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Warship Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017: The Potemkin’s little red brother

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

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017: The Potemkin’s little red brother

Here we see the modified Bogatyr-class 1st class protected cruiser Ochakov (Очаков) of the Tsarist Navy as she appeared when first commissoned. She went by several different names and flew a myriad of different ensigns in her time, including that of the first Red admiral and the last White Russian general.

Ordered as part of the Imperial Russian Navy’s 8-year building plan, the German yard of AG Vulcan Stettin won the contract to design and build a class of protected cruisers that, for the time of the Spanish-American War, were modern. The basic design was a 6,000-ton ship with a main battery of 152mm guns, a secondary battery of a dozen 75mm guns, six torpedo tubes (four on deck and two submerged), the capability to carry sea mines and make 23-knots. In short, the Tsar’s admiralty described these ships as “a partially armored cruiser, resembling a high-breasted battleship in appearance, and in fact is a linear, lightly armored ship.”

Bogatyr. Colorised photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

The cruisers of this type were rightly considered the best representatives of the class of medium armor deck cruisers of their day.

Only class-leader Bogatyr was built in Germany. Follow-on vessels Oleg and Vityaz were built in two Russian yards in St Petersburg, intended for the Baltic Fleet, while two others, Kagul (we’ll call her Kagul I, for reasons you will see later) and Ochakov were constructed in the Black Sea– the latter at the Lazarev Admiralty Yard in Sevastopol. As the five cruisers were built in five different yards spread across the continent, it should come as no surprise that they were all slightly different.

Laid down within 14 months of each other, they were envisioned to commission about the same time, however Vityaz was destroyed by fire on the builder’s ways in 1901 and scrapped, leaving the other four ships to enter service between August 1902 and October 1905, with the hero of our tale, Ochakov, named after a city in Mykolaiv region of Ukraine, joining the fleet on 2 October 1902 though, suffering from several defects in her electrical system and boilers, she was still in what could best be described as extended builder’s trails as late as November 1905.

OCHAKOV (Russian Protected Cruiser, 1902-1933). View made on deck looking aft toward the ship’s twin 6-inch mount and the bridge. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1986. Description: Catalog #: NH 101049

Trapped in the Black Sea due to Ottoman control of the Straits, Ochakov, and Kagul I did not participate in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905 though sister Oleg fought at the Battle of Tsushima and managed to barely escape to be interned in the Philippines while Bogatyr sortied from Vladivostok for commerce raiding during the conflict.

Speaking of the Black Sea Fleet in 1905, something happened that you may have heard of:

Caught up in the anti-Tsarist backlash that resulted from defeat in the Pacific and loss of two out of three Russian fleets, the country was thrown into the what is described as the Russian Revolution of 1905. Some two months after the war ended, one of the darkest chapters of that unsuccessful episode was The Sevastopol Uprising.

There, one Lt. Pyotr Petrovitch Schmidt, from an Odessa-based naval family of German decent (his father fought at Sevastopol during its great siege in the Crimean War), was something of a rabblerouser.

Schmidt

A graduate of the Naval Officers’ Corps in Saint Petersburg (53rd out of 307, class of 1886) he was soon dismissed to the reserves in 1889 after spending much of his time with the frozen Baltic Fleet on the sick list, but rejoined the warm Black Sea Fleet in 1892 only to transfer into the merchant shipping service in 1900, going on to command several steamers. Recalled to the colors for the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, he was given command of the coal transport Irtysh which was sailing for the Pacific to be sunk at Tsushima but before it left Russian waters he was thrown in the brig for insulting a fellow officer but later let out to rejoin his ship. However, by the time the fleet made it to Africa, he was back on the sick list and sent to the Black Sea Fleet to help hold it down for the duration of the war, nominally given command of Torpedo Boat No. 253.

Stripped of most effective officers and NCOs to man the other ill-fated Russian task forces and left with ships full of raw recruits and untalented leaders, the Black Sea Fleet in late 1905 was a powder keg of inefficiency that led to the famous mutiny of the battleship Potemkin in June, which was quickly put down and the ship recaptured, the 42 men considered to be in the thick of it thrown in the brig on the minelayer Prut.

Enter Schmidt, stage left.

He formed the “Union of Officers-Friends of the People in Sevastopol” and in October 1905 led a crowd to the Odessa city prison to protest the arrest of local revolutionaries and began distributing leaflets. This landed him in the jail alongside the other reds, but he was quickly released. He was cashiered at the rank of Captain 2nd Rank.

However, by 11 November, representative crew members from at least seven Black Sea Fleet warships were attending Schmidt’s group’s fiery meetings, with some calling for outright rebellion. The new sailors’ soviet elected him as their leader.

By 13 November, with an estimated 2,000 sailors and longshoremen in mutiny across Odessa, the officers of the Ochakov beat feet and left the mutineers in charge. The leaderless crew signaled that Schmidt should join them and he did, arriving at around 2 p.m. on 14 November with his 16-year-old son in tow and Imperial shoulder boards still on his uniform. Understrength– just 350 crew, with few senior NCOs and no officers remained– the unfinished warship was clearing for an uncertain fight.

Then they went to get the Potemkin‘s locked up leaders:

Having thrown out the Admiral’s flag on Ochakov and gave the signal: “I command the fleet, Schmidt”, with the expectation of immediately attracting the whole squadron to this insurrection, he sent his cutter to the “Prut” in order to release the Potemkin people. There was no resistance. “Ochakov” received the sailors-convicts on board and went around with them the whole squadron. From all the courts, there was a welcome “Hurray.” Several of the ships, including the battleships Potemkin [which had been renamed St. Panteleimon, the patron saint of accidents and loneliness] and Rostislav, raised a red banner; at the latter, however, it only fluttered for a few minutes.

By the morning of the 15th, Schmidt fired off a telegram to Tsar Nicholas II:

“The glorious Black Sea Fleet, sacredly devoted to the people, demands Your Majesty to immediately call a meeting of the Constituent Assembly, and no longer obeys orders of Your ministers. Commander of the Fleet P. Schmidt.”

While he initially had seven other warships answering his signals, and his little red fleet was a sight that no doubt gave every Bolshevik a lump in their throat, they realistically had no chance.

Over the course of the day, one by one the ships took down their red flag, leaving only the cruiser and a destroyer as the only rebels. Gen. Meller-Zakomelsky, the Tsar’s commander ashore, trained every gun in the harbor– including some 12-inch pieces– on the Ochakov and the gunners were loyal. An ultimatum was issued. The battleship Rostislav, with her 254mm guns and Vice Admiral Alexander Krieger aboard, closed to within 900m of the cruiser.

At 1600, the shore batteries and Rostislav opened fire, riddling the cruiser with at least 2 254-mm and 16 152-mm shells. She was able to get six shots off in return, which missed. A fire soon broke out on Ochakov, and Schmidt stopped the fight, lowered the national ensign and red flag, then hoisted a white one. It was all over in 20 minutes. Schmidt and 35 of the sailors thought key to the uprising were carted off in chains.

In March 1906, Schmidt and three men from Ochakov (sailors AI Gladkov, NG Antonenko, Quartermaster S. P. Priknik) were executed by a firing squad on windswept Berezan Island at the entrance of the Dnieper-Bug Estuary by the crew of the gunboat Terets.

