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The Shok Valley sounds like a nice place to never go

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams was presented with the Medal of Honor at the White House on Wednesday. Williams earned the award for his actions in Shok Valley, Afghanistan, on April 6, 2008, while a weapons guy on an SF A-team, Operational Detachment Alpha 3336.

“It was kind of quiet, then all of a sudden everything exploded all at once – machine gun fire, some RPGs started going off. [The insurgents] had some pretty good shooters and a lot of people up there waiting for us.”

Originally recognized with the Silver Star, which was ugraded in September, he is still on active duty.

Welcome home, Lt. Crotty

Lt. James Crotty as lieutenant junior grade aboard a Coast Guard cutter. Crotty, a 1934 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, served throughout the U.S. including Alaska prior to service in the South Pacific. Photo courtesy of the MacArthur Memorial Library, Norfolk, Va.

R 290809 OCT 19
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CCG//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS //N05360//
ALCOAST 335/19
COMDTNOTE 5360
SUBJ:  THE RETURN HOME OF LT THOMAS JAMES EUGENE CROTTY, USCG
1. It is my honor to report that we will bring LT Thomas James Eugene “Jimmy” Crotty, a Coast Guard and American hero, home.
2. LT Crotty was born on 18 March 1912, in Buffalo, New York. He graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1934 after serving as Company Commander, class president and captain of the Academy’s football team. He served his first seven years after graduation onboard cutters in New York City, Seattle, Sault Ste. Marie and San Diego.
3. In the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, he served with the U.S. Navy as Executive Officer onboard USS QUAIL, part of the 16th Naval District-in-Shore Patrol Headquarters, Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines. He aided in the defense of Corregidor during the Japanese invasion in the early days of WWII, supervising the destruction of ammunition and facilities at the Navy Yard and scuttling the fleet submarine USS SEA LION to prevent its use by the Japanese. As the Japanese advanced on Corregidor, LT Crotty eagerly took charge of cannibalized deck guns from the ship and led a team of brave enlisted Marines and Army personnel fighting for an additional 30 days until the Japanese bombardment finally silenced the defense of the island fortress.
4. Following the fall of Corregidor, LT Crotty was taken prisoner by the Japanese and interned at the Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Camp. After his death on 19 July 1942 from diphtheria, he was buried in a common grave along with all those who died that day. 
5. After World War II, the U.S. government moved remains from the common graves to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Republic of the Philippines. On 10 September2019, as part of an exhaustive effort by DoD to bring every service member home, LT Crotty was positively identified from the remains exhumed from the cemetery in early 2018.
6. LT Crotty is the only known Coast Guardsman to serve in defense of the Philippines; his service authorizes the Coast Guard to display the Philippine Defense Battle Streamer on our Coast Guard Ensign. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and many other decorations. A full accounting of his service can be found in the blog at:
https://compass.coastguard.blog/2019/09/18/the-long-blue-line-lt-crotty-and-the-battle-for-corregidor/
7. On Friday, 01 November 2019, arrival honors will be held at Joint Reserve Base, Niagara NY at 1000. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, 02 November 2019 at 1200 at St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, Buffalo, NY followed by interment with full military honors at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, NY.
8. LT Crotty embodied our core values of Honor, Respect, and most especially Devotion to Duty. As we celebrate his life and legacy, we also celebrate the lives of the more than 600 Coast Guard members we were not able to bring home from WWII. He represents the proud legacy of the Long Blue Line of Coast Guard men and women who place themselves in harm’s way every day in the service to their country and fellow man. He is one of many who made the ultimate sacrifice; we should never forget his efforts and the sacrifices of the thousands of Coast Guard men and women who served so bravely in our service over the last 229 years.
9. To honor LT Crotty, I ask every Coast Guard unit and member to observe a moment of silence as he begins his journey home on Thursday, 31 October 2019 at 1900Z (1500 EDT/1200 PDT/0900 HST).
10. The Half-masting of the national ensign for all Coast Guard units will take place when LT Crotty is honored at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in the spring of 2020. Information will be sent SEPCOR.
11. Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant, sends.
12. Internet release is authorized.

