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A bell lost, a bell found, a bell talked about, a bell returned

On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we highlighted the lost Operation Neptune minesweeper USS Osprey, which went down in the early morning of 6 June 1944, clearing a way for the invasion fleet.

In that Warship Wednesday, we covered that her bell had apparently been recovered sometime around 2007 and gave a lead to the dive op that may know more about it.

Well, one thing led to another and, after the post was shared, the NHHC got involved and, as noted by the BBC:

The US authorities contacted the UK coastguard when pictures of the ship’s bell appeared on the internet.

An investigation was launched by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency when it was established the bell had not been reported to the receiver of wreck.

Acting receiver Heloise Warner said the agency “put the word about” that it was searching for the bell and it was subsequently left anonymously at an undisclosed location last month.

“It’s absolutely fantastic that such a poignant part of our history is back in our possession,” she added.

Osprey’s bell via MCA

It is expected the NHHC will soon take possession of the recovered bell.

Bravo Zulu, guys, and, as always, thanks for sharing! Let’s continue to save history together.

A hearty toast to those lost on Osprey, who will never be forgotten so long as their names are still written:

  • Lieutenant Van Hamilton
  • Seaman 2nd Class John Medvic
  • Fireman 1st class Walter O’Bryan
  • Quartermaster 2nd Class Emery Parichy
  • Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joseph Vanasky, Jr
  • Motor Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Cleo Whitschell

You know the AR-15, but what about the AR-1? How about the AR-9?

The “AR” in each case does not stand for “assault rifle” as those who are uninformed often think. It is, in fact, short for Armalite, the firearms company that employed a generation of incredible forward-thinking gun designers, engineers, and inventors including Eugene Stoner, Charles Sullivan, Charles Dorchester, Arthur Miller, Daniel Musgrave, Robert Fremont and even the great Melvin Johnson (inventor of the M1941 Johnson rifle series).

Established in the early 1950s as a division of the Fairchild Airplane Corporation, the latter perhaps most famous today for their A-10 Warthog tank buster attack plane, Armalite leveraged aviation industry’s advances and applied them to firearms. Their engineers registered some of the first firearm patents incorporating foamed plastics in both stocks and handguards, aluminum receivers, self-lubricating alloy gun barrels, folding synthetic buttstocks, and other developments.

Before the original Armalite company tanked in 1983, they made it from the AR-1 to the AR-180, with lots of interesting stops in between to include bolt-action rifles, 22s, and even shotguns.

A better look at the whole AR lineage in my column at

Remembering the Battle of the Atlantic

In an effort to commemorate the upcoming 75th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Atlantic next May and the Royal Canadian Navy’s role in that epic U-boat war, the Canadian Admiralty has authorised a special paint throwback paint scheme to be carried by the Kingston-class coastal defence vessel HMCS Moncton (MM708) and the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Regina (FFH-334).

As noted by the RCN, “These historical paint schemes provide a wonderful opportunity to honour the sailors of our past, embrace the sailors of our present, and look ahead to our bright future.”

Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Moncton (MM708), in her new livery

During WWII, Canadian vessels escorted over 181 million tons of cargo across the pond, sinking 27 German U-boats in the process as well as accounting for a further 42 Axis surface ships. In return, the Canadians lost 24 ships of their own during the war, along with 1,800 men with hearts of steel. Among the Canadian vessels sent to the bottom was the Flower-class corvette HMCS Regina (K234), torpedoed by U-667 off the coast of Cornwall while the brave escort was busy rescuing survivors of the American Liberty ship Ezra Weston. Regina sank in just 28 seconds, taking a third of her crew to the deep with her.

This, naturally, makes the choice of today’s Regina to carry “the old colors,” a memorable one.

Flower-class corvette HMCS REGINA (K234) circa 1942 – 1943, prior to her WWII loss.

Melting pot, 101 years ago today

Official caption: “Foreign-born soldiers made citizens, Washington, D.C. Sept 13, 1918. Group of naturalized soldiers, the following are represented: L-R: Front Row Armenian, Austrian, Russian Pole, Greek, Italian, Danish. Back row: Russian Jew, Turk Portuguese, German, Italian, French.”

Photographed by Pvt. Vincent L. Palumbo NARA 165-WW-74G-027

Baby Torp

While I knew that the SEALs had a program to use surplus old 1,400-pound Mark 37 (NT37) homing ASW torpedoes in an anti-ship role to zap enemy warships in coastal/harbor raids via a hand-launch, I never knew the Navy had a dedicated Swimmer Launched Charge program. Apparently, this 1970s experimental small torpedo looked pretty elaborate. Photos via the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum.

