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Warship Wednesday, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

In this beautiful original color photograph, we see the modified Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS St. Louis, often also seen written as “Saint Louis”, (CL-49) at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, circa 1943. At the time this image was taken, the cruiser had already seen much of the Pacific War and would see much more.

Significantly different from the seven other ships of the Brooklyn-class, St. Louis and her follow-on sister USS Helena (CL-50) was ordered under the 1934 Naval Plan. While they used the same hull, engineering plant, and general layout as the rest of their class– to include 15 6″/47 caliber Mark 16 guns in five triple turrets– there were enough differences for the two sisters to often be considered a distinct class of their own. This included a better secondary battery (eight 5″/38 DP guns in four double enclosed mounts vs. eight low-angle 5″/25 open singles), a different boat stowage scheme and cranes for the same, a smaller secondary tripod mast in a different location, higher boiler pressure, and a different fire control arrangement.

Brooklyn plan, top, St. Louis plan, bottom, both from the 1945 ed of Jane’s

The whole class could also carry as many as six floatplanes in their below-deck hangar as well as spare parts and engines, although typically would only deploy with four.

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of St. Louis’s near sister, the Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938. Note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

USS St. Louis (CL 49) with SOC-3 Seagull biplanes on her catapults while at the Tulagi harbor. Seen from USS O’Bannon (DD 450) after the Battle of Kula Gulf, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55501

Capable of breaking more than 32.5 knots, they also had very long legs, able to make 14,500 nm at 15 knots without refueling.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off Rockland, Maine, while on trials, 28 April 1939. Note that her 5/38 secondary gun battery has not yet been installed. NH 48998

Laid down on 10 December 1936 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., our cruiser was the fifth U.S. warship vessel to carry the name of the Missouri city and gateway to the West.

Commissioned on 19 May 1939, she was still on her shakedown cruise when Hitler marched into Poland in September, sparking WWII, a move that introduced St. Louis to Neutrality Patrol operations over the next 11 months that took her from the balmy West Indies and British Guiana to the freezing North Atlantic.

However, with tensions ramping up with Imperial Japan over China, Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies, St. Louis received orders to head for the Pacific, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1940. From there, she ranged from the West Coast to Manila and back on exercises and patrols in 1941, with stops at Wake, Midway, and Guam.

St. Louis off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 4 June 1941. She is wearing Measure 5 (false bow wave) camouflage. NH 80564

Lucky Lou

On the morning of 7 December 1941, St. Louis was at anchor in Pearl Harbor, moored at Berth B-17 in the Southeast Loch since 28 November with two of her eight boilers offline for maintenance. The ship’s aviation detachment was shore-based at Ford Island and many of her crew and Marine det were ashore on libo.

According to the ship’s log, now in the National Archives:

“At 0756 two of the ship’s officers observed a large number of dark-colored planes heading towards Ford Island from the general direction of AIEA. They dropped bombs and made strafing attacks. At the same time, a dark olive drab colored plane bearing the aviation insignia of Japan passed close astern and dropped a torpedo…The ship went to general quarters at once and manned its entire battery.”

By 0800, her skipper was on the bridge and both her .50 caliber and 1.1″ batteries were “already manned and in action delivering a full volume of fire at the attackers,” as steam was ordered up from her six operational boilers.

St. Louis at far right, about 0930 7 December 1941, leaving Pearl. USS California off her starboard side hit and sinking.

At 0931, St. Louis got underway, with boiler power for 29 knots, and stood out to sea via South Channel. Just 30 minutes later, she reportedly suffered a near miss from two torpedoes fired from a Japanese midget submarine just inside the channel entrance buoys.

At 1016, St. Louis was the first U.S. Navy ship to clear the channel from Pearl during the attack and she engaged a number of aircraft from the Japanese second wave between then and 1147 with her twin 5″ mounts before joining with the cruisers Montgomery and Minneapolis, along with several destroyers, to proceed “southward with the intention of locating and attacking the [Japanese] carrier.”

Between 1213 and 1234, her guns engaged the Japanese second wave as they withdrew. In all, she fired 207 5″ shells, 3,950 rounds from her 1.1″ battery and a very decent 12,750 .50-cal BMG rounds, claiming at least three probable Japanese planes seen to flame and crash.

Of course, the little force of cruisers and destroyers did not find the Japanese flattops and retired to Pearl Harbor on 10 December. While Battleship Row was the scene of carnage, St. Louis was only very lightly damaged from machine gun rounds and suffered no casualties in the attack.

USS Arizona (BB-39) burned out and sunk in Pearl Harbor on 10 December 1941, three days after she was destroyed during the 7 December Japanese raid. Ships in the background are USS Saint Louis (CL-49), in the center, and the hulked minelayer Baltimore (CM-1) at left. NH 63918

Joining the shooting war with a bang, St. Louis was used to escort the steamer SS President Coolidge, carrying Philippine President Quezon to San Francisco, as well as riding shotguns on convoys to reinforce Midway and the Aleutians.

St. Louis at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, circa May 1942. NH 50796

She was in the Northern Pacific during the Battle of Midway, missing out on the initial carrier clash, but did her first round of naval gunfire support on 3 August when she plastered the newly Japanese-occupied island of Kiska in the Aleutians. On 16 August, she lost an aircraft with four aviators aboard somewhere between Kodiak and Whitehorse.

After staying in Alaskan waters to cover the Allied liberation of Adak, St. Louis caught a refit at Mare Island where she picked up a much better AAA suite of 40mm and 20mm guns.

From there she proceeded to the West Pac where she joined RADM “Pug” Ainsworth’s TF cruiser-destroyer force, dubbed the “Ainsworth Express,” in fighting the Japanese in the near-nightly efforts to prevent the Empire from reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal and/or wiping out the Marines trying to keep a toe-hold there. The Tokyo Express and Ainsworth Express collided in the high-traffic waterway of New Georgia Sound through the middle of the Solomon Islands, better known as “The Slot,” in a series of pitched battles in the summer of 1943.

At Kula Gulf, Ainsworth’s force of three light cruisers– St. Louis, her sister Helena, and near-sister USS Honolulu (CL-48) — collided with 10 destroyers of RADM Teruo Akiyama’s 3rd Destroyer Squadron off the coast of Kolombangara Island carrying 2,600 Japanese troops. The action, all in pitch darkness, left Akiyama dead, two Japanese destroyers sunk, and Helena lost, a victim of the deadly Type 93 Long Lance torpedo.

Night Battery of USS St. Louis (CL 49) during the Battle of Kula Gulf. Photographed by CPU-2, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55522

Covered with oil of their torpedoed ship, USS Helena (CL-50), survivors respond to a roll call aboard the destroyer USS O’Bannon (DD 450) which picked them up. Three times the destroyer had to leave off its rescue work to do battle with Japanese warships. Catalog #: L45-122.07.01

Less than a week later, the two opposed Expresses crashed into each other again in the same area with RADM Shunji Isaki’s force, consisting of the cruiser Jintsu, along with five destroyers, duking it out in a night action with Honolulu and St. Louis backed up by the Kiwi light cruiser HMNZS Leander. In the wild fight, which was considered a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese that turned into a strategic defeat as they shifted operations away from the vital Slot moving forward, sent Jintu to the bottom– plastered by radar-directed 6-inch guns from the Allied cruisers, killing Isaki.

Battle of Kolombangara, 13 July 1943, firing by USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49) during this battle. #: 80-G-342762

However, in her final act, the Japanese cruiser had gone down illuminating her killers with her searchlights and all three of the Allied cruisers as well as the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-433), was hit by Long Lances before the action was over. While Gwin ultimately could not be saved, Honolulu, St. Louis and Leander managed to limp away to fight another day.

The bow of USS Saint Louis (CL-49), showing torpedo damage received during the Battle of Kolombangara. Photographed while the ship was under repair at Tulagi on 20 July 1943. USS Vestal (AR-4) is alongside. #: 80-G-259410

Damage to the bow of USS St. Louis (CL 49). Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943 80-G-259411

Note the sign that reads, “Danger / All Boats Slow Down.” Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943. 80-G-259412

St. Louis received a temporary bow at an advanced base in the Pacific. With this bow, the cruiser was able to return to a West Coast navy yard for more permanent repairs. Incredibly, Lucky Lou had come out of both Kula Gulf– where her sister had been sunk– and Kolombangara with no serious casualties.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) has guns removed from her forward 6/47 turrets, during overhaul and battle damage repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa September 1943. The upper section of her midships searchlight platform is hanging from a crane in the immediate background. It was removed to reduce the ship’s topside weights. #: 80-G-K-15536

In mid-November, Lou returned to the Solomons and, from the 20th to the 25th, covered Marines fighting for Bougainville. She would continue to work her way along the Pacific, delivering salvos of accurate 6-inch and 5-inch shells in NGF support.

On 13 January 1944, while operating in the area between Buka and St. George Channel to support landing operations in the Green Islands off New Ireland, she was attacked by five Vals. One managed to make it through flak fire to hit St. Louis in her 40mm clipping room near the number 6 mount and exploded in the midship living compartment, killing 23 and wounding another 20.

Her spell had been broken.

Still, she licked her wounds once more and got back to work, supporting operations on Saipan and Guam, while picking up a new camo pattern.

Camouflage Measure 32, Design 2C drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for USS St. Louis (CL-49). She was painted in this pattern during much of 1944. This plan, showing the ship’s port side, is dated 31 March 1944 and was approved by Captain Torvald A. Solberg, USN. #: 80-G-109719

Saipan Invasion, June 1944. Units of cruiser division six bombard Saipan on 14-15 June 1944. The nearest ship is USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32). Beyond her is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). #: 80-G-K-1774

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) bombarding Japanese positions on Guam, 21 July 1944. She is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 80-G-K-16463

USS St Louis, 1944, off Orote Point, Guam

After her 1944 campaigns, she was beaten and broken, in need of an urgent refit. In Late July she headed for the West Coast to get some work done.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off San Pedro, California, on 5 October 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 19-N-72219

Then, refreshed and ready to go again, it was now time to deliver on MacArthur’s “I Shall Return” promise and Lou made a course for the Philippines, where she felt the Divine Wind.

One of the most effective Japanese kamikaze attacks of the war occurred on 27 November in the Leyte Gulf against Task Group 77.2., when a mixed force of 13 Jills, Kates and Vals came in low at 1125 while the ships were fueling. The task group was composed of four battleships, five cruisers, and seven destroyers, of which the larger ships were singled out for attack. Corresponding hits were scored on Colorado (BB-45), Maryland (BB-46), Montpelier (CL-57), and Aulick (DD-569) as well as St. Louis.

Two suicide planes hit St. Louis, one aft and one amidships, burning the after part of the cruiser, destroying catapults and seaplanes, and damaging her after turrets. She took a hard list to port for nearly an hour and looked in bad shape.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) crewmen fight fires in the cruiser’s hangar after she was hit by a Kamikaze off Leyte on 27 November 1944. Note wrecked SOC floatplane in the left background, and hangar hatch cover threw atop the port catapult, at right. #: 80-G-361985

Her crews managed to contain the fires, right the ship, and head for San Pedro Bay for repairs. In the twin kamikaze strike, 16 men were killed or missing and another 43 injured.

