Category Archives: war

Fire Fire Fire, or, “Hey, why does the stack look like that?”

Always a pucker factor when you look back from the stern while underway and see this.

Via USCG Pacific Area:

By PA3 Aidan Cooney – U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Southwest public affairs

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche crews battled a fire Sunday aboard the cutter that broke out during a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet’s area of operations.

Black smoke was reported at 5:18 p.m. (local time) and investigations revealed fires in the exhaust stack and nearby spaces.

The crew’s training and quick actions extinguished the fire after battling the blaze at sea for 90 minutes.

Five crew members reported minor injuries sustained during firefighting efforts and were treated by the onboard medical team.

“The rapid response and courageous efforts from the crewmembers aboard Waesche to quickly contain and extinguish the fire are a testament to the bravery and skill of this crew,” said Capt. Jason Ryan, Waesche’s commanding officer.

The extent of the damages and cause of the fire are currently under investigation.

Waesche arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, today. While at Fleet Forces Yokosuka, the cutter will undergo further inspection and potentially repairs.

The cutter is under the tactical control of the U.S. 7th Fleet as part of routine presence operations in support of the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

More photos here. 

Grenadier found

USS Grenadier (SS-210) Off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 27 December 1941. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 99403

Commissioned 1 May 1941, the Gar/Tambor-class fleet boat USS Grenadier (SS-210) was only just past her East Coast shakedown cruise when the attack on Pearl Harbor put her on course for the immediate war patrols in the Pacific, the first of which she began on 4 February 1942– bound for Japanese home waters.

Over the course of six patrols, she drew a fair amount of blood from the Emperor’s supply lines, most important of which was the 15,000-ton Japanese Army transportTaiyō Maru (ex-Hamburg-America liner Cap Finisterre), sent to the bottom 120 nautical miles southwest of Kyushu with over 600 Japanese bureaucrats and technicians intended to run occupied the Dutch East Indies, as well as 2,500 tons of munitions.

In April 1943, while in the Straits of Malacca, Grenadier ran into trouble and became one of the 52 American submarines of WWII On Eternal Patrol. 

As noted by DANFS:

Running on the surface at dawn 21 April, Grenadier spotted, and was simultaneously spotted by, a Japanese plane. As the sub crash-dived, her skipper, Comdr. John A. Fitzgerald commented “we ought to be safe now, as we are between 120 and 130 feet.” Just then, bombs rocked Grenadier and heeled her over 15 to 20 degrees. Power and lights failed completely and the fatally wounded ship settled to the bottom at 267 feet. She tried to make repairs while a fierce fire blazed in the maneuvering room.

After 13 hours of sweating it out on the ‘bottom Grenadier managed to surface after dark to clear the boat of smoke and inspect damage. The damage to her propulsion system was irreparable. Attempting to bring his ship close to shore so that the crew could scuttle her and escape into the jungle, Comdr. Fitzgerald even tried to jury-rig a sail. But the long night’s work proved futile. As dawn broke, 22 April, Grenadier’s weary crew sighted two Japanese ships heading for them. As the skipper “didn’t think it advisable to make a stationary dive in 280 feet of water without power,” the crew began burning confidential documents prior to abandoning ship. A Japanese plane attacked the stricken submarine; but Grenadier, though dead in the water and to all appearances helpless, blazed away with machine guns. She hit the plane on its second pass. As the damaged plane veered off, its torpedo landed about 200 yards from the boat and exploded.

Reluctantly opening all vents, Grenadier’s crew abandoned ship and watched her sink to her final resting place. A Japanese merchantman picked up 8 officers and 68 enlisted men and took them to Penang, Malay States, where they were questioned, beaten, and starved before being sent to other prison camps. They were then separated and transferred from camp to camp along the Malay Peninsula and finally to Japan. Throughout the war they suffered brutal, inhuman treatment, and their refusal to reveal military information both frustrated and angered their captors. First word that any had survived Grenadier reached Australia 27 November 1943. Despite the brutal and sadistic treatment, all but four of Grenadier’s crew survived their 2 years in Japanese hands to tell rescuing American forces of their boat’s last patrol and the courage and heroism of her skipper and crew.

The AP is reporting that Grenadier has been located at about 270 feet, some 92 miles south of Phuket, Thailand. It was discovered last year by Singapore-based Jean Luc Rivoire and Benoit Laborie of France, and Australian Lance Horowitz and Belgian Ben Reymenants, who live in Phuket, and recently identified with a high level of certainty.

An image on a sonar screen shows a silhouette shape of a submarine lying on the ocean floor somewhere in the Strait of Malacca on 21 October 2019. The Grenadier (SS-210) lies in approximately 83 meters of water & identified with a probability of 95%. Photo courtesy of Jean Luc Rivoire, submitted by Steve Burton from the article written by Grant Peck of the Associated Press. via Navsource

Grenadier received four battle stars for World War II service and her name was later re-issued to a new boat, the Tench-class GUPPY SS-525.

Her 12-page war diary is in the National Archives in digital format. 

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020: Haida Maru

Here at LSOZI, we 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, Sept. 16, 2020: Haida Maru

Cordova Historical Society.

Here we see the Tampa-class U.S. Coast Guard Cutter/Gun Boat Haida (WPG-45) at the dock in Cordova, Alaska Territory likely in the 1930s. Only 240-feet long, Haida had a long and interesting career that, while it only ran along the West Coast north and south from Oakland to Nome, spanned 26 very busy years.

The four Tampas were designed as the USCG’s first true “multi-mission” cutters, vessels that would be able to perform constabulary work in far-flung U.S. territorial waters, run the newly established post-Titanic International Ice Patrol, serve as gunboats for the Navy in time of war, and perform the service’s traditional SAR, derelict destruction, and at-sea towing roles. For their use in time of conflict, each carried a pair of 5″/51-caliber guns with a provision for a third as well as a 3’/50– big medicine for vessels that before the Great War typically ran 6-pounders. Running a novel turbo-electric drive, they could make (up to) 16.2 knots. Some 240-feet long with a plumb bow and counter stern, they weighed 1,506-tons on builder’s trails.

Guns on USCGC Tampa, note the big 3-incher. The class also carried two 5-inch guns 

Rush-ordered to take on the fleet of Rum Runners coming down from Canada and up from Mexico during Prohibition, all four of the class– Tampa, Mojave, Modoc, and Haida— were built side-by-side on the West Coast by Oakland’s Union Construction Company. The first keel was laid on 27 September 1920 and the last of the four was commissioned 14 January 1922– the entire class delivered in just under 16 months for $775,000 per hull with the armament provided by the USN from stores at Mare Island Navy Yard.

