Category Archives: military history

Barbarossa at 80

Some eight decades have passed since what is arguably the largest land invasion in modern times kicked off,
Unternehmen Barbarossa, pitting 3.8 million German, Hungarian, Italian, Finnish, Slovak, and Romanian troops against the scandalously unexpecting Soviet legions of Generalissimo Stalin.

German soldiers crossing Soviet border post ,June 22, 1941, Barbarossa

Safronov Viktor Alekseevich (b. 1932.) – June 22, the border

Red Army anti-tank gun crew wiped out. “They fought for Homeland.”  By G. M. Zykov

Although the wave would eventually break on the outskirts of Moscow– even Napolean had at least captured the vacated Kremlin some 120 years prior– the war on the Eastern Front was far from over and would claim millions on both sides.

Today, Barbarossa is seen through the lens of a myriad of conflicting issues even today in Germany.

Meanwhile, the Russians have a view that nothing is forgiven, or forgotten. 

Eagle Among the Volcanos

USCGC Eagle (WIX 327), “America’s Tall Ship,” arrives in Reykjavik, Iceland, on June 9, 2021. Eagle is currently conducting summer U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet training in at-sea leadership and professional development. Their first port call was Portugal in late May. Eagle has served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946, offering an at-sea leadership and professional development experience as part of the Coast Guard Academy curriculum. (Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Kristjan Petersson)

The Gorch Fock-class training barque USCGC Eagle (WIX-327), America’s only active-duty square-rigger (and past Warship Wednesday alum), recently commemorated the loss of the USCGC Hamilton in Icelandic waters during WWII, just before she arrived in Reykjavik to celebrate U.S.-Icelandic ties.

Via USCG PAO:

Aboard Eagle moored in the harbor, Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, joined by Jonathan Moore, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, met with Commadore Asgrimur Asgrimsson of the Icelandic coast guard, Chargé d’Affaires Harry Kamian, and Byrndis Kjartansdottir, director of security and defense directorate in the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I congratulate Iceland on a successful Arctic Council and Arctic Coast Guard Forum chairmanship, and I thank them for their persistent and reliable partnership in the Arctic Council and Arctic Coast Guard Forum. Maintaining a strong, rules-based order in the Arctic remains a top priority, both for my command and the U.S. Coast Guard. Steadfast partners like Iceland enable and enforce this,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin. “It was a great pleasure to discuss the challenges we share with such dedicated colleagues learning more about our partner agencies and their operations.”

The United States was the first country to recognize Iceland’s independence in 1944. In addition to being founding members of NATO, the United States and Iceland signed a bilateral defense agreement in 1951. Cooperation and mutual support are the foundation of the U.S.-Icelandic relationship. Visits such as Eagle’s allow opportunities to further effective partnerships, collaboration, and interoperability for various issues that can occur in the Arctic.
For more than a century, the U.S. Coast Guard has been the visible U.S. surface presence in the Arctic, ensuring adherence to the rules-based order. We work with High North nations to safeguard and enable the uninterrupted flow of maritime commerce throughout the entire Marine Transportation System, including the burgeoning Arctic and ensure responsible stewardship of its resources. Allies and partners like Iceland are integral to protecting the United States’ enduring interests, preserving our mutual interests, and upholding the rules-based international order supporting good maritime governance.

On approach to Iceland, Eagle’s crew conducted a wreath-laying in memory of the Treasury-class USCGC Hamilton (WPG 34), torpedoed by German submarine U-132 on January 30, 1942, patrolling the Icelandic coast near Reykjavík. Hamilton capsized and sank 28 miles (45 km) from the Icelandic coast on January 30, at the cost of 26 of the ship’s 221-person crew. In 2009, divers discovered the wreck in over 300 feet of water, and in 2013, a memorial plaque was placed in honor of those lost.

On approach to Iceland on June 6, 2021, the USCGC Eagle (WIX 3287) crew conducted a wreath-laying in memory of the Treasury-class USCGC Hamilton (WPG 34), torpedoed by German submarine U-132 in 1942 while patrolling the Icelandic coast near Reykjavík. Of the 221 person crew, 26 members were lost. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy Ensign Elena Calese)

Eagle is currently conducting summer U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet training in at-sea leadership and professional development. Their first port call was Portugal in late May. Eagle has served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946, offering an at-sea leadership and professional development experience as part of the Coast Guard Academy curriculum.

Eagle is a three-masted barque with more than 6,797 square meters (22,300 square feet) of sail and 9.7 kilometers (6 miles) of rigging. At 90 meters (295 feet) in length, Eagle is the largest tall ship flying the stars and stripes and the only active square-rigger in United States government service.

The More Things Change, Forward Mount Edition

The guns may have shrunk, along with the ships, but the task remains.

