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SoDak back after 72 years and 2 days

South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889, simultaneously with North Dakota, and the first U.S. Navy warship named in honor of the state was Armored Cruiser No. 9, a Pennsylvania-class ACR of some 15,000-tons that commissioned in 1908.

That vessel was renamed USS Huron (CA-9) in 1920 so that “South Dakota” could be recycled to a new BB-49-class of six 47,000-ton 23-knot battlewagons, each armed with 16″/50 caliber Mark 2 guns.

Preliminary Design for the 1919 Program Battleships. May 3, 1918, A preliminary design plan for battleships to be built with the Fiscal Year 1919 funding. This plan represented the final development of the South Dakota (Battleship # 49) class preliminary design. Photo #: S-584-132

Well, the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921 caused their cancellation before any of these behemoths were launched, and they were all broken up in place, their guns passed on to the Army to use in coastal defense batteries.

The second SoDak that commissioned was, of course, the leader of a new class of four fast battleships laid down in 1939-40. Winner of a full 13 battlestars, BB-57 was known in the media as “Battleship X” across some of her more spectacular deployments during the war in the Pacific in the interest of OPSEC.

Decommissioned 31 January 1947, after less than five years with the fleet, she was laid up in Philadelphia for the next 15 years and was sold for scrap.

USS South Dakota (BB-57) crewmen haul down the National Ensign as the battleship is decommissioned, at the Philadelphia Naval Base, Pennsylvania, 31 January 1947. NHHC 73929

Now, the third SoDak, USS South Dakota (SSN-790), a brand new Virginia-class submarine built at EB’s Groton Shipyard, was commissioned Saturday, adding the name back to active service. Gratefully, some of BB-57s WWII crew were able to make it to the event.

GROTON, Conn. (Feb. 2, 2019) Richard Hackley, a veteran who served aboard the battleship USS South Dakota (BB 57), passes the long glass to Lt. Benjamin McFarland, the first officer of the deck to stand duty aboard the submarine South Dakota, during the boat’s commissioning ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London, Feb. 2, 2019. South Dakota is the U.S. Navy’s 17th Virginia-class attack submarine and the third ship named for the State of South Dakota. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tristan B. Lotz/Released)

“It is very impressive and I am very honored to be a part of this,” said Richard Hackley, a seaman 1 st Class (Radar Striker) aboard the battleship USS South Dakota during World War II. “I’ve got fond memories from serving on South Dakota and to be included in the new South Dakota is quite an honor for me.”

You get a carrier, you get a carrier…

The Navy just awarded some $15.2B to Newport News for work on the two Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, the 9th USS Enterprise (CVN-80) PCU, and the as-yet-to-be-named CVN-81. The ships are slated to replacing the 1970s vintage Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), respectively, when they commission in the 2030s. By then, hopefully they will get their cats and elevators worked out.

Of note, Enterprise will be Newport News’ third flattop with the same name, as they also constructed both CVA(N)-65 and CV-6 in the 1930s and 1960s, respectively.

From DOD:

Huntington Ingalls Industries – Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia, is awarded the detail design and construction (DD&C) efforts for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers Enterprise (CVN 80) and unnamed CVN 81 under the following contract actions: (1) A $14,917,738,145 fixed-price-incentive-firm target modification to previously awarded contract N00024-16-C-2116 for DD&C efforts for the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80) and unnamed CVN 81. The current contract for advance procurement funded efforts has been in place since 2016. (2) A $263,096,868 cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract N00024-16-C-2116 for associated research and development efforts. (3) A $31,097,671 cost-plus-fixed-fee modification for additional level-of-effort in support of maintenance of the CVN 78 class specification, design efforts, feasibility and tradeoff studies, and scoping and estimating. Work under this contract will be performed in Newport News, Virginia (62 percent); Sunnyvale, California (5 percent); Coatesville, Pennsylvania (3 percent); Wellsville, New York (1 percent); Cincinnati, Ohio (1 percent); Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1 percent); and various locations below one percent (27 percent), and is expected to be completed by February 2032. Fiscal 2018 and 2019 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funding; and fiscal 2019 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funding in the amount of $889,830,279 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured, in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation 6.302-1(a)(2)(iii) – only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.

Over a seaman’s grave, no flowers grow: USS Thresher to be remembered at Arlington

USS Thresher. Starboard bow view, July 24, 1961. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph)

More than a half-century after their loss, 129 brave submariners will be given a standing memorial at Arlington.