Thrown into a shallow grave, it was unmarked until 1924 when the Soviets began erecting monuments to the people’s heroes of 1905. Of the other 300~ survivors of her red crew and the men that were recycled from the Potemkin mutineers, 14 were exiled to Siberia, 103 imprisoned at hard labor at terms several years, and 151 sent to labor battalions to serve the rest of their original enlistment.

As for Ochakov, her magazines flooded to prevent her from going in one quick puff of smoke, she smoldered for two days but did not sink. Towed into the yard for repairs, the blackened ship had 63 shell holes in her hull and superstructure and several compartments with human remains.

To erase her memory from the fleet, the ship was extensively reconstructed and, oddly enough, given the name of her sister– Kagul, which was in turn renamed Pamyat’ Merkuriya in March 1907.

Returning to the fleet, Kagul II as we like to call her (ex-Ochakov), was a much different ship. She proved relatively effective, rebuilt with lessons learned from her plastering by the fleet in 1905 and from against the Japanese.

She also became a test bed for seaplane use for reconnaissance and scouting purposes.

Russian Navy Curtiss Floatplane being hoisted aboard the Cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in February 1915, in the Black Sea. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drapshil of Margate, Florida, 1984. Description: Catalog #: NH 100152

Russian Navy Curtiss Floatplane being hoisted aboard the Cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in February 1915, in the Black Sea. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drapshil of Margate, Florida, 1984. Description: Catalog #: NH 100152

Russian Navy Curtiss F-type flying boat serial number 15 seen in the Black Sea, with the cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in the background. Information accompanying this photograph indicates that it was taken during the 28 March 1915 operation off the Bosporus. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1984.Catalog #: NH 100153

Russian Navy Curtiss F-type flying boat serial number 15 seen in the Black Sea, with the cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in the background. Information accompanying this photograph indicates that it was taken during the 28 March 1915 operation off the Bosporus. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1984.Catalog #: NH 100153

When the Great War came, the two cruisers served as the eyes of the Black Sea Fleet and hunted for the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau, bombarded fired the Turkish coast, covered mine laying expeditions (and themselves laid several of their own mine barriers) and captured or sank a number of Ottoman and later Bulgarian coasters.

Unidentified personnel seen on deck aboard the protected cruiser KAGUL (1902-1934) in The Black Sea on 20 March 1915. A twin 152mm/ 6-inch, 45-caliber gun turret appears in the center. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983 Catalog #: NH 94406

Unidentified personnel seen on deck aboard the protected cruiser KAGUL (1902-1934) in The Black Sea on 20 March 1915. A twin 152mm/ 6-inch, 45-caliber gun turret appears in the center. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983 Catalog #: NH 94406

AMALIA (Turkish Merchant Ship) Photographed in the Black Sea at the time of capture on 4 May 1915 off the Rumelian coast. This 430-register ton merchant ship was carrying a cargo of petrol. This view was taken from aboard the Russian cruiser KAGUL (1902-1932) which made the capture while on a raiding cruise. Description: Courtesy of Boris V. Drashpil Catalog #: NH 94798

AMALIA (Turkish Merchant Ship) Photographed in the Black Sea at the time of capture on 4 May 1915 off the Rumelian coast. This 430-register ton merchant ship was carrying a cargo of petrol. This view was taken from aboard the Russian cruiser KAGUL (1902-1932) which made the capture while on a raiding cruise. Description: Courtesy of Boris V. Drashpil Catalog #: NH 94798

Photographed in Port at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea on 27 March 1916 (old style calendar, 13 days behind present western dating). Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1893 Catalog #: NH 94408

Photographed in Port at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea on 27 March 1916 (old style calendar, 13 days behind present western dating). Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1893 Catalog #: NH 94408

After her Great War redemption, again came the revolution.

On 15 March 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated after a week of riots and mutinies by the Imperial Guard in Petrograd. The Baltic Fleet, Northern Fleet and Pacific Squadron followed suit in swearing allegiance to the Provisional Government, as did the Black Sea Fleet. Memories of the 1905 Mutiny in Odessa and Sevastopol were still strong and, at the end of the month with a red flag on her mast once more, Kagul (II) became Ochakov again, her sailor’s committee in charge.

With the decline of the Russian war effort against the Central Powers, and Lenin and Co removing the Provisional Government in November, the country dropped out of the conflict with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. Ceded to German/Austrian control as part of the pact, Ochakov was captured by the Germans in May and remained in nominal service to the Kaiser until the British arrived on 24 November, two weeks after the Armistice.

Turned over to the anti-Bolshevik White Army forces, the largely crewless warship became part of Lt. Gen. Anton Denikin’s Armed Forces of the South of Russia, which led to the cruiser being renamed after that force’s early leader, General Lavr Kornilov (who himself was zapped by Red artillery in April 1918).

In 1919, after Denikin’s attack upon Moscow faltered, he fell back to the Black Sea and evacuated the remnants of his forces from Novorossiysk to the Crimea where Lt. Gen. Piotr Wrangel took over the force, our cruiser included.

The endgame of Wrangel’s effort came in November 1920 when 140,000 soldiers, Cossacks, monarchists and general White Russian diaspora left the Crimea on everything that could float. Wrangel, on his yacht Lucullus, led the working ships of the Black Sea Fleet including two battleships, two cruisers (including our subject), 15 destroyers/escorts, and five submarines first to Constantinople and then to Bizerte in French North Africa where they arrived in December.

There, the fleet in being remained for four years under RADM. Mikhail Berens until its disarmament after the recognition by France of the Soviet Union on 29 October 1924, when her old Cross of St. Andrew was hauled down as ownership had been transferred to the Soviets. After inspection by emissaries from Moscow, Ochakov/Kornilov never left Tunisia and was instead sold as scrap in 1933. Some of her guns were later likely used in French coastal defenses.

GENERAL KORNILOV Possibly photographed at Bizerte, where the ship spent 1920 to 1932 as a unit of the White Russian "Wrangel-Fleet." From the P.A. Warneck Collection, 1981; Courtesy of B. V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida. Catalog #: NH 92158

GENERAL KORNILOV Possibly photographed at Bizerte, where the ship spent 1920 to 1932 as a unit of the White Russian “Wrangel-Fleet.” From the P.A. Warneck Collection, 1981; Courtesy of B. V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida. Catalog #: NH 92158

Of her sisters, Bogatyr was scrapped in Germany in 1922 after the Reds sold her for spare change along with a number of other Baltic Fleet vessels while Oleg was written off by the Bolsheviks as a combat loss 17 June 1919 after she was torpedoed and sunk by Royal Navy speedboat CMB-4 commanded by Captain Augustus Agar at Kronstadt. As for Kagul I (Pamiat’ Merkuria) she was unable to sortie with Wrangel’s last fleet and, captured at Sevastopol, was renamed Komintern and refitted with material salvaged from Bogatyr and Oleg, later fighting the Germans in WWII until her loss in 1942.

The name Ochakov was celebrated in the Soviet Union, going on to grace a Kara-class cruiser in 1969. Based in the Black Sea (where else?) she was decommissioned in 2011 but later sunk as a blockship to piss off the Ukrainians in 2014.

The more things change.