After another stint in a California shipyard to fix her back up, St. Louis returned to the battle line in March 1945, bombarding Okinawa, and guarded minesweepers and UDT teams clearing channels to the assault beaches.

By August, the end of the war found her assigned to TF 73, the Yangtze River Patrol Force, and she made Shanghai in October, supporting KMT Chinese forces.

After three Magic Carpet runs across the vast expanse of the Pacific to bring returning Vets back home Lou sailed for the East Coast and arrived at Philadelphia for inactivation in February 1946.

In all, from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese Home Islands, St. Louis earned 11 battle stars during her war.

Her payment? She was stricken from the U.S. Naval List on 22 January 1951.

Cruisers and other warships laid up in the Philadelphia Yard Reserve Fleet Basin, circa 1947. Outboard ship in the left group is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). Ships in background include (in no order): USS SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37), USS MINNEAPOLIS (CA-36), USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32), USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28), and USS PORTLAND (CA-33).
“All Hands” magazine Catalog #: NH 92254

However, Lucky Lou would get a reprieve from the rust squadron and go on to live a very long second career

Cruzador Tamandaré

In the 1900s, a Latin American naval race led South America’s major powers to acquire numerous battleships to include a modicum of dreadnoughts, along with a veneer of escorting armored/protected cruisers. While these vessels had grown quite long in the tooth and put on the list for the breakers by the end of the 1940s, the big regional players still needed ships for prestige and to be taken seriously. The logical replacement for those 30-40-year-old coal burners was relatively new Allied WWII-surplus cruisers which could be bought for a song.

This led to the curious phenomenon that, outside of the U.S., Europe and India/Pakistan, all the world’s cruisers from the 1950s to 1970s were operated by Latin American fleets:

Argentina– Two ex-Brooklyn class light cruisers (Phoenix, Boise, recommissioned as Gen. Belgrano and Nueve de Julio in 1951-52) as well as the old Vickers-made training cruiser La Argentina (8,610-tons, 9×6″ guns)

Chile– Two ex-Brooklyns (Brooklyn, Nashville, recommissioned as Prat and O’Higgins in 1951-52) as well as the Swedish-built Latorre (ex-Gota Lejon) bought in 1971.

Peru– Two ex-British Colony-class light cruisers (ex-HMS Ceylon, Newfoundland recommissioned as Almirante Grau and Col. Bolognesi, in 1959-60) replacing a pair of Vickers built scout cruisers commissioned in 1908. The Dutch De Zeven Provinciën-class cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter later became Peru’s only cruiser, recycling the Grau name, serving until 2017.

As for Brazil, they got the same sweetheart cruiser deal from Uncle Sam hat Argentina and Chile got on their scratch and dent Brooklyns— pay just 10 percent of the vessels’ original cost plus the expense of reconditioning them after their short stint in mothballs.

With that, Rio plunked down cash for the Brooklyn-class USS Philadelphia (CL-41) as well as our St. Louis in 1951 with the latter being transferred on 29 January and the former on 21 August.

While Philly picked up the moniker of NAeL Barroso (C11), St. Louis became Almirante Tamandaré (C12) after the famed 19th Century Brazilian naval hero Joaquim Marques Lisboa, Marquês de Tamandaré, the third vessel to bear this name in the Marinha do Brasil.

This guy

In the end, Brazil got a 12-year-old ship that had been hit by Long Lance torpedos, Japanese bombs, and kamikazes, but still looked great.

ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE (Brazilian Cruiser, ex USS ST. Louis) in U.S. waters photographed circa early 1951. Courtesy of Robert Varrill, 1977 Catalog #: NH 85261

TAMANDARE (Brazilian cruiser, ex-USS ST. LOUIS, CL-49) underway, 20 to 30 miles off Fort Story, Virginia, 5 March 1952, shortly after she was commissioned by the Brazilian Navy. #: 80-G-440057

Same day 80-G-440059

Other than adding LORAN, halting the operation of seaplanes and landing their catapults (the Brazilians later used Sikorsky H-34 and Westland Wasp helicopters on their cruisers), and getting rid of their Oerlikons, the vessels remained essentially the same as during their WWII service, to include carrying their 40mm Bofors mounts, SPS-12 (surface search), SPS-6C (air search) and SPS-10 (tactical) radar sets.

Taking further advantage of good deals on certified pre-owned naval warships, Brazil also bought 7 surplus Fletcher-class destroyers, a Sumner-class destroyer, 7 Bostwick-class destroyer escorts, and four GUPPY’d fleet boat style diesel submarines from the U.S. Navy. This gave the country two effective surface action groups well into the early 1970s centered around the cruisers with the tin cans and subs in support– even if they did look a repeat of the Pacific War.

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro 20 April 1952 after four months of shakedowns with her new Brazilian crew, Tamandare became the fleet flagship until 1960 when the aircraft carrier NAeL Minas Gerais (A11) joined the fleet. This led to a simple life of friendship missions (she carried President Dr. Café Filho and entourage on an official visit to Portugal in 1955 and a revisit in 1960), midshipman cruises, and regular training exercises such as DRAGÃO, UNITAS, and ASPIRANTEX.

The closest she came to combat in her decades under the Brazilian flag was the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état (Golpe de 64), which started with a sailor’s revolt, and the so-called Lobster War with France.

The what?

In the early 1960s, French lobstermen sailing from African waters came increasingly close to Brazil, within about 100 miles of Pernambuco, which became a real issue when Rio kicked their economic exclusion zone out to 200 miles, as is now common. The friction led to the seizure of at least one French fishing boat by the Brazilians and a muscular response from Paris that saw the gunboat Paul Goffeny (A754) sail over from Dakar.

The heated rhetoric saw a French naval task force sail from Toulon in February 1963– officially for a West African cruise– headed by the brand-new aircraft carrier Clemenceau (who was carrying helicopters only as she would not get her first F-8 Crusaders until the next year), the AAA cruiser De Grasse (12,350-tons, 8 x 5-inch guns), the big destroyers Cassard, Jauréguiberry and Tartu; and the corvettes Le Picard, Le Gascon, L’Agenais, Le Béarnais, and Le Vendéen, along with support vessels.

Rio reciprocated by putting Brazilian Air Force RB-17 Flying Fortresses into the air along with shore-based S-2 Trackers on long-range patrol over the disputed fishing grounds– and mobilizing both the cruisers Barroso and Tamandaré along with six Fletcher-class destroyers.

Tamandaré, at sea flanked by a heavy escort of former Fletcher-class tin cans, from top: Pernambuco (D30) ex-USS Hailey, Paraná (D29) ex-USS Cushing, Pará (D27) ex-USS Guest, and Paraíba (D28) ex-USS Bennett. Of note, the Brazilians would keep most of these greyhounds well into the 1980s.

In terms of guns, the Brazilan fleet had a distinct advantage if it came to a naval clash with the French, who would have been handicapped by the fact that the Latin American country could also bird dog the area of operations with land-based aircraft. Still, the French had more bluewater experience, coupled with better sensors, and may have made it count.

In the end, only the French destroyer Tartu entered the disputed area and remained there for 17 days until 10 March while the Brazilians sent air patrols to keep tabs on the interloping French ship. The two fleets never got within several hundred miles of each other, as the French kept close to Africa, in Dakar and Abidjan, while the Brazilians likewise remained in their coastal waters.

Brazilian cruiser ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE C12 former USS ST.LOUIS (CL-49) note H34 helicopters in the air

No shots were fired in the surreal crustacean contest known in Brazil as the “Guerra da Lagosta” and both sides de-escalated, later settling the dispute in 1966 amicably.

In all, Tamandaré steamed over 200,000 nautical miles with the Brazilian Navy and served her adopted country proudly.

NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), da Marinha do Brasil, fevereiro de 1971. Arquivo Nacional. Note her helicopter deck

While Barroso/Philadelphia was scrapped in 1974, Tamandaré endured for another two years and was only decommissioned on 28 June 1976.

Sold for $1.1 million in scrap value to Superwinton Enterprises of Hong Kong, a Philippine-flagged tugboat, Royal, arrived in Brazil to haul the old cruiser to the breakers in Asia in August 1980. However, St. Louis wasn’t feeling another trip to the Pacific via South Africa and, unmanned, on the night of 24 August near -38.8077778°, -001.3997222°, she started to submerge. Unable for Royal to save her, the towline was released, allowing her to settle on the seabed where she remains in deep water.

Today, a WWII St. Louis Veterans’ Association exists, though its ranks are thinning. The U.S. Navy recycled her name for an amphibious cargo ship (LKA-116) and a planned Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS-19) set to commission in 2020.

As for Brazil, that country’s Navy has recently reissued the name Tamandaré to the lead ship of a new class of Meko A100 type corvettes scheduled for delivery between 2024 and 2028.

Specs:

Scheme from 1973 Janes, as Brazilian NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), redrawn in 1971

Displacement:
Standard: 10,000 long tons (10,000 t)
Full load: 13,327 long tons (13,541 t)
Length: 608 ft 8 in
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft:
19 ft 10 in (6.05 m) (mean)
24 ft (7.3 m) (max)
Propulsion:
8 × Babcock & Wilcox Express steam boilers
4 × Parsons geared turbines, 4 × screws, 100,000 shp (75,000 kW)
Speed: 32.5 knots
Range: 14,500nm at 15 knots on 2,100 tons fuel oil
Complement:
(As designed) 888 officers and enlisted men
(1944) 1070 men, 58 officers, plus Marine and Aviation detachments
(1973, Brazil) 975
Armor:
Belt: 3 1⁄4–5 in (83–127 mm)
Deck: 2 in (51 mm)
Barbettes: 6 in (150 mm)
Turrets: 1 1⁄4–6 in (32–152 mm)
Conning Tower: 2 1⁄4–5 in (57–127 mm) (although Jane’s states 8)
Armament:
(As designed)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts
16 x 1.1″ AAA guns in four quad mounts
8 x .50-caliber water-cooled machine guns
1 depth charge thrower
(1945)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts,
28 x 40 mm Bofors L60 guns in four Mk 2 quadruple mounts and six Mk 1 doubles
8 x 20 mm Oerlikon submachine guns on single Mk 4 mounts.
Aircraft carried:
(1940s) 4-6 × SOC Seagull floatplanes, 2 catapults
(1958) 2-3 helicopters, first H-34s later Westland Wasps

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Warship Wednesday, Aug.14, 2019: Siamese Sloop Twins

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Aug.14, 2019: Siamese Sloop Twins

U.S. Navy Photo Catalog #: NH 96079

Here we see the pair of Japanese-constructed sloops, Tahchin (Tachin) and Maeklong (Meklong), of the Royal Siamese Navy in Thai coastal waters sometime before World War II. One of these sisters would be sunk during Thailand’s confusing part in the war while the other would go on to live an amazingly long life.

In the mid-to-late 1930s, during the reign of King Rama VIII (who would preside over the change of the country’s name from Siam to Thailand), the military dictatorship of Maj. Gen. Plaek Phibunsongkhram awarded contracts for a number of warships from overseas builders as the writing was on the wall that a major Pacific beef was coming.

