Category Archives: US Navy

Iconic Underway Shots

The Navy’s PAO network has really done a good job of putting out great images in the past week. Check these out, taken in three different parts of the world across just three days.

From the ancient waters of the Adriatic:

220606-N-AO868-1147 ADRIATIC SEA (June 6, 2022) Ensign Stephen Hess uses a telescopic alidade in the pilot house of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56), as it transits behind the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Adriatic Sea, June 6, 2022. Truman is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., Allied, and Partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Conner Foy/Released)

220606-N-AO868-1167 ADRIATIC SEA (June 6, 2022) The Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) transits the Adriatic Sea on June 6, 2022. Truman is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., Allied, and Partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Conner Foy/Released)

To the Atlantic

220605-N-YD731-1271 ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 5, 2022) Sailors assigned to the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) prepare to shoot line during a replenishment-at-sea with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman (T-AO 195), June 5, 2022. The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is underway completing a certification exercise to increase the U.S. and allied interoperability and warfighting capability before a future deployment. The George H.W. Bush CSG is an integrated combat weapons system that delivers superior combat capability to deter, and if necessary, defeat America’s adversaries in support of national security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Novalee Manzella)

USS Leyte Gulf CG-55 conducts a replenishment-at-sea with USNS Leroy Grumman (TAO-195), on June 5, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Novalee Manzella)

USS Leyte Gulf CG-55 conducts a replenishment-at-sea with USNS Leroy Grumman (TAO-195), on June 5 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Novalee Manzella)

And to the Pacific

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 7, 2022) An F/A-18F assigned to the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22 makes an arrested gear landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Nimitz is underway in the U.S. 3rd fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorenzo Fekieta-Martinez)

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 7, 2022) An aircraft makes an arrested gear landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Nimitz is underway in the U.S. 3rd fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorenzo Fekieta-Martinez)

Between stuff like this, and Maverick, the recruiters just have to sit back and show where to sign.

Of course, a lot of the platforms shown are high-mileage, with Nimitz– the oldest operational aircraft carrier in the world– laid down in 1968 and is planned to be removed from the battle force in fiscal year (FY) 2025, when the ship’s Terminal Off-load Program begins. Meanwhile, Leyte Gulf, the Navy’s 9th Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser and one of its most veteran of the type still in service, had her first steel cut at Pascagoula in 1985 and has a planned decommissioning in 2024 alongside sister San Jacinto, from whom’s bridge the top two images were captured. The oiler Grumman was laid down in 1987 while Nimitz’s sister Truman was ordered the year after. In short, most of the rank and file working on these ships are younger than the compartments they work, eat, and sleep in.

To them, they are serving in the “Old Navy” of which they will one day regale these new recruits.

Intrepid Corsair Deal

Via Platinum Fighters, if you have the scratch, they have a model 1944 Chance Vought F4U-1D Corsair up for a cool $4~ milly.

A historical aircraft, BuNo. 82640, this Corsair is the only flying F4U-1D anywhere in the world of an impressive 1,685 constructed and the only other complete Vought-built F4U-1D is in the Smithsonian.

During WWII it served with the “Grim Reapers” of VF-10 aboard the Essex-class carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11) between January and April 1945, marked as White 26, a scheme she currently carries. Intrepid during that period and took part in strikes against Ryukyu Islands, Kyūshū, Okinawa, and Wake Island.

White 29, an F4U-1D Corsair of Fighting Squadron (VF) 10 of the carrier Intrepid (CV 11) flies an anti-kamikaze patrol near Okinawa, April 1945. Note the grim reaper on the cowling and white tail flash. NNAM photo

With the VF-10 banner draped as a backdrop, the “Grim Reapers” pose at the end of their first war cruise, October 1942–February 1943, aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6). Note 43 “kill” markings on the banner.

The aircraft just completed a 12-year restoration and made its post-restoration first flight in February. To quote Test Pilot Stephen Death, “I could not fault it”

Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean…

Last month, off the coast of Washington (still within sight of shore), a ballistic missile submarine swapped out its crew at sea, highlighting the option to do so in remote areas if needed to keep the maximum number of boomers (or even SSNs for that matter) underway and on patrol.

