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The ‘Morg goes ‘back home’ (to Vietnam)

Morgenthau off Governors Island in New York Harbor circa 1970. Note the 5″/38 DP forward and the WTC in the background.

USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722), a 378-foot high endurance cutter, was commissioned in 1969 and, after nearly a half-century of service, including action in the Vietnam War, numerous major drug interdictions, law enforcement cases, and a variety of noteworthy rescues was taken out of U.S. service at Honolulu in April. Now, renamed CSB 8020, she was commissioned into the Coast Guard of Vietnam where she will continue her traditional mission under a red flag.

“This cutter provides a concrete and significant symbol of the U.S-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael J. Haycock, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer, in a statement. “The Coast Guard is honored to see this vessel continue to preserve global peace and prosperity as a part of the Vietnam coast guard.”

As part of Operation Market Time, Morgenthau was very active in the Vietnam War, conducting support for coastal patrol craft, naval gunfire support, and patrol duties off the coast of Vietnam in 1970-71. During her period in Market Time, she delivered 19 naval gunfire support missions on targets ashore, inspected 627 junks and sampans, and cruised 39,029 miles on patrol. In total, she fired 1,645 rounds from her main 5-inch gun, destroying 32 structures and 12 bunkers ashore.

Her crew also sank an armed North Vietnamese SL-8 trawler in a night surface action while it was trying to infiltrate the South Vietnam coastline.

Morgenthau later made Coast Guard history by being one of the first ships to have gender-integrated crews and captured a number of drug runners on the high seas. In short, she had an extensive and celebrated career.

USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722), a 378-foot high endurance cutter, by John Wisinski

The cutter was transferred in conjunction with an additional six smaller 45-foot patrol boats this week as tensions in the South China Sea between China and her neighbors escalate and Vietnam is now counted as a key U.S. ally in the region.

New Metal Sharks headed to Vietnam

This is not the first time the U.S. has helped rebuild the navies of former enemies. Among the first ships of the new Japanese and German fleets in the 1950s in the aftermath of World War II were loaned former U.S. Navy vessels.

Moving past equipping the Vietnamese coast guard, the Southeast Asian country is looking to pick up 100~ modern fighter-bombers “to replace its antiquated fleet of 144 Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbeds and thirty-eight Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter strike aircraft.”

While some say competitors range from the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and South Korea’s F/A-50 lightweight fighter, how much do you want to bet they may get 100 gently refirb’d surplus F-16C/Ds fresh from the boneyard.

Heck, we are using the F-16A/Bs as target drones at this point.

A QF-16 Full-Scale Aerial Target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron flies over the Gulf of Mexico during its first unmanned flight at Tyndall Air Force Base Sept. 19. The 82nd ATRS operates the Department of Defense’s only full-scale aerial target program. The QF-16 will provide a more accurate representation of real world threats for testing and training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. J. Scott Wilcox).

The ‘Pineapple’ is no more

A source close to the family of Manuel Noriega says the former Panamanian dictator has died at age 83. The onetime U.S. ally was ousted as Panama’s dictator by an American invasion in 1989 and spent years in prison in several countries.

Operation Just Cause resulted in the death of 26 U.S. troops and more than 325 wounded. PDF casualties were estimated at about 235 military and wildly divergent (200-3,000) figured when it comes to civilian casualties.

A Panama Defence Force patch for the 7th Infantry Co. the “Macho de monte” mountain man unit which, along with Battallion 2000 were considered the elite of Noriega’s forces. Currently on display at the USAF Armament Museum (Photo by Chris Eger)

“Jump Into Night, Torrijos Airport by Al Sprague Panama, 1989” The operation used 27,000 U.S. active, reserve and National Guard troops and included combat parachute jumps, Delta operations to rescue high-value personnel, and extensive use of Naval Special Operations to hobble the PDF.