From Italy were ordered seven 318-ton Trad-class torpedo boats, a pair of minesweepers (Nos. 1 and 2), as well as Naresuan and Taksin: 6,000-ton (Etna-class) light cruisers with 6-inch guns that were never delivered due to WWII. Meanwhile, from Kawasaki in Japan came the two coastal defense ships Sri Ayudhya and Thonburi (Dhonburi)– downright cute 2,600-ton monitors that packed four 8-inch guns and enough armor plate to stand up to anything up to an enemy cruiser. Add to this were a four-pack of small Machanu-class coastal submarines from Mitsubishi, three 135-ton Japanese Kantan-class torpedo boats and our two showcase sloops.

When combined with the Kawasaki-built royal yacht Angthong, the old British RN R-class destroyer Phra Ruang (ex-HMS Radiant), and the 1,000-ton Vickers-made coastal monitors Sukhodaya and Ratankosindra, the entire 5,000-man Siamese Navy looked something like this going into WWII:

From Jane’s 1946-47

On 13 August 1935, the Siamese admiralty ordered Tahchin and Maeklong, both named after major Thai river systems, to serve as training ships for this growing fleet in peacetime with the wartime mission of coastal patrol and anti-submarine warfare. The amount of the contract to the Uraga Dock Company in Yokosuka for the pair was 1.885 million baht.

Some 1,400-tons standard (2,000 full) the 269-foot-long frigate-like school ships were fairly well-armed, with a quartet of simple 4.7″/45 cal 3-Shiki Type guns in single shielded mounts as well as some smaller weapons. Four 18-inch deck-mounted torpedo tubes, depth charge projectors and the ability to drop 80 sea mines rounded out their armament. Capable of minesweeping as well, they were fitted with standard mechanical sea sweeps.

Each could carry a single small seaplane that was launched and recovered by craning it over the side and the country purchased six Watanabe WS-103 model single-seat floatplanes (Allied reporting name “Slim”) as well as three larger twin-engine flying boats to base at Chalong Bay, Phuket Island to patrol the Andaman Sea.

Capable of making 17-knots at full speed, these two sloops had an economical Kampon merchant-ship style plant that allowed them to range a very respectable 8,000 nautical miles with their bunkers topped off with fuel oil.

Notably, the Japanese Combined Fleet did not field any vessels of a comparable design at the time, either building much more capable fast destroyers or much smaller coastal subchasers and gunboats.

By June 1937, both Tahchin and Maeklong were completed and ready to hand over to the Siamese government. A welcome ceremony and massive celebration were reportedly held when they arrived home on 26 September.

Meanwhile, the neighboring French forces, in possession of colonial Indochina, took a keen interest in the new vessels.

One of the two ships of this class, Tahchin or Maeklong, photographed 17 September 1937 in Vingro Bay by an aircraft of the French 5e Escadrille then based in Indochina. Note the extensive canvas awnings. NH 96100

This, of course, foreshadowed the looming Franco-Thai War that broke out between the two countries in October 1940.

With Metropolitan France already knocked out of the war and the Vichy government in control, Bangkok felt Indochina was ripe for the pickings to reclaim provinces ceded to the French in 1907. This low-intensity pitched border conflict ended the following January in a Japanese-mediated ceasefire negotiated aboard the Nagara-class light cruiser Natori. While the Thais recovered 21,000 sq. miles of their land (and to this day still have most of it), they lost a torpedo boat and the monitor Thonburi in the one-sided Battle of Ko Chang in the Gulf of Thailand. 

This played right into Tokyo’s hand of adding both Indochina and Thailand into Japan’s collection of overseas puppets and Phibunsongkhram, after the Japanese invaded Thailand outright on 8 December 1941, entered the global war by declaring war on Britain and the United States six weeks later. The reward for this, and opening the country to Japanese troops while supplying what was termed the four-division-strong Thai Phayap Army for use against the British and KMT in Burma and China, Thailand received further territorial concessions while the Allies helped foster the Seri Thai (Free Thai Movement) of resistance bands that eventually grew to 90,000 effectives by 1944 and eventually swept Phibunsongkhram from power.

As for Maeklong and Tahchin, upgraded with more Japanese-supplied anti-aircraft guns, they repeatedly fired at Allied bombers during raids over the country. This too proved one-sided.

Note their Japanese lines and bow crests

On 1 June 1945 Tahchin was hit by a 1,000-pound bomb in Sattahip Bay during an attack by 23 British B-24 Liberators of No. 99 Squadron and No. 159 Squadron, flying from Digri, on the anchored Thai fleet. The hit flooded her engine room and caused 53 casualties. Severely damaged, she was knocked out of the war and never repaired. Also sunk in the raid was the royal yacht HTMS Angthong and the formerly British-flagged freighter Suddhadib, which was operating as HTMS Hardeep.

Following the Japanese surrender in August, Thailand was semi-occupied by the Allies until January 1946, but what was left of the Thai fleet remained largely intact, although in poor material condition. While some older and harder to support ships (such as the four Machanu-class coastal submarines) were soon laid up and discarded, Maeklong lingered on.

Over the next several decades, she trained virtually every naval officer of the Royal Thai Naval Academy at one point or another.

She also served as something of a replacement royal yacht. In 1949, the training sloop traveled to England to bring the ashes of the exiled late King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), along with the still very much alive Queen Ramphaiphanni, back to Thailand. In 1951, Maeklong returned to Europe to bring King Rama IX back home after he was completing his degree in Switzerland. Rama IX later used the ship as his host for naval reviews.

Maeklong at Bangkok during fall 1953. NH 96091

Maeklong underway in November 1960 or spring 1961 NH 96108

Thai Maeklong Photographed at Bangkok, date unknown but about the 1960s NH 96109-A

Jane’s 1973 listing

The 1980s. Note her ornate bow crest, certainly one of the few still used on an active warship at the time.

From 30 January to 20 March 1995, Maeklong served as a sea training ship for the last time as she took the first, second, and third-year naval cadets of the academic year 1994 on their sea cruise around the Western Pacific. At the time, she had been ordered some 60 years previously and was likely the last pre-WWII Japanese-built warship still in service.

Decommissioned later that year, she was the subject of a 17.8-million-baht campaign to move her to a land-based display as a museum ship along the Fort Chulachomklao Royal Dockyard in Samutprakarn. There, she remains remarkably preserved and open to the public today.

HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB circa 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB circa 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

HTMS Maeklong, note her bow figurehead, via Wikimedia Commons

Bow view towards the bridge, HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Andreas Hörstemeier, circa 2005, via Wikimedia Commons

Stern, HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB, circa 2012. Note the depth charge projectors and sea mines. via Wikimedia Commons

As for Tachin, her name would be reused by the Thai Navy. In 1951, the low-mileage USCG-manned Tacoma-class patrol frigate USS Glendale (PF-36) would be transferred to Thailand and become the new HTMS Tachin.

USS Glendale (PF-36) and USS Gallup (PF-47) fly the flags of Thailand, during transfer ceremonies at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, 29 October 1951. Both ships are still wearing their U.S. Navy numbers. Glendale became the Thai Navy ship Tachin. Gallup became the Thai Navy ship Prasae. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the “All Hands” collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command. NH 97102.

Decommissioned 22 June 2000, Glendale/ Tachin has been preserved onshore as a memorial at Sattahip Naval Base.

HTMS Tachin (PF-1) Former Tacoma-class patrol frigate USS Glendale (PF-36)

Last December, the Thai Navy took possession of a new 4,600-ton DW3000H type frigate at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) Okpo-Dong shipyard in the ROK. Her name: HTMS Tachin (FFG-471).

Specs:

Jane’s 1946 listing

Displacement: 1,400 long tons, std; 2,000 full load
Length: 269 ft
Beam: 34 ft
Draft: 10 ft 4 in
Propulsion: 2 × reciprocating steam engines, 2,500 hp, 2 Kampon boilers
Speed: 17 knots max
Range: 8,000 nm at 12 knots with 487 tons fuel oil
Complement: 13 commissioned officers, 9 chief petty officers, 85 petty officers and 66 seamen (173); 155 as a training ship
Aircraft carried:1 × Watanabe WS-103S floatplane (1937-46)
Armament:
(1937)
4 x 4.7″/45cal Japanese 3-Shiki Type guns
2 x 20 mm AA guns (some sources say, Italian Breda, some Danish Madsen)
2 x 7.7mm machine guns
4 x 18-inch torpedo tubes (2 × 2), removed 1942
depth charge racks
Up to 80 sea mines
(1954)
4 x 4.7″/45cal Japanese 3-Shiki Type guns
3 x 40mm/62cal Type 91 “HI” Japanese anti-aircraft guns (fitted 1942)
3 x 20-mm machine guns
6 x depth-charge projectors
Up to 80 sea mines

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.

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Warship Wednesday, Aug.7, 2019: The Muddy Seabird of Manila Bay

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Aug.7, 2019: The Muddy Seabird of Manila Bay

NHHC Collection Photo # NHF-049-G.01, Nathan Sargent Collection

Here we see a beautiful tinted (not colorized) photo of the 4th rate barquentine-rigged gunboat USS Petrel (PG-2) somewhere on Asiatic Station in 1896. While striking in this image, this one-of-a-kind warship would spend a winter holed up in a mud fort in restless territory before going on to burn a Spanish fleet to the waterline.

Ordered with $247,000 under the 1885 Congressional funding act for the Navy Department, Petrel was one of the smatterings of new steel-hulled warships built for the rapidly modernizing fleet that was only just shaking off the cobwebs of two decades of post-Civil War doldrums. Laid down in 1887 at Baltimore’s Columbian Iron Works & Dry Dock Co., our 188-foot-long gunboat had a thin coat of armor (7 to 9mm) along her watertight deck. Fitted with an auxiliary sailing rig, her primitive twin-boiler/single-engine/single screw plant could make 11 knots on a good day. With a mean draft of just 11 feet, 7 inches, she could poke her nose in lots of coves, bays, and harbors otherwise off-limits to larger warships. This would prove useful in her career.

For armament, she carried four 6-inch guns mounted two per side on sponsons as well as an array of 3- and 1-pounder rapid-fire guns to ward off torpedo boats.

6″ (15.2 cm) 35-caliber gun on protected cruiser USS Newark (C-1). An inclined-recoil mounting, possibly Mark 3 Central Pivot. Petrel carried four such guns, pretty big medicine for an 800-ton gunboat. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph. Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-D4-20655.

Commissioned 10 December 1889, Petrel was the U.S. Navy’s third warship named after the small long-winged sea bird with the two previous vessels being an armed 1840s schooner and a Civil War-era tinclad steamer, respectively, the latter of which was lost during the Yazoo River expedition.

Our ship when new:

USS Petrel Edward Hart Photo 1889, Detroit Postcard co LC-D4-32201

And a second Edward Hart Photo/DPC photo from the other side, this one NH 89487

And the postcard itself!

By September 1891, our Petrel was ordered to the Asiatic Station, where she would call home through most of her career. She spent nearly a decade poking around Chinese, Korean and Japanese waters, protecting U.S. interests, with occasional trips to the Pribilof Islands in the Alaskan Territory to discourage seal poachers.