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 24, 2022) A support vessel transfers crew and equipment to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Alabama (SSBN 731) during an at-sea exchange of crew, held recently off the coast of Washington. Alabama is one of eight ballistic-missile submarines stationed at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, providing the most survivable leg of the strategic deterrence triad for the United States. (U.S. Navy photo)

“This provides an opportunity to keep the nuclear deterrent at sea survivable by exchanging the crews and replenishing the ship’s supplies in any port or location across the world,” said Capt. Kelly Laing, director of maritime operations at Commander, Task Group 114.3. “Our SSBNs are no longer tied to their homeport of record or another naval port to keep them at sea, ensuring that we are always executing the deterrent mission for the U.S. and our allies.”

The Indispensable Kate

80 Years Ago Today: Japanese Type 97 Shipboard Attack Aircraft (Nakajima B5N “Kate” torpedo bomber) wrecked on Indispensable Reef in the Soloman Islands, at the time it was inspected by a Patrol Squadron 71 (VP-71) PBY Catalina crew, on 9 June 1942.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-7661

The plane is from the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku and bears the tail marking EI-306. It went down during a Battle of the Coral Sea search mission a month earlier and has its cockpit area burned out. Possibly, the wreckage was recovered by the seaplane tender USS Tangier (AV-8). Regardless, it added to the ONI’s knowledge base of such aircraft.

As noted by Pacific Wrecks, the crew EI-306 and its wingman, EI-302, survived ditching and were rescued by a Japanese destroyer Ariake.

Warship Wednesday, June 8, 2022: The Ship Behind the Ships Behind the Torpedoes

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, June 8, 2022: The Ship Behind the Ships Behind the Torpedoes

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-10120

Above we see the lead ship of her class, the submarine tender USS Fulton (AS-11), arrive at Pearl Harbor with her decks crowded with USS Yorktown (CV-5) survivors on board, 8 June 1942– 80 years ago today– following the Battle of Midway. While she didn’t get any licks in at Midway, Fulton’s important contribution to the war in the Pacific was huge and overlooked by the history books. For some 1,900 men of Yorktown, she was incredibly important on this day, and these rescued carriermen would soon be put back to work.

Fulton was of course named for famed American engineer and inventor Robert Fulton who developed the world’s first commercially successful steamboat. However, he also designed an interesting sail-powered submersible (“Nautilus”) and thought up “anchored torpedoes” similar to a floating mine.

Fulton’s Nautilus

In 1801, Mr. Fulton sank a small, unmanned ship using such a mine with an explosive charge of 20 pounds of gunpowder at Brest, France, then ten years later conducted a high-profile exhibition attack against the brig USS Argus in the East River via a rowboat and a spar torpedo.

Our vessel is at least the fourth– and somehow last– such ship on the Navy List following in the wake of a sidewheeler that saw much use in the 1840s and 50s, the Navy’s first submarine tender, and a patrol tug, the last of which was decommissioned and scrapped in 1934.

USS Fulton montage of two pen and ink drawings, with associated text, by Samuel War Stanton. The artworks depict the ship as first completed, circa 1837, with three masts and four smokestacks. Collections of the Navy Department, 1967. NH 65483

The Navy’s first officially-designated submarine tender, the USS Fulton (AS-1). Built at Fore River, she was ordered in 1911 and spent two decades in her intended role then, too small to service the Navy’s more modern subs, was reclassified as a survey ship/gunboat in 1930, serving for another few years until she was gutted by a fire in 1934 off Hong Kong.

USS Fulton AS-1 NH 1222

When it comes to submarine tenders, besides a motley list of ~30 old minesweepers, monitors, and cruisers who spent their final days in such auxiliary service in the 1900s-1920s, the Navy’s early AS pennants included a few increasingly larger purpose-built ships– the 3,500-ton Bushnell (AS-2) in 1915, the 8,000-ton Holland (AS-3) in 1926, the repurposed old gunboat Alert AS-4, and converted merchant cargo steamers and passenger liners such as Beaver (AS-5), Camden (AS-6)– ex SS Kiel, Rainbow (AS-7)– ex SS Norse King, Savannah (AS-8)ex SS Saxonia, Canopus (AS-9)– ex SS Santa Leonora, and Argonne (AS-10).

