Category Archives: warship wednesday

Assiniboine takes a scalp

Some 80 years ago today, on 6 August 1942, the Royal Canadian Navy’s C-class destroyer leader HMCS Assiniboine (I18) turned herself into a knife to slice up a German sausage in the form of a U-boat

Ordered in 1929 for the Royal Navy as HMS Kempenfelt, she joined the British fleet in 1932 and served until the outbreak of World War II, when shortly after Hitler sent his legions over the Polish border, the 1,400-ton tin can moved over to the Canadians and was given her Assiniboine moniker (just “Bones” to her crew) and was soon busting German blockade runners in the Caribbean. Allocated for mid-ocean escort service in June 1941, she would ride shotgun on a staggering 71 convoys.

This brings us to Kptlt. Rudolf Lemcke’s U-210, a Krupp-built Type VIIC operating with the Steinbrinck wolfpack some 20-days into her first war patrol.

From the excellent Post Mortems On Enemy Submarines – Serial No. 4 in the NHHC collection:

At 1325 on August 6, in a patch of clear weather, H. M. C. S. Assiniboine, forming part of the escort of S. C. 94 from Halifax to the United Kingdom, sighted a conning tower bearing 30° range 6 miles. At 1338 she fired three salvos, before the last of which the U-boat altered course to port and dived. It has been positively established by survivors’ statements that this boat was not U-210Assiniboine arrived in the vicinity of this U-boat’s diving position at 1357 and altered course to 330°, this being the estimated course of the U-boat before she dived. Assiniboine then carried out a box sweep in the area, at 1418 firing a pattern of depth charges set at 100 to 225 feet, but with no evident results, and continued to sweep in the presumed track of this U-boat.

At 1912 Assiniboine sighted a conning tower bearing 120° at 2,000 yards retiring at full speed into the fog. At 2036, with visibility about 2,000 yards, she established a Radar contact bearing 270°. Almost immediately she sighted U-210, stopped. Then U-210 went ahead at full speed and altered course to starboard, disappearing into the fog after Assiniboine had fired one round. Assiniboine, hearing H. E. at this time bearing 300°, increased speed, but misjudged the distance she had run and, thinking she had passed the U-boat’s position, altered to 345°, the target’s estimated course. She then realized her mistake, and altered course back to 190°. Visibility was then 600 to 800 yards.

At 2000 the bridge watch was relieved aboard U-210, the following men coming on duty: Quartermaster Holst, Coxswain Krumm, Monbach, and Meetz. Mueller relieved Mycke at the helm. Mueller is believed to have stood alone in the conning tower at this time. As none of the bridge watch survived the following action, accounts of the sinking of U-210 are limited to his statements and those of men below decks.

According to Mueller, fog closed around the U-boat as the watch was relieved and Lemcke, thinking that U-210 was safely hidden, came below to eat his supper. A few minutes later Mueller heard confused sounds of shouting and firing above, and Lemcke and Tamm passed him on the way to the bridge. General alarm was sounded throughout the U-boat, by buzzers in the forward compartments and by flickering green and red lights in the engine room, as the crew were eating their evening meal.

–13–

View from aboard Assiniboine.
Assiniboine.

–14–

Closing in on the sub.
closes

–15–

Ship along side submarine.
enemy.

–16–

Assiniboine takes a scalp.
Assiniboine takes a scalp.

–17–

At 2050 Assiniboine gained another Radar contact at 035° on the starboard bow, range 1,200 yards. She closed it at full speed and about 1 minute later sighted U-210, still on the surface. She closed to ram at full speed, having first housed the dome and prepared a 50-foot depth-charge pattern.

Both vessels opened fire and for about 25 minutes a furious action ensued at almost point-blank range. U-210 took a constant evading action, and Assiniboine was forced to go full astern on the inside engine to prevent U-210 getting inside her turning circle, which the U-boat seemed to be trying to do. During some of this action the two vessels were so close that Assiniboine‘s company could see Lemcke on U-210‘s bridge bending down to pass wheel orders.

Aboard U-210 no effort was made to dive immediately nor could anyone reach the 8.8-cm. gun, but fire from Assiniboine was returned by Holst, manning the 2-cm. gun at a range of approximately 200 yards. Explosive bullets were used and started a second-degree fire in Assiniboine‘s forecastle, spreading aft almost to the bridge.

Lemcke was blamed posthumously by his men for not submerging at once, but the volume of smoke pouring from the destroyer apparently led him to believe that he had damaged her considerably, and encouraged him to prolong the action. Prisoners also stated that he felt he could escape on the surface through the protecting fog, if need be.

Assiniboine‘s first hits damaged one of U-210‘s port trimming tanks. The bridge was then struck by machine gun bullets. Holst was shot through the neck and killed outright, and Krumm was badly wounded. An instant later Assiniboine scored a direct hit with her 4.7 gun on the conning tower, the shell making a shambles of the bridge.

A prisoner stated that Lemcke was literally blown to pieces, and that Krumm, lying wounded, was virtually decapitated. It is assumed that Tamm also suffered a violent death.

Mueller believed that a body was flung against the torpedo firing mechanism, releasing an unset torpedo. Between them prisoners counted three more direct hits: One through the forward torpedo tubes, another which carried away the deck covering between the 8.8-cm. gun and the forward torpedo hatch – neither causing leaks in the pressure hull – and one aft which smashed the screws, water entering the boat. The boat was down by the stern, the electric motors had caught fire, and the round hitting the conning tower had severely damaged the Diesel air-intake.

During the action an attempt was also made to fire one torpedo.

The tube’s crew was told to stand by, but the order was never given.

With the conning tower practically demolished, Sorber, the engineer officer, now attempted to dive U-210. As the boat submerged, she

–18–

was rammed to starboard by Assiniboine abaft the conning tower and over the galley hatch (Kombüsenluke). U-210 descended to a depth of 18 meters. Water was flooding into the boat through the damaged Diesel air-intake, and through the battered stern. The electric motors had failed and everything breakable within the boat had been shattered.

Sorber gave the order to blow tanks and abandon ship, under the misapprehension that Göhlich, who had received superficial cuts, was too badly injured to make the ultimate decision. Sorber later reproached himself for surfacing and surrendering as he believed, upon subsequent reflection, that he might have been able to escape submerged. On surfacing, it was found that the water in the air-intake prevented the Diesels from being started and, according to survivors, U-210 remained stopped and slightly down by the stern. Assiniboine rammed again aft as U-210 surfaced, firing a shallow pattern of depth charges as she passed. The C. O. of the destroyer stated that the U-boat then sank by the head in 2 minutes.

Mueller stated that he stayed at his post until he heard the order. “Blow tanks; stand by life jackets!” He then left the helm as his life jacket was in the forward torpedo compartment and the men had been told never to take any but their own. He clambered through to the bow compartment, where he found a number of men abandoning ship through the forward torpedo hatch. Water was flooding through the hatch as he followed them. The majority of the engine-room personnel thought they were trapped when they found, first, that the galley hatch was jammed, and then, that they could not move the conning tower hatch which had become jammed by the direct hit on the bridge. Through their combined exertions they finally got the conning tower hatch open. The last man out of the control room stated that water was well over his boots there as he left.

When all were mustered, the engineer officer and one of the control room petty officers apparently went below, opened flooding valve 5 and put an explosive charge in the periscope shaft. There is a special opening in the shaft inside the boat for this purpose. The radio men threw overboard a number of secret papers, or burned them with incendiary leaflets. They also smashed the radio equipment with a hammer. Sorber himself denied that he had done anything more than open the seacocks before leaving the boat, as the last man out.

U-210 sank at 2114, H. M. S. Dianthus appearing out of the fog in time to see her go under. Although at the time of her sinking her after aerial was out of action and her Morse key broken, the chief radioman said he was able to send a signal reporting her sinking. Although this signal was much under power, he was sure that if B. d. U. did not receive it, one of the other U-boats in the vicinity did.

–19–

One survivor said that the radioman told them afterward that he had not been able to send any signals.

In view of the tremendous punishment taken by U-210 it is remarkable that the entire crew below decks escaped with their lives.

Bones would survive the war and be scrapped in 1952 with three Battle Honours (Atlantic 1939-45, Biscay 1944, English Channel 1944-45).

