Category Archives: US Navy

RAN getting into the SSN Game, apparently

The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service has been around since 1964 but the Ozzies have been running subs going back to the Great War-era British E class submarines AE1 and AE2, which we have covered here on a Warship Wednesday.

Besides the Es, the Australians operated a half-dozen J-class boats in WWI, two O-class boats in the 1920s, and eight British Oberon-class submarines through the Cold War.

Barbecue on top of HMAS Onslow, a diesel submarine operated by Australia’s Navy from 1968 to 1999.

Today, they have the half dozen controversial (but Australian-built!) Collins-class submarines in service that are aging out.

Collins-class submarines conducting exercises northwest of Rottnest Island 2019

Driven by political pressure against nuclear-powered subs– both Australia and New Zealand have had issues with American “N” prefixes visiting in past years– Canberra signed a contract for a dozen planned Attack-class SSKs from France in a competition that saw both German and Japanese designs come up in a close tie for second place.

However, with the French boats not being able to get operational into some time in the mid-2030s, the Australians are scrapping the stalled French contract and going with a program with the U.S. and Royal Navy to field SSNs.

The AUKUS program is ambitious to say the least. 

RAN’s official statement, with a lot more detail than you get elsewhere: 

The submarines will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, where French company Naval Group was to construct the soon-to-be canceled submarines, which is a heavy lift for sure, but not insurmountable. 

As SUBSCOL in New London is very good at what they do at training Nuclear Program submariners, and the production line for the Virginia-class boats is white-hot, it is likely something that could be done inside the decade with some sort of technology sharing program similar to how Australian acquired their FFG-7 frigates in the 1980s, provided the RAN can cough up enough submariners (they have a problem staffing their boats now as it is) as well as the cash and political will.

If a Virginia-class variant is chosen, perhaps one could be hot-loaned from COMSUBPAC, with a cadre of specialists aboard, to the Australians for a couple years as a training boat while theirs are being constructed. 

Can Canberra buy and man 12 boats? Doubtful, but a 4+1 hull program with one boat in a maintenance period and the four active subs, perhaps with rotating blue/red crews, could provide a lot of snorkel.

Plus, it could see American SSNs based in Western Australia on a running basis, which is something that has never happened. Of course, the precedent is there, as 122 American, 31 British, and 11 Dutch subs conducted patrols from Fremantle and Brisbane between 1942 and 1945 while the Royal Navy’s 4th Submarine Flotilla was based in Sydney from 1949 until 1969.

Of course, the French, who have been chasing this hole in the ocean for five years, are going to raise hell over this. 

The “breakup statement” of French Naval Group with Australia Attack class submarine deal…no mention of them being overpriced, overdue and under delivery.

Meanwhile, off Korea

In related Pacific submarine news, the South Koreans successfully fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday, just hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.

The ROKN boat, likely the new ROKS Dosan Ahn Changho (SS-083), which just commissioned in August, fired the indigenous Hyunmoo conventional warhead SLBM, of which not much is known. The 3,700-ton Changho-class, of which nine are planned, have six VLS silos for such missiles in addition to their torpedo tubes.

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021: Hurricane ASW

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, Sept. 15, 2021: Hurricane ASW

 

U.S. Navy photo in the Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-71001

Here we see the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Hyman (DD-732) moored at Kusaie (Kosrae) Island in the Carolines (now Micronesia), 8 September 1945. Her twin forward 5″/38cal DP Mark 38 mounts are skyward with an ensign in between them as the party assembled on her deck are gathered to receive the surrender of Lt-Gen. Yoshikazu Harada of the Imperial Japanese Army and his 4,500 assorted men ashore.

The Sumners, an attempt to up the firepower on the previous and highly popular Fletcher-class destroyers, mounted a half-dozen 5″/38s in a trio of dual mounts, as well as 10 21-inch torpedo tubes in a pair of five-tube turntable stations. Going past this, they were packed full of sub-busting and plane-smoking weapons as well as some decent sonar and radar sets for the era.

Sumner class layout, 1944

With 336 men crammed into a 376-foot hull, they were cramped, slower than expected (but still capable of beating 33-knots all day), and overloaded (although they reportedly rode wildly when in light conditions), but they are fighting ships who earned good reputations for being almost indestructible.

Our vessel was the only warship named for LCDR Willford Milton Hyman (USNA ’24), skipper of the destroyer USS Sims (DD-409) during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Sims, while escorting the tanker USS Neosho, was attacked by three vicious waves of Japanese aircraft from two carriers who had been alerted the American ships were a carrier and a cruiser. Struck by three bombs, Hyman ultimately rode his command to the bottom. His family was presented with a posthumous Navy Cross. His third wife (he was a surface warfare man), Edwige, an Army nurse during the war, was the sponsor of the USS Hyman and present at both her launching and commissioning.

Laid down at Maine’s Bath Iron Works on 22 November 1943, USS Hyman was commissioned just under seven months later on 16 June 1944, a war baby in every sense of the term. After shakedowns along the East Coast, she steamed via the Canal Zone and San Diego to Pearl Harbor, arriving there 12 October 1944.

USS Hyman (DD-732) is seen in an aerial view from the starboard off Race Point wearing 31/25D on July 21, 1944. Hyman had been commissioned on June 16, 1944, and was probably conducting trials. The colors are haze gray, ocean gray, and black. NARA 80-G-237943.