With the Navy building increasingly larger squadrons of increasingly larger “fleet boats” for long-range service in the Western Pacific, the need for a new and modern class of submarine tenders was realized, one that could be used to both succor those divisions of American subs and replace older, more limited tenders such as Alert (sold 1922), Bushnell (reclassified as a survey ship in 1940), Camden (converted to a barracks ship after 1931), Rainbow (sold 1928), Savannah (sold 1934), and Argonne (converted to an auxiliary repair ship 1940). In fact, of the pre-WWII tenders, only the “aging but able” Beaver, Canopus, and Holland were still in the submarine game when the U.S. entered the war.

The U.S. Navy submarine tender USS Holland (AS-3) doing what tenders do, with seven nursing submarines of Submarine Squadron 6 and Submarine Division 12 alongside, in San Diego harbor, California (USA), on 24 December 1934. The submarines are (from left to right): USS Cachalot (SS-170), USS Dolphin (SS-169), USS Barracuda (SS-163), and USS Bass (SS-164), USS Bonita (SS-165), USS Nautilus (SS-168) and USS Narwhal (SS-167). Despite her small size and limited abilities, Holland proved her worth over and over in WWII, escaping from the Philippines in 1942 and setting up shop in Australia, surviving the conflict, and completing 55 submarine refits during the war. 80-G-63334

Some 9,250 tons (18,000 full load), the Fulton and her class of six sisters (Sperry, Bushnell, Howard W. Gilmore, Nereus, Orion, and Proteus, numbered AS 12, 15-19) were all built in the Bay Area, with the first five by Mare Island Naval Shipyard and the last pair by Oakland’s Moore Dry Dock Company with four hulls laid down before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fulton was ordered in FY38 while the others were ordered in 1940. With a length of 530 feet and a reliable diesel-electric engineering suite (four General Motor 16-248 diesel generators supplying power to an electric motor via a Fairbanks Morse Main Reduction Gear), they could sustain 15.4 knots (Fulton hit 18.7 knots on trials!). Using 130 frames, she was made tough, with special protection over her magazines to withstand hits without going sky high.

With an endurance of up to 40,000 miles if she used all her stores and could defend themselves against surface and air threats via a battery of four 5″/38 cal DP guns controlled by a Mark 37 (later Mark 51) director. Ammunition trunks were located on the hold level under the position of the 5″/38s and hoists lifted the powder and shells upward to the gunners. This was later augmented by two twin 40mm AA gun mounts and a dozen 20mm Oerlikon AA gun mounts– essentially the gun armament carried by a destroyer.

She was seen at the forefront of the late 1930s U.S. Navy submarine force, as seen below in this period illustration by I.R. Lloyd of Fulton steaming alongside the Tambor-class submarines USS Gudgeon (SS-211) and USS Tuna (SS-203) under a protective cloud of flying boats.

However, it was her stores– including 26,600 bbls of usable diesel– and shops allowing her to mother up to a dozen submarines at a time, which made Fulton and her sisters so special. This included a total design accommodation for 64 officers, 22 warrant officers, 70 CPOs, and 1,144 enlisted, allowing for not only the tender’s crew but for the flag complement of a submarine squadron and two full relief crew divisions for her submarines.

