“A Sailor’s Prayer: A hammock-bound Sailor’s reflections on Navy lower deck life, with second thoughts as re-enlistment time nears.”
Taken in a 5″/51 cal gun casemate on board USS Nevada (BB-36) by A.E. Wells, the ship’s photographer, during the early 1920s. Note ready-service shells on the casemate bulkhead, gun at left, shoes tied to hammock lashings and tattoo on the man’s left leg.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, April 19, 2017: The busy year of the Raiders’ taxi service
Here we see the Yorktown-class carrier, USS Hornet (CV-8), as she arrives at Pearl Harbor after the Doolittle Raid on Japan, 30 April 1942. Note PT-28 and PT-29 speeding by in the foreground. If this image doesn’t scream “war in the Pacific” nothing else does. It should be noted that this photo was taken 75 years ago this month.
Starting with the “covered wagon” that was the converted collier USS Langley, and moving through a pair of huge converted battlecruisers USS Lexington and Saratoga, and the Navy’s first flattop designed from the keel up, USS Ranger, gave the Navy four lessons learned over a 15-year period in carrier design and development which led to the Yorktown class.
Designed in the early 1930s, these 19,800-ton vessels (26,000 fl) were nice floating landing strips some 824-feet long. Equipped with two catapults on the flight deck and a (useless) hangar deck level cat, these straight deck carriers featured three elevators and could accommodate a 90-plane air wing. Fast, at 32.5-knots, they could outstrip submarines and most battleships of the era, and a smattering of 5″/38, 1.1″/75 quads, and water-cooled Browning .50 cals provided defense against 1930s-era small surface combatants and planes. With long legs (12,500nm at 16 knots) they could travel the Pacific or Atlantic with ease and minimal tanker support.
Class leader, Yorktown (CV-5), was laid down in 1934 and made it to the fleet three years later, followed by the famous Enterprise (CV-6). The subject of our tale was the 7th USS Hornet on the Navy List and, like her two sisters was laid down at Newport News.
Hornet was commissioned 20 October 1941, two years after the rest of the world entered WWII and two months before the United States did the same. Her first commander was a scrappy fellow by the name of Captain Marc A. Mitscher.
When the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, Hornet was in Norfolk but was made ready for war in the Pacific, losing her .50cals in exchange for Oerlikon 20mm guns and picking up a camo scheme.
It was at Norfolk that she tested flight deck operations with a trio of Army B-25 medium bombers, and found they could be launched successfully with a degree of pucker– and even landed with a greater one.
“Take-off and landing tests conducted with three B-25B’s at and off Norfolk, Virginia, indicated that take off from the carrier would be relatively easy but landing back on again extremely difficult.” said Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle in his report to the commanding general of Army Air Forces. “It was then decided that a carrier take-off would be made some place East of Tokyo, and the flight would proceed in a generally westerly direction from there. Fields near the East Coast of China and at Vladivostok were considered as termini.”
Then came a transfer to the West Coast, and a special mission for the carrier still technically on shakedown.
Arriving in San Francisco, Hornet had part of her Naval airwing offloaded and 16 Army B-25s, 64 modified 500-pound bombs, and 201 USAAF aviators and ground crew transferred aboard.
Putting to sea on April 2, the task force commanded by Vice Adm. Halsey consisted of Hornet with her escort Nashville, the carrier Enterprise with her three companion heavy cruisers Salt Lake City, Northampton, and Vincennes, as well as a group of destroyers and tankers headed West for points unknown and under great secrecy.
After refueling from the tankers on April 17, the four cruisers and two carriers raced towards Japan. The plan was to launch the first raid on the Home Islands to score a propaganda victory following a string of defeats across the Pacific in the first four months of the war.
However, the group was sighted while still far out to sea. The quick-shooting Nashville rapidly engaged the Japanese ship, Gunboat No. 23 Nittō Maru, and sank her with 6-inch shells, but the little 70-ton boat got off a warning via radio on her way down.
The 16 bombers quickly launched into history and the six ships of the task force turned back for safer waters.