These “proof of concept” ships in turn led to a larger class of 10 multi-mission 250-foot Lake-class cutters ordered in 1927 at $900,000 a pop, and finally, seven fast 327-foot $2.4-million Secretary-class cutters ordered starting in 1935.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian,

Haida was first stationed at Seattle, Washington, and began a peacetime career on the annual Bering Sea Patrols. She first sailed to Unalaska, the headquarters for the Patrol, and then sailed on her assigned tasks, which included acting as a floating court for the inhabitants of the isolated areas she sailed, caring for the sick, conducting search and rescue activities, checking on aids to navigation, regulating fisheries, and other duties.”

U.S. Judge Simon Hellenthal on U.S. Cutter Haida, outbound from Dutch Harbor in 1940 – conducting floating court. Via Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center AMRC-B1990-014-5-Pol-20-51

Aerial view of Seward, Alaska, taken from Bear Mountain. The Coast Guard Cutter Haida is tied up at the dock. 1923-1930. Original size of photograph: 5 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ Seward Community Library SCLA-1-1504

Haida in Unalaska. For her prewar career, she carried USCG-standard scheme including a gleaming white hull and superstructure, buff stack, mast and vents; and black caps with wooden decks. Via NOAA Collection from Van Woert album

A hand-embossed photo of Haida, likely in the 1930s. USCG Historians Collection.

For much of the year, especially before 1939, the random Seattle-based cutters were the only “military” force in Alaska, and on occasion, her skipper was dual-hatted as the United States Commissioner for the Territory. 

Which meant parades. Here, an armed a contingent from HAIDA march in the 4th of July parade in downtown Juneau c.1936.

The Haida’s warrant officers photographed on her quarterdeck. The photo is dated 04 August 1926. Note their distinctive Treasury Service swords. Provided courtesy of Ray Sanford in the Coast Guard Historians Collection

Grandaddy of NorPac SAR

It was on this hardy tasking in the frozen north that Haida shined when it came to pulling souls from the peril of the sea. In 1928, she along with the old (1911) 190-foot cutter Ungala and lighthouse tender Cedar, went to the assistance of the grounded Alaska Packers’ windjammer Star of Falkland on remote Akun Island. 

“Star of Falkland Rescue by Tom Hall” The Coast Guard cutter Haida and the lighthouse tender Cedar prepare to rescue the passengers and crew from the sailing vessel Star of Falkland near Unimak Pass, Alaska on May 23, 1928. The Star of Falkland, a commercial fishing ship, was returning for the fishing season from its winter port in San Francisco when it ran into high winds and fog and struck stern first on rocks at Akun Head near Unimak Pass. The 280 Chinese cannery workers and 40 crewmen spent a night of terror while the ship pounded on the rocks – eight passengers committed suicide. The next morning, the U. S. Lighthouse Service buoy tender Cedar and the Coast Guard cutter Haida arrived on the scene and managed to take all the passengers off Star of Falkland without loss of life. This rescue is one of the most successful in Coast Guard history, and one of the few instances where the United States Coast Guard and one of its future integrated agencies worked together to perform a major rescue. (USCG Art Collection)

Haida also rescued the crew of the steamship Victoria grounded off Pointer Island, British Columbia on 30 December 1934, the survivors of the Patterson, which went aground and was smashed “to pieces” near Lituya Bay in 1938

Patterson aground at Cape Fairweather, Alaska, 1938. Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society

And others…

Her crew even trialed some of the first “Gumby” style exposure suits.

A state-of-the-art military issue survival suit issued onboard cutters on Arctic duty. Shown is a member of Coast Guard Cutter Haida wearing one of the survival suits. U.S. Coast Guard Collection.

Taking a break from saving lives, investigating volcanos, warning the Graf Zeppelin of weather from 1,800 miles away, conducting rowboat crew races in Ketchikan, and otherwise policing Alaska, Haida supported a polar leg of the U.S. Army’s daring Around The World Flight and exercised with the fleet, showing just how “joint” the USCG could be.

Two of the Army’s World Cruisers on the water at Atka, Alaska, on 5 May 1924 with Coast Guard Cutter Haida in the background. The Aleuts of Atka, being unfamiliar with flying apparatus, applied the term “thunder-bird” from their mythology to the Cruisers. National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution Photo Number: NASM USAF-11533AC

One period newspaper article covered her annual cruises thus:

Haida Back After Long Stay At Sea: Weathers Four Storms And Has Busy Night In Dutch Harbor Gale”

After nearly two months’ absence from Juneau during which she cruised into the shadow of the Arctic Circle and back again for 6,200 miles on the log, the Coast Guard cutter Haida is back at her moorings at the Government Wharl. She sailed from Juneau to Attu, the outermost island in the Aleutian chain. Other points on Haida’s voyage were Seward, Kodiak, Chignik, Unalaska. Chemofski. Atka, Nome, Sabonga, and King island.”

The Haida, during Bering Sea Patrol. took medical aid to many, gave help to two storm-tossed vessels, saved two men from drowning. worked on a third who did not revive, and weathered four severe storms heightened by winds at 80 mph or better. One of the gales blew so hard that the plates of the ship were battered and damaged.”

On Armistice Day in Dutch Harbor, the old Alaska Line vessel Northwestern, now a temporary floating barracks and powerhouse at the navy base, nearly broke away from her moorings as an 80-mph wind lashed the harbor. The Haida crew made the Northwestern safely fast to the dock with a 12-inch hawser. and also secured the Wildlife Service vessel Penguin. On the same night, the cook from the Penguin fell overboard from the Northwestern’s plunging gangplank. A Haida resuscitation crew worked for three hours but were unable to revive him.

At Nome, two of the Alaska Line freighter Sutherland’s crew were pulled from the icy waters of the Bering Sea when they fell overboard, Haida crew making the rescue. At Chignik, ship’s doctor Dr. L.W. Brown saved three of four cases of septic throat, stemming an epidemic, and assisted a woman in childbirth.

Then came war

Before Pearl Harbor the entry of the U.S. into WWII, the Coast Guard had been assigned to the Neutrality Patrols in the Atlantic (5 Sept 1939), ordered to stand up the Greenland/Iceland adjacent Atlantic Weather Observation Service (Jan 1940), lost 10 of its fairly new Lake-class cutters to the Royal Navy as part of Lend-Lease Program (April 1941), stood up the Greenland Patrol against German weather stations in the Arctic (July 1941) and was officially transferred to the Navy by executive order (1 November 1941).

