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Never underestimate household materials

From the collection of the U.S. Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center, Ft. Lee:

This is a Vietnamese, homemade, floating water mine that was made circa 1970. It is constructed of a cardboard box wrapped in black plastic. There are nine aqua and white colored plastic flotation devices with wrapped charge simulated in between. It is held together with four wooden sticks that are tied together with rubber strips and cordage. Also, there is approximately 100 ft. of cord for directing purposes. During the Vietnam conflict, there were many of these types of devices employed in the rivers and canals of South Vietnam.

If it seems silly, keep in mind that a team of VC waterborne sappers were able to mine the WWII-era MSTS-manned jeep carrier USNS Card and put her on the bottom of Saigon harbor, although she was soon refloated and repaired.

Mine closure

Yup, seems to be a MKB training mine that was left unswept after an excercise 13 years ago that caused the hubub around Seattle this week.

From U.S. Navy Region Northwest:

The Navy conducted additional analysis on Tuesday’s incident involving an unknown mine in the Puget Sound and subsequent detonation at 8 p.m.

It was determined the mine was from an exercise Naval Undersea Warfare Command, Keyport conducted in 2005. This exercise was an opportunity for academia to demonstrate various Unmanned Underwater Vehicles and their capability to detect underwater objects and avoid submerged obstacles.

During this exercise, inert training mines were placed in areas between Brownsville, Keyport, and Bainbridge Island. Only a small number of the training mines were positively buoyant. Not all training mines were recovered.

It has been confirmed the device destroyed Tuesday was a positively buoyant, inert training mine used during the 2005 exercise.

In order to avoid similar incidents in the future, the Navy will survey the exercise areas and recover any remaining positively buoyant mines.

By request of the State of Washington in the interest of public safety, Navy Explosive Ordnance personnel safely disposed of the device that appeared to be a dated military mine in waters between Keyport and Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The device was detonated at 8:04 p.m. (Tuesday).

The detonation did not create a secondary explosion which indicated the device was inert.

The Navy thanks the following partner agencies for their support in the response: The U.S. Coast Guard, the Suquamish Tribe, State of Washington, Kitsap County, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mystery contact mine pops up near Seattle marina

So there was a certain pucker factor this week when this bad boy showed up.

The device found drifting Tuesday afternoon near the Port Brownsville Marina in Kitsap County. The Coast Guard established a 1,500-yard safety zone around it. (Tom Matsuzawa / KIRO 7)

As reported by the Kitsap Sun, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said the object was reported at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, first noticed by conservation officers.

“The Navy says initial inspection of the moored mine showed it had decades of marine growth. At about 5 p.m., Navy divers secured a long line to the device and began towing it with a small boat. By 8:15 p.m., officials said it had been detonated without incident.”

Described as an inert practice mine of unknown origin with decades of marine growth, the Navy is investigating the backstory of the device but you can be sure the local MIUWU guys have assholes the size of cheerios.

For reference, training mine, below. These were based on the old WWI/II-era spherical Mk 5, a moored Hertz-horn (acid) contact mine, and the Mk 6, a smaller antenna type with a Hertz backup. The USN still had quantities of these live mines on had as late as the 1980s and practice casings, as you see here, are still in use:

970215-N-3093M-001 Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class David Ahearn (Diver) attaches an inert Satchel Charge to a training mine, during exercises in waters off Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. U.S. Navy Photograph by Photographers Mate 2nd Class Andrew Mckaskle (Released Sept. 12, 2012)

WWII mines and trawlers don’t mix

French mine clearance divers ensure the proper neutralization of the mine. Photo: Préfecture de la Manche

Off the coast of Normandy last week the French trawler Le Retour hauled in a heck of a full net, to include one Monika-type Luftmine B (G-mine), formerly of German ownership.

UXOs are a common thing along the shores of Europe.

The big minenbombe had an explosive charge somewhere on the order of 860 kilos, which would have wrecked Le Retour for sure ala the spy trawler Saint Georges in the 1980s Bond classic, For Your Eyes Only.

Gratefully, French Navy clearance divers were able to render the big easter egg inert with no casualties.

More here.

Warship Wednesday, July 18, 2018: The hardest working cheesebox

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, July 18, 2018: The hardest working cheesebox

Courtesy, Digital Commonwealth Collection.

