Looming from the fog of the Pacific into San Francisco Bay is the Iowa-class super dreadnought USS Wisconsin (BB-64), seen passing under the Golden Gate Bridge on 15 October 1945. She is carrying returning soldiers home from the Pacific as part of Operation Magic Carpet.
Also note her lengthy homeward bound pennant, denoting continuous overseas duty for more than nine months and returning to a U.S. port. Commissioned 16 April 1944, she had her shakedown on the East Coast and joined Halsey’s 3rd Fleet at Ulithi Atoll via the Panama Canal and Hawaii on 9 December, bound for points West.
Two retired captains at CIMSEC have an interesting take on the current number of flag officer slots in the Navy. Of note, during WWII at the height of the Fleet’s size, there were an amazing 6,084 commissioned vessels but only 256 men wearing stars. The number of admirals remained about the same through Vietnam and most of the Cold War, even while the size of the force constricted greatly. Then, in the past quarter-century, the number of flag slots exploded like mushrooms on the lawn after a cool rainstorm.
By 2012, the 280~ ship Navy had 359.
While the military, writ large, is clearly more sophisticated than it was in the past, and while political, acquisition and joint/combined organizations impose a greater demand than ever before for senior representation, it is still hard to understand how the number of flag officers and senior executives are sustained in the Navy with intractable fervor even as the active ship list has declined by about 70 percent.
As you may know, the 244th Birthday of the U.S. Navy (well, technically begun as the Continental Navy) is this week.
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer wishes the Navy and all the Sailors and civilians around the fleet a happy 244th birthday:
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger 244th U.S. Navy Birthday message:
Here we see Mr. John Philip Holland’s iconic submersible, adopted by the Navy as Submarine Torpedo Boat # 1, partially submerged off the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, in the summer of 1901.
Note USS Holland‘s 13-star boat flag, signal mast fitted amidships and commissioning pennant. A monitor is in the left background.
Just over the size of a modern semi-truck trailer, she carried an 8-inch dynamite gun (!) as well as an 18-inch torpedo tube and three torpedoes, making her fairly deadly for her size.
Holland, just 53-feet long, was commissioned 12 October 1900– 119 years ago today– and served only five years before being laid up. The Navy sold the little 74-ton vessel in 1913 and she was on public display until scrapped during the Depression.
Official Caption: “The biggest and fastest guns operating in the Tonkin Gulf belong to the USS NEWPORT NEWS (CA-148). Her 8-inch/55 caliber rapid-fire guns rake North Vietnamese targets daily during Operation Sea Dragon. The NEWPORT NEWS arrived on Yankee Station in October 1967 to enter combat for the first time in her 19 years, 11 October 1967.”
Commissioned 29 January 1949, “The Gray Ghost from the East Coast,” was a 21,000-ton Des Moines-class heavy cruiser. The pinnacle of U.S. big-gun cruisers, only eclipsed by the ill-fated Alaska-class battlecruisers, Newport News and her sisters Des Moines and Salem (CA-139) carried nine 8″/55 cal Mk 16 RF guns in three 450-ton triple turrets that used automatic shell handling and loading to produce a rate of fire three times greater than that of previous 8″ (20.3 cm) guns.
They could zip out an impressive 10 rounds per minute, per gun, or 90 x 260lb shells in 60 seconds.
Newport News would fire more than 50,000 shells on her 1967 deployment including one incident on 19 December when she exchanged fire with as many as 28 separate North Vietnamese shore batteries, simultaneously, being bracketed by 300 enemy shells without taking a hit.
Newport News would return to Yankee Station two more times before she was decommissioned in 1975, the last all-gun heavy cruiser in US service. She was scrapped in 1993.
This week, however, a model of the Gray Ghost was moved into the gallery of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum by a contingent of sailors from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG-64). The model is incorporated into a larger exhibit, “The Ten Thousand-Day War at Sea: The US Navy in Vietnam, 1950-1975.”
The new exhibit opened on Wednesday.
A few platforms with a decidedly long life are fading away this week with others being on their last legs.
The Republic of Ireland in 1972 picked up nine French-built Cessna 172 variants which have proved solid workhorses in the past 47 years. The Reims Rocket FR172H were originally intended for border patrol during “The Troubles” and could be fitted with a pair of Matra rocket pods under each wing.
Over the course of 63,578 hours clocked up (7k hours per airframe), they fulfilled various roles besides border surveillance including “explosive escorts, cash escorts, in-shore maritime surveillance, target towing, bog surveys, wildlife surveys, general transportation flights, and even one air ambulance mission.”