This saw the 240-foot cutters converted for war with depth charges, additional guns, sonar, and radar. Modoc, Mojave, and Tampa— who had been stationed on the East Coast before the war– were assigned to the Greenland Patrol to chase Germans.

U.S. Coast Guard Combat Cutter, The Tampa, which patrols the North Atlantic, in the resumption of the International Ice Patrol World.” Accession #: L41-03 Catalog #: L41-03.02.02

Meanwhile, humble Haida, dubbed Haida Maru by her crew, was tasked to patrol the Pacific Northwest and Alaskan waters, assigned to NOWESTSEAFRON.

CGC Haida in the Bering Sea sometime in 1945. Note her wartime appearance and armament including camo scheme. Photo courtesy of Jack Alberts in the USCG Historian’s Collection.

Haida’s wartime armament was considerable for a tub her size, at the end including four 40mm Bofors mounts for AAA, two depth charge racks, four Y-guns, and two Mousetrap ASW mortars in addition to her 5-inch guns. However, with her weight now pushing almost 2,000-tons, her 20+-year-old GE electric motor did not push her at blistering speeds.

As described in Fern Chandonnet’s Alaska at War, 1941-1945: The Forgotten War Remembered:

On one eastbound escort– remembered by crew member Robert Erwin Johnson– the Haida steamed straight ahead at about 14 knots while the steamship being escorted zigzagged back and forth to avoid overtaking her escort.

Haida prosecuted various possible Japanese submarine contacts, dropping ASW weapons on at least four of them in 1943, at a time when assorted Japanese boats were in fact in that part of the North Pacific, while escorting troopships and freighters to Alaska.

By 1944, she began a regular albeit boring job of manning Weather Station “A” at fortnightly intervals through March 1946, an important facet of trans-oceanic shipping and air traffic.

With the end of the war at hand and the USCG chopped from the deep-pocket FDR-era Navy to the strapped-for-cash post-conflict Treasury Department, all four Tampas were deemed surplus, replaced by a baker’s dozen of newer 255-foot Owasco-class cutters. As such, they were all decommissioned in 1947 and thereafter sold for breaking.

Haida was sold in 1948 and later scrapped in 1951 by the Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company, within sight of her traditional Seattle home port. One of her crew, Robert Erwin Johnson, penned a book of his war experience, Bering Sea Escort: Life Aboard a Coast Guard Cutter in World War II.

Her plans and logbooks are in the National Archives, with most of the latter fully digitized. 

Specs:

The Coast Guard Cutter HAIDA’s sister, MODOC, seen in pre-1941 arrangement. USCG

Displacement: 1,506 tons (trial); 1,955 tons (1945)
Length: 240 feet oa (220 ft at waterline)
Beam: 39 feet
Draft: 13′ 2″ (designed) 17′ 9″ max (1945)
Machinery: 1 x General Electric 2,040 kVa electric motor driven by a turbo-generator; 2 x Babcock & Wilcox, cross-drum type, 200 psi, 750° F superheat
Performance:
Maximum speed/endurance: 16.2 knots on trial (1921)
Maximum sustained: 15.5 knots, 3,500 mile radius (1945)
Economic speed/endurance: 9.0 knots @ 5,500 mile radius (1945) on 87,400 gal fuel oil
Complement:
14 officers, 2 warrants, 80 men (1945).
Electronics: (1944)
Detection Radar: SA
Sonar: QCJ-3
Armament:
1921: 2 x 5″/51 single mounts; 2 x 6 pounders; 1 x 1 pounder
1942: 2 x 5″/51 single mounts; 1 x 3/50 (single); 2 x .50 caliber machine guns; 4 x “Y” guns; 2 depth charge tracks.
1943: 2 x 3″/50 single mounts; 4 x 20 mm/80 (single); 2 x depth charge tracks; 4 x “Y” guns; 2 x mousetraps.

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Warship Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020: From the Kattegat to Rabaul

Here at LSOZI, we 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, Sept. 9, 2020: From the Kattegat to Rabaul

RAN Photo

Here we see Admiralty V-class destroyer HMAS Vendetta (I96) of the Royal Australian Navy as she hosts pre-surrender discussions off Rabaul, 75 years ago this month. Representatives include Col. Takahashi, aide to Gen. Hitoshi Imamura, commander Eighth Area Army; and Capt. Sanagi, Japanese Navy; with Brig. Gen. E.L Sheehan, Staff First Army; and CDR Morris, RAN, commanding officer of the minesweeper HMAS Ballarat. Vendetta at the time was the last of her type from the “Scrap Iron Flotilla” in the Australian Navy and the only examples of her class still in service were on the other side of the globe.

The “V&Ws” numbered over 100 destroyers ordered during the Great War for the Royal Navy, of which just 67 were completed. The Admiralty V-class subtype, of which Vendetta was a member, accounted for 23 of those hulls. Tipping the scales at around 1,500-tons when fully loaded, they were slim vessels of just 312-feet in overall length. Capable of 34-knots on a turbine powerplant, they carried a quartet of QF 4-inch Mk V guns and 2 triple 21-inch torpedo tube mounts for enemy ships traveling on the surface, and 50 depth charges to account for U-boats below it.

Then-HMS Vendetta (F29) was laid down at Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland in November 1916, just after the British first used tanks along the Somme front in France. She commissioned on 17 October 1917, a couple weeks before the Reds seized the Winter Palace in Russia from Kerensky’s government.

Vendetta in a heavy swell. The 312-foot vessel only had a 29-foot beam, giving it a nearly 11:1 length-to-beam ratio

HMS Vendetta, then pennant No. F29, June 1919 (IWM Q73903).

HMS Vendetta, June 1919 (IWM Q73907).

Assigned to the Grand Fleet’s mighty Thirteenth Destroyer Flotilla, she soon scrapped with German minesweepers operating in the Kattegat. Such brushes along the great minefields in the North Sea were dangerous to each side, e.g. one of Vendetta’s sisters, HMS Vehement, was lost to one of those infernal devices.

Detached to support the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron along with HMS Medway, Vendetta took part in the elusive fleet action at the Helgoland Bight on 17 November 1917.

Just days after the Kaiser threw in the towel, Vendetta was dispatched on 24 November 1918 to the Baltic as part of British RADM Sir Edwin Alexander Sinclair’s force of cruisers and destroyers, detailed to intervene in the breakaway former Russian Baltic states.