Via the 1990s HAER report on sistership USS Sperry (AS-12) of the class:

Most of the ship was devoted to the manufacture, refurbishment, and storage of submarine equipment. The hold contained several spaces devoted to the storage of torpedoes and other equipment. Void spaces filled with ballast water and fuel oil in the hull protected the equipment from mines or torpedoes. The third deck included a number of repair shops and storage areas for electrical equipment, metals, and torpedoes. The second deck had a large machine shop for fabricating machine parts, a metals department, and a welding area. The machine shop office and main tool issue room were in the forward section of the ship on the same level. A large portion of the main deck was allocated for pipe fabrication (metal and rubber), as well as a foundry for the blacksmiths and a small welding room. A number of compartments dedicated to the repair of electrical equipment, mechanical instruments, and optics were located on the main deck amidships. The upper deck had spaces for carpentry and accompanying equipment. Just aft of the carpenter and pattern shop was a small gyrocompass repair shop. A calibration lab, communication and sonar repair area, and radar shop were at the stern. Finally, at the aft end of the superstructure, there was a technical repair library and printing shop, as well as a machine shop and fluid repair facility for governors, valves, and hydraulics. Above the superstructure
was a small cryptographic repair shop.

There were two messes, a bakery, a butcher shop, and a vegetable prep pantry. There were six diesel generators in the machine rooms supplying power to both the ship and any submarines moored alongside.

To supply the physical needs of the crew, there was sufficient space for showers, heads, and washrooms around the ship and near the living quarters. A dentist and medical doctor were permanently stationed onboard with offices and amidships on the upper deck. A barbershop was on the port side, forward of the crew’s berthing on the second deck. Laundry facilities were on the same deck at the stern. There was a ship’s service store where the crew could purchase personal items. A post office, chaplain’s office, library, and a career counselor to advise the crew on future positions were also onboard.

From Fulton’s War History:

As described by Tendertale of the class:

Submarine tenders enabled the Navy to move into a conquered island and in a matter of a day or so have a submarine base in full commission, able to service and repair any of our submarines regardless of their type or special equipment. At our island bases in World War II, submarine tenders worked indefatigably to keep the submarine at sea and on the firing line.

Sponsored by Mrs. A. T. Sutcliffe, great-granddaughter of Robert Fulton, she was christened on 27 December 1940 and commissioned USS Fulton (AS-11), on 12 September 1941, just three months shy of Japanese carrier planes rounding Diamondhead. Her first of 34 skippers were CDR Alexander Dean “Doug” Douglas (USNA 1917), the swaggering career submariner from Oklahoma who had brought the disabled USS R-14 110 miles back to Pearl Harbor on improvised sails made from hammocks and blankets in 1921.

War!

Underway on her shakedown cruise out of San Diego when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Fulton (AS-11) was ordered at once to Panama and then spent the next month working as an ersatz seaplane tender, establishing advanced bases for PBYs in Nicaragua’s Gulf of Fonseca and the Galapagos Islands.

She arrived at Pearl Harbor, ready to get into the sub-tending biz, on 15 March 1942, at a time when the harbor’s waters were still black with leaking bunker oil from the hulks on Battleship Row. Mooring at Pier S-1, she clocked in for SubRon Eight. Her first sub, the brand new Gato-class fleet boat USS Drum (SS-228), moored alongside later that afternoon.

Midway

At 0545 on 5 June 1942, Fulton received verbal instructions from ComSubPac to prepare to get underway as soon as possible under direct orders handed down from Nimitz himself. Amazingly, less than two hours later, picking up the elderly four-piper destroyers USS Breese (DD-122) and USS Allen (DD-66) as escorts, she stood out of Pearl Harbor at 0734 then proceeded northwestward at 17 knots, zig-zagging to avoid Japanese submarines. Her destination was to meet ASAP with “undesignated vessels of Task Force 16 and 17 to “transfer excess personnel.”

Said “excess personnel” hailed from the damaged carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5), which had been mauled in an air attack on the afternoon of 4 June by a strike from the Japanese carrier Hiryu that left the flattop with two torpedoes and three bomb hits, dead in the water and with a severe list.

Men abandoning Yorktown CV-5 while ships swarm to assist NARA 80-G-021694

As Fulton and her escorts made the best speed for the Yorktown and her escorts, the Japanese submarine I-168 came across the scene on the afternoon of 6 June and fired four torpedoes, hitting both the destroyer Hammann and Yorktown, sinking the destroyer in minutes, and forcing the withdrawal of Yorktown’s salvage party, though she would continue to float through the night.

