Category Archives: World War One

Warship Wednesday, March 31, 2021: NOLA by way of Brazil

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

Warship Wednesday, March 31, 2021: NOLA by way of Brazil

Published by Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Here we see the Elswick-built Chacabucu-class protected cruiser USS New Orleans (later CL-22) at Brooklyn Navy Yard in the 1900s. Prominently displayed is the cruiser’s elaborate stern decoration, which looks a lot like the Brazilian national emblem, and for good reason.

As part of a general Latin American naval build-up, Brazil ordered four cruisers in 1894 from Armstrong, Whitworth & Co from a design by British naval architect Philip Watts at ₤265,000 a pop. These ships, with a 3,800-ton displacement on a 354-foot hull, were smaller than a frigate by today’s standards but in the late 19th century, with a battery of a half-dozen 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Marks IX guns and Harvey armor that ranged between 0.75 inches on their hull to 4.5-inches on their towers, were deemed protected cruisers.

For batting away smaller vessels, they had four 4.7-inch (120mm) Armstrongs, 14 assorted 57 mm and 37mm quick-firing pieces, and three early Nordenfelt 7mm machine guns. To prove their worth in a battle line, they had three torpedo tubes and a brace of Whitehead 18-inch fish with guncotton warheads. They would be the first ships in the Brazilian fleet to have radiotelegraphs and were thoroughly modern for their time.

However, their four Vosper Thornycroft boilers and turbines, augmented by an auxiliary sailing rig, could only just make 20 knots with everything lit on a clean hull.

The lead ship of the class, laid down as Chacabucu (Elswick Yard Number 629) for the Brazilian government in March 1895, was sold to the Chileans just six months later with her name duly switched to Ministro Zenteno after a hero of the latter country. The second vessel, Almirante Barroso (Yard No. 630), was ordered in November 1894 and commissioned on 29 April 1897. Yard Nos. 631 and 676 were to be Amazonas and Almirante Abreu.

Amazonas in British waters on builder’s trials with no flags. Photo via Vickers Archives.

When things got squirrelly between the U.S. and Spain in early 1898 over Cuban independence and the lost battleship USS Maine, American purchasing agents were active in Europe both to A) expand Uncle Sam’s fleet, and B) prevent the Spaniards from doing the same.

This led to an agreement to buy from Brazil the old dynamite cruiser Nictheroy, though without her guns, and the two nearly complete cruisers outfitting on the Tyne. Lt. John C. Colwell, the naval attaché in London, personally took delivery of both British-built cruisers at Gravesend, England on 18 March, just a month after the loss of Maine and still a month before the American declaration of war.

With that, Nictheroy became USS Buffalo, Amazonas very quickly became USS New Orleans –the first time the name was carried by an active warship on the Navy List– and Almirante Abreu would eventually join the fleet as USS Albany. New Orleans, ready to go, would be sailed across the Atlantic by scratch crews from the cruiser USS San Francisco while English engineers handled the machinery, recording her Brazilian name in her logbook for the crossing.

USS New Orleans arrives off the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, after crossing the Atlantic. Note oversize commissioning pennant flying from her mainmast, and Brazilian Navy paint scheme. She had been purchased from Brazil on 16 March 1898, while still under construction in England. Sailing on her inaugural Atlantic crossing was a 15-man Marine det commanded by 1LT George Barnett, a future 12th Commandant of the Corps. NH 45114

She proved a popular subject with photographers, after all, she was a brand-new cruiser that descended seemingly from Mars himself, on the eve of the nation’s first conflict with a European power since 1815.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Docked at the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, immediately after her maiden voyage from England. The receiving ship USS Vermont is at the left. Note New Orleans’ extra-long commissioning pennant. NH 75495

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans. The photo is listed as an “8-inch gun crew” although it is a 6″/50 (15.2 cm) Mark 5 Armstrong gun. Perhaps the caption was propaganda. Note the Marine in marching order and the bosun to the left with his pipe in his pocket. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912.

US Navy protected cruiser USS New Orleans, six-inch gun. Note the small guns in the mast. Also, the man photobombing to the right of the frame, likely the photographer (Edward H. Hart) due to his bespoke hat. Published by Detroit Publishing Company, possibly 1898.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Photographed during the Spanish-American War, 1898. Note the change in her scheme from the Brazilian pattern. NH 45115

US Navy protected cruiser USS New Orleans (1898-1930, later PG-34, CL-22) leaving Brooklyn Navy Yard during the Spanish-American War. Photographed by Edward H. Hart, published by Detroit Publishing Company, 1898. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-DIG-DET-4A13959

Her Span Am War service was significant, shipping out of Norfolk three weeks after the declaration and meeting the Flying Squadron off Santiago de Cuba on 30 May. The next day, our new cruiser, along with USS Massachusetts (Coast Battleship No.2) and USS Iowa (Coast Battleship No.4) reconnoitered the harbor, exchanging heavy fire with both Spanish ships and shore batteries.

Attack on Santiago, 31 May 1898 by USS MASSACHUSETTS (BB-2), USS IOWA (BB-4), and USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) by W.B. Shearer. USN 903384

New Orleans went on to spend the rest of her war on blockade duty, shuffling between Guantanamo Bay and San Juan. On 17 July 1898, she captured the French blockade runner Olinde Rodrigues trying to sneak into the latter and sent her, under a prize crew, to Charleston, South Carolina. The steamship was owned and claimed by La Compagnie Generale Transatlantique out of Harve, which later became the subject of a lengthy court case that, in the end, left the New Orleans’s crew without prize money.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Halftone photograph, taken during the Spanish-American War and published in the book War in Cuba, 1898. Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1977. NH 85648

Immediately after the conclusion of hostilities, she took part in the Peace Jubilee in New York, visited her namesake “hometown” in the Crescent City, then sailed for the Philippines via the Suez, arriving just before Christmas 1899, where she would remain on station for four years.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans on Asiatic Station, 1902. Shown is CPT (later RADM) Charles Stillman Sperry (USNA 1866), skipper, and his XO, LCDR James T. Smith. Note the ornate triple ship’s wheels in the background. Donation of Walter J. Krussel, 1949. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Laid up from 1905 to 1909, she recommissioned in 1910 with a new suite of American-pattern guns and headed to the Far East once again, with a gleaming new scheme worthy of TR’s Great White Fleet.

LOC LC-D4-5521

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) Photographed before World War I in her white scheme. Note signalman atop the bridge. Description: Courtesy of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973.NH 92171

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans, quarter-deck over the stern. Note her searchlights and torpedo-busting guns in the tower. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912

Officers, crew, and mascot of USS New Orleans at Yokohama (CL-22), Japan, 1910. Note the flat caps and cracker jacks of the sailors; fringed epauletted body coats and cocked hats of the officers; outfits that were much more 19th Century than 20th. Via the Yangtze River Patrol Association.

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) Flying a “Homeward Bound” pennant, circa 1912. Halftoned photo original view was courtesy of “Our Navy” magazine. NH 45118

By 1914, she was back in North American waters, spending time– along with most of the other surface assets of the fleet– in Mexican waters, patrolling that country’s Pacific coast in a haze gray scheme. This was a mission she would continue for three years, alternating with trips back up to Puget Sound where she would serve as a training vessel for the Washington State Naval Militia.

USS New Orleans CL-22. March 1916 crew photo taken during an overhaul at PSNS. Note the difference in uniforms from the China photo taken just six years prior. Via Puget Sound Navy Museum.

When the U.S. entered the Great War, she was transferred to the Atlantic, arriving at Hampton Roads on 27 August 1917. From there, she escorted a convoy carrying Doughboys and materiel to Europe. However, with plenty of ships on tap in the British Isles, the funky third-class cruiser received orders once more for the Pacific, reaching Yokohama from Honolulu on 13 March 1918.

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) En route to the Asiatic Station, early in 1918, note her dark gray scheme. NH 45120

It was about this time that the Western Allies decided to intervene in the affairs of civil war-torn Russia, landing troops in Vladivostok in the Pacific as well as Archangel and Murmansk in the White/Barents Seas.

U.S. Soldiers parade in Vladivostok, Aug. 1918, a mission that would span four years and involve New Orleans for most of that. 

New Orleans would remain off and on as a station ship in Vladivostok until 17 August 1922, as the city’s population had quadrupled from 90,000 to more than 400,000 as refugees from the anti-Bolshevik White Russian forces and the Czechoslovak Legion, the latter formed from Austro-Hungarian Army POWs in Siberia, swelled the port, seeking to escape the oncoming Reds. Sheltered under the guns of American, British, French, and Japanese ships, the city remained the last large holdout from Moscow’s control, only being secured by the Red Army in October 1922 with the withdrawal of the hated “Interventionists.”

