Category Archives: US Navy

Fantail shooting

Growing up in Pascagoula, I had a neighbor that was an old GM2 (who one day became a GM3 out of the blue) who would regale and amaze me with sea tales of guns big and small. One weekend, he had a load of rifles and shotguns in his van that he had brought home to clean– from a small arms locker somewhere– and I dutifully helped him with that. Now, these weren’t Uncle’s guns, they were Browning A5s, bolt-action hunting rifles, plinkers, and the like. He said they were personal guns stored on ship. Before the weekend was over I helped him load them back up to take back to the Singing River Island.

Hey, it was the early 1980s, what can I say? Different time, I guess.

We’ve talked about non-standard weapons in lockers at sea before, for instance, trap guns for MWR use underway, and there are lots of images floating around the NHHC and NARA of unusual small arms being used informally.

Such as this:

Official caption: “A member of the Marine detachment assigned to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) prepares to fire an M1911 .45-caliber pistol during small arms practice from the ship’s fantail.” Of course, the First Sgt. is using a Browning Hi-Power, likely a personally-owned gun. NARA DN-SC-87-05848

With all this being said, check out this circa 1976 commercial Browning Hi-Power target model that we recently got at the shop:

The story from the owner is that he bought it new and often carried it on duty with the Navy in lieu of a signed-out M1911. An aviator, he carried it while flying King Ranch nighttime poacher patrols in the wilds of NAS Kingsville in 1982-83, then used it on in-port watches on board the USS Lexington (AVT-16) in the 1980s. Or so goes the story, anyway.

Hey, it was the early 1980s.

Keeping up with traditions

Newport News Shipbuilding welded a time capsule inside the flight deck control room of PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) in April. The time capsule – which contains letters to future ship leaders, miscellaneous coins, and memorabilia– will be opened during the aircraft carrier’s mid-life refueling and complex overhaul, an event tentatively planned for 2050ish.

This reminds me of the time they dismantled the Todd-built FFG7-class frigate HMAS Sydney in Australia a couple of years back and recovered a bottle of blended MacNaughton Canadian whisky, which had been wrapped in pipe insulation in the forward starboard leg of the mainmast back in April 1982.

Darby et al, get the Gold

U.S. Army Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, including some in vintage WWII-era uniforms of Darby’s 2nd Rangers, climb the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, in Cricqueville en Bessin, France June 4, 2019, in commemoration of D-Day. (U.S. Army photo)

Between June 1942 and the end of WWII, the Army formed from volunteers 6 Ranger Infantry Battalions (numbered 1st-6th) and 1 provisional Ranger battalion (29th, from Army National Guardsmen of the 29th ID).

S.1872, legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the United States Army Rangers Veterans of World War II, was passed by Congress on 11 May 2022 and goes to the President next.

“This bill directs the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to arrange for the award of a single gold medal to the U.S. Army Ranger veterans of World War II in recognition of their dedicated wartime service.”

Introduced by U.S. Sen. Jodi Ernst (R-Iowa), it is broadly bipartisan with 74 Cosponsors (36 Republicans, 36 Democrats, 2 Independents). Nice to see such a thing still exists.

What could have been…

Below we see the Kidd-class destroyer USS Scott (DDG-995)— what the Spruances should have been– seen with four vessels of the Spanish Navy: the fleet tanker Marques de la Ensenada (A-11), the 16,700-ton aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias (R11), the Baleares-class frigate Asturias (F-74) and the Santa Maria-class frigate Reina Sofía (F84), 1 February 1992 on the lead up to Dragon Hammer ’92. If you note, the Iberian flattop has six Harriers on her deck along with an SH-3 and a UH-1.

U.S. Navy photo VIRIN: DN-ST-92-09810 by PH2 Jerry M. Ireland

All except the oiler were 1970s U.S. Navy designs, so you could characterize the task force as American by proxy. The Knox-class destroyer escort/fast frigate lines of Asturias are as evident as are the Oliver Hazard Perry-class FFG format of Reina Sofía.

As for Principe de Asturias, she sprung from the Zumwalt-era idea of the Sea Control Ship, a simple light carrier/through deck cruiser that could carry a composite squadron (ala the “Jeep Carriers” of WWII) of Marine AV-8A Harriers and Navy SH-3 Sea Kings to escort convoys, protect underway replenishment groups, and bust Soviet subs.