They will be replaced by a trio of (unarmed) Pilatus PC-12NG Spectres.
Meanwhile, as noted by Naval Air Forces Atlantic, the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet, aircraft number 300, made its official final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2.
“Assigned to the Navy’s East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Cecil Field, Florida, aircraft number 300 completed its first Navy acceptance check flight Oct. 14, 1988. Lt. Andrew Jalali, who piloted the Hornet for its final flight was also born in 1988.
The aircraft has remained with the Gladiators for its entire 31-years of service. The aircraft took off from NAS Oceana accompanied by three F/A-18F Super Hornets for a one-and-a-half-hour flight and return to Oceana where it will be officially stricken from the inventory, stripped of all its usable parts and be scrapped.”
Notably, the Marines still fly the type while overseas allies such as Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Spain, Malaysia, and Kuwait also keep the older Hornets around.
Meanwhile, in semi-related news, the “Rhino” looks short-listed to be adopted by the Germans to replace their increasingly aged Panavia Tornados. Then-West Germany went with the swing-wing Cold War classic in 1974 to replace the scary dangerous F-104 Starfighter for both ground strike/air defense by the Luftwaffe and maritime strike in the Baltic by the Bundesmarine’s Marinefliegerkommando.
How about some of that old school 1970s Tornado goodness?
Today, just 90~ active Tornados are left of the original 359 picked up by Bonn and are slated to be phased out by 2025. The RAF has already put the type out to pasture while the Italians are not far behind.
Apparently, it is the Super Hornet’s easy likelihood of being able to quickly be cleared to carry NATO-pooled B61 tactical nukes– a mission currently dedicated to the German Tornados– that gave it the upper hand over the Eurofighter Typhoon and others.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019: Queen City Admiral Maker
Here we see schooner-rigged U.S. Navy Cruiser No. 7, the second USS Cincinnati, around 1896. Note her extensive awning, gleaming white scheme, and red-white-and-blue bow shield. She was a classic 19th-century coal-burning ship crafted of steel and would serve as a floating proving ground for some of the most venerated American admirals of the 20th.
The leader of a two-ship class, along with sister USS Raleigh (C-8), of what were termed “protected cruisers,” they were part of a then-huge 1888 Naval Act which sandwiched the Cincinnatis between the 9,000-ton armored cruiser USS New York, the 7,000-ton protected cruiser USS Olympia and the three 2,000-ton unprotected cruisers of the Montgomery class.
Designed with a single 6″/40 caliber Mk IV gun forward and 10 5″/40s Mk IIs arrayed rear and in casemated broadsides, the 305-foot-long Cincinnatis used a 6-pack of Babcock & Wilcox boilers to gin up 19 knots. They were electrically-lit, constructed with 12 longitudinal watertight compartments, and had all the most modern amenities.
Intended for commerce raiding in the event of war, they had very long legs– with a range of 10,000 nm @ 10 knots when carrying a maximum coal load– and carried enough armor to protect them from small shore batteries and gunboats.
Built for $1.1 million a pop, Cincinnati was laid down at New York Naval Yard while Raleigh was built simultaneously at Norfolk, both commissioning in the Spring of 1894 within 60 days of each other.
Cruiser No. 7 carried the legacy of not only the Ohio city but also the first USS Cincinnati, a City-class ironclad stern-wheel casemate gunboat. One of the “Pook Turtles,” the plucky riverboat was sunk and raised twice along the Mississippi in just 12 months. During the second such incident, under the Confederate guns at Vicksburg, her crew earned four Medals of Honor in the act of saving bluejackets that couldn’t swim. She went down that day with her colors defiantly nailed to the mast.
Commissioned 16 June 1894, our brand new Cincinnati would go on to see some hot service of her own, albeit with much more luck.
After enforcing neutrality laws at Tampa and Key West during the Cuban Revolution and a stint in the Med, she soon found herself on the blockade line off Havana, Cuba, during the Spanish American War. In April 1898, she bombarded Matanzas.
The next month, Cincinnati scouted throughout the West Indies searching for Almirante Cervera’s squadron known to be approaching Cuba from metropolitan Spain. She then finished the war by convoying troops from Guantanamo Bay to Puerto Rico, patrolling off San Juan, and escorting the captured Spanish flagship Infanta Maria Teresa until that crippled cruiser sank.
As for Raleigh, she sailed with Dewey in the Pacific during the conflict and is often credited with firing the first shot of the Battle of Manila Bay.
Post-war brought a two-year refit that saw Cincinnati much changed.
