Category Archives: warship wednesday

Warship Wednesday, May 18, 2022: Spaghetti Battleship Slayer

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 18, 2022: Spaghetti Battleship Slayer

Via the Archivio Centrale dello Stato (ACS), the Italian Central State Archives

Above we see a tonnage flag flown by the Marcello-class submarine R. Smg. Barbarigo after she sank a
Colorado-class battleship, specifically the USS Maryland (BB-46), some 80 years ago this month. What’s that? You didn’t know Maryland was Deep Sixed by the Royal Italian Navy during WWII? Well, about that…

The nine submarines of the Marcello class were all constructed in 1937-38 by Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico in Trieste for the Italians, drawing from lessons learned during the Spanish Civil War in which Italian Sottomarini Legionari (Submariners Legion) “pirate” submarines fought a not-so-secret war on behalf of Franco. Small vessels compared to American and Japanese “fleet boats,” the Marcellos were only 1,300-tons submerged and 239 feet overall. However, they were speedy for the time, able to make 17 knots on the surface, had long enough legs (7,500nm range at 9 knots) for operations outside of the Med, and carried eight 21-inch torpedo tubes as well as two 4″/47cal deck guns.

Launch of Regio Sommergibile Cappellini, one of the Marcello class. Note her two forward starboard bow tubes. The class had four tubes forward and four stern, an unusual arrangement compared to American subs. Note that her deck guns have not been fitted.

A trio of brand new Italian Marcello-class submarines in Venice, 1939, complete with deck guns. They carried one 4″/47 forward of the sail, another aft, as well as fittings for two twin 13.2mm Breda (Hotchkiss) Model 1931 AAA machine guns. In the foreground on the right is an H-class submarine and in the background are some cruisers and Folgore-class destroyers.

Overall, the Italians could have done worse, and the class was successful in WWII.

Our subject was named for the 15th-century Doge of Venice, Agostino Barbarigo, the commander of the Venetian fleet in the Battle of Lepanto and a figure made infamous by the Assassin’s Creed video game series.

Agostino Barbarigo by Paolo Veronese, Cleveland Museum of Art.

As such, she was the second submarine Barbarigo in the Italian Navy, with the first being the leader of a four-boat class designed during the Great War that served through the 1920s.

The first R. Smg. Barbarigo was active from 1918 through 1928.

Laid down at C.R.D.A. Monfalcone, (Trieste) on 6 February 1937, R. Smg. Barbarigo (2°) was commissioned 19 September 1938 and was assigned to 2º Gruppo Sommergibili at Naples.

Early War Service

When the war started, with the Italian kick-off coming during the last weeks of the Fall of France in June 1940, under the command of Capitano di Corvetta (CC) Giulio Ghiglieri, Barbarigo’s first war patrol was a sortie off the coast of Algeria that yielded no results. Her second patrol, the next month between Cape de Gata and Cape Falcon, was much the same.

Once France fell and the Germans were setting up shop in the English Channel, Barbarigo was one of the Italian submarines assigned to the BETASOM group which would become operational in the North Atlantic from Bordeaux. Passing Gibraltar on 14 August 1940, four days later the boat was in an unsuccessful surface action with the British steamer Aguilar (3,255 GRT) bound from Lisbon to the Canary Islands.

Italian sumergible Barbarigo going up the Garonne river to reach her BETASOM base in Bordeaux.

Italian submarine Barbarigo in Bordeaux 1942.

Submarine Barbarigo, Bordeaux, note her deck gun

Stern shot in Bordeaux

Barbarigo in Bordeaux.

Ghiglieri would command Barbarigo on her 4th, 5th, and 6th War Patrols, never officially bagging anything although she was highly active, ranging from Ireland to the Bay of Biscay. Ghiglieri would leave the boat in June 1941, having commanded her under combat conditions for a full year. He would go on to command the Pisani-class boat Des Geneys for a year, also unsuccessfully, then rode a desk for the rest of the war.

Barbarigo’s new skipper, CC Francesco Murzi, was immediately successful, sinking the British freighter Macon (5,141 GRT) and tanker Horn Shell (8,272 GRT) back-to-back in July 1941.

The Grossi Era

With Murzi transferred to command the new, and larger, Cagni-class submarine Ammiraglio Millo in August, Barbarigo’s third wartime skipper would be CC Enzo Grossi. Born in Brazil in 1908, Grossi was a seasoned commander, having joined the Italian Navy in 1929 and risen to command the submarines Tito Speri and Medusa earlier in the war, earning both the Silver and Bronze military medals for valor in operations in the Med.

Barbarigo’s 8th War Patrol (22 Oct- 11 Nov) saw her operate against convoy H.G.75 off the Portuguese coast in conjunction with German U-boats and have a stalking duel with the British submarine HMS/m Una, ultimately returning to port without sinking anything.

The boat’s 9th patrol (18 Jan – 16 Feb 1942), west of the Azores, saw more success with the unarmed Spanish cargo ship Navemar (5,301 GRT) sent to the bottom, although Grossi claimed to have sunk a large armed merchant cruiser.

Her 10th patrol, run some 300 miles off the Brazilian coast from 25 April to 16 June, would become famous, at least in her time.

On 18 May, she seriously damaged the Brazilian tanker Comandante Lyra (5,753 GRT) bound for Pernambuco, and two days later came across a battleship and escorting destroyer(s).

Via Uboat.net:

At 0245 hours, Barbarigo was steering 020°, when an officer of the watch, First Officer T.V. Angelo Amendolia, observed a dark shadow. He immediately put the helm hard to starboard and summoned C.C. Grossi to the bridge. It was a large destroyer. The submarine was ready to make a stern attack when a much larger shadow appeared, which was identified as an American battleship of the MARYLAND-CALIFORNIA class because of her lattice masts. A second destroyer followed her.

At 0250 hours, two stern torpedoes were fired at 650 meters, aimed at the “battleship” (one of 533mm and one 450mm of type A 115) which was steering 200° at 15 knots. After 35 seconds, two explosions were observed. G.M. Tendi who was observing with binoculars reported that the battleship was sunk, and this confirmed Grossi’s impressions. From a distance of 800 meters, Grossi saw the battleship sinking bow first.

Grossi did not waste time in forwarding his claim and, at 1500 hours on 22nd May, he received a signal from Rome informing him of his promotion and the congratulations from the Duce and a grateful Nation.

The patrol also included an attack on the British freighter Charlbury (4,836 GRT) that was sent to the bottom after a five-hour, six-torpedo engagement on 29 May.

Returning to Bordeaux with his kill flags flying, Grossi and crew were feted by the German and Italian media.

Grossi, in the sweater, regaling the crowd with the stories from the patrol

The conning tower slogan reads, “Who fears death is unworthy of living.”

Although Grossi had not even been on the bridge at the time, he was dutifully photographed, shirtless and engrossed, recreating the attack at the boat’s periscope.

Of course, as you likely know, the USS Maryland (Battleship No. 46) in May 1942 was in training exercises in Hawaiian waters alongside her sister USS Colorado, having just been patched up at Puget Sound Navy Yard after Pearl Harbor. Her third sister, USS West Virginia, was still at Puget Sound for a longer, two-year, reconstruction and modernization. Of the visually similar California class, both USS California and USS Tennessee were likewise at PSNY under repair from Pearl Harbor. In short, there were no such battleships as Grossi claimed off Brazil in May 1942.

The postwar analysis points to the target Grossi engaged were the elderly Omaha-class light cruiser USS Milwaukee (CL-5) — a ship of 7,000 tons rather than 32,000– escorted by the lone Porter-class destroyer USS Moffett (DD-362), neither of which knew they were attacked.

On Grossi’s next patrol, Barbarigo’s 11th during the war, the boat sortied from Bordeaux on 29 August and returned a full month later, having dealt deadly blows to the Americans once again while steaming off the Brazilian coast and West Africa.

In the pre-dawn hours of 6 October, with Grossi again not in the control room, he bagged another battleship. What luck!

Times 05.40 of the day 6 – Stq. 23 of the q.d.p. n. 6718 (lat. 02’10/20’N, long. 14°10/20’W) time 02.34 I have sunk a unit type Nb (battleship) Cl. (class) ” Mississippi ” (U.S.A.) course 150° speeds 13knots four forward torpedoes hit 6 meters seen the ship sink avoided reaction I direct zone – 043106.

Two days later, when the news hit an embattled Central Europe, Hitler conferred the Iron Cross to Grossi. El Duce likewise promoted him to C.V. and awarded him the Medaglia d’Oro, the highest Italian award.

Grossi became one of the most decorated naval officers in the Axis fleets, personally receiving two EAKs from Donitz and Italy’s highest award from El Duce

The slayer of two battleships, a feat greater than Günther Prien, Hans-Diedrich von Tiesenhausen, Eli Thomas Reich, Johannes Spiess, and Rudolf Schneider, submarine skippers who only had one battleship to their name across two world wars.

In actuality, USS Mississippi (Battleship No. 41) was at the time participating in exercises off Hawaii and escorting convoys back and forth to Fiji. Her sisterships USS New Mexico (BB-40) and Idaho (BB-42) were at the time both at PSNY undergoing modernization.

As noted by Uboat.net:

Unfortunately, the “battleship” was the Flower-class corvette HMS Petunia (K 17) who had sighted five torpedo tracks (not four!). One torpedo passed under her (the torpedoes had been set for a depth of 6 meters) and another missed close astern, but her ASDIC and R.D.F. were inoperative and her counterattack, at 2255 hours, with only one depth charge was ineffective.

With such a high-value personality on their hands, Grossi was promoted to the safety of shore duty and made the commander of BETASOM at Bordeaux in December 1942. After the Italians dropped out of the war in September 1943, the last four Italian boats pierside in France (Bagnolini, Giuliani, Cappellini, and Torelli) were handed over to the Germans.

Grossi then cast his lot with Mussolini’s remnant fascist Italian Social Republic, assuming command of the 1ª Divisione Atlantica Fucilieri in the Marina Nazionale Repubblicana, a paper force of some 5,000 shipless Italian sailors and Marines employed piecemeal by the Kriegsmarine to build and equip coastal batteries on the Atlantic Wall and in the Channel Islands. The unit took part in the Battle of Normandy, with some isolated garrisons– Lorient, Saint-Nazaire, and La Rochelle– only surrendering at the end of the war.

Grossi also apparently was key in a plan to smuggle Mussolini to Japan in 1945 that, obviously, fell through.

As for Barbarigo, her days were numbered as well. Under LT Roberto Rigoli, the submarine would sink the freighters Monte Igueldo (Spain, 3,453 GRT), Affonso Penna (Brazil, 3,540 GRT), and Stag Hound (U.S. 8,591 GRT) across a week in February-March 1943 on Barbarigo’s 12th War Patrol.

