Category Archives: submarines

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020: Of Stars and Moonstone

Here at LSOZI, we 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, Sept. 23, 2020: Of Stars and Moonstone

Here we see the Archimede-class diesel-electric submarine, Galileo Galilei (SS90) of the Regia Marina, at Aden in 1940, after the Italian boat mixed it up with a plucky British trawler. A heroically fought warship (note the shell hole in her busted sail), she went on to work to have a curious third (yes, third) life.

The Italian Navy sometimes gets a lot of rocks thrown at it for the fleet’s overall performance in the two world wars but make no mistake, the force was competent when it came to undersea warfare. Italy had a robust domestic sub-building capability and throughout the first few decades of the 20th Century supplied boats to customers not only in Europe but in the Americas as well. Then, of course, they also fielded working midget subs and frogman-driven human torpedoes, which were used with great skill.

The four boats of the class– Archimede, Galileo Ferraris, Galileo Galilei, and Evangelista Torricelli— were all built by Franco Tosi at Taranto in the early 1930s and named for famous men of science who, more often than not, were accomplished in the field of astronomy.

Launch of RIN Galileo Galilei in Taranto 19 March 1934 via

Updated versions of the previous Settembrini-class, the Archimedes went some 1,200-tons when submerged. They were classic Mediterranean boats, just 231-feet in length. Speedy, they could make 17-knots on the surface and they had long legs, capable of a 10,000 nm range. Armament was a pair of 3.9-inch deck guns and eight torpedo tubes, four each in the bow and stern of the boat.

A row of Italian submarines at Naples, Italy, just before the 5 May 1938 naval review. The first several vessels are large submarines, possibly of the Archimede class, in which case they would include FERRARIS (1934-1941) and GALILEI (1934-1946). NH 86240

The focus of our tale, Galileo Galilei, commissioned 16 October 1934. However, her time in peacetime service was limited as she was soon to fly a black flag of sorts.

Franco’s jackals

After being used in 1936 in a form of “underwater piracy” fighting a semi-secret war against socialist Republican Spain during the Spanish Civil War as Sottomarini Legionari (Submariners Legion) allies to the fascist Nationalists, the Italian Navy officially sold two of their submarines directly to Franco’s government in 1937 and loaned four others. This was mainly because the Republican Almirante Cervera-class light cruiser Miguel de Cervantes caught two torpedoes from sistership Torricelli that November while anchored off the port of Cartagena but survived, and, when she was repaired, was found to have fragments in her hull from said fish with Italian markings.

Italian submarines. Archimede Class. NH 111495

Under the nominal “command” of a Spanish flag officer, the quartet of loaned boats still had their Italian crews, though they flew the colors and wore the uniforms of their adopted new country. The boats sold included class leader Archimede, who sailed as the submarino General Mola; and Torricelli, who sailed as General Sanjurjo. Those loaned included Galileo Galilei, who sailed as the uninspired General Mola II; sister Galileo Ferraris, who sailed as the equally uninspired General Sanjurjo II; along with the Perla-class subs Onice and Iride who sailed as (Aguilar Tablada and Gonzalez Lopez, respectively, with pennant numbers L1 through L6.

Fighting for Franco was lackluster, and the Italian-manned boats bagged several small steamers but failed to repeat the success seen against Miguel de Cervantes–although Iride did fire a torpedo at the British H-class destroyer HMS Havock, who she mistook for a Republican tin can and received a 9-hour depth charge attack for her misidentification.

With that, the four returned to Italy in February 1938, their Spanish Navy service over. Archimede/General Mola and Torricelli/General Sanjurjo would remain behind, the property of Franco’s government, which very much wanted to keep them as those two units had accounted for a variety of fairly important merchantmen during the Civil War.

Back in the spaghetti

With half their class still under a Spanish flag, the two Galileos (Galileo Ferraris and Galileo Galilei) resumed their Italian service including their old names and pennants on Rome’s naval list. When the Axis country entered the war against France and Great Britain on 10 June 1940, some 10 months after the conflict kicked off, Galileo Galilei was part of Italy’s doomed Red Sea Flotilla. Based along the coast of Italian Somaliland and Eritrea, it consisted of a handful of destroyers, subs, and torpedo boats, and were no match for a British squadron, but they could close off the Suez Canal to merchant traffic.

Just hours after receiving word that a state of war existed between Italy and the Allies, Galileo Galilei, part of the LXXXI Squadriglia Sommergibili out of Massawa, undertook her inaugural WWII patrol under the command of Capitano di Corvetta Corrado Nardi and promptly came across the Norwegian-flagged James Stove (8,215 tons) under British charter to the Anglo Saxon Petroleum Company, off Djibouti, sending the enemy tanker to the bottom with three torpedoes on the 16th. Nardi had stopped the vessel on the surface and allowed her crew to board lifeboats before letting his fish fly, the very application of the cruiser rules. A British report on the incident had the Norwegian skipper relay that Nardi “spoke courteously and behaved in the Chief Officer’s words as a ‘Perfect Gentleman’.”

While Galileo Galilei made her escape, some 34 mariners from the James Stove were picked up about an hour later by the 600-ton armed trawler HMT Moonstone (T 90) and landed in the British colonial Aden that same day.

HMT Moonstone underway. Formerly the 151-foot Hull-based cod trawler Lady Madeleine, she could only make 11-knots, but she carried a 4-inch gun, ASDIC listening gear, and depth charges, making her deadly enough. Further, her crew of regulars had been in steady service since August 1939, with Boatswain W.J.H. Moorman, RN, in command. AWM FL 16385.

Two days later, the Italian sub stopped the (then neutral) Yugoslav freighter Drava and, finding no reason to send her to the bottom, let her go about her way. However, Drava reported her interaction with the green-painted Italian sea serpent, and later that night the destroyer HMS Kandahar (F28), along with No. 203 Squadron RAF Blenheims out of Aden, were soon bird-dogging Galilei.

Moonstone soon joined in on the morning of the 19th.

As detailed by Paul Lund in his 1971 work, Harry Tate’s Navy: Trawlers Go to War:

[J]ust before noon, Moonstone’s ASDIC operator reported a strong submarine echo and the trawler immediately steamed to the attack, dropping depth‑charges; but again, the enemy escaped. Then, barely an hour later, the trawler regained contact and dropped more depth‑charges. The explosions had scarcely subsided before the submarine, a big ocean‑going boat, suddenly heaved itself to the surface a mile astern, streaming the Italian flag from a pole above its conning tower.

