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The Winchester Pugsley Anti-tank gun

This prototype Winchester shown off by Ian over at Forgotten Weapons dates from 1918, a time when John Browning was working on his .50 BMG round and the Germans had their own giant T-Gewehr 13mm Mauser rifle in the trenches of Western Europe with the aim of sniping early armored vehicles.

Via the Cody Museum

The now-99-year-old elephant gun was dubbed a “swivel rifle” by Winchester and looks about as steampunk as the most goggle-wearing fan of Jules Verne could imagine. Termed simply as a “bolt gun” in patent paperwork by inventor Edwin Pugsley, this space rifle is as funky as they came– but predated the Barrett .50 cal by almost a century.

 

Warship Wednesday, July 19, 2017: The Belgian sword master and his legacy

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, July 19, 2017: The Belgian sword master and his legacy

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

Here we see the Butler-class destroyer escort USS Corbesier (DE 438) in an undated photo, likely somewhere in the Pacific in late WWII. She was named after an extremely well-known (for his time) expert with a blade.

“Cutlasses, lads!” was a standard call to prepare to repel boarders going back to the Continental Navy with Colonial armorer Richard Gridley and John Bailey reportedly crafting a number of these curved short swords for Washington’s fleet.

As described by JO2 Meckel in 1957’s “The Cutlass Carved Its Niche in Our Navy’s Annals,” the fledgling U.S. Navy ordered small lots of cutlasses from sword makers Nathan Starr of Middletown, Connecticut; Lewis Prahl of Philadelphia; and Robert Dingie of New York.

Starr later made three different 2,000-cutlass lots in 1808 (for $2.50 each), 1816 ($3.00) and 1826 ($4.25)– talk about inflation! These were needed in large numbers as frigates such as the USS Constitution were authorized no less than 156 cutlasses.

These early swords were later augmented and then replaced by the Ames Cutlass in two variants (1842 and 1860) with the latter, remaining in service amazingly through WWII.

The 1860 Ames was 32-inches long with a 26-inch blade, and was in service from 1860 through 1949! This example marked U.S.N. D.R. 1864, is in the National Park Service collection.

Moving from the Barbary Wars and War of 1812 to the Civil War, the Navy’s love affair with the cutlass remained intact, even as armor plate, steam engines, Gatling repeaters, torpedoes (mines) and rifled naval guns moved combat into modern terms.

With the need to remain trained in these traditional edged weapons, you need a sword master.

Enter one very dapper Antoine Joseph Corbesier, a man skilled at the noble art of attack and parry with a sword.

As noted by DANFS, Corbesier was born 22 January 1837 in Belgium and, after service with the French, emigrated to America.

As described by Fencing Classics, “A brief advertisement in the New York Tribune, from October 19, 1863, places him in New York during the time of the Civil War, where he was a teacher at the New York Fencing Club before opening his own school.”

By 1865, the 28-year-old European fencer was Sword-Master of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and, had made such an impression on the very gruff Admiral David Dixon Porter, then Superintendent, that Porter endorsed Corbesier’s 76-page text on sword fighting published in 1868.

“Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword” soon became the standard tome for the use of naval cutlasses in the U.S. Navy and the influence can be seen for decades, along with other works he produced on the bayonet.

USS GALENA, 1880-92. Caption: Left flank cut, during cutlass practice. Description: Catalog #: NH 53998

Left flank cut, from Corbesier’s book

“Left face cut.” Cutlass exercises for apprentices on board USS MONONGAHELA at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Rhode Island. From the book: “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” 1892. Description: Catalog #: NH 45885

Left face cut, from Corbesier’s book

Meanwhile, new ships coming on line, even though they were modern steam vessels lit by electric light, were still given their (reduced) allotment of cutlasses which, in naval tradition, would remain aboard until the ship was removed from the Naval List, ensuring the swords would float around through the Spanish-American War, Great War, and even into WWII.

Cutlass exercise Caption: Aboard a U.S. Navy warship during the later 1800s. Post card photo. Description: Catalog #: NH 80750

USS Enterprise (1877-1909) Ship’s Apprentices pose by the port side quarterdeck ladder, while Enterprise was at the New York Navy Yard, circa spring 1890. Photographed by E.H. Hart, New York City. Note the figure-eight Apprentice mark visible on the uniforms of several of these men, and cutlass fan on the cabin bulkhead at left. Stern of receiving ship Vermont is partially visible in the left background. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 54215

USS CHICAGO (1889-1935) Caption: View on the gun deck, about 1890. Note cutlass and rifle racks, with 6″/30 broadside guns beyond. Description: Catalog #: NH 55124

By special act of Congress, after more than 40 years of instruction at the Academy, Corbesier was given the rank of first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps 4 March 1913.