Her 13th Patrol would turn out to be her unluckiest. Sailing with her 5th wartime skipper in four years– LT Umberto De Julio– Barbarigo was converted to a blockade-running transport submarine, code name Aquila V, and sailed from Bordeaux on 16 June 1943 to Singapore with 130 tons of materials and 5 billion Lire. She was never seen again and was believed sunk sometime around 24 June, the cause is unknown. De Julio, five officers, 47 ratings, and two passengers– Imperial Japanese Army Colonels Gondo and Miura– disappeared with her. 

Epilogue

During their missions in the Atlantic, the 27 Italian submarines assigned to BETASOM sank a total of 109 ships for 593,864 gross tons, with Barbarigo accounting for 7 of those ships for 39,300 GRT. These are the hard numbers, not the unverified figures. This puts Barbarigo in fifth place among the BETASOM boats, behind Da Vinci (17 ships, 120,243 GRT, the most successful non-German Axis sub of WWII), Tazzoli (18/96,650 GRT), Torelli (7/42,871), and Morosini (6/40,927).

Barbarigo was one of 88 Italian submarines lost during the war, some two-thirds of their force. Keep in mind the U.S. Navy “only” lost 52 boats during the conflict, giving you a window on how dangerous it was to be an Italian submariner.

Of Barbarigo’s sisters, only Dandolo was in operational condition at the end of the war, having sailed to the United States after the Italian armistice in Sept. 1943. She was scrapped in 1948, the Italians soon moving on to surplus American boats.

Barbarigo’s best-known skipper, Enzo Grossi was cashiered and stripped of all ranks in 1945 by the post-war Italian government. A subsequent investigative commission by the Italian Navy, working in conjunction with Allied archivists, revoked his WWII awards and discredited his battleship sinking claims. Grossi, who emigrated to Argentina after the war, died from a tumor in 1960, aged just 52. The findings of the 1948 commission were later confirmed by a second board in 1962.

Of note, USS Maryland and Mississippi became two of the longest-living American battlewagons, with “Fighting Mary” only sold to the breakers in 1959, some 43 years after she was ordered, and the “Mighty Miss” still on active duty as a missile trials ship as late as 1956.

Specs:

 

U.S. Navy ONI-202 circa 1942 listing for the Marcello class


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Warship Wednesday, May 11, 2022: The Dirty D

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 11, 2022: The Dirty D

Nordisk Pressefoto via the M/S Museet for Søfart- Danish maritime museum. Photo: 2012:0397

Above we see a beautiful period photo of the Danish skoleskibet Danmark with a bone in her teeth, the tall ship’s canvas fully rigged and speeding her along, 18 white clouds mastering the sea. Just seven years old when she was caught up in WWII, she would find a new home and wartime use in Allied waters while the Germans occupied her country.

A tremastet fuldrigger in Danish parlance, the big three-master went 212-feet overall from her stern to the tip of her bowsprit and 188 feet at the waterline, with a displacement of 790 BT. Her mainmast towered 127 feet high. Constructed of riveted steel with 10 watertight bulkheads, she was designed in the late 1920s to be a more modern replacement for the lost schoolship København, whose saga we have covered in the past.

Laid down at Nakskov Skibsværft, part of the Danish East Asian Company (Det Østasiatiske Kompagni or just ØK), a giant shipping and trade concern that at one point was Scandinavia’s largest commercial enterprise, while Danmark was a civil vessel, many of her officers and crew were on the Royal Danish Navy’s reserve list and many of her cadets would serve in the fleet as well.

Skoleskibet DANMARK under konstruktion på Nakskov Skibsværft.

She was christened on 17 December 1932 by one Ms. Hannah Lock.

Young Ms. Lock was striking, and likely the daughter of a company official. The company’s bread and butter were both passenger and freight lines between the Danish capital, Bangkok, and the far east, so it was no doubt an exotic and glitzy affair.

Due to low tide, she was not officially launched until two days later.

Skoleskibet DANMARK søsættes 19. december 1932. På grund af lavvande blev skibet først søsat to dage efter dåben.

On her maiden voyage, photographed from the schoolship Georg Stages.

Picture from Danmark’s Capt. Svend Aage Saugmann’s photo album shows Danmark at Ponta Delgada in the Azores on 27 February 1936. 2013:0126

The Drumbeat of War

In the summer of 1939, with Europe a tinderbox, the Danish government had pledged to send the country’s largest naval warship, the 295-foot coast defense cruiser Niels Juel, to participate in the World’s Fair in New York. However, as misgivings set in, it was agreed that Danmark would make the trip instead, complete with a mixed group of naval and mariner cadets.

Arriving in New York in August, Danmark’s cadets were hosted by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to a Yankees baseball game as part of the general festivities. Once Germany invaded Poland, followed by the Soviets, then Britain and France joined a growing world war, Danmark was ordered to remain in U.S. waters until things cooled down. With that, she cruised to Annapolis, spent the Christmas 1939 holiday in Puerto Rico, then arrived in Jacksonville, Florida in early April 1940. There, they met with Danish Ambassador Henrik Kauffmann, who announced the ship was returning home after her nine-month American exile.

The school ship Danmark lying in St. John’s River near Jacksonville, Florida, during early World War II. Note her neutrality markings. 723:63

With Poland long since occupied and divvied between Berlin and Moscow, and the latter ceasing hostilities with Finland, coupled with the quiet “Phony War” between Britain/France and Germany, things were expected to calm down.

Well, you know what happened next.

WAR!

On 9 April 1940, the Germans rolled into Denmark without a declaration of war, ostensibly a peaceful occupation to keep the British from invading. The German invasion, launched at 0400 that morning, was a walkover of sorts and by 0800 the word had come down from Copenhagen to the units in the field to stand down and just let it happen. Of course, the Danes would stand up a serious resistance organization later in the occupation, as well as field viable “Free Danish” forces operating from Britain, but for the time being, the country was a German puppet state.

Ambassador Kauffmann, however, decided to cancel Danmark’s return home and kept the ship in Florida.

Via the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

Anchored off the Coast Guard station in Jacksonville, Danmark became a ship without a country. The Danish Embassy in Washington arranged for a monthly stipend of $10 for the crew, but Danmark had no other support. On the morning of April 10, Capt. Knud Hansen was greeted on the pier by a group of Jacksonville citizens and two large trucks. They brought 17 tons of food and supplies. Hansen did not turn them away, although there was no space on board for all of it. Each morning thereafter, women brought cookies, pies, and men brought tobacco and other items. Even an anonymous shipment of summer uniforms arrived, much to the crew’s delight.

The Danmark had become a foreign vessel lying idle in American waters. It had remained in Jacksonville from early April 1940 until late 1941, or nearly 20 months. Many of the ship’s Danish cadets decided to transfer to the Merchant Marine and 14 of them would die serving Allied forces. Ten of Danmark’s original crew remained aboard, including Hansen and First Mate Knud Langevad.

With a long history of using tall ships to train new sailors, VADM Russell Waesche, Commandant of the Coast Guard, visited occupied Denmark in the summer of 1940 and began talks with the Danes to purchase the vessel as a training ship. The negotiations dragged on throughout the next year, with the U.S. government offering about half what the ship was worth, and the White House balking at even that amount.

Then, the morning after Pearl Harbor, with the U.S. firmly in the fight and no longer “The Great Neutral,” Hansen fired off a telegram to Waesche’s office.

In view of the latest days’ developments, the cadets, officers, and captain of the Danish Government Training Vessel Danmark unanimously place themselves and the ship at the disposal of the United States government, to serve in any capacity the United States government sees fit in our joint fight for victory and liberty.

With the offer accepted, she was rented for $1 per year, paid via silver coin to the Danish Embassy, then was escorted to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, still with her crew under control, and commissioned on 12 May 1942– 80 years ago this week– as USCGC Danmark (WIX-283). Her remaining professional crew would be in USCG service for the duration, accepting ranks in the USCGR.

In a nod to her “rented” status, she flew the Dannebrog and U.S. ensigns simultaneously.

The Red White and Blue on her mast

Under sail while in USCG service, with a U.S. ensign flapping above her mast. Note the bluejackets in cracker jacks on deck. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0214

Danmark in USCG service, USCG photo

Danmark in U.S. Port WWII. Note her Neptune figurehead. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0209

From the USCG H’s O:

Each month, new Coast Guard cadets embarked Danmark for training. The Danish officers had many challenges before them–everything that a Danish cadet learned in six years, plus what he learned to qualify as a Danish navy officer, had to be taught the American cadets in four months. No American officers served aboard and, to avoid attack by U-boats, the tall ship never sailed beyond Martha’s Vineyard or the southern tip of Manhattan.

Dubbed the “Dirty D,” cadets scrubbed the Danmark at least three times a day with rainy days devoted to cleaning out lifeboats and sanding oars. The wheelhouse was varnished frequently. It was lights out at midnight when the ship’s generator shut off. If the last liberty boat returned late to the Danmark, the cadets had to undress, sling out hammocks and climb into the hammocks in total darkness.

USCG Furling Sail, 4.11.1942 Ellis Island. Danmark possibly 026-g-056-040-001

Cadets in Rigging, 3.24.1943 Coast Guard likely Danmark 026-g-001-036-001

Going Aloft, 4.15.1942 Coast Guard likely Danmark 026-g-056-041-001

CG Cadets on DANMARK

An immigrant of sorts helping her adopted country, appropriately enough She often called at Ellis Island. During the war, the station was a USCG training base, schooling new Coasties who would go on to man Navy ships around the globe.

Via the NPS:

From 1939 to 1946, the United States Coast Guard occupied Ellis Island and established a training station that served 60,000 enlisted men and 3,000 officers. They utilized many buildings on the island. For example, the Baggage and Dormitory Building served as a drill room, armory, boatsman storeroom, carpenter’s shop, and machine shop. The Kitchen and Laundry Building was utilized as a kitchen and bakeshop. Lastly, the New Immigration Building provided dormitories for the men. After their time at Ellis, the enlisted men and officers were largely responsible for manning transports, destroyer escorts, cutters, and submarine chasers during World War II.

In all, over 5,000 Americans were trained directly on Danmark during the war, including 2,800 who would go on to receive their butter bars in assorted U.S. maritime services.

Finally, with the world at peace again, on the birthday of Danish King Christian X, 26 September 1945, the Stars and Stripes were hauled down and the Dannebrog shifted to the top again.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Danmark (WIX-283) USCGC Danmark in September 1945 just before her return to the Danes 

On 13 November, Danmark finally headed home again.

Epilogue

Since returning home, Danmark has continued her service over the past 75 years.

