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It’s official, first four LCSs headed to “Red Lead Row.” Why not Blow Row?

As we have talked about previously, the first flight littoral combat ships (Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth, and Coronado) have been deemed too beta to be upgraded enough for regular fleet use. In a  burst from the CNO last month, the word is now official: all four will be shifted to OCIR status (Out of Commission, In Reserve) on 31 March 2021, with the youngest, Coronado, being just six years old.

Oof.

In a case of bad timing, the Navy’s PAO just released this very well done “A Day in the Life of an LCS” video, filmed on the new Freedom-class USS Indianapolis (LCS 17).

Notably, the three Cyclone-class 170-foot patrol craft not up to their neck in the Persian Gulf (USS Zephyr PC-8, USS Shamal PC-13, and USS Tornado PC-14) are also to be disposed of on the same date.

MAYPORT, Fla. (Aug. 02, 2016) – The Cyclone-class Patrol Coastal USS Shamal (PC 13) returns to homeport U.S. Naval Station Mayport after a 62-day deployment to the 4th Fleet area of responsibility where they conducted counter illicit trafficking operations in support of Operation Martillo. Operation Martillo is a joint international law enforcement and military operation involving U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, targeting illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hendricks/Released)

The other 10 craft has been at Bahrain for most of the past decade while Zephyr, Shamal, and Tornado– two of which were formerly Coast Guard-manned out of Pascagoula’s old NAVSTA– have been based in Mayport under 4th Fleet’s control– just about the only Navy vessels that are regularly outside of ships transiting through or on training evolutions.

This of course begs the question of, why not give the “old” LCSs to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT)? Call em PCs? Get some tax dollars out of them.

Is this where I point out that the lastest 4th Fleet deployments have surged DDGs? Wait, wasn’t the LCS program designed to prevent billion-dollar Aegis ships from being used in constabulary work?

Whomp Whomp.

Warship Wednesday, May 6, 2020: A Ship that Can’t be Licked

Here at LSOZI, we 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, May 6, 2020: A Ship That Can’t Be Licked

Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1975. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 83213

Here we see the proud new Robert H. Smith-class light minelayer USS Aaron Ward (DM-34), resplendent in fresh Camouflage Measure 32, Design 11a, on 17 November 1944. Less than six months later, she would look vastly different after an engagement that took place some 75 years ago this week.

The dozen RH Smith-class DMs were all laid down in 1943-44 as Allen M. Sumner-class destroyers at three different yards but were converted during their construction into fast, very well armed, minelayers. They retained their strong gun armament to include a half-dozen 5″/38 cal guns in a trio of twin Mk 38 mounts, a full dozen 40mm Bofors, and another dozen 20mm Oerlikon AAA guns. Likewise, they kept their ASW gear to include sonar and listening gear, two stern depth charge racks, and four K-gun projectors.

Where they differed from the rest of the 50+ Sumner-class tin cans was in the respect that they never had their twin 5-tube 21-inch torpedo tubes installed and in their place picked up a series of rails for up to 80 naval mines that ran lengthways down her deck and a modicum of mechanical sweeping gear.

USS Robert H. Smith (DM 23) Overhead c. 1944. Note her three Mk38 5-inch mounts and amidship mine rails along her weatherdeck loaded with mines ready to drop over the fantail. Also note the four K-guns have been relocated to the aft superstructure, another difference from the standard Allen Sumner class destroyers. Bureau of Ships photo via Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/11/0823.htm

The subject of our tale was the third U.S. Navy warship to carry the name of RADM Aaron Ward (USNA 1871). Ward made his mark on naval history during the Spanish–American War, where he was placed in command of the ersatz gunboat USS Wasp, formerly the 202-foot steam yacht Columbia. The hardy little vessel fought at Santiago, enforced the blockade of Cuba, helped send the better-armed Spanish sloop Jorge Juan to the bottom of the ocean, and engaged targets ashore. Ward would retire from the Navy in 1913 as second in command of the Atlantic Fleet and pass away in Brooklyn in 1918.

Ward, shown left in 1898 as a lieutenant on the armed yacht USS Wasp during the Spanish-American War and right as a rear admiral in Special Full-Dress uniform in 1913. NHHC photos NH 98489 and NH 42076.

His name was celebrated on the Wickes-class destroyer USS Aaron Ward (DD-132), which would serve in the U.S. Navy from 1919 to 1940 and then under the White Ensign as HMS Castleton during World War II, transferred as part of the “50 destroyers” deal.

USS Aaron Ward (Destroyer # 132) Off the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, 10 April 1919. NH 57701

The second vessel to carry the name of our hero was the Gleaves-class destroyer USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) which was commissioned 4 March 1942 and lost just 13 months later when she was sunk by Japanese aircraft off Guadalcanal, four battle stars for her WWII service.

USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) approaching USS Wasp (CV-7) on 17 August 1942, during operations in the Solomon Islands area. 80-G-12263

Which brings us to USS Aaron Ward (DM-34).

Laid down as DD-773 on 12 December 1943 at Bethlehem Shipbuilding’s West Coast works at San Pedro, California she was commissioned less than a year later on 28 October 1944 as DM-34.

On 9 February 1945, after workups, she departed San Pedro, bound for Pearl Harbor, then by 16 March joined the Mine Flotilla of the 5th Fleet’s Task Force (TF) 52 at Ulithi. Soon enough, she was bound for the Ryukyu Islands and the big push on Okinawa.

She finished March by downing a confirmed three Japanese aircraft and started April with four days of close-in naval gunfire support for Marines hitting the beach on Okinawa. As the month wore on, she had more brushes with enemy aircraft, downing a Japanese plane on the 27th and another on the 28th. By the end of her (very short) service off Okinawa, her gunners would stencil 18 kyokujitsuki flags on her “scoreboard.”

While replenishing at Kerama Retto, she came to the assistance of the sinking transport USS Pinkney (APH-2) after a kamikaze scored a hit on that auxiliary.

On 30 April, the Aaron Ward turned seaward once again and was installed on one of the series of radar pickets, No. 10, which were to provide critical early warning of inbound Japanese kamikaze waves.

Caption: Fifteen radar picket stations are shown. Stations will be occupied as directed by OTC. Radar pickets steam within a radius of 5000 yds. of the center of the station. The station center of each radar picket is indicated in latitude and longitude, range, and bearing from point BOLO. COMPHIBSPAC OP PLAN Ai-45

While working radar picket station number 10, she helped repulse several air attacks but got a respite from the worst of it due to bad weather. However, on the afternoon of 3 May, the weather cleared.

51 Minutes of Hell

With her radar spotting bogies at 27 miles out, her gunners manned their posts, and soon enough a pair of Japanese planes vectored right for her. At 18:13 hours, a group of 18 to 24 aircraft attacked from under cloud cover. Soon, the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Little (DD-803) was wracked with no less than five kamikazes that struck that tin can. By 19:55 Little broke up and went down.

After all, what destroyer could survive five kamikazes?

As it turned out, Ward was smothered by six that came close enough to do damage over 51 minutes of hell.

Via Destroyer Report- Gunfire, Bomb and Kamikaze Damage Including Losses in Action 17 October 1941 to 15 August 1945

Line drawing of the ship showing areas of damage via NHHC

1- Near miss crash. Engine and propeller hit Mt. 3.
2- ZEKE hit Mt. 44. 2B Bomb blew out side after engine room.
3- Near miss crash damaged rigging and No. 1 stack.
4- VAL hit the main deck, frame 81.
4B- Near miss bomb blew in side forward fireroom.
5- VAL crashed deckhouse, frame 90.
6- Plane hit after stack.
6B- Bomb detonated in after uptakes.

Aaron Ward was hit as shown in the above diagram by six Kamikazes and three large bombs, estimated to have been 250 Kg GP. All spaces between bulkheads 72 and 170 flooded to the waterline except for the forward engine room and certain starboard water tanks. Free surface extended through five major compartments, 1650 tons of water were shipped, and GM was reduced to approximately 1 foot positive. Severe gasoline and ammunition fires were brought under control after about two hours with the assistance of LCS83 alongside. Firemain pressure and power forward remained available throughout due to the use of the forward emergency Diesel generator.

