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Teddy Rex aboard Mayflower, 115 years ago today

Pres. Roosevelt, Admiral Dewey and Sec. Navy Moody reviewing war fleet from the patrol yacht USS Mayflower (PY-1) at Oyster Bay, Aug. 17, 1903. Flat followed by red-cyan stereo anaglyph to be viewed 3D. Library of Congress images

Built for millionaire real-estate developer Ogden Goelet, he died aboard the 273-foot luxury yacht in 1897– the very year it was built. Sold to the Navy the next year for the Spanish-American War, Mayflower joined the blockade of Cuba out of Key West with six 6-pounders aboard and captured a number of vessels including a Spanish schooner.

Serving as the floating office of Puerto Rico’s first American Governor Charles H. Allen, she soon became a presidential yacht, a role she played until damaged in a fire in 1931 which resulted in her sale on the open market.

Patched back up, the MARAD picked the ship again for military service and she performed as the gunboat USCGC Mayflower (WPE-183) with a Coast Guard crew and some 3-inch guns and depth charges running coastal convoys on the Eastern Seaboard. Decommissioned for a final time after the war, she worked as a sealer and carried Jewish refugees to the promised land in 1948 before dropping off the books.

Operation Cottage at 75, or the time the Canuks were really welcome in Alaska

Here we see a well-kitted Canadian corporal, probably of the 13th Brigade (consisting of the 2/Canadian Scottish, 1/Brockville Rifles, and 1/Edmonton Fusiliers), inspecting a captured Japanese Type 96 or 99 light machine gun, on the foggy and windswept island of Kiska, in the Aleutian chain of the U.S. Territory of Alaska, 16 Aug 1943.

Note the M1 rifle in 30.06…rather than the more traditional Canadian Longbranch SMLE in .303

As a sideshow to the Battle of Midway, the Japanese occupied Kiska with 500 IJN Special Landing Force marines on 6 June 1942 and, though they reinforced the garrison with another 8,000~ sundry troops to include a mini-sub base, by 28 July 1943, they shagged ass when it appeared the U.S. was coming back to take the island in force– one of the very rare instances when the Japanese withdrew from an island rather than fight for it to the last man in the Pacific War.

Part of huge 100-ship Allied fleet at anchor in Adak Harbor in Aleutians, ready to move against Kiska (NARA/U.S. Army Air Forces/Horace Bristol)

On August 15, 1943, the U.S. 7th Infantry Division (with the 87th Mountain Rgt, which later grew into the 10th Mountain Div) and the Canadian 13th Infantry Brigade along with the joint 1st Special Service Force, landed on Kiska as part of Operation Cottage and amazingly suffered over 300 casualties in the two-day operation, from friendly fire.

Lessons learned.

Bearded Gunner’s Mate. Stands by a 20mm anti-aircraft machinegun, mounted in a shore emplacement at an advanced base in the Aleutians, circa 1942-1943. Note cigar. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Horace Bristol. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. .

Welcome, Space Force

ICYMI, get ready to sign up as Space Shuttle Door Gunners:

Centered around 140 current military satellites and the hardware to support them, the U.S. Space Force is set to become 6th branch of Armed Forces, pending Congressional approval of course.

The Pentagon says about 80 percent of “space-qualified personnel” would come from the Air Force, who are sure to love the proposal, but all services have personnel with space expertise. There are roughly 18,000 people in the services with a space qualifier badge, in addition to civilian personnel “and thousands of contractors” who could be drawn into the new command.

More here.

You have to wonder how much of NASA and the Army’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program would be absorbed into the mix. Then there are SM-3 Aegis ships with a BMD tasking, would they become part of USSF? Further, would Project Blue Book be reborn and SETI get pulled in as a contractor for good measure, just in case “They” arrive?

Anyway, the Presser from DOD as follows:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2018 — The Defense Department will establish a sixth branch of the armed forces, the U.S. Department of the Space Force, by 2020, Vice President Mike Pence announced today.

In a speech at the Pentagon, the vice president also announced plans to establish a new combatant command — U.S. Space Command — as well as a Space Operations Force and a new joint organization called the Space Development Agency.
The announcement follows a seven-week review by DoD, directed by President Donald J. Trump, of “the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

A report outlining the results of the study will be released later today.

“In his inaugural address to the nation, President Trump declared that the United States stands ‘at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space,’” Pence said.

