Category Archives: military history

Where are the Carriers, Dec 6, 1941 edition

A common refrain for the past half-century, when it comes to American diplomacy, is “Where are the carriers?”

The day before they were the most capital ship in the Navy, here is the rundown, via the NHHC and DANFS:

On 6 December 1941, the three Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers were USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Lexington (CV-2), and USS Saratoga (CV-3). By sheer luck, while most of the Pacific fleet’s battleships and cruisers and about half of its destroyers and submarines were at Pearl on 7 December, there were no flattops. 

USS Enterprise (CV-6) Operating in the Pacific, circa late June 1941. She is turning into the wind to recover aircraft. Note her natural wood flight deck stain and dark Measure One camouflage paint scheme. The flight deck was stained blue in July 1941, during camouflage experiments that gave her a unique deck stripe pattern. 80-G-K-14254

Enterprise: On 28 November 1941, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel sent TF-8, consisting of Enterprise, the heavy cruisers Northampton(CA-26), Chester (CA-27), and Salt Lake City (CA-24) and nine destroyers under Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., to ferry 12 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats of Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 211 to Wake Island. Upon completion of the mission on 4 December, TF-8 set a course to return to Pearl Harbor. Dawn on 7 December 1941 found TF-8 about 215 miles west of Oahu.

USS Lexington (CV-2) leaving San Diego, California, 14 October 1941. Planes parked on her flight deck include F2A-1 fighters (parked forward), SBD scout-bombers (amidships), and TBD-1 torpedo planes (aft). Note the false bow wave painted on her hull, forward, and badly chalked condition of the hull’s camouflage paint. 80-G-416362

Lexington: On 5 December 1941, TF-12, formed around Lexington, under the command of Rear Admiral John H. Newton, sailed from Pearl to ferry 18 Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators of Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 231 to Midway Island. Dawn on 7 December 1941 found Lexington, heavy cruisers Chicago (CA-29), Portland (CA-33), and Astoria (CA-34), and five destroyers about 500 miles southeast of Midway. The outbreak of hostilities resulted in the cancellation of the mission and VMSB-231 was retained on board [they would ultimately fly to Midway from Hickam Field on 21 December].

USS Saratoga (CV-3) flight deck scene, circa fall of 1941. Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcats” of VF-3 “Felix the Cat” are in the foreground (one wearing the two-toned gray scheme approved in October 1941); Douglas SBD-3 “Dauntless” and Douglas TBD-1 “Devastator” aircraft are parked beyond. NH 92500

Saratoga: The Saratoga, having recently completed an overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, reached NAS San Diego [North Island] late in the forenoon watch on 7 December. She was to embark her air group, as well as Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 221 and a cargo of miscellaneous airplanes to ferry to Pearl Harbor.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic…

Yorktown (CV-5), Ranger (CV-4), and Wasp (CV-7), along with the aircraft escort vessel Long Island (AVG-1), were in the Atlantic Fleet; Hornet (CV-8), commissioned in late October 1941, had yet to carry out her shakedown. Yorktown would be the first Atlantic Fleet carrier to be transferred to the Pacific, sailing on 16 December 1941.

Florida reboots their (likely not a Secret Police) State Guard

A phenomenon of WWII was, with state militias being redesignated as part of the National Guard under the 1903 Dick Act, once the Guard was federalized in 1940 and soon deployed overseas in 1941-42, the “Homeland” was left without anything to ward off potential Axis attacks other than local police (itself depleted by a loss of men joining the colors, remember, even “Bert the Cop” from Its a Wonderfull Life did his bit!) and boy scouts.

This led to the formation of the Civil Air Patrol to span the skies and the Corsair Fleet of the USCG Auxillary to patrol the seas, both composed of volunteers who, at least at first, just used their own equipment.

To stand sentinel at factories, vital chokepoints, and potential targets like bridges and railway yards– as well as provide the governor muscle during times of local need such as natural disaster and riots– states formed “State Guard” units from those too old, too young, or too 4-F to head overseas but still had a desire to serve. Sort of like Dad’s Army but in American format.

California State Guard’s 5th Inf. Regiment at Camp Rubidoux, 1942, note the M1917s and recycled CCC jackets

Florida Defense Force Personnel at U.S.O. Jacksonville. 1942. Spottswood Studio Collection. The Florida Defense Force, later known as the Florida State Guard, formed in 1941, numbered 2,100 men in 36 units two years later. It was disbanded in 1945.

We’ve talked about assorted State Guard forces in WWII several times. As a throwback to this, nearly every state has laws authorizing state defense forces still on the books.