Forty-two sailors died and nearly 100 were injured, a figure that marked nearly half of her crew as casualties.

Why so many hits?

One Navy after-action report on suicide aircraft notes, “When damaged by AA. or harassed by our planes, suiciders selected targets of opportunity. Once hit, a ship was likely to be attacked by other planes seeking to finish it off.”

As noted in USN Bulletin No. 24 Radar Pickets and Methods of Combating Suicide Attacks Off Okinawa, CDR William Henry Sanders, Jr., (USNA 1930), CO USS Aaron Ward, comments:

1. The entire enemy attack appeared to be exceptionally well coordinated by a pilot, or pilots, who understood the limitations of a destroyer’s firepower and took every advantage of smoke and the crippled condition of the ship. In fact, it appeared that the attacks were directed from a control plane which never took part in the assault.

RECENT INFORMATION CONFIRMS THE FACT THAT THE LEADER USUALLY IS EQUIPPED WITH RADAR AND BRINGS HIS GROUP WITHIN VISUAL RANGE. IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT THE MORE EXPERIENCED LEADER COULD ALSO DIRECT AND COORDINATE THE ATTACK. CAP OR SHIP GET THAT LEADER!

The operation was too well-coordinated and executed to have been the individual inspiration of each pilot. Not only did planes come in from different directions at the same time, but on several occasions, the first plane was followed immediately by another approximately 1,000 yards astern of the first. This type of attack was seen to deal the death blow to the U.S.S. Little.

2. It is not understood why the Kamikaze does not strafe the target on the way in, as it appears to be a simple matter to close and lock the firing key to the machine guns. Casualties would have been greater had this been done in the attacks on the Aaron Ward.

3. All planes are believed to have used the bridge and main battery director as a point of aim, but due to the radical maneuvering of the ship and the heavy volume of fire forward, this target was never reached; all planes crashed into the superstructure amidships.

4. Before making his run, each pilot circled the ship at a distance of 5 to 6 miles, apparently seeking the most advantageous position from which to start his dive.

THE CAP HAS DONE A MAGNIFICENT JOB IN THESE OPERATIONS BUT OFTEN TOO FEW PLANES HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE. THE CAP MUST BE LARGE ENOUGH AND CAREFULLY STACKED TO TAKE CARE OF A SITUATION OF THIS TYPE, WHICH OBVIOUSLY WAS NOT THE CASE AT THIS CRITICAL MOMENT.

In each suicide run, planes appeared to take their lead angles at a range of from three to four thousand yards, increasing speed considerably and steadying on the attack course. No attempts at evasion were made on any of the runs after the pilot had finally committed himself.

5. From the results of the bombing, it can be readily determined that the pilots had very little experience in bombing and that the release of bombs may have been accidental, caused by the shock of hits from gunfire of this ship.

Amazingly, Aaron Ward survived the night “against raging fires, exploding ammunition and the flooding of all engineering spaces” and the next day arrived at Kerama Retto under tow from sister ship USS Shannon (DM-25) with no freeboard aft, 18 feet draft forward and a 5-degree starboard list.

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) In the Kerama Retto anchorage, 5 May 1945, showing damage received when she was hit by several Kamikazes off Okinawa on 3 May. Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, NH 62572

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) Damage amidships received during Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa on 3 May 1945. The view looks down and aft from Aaron Ward’s foremast, with her greatly distorted forward smokestack in the lower center. Photographed while the ship was in the Kerama Retto on 5 May 1945. A mine is visible at left, on the ship’s starboard mine rails. Catalog #: 80-G-330107

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) In the Kerama Retto anchorage, 5 May 1945, showing damage received when she was hit by several Japanese suicide planes off Okinawa on 3 May. Note three-bladed aircraft propeller lodged in her superstructure, just forward of the after 5/38 twin gun mount. NH 62571

A closer look at NH 62571, showing the propeller. Note the unexploded depth charges on the deck above, just inches away

One of the kamikazes’ engines was discovered littering the deck (Photo via USS Aaron Ward.com) http://www.ussaaronward.com/History/photo%20tour%20sm%20.htm

Her dead that could be recovered were buried at the U. S. military cemetery at Zamami Shima on Kerma Retto and later moved to Okinawa in 1948. Some 20 souls that were blown overboard during the attack rest in the deep.

From Aaron Ward’s cruise book, via NARA

Aaron Ward remained at Kerama Retto undergoing emergency repairs until 11 June then, against all odds, proceeded under her own power to Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, using just the starboard shaft.

From there, she continued to New York, arriving in mid-August just as the war was ending.

Her story was celebrated nationwide at the time.

From Aaron Ward’s cruise book, via NARA

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz sent accolades to the battered but not broken destroyer, saying “Congratulations on your magnificent performance. We all admire a ship that can’t be licked. The combat record of the USS Aaron Ward and her return from battle in a seriously damaged condition reflect an unusual measure of courage and skill in her officers and men.”

Nonetheless, beyond any economical repair with peacetime coming, she was decommissioned 28 September and sold in the summer of 1946 for scrap.

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) earned a single battle star as well as the Presidential Unit Citation for her brief wartime service. From the time she entered Ulithi atoll to the time she put in at Kerama Retto for a patch job, she spent just 49 days with the fleet. There has not been a fourth “Aaron Ward” on the Navy List.

Her anchor is on display in Elgin, Illinois, where it was installed as a memorial in 1971 by the parents of SN2 Laverne H. Schroeder, USNR, killed on her decks in the 3 May 1945 attack.

Likewise, her story has been covered in several books on the Pacific War including. perhaps most poignantly, in Brave Ship, Brave Men by Arnold S. Lott, an excerpt of which is on the USS Aaron Ward website.

Her only skipper, CDR Sanders, would receive the Navy Cross for the actions of 3 May 1945 and retire as a rear admiral in 1959 after commanding the destroyer tender USS Dixie in the Korean War. He passed in 1992 at the age of 85 and was warmly remembered as a community leader.

For more information on Aaron Ward‘s kamikaze experience, her skipper’s full 60-page after-action report is online at NARA as is her 49-page War History.

The luckiest unlucky class

Of Aaron Ward‘s 11 sister minelayers, at least five would also prove exceptionally hard to kill in the face of the Divine Wind.

  • USS Gwin (DM-33) was swarmed by six Japanese suicide planes the day after Aaron Ward was attacked. She downed five but the final plane embedded itself into Gwin’s aft gun platform, causing 15 casualties.
  • The same day that Gwin was hit, USS Shea (DM-30) was slammed by an MXY-7 Ohka (cherry blossom) human-piloted rocket bomb while on radar picket duty. She suffered 35 dead but was able to make it to the U.S. under her own power for repairs.
  • In June, USS Harry F. Bauer (DM-26) would suffer a kamikaze attack that hit her boat deck and somehow did not trigger the depth charges stored there. In a further stroke of luck, a 550-pound bomb that the doomed Japanese plane had pickled just before it hit the ship remained intact and armed for 17 days before it was removed.
  • USS J. William Ditter (DM 31) was attacked by a large group of kamikazes off Okinawa on 6 June 1945 and extensively damaged when two made it through. Patched up enough to steam home, she, like Ward, was left unrepaired and sold for scrap in 1946.

View of the Kamikaze-damage suffered by the U.S. Navy destroyer-minelayer USS J. William Ditter (DM-31). She was hit by two Kamikazes off Buckner Bay, 6 June 1945. The first did little damage, but the second hit on the port side just below the main deck blowing open the forward engine room and after fireroom. The explosion of the kamikaze’s bomb devastated both spaces, as can be seen in this photograph taken ten days later. NARA photo

  • Another sister, USS Lindsey (DM-32), was hit by two Aichi D3A Vals on 12 April 1945, killing 57 sailors and wounding 57 more. The explosion from the second Val sheered the front 60 feet off her bow and a quick “all back full” by her skipper avoided catastrophic flooding. Given a temporary bow, like Ward and Ditter she sailed back to the states under her own steam. Decommissioned in 1946 after repairs, she was stricken in 1970 and sunk as a target two years later.