Space Force

Just as advances in aviation technology drove the emergence of air as a new battlefield in the 20th century, advances in space technology have made it clear that space is the new battlefield for the 21st century, the vice president said. The U.S. will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield, he said, and carry on the cause of liberty and peace into the next great frontier.

“The time has come to establish the United States Space Force,” Pence said.

The new branch will be separate from, but equal to, the five other branches, he said.

“To be clear: the Space Force will not be built from scratch, because the men and women who run and protect our nation’s space programs today are already the best in the world,” the vice president said.

“Across this department and our intelligence agencies, there are literally tens of thousands of military personnel, civilians and contractors operating and supporting our space systems — and together, they are the eyes and ears of America’s warfighters around the globe,” Pence said.

Peace Through Strength

Actions by U.S. adversaries make it clear that space is already a warfighting domain, the vice president said.

“For many years, nations from Russia and China to North Korea and Iran have pursued weapons to jam, blind and disable our navigation and communications satellites via electronic attacks from the ground,” Pence said. “But recently, our adversaries have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself.”

In 2007, China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed one of its own satellites, the vice president said. And Russia is working on an airborne laser to disrupt space-based systems, he added.

“Both nations are also investing heavily in what are known as hypersonic missiles designed to fly up to 5 miles per second at such low altitudes that they could potentially evade detection by our missile defense radars,” Pence said. “In fact, China claimed to have made its first successful test of a hypersonic vehicle just last week.”

In every domain, America will always seek peace, the vice president said. “But history proves that peace only comes through strength,” he added. “And in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength.”

Action Steps

The report to be released today represents a critical step toward establishing the Space Force, he said. It identifies several actions that DoD will take as the nation evolves its space capabilities, “and they are built on the lessons of the past,” Pence said.

First, the report calls for the creation of the U.S. Space Command, a new unified combatant command for space. “This new command … will establish unified command and control for our Space Force operations, ensure integration across the military, and develop the space warfighting doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures of the future,” he said.

Second, the report calls for the establishment of a Space Operations Force — an elite group of joint warfighters, specializing in the domain of space, who will form the backbone of the nation’s newest armed service. This force will draw from across the military to provide space expertise in times of crisis and conflict, Pence said.

“Third, the report calls for a new joint organization — the Space Development Agency — that will ensure the men and women of the Space Force have the cutting-edge warfighting capabilities that they need and deserve,” he said.

Finally, the report calls for clear lines of responsibility and accountability to manage the process of establishing and growing the Space Force, including the appointment of an assistant secretary of defense for space, the vice president said.

“Creating a new branch of the military is not a simple process,” Pence noted. “It will require collaboration, diligence and, above all, leadership. As challenges arise and deadlines approach, there must be someone in charge who can execute, hold others accountable, and be responsible for the results.”

Ultimately, Congress must establish the new department, the vice president said. “Next February, in the president’s budget, we will call on the Congress to marshal the resources we need to stand up the Space Force, and before the end of next year, our administration will work with the congress to enact the statutory authority for the space force in the National Defense Authorization Act,” he said.

I have to confess, when I first heard of the concept, I thought of this


A well used Avenger, 74 years ago

Here we see, aboard the brand-new Essex-class fleet carrier USS Hornet (CV-12), the starboard side of TBM-1C #95 (BU# 25216), showing a rapidly-filling “scoreboard” of bombing and torpedo missions. Taken on Hornet’s flight deck, 7 August 1944. While the plane and carrier were freshly minted, the squadron was among the oldest active torpedo units in the Navy and had a score to settle.

Here is a better shot of TBM-1C#95:

Two U.S. Navy Grumman TBF-1C “Avenger” of Torpedo Squadron 2 (VT-2) pass over the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) prior to entering the pattern for recovery on board the carrier. Note the mission markings on the aircraft, as well as the white dot on their tails indicating assignment to USS Hornet. VT-2 operated from Hornet during that carrier’s initial combat actions between March and September 1944. This included the “Mission Beyond Darkness” in the June 1944 during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, as well as strikes against the Palaus, Carolines, the Bonin Islands, New Guinea, and the Marianas. Date between March 1944 and September 1944 Source U.S. Navy National Naval Aviation Museum photo No. NNAM.1996.253.1089

TBM-1C’s, by the way, were Grumman G-40s built under license by the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors Corporation. While I can’t find out the disposition of this particular Avenger, she was part of VT-2 of Air Group 2, which was long associated with the stricken USS Lexington (CV-2) and reformed after that carrier was lost in the Coral Sea in 1942.