It was during the next day, at 1300 on 7 June, just hours after Yorktown dived for the ocean floor, that Fulton came alongside the cruiser USS Portland (CA-33) and destroyer USS Russell (DD-414), which between them were carrying the bulk of the carrier’s crew. Slowing to eight knots and rigging five trolleys and whips, they began to send over survivors via coal bags, but the transfer was stopped after a few hours after a suspected submarine contact was made by one of the destroyers.

USS Portland (CA-33), at right, prepares transfers USS Yorktown survivors to USS Fulton (AS-11) on 7 June 1942, following the battle of Midway. Fulton transported the men to Pearl Harbor. 80-G-312028.

Battle of Midway, June 1942: USS Yorktown survivors are checked in on board USS Fulton (AS-11), after being transferred from USS Portland (CA-33) for transportation to Pearl Harbor, on 7 June 1942. Note life jackets, which are oil-stained. 80-G-312030

Dropping lines, the transfer was finished under cover of darkness via whaleboat.

By 2245, Fulton was headed back to Pearl with 101 officers, and 1790 enlisted from Yorktown, including 59 stretcher cases.

From her War Diary for July 1942:

She would arrive back at Pearl early the next afternoon and was greeted by Nimitz, who, ironically, was the division commander for a younger LT. Alexander Dean Douglas when he had sailed R-14 into the same harbor some 21 years prior.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (2nd from left) on the dock at Pearl Harbor, 8 June 1942, watching USS Fulton (AS-11) arrive. She was carrying survivors of the USS Yorktown (CV-5), sunk in the Battle of Midway. Rear Admiral William L. Calhoun is in the right-center, wearing sunglasses. Rear Admiral Lloyd J. Wiltse, of Nimitz’s staff, is in the center background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

USS Fulton (AS-11) docks at Pearl Harbor on 8 June 1942 with USS Yorktown (CV-5) survivors on board, after the Battle of Midway. Among the tugs assisting Fulton are Hoga (YT-146) and Nokomis (YT-142). 80-G-312058

With her decks cleared by dark, Fulton welcomed the submarine USS Growler (SS-215) alongside for refit and manned her AAA batteries, shells at the ready, as part of the base defense plan. Back to business as usual.

The rest of Fulton’s War

With the frontlines moving ever toward Tokyo, Fulton was ordered first to Midway, then to Brisbane in Australia where she established a submarine base and rest camp. As noted by DANFs, “and in addition to refitting submarines between their war patrols, acted as tender to other types of ships. Milne Bay, New Guinea, was her station from 29 October 1943 until 17 March 1944, when she sailed for a west coast overhaul.”

USS Growler (SS-215) halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication United States Submarine Operations in World War II, page 207. The photo was taken while Growler was alongside USS Fulton (AS-11) at Brisbane, Australia in February 1943, after ramming a Japanese Patrol Vessel in the Bismarck Islands area on 7 February 1943. Note her badly bent bow. Growler’s Commanding Officer, Commander Howard W. Gilmore, USN, lost his life in this action. NH 74515

Warshot torpedoes being readied for the boats on submarine tender, USS Fulton AS-11, in 1943

1940s comedian Joe E Brown entertaining Sailors at New Farm Wharf in Brisbane during WWII, USS Fulton in the background

USS Fulton (AS-11) underway off Mare Island Navy Yard, California on 3 June 1944. The ship is painted in Camouflage Measure 32, Design 4Ax. NH 107760

Returning to the war in June 1944, Fulton tended boats at Pearl (again), then Midway (again) before being assigned to Saipan, and eventually to recently-liberated Guam in June 1945, where she was when the Japanese threw in the towel. She celebrated VJ-Day at sea, headed back to Pearl, and arrived in Seattle on 22 September.

Between May 1942 and August 1945, from no point further East than Pearl and typically much closer to the lines than that, Fulton completed an eye-popping 110 submarine overhauls (twice as many as Holland) and 222 submarine voyage repairs “some of the latter, while not actually classified as refits were in the nature of refits due to the magnitude of work done.” In short, at least 300 war patrols were made possible by the floating torpedo warehouse, workshop, and hotel known as “Building 11,” a vessel that returned a submarine to service on average roughly every third day of the war.