Czech Maj. Gen Radola Gajda and Captain E. B. Larimer on the deck of USS NEW ORLEANS, Vladivostok, 1919. A former Austrian and Montenegrin army field officer, Gajda helped the Russians raise the Czech legions in 1916 and would later become a high-level commander in the White Army in Siberia– even leading a coup to get rid of its overall leader, Russian Adm. Alexander Kolchak. Gajda would escape Vladivostok for Europe and briefly become the Chief of the General Staff for the Czech Army in the mid-1920s. Note his Russian cossack-style shashka saber with a knot as well as a mix of Russian, Austrian and Montenegrin medals. NH 1097.

Her last mission completed, and her tonnage held against the fleet in future naval treaties, New Orleans returned to Mare Island on 23 September, after calls en route at Yokohama and Honolulu, and was decommissioned on 16 November 1922. Stricken from the Navy List on 13 November 1929, she was sold for scrapping on 4 February 1930 to D. C. Seagraves of San Francisco, California.

As for her sisters, Chacabucu/Ministro Zenteno remained in Chilean service until 1930 and was scrapped while about the same time the Brazilian Barroso was disarmed and turned into a floating barracks, ultimately being written off sometime later, date unknown.

Zenteno and Barroso, Jane’s 1914 listing.

Albany missed the Span Am War, being commissioned in the River Tyne, England, on 29 May 1900. Sailing for the Far East from there where she would serve, alternating cruises back to Europe, until 1913 she only went to the U.S. for the first time for her mid-life refit. Recommissioned in 1914, Albany served off Mexico, gave convoy duty in WWI, and ended up with sister New Orleans briefly in Russia. With the post-war drawdown, she was placed out of commission on 10 October 1922 at Mare Island and sold for scrap in 1930.


Our cruiser is remembered in period maritime art.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans (later PG 34 and CL 22), port bow. Reproduction of a painting by Koerner & Hayes, circa 1897-98.

Her plans are in the National Archives.

A single 4.7-inch Elswick Armstrong gun from each of these English-made Brazilian cruisers in U.S. service is installed at the Kane County, Illinois Soldier and Sailor Monument at the former courthouse in Geneva, Illinois.

SECNAV has done a good job of keeping a “NO Boat” or “NOLA boat” on the Naval List for roughly 103 of the past 122 years.

The second completed USS New Orleans would also be a cruiser, CA-32, leader of her seven-hull class of 10,000-ton “Treaty Cruisers” built in the early-to-mid 1930s. The class would give very hard service in WWII, with three sunk at the horrific Battle of Savo Island. However, USS New Orleans (CA-32) was luckier, earning a remarkable 17 battlestars, going on to be laid up in 1947 and stricken/scrapped in 1959.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) In English waters, about June 1934. Photographed by Wright & Logan, Southsea, England. Donation of Captain Joseph Finnegan, USN (Retired), 1970. NH 71787

The third USS New Orleans was an Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship, LPH-11, commissioned in 1968. After a 30-year career, she was decommissioned and later disposed of in a SINKEX in 2020.

A vertical view of the amphibious assault ship USS NEW ORLEANS (LPH-11) underway. CH-53 Sea Stallion and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters line the flight deck, 6/16/1988. PH2 Weideman/DNST8807549.

The fourth New Orleans is a Pascagoula-built San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, LPD-18, that has been in the fleet since 2007.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Aug. 21, 2020) A rigid-hull inflatable boat, right, transits the Philippine Sea from the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18). New Orleans, part of America Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit team is operating in the 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serves as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)


Jane’s 1914 listing for Albany and New Orleans.

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.

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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I am a member, so should you be!

95 Years on Post

Here we see an image of the first permanent armed military guard walking his post at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, 25 March 1926.

Per Arlington:

On March 24, 1926, Major General Fox Connor, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, sent a memorandum to the adjutant general, explaining: “The Secretary of War desires that orders be issued establishing an armed guard (rifle) at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery…. If practicable, orders should be issued by telephone this afternoon in order that the guard may begin tomorrow morning.” Per these orders, the first armed military guard began duty at the Tomb on the morning of March 25, 1926.

The initial day guard, a detail of troopers from 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry (Brave Rifles) at nearby Ft. Meyer, was later expanded to a 24/7 post in 1937, then assumed by the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard)– who continue to stand post today— in 1948. 2-3 CAV, which had been sent to D.C. after arriving back from Occupation duty in Germany in 1919, spent so much time assigned to public duties around the District during the interwar period that it was known during this time as the “President’s Own.”

A smartly turned out 2-3 trooper on guard at the Tomb. Note the spurs as the regiment was still mounted until 1940.

The Tomb itself was dedicated on Armistice Day (11 November) 1921, making it 100 this year. Arlington has a special program to honor this somber milestone.

Warship Wednesday, March 24, 2021: Nicky’s Dangerous Dolphin

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

Warship Wednesday, March 24, 2021: Nicky’s Dangerous Dolphin

Here we see the primitive one-of-a-kind submarine, Delfin of the Imperial Russian Navy cruising around the Krondstadt roadstead in August 1903, proudly flying the St. Andrew’s ensign. A sometimes-cranky little boat in perhaps the world’s most unlucky fleet, she would nonetheless leave a huge mark on naval history.

On 19 December 1900, Lt. Gen Nikolai Kuteinikov, head of shipbuilding for the Russian Admiralty, authorized a commission to begin work towards a submersible torpednyy kater, or torpedo cutter. While negotiations with Irish engineer John Philip Holland’s concern in American to purchase one of his submarine boats proved fruitless as Holland wanted a 10-unit package deal for a whopping $1.9 million, the Russians decided to roll their own. After all, how hard could it be?

Assigned this task was a team under promising young naval architect Ivan Bubnov. Bubnov, just 28 at the time, was fresh from the construction of the new battleship Poltava. As it would turn out, he would end up as Tsarist Russia’s Simon Lake.

Laid down on 5 July 1901 at the Baltic Shipbuilding & Mechanical Plant on Vasilevskiy Island– today’s historic 165-year-old OJSC Baltic Shipyard– the subject of our story was at first dubbed Torpednyy Kater No. 113, then later switching her pennant to Minonosets (destroyer) No. 150 before leaving the slipways.

The design was simple. Made in two symmetrical halves of rounded 8mm nickel steel then riveted and forge welded together over an internal framework, the submersible was just 64 feet long– the same size as USS Holland (SS-1).

Using flat iron plating on the vessel’s top decks for added strength, her fixed periscope-equipped conning tower/wheelhouse doubled as a hatch. Just 113 tons, she had ballast tanks on each end and could take on nine tons of seawater (in 15 minutes) to submerge to a maximum depth of about 150 feet. Obukhov was contracted for the blow system, which included a small electric air compressor that took four hours to refill completely empty air tanks.

Longitudinal section of submarine “Dolphin” via Ivan Grigorievich Bubnov’s Russian submarines: The history of creation and use of, 1834-1923.

He (Russian warships are never referred to as being female) used a French-made Soter-Garle electric motor and 64 Fullmen lead-acid batteries to achieve 7.5-knots submerged for short periods, and a German-made 300hp Daimler gasoline engine to reach 8.5 knots on the surface. Control was through a series of six rudders.

In short, he has been described as “like the USS Holland (SS-1) but worse.”

By September 1902, he was launched, and the following Spring was undergoing trials under the command of Capt. (3rd Rank) Mikhail Beklemishev, a 44-year-old torpedo tactics instructor on the submarine commission who had learned his trade on destroyers in the 1890s. During the construction of the Russian submarine under his command, he had traveled to the U.S. and met with Mr. Holland ostensibly on a shopping trip, and both observed and went to sea on Holland’s early Type 7 submarines at Electric Boat in Groton. Ironic considering Delfin’s description.

All the plankowners were volunteers recruited by Beklemishev.

Accommodations for the 13-member crew were cramped– remember the boat was shorter than a mobile home today and most of the spaces were taken up by machinery. Berthing was via hammocks and seabags strung over the wooden deck in the bow covering the batteries. A small stove for heating canned food and a novel electric samovar provided tea made up the galley. Fresh water amounted to about 40 gallons and the head consisted of a sand-lined closet. Officers’ quarters in the middle of the boat for the skipper and XO amounted to two stuffed sofas and a small dining table, all bolted to the deck around their own O-club cistern. Workstations had wooden stools similarly affixed to the deck.

He was armed with a pair of 1898 pattern 15-inch Whitehead torpedoes held outside of the submarine in a trapeze arrangement designed by Polish engineer Dr. Stefan Drzewiecki. Termed a “drop collar,” Drzewiecki’s girder launching system would become standard on Tsarist submarines through 1918 as well as a few French classes.

French submarine Espadon seen at Cherbourg, France. Note the 17.7-inch torpedo in the Drzewiecki drop collar external launching system on her deck. Also, note her very Delfin-like main hatch with a periscope on top.

They could launch their steel fish with the submarine either submerged or surfaced and were operated via a hellbox inside the sub. The total price of the new submersible was 388,000 gold rubles.

In two rounds of sea trials in the Gulf of Finland during the summer of 1903, Beklemishev and crew were able to spend several days in a row on the ocean and found the craft to perform satisfactorily, both on the surface and submerged.