Sea control ship outline, Janes ’73

The entry of Guam as an “interim sea control ship” in the 1973-74 Jane’s

Zumwalt’s idea was to have as many as a dozen SCSs on hand to form hunter-killer groups to ensure, well, sea control, in the event of a big blowup leading to a Red Storm Rising style Battle of the Atlantic redux.

Come to think of it, we could use a dozen of the above groups today, just saying.

Warship Wednesday, May 11, 2022: The Dirty D

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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 11, 2022: The Dirty D

Nordisk Pressefoto via the M/S Museet for Søfart- Danish maritime museum. Photo: 2012:0397

Above we see a beautiful period photo of the Danish skoleskibet Danmark with a bone in her teeth, the tall ship’s canvas fully rigged and speeding her along, 18 white clouds mastering the sea. Just seven years old when she was caught up in WWII, she would find a new home and wartime use in Allied waters while the Germans occupied her country.

A tremastet fuldrigger in Danish parlance, the big three-master went 212-feet overall from her stern to the tip of her bowsprit and 188 feet at the waterline, with a displacement of 790 BT. Her mainmast towered 127 feet high. Constructed of riveted steel with 10 watertight bulkheads, she was designed in the late 1920s to be a more modern replacement for the lost schoolship København, whose saga we have covered in the past.

Laid down at Nakskov Skibsværft, part of the Danish East Asian Company (Det Østasiatiske Kompagni or just ØK), a giant shipping and trade concern that at one point was Scandinavia’s largest commercial enterprise, while Danmark was a civil vessel, many of her officers and crew were on the Royal Danish Navy’s reserve list and many of her cadets would serve in the fleet as well.

Skoleskibet DANMARK under konstruktion på Nakskov Skibsværft.

She was christened on 17 December 1932 by one Ms. Hannah Lock.

Young Ms. Lock was striking, and likely the daughter of a company official. The company’s bread and butter were both passenger and freight lines between the Danish capital, Bangkok, and the far east, so it was no doubt an exotic and glitzy affair.

Due to low tide, she was not officially launched until two days later.

Skoleskibet DANMARK søsættes 19. december 1932. På grund af lavvande blev skibet først søsat to dage efter dåben.

On her maiden voyage, photographed from the schoolship Georg Stages.

Picture from Danmark’s Capt. Svend Aage Saugmann’s photo album shows Danmark at Ponta Delgada in the Azores on 27 February 1936. 2013:0126

The Drumbeat of War

In the summer of 1939, with Europe a tinderbox, the Danish government had pledged to send the country’s largest naval warship, the 295-foot coast defense cruiser Niels Juel, to participate in the World’s Fair in New York. However, as misgivings set in, it was agreed that Danmark would make the trip instead, complete with a mixed group of naval and mariner cadets.

Arriving in New York in August, Danmark’s cadets were hosted by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to a Yankees baseball game as part of the general festivities. Once Germany invaded Poland, followed by the Soviets, then Britain and France joined a growing world war, Danmark was ordered to remain in U.S. waters until things cooled down. With that, she cruised to Annapolis, spent the Christmas 1939 holiday in Puerto Rico, then arrived in Jacksonville, Florida in early April 1940. There, they met with Danish Ambassador Henrik Kauffmann, who announced the ship was returning home after her nine-month American exile.

The school ship Danmark lying in St. John’s River near Jacksonville, Florida, during early World War II. Note her neutrality markings. 723:63

With Poland long since occupied and divvied between Berlin and Moscow, and the latter ceasing hostilities with Finland, coupled with the quiet “Phony War” between Britain/France and Germany, things were expected to calm down.

Well, you know what happened next.

WAR!

On 9 April 1940, the Germans rolled into Denmark without a declaration of war, ostensibly a peaceful occupation to keep the British from invading. The German invasion, launched at 0400 that morning, was a walkover of sorts and by 0800 the word had come down from Copenhagen to the units in the field to stand down and just let it happen. Of course, the Danes would stand up a serious resistance organization later in the occupation, as well as field viable “Free Danish” forces operating from Britain, but for the time being, the country was a German puppet state.

Ambassador Kauffmann, however, decided to cancel Danmark’s return home and kept the ship in Florida.

Via the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

Anchored off the Coast Guard station in Jacksonville, Danmark became a ship without a country. The Danish Embassy in Washington arranged for a monthly stipend of $10 for the crew, but Danmark had no other support. On the morning of April 10, Capt. Knud Hansen was greeted on the pier by a group of Jacksonville citizens and two large trucks. They brought 17 tons of food and supplies. Hansen did not turn them away, although there was no space on board for all of it. Each morning thereafter, women brought cookies, pies, and men brought tobacco and other items. Even an anonymous shipment of summer uniforms arrived, much to the crew’s delight.