Troops on the ground in Just Cause, note the extra M203 rounds

U.S. Army M-113 near the destroyed Panamanian Defense Force Headquarters Operation Just Cause, 21 December 1989

Remember, it’s not about great deals on home appliances today..

“The Constant Reminder,” Painting, Acrylic on Illustration Board; by Robert Adam Malin; 1998; Framed Dimensions 22H X 32W, NHC Accession #: 98-110-E

The subject depicts a modern attack submarine leaving Pearl Harbor with the topside watch noting Battleship Row in the distance with the USS Arizona Memorial gleaming in the sunlight.

Remember to thank and to think of a veteran today.

 

The sweepers Pelican 1917-2007, and no, that is not a bar of soap

The name “Pelican” in honor of the large and rather dopey seabird, has always been carried by a mine warfare vessel in the U.S. Navy.

USS PELICAN (AM-27) Caption: With PN-9 #1 on her fantail, after the unsuccessful San Francisco to Hawaii flight in early September 1925. The ship is going to Pearl Harbor Hawaii. Description: Catalog #: NH 44902

The first, AM-27/AVP-6, was a Lapwing-class minesweeper laid down 10 November 1917 at Gas Engine and Power Co., Morris Heights, New York. Commissioned a month prior to Armistice Day, she helped with the sweeping of the North Sea Mine Barrage and was almost blown sky high when a chain of six British mines exploded all around her on 9 July 1919. Heroically saved by her crew and responding ships, the beaten Pelican limped to Scapa and was repaired. Later converted to a seaplane tender, she served in both the Atlantic and Pacific in WWII (including work as a “Tuna boat” Q-ship) before being sold for scrap in November 1946 after 29 years service.

USS Pelican via Navsource

The second Pelican, (MSC(O)-32/AMS-32/YMS-441) was a YMS-1-class minesweeper built at Robert Jacob Inc. City Island, New York. Commisoned with a hull number only in 1945, she assumed Pelican‘s vacant moniker 18 February 1947. She supported the Eniwetok atomic bomb tests and then saw extensive service in the Korean War, including helping to clear the heavily mined port of Chinnampo. Taken out of service in 1955, she was loaned to Japan as the JDS Ogishima (MSC-659) for 13 years before striking in 1968.

The third Pelican, MHC-53, is an Osprey-class coastal minehunter built at the now-defunct Avondale Shipyard, Gulfport, Mississippi, launched 24 October 1992 and commisoned 18 November 1995. Based on the 164-foot Italian Lerici-class minehunters designed by Intermarine SpA in the early 1980s, and built in variants for Algeria, Finland, Malaysia, Nigeria, Australian and Thailand, the Osprey‘s were a good bit larger, at 188-feet overall but could float in just seven feet of water, enabling them to perform littoral sweeping and clear mines from inland waterways.

Below is a slice of her hull sandwich that I have, a two-inch-thick piece of green soap-colored carbon fiber-reinforced polymer resin that has the consistancy of a brick– and is non-magnetic.

The Osprey-class were the largest vessels built at the time, save for the eight-foot longer HMS Hunt-class minehunters, to have fiberglass hulls. This may have been surpassed since then by a mega yacht or two, but I doubt it as most of those are steel hulled.

While most countries still use their Lerci-class vessels (31 are afloat worldwide and Taiwan is building six more by 2023) the 12 Ospreys, after spending their time in the Reserves, were decommissoned 2006-2007 while still relatively young. Eight low-mileage Ospreys had either been transferred to or marked for transfer to other navies: two each to the Hellenic (Greek) Navy, Lithuanian Navy, Egyptian Navy, and Republic of China (Taiwan) Navy, anf four scrapped (!)

Pelican, struck from the Naval Register 16 March 2007, was commisoned by the Greeks as HS Evniki (M61) the same day, and she continues in active service.

Evinki, in the Corinth Canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. The rock walls, which rise 300 ft. above sea level, are at a near-vertical 80° angle.