Four years later a new St-Laurent class destroyer (234) would perpetuate her name in the RCN, carrying it until 1995.

The battle between Bones and U-210 is remembered in maritime art. 

HMCS DIANTHUS IN THE DISTANCE. BONES BEATS U210 THE AUGUST 1942 SINKING OF THE GERMAN SUBMARINE, U210 BY HMCS ASSINIBOINE Tom Forrestal CWM 20110023-001

HMCS ASSINIBOINE by SubLt Beatty Grieve CWM 19740552-002-2487×2160

ASSINIBOINE VERSUS U-BOAT U-210 CDR Harold Bement CWM 19710261-1021

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022: Albacore Pancakes

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

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022: Albacore Pancakes

Note: on the road again this week enjoying some quiet time at a suppressed AR course at Gunsite, so our Warship Wednesday is a little abbreviated. Will be back to full-length WWs next week!

(All photos: Chris Eger)

Above we see the one-of-a-kind research submarine USS Albacore (AGSS-569) as I found her three weeks ago in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, landlocked as she has been in a custom-made display cradle along Market Street since 1985. While not an armed warship, Albacore was the bridge between all of the WWII-era fleet boats turned GUPPY just after the war as a result of lessons learned from advanced German U-boats, and today’s nuclear hunter-killers and boomers.

The third U.S. Navy ship to carry the name, as noted by DANFS:

The effectiveness of submarines in World War II convinced the Navy that undersea warfare would play an even more important role in comping conflicts and dictated the development of superior submarines. The effectiveness of submarines in World War II convinced the Navy that undersea warfare would play an even more important role in coming conflicts and dictated the development of superior submarines. The advent of nuclear power nourished the hope that such warships could be produced. The effort to achieve this goal involved the development of a nuclear propulsion system and the design of a streamlined submarine hull capable of optimum submerged performance.

Late in World War II a committee studied postwar uses of atomic energy and recommended the development of nuclear propulsion for ships.

Since nuclear power plants would operate without the oxygen supply needed by conventional machinery, and since techniques were available for converting carbon dioxide back to oxygen, the Navy’s submarine designers turned their attention to vessels that could operate for long periods without breaking the surface. Veteran submariners visualized a new type of submarine in which surface performance characteristics would be completely subordinated to high submerged speed and agility. In 1949 a special committee began a series of hydrodynamic studies which led to a program within the Bureau of Ships to determine what hull form would be best for submerged operation. The David Taylor Model Basin tested a series of proposed designs. The best two, one with a single propeller and the other with dual screws, were then tested in a wind tunnel at Langley Air Force Base, Va. The single-screw version was adopted, and the construction of an experimental submarine to this design was authorized on 25 November 1950.

Commissioned 6 December 1953 after three years of construction at Portsmouth NSY, her motto was Praenuntius Futuri (“Forerunner of the Future”) and she endured in the fleet until 1972 when she retired.

She is very well preserved, including her innovative control room.

I also found her extremely cramped, even more so than the 311-foot fleet boats that I have toured.

Her great handicap across her career was her GE GM EMD 16-338 “pancake” diesel engines, which stood some 13.5-feet tall and were about as wide as a refrigerator.

Cranky, they were also used on the six postwar Tang-class (SS-563) submarines until they were replaced with more reliable ten-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse opposed-piston 38D 8-1/8 diesels, leaving Albacore to languish with her cakes until she had exhausted all her spares.

Still, Albacore was a pioneer when it came to American sub tech, and the three boats of the follow-on Barbel-class– the last diesel-electric propelled attack submarines built by the U.S. Navy– were only a few feet longer than the test sub. Powered by Fairbanks-Morse diesels, the Barbels remained in fleet service as late as 1990.

Not to mention her features used on SSNs and SSBNs.

If you are in Portsmouth, please swing by the Albacore and pay her a visit.


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90 Years Ago Today: Dehli in Cali

Here we see, buried under extensive awnings, the Danae-class light cruiser HMS Delhi (D47) at Long Beach, California, on 28 July 1932.

Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 60836

Laid down at Armstrong Whitworth during the Great War, Delhi wasn’t commissioned until June 1919, dispatched almost immediately to Baltic service against the Bolsheviks. Seeing much interwar service around the globe in the Med, Far East, and the Caribbean, her stop in California came during her time as flagship, 8th Cruiser Squadron, during a 20,000-mile, five-month cruise from Devonport to Malta via both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Historic voyage map from HMS Delhi log showing voyage from England to Canada and on to Malta, 1932. Via Wiki commons.

The U.S. Navy captured numerous shots of her in Long Beach, detailing the 5,000-ton cruiser at peace.

At Long Beach, California with a view of 2 pounder QF anti-aircraft pom-pom gun by the bridge and two forward BL 6-inch Mk XII naval guns, one of which is completely covered by canvas overhead. NH 61082

With a view of the range clock on the foremast and her extensive variety of small boats. NH 61083

View of her portside QF 3-inch high-angle anti-aircraft gun (she had one on each side) as well as her torpedo tubes. NH 61081

Coming into Berth K, sans awnings. Note her two sets of starboard torpedo tubes. NH 60828

A great bow-on shot from the pier. Note the bales of what could be rubber stacked to the right. NH 61279

NH 61277

Astern. Note the “City of Long Beach” sign in the distance. NH 61278

Following her 1932 cruise, Delhi ended up in the Mediterranean with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, where she was involved in the periphery of the Spanish Civil War. When WWII came, she was reactivated from mothballs, captured a German blockade runner, served with Force H, supported the Allied landings at Algiers, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and the Dragoon landings in Southern France, fighting off German explosive boats, Fritz bombs and air attacks, suffering extensive battle damage on several occasions.

The proud Dehli was judged to be too aged, too broken, and too obsolete after VJ Day and was eventually sold for scrap in 1948.

Warship Wednesday, July 26, 2022: 146 Miles SSW of Biloxi

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, July 26, 2022: 146 Miles SSW of Biloxi

(Photo: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum / Stiftung Traditionsarchiv Unterseeboote, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch)

Above we see 28-year-old Oberleutnant zur See (=Lieutenant) Hans-Günther Kuhlmann on the running bridge of DKM U-166, a brand new German Type IXC U-boat, circa 1942. The good Oblt. Kuhlmann was U-166‘s sole skipper during WWII and he, his submarine, and all 51 of her hands, have been sleeping along the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico for 80 years as of this week, although how they got there was the subject of contention.

One of the 54 Type IXCs completed during the war, U-166 was laid down at Seebeckwerft A.G. (Yard # 705) in Bremerhaven at the mouth of the Weser River on 6 December 1940 just after the Battle of Britain served up the first German defeat. At some 1,232 tons, she was not a big boat, running just 251 feet overall. However, the class was well designed and capable of 13,450-nm cruises on their economical diesel engines. Able to carry 22 torpedoes and a 4.1-inch deck gun with 180~ shells as well as a Flak armament, they were deadly and efficient killers when it came to stalking Allied merchantmen. While most of these boats could carry as many as 66 mines, all could also carry TMC-type torpedo mines in the place of a fish.

Commissioned on 23 March 1942, she spent the next two months in the 4. Flottille training squadron out of Stettin on the Baltic, then chopped on 1 June to Korvkpt. Günther Kuhnke’s 10. Frontflottille at Lorient in occupied France.

An AGFA video exists of her sea trials.

Arriving on 10 June after a combat sortie from Kristiansand in occupied Norway, her first war patrol was uneventful.

U-166 with her commander, Han-Günther Kuhlmann (bareheaded, top), before her patrol. Image courtesy of the PAST Foundation.

Spending a week in France stocking up and enjoying the local sights, U-166 sailed for her second (and final) war patrol on 17 June 1942.

Making for the Gulf of Mexico via the Florida Straits, U-166 drew her first blood when on 11 July 1942 she shelled and sank the unescorted and unarmed Dominican two-masted schooner Carmen (84 tons), which had been carrying a mixed cargo of maize, mahogany, and cedar, about 8 miles northeast of Gaspar Hernández, DR. The Dominicans had declared war on Germany four days after Pearl Harbor, for reference, and Carmen was one of four Dominican-manned ships sent to the bottom by U-boats during the conflict. While the country never sent troops overseas to help the Allies, at least 100 Dominicans signed up with the U.S. military during the war.