75 years ago: You can run…

A Japanese Navy Kawanishi H8K2 “Emily” patrol seaplane, #801-77, flies close to the ocean while trying to escape from a PB4Y-1 Liberator patrol bomber (a U.S. Navy B-24s with only minor modifications), just East of the Ryukyu islands, (25 20’N, 130 30’E) on 31 October 1944.

The PB4Y these images were taken by, flown by LT. Herbert G. Box of VPB-117 (“The Blue Raiders”), shot this Emily down, recorded at 1345(I).

Equipped with the early AN/APQ-5 low-altitude radar bombing gear, the PB4Y-1 shown above could carry 10 .50 cal machine guns in four turrets and two waist positions as well as 1,200-pounds of bombs on up to 1,500-mile patrols.

In the old adage of “he who lives by the sword,” Box’s aircraft, Sweating it Out (USAF B-24J-155-CO 44-40312, BuNo 38760), was less than two weeks later severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire from Muko-Jima Retto in the Bonin Islands, the site of a Japanese weather and radio station. The crippled PB4Y made it back to within 30 miles of its Tinian base before being forced to ditch. Upon hitting the ocean, the plane broke into three pieces and five enlisted aircrewmen were lost. Seven survivors, including an injured Box, were rescued the next morning.

Between its establishment on 1 February 1944 and its decommissioning on 4 November 1945, Patrol Bombing Squadron 117 flew an impressive 1,617 missions, averaging 11.4 hours each, primarily on 1,000-mile patrols in support of the U.S. Third Fleet.

Throughout the Blue Raider’s Pacific War, they tallied 210 Japanese ships of some 109,000 tons (24 during one three week period alone), made 300 attacks on Japanese installations, and were credited with 58 enemy aircraft shot down, earning a Presidental Unit Citation.

VPB-117s crews were so good at splashing Zekes, Emilys, Jakes, Vals and Judys that they count the highest number of air-to-air victories among U.S. Navy patrol squadrons of all time and had an unprecedented five crews that chalked up five or more “kills,” an impressive number when you take into account that the whole fleet only had eight such crews.

In exchange, The Blue Raiders lost 17 of their own PB4Ys along with 72 officers and men.

Getting the creeps at Fort Morgan

Every year the good folks at Fort Morgan run a historic nighttime tour around Halloween focusing on the more morbid side of things there. As the fort is 200 years old (construction began in 1819) and was the centerpiece in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 as well as being garrisoned off and on from the 1830s through 1945, there is a lot to hear and see. As a bonus, these tours often open up sometimes closed areas of the fort, which is always a treat.

Besides, as I made the Fort central to the plot of my 2013 zombie novel (shameless plug), it just made sense.

I caught these images during the tour, which was very worthwhile, so if you can take advantage of the event or others like it, please find the time to do so.

Inside the casemates before sunset

The handprints inside the usually sealed magazine of Battery Duportail, a reinforced concrete, Endicott Period M1888MII 12-inch disappearing gun battery at Fort Morgan. These are about 12 feet off the ground and were made by gunners moving around about stacks of 268-pound shells and tons of bagged powder with their sweaty, chemical-laden hands forever staining the salt and calcium of the walls. The battery was decommissioned in 1931.

Dylan Tucker, Cultural Resource Specialist, Fort Morgan, portraying Confederate B. Gen. Richard Lucian Page, the Virginia-born former U.S. Navy officer who resigned his commission in 1861 to join the Confederate Navy, only to be saddled with an Army command that was on the receiving end of 3,000 shells from the USN!