Same as above. 80-G-310154

USS Hyman DD-732 1944, note her camo. NARA 80-G-310152

After further exercises, escort duty, and training evolutions, Hyman saw her first combat off Iwo Jima, delivering close-in naval gunfire support from 19 February through the end of the month, supporting the Marines ashore with her 5-inch battery while taking time to recover Ensign Louis Radford, a Hellcat pilot from the Saratoga who ditched his F6F at sea because of lack of fuel. Speaking of aviators, during this period Hyman worked together with an airborne spotting plane from USS Wake Island to adjust her fire, hammering Iwo with 574 rounds of 5-inch and an equal number of 40mm shells on 20 February alone.

From her war history:

Via NARA

Then came a short period of comparative rest in the Leyte Gulf, where she refueled and rearmed. Next, she sailed for Okinawa, arriving on April Fool’s Day.

The plan of the day, 31 March 1945: “Tomorrow we will reach the objective. We are now well in enemy territory and may expect any type of reception.”

Indeed, on 5 April, Hyman came across a Japanese midget submarine off Okinawa’s Zampa Misaki point that surfaced and unsuccessfully fired a torpedo at our destroyer from a range of 1,500 yards, which the tin can was able to maneuver to “just slip clear.”

The next day, things got bad. From the NHHC’s H-044-2 “Floating Chrysanthemums”—The Naval Battle of Okinawa

Destroyer Hyman was covering the transport area when she was attacked by four kamikazes at 1612 on 6 April. Hyman shot down three of the kamikazes but was hit by the fourth on her torpedo tubes, which resulted in a massive explosion and flooded the forward engine room. As damage control parties stopped the flooding and put out the fires, Hyman’s gunners, along with gunners on destroyer Rooks (DD-804), which had come to Hyman’s aid, helped to down two more kamikazes. Rooks had already shot down five Japanese aircraft earlier in the day and would remain in nearly constant action off Okinawa until late June, suffering no hits and no casualties in an incredible lucky streak. Hyman suffered 12 killed and over 40 wounded, but the ship was saved.

As a sobering aspect, she was luckier than several of her sisters. Between December 1944 and May 1945, USS Cooper, USS Mannert L. Abele, and USS Drexler were all sunk in the Pacific– the latter two by kamikazes.

After emergency repairs at Kerama Retto, Hyman arrived on one engine at San Francisco on 16 May 1945 and would spend the next nine weeks under extensive rebuild and refit.

USS Hyman in San Francisco Bay, 20 July 1945. U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships photo 19-N-87168

Steaming back to the frontlines for the next round of fighting, she arrived at Pearl Harbor the day of the Japanese surrender, 15 August. Ordered to Kwajalein, she had some cleanup work to do.

Island hopping for signatures

The Kusaie Fortress, as the Japanese described the windswept 43 sq. mile island, was garrisoned by the three-battalion 3,800-strong 2nd South-Seas Detachment composed largely of the 107th Infantry Regiment reinforced by some light artillery and a company of Type 95 tanks, along with a 700-man Imperial Japanese navy unit who was largely there to man some elderly 8cm/40 Armstrong (3rd Year Type) naval guns and refuel/repair seaplanes and occasional cargo vessels. Commanded by Lt. Gen. Yoshikazu Harada, the outpost was formerly part of the Spanish and Imperial German empires, but the Japanese had ruled it by mandate since 1919, so they had lots of time to prepare.

Gratefully for all involved, the place was a backwater of WWII and, other than the occasional bombing mission by Navy PBYs in 1944 and 1945, it was left to wither on the vine. Hyman received the surrender of Japanese forces on Kusaie on 8 September, as shown in the top image of this post. Commodore Ben Wyatt accepted on behalf of Nimitz.

The surrender document for Kusaie Fortress, via the National Archives.

Hyman, leaving LT PF Woodhouse behind as military governor of Kusaire, steamed the next day for Kwajalein, then left again on 10 September bound for Ponape Harbor, where they met with the destroyer escort USS Farquhar (DE-139) which was standing guard off the Japanese territory.

Like Kusaie, Ponape was a backwater that had been bombed and bombarded– including by the fast battleships USS Massachusetts, Iowa, Alabama, and North Carolina. The garrison consisted of some 6,000 men of the 52nd Brigade and some 2,000 Japanese navy personnel. They had more than 20 artillery pieces including some large 15 cm/50 41st Year Type naval guns and would have been a tough nut to crack had the fortress been taken by amphibious assault.

Lt-Gen. Masao Watanabe of the Imperial Japanese Army and his aides arrived aboard Hyman with IJN CAPT Jun Naito in tow to negotiate the surrender of Ponape Island on 11 September 1945. After a short ceremony signed by Commodore Wyatt and witnessed by DESDIV Commander, CAPT A.O. Momm, who assumed the post of military governor of the outpost, the deed was done.

The surrender document for Ponape Fortress, via the National Archives.

The event was richly recorded in snapshots by Hyman bluejacket Willie Starnes. 

Willie Starnes collection showing Watanabe et. al at Ponape aboard Hyman. Via Navsource. http://navsource.org/archives/05/732a.htm

Hyman remained in the area as a station ship, assisting in the occupation and repatriation of the Japanese forces until arriving at Eniwetok the day after Christmas 1945.

Jane’s entry for the class in 1946.

Korea and the Cold War

While whole flotillas of American destroyers entered mothballs in the late 1940s, Hyman remained very active. She conducted Mediterranean deployments in 1947 and 1948, the latter as part of a large carrier and cruiser group to support the U.N. Peace Force in Palestine. Stationed in Algiers (across the Mississippi River from New Orleans) with a reduced crew in 1949, she spent the next two years supporting the NRF operations, sailing with reservists on two-week annual cruises in the Gulf of Mexico.

Once the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel, she once more went on a war footing and, taking part in workups along the East Coast, set out for another Med cruise.