Post-war, probably 1946 during her Pacific cruise, looks like the Marin highlands in the distance under the Golden Gate (thanks Alex! & Steve) Note she has a U.S. flag on top and is trailing her Dannebrog. Photo by Kevin Bechen. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0216

Photograph from 1947 by Kronborg, photographed from the north, with the school ship Danmark and Georg Stage. The photo was taken in connection with the saga film “The White Sail.” Donated by Carl-Johan Nienstædt. Via the M/S Museet for Sofart. 2016:0050

1947 linjedåb Line Crossing ceremony on Danmark

Ivar’s with Danmark Sailing Vessel via SPHS 1946 Seattle

School ship Danmark is at sway and a scheduled boat is passed from Centrumlinjen M / S SUNDPILEN. By Karl Johan Gustav Jensen. M/S Museet for Sofart. 2003:0119

Kiel Tall Ships event: Segelschulschiff DAR POMORZA (poln.), davor Segelschulschiff EAGLE (amerik.). Jenseits der Brücke mit Lichterkette über die Toppen Segelschulschiff GLORIA (kolumbian.), davor im Dunklen Segelschulschiff DANMARK (dän.), ganz vorn Segelschulschiff GORCH FOCK.

HMS Eagle (R05) passes a sailing ship Danmark in Plymouth Sound, 1970

Danish Air Force SAAB Draken overflies the schoolship Danmark pre 1998

She is, naturally, remembered in maritime art.

“Coast Guard’s Seagoing School, 9.29.1943 Danmark” by Hunter Wood 026-g-022-040-001

Painting by James E. Mitchell, showing the ship during the Bicentennial “The Tall Ships Race” on the Hudson River on July 4, 1976.

She still carries the same Neptune figurehead.

Danmark’s Neptune figurehead, July 2017. By Per Paulsen. M/S Museet for Sofart. 2017:0283

As well as a marker celebrating her service abroad with the USCG.

Memorial plaque with thanks from U.S. Coast Guard January 1942- September 1946, July 2017. By Per Paulsen. M/S Museet for Sofart.

She has returned to her home-away-from-home numerous times, a regular fixture in New York, Boston, Baltimore, and New London over the decades.

The barque USCGC Eagle (ex SSS Horst Wessel) in service with the USCG in 1954, sailing along Danmark off the East Coast.

Skoleskibet DANMARK under bugsering i New York Havn, 1974. 

Today, as part of Besøg MARTEC, the Danish Maritime and Polytechnic University College in Frederikshavn, Danmark is still busy.

She just completed her regular 5-year inspection and certification and looks great for having 90 years on her hull. 

Skoleskibet Danmark drydock May 2022

Every summer she takes aboard 80 new cadets along with a 16-strong cadre of professional crew and instructors, and they head out, covering subjects both new and old in the familiar ways that WWII Coasties would recognize.

Specs:

Tonnage- 1,700 gross (1942)
Length- 188′ 6″
Beam- 33′ mb
Draft- 14′ 9″ (1942)
Machinery
Main Engines- 1 diesel
Propellers- Single
Armament- N/A

***

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A brutal season, 80 years ago today

There are dozens of photos taken by the assembled escorts of the stricken aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) as she underwent her death throes on the morning of 8 May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea, but this one– probably the great explosion from the detonation of torpedo warheads stowed in the starboard side of the hangar at 1727 hrs– always caught my attention.

USS Lexington explodes while being scuttled following the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-16651

In the above photo, the smaller carrier, USS Yorktown (CV-5), can be seen on the horizon in the left-center, while the destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412) is at the extreme left.

To further punctuate the viciousness of the first year of the Pacific War, both Yorktown and Hammann, a Sims-class destroyer, would be lost in the same torpedo salvo at Midway less than a month after this image was taken. Likewise, Hammann‘s class-leader, Sims (DD-409) was sunk at the Coral Sea the day before Lexington was lost.

Before 1942 was over, Yorktown‘s sistership, Hornet (CV-7) would also rest on the bottom of the Pacific as would two other Sims-class tin cans, Walke (DD-416) and O’Brien (DD-415). In 1943, the tide turned, but there would still be years of hard effort to go.

Speaking of the Coral Sea, check out this great NHHC graphic that was just released.

Warship Wednesday, May 4, 2022: Release the 30-Only-One!

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 4, 2022: Release the 30-Only-One!

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 72318

Above we see the Balao-class fleet submarine USS Kraken (SS-370) tipping on the way during launching at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on 30 April 1944.

And splash…NH 72319

During World War II, the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company built 28 submarines for the U.S. Navy and had contracts to build two more that were canceled.

Sponsored by Ms. Frances (Giffen) Anderson, wife of influential and rabidly anti-Japanese GOP Congressmen John Zuinglius “Jack” Anderson of California, Kraken’s side launched into the Manitowoc, as shown above, in April 1944 then commissioned on 8 September of the same year.

Kraken on trials in Lake Michigan circa 1944. Note she only had one 5″/25, aft, and two 20mm Oerlikons on her sail. Description: Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1978. NH 86955

This picture is of the crowd gathered for the commissioning ceremony of the submarine USS Kraken (SS 370) at the Manitowoc on 8 September 1944. Huge scrap piles of material for unfinished submarines can be seen in the background. The large cylindrical sections labeled “SS-379” would have formed hull portions of the USS Needlefish (SS 379). Other parts would have gone into the Needlefish or the USS Nerka (SS 380). In July 1944, with the war winding down, those contracts had been canceled and the parts for those two unbuilt boats were scrapped, as shown here. (Manitowoc Library photo P70-7-505)

USS Kraken (SS-370) running surfaced in Lake Michigan, Michigan. September 1944. NH 72321

Incidentally, Ray Young, a Manitowoc artist who was employed as a designer at the shipyard, would create Kraken’s insignia, that of a binocular-eyed sea dragon. He would do the same for the last nine subs completed by Manitowoc as well as for a quartet of boats built by Electric Boat.

Some of Young’s amazing insignia, with Kraken’s being in the top left corner.

Off to war!

Immediately following her commissioning, Kraken steamed via Chicago to Lockport, Illinois, then was towed in a floating dry dock down the Mississippi River arriving at Algiers Naval Station, across the river from New Orleans, on 4 October.

Kraken, with crew on deck, passed inbound up the Manitowoc River through the open Eighth Street drawbridge in Manitowoc, September 1944. NH 72323

Setting out for the Pacific via the Panama Canal, Kraken was assigned to Submarine Division 301, SUBRON 30, part of the 7th Fleet. She arrived in Hawaii on 21 November, just in time for Thanksgiving, then made ready for her inaugural war patrol.

Leaving Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1944, she made for the South China Sea for anti-shipping work. Pulling lifeguard duty for carrier airstrikes off Hong Kong on the morning of 16 January 1945, she rescued one Ensign R. W. Bertschi, USNR, an F6F-5 Hellcat pilot (BuNo 70524) of the “Jokers” of VF-20 from USS Lexington (CV-16).

A week later, on 22 January, Kraken encounter a 5,000-ton oiler and made a submerged daylight attack with three fish that resulted in no hits. A nighttime surfaced attack two days later, firing a spread of four torpedoes against a Japanese destroyer, also resulted in no damage. She ended her 1st Patrol at Fremantle on Valentine’s Day 1945, and Bertschi, in addition to his wings of gold, finally made it to shore, just falling short of earning a set of dolphins.

Her next sortie was lackluster. Kraken arrived at Subic Bay, the old U.S. Navy base that had just been liberated, on 26 April, concluding her 2nd Patrol.

Her 3rd War Patrol was conducted in the Gulf of Siam, the South China Sea, the Java Sea, and the Eastern Indian Ocean between 19 May and 3 July. She was part of a “Yankee Wolfpack” consisting of USS Bergill (Comwolf), Cobia, Hawkbill, and Bullhead patrolling the Pulo Wai-Koh Krah Line, then near the British T-class subs HMS/m Taciturn and HMS/m Thorough. By that time of the war, the seas were undoubted target poor.

In the predawn hours of 20 June, Kraken surfaced alone off Japanese occupied Java to shell the Merak roadstead, following up on a report from Bullhead. This resulted in a surface gun action with two anchored “Sugar Charlie” type coasters, reportedly sinking one (later confirmed to be the 700-ton Tachibana Maru No.58) and damaging the other.

Two days later, Kraken shelled the Anjer Point Lighthouse just after midnight and got into an artillery duel with a Japanese coastal battery for her trouble.

However, she did stalk a small coastal convoy of five Marus and three escorts, then followed it through ought the next day before taking a run at it during the bright moonlight on the morning of the 23rd in a combined torpedo and gun attack.

In the swirling four-hour engagement, Kraken expended five MK XIV-3A and four MK XVIII-1 torpedoes at ranges just over 2,000 yards along with 54 rounds of 5-inch HC, 116 rounds of 40mm, and 474 rounds of 20mm at ranges as close as 1,500 yards. The Japanese escorts, small subchasers, fired back and bracketed Kraken but caused no damage.

Kraken was credited at the time with sinking a 1,600-ton transport oiler and a 700-ton coastal steamer, as well as damaging two ~400-ton escorts, although this was not borne out by postwar boards.

She ended her 3rd, and most successful, Patrol at Freemantle, steaming some 11,926 miles in 45 days.

Kraken (SS-370) with Ray Young’s “Sea Dragon” and WW II sinkings on the conning tower. USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com via Navsource.

Further detail of the Kraken’s “Sea Dragon” and WW II sinkings on the conning tower. Note three Maru sinkings, three ships damaged including two Japanese naval vessels, two shore bombardments, and Ensign Bertschi’s rescue. Courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org via Navsource.

It was in Australia that she was given a quick overhaul that included doubling her armament to make her one of the late war “gunboat submarines.”

However, her following 4th War Patrol did not gain any kills, although Kraken suffered one of the last active Japanese air-and-naval pursuits of the war, logged on 13 August. The Patrol ended after just 23 days when Kraken was signaled to halt hostilities on 15 August due to the Japanese surrender and proceeded to Subic Bay.

She would linger there for a few days before being ordered stateside as her crew was made up of several very experienced officers and men that had been drawn from other boats, some having as many as 15 war patrols under their belts.

Setting out for California, Kraken would be one of the escorts for the famed battleship USS South Dakota (BB-56), as she carried Admiral Halsey under the Golden Gate Bridge in October.

The crew of USS Kraken (SS 370) unloads their torpedo stores at the end of World War II in San Francisco. An MK18 is shown. Note the camo on her 5″/25.

Kraken received just one battle star (Okinawa) for World War II service. She was initially credited with sinking three ships, totaling 6,881 tons.

Kraken is listed as one of 15 Manitowoc Balaos in Jane’s 1946 entry.

Peacetime

Placed out of commission 4 May 1946, Kraken languished in mothballs with the Pacific Reserve Fleet until August 1958, when she was ordered partially manned and towed to Pearl Harbor NSY for snorkel conversion.

She emerged much changed, with a streamlined profile, no deck guns, and a very modern appearance.

Kraken remained at Pearl for the next 14 months, heading to sea for brief exercise periods.

Her final deck log was dated 24 October 1959 and closed quietly.