Here we see the single-turreted, coastal monitor USS Passaic, a proud addition to the steam and iron Union Navy during the Civil War that went on to become a staple of U.S. maritime lore for the rest of the century and retire to Florida in her old age. In fact, this image was taken in 1898, as she stood to in Key West to fight the Spanish, if needed.

Designed by famed engineer John Ericsson to be an improved version of original USS Monitor, Passaic was the first of her class of what was to be 10 “cheesebox on a raft” ships that were larger (200-feet oal over 176-ft of the Monitor) included more ventilation, a tweaked topside layout, bigger guns (a 15-inch Dahlgren along with an 11-incher, whereas Monitor just had two of the latter), and marginally better seakeeping.

Line engraving published in Le Monde Illustre 1862, depicting the interior of the Passaic’s gun turret. Passaic was armed with two large Dahlgren smooth-bore guns: one XI-inch and one XV-inch. Note round shot in the foreground, that at right in a hoisting sling, and turning direction marking on the gun carriage.

Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, depicting Passaic trying her large gun at the Palisades, during gunnery trials in the Hudson River on 15 November 1862. The ship was armed with two large Dahlgren smooth-bore guns: one XI-inch and one XV-inch. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 58735

USS Passaic. Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, depicting Passaic as she will appear at sea. She was commissioned on 25 November 1862. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 58736

Subcontracted to six different East Coast yards (there was a war on, after all) our class leader was built by Continental Iron Works, Greenport, New York, which is appropriated for a vessel named for a town in New Jersey possibly best known today as the birthplace of Dick Vitale.

She was commissioned 25 November 1862, just after Grant began his First Vicksburg campaign, and was soon after toured by President Lincoln and members of his cabinet.

Before seeing action, Passaic was being towed by the State of Georgia to Beaufort, North Carolina, deep in Confederate-contested waters, along with Monitor, which was being towed by Rhode Island. On the day after Christmas, the ships ran into severe weather off Cape Hatteras– forcing Passaic‘s crew to take to her pumps to correct leaking (have you seen the freeboard on these?) and was only saved after her crew tossed her shot overboard to help make weight. In the end, she made Beaufort on New Year’s Day, 1863, while Monitor famously went down during the storm.

Similarly, Passaic‘s classmate, USS Weehawken, sank at anchor in just a moderate gale later that year, taking four officers and 27 enlisted men to the bottom with her– half her crew. Monitors were downright dangerous in any sea.

Nonetheless, quickly making a name for herself, Passaic soon captured a blockade runner (the schooner Glide) and attacked strategically important Fort McAllister near Savannah, Georgia, a major Federal objective.

Bombardment of Fort McAllister, Georgia, 3 March 1863. Line engraving, after a sketch by W.T. Crane, published in The Soldier in Our Civil War, Volume II, page 39. It depicts the U.S. Navy monitors Patapsco, Passaic, and Nahant firing on Fort McAllister (at far left) from the Ogeechee River. Other U.S. Navy ships are in the foreground. Montauk is the monitor in this group (farthest from the artist). Firing on the fort from the right foreground are mortar schooners, including C.P. Williams, Norfolk Packet, and Para. Among other U.S. Navy ships involved were gunboats Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn and tug Dandelion, all screw steamers. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph Catalog #: NH 59287

Bombardment of Fort McAllister, Georgia, 3 March 1863. Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, January-June 1863, page 196, depicting the bombardment of Fort McAllister by the U.S. Navy monitors Passaic, Patapsco, and Nahant. The engraving is based on a sketch by an eye-witness on board USS Montauk, which is in the right center foreground. In the left foreground, firing on the fort, are the mortar schooners C.P. Williams, Norfolk Packet, and Para. Among other U.S. Navy ships involved were gunboats Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn and tug Dandelion. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 59288

Dupont, with the largest ironclad flotilla ever assembled in the world up to that time– nine vessels to include USS New Ironsides, the double-turret ironclad ram USS Keokuk, and seven single-turret monitors (including Passaic)– went on to conduct what is often labeled as the first attack by an all-ironclad fleet in naval history. By April 1863, Passaic was in action off Charleston (arguably the best defended seaport in the world at the time), where she took several hits to her turret she would carry with her for the rest of her career– and prove photogenic for Brady organization shutterbugs!