Two days later, U-166 fired her first warshot torpedo, ending the career of the unescorted and unarmed Ford Motor Company’s SS Oneida (2,309 tons), sailing empty from Puerto Rico to Cuba, while steaming about two miles north of Cape Maysi, Cuba. The steamer sank in minutes, but 23 survivors were able to make it safely to shore.

On 16 July, U-166 would claim her third vessel in a week, stopping the Miami Fish & Ice Co’s unarmed trawler Gertrude (16 tons) about 30 miles northeast of Havana, a port to which she was carrying a load of fresh onions. Putting her three-man crew into their motor launch and pointing them towards the shore, Gertrude was sent to the bottom with a scuttling charge or gunfire (reports vary).

Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, U-166 quietly laid nine TMC mines off Port Eads/South Pass, at the southern tip of the Mississippi River on the Louisiana coast. This was considered the boat’s primary mission, as each of these massive 2,400-pound mines could break the back of a merchantman and potentially block the Mississippi– not to mention cause a massive panic as, in typical U.S. Navy fashion, there was nowhere near enough mine countermeasures assets available to safeguard the domestic sea frontier. However, although Kuhlmann’s special mission was successful on its face, in a stroke of luck for mariners in the area, none of the mines ended up making contact and the field was cleared post-War after Allied panels were given access to Kriegsmarine records logging some 43,636 mines sown worldwide in at least 1,360 minefields.

Anyway, after delivering his eggs to the mouth of the Mighty Miss, Kuhlmann & Co. decided to stick around and pursue targets of opportunity for his remaining torpedoes. This brings us to the…

Robert E. Lee

Constructed for “Ice King” banking and shipping magnate Charles Wyman Morse for his Eastern Steamship Lines, the sistership 5,100-ton passenger liners SS George Washington and SS Robert E. Lee were put into service with Eastern’s Old Dominion Line. In 1937-38, they were making four regular sailings weekly between NYC’s Pier 25 to Norfolk’s Pier S at a cost of $12 one way or $16.50 round trip.

SS Robert E. Lee and her sister George Washington were simple one-stack, three-decker 373-footers that, besides work-a-day transport of almost 400 passengers on each coastwise trip, could run fresh produce as cargo from Virginia to New York City by the next day and return with garments, furniture, and dry goods from the North.

A June 1924 detail from the Marine Review on SS Robert E. Lee and her sister George Washington, noting they could carry almost 250,000 bales of cargo (1,700 tons) loaded through 10 cargo elevators as well as 322 “white and colored” passengers along with 58 in steerage. Capable of 16 knots, they were fast for their type and time.

Just weeks after Pearl Harbor, Lee and Washington were taken up by the War Shipping Administration under contract by the Alcoa Steamship Co. and converted to carry up to 778 troops, typically on shuttle runs from U.S. East Coast ports to assorted Allied Caribbean bases and Bermuda. This conversion included a dark paint scheme, degaussing equipment to help avid mines and magnetic exploders on torpedoes, lots of Carley floats rigged to break loose topside if needed, and a single 3″/50 DP mount with its accompanying Naval Guard crew.

Sailing from Trinidad on 21 July for Tampa with eight officers, 122 crewmen, six armed guards, and 268 passengers– including 115 waterlogged mariners of the sunk tankers Andrea Brovig (Sunk by U-128 on 23 June), Høegh Giant ( U-126 on 3 June), and Stanvac Palembang (U-203 on 11 July)– along with 47 tons of general cargo and personal effects, Lee was part of Intracoastal Convoy TAW-7. However, just short of Florida, TAW-7 was dispersed, and she was carved out and diverted, escorted by the brand-new (commissioned 15 June) PC-461-class submarine chaser USS PC-566 riding shotgun, for New Orleans.

USS PC-566, via The Ted Stone Collection, Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, VA. She would spend her entire career in the Florida-Caribbean area on patrol and escort duty and as a training ship out of Miami then go on to be sold to Venezuela in June 1961 and serve for another decade.

It was on the late hours of 30 July, about 45 miles southeast of the entrance to the Mississippi River and 146 miles south-by-southwest of the Biloxi lighthouse, that U-166 would see its biggest prize.

Firing a single torpedo, Lee was as unlucky as the men of the three tankers that she carried, and the ship soon sank, taking 25 souls with her.

As detailed by Uboat.net:

Lookouts had spotted the torpedo wake about 200 yards away before it struck just aft of the engine room. The explosion destroyed the #3 hold, vented through the B and C decks, and wrecked the engines, the radio compartment, and the steering gear.

The badly damaged Robert E. Lee first listed to port then to starboard and finally sank by the stern about 15 minutes after the torpedo hit. One officer, nine crewmen, and 15 passengers were lost. The survivors…abandoned the ship in six lifeboats, eight rafts, and five floats and were soon picked up by USS PC-566, USS SC-519, and the tug Underwriter and landed in Venice, Louisiana.

The end of U-166

Immediately after Lee was hit, her escorting 173-foot subchaser PC-566, with her green crew under the command of LT Herbert Gordon Claudius, USNR, dropped five depth charges across a sonar contact, circled back and dropped another five, then proceeded to pick up survivors after the contact disappeared in deep water and a large– reportedly 200 feet wide– oil slick was observed.

PC-566‘s depth charge runs were considered (at the time) ineffective, but U-166 never made it back to Lorient.

As Claudius and his crew had been rushed into service and had not received any formal ASW training yet, his reported “kill” was dismissed as unlikely. The new skipper was stripped of his command, sent to Sonar school to ride a desk, and admonished “for breaking radio silence twice prior to his arrival” and for “not being in the proper patrol station, nor that any proven system of attack was followed.” Further, the Navy said, “it is not considered probable that any except minor damage could have been sustained by the submarine.”

Post-war U.S. Navy analysis of German records chalked up the killer of Oblt. Kuhlmann’s boat as a Coast Guard Grumman J4F-1 Widgeon seaplane (the same type of plane from “Tales of the Golden Monkey”), #V212, from Coast Guard Air Station Biloxi.

The Coast Guard flew some 25 Widgeons, numbers V197 through V221 from 1941 to 1950, purchased from Grumman for $75,000 each. V203 is pictured here. Equipped with twin inverted Ranger L-440 engines, the J4F-1 was a high wing all-metal monoplane with a range of 750 miles at a pokey 135 miles per hour. It was modified to carry a crew of two and a single 325-pound depth charge under the inboard right wing. Alternatively, a bomb, raft, or droppable SAR gear could be carried in that position.

Piloted by Chief Aviation Pilot Henry C. White with RM1 George H. Boggs as a crewmember, V212 was forward deployed from an outlying grass field at Houma, Louisiana owned by Texaco, and reported depth charging a surfaced German U-boat on 1 August, two days after Robert E. Lee was lost and about 100 miles away from that killing field.

As detailed by CG Aviation History:

They were at 1,500 feet at the base of a broken cloud deck 100 miles south of the Houma base. Through the open windows of their twin-engine Grumman J4F-1 Widgeon amphibian, they could see about 10 miles across the hazy gulf sea. White had just turned to the northeast to set up a ladder search for the assigned area and moments later they saw a surfaced German submarine. White started to maneuver the Widgeon behind the sub for a stern attack, but it immediately became obvious that as soon as White and Boggs had seen the sub, the sub had seen them, and the U-boat began to slide underwater in a crash dive. White banked sharply to starboard and from a half mile away began his dive towards the sub fully aware that he had only a sole depth charge under his wing and that he would have but one try.

At an altitude of 250 feet, the single depth charge was released. Boggs stuck his head out of the window and watched the depth charge fall into the Gulf waters, its fuse set to explode 25 feet below the surface. He estimated it entered the water 20 feet from the submarine on the starboard side. Boggs saw a large geyser of water rise from the explosion. White later wrote that the submarine was visible during the entire approach being just under the water and still clearly visible when the depth charge was released. When they circled back around, they saw only a medium oil slick. German records obtained after the war verified that the U-166 had been sunk in that area at the beginning of August. White and Boggs were given credit for the sinking.

Coast Guard Air Station Biloxi was an 18-acre seaplane base founded at Point Cadet on Back Bay in 1934 and remained in service until 1966 when the land and its 12,000 square-foot hangar and barracks were turned over to the city.