Overlooking the Endicott-era Portland concrete battery towards Mobile Bay at dusk

Now to try to get to Fort Pickens, who has a similar program, next October…

Battery Langdon, Fort Pickens, NPS photo

Look who’s dressed up for Halloween

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.”

While Moncton was repainted first in late August, Regina has been seen at sea earlier this month sporting her new scheme. Here she is seen at sea for sensor trials off Nanoose, and she looks striking.

Every warship looks better with a bone in their teeth, but a dazzle pattern is the best…

 

 

Warship Wednesday, Oct 30, 2019: Some Dazzle from Rio

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, Oct 30, 2019: Some Dazzle from Rio

Photo by the Diretoria do Patrimônio Histórico e Documentação da Marinha (DPHDM)

Here we see the “Classe M” contratorpedeiro NAeL Marcílio Dias of the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil) in 1944. If at first, you thought this looked like a U.S. destroyer during the Battle of the Atlantic, you aren’t wrong.

In the mid-1930s the Brazilian Navy was a formidable force on paper for a Latin American fleet with two Jutland-era dreadnoughts battleships and two companion Armstrong-built light cruisers. What it lacked, however, were submarines and modern destroyers. To solve the first, Rio ordered a series of new submarines from Italy then went big on tin cans with a six-pack of H-class destroyers (planned Jurua class) from Vickers and a further three modified Mahan-class destroyers from the U.S.

The Mahan-class was the quintessential early 1930s American destroyer design, being very fast– 37 knots on steam turbines– and well-armed for the era with a full dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes and five 5-inch/38 DP guns, all in a ship that could float in just 10 feet of water. A full 18 ships were completed for the USN between 1934 and 1937, which went on to earn over 100 battlestars in WWII.

USS Mahan (DD-364) Running trials, 1936. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 60643

USS MAHAN (DD-364) anchored, with her rails manned, circa the later 1930s. NH 101681

The three Brazilian Mahans would use American equipment and technology transfers but, importantly, would be built in Brazil at the Arsenal de Marinha, on the Isles of Snakes, in Rio de Janeiro, notably making them the largest warships built domestically until then.

Laid down in 1937, they would carry “M” pennant numbers (M-1, 2, 3) and the names of former Brazilian naval heroes — Marcílio Dias, Mariz e Barros, and Greenhalgh— which had previously been used on a class of 1890s English-built torpedo boats. For instance, Marcílio Dias was a 27-year-old sailor who lost his arm when his ship engaged three Paraguayan warships during the Battle of Riachuelo in 1865 during the War of the Triple Alliance while trying to save the ship’s flag.

However, the vessels took a lengthy time for Brazilians to crank out, as everything was being done for the first time. Whereas the U.S.-made ships typically went from keel laying to breaking out a commissioning pennant after about two years in yards that were accustomed to the work, the Marcílio Dias class only made it to the fleet after an extended six-year gestation period, completing in November 1943.

Brazilian destroyers Marcílio Dias, Mariz e Barros, and Greenhalgh at their commissioning ceremony, 29 Nov 1943. DPHDM

And it was just in time.

Brazil, along with the bulk of Latin America, was neutral for most of the Great War– only declaring war on the German Empire on 26 October 1917– and had high hopes to remain out of WWII. This was not to be.

Mounting Brazilian merchant ship losses to German U-Boats and Italian submarines in the Atlantic, coupled with British pressure, led President Getulio Vargas to declare war on both Germany and Italy on August 22, 1942. With the stroke of a pen, on 15 September 1942, VADM Jonas Ingram was appointed ComSoLant (which soon became the U.S. 4th Fleet), with the Brazilian Navy folded into his overall command. The force’s mandate was to hunt down Axis blockade runners, submarines and surface raiders prowling about the region.

The Brazilian Navy was ordered to take the gloves off and soon was sending men to the U.S. to train on new weapon systems while American ships increasingly operated from ports in the country.

