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Looks like a story board from Apocalypse Now, but it’s real

On the night of October 27-28, 1965 Viet Cong forces launched an attack on a newly built helicopter facility at Marble Mountain, southeast of Da Nang, RVN.

“Reflected Night Battle, Marble Mountain” Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Gene Klebe; 1965; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W NHHC Accession #: 88-162-I

After 30 minutes of fighting, American casualties were three dead, 91 wounded, 19 helicopters destroyed, and 35 damaged.

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Warship Wednesday, August 23, 2017: Wilhelmina’s Tromp card

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, August 23, 2017: Wilhelmina’s Tromp card

Here we see the Tromp-class light cruiser Hr. Ms. Tromp (D-28) of the Koninklijke Marine as she appeared in late 1941/early 1942 in the Dutch East Indies complete with her distinctive splinter camo. The leader of a class of four fast but small cruisers intended as “flotilla leaders” for a group of destroyers, she was a survivor and the largest Dutch warship to survive the hell of that lowland country’s combat in the Pacific.

At just 3,400-tons and 432-feet in length, the Tromp-class ships were about the size of big destroyers of their day (or frigates today), but they made up for it with an armament of a half-dozen 5.9-inch Mk 11 Bofors/Wilton-Fijenoord guns which were firmly in the neighborhood that light cruisers lived.

A suite of six torpedo tubes ensured they could perforate larger targets while geared steam turbines capable of pushing the ship at up to 35-knots gave it the option of a clean getaway from battleships. A Fokker C 11W floatplane gave long eyes while some 450-tons of armor plate (13 percent of her displacement) coupled with a dusting of AAA guns offered piece of mind against attack from low/slow aircraft and small vessels.

Laid down in 1936 at N.V. Nederlandsche Scheepsbouw Maatschappij, Amsterdam, the hero of our tale was named after noted Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp, a 17th-century naval hero whose name was carried by several of Holland’s warships going back to 1809.

Billed by the Dutch as “flotilla leaders” they were meant to replace the elderly coast defense ships Hertog Hendrik and Jacob van Heemskerck and only reclassified as light cruisers in 1938 after funding was secured.

HNLMS Tromp lead ship of the Tromp-class light cruisers at high speed on trials, where she generated over 35 knots over the course.

HNLMS Tromp during her first day of trials on the North Sea, 28 March 1938. Collection J. Klootwijk via NetherlandNavy.NL

Tromp would be the only one of her class completed to her intended design, commissioning 18 August 1938. Her sister Jacob van Heemskerck was still on the ways when the Germans invaded in 1940 and was later completed to a much different design while two other planned vessels were never funded.

TROMP Starboard side, from off the starboard bow circa 1938. Catalog #: NH 80909

TROMP view taken circa 1939. Catalog #: NH 80910

Following several naval reviews and waving the flag in Europe on the edge of meltdown, she sailed for the important colony of the Dutch East Indies to help beef up the KM’s strength in a region where Japan was eager to obtain Java and Sumatra’s natural resources by force if needed.

TROMP Anchored at Port Moresby, New Guinea, 4 March 1941. #: NH 80908

Netherlands east indies. 1941-03-13. Aerial starboard bow view of Dutch flotilla cruiser Tromp, at anchor in calm water with one of her boats and native craft alongside. she is painted in her pre-war scheme of light grey. note the searchlight position on the foremast. She carries a Fokker c.14w floatplane amidships which is handled by the derricks on the two Sampson posts. Her prominent rangefinder is trained to port and a turret is trained over the starboard bow. on the deckhouse, aft are twin bofors 40 mm aa guns on triaxially stabilized hazemeyer mountings which were very advanced for the period. (AWM Naval historical collection).

When Holland fell in May 1940, the Dutch government in exile under Queen Wilhelmina maintained control of the East Indies from London and Tromp spent the first two years of WWII with her eyes peeled for German raiders and U-boats in the Pacific and put on her war paint.

Then the Japanese went hot in December 1941, striking at the Dutch, British and Americans simultaneously. Soon Tromp, arguably the one of the most capable ships at Dutch Rear Adm. Karel Doorman’s disposal, was engaged in the thick of it.

Netherlands east indies. C.1941-02. Starboard side view of the Dutch flotilla cruiser Tromp prior to the Badung Strait action in which she was seriously damaged. She wears a splinter type camouflage scheme, apparently of two shades of grey, common to Dutch ships involved in the defense of the Netherlands East indies. Note the searchlight position on the foremast. Her floatplane has been landed as has her port Sampson post. Note the prominent rangefinder above the bridge. On the deckhouse, aft are twin bofors 40 mm aa guns on triaxially stabilized hazemeyer mountings which were very advanced for the period. (AWM naval historical collection).

During the three-day running action that was the Battle of Badung Strait, Tromp and the destroyers USS John D. Edwards, Parrott, Pillsbury, and Stewart clashed with the Japanese destroyers Asashio and Oshio in a sharp night action in the pre-dawn hours of 18 February 1942.