USS Lindsey (DM-32) View of extensive damage to the ship’s forward hull and superstructure, received when she was struck by two Kamikaze planes off Okinawa on 12 April 1945. The photograph was taken at Kerama Retto anchorage on 14 April. NARA photo 80-G-330108

And of course, the famous destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), which earned the nickname “The Ship That Would Not Die” after surviving six kamikaze attacks and four bomb hits on 16 April 1945 while off Okinawa, was an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, which the Smith-class DMs were conversions of.

In short, radar picket duty off Okinawa in 1945 was hazardous to your health, to say the least.

Postscript

Once the war was over, the remaining ships of the class would endure for a while, with five seeing service during the Korean War period, after which they were reclassified as fast minelayers (MMD).

1946-47 Jane’s entry on the surviving members of the class.

By the 1970s, most were sold for scrap except for the kamikaze-surviving Gwin which was transferred to Turkey.

Serving Istanbul as TCG Muavenet (DM-357) for another two decades, she would sadly take a pair of NATO Sea Sparrow missiles to the bridge during a live-fire exercise that went wrong in 1991, causing 24 casualties.

TCG Muavenet (DM-357), ex-USS Gwin (DM-33), in Turkish service.

She was left ablaze after the incident.

Although heavily damaged, Muavenet, true to her class’s reputation, survived and returned to port under her own steam, and was later disposed of.

The last of the dozen Robert H. Smith-class converted destroyers afloat, USS Tolman (DD-740/DM-28/MMD-28) was expended in an exercise on 25 January 1997. A high-powered explosive test charge was installed in her hull and she was sunk in 12,000 feet of deepwater about 61 miles off Mare Island. Appropriately, she had been stripped of much vintage gear for use in the museum destroyer USS Kidd.

Specs:

A nice profile shot of Aaron Ward sistership USS HARRY F. BAUER (DM-26) Underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 11 August 1952. Note, she was fitted with a tripod mast in the early 1950s in place of her original, as were most of her sisters that were still active at the time. NH 91909

Displacement: 2,200 tons
Length: 376’6″
Beam: 40’10”
Draft: 18’10”
Propulsion: Four Babcock and Wilcox boilers, two 60,000shp General Electric geared turbines, two shafts.
Speed: 34.2 knots
Complement: 363
Armament:
6 x 5″/38 3×2 Mk38 mounts
12 x 40mm/60 Bofors in six twin mounts
12 x 20mm/70 singles
2 x .50 cal machine guns
2 Depth Charge rails over the fantail
4 K-guns astern
Up to 80 mines (some sources say 100)

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Fjord-nance

During a recent mine warfare exercise by Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1), the flotilla identified 170 curious underwater objects along the seabed of Norway’s Oslofjord.

After they were examined more closely by underwater remote-controlled vehicles (ROVs) or mine clearance divers, it turned out that 35 were underwater mines and three more were aircraft bombs, in other words, 38 pieces of live ordnance, most dating back to WWII when the fjord was the subject of the sharp fight in April 1940 during the German invasion and a longer RAF campaign in the resulting Axis occupation.

Of note, the flag of SNMCMG1 is the German Navy’s Type 404/Elbe-class supply tender Donau (A516) coupled with the minesweepers HNoMS OTRA (Norway), HNLMS Willemstad (Netherlands), BNS Bellis (Belgium), and HMS Grimsby (Great Britain).

From the left: HNLMS Willemstad, BNS Bellis, FGS Donau, HMS Grimsby, HNoMS Otra linked together for a photo during Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) historic ordnance disposal operations in Oslofjord, Norway on March 1, 2020. Photo by: PO Marius Vagenes Villanger

The group is sure to remain busy in the coming years. It is estimated around 1,800 mines remain in the Oslofjord from the war.

“The NATO group regularly conducts Historical Ordnance Disposal operations or ‘HOD Ops’ in coordination with Allied Navies as a way to sharpen the skills of the group on real mines and other ordnance as well as provide a service to nations by identifying and neutralizing (as needed) naval mines from previous conflicts.”

LCS may actually get their drone minesweeper, afterall

The idea behind the littoral combat ship program is that it would take the place of the aging de-fanged Oliver Hazard Perry-class FFs– which had their original missile batteries neutered– as well as the Navy’s mine countermeasure vessels.

While the first could be done through with the light armament (57mm Mk110, Sea-RAM, small arms) and embarked helicopters/UAVs coupled (hopefully) with some sort of modular towed array, the latter required a legit standoff minesweeping vehicle as an LCS, with their steel hulls, is less than ideal for that.

That’s where Textron comes in, producing a 40-foot semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, all-aluminum surface craft, rigged to tow the same sweep gear used by the MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters and/or ROVs.

The company on Thursday announced the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) program, which is based on its Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV), has achieved a Milestone C decision. The decision allows the program to enter low-rate initial production (LRIP), with the Navy planning to award three UISS systems to Textron Systems under their existing contract.

The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS), based on Textron’s CUSV. It tows the modified Mk-104 system acoustic generator and a magnetic minesweeping cable.

More from NAVSEA:

The Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) has granted Milestone C approval to the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) program. The decision clears the way for low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the system, PEO USC announced Feb. 26, 2020.

The Navy plans to exercise options for the procurement of three LRIP systems on the current Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract with UISS prime contractor Textron Systems.

Designed for the littoral combat ship (LCS) as part of the mine countermeasures mission package, the UISS consists of a mine countermeasures unmanned surface vehicle (USV) and a towed minesweeping payload for influence sweeping of magnetic, acoustic and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types. UISS can also be launched from vessels of opportunity or from shore.

Formal Developmental Testing and Operational Assessment of UISS took place off the coast of South Florida and successfully concluded in late November 2019. Testing included a series of end-to-end minesweeping missions against simulated mine targets using the Navy Instrumented Threat Targets training system.

LCS Detachment Sailors performed operations during Developmental Testing and Operational Assessment that included shore-based launch and retrieval of the system, command, and control, mission planning and post-mission analysis. The UISS USV also has completed initial integration tests with the LCS and vessels of opportunity.

Textron Systems was awarded an EMD contract in October 2014 for the UISS, based on its Common USV. The Navy exercised options for two additional vehicles in 2017, which were delivered in 2018 in support of the comprehensive Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle program that will leverage the UISS USV for missions that include minehunting and mine neutralization.

Textron is expected to begin the delivery of LRIP systems in fiscal 2021.

The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) heads offshore at sunrise for an Operational Assessment mission off the coast of South Florida in November 2019.

The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS), November 2019. 200226-N-IJ355-001

The nuts and bolts of the contract announcement:

AAI Corp. (doing business as Textron Systems), Hunt Valley, Maryland, is awarded a $21,795,236 fixed-price incentive modification to previously awarded contract N00024-14-C-6322 for low rate initial production for the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) Unmanned Surface Vehicle Program. Work will be performed in Hunt Valley, Maryland (70%), and Slidell, Louisiana (30%), and is expected to be completed by August 2021. The UISS will allow the littoral combat ship to perform its mine countermeasure sweep mission and will target acoustic, magnetic, and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types. The UISS program will satisfy the Navy’s need for a rapid, wide-area coverage mine clearance capability, required to neutralize magnetic/acoustic influence mines. UISS seeks to provide a high area coverage rate in a small, lightweight package with minimal impact on the host platform. Fiscal 2018 other procurement (Navy) and fiscal 2019 other procurement (Navy) funding in the amount of $21,795,236 will be obligated at the time of the award. Funds in the amount of $7,950,616 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.

In directly related news, Northrop Grumman’s AQS-24 mine hunting sonar completing initial in-water testing of a next-generation Deploy and Retrieval (D&R) payload. “Operated from the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV), the AQS-24 D&R demonstrates the unmanned operations needed to perform a mine-hunting mission off the MCM Mission Package aboard the littoral combat ship (LCS).”

It looks pretty swag.

By the light of the full moon, 29 years ago today

Here we see John Charles Roach’s 1991 painting, “Adroit Marks the Way for Princeton.”