Allied Craft at Copenhagen – HMS Vendetta and boats from the Montcalm by Cecil George Charles King, 1919, IWM ART1657

There, she fought the Reds on several occasions including playing a big part in the capture of the Russki destroyers Spartak and Avtroil.

AVTROIL, left, photographed in the Baltic Sea while surrendering to British Naval Forces in Dec. 1918. The smaller destroyer on her right is a British V&W, possibly Vendetta but likely Westminster. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983. NH 94210

The Russians managed to somewhat even up the score by sinking the V-class sistership HMS Vittoria, sent to the bottom by Bolshevik submarine Pantera off Seiskari Island. Vendetta and sistership HMS Westminster (L40) also rescued 430 of the 441 crew from the sinking C-class light cruiser, HMS Cassandra, after that vessel struck an uncharted German mine in the Gulf of Finland. Mines also claimed another of Vendetta’s sisters, HMS Verulam.

Interbellum 

Following her Baltic service, Vendetta spent the next 14 years in a variety of missions ranging from towing surrendered German warships to escorting royal personages and waving the White Ensign around Europe. In 1923, she again proved an excellent lifeguard, saving the crew of the wrecked merchant ship Imperial Prince off Scotland.

Note her pennant number had changed to D69

In 1933, Vendetta and three of her aging sisters–Voyager, Waterhen, and Vampire— were decommissioned from Royal Navy service and transferred to the Australians where, along with the 2,000-ton Scott-class destroyer leader HMS Stuart, they formed the Australian Destroyer Flotilla. The ships were replacements for the even smaller S-Class destroyers (Stalwart, Success, Swordsman, Tasmania, and Tattoo) and the flotilla leader Anzac, which were in turn scrapped.

Royal Australian Navy destroyers in the Brisbane River September 1936, including Vendetta. Queensland State Archives 202

HMAS Vendetta (D69), the 1930s, by Allan Green, via State Library of Victoria under the Accession Number: H91.108/2832

In 1939, she was tasked to escort the body of former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons from Sydney to Tasmania where he was buried on 13 April.

The flower-draped coffin of former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons on the quarterdeck of HMAS Vendetta, 11 April 1939. Note the paravanes on each side of her stern, and depth charges. (RAN Photo)

HMAS Vendetta at the Funeral of Hon. J.A. Lyons, Prime Minister of Australia, via the State Library of New South Wales, Item 23899

To the Med

Obsolete by the time World War II came around, the Australian tin cans were dispatched to fight the Germans and Italians, seeing heavy action along the North African coast with the British Fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean where they served as part of the “Wobbly 10th” Destroyer Division, their original armament augmented by a smattering of .303-caliber Lewis and Vickers pattern machine guns, which were basically spitballs against air attack.

Torpedomen on Vendetta at Napier, New Zealand. Note the twin Lewis gun AAA mount to the left and depth charge “ashcans” to the right. AWM P00363.002

HMAS Vendetta wearing her first pattern disruptive camouflage and wearing her D69 pennant number. Her pennant number later changed to I69 in May 1940. This starboard side view shows that she retains her full 4-inch gun armament, but the 2 pounder AA gun initially mounted abaft the funnel has been replaced by a quadruple .50 cal Vickers MKIII. Her aft torpedo tube mount has been replaced by a 12 pounder AA gun. Twin .303 Lewis guns have been added in the bridge wings. She has been camouflaged in what appears to be dark grey (507a) and light grey (507c) with a thin band of medium grey separating them. (RAN Photo)

They served in the battles of Matapan and Calabria, helped evacuate Greece and Crete, bombarded the Libyan coast, escorted no less than a dozen convoys between Alexandria and Malta, and put in work as the “Tobruk Ferry Service” running the Axis blockade of besieged Tobruk under heavy fire.

HMAS Vendetta laying a smokescreen, often her best tactic to avoid Italian and German tactical aircraft AWM P00219.010

The Tobruk Ferry, HMA Ships Parramatta, Waterhen and Vendetta, June 1941. Painting by Phil Belbin courtesy of the (Australian) Naval Heritage Collection.

Troops bunked down in the open on the top deck of the destroyer HMAS Vendetta on one of her voyages to the besieged port city of Tobruk. The Vendetta was one of several Australian ships that operated a shuttle service between Tobruk and various ports in Egypt. The service, which became known as the Tobruk ferry or Tobruk taxi, brought much-needed reinforcements and supplies to the city and took away wounded soldiers. The Vendetta made the voyage 39 times in the period 1941-05 to 1941-08, more than any other vessel. AWM P01810.002

It was during this period that the rag-tag Australian greyhounds were referred to as the “Scrap Iron Flotilla” by none other than German propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels.

The war in the Med, for sure, took a toll on the squadron.

Men on HMAS Vendetta watching the destroyer HMS Defender (H07) going down off Tobruk, 11 July 1941.

On 29 June 1941, Waterhen was heavily damaged by Axis aircraft and she sank the next day, the first RAN ship lost to combat in World War II.

Looking to increase her AAA suite by any means available, Vendetta’s crew installed a locally acquired second-hand Italian 20mm/65 Breda and installed it amidships.

A captured Italian Breda 20mm/65 anti-aircraft cannon mounted amidship, aft of the 12-pounder high angle anti-aircraft gun that replaced the aft torpedo tubes on the Australian V class destroyer HMAS Vendetta. (photographed by Robert Milne, HMAS Vendetta) AWM

Finally, with their machinery shot and suffering from breakdowns, the three remaining RAN V&Ws were sent back home for refit in late 1941.

There, while at Ghost Island, Vendetta had a stick of Japanese bombs fall just 200 yards away from her at 04:20 on 8 December 1941. A whole new war had begun.

The Pacific!

The brunt of the Japanese war machine was not kind to the Allies in 1941 and 1942. Vendetta’s sister, Voyager was damaged beyond repair by Japanese bombers off Timor. Another sister, Vampire was sunk on 9 April 1942 by Japanese aircraft while escorting the doomed carrier HMS Hermes from Trincomalee.

Her refit, which included more AAA guns, wrapped up by September 1942, Vendetta was tasked with a variety of convoy escort duty– shepherding 19 different convoys in ten months– and coastal patrol work around the Australian continent for most of 1943, routine work that was nonetheless vital.