The above image is from 1941. In the far back of the hangar pictured above is a twin-engine PH-2 Hall Aluminum Flying Boat, either V-166 or V-170. Next to it is the single-engine JF-2 Grumman Amphibian V-143. A brand new twin-engine JFR-2 Grumman Amphibian, V-184, pokes its nose into the sunshine.

Biloxi Coast Guard Air Station would become the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum. The structure was destroyed in Katrina

A stylized 1940s postcard made from composite photographs showing two J2F Ducks, three airborne J4F-1 Widgeons, and an RD-4 Dolphin at USCG Air Sta Biloxi at Point Cadet. After 1966, the old hangar was used by the city for concerts and festivals until it was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina

The destruction of U-166 by V212 went down in Coast Guard (and Grumman) history and was celebrated for the rest of the 20th Century. This led V212– which had been sold on the commercial market in 1948 when the USCG got out of the Widgeon game and later flown as a commercial airliner (N212ST) in Alaska– to be acquired by the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola in 1988 and preserved, reverted to her WWII USCG livery.

In all, from 1942 into 1943, no less than 24 German U-boats patrolled the Gulf of Mexico– the American Sea– sinking 56 Allied vessels of which 39 are in the coastal waters of Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. U-166 has the distinction of being the only German submarine lost in the Gulf.

Epilogue

In 1986, Shell Offshore found two likely shipwrecks on a deep tow survey in one of their leased oil fields due south of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 5,000 feet of water. It was thought that one was possibly the remains of the bauxite freighter SS Alcoa Puritan, another World War II casualty lost in the same rough area as Robert E. Lee, sunk by U-507 about 15 miles off the entrance to the Mississippi River in May 1942.

In 2001, deep water HUGIN 3000 AUVs of C&C Technologies working pipeline survey along the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico’s Mississippi Canyon for BP and Shell (the Mississippi Canyon is home to well MC 252, the infamous Deepwater Horizon well), found a single-stack ocean liner and, less than a mile away, a broken submarine.

This was the first time U-166 was reported found.

In 2003, a more extensive search in conjunction with NOAA extensively documented the sites.

In 2010, U-166 was briefly revisited during the Lophelia II study, where archaeologists collected additional ROV videos, still photos, core samples, and biological samples and re-examined the test platforms that had been deployed on site since 2003.

Finally, in 2014, as part of a National Geographic Explorer-funded effort that was turned into a one-hour special, Robert G. Ballard surveyed the U-boat and suggested that one of PC-566’s depth charges had wrecked the bow and likely detonated several torpedo warheads.

Further analysis by the Naval History and Heritage Command agreed. It turned out PC-566 was the only one of the 343 PC-461 class submarine chasers to be credited with sinking a U-boat.

The Navy (posthumously) awarded Capt. Claudius, USNR (ret), the Legion of Merit Medal with a combat “V” for sinking U-166.

This also brought some closure to Kuhlmann’s widow. Following the film crew documenting the discovery of the U-boat, she donated an ample collection of images from Kuhlmann’s service to The National WWII Museum in New Orleans through the PAST Foundation, where it is preserved as part of the story.

Some personal images of Kuhlmann in the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Down the coast in Biloxi, U-166 has always had a special place in the city’s lore, as for years it was celebrated as the base where V212, the long-thought dispatcher of the boat, was assigned. The City’s Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum— located on the grounds of the old Coast Guard Air Station at Point Cadet– has exhibits on the base, its aircraft, and history, as well as the barrack’s tower, saved after Hurricane Katrina.

(Photo: Chris Eger)

Since 2005, the Seafood Industry Museum has been in the possession of a 45-foot U-boat model, constructed for the film U-571, that has been dedicated to U-166 (although it depicts a German Type VII U-boat) after a rework in 2008 from volunteers of the Tullibee Base Submarine Veterans and those of Seabee Base Gulfport.

The U-571 model next to the old tower from the USCG Air Sta Biloxi barracks. (Photo: Chris Eger)

As for V212, the NHHC revised the record book and cited that the Coast Guard seaplane likely had attacked but failed to sink U-171, a Type IXC sistership of U-166 that was operating in the same area at the time and reported being bombed by a “Flugboot” (flying boat) on 1 August with slight damage. U-171 went on to sink the tanker R. M. Parker Jr. (6,779 tons) two weeks later off the Louisiana coast, then was herself lost just short of Lorient when she struck a mine just miles short of the end of her maiden war patrol.

Speaking of losses, of U-166’s sister boats, 50 of 54 were lost, almost all to Allied ASW efforts. Only four survived the war and a single example, U-505, is the only one of two of her class (U-534 was sunk in 1945 and then salvaged by the British in 1993) preserved. Of all places, U-505 is in Chicago.

4 June 1944 Tug USS Abnaki (ATF-96) tows U-505 photo from USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) Note the large U.S. Ensign flying from U-505’s periscope. 80-G-324351

And finally, Robert E. Lee’s sister, George Washington, survived the war and lived a second life in the Pacific until the mid-1950s.

George Washington’s entry in “U.S. Troopships of WWII.” After the war, she was acquired by the Alaska Transport Company (ATCo.) to run between Seattle and Alaska until ATCo went bankrupt in 1948. A French company named CGT bought her in 1949, renamed her SS Gascogne (Gascoigne), ran her in the Caribbean for a while, then in 1952 sold her to Messageries-Maritimes, who operated her in Indochina until she was scrapped in Hong Kong in 1955.

Specs:

Displacement:
1,144 t (1,126 long tons) surfaced
1,257 t (1,237 long tons) submerged
Length:
251 ft 10 in o/a
192 ft 9 in. pressure hull
Beam:
22 ft 6 in o/a
14 ft 7 in pressure hull
Height: 31 ft 6 in
Draught: 15 ft 4 in
Installed power:
4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
Propulsion:
2 shafts
2 × diesel engines
2 × electric motors
Range:
13,850 nmi at 10 knots surfaced
63 nmi at 4 knots submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Armament:
6 × torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern)
22 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedoes
1 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK C/32 deck gun (180 rounds)
1 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 AA gun
1 × twin 2 cm FlaK 30 AA guns


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 am a member, so should you be!

Vale, Almirante

BAP Almirante Grau of the Peruvian Navy was decommissioned on 26 September 2017. She had been laid down in Holland on 5 September 1939, the same week Hitler marched into Poland, giving her an amazing 78-year career. 

The beautiful De Zeven Provinciën-class light cruiser Hr.Ms. De Ruyter (C 801), who went on to serve the Peruvian Navy as BAP Almirante Grau (CLM-81) until she was retired in 2017, was to be saved as a floating museum, perhaps at the Naval Museum in Callao, but lack of funding and interest derailed that.

The Peruvians put the last all-gun cruiser on active service up for sale for around $1 million back in March, but concerns about asbestos, chemicals dating back to the 1930s, and lead paint made that a non-starter as it would likely cost more to safely dispose of all the bad stuff than her value in recycled materials.

A last-ditch effort by a group of Navy vets in Holland likewise fell through.

This led to a quiet ceremony, attended by a naval band, of the old girl being towed from Lima to undisclosed shipbreakers, likely in India,  for scrapping in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for a final price undisclosed.

The ship last departed from Callao Naval Port in Lima on 8 July. (Photo: Juan Carlos Iglesias Caminati)

She deserved better.

Update: Oryx reported Saturday that Almirante Grau/De Ruyter docked over the weekend in India, completing her final voyage. 

Warship Wednesday, July 20, 2022: Four Stacker Convoy King

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, July 20, 2022: Four Stacker Convoy King

Above we see the stern of the Clemson-class tin can USS McCook (Destroyer # 252), in her second career as the Royal Canadian Navy’s Town-class HMCS St. Croix (I 81), with her White Duster flapping in the windy North Atlantic, likely while on convoy duty in 1942. Note her Q.F. 12-pdr. (12-cwt.) gun over the stern with ready rounds in the rack and splinter mats rigged for a modicum of protection. While McCook had a quiet life in her stint with the U.S. Navy, St. Croix throughout her work with the RCN would log time with 28 convoys and bust two of Donitz’s U-boats– not bad for a second-hand “four piper.”