There was something of a resurgence in SG formations during the darkest spots of the Cold War, then another post-9/11 with a Homeland Security flavor. Today, at least 17 states, plus Puerto Rico, have “active” SDFs or State Guards each with different levels of activity, support, with a (squishy) force strength of approximately 14,000 individuals nationwide.

With that, Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida last week announced $3.5 million to reestablish the Florida State Guard. Envisioned to be a 200-member unit, “The establishment of the Florida State Guard will further support those emergency response efforts in the event of a hurricane, natural disasters, and other state emergencies. The $3.5 million to establish the Florida State Guard will enable civilians to be trained in the best emergency response techniques.”

Chapter 251 of the Florida Statutes authorizes the formation, organization, and rules regarding a Florida State Defense Force.

According to the group pushing for the reactivation:

The proposed Florida State Defense Force (SDF) would be a voluntary professional military corps who offers support in totality to the Florida National Guard (FLNG). Operations in security operations, engineering, transportation, chaplaincy, emergency management, legal, and medical services among others operational areas.

​The Florida SDF will be comprised of retired, prior service military personnel and selected professional individuals who volunteer their time and talents in further service to their state.

The Horror!

The move from DeSantis, rumored to be a potential POTUS candidate in 2024, has brought lots of handwringing and overheated pearl-clutching from political opponents. They compared the nascent FSG to something akin to Modero’s notorious colectivos, the Tonton Macoute of “Papa Doc,” or Castro’s “popular revolutionary vigilance detachments.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat running for governor next year, tweeted, “No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, another Dem running to replace DeSantis, echoed, “Can’t believe I have to say this, but Florida doesn’t need a paramilitary force that only answers to @RonDeSantisFL. Millions of Floridians know what it’s like to live under regimes like this — and came to our state to escape them. This must be stopped.”

Come on

I was in the Mississippi State Guard for a decade, joining around 1998 when it was battalion-sized (and even boasted a platoon-sized MP “company” drawn mostly from state-certified LEOs), totaling about 500 or so members, with a lot of those being ghosts. Drills were supposed to be monthly, but usually were held quarterly, with attending members having to eat their own uniform, chow, and travel costs. However, both Camp Shelby and Camp McCain made their barracks facilities open to the MSG, which was helpful, although, naturally, you had to supply your own fire watch and CQ folks (been there, did that).

From my own experience, and talking to members of other states’ units, State Guards are pretty innocuous, focusing on delivering Red Cross 1st Aid training (I was an instructor for decades), pushing FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) training, and joining the non-profit national State Guard Association (SGAUS) to complete that group’s Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS) Academy– which is basically the EMI with extra steps. All of these are vanilla programs and none of which stress secret police squads, weapons training, giving “helicopter rides” to political opponents, or standing to serve as “build your own Wolverine resistance group” primers.

I saw a lot of good in my time with the MSG, as the group helped out in a lot of ways ranging from providing honor guards and funeral details to helping with toy and food drives besides their bread-and-butter emergency management/support. Kinda like overgrown boy scouts in camouflage. They asked for nothing from the state, which was good, because they wouldn’t have gotten it!

In short, not a chance of a state guard doubling as a terror squad, unless you are afraid that your pot of old coffee will be drained– and $3.17 in pocket change left behind.

I left around 2009 after the MP company (which responded during Hurricane Katrina and other statewide emergencies) was disbanded and the group kinda just devolved into an old boys club with all the 50 or so remaining active members (half of which were designated chaplains regardless of actual theological certifications) seemingly promoted to full colonel and above. “We are a cadre division with three brigades!” was the motto every time a promotion round was announced. But I digress.

From what I understand, the MSG has revitalized off and on in recent years, even trying to form another MP “battalion.” Good on ’em if so!

My thoughts on Florida rebooting their State Guard? Great! I think every state should have such a volunteer force ready for community service. As long as the group tries, and is successful in recruiting to keep new blood revitalizing it, it can do a lot of good.

Incidentally, the Floridan Army National Guard contends they have the longest Western military tradition in the country, dating back some 456 years: 

According to the Florida National Guard State Historian’s Office, the “first muster” took place on Sept. 16, 1565 when Pedro Menendez de Aviles gathered around him the soldiers of his small Spanish army, as well as the civilian settlers that had accompanied him to the newly established presidio town of St. Augustine. He was about to march north to the French settlement of Fort Caroline near the mouth of the St. Johns River, with the purpose of driving out the “usurpers of Spanish land.”