The Danmark had become a foreign vessel lying idle in American waters. It had remained in Jacksonville from early April 1940 until late 1941, or nearly 20 months. Many of the ship’s Danish cadets decided to transfer to the Merchant Marine and 14 of them would die serving Allied forces. Ten of Danmark’s original crew remained aboard, including Hansen and First Mate Knud Langevad.

With a long history of using tall ships to train new sailors, VADM Russell Waesche, Commandant of the Coast Guard, visited occupied Denmark in the summer of 1940 and began talks with the Danes to purchase the vessel as a training ship. The negotiations dragged on throughout the next year, with the U.S. government offering about half what the ship was worth, and the White House balking at even that amount.

Then, the morning after Pearl Harbor, with the U.S. firmly in the fight and no longer “The Great Neutral,” Hansen fired off a telegram to Waesche’s office.

In view of the latest days’ developments, the cadets, officers, and captain of the Danish Government Training Vessel Danmark unanimously place themselves and the ship at the disposal of the United States government, to serve in any capacity the United States government sees fit in our joint fight for victory and liberty.

With the offer accepted, she was rented for $1 per year, paid via silver coin to the Danish Embassy, then was escorted to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, still with her crew under control, and commissioned on 12 May 1942– 80 years ago this week– as USCGC Danmark (WIX-283). Her remaining professional crew would be in USCG service for the duration, accepting ranks in the USCGR.

In a nod to her “rented” status, she flew the Dannebrog and U.S. ensigns simultaneously.

The Red White and Blue on her mast

Under sail while in USCG service, with a U.S. ensign flapping above her mast. Note the bluejackets in cracker jacks on deck. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0214

Danmark in USCG service, USCG photo

Danmark in U.S. Port WWII. Note her Neptune figurehead. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0209

From the USCG H’s O:

Each month, new Coast Guard cadets embarked Danmark for training. The Danish officers had many challenges before them–everything that a Danish cadet learned in six years, plus what he learned to qualify as a Danish navy officer, had to be taught the American cadets in four months. No American officers served aboard and, to avoid attack by U-boats, the tall ship never sailed beyond Martha’s Vineyard or the southern tip of Manhattan.

Dubbed the “Dirty D,” cadets scrubbed the Danmark at least three times a day with rainy days devoted to cleaning out lifeboats and sanding oars. The wheelhouse was varnished frequently. It was lights out at midnight when the ship’s generator shut off. If the last liberty boat returned late to the Danmark, the cadets had to undress, sling out hammocks and climb into the hammocks in total darkness.

USCG Furling Sail, 4.11.1942 Ellis Island. Danmark possibly 026-g-056-040-001

Cadets in Rigging, 3.24.1943 Coast Guard likely Danmark 026-g-001-036-001

Going Aloft, 4.15.1942 Coast Guard likely Danmark 026-g-056-041-001

CG Cadets on DANMARK

An immigrant of sorts helping her adopted country, appropriately enough She often called at Ellis Island. During the war, the station was a USCG training base, schooling new Coasties who would go on to man Navy ships around the globe.

Via the NPS:

From 1939 to 1946, the United States Coast Guard occupied Ellis Island and established a training station that served 60,000 enlisted men and 3,000 officers. They utilized many buildings on the island. For example, the Baggage and Dormitory Building served as a drill room, armory, boatsman storeroom, carpenter’s shop, and machine shop. The Kitchen and Laundry Building was utilized as a kitchen and bakeshop. Lastly, the New Immigration Building provided dormitories for the men. After their time at Ellis, the enlisted men and officers were largely responsible for manning transports, destroyer escorts, cutters, and submarine chasers during World War II.

In all, over 5,000 Americans were trained directly on Danmark during the war, including 2,800 who would go on to receive their butter bars in assorted U.S. maritime services.

Finally, with the world at peace again, on the birthday of Danish King Christian X, 26 September 1945, the Stars and Stripes were hauled down and the Dannebrog shifted to the top again.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Danmark (WIX-283) USCGC Danmark in September 1945 just before her return to the Danes 

On 13 November, Danmark finally headed home again.

Epilogue

Since returning home, Danmark has continued her service over the past 75 years.