One of the massive fleets of 156 Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, McCook came too late to help lick the Kaiser. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War.

At 1,200 tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

Inboard and outboard profiles for a U.S. Navy Clemson-class destroyer, in this case, USS Doyen (DD-280)

Carrying a legacy

Our vessel laid down at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp in Quincy, Massachusetts in September 1918, was the first named in honor of CDR Roderick S. McCook, USN. The Ohio-born McCook was appointed a Mid in 1854 at age 15 and gave 28 years to the Navy, including service on the steam frigate USS Minnesota, the gunboat USS Stars and Stripes, and as XO of the monitor USS Canonicus during the Civil War, distinguishing himself in the latter during the assaults on Fort Fisher to the special thanks of Congress and ADM Porter.

CDR Roderick S. McCook, USN. Promoted to commander on 25 September 1873, McCook died in 1886. NH 47933

U.S. Navy Service

McCook commissioned on 30 April 1919 and, following her shakedown on the East Coast, was folded into the rapidly-shrinking Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet. She soon shipped out for Europe at a time when the U.S. was heavily involved in shaping the post-Great War redrawing of the map of that continent and the ensuing cycles of revolution, civil war, and nationalist uprisings.

USS McCook (Destroyer # 252) Dressed in flags in a European port, circa 1919. Photographed by R.E. Wayne (# J-50). NH 46470.

Wicks-class destroyer USS Gridley (DD-92) and USS McCook (DD-252) in Venice during 1919. From the John Dickey collection, via Navsource.

Once Europe began to quiet down, and the Roaring 20s set in, the Navy found McCook (as well as many other tin cans) surplus to its immediate needs, and she was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 30 June 1922 at laid up.

Her entire active USN service would run 1,157 days– barely enough to get her hull dirty.

View of the Reserve Fleet Basin of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard circa the early 1920s. Visible ships include (left to right): the destroyers USS McCook (DD-252) and USS Benham (DD-49). U.S. Navy photo S-574-M.

Headed to serve the King

With Europe again at war, on 2 September 1940, FDR signed the so-called Destroyers for Bases Agreement that saw a mix of 50 (mostly mothballed) Caldwell (3), Wickes (27), and Clemson (20)-class destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy in exchange for limited basing rights on nine British overseas possessions. Canada would receive seven of these ships including two Clemsons: McCook and her sister USS Bancroft (DD-256).

In respect of Canada’s naming tradition for destroyers, all seven RCN flush deckers were named for Canadian rivers, ideally, those that ran in conjunction with the U.S. border, a nice touch. McCook, therefore, became HCMS St. Croix, so named after the river on the Maine/New Brunswick border, while Bancroft became HMCS St. Francis after the Rivière Saint-François which makes up part of the Maine/Quebec line.

Sailed by scratch USN crews from Philadelphia, McCook was handed over at Halifax on 24 September in a batch of five destroyers.

Transfer of U.S. destroyers to the Royal Navy in Halifax, Sept 1940. Wickes-class destroyers USS Buchanan (DD-131), USS Crowninshield (DD-134), and USS Abel P. Upshur (DD-193) are in the background. The sailors are examining a 4-inch /50 deck gun. Twenty-three Wickes-class destroyers were transferred to the RN, along with four to the RCN, in 1940 under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3199286)

HCMS St. Croix passed through the anti-submarine gates at Halifax, before receiving her camouflage.

Made ready for local patrol, she joined her first convoy, the Halifax-to-Liverpool HX 080, on 12 October– just 18 days after she was handed over. The seas were not kind to the small destroyer.

A battered HCMS St. Croix enters Halifax Harbor on 18 Dec 1940 after enduring a powerful North Atlantic storm. This photograph shows some of the damage inflicted on the ship, including guardrails hanging over the ship’s side (center) and broken windows on the ship’s bridge (top center). Less visible but more serious storm damage included bent steel plating on the bridge and below-deck flooding caused by massive waves. The photograph also emphasizes the ship’s narrow hull, which contributed to its instability in heavy seas and to poor handling. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 19900085-1040

As part of the handover, some systems and armament were changed out, after all, McCook had been laid up since 1922 and was all-Yank. Ultimately, three of her four triple-packed torpedo turnstiles were landed as was the aft 4-inch gun, the latter replaced by a British 12-pounder. She also eventually picked up a couple light AAA guns, depth charge racks, British radar (Type 273), medium-frequency direction finders (MF/DF), ASDIC, and depth charge throwers. At least one boiler was removed to increase fuel capacity.

Unidentified personnel manning a four-inch gun aboard HCMS St. Croix at sea, March 1941. LAC 3567312

Manning a .50-caliber water-cooled AAA mount aboard HCMS St. Croix at sea, March 1941. LAC 3571062.

Once modified and updated, she was sent for work with convoys between St Johns and Iceland by April 1941, joining troopship Convoy TC 10.

In October 1941, while part of ON 019A, St. Croix picked up 34 survivors from the Dutch merchant Tuva that was torpedoed and sunk the previous day by the German U-boat U-575 southwest of Iceland.

HCMS St. Croix (Canadian destroyer, 1940) taken circa 1941, at Reykjavik, Iceland. Note camouflage. NH 49941

HMCS St Croix (ex-USS McCook, DD-252) underway circa 1942 via Navsource

On 24 July 1942, while part of the outbound ON 113 convoy from Liverpool to Halifax, St. Croix, under command of 40-year-old LCDR Andrew Hedley Dobson, RCNR, she depth-charged U-90 (Kptlt. Hans-Jürgen Oldörp) to the bottom east of Newfoundland after the boat had attacked her convoy the day before. The U-boat took all 44 of her crew with her on her final dive, now 80 years ago this week.

Commodore L.W. Murray congratulated the Ship’s Company of HCMS St. Croix for sinking the German submarine U-90 on 24 July. St. John’s, Newfoundland, 29 July 1942. LAC 3231215

St. Croix’s crew gathered around her sole remaining set of torpedo tubes during the pier side celebration after sinking the U-90. Note the depth charges to the right. LAC 3231215

Dobson would earn the Distinguished Service Cross on 25 November 1942 for the U-90 sinking. He was still in command when she shared a second submarine kill with the Flower-class corvette HMCS Shediac (K100), against U-87 (Kptlt. Joachim Berger) off the Iberian coast on 4 March 1943 as part of Convoy KMS 10. A killer, U-87 had accounted for 5 Allied merchant ships (38,014 tons) before Shediac/St. Croix would end her budding career.

Speaking of endings, in the spirit of living and dying by the sword in epic proportions, St. Croix would come under the sights of Kptlt. Rudolf Bahr’s U-305 while escorting convoy ON-202 southwest of Iceland on the night of 20 September 1943. One of the first victims of the newly developed Gnat acoustic torpedo, she took three hits from the weapon and sank in the freezing waters in six minutes.

In all, she had served the RN/RCN for just 1,091 days, two months shy of her USN career.

After surviving 13 hours afloat, some five officers and 76 men who had survived St. Croix’s loss were picked up by the River-class frigate HMS Itchen (K 227) the next morning only to have that ship sunk by a Gnat fired from U-666 on 23 September. A single member of St. Croix’s crew, Stoker William Fisher, survived his second sinking in 72 hours. He was rescued by a Polish merchant ship, the Wisla, along with two men of the Itchen.

As noted by the Canadian War Museum, “St. Croix’s loss was felt nationwide because the crew, as on many Canadian ships, was drawn from across the country.”

For what it is worth, U-666, the slayer of HMS Itchen, the event that also claimed 80 of St. Croix’s waterlogged and traumatized crew, would meet her end in 1944 at the hands of 842 Sqn Swordfish of the British escort carrier HMS Fencer, with all hands lost. The Battle of the Atlantic was unforgiving no matter the flag.

Epilogue

All 2,852 Canadian and Newfoundland sailors and soldiers lost at sea in WWII were added to the Great War’s Halifax Memorial at Point Pleasant Park in 1966. RCN vessels and visiting warships render honors when passing the memorial in daylight.

Halifax Memorial

St. Croix’s lost crew is chronicled in a page at For Posterity’s Sake. 

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Notably, the other Clemson-class RCN Four-Stacker, HMCS St. Francis (ex-USS Bancroft) who sailed as escort to 20 convoys and engaged the enemy on five occasions somehow managed to survive the conflict.