USS PETREL (PG-2) (1899-1920) in Japanese waters, during the 1890s. Note her rigging and canvas. Collection of Shizuo Fukui, copied from Dr. S. Watanabe’s Album. The photo was provided by William H. Davis. NH 42706

It was during this time that her crew dutifully grew the files of the ONI by taking rather decent photos of the various naval vessels they came across in the exotic ports of the Far East. Such as the Thai cruiser HTMS Makut Rajakumarn (1887):

MAKUT RAJAKUMAR (THAI “Cruiser, ” 1887.) Caption: Built at Hong Kong of steel in 1887. 650 tons, length 175 feet, speed 14 knots, guns 2 40-PDRS, 5 20- PDRS. This spelling of her name was taken from her stern. Photo by G.R. Lambert & CO. of Singapore, received by ONI in May 1892 from USS PETREL; probably at Bangkok. NH 94239

As part of her gunboat diplomacy of the era, Petrel intervened during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, spending a winter iced in at the mouth of the Liao River, holed up in an improvised breastwork fort with the smaller British gunboat HMS Firebrand.

USS PETREL (PG-2) at right, and HMS FIREBRAND Being laid up for the winter at Miuchwang, China, 1894-95. Note piles of earth around the ships used to make fortifications for protection during the winter. NH 75705

From the Naval War College:

In October 1894, the third USS Petrel (PG-2), a fourth-rate gunboat, was dispatched to Newchwang (also known as Yingtze, Yingkou, and Yenkow), China, in order to protect the city’s foreign residents. Special problems arose because the city is located on the Liao River, which is closed to navigation from November until April by ice floes. Since it was necessary to remain there all winter, they beached the vessel and constructed a fortress around it large enough to include all the foreign residents.

It was reported that, although the American force never confronted hostile Chinese or the Japanese forces, its presence prevented the outbreak of rioting on several occasions and strengthened the local government’s authority. The governor, the foreign consuls, and residents agreed that “Fort Petrel” had given them a significant advantage in their efforts to protect life and property. The Petrel arrived at Newchwang on 12 November 1894, just as the winter freeze was setting in, and it departed with the spring thaw on 24 April 1895.

Laid up for the winter, inside the mud fort at Miuchwang, China 1894-95. Masts of British gunboat FIREBRAND are in the background. Note heavy security precautions. Photographed on Christmas Day, 1894, note Christmas trees at mast tops. NH 75704

After that, she continued her rounds.

Photographed in Chinese Waters, 1890s. Courtesy Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (MC) NH 44478

When the U.S. and Spain collided in war on 21 April 1898, Petrel was in Hong Kong and quickly made ready for combat with Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron. She sailed for the Spanish-held colony of the Philippines by the end of the month.

At Hong Kong, 15 April 1898, shortly before the beginning of the Spanish-American War. Note crewmen aloft watching the rowing launches racing past in the foreground, also shipping and Chinese junks in the distance. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor. NH 42707

Headed into Manila Bay, Spanish RADM Patricio Montojo squadron had seven cruisers of various sizes as well as an equal number of gunboats and armed auxiliaries along with several shore defenses and coastal artillery batteries. Against this seemingly imposing force, Dewey could count his flagship, the large protected cruiser USS Olympia, three smaller cruisers (Baltimore, Raleigh, and Boston) as well as the gunboats Concord and our Petrel, who was the smallest in the good Commodore’s battle line.

Of course, the battle proved very one-sided as Montojo’s fleet was a paper tiger, composed of small, unprotected ships (four of his “cruisers” only went about 1,100-tons and had smaller sized guns than Petrel) while the Spanish harbor defenses were similarly ineffective.

It was over fast and all Montojo’s warships were effective losses while Dewey’s force was almost completely unscathed.

USS Petrel, this NHHC photo, recently rediscovered by the Navy, was a lot of some 350 glass plates described as taken during the Battle of Manila Bay and the Span-Am War.

Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898. With Manila, Philippines, in the top center, and the Spanish fleet in the upper right, the U.S. Navy ships listed descending on the left to bottom are: Colliers; USS McCullough; USS Petrel; USS Concord; USS Boston; USS Raleigh; USS Baltimore; and USS Olympia – signaling “Remember the Maine.” Color lithograph by Rand McNally. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Petrel’s skipper, LCDR Edward Parker Wood (USNA 1867), reported that his ship fired her first shot at 5.22 a.m. and the last one, before hauling off for breakfast, was fired at 7.30 a. m. while the second part of the action occurred from 11.30 a. m. to 12.30 p. m., “at which latter time the Spanish flag on the arsenal sheers in Cavite was hauled down.” The gunboat fired about one-third of her magazine stores including 113 6-inch common shells, three 6-inch armor-piercing shells, 82 6-inch full charges, 34 6-inch reduced charges, 313 3-pounder shells and 176 1-pounders.

In the first part of the action, Wood noted:

“The greater part of our great-gun fire was at the Reina Christina and Castilla, the former steaming around the harbor and the latter anchored about 500 yards off Sangley Point; but the other and smaller vessels were fired at when opportunity offered. Especially was the fire of the rapid-fire guns aimed at a yellow launch, which was apparently a torpedo boat trying to turn our flank. The navigator, Lieut. B. A. Fiske, was stationed in the top with a stadimeter to determine the distance and report upon the efficiency of the fire.”

The second part:

At 11, when the signal was made to get underway, the Petrel followed Olympia and stood well in. While steaming across the fire the signal was hoisted for the Petrel to pass inside.

This vessel left her station, passed outside of Baltimore, and rounded Sangley Point about 500 yards outside of where Castilla was burning. The fire was then directed at the Don Antonio de Ulloa, and when it was found that she was sinking and deserted, the ship passed farther inside and opened fire upon the ships behind the inner breakwater and whose masts were seen above government buildings. During the firing on the Ulloa a white flag with a Geneva cross was discovered in range with her, and I stood in further so as to get it out of range. After the first two or three shots fired through the public building at ships behind the mole, the Spanish flag was, at 12.30 p.m., hauled down and a white flag run up. The surrender was immediately signaled to fleet and firing ceased.

Petrel was then ordered to deliver the coup de grace to what was left of the Spanish fleet:

In obedience to a signal from flagship to destroy all shipping in the harbor, Lieutenant Hughes was sent with a whaleboat crew of seven men, this whaleboat being the only one on the ship which would float, and set fire to the Don Juan de Austria, Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, General Lezo, and Marques del Duero. Afterward, Ensign Fermier was sent to set fire to the Velasco and El Correo.

The Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, and Don Juan de Austria were aground and full of water when they were fired. Their outboard valves were opened, and the ships allowed to fill. The breech plugs of 4-inch guns had been taken off and could not be found. During the night the magazines of the Don Juan de Austria blew up.

The Manila was not burned because the Spanish officers begged that she be not destroyed because she was unarmed and a coast-survey vessel. Lieutenant Fiske and Passed Assistant Engineer Hall raised steam on the ship this morning, the 4th instant, and brought her out. At the time she was aground. The Don Antonio de Ulloa was sunk, and the Reina Christina and Castilla were burning in the outer harbor.

Lieutenant Fiske was sent ashore and brought off two tugboats, the Rapido and Hercules, and three steam launches.

One of her crew, German-born Franz A. Itrich, Chief Carpenter’s Mate, received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the firing, one of just 66 issued for the Navy during the Spanish-American War.

Halftone reproduction of an artwork by E.T. Smith, 1901, depicting a boat party from USS Petrel setting fire to Spanish gunboats near the battle’s end. The party was under the direction of Chief Carpenter’s Mate Franz A. Itrich, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for this operation. Copied from Deeds of Valor, Vol.II, page 354, published by the Perrien-Keydel Co., Detroit, Michigan, 1907. Photo #: NH 79948

In all, Petrel suffered no casualties during the battle and the ship received no damage. However, during the scrap, the discharge of the after 6-inch guns shattered her gig and first whaleboat which were later “replaced by two taken from the enemy.”

Not a bad morning’s work when it came to a fleet-to-fleet action.

Petrel would continue to serve in the occupation of the island chain throughout 1899. She joined Boston in shelling Panay Island in February of that year before landing a force of 48 men to occupy Cebu. In October, Petrel joined USS Callao (a captured Spanish gunboat which had been commissioned in U.S. service) in supporting the Marine Corps assault on Neveleta by bombarding ahead of the advancing Marine column.

Chief Petty Officer calling the roll. Stereo photo copyright by B.W. Kilburn, 1900. Note barefoot bugler at left sea chest and Gatling gun at right. She would send several landing parties ashore in China and the Philippines in the course of her career. Photo courtesy of CDR. D.J. Robinson, USN (RET), 1981. NH 91825

After the conflict died down, Petrel suffered an extensive below-deck fire that began in her sail room and spread to a magazine. The blaze claimed the life of her skipper, LCDR Jesse M. Roper, who was overcome by smoke on his second descent into the burning compartment to rescue downed bluejackets and suffocated before help could reach him. The Wickes-class destroyer USS Roper (DD-147) was later named in his honor.

Also honored for their actions that day were three men– Seaman Alphonse Girandy, Marine PVT Louis Fred Theis (aka Louis Fred Pfeifer), and Seaman Thomas Cahey– who ultimately received the Medal of Honor. Each of the latter’s citations states, “Serving on board the U.S.S. Petrel, for heroism and gallantry, fearlessly exposing his own life to danger for the saving of others, on the occasion of the fire on board that vessel, March 31, 1901.”

Decommissioned after the fire at Cavite and laid up there for a decade, Petrel only returned to fleet service on 2 May 1910, under command of CDR (later RADM and commander of the Asiatic Fleet in the 1930s) Montgomery Meigs Taylor. He was not the only admiral who would learn his trade on Petrel. During her career, the gunboat would see at least 23 commanders, of which at least four would garner stars.

Upon returning to service, Petrel underwent a final refit and modernization, landing her old 6-inchers in place of four more modern 4″/40cal singles. A couple years later, her worn boilers were replaced by four new ones. Her listing at the time from Jane’s:

Transferring to the East Coast for the first time in two decades, Petrel would spend from 1912 to 1917 largely in the Caribbean, with much of that as a station ship at Gitmo.

USS Petrel (PG-2) baseball team, circa 1913 to 1915. NHF-086.01

USS Petrel (PG-2) at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as station ship circa 1915-1917. Note she seems to still have a white scheme. UA 560.06

When the U.S. entered the Great War, Petrel was given depth charges and assigned to the American Patrol Detachment at Boston, although she would range into the Caribbean and Latin American waters on her counter U-boat efforts.

In floating drydock at the New Orleans Naval Station, January 1918. Note SP boats. Courtesy of John G. Krieger, 1967 NH 43471

In floating drydock at the New Orleans Naval Station, January 1918. Note SP boats and her now dark haze gray scheme. Courtesy of John G. Krieger, 1967 NH 43471

Petrel decommissioned at New Orleans 15 July 1919 and was struck from the Naval Register 16 April 1920. She was subsequently sold to Snare & Treest, New York, 1 November 1920, for breaking.