Moonstone wheeled hard round and steamed full‑ahead with all guns fixing, some of the crew even joining in with rifles as the distance between the two vessels narrowed. Though the submarine, which was fully three times the size of Moonstone, quickly returned fire, the hail of lead and shell from the trawler prevented the Italians from getting to their big gun, and finally, Moonstone’s four‑inch crashed a shell into the conning tower, killing all inside it. Some of the Italians began to wave white clothes in surrender, while others scrambled into the wrecked tower to haul down the flag.

There were far too many Italians for the trawler’s small crew to handle, so after warning the enemy commander not to scuttle or she would reopen fire, Moonstone stood off while Kandahar raced in to take the prisoners aboard and fix a tow to the big submarine, the Galileo Gafflei [sic]…

Kandahar then towed Moonstone’s prize to Aden, where it was warmly received as it was the RN’s first enemy submarine captured in the War.

The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Kandahar (F28) preparing to take the Italian submarine, Galileo Galilei, in tow after it was captured in the Gulf of Aden by the trawler HMT MOONSTONE. The submarine’s periscope was spotted, and an attack was made with depth charges which forced it to the surface. The submarine was then captured. IWM A109

Boatswain (later LCDR) Moorman and his XO, Midshipman M.J. Hunter, would receive the DSC for his battle with the Italian sub while PO Frederick Quested, in charge of the 4-inch gun crew that cracked her sail, received the DSM. As for Moonstone, she would survive the war– including operations in the evacuation from Crete– and eventually return to the fishing fleet, ending her days in the 1960s as the trawler Red Lancer.

Nardi and 15 of his crew lay dead after the battle. Their war had lasted nine days. They would not be alone.

During WWII, some 116 Italian submarines sailed against the Allies or supported those that did, chalking up 130 ships sunk for a total of some 700,000 tons of shipping. In exchange, they lost 96 of their submersibles, many with all hands, their hulls cracked on the seafloor. Some 3,000 submariners of the Regina Marina are still on eternal patrol.

Via the 1943 ONI Guide, confusing Torricelli with the Brin-class submarine that recycled the name 

Under the White Duster

Galileo Galilei‘s sole Red Sea patrol had logged just 160 miles on the surface and 35 submerged. However, even with her damaged sail and in reportedly poor material condition (the Italians don’t seem to have overhauled the boat after her Spanish service, as the Norwegian master of the James Stove had reported very foul exhaust and “a cloud of black smoke hung about her all the time she was visible”), the British nonetheless put their prize to as good a use as possible.

As detailed by Stephen Roskill in his The Secret Capture: U-110 and the Enigma Story:

The prize was a very valuable one and from her we obtained intelligence regarding the disposition of other Italian submarines in the Red Sea and Indian ocean. As a result, we caught and sank the [Brin-class submarine] Torricelli on 23rd June and [her sister] the Galvani, which was patrolling the Persian Gulf to catch our tanker traffic, on the following day…

…In December 1940, Galilei was brought up the Red Sea by a British crew and passed through the Suez Canal to Alexandria, where her hull and equipment were thoroughly inspected.

Used for two years as a floating battery charger for HMs submarines at Port Said, the Italian boat was eventually repaired enough to put to sea by June 1942. Christened HMS X.2, then HMS P. 711, she was equipped with British Type 286W radar and Type 129 sonar, then used for training out of Alexandria for the rest of the war.

She was broken up in 1946 without ceremony. Her ship’s motto was “Pur cieco vedo” (While blind I see)


As for Galileo Galilei‘s sisters, Galileo Ferraris was sunk 25 October 1941 off Gibraltar an RAF Catalina with the destroyer HMS Lamerton for the lay-up. Meanwhile, the two units sold to Spain in 1937, Archimede/General Mola and Torricelli/General Sanjurjo, would endure until 1959, far outliving the Regia Marina.

They were still carried in the NATO submarine spotting guide long after WWII.


From “The Italian submarines between the two world wars” by Alessandro Turrini – MariStat / UDAP – 1990, for gc Sergio Mariotti

Displacement: 986 t (surfaced) 1,259 t (submerged)
Length: 231 ft 4 in
Beam: 22 ft 6 in
Draft: 13 ft 6 in
Installed power:
3,000 bhp (2,200 kW) (diesels)
1,100 hp (820 kW) (electric motors)
2 Tosi diesel engines with a total of 3,000 HP
2 Ansaldo electric motors with a total of 1400 HP. 124-cell battery
Speed: 17 knots (surfaced) 7.7 knots (submerged)
10,300 nmi at 8 knots (surfaced) on 100 tons diesel oil
105 nmi at 3 knots (submerged)
Test depth: 300 ft
Crew: 6 officers, 49 non-commissioned officers and sailors
2 × single 100mm/43cal Mod. 1927 deck guns
2 × single Breda Mod. 31 13.2 mm MGs
8 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes (4 bow, 4 stern) 16 torpedoes

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Spelunking, occupation edition

75 years ago today.

Official caption: “Japanese Kairyu Type Midget submarine outside its cave hideaway in a Japanese coastal hillside, 22 September 1945.”

The men alongside it are from the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Boston (CA-69).

The sixth Boston was commissioned 30 June 1943 and left Pearl Harbor for points West on 6 December of the same year, going on to earn an impressive 10 battlestars for her WWII service. Following the Japanese surrender, Boston remained in the Far East on occupation duty until 28 February 1946 then headed home for mothballs.

Given a second lease on life, she was reworked as a guided-missile cruiser in 1955 and recommissioned as CAG-1, the country’s first warship carrying an impressive 144 RIM-2 Terrier missiles in her armored magazines for use on her two twin launchers– keep in mind today’s VLS-equipped Ticonderoga-class cruisers only carry a maximum of 122 SM-2/3s providing all of their Mk 41 cells are filled with them.

Aft launcher onboard USS Boston (CA 69) in 1969 off of Vietnam with a GMTRS simulator T-SAM. Note the shell powder cans coming aboard– an almost daily task when she worked the gun line. NARA Photo 80-G-379158

Boston however still got a lot of use out of her WWII-era big guns, firing thousands of rounds of eight and five-inch shells against targets in Vietnam in 1967-68.