Enterprise’s anchor heads to sea once more

While a number of relics from the country’s first nuclear-fueled supercarrier, USS Enterprise (CVN-65), are being incorporated into her replacement, CVN-80, which is set to join the fleet sometime in 2027ish, at least one large chunk of the old warrior is headed to sea much sooner. A 32-ton chunk at that, circa 1957.

According to Ingalls:

USS George Washington’s (CVN 73) mid-life refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH), currently underway at Newport News Shipbuilding, includes extensive upgrades and modernization. But this time it also includes a bit of U.S. Navy history – an anchor from Enterprise (CVN 65). Instead of trying to repair a damaged anchor on CVN 73, the Navy suggested shipbuilders swap it for one from the decommissioned CVN 65.

Warship Wednesday, Sep 11, 2019: The Leader of the Pack

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Sep 11, 2019: The Leader of the Pack

Photographed by LaTour, Philadelphia. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41956

Here we see the small crew of an early H (Holland) class diesel-electric “submarine torpedo boat” USS H-1 (SS-28), originally known as the first USS Seawolf, at the Naval Submarine Base New London, Groton, Connecticut, circa 1919. Crew complement of these vessels was just two officers and two dozen men.

Built by the Union Iron Works of San Francisco, California as an improvement to the Holland 602 type, Seawolf had a staggering 70~ sisters that were ordered not only by the U.S. Navy (H-1 through H-9) but also by the navies of Imperial Russia and the British Commonwealth. With a submerged displacement of about 450-tons, these were small boats, going just 150.25-feet long overall.

USS H-1 (Submarine # 28) and USS H-2 (Submarine # 29) Fitting out at the Union Iron Works, San Francisco, California, 7 October 1913. NH 66740

With a hybrid powerplant of New London Ship & Engine Co (NELSECO) diesels and Electro Dynamic electric motors, they were fast for their time, able to make 14 knots when surfaced. Likewise, they had a 2,300nm range on their meager 11,800-gal fuel bunker, a 200-foot test depth, and could remain underwater on their two 60-cell Gould batteries traveling 100 nm at 5 knots.

H Boat Cell (H-1 to H-3) at the Gould Storage Battery Company, Buffalo, New York. Each of these early boats carried 120 such cells in two batteries. NH 115013

As for armament, they carried no deck guns due to their limited size but had space reserved to tote eight torpedoes (four in their forward 18-inch tubes and four reloads).

The torpedo room of USS H-5 in 1919. The breeches of the four 18-inch (457 mm) torpedo tubes are at the center. The tubes themselves had rotating exterior bow caps rather than doors. Scanned from Page 304 of Friedman, Norman, U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History, Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1995 via Wiki Commons.

The first three vessels were ordered before the Great War and were originally to have kick-ass predator/fish names (as was common for the U.S. Navy at the time, with early boats bestowed such enviable monikers as USS Tarantula and USS Viper) but this changed gears while they were still underway. Therefore, instead of the planned USS Seawolf, Nautilus and Garfish, we simply got USS H-1, H-2 and H-3, a naming convention that would continue through the follow-on K, L, M, N, O, R, and S-class boats until the nine V-class subs under construction in 1931 were renamed for fish, a practice that carried on through the 1970s..

Nonetheless, the three Hs were a relative unknown in the 1914 Jane’s:

USS H-1 (Submarine No. 28) commissioned 1 December 1913, and she and her two sisters were attached to the 2nd Torpedo Flotilla, Pacific Fleet, operating along the West Coast out of San Pedro, ranging from Los Angeles to lower British Columbia.

Old photo found in estate collection of SS-28 and SS-29 (H-1 and H-2 respectively) moored in Coos Bay, Oregon sometime between 1914-17, via Wiki Commons. Note their early canvas topside protection. 

USS H-1 (Submarine # 28) Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 30 January 1914. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. Catalog #: NH 69853

USS H-1 (Submarine # 28) Off Long Beach, California, circa 1914. USS Stewart (Destroyer # 13) is underway in the background. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1972. NH 76006

Considered poor open ocean boats, the H-class were not very successful in U.S. service, with the later flight (H-4 through H-9) only acquired as they had already been built for the Tsar who, after 1917, was no longer signing the checks for Mother Russia. Nonetheless, with Uncle Sam entering the war, they were all pressed into use as training boats.