Those remaining Clemsons not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield was decommissioned on 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap on 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the U.S. Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948, the end of an era.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Few elements of the first USS McCook— or the first HMCS St. Croix— remain today other than engineering documents in the National Archives.

St. Croix is remembered in maritime art.

“HMCS St. Croix and U-Boat in North Atlantic” by Ronald Weyman. Canadian War Museum Beaverbrook Collection of War Art CWM 19710261-5628. Weyman served aboard the St. Croix as a naval gunnery officer and only narrowly missed being on the ship when she was sunk and later went on to become an award-winning film and television director and producer after the war. His artwork likely depicts the moment U-90 was sunk on July 24, 1942.

A well-done scale model of HMCS St. Croix is on display at The Military Museums in Calgary along with photos of her service.

(Credit: Naval Museum Assoc. of Alberta via The Military Museums).

Meanwhile, the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum has an exhibit that includes letters from Stoker Fisher, St. Croix’s sole survivor.

The U.S. Navy quickly reused the McCook name in WWII, christening in April 1942 the Gleaves-class destroyer DD-496 (later DMS-46), sponsored by Mrs. Reed Knox, granddaughter of CDR McCook.

Commissioned on 15 March 1943, McCook received three battle stars for World War Il service, all in the ETO. Sent to the Pacific post-war, she was laid up in 1949 at San Diego then at Bremerton before being sent to the breakers in 1973. She was the last USS McCook.

The Canadians likewise commissioned a second St. Croix, a Restigouche-class destroyer (DDE 256) built in the 1950s in Quebec. The Cold Warrior was a big part of the RCN’s ASW plans until paid off early in 1974 due to constrained defense budgets as part of that grinning fool Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal/socialist policies.

The beautiful HMCS St. Croix (DDE 256). She was laid up in 1974, just 18 years after joining the fleet, and was sold in 1991 for scrapping. CFB Esquimalt Museum photo.

Perhaps the RCN could do with a third St. Croix.

Specs:

HMCS St. Croix plan and elevation by LB Jenson

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 knots
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:

(1920)
4 x 4″/51 cal guns
1 x 3″/23 cal AAA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)


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!

Wind of the Great North

We’ve covered the Wind-class “battle icebreakers” several times on Warship Wednesday including USS Atka (AGB-3)/USCGC Southwind (WAG-280) (then became the Soviet Kaptian Bouleve then later Admiral Makarov) and USCGC Northwind (WAG/WAGB-282).

USCGC Northwind in Antarctic waters, 16 December 1956. K-21429.

In all, an impressive eight Wind-class ships were built. Equipped with 5″/38 DP mounts and with the ability to carry floatplanes (later helicopters as soon as 1945), they fought the Germans in the “Weather War” while on Greenland Patrol in WWII, were the coldest boats of the frozen front lines of the Cold War where they helped establish the DEW Line and made sure Thule AB could exist in the Arctic and McMurdo in the Antarctic. Operations Deep Freeze, Nanook, Blue Nose, High Jump (aka “The Battle of Antarctica”), and more. They also proved to have long lives, with several still clocking in for hard work crunching ice in the late 1980s.

However, one of the Winds that got little love from the history books was a special one-off sister HMCS Labrador (AW50), the Royal Canadian Navy’s only polar icebreaker. She was almost amazingly advanced for the “old school” Tars of the RCN, being the first fully diesel-electric vessel in the Royal Canadian Navy as well as the first to have central heating and ventilation, air conditioning, and bunks instead of hammocks.

Built domestically under license by Marine Industries Limited in Sorel, Quebec (Yard No. 187), she was laid down on 18 November 1949, making her all-Canadian. Her seven American sisters were all built at San Pedro while her unarmed freshwater half-sister USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB-83) was built for Great Lakes service at Toledo.

Speaking of unarmed, the 6,500-ton HMCS Labrador was completed with a much-reduced fixed armament, mounting two 40mm Bofors and a single 3″/50 gun platform on the forecastle– though the latter was never mounted.

Note her forward gun platform is empty

As noted in her 141-page operational history:

The ship was by no means an exact copy of the American icebreakers, for advantage was taken of USN experience to incorporate many improvements. The stem of the Canadian ship, for instance, was given a knife-edge instead of the U shape of the American vessels, and the bow propeller fitted in the original Wind Class was omitted. The flight deck was made about half as big again as those fitted in the American ships and could accommodate three helicopters. Another major deviation from the US design was the fitting of retractable Denny-Brown stabilizing fins in an attempt to cut down the excessive roll of the Wind Class ships in rough weather. A great many changes involving accommodation of personnel were also made in order to provide better quarters and more recreational space for the ship’s company. Further modifications were necessitated by the fact that the RCN communications and radar requirements were about twice as great as those of the American ships. The ship’s first Commanding Officer, Captain O.C.S. Robertson, GM, RD, RCN, was responsible for many of the improvements made to the ship. He spent several months working with USN icebreakers, and his fertile mind conceived improvements and modifications at a rate that almost had the Naval Constructor in Chief wishing the ship had been assigned a less efficient and enthusiastic CO.

Commissioned 8 July 1954– some 68 years ago this week, later that November Labrador became the first warship to circumnavigate North America in a single voyage, sailing North from Halifax, crossing the Northwest Passage, sailing down the Pacific Coast, and back up to Halifax via the Panama Canal.

She could carry three helicopters including two Bell HTL-4 and a HUP II. Along with the 36-foot (11 m) all-aluminum hydrographic sounding craft Pogo. 2

She was Canada’s first heavy icebreaker and the Royal Canadian Navy’s first vessel capable of reliably operating in the waters of the Arctic, in essence, the country’s first Arctic patrol ship. She was the first warship as well as the first deep-draught ship of any type to transit the Northwest Passage and only the second vessel ever to accomplish the feat in one season.

USCGC Eastwind W279 coming alongside HMCS Labrador in the Arctic Ice

However, scandalously cash-strapped (a heritage the service continues to carry to this day), Labrador decommissioned on 22 November 1957 and transferred to civilian control in 1958 after just four years of RCN service.

Operating with the Department of Transport as the Canadian Government Ship (CGS) Labrador and then after 1962 with the newly-formed Canadian Coast Guard as CCGS Labrador, she endured until 1988 and was sent to the breakers. Today, the RCN hopes to field six new new “ice-capable” patrol ships, this time armed– the Harry DeWolf-class offshore patrol vessels– which are, at 6,600 tons, actually bigger than Labrador. It seems sending armed ships to the Arctic has finally become popular in Canada.

For more on Labrador, see her page on For Posterity’s Sake, a Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project.

Abbreviated Warship Wednesday: Tennessee by the pale moon light

I’m on the road, haunting New England on a gun industry-related trip all week (although I do plan to catch the screening of “Master and Commander” on the deck of the USS Constitution on Friday night!). As such, I didn’t have the time to do a proper Warship Wednesday today.

Until then, enjoy this haunting image– photographed by scout aircraft from USS Ranger (CV 4)— of the dreadnought USS Tennessee (Battleship No. 43) with San Francisco Bridge in the background, 84 years ago today, 13 July 1938. The image was likely snapped by the observer in a Vought SBU-1 (Corsair) belonging to the “Ducks” of Scouting Squadron Forty-Two (VS-42).

U.S. Navy photo now in the National Archives 80-CF-14-2054-12

Warship Wednesday, July 6, 2022: Dispatches from the New Navy

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, July 6, 2022: Dispatches from the New Navy

Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 69187

Above we see the one-of-a-kind steel-hulled dispatch boat USS Dolphin (later PG-24) off New York City, about 1890. Note the Statue of Liberty in the right background. A controversial warship when she first appeared, she later proved to have a long and star-studded career.

Dolphin was part of the famed “ABCD” ships, the first modern steel-hulled warships of the “New Navy” ordered in the early 1880s along with the protected cruisers USS Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago. While the ABC part of this quartet was built to fight, running 3,200 tons in the case of Atlanta and Boston and 4,500 tons for Chicago, with as much as 4-inches of armor plate and a total of eight 8-inch, 20 6-inch, and two 5-inch guns between them, Dolphin was, well, a lot less of a bruiser.