She was decommissioned 5 May 1970 and scrapped five years later.

Grenadier found

USS Grenadier (SS-210) Off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 27 December 1941. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 99403

Commissioned 1 May 1941, the Gar/Tambor-class fleet boat USS Grenadier (SS-210) was only just past her East Coast shakedown cruise when the attack on Pearl Harbor put her on course for the immediate war patrols in the Pacific, the first of which she began on 4 February 1942– bound for Japanese home waters.

Over the course of six patrols, she drew a fair amount of blood from the Emperor’s supply lines, most important of which was the 15,000-ton Japanese Army transportTaiyō Maru (ex-Hamburg-America liner Cap Finisterre), sent to the bottom 120 nautical miles southwest of Kyushu with over 600 Japanese bureaucrats and technicians intended to run occupied the Dutch East Indies, as well as 2,500 tons of munitions.

In April 1943, while in the Straits of Malacca, Grenadier ran into trouble and became one of the 52 American submarines of WWII On Eternal Patrol. 

As noted by DANFS:

Running on the surface at dawn 21 April, Grenadier spotted, and was simultaneously spotted by, a Japanese plane. As the sub crash-dived, her skipper, Comdr. John A. Fitzgerald commented “we ought to be safe now, as we are between 120 and 130 feet.” Just then, bombs rocked Grenadier and heeled her over 15 to 20 degrees. Power and lights failed completely and the fatally wounded ship settled to the bottom at 267 feet. She tried to make repairs while a fierce fire blazed in the maneuvering room.

After 13 hours of sweating it out on the ‘bottom Grenadier managed to surface after dark to clear the boat of smoke and inspect damage. The damage to her propulsion system was irreparable. Attempting to bring his ship close to shore so that the crew could scuttle her and escape into the jungle, Comdr. Fitzgerald even tried to jury-rig a sail. But the long night’s work proved futile. As dawn broke, 22 April, Grenadier’s weary crew sighted two Japanese ships heading for them. As the skipper “didn’t think it advisable to make a stationary dive in 280 feet of water without power,” the crew began burning confidential documents prior to abandoning ship. A Japanese plane attacked the stricken submarine; but Grenadier, though dead in the water and to all appearances helpless, blazed away with machine guns. She hit the plane on its second pass. As the damaged plane veered off, its torpedo landed about 200 yards from the boat and exploded.

Reluctantly opening all vents, Grenadier’s crew abandoned ship and watched her sink to her final resting place. A Japanese merchantman picked up 8 officers and 68 enlisted men and took them to Penang, Malay States, where they were questioned, beaten, and starved before being sent to other prison camps. They were then separated and transferred from camp to camp along the Malay Peninsula and finally to Japan. Throughout the war they suffered brutal, inhuman treatment, and their refusal to reveal military information both frustrated and angered their captors. First word that any had survived Grenadier reached Australia 27 November 1943. Despite the brutal and sadistic treatment, all but four of Grenadier’s crew survived their 2 years in Japanese hands to tell rescuing American forces of their boat’s last patrol and the courage and heroism of her skipper and crew.

The AP is reporting that Grenadier has been located at about 270 feet, some 92 miles south of Phuket, Thailand. It was discovered last year by Singapore-based Jean Luc Rivoire and Benoit Laborie of France, and Australian Lance Horowitz and Belgian Ben Reymenants, who live in Phuket, and recently identified with a high level of certainty.

An image on a sonar screen shows a silhouette shape of a submarine lying on the ocean floor somewhere in the Strait of Malacca on 21 October 2019. The Grenadier (SS-210) lies in approximately 83 meters of water & identified with a probability of 95%. Photo courtesy of Jean Luc Rivoire, submitted by Steve Burton from the article written by Grant Peck of the Associated Press. via Navsource

Grenadier received four battle stars for World War II service and her name was later re-issued to a new boat, the Tench-class GUPPY SS-525.

Her 12-page war diary is in the National Archives in digital format. 

KMS Karlsruhe found

The German Königsberg-class light cruisers were some of the first “modern” ships of the Weimar-era Reichsmarine. These Versailles-compliant 7,000-ton warships replaced downright ancient Gazelle-class cruisers leftover from the 1900s, vessels that were obsolete even by Great War standards.

Lightly armed (9×6-inch C/25s) and lightly armored (2-inch belt), they fundamentally served as training ships for the nascent Kriegsmarine.

The German light cruiser KARLSRUHE on the Kiel Canal.1930s (IWM)

After waving the flag in the 1930s, two of the three Königsbergs were lost back-to-back in the invasion of Norway while the last member of the class, KMS Koln, managed to make it to 1945 before she was lost largely due to the fact that she spent most of WWII in the comparatively low-risk waters of the Baltic.

The two lost in Operation Weserübung were class leader, KMS Königsberg— badly damaged by Norwegian coastal artillery on 9 April and sunk by British bombers the following day at Bergen– and KMS Karlsruhe, who survived heavy fire from the Norwegian coastal guns at Odderøya only to be sent to the bottom on 9 April by the Royal Navy T-class submarine HMS Truant (N68).

Karlsruhe’s wreck has been identified at a depth of 1,610 feet some 11nm southeast off Kristiansand.

Warship Wednesday Aug 26, 2020: Hazard Pay

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, Aug 26, 2020: Hazard Pay

George Bain Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Here we see the experimental submarine USS Plunger (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 2) broadside with what looks like her entire crew on deck, 115 years ago this month. The tiny boat, only 64-feet long, was only the second official submarine that the U.S. Navy-owned and some of the most iron-willed men of the 20th Century would walk her decks.

After Revolutionary War forerunners such as the David Bushnell Turtle and Civil War beasts like the oar-powered Alligator and the follow-on hand-cranked Intelligent Whale, on 3 March 1893, Congress authorized the first “submarine torpedo boat” to be built for the U.S. Navy. Irish inventor and early submarine expert John P. Holland won the design competition in 1895 to build the craft, which he intended to be a submarine with triple propeller shafts powered by a steam engine with a retractable smokestack!