El Inolvidable Treinta y único

The reason for her USN deck log ending was because Kraken had been transferred on loan to the Spanish Navy as SPS Almirante García de los Reyes (E-1). While Franco, the old fascist buddy of Mussolini and Adolf, was still in power, the 1953 Madrid agreements thawed the chill between the U.S. and the country, opening it to military aid in return for basing.

The Spanish at the time only had two circa 1927 EB-designed pig boats (C1 and C2) that had survived the Civil War but were in poor condition, two small 275-foot/1,050-ton boats (D1 and D2) constructed in 1944 at Cartagena that were both cranky and obsolete, and G-7, the latter a partially refirb’d German Kriegsmarine Type VIIC U-boat, ex-U-573, which had been interned after receiving damage and sold to Franco’s government.

This made Kraken/Almirante García de los Reyes the only relatively modern sub in the Spanish Navy in the Atomic era as she had the fleet’s first snorkel, guided torpedoes (Mk37s), and submarine sonar. As such, after her pennant number shifted to the more NATO-compatible S-31 in 1961, the boat was termed “El Treinta y único” or “Thirty-Only One” as she was the sole submarine in the force considered battle-ready.

This would endure for more than a decade.

Visiting New York

Melilla August 1971 El treinta y unico El Mejor Spanish S-31 submarine Admiral Garcia. Note the old light carrier USS Cabot as Dédalo with Sikorsky S-55 Pepos on deck

In July 1971, USS Ronquil (SS-396), a Guppy’d Balao-class smoke boat became SPS Isaac Peral (S-32) and allowed the old Kraken some backup. The next year two more Balao Guppies, ex-USS Picuda (SS-382) and ex-USS Bang (SS-385), would arrive in October 1972, renamed SPS Narciso Monturiol (S-33) and Cosme Garcia (S-34), respectively.

Kraken/Almirante García de los Reyes’s 1973 entry in Jane’s.

Sold to Spain and struck from the US Naval Register, on 1 November 1974, Kraken would endure in operation until April 1981, when she was finally removed from service and scrapped.

By that time, Spain had a force of four brand-new French-built Daphné-class submarines in service.

Epilogue

Kraken’s plans and deck logs are in the National Archives but as far as I can tell little else remains of her.

Sadly, her name, possibly the most epic sea creature there is, has not been repeated on the Navy List.

Eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country. None are Manitowoc-built boats.

Nonetheless, please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:

-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which will not be there much longer)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is hopefully in the process of being saved and moved to Kentucky)
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Specs:

Displacement: 1,525 surfaced; 2,415 submerged.
Length 311′ 9″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 15′ 3″
Main machinery: 4 x General Motors diesel model 16-278 A, 4 x General Electric electric motors
Speed (knots): 23 surfaced, 11 submerged.
Range (miles): 11.000 at 10 knots (surfaced), 95 at 5 knots (submerged). Patrol endurance was 75 days.
Complement: 70 (10 officers)
Sonar: Passive: AN/BQS-2 B. Active: AN/BQS-4 C.
At the end of his career used an updated BQR-2 taken from stricken SS-382/S-33.
Guns:
1 x 5″/25 (second added in July 1945)
1 x 40mm/60 Bofors (second added in July 1945)
1 x 20mm Oerlikon
All were removed when she entered service in Spain.
Torpedoes:
10 x 533mm tubes: 6 forward, 4 aft
24 torpedoes: 16 forward and 8 aft.
Initially armed with Mk14/18 torpedoes, in the last years of her career changed to Mk37


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!

The Sullivans: The Pumps are on and She is Looking Better

We’ve covered the porous hull saga of the USS The Sullivans several times in the past couple of years and the latest is (a modest) improvement.

First, the flooding is at least being controlled and the ship is slowly dewatering after several hull patches have been applied. Her list is slowly correcting.

Next, a lot of irreplaceable relics– that did not get harmed– have been removed and safely stored ashore.

“At least 40 key artifacts have been removed safely from the ship completely unharmed, including a scale model of the ship, pictures of the Sullivan brothers, artifacts from the Sullivan family church in Waterloo, Iowa, historic flags, and the Sullivan family tree.”

The latest video update is below.

Warship Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Sparks Paratus

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Sparks Paratus

U.S. National Archives Local Identifier 26-G-01-19-50

Here we see the U.S. Revenue Cutter U.S. Grant, in her original scheme, seen sometime late in the 1890s, likely off the coast of New York. With the Union general and 18th President’s birthday today– coincidentally falling on National Morse Code Day– you knew this was coming, and interestingly, the above cutter, which had served during the SpanAm War, was the first post-Civil War U.S. vessel named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant.

Built at Wilmington, Delaware at the yards of Pusey & Jones Corp in 1871, Grant was a one-off Barque-rigged iron-hulled steam cutter ordered for the Revenue Cutter Service at a cost of $92,500. With the Revenue Marine/Cutter Service one that typically ran quick little sloops and schooner-rigged vessels between 1790 and 1916 when it became part of the newly-formed U.S. Coast Guard, Grant was one of the few built for the seagoing service with three masts.

Some 163-feet in length (overall) the 350-ton ship was the largest of four new steam cutters– the other three were paddle-wheelers– authorized by Congress in 1870 as part of a plan by N. Broughton Devereux, head of the Revenue Marine Bureau, in an effort to revitalize the force that had languished in the days immediately after the Civil War despite having been the sole federal agency tasked with patrolling the broad and wild seas off Alaska.

Cutter Grant via the New York Historical Society

Despite the massive amounts of left-over Civil War ordnance being sold as surplus, Grant was given a battery of four bronze M1841 24-pounder muzzleloading howitzers– field guns that had been considered obsolete at Gettysburg– and a small arms locker made up of rare .46 caliber (rimfire) single-shot Ballard carbines. She was known to still have this armament into the early 1890s. Her crew consisted of about 35 officers, engineers, and men.

Her shakedown complete just after Christmas 1871, Grant was assigned to the New York station on 19 January 1872 a cruising ground that covered from Montauk Point to the Delaware.

For the next 20 years, she maintained a very workaday existence in the peacetime Revenue Service. This included going out on short patrols of coastal waters, assisting with the collection of the tariff, catching the occasional smuggler, responding to distress calls (helping to save the crew of the reefed Revenue Cutter Bronx in 1873, saving the schooner Ida L. Howard in 1882, the British steam-ship Pomona bound from this port for Jamaica in 1884, and the demasted three-masted schooner William H. Keeney in 1887), policing posh ocean yacht races (even hosting her namesake President aboard in July 1875 for the Cape May Regatta), taking President Rutherford B. Hayes’ Treasury Secretary John Sherman (Gen. William T. Sherman’s brother) for a tour of all Revenue Cutter stations along the east coast in 1877, searching for lost cargo (notably spending a week in December 1887 along with the sloop-of-war USS Enterprise on the hunt for a raft of logs towed from Nova Scotia hat had departed its line off New England), suppressing mutinies (the steamer Northern Light in November 1883), and getting in the occasional gunnery practice.

In 1877, Grant had the bad fortune of colliding with the schooner Dom Pedro off Boon Island on a hot July night. Standing by, the cutter rescued all nine souls aboard the sinking vessel and brought them safely into Boston. An inquiry board found the Dom Pedro, who had no lights set while in shipping lanes at night, at fault.

In July 1883, Grant inspected– and later seized under orders of the U.S. Attorney’s office and at the insistence of the Haitian government– the tugboat Mary N. Hogan, which had reportedly been fitting out in the East River as a privateer under finance from certain British subjects to carry arms to rebels in Haiti.

Grant would serve as a quarantine vessel hosting Siamese royalty, as well as Hawaiian Queen Kapiʻolani and Princess Liliʻuokalani, the latter royals stopping in New York on their way to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in London.

From November 1888 through April 1889, Grant had her steam plant replaced at the DeLamater Iron Works docks– the same plant that had constructed the steam boilers and machinery for the ironclad USS Monitor.

Shortly afterward, Grant landed her ancient Army surplus howitzers for a pair of brand-new rapid-fire Mark 1 Hotchkiss Light 1-pounders, from a lot of 25 ordered by the Revenue Cutter Service from a Navy contract issued to Pratt & Whitney of Hartford.

Unidentified officers around an early 1-pdr on the gunboat USS Nahant. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph. Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-D4-20046.

Her skipper at the time, a man who would remain with Grant for the rest of her career, was Captain Dorr Francis Tozier. Something of a legend in the service already, the Georgia-born Tozier received his commission from Abraham Lincoln one month before the president’s assassination and was awarded a Gold Medal by the President of the French Republic “for gallant, courageous, and efficient services” in saving the French bark Peabody in 1877, while the latter was grounded on Horn Island in the Mississippi Sound.

Tozier, 1895

In July 1891, it was announced that the 11 large sea-going cutters of the RCS would switch to a white paint scheme– something that the modern Coast Guard has maintained ever since.

In October 1893, as part of beefing up the Bearing Sea Patrol which enforced a prohibitory season on pelagic sealing as well as protecting the Pac Northwest salmon fisheries, the East Coast-based cutters Perry (165 ft, 282 tons, four guns)– which had been based at Erie Pennsylvania to police the waters of Lake Ontario– along with our very own Grant, were ordered to make the 16,000-mile pre-Panama Canal cruise from New York to Puget Sound, where they would be based. The two vessels would join the cutters Rush, Corwin, Bear, and Wolcott, giving the RSC six vessels to cover Alaskan waters, even if they did so on deployments from Seattle.

The re-deployment from Atlantic to Pacific was rare at the time for the RSC, as vessels typically were built and served their entire careers in the same region. Sailing separately, the two cutters would call in St. Thomas, Pernambuco, Rio, Montevideo, Stanley, Valparaiso (which was under a revolutionary atmosphere), Callao, and San Diego along the way.

Leaving New York on 6 December, Grant arrived at Port Townsend on 23 April 1894, ending a voyage of 73 days and 20 hours, logging an average of 8.45 knots while underway, burning 358 pounds of coal per hour.

Late in her career, with an all-white scheme. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections. Oliver S. Van Olinda Photographs and Ephemera Collection. PH Coll 376, no UW22223

1898!

Rather than chopping as a whole to the Navy as the Coast Guard would do in WWI and WWII, President McKinley’s Secretary of the Treasury, John D. Long, implemented a plan to transfer control of 20 cutters “ready for war” to the Army and Navy’s control during the conflict with Spain.

Supporting the Army, from Boston to New Orleans, were seven small cutters with a total of 10 guns, crewed by 33 officers and 163 men, engaged in patrolling, and guarding assorted Army-manned coastal forts and mine fields.

A force of 13 larger revenue cutters, carrying 61 guns, staffed by 98 officers and 562 enlisted, served with the Navy. Eight of these cutters, including the famed little Hudson, served under the command of ADM Simpson off Havanna while the cutter McCulloch served with Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron for the conquest of the Philippines. Meanwhile, four other cutters (ours included) served with the Navy on the Pacific coast, keeping an eye out for potential Spanish commerce raiders, and filling in for the lack of Navy vessels along the West Coast at the time.