Hyman off the Boston Lightship, 5 July 1950, while she was engaged in maneuvers and training for front-line deployment. NARA 24743383

USS Hyman (DD-732) underway off the Boston Lightship, Massachusetts (USA), on 5 July 1950. She still very much has her WWII layout including 21-inch quintuple torpedo tubes. NARA 24743385

Her ticket came up for Korea in October 1951, just 90 days after returning from the Med deployment, and she arrived off Wonsan to start delivering some sweet shore bombardment there against North Korean/Chinese targets and batteries on 6 November. While on such duty two weeks later, she engaged in a gunnery duel with shore batteries on the Kalmo Pando peninsula, “sustaining minor shrapnel damage during the close-in exchange.”

USS Hyman (DD-732) Ship’s forward 5/38 guns aimed at targets on the Korean coast, during bombardment operations in February 1952. Note U.S. flag painted atop mount 52. 80-G-440142

Her Korean operations concluded, she left the gun line in late February 1952 and arrived back on the East Coast via Ceylon, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and France on 21 April. Keeping that op-tempo up, she was back in the Med for a five-month deployment in 1953.

Such hard use saw her modernization downplayed, and she never officially received a full FRAM II upgrade as at least 33 of her sisters did. Nonetheless, she did around this time swap out her WWII anti-air batteries swapped out for modern radar-directed 3-inch DP mounts, while her sonar and torpedo tubes were similarly upgraded.

USS Hyman (DD-732) Underway during the early or middle 1950s. This photograph was received by the Naval Photographic Center in December 1959 but was taken several years earlier. Note that the ship still carries 40mm guns (replaced by 3/50s by mid-decade) and 20mm guns but has a tripod foremast and SPS-6 radar (both typically fitted during the early ’50s). She never did receive the FRAM treatment. NH 107139

The rest of her 1950s included several Midshipman cruises, another Med deployment, and participation in the huge International Naval Review that came as part of the 350th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement in 1957.

Mercury, Cuba, and Betsy

In April 1961, Hyman was detailed to support the unmanned Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) launch, deploying to the Azores in hopes of retrieving the unmanned Boilerplate #8 capsule. However, only 43 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, MA-3’s mission ended in a rain of fiery debris falling back to Earth, with the capsule recovered just a mile off Florida.

After yet another Med cruise in 1962, our non-stop greyhound cut short her post-deployment refit to join the Naval quarantine of Castro’s Cuba during the Missile Crisis in October-November of that year. 

Hyman is listed as a NASA recovery ship for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission in May 1963 that carried USAF Major Gordon Cooper in his Faith 7 capsule on 22 orbits– the longest American space flight at that time. Operating with COMDESDIV 122 embarked, she spent three days launching weather balloons in the area east of Cape Canaveral and reporting what she found. While the primary recovery ship was the carrier Kearsarge, on the other side of the globe off Midway, Hyman was ready off the Florida coast should the capsule have fallen short on launch.

Then came another Med cruise.

Destroyer USS Hyman (DD-732) photographed in Genoa, Italy, on May 14, 1964, during her 11th deployment with the Sixth Fleet. The ship was armed with six 5″/38s distributed in three double turrets, and six 3″ guns distributed in two double and two single turrets, in addition to depth charges and Mark 44 or Mark 37 torps. (Photo by Carlo Martinelli)

Same day, place, photographer as above. Note that she does not have the DASH drone pad over her stern as many of her sisters did at this time, and retains her third 5″/38 mount. 

In March 1965, with the fleet gaining whole squadrons of new post-WWII Mitscher, Forrest Sherman, Charles Adams, and Farragut-class destroyers, and Hyman not fully FRAM’d, our high-mileage warship was sent down to New Orleans to serve as an NRF training platform again. She was tied up there when Hurricane Betsy, the first Atlantic storm to produce over $1 billion in damages, hit Louisiana on 9/10 September as a Category 4 storm, with wind speeds reaching up to 175 mph.

Hyman’s deck log from the night of the storm recalls winds over 70 knots, a slow-speed collision with an unnamed adrift merchant ship, being hit by a floating crane, and other adventures. Nonetheless and despite her material damage, the destroyer and her scaled-down crew responded to the disaster-struck city and helped with the immediate recovery.

Via NARA

Then came a call to help find the barge MTC-602, which broke loose from its moorings up the river around Baton Rouge and sank. While not normally a task for a destroyer, MTC-602 had a cargo of some 600 tons of chlorine gas cylinders aboard, estimated to be capable of killing tens of thousands if the cylinders were damaged.

Working in tandem with the Coast Guard, Navy S-2 Trackers, and dive teams from both the Army Engineering Corps and the Navy Seabees in Gulfport, Hyman used her active sonar and fathometer to help find the submerged barge, probably the only time a destroyer purposely pinged the bottom of the Mississippi River.

Ultimately, MTC-602 was located and raised, her chlorine still safe, and a big Bravo Zulu went out to all involved.

From the House. Committee on Public Works. Special Subcommittee to Investigate Areas of Destruction of Hurricane Betsy report:

From the December 1965 All Hands:

Her hull inspected and patched up in nearby Orange, Texas, Hyman returned to her reservists in 1966, a task she was busy in for a couple more years, but the writing was on the wall.

Still, she was ready for anything right up to the last. On 16 March 1969, she put to sea off Venice at the mouth of the Mississippi to respond to a wide-scale search for the lost Liberian-flagged cargo ship SS Vainqueur which had sunk 134 miles southwest of South Pass in the Gulf of Mexico the night before as a result of a boiler room explosion. 

The 12,000-ton Vainqueur at Congress Wharf in New Orleans. She sank while carrying a cargo of premium Louisiana cane sugar

Hyman located and rescued 24 survivors. 