“With the use of hand flares, USS Adroit (MSO-509) marks possible mines in an effort to extract the already damaged USS Princeton (GG-59) from a minefield. USS Beaufort (ATS-2) stands by to assist.”

US Navy Accession #: 92-007-X

At about 0715 on 18 February 1991, Princeton was patrolling the Northern Persian Gulf off Failaka Island during Operation Desert Storm and set off not one but two Italian-made MN103 Manta bottom-mounted influence mines, buckling her hull in three places as well as locking her starboard propeller shaft and port rudder. Just three hours later, USS Tripoli (LPH 10), also struck a mine and was able to continue operations until relieved several days later.

Still, the 9,600-ton Princeton fared remarkably well for a ship that hit two mines and remained afloat, with her Aegis system coming back on-line 15 minutes later, allowing the cruiser to be nominally ready to defend herself if attacked and even project air cover for the range of her Standard missiles.

The Canadian destroyer HMCS Athabaskan (DDG 282) stood by to provide assistance while the Acme-class minesweeper Adroit moved in to lead the way out of the minefield after dark. The Iraqi minefield was later confirmed to hold more than 1,000 mines, many of advanced European designs.

Both Adroit and Athabaskan have been paid off and sold to the breakers while USS Beaufort (ATS-2) went on to a second career in South Korea, but Princeton remains very much in service.

Warship Wednesday Feb. 5, 2020: Witness to the Sunrise

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Feb. 5, 2020: Witness to the Sunrise

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 63918

Here we see the wreck of the battleship USS Arizona (BB-39), burned out and sunk in Pearl Harbor on 10 December 1941, three days after she was destroyed during the 7 December Japanese raid. In the background is the light cruiser USS Saint Louis (CL-49), in the center, and, to the left, the old USS Baltimore (ex-Cruiser No. 3), which had been laid down some 50 years previously. Baltimore was unique in the fact that she had been ringside for the expansion of Japanese naval power in her lifetime.

A British design from Armstrong, the warship that would become the fourth USS Baltimore was the third modern protected cruiser built for the U.S. Navy, following in the wake of near-sister USS Charleston (C-2) and the one-off USS Newark (C-1).

Built at William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia for a cost of $1,325,000, Baltimore was laid down 5 May 1887 and commissioned into the fleet 7 January 1890. Some 327-feet long and tipping the scales at 4,400-tons, she was reasonably fast, at 21-knots, had a smattering of armor that ranged from 2-to-4-inches, and toted a decent armament for her size: a quartet of 8-inch guns and another half-dozen 6-inch guns as well as smaller anti-boat guns and a brace of early torpedo tubes.

U.S.S. Baltimore en route to G.A.R. encampment, Boston, with President Harrison on board LOC

Baltimore In New York Harbor, with the Statue of Liberty in the right distance, circa 1890 during the Hudson-Fulton Exhibition NH 69174

Baltimore In New York Harbor 1890 NH 61696

Her first mission, after shakedown, was to carry the body of Swedish steam engine pioneer John Ericsson from New York back to Stockholm for interment. The Navy carried the body of the man who sketched out the design of the USS Monitor with a Swedish flag hoisted on every ship of the squadron.

Baltimore leaving New York Harbor on 23 August 1890, en route to return the remains of John Ericsson to Sweden. USS Boston is in the left-center, flying the Swedish ensign from her mast peak. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 69176

This event was turned into a painting in 1898.

“The White Squadron’s Farewell Salute to the Body of John Ericsson, New York Bay, August 23, 1890”. Oil on canvas, 36″ by 54″, by Edward Moran (1829-1901), signed and dated by the artist, 1898. It depicts USS Baltimore (Cruiser # 3) departing New York Harbor to return the remains of John Ericsson to his native Sweden. Note the Swedish ensign flying from the ship’s foremast. Painting in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection. Gift of Paul E. Sutro, 1940. KN-10851 (Color).

Returning to the East Coast after a series of European stops and port calls to show the flag, Baltimore was dispatched to join the South Pacific Station in 1891. There, while in Valparaíso, Chile to protect U.S. interests during the tension caused by the Chilean revolution, a group of sailors on Libo at a local saloon were attacked by a local mob, leaving one bluejacket, coal heaver William Turnbill, dead and another 17 injured.

Attack on American sailors at Valparaíso 1891

The resulting incident and investigations were later made right through diplomatic channels and a monument erected and indemnity paid.

Meanwhile, Baltimore became a standard fixture in the Pacific and was reassigned even further West to join the Asiatic Squadron in 1893, becoming squadron flagship of RADM Joseph S. Skerrett on her arrival.

Baltimore anchored at Yokohama, Japan, 1894, while serving as flagship of the Asiatic Station. Donation of Rear Admiral Ammen C. Farenholt, USN (MC), 1933.NH 56326

It was while in Japanese waters that the tensions between that Empire and old Imperial China boiled over into outright war over then nominally independent Korea. Baltimore was in the thick of it, cruising the waters between the two battle lines, observing the war and protecting American interests. A detailed account at the NHHC, taken largely from her deck logs, makes for interesting reading. This included landing and marching 21 Marines in combat order more than 30 miles overland to Seoul, then in the Hermit Kingdom, to guard the legation compound.

After the war ended in 1895, Baltimore was sent back to the West Coast for overhaul and, by late 1897 was back with the fleet, ultimately sailing from Hawaii as the chances of war with Spain escalated. She joined Commodore George Dewey’s squadron in Hong Kong on 22 April 1898 on the eve of the conflict, where she was hastily repainted in haze gray and made ready for battle.

Just a week later, on 1 May, she steamed into Spanish-held Manila Bay just behind Dewey’s flagship, USS Olympia, and soon was engaging both shore batteries vessels of the Royal Spanish Navy.

Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898. With Manila, Philippines, in the top center, and the Spanish fleet in the upper right, the U.S. Navy ships listed descending on the left to bottom are Colliers; USS McCullough; USS Petrel; USS Concord; USS Boston; USS Raleigh; USS Baltimore; and USS Olympia – signaling “Remember the Maine.” Color lithograph by Rand McNally. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Hit by enemy shells at least five times during the action, Baltimore nonetheless suffered “no serious injury to any officer or man,” in the battle. She then went on to spend most of the next year convoying troop and supply transports, providing naval gunfire support to U.S. troops, and bombarding Filipino insurgents throughout the Philippines.

By 1901, she was sent back to the states for overhaul at the New York Navy Yard.

Baltimore Underway in New York Harbor, circa 1903. The Statue of Liberty is dimly visible in the right distance. NH 83962

By 1904, after stints in the Caribbean and Med, she was back on Asiatic Station, where she once again kept tabs on the Japanese fleet as the growing force pounded not one but two of the Tsar’s modern squadrons down under the waves.

Baltimore’s crew, hard-serving volunteers sandwiched between the age of the wood-and-sail Navy and the age of the new steel-and-steam fleet, were captured in time in several period photos between 1904 and 1906.

Baltimore’s Marine Guard in heavy marching order, during her Asiatic Fleet deployment, circa 1904-1906. They were equipped for winter expeditionary party duty, with horseshoe rolls containing their blankets rolled in rubber ponchos. They are armed with Krag-Jorgenson rifles (M1898) and bayonets and wear woven double loop cartridge belts. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Capt. Nathan Sargent. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 95652)

Two Chief Petty Officers enjoy a game of Acey-Deucy on deck, circa 1904-06. The man at left wears an Ex-Apprentice’s figure-eight knot badge on his right sleeve. Note coiled fire hose and sewing machine in the background. Copied from the USS Baltimore album, page 42. NH 101372

The Wireless Office and Operators, circa 1904-1906. Note the early radio equipment and the rating badge of the First-Class Electrician’s Mate seated in the center. NH 101374

Local peddlers on board the cruiser, at Tangier, Morocco, circa May 1904. Note the adjustable boat cradles overhead, and ventilation fittings in the hammock stowage bulwark at left. NH 101338

Crewmen pose with cleaning equipment, circa 1904-1906. About half of these men appear to be smoking pipes. Copied from the USS Baltimore album, page 28. NH 101345

Sailors and Marines from the ship’s crew at the rifle range, Auckland, New Zealand, circa 1904-1906. Copied from the USS Baltimore album, page 47. NH 101377

Ping-Pong gunnery sighting practice on one of the ship’s three-inch rapid-fire guns, circa 1904-1906. Copied from the USS Baltimore album, page 47. NH 101373

In 1907, Baltimore, pushing twenty years on her hull, was sent back to the U.S. where she spent the next several years in training, receiving ship and reserve roles. By 1913, with much more modern cruisers joining the fleet, the aging Baltimore was rerated as a minelayer, converted to carry up to 180 mines.