As noted by DANFS:
As Hornet swung about and prepared to launch the bombers which had been readied for take-off the previous day, a gale of more than 40 knots churned the sea with 30-foot crests; heavy swells, which caused the ship to pitch violently, shipped sea and spray over the bow, wet the flight deck and drenched the deck crews. The lead plane, commanded by Colonel Doolittle, had but 467 feet of flight deck while the last B-25 hung far out over the fantail. The first of the heavily-laden bombers lumbered down the flight deck, circled Hornet after take-off, and set course for Japan. By 0920 all 16 of the bombers were airborne, heading for the first American air strike against the heart of Japan.
Hornet brought her own planes on deck and steamed at full speed for Pearl Harbor. Intercepted broadcasts, both in Japanese and English, confirmed at 1445 the success of the raids. Exactly one week to the hour after launching the B-25s, Hornet sailed into Pearl Harbor. Hornet’s mission was kept an official secret for a year; until then President Roosevelt referred to the origin of the Tokyo raid only as “Shangri-La.”
Three Raiders died trying to reach safety in China. Japanese soldiers executed three. One died in captivity.
However, Hornet was not allowed to rest on her laurels and soon set off to meet the Japanese in the Coral Sea, but arrived just after the pitched battle that saw the loss of the giant USS Lexington.
Then came Midway, where the now seven-month-old Hornet joined her sisters Yorktown and Enterprise to blunt Yamamomo’s greatest effort.
On 4 June, the combined torpedo plane fleet of the three carriers made a charge of the light brigade style attack on the Japanese task force. Of the 41 TBD Devastators that took off that day, 15 were from Hornet‘s Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8). However, they were jumped by Japanese fighters eight miles from their targets and all 15 were shot down. Only one pilot, Ens. George H. Gay, USNR, reached the surface as his plane sank and hid under a rubber seat cushion while he watched the dive bombers come in and get revenge in the sinking of four Japanese carriers, turning the tide of the war
Two days later, to add the ending period to the battle, Hornet‘s planes attacked the fleeing Japanese fleet to assist in sinking cruiser Mikuma, damaged a destroyer, and left cruiser Mogami aflame and heavily damaged.
War artist Tom Lea shipped out on Hornet for her next run across the Pacific after Midway. There, in fierce service off Guadalcanal in late summer 1942, he spent more than two months on a front-line carrier in the thick of the war and sketched as he found, including the loss of the carrier Wasp.
From a six-week period from mid-September until 24 October, Hornet was the only operable U.S. carrier in the Pacific, all the others being either in repair or at the bottom.
On 26 October, joined by the newly patched up Enterprise, Hornet was involved in the Battle of Santa Cruz Island. During that sharp engagement often forgotten to military history, Hornet‘s airwing severely damaged the Japanese carrier Shokaku, delivering at least three (and possibly as many as six) 1,000-lb. bomb hits from the 15 Douglas SBD-3 dive bombers launched from our carrier, putting her out of service for months. Hornet‘s planes also made hay of the cruiser Chikuma.
However, just 371 days after she was commissioned, Hornet took extreme damage in return from Japanese torpedo and bomber aircraft.
As noted by DANFS
The abandoned Hornet, ablaze from stern to stern, refused to accept her intended fate from friends. She still floated after receiving nine torpedoes and more than 400 rounds of 5-inch shellfire from destroyers Mustin and Anderson. Japanese destroyers hastened the inevitable by firing four 24-inch torpedoes at her blazing hull. At 0135, 27 October 1942, she finally sank off the Santa Cruz Islands. Her proud name was struck from the Navy List 13 January 1943.
Tom Lea remembered the ship fondly.
On 21 October, just six days before she was to sink, he left the Hornet, pulling away on a fleet oiler that would land him back at Pearl Harbor. The cleared sketches he produced above would appear in LIFE in March and April 1943, sadly, after the carrier had long been sunk.
Back at Pearl Harbor, Lea showed Admiral Nimitz some of his drawings. One of them was the one above. Underneath the drawing, he inscribed a quotation from Deuteronomy: “Moreover the Lord thy God shall send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.”
Admiral Nimitz looked at the drawing for a long time, then turned his head to Lea, and said: “Something has happened to the Hornet.”
That was how Lea found out that the aircraft carrier he had been on, together with his friends, perished.
This he immortalized in a painting ran by LIFE of how he pictured the ship going out– fighting.