Specs:

Displacement: 7800 fl
Length: 439 ft. 8 in
Beam: 54 ft. 6 in
Draft: 20 ft. 8 in
Propulsion:
2 shaft vertical triple-expansion steam engines
16 Normand-type boilers
23,000 hp
Speed: 23 knots
Endurance: 5320 (10) on 1194 tons coal
Complement: 30 officers and 550 sailors
Armament:
(As built)
12 × 152mm (6 in/44cal) Obuhovsky/Canet guns (2 twin turrets and 8 single guns), 2160 rounds
12 × 75mm (3in/48cal) 11-pounder guns, singles, 3600 rounds
8 × 47mm Hotchkiss guns, single
2 × 5-barrel 37 mm guns Hotchkiss guns
6 × 17.7 in (450 mm) torpedo tubes
292 M08 Sea mines
(1917)
10x 130mm/53cal singles
12 × 75mm (3in/48cal) 11-pounder guns, single
2x 64mm landing guns
8 × 47mm Hotchkiss guns, single
2 × 5-barrel 37 mm guns Hotchkiss guns
2 x Maxim machine guns
6 × 17.7 in (450 mm) torpedo tubes
292 M08 sea mines
Armor:
Deck: 80 mm (3.1 in)
Turrets: 127 mm (5.0 in)
Casemates: 80 mm (3.1 in)
Conning tower: 140 mm (5.5 in)

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

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Warship Wednesday, Sept 13, 2017: The Queen of the Little White Fleet

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

Warship Wednesday, Sept 13, 2017: The Queen of the Little White Fleet

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97629

Here we see the Barnegat-class seaplane tender, converted to a floating command ship, USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38), illuminated at night during a two-day visit to Basra, Iraq, as Middle East Force flagship in December 1960. You start life wanting to refuel PBYs and end up bobbing around the Persian Gulf for years…

The 41 Barnegats were 2,500-ton, 311-foot long armed auxiliaries capable of floating in 12 feet of water. They had room for not only seaplane stores but also 150 aviators and aircrew. Their diesel suite wasn’t fast, but they could travel 8,000 miles at 15.6 knots. Originally designed for two 5-inch/38-caliber guns, this could be doubled if needed (and often was) which complemented a decent AAA armament helped by radar and even depth charges and sonar for busting subs.

All pretty sweet for an auxiliary.

The subject of our story, USS Duxbury Bay, is named for a popular 3-mile long bay on the coast of Massachusetts between Duxbury Beach on the east, Saquish Neck on the southeast, and the mainland on the west. The bay is also home to a maritime school that currently cycles through some 2,000 young mariners per year, so there’s that.

Laid down at the Lake Washington Shipyards, in Houghton, Washington, she was a fine craft easily mistaken for a destroyer escort or patrol frigate, as exhibited by these pre-commissioning builder’s photos:

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) Photographed off the Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington, on 28 December 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 33 Design 1F. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-82815

19-N-82816

19-N-82817

Commissioned on New Year’s Eve, 1944, she sailed for the war in the Pacific, arriving to support the 3rd Fleet at Kerama Retto off Okinawa, 26 April 1945 and fought in the campaign for that island through June, tending both seaplanes and small craft/PT-boats when needed while dodging kamikazes.

In July, Duxbury Bay shifted to Japanese home waters before ending the war off China. She served on occupation duty in the Far East through 13 July 1948, with two short breaks stateside, supporting patrol squadrons at Okinawa and Yokosuka, Japan; Jinsen, Korea; Shanghai and Tsingtao, China; before the victory of the Communists under Mao brought a general evacuation from the latter area.

In all, Duxbury earned two battle stars for World War II service and suffered no damage, the latter an accomplishment for any ship.

Starting 17 March 1949, she left Long Beach, California on a five-month circumnavigation sailing through the Pacific and Med to Norfolk, where she arrived in time for the Independence Day holiday.

While on this trip, she tagged in as the flagship of Task Force 126, the small body of U.S. warships and auxiliaries in the Middle East, primarily in the Persian Gulf.

During WWII, the so-called “Persian Corridor” was a vital route through Iran into Soviet Azerbaijan that the Allies used to pump over 4 million tons of Lend-Lease supplies through to the East Front– and turn Tehran away from Axis influence. While the Persian Gulf Command sunsetted in late 1945, TF 126 kept the lights on for the Navy in the increasingly important part of the globe.

Duxbury Bay would see much more of the region.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed during the decade following World War II in haze gray. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97626

Beginning in 1950, the Navy disestablished TF 126 and replaced it with the Middle East Force, which would be made up of two rotating destroyers and a dedicated flagship, which would also rotate. The three command ships for the MEF were all converted Barnegat-class ships: USS Valcour (AVP-55), USS Greenwich Bay (AVP-41) and our very own Duxbury— the oldest of the lot and the only one of the trio that had seen overseas WWII service.

Among the conversions done to the vessels were the installation of air conditioning and extensive canvas awnings over the decks, a white paint job to help reflect heat and show their status as “peace boats” (which earned them the title of the “Little White Fleet” a play on Teddy Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet”), more commo gear, and a reduction in armament.

In general, the three flagships would swap out every four months and conduct leisurely cruises back and forth through the Med, waving the flag everywhere they went. As time went by, they became very active in President Eisenhower’s People-to-People program, delivering humanitarian aid ranging from food to coloring books and sewing machines in small backwater ports throughout the region– remember, as long as the harbor was at least 12 feet deep, they were good-to-go, and they went!

They served not only as a task group commander, interacting with Western allies (they were familiar sights at HMS Jufair, the Royal Navy base in Bahrain and its counterpart, HMS Sheba in Aden) but as a growing diplomatic tool for the State Department and U.S. companies (think=oil) looking to do business in the region, hosting state visits from local leaders and royalty (Duxford herself carried Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to Somaliland in 1953).

The ships performed search-and-rescue missions for lost aviators and overdue boats, helped evac Western civilians in times of tension, served on the periphery of the 1956 Suez Crisis (which sent rotating MEF ships around the Cape of Good Hope rather than through the Med), and just generally served as modern station ships, a throw back to the old 19th century practise of gun boat diplomacy.

Now gleaming white, photographed in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 3 October 1957. Note her lack of 5-inch mounts. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) Photographed during the late 1950s. Note the extensive awnings fitted. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 95370

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed in the Shatt-al-Arab off Basra, Iraq, during her visit there on 12-14 December 1961 as Middle East Force flagship. Note she has the old-school Navy seaplane tender marking complete with pre-WWII “meatball” by her hull number. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102678

In all, Duxbury Bay served 15 tours of duty in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean as flagship for ComMidEastFor between 1950 and 1966, plus her original stint with TF 126.

While on stateside “down time” at Norfolk, she participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, refueed the occasional seaplane, helped run UDTs and amphibious training out of Little Creek, and was on the USS Kearsarge battle group that plucked Maj. Gordon Cooper’s “Faith 7,” the last Mercury space mission, out of the Atlantic on 16 May 1963 after 22 orbits.

Navy frogmen deploy from a hovering helicopter to begin the recovery process of the Mercury-Atlas 9 “Faith 7” Capsule, with astronaut Gordon Cooper on board. Accession #: UA 343.01 Catalog #: UA 343.01.02

After 15 rotations, it was decided to move to a more permanent forward-deployed flag and two of the three members of the LWF was pulled from service.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed ca. 1965 as Middle East Force flagship in her final configuration. She received a new mast and air search radar and a deck house extension during her last shipyard overhaul in the summer of 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 69826

Duxbury Bay was decommissioned on 30 April 1966, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the next day. Both Duxberry and Greenwich Bay were sold for scrapping in July 1967, with just over 20~ years of service on their hulls.