Photograph shows a group of Union soldiers standing near the turret of the ironclad USS Passaic. Two soldiers stand above, near the pilot house. Indentations in the turret were caused by cannon fire. Cooley, Sam A., photographer, Tenth Army Corps 1863. LOC 2015648199

Monitor USS Passaic without pilothouse & awning stanchions, note shell pockmarks 1863 via LOC

LC-DIG-PPMSCA-33821: Officers and crew onboard the US Navy monitor USS Passaic at Port Royal, South Carolina, 1863. Note the difference in bores between the 11-inch and 15-inch guns. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

LC-DIG-PPMSCA-33820: Officers and crew onboard the US Navy monitor USS Passaic at Port Royal, South Carolina, 1863

After being patched up in New York, by July Passaic was back on the Union blockade line off Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, carrying the flag of none other than RADM John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren himself for his opening attack on Fort Moultrie– which would take another 18 months to finally break.

In June 1865, the hardy monitor was laid up at Philadelphia Navy Yard just two weeks after Kirby Smith officially surrendered his command– the last major one in the Confederacy– down in Galveston. Passaic was lucky. Classmate USS Patapsco was sunk by a mine on 15 January 1865 in Charleston Harbor. Of the seven others in the class, all were similarly put in ordinary, many lingering at League Island Navy Yard in the Delaware for decades as the Navy that built them simply ran dry of money.

Passaic was the exception to this and she got regular work after a while. Repaired and recommissioned in Hampton Roads, 24 November 1876, she went on to serve first as a receiving ship at the Washington Naval Yard and then a training vessel at Annapolis for young minds, a job she maintained until 1892.

Passaic photographed late in her career after she had been fitted with a light flying deck. The view looks forward from off the port quarter. Note the ship’s propeller well aft, with its cover removed and resting on deck. The exposed tiller and steering cables are also visible, between the propeller well and its cover. Possibly taken during Passaic’s service at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1883-1892. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43747

Off the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1887. The Academy’s New Quarters building is at the far left. Tall structure in the left center distance is the Maryland State House. The photograph was taken by E.H. Hart and published in his 1887 book United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Collection of Rear Admiral Ammen C. Farenholt, USN(MC). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42802

By 1893, Passaic was on loan to the Massachusetts Naval Militia, then shipped back to Southern waters to do the same for the Georgia Naval Militia.

Her layout in 1896, via Monitors of the U.S. Navy, 1861-1937″, pg 17, by Lt. Richard H. Webber, USNR-R. (LOC) Library of Congress, Catalog Card No. 77-603596, via Navsource

There, in 1898, when war came with Spain, she was dusted off and recommissioned into the Navy proper although her muzzle-loading black powder armament was quaint for the period. Towed from Savannah to Key West, she served as a harbor defense craft with the Naval Auxiliary Force just in case the Spanish got froggy.

Similarly, her old and long-put-to-pasture classmates saw a similar call-up from decades of reserve. USS Montauk, crewed by Maine militia, was assigned to guard the harbor of Portland. Nahant steamed– for the first time since 1865– to New York City for six months along with Sangamon. USS Catskill served off New England. USS Nantucket, manned by North Carolina volunteers, was stationed at Port Royal, South Carolina. On the West Coast, USS Camanche, long used by the California Naval Militia, was tasked to guard the Bay Area.

It was to be the last adventure for these old boats. As for Passaic, she never left Florida. Towed to Pensacola after the Spanish surrendered, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap the following year. By 1904, none of her sisters remained.

Photo #: NH 45896 USS Montauk (1862-1904) – at left, and USS Lehigh (1863-1904) – at right Laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, circa late 1902 or early 1903. Other ships present, at the extreme left and in center beyond Montauk and Lehigh, include three other old monitors and two new destroyers (probably Bainbridge and Chauncey, both in reserve at Philadelphia from November 1902 to February 1903). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

She is remembered in maritime art.

USS Passaic, Wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1898, depicting the ship as she was during the Civil War. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42803

Chromolithograph by Armstrong & Company, after an 1893 watercolor by Fred S. Cozzens, published in Our Navy Its Growth and Achievements, 1897. Ships depicted are (from left to right): Monadnock class twin-turret monitor; Passaic class single-turret monitor (in foreground); USS Naugatuck; USS Keokuk USS New Ironsides and USS Nantucket. Collection of Captain Glenn Howell, USN, 1974. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 464-KN

Her plans are in the National Archives while her name was recycled in WWII for a Cohoes-class net laying ship, which was later transferred to the Dominican Republic in the 1970s.