Hornet remains a favorite subject of maritime art, not just from Lea, but other painters. Take for instance this great piece by Gordon Grant.
Remember VT-8’s Ensign Gay? The lone survivor of his squadron survived the war, ending his service as a Lt. CDR and Navy Cross holder. In 1994 he died of a heart attack at a hospital in Marietta, Georgia, age 77, was cremated and his ashes spread at the place that his squadron had launched its ill-fated attack
As for the Raiders, the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo was commemorated by the ceremonial arrival of 11 B-25 bombers at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, on 17 April 2017, who flew in formation on the anniversary on Tuesday.
As noted by the AP, the last Raider living is 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole. He attended Tuesday’s service at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton. Lead plane co-pilot Cole came from his Comfort, Texas, home.
The Navy still considers the Doolittle Raid to have relevent principals today.
“The Doolittle Raid, some 75 years ago, pushed Air Force Bombers outside of their normal operating envelope,” said Capt. Kevin Lenox, commanding officer of USS Nimitz (CVN 68), a World War II-namesake ship. “They were designed to fly from an airfield, but USS Hornet provided the perfect mobile launch point to send them into combat from the sea. The Navy didn’t have planes that could reach Tokyo, and the Air Force didn’t have any runways close enough. Together, their integrated capabilities were able to win the day, and that lesson has carried forward to today’s highly capable joint force.”
20,000 long tons (20,000 t) (standard)
25,500 long tons (25,900 t) (full load)
29,114 long tons (29,581 t) (maximum)
770 ft. (230 m) (waterline at design draft)
824 ft. 9 in (251.38 m) (overall)
83 ft. 3 in (25.37 m) (waterline)
114 ft. (35 m) (overall)
24 ft. 4 in (7.42 m) design
28 ft. (8.5 m) full load
Installed power: 120,000 shp (89,000 kW)
4 × Parsons geared steam turbines
9 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers
32.5 kn (37.4 mph; 60.2 km/h) (design)
33.84 kn (38.94 mph; 62.67 km/h) (builder’s trials)
Range: 12,500 nmi (14,400 mi; 23,200 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 2,919 officers and enlisted (wartime)
Armament: (as built)
8 × 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns
16(4×4) × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns
24 × M2 Browning .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns
Armament (by July 1942)
8 × 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns
20 (5×4) × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns
32 × 20-mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon
Belt: 2.5–4 in (63.5–102 mm)
Deck: 4 in (102 mm) 60 lb. STS steel
Bulkheads: 4 in (102 mm)
Conning Tower: 4 in (100 mm) sides, 2 in (51 mm) top
Steering Gear: 4 in (102 mm)
Aircraft carried: 72-90 × aircraft
3 × elevators
3 × hydraulic catapults (2 flight deck, 1 hangar deck– latter removed 1942)
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Defense contractor Raytheon is testing a modified version of their Phalanx Close-In Weapon System that will let soldiers and sailors fire at varying rates, using less ammunition.
Designed in the 1970s and with some 890 mounts currently in circulation the CIWS (“sea whiz”) couples an M61A1 20 mm Gatling gun capable of firing 4,500 rounds per minute with onboard target acquisition and fire control in one unit. While the system has been continually updated, it remains hamstrung by the fact that it only holds about 20 seconds worth of ammunition on the mount and reloading, as any Gunners Mate will tell you, is not done in a snap.
Raytheon, however, announced last week that an upgrade now underway can allow users to select different rates of fire while also increasing reliability and lowering maintenance. Also, due to the fact the upgrade replaces a pneumatic motor, compressor and storage tanks, it trims the mount’s weight by 180 pounds.
This is the current minehunting system:
U.S. 7TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (March 23, 2017) Mineman 1st Class Sean McDermott prepares to launch a mine neutralization vehicle aboard the mine countermeasures ship USS Warrior (MCM 10) during Exercise Foal Eagle 2017. The exercise is a series of joint and combined field training exercises conducted by Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea ground, air, naval and special operations component commands. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jermaine M. Ralliford/Released)
This is Northrop Grumman’s AQS-24B combined with the Atlas ARCIMS unmanned minehunting system
Then we have the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) in NAVSEA tests recently off South Florida for its mine countermeasures mission
Also known as S1c Don Rickles (1926-2017), USN 1944-46. Rickles enlisted in the Navy after high school and served in the Pacific during World War II on the USS Cyrene, a PT-boat tender that saw action in New Guinea and the Philippines in the tail end of the war.