With such a feat, if you find the nature of the American submarine force’s war in the Pacific amazing, you must give a slow hand salute to the men of Fulton.

Fulton received just one battle star for World War II service.

Post-War miles to go

Fulton was assigned to TG 1.8 for the Operation Crossroads atomic weapons tests in the Marshalls in 1946, acting as a repair vessel for the task force and supporting the half-dozen subs taking part.

With that behind her, she was laid up at Mare Island on 3 April 1947.

Fulton class tenders Janes’s 1946

With the Cold War getting colder during Korea, Fulton was taken out of mothballs in 1951 and, just three weeks later, would be tending boats at New London, her home for the rest of her career, a period that would see her sortie out and welcome the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), from her historic submerged passage under the North Pole in August 1957.

After upgrades were completed as part of the second Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization Program (FRAM II) in 1959-60, Fulton’s primary duties shifted from repairing and replenishing diesel-powered submarines to performing similar tasks on nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) and attack submarines (SSN). Importantly, she would host the world’s first all-SSN squadron, SubRon 10, serving as flagship.

She, along with her sisters, would continue to serve in such roles throughout the Cold War.

The entry for the Fulton class in the 1973 edition of Janes.

A starboard bow view of the submarine tender USS FULTON (AS 11) moored to the State Pier. A Sturgeon class nuclear-powered attack submarine is tied up alongside the Fulton, 5/30/1987. NARA DN-ST-87-07702

A starboard quarter view of the submarine tender USS FULTON (AS-11) underway, 3/12/1988. Note, that she has lost her armament but still has a WWII gun tub on her bow. NARA DN-SN-90-01473.

A starboard bow view of the submarine tender USS FULTON (AS 11) moored to the State Pier. A Sturgeon class nuclear-powered attack submarine is tied up alongside the Fulton, 5/30/1987. NARA DN-ST-87-07702

On 30 September 1991, SubRon 10 was disbanded at New London and Fulton was decommissioned at her berth. The Queen of the Submarine Force, the only vessel older than her on the NVR that day (other than the USS Constitution) was the repair ship USS Vulcan, which had actually been laid down after her.

Fulton was the last ship afloat associated with the Battle of Midway, outliving the New Orleans-class submarine USS Minneapolis (CA-36) which was scrapped in 1960, and the Gato-class fleet boat USS Grouper (SS/SSK/AGSS-214) which was sent to the breakers in 1970.

Besides her sole WWII battle star, Fulton earned two Meritorious Unit Commendations and two Navy “E”s across her 50-years of service.

Epilogue

The decommissioned U.S. Navy submarine tender USS Fulton (AS-11) in storage in the mothball fleet near Portsmouth, Virginia (USA). The Fulton was decommissioned on 30 September 1991. USN Photo taken 8 October 1994 DN-SC-95-01398 by Don S. Montgomery USN (Ret.)

The Fultons were all long-serving ships, with two, Orion and Proteus continuing to serve until 1992 and 1993, respectively. The latter would remain as a barracks barge (IX-518) sans her stacks, cranes, and other topside fittings into 1999 and was only scrapped in 2007.

Fulton herself lingered in storage on the James River for a few years, finally being sold for scrapping in Brownsville, Texas, on 17 November 1995. Her scrapping was completed on 21 December 1996.

Of note, the first boat she tied lines to, USS Drum— the first Gato-class submarine to enter combat in World War II– has been preserved as a museum ship at Mobile since 1969, ironically at a time when Fulton still had another quarter-century of service ahead of her.

As for Fulton’s first skipper, the man who was on the bridge during Midway, “Doug” Douglas left his tender in October 1942 to serve as a commodore of a Torch Landing convoy and retired as a full captain in 1947, marking 30 years of service. Passing in 1989 at age 94, he donated his remains to medical research and has a headstone at Arlington.

There remains a USS Fulton Association that treasures their former home.