Torpedo Squadron 2 (VT-2) in the “old days” before WWII, back when they flew Douglas TBD Devastators from CV-2 and were the first squadron in the Navy to do so, in Oct. 1937

VT-2 reformed in 1943 with Avengers and shipped aboard Hornet from March 1944 to October 1944. The new Hornet (herself renamed after another recently lost carrier) and her reformed group saw heavy combat in 1944 from the Palau Islands, Wakde, Sawar, Sarmi, the dreaded Truk, Ponape, the 4 trips to Bonin Islands, Guam, the landings at Saipan, and finally the big landings in the Philippines, where she and companion carriers chalked up a kill on the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiyō.

More about that storied deployment here

Harpoons and Perrys off Kauai

The recent RIMPAC 2018 exercise saw two notable sinkex operations, the first, the old LST USS Racine we have covered already.

The second, the decommissioned OHP-class frigate USS McClusky (FFG 41), was sent to on 19 July to the bottom of waters some 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauai.

Her sad, final plunge:

One of the youngest of her class, ex-McClusky was an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate commissioned in December 1983 and decommissioned in January 2015. The ship was named for Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky, a naval aviator who led his squadrons of Douglass Dauntless dive bombers against a Japanese fleet during the famed attack on the island of Midway in June 1942. He went on to distinguish himself in subsequent actions during the war and again in the Korean War before retiring at the rank of rear admiral in 1956. The ship operated worldwide during her more than 30 years of service. During one deployment in 2002, her crew successfully intercepted a drug runner at sea hauling 75 bales of cocaine weighing nearly 4,000 pounds.

Notably, the first use of a sub-Harpoon in a generation was seen during the exercise when Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) loaded one of these unicorns and let it fly towards Racine.

The periscope footage, 30 secs:

Loading B-roll, 5 minutes:

30-sec compilation including the hit on Racine’s forward third:

In the end, though, there was one FFG-7 class vessel present at RIMPAC that had a better go of things. The Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) participated on the other side of the gun line and on 2 August set sail back to Oz, intact.

One salty bluejacket

“Union Sailor with Remington Root sidehammer revolver” contributed by Ryan M. Cooper Nautical Antiques, Yarmouth Port, Maine, 2011, to the LOC.

The young bluejacket, whose name has been lost to time, witnessed the largest Naval expansion in the young nation’s history, prior to the Great War.

Beginning the conflict with just 42 ships in commission and another 48 in ordinary or on the builder’s ways, by the end of the war there were an amazing 671 under flag, although it should be noted that many of these were no more than armed coasters for blockade duty or small riverine vessels that could never venture offshore. While the 1865 Royal Navy was still king of the high seas, it could be argued that the USN was very much a contender to the throne at the time.

When South Carolina left the Union in Dec. 1860, the Navy had some 1,200 officers from midshipman on up and some 7,600 ratings organized under the 23rd SECNAV Isaac Toucey, a Connecticut lawyer and former senator with no prior military service. Over the course of the war, this would swell to a peak of 84,415 personnel of all ranks, to include an estimated 10,000 African-American Sailors– itself a larger force than the peacetime Navy alone.

The service during the conflict was headed by a man referred to interchangeably as “Poseidon” and “Father Neptune” (the latter by Lincoln), the 24th SECNAV, the formidable white-bearded Gideon Welles. He took over from Toucey in 1861 and at least had the prior experience of a military education (from Norwich) and having previously headed a bureau of the Navy for five years in the 1840s, back in the days when there was no CNO and bureau chiefs basically ran the service.

It did not come without a price. The Union Navy suffered 6,233 total casualties during the Civil War, including 4,523 deaths from all causes, a figure over half its pre-war size.

Seabat over Illinois

Here we see a Sikorsky S-58JT, registry# N4247V, owned by aviation firm Midwest Truxton in Cook County, Illinois.

(Photos: Deerfield PD, Illinois)

The airframe, SN 58-1547, was ordered as a U.S. Navy HSS-1N Seabat, BuNo 150754 (MSN 58-1547) in 1962 but was instead completed to CH-34C standard for West German Army (Heer), where she served as QB+483, then QW+404, and finally 8070 for the next two decades of the Cold War.

Sold on the civilian market in 1983, she first flew as N83829, then OB-T-1008, then N4247V, her current number, still going strong after 56 years.

For the record, the U.S. Navy got out of the Seabat/UH-34 business in 1973, while on the way out of Vietnam.

(Photos: Deerfield PD, Illinois)

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