Laid down on 11 October 1883 as an unarmored cruiser by John Roach and Sons, Chester, PA, Dolphin hit the scales at just 1,485 tons with a length of 256 feet (240 between perpendiculars). Her armament was also slight, with a single 6″/30 Mark 1 (serial no. 1), three 6-pounders, four 3-pounders, and two Colt Gatling guns.

6″/30 (15.2 cm) Mark I gun on the protected cruiser USS Atlanta circa 1895. Note three-motion breech mechanism and Mark 2, Muzzle Pivot Mount inclined mounting. Dolphin was to carry one of these, but it wasn’t to be. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-USZ62-60234

However, although all the ABC cruisers would successfully carry 6″/30s along with their other wild mix of armament, it was soon seen that Dolphin was too light for the piece and she transitioned to two 4″/40 (10.2 cm) Mark 1 pieces as her main armament.

Equipped with four (two double-ended and two single-ended) boilers trunked through a centerline stack pushing a single 2,253ihp vertical compound direct-acting engine on a centerline shaft, she also had a three-mast auxiliary sail rig, a hermaphrodite pattern carried by all the ABCD ships. With everything lit and a clean hull, it was thought she could make 17 knots on a flat sea, something that was thought to equal 15 knots in rough conditions.

Brooklyn, NY. Dock No 2 with USS Dolphin (dispatch boat) showing her hull shape, masts, stack, and screw. USN 902198

Unofficial plans, USS Dolphin, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. By Deutsch Lith and Ptg Co., Photo-Lith, Balto. NH 70119

However, in the spring and summer of 1885, the ship was the subject of much controversy. The first of the ABCD ships nearing completion, she could not make her target speed under any condition, barely hitting 14 knots, and incapable of sustaining that for over six hours. Meanwhile, the Herreshoff-built steam yacht Stiletto was hitting 24.8 knots and the Cunard steamship Etruria was logging over 19 sustained across a 72-hour period.

That, coupled with the issue of armament, led to a special board directed by President Chester A. Arthur’s SECNAV Bill Chandler to inspect and evaluate Dolphin, which was accordingly reclassified as a dispatch boat rather than a cruiser.

A subsequent board formed by President Cleveland’s incoming SECNAV William C. Whitney, consisting of Capt. George E. Belknap, Commanders Robley D. Evans, William T. Sampson, and Caspar F. Goodrich (all of which became famed admirals); Naval Constructor Francis Bowles, and one Mr. Herman Winters, was formed to criticize the first board later that fall, and by early 1886 it was deemed Dolphin had caulking and planking issues, a few defective steel trusses, and her plant was never able to make the designed 2,300 hp on her original boilers. Further, it was thought her powerplant and battery were too exposed to any sort of fire to be effective in combat.

The papers were filled with drama, with the New York Times archives holding dozens of stories filed on the subject that year.

“Cruelty” Dolphin: “What! go to sea, Secretary Whitney! Why, that might make me seasick!'”– says the caption of this Thomas Nast cartoon published in Harper’s weekly, satirizing the mediocre performance during sea trials of the USS Dolphin, one of four vessels ordered by Congress in 1883 to rebuild a United States Navy that was in disrepair. Secretary of the Navy William Whitney refused to accept the new ship, setting off a well-publicized political controversy and eventually driving the shipbuilder into bankruptcy. Via the NYPL collection.

“John Roach’s little miscalculation” Illustration shows Secretary of the Navy, William C. Whitney, handing a boat labeled “Dolphin” to James G. Blaine who shies away, refusing to accept it; in the background, John Roach, a contractor, who built the ship “Dolphin”, is crying because the Cleveland administration has voided his contract. Published in Puck, May 20, 1885, cover. Art by Joseph Ferdinand Keppler. Via LOC

Completed on 23 July 1884, Dolphin was only commissioned on 8 December 1885, while the Navy would work out her issues and pass on her lessons learned to the other new steel warships being built.

Notably, her skipper during this period was Capt., George Dewey (USNA 1858), later to become the hero of Manila Bay.

The first of the vessels of the “New Navy” to be completed, Dolphin was assigned to the North Atlantic Station, cruising along the eastern seaboard until February 1886 when it was deemed, she was ready to undertake longer runs, embarking in a stately three-year, 58,000-mile deployment and circumnavigation of the globe under CDR George Francis Faxon Wilde (USNA 1865). America had to show off her new warship via foreign service.

Accordingly, as noted by DANFS, “she then sailed around South America on her way to the Pacific Station for duty. She visited ports in Japan, Korea, China, Ceylon, India, Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Spain, and England, and the islands of Madeira and Bermuda, before arriving at New York on 27 September 1889 to complete her round-the-world cruise.”

USS Dolphin, some of the ship’s officers, with a monkey mascot, circa 1889, likely picked up on the way round the globe. Odds are the officer holding him is CDR George Francis Faxon Wilde. Decorated as a midshipman at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Wilde would go on to command the monitor USS Katahdin, the cruiser USS Boston during the Span Am War, and the battleship USS Oregon then retire in 1905 as head of the Boston Navy Yard. NH 54538

This trip, with the ship proving her worth, led to her appearing in the periodicals of the day in a much more impressive take. 

Dispatch-vessel Dolphin from The Illustrated London News 1891

Harpers Weekly cover USS Dolphin

Harper’s Weekly January 1886 USS Dolphin in sails

By the time she arrived back home, the Navy’s other steel ships were reaching the fleet and they all became part of the new “Squadron of Evolution.”

USS Dolphin (1885-1922); USS Atlanta (1886-1912); and USS Chicago (1889-1935) off New York City, about 1890. NH 69190

As with most Naval vessels of the era, Dolphin would spend her career in and out of commission, being laid up in ordinary and reserve on no less than three times between 1891 and 1911, typically for about a year or so. Today the Navy still conducts the same lengthy yard periods but keeps the vessels in commission.

In April 1891, Dolphin was detached from the Squadron of Evolution and the Navy made $40,000 available for her cabins to be refitted to assume the task of Presidential yacht from the older USS Despatch, a much smaller (560 ton) vessel that was in poor condition.

She would continue this tasking off and on mixed with yearly fleet exercises and experiments for the rest of her career.

Speaking to the latter, in April 1893, she embarked pigeons from the Naval Academy lofts, the Washington Navy Yard’s loft in Richmond, and of Philadelphia Navy Yard then released them while steaming off Hampton Roads. The birds all made it back to their nests, covering 98 miles, 212, and 214 miles, respectively, delivering short messages penned by the daughter of SECNAV Hilary A. Herbert.

The same year, she took part in the bash that was the Columbian Naval Review in New York, where Edward H. Hart of the Detriot Post Card Co. captured several striking views of her with her glad rags flying.

Dolphin LC-D4-8923

Dolphin LC-D4-20362

LC-D4-20364

In 1895, she carried out a survey mission to Guatemala

She carried President William McKinley and his party to New York for the ceremonies at Grant’s Tomb on 23 April 1897.

Grant Tomb dedication, 1897: View of Grant’s tomb, Claremont Heights, New York City, in the background, and the USS Dolphin and tugboats in the foreground. J.S. Johnston, view & marine photo, N.Y. LOC LC-USZ62-110717

Then came war.

1898!

In ordinary when the USS Maine blew up in Havanna, Dolphin recommissioned on 24 March 1898 just prior to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. She then rushed south to serve on blockade duty off Havana, Cuba, a mission she slogged away on during April and May.

It was during this period she captured the Spanish vessel Lola (31 tons) with a cargo of fish and salt.

She covered her white and buff scheme with a more warlike dark grey. 

U.S. Navy gunboat/dispatch vessel USS Dolphin (PG-24), port bow. Photographed by J.S. Johnston, 1898. LOC Lot-3370-8

USS Dolphin overhauling Schooner Kate [Kate S. Flint] with an unknown young woman in white. Dolphin in distance. Santiago de Cuba. 1898 Stevens-Coolidge Place Collection via Digital Commonwealth/Massachusetts libraries system.

A second view of the same centered on Dolphin.

On 6 June she came under fire from the Morro Battery at Santiago and replied in kind. Less than two weeks later, on 14 June, Dolphin bombarded the Spanish positions in the Battle of Cuzco Well, near Guantanamo Bay, carrying casualties back to the American positions there.