The occasion of her launch for sea trials. Note the two Whitehead torpedoes in Drzewiecki drop collars at her stern. Also, Beklemishev is the goateed officer on deck.

The same day, with a better view of the Whiteheads. 

On 16 August, Tsar Nicholas II, aboard his yacht Alexander and with the battleship Slava in escort, reviewed the little submersible torpedo boat and received the details of his trials directly from Beklemishev.

The well-known image of the Tsar (second from center, hands on sword) receiving the report from Beklemishev (far left) aboard Minonosets No. 150 on 16 Aug 1903. Bubnov stands behind the emperor and looks like he is waiting for Beklemishev to say something crazy.

Laid up during the annual Baltic Sea freeze over, Minonosets No. 150 was given several modifications to correct errors observed during her sea trials to include a second periscope as well as redesigned rudders and diving planes.

Lessons learned in her construction and operation were used by Bubnov to create a larger, 100-foot submarine from the Minonosets No. 150 design– the six-boat kerosene/electric Kasatka (killer whale) class– which had four drop collared torpedoes. To compare with foreign types, the Admiralty purchased six 137-ton boats with bottoming wheels from Simon Lake (Osetr-class), three 209-ton subs from Krupp in Germany (Karp, Karas, and Kambala), a gifted midget sub from Krupp (the trailerable 40-foot Forel) and seven 105-ton boats from Mr. Holland (Som-class). Beklemishev was pulled from command and placed in charge of what was effectively the first Russian submariner school. Whereas the Russians only had their sole domestic-made boat in 1903, within a year they had more than two dozen soon on the way from multiple sources.

On May 31, 1904, all Russian destroyer submarines were given names by order of the Tsar, and “Minonosets No. 150” was christened Delfin.

When the ice melted, Delfin was ready for fleet operations but looked slightly different.

Note the second periscope

During regular operations in a rapidly expanding specialty branch, Delfin was used increasingly as a training boat, and on a practice dive while at the shipyard in June 1904, she went to the bottom under the command of LT. Anatoly Cherkasov along with 37 men and, tragically, remained there due to an issue with an improperly closed hatch, filling the sub’s interior with seawater except for a two-foot air bubble at the top of the boat. When finally rescued, Cherkasov and 23 of his crew had perished with the young officer voluntarily giving up his place to allow others to survive on the increasingly fetid air.

The first Russian submariners to be buried as heroes, they would not be the last. Amazingly, the survivors all elected to remain in the branch.

The grievous loss led the Russians to develop some of the world’s first submarine rescue tactics and vessels, including the rescue ship Volkhov, ordered in 1911 (which still, amazingly, endures as the Kommuna in Black Sea Fleet today.)

Raised and repaired, Delfin fired test torpedoes at a target hulk in October and, along with seven other small submarines, were hauled out of the water, fitted to railcars, and shipped via the single track Trans-Siberian Railway some 4,060 miles to the Siberian Flotilla’s base in Vladivostok as a pitched war was on with the Japanese in the Pacific.

Russian submarines on railcars to Vladivostok, 1904. The closest to the photo is Nalim/Burbot, a Kasatka-class boat. Four Kasatkas, notably just larger refinements to the Delfin’s design, were sent to the Pacific along with Delfin and two Holland-produced Som-class boats. 

The trip included a break at Lake Baikal where, as the spur around the world’s deepest freshwater body of water was not complete, they had to be transferred to a ferry to cross to the other side. The sight of submarines on a ferry crossing a lake in Siberia must have been a sight.

By 23 December 1904, Delfin arrived at Vladivostok and, once put in the water through a hole chopped in the iced-in harbor, made a test dive in the Pacific on 12 February. Two days later, along with the Holland-produced Som, he made a cautious combat patrol under the ice to the sea and soon was venturing further out to as far as 120 miles offshore, later operating with Kasatka as well.

Imperial Russian Submarines Delfin and Kasatka prepared to go out to sea for a patrol against the Japanese.

In all, by May, he spent 17 days at sea including eight on patrol. Together, Delfin, Som, and Kasatka reportedly came across two blockading Japanese destroyers 70 miles out and, attempted to get close enough to fire a torpedo volley– the Whiteheads only had a range of 1,500 yards– but were unable to due to the disparity in speed.

Delfin’s war was cut short when, on 5 May, he suffered a gasoline explosion in port that singed crewmembers and popped 29 rivets. The smokey submariners were able to escape before he sank (for the second time in two years). Raised, he needed three months of repairs ashore before she was able to take to the water again.

Imperial Russian Submarine Delfin raised after sinking On May the 5th 1905,

The next Spring, on 11 March 1906, acting on behalf of the Tsar, the Minister of the Sea, Admiral Alexei Birilev decreed that Russia’s submersible “destroyers” were actually submarines and finally listed on the naval rolls as such.

Delfin would spend the next decade in the Far East, becoming the granddaddy of the Pacific Submarine Division. There she underwent a regular cycle of summertime cruises followed by winter lay-ups sans batteries and to keep the hull out of the ice. Each spring, she would receive additional equipment and improvements, making her much less spartan and much more survivable. Notably, she would suffer at least two other fires in her service they were quickly contained. In 1910, he performed a role of a torpedo testing craft, firing no less than 43 fish that summer while submerged.

Russian Siberian Military Flotilla, Ulysses Bay 1908, submarine Delfin (far left) along with submarines Kasatka, Skat, Nalim, Sheremetev, Osyotr, Kefal, Paltus, Bychok or Plotva, with the destroyer Grozovoy offshore. 

In August 1914, with the Great War upon the world, Delfin would take on war shot torpedoes and, along with the other subs of the Siberian Flotilla, would undertake fruitless combat patrols with a weather eye peeled for German and Austrian vessels.

Deflin’s 1914 Jane’s listing as part of the Russian Siberian Flotilla. Note the “Bubnoff” reference. The Russians entered the Great War with over 40 submarines, one of the world’s largest users

In March 1916, with the Kaiser’s wolves long cleared from the Far East except for the occasional surface raider, it was decided to ship Delfin from frozen Vladivostok to equally frigid Archangel in the White Sea, to be used in the defense of Kola Bay. Packed on railcars as far as Kotlas, he was transferred to barges on the Dvina River in June to take up to Archangel. Damaged in transport, he was not repaired and successfully placed in the water at her new homeport until September.

Badly damaged in a storm in April 1917, the commander of the Northern Fleet sidelined Delfin in favor of a new American-built Amerikanskiy Golland (Holland)-class submarine that was soon to arrive in port. Used briefly for training, Delfin was stricken from the fleet’s list in August 1917.

Later transferred to the local White Sea merchant fleet, he would be repurposed to a shift-lifting pontoon for salvage work, and then, on 16 March 1932, it was ordered by the Council of Labor and Defense Commissars that she be scrapped.


Delfin today is remembered in several pieces of maritime art.

As for his fathers, submarine designer Bubnov would design no less than 32 subs for the Tsar including the successful Akula and Bars classes, with the latter seeing service in both world wars. He would also lend his expertise to the Gangut-class battleships, which would cover themselves in glory and endure into the 1950s.

I.G. Bubnov near to submarine Akula on the dock of Baltic factory

Made a Major General, Bubnov was ushered out of the design bureau with the fall of the Tsar but never left St. Petersburg, dying in the city’s Typhus epidemic in 1919 during the Civil War at the ripe old age of 47. The Soviets later named two merchant ships after him in the 1970s and 80s.

Beklemishev, Delfin’s first and most successful skipper, remained with the fleet until 1910, retiring as a Major General in charge of diving and submarine training. After teaching at various universities in the capital, he was appointed to the shipbuilding commission during the Great War, a position he was surprisingly able to keep for a while even after the Reds took over, even though he was arrested several times. Comrade Beklemishev retired for good in 1931 and passed away five years later in St. Petersburg, err Leningrad, and his grave was lost during the siege of the city in WWII. Both his son and grandson would go on to be Soviet merchant officers of some renowned, with the latter having a rescue tug named in his honor.

Speaking of honors and rescues, the grave of Delfin’s lost 24 submariners remain at Smolensk Orthodox Cemetery on Vasilevskiy Island in St. Petersburg, not too far away from that of Bubnov, who is celebrated today and has his likeness on several stamps and institutions.

Since 1996, a new holiday, the “Day of the Submariner” has been a national occasion. Implemented by order No. 253 of Admiral of the Fleet Felix Nikolayevich Gromov the “Day of the Submariner” is celebrated annually on 19 March, citing the 1906 order given by Adm. Birilev adding the term to the fleet and changing the submersible “destroyers” into official submarines, of which the Russians have had several hundred since then.

Last week, on the 115th anniversary of Birilev’s order, the Russian Navy, submarine vets, and their families held services across the country, including at the graves of the Delfin’s crew and the monument for the lost submariners of the Kursk, a more recent disaster.


Via ‘“Submarines of the Tsarist Navy” (Spassky, I. D., Semyonov, V. P., Polmar, Norman), an excellent English primer to early Russian subs. 