General arrangement plans, dated 4 September 1895 steam-powered submarine, NHHC 19-N-11812

A 150-ton, 85-foot-long steel beast with a pair of early torpedo tubes, the craft spent five years at Holland’s yard before the contract was canceled. Instead, the first U.S. Navy submarine became Holland’s personally-funded Holland VI prototype, a 53-footer with a gasoline engine for puttering around on the surface and an electric motor for use while under the waves. This vessel would go on to be the USS Holland (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 2, or SS-1), which had a reloadable 18-inch torpedo tube with three torpedoes as well as a dynamite gun.

Following immediately on the heels of the Holland was Plunger, effectively a more advanced version of the Navy’s first submarine, being larger, faster, and capable of carrying five torpedoes.

USS Plunger SS-2 Midship Section 9.19.1903 NARA cross-section 

Using a 160-hp Otto gasoline engine, Plunger could streak along at about 8 knots on the surface while churning 7 knots while submerged on a set of Electro Dynamic electric motors. Period photos gave her the illusion of being a speedy craft.

USS Plunger (Submarine #2, later A-1), going full speed ahead, August 30, 1905. From the bottom of the keel to the top of her sail, she was just shy of 14 feet high, not counting her masts. George Bain Collection. LC-USZ62-89964

USS Plunger (Submarine #2, later A-1), passing the presidential yacht USS Sylph (PY-5), August 30, 1905. George Bain Collection, LOC

Laid down on 21 May 1901 at Elizabethport, N.J., by the Crescent Shipyard of Lewis Nixon, a subcontractor for Holland, Plunger commissioned at the Holland Company’s Long Island yard on 19 September 1903, Lt. Charles P. Nelson in command.

USS Plunger (Submarine # 2) outboard of USS Shark (Submarine # 8) At the Electric Boat Company facility, New Suffolk, Long Island, New York, in 1902. Note the surface navigation lights of these two submarines, and their differing superstructure arrangements. NH 42621

She was something of a novelty and was assigned to the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I., for experimental torpedo work.

As noted by DANFS,

“Plunger operated locally from that facility for the next two years, a period broken only by an overhaul at the Holland yard at New Suffolk between March and November 1904. Besides testing machinery, armament, and tactics, the submarine torpedo boat also served as a training ship for the crews of new submersibles emerging from the builder’s yards.”

USS Plunger (Submarine # 2) Officer in the submarine’s conning tower hatch, circa the early 1900s. Published on a contemporary picture postal card. Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1977. NH 85735

On 22 August 1905, she had the distinction of visiting former Secretary of the Navy and then-current President Teddy Roosevelt at Oyster Bay. The Old Bull Moose spent some time aboard, taking the conn himself and even submerging five times in the shallow water, the first President to dive on a submarine while in office.

The story made national news.

Roosevelt wrote from Oyster Bay to Hermann Speck von Steinberg:

“I myself am both amused and interested as to what you say about the interest excited about my trip in the Plunger. I went down in it chiefly because I did not like to have the officers and enlisted men think I wanted them to try things I was reluctant to try myself. I believe a good deal can be done with these submarines, although there is always the danger of people getting carried away with the idea and thinking that they can be of more use than they possibly could be.”

To another correspondent, he declared that never in his life had he experienced “such a diverting day … nor so much enjoyment in so few hours.”

According to the Navy, a sitting president would not cruise on a commissioned U.S. Navy submarine again until Dwight D. Eisenhower dropped in on the USS Seawolf (SSN 575) in 1957–ironically a boat that LT James Earl “Jimmy” Carter was to be engineering officer on. 

Further, Plunger’s 1905 presidential dive would prove vital to submariners’ wallets for the next century, as noted by FTGC(SS) Larry Smith, a submarine vet from the 1970s and 80s.

The Naval hierarchy in 1905 considered submarine duty, neither unusual nor dangerous, and classified it as shore duty. Therefore, submariners received twenty-five percent less pay than sailors going to sea in Destroyers, Cruisers and similar surface ships.

Roosevelt’s two-hour trip on Plunger convinced him that this discrimination was unfair. He described submarine duty as hazardous and difficult, and he found that submariners “have to be trained to the highest possible point as well as to show iron nerve in order to be of any use in their positions…”

Roosevelt directed that officer service on submarines be equated with duty on surface ships. Enlisted men qualified in submarines were to receive ten dollars per month in addition to the pay of their rating. They were also to be paid a dollar for every day in which they were submerged while underway. Enlisted men assigned to submarines but not yet qualified received an additional five dollars per month.

Roosevelt did not dilly-dally once he made a decision. He issued an Executive Order directing the extra pay for enlisted personnel. This was the beginning of submarine pay!

USS Plunger (Submarine #2, later A-1), alongside tug Apache, August 30, 1905

USS Plunger (Submarine #2, later A-1), with crew on deck, August 30, 1905. George Bain Collection

USS Plunger (Submarine #2, later A-1), with crew on deck, August 30, 1905. USS Slyph to the left. George Bain Collection

Submarine Boat Plunger 1905 L.H. Nelson Company news photo NYPL collection

USS Plunger (Submarine Torpedo Boat # 2) Hauled out of the water at a Navy yard, circa 1903-1905. USS Alabama (Battleship # 8) is in the right background. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Cahn, 1990. NH 102428

In 1907, Plunger was under the command of one very young and very wet Ensign Chester Nimitz who lead a huge crew of one Chief and five sailors.

USS Plunger (Submarine # 2) Underway off the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., circa 1909. Note the canvas “fighting top” platform. This print is autographed in red ink by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, who was one of Plunger’s Commanding Officers, specifically at the time the image was taken. NH 49357-KN

Nimitz would go on to successively command three other boats after leaving PlungerUSS Snapper, USS Narwhal, and USS Skipjack— remaining in the submarine service until 1913 at which point he was in command of the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla.

The small but hearty young boat served for ten years in more or less active duty, then spend almost another ten in mothballs as a target before she was scrapped in 1922.

She spent the Great War hoisted aboard the hulk of the former Civil War monitor USS Puritan, then more than 50-years old, a blend of the Navy’s past and future if there ever were one.

Full Circle

The little submarine’s name was quickly recycled for the Porpoise-class fleet boat, USS Plunger (SS-179), which was ordered in 1935. Off Diamond Head when Japanese planes attacked on 7 December 1941, she scored an important victory for the country when she sent a Japanese freighter to the bottom just weeks afterward while on her first war patrol.