U.S. Submarine Chaser Training School, Miami, Florida. Shown are officers and enlisted men of the Brazilian Naval Mission at the School. Lieutenant Aristides Pereira Campos, Jr., looks on as Jose Bezarra da Silva loads with a dummy shell. Jose Avelino da Silva receives orders through the earphone as Chief Petty Officer Corintho Jose de Goes directs the crew. At the controls are Joaquim Brasil da Fonesca (foreground) and Josephat Alves Marcondes, above gun, December 28, 1942. NARA 80-G-40162

Eight 170-foot PC-461-class sub chasers were supplied in 1942-43 via Lend Lease (eventually purchased by Brazil) for coastal patrol. Added to this were B-25s, PBY flying boats, Lockheed Hudsons and Venturas sent to join U.S. Navy patrol squadrons operating from Brazil. Notably, several U-boats and an Italian submarine, (U-164, U-128, U-590, U-513, U-662, U-598, U-199, U-591, U-161, and Archimede) wrecked by air-dropped depth charges and machine guns, rest off the coast of Brazil today.

PBYs in flight over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are flown by Brazilian pilots who received training from US Naval Aviators. Far below is Ipanema Beach, and in the center background is the famed Copacabana Beach. NARA 80-G-59581

Anyway, back to our destroyers.

As 1943 was not 1937, once the balloon went up, the Marcílio Dias-class underwent a radical change in armament, shipping to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for installation of 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikons as well as sonar and updated ASW weapons. To compensate for space and weight, they only had four rather than five 5-inchers installed and just one quad torpedo tube launcher rather than three.

This left them with warpaint to boot.

Mariz e Barros (DPHDM)

Coming late into the conflict, the three Brazilian Ms got into the war in a very active sense when they shipped out of Recife to join Task Force 41.1, centered around the cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4), in February 1944 to escort the first contingent of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force to Europe, a task that brought them back and forth across the Atlantic from Rio to Gibraltar through January 1945, a convoy mission that was repeated no less than five times successfully.

The Brazilain M-class destroyers spent 1944 and 1945 rotating between 14-day patrols of the South Atlantic and running convoys between South America, Africa the Caribbean and Europe, notably never losing a ship under their care. Photo: Marinha do Brasil

The First Division of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, first South American troops to arrive in the European theatre of war, swing into Naples, Italy, after their crossing of the South Atlantic on USS General W.A. Mann (AP 112). Released July 16, 1944. NARA 80-G-46176

The 25,000-strong Brazilian Expeditionary Force fought like lions in Italy from late 1944 through 1945 and lost nearly 950 men to combat along the Gothic Line. They also bagged two German Generals including Generalleutnant Otto Fretter-Pico, shown here surrendering his 148. Infanterie-Division to Brazilian FEB General Euclides Zenóbio da Costa. Italy, 1945

Brazilian soldiers celebrate the Brazilian Independence Day in Italy during World War II, September 1944

After escorting a Brazilian task force of marines (Fuzileiros Navais) from Rio to Trinidad in early 1945, where they relieved U.S. Marines for service in the Pacific, the three Brazilian M-class destroyers joined the Allied Northeast Naval Force (South Atlantic) and rode shotgun over JR/RJ convoys between Rio de Janeiro to Recife and BF/FB runs from Bahia to Freetown as well as standing by for weather station/sea rescue for US planes from Africa to America via Ascension Island.

Although late in the war, U-boats were still active in the SouthLant region, with U-977, the final German unit at sea to surrender, only pulling into an Argentine port in August 1945. Sadly, they also searched for the survivors of the lost cruiser Bahia, which was destroyed at sea in July.

Following the end of the conflict and escorting the FEB home from Europe as part of Task Force 27.1.1, the three M boats formed the First Destroyer Flotilla with new pennant numbers (D24, D25, D26) and remained in service for generations. Notably, they rolled out the welcome mat to USS Missouri in August 1947 when that storied battlewagon brought President Harry Truman to Brazil for a state visit.