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Welcome USS Columbia, err, PCU District of Columbia I mean

General Dynamics Electric Boat conducted a keel-laying ceremony for the first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, USS Columbia (SSBN 826) at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, over the weekend.

Rather than being the 10th USS Columbia as previously announced by SECNAV Ray Mabus in 2016– a tradition that goes back to a 44-gun frigate in 1813 and included two cruisers and an ironclad– current SECNAV Carlos Del Toro issued a statement two days after the fact that the new boomer would be the first-named “District of Columbia” so as not to confuse it with the current USS Columbia (SSN 771), an 688i/Los Angeles-class attack submarine commissioned in 1994– named for the cities of Columbia, South Carolina; Columbia, Missouri; and Columbia, Illinois in conjunction with the naming convention used by the 62 boats of her class.

Of course, PCU District of Columbia won’t likely reach the fleet until at least 2027 (if not 2031) at which point SSN-771 will be between 33 and 37 years old and likely spinning down for decommissioning, but hey…

My suggestion: Do what they did with the old Span-Am War-era protected cruiser USS Columbia (C-12/CA-16) which was renamed USS Old Columbia in 1921 to free up the original name for use by the troop transport USS Columbia (AG-9). SSN-771 would likely just wear it for a year or two, probably not even to include a patrol, while preserving the lineage associated with the name. 

U.S. Navy “Second Class Cruisers – 1899” Monitor, USS Amphitrite; USS Atlanta; USS Columbia; USS Charleston, USS Minneapolis. Published by Werner Company, Akron, Ohio. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

But anyway, the direct USS District of Columbia moniker will salute the Washington D.C.-based Navy installations currently under Naval Support Activity Washington as well as old bases over the years including Naval Air Station/Naval Support Facility Anacostia, the Naval Gun Factory, Washington Navy Yard Marine Barracks (“8th & I”), and the historic United States Naval Observatory campus (established by order of John Quincy Adams), which is a good thing. 

If only the Navy would have somehow, someway, seen this coming. It’s like our naming conventions are done with the magic 8-ball or ouija board over the past few years or something. Of course, you could always look at it as another step in the plan to turn DC into the 51st state, but, hey…

Fly Navy

When I was an 11-year-old growing up in Pascagoula, with T-2 Buckeyes and T-28 Trojans a common sight overhead whenever we went to the beach in Gulf Shores and the “Grey Ghost” that was USS Lexington (AVT-16) regularly docked just over the Florabama line at P-Cola, Naval Aviation was never far from my mind.

Then I saw Top Gun, and I 100 percent knew that I had to become a Tomcat driver.

Caption: Hollywood moved right off the backlot and onto the Flightline at NAS Miramar to do the filming for the movie “Top Gun.” NHHC #: L36-03.10.02. Original Creator: PH2 Michael D. P. Flynn FLTAVCOMPAC, San Diego, 1985

Well, fast forward to my late teens, and, despite a few hours logged in a Cessna 172 and all the ribbons I earned in NJROTC– some of which were achieved at Pensacola NAS– my local recruiter told me of this thing called unwaiverable excessive refractive error, meaning I would never fly anything with the Navy except as a passenger.

Whomp whomp.

Still, you have to admit, there has probably never been a better recruiting tool for Naval Aviators, even considering its gaffes, than Top Gun.

And the Navy realizes that with the excellent sequel as well, hitting by coincidence during the Centennial of the Navy’s Carrier-borne operations.

Remember Today

It isn’t about the 1,000 sales emails you get this weekend.