Her 1914 Janes entry, where she is listed on a page titled “Old Second Class Cruisers” 

When the Great War swept across the planet, Baltimore was brought back from ordinary and spent much of 1915 and 1916 in mining experiments and training with the fleet, voyaging from New England to the Caribbean and back.

USS Baltimore (Minelayer, originally Cruiser # 3). In Hampton Roads, Virginia, 10 December 1916 NH 54427

USS Baltimore (Minelayer, originally Cruiser # 3). In Hampton Roads, Virginia, 10 December 1916 NH 54427

Once the U.S. entered the conflict in 1917, Baltimore became the flag of RADM Joseph Strauss, Commander, Mine Force, and, along with the converted cruiser USS San Francisco, and steamers-turned-minelayers USS Roanoke, USS Candaiga, USS Shawmut; USS Quinnebaugh, USS Housatonic, USS Canonicus, USS Aroostook, and USS Saranac, would sortie across the Atlantic to sew the Great North Sea Mine Barrage. An idea of then Asst. SECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt, the immense mine battery was kicked off by Baltimore on the night of 13/14 April 1918.

Before the end of the war, the Mine Force dropped 70,177 mines into the North Sea and surrounding waters, many under Baltimore’s watchful eyes. At least 900 were carried there in her own holds. Much more on this period is documented in the ship’s DANFS entry. 

Mine handling operations onboard Baltimore, 1920. Note what appears to be a mine elevator at left. Donation of Cmdr. Christopher Noble, USN (Retired), February 1967. NH 56330

By the end of WWI, Baltimore was back in U.S. waters and in late 1919 was ordered, once again, to join the Pacific fleet. She spent the remainder of her active career operating from San Francisco, and she was placed out of commission there on 15 September 1922, after 32 years’ service.

With what appears to be a minesweeper moored alongside to starboard, ex-Baltimore lies off Ford Island awaiting disposition, 21 September 1939; less than two years later, the veteran of the Battle of Manila Bay would witness the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-410165

Stricken from the Navy list on 14 October 1937, she was sent to Hawaii where she spent the next half-decade as a hulk at Pearl Harbor. Her name was recycled for the heavy cruiser USS Baltimore (CA-68), which was laid down 26 May 1941, and her bell, silver service, and relics removed.

Unmanned and forgotten, she was just off Battleship Row when the Japanese rounded Diamondhead on 7 December 1941. The old cruiser was sold in February 1942 for scrap, after which she had much of her upper structure removed for recycling, then her hull was towed out to sea and scuttled on 22 September 1944 off the south shore of Oahu in 537 meters of water.

The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) has extensively documented her wreck site, now studded with sea life.

Her bell is currently on display at the Independence Seaport Museum.

Baltimore is, of course, remembered in maritime art.

USS Baltimore (C 3) artwork by an unknown artist. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 56328

USS Baltimore (Cruiser # 3) at right Chromolithograph by Armstrong & Company, after a watercolor by Fred S. Cozzens, published in Our Navy Its Growth and Achievements, 1897. It depicts Baltimore departing New York harbor to carry the remains of John Ericsson to his native Sweden, in August 1890. At left, flying the Swedish flag at her forepeak and firing a salute, is USS Boston. Collection of Captain Glenn Howell, USN, 1974. NH 334-KN

The “Battleship” Baltimore in Stockholm Harbor by Anders Zorn

Since 1980, the name Baltimore was carried by a Los Angeles-class attack submarine (SSN-704) which was decommissioned 1998. Hopefully, the Navy will name a 7th Baltimore soon.

Specs:

Drawing courtesy of Robert Jensen via Navsource http://www.navsource.org/archives/04/c3/c3.htm

Displacement 4,413 tons
Length: 327 feet 6 inches
Beam: 48 feet 7½ Inches
Draft: 19 feet 6 inches
Maximum draft fully loaded:23 feet, 11 ½ inches
Propulsion: Horizontal triple-expansion engines, 10,064 hp. 2 shafts, four double-ended cylindrical boilers
Speed: 21.5 knots
Coal bunker capacity: 1,143.87 tons
Normal coal supply: 400 tons
Coal endurance at 10 knots: 7,212 nautical miles
Armor: 4″ steel on the slopes, deck; 3″ Conning tower, 2”-gun protection.
Compliment: 36 Officers and 350 Enlisted Men (as designed)
Armament: (as-built)
4 x 8″/35cal breechloading guns
6 x 6″/30cal breechloading guns
4 x 6 pounder (57mm) rapid-fire guns
2 x 3 pounder (47mm) rapid-fire guns
2 x 1 pounder (37mm) rapid-fire guns
4 x 37 mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon
Two Gatling Guns
One 3-inch field piece (for landing parties).
Five 14″ torpedo tubes
Armament: (1914)
12 x 6″/40
4 x 6 pounders
180 mines

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Warship Wednesday (on a Thursday) Jan 2, 2020: One Tough Russian

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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 (on a Thursday) Jan 2, 2020: One Tough Russian

Here we see, under what looks like an albatross circling, the gently listing Petropavlovsk-class battleship Sevastopol of the Imperial Russian Navy in early December 1904. The olive drab warship is terrain masking as best she could in besieged Port Arthur to avoid the Japanese Army’s 11-inch howitzer shells which had sent all the rest of the Tsar’s Pacific battlewagons to the bottom. She would enter 1905 as the sole combat-ready Russian battleship still afloat on that side of the globe– only to fight her last on 2 January, some 115 years ago today.

At 11,500-tons (standard), the trio of Petropavlovsk were essentially improved versions of the previous one-off Sissoi Veliky and Tri Sviatitelia-class battleships.

Russian Petropavlovsk-class battleship Poltava fitting out in Kronstadt, 1900 

Packing four 12″/40 (30.5 cm) Pattern 1895 Obukhov guns in a pair of twin hydraulic turrets forward and aft, which had a two-minute firing cycle between rounds, they also carried a secondary armament of eight 6″/45cal guns in four twin mounts (rather than casemates as commonly seen around the world).

Imperial Russian battleships Poltava and Sevastopol in Kronshtadt, 1899 under construction–note the turrets being constructed

Imperial Russian battleship Sevastopol in Kronshtadt, September 1900

Topping the cake was something on the order of 40 37mm and 47mm anti-torpedo boat guns and a half-dozen torpedo tubes. Armor was an impressive mix that ran up to 16-inches thick. Speed, just 15.3 knots on 16 coal-fired boilers and a pair of VTE engines, was typical of the era.

Russian battleships Poltava and Sevastopol in Kronshtadt, September 1900. Note the myriad of 37mm and 47mm light guns slathered throughout the ship from fighting tops to decks

Petropavlovsk and her sister, Sevastopol, were laid down at the Galerny Island Shipyard in St. Petersburg while the third ship of the class, Poltava, was laid down at the city’s Admiralty Yard at the tail-end of the 19th Century. All were named after famous Russian battles, with our featured ship honoring the epic 11-month Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War.

Commissioned 15 July 1900 after a second set of builder’s trials– during which she made 16.41 knots– Sevastopol was dispatched to join the rest of her class in the Pacific where the Russians were hedging in on Korea and Manchuria, much to the heartburn of the Japanese Empire.

From 1900 to the beginning of 1904 the Petropavlovsk-class vessels carried a Far East scheme that included white sides, turrets, deckhouses, masts, and fans with black-capped yellow stacks and gilded bow and stern decorations. This would later switch during the Russo-Japanese War to an all-over dark olive-green and black.