Of their sisters, many endured for a good while longer than Duxbury.

These hardy seaplane tenders gave yeoman service to the Coast Guard and Navy through the Vietnam conflict. The last member of the LWF, Valcour, remained as the standalone forward deployed flag for the Middle East Force, dubbed AGF-1, until she was relieved by USS La Salle (AGF-3) in 1972. Valcour went to the scrappers herself in 1977.

The last of the Barnegat afloat was the USS Chincoteague/Ly Thuong Kiet/Andres Bonifacto, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, South Vietnamese, and Philippine navies that was finally withdrawn from frontline service with the later in 1993. She endured another decade as a pierside hulk used for the occasional training until she was sent to the breakers in 2003.

The closest thing to a monument for these vessels is the USS/USCGC Unimak (AVP-31/WAVP/WHEC/WTR-379), the last of the class in U.S. service, which was sunk in 1988 as an artificial reef off the Virginia coast in 150 feet of water after three years with the Navy and 40 with the Coaties. .

For their part, veterans from our ship visit Duxbury Bay in Mass often and hold ceremonies to remember their vessel.

As for the Middle East Force, it grew into CENTCOM in 1983, with the Navy contingent labeled United States Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT) of course, and it is quite a bit larger than three little white seaplane tenders.

Also, if you are in Texas, Faith 7 is currently displayed at Space Center Houston.

Specs:

Barnegat type AVPs, WWII configuration, via Shipbucket

Displacement 1,766 t.(lt) 2,800 t.(fl)
Length 311′ 6″
Beam 41′ 1″
Draft 12′ 5″
Speed 18.2 knots (trial)
Fuel Capacities
Diesel 2,055 Bbls
Gasoline 84,340 Gals
Propulsion
Fairbanks-Morse, 38D8 1/2 Diesel engines
single Fairbanks-Morse Main Reduction Gears
Ship’s Service Generators
two Diesel-drive 100Kw 450V A.C.
two Diesel-drive 200Kw 450V A.C.
two propellers, 6,400shp
8,000 miles at 15.6 knots
Complement (as designed)
USN
Officers 14
Enlisted 201
USN Aviation Squadrons
Officers 59
Enlisted 93
Armament:
(1945)
one single 5″/38 cal. Mk 12, Mod 1 dual purpose gun mount
one quad 40mm AA gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
four twin 20mm AA gun mounts
depth charge racks
(1950)
one single 5″/38 cal. Mk 12, Mod 1 dual purpose gun mount
one quad 40mm AA gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
one Mk 52 Mod 3 director
one Mk 26 fire control radar
(1957)
one quad 40mm AA gun mount (deleted 1962)
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts (deleted 1962)
Assorted .50 cal M2 machine guns, small arms

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Sept 6, 2017: The Japanese brass band down Berlin way

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

Warship Wednesday, Sept 6, 2017: The Japanese brass band down Berlin way

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

Here we see the Imperial Japanese Navy Myoko-class heavy cruiser Ashigara on 24 May 1937 in Kiel Harbor with the charming German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee peeking over her stern. At their wartime displacements, the Ashigara was actually about as heavy as the German panzerschiffe and could outrun her by about seven knots.

But she wasn’t designed to fight the Germans in the Baltic.

While the Washington Naval Treaty, limiting the fleets of the France, Italy, Japan, the U.K and the U.S, was registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on 16 April 1924, the four Myōkō-class cruisers were ordered the same year with only a paper-thin veneer of compliance towards the document.

You got 10 8-inch guns, a top speed of 36-knots, 12 Long Lance torpedo tubes and up to 4-inches of armor in a ship less than 10K tons, OK!

While the treaty capped tonnage for cruisers at 10,000, the Myōkōs met this on paper but really went 11,600-tons standard and a jaw-dropping 15,933-tons at a full load. Equipped with 10 20 cm/50 (7.9″) 3rd Year Type guns in five double turrets, they were the most heavily armed cruisers of the day barring full-fledged battlecruisers and the German’s later pocket battleships, capable of raining 242.5-pound AP shells out to 30,000 yards.

A dozen Kampon boilers ran four geared turbines to a maximum of 130,000shp, generating over 36 knots at trials (for a more sedate 33.5 at full load). Equipped with a trio of reconnaissance planes, these long-legged vessels could be the eyes of the main fleet or operate as their own surface action group if needed. They carried a light belt of armor (102mm) over magazines and machinery, which tapered to as thin as 25mm over the guns.

The hero of our tale, Ashigara, was named for 3,978-foot volcanic Mount Ashigara on the border of Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures as well as recycling the name of a previous Imperial warship. Laid down at the Kobe Kawasaki yard in April 1925, she was commissioned 20 August 1929 and assigned to Cruiser Division 4 which consisted of Ashigara and her three sisters.

She was a showboat and participated in Emperor Hirohito’s Naval Review in 1930 and, following a one-year reconstruction after a turret explosion that killed 41, was designated flagship of her division under RADM. Kobayashi Sonosuke, then dispatched to Europe in March 1937.

Imperial Japanese Navy heavy cruiser Ashigara prior to the Spithead Coronation Fleet Review, May 19th, 1937

While on the way, she stopped and made merry at Singapore, Aden, the Suez Canal and Malta, arriving in Portsmouth in May where she participated in the Coronation Review in honor of “The Sailor King” George VI remember that Britain was a longtime Japanese ally.

IJN Heavy Cruiser Ashigara – 1937. Spithead. Note the two E8N Type 95 “Dave” seaplanes

From there, Ashigara went to Kiel.

Japanese and German naval officials celebrated first the anniversary of the Battle of Tsushima on 27 May, then the Battle of Jutland/Skagerraktag on 31 May.

The ship’s band was granted a special parade down Unter den Linden through the Brandenburg Gate– a feat likely not done by a Japanese martial band since. It was a major step in closer relations between the two countries.

Following up on the trip, in September, Prince Chichibu, Hirohito’s younger brother, visited Germany and was taken to the big Nazi rally at Nuremberg, further strengthening ties between the two nations. While this was occurring, Ashigara was back in the Pacific as the flagship of CruDiv 5 and was escorting a Japanese Imperial Army force to the Ma’andao islands and on to China.

Notably at the same time the Germans were training the Chinese Nationalist Army, who had been embroiled in full-scale conflict with the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese War since the Emperor’s troops crossed the Marco Polo bridge that July. With the growing pro-Japan vibe, Germany withdrew its support for China in 1938, recalling its advisors in May of that year.

Ashigara became a familiar sight in Chinese waters after that, photographed by U.S. Asiatic Naval officers and dutifully sent to the intelligence file.

HIJMS ASHIGARA Off Tsingtao, China, circa 1938.Description: Courtesy of Vice Admiral Morton L. Deyo, USN (retired)Catalog #: NH 77686

ASHIGARA off Tsingtao, China, circa 1938. The flagship of Vice Admiral Toyoda. Description: Courtesy of Rear Admiral J.P. Walker, USN (Ret), 1973.Catalog #: NH 78057

The view is taken at Tsingtao, China, in 1938. ASHIGARA at the center of the picture, to right of cruiser USS AUGUSTA. Description: Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Yarnell, 1974.Catalog #: NH 81240

Ashigara and the Asiatic fleet even bumped heads.