March 16, 1969 Hyman deck log re: SS Vainquer. Via NARA

Less than seven months after the Vainquier rescue, Hyman was decommissioned and stricken on 14 November 1969, Her stripped hulk was sold 13 October 1970 to the Southern Scrap Material Co., of New Orleans, for $66,989, which works out to roughly $30 per ton.

Epilogue

Her war history, a 70-page report of her time in hell off Okinawa, and most of her deck logs and diaries are digitized and online in the National Archives.

A pristine ensign that may have flown over one of the destroyer’s surrender ceremonies was sold at auction last year. 

The ship and her crew have several small memorial pages and groups.

The town of Newcastle, Indiana has a memorial in her honor as well as a detailed scale model on display in a park building. Erected in 2010, it has the names of her 12 shipmates killed off Okinawa in 1945, as well as six bluejackets lost at sea or in Korea.

USS Hyman DD732 Marker

There is some maritime art of Hyman in circulation.

Dean Ellis (1920 – 2009) “USS Hyman”

Faith 7, the spacecraft from the last Mercury mission, which Hyman helped recover in 1963 is on display at the Houston Space Center.

Kosrae and Ponape have been part of the U.S.-protected Federated States of Micronesia since the Reagan administration and have known peace since 1945. They are noted for a wealth of biodiversity and are home to several endemic species of birds and giant snails.

USS Hyman’s arrival in Kosrae 1945. Mt. Mutunte (358m) is in the background then and now

The only Sumner-class sister of Hyman preserved in the country as a museum ship, USS Laffey (DD-724), is located at Patriots Point in Charleston, South Carolina. Hyman’s veterans often meet there on reunions. Please pay Laffey a visit of your own if you find yourself in the Palmetto State.

Specs:

Displacement: 2610 tons standard displacement
Length: 376’6″
Beam 40’10”
Draft 14’2″
Machinery: 2-shaft G.E.C. geared turbines (60,000 shp), 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Maximum speed (designed) 36.5 knots, actual usually about 33.
Range: 3300 nautical miles (5300 km) at 20 knots on 504 tons fuel oil
Complement: 336
Sensors: SC air search radar, SG surface search radar, QGA sonar
Post modernization: Variable Depth Sonar (VDS), SQS-20, SPS-40
Armament:

(1944)
3 x 2 5″/38 dual-purpose guns (in 3 × 2 Mk 38 DP mounts)
2 x 4, 2×2 40mm Bofors AA guns
11 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
2 x 5 21″ torpedo tubes
6 depth charge throwers
2 depth charge tracks (56 depth charges)

(1956, post-modernization)
6 x 5 in/38 cal guns (in 3 × 2 Mk 38 DP mounts)
2 x 2, 2 x 1 3″/50 Marks 27, 33
2 x triple Mark 32 torpedo tubes for Mark 44 torpedoes
2 x single 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes for Mark 37 torpedoes

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Homeward Bound, 57 Years Ago

On 14 September 1964, the ex-USS Alabama (BB-60), arrived at the entrance of Mobile Bay in her namesake state after a 5,600 nm tow from mothballs at Puget Sound, where she had rested since her decommissioning in 1947. Just five months later she opened as a museum, the centerpiece of the Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, where she remains in excellent repair today.

Her departure from Bremerton left the Navy with just four battleships in storage, all Iowas, who would live on to fight another day.

Via All Hands, August 1964

Within a year, she was busy in her new life.

Via All Hands, December 1965

McHenry (or Derna) Flag at the Golden Gate

SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 11, 2021) Sailors aboard USS Tripoli (LHA 7) man the rails as the America-class amphibious assault ship prepares to pull into San Francisco for an annual Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) exercise, part of the upcoming San Francisco Fleet Week (SFFW). SFFW is an opportunity for the American public to meet their Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard teams and experience America’s sea services. During Fleet Week, set for Oct. 4-11, service members participate in various community service events, showcase capabilities and equipment to the community, and enjoy the hospitality of San Francisco and its surrounding areas. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julian Moorefield)

Easy to spot, against the fog-shrouded Bay, is Tripoli’s 15-starred flag, of the kind flown from 4 July 1795 to 4 July 1818, including the 1805 Battle of Derna where U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant Presley Neville O’Bannon led seven Marines (and 500 of what we would call today “regional private military contractors” under Navy LT William Eaton) to storm the “Shores of Tripoli.”

Of course, that “star-spangled banner” is flown at a number of War of 1812 locations, including Fort McHenry and Fort Morgan (nee Fort Bowyer).

A shot I took at Ft. Morgan a few years ago, where it flies to remember Fort Bowyer, an earlier earthwork on the same location that fought off the British in 1814 but fell in a more aggressive attack in 1815

Lurking Around the Bones of CV-67

Via COMNAVSURFLANT:

Sailors from pre-commissioning unit John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) tour decommissioned ship USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) currently moored at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Sailors from CVN 79 are documenting spaces and deployment artwork aboard to preserve the history and heritage of the JFK.

Art mural forward bulkhead in the CPO mess

Be sure to check out this 5-minute video from NHHC, which includes some more scenes of JFK today: 

Named after the 35th President, CVA-67 was built at Newport News and commissioned 7 September 1968– some 53 years ago this week. After four decades of service during the Cold War, Lebanon, Desert Storm, and the like, on 23 March 2007, John F. Kennedy was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 16 October 2009. She was one of the last conventionally-powered U.S. Navy supercarriers in service. 

While laid up at Philadelphia for the past decade, a number of planned museum endeavors have come and gone, so it is looking like she will soon be sent to Brownsville for scrapping. JFK was removed from possible donation status in late 2018 and is pending disposal.