Sevastopol photographed at Algiers in 1901 while en route to the Russian base at Port Arthur where she was scuttled in 1905. Courtesy of J. Meister, Zurich Switzerland, 1975 NH 81876

Battleships Sevastopol and Petropavlovsk (in the background) in Vladivostok, August 1901

Russian battleships Sevastopol, Poltava, and Petropavlovsk in Port Arthur, 1903

The Balloon Goes Up

When Port Arthur was attacked by the Japanese in the opening act of the war on the night of 8/9 February 1904, the Russians had their fleet in three lines anchored in the outer harbor.

The innermost line included Sevastopol and her sisters Petropavlovsk (fleet flagship) and Poltava along with the two similar 15,000-ton Peresvet-class battleships Peresvet and Pobieda. The middle line included the new battleships Tsarevich and Retvizan as well as several cruisers. In all, seven Russian battlewagons swaying at anchor in a “peacetime” Pacific port. (Similarly, at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. had seven along Battleship Row as well as the dreadnought Pennsylvania in dry dock.)

Within 20 minutes, three flotillas of Japanese destroyers swept in, delivered their fish, and slipped out to sea, suffering no casualties. The middle line took the worst of it with both Retvizan and Tsarevich taking torpedoes and having to run aground to prevent a total loss.

Japanese Ukiyo-E woodblock art depiction, “Illustration of Our Torpedo Hitting Russian Ship at Great Naval Battle of Port Arthur” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1904

Japanese Ukiyo-E woodblock art depiction by Toshihide Migita of the torpedo ship attack, Port Arthur

Nonetheless, the undamaged Russian ships stood to the next morning and engaged Japanese Adm. Togo’s squadron in a 40-minute battle that was a tactical draw in the respect that it left the status quo with the Russians in Port Arthur and the Japanese in control of the water outside the range of the base’s coastal guns.

Print shows Japanese battleships bombarding Russian battleships in the surprise initial naval assault on the Russian fleet at Lüshun (Port Arthur) 1904

During the said engagement, Sevastopol fired 10 12-inch and 65 6-inch shells at the Japanese with no reported hits, taking three small hits in return which caused little damage.

Sevastopol. This photograph might possibly have been taken at Port Arthur on the Yellow Sea during the early stages of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, after the opening engagement but before she got her olive drab paint. Courtesy of J. Meister, Zurich Switzerland, 1975 NH 81875

Togo next decided to try and bottle up the Russian fleet in Port Arthur by sinking old merchant ships, manned by volunteer IJN crews, in the approach channel. Said one-way volunteers would be plucked from their doomed ships by accompanying torpedo boats.

The first attempt, with four blockships– Bushu Maru, Buyo Maru, Hokoku Maru, and Jinsen Maru-– took place on the night of 24/25 February and but was unsuccessful after the grounded battleship Retvizan caught the lead ship in her searchlights and plastered it.

Second attempt to block Port Arthur, 27 March 1904 William Lionel Wylie RMG PV0976

The second attempt was in the early morning of 27 March and, like the first, involved four blockships: the Chiyo Maru, Fukui Maru, Yahiko Maru, and Yoneyama Maru. The whole thing fell apart when Fukui Maru was spotted and promptly sunk by the patrolling Russian destroyer Silnyii well short of the outer harbor and the other three condemned steamers scuttled too far out to fill their intended role.

Blockade of Port Arthur by Hannosuke Kuroki 1904

A third attempt was made a few weeks later using a doubled force of eight blockships– but this was also unsuccessful and cost the lives of more than 70 of the volunteers who rode them to the bottom.

It was roughly at this point that Sevastopol’s skipper, Capt. Nikolai Chernyshev, was relieved by the newly-installed squadron commander, Russian Vice Adm. Stephan Makarov, after the battleship had a collision with Peresvet that was ruled Chernyshev’s fault during a rushed inquiry. The career officer was sent back to St. Petersburg on one of the last trains out of the fortress and would be found dead in his apartment the same week the Treaty of Portsmouth formally ended the Russo-Japanese War, aged 48.

Relieving Chernyshev was the commander of the fast cruiser Novik, Capt. Nicholas von Essen, from an esteemed Baltic German family with a long history of service to the Tsar. Although the crack up between the two battleships left one of Sevastopol’s rudders and screws damaged, an ersatz repair was able to semi-fix the warship enough to consider her still fit for service.

Makarov, who was seen by the Russians as essentially their equivalent of Chester Nimitz, led the patched up Russian squadron on a patrol out of Port Arthur on 13 April, with his flag on Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol just to her stern.

However, Petropavlovsk stumbled across as many as three unmarked Russian mines (!) and sank in about a minute with the loss of 646 lives, to include the good admiral and Russian combat artist Vasily Vereshchagin.

A Japanese Ukiyo-E depiction by artist Yasuda Hampō of the sinking of Petropavlovsk. The original caption reads: “Picture of the Eighth Attack on Port Arthur. The Flagship of Russia Was Destroyed by the Torpedo of Our Navy and Admiral Makaroff [sic] Drowned.” Photo via Museum of Fine Art, Boston

“The Russian battleship Petropvavlask sinks as Adm. Makarov stands bravely on deck”

“Faith, Tsar, and Fatherland 1905 Forgotten War” by Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko showing Russian military artist Vasili Verestchagin aboard battleship Petropavlovsk with Admiral Makarov just before it sank. I love the sailors in the background.

Among the 89 survivors from Petropavlask plucked from the water was Lt. Grand Duke Kirill (Cyril) Vladimirovich, the Tsar’s first cousin and the man who would go on to be the pretender to the Romanov throne in exile from 1924 until his death in 1938, a position his granddaughter continues to style today. Kirill would suffer from burns, back injuries, and PTSD for the rest of his life.

Sevastopol, along with the rest of the squadron, was able to return to port after the loss of her sister.

Under newly promoted and deeply fatalistic Rear Adm. Wilgelm Vitgeft (aka Withief), the fleet at Port Arthur was ordered to sortie from the doomed base to the relative safety of Vladivostok to the North, fighting their way through Togo if they had to.

Sailing out on 10 June with six battleships, seven cruisers, and six destroyers, they made it some 20 miles outside of the port before the clashed– briefly– with Togo’s slightly smaller force (four battleships and 12 cruisers) and turned tail.

On re-entering the port, Sevastopol was hit by another unmarked mine and suffered 11 wounded.

Russian naval mines of the 1904 era were not that much more advanced than the black powder Jacobi mines of the Crimean War, a design that predated Farragut’s damnation in the Civil War. Nonetheless, they worked. The Russo-Japanese war experience led the Russkis to develop the M08 mine shortly after, one that is still used extensively today.

Russian naval mines on the beach on the east coast of Heishakow, Port Arthur 1905. In addition to Japanese mines, the loss or the Russian minelayer Yenisei, struck one of her own devices two days after the war began while laying an unmarked minefield, would haunt the Russian fleet. NH 94783

Japanese sailors inspect captured Russian sea mines during the Russo-Japanese War. The IJN lost the battleships Hatsuse and Yashima, the cruisers Miyako, Saien and Takasago; auxiliary cruiser Otagawa Maru, the destroyers Akatsuki and Hayatori, blockship Aikoku Maru, the torpedo boat No. 48, gunboat Heien, transport Maiko Maru, and corvette Kaimon to mines during the conflict. Photo via USNI photo archive

Left with a 12×14-foot hole in her hull and a 5-degree list, Sevastopol went to the port’s naval yard once again for repairs. It was during this period that a few of her 6-inch and most of her light guns (37mm Maxims and 47mm Hotchkiss) were removed to be installed ashore, manned by her gunners. One of her 12-inch guns was cannibalized to repair a similar one that had been damaged on Poltava.

Six-inch naval gun in a Russian hillside battery commander seated at left Port Arthur, LC-DIG-ppmsca-07978

The Beginning of the End

The hourglass was upended on Port Arthur on 1 August when the fortress city was cut off from the rest of Asia on land by the Japanese Army. With no more trains or supply columns, fresh troops or stock coming, and the port blockaded by the Japanese fleet applied against a single point, Port Arthur was withering on the vine for the next 154 days as the world watched.