He has said of one deployment, “It was so hot and humid, the crew rotted.”
DANFS on Cyrene:
In Greek mythology, a nymph beloved of Apollo.
Cyrene (AGP-13) was launched 8 February 1944 as Cape Farewell by Pusey and Jones Corp., Wilmington, Del., under a Maritime Commission contract; sponsored by Mrs. G. L. Coppage; acquired by the Navy 28 April 1944; and commissioned 27 September 1944, Commander F. A. Munroe, Jr., USNR, in command.
Departing Norfolk 10 November 1944, Cyrene arrived at Manus 13 December to escort two squadrons of motor torpedo boats to Hollandia, New Guinea, then sailed on convoy duty to Leyte, P.I., arriving 1 January 1945.
She served as tender for motor torpedo boats and on 17 January 1945 became flagship for Commander, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons, 7th Fleet. She sailed from Samar 21 December 1945 and arrived at San Francisco 7 January 1946, reporting to the 12th Naval District for repair work in decommissioning small craft. Cyrene was decommissioned 2 July 1946 and delivered to the War Shipping Administration for disposal the same day.
It was after his service that he broke into entertainment– though he did put on the uniform again as QM1 Ruby for Run Silent, Run Deep; joined the Army as SSG Crapgame for Kelly’s Heroes, and of course made Chief for CPO Sharkey in the 1970s. He also played another Chief on the 1960s military comedy Hennesey in a guest starring role and as a visiting Sgt in Gomer Pyle.
Fair seas, you hockey puck.
It looks like the Navy really plastered Shayrat Airfield in Homs with several flights of Tomahawks from USS Ross (DDG-71) “Fortune Favors Valor” and USS Porter (DDG-78) “Freedom’s Champion” in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun.
Both ships are DDG-51s built at Pascagoula in the 1990s, with Ross being an earlier Flight I ship and Porter a Flight II. Both are stationed at Rota as part of a four-DDG force used for forward ballistic missile defense and have been in the news a lot lately for patrols in the Black Sea.
It should be pointed out that the bit below about the strike being coordinated to a degree with the Russians holds water as the TLAMs flew across the Russian S-400 MEZ unscathed. That, or the S-400 is not what its cracked up to be.
From the Navy’s presser:
A total of 59 TLAMs targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars. As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict. Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.
The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4. The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.
We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.
In early April 1946 the battleship USS Missouri (BB 63), at the center of this photo, arrived at Istanbul in Turkey to return the body of the Turkish ambassador Mehmet Munir Ertegun from the U.S. and to show U.S. support and willingness to defend Turkey. The famous Dolmabahce Mosque is in the foreground. Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, was aboard and the trip also reinforced to the Soviets that the U.S was keenly interested in Middle East politics.
The destroyer USS Power (DD 839) is at left, and the 25,000-ton Turkish battlecruiser Yavuz (formerly the German Moltke-class Goeben) is at right. Missouri, of course, was the brand new Iowa-class battleship that hosted the Japanese surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay that ended World War II.
Yavuz had her own interesting history at the beginning of the First World War.
Ordered in 1909, the SMS Goeben sailed to fame in 1914 as a “ship of destiny” when– commanded by Konteradmiral Wilhelm Souchon– she led the British and French around the Med until she was interred at Constantinople.
Still under German command and manned by her original crew (now wearing fezzes), she was officially renamed Yavuz Sultan Selim and served as the flag of the Ottoman Navy– but sailed without Turkish orders in October 1914 to plaster the Russian Black Sea fleet at harbor, bringing the Turks into the war. Wrecked by mines in 1918, the Germans left her a largely worn out vessel when they pulled out at the Armistice. Repaired in the 1920s, she was returned to service with an all-Turk crew in the new republic’s Navy. In 1936 she was renamed simply Yavuz.
Decommissioned in 1950, she was scrapped in 1973, after the West German government declined an invitation to buy her back from Turkey. As such, she was the last surviving ship built by the Imperial German Navy and the longest-serving dreadnought-type ship in any navy