With that, the largest preserved American flattop will be the 65,000-ton USS Midway (CV-41) in California as nuclear-powered carriers are unlikely to be so preserved due to their reactor construction. 

Meanwhile, PCU CVN 79 was christened in 2019– on Pearl Harbor Day– by President Kennedy’s daughter, and is currently fitting out, with expected commissioning in 2024. 

USS John F. Kennedy christened by the ship’s sponsor Caroline B. Kennedy Dec 7, 2019 (U.S. Navy Photo)

Back-to-Back Gulf War Champ: End of an Era

Beretta recently announced the end of an era as the final M9 pistol left the factory for bound for a U.S. military contract.

A variant of the Beretta Model 92, which was introduced in the 1970s, was adopted by the U.S. Army as the M9 in early 1984 to replace stocks of the M1911A1 that dated back to World War II. The initial five-year $56.4 million contract, to produce 315,930 units for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, ended up running more than three decades, greatly surpassing those numbers.

The famed Italian gunmaker built a plant in Accokeek, Maryland to produce the pistol, then moved production to a new facility in Tennessee in 2014.

The last U.S. martial Beretta M9, shipped last week.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Marines to get upto 904 new CRRCs, which is way more than they ‘should’ need

From DOD: 

Wing Inflatables Inc., Arcata, California, is awarded a $31,921,100 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the purchase of up to a maximum 904 Enhanced – Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft. Work will be performed in Arcata, California, and is expected to be complete by August 2026. Fiscal 2019 and 2022 procurement (Marine Corps) contract funds in the amount of $3,126,894 will be obligated on the first delivery order immediately following contract award and funds will expire the end of the fiscal 2022 and 2023, respectively. This contract was competitively procured via the System for Award Management website, with three proposals received. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Virginia, is the contracting activity (M67854-21-D-1801).

Wing’s five-chamber P4.7 series inflatable runs 15′ 5″-feet long, has a 6′ 5″-foot beam, offers 38.32ft² of usable deck space on a 12×3-foot deck. Empty weight is 180-pounds not counting the 274-pound rollup hard deck insert and can accommodate a 65hp outboard and 10 passengers/2,768-pounds of payload. The whole thing folds up into a 27″x29″x56″ package, or roughly the size of a curbside garbage can.

Each of the 7 Marine Expeditionary Units (a battalion landing team with a bunch of stuff bolted onto it and a harrier/helicopter airwing for support) has a bunch of different ways to get to the beach. These include of course the choppers, navy landing craft (LCU, LCAC, etc), and the Marines own amtrac swimming APCs. However, each one of these MAUs also has 18 of these little rubber zodiac-style boats, designated Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC, or “Crick”).

PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 30, 2013) Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) depart from the stern gate of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) in a combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC). Boxer is underway as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, comprised of Boxer, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Biller/Released)

A little larger than a sectional couch and powered by an outboard (or two) these can motor out from a task force still some 20 miles out at sea and approach an enemy-held beach, port, or vessel with very little footprint. They are hard to spot by eyeball, radar, or other means, especially in a light chop state. It’s a wet ride for the Marines aboard and anyone who has ever ridden one through the surf doesn’t look forward to doing it a second time– especially on a contested beach.

For landings, a company of the battalion landing team is designated the “Boat Company” and they spend a couple weeks figuring these boats out. This includes sending as many as 36 of its force before deployment through a four-week coxswains school where they learn basic sea-nav, and what not to do with these temperamental crafts. Meanwhile, other members of the Boat Coy head off to scout swimmer school where they learn the finer points of exiting a rubber raft on fins and doing lite frogman shit.

In the end, Cricks allow a 144-man company to be landed on a strip of beach or empty pier in three, six-boat waves. The former was done under OOTW conditions by Marines in Somalia in 1992.

Air transportable, Cricks can be slid out the rear ramp of MV-22s or parachuted from cargo planes such as the C-130 (and Navy C-2 CODs), can be launched from surface vessels such ranging from Amphibious assault ships (shown) or smaller craft like patrol boats, LCS and frigates. They can also be (and are) carried up from submerged submarines by divers for inflation on the surface.

The thing is, if you do the basic math on 7 MEU boat companies x 18 E-CRRCs, you get just 126 boats. Even if you double that amount to cover training and attrition, then add some for SEAL ops from submarines and for the use of Force Recon/Raider units, you still have like ~500 extra small boats.

That’s an interesting thing to ponder. 

I’d like to mention that a few months back, I theorized that the Marines might use Cricks to displace human assets from anti-ship missile batteries after they have fired their missiles from isolated atolls before the Chinese show up in force. Fire off their NSSMs, drop some WP grenades on their trucks, hop in the inflatables, and meet with a passing SSN or EPF just past the 15-fathom curve. May be easier to accomplish and have less of a footprint than an MV-22 pickup. 

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 1st, 2021: Fortunate Son, the Army Flat Top Edition

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, Sept. 1st, 2021: Fortunate Son, the Army Flat Top Edition

Photo by SP4 Ingimar DeRidder, 69th Sig Bn, via U.S. Army CMH files.

Here we see USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVN-1), a 14,000-ton floating aircraft maintenance depot, anchored in Cam Ranh Bay, 12 November 66. Note at least three Army UH-1 Hueys on her deck. The Veteran WWII-era Curtiss-class seaplane tender, disarmed and manned by civilian mariners, was the closest thing the Army had to an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.