USS Plunger (SS-179): Members of the submarine’s crew display her battle flag. The man seated in the center appears to be wearing a Japanese sailor’s hat. The photograph is dated 21 June 1943, following Plunger’s sixth war patrol. 80-G-72010

After earning 14 battle stars across 12 war patrols in WWII, she entered reserve in 1945 and was sold for scrap in 1957.

In 1960, retired Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, trekked down to at Mare Island Naval Shipyard at Vallejo, California to speak at the keel-laying ceremony of the new Permit-class attack boat, USS Plunger (SSN-595), the third such submarine to carry the name, bringing the story of Submarine No. 2 full circle.

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, speaks at the keel-laying ceremony of USS PLUNGER (SSN-595) at Mare Island Naval Shipyard at Vallejo, California, 2 March 1960. The third Plunger would go on to decommission 2 February 1990 after earning four Navy Unit Commendations as well as multiple Meritorious Unit Commendations, Battle Efficiency, and other awards. NH 58448

Nimitz was of course something of a sentimental man, often signing photos of ships he had a connection with. In his papers, which were turned over to the Navy after his death he had kept this snapshot.

USS Plunger alongside a coal dock at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., July 1906. The names of three of the submarine’s Commanding Officers are written on the print: Lieutenants C.P. Nelson, P.P. Bassett, and C.W. Nimitz. The print was presented to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz by Chief Torpedoman’s Mate H.J. Chagnot, USN (Retired), who wrote on its reverse: “Admiral Nimitz: Remember this old battle wagon? As I remember it you were skipper of it after ‘Juggie Nelson. You may keep this for yourself if you see fit. Sorry to hear about English he was my skipper on the old ‘D-3’ and O-4.” Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 62730


USS Plunger (Submarine # 2) Hauled out of the water, during the early 1900s. Note the bollard in the foreground, made from an old muzzle-loading cannon. Courtesy of the Electric Boat Company, Groton, NH 42622

Displacement: 107 long tons (109 t)
Length: 63’10”
Beam: 11’11
Draft: 10’7″
Propulsion: 160-hp Otto gasoline engine, Electro Dynamic electric motors.
Speed: 8 kn surfaced, 7 kn submerged
Complement: 7 (1 officer, 1 chief, 5 sailors)
Armament: 1 × 18 in (460 mm) torpedo tube, with four reloads.

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Saving the Falcon

Kobben klasse undervannsbåt KNM Svenner (S309) og KNM Stord (S308) babord side (MMU.942589)

In the 1960s, West Germany’s Rheinstahl Nordseewerke in Emden built 15 small Type207 submarines for Norway with the cost split with the Pentagon.

A Development of the Bundesmarine’s own Type 205 “Baltic” subs, they were small, just 155-feet long/500-tons, but had an impressive bite in the form of eight forward-firing 21-inch torpedo tubes– enough to sink a Soviet battlecruiser if one came poking its nose in a Norwegian fjord (see Red Storm Rising).

From Mr. Clancy’s classic:

They found a gathering of submarine officers, which was not a surprise, but the center of attention was. He was a Norwegian captain, a blond man of about thirty who clearly hadn’t been sober for several hours. As soon as he drained one jar of beer, a Royal Navy commander handed him another.

“I must find the man who save us!” the Norwegian insisted loudly and drunkenly.

“What gives?” Simms asked. Introductions were exchanged. The Royal Navy officer was captain of HMS Oberon.

“This is the chappie who blasted Kirov all the way back to Murmansk,” he said. “He tells the story about every ten minutes. About time for him to begin again.”

“Son of a bitch,” McCafferty said. This was the guy who had sunk his target! Sure enough, the Norwegian began speaking again.

“We make our approach slowly. They come right”–he belched–“to us, and we creep very slow. I put periscope up, and there he is! Four thousand meters, twenty knots, he will pass within five hundred meters starboard.” The beer mug swept toward the floor. “Down periscope! Arne–where are you, Arne? Oh, is drunk at table. Arne is weapons officer. He set to fire four torpedoes. Type thirty-seven, American torpedoes.” He gestured at the two American officers who had just joined the crowd.

Four Mark-37s! McCafferty winced at the thought. That could ruin your whole day.

“Kirov is very close now. Up periscope! Course same, speed same, distance now two thousand meters–I shoot! One! Two! Three! Four! Reload and dive deep.”

“You’re the guy who ruined my approach!” McCafferty shouted.

The Norwegian almost appeared sober for a moment. “Who are you?”

“Dan McCafferty, USS Chicago.”

“You were there?”


“You shoot missiles?”


“Hero!” The Norwegian submarine commander ran to McCafferty, almost knocking him down as he wrapped the American in a crushing bear hug. “You save my men! You save my ship!”

“What the hell is this?” Simms asked.

“Oh, introductions,” said a Royal Navy captain. “Captain Bjorn Johannsen of His Norwegian Majesty’s submarine Kobben. Captain Daniel McCafferty of USS Chicago.”

“After we shoot Kirov, they come around us like wolves. Kirov blow up–”

“Four fish? I believe it,” Simms agreed.

“Russians come to us with cruiser, two destroyers,” Johannsen continued, now quite sober. “We, ah, evade, go deep, but they find us and fire their RBU rockets–many, many rockets. Most far, some close. We reload and I shoot at cruiser.”

“You hit her?”

“One hit, hurt but not sink. This take, I am not sure, ten minutes, fifteen. It was very busy time, yes?”

“Me, too. We came in fast, flipped on the radar. There were three ships where we thought Kirov was.”

“Kirov was sunk–blow up! What you see was cruiser and two destroyers. Then you shoot missiles, yes?” Johannsen’s eyes sparkled.

“Three Harpoons. A Helix saw the launch and came after us. We evaded, never did know if the missiles hit anything.”

“Hit? Hah! Let me tell you.” Johannsen gestured. “We dead, battery down. We have damage now, cannot run. We already evade four torpedoes, but they have us now. Sonar have us. Destroyer fire RBU at us. First three miss, but they have us. Then–Boom! Boom! Boom! Many more. Destroyer blow up. Other hit, but not sink, I think.