The four cutters patrolling the Pacific:

Arriving at San Francisco from Seattle on 7 April 1898, U. S. Grant and her crew were placed under Navy control four days later, on 11 April, operating as such through June.

Dispatched northward once again to search for a rumored Spanish privateer thought seeking to prey on the U.S. whaling and sealing fleet in Alaskan waters ala CSS Shenandoah-style, Grant found no such sea wolf and returned to the Treasury Department on 16 August, arrived back in Seattle on 18 September.

Back to peace

Returning to her peacetime duties and stomping grounds, Grant ran hard aground on an uncharted rock off Saanich Inlet just northwest of Victoria on 22 May 1901. Abandoned, she languished until her fellow cutters Perry and Rush arrived to help pull her off, patch her up, and tow her to Seattle for repairs.

Portside view of Revenue Cutter Grant at anchor without her foremast, likey after her wreck in 1901. Port Angeles Public Library. SHIPPOWR206

Fresh off repairs, in December she was part of the search for the lost Royal Navy sloop HMS Condor, which had gone missing while steaming from Esquimalt to Hawaii. Never found, it is believed Condor’s crew perished to a man in a gale off Vancouver. Grant recovered one of her empty whaleboats, along with a sailor’s cap and a broom, from the locals on Flores Island, with Tozier, the cutter’s longtime skipper, trading his dress sword for the relics. The recovered boat was passed on to the British sloop HMS Egeria, and Tozier’s sword was later replaced by the Admiralty, a matter that required an act of Congress for Tozier to keep.

Switching back to her role as a law enforcer, Grant was busily interdicting the maritime smuggling of opium and Chinese migrants from British Columbia to the Washington Territory in the early 1900s.

She also was detailed to help look for one of the last of the Old West outlaws, Harry Tracy, “the last survivor of the Wild Bunch.” After a shootout that left six dead in 1902, Tracy was at large in the region, taking hostages and generally terrifying the citizenry.

The Seattle Star, Volume 4, Number 113, 6 July 1902

By early 1903, with Tracy dead, it was announced the aging cutter would be sold.

The San Juan islander February 19, 1903

To tame the airwaves!

Grant, mislabeled as “USS” at Discovery Bay off Washington’s Strait of Juan de Fuca, October 1903. NOAA photo

Nonetheless, as part of a maintenance period, Grant was fitted by the Pacific Wireless Company while berthed in Tacoma with experimental Slaby Arco equipment to receive wireless messages. Regular use of wireless telegraphy by the Revenue Cutter Service was inaugurated by Grant on 1 November 1903. This was an important achievement for the service, as the Navy had only three ships with wireless equipment installed at the time.

As detailed by the Coast Guard Historian’s office: 

Tozier’s initial wireless tests proved successful, allowing the Grant to keep in contact with the Port Townsend Customs House throughout its patrol area—a 100-mile radius from the cutter’s homeport. After testing and adjustment of the new equipment, the Grant was ready for its first practical use of wireless for revenue cutter duties. On April 1, 1904, the Grant switched on its wireless set and began a new era of marine radio communication between ship and shore stations.

The new wireless radio technology proved very effective in directing revenue cutters and patrol boats in maritime interdiction operations. However, it took another three years to convince Congress of the importance of “radio” (which superseded the term “wireless telegraph” in 1906) to both its law enforcement and search-and-rescue missions. In March 1907, Congress finally appropriated the $35,000 needed to fund wireless installations on board 12 cruising cutters.

However, Grant would not get a chance to use her new radio equipment much, and by 1906 she was reported condemned, although still in service.

The San Juan Islander, Volume 15, Number 49, 6 January 1906

Grant’s last official government duty, in February 1906, was to solemnly transport bodies from the Valencia accident from Neah Bay to Seattle for burial. The affair, the worst maritime disaster in the “Graveyard of the Pacific” off Vancouver Island, left an estimated 181 dead.

Epilogue

Grant was sold from government service in 1906 to a Mr. A.A. Cragen for $16,300, and then further to the San Juan Fishing and Packing Co. who rebuilt her as a halibut fishing steamer. The old cutter was wrecked for the last time in 1911 on the rocks of Banks Island.

Her logs are in the National Archives but, sadly, have not been digitized. 

As for her longtime skipper Tozier, while stationed in Seattle he became a renowned collector of local artifacts. As related by the Summer 1992 issue of Columbia Magazine:

The assignment gave Tozier the opportunity to put Grant into remote rivers and harbors where natives were as eager to trade the things they made and used as their forefathers had been to trade fur pelts. He became imbued with collecting fever, realizing that his was a rare opportunity to bring out from the wilderness, to be seen, preserved, and appreciate, the elements of a civilization that was rapidly being superseded by that of the white settlers.

Captain Dorr F. Tozier, USRC Grant, top row right. He brought the cutter around the Horn from New York in the 1890s and remained in command for 14 years. Here he is visiting Numukamis Village on Barclay Sound, Vancouver Island, BC. Photograph by Samuel G. Morse. 21 Jan. 1902. Courtesy of the WA. State Historical Society. # 1917.115.217

In all, once retired from the RSC in 1907, Tozier sold his collection of some 10,000 artifacts including 2,500 baskets, 100 stone chisels and axes, carved jade pipes, harpoons, war clubs, knives of copper, ivory, shell and iron, a war canoe, and “12 mammoth totems, each weighing between 600 to 20,000 pounds.” In all, the collection weighed 60 tons and required 11 large horse-drawn vans to move to the Washington State Art Association’s Ferry Museum in 1908.

A fraction of Capt. Tozier’s artifacts, c. 1905. Model canoe, house posts, sculptures, part of a house front, masks, and a replica of a copper. The collection was first exhibited at the Ferry Museum (Tacoma,) then removed to Seattle in 1909, and finally to the National Museum of the American Indian under the Smithsonian, WA. DC. This photo c. 1905 courtesy of the WSHS #19543.19

When the Ferry Museum was dissolved in the 1930s, the collection was scattered and spread out across the world, with some pieces making their way to the Smithsonian.

Speaking of museums, the last pistol owned by the Outlaw Tracy is on display at the White River Valley Museum in Auburn, Washington. Bruce Dern portrayed him in the 1982 film Harry Tracy, Desperado.

As for Grant’s name, neither the RCS nor its follow-on USCG descendant reissued it.

The Navy only felt the need to bestow the moniker post-1865 to a successive pair of unarmed Great War-era transports before finally issuing it during the centennial of the Civil War to a James Madison-class FBM submarine, USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631), which served from 1964 to 1992.

The Coast Guard, however, did mention our old revenue cutter in its last HF CW transmission, sent by station NMN from Chesapeake, Virginia, at 0001Z on April 1, 1995. As an ode to the first wireless message transmitted in 1844, “What hath God wrought,” the message concluded with, “we bid you 73 [best regards]. What hath God wrought.”

Specs:

Displacement: 350 tons
Length: 163’
Beam: 25’
Draft: 11’ 4”
Machinery: Barque rigged steamer, vertical steam engine, two boilers, one screw, 11 knots max
Complement: 35-45
Armament:
4 x M1841 24-pounder guns, small arms (1871)
2 x Hotchkiss MK 1 37mm 1-pdrs, small arms (1891)


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

They are 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 am a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, April 20, 2022: A Member of the Easter Egg Fleet

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 20, 2022: A Member of the Easter Egg Fleet

Historic New England Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection negative 13620

Here we see the fine Glasgow designed-and-built steam yacht Christabel steaming offshore on 8 August 1902. While this elegant little schooner doesn’t look very formidable, she would prove herself in the Great War soon enough.

Built for Arthur Challis Kennard, Ironmaster and Justice of the Peace of the Falkirk Iron Works, Falkirk, Christabel was a steel-hulled schooner-rigged steamer some 150 feet overall and 248 grt. Designed by the famed GL Watson firm and built by D & W Henderson & Co. of Meadowside Yard as Yard No. 370, she was completed in October 1893, with her first port of register being Glasgow. Mr. Kennard was a well-known yachtsman, and his name and vessels can be found in numerous yachting and rowing calendars of the day.

From Llyod’s Register of Yachts 1901, see entry #206, with the 248 grt Christabel listed:

Unfortunately, Mr. Kennard would pass in 1903, aged 72, and sold his beautiful Christabel sometime prior, hence appearing in New England waters in the above circa 1902 image.

Christabel 8 September 1906, now with a white scheme, something else that would indicate new owners. Stebbins negative 17648

By 1909, she was listed as being owned by Mr. Walton Ferguson, Sr. of New York City. Ferguson was well known as President of St. John Wood-Working Company as well as Stamford Electric, Vice President of Stamford Trust Company, and a director of Union Carbide, in addition to a longtime Commodore of the Stamford Yacht Club.

From Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts, 1914, listing her as #575 under Mr. Ferguson still as 248 grt with an overall length of 164 feet and waterline length of 140:

By 1916, Christabel was one of at least two large yachts in the fleet of Irving Ter Bush, one of the wealthiest men on the planet and founder of Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, Bush Tower in Manhattan, and Bush House in London.

When the U.S. entered the war with Germany, Mr. Bush sold Christabel to the Navy Department in April 1917– some 105 years ago this month– and after a very short conversion period she was commissioned on 31 May 1917 at the New York Navy Yard, becoming USS Christabel (SP-162). Her skipper was a regular officer, LT Herbert Berhard Riebe (USNA 1906), whose prior experience was in cruisers and destroyers.

Her conversion saw her pick up a speckled gray paint scheme, two 3-inch deck guns, a pair of M1895 potato digger-style machine guns, and some depth charges. More on the depth charges in a minute.

She was in good company, as no less than 40 large steam and auxiliary yachts also designed by G. L. Watson were armed for wartime work– although most were by the Royal Navy.

Christabel is listed on the bottom left, along with her near sisters and cousins

Off to war!

Assigned to Squadron Three, Patrol Force, Atlantic Fleet even before she was commissioned, Christabel was one of eight hastily armed East Coast yachts– including USS Corsair (S. P. 159), Aphrodite (S. P. 135), Harvard (S. P. 209), Sultana (S. P. 134), Kanawha II (S. P. 130), Vedette (S. P. 163), and Noma (S. P. 131)-– being fitted out to go to France for the purpose of coastal convoy and anti-submarine work. Of these eight, Christabel had the dubious distinction of being both the oldest and slowest.

Shoving off to cross the Atlantic on 9 June, Christabel and five other patrol yachts arrived in Brest (via the Azores) appropriately on July 4th, 1917. With CPT (later RADM) William B. Fletcher, U.S.N., as squadron commander, the force made a splash due to their hastily applied camouflaged paint schemes, applied while underway in some cases.