Dutch cruiser HNLMS Tromp The Battle of Badung Strait Painting by Keinichi Nakamura, 1943.

Tromp landed hits on both enemy ships, but was also plastered by 5-inch shells from the Japanese tin cans and forced to retire.

The flotilla leader “Tromp” of the Royal Netherlands Navy, in dry dock at Cockatoo Island, for repairs after being damaged in action in the Java Sea. By Dennis Adams via AWM

Emergency repairs in Australia saved Tromp from the crushing Battle of the Java Sea at the end of February that saw the Dutch lose the cruisers Java and De Ruyter sunk and Doorman killed, effectively ending the defense of the East Indies.

After surviving the crucible, Tromp became known to her crew as “the lucky ship” which, when you realize what the Dutch went through in the Pacific, was apt.

The Dutch Navy lost 57 ships during WWII, and amazingly half of those were in the East Indies in the scant four-month period between 15 December 1941- 15 March 1942. These included the two aforementioned cruisers, eight submarines, six destroyers and 15 smaller escorts (minelayers, gunboats, minesweepers). Even the old coast defense ship, De Zeven Provinciën was sunk at her moorings in Surabaya harbor. In contrast, the country only lost 16 ships in May 1940 when metropolitan Holland fell to the Germans.

Based out of Newcastle and later Fremantle, Australia, Tromp was augmented by several Bofors 40mm and Oerlikon 20mm mounts, given a series of surface and air warning radars, and served as a convoy escort and patrol vessel in and around Australian waters, picking up U.S. Measure 22 camo in her work with the 7th Fleet.

Sydney, NSW. C.1943. Starboard side view of the Dutch flotilla cruiser Tromp. The splinter type camouflage scheme worn earlier in the war has been replaced by the American measure 22 scheme, the colors probably consisting of navy blue below haze grey. Note the searchlight position on the foremast above which an American SC radar has replaced that carried earlier. Type 271 surface search radar is mounted before the mast. Amidships, above her torpedo tubes, twin AA machine guns and a small rangefinder have been mounted in the space once occupied by her floatplane. The Sampson posts once fitted at the break of the forecastle have been replaced by 4-inch aa guns. Note the prominent rangefinder above the bridge. On the deckhouse, aft are twin Bofors 40 mm aa guns on triaxially stabilized hazemeyer mountings which were very advanced for the period. Single 20 mm Oerlikon aa guns are sited on the crowns of b and y turrets and abaft the bridge. (naval historical collection).

She was transferred to the control of the British Eastern Fleet in January 1944. Around this time, she swapped out her aging Dutch V53 torpedoes for British Mark 9s along with new mounts.

Tromp conducting anti-aircraft defense exercises with the assistance of an RAAF Consolidated Catalina flying boat off the West Australian coast via AWM.

When the Allies began pushing back into the East Indies, Tromp was there, plastering Surabaya and supporting the amphibious landing at Balikpapan in Borneo. In September 1945, as part of the end game in the Pacific, she landed Dutch Marines in Batavia to disarm the Japanese garrison and reoccupy the former colonial capital.

Tromp participated in magic carpet duty after the end of hostilities and returned to Holland for the first time since 1939, arriving at Amsterdam in May 1946, carrying 150 Dutch POWs liberated from Japanese camps.

HNLMS Tromp docked in 1946

Tromp was one of just two cruisers left in the Dutch Navy at the end of the war (the other being her sister), but she had seen hard service and carried an amalgam of Swedish, American, and British weapons and electronics, many of which were no longer supported. Following a two-year overhaul that saw much of her armament removed, she served as an accommodation and training ship with a NATO pennant number.

VARIOUS SHIPS AT ANCHOR IN MOUNT’S BAY, ENGLAND. 1 JULY 1949. (A 31535) The Dutch cruiser TROMP at anchor in Mount’s Bay. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016274

The highlight of her post-war service was a few midshipmen cruises and attending the Spithead fleet review in 1953.

Tromp was decommissioned 1 December 1955 and, after more than a decade in reserve status, was sold to be scrapped in Spain in 1969. Her half-sister, Jacob van Heemskerk, shared a similar fate and was scrapped in 1970.

Since then, her name has been reissued to the class-leader of a group of guided missile frigates (HNLMS Tromp F801) and in a De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate commissioned in 2003.

For more on Tromp‘s history, please visit NetherlandsNavy.NL, which has it covered in depth.