Because his plan called for the use of the majority of his regular soldiers, Menendez drew upon Spanish laws governing the militia, or milicia, in an imperial province. As both the civil governor and commander-in-chief of the military establishment he had the authority to call all free male settlers in the presidio province to active service. That first muster in St. Augustine consisted of about 50 men.

The exact location of that first muster is unknown, but local historians and archeologists believe it lies a few miles north of the present site of the Florida National Guard headquarters.

In the earliest tradition of the Citizen-Soldier, the musters of the late 1500s and early 1600s were not much more than simple gatherings of able-bodied men in the town square. It wasn’t until 1671 that volunteer militia units were organized in St. Augustine.

Greg Moore, a Florida National Guard historian, said that while the English militia tradition in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is credited with giving the modern National Guard its earliest organized regiments, it is a fact of history that the Spanish first brought the European tradition – men available for short terms of military service in time of war or domestic turmoil – to the New World … first in Cuba and Puerto Rico, then to the continent at St. Augustine.

Slow Salute to CAPT Dole and COL Shames

The “Greatest Generation” included over 16 million Americans who served during WWII in uniform. Today, the VA estimates that barely 300,000 of these Vets remain, a number that is growing smaller literally every day.

Case in point, over the weekend we lost esteemed Kansas lawmaker, and the man who charged at the windmill that was an incumbent Bill Clinton in 1996 at a time when the economy was peaking, Robert “Bob” Dole.

Dole, born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, interrupted his college studies at the University of Kansas to enlist in the Army, serving with the famed 10th Mountain Division in Italy where he was gravely wounded and initially left for dead on the battlefield. In postwar rehabilitation, he had to learn to write with his left hand after his right was left with limited mobility. He was medically discharged as a captain in 1947 and returned to his studies, eventually becoming a lawyer. 

Dole died Sunday, aged 98.

He was the last WWII Veteran to be nominated by any party for President. With that, check out his 2008 interview with the National WWII Museum about his service.

Edward Shames

The last surviving officer of the “Band of Brothers,” Edward D. Shames,  died at age 99 on Friday. Participating in some of the most critical WWII battles, Shames parachuted into Normandy during the Overlord as Operations Sergeant with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne. Earning a battlefield commission for his actions on D-Day, he transferred shortly thereafter to Easy Company as leader of 3rd platoon and fought in Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.

Notably, Shames, who was Jewish, was credited as being one of the first in Easy Company to enter Dachau to liberate the death camp in 1945.

As noted in his obit, “When Germany surrendered, Ed and his men of Easy Company entered Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest where Ed managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac, a label indicating they were ‘for the Fuhrer’s use only.’ Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.”

Postwar, he remained in the military and retired as a full colonel in the reserves in 1973, and worked for “No Such Agency” at Fort Meade until 1982.

Shames was played by actor Joseph May in Band of Brothers.

Shames is survived by his sons Douglas and Steven, four grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

A graveside service will be held at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at 11 a.m. with Cantor David Proser officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in his honor (memory) may be sent to Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, Kansas 66675-8516 and the American Veterans Center, 1100 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 910, Arlington, VA 22201. Online condolences may be offered here. 

Mirage Before the Storm, 80 Years Ago Today

The new C-in-C of the Eastern Fleet, Adm. Sir Thomas Spencer Vaughan “Tom” Phillips GBE, KCB, DSO, (short guy, hands on hips) watches his flagship, the brand new (and still not fully complete) King George V-class HMS Prince of Wales, fresh from catching the Bismarck, berth at Singapore on 4 December 1941. The second officer on the Admiral’s right (holding briefcase by his side) is Chief of Staff Rear Admiral A F E Palliser.

Prince of Wales, being the flagship of Force Z, was given the best berth alongside the West Wall of the Naval Base, opposite the main office buildings. Meanwhile, her companion, the Renown-class battlecruiser HMS Repulse was left moored out in the stream like some sort of ugly cousin.

It was a happy time, as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific” seemed even more impenetrable with the arrival of the two battlewagons. Surely the Japanese would take notice and steer clear, looking for easier targets. 

Just six days later, both of the proud capital ships would be on the bottom with a loss of 840 of HMs officers and men – including Tom Phillips and flagship captain John Leach. The spell was broken. 

Palliser, meanwhile, would survive, go on to command the British part of the ill-fated ABDACOM, then ride a desk at Trincomalee and New Delhi before ending the war as Fourth Sea Lord– Chief of Supplies and Transport.

Used F-4 Phantom, Half Off!