Displacement: 113 tons surfaced; 126 tons submerged
Length: 64 ft
Beam: 11 ft
Draught: 9 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 1 shaft petrol / electric, 300 hp/120 hp
10 knots surfaced; 6 knots submerged after 1910.
Complement: 22 officers and men after 1910
2 external 15 in torpedoes in Drzewiecki drop collars.

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.

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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Want some Mustard with that Shell?

For you CBRN/NBC/CBW fans, courtesy of High Caliber History: Drilling into a Mustard Gas Shell!

Filmed in 1918, soldiers in the AEF’s Chemical Warfare Service are taking apart a 155mm German shell filled with mustard gas by drilling into it.

The next time you think your job might be dangerous, be thankful that you’re not somewhere in France during World War I literally drilling into a poisonous mustard gas shell.

Warship Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Philly L boats: The Retractables

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

Warship Wednesday, March 10, 2021: The Retractables

Abbreviated Warship Wednesday as I am traveling for work this week!

Official caption: “U.S. Submarines return after submarine guard duty off the coast, League Island, Philadelphia, Pa. SC 89642” listed as received in 1918.

NARA 165-WW-338B-3A

The U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command list this image as NH 51167 with the description:

L class submarines tied up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, with a harbor tug outboard, circa February 1919. Submarines are (from left to right): USS L-3 (Submarine # 42); USS L-9 (Submarine # 49); USS L-11 (Submarine # 51); and USS L-2 (Submarine # 41).

The 11 L boats were small, just 450/550 tons surfaced/submerged and 167 feet in length but they carried a 3″/23 deck gun and a quartet of 18-inch tubes with eight early unguided MK7 Bliss-Leavitt torpedos, making them deadly.

An interesting aspect of their gun was that it was semi-retractable, able to (partially) stow in a compartment then be erected for surface actions. I say partially because, when stowed, the gun shield and barrel extended skyward, looking like a stovepipe. A tampion and greased gasket around the shield made the mount somewhat watertight while submerged. 

A similar design used on USS M-1 (SS-47) the world’s first double-hulled submarine. Unlike this gun, the 3-inchers on the L-class still left the gun shield and barrel above water. 

Alongside L-3 (Submarine No. 42) at Berehaven, Ireland, 1918. Nevada (Battleship No. 36), which arrived in Ireland with Oklahoma (Battleship No. 37) on 23 August 1918, is in the background. L-1’s 3/23 deck gun is visible in the foreground in the erected position. Also, note the “AL” identification mark on her conning tower. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 752)

Caption: View on AL-3’s deck, looking aft toward the fairwater, while the submarine was underway off Berehaven, Ireland, in 1918. Note L-3’s 3-inch/23 caliber deck gun in retracted position just forward of the fairwater. The giant wingnut screw on the end of the tampion is interesting. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 63176)

L-1 alongside Bushnell at Portland, England, 1918. Note L-1’s 3/23 retracting deck gun trained out to starboard, and Y-tube hydrophone immediately behind her open foredeck hatch. Also note the boat boom attached to Bushnell’s side, with the pivoting mechanism at its end and walkway board on its upper surface. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 51159)

Sent across the Atlantic in 1918 to assist the Royal Navy’s operations around the British Isle, they worked from Queenstown, Berehaven, and Portland. To differentiate them from the RN’s own L-class subs, the American boats picked up”AL” hull numbers on their fairwaters for “American L.” One, (A)L-2 (SS-41) claimed a kill against SMS UB-65 on 10 July 1918 off Fastnet Light, Ireland.

American L class submarines in Ireland 1918, sailing in a column. NH 51130

They cleared on 3 January 1919 for the United States via the Azores and Bermuda, reaching Philadelphia on 1 February, making the NHHC’s caption for the lead image at the top of this post likely more correct. This is more so reinforced with the fact that papers across the country carried the image in April 1919 with the caption:

“American U-boats Back from the War: After 15 months hunting of German U-boats in the Irish Sea, the flotilla of submarines shown above returned to the League Island navy yard at Philadelphia. The L-11 (SS-51), (third from left) had many desperate encounters with the enemy boats, including a fight below the surface with a Hun sub, which L-11 subsequently vanquished.”

After post-deployment overhaul and repairs, most of the above shifted to the Hampton Roads Submarine Base, headquartered onboard Eagle 17 until the summer of 1920 when they were sent as a group back to Philly. Most were out of service by 1923 and sold for scrap within a decade after.

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.

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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The Mask Breaker

As a kid, I remember fishing with my grandpa in the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico and, as one does as a curious bespectacled boy with a thumb-eared copy of an Edward Beach paperback book in his pocket, spend half that time pouring over the NOAA charts in the cabin. My eyes would go wide at the markings in deep water for “mustard gas” and “munitions.” Of course, they were deep-sixed by the Army in the 1940s after WWII– keep in mind that Horn Island just visible off Pascagoula held a Chem Warfare facility during the war.

In a similar vein, I just caught the below interesting DW doc on the lingering chemical warfare agents in Germany. While the country never had the weapons used on its soil, it was a huge producer of them in both World Wars, and ghosts of hastily disposed of stocks Tabun, sarin, phosgene, and mustard gas are still around in surprisingly large numbers there.

Also– and I’ve sat through the CBW guy’s slideshow several times and read a bunch of tomes on the Great War– there was one I’ve never heard of: CLARK or the Maskenbrecher (mask breaker) a form of diphenylarsine chloride, derived from arsenic, believed to penetrate the gas masks of the time. Of note, the monthly production of CLARK I was 600 tons in the Reich in 1918.

The more you know…

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021: Savior of the Sea of Marmora

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

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021: Savior of the Sea of Marmora

Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

Here we see the Clemson-class “four-piper” destroyer USS Bainbridge (DD-246) with her flags flying at Boston Navy Yard in March 1930, possibly in a nod to the city’s often epic St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Let’s take a closer look at those flags, courtesy of Mr. Jones.

Bainbridge, when these great images were taken, was only nine years with the fleet– commissioned 100 years ago this week as a matter of fact– but she had already written a worthy page in maritime history and still had another 15 years of service ahead of her.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Bainbridge came too late to help lick the Kaiser. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

Living up to the legacy

The subject of our story today was the third warship named in honor of the Navy’s legendary Commodore William Bainbridge, who, fought in the Barbary Wars and, as commander of the frigate Constitution, destroyed the British 38-gun frigate HMS Java (ex-Renommée) in a three-hour-long single-ship broadside battle off Brazil on 29 December 1812.

Action between U.S. Frigate Constitution and HMS Java, 29 December 1812. Painting in oils by Charles Robert Patterson./Commodore William Bainbridge, USN (1774-1833). Oil on wood, 30″ by 21″, by John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840). Painted circa 1814. Paintings in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection.

The first USS Bainbridge was a 12-gun brigantine built at Boston Navy Yard in 1842 and named in honor of the old, and at that time recently passed Commodore. She would serve in the Civil War, capturing three Confederate blockade runners before being lost in 1863 during a severe storm off Cape Hatteras, taking all but one member of her crew to the bottom with her.

The second Bainbridge was the Navy’s first “Torpedo-boat Destroyer,” laid down in 1899. Of note, one of her skippers was a young LT Raymond A. Spruance. After service in the Great War, she was sold for conversion to a banana boat.

How about that beam-to-length ratio! Some 250-feet long and 23 at the beam, she could make 28.13 knots. The second USS Bainbridge (Destroyer # 1). Fitting out at the Neafie & Levy Ship & Engine Building Company shipyard, circa June-November 1902. USS Denver (Cruiser # 14) is at right, also fitting out. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. 19-N-13135

The Third Bainbridge

Our ship was laid down on 27 May 1919 at New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard, Camden, New Jersey, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 9 February 1921, just missing out on WWI.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Launching, at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard, Camden, New Jersey, 12 June 1920. NH 56312

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Underway, circa 1921. NH 56317

As noted by DANFS, “Going into service in a Navy suffering the effects of manpower shortages caused by postwar demobilization and magnified by the completion of the massive shipbuilding program begun during the war, Bainbridge spent her first 10 months of active duty almost becalmed in her assignment to the Atlantic Fleet’s Destroyer Squadrons.”

However, by 1922, her crew would finally be fleshed out and she would engage on a series of shakedown and training cruises along the east coast. Then, in response to the boiling unrest in Europe between Greece and Turkey– at the time engaged in open combat in Anatolia– Bainbridge sailed from Hampton Roads on 2 October 1922, for the Mediterranean Sea along with 11 other Squadron 14 destroyers to protect American interests and lend muscle to the High Commission overseeing the end of the old Ottoman Empire.

482 Souls

Besides American forces, those of the European Great Powers were highly visible in the Eastern Med and its related seas at the time. One of these was the old 5,500-ton French military transport/hospital ship Vinh-Long, packed with almost 500 soldiers, sailors, and their families– along with a cargo of munitions.