USS Thresher (SSN-593), commissioned in August 1961, was the lead ship of a new class of nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarines and was the most technically advanced ship in the world.

On April 10, 1963, she sank approximately 200 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. All souls aboard were lost that day; 129 U.S. Navy Sailors and civilian workers. Thresher was the first nuclear-powered submarine lost at sea, and the largest loss of life in the submarine force’s history.

As a result of this, the Navy immediately restricted all submarines in depth until the causes of this tragic loss could be fully understood, leading to SUBSAFE.

Loss of the Thresher by A. L. Karafylakis NH 86731-KN

Now, Veteran Navy submariner and president of the non-profit USS Thresher Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Foundation Kevin Galeaz formally announced Monday night that a proposed memorial had received approval of Secretary of the Army Mark Esper.

“This is a long time coming for the families, 55 years, and I have tears of joy that it is finally being realized,” said Galeaz.

More here.

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019: The ‘$2 million Fighting Monster’

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Jan. 30, 2019: The ‘$2 million Fighting Monster’

NH 108456 (2000×1043)

Here we see the S-class submarine USS S-49 (SS-160), one of the last class of “pig boats” commissioned with letters rather than names, in heavy seas during her brief time in the Navy. Somehow, after a short and unlucky naval career, S-49 was sold to a huckster who turned her into a (sometimes) floating tourist trap that wound up taking his case to the Supreme Court.

True story.

The S-class, or “Sugar” boats, were actually three different variants designed by Simon Lake Co, Electric Boat, and the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) in the last days of the Great War in which U.S.-made submarines had a poor record. Looking for a better showing in these new boats, of which 65 were planned, and 51 completed in several subgroups. These small 1,000~ ton diesel-electrics took to the sea in the 1920s and they made up the backbone of the U.S. submarine fleet before the larger “fleet” type boats of the 1930s came online.

The hero of our tale, USS S-49, was 231-feet oal, could dive to 200 feet and travel at a blistering 14.5-knots on the surface on her two 900hp diesel engines and two Westinghouse electric motors for 11-knots submerged. Armament was a quartet of 21-inch bow tubes with a dozen fish and a 4″/50 cal popgun on deck for those special moments. Crew? Just 42 officers and men.

Laid down on 22 October 1920 by the Lake Torpedo Boat Co., Bridgeport, Conn., she commissioned on 5 June 1922 and soon joined New London’s experimental unit, Submarine Division Zero, operating in that role in a series of tests and evaluations into 1926.

U.S. Submarine S-49, during launching NH 108460

This made her one of the most well-photographed of these early submarines.

USS S-49 (SS-160), 1922-1931. NH 108464

USS S-49 (SS-160) NH 108465, on the surface, note her 4″ gun

NH 108462 USS S-49 (SS-160), at periscope depth

NH 108463 USS S-49 (SS-160), with decks awash

NH 108455 USS S-49 (SS-160), looking like she could beat her 14.5-kn max speed

NH 1374 USS S-49 (SS-160). What is the bluejacket on her bow doing?

Then, in early 1926, all hell broke loose.


At about 0750 on Tuesday, 20 April, S-49’s engines were started. Seven minutes later, just as a pilot cell cover was removed to test the specific gravity of the electrolyte, the forward battery exploded. The hydrogen gas explosion destroyed the cells in the forward half of the battery and forced up the battery deck. Ten men were injured. Two others were gassed during rescue operations. Four of the twelve died of their injuries.

The battery compartment was sealed and kept shut until mid-afternoon when the outboard battery vent was opened. During the night, the submarine took on a slight list to port and air pressure was used to keep ballast. At about 0515 on the 21st, a second explosion occurred in the battery room when wash from vessels departing for torpedo practice rocked S-49. The compartment was resealed for another few hours, after which the work of clearing the wreckage was begun.

Repaired and operational again by early 1927, S-49 made a cruise to the Florida Keys that Spring for exercises and then, on return to New London, was sent with her twin sister S-50 to red lead row in Philly in March to be placed in mothballs. Decommissioned 2 August 1927, she was stricken in 1931 to help bring down the Navy’s tonnage after the London Naval Conference.

S-49 was subsequently sold to the Boston Iron and Metal Co., Baltimore, Md., on 25 May 1931– but she was not to be scrapped.

You see, a Florida man by the name of “Capt. F.J. Christensen” purchased the gently-used boat as a hulk for a cost of $25,000 (about $400K in today’s dollars) in 1936 and soon put her to work as a privately-owned tourist attraction in the Great Lakes and East Coast, shuffling her between Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Boston, and New York, among others.