While trying to escape from the Sino-Japanese war zone in December 1937, the 22,000-ton Dollar Steamship Lines ocean liner SS President Hoover (which had been damaged by a Chinese air force bomber while on the Yangtze who mistook her for Japanese troop ship) ran aground off Taiwan and Ashigara raced to her distress call. Arriving on scene, she helped transfer survivors from the stricken liner to the waiting SS President McKinley and President Pierce. Aboard Hoover was a young crewmember by the name of Robert S. McNamara who later did some things in the 1960s for JFK.

It would be the last solid that the cruiser would pay to the U.S., as during the operation news of the Panay attack reached the rescue party, which by that time included two American destroyers, USS Barker and USS Alden, who quietly kept ready ammo on hand if things turned sour.

Ashigara later became a flagship for VADM Ibo’s Third Fleet and participated in the occupation of Vichy France’s Indochina in July-August 1941 on the lead up to her involvement in WWII proper.

(MH 6204) The Japanese cruiser ASHIGARA. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210824

When the balloon went up in December 1941, she participated in the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, covering landings at Vigan and the Lingayen Gulf while dodging bombs from Navy PBYs and Army B-17s.

She next appeared at Balikpapan and Makassar in the Dutch East Indies in February 1942, covering the landings there and escorting Japanese shipping against the ABDA forces, which ironically included the former SS Hoover rescue partners USS Barker and USS Alden.

Ashigara at Balikpapan 1942

This ended up in the Battle of the Java Sea, where Ashigara fired salvos that helped in the sinking of British cruiser HMS Exeter (who ran Graf Spee to ground in 1939) and destroyer HMS Encounter. The same battle saw Spithead review alumni HNLMS Java sunk, though not by Ashigara’s guns.

After April 1942, her war wound down as she was left in the comparative backwater of Makassar as a flagship of the Second Southern Expeditionary Fleet, shuttling from there to Singapore regularly over a two-year period.

Ashigara at Singapore July 1943-Jan 1944

Serving later as the guard ship at the former Dutch key port of Surabaya, she received 8 25mm AAA guns and a Type 22 radar. She would ultimately carry 48 of these guns, landing one of her four-pack of 610mm torpedo tubes to save weight. She also updated her seaplanes.

Myoko-class cruiser Ashigara preparing to catapult an Aichi E13A seaplane

While escorting troops and supplies between Burma and the Indies, as noted by Combined Fleets, she came across the submarine USS Jack (SS-259) but did not become perforated.

By October 1944, she was assigned to VADM Kiyobide’s CruDiv 21 and was headed for fleet action in the Philippines where over an eight-day period she shrugged off brushes with the submarines USS Besugo (SS-321), USS Sterlet (SS-392), USS Trigger (SS-237), LCDR O’Kane’s famous USS Tang (SS-306), USS Seadragon (SS-194), USS Shark (SS-314), USS Blackfish (SS-221), USS Icefish (SS-367).

Used as part of Operation Sho-I-Go, which became the Battle of Leyte Gulf Ashigara somehow managed to escape intact from that action to Palawan and later Brunei. Returning to the Philippines in December, she picked up a 500-pound bomb from an Army B-25 the day after Christmas but repaid the favor by bombarding the U.S. beachhead at San Jose in Mindoro on 27 December with 200 7.9-inch shells.

Falling back to her old Dutch East Indies stomping grounds, she played cat and mouse with the Free Dutch submarine O-19 over a week-long battle in April 1945 during which the fabulously lucky cruiser somehow missed eight different torpedoes. It would be the last time she made it from a cruiser-v-sub engagement intact.

It would be the last time she made it from a cruiser-v-sub engagement intact.

With the end game coming, Ashigara left Singapore with 1,600 Imperial troops and 489 tons of supplies for Batavia, Java, and came across the submarines USS Blueback (SS-326), HMS Trenchant (P331) and HMS Stygian (P249) in the narrow Bangka Straits on 8 June. Trapped between a coastal minefield and three hungry sharks, her goose was cooked.

HMS ‘Submarine Trenchant’ Sinks the Cruiser ‘Ashigara’, 8 June 1945 by David Cobb; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The British T-class boat managed to get within 4,000 yards of the cruiser and hit her with five out of eight Mark VIIIs fired. The skipper of the British sub, “Baldy” Hezlet, administered a coup de grace with two more fish from her stern tubes, with at least one hitting. In all, she took 75 percent of the embarked Japanese troops with her as well as an estimated 100 crew.

Ashigara was tied for the largest Japanese warship sun by the Royal Navy during the war. Hazelt, who also helped drag the X-boats to attack the Tirpitz among other WWII tasks, was awarded his second DSO and was eventually promoted to vice-admiral and appointed KBE before his retirement in 1964. He passed in 2007.

As for Ashigara, she had outlived her sisters Nachi (sunk, 4 November 1944 off Corregidor by aircraft from USS Lexington) and Haguro (sunk, 16 May 1945 during a fight with five Royal Navy destroyers in the Strait of Malacca). The last of the class, the crippled Myōkō, formally surrendered to Royal Navy units on 21 September 1945 and was subsequently towed to the Strait of Malacca to be scuttled in deep water.

Today, Ashigara is remembered in several scale model kits and her name has been recycled for a destroyer of the Atago-class (DDG-178) which also has its own model.

Specs:

10,000-tons official, 11,633 tons (standard load) 15,000+ (full load)
Length: 669 ft. overall
Beam: 56 ft.
Draught: 19 ft.
Propulsion:
4-shaft geared turbines
12 Kampon boilers
130,000 shp
Speed: 35.5 knots
Range: 7,000 nmi 7at 14 kn with 2214 tons fuel oil
Complement: 773 (950 by 1944)
Armor:
2032.5 tons
4″ (102mm) NVNC belt inclined 12 degrees
Torpedo bulges with 2.3″ (58mm) HT holding bulkhead
1.4″ (35mm) NVNC middle deck
1.4″ (35mm) NVNC lower deck
3.5″ (89mm) NVNC uptakes
3.5″ (89mm) bulkheads
1″ (25mm) NVNC turrets
Armament:
(As built)
10x 120/45 guns (5×2)
6x 4.7 in (120 mm)/45 guns (6×1)
12 x 610 mm (24 in) torpedo tubes (4×3)
(1944)
10x 120/45 guns (5×2)
6x 4.7 in (120 mm)/45 guns (6×1)
8 x 610 mm (24 in) torpedo tubes (4×3)
48x 25mm guns along with 13-go, 22-go radars
Aircraft carried: 3 E8N Type 95 “Dave” seaplanes as built, later Aichi E13A ‘Jake’ Type 0 Reconnaissance Seaplane after 1941
Aviation facilities: 2 Kure Type 2 Model 51 catapults

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Warship Wednesday, August 23, 2017: ‘Great Scott and huckleberries, look at that!’

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

Warship Wednesday, August 23, 2017: ‘Great Scott and huckleberries, look at that!’

U.S. Navy Catalog #: NH 63740

Here we see the experimental 94-foot USS Stiletto, the fastest torpedo boat in the world at the time, firing an early Howell type torpedo from her bow tube around 1890, likely on the Sakonnet River, Tiverton, Rhode Island, home of the Hotchkiss factory’s torpedo test range.