Specs:

Hr Tromp (Cruiser) – Netherlands (1938) via blueprints.com

Displacement: 3,350 long tons (3,404 t) standard
Length: 432 ft. 11 in
Beam: 40 ft. 9 in
Draught: 14 ft. 2 in
Propulsion:
2 Parsons/N.V. Werkspoor geared steam turbines
4 Yarrow boilers
2 shafts
56,000 shp (41,759 kW)
860 tons of fuel oil
Speed: 32.5 knots designed, 35 on trials
Complement:
290 as commissioned, 380 in WWII
Armor: 15mm belt, up to 30mm on bulkheads
Armament:
(1938)
6 × 150 mm Bofors Mk 11 (5.9 in) guns (3×2)
4 × 40 mm Bofors (2×2)
4 × .50 cal in two twin mounts
6 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes (2×3), 12xV53 torpedoes
(1944)
6 × 150 mm Bofors (5.9 in) guns (3×2)
4 × 75 mm U.S. AAA
8 × 40 mm Bofors (4×2)
8 × 20 mm singles
6 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes (2×3), 12xMk9 torpedoes
Aircraft carried: 1 × Fokker C.XIW floatplane

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!

Warship Wednesday, August 16, 2017: Possibly the most Devil Dog carrier, ever

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, August 16, 2017: Possibly the most Devil Dog carrier, ever

Here we see the Commencement Bay-class escort carrier, USS Sicily (CVE-118), as she enters San Diego Bay on her return from her first deployment to the Korean War zone, 5 February 1951. Note the Marine Corps F4U Corsairs, OY-2 Sentinel spotter planes and the early Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter on deck. The aircraft to the rear are Grumman AF-2W Guardians, an early ASW plane. The baby flattop had already marked her place in Marine Corps history when this image was taken.

Of the 130 U.S./RN escort carriers– merchant ships hulls given a hangar, magazine, and flight deck– built during WWII, the late-war Commencement Bay-class was by far the Cadillac of the design slope. Using lessons learned from the earlier Long Island, Avenger, Sangamon, Bogue and Casablanca-class ships. Like the Sangamon-class, they were based on Maritime Commission T3 class tanker hulls (which they shared with the roomy replenishment oilers of the Chiwawa, Cimarron, and Ashtabula-classes), from the keel-up, these were made into flattops.

Pushing some 25,000-tons at full load, they could make 19-knots which was faster than a lot of submarines looking to plug them. A decent suite of about 60 AAA guns spread across 5-inch, 40mm and 20mm fittings could put as much flying lead in the air as a light cruiser of the day when enemy aircraft came calling. Finally, they could carry a 30-40 aircraft airwing of single-engine fighter bombers and torpedo planes ready for a fight or about twice that many planes if being used as a delivery ship.

Sound good, right? Of course, and had the war ran into 1946-47, the 33 planned vessels of the Commencement Bay-class would have no doubt fought kamikazes, midget subs and suicide boats tooth and nail just off the coast of the Japanese Home Islands.

However, the war ended in Sept. 1945 with only nine of the class barely in commission– most of those still on shake down cruises. Just two, Block Island and Gilbert Islands, saw significant combat, at Okinawa and Balikpapan, winning two and three battle stars, respectively. Kula Gulf and Cape Gloucester picked up a single battle star.

With the war over, some of the class, such as USS Rabaul and USS Tinian, though complete were never commissioned and simply laid up in mothballs, never being brought to life. Four other ships were cancelled before launching just after the bomb on Nagasaki was dropped. In all, just 19 of the planned 33 were commissioned.

The hero of our tale, the only ship in the U.S. Navy ever named after the island of Sicily, or more correctly the 1943 military campaign for that island, was laid down at Todd-Pacific Shipyards, Tacoma, Washington, 23 October 1944 and commissioned 27 February 1946. Ironically, seven earlier sisters were decommissioned the same year.

Arriving on the East Coast in July 1946 after shakedown and outfitting Sicily served in the Atlantic Fleet in a number of support and ASW roles, experimenting new types and tactics for the next three years while stationed at Norfolk. By 1950, she was one of the few escort carriers still in active service and embarked big AF-2W (TB3F-1S) Guardians (at 22,000-lbs takeoff weight, the largest single-engine piston-powered carrier aircraft, and likely the largest aircraft period, operated from escort carriers), aboard.

USS SICILY (CVE-118) at New York City, September 1947. Courtesy of The Marine Museum, Newport News, Va. Ted Stone Collection. Catalog #: NH 66791

Navy blimp K-125 operations aboard USS Sicily (CVE 118) during the recent maneuvers in the Caribbean. As the blimp descends, the flight deck crewmen take hold of the handling lines and bring her to rest on the deck of the ship, released April 6, 1949. U.S. Navy Photograph, 80-G-707078, now in the collections of the National Archives.

On 3 April 1950, Sicily was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet, arriving at San Diego later that month. While preparing for summer exercises, the North Koreans crossed over into South Korea and the balloon went up.

Gregory “Pappy” Boyington’s famous Black Sheep Squadron, VMF-214, then under Major Robert P. Keller, were given orders to embark for Korea on Sicily as soon as possible. While the Corsairs weren’t front-line fighters in the burgeoning jet age, they could still perform CAS, interdiction, and armed reconnaissance missions and look good doing it.