Via Platinum Fighter Sales, not a joke:

“Price Slashed. 1959 McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. Restoration is 80-85% complete. The airframe has undergone a complete IRAN per U.S. Navy standards. Everything has been overhauled to 0-time condition. Needs engines overhauled, avionics, and ejection seats. Was $2,950,000. Now asking $1,500,000. Trades considered.”

F4H-1F BuNo 145310 was one of the first dozen pre-production Phantoms

History of the aircraft:

F4H-1F BuNo 145310 was delivered to the Navy in 1959 and was the 11th pre-production aircraft built. 1961 was a memorable year for the jet. On 22nd April 1961, it carried a very impressive 22 Mk83 500lb bombs on various hardpoints under the aircraft and dropped them on a range at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This demonstration was the deciding factor for the United States Air Force to also order the aircraft.

In August 1961, 145310 was one of three F4H-1F Phantom II’s used by the U.S. Navy to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of U.S. Naval Aviation. 

Later, during a weapons test, 145310 had part of the undercarriage door and pylon were burnt by a Sidewinder missile and later that year, the aircraft suffered an engine failure. Thankfully landing safely. The aircraft last saw use in September 1964 when the Navy retired their test aircraft. It had completed 461 hours.

Never demilled, 145310 has been under restoration to airworthy condition for the past 10 years by Aircraft Restoration Services LLC at the French Valley Airport, CA. It is being offered for sale “As Is, Where Is.”

How to Borrow a Relic of the USS Arizona

Since the USS Arizona Superstructure Relic Program (ASRP) began, 150 pieces of the ill-fated battleship have been loaned out to museums, Veterans groups, and non-profits. To be sure, this is not a program to give individuals a souvenir of the lost warship– the relics belong to every American– but to provide tangible pieces of the vessel to provide a symbol of what was lost on that Day Which Will Live in Infamy.

Similarly, several 3-inch sections have recently been selected, preserved, and presented to 138 active-duty units of the Pacific Fleet, to carry on Arizona’s legacy. 

The ASRP has taken care to ensure the relics are available to inspire future generations. Each relic was preserved and mounted in a display case built and sealed with shipboard safe materials. Additionally, guidelines were created to ensure the relics will be passed-down when a ship or submarine is decommissioned.

Via the NHHC:

USS Arizona (BB 39) is the final resting place for many of the ship’s 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. Approximately 1,100 Sailors and Marines remain entombed within the ship’s hull. The ship was decommissioned in 1942. After the ship was sunk at her moorings during the attack, significant portions of the ship were salvaged for re-use among the fleet during the war. Ammunition, armament, electric motors and large amounts of scrap metal were recovered.

The final removal of material took place in 1961, in order to construct the memorial over the ship. This last portion removed came from the aft deckhouse superstructure of the ship and was brought to its final resting place on a quiet, remote parcel of land on Waipio Point located in Pearl Harbor. The Arizona Superstructure Relic Program (ASRP) was developed by the Navy to address requests for pieces of USS Arizona stored on Waipio Point while it is still possible to retrieve them.

The Department of the Navy, recognizing the historical value in the superstructure, placed the removed pieces under the jurisdiction of the Naval Historical Center in Washington D.C. (now Naval History and Heritage Command – NHHC). The Navy later notified Congress in 1994 that it intended to donate pieces of this deckhouse to qualifying organizations in accordance with federal law. To date over 150 relics pieces have been distributed through the United States as well as the Imperial War Museum in London.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CPF), initiated a program to provide USS Arizona (BB 39) superstructure relic pieces to U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) ships and submarines on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 2021 in coordination with the NHHC ASRP, designed to reinforce the importance of the Navy’s history and heritage to naval personnel aboard ships, submarines, and other commands, signified in the Arizona relic piece.

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021: The Great White Fleet’s Beautiful Accidental Groupie

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, Dec. 1, 2021: The Great White Fleet’s Beautiful Accidental Groupie

Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034742

Here we see the Chilean Naval corbeta (corvette) General Baquedano departing Sydney, Australia in late July 1931. A throwback to another era, this steel-hulled single-screw steamer would have a career that spanned over a half-century.

The Chilean Navy in the 1890s found themselves in need of a new buque escuela, or school ship. The role up until then had been shared by the old 2,100-ton corvette Abtao and the battered 600-ton gunboat Pilcomayo, the first the British-built steamer CSS Texas which had never been delivered to the Confederacy and the second built for Peru in Blackwall then captured as a prize after a lopsided naval battle with the Chileans in 1879. Abato, by far, was in the better material condition but was still so worn that an 1884 tender for her sale was not awarded because the offers were so low, forcing the Chileans to keep her in service.