“We escape.” Johannsen hugged McCafferty again, and both spilled their beer on the floor. The American had never seen a Norwegian display this much emotion, even around his wife. “My crew alive because of you, Chicago! I buy you drink. I buy all your men drink.”

“You are sure we killed that tin can?”

“You not kill,” Johannsen said. “My ship dead, my men dead, I dead. You kill.” A destroyer wasn’t exactly as good as sinking a nuclear-powered battle cruiser, McCafferty told himself, but it was a whole lot better than nothing, too. And a piece of another, he reminded himself. And who knows, maybe that one sank on the way home.

“Not too shabby, Dan,” Simms observed.

“Some people,” said the skipper of HMS Oberon, “have all the bloody luck!”

“You know, Todd,” said the commanding officer of USS Chicago, “this is pretty good beer.”

Ordered in 1959, the 15th Kobben-class SSK was delivered to Norway before the end of 1965, talk about expedited fulfillment!

Norwegian Kobben-class via Janes 1975-76

At the end of the Cold War in 1990, two of the Kobbens were disposed of, four were transferred to Denmark to jump-start that country’s submarine forces, and the rest reconditioned for another decade of service with the Norwegians as six new 1,100-ton Type 210 (Ula-class) SSKs were added to the fleet to make up the difference.

By 2001, Norway put their remaining 35-year-old Type 207s to pasture, passing five of the retired boats in better condition on to Poland, which had only just joined NATO and was looking to upgrade their Soviet-patterned fleet to something more western.

Today, the Polish Navy still operates two ~55-year-old Kobbens (as ORP Bielik and ORP Sęp) and has recently decided to preserve one of these boats– that have been serving their new country for two decades– as a floating museum ship.

ORP Sokół (Falcon), formerly His Norwegian Majesty’s Submarine Stord (S308)– shown at the top of the post– is now at the Muzeum Marynarki Wojennej w Gdynia, being readied for her new role.

Sokół/Stord will not be the only one of its class on display. The Norwegians have had ex-KNM Utstein (S302) as a museum ship at Horten since 1998 while the Danes have ex-HDMS Sælen (S323)/ex-KNM Uthaug (S304) on display at Copenhagen since 2004. Notably, the Danish boat clocked in for an epic 385-day deployment during the 2003-04 Gulf War, proving these little submarines remarkably able, even if they never did sink that Russki battlewagon.

Although there is still an outside chance…

Lost 52 Project Discovers Their 7th Submarine

USS S-35 (SS-140) Off San Diego, California, on 23 November 1923 NH 69868

The New York-based Lost 52 Project, which is dedicated to finding all 52 WWII American submarines on “Eternal Patrol,” recently announced they found the final resting place of a lost boat that, while not one of the 52, was nonetheless a very interesting submarine: the S-class “pig boat” USS S-35 (SS-140).

Laid down on 14 June 1918 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in San Francisco, California, she was commissioned on 17 August 1922 then spent two full decades on the West Coast in training duties and, while obsolete, conducted seven war patrols, principally against the Japanese in the Aleutian Islands and Northern Pacific. Relegated to training tasks after 1944, she was decommissioned on 19 March 1945 then sunk by torpedo fire on 4 April 1946 in deep water off Oahu.

As noted by Lost 52:

The S-35 lower hull underneath the control room and after battery is smashed in. This could indicate that the torpedo used to sink her detonated under the hull without actually striking it, most likely using a magnetic influence exploder. Strangely, the amount of damage doesn’t seem nearly bad enough if the weapon that was used was the typical Mk 14 or Mk 18 torpedo with their large 600 lb+ Torpex warhead. If one of those weapons had been used on the S-35 the most likely result would have been a completely broken keel with the wreck in two or more pieces. The weapon that might have been used could have been the Mk 27 “Cutie” homing torpedo. This was a much smaller weapon with a warhead of only 127 lbs. It was a new weapon at the time and there may have been a desire to conduct tests under real conditions to see how the weapon reacted.

Warship Wednesday, Aug 5, 2020: Number 52

Here at LSOZI, we 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, Aug 5, 2020: Number 52

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, taken by Stephen F. Birch, now in the collections of the National Archives Catalog #: 80-G-49466

Here we see the bow of the Balao-class fleet boat USS Bullhead (SS-332) approaching a Chinese junk to pass food to its crew, during her first war patrol, circa March-April 1945. Of the 52 American submarines on eternal patrol from World War II, Bullhead was the final boat added to the solemn list, some 75 years ago this week. In another grim footnote, Bullhead was also the last U.S. Navy vessel lost before the end of the war.

A member of the 121-ship Balao class, she was one of the most mature U.S. Navy diesel designs of the World War Two era, constructed with knowledge gained from the earlier Gato-class. U.S. subs, unlike those of many navies of the day, were ‘fleet’ boats, capable of unsupported operations in deep water far from home. The Balao class was deeper diving (400 ft. test depth) than the Gato class (300 foot) due to the use of high yield strength steel in the pressure hull.

Able to range 11,000 nautical miles on their reliable diesel engines, they could undertake 75-day patrols that could span the immensity of the Pacific. Carrying 24 (often unreliable) Mk14 Torpedoes, these subs often sank anything short of a 5,000-ton Maru or warship by surfacing and using their deck guns. The also served as the firetrucks of the fleet, rescuing downed naval aviators from right under the noses of Japanese warships.

Some 311-feet long overall, they were all-welded construction to facilitate rapid building. Best yet, they could be made for the bargain price of about $7 million in 1944 dollars (just $100 million when adjusted for today’s inflation) and completed from keel laying to commissioning in about nine months.

An amazing 121 Balaos were rushed through five yards at the same time, with the following pennant numbers completed by each:

  • Cramp: SS-292, 293, 295-303, 425, 426 (12 boats)
  • Electric Boat: 308-313, 315, 317-331, 332-352 (42)
  • Manitowoc on the Great Lakes: 362-368, 370, 372-378 (15)
  • Mare Island on the West Coast: 304, 305, 307, 411-416 (9)
  • Portsmouth Navy Yard: 285-288, 291, 381-410, 417-424 (43)

We have covered a number of this class before, such as the rocket mail slinger USS Barbero, the carrier-slaying USS Archerfish the long-serving USS Catfish, the sub-killing USS Greenfish, and the frogman Cadillac USS Perch —but don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.