French Transport Vinh-Long transits the Suez Canal, c. 1880-90, Zangaki Brothers photo 

On 16 December while in the Eastern Sea of Marmora off San Stefano Point, Vinh-Long caught fire and burned furiously, fueled by years of old varnish and oil, not to mention shells, powder, and cartridges. With time of the essence, Bainbridge, who was nearby, raced in to help.

Vinh-Long aflame from stem to stern in the Sea of Marmora near Constantinople, Turkey, in the morning of 16 December 1922. This view was taken from USS Bainbridge (DD-246), soon after she had removed Vinh-Long’s survivors. Note that the transport’s mainmast has fallen overboard, the result of a series of explosions that spread flames into the forward part of the ship. Donation of Frank A. Downey, 1973. NH 78333

Securing to the flaming troopship’s sides under a rain of fiery debris, Bainbridge began transferring personnel side to side, while her boat crews worked the waves to rescue jumpers. Then, as the Frenchman’s forward magazine was beginning to catch, the destroyer’s skipper, LCDR Walter Atlee Edwards (USNA 1910), ordered the warship to gently ram the vessel to lessen the exposure should it go.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) noses into Vinh-Long’s port bow to remove her survivors, in the Sea of Marmora near Constantinople, Turkey, on the morning of 16 December 1922. This view was taken shortly before the series of explosions that spread flames into the forward part of the ship. 19-N-11575

In the end, before pulling away from the blazing vessel, Bainbridge rescued 482 of the 495 people aboard Vinh-Long.

Vinh-Long aflame from stem to stern in the Sea of Marmora near Constantinople, Turkey, in the morning of 16 December 1922. This view was taken from USS Bainbridge (DD-246), soon after she had removed Vinh-Long’s survivors. Note that the transport’s mainmast has fallen overboard, the result of a series of explosions that spread flames into the forward part of the ship. Catalog #: 19-N-11576

Badly overloaded, she would make for Constantinople and transfer the troopship’s survivors to the French Edgar Quinet class armored cruiser, Waldeck Rousseau.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Off Constantinople, Turkey, on 16 December 1922, with 482 survivors of the French transport Vinh-Long on board. Bainbridge is flying her ensign at half-mast height, in mourning for the victims of the disaster. Donation of Frank A. Downey, 1973. NH 78344

The story flashed around the globe. 

For his part in the rescue operations, Edwards, who had already earned a Navy Cross during the Great War, would receive a rare peacetime Medal of Honor, the French Legion of Honour, and the British Distinguished Service Order.

LCDR Walter Atlee Edwards, in full dress including fringed epaulets and sword, receives the Medal of Honor from President Calvin Coolidge, in ceremonies on the White House lawn, Washington, D.C., on 2 February 1924. NH 52667

His MOH citation:

For heroism in rescuing 482 men, women and children from the French military transport Vinh-Long, destroyed by fire in the Sea of Marmora, Turkey, on 16 December 1922. Lt. Comdr. Edwards, commanding the U.S.S. Bainbridge, placed his vessel alongside the bow of the transport and, in spite of several violent explosions which occurred on the burning vessel, maintained his ship in that position until all who were alive were taken on board. Of a total of 495 on board, 482 were rescued by his coolness, judgment and professional skill, which were combined with a degree of heroism that must reflect new glory on the U.S. Navy.

No rest

Remaining in Turkish waters until after the Lausanne Conference wrapped, Bainbridge returned home from her epic first deployment in June 1923, a month before the Lausanne Treaty was finally signed. She would spend the next two decades heavily involved in a series of exercises, fleet problems, training cycles, protecting American interests “during Latin American political turmoil” as noted by DANFS, and supporting the Marines during the various Banana Wars in Central America. In this myriad of taskings, she ranged not only across the Caribbean and South Atlantic but into the Pacific as far north as Alaska.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Underway at sea, March 1924. NH 56314

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) (outboard), and USS Childs (DD-241) Backing out of drydock at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, Hawaii, on 6 June 1925. Note the stern depth charge racks and extensive awnings. 80-G-451211

Another of Mr. Jones’ March 1930 Boston Navy Yard snaps

One more Leslie Jones shot, this time of Bainbridge’s stern. Note the covered 5″/51 and the hanging laundry. Compared to the flags on her mast, it is definitely “party in the front, business in the back.”

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) Leaving the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 5 May 1932. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. NH 64555

The same day, NH 64556

Then, to free up crew for new and more modern destroyers, on 20 November 1937, Bainbridge was placed out of commission at San Diego and entered mothballs after a very hard 16-year career.

Laid up Clemson-class destroyers Barry, Bainbridge, Reuben James, Williamson, Fox, Lawrence, and Howie in San Diego before WWII

The Balloon Goes Up

Pulled out of retirement and obsolete by even 1930s standards, Bainbridge recommissioned 26 September 1939– some three weeks after Hitler’s legions marched into Poland. By early 1940, she was part of Roosevelt’s tense Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic with an eye peeled for U-boats. This included joining in the American occupation of Iceland, escorting USS Mississippi (BB-41) and USS Wasp (CV-7) as part of TF16, and plying the hazardous waters between that Danish possession and New England.

Once the U.S. entered the war officially, Bainbridge served with TF 4, running coastwise convoys during the German Drumbeat U-boat offensive, a mission that kept her busy for the next 15 months.

Then, on 1 March 1943, she stood out TF 37 bound for North Africa on her first wartime Atlantic crossing. This led to a spell with a task group built around the escort carrier USS Santee (CVE-29) with sub-busting VC-29 aboard, during which they fought no less than seven German U-boats in a two-week period in July, splashing three (U-43, U-160, and U-509). Bainbridge’s 40-page handwritten War Diary for July 1943 makes interesting reading.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) highlines Ensign Thomas Edward Jamson to USS Santee (CVE-29), at sea in the Atlantic on 29 July 1943. He had been rescued by Bainbridge after a flight deck crash on the previous day. Note the convoy in the background. 80-G-74807

In this work, she had been extensively updated with radar, advanced listening gear, Hedgehog ASW devices, and the like. 

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) view on deck, looking aft from the bow, showing the pilothouse face and foremast. Photographed at the New York Navy Yard on 17 August 1943. Note 20mm gun installed atop the pilothouse; searchlight; and radar antennas on the foremast. 19-N-50558

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) in New York Harbor, 19 August 1943. 19-N-50552

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) In New York Harbor, 19 August 1943, with the Manhattan skyline in the right distance to include the Empire State Building. Note that the ship carries a Hedgehog launcher just aft of her forward 3/50 gun. 19-N-50553

She would remain with Santee’s group until the year-end of 1943, escorting four cross-Atlantic convoys. She would also be part of the screen for the fast battleship USS Iowa (BB-61), carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Allied conferences at Cairo and Teheran.

By 1944, she had returned to her role in coastal escort, roving as far south as Galveston and Gulfport, and would go on to serve as close escort/plane guard for new capital ships that were constructed on the East Coast during their shakedown cruises to the relatively safe grounds of the Caribbean before they, in turn, shipped out for the Pacific. This included work with the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64), the “heavy cruiser that’s not a battlecruiser” USS Alaska (CB-1), and the Essex-class fleet carriers USS Hancock (CV-19) and USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31).

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) refueling from USS Hancock (CV-19), during the carrier’s shakedown cruise in the western Atlantic and Caribbean areas, 14 June 1944. Can you imagine what the new bluejackets on “Hanna” that had only been carrier sailors thought looking down on the swaying WWI-era tin can below? 80-G-235276

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) steaming in the Atlantic area, 23 July 1944. Note her newly applied pattern camouflage, which appears to be Measure 32, Design 3d. 80-G-237711

Finally, in mid-1945, with the Navy having literally hundreds of modern new Fletcher, Gearing, and Sumner-class destroyers, it increasingly made less and less sense to waste trained crews and resources on elderly greyhounds like Bainbridge. Therefore, on 21 July 1945, she was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Stricken before the war ended, she was scrapped by the Northern Metal Co. in November 1947.

Bainbridge earned one battle star during World War II.

The rest of the class

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war.

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

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

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

Bainbridge lives on

Few elements of the third Bainbridge remain today other than her logs and diaries which are in the National Archives.

LCDR Edwards, MOH, her skipper in the Vinh-Long rescue passed at age 41 and is buried in Section 4 of Arlington National Cemetery. His widow sponsored later USS Edwards (DD-619) when that destroyer was launched on August 28, 1942. The ship would earn an impressive 14 battle stars in WWII.

Bainbridge’s name was reissued to the lead ship of a new class of guided-missile frigate/destroyer leaders, commissioned on 6 October 1962. Later deemed a cruiser, this vessel would earn eight battle stars for her Vietnam service and remain in the fleet for 34 years.

USS Bainbridge (CGN-25) Underway in the Suez Canal on 27 February 1992, while en route to the Mediterranean Sea with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) battle group. Photographed by CWO2 A.A. Alleyne, USN. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The fifth Bainbridge commissioned 12 November 2005 is, true to form, a destroyer, currently assigned to DESRON 28 in Surface Force Atlantic.