The new training corvette was be ordered in early 1897 as Yard # 675 from the Tyne shipbuilder of Armstrong, Whitworth & Co, Elswick where the first-class armored cruiser O’Higgins was also being built for the government of Chile at the time.

As Baquedano’s career would take her into Antarctic waters occasionally, her hull was made of steel, sheathed in copper, and lined with wood 3.5-inches thick up to three feet above the waterline. Some 240-feet overall, she displaced 2,300-tons. Her armament was Armstrong-made, consisting of four modern breechloading 4.7-inch QFs, assorted 12- and 6-pounders, two water-cooled Maxim machine guns, and a single above-deck torpedo tube for 18-inch Whitehead models, making her a decent little gunboat.

Baquedano with her original black hull as commissioned, is likely seen during speed trials. Via Tyne & Wear Museums

Rigged as a barque, she used Belleville boilers and had a capacity of 300 tons of coal and open stokeholds. Her twin six-crank T3cyl (30, 50 & 81.5 x 48ins) engines were constructed by R & W Hawthorn Leslie, Newcastle, and turned a single centerline screw, with a designed speed of 12 knots. From the below May 1900 edition of The Engineers Gazette, which has much more detail on her powerplant, the Chilean warship would clock 13.75 knots across six hours on her full power builder’s speed trials. Not bad for a barque.

The new corvette was named for the commander of the Chilean forces during the 1879-84 War of the Pacific, Manuel Jesús Baquedano González. Having learned his trade in the circa 1838 War of the Confederacy, the old general spent almost 50 years in uniform and is credited with reorganizing the Chilean military and promoting the formation of both the War Academy and the General Staff, institutions that survive today.

Baquedano and his warhorse Diamante (c. 1881), and in full uniform (c. 1881).

The strongman, who repeatedly turned down roles as Presidente, died in 1897 at age 74.

Career

General Baquedano (Chilean training ship, 1898) burning the dirtiest coal known to man, apparently. NH 49892

Delivered to the Government of Chile in the presence of the country’s charge d’affaires, Aurelio Bascuñán, on 22 August 1899, the new vessel arrived “home” in March 1900 under the command of Captain Ricardo Beaugency.

She left on her first Midshipman and Grumete (cabin boy) cruise just five weeks later, bound for points West Pac via Easter Island, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Honolulu, cycling the Pacific Rim to make calls at Yokohama, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia, and Sydney, returning to Valparaíso 10 months later in February 1901.

Baquedano would continue such long-reaching annual cruises into 1935– other than gaps from 1911 to 1917 due to economic reasons and the Great War and another during a 1922-26 refit– visiting over 100 ports on six continents.

Her 1903-1905 circumnavigation, for reference.

Baquedano in Chinese waters, 1904. She notably observed several aspects of the Russo-Japanese war firsthand. Repositorio Digital del Archivo y Biblioteca Histórica de la Armada

On her 1906-07 cruise, a delegation was received by Queen Alexandra at Portsmouth, hosted King of Spain Alfonso XIII and his wife Queen Victoria while calling at San Sebastián, circled the Med, and attended the Jamestown Exposition in Portsmouth.

“General Bocordona” one of a set of commemorative Jamestown Exposition souvenir postcards.

Notably, the armada of modern American battleships assembled in Hampton Roads for the exposition became Teddy Roosevelt’s famed Great White Fleet under RADM Robley Dunglison Evans, which toured the globe as evidence of the young nation’s international military might.

In 1908, Baquedano had the curious instance of running into the GWF “on the road” at least two more times, some 8,000 miles apart.

In mid-February, she embarked Chilean President Pedro Montt to review the visiting American warships in Valparaiso, with her Mids aloft and all her glad rags flying.

General Baquedano (Chilean Training Ship, 1899) manning her yards while moored at Valparaiso, Chile, in mid-February 1908, when the U.S. Great White Fleet steamed past the city. General Baquedano is dressed in flags and has Chilean President Pedro Montt embarked. The Chilean destroyer Capitan Thompson is astern. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 45327

General Baquedano (Chilean Training Ship, 1899) at Valparaiso, Chile, with Chilean President Pedro Montt on board, during the U.S. in mid-February 1908, when the U.S. Great White Fleet steamed past the city. General Baquedano is dressed in flags and her crew is manning her yards in honor of the occasion. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. NH 101484

Then, on 11 September 1908 at the small Western Australian port of Albany, she stood near the British Edgar-class cruiser HMS Gibraltar and the Princess Royal Fortress as USS Connecticut (Battleship No. 18), flagship of GWF commander RADM Charles S. Sperry, along with 14 other Yankee battleships dropped anchor at the outer anchorage of King George Sound. While Gibraltar was there on station, Baquedano under Captain Agustín Fontaine Calvo, had only arrived two days before to take on coal at the end of a six-month Pacific cruise.