To understand Stiletto, first, let’s talk about Capt. Nat Herreshoff.

Born in Bristol, Rhode Island in 1848, Herreshoff was a renaissance man of the period when it came to designing steam, sailing and, later, motor yachts. An accomplished sailor as well as a mechanical engineer in the days before Tesla, he ran the famous Corliss Stationary Engine, a 1,000kW dynamo at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Returning to Rhode Island, he started the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol aimed at boat making as well as other endeavors.

As noted by MIT, from whence he came:

“Nathanael G. Herreshoff was a singular genius whose 75-year career produced six America’s Cup winners and hundreds of other highly successful vessels. He introduced modern catamarans and designed highly efficient steam engines…The many Herreshoff boats still winning races today further attest to his legendary standing.”

In May 1876, he built Lightning (HMCo #20), a 58-foot wooden hulled boat powered by a steam plant that broke 20.3-knots on her trials.

She carried two spar-type torpedoes, basically, bombs on sticks held like lances in front of the craft. Drawing just 22-inches of water, she was perfect for harbor and coast defense. Lightning was bought by the Bureau of Naval Ordnance as Steam Launch No. 6, for $5,000 to be used by the Torpedo Board of Ordnance at Newport, Commander George A. Converse, commanding.

Bow view of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.’s SPAR torpedo boat Lightning (Steam Launch No. 6), launched May 1876, and the first torpedo boat purchased by the U.S. Navy. The Lightning is on a wooden cradle in front of an unidentified building, believed to be located at the Naval Torpedo Station, on Goat Island, in Newport, Rhode Island. Note the spar torpedoes in their stored position from where they would be extended before use. Source: John Palmieri, Curator Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame.

With over 100 floating projects already worked through, in 1884 Herreshoff built Stiletto (HMCo project 118), a 94-foot wood-planked vessel with steel ribs as an experimental “Torpedo boat type, fitted as yacht.”

Unarmed and fitted with a 7-ft by 7-ft Almy boiler that could produce 359 hp on the inverted compound steam plant, the 28-ton vessel broke 26.4-knots in light condition and was originally rigged as a miniature three-masted schooner as a backup with her little masts looking like “walking sticks.”

Stiletto in 1887. Note the Yacht ensign and club pennants. By Nathaniel Stebbins – American & English Yachts, via Wiki

With her black hull and neat little white porthole row, the partially decked knife-shaped steamboat made a splash on the yacht club circuit during the 1885 summer season.

On June 10, while on the Hudson River in New York, she raced the 300-foot Hudson company paddle-wheel steamer Mary Powell which had “never been passed on the river” some 30 miles from West 22nd Street to Sing Sing prison.

The Mary Powell. Photo via the Fred B. Abele Transportation History Collection SC22662, Box 26, Folder 11a

According to a New York Times report from the day, a crew member from the speedy “Queen of the Hudson” Mary Powell called out to the tiny Stiletto, “That blamed little boat’ll bust itself tryin’ to beat us!” just before the race started.

Then, the Stiletto‘s skipper waved goodbye.

The Times:

Needless to say, Stiletto made the 30 mile trip to Sing Sing in something like 77 minutes, smoking her competition.

The next day, she beat the famous racing yacht Atalanta from Larchmont, New York to New London, Connecticut, gaining the title of the fastest ship on the water.

An illustration of the steam yacht Stiletto in her celebrated race against Atalanta, during the American Yacht Club Regatta, from Larchmont to New London, 11 June 1885. Image from The Frank Leslie Illustrated Newspaper. Navsource picture 05040120

With such a glowing record of speed, of course, Stiletto was purchased for the U.S. Navy under an Act of Congress dated 3 March 1887; and entered service in July 1887, attached to the Torpedo Station, Newport where she served alongside her smaller uncle Lightning.

She was commissioned as USS Stiletto, Wooden Torpedo Boat no. 1, WTB-1 (not to be confused with the later Warship Weds alum USS Cushing, a steel-hulled vessel, which was Torpedo Boat no. 1, TB-1) and was the Navy’s first torpedo boat capable of launching self-propelled torpedoes.

Made ready for war, her masts and sailing rigs were removed, wheelhouse reduced to a hatch, and was given a bow tube and trainable deck tube for LCDR John Howell’s Automobile Torpedo. Some 50 Howells had been ordered under contract through the Hotchkiss Ordnance Company of nearby Providence as the Mark I Torpedo. Why not have the Navy’s first real torpedo boat armed with its first real torpedo?

One of Howell’s Mk1 Locomotive torpedoes.

Capable of 25-knots, these early 14.2-inch wide fish had a 96-pound wet gun cotton warhead and could make 600 yards before running down the wind-up flywheel powered engine. Stiletto tested many of these on the company’s range in Tiverton.

They remained in service until 1896 when they had all (save for two, including the one  shown above at the Newport Museum) been expended.

USS STILETTO Firing a torpedo from her deck tube, about 1890. Catalog #: NH 63741

Stiletto (wooden torpedo boat). Starboard side. 1891. Note the drastically different scheme from her 1887 yacht racing days.Photo via National Archives/NH 69210

Stiletto spent her entire naval career at the Torpedo Station, and as noted by the curator of the Herreshoff Museum, she was taken out of the water over the winter for maintenance.

She did, however, make it to Hampton Roads and back to the Hudson periodically for naval reviews and parades.

U.S. Navy ships from left to right: USS Concord (Patrol Gunboat #3), the wooden torpedo boat USS Stiletto, and USS Columbia (Cruiser #12) in New York Harbor, New York. Note the Statue of Liberty behind the warships. Reproduction of artwork by Fred S. Cozzens, 1894. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Lot-3365-2

USS STILETTO in Hampton Roads, Virginia, during a naval review. Courtesy of Erik Heyl. Catalog #: NH 64050

Howell’s last torpedo on the deck of USS STILETTO, 1896. Courtesy of the Newport Artillery Co. Museum, Newport, R. I., 1974. Catalog #: NH 81307

Stiletto. Likely firing a Bliss model fish from her bow tube. Note the different nose shape from the Howell. 1900 via National Archives

NH 63742 USS STILETTO (1887-1911)

USS STILETTO (1887-1911) Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Skerritt Collection of the Bethlehem Steel Co. Archives. Catalog #: NH 64051

From left to right, the USS Porter (TB-6), USS Stiletto (WTB-1), and USS Cushing (TB-1) in Narragansett Bay. Nathanael Herreshoff was on board the Porter when this photograph was taken, and recorded the date in his diary as having been on December 18, 1896. Source: John Palmieri, Curator Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame; http://www.herreshoff.org, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Besides testing the Howell and later Bliss model Whitehead torpedoes after 1891, Stiletto was used for special missions such as “running 12-hour high-speed trips delivering 2 tons of smokeless powder to New York ammunition depots.”

Reboilered in 1891, she was later fitted with an oil-fired suite which proved unimpressive.

By 1897, on the cusp of the Spanish-American War, the Navy had worked out torpedo tactics, had over 300 torpedoes in their magazines and a score of relatively ocean-going steel-hulled torpedo boats, none of which would have been possible without Stiletto.

During the war, she provided coastal defense duties and lingered on for a decade longer, marked for disposal after nearly 25 years as a floating test bed.

Struck from the Navy list on 27 January 1911, she was sold six months later to James F. Nolan of East Boston, Mass., for scrapping.