Sent back to Norfolk with casualties, she arrived there on 2 July and the war ended before she could make it back to Cuba.

U.S. Navy dispatch vessel, USS Dolphin, port view with flags. Lot 3000-L-5

Good work if you can get it

Her wartime service completed; Dolphin would spend the next two decades heavily involved in shuttling around dignitaries. This would include:

  • Washington Navy Yard for the Peace Jubilee of 14 May to 30 June 1899.
  • New York for the Dewey celebration of 26 to 29 September 1899.
  • Alexandria, Va., for the city’s sesquicentennial on 10 October 1899.
  • Took the U.S. Minister to Venezuela to La Guaira, arriving in January 1903.
  • From 1903 through 1905 she carried such dignitaries as the Naval Committee, Secretary of the Navy, Admiral and Mrs. Dewey, the Philippine Commissioners, the Attorney General, Prince Louis of Battenberg and his party, and President T. Roosevelt on various cruises.
  • Participating in the interment of John Paul Jones at the Naval Academy, and the departure ceremonies for the Great White Fleet, in 1908.

Early in August 1905, she carried the Japanese peace plenipotentiaries from Oyster Bay, N.Y., to Portsmouth, N.H., to negotiate the settlement of the Russo-Japanese War.

Footage exists of her role in the event.

She also was used in survey work during this time, completing expeditions to Venezuela and the southeast coast of Santo Domingo, in addition to carrying inspection boards to survey coaling stations in the West Indies.

She also had a series of updates. For instance, in 1910, she had her original single/double-ended boilers replaced with cylindrical boilers. In 1911, she had her 6-pounder mounts deleted due to obsolescence, and in 1914 her 4″/40s were removed as well. She also had her masts reconfigured from three to two in the early 1900s.

USS Dolphin steaming alongside USS Maine (BB-10), with the Secretary of the Navy on board, circa 1903-1905. Note she still has her figurehead bow crest. Description: Collection of Mr. & Ms. Joe Cahn, 1990. NH 102421

USS Dolphin docked at the western end of the Washington Navy Yard waterfront, District of Columbia, circa 1901. The view looks north. The old experimental battery building is on the right. NH 93333

USS Dolphin (PG-24) photographed following the reduction of her rig to two masts, during the early 1900s. Note her bowcrest figurehead is now gone. NH 54536

Back to haze grey! USS Dolphin (PG 24), which was used as a dispatch ship of the Naval Review for President William Taft in New York City, New York, on October 14, 1912. Note the battleship lattice masts in the distance and the torpedo boat to the right. Published by Bain News Service. LC-DIG-GGBAIN-10794

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt in the crow’s nest of the dispatch boat USS Dolphin off Old Point Comfort, VA during the Naval review. 10/25/1913. National Archives Identifier: 196066910

ASECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt on the USS Dolphin in 1913, observing gunnery trials of the fleet

USS Dolphin view looking forward from the bridge, taken while the ship was at sea in February 1916. Note ice accumulated on deck and lifelines. The original image is printed on postal card stock. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2005. NH 103039

War (again!)

Sailing from the Washington Navy Yard on 2 April 1917 to take possession of the recently purchased Danish Virgin Islands, four days later, Dolphin received word of the declaration of war between the United States and Germany. Arriving at St. Croix in the now-USVI on 9 April, she would carry the new American Governor-General James Oliver to and St. John on 15 April for a low-key flag-raising ceremony. The islands had initially been handed over in a ceremony on 31 March between the Danish warship Valkyrien and the American gunboat USS Hancock, but Oliver’s arrival on Dolphin sealed the deal.

Remaining in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean region to protect merchant shipping from German raiders and U-boats, Dolphin would pick up a camouflage scheme as she served as flagship for the very motley American Patrol Detachment at Key West, gaining a new 4″/50 gun and depth charges to augment her surviving 6-pounders.

USS Dolphin at Galveston, Texas, 1 March 1919. Photographed by Paul Verkin, Galveston. Note that the ship is still wearing pattern camouflage nearly four months after the World War I Armistice. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. NH 104949

She would remain in her quiet backwater into June 1920, when she was finally recalled to the East Coast and a short overhaul at Boston.

USS Dolphin (PG-24) at dock at Boston Navy Yard, MA, September 1920, back to a grey scheme. She had been designated a Patrol Gunboat, PG-24, 17 July 1920. S-553-J

Now 35 years old and with the Navy in possession of many much finer and better-outfitted vessels, Dolphin would have one last cruise. As the flagship of the Special Service Squadron, she joined the gunboat USS Des Moines (PG-29) in October 1920 to represent the U.S. at the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Straits of Magellan. The next year, she would attend the anniversary of Guatemalan independence.

Dolphin arrived at Boston Navy Yard on 14 October 1921. She was decommissioned on 8 December 1921 and was sold on 25 February 1922 to the Ammunition Products Corp. of Washington, DC. for scrapping. Rumors of her further service in the Mexican navy are incorrect, confusing a former steamer originally named Dolphin for our dispatch ship.

Epilogue

Few relics remain of Dolphin. Like most of the American steel warships, in 1909 she had her ornate bow crest removed and installed ashore. It was photographed in Boston in 1911 and, odds are, is probably still around on display somewhere on the East Coast.

Figurehead, USS Dolphin photographed in the Boston Navy Yard, 15 December 1911. NH 115213.

Her bell popped up on eBay in 2019 with a kinda sketchy story about how it got into civilian hands.

The National Archives has extensive plans on file for her. 

As for her name, the Navy recycled it at least twice, both for submarines: SS-169 and AGSS-555, the former a V-boat that earned two battlestars in WWII and the latter a well-known research boat that served for 38 years– the longest in history for a US Navy submarine.

Speaking of WWII, importantly, between 1915 and 1917, our USS Dolphin’s 18th skipper was one LCDR William Daniel Leahy (USNA 1897) who, interacting with then ASECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt, would become close companions. Although retired after service as CNO in 1939, Leahy would be recalled to service as the personal Chief of Staff to FDR in 1942 and served in that pivotal position throughout World War II. It is rightfully the little dispatch ship’s greatest legacy.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt in conference with General Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Admiral William D. Leahy, while on tour in the Hawaiian Islands., 1944. 80-G-239549

Specs:
Displacement 1,485 t.
Length 256′ 6″
Length between perpendiculars 240′
Beam 32′
Draft 14′ 3″
Speed 15.5 kts.
Complement 117
1910 – 152
1914 – 139
Armament: Two 4″ rapid fires, three 6-pounder rapid-fire guns, four 3-pounder rapid-fire guns, and two Colt machine guns
1911 – Two 4″/40 rapid-fire mounts and five 3-pounder rapid-fire guns
1914 – Six 6-pounder rapid-fire mounts
1921 – One 4″/50 mount and two 6-pounders
Propulsion two double-ended and two single-ended boilers (replaced by cylindrical boilers in 1910), one 2,253ihp vertical compound direct-acting engine, one shaft.


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Vandy Aglow

70 years ago: HMS Vanguard (23), the last British dreadnought, floodlit on a visit to Rotterdam, Holland, in early July 1952. 

IWM A 32246

The ship was lit for the occasion of a reception aboard the battlewagon by Commander in Chief Home Fleet, Admiral Sir George Creasy, for HM Queen Juliana and Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, and after dinner, the Queen– who was no stranger to British warships— went afloat in the C in C’s barge to see the illumination. 

The building in the background is Hotel New York, former headquarters of the Holland-America Lines.

Vanguard, commissioned in 1946– with a somewhat antiquated main battery left over from the 1920s– visited Rotterdam for a week after exercises with NATO warships.

At the time this photo was taken, she was still assigned to the Heavy Squadron of the Home Fleet. Minimally manned at the time, she operated with many of her turrets sealed off and with shells loaded in the magazines of just two of her 15-inch turrets while only star shells were carried for her secondary battery of 5.25-inch guns.

“HMS Vanguard entering Rotterdam during her visit to the Netherlands, 28 June 1952. She is the largest ship to enter the port.” Nationaal Archief Materiaalsoort.

Laid up in 1955 at Portsmouth after less than a decade of service– where she appropriately became Flagship of Reserve Fleet– Vanguard was decommissioned on 7 June 1960 and scrapped soon after, still in her teens.

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