Commissioned 4 Dec 1944, Bullhead’s war diary reports that the “training at New London was of little value because of the bad weather, shallow water, and restricted areas. Ten practice approaches were made and three torpedos fired.”


The ship proceeded to Key West with sister USS Lionfish and had better training opportunities in Panama, where she fired 26 practice torpedos. From The Ditch to Pearl, she continued training while shaking down. From Pearl to Guam, in the company of USS Tigrone and USS Seahorse, the trio would join USS Blackfish there and, on 21 March 1945 “Departed Guam for first war patrol to wage unrestricted submarine warfare and perform lifeguard service in the northern part of the South China Sea.”

Her first skipper and the man who would command her for her first two patrols was CDR Walter Thomas “Red” Griffith (USNA 1934), a no-nonsense 33-year-old Louisianan who had already earned two Navy Crosses and a Silver Star in command of USS Bowfin earlier in the war.

An officer on the bridge, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. He may be Commander Walter T. Griffith, who commanded Bullhead during her first two war patrols. 80-G-49448

An officer looks through one of the submarine’s periscopes, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. Note the shorts. 80-G-49459

Aboard Bullhead as she headed for war with her Yankee wolfpack was veteran newsman Martin Sheridan. One of the first reporters who enlisted as a noncombatant with the Army, Boston Globe correspondent Sheridan reported on Pacific conflicts for the North American Newspaper Alliance and was the only newsmen to go to see combat on an American fleet boat, covering Bullhead’s entire 38-day inaugural war patrol. He had the benefit of a Navy photographer among the crew, Stephen F. Birch.

A War Correspondent chatting with crewmen in the submarine’s galley, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. He is probably Martin Sheridan, who rode Bullhead during her first war patrol in March-April 1945. Note War Correspondent patch on his uniform, “Greasy Spoon” sign, and pinups in the background. This photo was taken by Stephen F. Birch. 80-G-49455

Via Birch’s camera, the candid moments of Bullhead’s crew hard at work under the sea were very well-documented, something that is a rarity. The photos were turned over to the Navy Photo Science Laboratory on 20 June 1945, just seven weeks before the boat’s loss.

A crewman examines medical supplies, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. Note the copy of Navy Ordnance Pamphlet No. 635 in the lower right. 80-G-49453

Treating an injured crewman, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. 80-G-49454

A crewman talks with an injured shipmate, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. 80-G-49450

Church service in the submarine’s after torpedo room. 80-G-49458

Crewman reading in his bunk, atop a torpedo loading rack in one of the submarine’s torpedo rooms. Note the small fan in the upper left. 80-G-49457

A crewman washing clothing, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. Note the small lockers above the washing machine. 80-G-49451

A crewman writes a letter home as another looks on, in one of the submarine’s berthing compartments. 80-G-49449

Officer takes bearings on the submarine’s bridge, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. 80-G-49446

Crewmen loading .50 caliber machine gun ammunition, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. 80-G-49447

Bullhead’s First Patrol was active, bombarding the Japanese radio station on Patras Island twice with her 5-inch gun with the first string delivered from 4,700 yards, Griffth noting, “The first 18 rounds landed beautifully in the area near the base of the radio tower with one positive hit in the building nearest to the tower.”

While conducting lifeguard duty, she only narrowly avoided friendly fire from the very aviators she was there to pluck from the sea. One B-24 came dangerously close.

Nonetheless, on 16 April, she rescued a trio of American airmen at sea off Hong Kong, recovering them from the crew of a Chinese junk to which they thanked with cigarettes and C-rations. They were from a downed B-25 of the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 5th Air Force.

Rescue of three injured crew from a downed B-25 with the help of Chinese fishermen, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. Note the Asian small sailing craft alongside the submarine. For the record, the aviators were 2LT Irving Charno (pilot), 2LT Harold Sturm (copilot) and SGT Robert Tukel (radioman) 80-G-49461

Putting in at Subic Bay on 28 April, Bullhead landed the recovered aviators as well as Sheridan and Birch, refueled, rearmed, and restocked, then departed on her Second War Patrol just three weeks later.

On 30 May, she destroyed her first vessel, a two-masted lugger of some 150-tons, in a surface action in the Gulf of Siam. The ship was scratched with 12 rounds of 5-inch, 16 rounds of 40mm, and 240 rounds of 20mm.

She would break out her guns again on 18 June when she encountered the camouflaged Japanese “Sugar Charlie” style coaster Sakura Maru No.58, 700 tons, off St. Nicholas Point near the Sunda Strait. In a 20 minute action, it was sent to the bottom.

The next day, Bullhead came across a three-ship convoy with picket boats and went guns-on, sinking Tachibana Maru No.57, another Sugar Charlie, while the rest of the Japanese ships scattered.

One of the most numerous small Japanese merchant vessels, especially in coastal trade, was Sugar Charlie variants, in ONI parlance.

On 25 June, a third 300-ton Sugar Charlie was sunk by gunfire in the Lombok Strait. Hearing the cries of her crew, she picked up 10 men who turned out to be Javanese and “stowed them in the empty magazine” and later landed ashore.

The next day she fired torpedos unsuccessfully on a Japanese ASW vessel and received a depth charging in return for her efforts.

Of interest, all of the vessels sent to the bottom by Bullhead were in surface gun actions.

On 2 July, Bullhead put into Fremantle, Australia, marking her Second War Patrol as a success. There, Griffith and some others left the vessel.

Fremantle was a submarine hub in the WestPac during WWII, with Allied boats of all stripes to include British and Dutch vessels, mixing with locals and Americans. In all, some 170 Allied subs at one time or another passed through Fremantle between 1941 and 1945.

Final Patrol

With a new skipper, LCDR Edward Rowell “Skillet” Holt, Jr (USNA 1939), Bullhead departed Australia on her Third Patrol on 30 July, ordered to patrol the Java Sea.

As detailed by DANFs:

She was to transit Lombok Strait and patrol in the Java Sea with several other American and British submarines. Bullhead rendezvoused with a Dutch submarine, Q 21, on 2 August and transferred mail to her. Four days later, the submarine reported that she had safely passed through the strait and was in her patrol area.