The ship was commanded by noted WWII aviator, Capt. John S. Thach (USNA 1927), inventor of the “Thach Weave”, a tactic that enabled the generally mediocre U.S. fighters of 1942 to hold their own against the Japanese Zero.

Captain John S. Thach and Lieutenant J.V. Hames, USMC, on board USS Sicily (CVE 118) during Inchon Invasion. Lieutenant Hanes is a member of VMF-214) and is from Santa Monica, California. 80-G-420280

With a line up like Thach and the Black Sheep, you know what happened next.

On 3 August 1950, a group of 8 F4U-4B Corsairs from VMF-214 became the first Marine squadron to see action in Korea, launching from Sicily and executing a raid against DPRK positions near Inchon. At the time, the little jeep carrier was flagship of Carrier Division (CarDiv) 15.

U.S. Marine Corps F4U-4B Corsair fighter-bomber Receives final checks to its armament of bombs and 5-inch rockets, just prior to being catapulted from USS Sicily (CVE-118) for a strike on enemy forces in Korea. The original photograph is dated 16 November 1950, but was probably taken in August-October 1950. Note battered paint on this aircraft. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-419929

The withdrawal of the marines from the Chosin Reservoir to Hungnam was covered by Corsairs from Sicily. HVAR rockets and napalm make good party favors.

Speaking of that napalm smell…

One of the Black Sheep pilots at the time was 1Lt. Donald “The Great Santini” Conroy, a storied figure who entered the Marines as an enlisted man in WWII and later retired as a full colonel in 1974 after pushing A-4s in Vietnam. More on Conroy later.

National Archives footage of VMF-214 on board Sicily, United States Naval Photographic Center film #246. (no sound)

The jeep carrier also supported SAR ops via helicopters and recon/spotting missions with OY-2s.

USS Sicily (CVE-118) launches a U.S. Marine Corps OY-2 Sentinel spotter plane during operations in the Yellow Sea, off the west coast of Korea, 22 September 1950. Sicily was then supporting the campaign to recapture Seoul. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-420239

The Black Sheep eventually left and Sicily picked up the Death Rattlers of VMF-323 for her second tour with the 7th Fleet, from 13 May to 12 October 1951.

F4U-4 Corsair aircraft of VMF-323 lined up on the flight deck of USS Sicily (CVE-118) in waters off MCAS Sesebo, Japan. 1951. Note the rattlesnakes painted on some aircraft, due to the squadron’s nickname “Death Rattlers”.

F4U-4 Corsair aircraft of VMF-323 armed with bombs, napalm tanks and HVAR rockets are launched for a mission from the flight deck of the escort carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118) off Korea, in 1951.

On her third tour in Korea, 8 May to 4 December 1952, she had a few new tricks up her sleeve.

In late August 1952, Sicily took aboard the Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters of Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 (HMR-161) and tested the first vertical envelopment (moving combat-ready Marines from ship to shore via whirlybird) combined with an amphibious assault in what was termed Operation “Marlex-5” off the coast of Inchon. While the tactic had been trialed in California earlier that year with HMR-162, the op with Sicily was the first time it was used overseas, much less in a combat zone.

USS Sicily (CVE-118) launches U.S. Marine Corps HRS-1 helicopters during Operation Marlex-5 off the west coast of Korea in the Inchon area. Photo is dated 1 September 1952. Nearest HRS-1 is Bureau # 127798. It wears the markings of squadron HMR-161. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-477573

U.S. Marine Sikorsky HRS-2 helicopters lined-up ready on the flight deck of the escort carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118). Note U.S. Marines on the Sicily’s elevator. U.S. Navy photo. Navsource NS0311818

On 4 September 1952, the Checkerboards of Marine Fighter Squadron 312 (VMF-312) moved from airfields ashore to Sicily’s decks and over the next several days their Corsairs had a number of run-ins with North Korean MiGs. The hardy Soviet-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, which could do Mach 0.87 at sea level and had a pair of 23mm cannon supplemented by a big 37mm mount, was a brawler.

Well about that…

On 10 September, Marine Capt. Jesse Folmar in his F4U-B (BuNo 62927) destroyed a North Korean MiG-15 in aerial combat over the west coast of Korea while flying with his wingman. Outnumbered 4:1 the two Marine Corsairs were outnumbered by eight MiGs.

From VMF-312’s unit history:

Folmar and Walter E. Daniels were attacked by eight MIG-1 5s which made repeated firing runs on the slower F4Us as they tried to get out of the area. After one of the MIGs completed a run on the Corsairs, instead of breaking off to the side, the jet pulled up directly in front of Captain Folmar’s guns. A quick burst of the 20mm cannon soon had the MIG ablaze and heading for the ground. The kill marked the first time an American had downed a jet fighter with a propeller-driven aircraft. Another MIG retaliated with a burst of 37mm fire which forced Captain Folmar to bail out, but he was rescued and returned to the ship. Captain Daniels’ plane was not hit and safely landed on board the carrier.