Her plans rest today in the National Archives as do her logs. She is memorialized in maritime art:

“USS Petrel gun vessel” via Illustrated London News Dec 6, 1890

Oil on canvas by Francis Muller. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC. Donation of Commodore J.H. Hellweg. Navy Art Accession #: 51-027-A. NH 88068-KN

Her name was used for the 4th (and thus far last time) for the Chanticleer-class submarine rescue ship USS Petrel (ASR-14), which commissioned 24 September 1946. This hardy vessel, like her predecessor, would give over 30 years of hard service to her country and, after a further decade on James River’s red lead row, was scrapped in 2003.

Specs:

Unofficial deck and outboard profile plans, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. NH 70049

Displacement: 867 tons
Length: 188 ft
Beam: 31 ft
Draft: 11 ft 6 in
Machinery: 2 cylindrical boilers (4 after 1914). Horizontal, back-acting compound engine with a 33-inch stroke, 1,045 hp. Single screw.
Speed: 11.4 kts (11.55 trials)
Range: 4,000 nautical miles at 10 knots with 200-ton coal load (100 tons normal load)
Complement: 10 officers and 112 enlisted as designed. 142 by WWI
Armor: 7-9mm on watertight deck
Armament:
(1889)
4 × 6″/35cal (152 mm) Mk III guns
2 × 47mm (3-pounder) Hotchkiss Mk I guns
1 × 37mm (1-pounder) “Hotchkiss Long” RF gun
2 x 37mm (1-pounder) Hotchkiss 5-barrel revolving cannons
2x .45-70 Gatling guns
(1911)
4 × 4″/40cal (102 mm) Mk VI guns
2 × 47mm (3-pounder) Hotchkiss Mk I guns
2 × 37mm (1-pounder) “Hotchkiss Long”

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, July 31, 2019: “80 Sen,” or a young Yamamoto’s Italian Stallion

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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 31, 2019: 80 Sen

NHHC Collection Photo # NH 83034

Here we see a crooked image from the files of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, likely a quick snapshot taken from the deck of a rented junk, showing the coastal defense ship (formerly classified as an armored cruiser, or junjokan) Nisshin of the Imperial Japanese Navy as she sat at a Hong Kong mooring buoy, in October 1920. Note the Emperor’s chrysanthemum marking on the bow, and inquisitive members of her crew on the side– likely wondering just who was in the approaching small boat with the camera. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but this ship had once gone toe-to-toe with a much larger opponent and come out on top, although with the scars to show it.

If you like that photo, how about another two taken the same day, with her crew’s laundry drying and a picturesque junk added for Hong Kong flavor:

NH 83032

NH 83033

Anywho, you didn’t come here for Hong Kong laundry stories.

Built around the turn of the Century by Gio. Ansaldo & C shipbuilders, Genoa, Italy, as an updated version of the Giuseppe Garibaldi armored cruiser class, Nisshin (or Nissin, a name that roughly translates to “Japan”) was designed by Italian naval architect Edoardo Masdea as a vessel only smaller than a 1st-rate (pre-dreadnought) battleship of the era, yet larger and stronger than most cruisers that could oppose it.

The Garibaldi class was innovative (for 1894,) with a 344-foot long/7,200-ton hull capable of making 20-knots and sustaining a range of more than 7,000 nm at 12 when stuffed with enough coal. Although made in Italy, she was almost all-British from her Armstrong batteries to her Bellville boilers, Whitehead torpedoes, and Harvey armor.

Armored with a belt that ran up-to 5.9-inches thick, Garibaldi could take hits from faster cruisers and gunboats while being able to dish out punishment from a pair of Elswick (Armstrong) 10-inch guns that no ship smaller than her could absorb. Capable of outrunning larger ships, she also had a quartet of casemate-mounted torpedo tubes and extensive rapid-fire secondary batteries to make life hard on the enemy’s small ships and merchantmen.

These cruisers were designed for power projection on a budget and the Argentine Navy, facing a quiet arms race between Brazil and Chile on each side, needed modern ships. They, therefore, scooped up not only the Garibaldi (commissioned in 1895) but also the follow-on sister-ships General Belgrano and General San Martín (built by Orlando of Livorno in 1896) and Genoa-made Pueyrredón (1898) to make a quartet of powerful cruisers. These ships, coupled with a pair of battleships ordered later in the U.S., helped make the Argentine navy for about two decades the eighth most powerful in the world (after the big five European powers, Japan, and the United States), and the largest in Latin America.

The design was well-liked, with Spain moving to buy two (but only taking delivery of one in the end, the ill-fated Cristóbal Colón, which was sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish American War) and Italy electing to purchase five further examples of the type.

Why all the talk about Argentina and Italy?

Well, because Nisshin and her sistership Kasuga were originally ordered by the Italians in 1900 as Mitra (Yard #130) and Roca (#129), respectively, but then sold while still on the ways to Argentina to further flesh out the fleet of that South American country’s naval forces, who dutifully renamed them Mariano Moreno and Rivadavia.

At some 8,500-tons (full), these final Garibaldis were 364-feet long overall and were roughly the same speed and carried the same armor plan (with Terni plate) as their predecessors.

However, they differed in armament, with Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga carrying a single 10-inch EOC gun forward and twin 8″/45s aft, while Roca/Moreno/Nisshin carried the twin 8-inchers both forward and aft.

Stern 8"/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship's officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during "Great White Fleet" around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

Stern 8″/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship’s officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during “Great White Fleet” around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

[Of note, the same 8-inch EOC guns were also used on other British-built Japanese armored cruisers (Adzuma, Asama, Iwate, Izumo, Tokiwa, and Yakumo) so they weren’t too out of place when Japan took delivery of these ships in 1904 instead of Argentina.]

Both Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga and Roca/Moreno/Nisshin were launched, fitted out and ran builders’ trials in Italy under the Argentine flag.

Armada Argentina crucero acorazado ARA Moreno, at 1903 launch. Note Italian and Argentine flags. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Nisshin Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese NH 58664

Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese. Photo credited to her builder Ansaldo. NH 58665

With the Japanese and Imperial Russia circling each other tensely in late 1903, and Argentina not really wanting to take final delivery of these new cruisers, Buenos Aries shopped them to the Tsar’s kopeck-pinching Admiralty only to be rebuffed over sticker shock, leaving the Tokyo to pick them up for £760,000 each– considered a high price at the time but a bargain that the Russians would likely later regret. The Argentines would later reuse the briefly-issued Moreno and Rivadavia names for their matching pair of Massachusetts-built battleships in 1911

Nisshin photographed at Genoa, Italy in January 1904. This ship was built in Italy by Ansaldo of Genoa and competed on January 17, 1904. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101923

With a scratch British/Italian contract delivery crew, Kasuga and Nisshin (their names are taken from Meiji-period steam warships of the 1860s) set sail immediately for the Far East and were already outbound of Singapore by the time the balloon finally went up between the Russians and Japanese in February 1904. The sisters were soon in the gun line off Russian-held Port Arthur, lending their fine British-made batteries to reducing that fortress, and took part in both the ineffective Battle of the Yellow Sea in August 1904 (where Nisshin was lightly damaged) and the much more epic Battle of Tsushima in May 1905.

Carrying the flag of VADM Baron Misu Sotarō, Nisshin fired something on the order of 180 heavy shells during Tsushima, exchanging heavy damage with the 15,000-ton Russian battleship Oslyabya and others– taking several 12-inch hits to show for it. The Japanese cruiser had three of her four 8-inch guns sliced off and a number of her crew, to include a young Ensign Isoroku Yamamoto, wounded. The future commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II had the index and middle fingers on his left hand shorn off by a splinter, earning him the wardrobe nickname “80 sen” as a manicure cost 10 sen per digit at the time.

The forward gun turret and superstructure of the Japanese armored cruiser Nisshin following the Battle of Tsushima, showing 8-inch guns severed by Russian 12-inch shells

From a different angle

Another view

Aft turret of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Starboard 12-pound gun of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Oslyabya, in turn, was ultimately lost in the course of the battle, taking the Russian Squadron’s second-in-command, Capt. Vladimir Ber, and half of her crew with her to the bottom of the Korea Strait.

Japanese cruiser Nisshin, listed as June 24, 1905, at Kure, which is just a month after Tsushima and may be an incorrect date as she looks almost brand new. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

For both Kasuga and Nisshin, Tsushima was their brightest moment under the Rising Sun.

Greatly modified later with Japanese-made Kampon boilers replacing their Italian ones, along with a host of other improvements, Kasuga went on to serve as a destroyer squadron flagship in World War I looking out for German surface raiders and escorting Allied shipping between Australia and Singapore. She later took Imperial troops to Vladivostok in 1918 as part of the Allied Intervention into the Russian Civil War.

Nisshin during WWI. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

As for Nisshin, she also spent her time as a destroyer squadron leader on the lookout for the Kaiser’s wolves and was later dispatched to the Mediterranean as part of the Japanese 2nd Special Squadron (Suma-class cruiser Akashi, the cruiser Izumo, 8 Kaba-class destroyers and 4 Momo-class destroyers). Deployed in late 1917, the squadron was tasked with riding shotgun over Allied troopships steaming between Malta and Salonica and from Alexandria to Taranto and Marseille.

Photographed at Port Said, Egypt, on October 27, 1917. The early French mixed battery pre-dreadnought Jauréguiberry (1893-1934) can be seen at left background. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101922

In all, the force escorted nearly 800 ships and engaged German and Austrian subs something like 40 times (although without sinking any).
After the Armistice, selected crews from the Squadron marched in the 1919 victory parades in Paris and London.

To close out Japan’s involvement in the Great War, Nisshin returned home with seven captured German U-boats, (U-46, U-55, U-125, UC-90, UC-99, UB-125, and UB-143) after stops in Malta and other friendly ports along the way from England to Yokosuka, arriving there in June 1919. The former German boats went on to an uninteresting life of their own under the Kyokujitsu-ki, used for testing, salvage exercises and floating jetties. While most of these submarines were low-mileage vessels of little notoriety, U-46 (Hillebrand) and U-55 (Blue Max winner Willy Werner) were very successful during the war, accounting for 116 Allied vessels of some 273,000 tons between them.

IJN Nissin at Malta with captured German UC-90 U-boat, via IWM

Nisshin, photographed March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58666

Nisshin, photographed in March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58667

Japanese Cruiser Nisshin U-boats escorting surrendered German submarines allocated to Japan, March 1919, Malta, by Frank Henry Algernon Mason, via the IWM

Disarmed and largely relegated to training tasks, Nisshin and Kasuga were put on the sidelines after the Great War, replaced by much better ships in the Japanese battle line.

Hulked, Nisshin was eventually disposed of as part of a sinkex in the Inland Sea in 1936, then raised by Shentian Maritime Industry Co., Ltd, patched up and sunk a second time in 1942 during WWII by the new super battleship Yamato, whose 18.1″/45cal Type 94 guns likely made quick work of her.

Her immediate sister, Kasuga, used as a floating barracks at Yokosuka, was sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft in July 1945 then later raised and scrapped after the war. Incidentally, the two Japanese Garibaldis outlasted their Italian sisters, all of which were disposed of by the 1930s. Their everlasting Argentine classmates, however, lingered on until as late as 1954 with the last of their kind, ARA Pueyrredon, ironically being towed to Japan for scrapping that year.