By 1944, she shifted to New Guinea waters where her expendability, low draft, and high speed suited her for the role of a destroyer transport, a concept the U.S. Navy at the time repeated in their APD “Green Dragons” with old flush-deckers. In this role, she landed both uniformed set-piece ANZAC units to the shifting front as well as delivered shadowy AIB Special Unit officers and guerillas behind the lines in New Britain and the Solomon Islands.

HMAS Vendetta landing troops and stores at Madang, 2 May 1944. Of note, she carried 1,927 troops and 95 tons of supplies from Langemak to Madang during this period (RAN Photo)

Madang, New Guinea. 2 May 1944. Troops of the 5th Australian Division disembarking from HMAS Vendetta at the wharf. The movement to Madang was all done by sea; destroyers, barges, Liberty ships, corvettes, and motor launches being used. AWM 030212/06

Deemed by this time an “escort destroyer” Vendetta landed her torpedo tubes for even more AAA mounts and acquired a Type 272 surface search radar.

Vendetta continued her New Guinea taskings into 1945, providing naval gunfire support, escorting slow convoys, and engaging in coastal anti-submarine patrols, increasingly boring duty as the war wound down in the area. By September, she embarked Brigadier Sheehan and his staff to negotiate the Japanese surrender at Rabaul, a task that was completed by 6 September.

Pre-surrender Discussions Aboard HMAS Vendetta. Original Caption: at Sea Off Rabaul, New Britain. 1945-09-04. Lieutenant E. Germaine, Royal Australian Navy, Holding the Swords and Dirks of the Japanese Envoys During Pre- Surrender Discussions Aboard HMSA Vendetta. AWM 095722

The surrender ceremony itself took place on the new fleet carrier HMS Glory, after which Imamura was detained and tried for war crimes in his time at Rabaul including the execution of Allied prisoners of war. He served seven of a ten-year sentence imposed by an Australian military court.

Off Rabaul, New Britain, Corsair aircraft coming up in the lift to the flight deck of carrier HMS Glory. The Corsairs provided air cover during the signing of the surrender of all Japanese forces in New Guinea, New Britain, and Solomons 6. September 1945 (Australian War Memorial) Surrender of Japanese forces in the Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea was formally accepted on board by the Australian General Sturdee at Rabaul. AWM 095740

Following the surrender, Vendetta stood by to retrieve Allied POWs.

Jacquinot Bay, New Britain. 1945-09-07. After the Japanese surrender, Allied prisoners, most of them in an emaciated condition, were picked up at Rabaul by HMAS Vendetta and brought to Jacquinot Bay. They were then taken by RNZAF air-sea rescue boat to 2/8 Australian General Hospital. NGX310 AIB Special Unit Coastwatcher CAPT. John Joseph “Mangrove” Murphy, above, the only Australian prisoner of war in Rabaul, was there from 1942 when he was captured after landing by submarine in the Gazelle peninsula. AWM 095817

Postscript

Her final war concluded, the veteran Vendetta was paid off 27 November 1945, having steamed 120,639 miles during her Pacific campaigns alone. She earned seven battle honors under RAN service in WWII, trading licks with all three of the primary Axis powers. This added to her previous service against the Kaiser and the Bolsheviks.

Scrapped above the waterline, her hulk was scuttled in 1948.

As for her Royal Navy Admiralty V-class sisters, four— HMS Venetia, Vimiera, Vortigern, and Venetia— were sunk in by the Germans in British waters during WWII. The remainder were still afloat at VE-Day but were soon discarded.

Vendetta’s name was recycled for a new 3,600-ton Daring-class destroyer (D08) which was commissioned in 1958. The ship battle honors for service in Malaysia (1964-66) and Vietnam (1969-70) and was paid off in 1979.

Vendetta (D08) making a replenishment approach on the fleet oiler, HMAS Supply, in a heavy swell. Can you see the resemblance to the original HMS/HMAS Vendetta?

Further, the Royal Australian Navy band today has the dedicated Scrap Iron Flotilla Theme as part of their repertoire.

Specs:


Displacement: 1,090 tons standard, 1,470 full
Length: 312 ft
Beam: 29 ft 6 in
Draught: 9 ft. 8 in standard, 11 ft 9 in deep
Machinery: 3 Yarrow boilers, twin Brown-Curtis turbines, twin screws = 27,000 shp
Speed: 34 knots
Range: 3,500 nmi at 15 knots
Complement: 6 officers 133 ratings as designed, larger in WWII as AAA guns were added
Armament:
(1917)
4 x single QF 4-inch Mk V guns
1 x single QF 2 pdr (40 mm) Mk II pom-pom anti-aircraft gun
2 x triple 21-inch torpedo tubes
2 depth charge rails, 4 depth charge throwers= 50 depth charges
(1944)
2 x single QF 4-inch Mk V guns
2 x single QF 2 pdr (40 mm) Mk II pom-pom anti-aircraft guns
4 x 20mm/65 Oerlikons
7 x .303 Vickers and Lewis guns
Depth charges

(Note, at least one 40mm/60 Bofors single is shown on Vendetta in 1945)

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. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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!

Meet Sgt. Maj. Thomas P. Payne, MOH

From the DOD & the White House: On September 11, 2020, President Donald J. Trump will award the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas P. Payne, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry while deployed five years ago as an assistant team leader in Iraq as part of a Special Operations Joint Task Force in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Thomas “Patrick” Payne on Oct. 22, 2015, was part of a force given a mission to rescue over 70 Iraqi hostages being held by ISIS in a prison compound in the northern town of Hawija.

The rescue footage:

 

His story in his own words:

SINKEX Harpoon edition

The U.S. Navy’s press office released that, on 29 August off the coast of Hawaii during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020, a live-fire SINKEX was conducted against a target hulk, the ex-USS Durham (LKA-114).

An 18,000-ton Charleston-class amphibious cargo ship commissioned on May 24, 1969, Durham was decommissioned on February 25, 1994, notably seeing service during Vietnam (four campaign stars, including the Frequent Wind evacuation in 1975) and the First Gulf War. The only Navy ship to carry the name of the North Carolina city, Durham was laid up in Pearl Harbor’s Middle Loch since 2000 and found ineligible for historic preservation in 2017.

The released video shows at least three missile hits as well as what could be some other surface weapons, with the Navy non-commital on just what ordinance was expended.

Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Navy is reporting that the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Regina had the opportunity to shoot two of their RGM-84 Harpoons in RIMPAC, a rare event indeed.

Master Seaman Dan Bard, RCN

Master Seaman Dan Bard, RCN

At the same time, the Royal Australian Navy reports that the modified ANZAC (MEKO200) class frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH-153) expended one of her Harpoons on Durham.