It was quite a feat.

While USAAF, Soviet and British piston-engine fighters chalked up something like 150~ German Komets and Me262 kills in the latter stages of WWII, the MiG was a much more formidable adversary. There were few comparable events.

The Brits, in their only air-to-air victory in Korea, chalked up a similar action to Folmar’s when on 9 August 1952, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Lt. “Hoagy” Carmichael of 802 Squadron downed a Nork MiG 15 while flying a Sea Fury of the carrier HMS Ocean, while in Vietnam Navy A-1 Skyraiders accounted for several MiG-17s.

Sicily’s Guardians, of Navy Reserve Anti-Submarine Squadron VS-931, also gave unsung service, conducting maritime patrol and keeping an eye out for submarines. Two of the big sub hunters, with their four-man crews, were lost while on Sicily‘s third war cruise– BuNo 124843 and 126830– though their crews were saved.

The U.S. Navy escort carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118) underway, with Grumman AF-2S and AF-2W Guardians of SV-931, circa in October 1952, en route to Hawaii. Photo by LtJG Philip Nelson, USN via Wiki

Sicily finished the war in the United Nations Escort and Blockading Force, deploying to the Far East from 14 July 1953 to 25 February 1954.

USS Sicily (CVE-118) photographed at the Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, circa February 1954, with USS Yorktown (CVA-10) at right and eleven LCM landing craft in the foreground. Grumman AF Guardian anti-submarine aircraft are parked on Sicily’s flight deck. Douglas AD Skyraider attack planes are parked aft on Yorktown’s flight deck. Catalog #: NH 97318

USS Sicily (CVE-118) underway with F4U aircraft parked aft, April 1954. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97317

And just like that, with a tad over eight years of service, five Korean War battle stars, and legends under her belt, Sicily was decommissioned 4 Oct 1954. Though retained in mothballs until 1960, the days of the short-deck carrier were over for the jet powered Navy and newer purpose-built Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ships, with about half the crew of the Sicily and her sisters, were being commissioned to carry Marine helicopters into battle. Like the Commencement Bay-class, the Iwo’s were named after battles.

On 31 October 1960, Sicily was sold to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation for scrap.

Of the rest of the Commencement Bay-class, most saw a mixed bag of post-WWII service as Helicopter Carriers (CVHE) or Cargo Ship and Aircraft Ferries (AKV). Most were sold for scrap by the early 1970s with the last of the class, Gilbert Islands, converted to a communication relay ship, AGMR-1, enduring on active service until 1969 and going to the breakers in 1979. Their more than 30 “sisters below the waist” the other T3 tankers were used by the Navy through the Cold War with the last of the breed, USS Mispillion (AO-105), headed to the breakers in 2011.

As for Sicily‘s heroes, their tales endure.

MiG-killer Folmar’s deeds from Sicily in 1952 were commemorated in a painting by Lou Drendel, which now hangs at the Naval Air and Space Museum in Pensacola.

The Aviator himself was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame and is buried in Foley, Alabama, passing away in 2004.

Remember the (literal) Black Sheep pilot, The Great Santini? Conroy’s son, Southern storyteller Pat Conroy, later based Lt. Col. Bull Meechum, USMC (played by Robert Duvall in the movie) as the wild man Marine Corps pilot with a host of family issues on his father in a book and film of the same name.

Conroy, who called MCAS Beaufort home and graduated from the Citadel, filled his works with many references to Marines and, obliquely, to his father. Col. Conroy is buried at Beaufort and in later life he attended book signings alongside Pat, inking “The Great Santini” with his signature.

Of Sicily‘s Marine squadrons, all are still around. VMFA-312 flies F/A-18Cs based out of MCAS Beaufort (Santini’s base) while the Black Sheep of VMA-214 are pushing AV-8Bs out of Yuma until they get their shiny new F-35Cs. The Death Rattlers of VMFA-323? They are assigned to Miramar and still deploy on carriers regularly, as their Hornets are a part of Carrier Wing 11.

Meanwhile, the Korean People’s Army Air Force remain the last military operator of the MiG-15, as some things never change.

Specs:


Displacement:
10,900 long tons (11,100 t) standard
24,100 long tons (24,500 t) full load
Length: 557 ft. (170 m)
Beam:
75 ft. (23 m)
105 ft. 2 in (32.05 m) flight deck
Draft: 30 ft. 8 in (9.35 m)
Propulsion: 2-shaft geared turbines, 16,000 shp
Speed: 19 knots (22 mph; 35 km/h)
Complement: 1,066 officers and men
Armament:
2 × 5″/38 caliber guns (1 × 2)
36 × 40 mm Bofors gun (3 × 4, 12 × 2)
20 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons
Aircraft carried: 34

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!

72 years ago today: Fanaticism in a photo

admiral-ugaki-posing-before-his-final-kamikaze-mission-wwii-15-august-1945Imperial Japanese Navy Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki on 15 August 1945, at age 55, on his last day in the Navy.