Canadian grunt gear, 1900 edition

Here we see the barracks bedroll and equipment of a soldier based at Wellington Barracks, Halifax Citadel Hill, 1900, first packed then unpacked. Note the kit on the shelf in the first image.

Notman Studio, Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1983-310 number 8570 negative N-1069

Note the Magazine Lee-Metford rifle (MLM) of Mr. James Paris Lee’s design. First produced in 1884, the 8-10 round bolt-gun was faster to work than its predecessors but was still black powder, firing the Cartridge .303 Mk I, and by the time this image was taken was already undergoing replacement with the Lee–Enfield.

During the time this image was taken, the Nova Scotia Company, the first group of local troops to serve abroad, had just left headed to the Boer War. The 1st battalion, Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) was also relieved from duty at the garrison about this time for service overseas while a new unit was raised to watch over Halifax. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, consisting of 29 officers and 975 enlisted, was stood up at the Citadel on 25 March 1900 and remained in possession of the Citadel until 2 October 1902 when a detachment of the Royal Garrison Artillery arrived and the 3rd Battalion was disbanded. If you note the cap badge in the above image, it is of the RCR.


The Citadel, which had housed such famous regiments as the 78th Highlanders, was garrisoned by the British Army until 1906 and afterward by the Canadian Army throughout the First World War and is now maintained by Parks Canada.

As for 3 RCR, the unit at Halifax when the above images were taken, they are still around and were recently designated Canada’s first airmobile battalion, garrisoned at Petawawa.

An interview with ‘The Oldest Living Graduate’ and the last member of USMA 1933

LTG(R) Ely, (USMA 1933) at the recent West Point Alumni Review

The West Point Center for Oral History recently caught up with a living relic of the pre-WWII military academy and interviewed him for their collection. It is a great 45-minute talk with a man who has seen a lot.

LTG(R) William Ely was born in 1911, and graduated from West Point in 1933. He was notified of his appointment two days before he was expected to report, and that set into motion what would become a 33-year career in the Army. He graduated 18th in his class of 347, and commissioned into the Engineers. He is the sole surviving member of his class, and the oldest living graduate of West Point. His first assignment in the Army was with the Corps of Engineers on the Mississippi River, an experience he considers transformative because it provided a solid base for the rest of his career. He then went to Cornell to earn a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering. From 1938 to 1940, he was assigned to Midway Island on a harbor dredging project to support the eventual construction of an airstrip. After returning from Midway, he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Engineers in Washington, D.C., and when America became involved in World War II, he spent the first two years planning base expansions for the growing Army. In 1943, he was reassigned to the 6th Army headquarters in the Pacific, where one of his primary responsibilities was conducting reconnaissance for future bases as the Army “island hopped” closer to Japan. In his book, “The Oldest Living Graduate,” written in 2015, LTG(R) Ely describes his dynamic and successful career, and reflects upon the highlight of his life, his 74-year marriage to Helen Mountford Ely.

In this interview, LTG(R) Ely talks about his childhood on a farm in Pennsylvania, and his decision to apply to West Point. He describes life at West Point in the early 1930s, and becoming an Engineer Officer. He discusses his experience in the Corps of Engineers and his service before and during World War II, mentioning Generals MacArthur and Krueger among others. Finally, he talks about the love of his life, his wife Helen.

The amazing interview is here.

Warship Wednesday, May 24, 2017: The leopard of rum row turned magic-eyed U-boat buster

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 24, 2017: The leopard of rum row turned magic-eyed U-boat buster

Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1972. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 76377

Here we see the Clemson-class “four-piper” flush-decker destroyer USS Hunt (DD-194) at anchor in New York Harbor when new, circa 1920. One of a tremendous class of vessels some 156-strong, she had a long and varied career.

An expansion of the Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk. Another thing they were was built too late for the war.