As for the Howells, in 2013, Space and Naval warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) discovered and recovered a spent Howell off the San Diego coast, near Hotel Del Coronado, during a mine-hunting training exercise with Navy dolphins.of stamped. Stamped “USN No. 24” it is only the third known to exist, with the other two held in the collection of the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. and the Naval War College Museum in Newport.

Specs:

Construction plan for the 94′ Stiletto, HMCo. # 118, via MIT

Displacement: 31 tons
Length: 94-feet
Beam: 11′ 6″
Draft: 4′ 10″
Fuel: 4 tons of egg coal, max
Boiler: sectional water tube-type 7-ft by 7-ft carrying 160-lbs of steam.
Engine: inverted compound condensing-type engine with 12.6- and 21-in diameter cylinders; 359 ihp (450 ihp under forced draft); 1 shaft.
Screw: 4′ diameter. 4 blades; 400 rpm.
Trial speed: 26.4 knots clean. Navy service speed: 18.2 knots
Complement: 6 (in Navy service, as few as three in civilian)
Armament: 2 early torpedoes

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TROMP view taken circa 1939. Catalog #: NH 80910

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HNLMS Tromp docked in 1946

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specs:

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

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

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of that napalm smell…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well about that…

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

From VMF-312’s unit history:

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

It was quite a feat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for Sicily‘s heroes, their tales endure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specs:


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

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Aug 9, 2017: The King’s most curious battlecruiser

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

Warship Wednesday, Aug 9, 2017: The King’s most curious battlecruiser

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

Here we see the modified Courageous-class battlecruiser HMS Furious (47) of the Royal Navy as she appeared extensively camouflaged in 1942, during her Second World War. By the time this image was taken, she had come a long way and still had many miles to travel.

One of the last developments of Adm. Jackie Fisher’s love affair with the battlecruiser, the shallow draft Courageous-class vessels (25 feet at a deep load, which isn’t that bad for a ship with an overall length of 786-feet) were fast and were the first large warships in the Royal Navy to use Parsons geared steam turbines with Yarrow small-tube oil-fired boilers to generate a speed of 32+ knots. They were designed to carry a quartet of BL 15-inch Mark I guns in two twin turrets recycled from Revenge-class battleships, along with 18 BL 4-inch Mark IX guns in six mounts.

While this was significantly less than some other battlecruisers and battleships, these boats were meant to be more of a super cruiser that could eat German armored cruisers for breakfast. As such, they only had a smattering of armor– a coupled inches of high-tensile steel in the belt and as much as 10-inches Krupp cemented armor in turrets, barbettes, and tower.

How the class was designed to look via Conway’s

Three were laid down in 1915, with class leader Courageous and Furious at Armstrong’s storied works at Elswick, and Glorious at Titanic builder Harland and Wolff in Belfast.

Our subject was the fifth and last HMS Furious on the Royal Navy’s list since 1797 to include two different 12-gun brigs that served in Nelson’s era, an 1850s paddle frigate, and an Arrogant-class second class protected cruiser that had just been hulked in 1915– while our battlecruiser was on the way.

The thing is, while they were under construction a few realizations came about battlecruisers– look up Jutland and the “Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today,” moment.

Glorious and Courageous were finished just after Jutland and were both modified with a dozen torpedo tubes, the latter ship also equipped to sow mines in quantity, and both assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron with Courageous as the flag.

Furious received a more extensive modification.

Her forward 15″ turret was ditched and a hangar for 10 single-engine biplanes was fitted on her foredeck with a 160-foot long wooden flight deck affixed to the top of the structure. On the rear, her remaining twin 15″ turret was swapped out for a single 18″/40 (45.7 cm) Mark I gun for which she would carry 60 massive 3,320-pound shells. Instead of the 18 4-inchers in 6 turrets as designed, she received 11 5.5-inch singles.

In such condition, she was commissioned 26 June 1917

BRITISH SHIPS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR (SP 89) HMS FURIOUS as originally completed, with 18′ gun aft and flight deck forward, 1917 Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205027917

Another view of the sweet 18. Note that these mountings used sighting ports in the glacis plate rather than sighting hoods. National Maritime Museum Photograph E13/276. Via Navweaps

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 74101) HMS Furious. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205318889

HMS Furious photographed when first completed in 1917, with a single 18-inch gun aft and flying-off deck forward. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 60606

Then came the flight experiments.

The most important of the time was when Squadron Commander Edwin Harris Dunning, a 25-year-old aviator who had already earned the DSC, became the first pilot to land an aircraft on a moving ship when he placed his Sopwith Pup aboard Furious while she was sailing just off Scapa.

Squadron Commander Dunning making the first successful landing on a ship at sea in 1917. After “crabbing” in sideways above the deck built over the fore part of the cruiser FURIOUS, his brother pilots had to haul him down. IWM A 22497. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

While he made a second landing five days later (100 years ago this week), on his third an updraft caught his port wing, throwing his plane overboard. Sadly, the daring young man was knocked out on impact and drowned.

Commander Dunning goes over the side and is killed when attempting the third landing on HMS FURIOUS (7 August 1917).© IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205154698

This led to a further change in how Furious did business and she was reconstructed for the second time after the accident, removing the rear 18-inch single and fitting another 300 feet of deck to allow launches forward and landings aft in November. When she emerged in March 1918, she was significantly different.

How they were catapulted:

A Sopwith Pup being readied for take-off from the flying-off deck of HMS FURIOUS. Note the gear. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205092010

On how they were trapped:

An early experiment made in FURIOUS designed to stop aircraft from slithering over the side. Parallel rows of wires acted as guides to the undercarriage, while collapsible barricades helped to slow the aircraft. The aircraft is a Parnell “Panther”, two-seater reconnaissance biplane. It had a folding fuselage instead of the usual folding wings. The hinge can be seen just below the back edge of the rear of the cockpit, the rear half of the fuselage folding to a position parallel with the starboard wings. The Hydrovanes ahead of the wheels assisted “landings in the drink”. The fore-and-aft elongated sausages on landing gear struts could be inflated with CO2 gas to support the aircraft right way up in the water. The dog-lead catches on the axle picked up the fore-and-aft deck wires.

The Panther with the above-mentioned trap means. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205154695

HMS FURIOUS at anchor, in dazzle camouflage at Scapa 1918. Note her 18incher has been landed and she has a new 300-foot deck aft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205121875

HMS Furious, a converted cruiser serving as an aircraft carrier, viewed at “Dress Ship” when King George V inspected the Grand Fleet in September 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205318369

Aerial view of the aircraft carrier HMS Furious at Scapa Flow, 1918. Note the large floatplane off her bow. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205213857

HMS Furious photographed in 1918, with palisade windbreaks raised on her flying-off deck, forward, and an airplane just behind her crash barrier, aft of the funnel. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 61098

HMS Furious shortly following its initial conversion and in dazzle paint scheme in 1918. An SSZ class blimp is on the after deck with her gondola inside the elevator. Note the walkways between the two flight decks

In July 1918, Furious sailed towards Denmark as part of Operation F.7, attached to a force of Revenge-class battleships and fast cruisers, with seven Sopwith Camel 2F.1a’s aboard.