Sevastopol was ready for action again by the end of July and fell in with the squadron once more for Vitgeft’s second attempt to break out on 10 August. The flag officer, in a meeting with his commanders before the sortie, reportedly told the assembled as they departed, “Gentlemen, we will meet again in the next world.”

Proving himself correct, the mission saw the unlucky admiral killed on the bridge of his battleship Tsarevich and most of the force– except for the battered Tsarevich herself which made for neutral Chinese shelter along with a trio of German-made destroyers— returned to Port Arthur a final time. In that lengthy (10 hours) running fight, known today as the Battle in the Yellow Sea, Sevastopol fired 78 12-inch and 323 6-inch shells and was hit twice by Japanese shells in return, causing 61 casualties.

With the likelihood of breakout evaporating, the fleet then turned to provide extra hands for the shrinking siege lines in the hills to fight off Gen. Baron Nogi Maresuke’s entire Third Japanese Army. Mobilizing nearly half of her crew to serve ashore in an ersatz infantry company, Sevastopol’s bluejackets were given rifles and cartridge belts and sent packing.

Imperial Russian battleship Sevastopol in Port-Arthur, 1904, with her crew sending off a scratch naval battalion armed with Mosin M91 rifles. Note, she now has an olive drab scheme. 

Still, Sevastopol, by then a battered and half-manned floating war engine, shuttled around the harbor and provided direct gunfire support in late August, during which she exchanged fire with the Japanese armored cruisers Nissin and Kasuga. Once again, she struck a mine, which put her in repair until October.

It was while she was the Navy Yard that the Japanese had begun to bombard the base and its defenses with over a dozen Armstrong-designed 11-inch (280mm) L/10 howitzers which had been pulled from the coastal defenses of Tokyo Bay and manhandled to the fortress. Each of the behemoths fired 478-pound AP shells to a range of nearly 5-miles.

Enormous 11-inch shell from Japanese siege gun, beginning its deadly flight into Port Arthur LC-USZ62-67825

Drydock in Port Arthur Navy Yard showing cruiser Bayan, left and Sevastopol, right, under fire from Japanese 11-inch howitzers, likely in October. Courtesy of Mrs. John B. McDonald, September 15, 1966. NH 111897

Hit by five such shells while in repair, Sevastopol’s deck was reinforced with a layer of sandbags and slag under a cover of an inch of plate steel. Such up-armored, the battered Russian was able to clock back in and provide counter-battery fire throughout November.

However, once the Japanese on 3 December seized control of the strategic key to Port Arthur, 203 Meter Hill, which commanded the harbor itself, and with a gunfire support team atop the crest directing fire, it was game over for the Russian fleet.

Destroying Russian ships and town terrific rain of great Japanese shells in Port Arthur, LC-DIG-ppmsca-07969

On 5 December, Sevastopol’s remaining sistership Poltava was hit by plunging howitzer shells and suffered a magazine explosion, sinking her to the mud of Port Arthur.

The Russian pre-dreadnought battleship Poltava sunk at Port Arthur as a result of bombardment by Japanese land-based artillery during the siege of Port Arthur (December 1904). She would later be salvaged and put into service with the Japanese then repatriated to Russia in 1915 and be finally scrapped in the Baltic in the 1920s. 

The next day, Retvizan was pounded to the bottom.

Port Arthur, 1905 Russian battleship Retvizan sunk by Japanese 11-inch howitzers shallow water

On 7 December, Peresvet and Pobeda went.

Russian Peresvet Class Pre-Dreadnought Battleship IRN Pobeda under intense Japanese artillery fire at Port Arthur on December 6th, 1904.

On 8 December, the cruiser Pallada was destroyed.

Destroying a fleet — battleship Pallada struck by a 500 lb. Japanese shell — Port Arthur harbor via LOC LC-USZ62-68822

On the 9th, the cruiser Bayan joined the butcher’s list. The minelayer Amur and gunboat Bobr followed.

Port Arthur from the top of Gold Hill in 1905. From the left wrecks of battleships Peresvet, Poltava, Retvizan, Pobeda and the cruiser Pallada

The Final Act

After the first week or so of December, Sevastopol and a retinue of small ships were all that was left of the once-mighty Russian Pacific force in Port Arthur. Though missing some of her armament and still suffering damage from two mines, a collision, five 11-inch hits and a dozen from smaller 8- and 6-inch naval guns, she was still the only combat-effective Russian capital ship available.

Therefore, Essen, with his ground-fighting sailors repatriated back from the frozen trenches to their floating steel home, fought the last naval battle for Port Arthur from 10 December onward, with the big howitzers firing another 300 rounds indirectly at the theorized location of the Russian ship in a real-life game of Battleship without success, forcing the Japanese navy to tap back into the fight.

A fleet in being, although trapped, the Sevastopol and her escorts pinned down the bulk of the Japanese fleet for the rest of the year.

As described in Richard Connaughton’s Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear: Russia’s War with Japan:

Von Essen, formerly captain of the Novik, placed Sevastopol in the roadstead at the southern end of Tiger’s Tail behind a hill that shielded her from 203 Meter Hill. She was protected by an anti-torpedo boom and a small, hurrying, anxious destroyer flotilla. Wave after wave of Japanese destroyers sped in to release no fewer than 124 torpedoes in six successive attacks against the luckless target. For three weeks, Essen survived…

Sevastopol repulsing a night attack. Painting by A.V. Ganzena

In the series of attacks, the Russian force sank at least two Japanese torpedo boats, No. 53 and No. 42, and damaged as many as 13 other vessels. Meanwhile, the protected cruiser Takasago was sent to the bottom on 13 December when she struck a mine while shepherding the small attack craft, with a loss of 273 of her crew.

Japanese Torpedo boats returning to base after night attack

It was downright embarrassing to Togo that, even after the Army had dismantled the Russian squadron piecemeal, his force still could not shut the lid on its coffin.

Finally, it was all for naught as Gen. Baron Anatoly Stessel (Stoessel), the Russian commander at Port Arthur, moved to surrender his force on New Year’s Day 1905, without consulting his shocked staff. Apparently, while in a tactically bad position, the besieged base could have held out much longer in theory.

From W. Bruce Lincoln’s, In War’s Dark Shadow:

When they entered Port Arthur, the Japanese expected to find a handful of desperate defenders short of weapons, ammunition, and food. Not counting doctors, nurses and noncombatants, they found 13,485 able-bodied men, another 5,809 suffering from scurvy or minor wounds, and 13,856 who were in the hospital or on light duty because of wounds or serious illness. There were over 600 pieces of artillery still in good order, over 200,000 shells still unfired, and about 2.5 million rounds of machine gun and rifle ammunition. There were tons of food and fodder: flour for 27 days, groats for another 23 days, beans and lentils for 34 days, and dried vegetables for 88 days. There were nearly 200 days’ worth of salt and tea. Most amazing of all, perhaps, there was 2,944 horses in the fortress, enough to supply the garrison with fresh meat for many days to come in view of the large quantities of fodder remaining. With their sense of honor that drove them to fight to the death for their Emperor, the Japanese were dumbfounded.

Of note, Stessel was later court marshaled and sentenced to death by a Russian military tribunal, although his sentence was eventually commuted.

Just before the Nogi’s forces moved into Port Arthur on 2 January, the last of the Russian fleet in the harbor pulled a Toulon 1942 and scuttled. These included the Puilki-class destroyers Storozhevoi, Silni, and Razyashchi; the Delfin-class destroyers Bditelni and Boevoi; the gunboats Djigit, Guidamak, Guidamak and Razboinik; and the battered but not broken Sevastopol.

Von Essen, with a crew of 50, moved the ship to the deepest water available to him, 30 fathoms, and opened her seacocks after passing the word to dog closed only the portside watertight doors. This caused the ship to keel over starboard and sink by the stern in about 15 minutes. Notably, while the Japanese were able to raise and ultimately repair all the Russian battleships sunk at Port Arthur (apart from the shattered Petropavlovsk) Sevastopol was declared a loss and not salvaged.

In all, some 507 of Sevastopol’s crew and 31 of her officers, to include Von Essen, were captured by the Japanese, bringing their ship’s battle flag with them.