RAN photo

RAN photo

“Simulation is a critical part of our training but there is nothing better than to conduct live-fire training,” said Royal Australian Navy Capt. Phillipa Hay, commander, RIMPAC 2020 Task Force One. “Sinking exercises are an important way to test our weapons and weapons systems in the most realistic way possible. It demonstrates as a joint force we are capable of high-end warfare.”

Hanoi’s Shpagin MAT-50

The (North) Vietnamese People’s Revolutionary Army and its allied Viet Cong organization south of the DMZ, throughout the wars in Indochina, received extensive support from both Warsaw Pact countries and Communist China.

Among the military aid sent to Hanoi was the Chinese Type 50 submachine gun, which is easily recognizable to any firearm buff as a clone of the iconic PPsh-41 “pe-pe-sha” of WWII, chambered in 7.62x25mm Tokarev.

The Chinese Type 50 Via RIAC 

However, the gun was frequently modded in Vietnamese service to be more modern (for the 1960s) with a new sheet metal lower with simple telescoping wire stock and a pistol grip in place of the clunky wooden buttstock, chopping down the distinctive barrel jacket and crimping the stub of it to the barrel, then installing a new front AK-style front sight.

1967: Type K50M PPS Viet-Chinese submachine gun, captured in South Vietnam, note the modification. U.S. Marine Photo A189433 via the National Archives 

In short, they made the gun more like the French MAT-49, which they already had large stocks of post-Dien Bien Phu, and were familiar with.

French army recruitment poster during the period of the Indochina and Algerian wars, for the Colonial Airborne Troops, “My fortune is my glory, my trade is combat,” featuring the MAT-49 SMG

The NVA-modded PPsh-41, dubbed the K50M, was certainly more compact and visually much different on the outside, but internally identical to the gun that defended Stalingrad. Plus, at just 22-inches long with the stock pushed in, it was ideal for use by sappers, insurgents, and raiding parties, who no doubt appreciated the ability to use it at 700 rounds-per-minute, especially at close range as noted in the December 2011 issue of Vietnam Magazine.

Due to many of these guns being captured in the war, they exist in the West in a number of military museums, including the IWM.

Warship Wednesday, August 19, 2020: Under New Management

Here at LSOZI, we 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, August 19, 2020: Under New Management

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-490371

Here we see Japanese and U.S. naval officers negotiate the surrender of Mili Atoll, a collection of 92 coral islands in the Marshall Island group, aboard the Cannon-class destroyer escort USS Levy (DE-162), some 75 years ago this week. While numerous such isolated garrisons would lay down their arms in the months to come, Mili Atoll is often described as the first surrender of pre-WWII Japanese territory– rather than islands such as Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Saipan which were taken by force without surrender– making this moment historically significant.

Some 116 Cannons were ordered during WWII from late 1942 onward, with the class sandwiched between the more numerous Buckley– and Edsall-class destroyer escorts. Fundamentally diesel-powered corvettes built for convoy work, they were 1,600-ton, 306-foot vessels with a long range– 10,000nm at 12-knots– and fast enough at 21 knots to keep up with a convoy. Geared to ASW work, they bristled with depth charges and hedgehogs. To ward off surface threats, they had a trio of 21-inch torpedo tubes while a variety of open 3″/50 cal and 40mm Bofors mounts could poke holes in kamikazes.

Levy and her sisters could float in just 11 feet of water, which would make them very useful in the littoral space of the Pacific’s far-flung islands.

USS Levy (DE-162) on delivery, 12 May 1943, Port Newark. Note her three 3″/50s, one forward and two aft, as well as her triple torpedo tube turnstile just aft of her stack. NHHC L45-164.05.01

Our tin can to this day is the only warship named for Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy, a hero remembered today chiefly as the US Navy’s first Jewish flag officer but should be perhaps best known as the 19th Century “Author of the Abolition of Flogging in the Navy of the United States” and the man who purchased and later restored President Jefferson’s near-ruined Monticello. An experienced mariner sailing under a Navy appointment issued by President Madison in the War of 1812, Levy served on the USS Argus, raiding off the British coast, and ended that conflict on an RN prison hulk. He went on to fight pirates and slavers, then command the Mediterranean Squadron before his death in 1862, aged 70.

Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy, his ornate circa 1850 sword buckle in the NHHC’s collection of relics, and a portrait of him as a lieutenant.

USS Levy (DE-162) was laid down 19 October 1942 by the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newark, N.J., sponsored at launch the elderly niece of the late Commodore Levy, and commissioned 13 May 1943.

Her wartime service was fairly sedate, arriving in the Society Islands 19 August 1943 and spending the next 16 months escorting and screening oilers during various fueling operations in the South and Central Pacific theaters– a vital if an unglamorous task that saw her pursuing suspected sonar contacts and fighting off interloping Japanese aircraft seeking to bag her charges. As such, she followed the fleet in the support of the Hollandia operation and the strikes against Truk, Statwan, and Ponape; took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea; and was there with the 3d Fleet during the conquest of the western Carolines and the liberation of Leyte.

She retired to San Diego in December 1944 for an overhaul, then pointed back West to rejoin the push.

Levy’s 1945 saw quite a bit more detached service. The hard-working DE helped blockade and bombard the remaining Japanese-held atolls in the Marshalls and assisted in the rescue of 238 waterborne Marshallese natives who had escaped from enemy-held Jaluit.

Mili Atoll. 

On 12 August 1945, Levy arrived off Japanese-controlled Mili Atoll while the war was still very much active– the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) was damaged by an aerial torpedo in Buckner Bay, Okinawa that very same day, for example.

Mili had been a German colony from the 1880s until the Great War when ownership passed to the Empire of Japan under the League of Nations’ South Seas Mandate. Since then, it had become an important Japanese radio station and seaplane base with a ~5,000 man Army/Navy garrison and, located 2,875 miles East of Tokyo and 2,286 miles West of Pearl Harbor, is often included in the conspiracy theory over the 1937 disappearance of aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

Mili’s location midway between Hawaii and Japan made it the logical choice for one of the earliest raids on Japanese bases by American carriers, struck by aircraft from USS Yorktown (CV-5) just seven weeks after Pearl Harbor. The Atoll would later be plastered in the last eighteen months of the war by a ceaseless bombing campaign conducted by long-range American aircraft and the occasional plastering by U.S. warships– including famously the USS Iowa.