HMS FURIOUS with Sopwith Camels on her flight deck, en route for the attack on the Zeppelin sheds at Tondern in Schleswig-Holstein, 19 July 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205039749

The mission: strike Tonder airfield, home to three German Naval Airship Division zeppelin sheds. The daring pre-dawn raid on 19 July by the small force of Camels destroyed the airships L.54 and L.60 on the ground and damaged the base and sheds. Of the Camels, four ditched at sea after either running out of gas or experiencing engine trouble and three were interned in Denmark.

One pilot, Lieut. W.A. Yeulett, drowned and his body was recovered on the beach nine days later. He received the DFC.

After the war, Furious was laid up and, in 1924, her two battlecruiser sisters were converted to aircraft carriers. To keep up with the class, Furious herself underwent a serious reconstruction which involved scraping off her superstructure, masts, funnel and existing landing decks and replacing them with an upswept 576×92 foot deck with an island. A double-decker hangar deck was installed under the roof. Her armament was updated with some QF 2-pounder “pom-poms” and eventually, her older 5.5-inchers were replaced by new QF 4-inch Mk XVI guns.

HMS Furious sketch, possibly prepared by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, showing her anticipated appearance after reconstruction, as understood in May 1923. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 60974

HMS Furious photographed after completion of her reconstruction, circa 1925. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 77035

Putting back to sea, she made several other important carrier milestones including the first carrier night-landing while testing and operating more than a dozen different model carrier planes that came and went over a decade long expansion of the Fleet Air Arm. During this interwar period, as more flattops joined the RN, she was increasingly used for training purposes.

HMS Furious circa 1935-36 with 4 Blackburn Baffins flying over.

Blackburn Shark (in the foreground) and a Fairey IIIf flying over HMS FURIOUS. The Shark went into service in 1934 and was a torpedo-spotter-reconnaissance aircraft that was soon replaced by the Fairey Swordfish in 1937. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205085238

Ski jump! The forward end of the flight deck of HMS FURIOUS sloped upwards before she was finally reconstructed in 1939. The idea was to help pull up the aircraft, which in the early days were not fitted with brakes. The aircraft is a “Blackburn” 3-seat spotter-reconnaissance biplane. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205154697

The aircraft carrier HMS FURIOUS, photographed from an aircraft that has probably just taken off from the ship, note the unusual feature of a lower flying off deck, this was disused before the start of the Second World War. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205021217

Then came her next war.

As noted by Gordon Smith, Furious was “extensively deployed during WW2 until withdrawn from operational use when modern Fleet Carriers became available supplemented by several Light Fleet and Escort Carriers. She took part in operations off Norway throughout the war, carried out deliveries of aircraft to Malta and to the Middle East via West Africa as well as providing air cover for Atlantic and Malta convoys and supporting the allied landings in North Africa.”

Sadly, both of Furious‘ sisters were lost before the war was a year old. HMS Courageous (50) was sunk by U-29, 17 September 1939, taking over 500 of her crew with her. HMS Glorious was destroyed in a surface action with the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in the North Sea 8 June 1940 while evacuating Norway, with the loss of over 1,200.

Furious had more luck.

Notably, she was involved in escorting precious cargo to and from Canada to the UK to include £18,000,000 in gold bullion going to Halifax and the bulk of the 1st Canadian Division heading the other way. Armed with such dated aircraft as Swordfish and Sea Gladiators, she ran the North Atlantic on five different convoys.

She carried nearly 300 RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires into the Med where flying from shore, they helped keep Rommel at bay and the thin thread of lifeline to Montgomery intact.

Sea Hurricane on the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Furious. Her battlecruiser hull is evident.

And more visits from the sovereign, here King George VI is inspecting the Furious, August 1941. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205138981

Bow-on shot Nov 2, 1942 Underway during Torch. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120436

Then came the Torch Landings in November 1942 where Furious‘s Seafires strafed Vichy French airfields and covered the landings at Oran. She later served as a diversion to the landings in Sicily by appearing off the coast of Norway to menace the Germans there beforehand.

And Norway would be the focus of the rest of her war. Between April-August 1944, she was involved in no less than three different operations (Tungsten, Mascot and Goodwind) in which her composite airwings of Barracudas, Seafires, Hellcats and Swordfish made attempts with other carriers to sink the battleship SMS Tirpitz.

The men and machines of HMS FURIOUS which took part in the Fleet Air Arm attack on SMS TIRPITZ in Alten Fjord, Norway. Here Bob Cotcher, of Chelsea, chalks his message on a 1600-pound bomb just before the attack 3 April 1944. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186984

Commander S T C Harrison of the ship’s air staff briefing Fleet Air Arm crews in their flying gear on board HMS FURIOUS with the aid of a relief map of the target area before the attack on the German Battleship TIRPITZ in Alten Fjord, Norway. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186985

While they did not bag Tirpitz (though several of Furious’ bombs did hit her), the carrier’s airwing sank the ore hauler Almora and the tanker Saarburg in Kristiansund North on 6 May.

6 May 1944 Members of the crew of the FURIOUS have an early breakfast of ham sandwiches and cocoa during the operation. Note the pom poms. Aircraft from the carrier sank two enemy merchantmen that day. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205155280

Her last operation was in laying minefields off Vorso Island in September 1944, Tirpitz turned over to the RAF to kill.

Furious finished the war in Home Waters, performing training and testing services. She was laid up after VE-Day, not needed for the war in the Pacific, and was sold for scrap in 1948.

She lives on in maritime art as well as wherever ski jumps, catapults, and arresting wires are enjoyed.

A view of the aircraft carrier HMS Furious at sea, shown port side on. Furious is painted in a dazzle camouflage scheme. The sea is choppy and there is a cloudy sky above. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/21413 By the great Charles Pears.

Also, earlier this month, Commander Dunning and his Sopwith Pup were honored at a ceremony at Scapa, on the 100th anniversary of their famous flight.

In attendance was R. ADM. Fleet Air Arm Keith Blount, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation, Amphibious Capability and Carriers), who said “Those of us in the Fleet Air Arm that are still proud to serve are standing on the shoulders of giants, and Dunning was one of the greats, there is no questions about that.”

Specs:

Displacement:
22,500 long tons (22,900 t)
26,500 long tons (26,900 t) (deep load)
Length:
735 ft. 2.25 in (224.1 m) (p/p)
786 ft. 9 in (239.8 m) (o/a)
Beam: 88 ft. (26.8 m)
Draught: 27 ft. 3 in (8.3 m)
Installed power: 90,000 shp (67,000 kW)
Propulsion:
4 shafts, 4 Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines
18 Yarrow boilers
Speed: 32 knots as designed, 28 by 1939
Range: 7,480 nmi (13,850 km; 8,610 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 795 plus up to 400 airwing
Armor:
Belt: 2–3 in (51–76 mm)
Decks: .75–1 in (19–25 mm)
Bulkhead: 2–3 in (51–76 mm)
Torpedo bulkheads: 1–1.5 in (25–38 mm)
Armament:
(as completed)
1 × single 18-inch (457 mm) gun
11 × single 5.5-inch (140 mm) guns
2 × single QF 3-inch (76 mm) 20 cwt AA guns
2 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(1925)
10 × single 5.5-inch guns
6 × single QF 4-inch Mark Vs
(1944)
12x QF 4-inch Mk XVI guns
6x QF 2-pounder
22x 20mm Oerlikon
Aircraft carried: 10 as completed, 36 by 1925, as many as 50 during WWII

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