Dewey’s Olympia was given a very similar bronze and wood Victory figurehead at about the same time during her respective refit.
Besides her new figurehead, Cincinnati landed her big 6-inch gun, to be replaced by a 5″/40, which brought her battery up to 11 such guns of that caliber. Likewise, her mainmast, auxiliary sail rig, and torpedo tubes were deleted as were her smaller 37mm guns.
Between May 1902 and January 1903, Cincinnati exercised some classic gunboat diplomacy and “protected American citizens and property in the Caribbean during political disturbances at Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Panama, and brought relief supplies to Martinique after the devastating eruption of Mount Pelee,” as noted by DANFS.
Cincinnati was something of a kingmaker, with no less than six of her 14 commanders going on to earn stars. Her captain during the 1898 conflict was Capt. (later RADM) Colby Mitchell Chester (USNA 1863), the only naval officer to have actively served in the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and World War I throughout a 50-year career. Chester’s wartime XO, LCDR Edward Buttevant Barry, likewise rose to rear admiral and command of the Pacific Fleet in 1910. Former skippers Hugo Wilson Osterhaus and Frank Hardeman Brumby ended their careers as fleet commanders. Among her junior officers during the 20th Century was a young Ens. Ernest King and Lt. Ray Spruance.
After more overseas service in the Mediterranean and with the Asiatic Squadron in the Philippines, Korea, and China, Cincinnati returned home in 1907 to ordinary. Her stint on red lead row abated in 1911 when she was recommissioned and detailed to the Asiatic Station once again, a role she held until the U.S. entered World War I in 1917.
Shipping for the West Coast, she arrived in San Diego 16 December 1917 then convoyed to the East Coast where she served as flagship, American Patrol Detachment, Atlantic Fleet. In that role, she ran shotgun over the Gulf of Mexico, looking out for possible German raiders.
Interestingly, the 6″/40s removed from Cincinnati and Raleigh were pooled with other guns removed from old battleships and, once the war was unavoidable, were issued and mounted on U.S.-flagged merchant steamers. Three such guns were on the steamer SS Mongolia when she was attacked by German submarine U.B.40 on 19 April 1917 at 0520— the first armed naval clash between the two countries.
After the war ended, Cincinnati was found to be too outdated for further service in a Navy that was increasingly faster, oil-burning, and more heavily armed/armored. She was decommissioned at New Orleans on 20 April 1919. Raleigh, who had spent WWI patrolling in Brazilian waters and other points south, was decommissioned the next day. Both ships were sold for scrap in 1921.
Cincinnati’s name was swiftly recycled for the Omaha-class light “peace” cruiser (CL-6) which commissioned 1 January 1924 and served through WWII. The fourth Cincinnati was a Los Angeles-class attack submarine (SSN-693) which served from 1978 to 1996.
The fifth warship named for the Queen City commissioned over the weekend, LCS-20. Ironically, she is almost the same size as the circa-1896 protected cruiser and carries a single main gun forward, although it is a 57mm rather than a big honking 6-inch gun.
3,183 long tons (3,234 t) (standard)
3,339 long tons (3,393 t) (full load)
Length: 305 ft 10 in
Beam: 42 ft
Draft: 18 ft (mean) 20 ft 2 in (max)
6 × Babcock & Wilcox steam boilers (replaced by 8 boilers in 1901)
2 × vertical triple expansion reciprocating engines 8,000 hp
2 × screws
Auxiliary schooner rig until 1901.
19 knots designed (Cincinnati pulled 19.91 on trials, Raleigh did 21.12)
Range: 10,700nm at 10kts with a maximum of 575 tons of coal. Normal coal load 396
Complement: 32 officers 270 enlisted as designed. 313 (1914)
Deck: 2.5 in (64 mm) (slope)
1 in (25 mm) (flat)
Conning Tower: 2 in (51 mm)
Gun Sponsons: 4 in (100 mm)
Armament: (as designed)
1 x 6 in (152 mm)/40 caliber MK VI gun
10 x 5 in (127 mm)/40 caliber Mk II guns
8 x 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) Driggs-Schroeder Mk I/II guns
2 x 1-pounder (37 mm (1.5 in)) Driggs-Schroeder heavy Mk I guns
4 x 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes (1 bow, 2 beam, 1 stern)
1 x carriage-mounted Gatling gun
11 x 5 in (127 mm)/40 caliber Mk II guns
6 x 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) Driggs-Schroeder Mk I/II guns
1 x M1895 carriage-mounted Colt machine gun
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