On 13 August 1945 at 1220, Levy was the last U.S. Navy ship to bombard Mili Atoll, retiring shortly after. Two days later, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.

On the morning of 19 August– 75 years ago this week– a PBM Mariner arrived alongside the destroyer escort with seven officers aboard, headed by CAPT. Harold Bartley Grow (USNA 1912) acting under the authority of RADM (later VADM) William Keene Harrill (ComMarGilArea) and less than two hours later, Levy received a whaleboat from Mili carrying LCDR Toyda and LT. Hutsu of the Japanese Navy under a white flag. After a brief negotiation, the Japanese officers left Mili made for shelter at nearby Majuro Atoll, then under U.S. control.

Dispatched again to Mili with Grow’s team embarked on 21 August, on the next morning IJN CPT Masanori Shiga, LCDR Hiroshi Tojuno, and LT Horoshi Otsu came aboard Levy, signing the surrender document at 1300 sharp.

Japanese Navy CPT Masanori Shiga signs the surrender document for Mili Atoll, Marshalls, onboard USS Levy (DE-162), 22 August 1945. To the right of CPT Shiga is (left to right): LT E.R. Harris, USNR; LTCOL G.V. Burnett, USMCR, and CPT H. B. Grow, USNR, senior U.S. officer present. Also, note the Lucky Strikes. 80-G-490369

Afterward, Levy anchored in Mili lagoon and got to work with the business of peace.

She remained there for the rest of the week, her crew busy removing “all arms up to and including 13mm machine guns, swords, and bayonets” while building a new dock. At noon on the 28th, RADM Harrill and his staff arrived and at 1405, Levy’s armed honor guard hoisted the colors on Mili, firing a 21-gun salute, as the disarmed Japanese stood by.

Surrender of Japan, Mili Atoll, Marshall Islands, August 22, 1945. Flag Raising Ceremony by U.S. Navy occupation forces at Millie Atoll, Marshall Islands. 80-G-338449

Mille Atoll, Marshall Islands, shown these sailors from USS Levy (DE 162) in their whites and landing gaiters pointing with pride to their sign, which reads, “We always welcome Seabees and Marines” 28 August 1945. This beachhead became the first Japanese territory in World War II to formally surrender to United States forces. Shown (left to right): SM2 Abe Klotzman; YN2 Irwin Schwartz; Coxswain Henry Jendrzejanski, and EM2 Kenneth Werton. All the sailors were Navy Reserve. 80-G-338460

Everett Greenbaum, a Navy man who later went on to be a comedy writer who worked on M*A*S*H* among other shows, was stationed at Naval Air Station Majuro, where CAPT. Shiga was taken as an EPW, and the two’s lives became intertwined with Greenbaum later saying, “Insisting on moving into my tent, Captain Shiga committed Hara- karri with my toenail clippers.”

Back to our destroyer escort.

On the 29th, just a day after raising the flag on Mili, Levy fired up her diesels and served as the platform for Grow to negotiate the surrender of the 2,000 men under IJN RADM Nisuke Masuda on Jaluit Atoll. While Levy left that atoll after Masuda’s party retired, tasked with other missions, her sistership USS McConnell (DE-163) received the Japanese surrender on 5 September. Masuda would go on to commit ritual suicide on the eve of a war crimes trial for the execution of captured American aircrews during the conflict.

At the time of his and Jaluit’s surrender, however, Levy had her hands full, liberating the Japanese-held American territory at Wake Island.

Accompanied by the destroyer escorts USS Charles R. Greer (DE-23) and USS Lehardy (DD-20), Levy on 2 September took aboard a party that included Marine BGEN Lawson H. M. Sanderson, Marine COL. Walter L.J. Bayler– often termed “the last man off Wake Island,” which he had left on 21 December 1941– and nine other officers along with 25 war correspondents including representatives of the New York Times and LIFE Magazine.

04 September 1945: Wake Atoll – USS Levy anchored off Wake Island. A barge carrying Japanese officers approaches Levy to surrender the Island. The surrender proceedings took place aboard Levy. LIFE Magazine Archives via Navsource.

The Japanese surrender party came aboard on 4 September at 0740 and IJN RADM Shigematsu Sakaibara, 65th Base Garrison commander, signed the surrender documents at 0819.

RADM Shigematsu Sakaibara, former commander of the Japanese garrison forces at Wake, signs the surrender document that makes Wake American once again. Note the Lucky Strikes. Marine Corps photo in the National Archives. 127-GR-60-133687

As white-gloved Japanese officers in their full dress uniforms saluted, the American flag was raised over the island by Levy’s honor guard at 1348.

Raising the U.S. flag over Wake Island on 4 September 1945, as a U.S. Marine Corps bugler plays Colors. This was the first time the Stars and Stripes had flown over Wake since its capture by the Japanese on 23 December 1941. The officer saluting in the right foreground is RADM Shigematsu Sakaibara, Japanese commander on Wake. Colors carried by the U.S. party, right background, include the U.S. Marine Corps flag. Photographed by R.O. Kepler, USMC. NH 96813

Shigematsu would later become a convicted war criminal sentenced to death by a military tribunal in connection with his actions on Wake Island, which included the execution of 98 U.S. civilian workers who had been kept on the island for forced labor. He was hanged on Guam in 1947. At the end of his trial, the 48-year-old career officer said the hearings were “unfair” but “I obey with pleasure.”

Levy got underway from Wake on 11 September, her war concluded. She was soon transferred to the Atlantic, where on 14 November she joined the St. John’s River Group, 16th Fleet, at Green Cove Springs, Florida, and was placed In Commission, In Reserve.

For her 30 months of service, almost all spent in the Pacific war, the vessel earned five battlestars.

She was decommissioned 4 April 1947 and retained as part of the Atlantic Inactive Fleet at Norfolk, until she was stricken on 2 August 1973. The historic vessel was sold for scrap on 18 June 1974 to the Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, Md for $94,666.66, as part of a bid for her and five other destroyer escorts.

Postscript

Of her sisters, just 72 of the planned Cannons were built. One, USS Roche (DE-197) was lost to a Japanese mine during the war, a remarkable string of luck. Most of the others were soon given away as military aid.

An amazing 54 of the class were transferred around the globe, with the economical destroyer escorts serving with no less than a dozen navies. Three of those, USS McAnn (DE-179) in Brazil, USS Slater (DE-766) in New York (who spent 40 years in the Hellenic fleet), and USS Hemminger (DE-746) in Thailand– the latter nominally still in service– are preserved as museums.