“Great White Fleet” World Cruise. Six Atlantic Fleet battleships at Albany, Western Australia for coaling, circa mid-September 1908. The three ships with black hulls (one of which is directly alongside a battleship) are probably colliers. The white-hulled ship at the right is USS Glacier (Storeship, 1898-1922). Also present is a grey British cruiser, probably HMS Gibraltar. Baquedano is likely off-camera to the right with the other half of the GWF or had just left. Collection of Lieutenant Commander Richard Wainwright, 1928. NH 41678

After dutifully exchanging salutes and sending around the appropriate visiting teams for a couple of days, Baquedano would shove off for Talcahuano, arriving back in Chile on Christmas Eve 1908. Meanwhile, the GWF was bound for the East across the Indian Ocean, arriving at Suez, Egypt at roughly the same time. Of note, Teddy’s fleet traveled some 14,556 nautical miles around the world, making the fact that Baquedano met them both at the beginning and rough halfway point, some six months apart, remarkably interesting.

War!

Baquedano listed as a well-armed “surveying ship” in the 1914 Jane’s

During the Great War, the pro-German Chilean government showed a bit of favoritism to Von Spee’s German Pacific Squadron, allowing his ships to take on coal, use their wireless in territorial waters, and often overstay their 24-hour limits without being interned alongside a raft of German merchant vessels who were allowed to sit out the conflict at Valparaiso.

Valparaiso, Chile. November 1914. The German Navy Pacific Squadron at anchor in the harbor. Via Deutsche Reichsarchiv and AWM.

To be sure, though, the country also allowed the British and their allies to do much the same in the interest of neutrality.

Valparaiso, Chile, 26-27 December 1914. “German merchant ships interned in the Chilean port, as seen from the foredeck of HMAS Australia. This German colony was a base for naval staff and the supply of coal to German vessels. After searching in vain for enemy vessels on its way across the Pacific, the Australian flagship was taking the long route to Jamaica around South America, due to the closure of the Panama Canal to heavy traffic.” AWM EN0076

The Battle of Coronel was fought just off Chile’s coast and, after Von Spee was sent to the bottom of the South Atlantic in the Battle of the Falklands, the sole survivor of his squadron, the exhausted German cruiser SMS Dresden, took refuge in Chilean waters at Más a Tierra– where it was destroyed on 14 March 1915 as a Chilean gunboat stood by and protested via signal flags. 

The Chileans interned 315 survivors of Dresden’s crew, although some to include future Abwehr spymaster Wilhelm Canaris released themselves on their own recognizance and made it back to Germany during the conflict.

Corbeta general Baquedano, de la Armada de Chile, circa 1915. Via Chile al día. Tomo I.

Banquedano’s role in the war was limited, serving as a guardship for the interned German merchantmen and her sidelined crew aiding with a bit of muscle ashore as needed.

Late in the war, after the U.S. entered the conflict and, with traditional enemies Bolivia and Peru trying to curry favor with Washington, Chile seized the inactive German-owned nitrate plants in the country and began shipping caliche from the Atacama Desert to the allies.

In 1918, with the war confined at that point to Europe and the Middle East, Baquedano, under the command of Capitán de fragata Manuel Montalva Barrientos set off on her first training cruise since 1910. After visiting Honolulu, Yokohama, Kobe, Itsukushima, Moji, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia, Melbourne, and Wellington, she returned to the port of Valparaíso after the Armistice. Importantly, she inspected Easter Island at least twice during this cruise, an island made important again during the war as the seized French trading schooner Lutece, captured at Mopelia Island by five shipwrecked crew members of the reefed German commerce raider Seeadler, had arrived there in October 1917 and been interned by the local Chilean authorities.

Interwar

Between December 1922 and March 1926, with her unique engines giving up the ghost, Baquedano was overhauled and received a new engineering suite as part of an extensive rebuild. Her armament was also modified, landing her elderly torpedo tube and some of her smaller mounts. 

Corbeta Baquedano Buque-escuela fondeado en el puerto de Antofagasta.

Her 10-month 1927 midshipman cruise spanned the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Her 1928-29 cruise went even further, visiting throughout the Med and Baltic Seas before calling at Philadelphia and New York on the way back home.