The hero of our story, USS Hunt, was laid down at Newport News 10 weeks before Armistice Day, named in honor of William Henry Hunt, Secretary of the Navy under President Garfield. Peace delayed her completion until 30 September 1920 when the above image was taken.

After shakedown, Hunt participated in training and readiness exercises with the Atlantic Fleet and conducted torpedo trials on the range out of Newport, R.I. before moving to Charleston.

With the looming idea of naval limitations treaties, the USN rapidly scrapped 40 of their new Clemsons (those built with British style Yarrow boilers) and put whole squadrons of these low mileage vessels in ordinary. One, USS Moody (DD-277) was even sold to MGM for making the film “Hell Below” where she was used as German destroyer and blown up during filming!

Our Hunt decommissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard 11 August 1922, with only 23 months of gentle Naval service under her belt.

While the Hunt was sitting in Philly, a funny thing happened. The country got sober. Well, kind of.

As deftly retold in a paper by the USCG Historians Office, the service, then part of the Treasury Department, was hard-pressed to chase down fast bootlegging boats shagging out to “Rum Row” where British and Canadian merchants rested in safe water on the 3-mile limit loaded with cases of good whiskey and rum for sale.

This led the agency to borrow 31 relatively new destroyers from the Navy, an act that would have been akin to the USN transferring most of the FFG7 frigates to the Coast Guard during the “cocaine cowboy” days of the 1980s.

USCGD Ammen (CG-8) in pursuit of a rumrunner

U.S. Coast Guard destroyers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, 1926, note the “CG” hull numbers

From the USCG Historian:

In the end, the rehabilitation of the vessels became a saga in itself because of the exceedingly poor condition of many of these war-weary ships. In many instances, it took nearly a year to bring the vessels up to seaworthiness. Additionally, these were by far the largest and most sophisticated vessels ever operated by the service and trained personnel were nearly nonexistent. As a result, Congress authorized hundreds of new enlistees. It was these inexperienced men that made up the destroyer crews and contributed to the service’s greatest growth prior to World War II.

A total of 31 destroyers served with the Coast Guard’s Destroyer Force. These included three different classes, the 742-ton “flivver-class,” “1,000-ton class”, and the 1,190-ton “Clemson-class” flush-deckers. Capable of over 25 knots, the destroyers had an advantage in chasing large rumrunners. They were, however, easily outmaneuvered by smaller vessels. The destroyers’ mission, therefore, was to picket the larger supply ships (“mother ships”) and prevent them from off-loading their cargo onto smaller, speedier contact boats that ran the liquor into shore.

Hunt was one of the last tin cans loaned to the service.

She only served three years with the Coasties, transferring 5 Feb 1931 and placed in commission at Philadelphia Navy Yard, then deploying to Stapleton, NY where she became the flag for the Special Patrol Force there.

Coast Guard Historian’s office

While chasing down rum boats along the New York coastline, she apparently had a very serious mascot:

On 6 Jan 1933, she was transferred to Division II, Coast Guard Destroyer Force, and, along with other Treasury Department-loaned tin cans, supported the Navy on the Cuban Expedition based out of Key West for several months as the country watched how the troubles down there were going on.

Hunt arrived back at Stapleton 9 November 1933 and, with the Volstead Act repealed, was decommissioned from USCG service 28 May 1934 and returned to the Navy, who promptly sent her back to red lead row.

There she sat once more until the country needed her.

On 26 January 1940, she once again was taken out of mothballs and brought to life by a fresh crew as the Navy needed ships for the new neutrality patrol in the initial stages of WWII. Shipping for the Caribbean, she escorted the USS Searaven (SS-196), a Sargo-class submarine, from the Canal Zone to Florida then performed training tasks in the Chesapeake.

Once again, her service with the Navy was brief.

Hunt got underway from Newport 3 October 1940, and reached Halifax, Nova Scotia two days later, where she took on 103 British sailors and, three days after that, she decommissioned from the U.S. Navy, was struck from the Naval List, and taken up by the Royal Navy as the Town-class destroyer HMS Broadway (H80) as part of the infamous “Destroyers for Bases Agreement” between the two countries.