When all U.S. and Allied subs in the Pacific were ordered to cease fire and return to port on 13 August, Bullhead was the only submarine not to acknowledge receipt of the message.

No further word was ever received from her, and, on 24 August, she was reported overdue and presumed lost.

Her name was struck from the Navy list on 17 September 1945. Bullhead received two battle stars for her World War II service.

Postwar analysis of Japanese records revealed that a Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia dive bomber of the Japanese Army Air Force’s 73rd Independent Flying Chutai, depth-charged a submarine off the Bali coast near the northern mouth of Lombok Strait on 6 August [ironically the same day that an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima].

The pilot claimed two direct hits and reported a gush of oil and air bubbles at the spot where the target went down. It was presumed that the proximity of mountains shortened her radar’s range and prevented Bullhead from receiving warning of the plane’s approach. The submarine went down with all hands, taking 84 with her.

Her crew was among the 375 officers and 3,131 enlisted men lost on the 52 submarines during the war. To put this in perspective, only 16,000 men served in the submarine force during the conflict.


Sheridan, the war correspondent, would go on to write a book about his time with the crew of the Bullhead after the war. Entitled Overdue and Presumed Lost, it was originally published in 1947 and reprinted by the USNI Press in 2013. The hard-living writer died in 2004 at age 89.

At least 16 one-time members of her crew, mostly plankowners, didn’t make Bullhead’s eternal patrol and in 1981 the Washington Post chronicled their enduring haunting by that fact.

Griffith, who lived to become a post-war rear admiral reportedly told a friend, “My boys shouldn’t have gone down without me. All so young. I should have been with them.” He later took his own life in a Pensacola motel, aged 54.

As for the three aircrewmen Bullhead plucked from the Chinese junk? As far as I can tell, Irvin Chano, Harold Sturm, and Robert Tukel all apparently survived the war and lived long lives.

Memorials exist for the Bullhead and her crew at the Manila American Cemetery, the National Submarine Memorial (West) in Seal Beach, California and at the National Submarine Memorial (East) in Groton as well as in San Diego and the dedicated USS Bullhead Memorial Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In 1997, Congress noted her sacrifice in the official record.

Bullhead’s engineering plans, reports of her early patrols, and notes on her loss are in the National Archives.

Although Bullhead’s name was never reused, eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country.

Please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:

-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which may not be there much longer)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is also on borrowed time)
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.


1,848 tons (1,878 t) surfaced (as built);
2,440 tons (2,479 t) submerged
Length: 311 ft as built; 307 ft.
Beam: 27 ft 4 in
Draft: 17 ft
4 × General Motors Model 16-278A V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries
4 × high-speed General Electric motors with reduction gears
two propellers
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced
2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged
20.25 knots surfaced
8.75 knots submerged
Range: 11,000 nautical miles surfaced at 10 knots
48 hours at 2 knots submerged
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 400 ft (120 m)
Complement: 10 officers, 70–72 enlisted
10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
6 forward, 4 aft
24 torpedoes
2 × 5-inch (127 mm) /25 caliber deck guns
1x Bofors 40 mm and 1x Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
two .50 cal. machine guns

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

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

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Kanyon: Not just a torpedo

Possibly one of the scariest weapons ever devised, the Russian 2m39 Poseidon (aka Status-6) NATO: Kanyon, a 65-foot long nuclear-powered intercontinental torpedo with an estimated warhead as large as 100 mega-tons, may or may not ever become operational. Submarine wonk HI Sutton over at Covert Shores has been covering this device for the past couple of years.

To put the strategy behind such a weapon into perspective, Dr. Mark B. Schneider, a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy, just penned an essay at Real Clear Defense that paints a grim picture.

“Poseidon is a strategic rather than a tactical nuclear weapon. Calling it a ‘torpedo’ is also a mischaracterization,” says Schneider, pointing out that it is a semi-autonomous nuclear-powered UUV drone.

The crux:

The role of Poseidon appears to be to terrorize the U.S. and NATO into not responding to the initial Russian low-yield nuclear attack after the seizure of bordering NATO territory. Under its “escalate to de-escalate” or “escalate to win” nuclear doctrine, Russia is going to use nuclear weapons first. Deterrence and defense are necessary. A new generation of weapons is probably necessary to destroy the Poseidon. At a minimum, deterring genocidal nuclear attacks against our major port cities is a critical equity. There is no nice way of deterring genocide.

More here

So long, FF-1073

The Republic of China, aka KMT China, aka Taiwan, only has four somewhat operable diesel-electric submarines– two 1980s era Dutch Zwaardvis-class and two GUPPY-vintage Tench-class training boats– along with a shrinking supply of about 60 aging German-made 533mm AEG SUT 264 torpedoes. I say shrinking because last week, the country’s Navy burned at least one SUT on a retired frigate, the ex-ROCN Chi Yang (FF-932). Notably, it was the first time the country has fired a “warshot” torpedo in at least 13 years.

The SINKEX seems to have gone well.

Chi Yang was the former Knox-class destroyer escort/fast frigate USS Robert E. Peary (DE/FF-1073). Commissioned in 1972, she spent a solid 20 years stationed in the Pacific, including numerous Westpac cruises during the Vietnam era, before she was decommissioned in 1992 as part of the peace dividend.

Peary, the third such ship named for the famed Arctic explorer, in better times:

A starboard beam view of the frigate USS ROBERT E. PEARY (FF-1073) underway during Fleet Week activities. Visible in the background are the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco skyline. 1 October 1981. USN Photo DNSC8401914 PH3 CURT FARGO

The frigate went on to serve Taiwan for 25 years.

The ROCN still has six former Knoxes, now all in their mid-40s, in service as the much-modified Chi Yang-class, up-armed with Standard SM-1MR missiles in 10-cell box launchers as well as possibly new Hsiung Feng III missiles in addition to their old 5-inch gun, ASW torpedo tubes, and clunky Mk. 16 launcher filled with both Harpoons and ASROC. Of note, the country has over 20 frigates and destroyers, hulls that would be much in demand for sub-busting in the event that the PRC decides to get handsy.

As for replacement torpedos for the ROCN, in May, it was announced that the U.S. would sell Taiwan up to eighteen MK-48 Mod 6AT heavyweight torpedoes for $180 million, marking the first time the country has used such fish.

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