Russian sailors from the wrecked battleships – surrendered prisoners of war in Port Arthur. LC-USZ62-11832

Stossel and Makarov over Nogi and Togo on the cover of The Sphere, 115 years ago this month. Makarov was, of course, already long dead when this was published while Stossel would live under a commuted death sentence until 1915. As for Nogi, grieving for the loss of more than 14,000 of his men on the costly Port Arthur campaign– including his eldest son– he would commit ritual suicide in 1912 upon the death of the Emperor. Notably, Nogi after the war spent most of his personal wealth on the construction of memorials to both the Russian and Japanese soldiers of the 1904 campaign. Togo, Japan’s most decorated naval officer of all time, died of throat cancer in 1934, aged 86, and is still seen as “The Nelson of the Pacific.”

Essen would go on to be appointed commander of the Baltic Sea fleet during the first part of WWI before he died of pneumonia and today a frigate in the modern Russian Navy carries his name.

The Sevastopol’s Port Arthur St. Andrew’s flag remains in the Russian Navy’s collection to this day, housed in the building of the Naval Cadet Corps.

Via Ocean-Magazine.ru

The name Sevastopol went on to be used both on a Gangut-class battleship that served in both WWI and WWII before going on to be scrapped in 1956 as well as for a Kresta-class cruiser during the Cold War.

Our circa-1904 battlewagon is remembered in maritime art as well.

Battleship Sevastopol by Nikolay Konstantinovich Artseulov

Finally, Combrig released an excellent 1:700 scale model of Sevastopol, #70102.

Specs:

Line drawing via Combrig

Displacement: 11,842 long tons
Length: 376 ft
Beam: 70 ft
Draught: 28 ft 3 in
Machinery: 16 cylindrical boilers, 9368 ihp, 2 shafts, 2 triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 16 knots
Range: 3,750 nm
Complement: 27 officers and 625 sailors as designed
Armor, nickel-steel Harvey type:
Waterline belt: 10–16 in
Gun turrets: 10 in
Secondary turrets: 5 in
Conning tower: 9 in
Deck: 2–3 in
Armament:
2 × twin 12″/40 (305 mm) guns
12 (4 × twins, 4 × single) 6″/45cal (152 mm) guns
12 × single 47mm Hotchkiss guns
28 × single 37mm Maxim guns
4 × 15-inch torpedo tubes, broadside
2 × 18-inch torpedo tubes, below the waterline
50 mines

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HMS Urge, found on eternal patrol

HMS Urge, IWM FL 3433

Commissioned 12 December 1940, the British U-class submarine HMS Urge (N 17) served in World War II throughout 1941, seeing extensive action in the Med. Over the course of 20 patrols, she proved a one-submarine wrecking crew to the Italian Navy, sinking the Giussano-class light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere as well as extensively damaging the cruiser Bolzano and battleship Vittorio Veneto.

On 27 April 1942, the 16-month-old Urge left Malta en route to Alexandria but failed to arrive on schedule and was reported overdue on 7 May. Her crew, commanded by LCDR Edward Philip Tomkinson, DSO and Bar, RN, was never heard from again.

Her shield, which had been landed prior to shipping out, is currently on display at The Register Office in Bridgend, Wales. The town, which contributed around £300,000 to the war, had adopted HMS Urge as part of national “Warship Week” in 1941.

HM Submarine Urge was discovered in a search conducted by staff from the University of Malta just off Malta’s Grand Harbour, where she apparently was destroyed on the surface by a mine. In addition to her 32 crewmembers, she had been carrying 11 other naval personnel and a journalist.

More here.

 

Queen City, Fifth Edition

The fifth U.S. Navy warship built for the first city constructed after the War of Independence was commissioned into the Fleet this weekend.

All photos: Chris Eger, feel free to share. Note that big bow thruster marking and the fact that she is drawing under 5m. 

USS Cincinnati (LCS-20), an Independence-class littoral combat ship, follows on the heels of a Los Angeles-class SSN, two cruisers (more on that later) and a City-class ironclad gunboat that was sunk and raised twice during the Civil War. This, of course, all befits the mold of storied Roman statesman and military leader Quintius Cincinnatus.

I attended the ceremony– which had Adm. Jamie Foggo (COMNAVEUR-NAVAF) in attendance, who spoke eloquently about Cincinnatus and, in the end, broke his flag aboard the Navy’s LCS– met her crew and toured the vessel.

For a 420-foot/3,100-ton frigate-sized (although not frigate-armed) warship, the wardroom is small.

Her skipper and XO are both CDRs, while OPS is an LCDR. Ten O2/O3s flesh out the rest of the departments (NAV, CSO, 1stLT, EMO, Weaps, Ordnance, Chief Engr, Main Prop Aux, Aux, Electrical). There are 25 Chiefs including an HMC who serves as the ship’s independent duty corpsman. The rest of the crew is made up of just 33 ratings and strikers. This totals 71 souls, although it should be noted that some of those were from other LCS crews. Notably, Crew 214 recently commissioned a previous Independence-class LCS only months ago.

Of interest, her first watch was just four-strong (including two minemen) with just two watchstanders on the bridge.

A few other things that struck me was the size of the payload bay on the trimaran– the ship has a 104-foot beam, more than twice that of the FFG7s!– which was downright cavernous for a ship that could float in 15 feet of brownish water. This translates into a helicopter deck “roof” that is the largest of any U.S. surface warship barring the Gator Navy and, of course, carriers.

One thing is for sure, you can pack a lot of expeditionary gear and modules in here.

She also has a lot of speed on tap, packing 83,410 hp through a pair of (Cincinnati-made) GE LM2500 turbines and two MTU Friedrichshafen 8000 diesels pushing four Wartsila waterjets. She is rated capable of “over 40 knots” although Foggo noted with a wink she could likely best that.

She has a 3200kW electrical plant including four generators and an MTU 396 TE 54 V8 prime mover.

Sadly, she doesn’t have a lot of firepower, limited to topside .50 cals, her Mk-110 57mm Bofors and C-RAM launcher.

She is expected to be optimized for mine countermeasures with the MH-60-based ALMDS and AMNS systems along with an Unmanned Influence Sweeping System (UISS) and AN/AQS-20A mine detection system. She has a missile deck for the new Mk87 NSM system, although the weapon itself is not currently installed.

Still, should she be headed into harm’s way, I’d prefer to see more air defense/anti-missile capabilities installed, but what do I know.

USS Cincinnati will join her nine sister ships already homeported in San Diego: USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), USS Montgomery (LCS 8), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10), USS Omaha (LCS 12), USS Manchester (LCS 14), USS Tulsa (LCS 16) and USS Charleston (LCS 18).

Built just at Austal’s Alabama shipyard, an hour away from where she was commissioned, five sisters are currently under construction in Mobile. Kansas City (LCS 22) is preparing for sea trials. Assembly is underway on Oakland (LCS 24) and Mobile (LCS 26) while modules are under production for Savannah (LCS 28) and Canberra (LCS 30), with four more under contract through to LCS 38.

‘The ships that the Navy forgot’

Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Pioneer (MCM 9) observes a controlled mine detonation while conducting joint mine countermeasures exercise with the Royal Thai Navy during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Corbin Shea/Released)

Pro Publica had this take on the Navy’s current state of minesweeper deficit with the protracted LCS mine countermeasures systems still a long ways off and the Avenger-class ships getting the short end of the readiness dollar.

It’s actually pretty interesting.

The U.S. Navy officer was eager to talk.

He’d seen his ship, one of the Navy’s fleet of 11 minesweepers, sidelined by repairs and maintenance for more than 20 months. Once the ship, based in Japan, returned to action, its crew was only able to conduct its most essential training — how to identify and defuse underwater mines — for fewer than 10 days the entire next year. During those training missions, the officer said, the crew found it hard to trust the ship’s faulty navigation system: It ran on Windows 2000.

The officer, hoping that by speaking out he could provoke needed change, wound up delaying the scheduled interview. He apologized. His ship had broken down again.

“We are essentially the ships that the Navy forgot,” he said of the minesweepers.

More here. 

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