Of note, the British 8″/45s EOCs removed from Nisshin, Kasuga and the other Japanese 1900s armored cruisers in the 1920s and 30s were recycled and used as coastal artillery, including four at Tokyo Bay, four at Tarawa (Betio) and another four at Wake Island once it was captured in 1941.

Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops mount a British-made, Vickers eight-inch naval cannon into its turret on Betio before the battle. This film was developed from a Japanese camera found in the ruins while the battle was still on. Via http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Tarawa/index.html

Destruction of one of the four Japanese eight-inch EOC guns on Betio caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes, 1943. Department of Defense photo (USMC) 63618

Nisshin’s name was reused for use on a well-armed seaplane/midget submarine carrier that saw extensive action in WWII during the Guadalcanal campaign, where she was lost.  It has not been reused further.

Specs:

Jane 1914 entry, listing the class as first-class cruisers

Displacement: 7,700 t (7,578 long tons) std, 8,500 full
Length: 366 ft 7 in (o/a), 357 wl
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft: 24 ft 1 in, 25.5 max
Machinery: (1904)
13,500 ihp, 2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines, 8 Ansaldo marine boilers, 2 shafts
Speed: 20 knots at 14,000 shp, although in practice were limited to 18 at full load.
Range: 5,500 nmi at 10 knots on 1316 tons of coal, typically just 650 carried
Complement: 600 as built, 568 in Japanese service.
Armor: (Terni)
Belt: 2.8–5.9 in
Deck: 0.79–1.57 in
Barbette: 3.9–5.9 in
Conning tower: 5.9 in
Armament:
(1904)
2 twin 8″/45 EOC (classified as Type 41 guns by the Japanese)
14 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
10 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
6 single QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns
2 Maxim machine guns
2 landing howitzers
4 × 457 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes in casemates
(1930)
4 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
4 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
1 single 76/40 AAA

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.

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Warship Wednesday, July 24, 2019: Splashdown!

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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 24, 2019: Splashdown!

On this special edition of Warship Weds, you know we had to cover this. Although technically out of our time frame, Hornet was a WWII steam-powered flattop that was in her 26th year of service during this memorable occasion, so this is WWeds territory all day:

Here we see Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King No. 66 (BuNo 152711) from Helicopter Squadron Four (HS-4), piloted by CDR Don Jones, operating from the primary recovery ship USS Hornet (CVS-12) which is 12 miles over the horizon and coming fast at 22 knots. Old 66 is moving to retrieve the crew of Apollo 11 from their Columbia command module in the Pacific Ocean. The date is 24 July 1969, some 50 years ago today.

Hornet, an early “short-hulled” Essex-class fleet carrier built during the darkest days of World War II, had originally been laid down as the third USS Kearsarge, 3 August 1942, at Newport News but her name was switched to honor the lost USS Hornet (CV-8), which had been sunk in the Battle of Santa Cruz on 26 October 1942. Commissioning on 29 November 1943 (try to get a 40,000-ton carrier built in just 15 months today!) she went on to fight her way across the Pacific and earned seven battle stars along with a Presidential Unit Citation for her service in WWII.

Following a 1950s SCB-27A conversion, Hornet reentered the fleet as an attack carrier (CVA-12) too late for Korea and by 1959, following a subsequent SCB-125 conversion, was pulling down regular anti-sub duty as an ASW carrier (CVS-12) from San Diego to Japan. She clocked in on Yankee Station off Vietnam following an SCB-144 upgrade and did her part in supporting NASA operations.

USS Hornet (CVS-12) operating off the coast of North Vietnam, 5 September 1967. Photographed by PHCM Cox. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NH 97469

Which brings us to the moment she brought the Apollo 11 crew home.

On 16 July 1969, Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins were launched from Cape Kennedy atop a massive Saturn V rocket with the first two aforementioned space travelers descended to the surface of the Moon on four days later on the Lunar Command Module Eagle before rejoining the Columbia Command Module for the trip back home. Of the 6.5-million-pound Saturn, just the 9,130-pound Columbia capsule was destined to return to Earth via splashdown at sea, and Hornet was tasked to take it from there.

Named primary recovery ship on 1 June, after six weeks of prep work, our vintage carrier staged to Pearl from San Diego and sailed out for the Mid-Pacific Line at 1600 on 12 July, she initiated some 600 Hornet and civilian (NASA and press) personnel into the Realm of Neptunus Rex along the way. While waiting for Columbia’s splashdown some 800 miles southwest of Hawaii, she conducted training from Apollo boilerplates and received RADM (later ADM) Donald C. Davis, Commander, Task Force 130, on 22 July and CINCPAC ADM John S. McCain Jr. on 23 July.

The Black Knights of HS-4, having previously recovered both Apollo 8 and Apollo 10, was tasked with executing the recovery mission. Five SH-3 Sea Kings (dubbed RECOVERY) would deploy to the splashdown area: one to recover the astronauts, two to deploy swim teams, one to photograph the mission, and one as an escort and standby for the primary recovery aircraft.

Three E-1B Tracers (Stoofs with a roof, dubbed RELAY for the operation) were launched from Hornet for support. Two HC-130s SAR Herks flying out of Hawaii were overhead for support, dubbed RESCUE.

Four specially equipped swimmers of UDT-11 (John Wolfram, Clancy Hatleberg, Mike Mallory and Wes Chesser, fresh from Vietnam combat rotations and veterans of the Apollo 10 recovery) were prepped for the waterborne portion in two teams (Swim One and Two). The swimmers’ first task was to stabilize the command module by attaching and inflating a custom-made flotation collar around the blunt end of the spacecraft. The next task was to attach a large, seven-man raft to the flotation collar into which the astronauts, after donning special Biological Isolation Garments (BIG) exited from the Command Module. After further decontamination, the astronauts were to be flown to Hornet while the swimmers would prepare Columbia for recovery by the carrier via crane.

RADM (later ADM) Donald Cooke Davis, Commander, Task Force 130, arrived aboard Hornet on July 22. President Nixon, who had notably been a naval officer in the Pacific in WWII and only moved to the retired list in 1966, was inbound.

From Hornet’s cruise book, the events on 24 July:

(All times listed are GMT, local time was XRAY +11)
1518- LAUNCHED AIRCRAFT~ FIVE SH-3Ds and three E-1Bs
1600 MARINE ONE 12 miles from HORNET
1603 1MC Announcement · “United States arriving”
1604 Hawaii Rescue ONE (HC-130) on station
1605 Hawaii Rescue TWO (HC-130) on station
1612 President arrived in MARINE ONE
1613 President greeted by CINCPAC, CTF 130 and Commanding Officer
1614 President entered Hangar Bay TWO
1617 President inspected MQF (Mobile Quarantine Facility)
1618 President inspected BIG (Biological Isolation Garments)
1619 President departed Hanger Bay TWO
1633 All aircraft on station; ship speed 14 knots, steering north by northeast.
1635 Apollo 11 entry
1636 Begin blackout
1639 End blackout
Rescue ONE and Rescue TWO reported S-band contact
Rescue ONE reported visual fireball
1640 Rescue TWO reported visual fireball
HORNET radar contact 230 degrees true 130NM
HORNET Lookouts reported visual fireball 210 degrees true
1642 HORNET radar contact 65NM. Drogue chutes open.
1644 Double sonic boom reported by lookouts
1645 Main chutes open
1646 RELAY reported Command Module three main chutes and flashing light
HORNET established communications with Apollo 11 Crew reported “in good shape”
1648 Swim ONE, Swim TWO, Recovery and HORNET reported recovery beacon contact. CM passing 2500 feet
1649 Swim ONE reported visual contact with Apollo 11 as it passed through 800 feet.
Apollo 11 splashdown
1650 Apollo 11 reported in Stable TWO
1651 Dye marker deployed chutes severed
RECOVERY on station
1654 Three helos on scene 11.5 miles to CM, heading SW
1655 Speed 20 knots; CM 11.4 miles dead ahead
1656 Apollo 11 in Stable ONE.
1658 First swimmer in the water
1700 Swim team #2 in water
1701 Astronauts reported their check-off list complete
Three swimmers in water; flotation collar in water, HORNET speed 22 knots
1703 Flotation collar installed and inflated
1704 Raft in water
1705 Raft inflated and tethered to CM
1707 Sea anchor deployed from raft #2. BIG Swimmer in water (Lt Clancy Hatleberg)
1709 Bag of BIGs and decontaminate lowered to raft #2
1711 Astronauts reported, “all of us excellent, take your time.”
1712 BIG swimmer dons garment
1113 Range 7 miles
1715 Range 6.25 miles, report by astronauts to the effect that they are doing fine. Their spacecraft “not as stable as HORNET but stable enough”
1717 Raft 10 feet from CM; range 5.5 miles
1718 BIG swimmer in raft #1, secured it to CM
1719 BIG swimmer placed the bag of BIGs in CM.
1720 BIG swimmer made preparations for CM decontamination
1725 Range 2.75 miles course 244; speed 21 knots
1727 Astronauts open the hatch and commence exit, the first astronaut in the raft
1728 Second astronaut in the raft
1729 Third astronaut in a raft.
1731 BIG swimmer secures hatch. All water wings inflated
1733 Speed 13 knots; BIG swimmer scrubbing lower portion of CM (reportedly with Betadine)
1734 BIG swimmer commenced decontamination of CM
Speed 11 knots, the ship is turning; BIG swimmer completed decontamination of CM
1735 BIG swimmer scrubbing down first astronaut
1736 Speed 8 kts; course 000; decontamination of first astronaut completed
1737 Commence decontamination of the second astronaut, speed 7kts, ship passing through 025.
1738 Decontamination of second astronaut completed
1739 Commenced decontamination of the third astronaut
1742 RECOVERY surgeon states all okay; no breaks in the decontamination procedures
1744 Decontamination process completed, commence decontaminating raft #1
1745 Course 075′; DIW Command Module 950 yds to port. Swimmers taking their positions
1748 RECOVERY making approach for the first astronaut
1749 First astronaut hoisted in sling into RECOVERY
1750 Commence second approach second astronaut in sling hoist
1752 Third astronaut in sling hoist
1757 RECOVERY landed on the flight deck
1801 RECOVERY lowered to Hangar Bay #2 on #2 elevator.
1802 RECOVERY enters Hangar Bay #2,
1804 RECOVERY guided in front of MQF.
1807 Astronauts leave aircraft and enter MQF door of MQF closed behind astronauts; walk area decontaminated
1808 RECOVERY removed.
1839 Mr. Ben James~ NASA spokesman announces doctor has found astronauts fit.
1853 President enters MQF area to sound of ruffles and flourishes
1854 Astronauts draw curtain open.
1855 President addresses astronauts.
1903 President leaves MQF area en route to the flight deck.
1905 President on the flight deck where he greets flight deck crew
1908 President enters Marine ONE.
1911 President departs. Time on board 9 3 hours.
1912 CINCPAC addresses crew over 1MC.
1930 CINCPAC departs.
1931 Commenced approach to CM from a range of 2500 yards
1949 CM out of water
1952 Flotation collar cut from CM

NASA Photo S69-21698 (24 July 1969) — The three Apollo 11 crewmen await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. The fourth man in the life raft is a United States Navy underwater demolition team swimmer, Lieutenant Clancy Hatleberg. All four men are wearing biological isolation garments. Clancy was the first to welcome the first humans to walk on another planetary body–Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins– back to earth. He later said that, although it wasn’t in the protocol, he shook their outstretched hands when he opened the capsule. He is now 75 and lives in Virginia.