Bluejackets standing atop turret No. 1 to clean the 12-inch/50 caliber Mark 7 guns in turret No. 2 aboard the brand new dreadnought battleship USS Wyoming (BB-32), circa 1913, likely during winter fleet gunnery practice off Puerto Rico. Wyoming carried six such Mark 9 twin turrets on her centerline and, as with coaling, was surely a massive undertaking to maintain her extensive fire-belching batteries.

Official caption: Sailors assigned to the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), and the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 3, conduct maintenance on the 57mm MK 110 gun while the ship is in port Ponce, Puerto Rico for a brief stop for fuel and provisions, May 12, 2021. Sioux City is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marianne Guemo/Released)

A Bit Deeper on that British Dug LTV

The news that a group of Brits found a more or less intact LVT-4 Buffalo amtrac buried in the mud circled around the globe twice in the past few weeks. The war surplus LVT was brought in to help stem flooding around Crowland, in Lincolnshire, in 1947, but was swept away and sank into a hole and is “in fantastic condition for its age.”

To turn a phrase from Paul Harvey, here is the rest of the story…

Sprite Underbelly

Here we see an unusual 1982 shot, not so much for its subject, but for the angle, a bottom view of an SH-2 Seasprite Mark 1 Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS I) helicopter in flight. Note the surface search radar, ASQ-81 Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD), and anti-submarine warfare torpedoes (Mk 44s?).

DOD photo 330-CFD-DN-SC-82-10553 via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6349820

The smallest of the Navy’s Cold War-era sub-busting helicopters, falling well behind the SH-3 Sea King and its replacement, the SH/MH-60 Hawk series, the Kaman Sea Sprite came about its name honestly. First introduced in 1962, only 184 were built for the U.S., with hoped-for export sales never really materializing.

The compact Sea Sprite, with a length of 38 feet, a rotor diameter of 44, and an empty weight of just 7,000 pounds, was small enough to operate from Knox1class destroyer escorts (later reclassed as frigates) and larger Hamilton-, Reliance– and Bear-class Coast Guard cutters in time of war, something the 15,000-pound, 65-foot SH-60 couldn’t pull off.

They even made stops on battleships when required. 

Crew members aboard the Iowa (BB-61) wait for a Helicopter Light Anti-Submarine Squadron 34 (HSL-34) SH-2F Seasprite helicopter to be secured before transporting a badly burned sailor injured during NATO exercise North Wedding 86. Official USN photo # DN-ST-87-00280, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

This meant that, even as the Sea Hawk was meeting widespread acclaim from the fleet, there was still a need for the smaller chopper. This led to the SH-2G Super Seasprite, an upgraded version of the original with the same footprint, in 1993. The Navy kept two squadrons of Super Seasprites (or Triple Ss) around in the reserve until 2001, by which time the last of the NRF Knoxes were all being put out to pasture and the Coast Guard was out of the ASW biz. A shame about the latter.

The SSS went on to serve much more extensively overseas and is still kicking with the Poles, Kiwis, Peruvians, and Egyptians.

The top aircraft, BuNo 147980, was an original Kaman HU2K-1/HU2K-1U later converted to the SH-2F standard. Used as a test helicopter at the factory from 1962-63, it eventually saw service with “every LAMPS squadron on the East Coast,” including HU-1/HC-1, HC-4/HSL-30, HSL-32, HSL-34, and HSL-36.

Big Mamie Delivers on her No. 6 mount

To mark the passage of last Memorial Day two weeks ago, the museum ship USS Massachusetts (BB-59). let one of her 5″/38 DP guns bark a salute.

Via Battleship Cove comes this video of the event, in which Battleship Gunner’s Mate Tom Lowney leads the Gun Crew on the oldest surviving SoDak-class fast superdreadnought.

Warship Wednesday, June 16, 2021: Rig for Red

Here at LSOZI, we will take off every Wednesday to look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and 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 16, 2021: Rig for Red

Called a skalomniscope by American sub wonk Simon Lake, the periscope of sorts was first invented in 1854 by a French guy by the name of Marie Davey, submersibles have had various “sight tubes” ever since. While early boats had a single short scope attached directly to the (single) top hatch (!) by the 1930s it was common for large fleet submarines to have multiple search and attack periscopes in the sail.

Over the years, these devices in U.S. parlance led to the term “periscope liberty” which denoted side use in observing peacetime beaches and pleasure craft with bikini-clad femmes at play and, of course, the old-school “Rig for red” use of red lighting for those who would use the scopes while the boat was at periscope depth at night or was preparing to go topside should the boat to surface in the o-dark-o’clock hours.

Here are some of the cooler periscope shots in the NHHC’s collection, among others.

Vessel sighting mechanism details LC-USZC4-4561 Robert Hudson’s submarine 1806 periscope patent

The eye of the submarine periscope, Gallagher card.