Ugaki graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1912, 9th in his class, and went on to serve the Emperor for the next 33 years including as a junior officer on the battlecruiser Kongō during WWI, service in Germany in the 1920s, passing through the Naval Staff College and serving as the Chief-of-Staff of the Combined Fleet under Yamamoto for the first half of WWII.

Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki (left), Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, early 1940s

A smiling Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki (left), Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, early 1940s

Following Yamamoto’s death, Ugaki was given the demotion of commanding the 1st Battleship Division (Nagato, Yamato, Musashi), which largely perished during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, then was transferred to command the kamikaze forces of the IJN Fifth Air Fleet. Spending the last year of the war cheering on barely trained young pilots as they took off in condemned planes with just enough fuel for a one-way flight.

Speaking of which, the day the Emperor announced  the official cease-fire order on 15 August, Ugaki climbed into the backseat of a Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” (first image above) and led a failed 11-aircraft attack on the U.S. fleet. His remains were found later by Sailors of a U.S. amphibious landing craft along the beach on Iheyajima Island and buried in the sand, the last kamikaze.

Atomic age Shermans in downtown Motown

While the concept of a platoon of main battle tanks rattling down a major metro street these days sounds foreign outside of Third World coups, in Korean War-era Detroit, it was just another parade.

It should be noted Chrysler’s Detroit Tank Arsenal built over 15,000 M4s during the war, in no less than eight variants, or about a third of the entire Sherman production line.

sherman-tanks-detriot-july-28-1951-detroits-250th-birthday-festival

View of tanks on Woodward Ave. during the parade celebrating the 250th Birthday Festival of Detroit. Large American flag is draped on office building; spectators stand on sidewalks. Stamped on back: “Don Cooper, advertising & illustrative photography, 8619 Grand River, Detroit 6, Michigan. Detroit, 1701-1951, 250th Birthday Festival, official committee.” Handwritten on back: “Views of the big parade, July 28, 1951, Detroit’s 250th Birthday Festival.” Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Warship Wednesday, July 26, 2017: Doctor Jekyll and HM’s gunboat

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 26, 2017: Doctor Jekyll and HM’s gunboat

Photograph (Q 41101) H. M. S. Royalist. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205275598

Here we see the Royal Navy Satellite-class barque-rigged, composite-hulled protected sloop (later deemed a corvette) HMS Royalist as she appeared in the late 1880s.

Designed by the noted Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, KCB, the seven ships of the Satellite-class were an amalgam of old sailing era fighting ships and new iron steam vessel. They had an iron keel and frame with wood planking. A steam plant was primary propulsion (up to 13 knots) and they carried enough coal to travel an impressive 6,000nm, but a sail rig was fitted and often used.

Gone were old muzzle-loading cast iron rifles, replaced by new breech-loading 6-inch/100-pounder (81cwt) guns which could fire an 80-pound shell some 7,590 yards and Gardner machine guns (though each of the class carried a different armament pattern and varying engineering suites, making them more half-sisters than anything.). At 200-feet overall, these impressive vessels carried a smattering of armor plate (about an inch) over their sensitive machinery areas, but remained svelte enough to float in less than three fathoms.

Built at Sheerness and Devonport, these ships were soon dispatched to far-flung colonial posts on the Australian Station, the Pacific Station, West Indies and China.

The subject of our tale, the 7th HMS Royalist, commissioned 14 April 1886 then spent some time on station at the Cape of Good Hope and Australia.

Sydney, NSW, c. 1890. Portside view of screw corvette HMS Royalist. Note 6-inch guns in ports on her waist. (AWM 302264)

Royalist was subsequently sent for a spell to the Gilbert islands, claiming them for the Crown and inspecting the same.

Annexation of the Gilbert Islands, Hoisting the British Flag at Apamama by HMS Royalist, 27 May 1892, from the Sept. 10 1892 Illustrated London News

Later, Royalist was sent to Samoa, then a hot topic in the halls of Europe and America.

The “Samoan Question” burned brightly from about 1886 onward, with Germany, the U.S. and Britain all nosing around the islands, and picking sides. This resulted in an eight-year civil war in the archipelago with guns and munitions supplied to Samoan leaders by the powers, all to ultimately claim the land for their growing colonial empires, a struggle that is beyond this blog.

By early March 1899, this low-level tribal conflict had boiled over, with exiled chief Mata’afa Iosefo backed by the Germans and incoming regent Malietoa Tanumafili I backed by the Anglo-Americans, and combat at the offering.

H.M.S. ROYALIST; USS PHILADELPHIA (C-4); H.M.S. TORCH; H.M.S. TAURANGA; German cruiser FALKE; and H.M.S. PORPOISE, at Apia, Samoa, April 1899. Catalog #: NH 4

With the balloon going up, the Royalist joined the Alert-class sloop HMS Torch, Archer-class torpedo cruiser HMS Porpoise, and the U.S. Pacific Squadron flag, USS Philadelphia (Cruiser No. 4), in supporting Tanumafili.

