Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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 18, 2018: The hardest working cheesebox
Here we see the single-turreted, coastal monitor USS Passaic, a proud addition to the steam and iron Union Navy during the Civil War that went on to become a staple of U.S. maritime lore for the rest of the century and retire to Florida in her old age. In fact, this image was taken in 1898, as she stood to in Key West to fight the Spanish, if needed.
Designed by famed engineer John Ericsson to be an improved version of original USS Monitor, Passaic was the first of her class of what was to be 10 “cheesebox on a raft” ships that were larger (200-feet oal over 176-ft of the Monitor) included more ventilation, a tweaked topside layout, bigger guns (a 15-inch Dahlgren along with an 11-incher, whereas Monitor just had two of the latter), and marginally better seakeeping.
Subcontracted to six different East Coast yards (there was a war on, after all) our class leader was built by Continental Iron Works, Greenport, New York, which is appropriated for a vessel named for a town in New Jersey possibly best known today as the birthplace of Dick Vitale.
She was commissioned 25 November 1862, just after Grant began his First Vicksburg campaign, and was soon after toured by President Lincoln and members of his cabinet.
Before seeing action, Passaic was being towed by the State of Georgia to Beaufort, North Carolina, deep in Confederate-contested waters, along with Monitor, which was being towed by Rhode Island. On the day after Christmas, the ships ran into severe weather off Cape Hatteras– forcing Passaic‘s crew to take to her pumps to correct leaking (have you seen the freeboard on these?) and was only saved after her crew tossed her shot overboard to help make weight. In the end, she made Beaufort on New Year’s Day, 1863, while Monitor famously went down during the storm.
Similarly, Passaic‘s classmate, USS Weehawken, sank at anchor in just a moderate gale later that year, taking four officers and 27 enlisted men to the bottom with her– half her crew. Monitors were downright dangerous in any sea.
Nonetheless, quickly making a name for herself, Passaic soon captured a blockade runner (the schooner Glide) and attacked strategically important Fort McAllister near Savannah, Georgia, a major Federal objective.
By April 1863, Passaic was in action off Charleston, where she took several hits to her turret she would carry with her for the rest of her career– and prove photogenic for Brady organization shutter bugs!
After being patched up in New York, by July Passaic was back on the Union blockade line off Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, carrying the flag of none other than RADM John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren himself for his opening attack on Fort Moultrie– which would take another 18 months to finally break.
In June 1865, the hardy monitor was laid up at Philadelphia Navy Yard just two weeks after Kirby Smith officially surrendered his command– the last major one in the Confederacy– down in Galveston. Passaic was lucky. Classmate USS Patapsco was sunk by a mine on 15 January 1865 in Charleston Harbor. Of the seven others in the class, all were similarly put in ordinary, many lingering at League Island Navy Yard in the Delaware for decades as the Navy that built them simply ran dry of money.
Passaic was the exception to this and she got regular work after a while. Repaired and recommissioned in Hampton Roads, 24 November 1876, she went on to serve first as a receiving ship at the Washington Naval Yard and then a training vessel at Annapolis for young minds, a job she maintained until 1892.
By 1893, Passaic was on loan to the Massachusetts Naval Militia, then shipped back to Southern waters to do the same for the Georgia Naval Militia.
There, in 1898, when war came with Spain, she was dusted off and recommissioned into the Navy proper although her muzzle-loading black powder armament was quaint for the period. Towed from Savannah to Key West, she served as a harbor defense craft with the Naval Auxiliary Force just in case the Spanish got froggy.
Similarly, her old and long-put-to-pasture classmates saw a similar call-up from decades of reserve. USS Montauk, crewed by Maine militia, was assigned to guard the harbor of Portland. Nahant steamed– for the first time since 1865– to New York City for six months along with Sangamon. USS Catskill served off New England. USS Nantucket, manned by North Carolina volunteers, was stationed at Port Royal, South Carolina. On the West Coast, USS Camanche, long used by the California Naval Militia, was tasked to guard the Bay Area.
It was to be the last adventure for these old boats. As for Passaic, she never left Florida. Towed to Pensacola after the Spanish surrendered, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap the following year. By 1904, none of her sisters remained.
She is remembered in maritime art.
Her plans are in the National Archives while her name was recycled in WWII for a Cohoes-class net laying ship, which was later transferred to the Dominican Republic in the 1970s.
Displacement:1,335 tons std, 1875 Fl
Length: 200 ft overall
Beam: 46 ft
Draught: 10 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 2 Martin boilers, 1-shaft Ericsson vibrating lever engine, 320 ihp
Speed: 7 knots designed, 4-5 actual.
Complement: 75 (1863)
1 × 15 in Dahlgren smoothbore, 1 × 11 in Dahlgren smoothbore in a single dual turret.
Side: 5 – 3 in
Turret: 11 in
Deck: 1 in
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Last fall the U.S. Navy established its first-ever unmanned undersea vehicle squadron, UUVRON 1, at NUWC Keyport, Washington. Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron One’s mission is to develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures that will shape how the Navy uses UUVs in the future. It is part of the secret squirrels of Submarine Development Squadron 5, which is the operational command that oversees the trio of special mission-oriented Seawolf-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarines USS Seawolf, Connecticut and Jimmy Carter.
Equipped with a wide array of assets, the 35-strong unit deployed a detachment to Argentina last year in the search for the lost submarine ARA San Juan that included a Blue Fin UUV and 6 Sailors.
“We’ll use UUVs in those areas that are too dangerous to put a manned vessel, and on the other side, we’ll use UUVs where it’s just too mundane for a long-term mission to keep a sailor out there,” CDR Scott Smith told the Kitsap Sun. “Those are really the two places I see UUVs working, but we’ll never replace the manned systems. In my mind, we’ll always need submarines out there doing what submarines do.”
Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 recently concluded and was pretty wide in scope, blending both NATO forces and non-aligned Baltic nations (i.e. Sweden and Finland) with 43 maritime units, more than 60 aircraft and a combined amphibious landing force (the latter of which included such nontypical units as the Sig 550-armed Romanian 307th Naval Infantry Regiment operating CRRC inflatables from a U.S. landing dock)
They practiced some good, very relevant stuff to include mine/countermine ops, defense against fast attack craft, TRAP ops, and air defense exercise from shore-based low-flying fast jets (German Tornados).
One of the most eye-catching of the exercise footnotes was a photoex with 30 vessels to include the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), and the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). These were joined by the Finnish Hmeenmaa-class minelayer FNS Uusimaa (05), Denmark’s Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HDMS Niels Juel (F363), the German Type 702 Berlin-class replenishment ship FGS Frankfurt A.M. (A1412), the RN’s Duke-class Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth (F235) and a cornucopia of smaller patrol boats and mine countermeasure ships from such diverse players as Turkey and Lithuania.
Low-observable to both radar and the ole Mk I eyeball, these homegrown Latin American LPVs can pack tons of blow on one-way trips and are increasingly common in the East Pac.
Presser from U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast:
BOSTON — Coast Guard Cutter Campbell returned to its homeport in Kittery, Maine, Friday after an 80-day counter-narcotic patrol in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Campbell’s crew disrupted six narcotic smuggling ventures, seized about 12,000 pounds of cocaine, worth $209 million, and detained 24 suspected smugglers.
Equipped with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew deployed from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron unit based in Jacksonville, Florida, the Campbell patrolled known narcotic transit zones in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South America in support of [Key West NAS-based] Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which facilitates international and interagency interdiction to enable the disruption and dismantlement of illicit and converging threat networks in support of national and hemispheric security.
“During this challenging deployment, the crew excelled in all assigned missions and should be exceptionally proud of their accomplishments,” said Cmdr. Mark McDonnell, commanding officer of the Campbell. “Our efforts to integrate with partner agencies and nations are key to the safe and successful execution of these complex interdiction operations as we work together to remove cocaine bound for the United States and help dismantle criminal networks.”
Campbell is a 29-year-old Famous-Class cutter homeported in Kittery, Maine, with a crew complement of 100.
“A view on board an LST, looking forward from the bridge, with the main deck below fully loaded with trucks, anti-aircraft half-tracks, jeeps, and trailers. Ahead and on both sides were other LSTs in the group, each towing its “rhino” ferry which was manned by skeleton crews of Sea Bees, the rest of the crews were on board the ships themselves. With the LSTs prevented by German artillery fire from coming to the landing beaches to unload, it was the job of the “rhinos” to unload the tank deck of each LST and go to the beach. Then, since the “rhinos” could only make a couple of knots an hour, the LSTs had to be unloaded offshore by LCTs. Later, when the beach was secured and the ships could come in closer, these “rhinos” operated a continuous shuttle service, unloading all types of ships. This LST, with its mobile anti-aircraft vehicles on deck in addition to the ship’s own anti-aircraft batteries, could put up a formidable screen of anti-aircraft fire. The anti-aircraft half-tracks were of two types: one carrying four quad-mounted 50-caliber machine guns, and the other with one 37mm anti-aircraft gun and two 50-caliber machine guns. The rear part of the half-track was where the gun turret was mounted. A soldier who sat with the gunners operated the turret electronically. Trucks carrying supplies and ammunition, with plenty of camouflage netting, are depicted on the main deck below in the foreground. There was about the same number of vehicles on the tank deck below, unseen. This was the evening of D-day minus two (June 4, 1944).”
“The assessment at the moment is it was almost certainly non-state Yemen based actors firing a land-based missile or rocket at the vessel,” Major Tom Mobbs, head of intelligence and security with the European Union’s counter-piracy mission EU Navfor, told Reuters.
The Turkish flagged Ince Inebolu bulk carrier was damaged by an explosion on May 10, some 70 miles off the Red Sea port of Salif where it was due to deliver a 50,000-tonne cargo of Russian wheat. Likely culprits are the Houthis, who last month hit a Saudi oil tanker was off Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, suffering limited damage.
Here we see the Spanish Navy replenishment oiler ESPS Patiño (A14) providing refueling at sea for EUNAVFOR Flagship, the Italian Navy frigate ITS Carlo Margottini (F592), in support of counter-piracy and maritime security patrolling duties, April 2018.
A 17,000-ton offshoot of the HNLMS Amsterdam of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Patiño was commissioned in 1995 and has been very busy– enforcing the NATO/WEU trade embargo against the former Yugoslavia and during the Kosovo War in 1998, capturing the North Korean freighter So San and her cargo of Scud missiles bound for Yemen in 2002, and several times serving in the anti-piracy operations off Somalia to include repelling an armed attack on her by seven pirates in a trawler in 2012.
Margottini, a Bergamini-class FREMM-type multipurpose frigate of the Marina Militare, was commissioned in 2014. A score of FREMMs are in commission or on order for the French, Italian, Moroccan and Egyptian navies, while the U.S. is considering the type for its new frigate program, so you could very well see these 6,700-ton warships operating in haze gray soon.
The ships are assigned to the European Union Naval Force (Op Atalanta) Somalia, conducting anti-piracy duties at sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean. Since 2009, Atalanta ships have protected 437 World Food Programme (WFP) and 139 African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)-chartered humanitarian aide vessels without losing one to pirates yet.