Post-war, probably 1946 during her Pacific cruise, looks like the Marin highlands in the distance under the Golden Gate (thanks Alex! & Steve) Note she has a U.S. flag on top and is trailing her Dannebrog. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0216

Photograph from 1947 by Kronborg, photographed from the north, with the school ship Danmark and Georg Stage. The photo was taken in connection with the saga film “The White Sail.” Donated by Carl-Johan Nienstædt. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2016:0050

1947 linjedåb Line Crossing ceremony on Danmark

Ivar’s with Danmark Sailing Vessel via SPHS 1946 Seattle

School ship Danmark is at sway and a scheduled boat is passed from Centrumlinjen M / S SUNDPILEN. By Karl Johan Gustav Jensen. M/S Museet for Sofart. 2003:0119

Kiel Tall Ships event: Segelschulschiff DAR POMORZA (poln.), davor Segelschulschiff EAGLE (amerik.). Jenseits der Brücke mit Lichterkette über die Toppen Segelschulschiff GLORIA (kolumbian.), davor im Dunklen Segelschulschiff DANMARK (dän.), ganz vorn Segelschulschiff GORCH FOCK.

HMS Eagle (R05) passes a sailing ship Danmark in Plymouth Sound, 1970

Danish Air Force SAAB Draken overflies the schoolship Danmark pre 1998

She is, naturally, remembered in maritime art.

“Coast Guard’s Seagoing School, 9.29.1943 Danmark” by Hunter Wood 026-g-022-040-001

Painting by James E. Mitchell, showing the ship during the Bicentennial “The Tall Ships Race” on the Hudson River on July 4, 1976.

She still carries the same Neptune figurehead.

Danmark’s Neptune figurehead, July 2017. By Per Paulsen. M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0283

As well as a marker celebrating her service abroad with the USCG.

Memorial plaque with thanks from U.S. Coast Guard January 1942- September 1946, July 2017. By Per Paulsen. M/S Museet for Sofart.

She has returned to her home-away-from-home numerous times, a regular fixture in New York, Boston, Baltimore, and New London over the decades.

The barque USCGC Eagle (ex SSS Horst Wessel) in service with the USCG in 1954, sailing along Danmark off the East Coast.

Skoleskibet DANMARK under bugsering i New York Havn, 1974. 

Today, as part of Besøg MARTEC, the Danish Maritime and Polytechnic University College in Frederikshavn, Danmark is still busy.

She just completed her regular 5-year inspection and certification and looks great for having 90 years on her hull. 

Skoleskibet Danmark drydock May 2022

Every summer she takes aboard 80 new cadets along with a 16-strong cadre of professional crew and instructors, and they head out, covering subjects both new and old in the familiar ways that WWII Coasties would recognize.

Specs:

Tonnage- 1,700 gross (1942)
Length- 188′ 6″
Beam- 33′ mb
Draft- 14′ 9″ (1942)
Machinery
Main Engines- 1 diesel
Propellers- Single
Armament- N/A

***

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A brutal season, 80 years ago today

There are dozens of photos taken by the assembled escorts of the stricken aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) as she underwent her death throes on the morning of 8 May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea, but this one– probably the great explosion from the detonation of torpedo warheads stowed in the starboard side of the hangar at 1727 hrs– always caught my attention.

USS Lexington explodes while being scuttled following the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-16651

In the above photo, the smaller carrier, USS Yorktown (CV-5), can be seen on the horizon in the left-center, while the destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412) is at the extreme left.

To further punctuate the viciousness of the first year of the Pacific War, both Yorktown and Hammann, a Sims-class destroyer, would be lost in the same torpedo salvo at Midway less than a month after this image was taken. Likewise, Hammann‘s class-leader, Sims (DD-409) was sunk at the Coral Sea the day before Lexington was lost.

Before 1942 was over, Yorktown‘s sistership, Hornet (CV-7) would also rest on the bottom of the Pacific as would two other Sims-class tin cans, Walke (DD-416) and O’Brien (DD-415). In 1943, the tide turned, but there would still be years of hard effort to go.

Speaking of the Coral Sea, check out this great NHHC graphic that was just released.

Sully Update: 51 Holes Plugged, 95 % of Water Out, Near Even Keel

From the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park:

The mission to #SaveTheSullivans has officially transitioned from an Emergency Response Phase to a Maintenance and Decontamination Phase as the recovery efforts progress. As of today, divers have plugged a total of 51 holes in the hull, and crew members have removed approximately 95% of the water from the ship. We will continue to monitor water levels and pump out the remaining water. At its most critical point, USS The Sullivans DD-537 was listing to almost 30 degrees; it is now at a 0.1-degree list.