Via “On the Coast of France,” by Joseph Husband, Ensign, USNRF:

Due to the unusually fantastic scheme of camouflage which disguised the ships of the Second Squadron, these yachts were commonly known as the ”Easter Egg Fleet,” every conceivable color having been incorporated in a riotous speckled pattern on their sides.

USS Christabel (SP-162) In port, circa 1918-1919. Taken by Carl A. Stahl, Photographer, USN. NH 300

Although often nursing cranky machinery– Christabel had almost 30 years on her engine and broke down often– she was part of no less than 30 coastal convoys, being particularly useful in the role of bringing up the rear of convoys and policing stragglers and survivors of lost vessels.

First, she saves

Speaking of saving lives, on the night of 17 April 1918, the U.S.-flagged cargo ship SS Florence H. (3,820grt) suddenly erupted in a brilliant fireball while at anchor in Quiberon Bay as her cargo of 2,200 tons of smokeless powder lit off. Several vessels in the harbor rushed to her aid, including Christabel. Although 45 of her complement and Naval Armed Guard perished, 78 men were rescued, although about half of those were extensively burned and injured. For the rescue, one of Christabel’s CPOs earned a DSC.

Chief Pharmacist Mate Louis Zeller, United States Navy. Member of the crew of the USS Christabel while on patrol duty off Brest, France, during World War I, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Admiral Wilson. Zeller dove into the water filled with burning exploding powder boxes from the Florence H., to rescue severely burned seamen, managing to accomplish this within seconds of a severe explosion. NH 63045

Then she attacks

Just a month after saving men from the Florence H., Christabel had a close brush with one of Kaiser Willy’s U-boats and at the time was credited with damaging it enough to put it out of the war.

Via “Account of the Operations of the American Navy in France During the War with Germany,” by VADM Henry Braid Wilson, United States Navy Commander, United States Naval Forces in France: 

On the afternoon of 21 May 1918, the CHRISTABEL, the smallest of the converted yachts operating in French waters, was escorting a slow ship which had dropped behind the north-bound convoy from La Pallice to Quiberon Bay.

This vessel, the British steamer DANSE, was about eight miles behind the convoy, making about seven and a half knots, with the CHRISTABEL on her port bow. The sea was smooth, weather clear with no wind.

When about two miles outside of Ile de Yeu a well-defined oil slick was sighted on the port bow. The CHRISTABEL cruised around it but saw nothing definite.

At 5 :20 p. m. The Officer-of-the-Deck and the lookout suddenly sighted a wake, about six hundred yards distant on the port quarter, the CHRISTABEL at this time being about 300 yards on the port bow of the DANSE.

The CHRISTABEL headed for it, making all possible speed—about ten and a half knots—whereupon the wake disappeared, and a number of oil slicks were seen.

The Commanding Officer followed this oil as well as he could and at 5:24 p. m., believing that his ship was nearly ahead of the submarine, dropped a depth charge, but no results were obtained although the charge exploded.

At 7:00 p. m. the convoy changed course following the contour of the land and was making about nine knots. The CHRISTABEL was astern, making about eleven knots to catch up.

At 8:52 p. m. the CHRISTABEL sighted a periscope about two hundred yards off the starboard beam. She turned and headed for it, whereupon the periscope disappeared.

At 8:55 p. m. a depth charge was dropped which functioned in ten seconds, followed by a second one a few moments afterwards.

Nothing followed the explosion of the first charge, but following the explosion of the second there was a third very violent explosion which threw up between the stern of the CHRISTABEL and the water column raised by the second charge, an enormous amount of water and debris.

The CHRISTABEL then turned and cruised in the vicinity and noticed a quantity of heavy black oil and splintered pieces of wood, with very large oil bubbles rising to the surface.

Nothing further was heard of this submarine, but, on May 24, 1918, an enemy submarine, the U. C. 56, arrived at Santander, Spain, in a very seriously damaged condition, and from such information as was received, it was believed that this was the vessel attacked by the CHRISTABEL.

German Submarine UC-56 (KptLt/in Wilhelm Kiesewetter). Caption: At Christabel, Spain where she interned herself, 24 May 1918, after injuries received in an encounter with a U.S. Patrol Yacht. The explosion of one of the Yacht’s depth charges was followed by a second detonation after which splinter wood and much heavy oil came to the surface. The UC-56 is primarily a mine-laying submarine, her elaborate camouflage is distinct in the photograph. NH 111101.

Christabel’s skipper, LT Riebe, earned the Navy Cross for the attack and was made an Honorary Commander in the OBE through the offices of the Admiralty. He retired from the Navy in 1938 as a Captain with the Bureau of Navigation, died in 1946, and is buried at Arlington.

Another of Christabel’s officers, Ensign Daniel Augustus Joseph Sullivan, USNRF, came away from the action earning one of just 21 Medals of Honor presented to U.S. Navy personnel in the Great War.

Medal of Honor citation of Ensign Daniel A.J. Sullivan (as printed in the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”, page 125):

For extraordinary heroism as an officer of the U.S.S. Christabel in conflict with an enemy submarine on 21 May 1918. As a result of the explosion of a depth bomb dropped near the submarine, the Christabel was so badly shaken that a number of depth charges which had been set for firing were thrown about the deck and there was imminent danger that they would explode. Ensign Sullivan immediately fell on the depth charges and succeeded in securing them, thus saving the ship from disaster, which would inevitably have caused great loss of life.

Portrait photograph, taken circa 1920. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism while serving in USS Christabel (SP-162) during action with a German submarine on 21 May 1918. He was a Naval Reserve Force Ensign at that time. Note the overseas service chevrons on his uniform sleeve. Sullivan would go on to serve in destroyers, and then in the U.S. Navy headquarters in London at the end of the war and into 1919, leaving the USNRF as an LCDR. He died on 27 January 1941 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. NH 44173

In September, VADM Wilson signaled Christabel she was entitled to carry a white star on her stack, denoting an enemy submarine kill. Only two other American ships in France, USS Fanning (Destroyer No. 37) and the yacht Lydonia (S. P. 700) would join the same club.

USS Christabel (SP-162) View of the ship’s smokestack, circa 1919. The star painted on it represents the German submarine she was then credited with having sunk during World War I. Note steam whistle on the forward side of the stack. NH 55162

Epilogue

Completing her war service, the little Christabel left Brest in early December 1918 and headed home. She would celebrate Christmas in Bermuda and arrive in New London, Connecticut on New Year’s Eve.

Placed in reserve at the Marine Basin in Brooklyn on 17 May 1919, she was disposed of the next month, and sold to the Savannah Bar Pilots Association for $22,510.

According to The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2 (June 1934), pp. 145-175, she was renamed for the first time in her life to Savannah and used as a pilot boat well into the 1930s. 

Christabel/Savannah‘s final fate is unknown, but she was apparently disposed of by the pilots before World War II.

Speaking of WWII, post-war research discounted Christabel’s role in damaging SM UC-56, but the minelaying U-boat still missed the rest of the conflict. Surrendered post-Armistice Day, she was turned over to the French and scuttled.

U-boats U-108 and UC-56, in Brest docks in 1918, turned over to the French under armistice terms, UC-56 in the foreground. NARA 45511774

The subject of much controversy, UC-56’s only success of the war was the marked and unarmed HMs Hospital Ship Glenart Castle, which sunk on 26 February 1918 with the loss of 162 including eight female nurses and 99 patients. The submarine reportedly attempted to cover up the action actions by shooting survivors in the water.

The British arrested her commander, KptLt/in Wilhelm Kiesewetter, as he was returning to Germany from Spain and tossed him in the Tower of London as a war criminal before eventually releasing him without trial. Kiesewetter, at age 61, was recalled in 1939 and is cited as the “oldest Kriegsmarine officer to command an operational U–boat,” having been the skipper of UC–1 from November 1940 to May 1941. “This boat was the ex-Norwegian submarine B-5, captured in 1940 and commissioned into the Kriegsmarine on 20 November 1940.”

Specs:

Tonnage: 248 GRT, 103 NRT
Length: 164 ft overall (per DANFS)
Beam: 22 ft
Draft: 9 ft 8 in (12.5 ft depth of hold) (listed as 11 ft. 3 in the draft in 1914 Lloyds
Installed power: 1-screw. T3Cyl. (13, 20 & 33 – 24in) 160lb. 53NHP triple expansion engine
Auxiliary sail rig: two-masted schooner
Speed: 12 knots
Complement (1917) 55 officers and enlisted men
Armament:
2 x 1 3″/23 caliber deck guns
2 x M1895 Marlin/Colt .30-06 machine guns
Depth charges


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Hard Luck Tin Can, or The Ever-Sinking The Sullivans

Back in March 2021, we talked about the struggling circa 1943 Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans (DD-537) that was slowly taking on water as she served as a museum ship in Buffalo, New York.

The call to action raised what, most thought, was more than enough money to fix the problem. Initially, $100,000 was asked for, with over a million brought in along with a $500,000 grant called “Save America’s Treasures” from the National Parks Service. 

Well, the repairs weren’t complete and now the old girl is in rough shape.

Like, really rough shape:

USS The Sullivans DD537, April 13 2022, via United States Coast Guard Sector Buffalo

USS The Sullivans DD537 April 13 2022 via United States Coast Guard Sector Buffalo

The statement from the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park (which is asking for donations):

In November 2021, with the help and support of our community in Buffalo and throughout the country, we officially reached our goal of raising $1 million to help Save the Sullivans and repair the hull. For over a year, we have been working with BIDCO Marine Group to assess the hull and make a plan to preserve and repair USS The Sullivans, incorporating a hull survey they completed in 2018. Divers were in the water last summer and fall to begin work using a Navy-approved two-part epoxy, but once the water temperature dropped below 54 degrees they had to pause for the winter. The plan is still for that work to resume once the temperature increases.

The breach that occurred yesterday appears to be a new issue and we are working diligently to understand the cause and address it as quickly as possible. We will provide additional updates as we learn more from the initial assessments. We appreciate everyone’s support and the offers to help. This is truly the City of Good Neighbors and this historic ship continues to guide us to stick together.

The good news is that there are only about five feet of lake water under her hull this time of year, so she can’t totally submerge, just settle into the mud.

Just as long as she doesn’t turn turtle. Then it’s likely scrap time. 

It seems the best solution for these old girls, long term, is to bring them wholly ashore such as with the submarine USS Drum in Mobile Bay…

USS Drum on shore, April 2022. The Balao-class submarine was moved on land just off Mobile Bay over 20 years ago via a $1.4 million canal/cofferdam project and looks great (Photo by Jeremy Anderson)

…or set them in a dry-dock hybrid cradle such as with USS Kidd (also, like The Sullivans, a Fletcher) in Baton Rouge.