British sailors and Royal Marines, joined with U.S. leathernecks and bluejackets to form a force consisting of 26 marines and 88 sailors, reinforced by a company of 136 Samoans loyal to Tanumafili, and set out from Apia toward a plantation at Vailele. The group was led by Lt. Angel H. Freeman, RN, with Lt. Philip V. Lansdale, USN as XO, and carried a Colt-Browning M1895 from Philadelphia just in case.

NH 121036 Angel Hope Freeman, RN

Another 146 mixed RN/USN landing force, augmented by a single 7-pounder from Royalist and assorted U.S. Marines manning Gatling guns for fire support, surrounded the Tivoli Hotel which was used as a command post and shelter for non-combatants. From there they held off a determined assault from Iosefo loyalists over three days (March 15-17), losing four British and American sailors and marines.

Seven Pounder commanding the Tivoli Road – Gunner Gunn of H.M.S. Royalist in charge, Auckland Weekly News (07 April 1899), via Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18990407-5-1.

An American Gatling gun and crew and part of the defenses of the British Consulate, Apia, Samoa, 1899. Courtesy of Captain T.T. Craven, USN. Catalog #: NH 1448

Meanwhile, as Royalist with her big 6-inchers and shallow draft, closed in and shelled two fortified outposts filled with Iosefo supporters– with fire corrected by a pair of Samoan fans in the hands of a signalman on the reef near Fagalii.

However, once the column moved inland to attack Vailele, they were swarmed by 800 of Iosefo’s troops on 1 April while arrayed along the road. Setting up a perimeter supported by the Colt, Freeman was killed and an injured Lansdale took command of the force, only to succumb to his wounds. Also killed in the action were U.S. Navy Seaman Norman E. Edsall, U.S. Ensign John Robert Monaghan (USNA 1879), U.S. Seaman James Butler, RN Leading Seaman Albert Meirs Prout and RN Leading Seaman John Long. Eventually the naval party was able to break contact, covered by Royalist‘s guns, which were once again directed by the fans.

Two Marines, Sgt. Michael J. McNally, and Pvt. Henry L. Hulbert, received the Medal of Honor for their heroism during the battle. Iosefo is believed to have suffered 100 casualties.

By 25 April, the conflict had settled down with each side agreeing to disagree. The next day, the auxiliary cruiser USS Badger arrived in Apia harbor carrying the Joint High Commission–representatives from Germany, Britain and the U.S. State Department– to begin negotiations on how to carve up the islands more peacefully. By 13 May they had the affair sorted out and a treaty was sent home to be signed by the end of the year.

In the end, Germany acquired the western islands (Savai’i and ‘Upolu, plus seven smaller islands) with Iosefo declared chief by the German Samoa colonial powers; while the U.S. acquired the eastern islands (Tutuila and the Manu’a group) and established a base at Pago Pago. The Brits quit the chain altogether in exchange for territorial concessions from the Germans in Tonga and the Solomans.

New Zealand was allowed by Britain to annex the Cook Islands and Niue as something of a consolation prize, though the Kiwis had mustered local troops for war in Samoa, that in the end, were not needed. Nonetheless, they stormed German Samoa in 1914 during the Great War and remained in administration of the islands as the Western Samoa Trust Territory until 1962.

Preceding joint monuments for the Great War, WWII, and Korea, the USN and RN established a marker in Samoa to commemorate their combined war dead from 1899.

Tablet on Monument in Samoa. Caption: “Erected by Americans and British in memory of the Brave American and British Sailors who fought and fell together at the Samoan Islands in March and April 1899.” Angel Hope Freeman, Philip Vanhorne Lansdale, John R. Monaghan, James Butler, Norman Eckley Edsall, Albert Meirs Prout, John Long, Edmund Halloran, Montague Rogers, Thomas Holloway, Andrew Henry J. Thornberry, John Edward Mudge. All Officers and men of the American Navy were attached to the U.S.F.S. PHILADELPHIA and those of the British Navy to H.M.S. ROYALIST. Description: Collection of Captain T.T. Craven, USN. Catalog #: NH 2177

Beyond the marker, the U.S. Navy preserved relics from the colonial battle including shrapnel and a fuse from the British ship and the famous fans used as signal flags to correct her fire. Below are the images and it is likely the takeaways are still in a box somewhere in a Navy warehouse.

