk41 VLS crammed with Sea Sparrows, and eight NSSMs aboard and call it a day. The Mexicans do the same loadout with the new Reformador-class frigates on a hull the same size, so why not us? 

The first flight of 11 OPCs has been awarded to Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) and they have a quartet– class leader USCGC Argus (WMSM 915), followed by USCGC Chase (WMSM 916), USCGC Ingham (WMSM 917) and USCGC Rush (WMSM 918)— in various stages of completion already at their Nelson Street facility in Panama City.

Well, the Coast Guard, in an effort to get all 25+ of these hulls completed ASAP, announced earlier this year that a second yard, Austal in Mobile, Alabama, would get to work on the second flight of 11 OPCs, a contract estimated at being worth $3 billion smackers (which is a deal these days for 11 American frigate-sized OPVs).

The latter just got a lot closer to getting real as ESG removed their protest over the award.

As noted by the Coast Guard on Wednesday:

The Coast Guard today issued a notice to Austal USA, the offshore patrol cutter (OPC) Stage 2 contractor, to proceed on detail design work to support future production of OPCs. The Coast Guard issued the notice following the withdrawal of an award protest filed in July with the Government Accountability Office by an unsuccessful Stage 2 offeror.

The Coast Guard on June 30, 2022, awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract through a full and open competition to Austal USA to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters. The initial award is valued at $208.26 million and supports detail design and long lead-time material for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised.

The Coast Guard’s requirements for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production were developed to maintain commonality with earlier OPCs in critical areas such as the hull and propulsion systems, but provide flexibility to propose and implement new design elements that benefit lifecycle cost, production and operational efficiency and performance.

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