Today’s USS Bainbridge, DDG-96, is an Arleigh Burke Flight IIA-class guided-missile destroyer, here seen conducting a missile exercise in the Kennebec River, Maine, on June 14, 2005. Photo by Paul R. Shepard, Second Mate, TSV-1 Prevail. 889711-J-YNQ63-062

In a case of history repeating, on 13 June 2019 the modern USS Bainbridge received a distress call from the merchant vessel Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman while operating with the 5th Fleet. The Japanese tanker had suffered a major engineering casualty (likely due to Iranian intervention) and needed aid. Bainbridge responded to the call, rescuing the entire 21-member crew, and providing assistance as needed.


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

1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 knots
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
4- 4″/51 cal guns
1 x 3″/23 cal AAA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021: The Teutonic Flag Collector

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

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021: The Teutonic Flag Collector

Here we see Flugzeugmutterschiff No. 2, SMH Santa Elena, among the most storied aviation ships fielded by Kaiser Wilhelm’s navy in the Great War, with three Friedrichshafen FF.33 floatplanes alongside and another three on her decks. From a humble background, she would end up serving in several different fleets across her life but didn’t make it out of her second world war afloat. Before it was all through, she would be under a German flag (three different ones), as well as those of France, the U.S., Great Britain, and Italy. 

Constructed by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg in 1907 as BauNr. 196, Santa Elena was built to spec for the Hamburg-Süd shipping line, intended to carry a mixture of light cargo and up to 1,198 steerage-level passengers from Europe to South America. In such sedate trade, she was intended, along with the other vessels of her line, to run regular trips between Hamburg, Bremen, Amsterdam, and Antwerp to the exotic climes of Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires.

The top speed of the 446-foot Santa Elena was not impressive, just 11 knots, but she could maintain it around the clock, making her ideal as an immigrant and middle-class traveler vessel.

By 1914, Hamburg-Süd had over 50 ships totaling around 325,000 GRT, ranging from impressive high-speed express liners such as 18,000-ton Cap Finisterre, Cap Trafalgar, and Cap Polonio to the smaller and more pedestrian 7,400-ton Santa Elena and her sister Santa Maria. Santa Elena‘s maiden voyage, starting on 7 January 1908, was from Antwerp to Bahía Blanca.

When the lights went out across Europe, Santa Maria was in Latin America and was interned at Caleta Buena, Chile, for the duration of the conflict. Santa Elena, meanwhile, was in the Baltic and was almost immediately requisitioned to the Kaiserliche Marine. Along with the cargo ships Answald and Oswald, she was converted to become an aircraft mothership (Flugzeugmutterschiff) at Danzig with the pennant numbers FS I-FS III, a designation that the Germans would also term as Seeflugzeugträger, or Seaplane Carrier. Two other ships would be converted later, leading the Germans to operate five tenders in all during the war.

Note her twin side-loading hangars, with deck space atop for an extra aircraft, and the “FSII” pennant number on her stack. You can also see her two 3.45″/45s on her stern, likely in that position to ward off chasing enemy warships

A better view of her topside. Judging from the bow wave, she may be at full speed.

The type made sense to the Germans as a counterstroke to similar ships already in use by its enemies in France (the Foudre, converted in 1912), the British (HMS Hermes, Empress, Riviera, Engadine, Ben-my-Chree,, Russians (Almaz) and Japan (whose Wakamiya was used to launch aircraft in the taking of the German colony of Tsingtao in the first days of the war). Santa Elena was commissioned on 2 July 1915.

Willy Stoewer, the Kaiser’s favorite maritime artist, painted Santa Elena in 1915, showing her (incorrectly) launching a seaplane from her deck while underway. 

The painting was turned into a popular period postcard

Sans catapults, the vessels would crane their aircraft overboard for launch from the sea– providing the waves would allow– and then crane them back aboard to recover. Standard Seaplane Tender 101 for the next 50 years.

Assigned to the German Marineflieger, the principal type to operate from these vessels was the Friedrichshafen FF.33 scout plane, a reliable little single-engine canvas floatplane that could buzz around at about 60 knots, carry a pair of machine guns and light (25-pound) bombs, remaining aloft for as long as five hours depending on conditions and how rough they were flown.

An FF.33 at Borkum. The Marineflieger would field over 200 of these sturdy little aircraft, powered by a reliable Benz Bz.III 150hp engine. After Versailles, the type would endure in several Scandinavian and Eastern European fleets into the 1930s. 

The Germans would use their seaplane carriers in both the North Sea against the British– typically in conjunction with the seaplane base (Seefliegerstation) on Borkum Island overlooking Heligoland — and in the Baltic, operating from Libau against the Russians. Their use in combat was primarily by Santa Elena, whose aircraft flew bombing raids against the Tsar’s own scattered seaplane stations on the Baltic Sea.

Santa Elena also took part in Operation Albion in October-November 1917, the German amphibious landing operation to occupy the Baltic islands of Ösel, Dagö, and Moon, an expedition that led to the Battle of Moon Sound and the fiery glory of the Russian battleship Slava.

Nine Friedrichshafen FF33 about to leave the ramp at Libau on 12 September 1916 for strikes against the Russians. Note the tender offshore

An interesting 1917 film in the Bundesarchiv covering German naval assets at Libau includes about a 20-second live-action pass of Santa Elena operating at sea.

By the end of the Great War, with Kiel awash in red flags and rebellions, Santa Elena put into Swedish waters (sans aircraft and shells) where she remained, fundamentally stateless, escaping surrender under British guns at Scapa Flow. Nonetheless, the reach of London extended to Sweden and she was ultimately boarded and taken under British custody. In March 1919, her remaining German crew was ordered to take the vessel to the French port of Brest.

She had new flags to serve.

Coming to America

In cooperation with the British Admiralty, a U.S. Navy party took charge of ex-SMH Santa Elena on 26 April 1919 and, that very day, the 12-year-old liner/seaplane carrier became USS Santa Elena (ID-4052). She was soon repurposed for use as a troopship and left from France on 10 May 1919 with a load of Doughboys going home from “Over There.”

USS Santa Elena (ID # 4052) Moored in the harbor during her brief U.S. Naval service, circa April-July 1919, while employed bringing service personnel home from Europe. Note her hangars have been knocked down and she has returned to her original merchant profile. Courtesy of Jack Howland, 1982. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 93698

“Leaving France” USS Santa Elena (ID # 4052) View looking aft from the forecastle, with troops on deck, as the ship left France bound for the U.S.A. on 10 May 1919. NH 93715

USS Santa Elena: Scene on her signal bridge, circa April-July 1919, with crew members executing semaphore flag signals. Note the spyglass. NH 93699

A slow mover, it took her two weeks to arrive at Hoboken, where she turned around on 6 June for France once again. Santa Elena came back from her third Atlantic crossing with another load of troops, arriving at Hampton Roads on 23 July.

On 20 August, her crew sailed the empty vessel to New York where it was taken over by representatives of the Cunard Line. A British merchant crew sailed into Portsmouth with the prize on 26 September.

Similarly, her sister Santa Maria, which had spent the war interned in Chile, where her crew thoroughly destroyed her machinery, was also allocated to Britain. Sold back to the reformed Hamburg-Süd for her value in scrap, her old company paid for her repair and refit at Hamburg and operated the vessel as the steamer Villagarcia until 1932, when she was scrapped.

Santa Maria in the 1920s renamed Villagarcia. Note Big Herman, Hamburg’s famous crane in the background

More flags

Despite British custody, once all the paperwork at Versailles dried, the ships commission assigned Santa Maria to France and her custody switched in 1920 to the Compagnie des Chargeurs Réunis of Le Havre, the steamship concern that ran regular routes between France and South America and then Africa and Asia.

Refurbished and with new livery, by February 1922 she was sailing under the name Linois for the French, mostly on long, slow trips to Indochina and back via the Dunkirk – Saigon – Haiphong route.

In fact, one of the vessel’s last missions under the Tricolor was to repatriate 250 Indochinese laborers from war-torn France back to the colony at the time when the country was under Vichy control. Leaving Marseille in February on a government charter, she arrived in Saigon in May after stops at Casablanca, Dakar, and Tamatave on the long way around Africa– the Suez cut off by the British.

Back at Marseilles by November 1942, when the Allies landed in Vichy-controlled North Africa in the Torch Landings, the resulting German-Italian sweep into the Nazi puppet state resulted in Linois being seized by German troops. With the Italians needing shipping in the Med, she was transferred to the Regina Marina for use as a troopship under the name Orvieto. She would continue this task through September 1943 when Italy withdrew from the war after the armistice of Cassibile.

Seized again by German troops in Genoa at the time of the Italian surrender, she was placed at the disposal of the Mittelmeer Reederei Gmbh, a state-chartered shipping firm to move cargo and passengers around the Axis-controlled ports of the Med, although her wartime operations under that flag were limited. Withdrawn to Marseilles, she was scuttled as a blockship in the northern pass to foul the harbor during the opening stages of the Allied Dragoon landings in South France in August 1944.