Recovery of the Apollo 11 space capsule by USS Hornet, Hatleberg securing hatch on Columbia. Hatleberg and the three other UDT swimmers remained with the command module until the Hornet could arrive to retrieve the module via crane while the astronauts were recovered in Sea King #66. LT (JG) Wes Chesser, along with two other UDT-11 divers dropped from Helicopter #64, cleared away the parachutes, deployed a sea anchor to slow the module’s drift, and attached and inflated a floatation collar around the module. NHHC UA 44.02.01

NASA Photo 6900595 (24 July 1969) — Donned in biological isolation garments, the Apollo 11 crew members, (L-R) Edwin Aldrin, Neil Armstrong (waving), and Michael Collins exit Old 66, the recovery pick up helicopter, to board the USS. Hornet aircraft carrier after splashdown.

President Richard M. Nixon talks with the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin Aldrin, Jr., on the hangar deck of USS Hornet (CVS-12), in the Pacific Ocean, 24 July 1969. The astronauts are inside the mobile quarantine station that temporarily housed them after their return from the Moon. Photographed by PHCS R.L. Lawson. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Catalog #: KN-18093

UDT swimmers wait for USS Hornet to arrive to recover Columbia. NHHC photo

And the recovery itself…

NASA Photo S69-21294 (24 July 1969) — The Apollo 11 spacecraft Command Module is photographed being lowered to the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet. Note the floatation collar has been removed.

NASA S69-40758 (24 July 1969) — The Apollo 11 spacecraft Command Module (CM) and the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) are photographed aboard the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic first lunar landing mission. The three crewmen are already in the MQF

The ship enjoyed a special “Splashdown” Menu

Buzz Aldrin filed the travel voucher to get reimbursed for the trip.

Note, Hornet’s reference and travel by “Government Air”

The relics of the Columbia recovery are very well preserved. After touring the country, the module itself was donated to the collection of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum 

CDR Don Jones, Black Knights Sea King #66’s pilot, donated his helmet to the U.S. Navy Museum, where it is in their collection.

Helmet, Flight, HS-4, USS Hornet (CVS-12), Apollo 11 NHHC 1969-452-D

Helicopter 66 would also be used for the Apollo 12 and 13 recovery, with HS-4 being presented with Meritorious Unit Commendations for their efforts in the program. Tragically, after 3,245.2-hours of service, “Old 66” crashed while on a training mission off Imperial Beach in 1975, sinking to 800 fathoms but at least three replicas exist in aviation museums today wearing the famous chopper’s livery.

As for the Knights themselves, they are still around, dubbed Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Four (HSC-4), flying MH-60S Seahawks with CVW-2.

On the UDT side of the house, Wes Chesser’s duck feet from the Apollo 11 splashdown are in the NHHC collection.

Fins, Swim, UDT, USS Hornet (CVS-12), Apollo 11 NHHC 1969-452-F

With frogmen being frogmen, there are of course other keepsakes in private hands. In the period they were left alone in the water with Columbia after the Sea Kings had departed, the four UDT divers were able to score small pieces of the aircraft’s gold reentry shield that were flaking off in the water after a 500,000-mile round trip.

“We knew once they got that capsule back to the Hornet, they would guard it like Fort Knox and we wouldn’t get anywhere near it,” Wolfram told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently.

The floatation collars and bag used on Apollo 11 is at the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles displayed on an Apollo program egress trainer command module used by the UDT team prior to the recovery. It was transferred from NASA to the Smithsonian in 1977 and is set up next to the Mobile Quarantine Facility trailer. I made sure to check it out this week as I am in the DC area on business.

(Photo: Chris Eger)

And of course, Hornet was decommissioned less than a year after Columbia’s recovery, on 26 June 1970, although she did find the time to recover Apollo 12’s Yankee Clipper as well.

NASA Photo s69-22271– A United States Navy Underwater Demolition Team swimmer assists the Apollo 12 crew during recovery operations in the Pacific Ocean. In the life raft are astronauts Charles Conrad Jr. (facing camera), commander; Richard F. Gordon Jr. (middle), command module pilot; and Alan L. Bean (nearest camera), lunar module pilot. The three crewmen of the second lunar landing mission were picked up by helicopter and flown to the prime recovery ship, USS Hornet. Apollo 12 splashed down at 2:58 p.m. (CST), Nov. 24, 1969, near American Samoa. While astronauts Conrad and Bean descended in the Lunar Module (LM) “Intrepid” to explore the Ocean of Storms region of the moon, astronaut Gordon remained with the Command and Service Modules (CSM) “Yankee Clipper” in lunar orbit.

In 1998, she opened to the public as USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California, where she remains today.

One small step, indeed.

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!

Buckeye in the Bay, 115 years ago today

Here we see the USS Ohio, Battleship # 12, drydocked at Hunter’s Point, San Francisco, California, on 19 July 1904. Note her bow scroll.

Photographed by Turrill & Miller, San Francisco. Donation of the Society of California Pioneers. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 60224

Photographed by Turrill & Miller, San Francisco. Donation of the Society of California Pioneers. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 60224

A Maine-class pre-dreadnought laid down at San Francisco’s Union Iron Works on 22 April 1899, the above picture was taken just 10 weeks before her official commissioning on 4 October 1904 and is likely a final hull inspection before she is accepted by the Navy.

The third U.S. warship to be named for the Buckeye State, she was preceded in service by a schooner on Lake Erie during the War of 1812 and an Eckford-designed 64-gun ship of the line that served under no less a naval hero as Commodore Isaac Hull.

BB-12, once she joined the fleet, served on the Asiatic Squadron during the tense period that was the Russo-Japanese War– which it should be pointed out was brokered to a peace treaty by President Theodore Roosevelt– before joining Teddy’s Great White Fleet to sail around the world. By the time the GWF made Hampton Roads in 1909, it and all the ships of the Squadron had been made obsolete by the introduction of HMS Dreadnought and the ensuing all-big-gun battleship rush that ended in the Great War.

USS Ohio (BB-12) (Battleship # 12) Passing the Cucaracha Slide, while transiting the Panama Canal on 16 July 1915, almost 11 years to the day after the above image. Note how much her scheme has changed since joining the fleet, with her haze grey scheme, and lattice masts. Gone is her beautiful white and buff scheme as well as her ornate bow scroll. Collection of Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, USN, 1973. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 82269

With that being said, Ohio served stateside as a training vessel during World War I and, to comply with Washington Naval Treaty requirements, was sold for scrap in 1923, with but 19 years on her hull.

Her name was to have been carried by a Montana-class super battleship (BB-68) but was canceled before she was even laid down. Nonetheless, “Ohio” went on to grace the lead ship of the Navy’s current strategic ace in the hole boomers, SSBN-726, who has been in service since 1981 and is still going strong as a Tomahawk & SEAL van.

Warship Wednesday, July 17, 2019: Willy’s Vulture

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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 17, 2019: Willy’s Vulture

Deutsches Bundesarchiv Bild 134-C0105

Here we see the three-masted bark-rigged “kleiner geschutzter kreuzer” (small protected cruiser) SMS Geier of the Imperial German Kaiserliche Marine photographed at the beginning of her career around 1895. A well-traveled Teutonic warship named after the German word for “vulture,” she would repeatedly find herself only narrowly avoiding some of the largest naval clashes of her era.

The final installment of the six-ship Bussard-class of colonial cruisers, all of which were named after birds, Geier and her sisters (Falke, Seeadler, Condor, and Comoran) would today be classified either as corvettes or well-armed offshore patrol vessels. With an 1800~ ton displacement (which varied from ship to ship as they had at least three varying generations of subclasses), these pint-sized “cruisers” were about 275-feet long overall and could float in less than three fathoms. While most cruisers are built for speed, the Bussards could only make 15-ish knots when everything was lit. When it came to an armament, they packed eight 10.5 cm (4.1″) SK L/35 low-angle guns and a pair of cute 350mm torpedo tubes, which wasn’t that bad for policing the colonies but was hopeless in a surface action against a real cruiser.

Geier’s sister, SMS Seeadler, in a postcard-worthy setting. The six ships of the class ranged from the West Indies to Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. Much more exotic duty than the typical Baltic/North Sea gigs for the High Seas Fleet

Constructed between 1888 and 1895 at four different Northern German yards, the half-dozen Bussards were a very late 19th Century design, complete with a three-masted auxiliary barquentine rig, ram bows, and a wooden-backed copper-sheathed hull. They carried a pair of early electric generators and their composite hull was separated into 10 watertight compartments. Despite the “geschutzter” designation given by the Germans, they carried no armor other than splinter shields.

The only member of the class built at Kaiserliche Werft, Wilhelmshaven, Geier was laid down in 1893 and commissioned 24 October 1895, with Kaiser Wilhelm himself visiting the ship on that day.

SMS “Geier” der kaiserlichen deutschen Marine

SMS “Geier”, Kaiser Wilhelm II. spricht zur Besatzung

SMS “Geier”, Kleiner Kreuzer; Besichtigung des Schiffes durch Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Notably, Geier was the largest and most developed of her sisters, using a slightly different gun arrangement, better engines and 18-inch torpedo tubes rather than the 14s carried by the preceding five ships of the class.

All six Bussards were subsequently deployed overseas in Willy’s far-flung colonies in Africa and the Pacific, a tasking Geier soon adopted. Setting off for the West Indies, she joined the German squadron of old ironclads and school ships that were deployed there in 1897 to protect Berlin’s interests in Venezuela and Haiti.

The next year, under the command of Korvettenkapitän (later Vizeadmiral) Hermann Jacobsen, Geier was permitted by the U.S. fleet during the Spanish-American War to pass in and out of the blockaded Spanish ports in Cuba and Puerto Rico on several occasions, ostensibly on humanitarian grounds to evacuate neutral European civilians.

The unprotected cruiser SMS Geier entering Havana Harbor, Cuba, in 1898, during the SpanAm War

However, Jacobson dutifully kept a log of ships that ran the American blockade and their cargo as well as conducted a detailed analysis of the damage done to the Spanish ships at the Battle of Santiago. These observations were later released then ultimately translated into English and published in the USNI’s Proceedings in 1899.

By 1900, Geier was operating in the Pacific and, operating with the German East Asia Squadron, was in Chinese waters in time to join the international task force bringing the Manchu Dynasty to its knees during the Boxer Rebellion. She remained in the region and observed the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, notably poking around at Chemulpo (Inchon) where the Russian protected cruiser Varyag and gunboat Korietz were scuttled after a sharp engagement with a superior IJN force under Baron Sotokichi.

GEIER Photographed early in her career, before her 1908-1909 refit that reduced her Barkentine Rig to Brigantine Standard. NH 88631

Returning to Germany in 1909 for repair and refit, her rigging was changed from that of a three-mast barquentine to a two-mast topsail schooner while her bridge was enlarged, and her boilers replaced.