Specs:

USS Catskill, Passaic, and USS Montauk, line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, rather crudely depicting the appearance of these ships and others of their class. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 58737

Displacement:1,335 tons std, 1875 Fl
Length: 200 ft overall
Beam: 46 ft
Draught: 10 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 2 Martin boilers, 1-shaft Ericsson vibrating lever engine, 320 ihp
Speed: 7 knots designed, 4-5 actual.
Complement: 75 (1863)
Armament:
1 × 15 in Dahlgren smoothbore, 1 × 11 in Dahlgren smoothbore in a single dual turret.
Armor, iron:
Side: 5 – 3 in
Turret: 11 in
Deck: 1 in

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Coming correct in the Baltic

Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 recently concluded and was pretty wide in scope, blending both NATO forces and non-aligned Baltic nations (i.e. Sweden and Finland) with 43 maritime units, more than 60 aircraft and a combined amphibious landing force (the latter of which included such nontypical units as the Sig 550-armed Romanian 307th Naval Infantry Regiment operating CRRC inflatables from a U.S. landing dock)

For instance:

180608-N-TJ319-0239 BALTIC SEA (June 8, 2018) Members of the Romanian 307th Naval Infantry Regiment depart the well deck of the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) on a combat rubber raiding crafts during a joint personnel recovery exercise in support of exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018. BALTOPS is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region and one of the largest exercises in Northern Europe that is designed to enhance the flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jessica L. Dowell/Released)

They practiced some good, very relevant stuff to include mine/countermine ops, defense against fast attack craft, TRAP ops, and air defense exercise from shore-based low-flying fast jets (German Tornados).

One of the most eye-catching of the exercise footnotes was a photoex with 30 vessels to include the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), and the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). These were joined by the Finnish Hmeenmaa-class minelayer FNS Uusimaa (05), Denmark’s Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HDMS Niels Juel (F363), the German Type 702 Berlin-class replenishment ship FGS Frankfurt A.M. (A1412), the RN’s Duke-class Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth (F235) and a cornucopia of smaller patrol boats and mine countermeasure ships from such diverse players as Turkey and Lithuania.

BALTIC SEA (June 9, 2018) Thirty maritime unit ships from 12 nations maneuver in close formation for a photo exercise during Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 in the Baltic Sea. BALTOPS is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region and one of the largest exercises in Northern Europe that are designed to enhance the flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg/Released) 180609-N-XT273-2967

Remember that time B-1Bs simulated dropping Quickstrike mines in a Baltic op?

The Russians are sure to be a fan of the ongoing BALTOPS excercise which has seen, among other things, the Truman Strike Group including Carrier Air Wing One (CVW) 1, embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and B-1B’s sent from CONUS.

Speaking of which, how about those mines:

“In flight footage featuring drop of Navy Quickstrike Mine as well as taxi take off and landing. Two B-1B Lancers assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, dropped 12 inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mines while participating in BALTOPS 2018 which is an annual, multinational exercise designed to enhance interoperability and demonstrate NATO and partner force resolve to defend the Baltic Region. The Lancers were assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and sortied from RAF Fairford, England, June 2, 2018. (Video by Senior Airman Shawn White, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs)”

Sailors from the Navy Munitions Command Atlantic Unit at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., worked with members of the 7th Munitions Squadron to build the mines using Navy kits and Air Force practise bombs.

According to the Navy: The Quickstrike is a family of shallow water, aircraft laid mines used primarily against surface and subsurface craft. Quickstrike versions Mark 62 and Mark 63 are converted general purpose 500-pound and 1000-pound bombs, respectively. The Mark 65 is a 2,000-pound mine, which utilizes a thin-walled mine case, rather than a bomb body.

Mines can be used to deny an enemy access to specific areas or channelize the enemy into specific areas. Sea mines have been used by the U.S. Navy since the Revolutionary War. Mines have been used with significant effect in the Civil War and both World Wars. The most effective use of mines by the United States was against the Japanese Empire in World War II. U.S. aircraft laid over 12,000 mines in Japanese shipping routes and harbor approaches, sinking 650 Japanese ships and totally disrupting all of their maritime shipping.

Some stills:

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off in support of Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, June 2, 2018 (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron align 12 inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mines on a munitions assembly conveyor during Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, May 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

Warning tag is displayed on an inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mine firing mechanism for Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, May 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

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