Over the next 15 years, they took part in a series of UNITAS, VERITAS and SPRINGBOARD exercises with the U.S. Navy and Latin American fleets, worked up with the Portuguese Navy off Africa, and waved the green banner of Brazil from the Cape of Good Hope to the Caribbean. In 1964, Barros even picked up a British Sea Cat missile launcher for use against aircraft, which lived on as a training ship slightly longer than her two sisters.

Contratorpedeiro Marcílio Dias (D25) late in her career. Via Marinha do Brasil

Contratorpedeiro Mariz e Barros (D26) late in her career. Via Marinha do Brasil

Speaking of which, Marcílio Dias and Greenhalgh were stricken in 1966, with Barros lingering until late 1972. The ships were replaced in service by former FRAM I Gearing-class destroyers (ex-Henry W. Tucker, ex-Brinkley Bass) in 1973 that were given the same names, with these latter tin cans remaining in service until the 1990s.

NAeL Marcílio Dias (D25) (ex-USS Henry W. Tucker (DD-875)) during exercise Unitas XIX in 1978

Today, the spirit of these WWII Brazilian Mahans is carried in the Marinha do Brasil by the Type 22 frigate NAeL Greenhalgh (F46) (ex-HMS Broadsword (F88))

Further, they have been memorialized in maritime art which, in turn, was used by Brazil in 2004 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the FEB and the country’s efforts in WWII.

Specs:

Marcílio Dias class destroyers, 1945 Jane’s, although the armament listed is incorrect

Displacement:
1,524 t (1,500 long tons) standard
2,235 t (2,200 long tons) full load
Length:
357 ft oa
341 ft pp
Beam: 34 ft 10 in
Draught: 10 ft mean
Propulsion: 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
2-shaft General Electric Company geared turbines, 42800 HP
Speed: 36.5 knots
Range: 6,500 nmi @15 knots on 559 t fuel oil
Complement: 190 to 210 men, maximum of 250 in wartime
Sensors: QCR-1 sonar (1943), by 1950s SPS-4, SPS-6C, Mk 28 (1962) AN-SQS-11A
Armament: (1937 design)
5 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × .50 caliber water-cooled machine guns (4×1)
3 × quad 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes with Bliss–Leavitt Mark 8 torpedoes
2 x stern depth charge racks
Armament: (1943)
4 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × 40mm/60 twin Bofors guns (2×2)
8 × 20mm/70 Oerlikons (8×1)
2 × quad 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes for Bliss Leavitt MK 8 Mod. 3D fish
4 × depth charge throwers, K-guns
2 x stern depth charge racks
Armament: (1970)
2 × single Mark 12 5″/38 caliber guns in Mark 21 shielded open-backed pedestal mounts
4 × 40mm/60 twin Bofors guns (2×2)
4 × depth charge throwers, K-guns
2 x stern depth charge racks
Hedgehog Mark 15 ASW launcher
Sea Cat GWS-20 SAM system

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Souvenir of the Big Advance at Cambrai

Turned over in a police firearms surrender, a trophy Luger from a historic Great War battle on the Western Front is now in a museum.

The pistol, a 1911-marked DWM, was collected by the Wiltshire Police during the UK’s National Firearms Surrender this summer. While the majority of firearms collected will be torched, the Luger was passed to the famed Tank Museum in Bovington for them to display.

“Firearms handed into the police during surrenders are sent for ballistic tests to ensure they haven’t been used in crime and are usually then destroyed,” said Wiltshire Police Armourer, Jamie Ross. However, an exception was made for the Luger, which was transferred in unmolested condition. “This live firearm is a part of history and I know that it is a welcome addition to the collection at the Tank Museum,” said Ross.

The intact DWM Parabellum was made in 1911 and, brought back as a war trophy the UK, is in a holster marked “Souvenir of the Big Advance at Cambrai November 1917.” (Photo: The Tank Museum)

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