Post-war, she was raised and scrapped by local salvors.

There are few remains of her, including her original 1907-marked bell, which is on display in the Hamburg IMM.

Dariusz Mazurowski has scratch-built an excellent 1/700 scale model of SMH Santa Elena in her tender configuration.

Displacement 7415 GRT in civil service; 13,900 tons FL in military service
Length: 431-feet (pp); 447 (overall)
Beam: 54’8″
Draft: 23’6″
Crew: 51 (civil); 122 as German seaplane tender; 276 as American troopship
Machinery: 3 boilers, quadruple expansion engine, 1 screw, 3000 hp
Speed: 11 knots
Liner capacity: 8260 dw tons cargo, 1198 passengers
Armament: 2 x 3.4″/45 DP (1914-18)
Aircraft: Four single-engine seaplanes (six maximum)

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.

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, Jan.20, 2021: Bruised Georgie

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

Warship Wednesday, Jan.20, 2021: Bruised Georgie

Australian War Memorial Photo 100014

Here we see the ancient and battered Regio incrociatore corazzato (armored cruiser) San Giorgio, some 80 years ago this week, scuttled and burning after air attacks at Tobruk, Libya, 22 January 1941. The anti-torpedo nets around the wreck reportedly held 39 British fish of various types in their mesh.

Named after Saint George, the patron saint of Genoa, San Giorgio was ordered for the Regia Marina in 1904, during the height of the Russo-Japanese War, and at the time was the largest and strongest armored cruiser in the Italian fleet.

Designed by naval engineer Edoardo Masdea, San Giorgio and her near-sister San Marco were beefy 10,000-ton beasts swathed in as much as 10 inches of armor. They carried four 10″/45 Elswick-pattern Modello 1908 in a pair of turrets as the main battery, eight 7.5″/45 Modello 1908s in four twin turrets as a secondary battery that itself was powerful enough for a heavy cruiser, and a tertiary armament of 20 rapid-fire 76mm and 47mm guns meant to defend against torpedo boats– then seen as the most dangerous non-battleship threat. Speaking of torps, they had three small tubes of her own, below the waterline in period fashion, and at least two steam cutters that could carry torpedos as well.

Powered by 14 Blechynden boilers trunked through two sets of paired funnels, San Giorgio could make 23 knots and steam for over 6,000 nm on a full coal load at about half that.

Janes of the era listed the class under the battleships section. Click to big up

Laid down in 1907 at Regio Cantieri di Castellammare di Stabia in Naples, she was completed 1 July 1910.

Cover of the magazine La Tribuna Illustrata 9 August 1908, showing the launch of San Giorgio

She was a good looking ship and appeared numerous times in postcards of the era. 

Embarrassingly, the brand-new ship on 12 August 1911, following exercises in the Gulf of Naples, ran aground on the shoal of Gaiola, a rocky outcrop some 18 feet deep. As she did so while making 16 knots, she had five forward compartments flooded and took on 4,300 tons of water. Recovering the vessel required much effort and it took a full month to refloat.

Lightened and patched up, she was pulled free on 15 September by the battleship Sicily.

The resulting investigation hit the skipper– the well-placed Marquis Gaspare Alberga– and XO with a slap on the wrist while the navigator got three months in the brig.

Quickly patched up, she took part in the latter stages of the Italian-Turkish War, operating along the Libyan coast.

San Giorgio firing her guns during the Italo-Turkish War 1912

In March 1913, she was part of the international squadron that escorted the remains of former Danish prince William, who served as Greek King George I from 1863 onwards, back home to Athens. George had been assassinated while walking in Thessaloniki, shot in the back of the head by a socialist who later fell to his death from a police station window.

Transfer of the body of King George I on the Greek Royal yacht Amphitrite escorted by three Greek destroyers, Russian gunship Uralets, German battlecruiser SMS Goeben, British cruiser HMS Yarmouth, French cruiser Bruix and Italian cruiser San Giorgio. Painting by Vassilios Chatzis.

Remarkably, San Giorgio soon grounded once again off Sant’Agata di Militello in the strait of Messina in November 1913 but, while another black eye, was more easily freed than the 1911 crack up.

Der italienische Panzerkreuzer San Giorgio im November 1913 in der Straße von Messina gestrandet.

The card translates to “O ship, twice locked in the tenacious branch of the treacherous cliff and returned twice to the loving mother who embraces you,” which makes you think it was issued sometime after her second grounding.

Another war

When Italy joined the Great War in 1915 on the side of Britain, France, and Russia, San Giorgio was soon very active against the Austro-Hungarian Navy in the southern Adriatic. This involved defending the Otranto line and Venice but got hot with a surface raid on the Italian port of Durazzo in October 1918 along with her sistership San Marco and the cruiser Pisa.

At the end of the conflict, she sailed triumphantly into Pola to take the surrendered Austrian fleet under her guns.

San Giorgio class (Italian Armored cruiser), center. RADETZKY Class (Austrian Battleship), built in 1908 (right). The photograph was taken about 1919, Pola Yugoslavia Description: Courtesy of Mr. Donald M. McPherson 169 Birch Avenue, Corte Madera, California, 1969. Catalog #: NH 68218


An aging ship, San Giorgio by the 1920s was increasingly used for training purposes and extended overseas cruises for midshipmen from Livorno.

On such a run in 1924-25, she carried crown prince Umberto of Savoy abroad on a round-the-world voyage to take a company of the San Marco Battalion to Shanghai to protect the international delegation there.

Crown Prince Umberto boarding the San Giorgio for the voyage to South America, 1924. Illustration by A. Beltrame

After 1931, her sister, San Marco, was disarmed per the various London and Washington Naval Treaties– back when Italy was still in the ill-fated League of Nations. Like the U.S. Navy battleship Utah (BB-31/AG-16), she was repurposed as a floating target ship, an easy conversion for a vessel that had armor coating almost every surface, even the deck.

Italian Target Ship ex-Armored Cruiser SAN MARCO, capable of being radio-controlled. She would go on to be captured by the Germans in 1943 when Italy pulled out of the war, then later scuttled at Spezia. Interestingly, she used a different engineering suite from San Giorgio, being powered by Parsons steam turbines, and Babcock & Wilcox boilers. NH 111446

By 1936, she was assigned to the Italian task force off Spain during the Spanish Civil War and, with the Supermarina seeing the writing on the wall, withdrawn from the line the next year for modernization.

Spending nearly two full years at Ansaldo in Genoa, the cruiser was extensively rebuilt and modernized. Her boilers, replaced by more modern oil-fired examples, were reduced from 14 to eight, which allowed two funnels to be removed. She also picked up new electronic gear, landed most of her 1910-era small guns in favor of new 100/47mm OTO Mod 1928 DP twin mounts, and sealed up her torpedo tubes.

Italian Ship: SAN GIORGIO. Italy – OCA. (San Giorgio Class). 1939. Note her vastly changed appearance from the original Great War era vessel. NH 111445

And it was just in time.

George’s final war

Deployed from Italy to the Eastern Libyan fortress port of Tobruk, arriving on 13 May 1940 while the country was still at peace. Remember, Italy didn’t join WWII until 10 June 1940 when Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg has already fallen and France was on the verge of collapse, leaving Britain alone against Hitler and Mussolini.

Two days after the Italians clocked in, the British light cruisers Gloucester (62) and Liverpool (C11) swung by Tobruk and engaged the port and San Giorgio in an ineffective long-range artillery duel, with neither side connecting. Before the end of the month, HMS Parthian (N75), arriving in the Med from China station in May 1940, made it close enough to fire two torpedoes at the big Italian that did not connect, leaving the British sub to settle with sinking the Italian submarine Diamante near Tobruk on 20 June.

San Giorgio‘s skipper at the time, Capitano di Fregata Rosario Viola, reinforced her exposed decks with sandbags and ordered a triple layer of torpedo nets around the hull, then mounted as many extra guns and lookouts as he could.

This had mixed results as, on late in the afternoon of 28 June, her gunners were involved in a friendly-fire incident in which a pair of SIAI-Marchetti SM79 Sparvieros had the bad luck of coming in low and out of the sun over the port in the wake of a British bomber strike. One Sparviero was blown from the sky– flown by no other than fascist darling and big aviation advocate Italo Balbo, then serving as Libya’s governor-general.



Still, the attacks came. 

5 July, Swordfish torpedo bombers of 813 Squadron from HMS Eagle attacked Tobruk in a combined attack with the RAF at dusk, sinking the destroyer Zeffiro and the freighter SS Manzoni but missing San Giorgio.

Swordfish from Eagle’s 824 Squadron conducted a night raid on 27 October, seeding the harbor with mines.

San Giorgio was still Tobruk in early 1941, which was probably the worst time and place to be an Italian cruiser. After a terribly run invasion of Egypt, the Italian 10th Army had just been thoroughly defeated by the British Western Desert Force at Bardia and the stragglers, largely formed around the 61st (Sirte) Infantry Division by 7 January were encircled in Tobruk and subject to heavy bombardment.