For this purpose, she was disarmed, her engines disabled, most of her bunks pulled out (the class was notoriously cramped), registered as a “yacht” to comply with Canadian regulations on warships on the Lakes, and billed as “The $2,000,000 Fighting Monster.”

(Archives of the Supreme Court)

Admission to, “See how men live in a Hell Diver!” was 25-cents for adults, 15 for kiddies, with a souvenir book and other trinkets for sale on board for an added fee.

Privately owned sub S-49, open to the public at Point-o-Pines in Revere, near Boston, Aug 1931. Via Leslie Jones: The Cameraman

Ashore at Revere by Leslie Jones. Note that her torpedo door is open

U.S. Submarine S-49, at Great Lakes Exposition- Cleveland. NH 108461

From her souvenir keepsake book:

USS S-49 was only the second U.S. Navy submarine to be privately owned after naval service– with the first being former Warship Wednesday alum, the O-class diesel-electric submarine USS O-12 (SS-73), which was stricken on 29 July 1930 and leased for $1 per year (with a maximum of five years in options) to Simon Lake’s company for use as a private research submarine. Dubbed the Nautilus, O-12 was to explore the Arctic but instead only made it as far as Norway before the venture tanked and she was sunk in deep water on the Navy’s insistence.

As for Christensen, he flew under the radar and continued in his operation for almost four years until he crossed paths with NYPD Police Commissioner Lewis “Nightstick” Valentine who, appointed in 1934 by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, ran the agency for over a decade before heading to Post-War Tokyo to take over the Metropolitan Police Department there with MacArthur’s blessing. The fuzz brought the submarine owner’s “sandwich men” on charges in 1940 of distributing illegal handbills (the above advert) in a case that went all the way to the nation’s high court in 1942– with the Supremes backing Valentine.

With a war on and Christensen facing mounting legal bills, after all, you can’t fight city hall, he sold the immobile submarine back to the Navy who dubbed it floating equipment and intended to use it for experimental work at the Naval Mine Warfare Proving Ground, Solomons, Md.

However, she sank on the way in 132-feet of water while under tow off Port Patience in the Patuxent River.

She is an active, though advanced, dive site today.

As for her sisters, though obsolete, several S-boats remained on the Navy List and served the Navy well in both the Atlantic and Pacific (including several lost to accidents) during WWII. A half-dozen were even transferred to the Royal Navy as Lend-Lease including class leader and the former submersible aircraft carrier, USS S-1.

None of these hardy, if somewhat unlucky, craft endure though keeps their memory alive.


Displacement: 876 tons surfaced; 1,092 tons submerged
Length: 231 feet
Beam: 21 feet 9 inches
Draft: 13 feet 4 inches
Propulsion: 2 × MAN diesels, 900 hp each; 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 447 kW each; 120-cell Exide battery; two shafts.
Speed: 14.5 knots surfaced; 11 knots submerged
Bunkerage: 148 tons oil fuel
Range: 5,000 nautical miles at 10 knots surfaced
Test depth: 200 ft. (61 m)
Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes)
1 × 4 inch (102 mm)/50 caliber Mark 9 “wet mount” deck gun
Crew: 42 officers and men

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Vale, CPT Mariner

Rosemary Mariner in the 1990s when she was commanding officer of red-star-insignia’d ‘Flashbacks” of VAQ-34, the last Skywarrior and EA-7L electronic aggressor squadron in the Navy.  

Texas-born Rosemary Bryant Mariner (nee Conaster) grew up in San Diego fascinated with aviation, graduating from Purdue in 1972– at age 19– with a degree in Aviation Technology, picking up both flight engineer and pilot ratings before she signed on with the Navy the next year when she became one of the first eight women to enter Naval Aviation training at NAS Pensacola.

She went on to be being assigned to fly the rather pedestrian S-2 Tracker with the “Blue Tails” of VC-2 before she checked out on both the A-4C Skyhawk and A-7E Corsair, going on to become the first woman to fly a front-line tactical aircraft in U.S. service when she joined the fleet in 1975 and later contributed to studies on the ability of female pilots to withstand G-tolerances.

When placed in command of the “Flashbacks” of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34)– an EW squadron flying the classic ERA-3B Whale and the rarely-encountered EA-7L Corsair in 1990– she was the first American female military aviator (in any branch) to lead an operational air squadron, which she did in Desert Shield/Storm. In all, she racked up 24 years of service with over 3,500 hours in 15 different aircraft types.

After she retired she was a scholar in residence and lecturer at UT for over a decade.