The two Curtiss-class tenders, which include class leader USS Curtiss (AV-4) and her sistership USS Albemarle (AV-5) — the latter would become the above-shown Army flattop– were the first purpose-built seaplane tenders constructed for the Navy, with the previous vessels being repurposed minesweepers and destroyers. Ordered in 1938, they were laid down side-by-side at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey, and were commissioned in November and December 1940.

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) (Foreground) and sistership USS CURTISS (AV-4), fitting out at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. CURTISS departed Philadelphia on 2 January 1941 for shakedown, ALBEMARLE on 28 January. Both ships had been commissioned there in November/December 1940. USS TRIPPE (DD-403) and a sistership are at right; OLYMPIA (IX-40) is visible in the reserve basin at the top, along with an EAGLE boat. Note NEW JERSEY (BB-62) under construction in slipway at far left; two motor torpedo boats are visible just to the left of ALBEMARLE’s bow. NH 96539

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) passing south yard, Sun shipyard, Chester, PA., c 1941. NH 57783

The newly-commissioned USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) on her shakedown cruise, anchored at Havana Harbor, Cuba, on 22 February 1941, “dressed” for Washington’s birthday. Note Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes on the flight deck, aft. NH 96538

Some 527-feet long (keep in mind destroyers of the age were in the 300~ foot range), they had a very wide 69-foot beam and drew over three fathoms under their hull when fully loaded. Packed with four high-pressure boilers that pushed a pair of geared turbines, they could make a respectable 19.7 knots, which was faster than most auxiliaries of the era, and steam for 12,000 miles at 12 knots– enough to halfway around the globe. Equipped with CXAM-1 radars from the time they joined the fleet, at a time when many of the world’s best cruisers and battleships didn’t have such luxury gear, they were well-armed with four 5″/38 singles and an array of Bofors and Oerlikons.

One of Albemarle’s four 5″/38 DP mounts, note the 40mm Bofors tub in the distance. By the end of WWII, they would carry 20 40mm and 12 20mm guns for self-defense against enemy aircraft, more than most destroyers. Not bad for a “tender”

But of course, their main purpose was to support a couple squadrons of patrol bombers such as PBY Catalina or PBM Mariner flying boats, with a large seaplane deck over the stern and extensive maintenance shops in the superstructure forward.

A U.S. Navy Martin PBM-1 Mariner of Patrol Squadron 55 (VP-55) is hoisted on board the seaplane tender USS Albemarle (AV-5), in 1941. Note the Neutrality Patrol paint scheme on the aircraft and the sailors manning the handling lines. U.S. Navy National Naval Aviation Museum photo NNAM.1986.014.022

The third (and last) such U.S. Navy ship named Albemarle— after the sound in North Carolina, a traditional naming structure for seaplane tenders– she commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 December 1940, CDR Henry Maston Mullinnix in command.

Graduating first in the USNA Class of 1916, Mullinnix was a destroyerman until he switched to Naval Aviation in the 1920s. Leaving Albemarle in early 1941 to be the skipper of Patrol Wing Seven, he would go on to command the carrier Saratoga in the Pacific before making RADM. He was killed aboard USS Liscombe Bay (CVE-56) as Task Force Commander off Makin Island on 24 November 1943 when the escort carrier was sent to the bottom by Japanese submarine I-175.

With the Americans and British becoming increasingly cooperative despite U.S. neutrality, Albemarle was dispatched soon after her shakedown to patrol Greenland and the western Atlantic, arriving 18 May 1941 with the PBYs of patrol squadron VP-52 at Argentia, Newfoundland. It should be noted that, just two days later, the Royal Navy was bird-dogging the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen across the North Atlantic. Soon, VP-71, VP-72, and VP-73 would join the tender.

Little Placentia Harbor, Argentia, Newfoundland. USS Albemarle (AV-5), with an AVD alongside, in the harbor, circa 1941. Note PBY Catalinas in the foreground. NARA 80-G-7448

Greenland Expedition by USS Albemarle (AV 5) May-September 1941. East Coast of Greenland with PBY Catalina making observations, May 25, 1941. The PBYs performed long reconnaissance missions to provide data for convoy protection. Caption: Greenland – A Mysterious Land of Mountain and Ice. Majestic fjords indent the coast serrated by rocky buttes some of which are precipitous cliffs attaining elevations of two to three thousand feet. 80-CF-73186-6 Box 126.

Her crew earned the American Defense Service Medal for the ship’s peacetime actions in the Atlantic, 23 Jun 41 – 22 Jul 41, 15 Aug 41 – 1 Nov 41.

She was one of the unsung Brotherhood of the F.B.I. “The Forgotten Bastards of Iceland,” and survived a strong (hurricane-force) storm there in January 1942.

WAR!

After a refit on the East Coast, she would spend most of the rest of 1942 and the first half of 1943 running around much warmer climes, delivering aeronautical material and men to naval air bases in the Caribbean and the Pacific coast of South America, as well as in the northern South Atlantic.

OS2U Kingfishers aboard USS Albemarle AV-5, 14 May 1942

Her relatively fast speed enabled her to keep ahead of U-boats and she, ironically, would carry back captured German submariners from sunken boats– killed by patrol bombers– to POW camps in the U.S.

Crossing the Line Neptunus Rex Party onboard USS Albemarle (AV 5). September 28, 1942. NARA 80-G-22195, 80-G-221182, 80-G-22193

USS ALBEMARLE (AV-5) underway in the Atlantic, with a PBY Catalina on her seaplane deck, 30 December 1943. 80-G-450247

Her role as a high-speed aviation transport continued with convoys to North Africa in 1943, delivering 29 dive bombers on one such trip.