Geier with her late-career schooner rig

Recommissioned in 1911, she was assigned to the Mediterranean where she spent the next couple years exercising gunboat diplomacy in the wake of the Moroccan Crisis while eating popcorn on the sidelines of the Italian-Turkish War and Balkan Wars, all of which involved a smattering of curious naval actions to report back to Berlin. By 1914, although she had never fired a shot in anger, our Vulture had already haunted five significant wars from Tripoli to Korea and Cuba, very much living up to her name.

To catch us up on the rest of the class, by the eve of the Great War, the Bussards was showing their age. Sisterships Seeadler and Condor in 1914 were converted to mine storage hulks in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, respectively. Bussard and Falke had already been stricken from the Naval List in 1912 and sold to the breakers. Meanwhile, in the German Chinese treaty port of Tsingtao (Qingdao), Cormoran was laid up with bad engines.

Speaking of which, when the lamps went out across Europe in August 1914, Geier was already en route from Dar es Salaam in German East Africa (where she had been relieved by the doomed cruiser Konigsberg) to Tsingtao to join Vizeadmiral Count Maximilian von Spee’s East Asia Squadron in the Pacific.

Once the balloon went up, she was in a precarious situation as just about any British, French, Russian or Japanese warship she encountered could have sent her quickly to the bottom. Eluding the massive Allied dragnet, which was deployed not only to capture our old cruiser but also Von Spee’s much more serious task force and the downright dangerous SMS Emden (which Geier briefly met with at sea), Geier attempted to become a commerce raider and, taking on coal from two German merchant ships, managed to capture a British freighter, SS Southport, at Kusaie in the Eastern Carolines on 4 September. After disabling Southport’s engines and leaving the British merchantman to eventually recover and report Geier’s last position, our decrepit light cruiser missed her rendezvous with Von Spee’s squadron at Pagan Island in the Northern Marianas and the good Count left her behind.

Alone, short on coal and only a day or so ahead of the Japanese battleship Hizen (former Russian Retvizan) and the armored cruiser Asama, Geier steamed into Honolulu on 17 October, having somehow survived 11 weeks on the run.

After failing to leave port within the limits set by neutral U.S. authorities, she was interned on 8 November and nominally disarmed.

Bussard Class Unprotected Cruiser SMS Geier pictured interned in Hawaii, she arrived in Honolulu on October 17th, 1914 for coaling, repairs and freshwater– and never left

Meanwhile, the Graf Spee’s East Asia Squadron had defeated the British 4th Cruiser Squadron under RADM Christopher Cradock in the Battle of Coronel on 1 November, sinking the old cruisers HMS Good Hope and Monmouth and sending Cradock and 1,600 of his men to the bottom of the South Atlantic Pacific off the coast of Chile. A month later, Spee himself along with his two sons and all but one ship of his squadron was smashed by VADM Doveton Sturdee’s battlecruiser squadron at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

Schlacht bei den Falkland-Inseln (8.12.1914) Battle Falklands Islands, German chart

Our Vulture had evaded another meeting with Poseidon.

As for Geier, her war was far from over, reportedly being used as a base for disinformation (alleging a Japanese invasion of Mexico!) and espionage (tracking Allied ship movements) for the next two years.

German cruiser Geier shown interned in Honolulu. Photo by Herbert B Turner. NARA 165-WW-272C-006

German cruiser Geier shown interned in Honolulu. Photo by Herbert B Turner. NARA 165-WW-272C-006

Finally, in February 1917, the events came to a head.

According to the U.S. NHHC:

German reservists and agents surreptitiously utilized the ship for their operations, and the Americans grew increasingly suspicious of their activities. Emotions ran hot during the war and the Germans violated “neutrality,” Lt. (j.g.) Albert J. Porter of the ship’s company, who penned the commemorative War Log of the USS. St. Louis (Cruiser No. 20), observed, “with characteristic Hun disregard for international law and accepted honor codes.” Geier, Korvettenkapitän Curt Graßhoff in command, lay at Pier 3, moored to interned German steamer Pomeran when a column of smoke began to rise from her stack early on the morning of 4 February 1917. The ship’s internment prohibited her from getting steam up, and the Americans suspected the Germans’ intentions.

Lt. Cmdr. Victor S. Houston, St. Louis’ commanding officer, held an urgent conference on board the cruiser at which Cmdr. Thomas C. Hart, Commander SubDiv 3, represented the Commandant. Houston ordered St. Louis to clear for action and sent a boarding party, led by Lt. Roy Le C. Stover, Lt. (j.g.) Robert A. Hall, and Chief Gunner Frank C. Wisker. The sailors disembarked at the head of the Alakea wharf and took up a position in the second story of the pier warehouse. Soldiers from nearby Schofield Barracks meanwhile arrived and deployed a battery of 3-inch field pieces, screened by a coal pile across the street from the pier, from where they could command the decks of the German ship. Smoke poured in great plumes from Geier and her crewmen’s actions persuaded the Americans that the Germans likely intended to escape from the harbor, while some of the boarding party feared that failing to sortie, the Germans might scuttle the ship with charges, and the ensuing blaze could destroy part of the waterfront.

The boarding party, therefore, split into three sections and boarded and seized Pomeran, and Hart and Stover then boarded Geier and informed Graßhoff that they intended to take possession of the cruiser and extinguish her blaze, to protect the harbor. Graßhoff vigorously protested but his “wily” efforts to delay the boarders failed and the rest of the St. Louis sailors swarmed on board. The bluejackets swiftly took stations forward, amidships, and aft, and posted sentries at all the hatches and watertight doors, blocking any of the Germans from passing. Graßhoff surrendered and the Americans rounded-up his unresisting men. 1st Lt. Randolph T. Zane, USMC, arrived with a detachment of marines, and they led the prisoners under guard to Schofield Barracks for internment.

Her crew headed off to Schofield Barracks for the rest of the war, some of the first German POWs in the U.S. (Hawaii State Archives)

Wisker took some men below to the magazines, where they found shrapnel fuzes scattered about, ammunition hoists dismantled, and floodcocks battered into uselessness. The Germans also cunningly hid their wrenches and spans in the hope of forestalling the Americans’ repairs. Stover in the meantime hastened with a third section and they discovered a fire of wood and oil-soaked waste under a dry boiler. The blaze had spread to the deck above and the woodwork of the fire room also caught by the heat thrown off by the “incandescent” boiler, and the woodwork of the magazine bulkheads had begun to catch. The boarders could not douse the flames with water because of the likelihood of exploding the dry boiler, but they led out lines from the bow and stern of the burning ship and skillfully warped her across the slip to the east side of Pier 4. The Honolulu Fire Department rushed chemical engines to the scene, and the firemen and sailors worked furiously cutting holes thru the decks to facilitate dousing the flames with their chemicals. The Americans extinguished the blaze by 5:00 p.m., and then a detachment from SubDiv 3, led by Lt. (j.g.) Norman L. Kirk, who commanded K-3 (Submarine No. 34), relieved the exhausted men.

German cruiser Geier with boilers on fire being sabotauged by her crew Honolulu Feb 4 1917 Photo by Herbert NARA 165-WW-272C-007

German cruiser Geier with boilers on fire being sabotauged by her crew Honolulu Feb 4 1917 Photo by Herbert NARA 165-WW-272C-007

The Germans all but wrecked Geier and their “wanton work” further damaged the engines, steam lines, oil lines, auxiliaries, navigation instruments, and even the wardroom, which Porter described as a “shambles.”

As such, she was the only German Imperial Navy warship captured by the U.S. Navy during World War I.

Coupled with the more than 590,000 tons of German merchant ships seized in U.S. ports April 1917, Geier was reconditioned for American service and eventually commissioned as USS Schurz, a name used in honor of German radical Carl Schurz who fled Prussia in 1849 after the failed revolution there. Schurz had, in turn, joined the Union Army during the Civil War and commanded a division of largely German-speaking immigrants in the XI Corps at Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga, rising to the rank of major general.

[Of XI Corps’s 27 infantry regiments, at least 13 were “Dutch” (German) regiments with many German-born/speaking commanders prevalent. Besides Schurz, brigades and divisions of the XI Corps were led by men such as Col. Ludwig Blenker and Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr, formerly officers of the Royal Armies Bavaria and the Duchy of Brunswick, respectively.]

Postwar, Schurz was a senator from Missouri, where a large German population had settled, and later served as Interior Secretary in the Hayes Administration.

Don’t let his bookish looks fool you, although Schurz was a journalist who served as editor of the New York Evening Post, he also fought in the German revolution and saw the elephant several times in the Civil War.

Under the command of LCDR Arthur Crenshaw, the new USS Schurz joined the fleet in September 1917 and served as an escort on the East Coast. Her German armament landed; she was equipped with four 5-inch mounts in U.S. service.

USS Schurz off the foot of Market Street, San Diego, California, in November-December 1917. Note the U.S. colors. Courtesy of the San Diego Maritime Museum, 1983 Catalog #: NH 94909

While on a convoy from New York for Key West, Fla., on 0444 on 21 June 1918, she collided with the merchant ship SS Florida southwest of Cape Lookout lightship, North Carolina, about 130 miles east of Wilmington.

As noted by the NHHC, “The collision crumpled the starboard bridge wing, slicing into the well and berth deck nearly 12 feet, and cutting through bunker no. 3 to the forward fire room.” One of Schurz’s crewmen was killed instantly, and 12 others injured. The 216 survivors abandoned ship and Schurz sank about three hours later in 110-feet of water.

A later naval board laid the blame for the collision on Florida, as the steamer was running at full steam in the predawn darkness in the thick fog without any lights or horns and had failed to keep a proper distance.

USS Schurz was stricken from the Navy list on 26 August 1918, and her name has not been reissued. The Kaiserliche Marine confusingly recycled the name “Geier” for an auxiliary cruiser (the former British merchant vessel Saint Theodore, captured by the commerce raider SMS Möwe) as well as an armed trawler during the war even while the original ship was interned in Hawaii with a German crew pulling shenanigans.

Of SMS Geier‘s remaining sisters in German service, Seeadler was destroyed by an accidental explosion on the Jade in April 1917 and never raised, Cormoran had been scuttled in Tsingtao and captured by the Japanese who scrapped her, and Condor was broken up in 1921.

Today, while she has been extensively looted of artifacts over the years the wreck of the Schurz is currently protected as part of the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and she is a popular dive site.

NOAA divers swim over the stern of the USS Schurz shipwreck. Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

East Carolina University conducted an extensive survey of her wreckage in 2000 and found her remarkably intact, with her boilers in place as well as brass fasteners and copper hull sheathing with nails still attached.

Specs:

Displacement, full: 1918 tons
Length: 275 ft oal, 261 wl
Beam: 34 ft. 10.6
Draft: 15 feet 4.74 mean 5.22 deep load
Machinery: 2 HTE, 4 cylindrical boilers, 2880 hp, 2 shafts
Coal: 320 tons
Speed: 15.5-knots max
Range: 3610nm at 9kts
Complement: 9 officers, 152 men (German) 197 to 217 (US)
Armor: None
Armament
(1895)
8 x 1 – 4.1″/32cal SK L/35 single mounts
5 x 1-pdr (37mm) revolving cannon (removed in 1909)
2 x 1 – 450mm TT with 5 18-inch torpedoes in magazine
(1917)
4 x 5″/51cal U.S. mounts

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