Aircraft carrier Taiho, seen through the periscope of submarine USS Albacore

Japanese destroyer ‘Harusame’, photographed through the periscope of USS Wahoo (SS-238) after she had been torpedoed by the submarine near Wewak, New Guinea, on 24 January 1943

Japanese armed trawler seen through the periscope of USS Albacore (SS-218) during her tenth war patrol. Photo received 17 November 1944 NHHC 80-286279

80-G-13550 Guardfish periscope

Submarine officer sights through a periscope in the submarine’s control room, during training exercises at the Submarine Base, New London, Groton, Connecticut, in August 1943 80-G-K-16013

Periscope death of the destroyer Tade, (1922) Montage of eight photos showing her sinking after being torpedoed by USS Seawolf (SS-197) on 23 April 1943 NH 58329

Shoreline of Makin Island, photographed through a periscope of USS Nautilus (SS-168) on 16 August 1942, the day before U.S. Marine raiders were landed 80-G-11720

Periscope photograph taken from USS Seawolf (SS-197), while she was on patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. 80-G-33184

Periscope photograph made PUFFER SS-268 freighter Teiko Maru (ex-Vichy French steamship D’Artagnan 1943. Torpedo is shown hitting NH 68784

USS Barb 1944 “fiendish antisubmarine weapon bird” blocking Lucky Fluckey’s view on approach. He reportedly sank the Japanese ship with his observation periscope

In January of 1951, the recently GUPPY’d USS Catfish slipped into San Francisco Bay underwater and remained in the harbor for three days taking photos of the Bay Area through their periscope in daylight as part of an authorized mission to see if they could do it with a minimum of civilian reaction. The mission was successful to a degree, as no one called SFPD or the military, as reported by the San Fran Chronicle.

Sighting the target submarine periscope by Georges Schreiber, Navy Art Collection 88-159-ji

USS JOHN HOOD (DD-655) and USS SNOWDEN (DE-246) photographed through a submarine periscope, while underway 1950s USN 1042008

View from the HALIBUT’s periscope of the March 1960 launch of the Regulus missile.

USS Seadragon (SSN 584) crewmembers explore ice pack in the Arctic Ocean through the periscope

President John F. Kennedy through the periscope aboard USS THOMAS EDISON (SSBN-610) 14 April 1962 USN 1112056-F

USS New Jersey (BB-62) seen through the periscope of USS La Jolla SSN-701

Bohol Strait USS Triton spies a local fisherman on April 1 1960

Key West submarines USS Sea Poacher, USS Grenadier, and USS Threadfin wind their way up the Mississippi River toward New Orleans, as seen through the periscope of USS Tirante, Mardi Gras 1963

Periscope view as Captain G.P. Steele searches for an opening in the ice through which to surface, September 1960 USS Sea Dragon SSN-584 USN 1050054

USS Cowpens through the periscope of the nuclear fast attack submarine USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716), Western Pacific, September 1994.

Many modern submarines, including the U.S. Virginia and RN’s Astute class, no longer use traditional periscopes, having long since ditched them in favor of modern telescoping digital optronics masts housing numerous camera and sensor systems with the Navy’s current standard being the AN/BVS-1 photonics mast.

Astute class CM10 Optronic Masts from Thales. periscope

GROTON, Conn. (Dec. 20, 2019) Sailors assigned to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Minnesota (SSN 783) stand topside as they pull into their homeport at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., Dec 20, 2019, following a deployment. Minnesota deployed to execute the chief of naval operation’s maritime strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins/Released)

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Brushing Up, 77 Years Ago Today

Original Caption: “PFC Rocco Festa, 328 Ft. Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, N.Y., brushes up on his French as he awaits transfer from a personnel carrier to a landing craft. Destination: a Normandy beachhead. Aboard SS John Hay.

Note the MP brassard and helmet stripe as well as the 2nd Infantry “Indianhead” Div shoulder patch, which was returning to France for its second world war. He also has an M1 carbine over his shoulder and a ship’s hose behind him. Signal Corps Photo 190428, via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/176887974

PFC Festa survived backpacking through Europe with 2ID and passed away in 2011, age 94. He is buried in Mount Saint Mary Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, alongside his wife Margaret who went on ahead in 2003 to get the house ready.

MPs on the Normandy Beachhead were extremely busy, securing thousands of enemy prisoners of war bagged in the initial landings and subsequent outbreak. Over the next 10 months, 2ID would process 51,055 EPWs, making the division’s MP platoon very, very busy. Odds are, PFC Festa learned a lot more German than French!

After suffering 16,795 battle casualties spending 303 days in combat across Northwest and Central Europe from Omaha Beach to Czechoslovakia– where they were still in combat on VE Day– 2ID would go on to see a war of a different sort in Korea, where they remain today.

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. 

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