Of late, Slater has been undergoing an extensive refurb and looks great, please visit her if you can.

USS Slater is the only destroyer escort preserved in North America– and is Levy’s sistership

When it comes to direct relics of Levy, at least one of her wartime ensigns are preserved in private collections and the Mili Atoll surrender pen is in the Naval History and Heritage Command’s holdings.

This pen can be seen in the Mili Atoll surrender signing photos. NHHC 07-598-P

It looks as if almost all her war diaries have been digitized in the National Archives and are available online.

Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy and the destroyer escort named for him should be remembered in a new destroyer or frigate, and I have written both my Congressional delegation and the SECNAV’s office on the fact.

Specs:

USS Levy (DE-162) underway in the Pacific Ocean, circa in 1944

Displacement:
1,240 tons standard
1,620 tons full load
Length: 306 ft
Beam: 36 ft
Draft: 11 ft full load
Propulsion:
4 GM Mod. 16-278A diesel engines with electric drive
6,000 shp (4,500 kW), 2 screws
Speed: 21 knots
Range: 10,800 nautical miles at 12 knots
Complement:
15 officers
201 enlisted men
Armament:
3 × 3 in (76 mm)/50 guns (3×1)
2 × 40 mm AA guns (1×2)
8 × 20 mm AA guns (8×1)
3 × 21 in. torpedo tubes (1×3)
8 × depth charge projectors
1 × depth charge projector (hedgehog)
2 x depth charge tracks

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. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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!

From the Gulf of Alaska to the Gulf of Tonkin, 52 years of service

The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) moors at U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak’s fuel pier in Kodiak, Alaska, July 10, 2020. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Matthew/USCG

The 378-foot Hamilton-class Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) just completed her final patrol.

As noted by the USCG, Mellon and her “150-person crew left Seattle April 17 to conduct missions throughout the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea. During the patrol, the crew conducted 38 law enforcement boardings, four search-and-rescue cases, and enforced federal regulations governing Alaska’s $13.9 billion commercial fishing industry.”

She returned to her longtime homeport at Seattle earlier this month and is scheduled for decommissioning August 20, 2020, bringing an epic 52-year career to a close.

Laid down in 1966 at Avondale in New Orleans, she commissioned on January 9, 1968.

A modern ship with her helm controlled via a joystick, she carried a 5″/38 DP mount forward, a half-dozen ASW torpedo tubes, sonar, an 80-foot helicopter deck, and used a then-innovative CODAG engineering suite. Contemporary accounts held that she was able to reach a speed of “20 knots in less than 20 seconds and go from full ahead to full astern in less than one minute.”

The Hamilton-class cutters were one of the first naval vessels built with a combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion plant. At the time: “The twin screws can use 7,000 diesel shaft horsepower to make 17 knots, and a total of 36,000 gas turbine shaft horsepower to make 28 knots. The diesel engines are Fairbanks-Morse and are larger versions of a 1968 diesel locomotive design. Her Pratt-Whitney marine gas turbine engines are similar to those installed in Boeing 707 passenger jet aircraft.”

Mellon served regular weather station duty on Ocean Station November in the Northern Pacific– and even had a balloon shelter for such work, in addition to SAR, maritime fisheries patrol, and counter-smuggling duties.

Once, she even got involved in responding to a mutiny on the high seas.

She also went to a real-live shooting war.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

Mellon saw extensive service during the conflict in Vietnam. She was twice awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation as part of Task Force 115 (U.S. Navy Coastal Surveillance Force) which maintained close surveillance over 1,200 miles of Vietnamese coastline and 64,000 licensed watercraft.

The task force seized large quantities of war material, preventing it from reaching enemy hands. During her service in the waters adjacent to Vietnam, Mellon also conducted numerous naval gunfire support missions, rescue operations, medical civic action programs, and training programs for Vietnamese military personnel.

She saved lives.

Mellon rescued passengers from the burning Holland-America luxury liner MS Prinsendam off the Alaskan coast in 1980 in conjunction with another cutter, pulling 510 passengers and crew members from lifeboats after they abandoned ship. Remarkably, and in vast contrast to the Titanic, this occurred with no deaths or serious injuries, and all passengers and crew from the Prindsendam accounted for.

Added to this tally over the years were mariners from the doomed Italian supertanker Giovanna Lollighetti, the MV Carnelian, and the downed crew of a C-130 surviving among the frozen scrub of Attu Island.

She held the line

A regular on the Bearing Sea Patrol, Mellon’s sonarmen counted more sonar contacts with Soviet subs in the 1980s than many active-duty tin cans.

Updated for the Cold War, she was given frigate-level armament, trading her 5″ gun for a more modern 76mm OTO Melera Mk.75, picking up more modern air search radars, a “Slick-32” EW suite, and improved AN/SQS-26 bow-mounted sonar. She also got a modicum of anti-air protection from a CIWS and an anti-ship armament of 8 Harpoon cans. The idea was that if the balloon went up, the Hamiltons could easily chop over to add a few more hulls to the “600 Ship Navy” and help out with ASW and convoy duty.

Speaking of which, she was the only cutter in USCG history to fire a live Harpoon, during tests off Oxnard in January 1990.

PAC Ken Freeze, USCG

The Coast Guard certainly got their $14.5 million FY65 original costs out of her, and, as with most of her class, will surely go on to serve an overseas ally for another generation or two.

Her motto is Primus Inter Pares (First Among Equals).

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) crew and an Air Station Barbers Point MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew conduct searches just before sunset 24 miles south of Oahu, March 18, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Joshua Martin/Released)

Sherman was right, 1945 revisit

Here we see a P-47N Thunderbolt of the 7th AAF’s 19th Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group, at Ie Shima Airfield on Ryukyu Retto, Okinawa on 7 July 1945, with an M2 machine-gun-armed M3 half-track on anti-paratrooper/banzai defense.

Photo 65093AC

Notably, the “Jug” (S/N 44-88104) is named “Sherman Was Right” (which was apparently a popular name for AAF fighters in both theaters of the war).

AC45606

The reference is likely an ode to the Union General’s 1879 ” war is Hell!” speech to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy.

Of course, you could also argue that sections of Sherman’s well known, “War is a Terrible Thing” rant from the eve of the Civil War referencing the South’s slim likelihood of victory in the coming fracas between the states as a direct allegory to Japan’s own chances of winning the Pacific War.

That quote, below:

“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!

You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it.

Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail.

Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

~William Tecumseh Sherman, December 24, 1860.”

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