She recently passed away at age 65, in the fifth year of her battle with ovarian cancer.

Update: To honor Mariner, the U.S. Navy will conduct the first ever all-female flyover this Saturday, Feb. 2 in Maynardville, TN

All of the aviators participating in the flyover are from squadrons based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana and will be flying F/A-18E/F “Super Hornets.”

The participants are:

Stacy Uttecht, Commanding Officer, Strike Fighter Squadron Thirty-Two (VFA-32)
Leslie Mintz, Executive Officer, VFA-213
Cmdr. Paige Bloc, VFA-32
Cmdr. Danielle Thiriot, VFA-106
Cmdr. Jennifer Hesling, NAS Oceana
Christy Talisse, VFA-211
Amanda Lee, VFA-81
Emily Rixey, Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic

Old warships die, but their pieces live on

With the recent decision by the Navy to dispose of the ex-USS Charles F. Adams (DDG-2) rather than donate it for preservation, the calls went out for other military museum ships to come get what they could carry for use in their on-going efforts. You see, when you visit a museum ship, you are bound to see, touch and tread upon relics from dozens of other historic vessels.

Case in point:

The USS New Jersey battleship museum in Camden “brought back two tripods for .50cal guns, electronics parts, and flooring for the CIC restoration, tools, and equipment to fill in empty racks on the ship, and a bore sight for the 5″ gun, among other odds and ends.”

Fall River, Mass’s USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr (DD 850) museum, a vessel that shares much with the Adams, made extensive use of the offering:

For use in JPKs restoration, we acquired another torpedo dolly for the ASROC/Torpedo magazine, the ASROC deck guides for the ASROC loader crane, thermometers, valve wheels, and misc engineering parts, casualty power cable, three DC Chart holders for our repair lockers, blackout curtains, key internal parts for our DRT table in CIC, SONAR and ASROC system test sets, dozens of information and safety placards, CPO locker handles, glass globes for the ASROC magazine, a cleaning gear locker, and much more.

To preserve the history of DDG-2, we acquired both her throttle wheels from her After Engine Room, both sides of her Engine Order Telegraph in the Pilot House, information placards from her 5”54 gun systems stamped DDG-2, and some navigation instruments all marked USS Charles F Adams. These items will be saved for use in our future renovated Admiral Burke National Destroyer Memorial and Museum.

In short, Adams will endure.

DDG-2 Charles F Adams, in the Atlantic, 16 November 1978. USN 1173510

Monsoor joins the fleet (if only she could shoot)

On the 75th anniversary of the January 1944 launch of USS Missouri (BB 63), the USN commissioned the second (of 3) Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers on Saturday. Named for Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, the second Navy SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor in the Global War on Terror, she carries a fine name and is a beautiful ship of some 16,000 tons and 610-feet in length– the same size as a the biggest pre-dreadnought-era battleship of the 1900s, since we are talking battleships.

Of note, she is larger than any American cruiser commissioned after USS Long Beach became active in 1961.

181207-N-LN093-1056 SAN DIEGO (Dec. 7, 2018) The guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) transits the San Diego Bay. The future USS Michael Monsoor is the second ship in the Zumwalt-class of guided-missile destroyers and will undergo a combat availability and test period. The ship is scheduled to be commissioned into the Navy Jan. 26, 2019, in Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jasen Moreno-Garcia/Released)

Sadly, her showcase big guns, a pair of stealthy BAE 155 mm/62 (6.1″) Mark 51 Advanced Gun System (AGS) mounts, which were supposed to be capable of firing 10 rounds per minute at ranges of up to 83 nautical miles, are inoperable because the Navy does not have any ammo for them– and isn’t planning on buying any in the foreseeable future. The R&D cost of their unique shells, which was supposed to be amortized across a planned 32-ships, skyrocketed when the program was whittled down to just a trio of hulls (6 mounts), leaving the rounds too expensive to buy, and the AGS cannot fire standard 155mm rounds, which ironically is one of the most common in the world.

At around $1M per round, the 155mm shells for the AGS were too expensive and the Navy only bought 90 of them for testing. Each Zumwalt is supposed to carry a warload of 920

This leaves these giant ships armed with 80 deep Mk 54 VLS cells that are capable of fielding the Tomahawk, Standard 2s, and the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile, which is less punch than any other DDG in U.S. service, although with half the complement (147 souls) when compared to a much cheaper Arleigh Burke-class destroyer due to extensive automation.

A third Zumwalt, USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), is set to deliver to 2020.

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