USS KIDD (DD-661) at rest in her cradle in downtown Baton Rouge, LA, USA, where she now serves as a museum — August 2021. This allows her to remain stable as the Mississippi rises and falls over the course of a year. (Photo copyright Hunter Svetanics; used by permission)

Warship Wednesday, April 13, 2022: The Example and Inspiration Remain

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 13, 2022: The Example and Inspiration Remain

Here we see the sail of the British U-class submarine HMS/m Upholder (N99) with her only skipper, LCDR Malcolm David Wanklyn, VC, DSO, RN, pointing in the distance for the camera as the White Duster flaps in the breeze behind the boat’s attack periscope. Upholder is a legend, which we will get into, although her short yet brilliant career came to a tragic end 80 years ago this week.

The U-class was “Small Patrol Submarines” and simple, under 200-feet overall, and able to float in just 16 feet of water. Even in their largest format and ballasted down they only weighed about 700 tons. Carrying two diesels and two electric motors with no direct diesel drive they weren’t the fastest boats in the sea, capable of just 11 knots in a surface attack, but they made up for it in wartime use in the congested seas of the Mediterranean.

Armed with four 21-inch bow tubes and a few .303 Vickers guns, they were fitted with a single 3-inch deck gun forward of the sail.

They carried a single QF 3-inch 20 cwt gun forward, with shells handed up by hand from below decks

Standard U-type plan, with four forward tubes and none to the rear as there just wasn’t the space.

While most had “U” names, nine only received alpha-numeric designations (P32, P33, P36, P38, P39, P41, P47, P48, and P52) and four had “V” monikers (Varangian, Vandal, Varne, and Vox).

The first completed, HMS/m Undine (N48), joined the fleet on 21 August 1938 and the 49th, HMS/m Vox (P73) commissioned on 20 December 1943 while five units (Ulex, Unbridled, Upas, Upward, and Utopia) were canceled.

Our boat was a little different and was one of the seven (Undine, Unity, Ursala, Unique, Upright, and Utmost) completed with an extra pair of bow tubes, which gave them six forward tubes and a total load of 10 torpedoes, while the other members of the class just carried four and eight.

A great shot of Ursula tied to a buoy where you can note her extra two bow tubes and distinctive “nose.” Upholder and five others had this same arrangement. Of interest, Ursula fired the first British submarine torpedoes of the war when she attacked the German U-35 just eight days after Hitler crossed into Poland and would also count coup on the light cruiser Leipzig shortly after. IWM FL 20784

English built at Vickers Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness, Upholder was one of a dozen sisters on 4 September 1939 just hours into WWII, was laid down 30 October 1939, and was commissioned one year and one day later on Halloween 1940.

Her skipper from shakedown through loss was “Wanks” Wanklyn, who, of note, was colorblind, a fact that never seemed to affect his nighttime attacks at sea.

Lt Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn VC, DSO, left, with his First Lieutenant, Lt J R D Drummond, both of HMS Upholder, 13 January 1942. IWM A 7293, Russell J E (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer.

Born in British India in 1911, he stoked an early interest in the sea and applied to the Royal Navy in his early teens, leaving for Dartmouth Naval College at age 14 and finishing at the top of his class as a mid in 1929. After service on Great War battlewagons HMS Marlborough and Renown, he was a lieutenant in the Submarine Service by 1933, serving on HMS/m Oberon, L56, and Shark in the lead up to the war, including tense service in the Spanish Civil War. Starting WWII as the first lieutenant on HMS/m Otway in the then-sleepy waters of the Med, he was given his first command, the cramped little HMS/m H31, in early 1940, and commanded that boat on its 5th and 6th War Patrols in the North Sea, sinking the German auxiliary patrol vessel UJ 126/Steiermark (422 GRT, built 1938) on 18 July off the Dutch coast then bringing his boat back safely after the ensuing depth charge attacks by her fellow surface escorts.

In short, Upholder’s first skipper was a regular officer with a decade of service– most of it in subs– under his belt and was ready for a fight.

Malta!

After trials and working-up in Home waters at the end of 1940, covering her first two War Patrols, Upholder was dispatched to join the 10th Submarine Flotilla in Malta on 10 December. The 10th, composed of over a dozen U-class boats (including two sailing under Free Polish control), was in January 1941 put under the control of Commander George Walter Gillow “Shrimp” Simpson, RN as Commander (Submarines), Malta. Based at Lazaretto, near Grand Harbour, Shrimp had one marching order: to stop all supplies from Italy making for the Axis troops in North Africa.

HMS/m Urge inboard of HMS/m Upholder at Malta in WWII as part of the 10th Submarine Flotilla. Observe the difference between the two classmates as Upholder has her twin external bow tubes plus four internals, giving her a prominent nose, whereas Urge only has the quartet of bow tubes. Of note, Urge was also remarkably successful, sinking the Italian cruiser Giovanni dalle Bande Nere among some 74,669 tons of shipping and damaging the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto. She was lost after meeting a minefield in late April 1942, on passage from Malta to Alexandria with all hands including Bernard Gray, a reporter for Sunday Pictorial, who was unlucky enough to gain passage through the offices of his friend, Lord Gort.

Besides daily harassment from Axis air raids at Malta, the life of the 10th Flotilla was anything but business as usual.

As detailed in British Submarines of WWII:

The Mediterranean is a very difficult hunting ground for submarines, in some places deep and clear, the outline of a submerged craft is visible for miles. In many places where the 10th Flotilla operated, the sea was very shallow and was poorly charted at that time, causing many a submarine to bump along the bottom during an attack. Ultra-shallow seas forced submarines to caution in those areas where the depth was such to allow the laying of mines, and closer to the coast they would be avoiding hordes of small craft housed in many bases to hunt down and attack submarines. The whole operating area for the Malta submarines was within the range of land-based reconnaissance aircraft. Mirages also created confusion as land and other objects appeared to be distant aircraft carriers or enemy ships. Another problem, mainly encountered near the Northern coasts, was that of the many rivers emptying fresh water into the Mediterranean; this would cause serious ‘layering’, where a submarine might ‘drop’ 100 feet in seconds in the less buoyant water. Off the Tunisian coast, another problem was encountered, what to do about enemy ships in French territorial waters. With the advance of the enemy along the North African coastline, more ports became available for the handling of the essential supplies, resulting in a greater dispersal of shipping.

Nonetheless, Upholder was off on her first of 26 Mediterranean War Patrols on 24 January 1941 and was off to a busy campaign. On 25 April, she sank the 5,428-ton Italian freighter Antonietta Lauro, then a week later bagged the German cargo ships Arcturus (2,576 GRT) and Leverkusen (7,382 GRT).

While on her 10th Med War Patrol on the night of 24 May, despite his Sub’s vital listening gear being out of action, Upholder came across a heavily escorted troop convoy just east of Siracusa, Sicily, and picked as her target a ripe troopship.

From her report:

2030 hours – Sighted three very large two-funnel liners in position 36°48’N, 15°42’E. Course was 215°. Closed to attack. It was later seen that there were at least four destroyers but most likely six.

2043 hours – Fired the last two torpedoes at the centre ship which was the biggest. The nearest destroyer (a Grecale-class) was then only 400 yards ahead. Upholder went to 150 feet upon firing and retired to the East. Two explosions were heard about a minute after firing.

2047 hours – Depth charging started. In all 37 depth charges were dropped. The last four at 2107 hours were very close. No damage was sustained.

2120 to 2125 hours – The target was heard to sink.

2250 hours – Surfaced and passed a report to Malta. There was a strong smell of fuel oil in the breeze upon surfacing.

Her victim that night was the 18,000-ton former trans-oceanic passenger liner SS Conte Rosso, built in 1922, sunk with the last of Upholder’s torpedos. The Scottish-built liner was pressed into service as a troopship then torpedoed and sunk on 24 May 1941 in a convoy to North Africa by Upholder. Of the 2,729 soldiers and crew aboard headed to Tripoli, she instead took 1,297 to the bottom with her.

Italian Line’s SS Conte Rosso is shown with her neutrality markings on her side in a photo taken in the late 1930s. NH 91277

The incident, specifically the heavy depth charging after, was dramatized in the 2018 cable series, Hell Below: Defying Rommel.

Stacking up the tonnage

Upholder would soon sink a further three freighters– including the Italian cargo ship Laura Cosulich (6,181 GRT) which carried a vital load of explosives– then move firmly into the history books during her 17th War Patrol. On 18 September 1941, accompanied by HMS/m Unbeaten, Upright, and Ursula, Upholder torpedoed three large escorted Italian transports off Tripoli, sinking two and damaging a third.

Closing at night at full speed on the surface the little submarine managed to get into a good firing position despite six escorting Italian destroyers and her torpedoes mortally wounded the converted liners Neptunia and Oceania, each of 19,500 tons and full of reinforcements for North Africa.

From her report:

0350 hours – Sighted convoy of three lines escorted by four destroyers bearing 045°. Range was about 6 nautical miles. Closed to attack.

0406 hours – In position 33°01’N, 14°49’E fired four torpedoes from 5000 yards.

0408 hours – Dived and retired to the South.

0410 – 0411 hours – Two explosions were heard. Two of the liners had been hit by one torpedo each. No depth charges were dropped following the attack.

0445 hours – Surfaced and sighted one large vessel stopped in the area of the attack. One destroyer was nearby. A second large vessel was making to the Westward at 5 knots with another destroyer as escort. Set course to the East to reach a favourable attack position to attack again after dawn when the torpedo tubes would have been reloaded.

0530 hours – Dived and approached while reloading in the meantime.

0630 hours – Sighted one Oceania-class ship still stropped with one destroyer nearby. Closed to attack.

0756 hours – When about to open fire a Navigatori-class destroyer was spotted close by. Went deep. The destroyer went overhead when Upholder was at 45 feet but did not drop any depth charges.

0759 hours – Dived under the target while at 70 feet to obtain a new attack position.

0851 hours – In position 32°58’N, 14°50’E fired two torpedoes from 2000 yards. Both hit. The liner [Oceania] sank after 8 minutes. Again no counter attack by the destroyers followed.

A huge rescue operation mounted by the destroyers managed to save 5,400 German and Italian troops, who were sent back to Europe soggy and sans equipment, but the sea claimed at least 384.

Italian troopship Oceania as she sinks after being torpedoed by HMS Upholder on September 18, 1941

Detail of the above

Besides sidelining whole brigades of Italian soldiers, Upholder also took a toll on the Regia Marina, sinking the Italian Maestrale-class destroyer Libeccio, the minesweeper Maria (B 14), as well as the submarines Tricheco and Ammiraglio Saint-Bon.

Libeccio survived the disastrous Naples-Tripoli BETA (Duisburg) Convoy– annihilated midway across the Med by Bill Agnew’s cruiser and destroyers of Force K on 8 November– only to be torpedoed the next day by HMS Upholder.

At the height of Upholder’s success, Wanklyn was presented a VC in a quiet ceremony in Malta in January 1942, surrounded by his boat’s happy crew.