Training ship, corvette General Baquedano crossing the Kiel canal, Germany, during her 1928-1929 instructional voyage. Note she now has an enclosed deckhouse. In this cruise, the frigate captain Julio Pinto Allard commanded the vessel. Repositorio Digital del Archivo y Biblioteca Histórica de la Armada

Her 1929-30 cruise swapped back to the Pacific, traveling as far up the coast as San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver.

Chilean training ship [at C.P.R. pier] [General Baquedano], 1929. Vancouver City Archives. AM1535-: CVA 99-2388

Taking on coal, 1929. Photo by Walter Frost. Vancouver City Archives. AM1506-S3-2-: CVA 447-2233.1

Her 1931 West Pac cruise was extensively cataloged when she called at Sydney’s East Circular Quay on 16 July 1931 and spent two weeks in the city. The visit apparently attracted a lot of local interest, and the daily activities of the Chileans were reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. This included playing a soccer match against members of the cruiser HMAS Canberra, presenting a wreath at the Martin Place Cenotaph— which had just been completed in 1926– and the crew displaying their rigging skills while aloft and open to receive visitors from the curious public.

Procession of Chilean sailors alongside their ship Corbeta general Baquedano, at East Circular Quay, 24 July 1931. The wreath is likely the one presented at the Martin Place cenotaph. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034748

Working with a hardhat diver over the side and a manual compressor. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034747

Cadets aloft showing off their skills. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034750.

The epic young bluejacket pose. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00035047

Visitors of the best type when dockside in Sydney. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034744

The time in Australia was among her last great overseas cruises, sticking closer to home for a few years save for trips to Easter Island. Even this ended after 1935 when it was decided the almost 40-year-old sailing ship would be of better use as a pierside trainer for the Arturo Prat Naval School and the Alejandro Navarrete Cisterna School of Grumetes. Her sailing was limited to day runs and coastal trips, almost always under power rather than sail.

WWII

Jane’s entry, 1946.

Chile, as in the Great War, was pro-German in 1939 and maintained Berlin-tilted neutrality for the first part of the conflict. The Chilean Navy in 1941 took over the interned F. Laeisz Hamburg’s four-masted steel-hulled barque Priwall, largely with a crew drawn from Baquedano and her service academies, and sailed her as the nitrate-carrying training ship Lautaro until the latter was lost by accidental fire at sea in 1945. By that stage of the war, Chile had cast her lot with the Allies, her Navy contributing to the defense of the Pacific end of the Panama Canal and patrolling from Easter Island.

By 1951, it was decided to replace the old corvette with a surplus and ideal schooner brig that was languishing on the builder’s ways in cash-strapped post-war Europe. Ordered originally for the Spanish Navy from Echevarria and Larrinaga shipyards of Cádiz in 1946 as Juan de Austria but never completed, the 3,750-ton school ship was baptized Esmeralda, delivered in June 1954, and arrived in Valparaíso on 1 September of that year.

Esmeralda (BE-43) was built in Spain and acquired by Chile in 1952. She made her first instructional cruise in 1955. Known as the La Dama Blanca (The White Lady), she is in active service today, although much less well-armed than Baquedano, carrying only saluting cannons and a small arms locker. Original photograph via the Armada de Chile.

With a new tall ship picking up the torch, Baquedano was decommissioned 5 June 1954– the same week Esmeralda was delivered– and sold for scrapping to the Pacific Steel Company in 1959.

Epilogue

Baquedano is remembered in period artwork, primarily postcards.

Chilean novelist and short fiction writer Francisco Coloane Cárdenas, part of Chile’s famed Generación del 38 art movement, although a Communist later in life, was born the son of a whaler skipper and served in the Chilean Navy as a quartermaster in the late 1920s and 30s. This included a stint on our subject school ship in 1933 that served as inspiration for his coming of age novel El último grumete de la Baquedano (The Last Cabin Boy of Baquedano).

Published in 1941, El último grumete de la Baquedano is considered a national treasure in Chile and is part of the compulsory reading list maintained by the country’s Ministry of Education.

In continuous publication for 80 years, the sailing novel was made into a movie of the same name in 1983, filmed aboard Esmeralda.

Three units of the Chilean Navy have been christened with Baquedano’s name besides our training corvette to include a brown water gunboat for the Amazon, a River-class frigate, formerly HMCS Glace Bay (K414), which served in the 1950s and 60s; and a Broad Beam Leander-class frigate, formerly HMS Ariadne (F72), which was active in the 1990s.

Baquedano’s name will surely sail again.