As we move into the next phase, the number of workers on-site will be reduced as assignments and objectives are completed and some of the equipment has been removed. BIDCO Marine Group will continue to work with us to complete the 2-part epoxy repair to the hull that was started last summer.
We would like to thank the men and women who came to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park from across the country to help Save the Sullivans, and to the community that provided so much support in all forms. There is still more work to do, but we have much to be grateful for.

The investigation details thus far:

80 Years Ago Today: Hornet and Mosquitos

The floating “Shangri-La,” the Yorktown-class carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) arrives at Pearl Harbor directly after the Doolittle Raid on Japan, 30 April 1942. Her harbor escorts, a pair of early 77-foot Elcos of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron One (MTBRON 1), PT-28 and PT-29, are speeding by in the foreground.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), # 80-G-16865.

MTBRON 1 had been commissioned 24 July 1940, with 58-foot Fisher boats which were later transferred to the Royal Navy under lend-lease. The unit also tested out prototype 81-foot Sparkman/Higgins, 81-foot PNSY, and 70-foot Scott-Paine boats before finally fielding the Elco 77s, which had originally been trialed with MTBRon 2 in the Caribbean in the winter of 1940-41.

Sent to the Philipines prior to the outbreak of the war, MTBRON 1 had only made it as far as Pearl Harbor before the beginning of hostilities.

As noted by the National PT Boat Memorial and Museum:

During the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, PT-28 and PT-29 were already loaded on the replenishment oiler USS Ramapo (AO-12) for MTBRon 1’s assignment to the Philippines and as they could not get her motors started, the hydraulics on their gun turrets were not operative.

Crew members cut the hydraulic lines and operated the turrets manually. All 12 boats of the squadron fired on the attacking Japanese aircraft with one, PT-23, credited with shooting down two Nakajima B5N “Kate” torpedo bombers.

Shortly after the above images were taken, the Elcos moved out for Midway via French Frigate Shoals, where they clocked in as both AAA platforms and lifeguards for aircrews during that battle.

PT Boats and Zeros Painting, Oil on Canvas; by Griffith Baily Coale; 1942; Unframed Dimensions 10H X 20W
Accession #: 88-188-AF “On the brightly colored waters of the lagoon, the PT’s are skimming about, darting here dodging there, maneuvering between the rows of machine gun splashes, incessantly firing their twin pairs 50 caliber guns.”

Afterward, they continued the war in the Aleutians.

For the record, PT-28 was wrecked in a storm on 12 January 1943 at Dora Harbor, Unimak. Sistership, PT-29 completed the war and was struck from the Navy list 22 December 1944 while in Alaska waters as obsolete and unneeded.

The Sullivans: The Pumps are on and She is Looking Better

We’ve covered the porous hull saga of the USS The Sullivans several times in the past couple of years and the latest is (a modest) improvement.

First, the flooding is at least being controlled and the ship is slowly dewatering after several hull patches have been applied. Her list is slowly correcting.

Next, a lot of irreplaceable relics– that did not get harmed– have been removed and safely stored ashore.

“At least 40 key artifacts have been removed safely from the ship completely unharmed, including a scale model of the ship, pictures of the Sullivan brothers, artifacts from the Sullivan family church in Waterloo, Iowa, historic flags, and the Sullivan family tree.”

The latest video update is below.

Making like its 1942 Again

While today’s modern nuclear-powered submarines have surveillance, strike, ASW, and AShW as their primary missions, they also can still do well in that most age-old of submarine tasks– inserting small teams of commando types in the littoral, something I’ve always been a huge fan of.

For video reference, check out the below two very recent videos.

The first is of Royal Marines of Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron, 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group, conducting a small boat raid from an “unnamed Royal Navy Astute class submarine” (spoiler alert, it is HMS Ambush, S120, I mean the Brits only have five attack submarines left) during exercise Cold Response 2022, “somewhere along the Norwegian coast.”

The evolution includes the classic submergence under the rubber boat move.

Some stills released of the above: 

As for the Americans

Next up, how about U.S. Marines with Task Force 61/2 (TF-61/2), and Sailors from Task Group 68.1 conducting joint launch and recovery training with Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) aboard the Ohio-class cruise-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729), near Souda Bay, Greece, March 26, 2022. The Marines are working from Georgia’s Dry Dock Shelter and are allowed to run up and launch from the sub’s “hump” in addition to going for a periscope ride.

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