U.S. Navy seaplane tender USS Albemarle (AV-5) underway in the Atlantic Ocean on 10 August 1944. She is painted in Camouflage Measure 32, Design 5Ax. The photo was taken by a blimp of squadron ZP-11. 10 August 1944. Note her heavy armament for an aviation support ship. 80-G-244856

Same as above. Note the array of emergency brake-away rafts. She carried a 1,000+ man complement and often carried 200 or more transients. 80-G-453347

Post War Mushroom Collecting

In May 1945, just after VE-Day, she was detailed to begin carrying flying boat squadrons from the Atlantic Theatre to the U.S. for transfer to the Pacific Theatre, which was still active. Likewise, our broadly-traveled seaplane tender was planned to receive extra AAA mounts and gear in preparation for her own transfer Westward to take part in the final push to Tokyo. Her sistership, Curtiss, had a much more active war in the Pacific, being in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and going on to earn seven battlestars supporting island-hopping operations.

However, VJ-Day halted things and, when Albemarle finally arrived at Pearl Harbor in November 1945, it was to join the “Magic Carpet” fleet returning American veterans home from the Pacific. This would include carrying the entire 658th Tank Destroyer/Amphibian Tractor Battalion back from the Philippines, landing them at San Francisco on 13 January 1946.

She went on to support Operation Crossroads Atomic tests, moored in Kwajalein lagoon during the Able and Baker drops at Bikini Atoll, and otherwise taking part in staging for and follow up from those mushrooms from May to August.

After a brief East Coast stint, she was back in the Pacific with Joint Task Force Switchman, arriving at Eniwetok in March 1948 to serve as a floating lab ship for the triple nuclear tests during Operation Sandstone– “X-Ray” with an experimental 37 kt A-bomb made from a 2:1 mix of oralloy and plutonium. (15 April 1948), the 49 kt oralloy “Yoke” (1 May 1948) and 18 kt oralloy “Zebra” (15 May 1948) bombs.

Swapped back to the East Coast after the conclusion of the tests, she was attached to the New York Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, decommissioned on 14 August 1950 and berthed at Brooklyn where she rested for six years. Meanwhile, sistership Curtiss, who had operated helicopters in Korea, was decommissioned on 24 September 1957 and would only leave mothballs again in 1972 when she was scrapped.

Seamaster

Albemarle was recommissioned at Philadelphia on 21 October 1957 after a 20-month conversion to be able to operate the planned Martin P6M Seamaster jet-equipped flying boats. Intended to be a nuclear deterrent, the Seamaster program was one of the Navy’s top priorities.

Martin P6M Seamaster. Just 12 of these strategic bombers in the guise of high-speed mine-laying flying boats were made. They could carry a 70-kt B28 nuke to a combat radius of 700 miles.

However, as Seamaster never reached the fleet, Albemarle ended up spending the next three years quietly tending more traditional Martin P5M Marlin flying boats off and on while participating in operations with the Atlantic Fleet. As Seamaster was canceled– it turned out the Polaris FBM submarines were a better idea– she was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 21 October 1960 before being laid up with the James River Fleet. Transferred to MARAD, Albemarle was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 September 1962 and likely would have been scrapped.

However, her special services were soon needed by someone else.

Vietnam War – Project Flat Top – USNS Corpus Christi Bay

On 7 August 1964, MARAD transferred ex-Albemarle back to the Navy and six months later she was transferred to the Navy’s Military Sea Transportation Service (which became today’s MSC in 1970), entered on the NVR as USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1). She was sent to the Charleston Naval Shipyard for an $11 million conversion to become a maintenance depot at sea for Army helicopters in Vietnam.

The idea was that, instead of shipping damaged helicopters back to the U.S. for refit, Corpus Christi Bay could, with her 32 on-board repair and fabrication shops, blueprints for every model helicopter in service, and cargo of 20,000 spare parts, could rework them. Meanwhile, her sister Curtiss, which had been laid up since 1957 and had been stricken in 1963, was robbed of everything useful to keep Albemarle/Corpus Christi Bay in shape.

USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1) In port, probably at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, South Carolina, in 1966. Photographed by Captain Vitaly V. Uzoff, U.S. Army. This ship was originally USS Albemarle (AV-5). Official U.S. Army Photograph, from the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Military Sealift Command collection. Catalog #: NH 99782

Delivered for sea trials in December 1965, on 11 January 1966 she was placed into service.

Dubbed an Aircraft Repair Ship, Helicopter as part of “Project Flat-Top,” Corpus Christi Bay lost her seaplane ramp, had her superstructure reconstructed to include a 50×150 ft. landing pad to accommodate just about any of the Army’s choppers. Damaged helos could be dropped via sling loads from CH-47s or CH-5s or barged out to the ship and lifted aboard by a pair of 20-ton cranes. All her remaining WWII weapons were removed. She picked up extensive air conditioning, a cobbler shop, barbershop, modern dining facilities, a dental clinic and medical center staffed by Army flight surgeons, and other amenities that the Navy’s flying boat aviators of 1940 could have only dreamed of.

The MSTS crew would be just 130~ civilian mariners and 308 green-uniformed helicopter techs of the Army’s specially-formed 1st Transportation Corps Battalion (Seaborne), which she picked up at Corpus Christi, Texas on 22 January.

 

As a lesson learned from the sinking of the former Bogue-class escort carrier-turned transport USNS Card (T-AKV-40) in 1964 by Viet Cong sappers, the MSTS made assorted security changes to vessels operating for extended periods in Vietnamese ports. This included helmets and flak vests for topside personnel, sandbags around the bridge, grenade screens secured on portholes, extra medkits and firefighting equipment kept at the ready, bilge and ballast pumps warmed up, and towing wires ready for a tow without assist from the ship’s crew. In addition to this, her Army techs maintained an extensive small arms locker to include several machine guns to replace damaged ones on gunships.