SUBMARINE COMMANDER AWARDED THE VC. 13 JANUARY 1942, SUBMARINE BASE, LAZZARETTO, MANDEL ISLAND, MALTA. LIEUTENANT COMMANDER M D WANKLYN, VC, DSO, RN, WAS AWARDED THE VC FOR HIS EXPLOITS IN HM SUBMARINE UPHOLDER ON 24 MAY 1941, IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. (A 7294) Lieut Cdr Wanklyn, VC, DSO, RN, with members of the crew of HMS UPHOLDER. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205141395

SUBMARINE COMMANDER AWARDED THE VC. 13 JANUARY 1942, SUBMARINE BASE, LAZZARETTO, MANDEL ISLAND, MALTA. LIEUTENANT COMMANDER M D WANKLYN, VC, DSO, RN, WAS AWARDED THE VC FOR HIS EXPLOITS IN HM SUBMARINE UPHOLDER ON 24 MAY 1941, IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. (A 7295) Officers of UPHOLDER. Left to right: Lieut F Ruck-Keene; Lieut Cdr Wanklyn, VC, DSO, RN; Lieut J R Drummond, RN; Sub Lieut J H Norman, RNVR. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205141396

The problem is every story has an ending and some have a noticeably short third act.

On her 28th War Patrol– her last sortie before she was to head to Britain for refit– Upholder was sent on 6 April 1942 to land two SIS agents in Tunisia then patrol the western approaches to Tripoli along with sistership Urge. While the agents were safely put ashore on 10 April, Upholder was not heard from again.

On 16 April, Urge heard the distant explosions of continuous depth-charging. Two days later, Italian radio reported an Allied submarine had been sunk.

With Upholder and the 33 souls aboard missing, Shrimp Simpson wrote:

I hope it is not out of place to take this opportunity of paying some slight tribute to Lt Cdr David Wanklyn, VC, DSO, and his company in HMS Upholder, whose brilliant record will always shine in the records of British submarines and in the history of the Mediterranean Fleet in this war. The Upholder would have returned to the United Kingdom on completion of this patrol. She had carried out 23 successful attacks against the enemy, and the targets attacked had almost always been heavily escorted, or else enemy war vessels.

Epilogue

On 18 April 1942, the Admiralty reported HMS/m Upholder missing, perhaps mined off Tripoli.

On 22 August, with no contact from Wanklyn and crew for over four months, the Admiralty announced (emphasis mine):

It is seldom proper for the Their Lordships to draw distinction between different services rendered in the course of naval duty, but they take this opportunity of singling out those of HMS Upholder, under the command of Lt.Cdr. David Wanklyn, for special mention. She was long employed against enemy communications in the Central Mediterranean, and she became noted for the uniformly high quality of her services in that arduous and dangerous duty. Such was the standard of skill and daring set by Lt.Cdr. Wanklyn and the officers and men under him that they and shier ship became an inspiration not only to their own flotilla, but to the Fleet of which it was a part and to Malta, where for so long HMS Upholder was based. The ship and her company are gone, but the example and inspiration remain.

While debate ensues on what happened to Upholder— theories include a sinking by the Italian Orsa-class torpedo boat Pegaso, German bombers, or a minefield– Upholder remains on eternal patrol and her wreck has not been found. She is keeping her secrets.

In terms of tonnage, the Upholder is considered to be the most successful of all British submarines.

According to U-boat.net, the “official” Admiralty figures are a bit overstated, but even the trimmed down data is impressive:

Postwar it was reported that HMS Upholder had sunk two destroyers, three submarines, three transports, ten supply ships, two tankers and one trawler, totaling 128353 GRT during her career. This figure was a bit optimistic, Given our detailed history listed below, HMS Upholder sank one destroyer, two submarines, nine supply ships (including three large troop transports and no tankers. Total tonnage sunk was 93031 GRT.

One of her victims, the 6,100-ton freighter Laura Cosulich, has gone on to a sort of infamy of her own. Sunk in shallow water off Saline Ioniche, Calabria, her 1,500-ton cargo of munitions has been extensively farmed by illegal salvagers for the benefit of the Mafia, who have used it as a “bomb supermarket” over the decades. The Italian navy sealed it off in 2015 and it is inspected routinely.

Upholder has been remembered extensively in maritime art and special stamp runs.

May 1981 40th anniversary of Upholder’s loss special issue

Hamilton, John Alan; HMS Submarine ‘Upholder’; IWM (Imperial War Museums); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/hms-submarine-upholder-7673

Cobb, Charles David; HMS ‘Upholder’ Attacking Italian Troopships; National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/hms-upholder-attacking-italian-troopships-116448

Zambia 948 MNH Royal Navy Submarines, Commander Wanklyn

HMS Upholder sinking Italian destroyer Libeccio by Raymond Dominic Agius

As is Wanks, who has an official portrait that he never had a chance to sit for, handing in a place of honor at the RN’s Submarine Museum.

Wankins’ portrait at RN Submarine Museum

The Submarine Museum has a mockup of her jolly roger on display as well.

In September 1944, with so few Axis targets left, the hardworking 10th Submarine Flotilla disbanded just three months after the last British boat sunk in the Mediterranean, HMS/m Sickle, became the Royal Navy’s 45th submarine loss in the ancient sea. Between June 1940 and the end of 1944, RN submarines in the Med had accounted for over 1 million tons of enemy shipping including three cruisers, at least 30 destroyers, torpedo boats, and several German and Italian submarines.

To be sure, had Rommel benefited from all the gear and stores that Shrimp Simpson’s dozen U-class boats, Upholder included, deep-sixed, Montgomery’s 8th Army would have had a tougher go of it as the Afrika Korps and its Italian allies would have been a much bigger gorilla to spank. This could have drawn the North African campaigns out longer, pushing the Atlantic Allies’ invasion of Sicily, Italy, and France even further down the calendar, and given Stalin a bigger role in the end game.

As for Shrimp Simpson, he would retire to New Zealand in 1954 as a Rear Admiral, after having served as Flag Officer Submarines/NATO COMSUBFORLANT.

Of Upholder’s sisters, the U-class itself took lots of lumps, losing besides class leader HMS/m Undine early in the war along with Unity (N66), Umpire (N82), Unbeaten (N93), Undaunted (N55), Union (N56), Unique (N95), Urge (N17), Usk (N65), Utmost (N19), Usurper (P56), P32, P33, P36, P38, P39, P41 (sailing as HNoMS Uredd under Free Norwegian command), P48, Vandal (P64) (who had the shortest life of any British submarine, lost just four days after commissioning), for a total of 19 submarines sunk– 13 in the Mediterranean and six in the Atlantic and the North Sea. This jumps to 20 if you count HMS/m Untamed (P58) which was lost while during training in 1943 due to a bad sluice valve then salvaged and recommissioned as HMS/m Vitality only to be scrapped less than two years later.

Postwar, with the class considered too small and slow by late 1940s standards, the survivors were quickly passed on to allies needing low-mileage and easy-to-use submarines (P47 to Holland, P52 to Poland then later Denmark, Untiring and Upstart to Greece, Upright to Poland, Varne to Norway, Vox to France, Unbroken, Unison and Ursula to Russia) or scrapped (Ultimatum, Umbra, Unbending, Una, United, Unrivalled, Unruffled, Unruly, Unseen, Ultor, Unshaken, Unsparing, Universal, Unswerving, Uproar, Uther, and Varangian).

Janes only listed 7 U-class submarines as being active in the Royal Navy in the 1946 edition.

The final units in British hands were withdrawn by 1950.

The last repatriated from overseas loans (Untiring and Upstart after service with the Greeks as Xifias and Amfitriti respectively) were sunk as sonar targets by the Royal Navy in 1957 and 1959. The holdout of the nearly 50 mighty British U-class boats, HNoMS Ula (P66), ex HMS/m Varne, continued in Norwegian service until 1965, when she was broken up, ironically, in Hamburg, having served just 23 years, most of them for King Haakon VII.

HNoMS Ula (P66), ex HMSm Varne in Norwegian service

Upholder was the first RN warship to carry the name while the second was given to the lead ship of the Type 2400 Patrol Submarines– Britain’s last diesel-electric boats.

HMS Upholder (S40), like her namesake built at VSEL, Barrow-in-Furness, led a class of four boats that repeated at least two of the names of the old U-class: Unseen, Ursula, and Unicorn. While MoD retired the class early, they were sold to the Royal Canadian Navy where they continue to serve today as the Victoria class, sadly, under new names.

Canadian submarine HMCS Victoria, ex HMS Upholder

Specs:

HMS-upholder-submarine by Dr Dan Saranga Blueprints.com

Displacement
Surfaced – 540 tons standard, 630 tons full load
Submerged – 730 tons
Length 191 ft
Beam 16 ft 1 in
Draught 15 ft 2 in
Propulsion
2 shaft diesel-electric
2 Paxman Ricardo diesel generators + electric motors
615 / 825 hp
Speed
11+1⁄4 knots max. surfaced
10 knots max. submerged
Complement: 27–31
Armament
4 × bow internal 21-inch torpedo tubes, 2 externals
10 torpedoes
1 × QF 3-inch 20 cwt gun


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Kumano, back on the list

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force a couple of weeks ago commissioned that country’s second new Mogami-class multi-mission stealth frigate, just four years after she was ordered. The JS Kumano (FFM-2) is modern and roughly the same size (5,500-tons, 426 ft oal) as the now-retired Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7) class frigates but better armed with a 5″/54, eight anti-ship missiles, a 16 cell VLS with the option for quad packed ESSMs– giving her 48 medium-range missiles in addition to her 10-cell SeaRAM system– as well as ASW and anti-small boat weapons.

She also has a hangar for a single MH-60 type and can launch UUV, USV, and sea mines from the rear ramp under her helideck.

Interestingly, she quickly received a splinter camouflage scheme, something that is increasingly the rage in the West Pac.

All in all, the U.S. Navy would have been much better buying a couple dozen of these rather than the LCS debacle, but who wants to rub salt in that multi-billion dollar wound.

Historic name

Of note to naval scholars, Kumano of course duplicates the name of the 13,000-ton Mogami-class converted heavy cruiser of WWII fame sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft from Task Force 38 while she was undergoing repairs at Santa Cruz, Zambales, Philippines, in November 1944 after taking a bruising at the Battle off Samar.

Mogami class heavy cruisers via ONI 41-42 including Suzuya and Kumano

She had a reputation of being a vessel with nine lives.

Japanese heavy cruiser Kumano anchored at Rabaul, with a Mitsubishi F1M Pete reconnaissance seaplane in the foreground, December 4-5, 1942

She had participated in the invasion of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, the bird-dogging of Royal Navy Task Force Z (HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse), Operation C in the Indian Ocean, Midway– where she caused the infamous collision between the cruisers Mikuma and Mogami– and the assorted battles for the Solomons.

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