On left, a piece of shrapnel thrown by HMS ROYALIST after the battle of 1 April 1899, Apia, Samoa. On right, fuse of 6″ shell fired from the British ship ROYALIST after striking a coconut tree and exploding on 1 April 1899, Apia, Samoa. Catalog #: NH 1666

Samoan fans taken from a chief’s hut in the village of Mataafa. This chief led the revolution against the British-American authority in the Samoan Islands 6 March to 22 May 1899. The fans were used to signal the British ship ROYALIST to fire over the defeated Anglo-American columns on the reef near Fagalii, Upolu, Samoa, on 1 April 1899. From the ROYALIST held the hostilities back until the survivors of the ambush were rescued Catalog #: USN 901315

A storyteller who lived in Samoa since 1890 who was on hand for the struggle was a Scot, one Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson. While his Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are much more commonly read, he did craft A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa, his own nonfiction take on the conflict there, in which he mentions Royalist several times.

Photograph of Robert Louis Stevenson (seated) and family, Vailima, on the island of Upolu in Samoa. Via Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

While it may seem we are finished with our story here, Royalist remained afloat for another half-century past her Samoan encounter.

Leaving the islands once they were partitioned, she sailed for Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland to be converted to a depot and receiving station for ship crews in Haulbowline.

Photograph (Q 40999) H. M. S. Royalist. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205275497

In 1913, on the eve of the Great War, she was renamed HMS Colleen. While she was still afloat, one of HMs submarines and two cruisers went on to carry the name HMS Royalist.

When the lights went out in Europe, the old corvette-turned-hulk wore the flag of CiC Coast of Ireland and later CiC Western Approaches, and was a welcome sight at Queenstown for ships crossing the Atlantic during the war. It was during the conflict that she served as the mother ship to a series of shifting flotillas of motor launches and armed trawlers of the Auxiliary Patrol, which deployed around the British Isles performing search and rescue and anti-submarine patrolling.

Incoming ships to Queensland with sick or injured crew members, or shipmates being transferred or processing out, would assign their transients to Royalist/Colleen, which means there are dozens of wartime graves around the British Isles with headstones marked HMS Colleen.

Noted Irish polar explorer Tom Crean, member of three major expeditions to Antarctica including Captain Scott’s ill-fated 1911–13 Terra Nova Expedition, served his last few months in the Royal Navy aboard Colleen until he was retired on medical grounds on 24 March 1920.

With Ireland moving out of the British Empire, the aging Colleen was paid off 15 March 1922, just three months before the Irish Free State was proclaimed.

Still a dominion of the British Empire until 1931, HMS Colleen was transferred to the new Irish government 19 February 1923 to support the recently formed Irish Coastal and Marine Service, joining the commandeered 155-foot armed yacht Helga (rechristened Muirchu, or “Seahound”). However, the CMS was soon disbanded, and Colleen was never used as more than a hulk and oil storage barge, though she was retained until at least 1950, some four years after the founding of the current Irish Naval Service (An tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh) was founded.

Her final fate is unknown, though she is thought to have been broken up. What is known, however, is that she outlived all six of her sister ships.

Paid off or hulked in the early 1900s, Heroine, Hyachinth and Pylades went to the breakers by 1906. Satellite and Caroline managed as training vessels until 1947 and 1929, respectively, though one of the latter’s guns endures on display in Hong Kong. Runner up for the longest life of the class was Rapid, who endured as an accommodation ship and coal bunker until she was disposed of at Gibraltar in 1948.

However, there is always Robert Louis Stevenson, the marker on Samoa, the relics somewhere in the NHHC archives and the heroics of Tom Crean, proving Royalist will remain, as a footnote at least, forever.

Specs:

Displacement: 1,420 tons
Length: 200 ft. (61 m)
Beam: 38 ft. (12 m)
Draught: 15.7 ft. (4.8 m)
Propulsion:
Cylindrical boilers,
Maudslay, Sons and Field horizontal compound expansion steam engine, 1510hp
Single screw
Maximum speed: 13 knots
Endurance: 6,000 nm at 10 kts on 400 tons coal
Sail plan: Barque-rigged
Range: Approximately 6,000 nmi (11,000 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)
Complement: 170-200
Armament:
(As designed)
Two 6″/26 (15.2 cm) BL Mark II guns
Ten BL 5-inch (127.0 mm) 50-pounder (38cwt) guns
One light gun
Four machine guns
(As completed)
Eight 6″/26 (15.2 cm) BL Mark II guns
1 7-pdr landing gun
4x .45 cal Gardner machine guns
Armor: Internal steel deck, 19-25mmm thick, over machinery and magazines

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A Lil Jeep and a lot of swagger

Capt. Forrest F “Pappy” Parham in front of the famous shark teeth of Little Jeep, a P-40 Warhawk when a member of “Chennault’s Sharks” the 23rd Fighter Group in the China-Burma-India theater of WWII. He went on to make ace with the 75th Fighter Squadron flying P-51s.

The Saskatchewan-born Parham was reared in Minnesota and began his career as an Army enlisted man but retired a full bird colonel in the U.S. Air Force having served through the Korean War. He retired after 28 years, carried the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Unit Citation, Soldiers Medal and two Bronze Service Stars.

He died in Louisiana in 2002 at age 85. As you can tell, he enjoyed a good pipe and an ivory-handled 1911.

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