“H-1 set out from San Pedro on 17 October 1917, and reached New London, Conn., 22 days later via Acapulco, Mexico, Balboa, Panama Canal Zone, Key West, Fla., Charleston, S.C., and Philadelphia, Pa. For the remainder of the war, she operated from there and patrolled Long Island Sound, frequently with officer students from the submarine school on board.”

USS H-1 (Submarine # 28) Off the Naval Submarine Base New London, Groton, Connecticut, circa 1919. Photographed by LaTour, NH 41954

Another view, same time and place NH 41955

When the war ended, H-1 and H-2 set off for their return trip to the West Coast via the Panama Canal– and they almost made it too.

On 12 March 1920, H-1 grounded in a storm off Santa Margarita Island, Baja California. Four men, including her skipper, LCDR. James R. Webb (USNA 1913), perished in the heavy surf during the effort to reach dry land as H-2 narrowly avoided the same fate.

While the repair ship USS Vestal (AR-4) two weeks later pulled the stricken submarine off the rocks, H-1 rapidly sank in 50 feet of water and her hulk was abandoned. The Navy drew a name through her entry on the Navy List on 12 April 1920, and her remains were sold where-is/as-is to scrappers a few months later. However, it doesn’t seem that said salvors were very successful.

The rest of her class in U.S. service were all much luckier, and, decommissioned in 1922, were laid up and sold for junk a decade later.

Meanwhile, the Italians and Russians had their own 19 boats, with the latter losing five in the Baltic in 1918 to avoid having the Germans capture them and continued to operate these American submersibles for years. The Soviets still had five in their Black Sea Fleet when the Germans came back in 1941, losing two during WWII. As a side note, some of the lost Tsarist subs were raised by the Finns who attempted unsuccessfully to get them working while at least one was used by White Russian Gen. Wrangel’s fleet until 1922 when it was handed over to the French for scrapping.

As for H-1s 40+ British sisters, they were produced at the Canadian Vickers Yards in Montreal, Fore River in Massachusetts, and a host of yards in the UK proper. Three were lost during WWI. A fourth, HMS H-6 (the British coincidentally used the same inspired H-series names as the USN boats) was interned in Holland in 1916 and sold to the Dutch who used her as HNLMS O 8 until WWII when the Germans captured her and later scuttled the well-traveled boat in 1945. Many of the rest of the boats lived on after Versailles as training craft and four were lost in accidents in the 1920s, as is the nature of student drivers. Nine continued to see WWII service with the Royal Navy, where two more were lost in action.

In addition to the British RN H-class units, the Canadians fielded two (CH-14 and CH-15) briefly and six went to Chile as the Guacolda-class, where they continued in service until as late as 1949, the last H-class boats in operation.

From the 1946 Jane’s:

As it stands today, H-1 could be the best remembered and most accessible of this huge class of early submarines. Lost in shallow water off Baja California, and technically not a gravesite as the bluejackets lost in her grounding died on the effort to reach the beach, her bones have often been visited over the past century.

Most recently, in 2016, locals from nearby Puerto Alcatraz rediscovered the wreck, sparking a drive by Mexican authorities of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) to move in and survey the vessel.

Time has not been kind and the stern is reportedly full of sand while most of her pressure hull has collapsed. Still, the offices of INAH, in conjunction with the U.S Navy’s NHHC, are recovering what they can for preservation and documentation.

Since her loss, the Navy has never commissioned another H-1, but there have been three subsequent USS Seawolf (s) since 1939, all hard-serving submarines.


H-1 (SS-28) showing Profile Inboard; Profile Outboard, Midship Arrangement & Booklet of General Plans. National Archives Identifier: 55302488

358 long tons (364 t) surfaced
467 long tons (474 t) submerged
Length: 150 ft 4 in
Beam: 15 ft 10 in
Draft: 12 ft 5 in
Installed power:
950 hp (710 kW) (diesel engines)
600 hp (450 kW) (electric motors)
2 × NELSECO diesel engines 950 hp
2 × Electro Dynamic electric motors (450 kW)
2 × 60-cell batteries
2 × shafts
14 knots surfaced
10.5 knots submerged
2,300 nm at 11 knots surfaced
100 nm at 5 knots submerged
Test depth: 200 ft
Complement: 25 officers and men
4 × 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes
8 × torpedoes

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