San Giorgio, after the Balbo shootdown, was placed under the command of Capitano di Fregata Stefano Pugliese, a 40-year-old who had spent 25 of those in the Navy, including as skipper of the “pirate” submarine Balilla during the Spanish-American war and as XO of the light cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Battle of Calabria. The port commander, RADM Massimiliano Vietina, ordered Pugliese to remain in the besieged port as a floating artillery battery and lend his cruiser’s heavy guns to the wobbly perimeter.

Over the next two weeks, as the Italian lines crumbled and air attacks by Blenheims escorted by Gladiators and Hurricanes owned the skies, San Giorgio did her best. Sealed into the harbor by the destroyer-screened Great War Erebus-class monitor HMS Terror, who occasionally lobbed 15-inch shells into Tobruk, the Italian cruiser was heavily damaged but continued to both contribute to the flak clouds and ground defense.

When it came to AAA, her biggest contribution was from five twin 100/47 high-angle guns, augmented by three 20mm Bredas and four 13.2mm mounts. Over the course of 291 air raid warnings during her time at Tobruk and 115 engagements, she fired a whopping 13,000 100 mm rounds and 120,000 from the smaller pieces. Her crew claimed 47 aircraft hit or shot down (not sure if Balbo’s plane is included in that tally).

Note the sandbagged AAA positions and covering on deck as well as the torpedo net boom

Twin OTO 100mm DP mount

Her big guns fired over 100 shells from the big 10-inch guns and 360 from her 7.45s.

Finally, when the end was near on the night of 21/22 January, Pugliese signaled the ship abandoned, after ordering the crew to wreck everything they could find for two hours, then led a small party, primarily of volunteer junior officers and NCOs, back to blow the vessel’s magazines. Two men, Torpedoman 1st Class Alessandro Montagna and 2nd Lt. Giuseppe Buciuni, were lost in the explosion due to a delayed fuse.


The ship, through a combination of magazine explosions and bunker fires, burned for days.

Members of C Company (mostly from 14 Platoon), Australian 2/11th Infantry Battalion, part of the 6th Division having penetrated the outer defenses of Tobruk, assemble again on the escarpment on the south side of the harbor after attacking anti-aircraft gun positions, 22 January 1941. San Giorgio is one of the plumes in the background. Burning fuel oil tanks at the port are the second. AWM

These photos were taken on 25 January, four days after the ship was scuttled. AWM

One of the better shots soon circled the globe, tagged in four languages. Big news for the struggling Brits in 1941. 

Once the wreck cooled, there were extensive surveys and relic hunting done by Allied troops.

The wreck of the Italian Armored Cruiser San Giorgio in Tobruk Harbor, sunk by RAF and RN aircraft. Photographed by Robert Milne taken from HMAS Vendetta. AWM

AWM photos.

To honor the crew and the vessel, San Giorgio was awarded the Medaglia d’oro al Valor Militare, Italy’s highest recognition for military valor, by the Royal Decree of King Umberto on 10 June 1943. Only seven other units– the five daring torpedo boats of the Dardanelles Squadron: Spica, Centaur, Perseo, Astore, Climene; MAS Flotilla Alto Adriatico, and the submarine Scirè— received the MOVM in gold during the war.

The two men lost in San Giorgio’s scuttling were similarly decorated, posthumously.

Her surviving ~700 crew, meanwhile, spent the rest of the war in a British POW camp in India. Many would receive decorations for their actions for Tobruk. The crew was decorated with five Silver MVMs as well as 16 Bronze and 237 War Crosses.

“Four Italian ratings captured from San Giorgio, 31 January 1941.” AWM

Pugliese, who returned home to a hero’s welcome in 1945 and a MOVM of his own, later went on to rise to the rank of vice admiral in the postwar Italian fleet and in the 1960s would become commander of the NATO naval forces in the central Mediterranean– which ironically included British vessels.

In 1951, the then-independent Libyan government of King Idris came to an agreement with Rome to salvage the cruiser’s hulk. During the recovery, it was reported that 39 torpedoes and a huge amount of other UXO were found in the nets and on the seabed around the ship.

Refloated by a scrapper who intended to haul it back to Italy, while under tow by the tug Ursus the wreck started taking on water and broke her lines, taking a deep plunge some 140 miles north of Tobruk in some of the deepest water in the Med.

Relics of the cruiser are few.

San Giorgio‘s ceremonial ensign, presented to the ship in 1911 by Duchess of Genoa, Isabella Maria Elisabetta di Baviera, was spirited past the blockade out of Tobruk by a volunteer crew of six officers, three sailors and the ship’s dog, “Stoppaccio,” and made it back to Italy aboard a requisitioned trawler, Risveglio II. If anyone can find an image of the banner, please let me know.

When the Axis retook Tobruk in 1942 once Rommel was on the scene, the Italians inspected the wreck of the cruiser and, finding three 100/47mm guns still sound, recovered them and put them back in circulation.  

A 12-minute wartime film, Vita e fine della San Giorgio, The Life and end of the San Giorgio, can be seen online at the Italian national archives and includes much footage of the vessel.

The Australian War Memorial has a brass pistol grip and trigger from one of San Giorgio‘s direction finders that were salvaged by the crew of the destroyer HMAS Vendetta (I96), as well as an Italian naval officer’s dress sword engraved to the ship.


The U.S. National Archives has numerous naval attaché reports on San Giorgio in their collection.

As for the Italian Navy, the Regia Marina faded away in 1945 and was replaced by the Marina Militare Italiana, which still honors the famous armored cruiser’s memory. Since then, the Italians have very much kept the name alive on their naval list, commissioning a 5,000-ton light cruiser/destroyer leader/training ship (D 563) in 1955.

SAN GIORGIO (D 562), Italian DL, in New York Harbor for the International Naval Review, 4 July 1976. Originally laid down as a Roman Captain-class light cruiser in WWII, by 1965 she was a training ship that took summer midshipmen cruises around the globe– replicating her namesake’s 1920s and 1930s mission. She was retired in 1979 and sold to the breakers in 1987. K-114252

In 1987, the Italian Navy christened the class leader of a new series of 8,000-ton amphibious transport docks (L9892) which are all still in service and going strong.


Displacement: 10,167 tons (standard), 11,300 (full)
Length: 462 ft 3 in (o/a)
Beam: 69 ft 0 in
Draught: 24 ft 1 in
Machinery: 14 Blechynden boilers, 2 shafts, 2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines, 19,500 ihp
Speed: 23 knots
Range: 6,270 nmi at 10 knots on 1500 tons of coal, (Carried 50 tons naphtha for boats)
Complement: 32 officers, 673 enlisted men
Belt: 7.9 in
Gun turrets: 6.3–7.9 in
Deck: 2.0 in
Conning tower: 10.0 in
4 Elswick 10.0 in/45 Mod. 1908 guns (2×2)
8 Armstrong 7.5 in/45 Mod. 1908 guns (4×2)
18 single Armstrong 76 mm guns
2 single Vickers 47 mm guns
2 Colt 6.5mm machine guns
3 x 17.7 in torpedo tubes
Embarked torpedo boats


Displacement: 9,232 tons
Length: 459 ft.
Beam: 69 ft 0 in
Draught: 22.5 ft.
Machinery: 8 boilers, 2 shafts, 2 VTE, 18,000 ihp
Speed: 18 knots
Complement: 700
Armor: (Augmented by sandbags and extensive anti-torpedo nets)
Belt: 7.9 in
Gun turrets: 6.3–7.9 in
Deck: 2.0 in
Conning tower: 10.0 in
4 Elswick 10.0 in/45 Mod. 1908 guns (2×2)
8 Armstrong 7.5 in/45 Mod. 1908 guns (4×2)
10 100mm/47 OTO Mod. 1928 DP (5×2)
12 Breda 20mm/65 Mod. 1935 AAA guns (6×2)
10 Breda Mod. 31 13.2mm machine guns (5×2)

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.

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!

Magnolia Christmas in the Big Apple

New Yorkers gazing at the brand new New Mexico-class dreadnought USS Mississippi (Battleship No. 41) as she lies at anchor in the Hudson River for the Great War victory fleet review, Christmas Eve, 1918.

Note the red flag and two stars of a Junior Rear Admiral flying from the main. Photo by Underwood & Underwood. National Archives Identifier: 45513317 Local Identifier: 165-WW-337D-7.

Under the command of CAPT William A. Moffett (USNA 1890, MoH recipient, and future “Air Admiral”), at the time of these images, she was the newest U.S. battleship in commission at the time.

“A deck view of the new MISSISSIPPI, one of the mightiest fighting ships afloat December 25, 1918.” NH 123911

Commissioned 18 December 1917, she had spent her first world war on a series of training and workups along the East Coast and did not have a chance to fire a shot in anger.

Her second world war would be a lot less tranquil.

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