She had two Hueys assigned to her full-time for liaison work, Flattop 086 (68-16086), and Flattop 045 (69-15045).

Corpus Christi Bay operated out of Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam as a Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility, or FAMF, arriving 2 April 1966, and would remain overseas until 19 December 1972, spending almost seven years overseas, rotating crews and Army maintainers out regularly.

USNS Corpus Christi Bay at dock during the Vietnam War era, TAMUCC collection

As a seaborne asset of the United States Army Material Command, she was designated a floating Helicopter Repair Depot. Ostensibly manned by civilian merchant mariners of the MSTS, she was still owned by the Navy but, for all intents and purposes, was an Army ship.

Army Veteran Peter Berlin remembers her fondly and in detail:

The Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility was designed for use in contingency operations, initially for backup direct support and general support and provided a limited depot capability for the repair of aircraft components. It was equipped to manufacture small machine parts and also to repair items requiring extensive test equipment operating in a sterile environment such as avionics, instruments, carburetors, fuel controls, and hydraulic pumps. The mobility offered by the ship also contributed to the effectiveness of aircraft support since it could move from one deep water port to another as the density of aircraft units shifted with changing tactical situations. The guys aboard this FAMF could fix anything..

Ultimately determined by MSC to be “in excess of current and future requirements”. Corpus Christi Bay was taken out of service in 1973 and berthed in ready reserve status at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Corpus Christi Bay served six tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam and earned four Meritorious Unit Commendations. Determined by MSC to be “in excess of current and future requirements,” she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 December 1974, just two weeks after she returned to Corpus Christi from overseas. On 17 July 1975, she was sold to Brownsville Steel and Salvage, Inc. for the princely sum of $387,777 and subsequently scrapped.

Epilogue

The Army is a good caretaker of the vessel’s relics, with a scale model, the ship’s bell, and other artifacts on honored display at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas, an important cradle of Army aviation maintenance. Former members of the ship’s crew meet at CCAD from time to time. 

The USS Albemarle bell, which stands at the entrance of the CCAD Headquarters along with other relics from her day as USNS Corpus Christi Bay.

The U.S. Army Transportation Museum this month unveiled a large scale model of Corpus Christi Bay, saluting her service.

A private Facebook group, the USNS Corpus Christi Bay Alliance, is out there for Vets to reconnect. 

Her Navy war history and logbooks are digitized in the National Archives while the Army has numerous films of her Vietnam “Project Flat-Top” days in the same repository. 

And, of course, you didn’t come all this way and not expect this:

Specs:

Jane’s 1946

Jane’s 1973

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Ever Seen the Magazine of a MK 110?

I thought this shot was interesting, as it shows something I personally have never seen before: the below-deck stowage of rounds aboard USS Charleston (LCS 18) for the ship’s No. 1 mount, its Bofors Mark 3/BAE Mk 110 57 mm gun. Capable of a whopping 220 rounds per minute until its 120 round automatic loader drum is empty, GMs would likely then have to refill said drum from this magazine.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Aug. 20, 2021) Mineman 2nd Class Hunter Auslander, left, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Mineman 1st Class Danielle Epperson stow 57mm rounds aboard the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18), Aug. 20, 2021. Charleston, part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, is on a rotational deployment, operating in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Butler) 210820-N-WU807-1040

With a range of 9.1 nautical miles, the MK 110 gun is installed aboard both classes of LCS and the Coast Guard’s large National Security Cutters, taking the place of the 75mm OTO Melera gun in the fleet. It is also set to be used on the Constellation-class frigates and the USCG’s offshore patrol cutters.

Personally, I’d like to see all of the above carry a MK 45/62 5-incher, firing beautiful 70-pound shells, but that’s just me and SECNAV never returns my phone calls. 

USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119) conducted the first live-fire of her Mk. 45 5in 62 Mod 4 gun, Feb 2020. (U.S. Navy photo)

One Fine Greyhound

Via the USS Kid Veterans Museum:

USS KIDD (DD-661) at rest in her cradle in downtown Baton Rouge, LA, USA, where she now serves as a museum — August 2021 (Photo copyright Hunter Svetanics; used by permission)

Note her five 5″/38 singles, 14 Bofors, 12 Oerlikons, five-pack of 21-inch torpedo tubes, stern depth charge racks, and 6 K-gun depth charge projectors– the same armament layout she had in August 1945. 

An early Fletcher-class destroyer named after RADM Isaac C. Kidd, who perished on the bridge of USS Arizona on December 7th, the “Pirate of the Pacific” earned 12 battlestars in WWII then continued her service in the Korean conflict and the Cold War. Her buccaneer moniker came from a giant figure of the famed privateer captain on her stack. Destroyer nose art, if you will. 
 

80-G-202517: “USS Kidd (DD-661), with an elaborate figure of the famous pirate captain painted on the smokestack, the destroyer keeps a fighting name sailing the high seas.”

After languishing on red lead row for almost two decades, she was one of three Fletcher-class tin cans set aside by the Navy– but the only one left largely in her WWII configuration (i.e., not FRAM’d)– and has been a museum in Baton Rouge since 1982. 
 

USS Kidd (DD-661) underway at the time she was recommissioned for Korean War service, circa March 1951. This image was received by the Naval Photographic Center in December 1959, but was taken much earlier. Note that the ship still carries World War II vintage radar antennas and is otherwise fitted as she was in mid-1945. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Photo #: NH 107198.

 
She is so well preserved that she served for the topside footage of the fictional USS Keeling in the recent Tom Hanks film, Greyhound, which is sadly trapped on AppleTV.
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