(For the six-page original 1940 press release, see this page at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Collections)

As noted by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason’s service histories, “Broadway” had not previously been used for any RN ship but did represent both a city in the UK and one in the U.S.

Changes to her by the Brits included removal of mainmast and shortening of the foremast, trimming the after funnels and replacing the 3in and 4in guns mounted aft with a 12pdr British HA gun in X position. The aft torpedo tubes were also jettisoned and the U.S style depth charges were replaced with British ones.

THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC 1939-1945 (A 8291) British Forces: HMS BROADWAY, a destroyer built in 1918. BROADWAY was one of the fifty American destroyers loaned to Britain in September 1940. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205125169

She also picked up an “Evil Eye” or “Magic Eye” on her bow, painted by her crew to ward off bad spirits.

The huge ‘Magic Eye’ on the bows of the BROADWAY as she leaves on another trip. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205152830

Joining 11th Escort Group, she had an eventful career in the Atlantic, joining in no less than 29 convoys between and 10 December 1940 and 21 June 1943– a span of just 18 months!

During this time, she directly helped shorten the war on 9 May 1941 when assisting the destroyer HMS Bulldog and corvette HMS Aubretia, she captured German submarine U-110 between Iceland and Greenland. The Type IXB U-boat provided several secret cipher documents to the British as part of Operation Primrose and was one of the biggest intel coups of the war, helping to break the German Enigma codes.

She also helped chalk up a second German torpedo slinger when on 12 May 1943 she joined frigate HMS Lagan and aircraft from escort carrier HMS Biter in destroying U-89 off the Azores.

SUB LIEUT ROY A GENTLES, RCNVR, OFFICER ON LOAN TO THE ROYAL NAVY, WHO WAS FIRST LIEUTENANT ON BOARD HMS BROADWAY IN THE SUCCESSFUL ANTI-U-BOAT ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC.  (A 17288) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205150178

Hunt/Broadway, showing her age, was relegated to training duties by 1944 in Scotland, where she was a target ship for non-destructive bombing and practice strafing runs by new pilots. For this much of her armament to include her radar, anti-submarine mortar, torpedo tubes, and HF D/F outfit was removed.

The destroyer HMS Broadway off the East coast of Scotland April 1944 after becoming an Air Target Ship (Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120270

She did get one last hurrah in at the end of the war, sailing for Norwegian waters where she performed occupation duties that included taking charge of several surrendered German U-boats in Narvik and Tromso as part of Operation Deadlight.

Hunt/Broadway, who served more in the Royal Navy than she ever did in the naval service of her homeland, was paid off 9 August 1945 and placed in an unmaintained reserve status. She was eventually sold to BISCO on 18th February 1947 for demolition by Metal Industries and towed to the breaker’s yard in Charlestown near Rosyth in 1948.

As for her sisters, seven Clemson‘s were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy.

From what I can tell the last one in U.S. Navy service was USS Semmes (DD-189/AG-24), like Hunt a former Coast Guard destroyer, stricken in November 1946 after spending the war testing experimental equipment at the Sonar School in New London.

The last of the 156 Clemsons still afloat, USS Welborn C. Wood (DD-195), also a former Coast Guard destroyer, became HMS Chesterfield on 9 September 1940. She was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948. None of the class were retained and few relics of them exist today.

However, the codebooks and Enigma machine that Hunt/Broadway helped capture from U-110 are on display at Bletchley Park.

And the event is recorded in maritime art.

The Capture of U-110 by the Royal Navy, 9 May 1941 (2002) by K W Radcliffe via the Merseyside Maritime Museum

Specs:

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length:     314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam:     30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft:     9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed:     35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range:  4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1919)
5-4″/50 guns
12 × 21 inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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