Specs:
Displacement: 2500 t
Length 240 ft
Draft 18 ft
Engines: 2 x T3cyl (30, 50 & 81.5 x 48ins) 1500ihp, 1 x Screw, (refitted in 1920s)
Speed: 12 knots practical, 13.75 on trials; also rigged as a Barque
Crew: 333 men, with 2/3rds of those cadets and boys
Armament: (As built)
4 x 4.7-inch QF
2 x 12pdr (3-inch)
2 x 6 pdr (57mm) guns
2 x machine guns
1 x 18-inch torpedo tube


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Government Issue, 100 Years Ago Today

“Regulation Army .45 Colt and its effect on bulletproof glass used in the new armored postal trucks which it is proposed to put into use as a further protection of valuable mails,” December 1, 1921.

Via The Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection. LC-F8-16987

The destructive tester seems to be a Marine, which tracks because the same year this image was taken, President Warren G. Harding sent 2,200 Marines to guard mail delivery across the nation in the wake of a spate of high-profile robberies.

Note the trench guns and M1911s

How about that early M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle? Also, it must have been odd to be on armed details with neckties and campaign hats.

The Devils were tasked with riding shotgun over high priority certified mail, which included cash and negotiable bonds. Reportedly, in the five years that the Marines were on guard, not one robbery on an escorted shipment was attempted.

Philippines flexing over demands they unreef their ancient LST

We’ve talked in the past about the 2,000-tons of tetanus shots that is the mighty BRP Sierra Madre (L-57), formerly the ex-USS Harnett County LST-821, which has been grounded on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Reef) in the South China Sea since 1999, serving as a forward base for a squad-sized group of PI Marines and a Navy radioman. The move came as a counterstroke to China’s controversial, and likely unlawful, armed occupation of Mischief Reef— barely 200 kilometers from the Philippine island of Palawan– in 1995.

Well, in recent weeks, the Chinese have aggressively prevented resupply and rotation of the guard force on the Sierra Madre, warning off civilian vessels approaching the condemned LST with water cannons.

Finally, on 22 November, two civilian boats, Unaizah May 1 and Unaizah May 3, were able to tie up next to the Sierra Madre and unload, while a Chinese coast guard ship in the vicinity sent a RIB with three persons to closely shadow the effort, taking photos and videos, acts the Philipines described as “a form of intimidation and harassment.”

To this, China says Ayungin Shoal is “part of China’s Nansha Qundao (Spratly Islands)” and has told the PI to quit the reef and scrap the rusty outpost.

From Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on China’s demand to remove BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal:

Ayungin Shoal lies within our EEZ where we have sovereign rights. Our EEZ was awarded to us by the 1982 UNCLOS which China ratified. China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of. 

Furthermore, the 2016 Arbitral award ruled that the territorial claim of China has no historic nor legal basis. Ergo, we can do whatever we want there and it is they who are actually trespassing.

With that, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, Lt. Gen. Andres Centino, on Monday said that his leadership would ensure better living conditions of the troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre, refurbishing the vessel in place as a permanent government post. 

Mic drop.

Echoes of the Tsars Grow Quieter

Mr. Andrew Andreevich Romanov died in Inverness, California on Sunday, aged 98. Who is Mr. Romanov? Known inside his family and to Russian monarchists as Prince Andrew Romanoff, he was the de facto head of the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov due to the pedigree of being the grand-nephew of Russia’s last Tsar, the martyred Emperor Nicholas II. Further, he was the great-grandson of Alexander III, great-great-grandson of Alexander II, et. al going back to 1613.

However, he spent his whole life in exile, with his father, Prince Andrei Alexandrovich, the eldest nephew of Nicholas II, fleeing increasingly Bolshevik Russia on the British battleship HMS Marlborough in 1919 for points West (and in order to attend the Paris Peace Conference just in case the White Russian government won the Civil War).

Born in London in 1923, his youth was spent as something of a houseguest, via a grace-and-favor residence, to his relatives the Windsors– his godfather was the future King Edward VIII– and he attended Haileybury. When WWII came, he volunteered for the Royal Navy, serving as a rating. (Keep in mind the RN during the war was home to many other exiled nobles, e.g. Prince Philip of Greece.)

Emigrating to the U.S. in 1949 with $800 in his pocket, the Romanov prince without a throne became naturalized in 1954 and settled ultimately in California where “he worked as an agronomist, a broker, a real estate agent, a carpenter, and many other jobs” along with becoming something of a West Coast folk artist and penning an art book/autobiography, “The Boy Who Would Be Tsar.” 

Vale, sir.

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