“So Many Graves” Arlington National Cemetery, 1995, by Army Artist Sieger Hartgers

 
 
When tomorrow starts without me
And I’m not here to see
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me
 
I wish you wouldn’t cry
The Way you did today
While thinking of the many things
We did not get to say
 
I know how much you love me
As much as I love you
Each time that you think of me
I know you will miss me too
 
When tomorrow starts with out me
Please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand
 
The angel said my place was ready
In heaven far above
And That I would have to leave behind
All those I Dearly Love
 
But When I walked through Heaven’s Gates
I felt so much at home
When GOD looked down and smiled at me
From his golden throne
 
He said This Is Eternity
And All I promised you
Today for life on earth is done
But Here it starts a new
 
I promise no tomorrow
For today will always last
And Since each day’s the exact same way
There is no longing for the past
 
So When Tomorrow starts without me
Do not think we’re apart
For every time you think of me
Remember I’m right here in your heart
 
Author: David M Romano
 
 

Just DesRon 20 Showing Off

A stack of brand-new Farragut-class destroyers of Destroyer Squadron Twenty (DesRon20) executing a turn on a bright summer day. Leading the column is USS Farragut (DD-348), followed by USS Dewey (DD-349), USS Hull (DD-350), USS MacDonough (DD-351), USS Worden (DD-352), and USS Aylwin (DD-355) during an exhibition for Movietone News, off San Diego on 14 September 1936.

Courtesy of Commander Robert L. Ghormley Jr., Washington DC, 1969. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 67297

DesRon20 Steam through a smokescreen laid by planes of Patrol Squadrons Seven, Nine and Eleven, during an exhibition staged for Movietone News off San Diego, California, 14 September 1936. The ships are, from bottom to top: Farragut (DD-348), Dewey (DD-349), Hull (DD-350), Macdonough (DD-351), Worden (DD-352), Dale (DD-353), Monaghan (DD-354) and Aylwin (DD-355). Courtesy of Commander Robert L. Ghormley, Jr., USN, 1969. NH 67293

Patrol planes fly over DesRon20 destroyers, during an exhibition staged for Movietone News off San Diego, California, 14 September 1936. Planes include one PBY-1 of Patrol Squadron 11 (upper right), flying in formation with four P2Ys of Patrol Squadron 7. In the distance are four PM-1s of Patrol Squadron 9. Ships are steaming in line abreast, shortly after passing through a smokescreen. The three nearest the camera are (from right to left): Dewey (DD-349), Hull (DD-350) and Macdonough (DD-351). Courtesy of Commander Robert L. Ghormley, Jr., USN, 1969. NH 67286

Destroyers on Maneuvers with planes overhead. Ships from the left are USS Monaghan (DD-354), USS Dale (DD-353), USS Worden (DD-352), and USS Macdonough. Note signal flags repeated throughout the squadron. NH 60270.

Within three years, these ships would be clearing for war during tense neutrality, and within another two would be involved in some of the heaviest naval combat ever seen.

Commissioned within a 12-month period from June 1934 to June 1935, the eight new-fangled 1,365-ton Farraguts were twin pipers, ending the long Navy tradition of four-pipe tin cans the service had for about 20 years. Mounting five 5″/38s and eight torpedo tubes, they had all the offensive power of the later Fletcher-class in a much smaller hull. The class earned an impressive 93 battle stars– Farragut and Dale received 14 stars each– for their World War II service, an average of 11.625 per hull.
 
Remarkably, none were lost in combat although three– Hull, Monaghan, and Worden— were all lost to more traditional enemies: typhoons and uncharted rocks.  

SOCOM Goes Rattler for PDW

The U.S. Special Operations Command signaled the end of a five-year search for a personal defense weapon platform last week, opting to run Sig Sauer’s MCX Rattler.

The Commercial PDW contract, by its nature, needed to be filled by an off-the-shelf gun that was in current production. Sig introduced the .300 BLK-chambered Rattler in 2017 “at the request of elite military units” after a Request for Information was filed by SOCOM. The company then supplied a few to the country’s elite commandos for testing in February 2018. In a notice of intent to award published on May 19, 2022, it would appear those tests went very well.

“USSOCOM HQ has been researching and reviewing different systems since 2017,” said the notice. “We have meticulously reviewed each system for technical acceptance and whether it fits the commercial definition. Except for Sig Sauer, the vendors did not meet the technical requirements and/or the weapons do not meet the commercial definition.”

The SOCOM notice this month stressed, “The PDW system will allow Operators to have maximum firepower in a concealable weapon.” (Photos: Sig Sauer)

More in my column at Guns.com.

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