Lieutenant Antoine J. Corbesier, USMC, taken sometime between 1913-15. Catalog #: NH 51707

He died in the Naval Hospital at Annapolis on 26 March 1915, where he lived at the time.

His obituary ran in several nautical journals of the day, the below from Seven Seas Magazine.

Even with the great swordsman gone, the Navy kept the cutlass on tap, and they continued to see service in far flung ports when needed, even apparently being broken out once or twice in China as late as the 1930s.

On the eve of the Great War, the Navy attempted to replace the Civil War-era Ames Cutlass with the new M1917 Naval Cutlass, based on the Dutch Klewang boarding sword, though its adoption seems more miss than hit.

Then came this:

JJ55-3/1510, 15 October 1942
ACTION: ALL SHIPS AND STATIONS

1.Officers of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps, shall no longer be required to possess swords as part of their uniform equipment.

2.The various uniform regulations will be modified accordingly.

3.It is expected that a form of dirk will, in due course, be adopted as uniform equipment in lieu of the sword.

4.Due to the urgent need for metals, it is suggested that officers, who may so desire, turn in their swords for scrap.-SecNav. Frank Knox.

This order, as noted by NHHC Curator Mark Wertheimer in 2003, did not affect cutlasses still in unit and vessel armories, and they “remained an ordnance allowance item until 1949” indeed, being done away with in by NavOrd Inst. 4500-1 in November 1949. Reportedly, some Marines even carried them ashore in the Pacific for use as machetes during the jungle fighting of WWII.

However, the swordsman may have been gone, and his weapons headed for the literal scrap heap, but he was not forgotten.

On 11 November 1943 at Dravo shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware, a Cannon-class destroyer escort was named USS Corbesier (DE-106) in his honor. She went on to be commissioned as the Free French Naval ship Sénégalais (T-22) on 2 January 1944, which is fitting to a degree based on Corbesier’s French military service in the days of Napoleon III.

Sénégalais went on to seriously damage German submarine U-371 just five months after she was taken over by the French, taking a German homing torpedo in the exchange.

Sénégalais (French Escort Ship, formerly USS Corbesier, DE-106) French sailor paints a submarine kill symbol on the ship's smokestack, following the sinking of German submarine U-371 off the Algerian coast on 4 May 1944. During the action, Sénégalais delivered the final attack on U-371, but was herself torpedoed and damaged. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1606

Sénégalais (French Escort Ship, formerly USS Corbesier, DE-106) French sailor paints a submarine kill symbol on the ship’s smokestack, following the sinking of German submarine U-371 off the Algerian coast on 4 May 1944. During the action, Sénégalais delivered the final attack on U-371 but was herself torpedoed and damaged. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1606

The French ship went on to serve that Navy until 1965, being scrapped in Germany.

Meanwhile, a second USS Corbesier, (DE-438), a John C. Butler-class destroyer escort, was launched in 1944 by Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J. Commissioned 31 March 1944, she sailed for the Pacific and performed ASW missions and general escort duties.

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

On 23 January 1945, with sisters Conklin (DE-439) and Raby (DE-698), Corbesier sank the Japanese submarine I-48 off Yap Island.

From Combined Fleets:

23 January 1945:
15 miles NE of Yap Island. At 0310, USS CORBESIER (DE-438) makes a radar contact at about 9,800 yds. The target is heading 210 degrees at 18 kts. After CORBESIER closes to investigate, I-48 dives. At 0336, CORBESIER obtains a sound contact and fires a salvo of Mk.10 “Hedgehog” projector charges but misses. CONKLIN and RABY (DE-698) join the chase. CORBESIER makes five more Hedgehog attacks, all with negative results, finally, losing the contact.

At 0902, CORBESIER regains contact and executes another “Hedgehog” attack, again with negative results. At 0912, CORBESIER reestablishes sound contact with the sub, but loses it before an attack can be made. CONKLIN makes a new “Hedgehog” attack at 0934, from a distance of 550 yds. Seventeen seconds later, four or five explosions are heard from an estimated depth of 175 ft. At 0936, a violent explosion occurs, temporarily disabling CONKLIN’s engines and steering gear. Huge air bubbles come up alongside; soon thereafter oil and debris surface. Large quantities of human remains are likewise sighted.

17 miles N of Yap. A motor whaleboat from CONKLIN picks up pieces of planking, splintered wood, cork, interior woodwork with varnished surfaces, a sleeve of a knitted blue sweater containing flesh, chopsticks and a seaman’s manual. I-48 is sunk with her 118-strong crew and four kaiten pilots at 09-55N, 138-17.30E

It wasn’t gentlemanly swordplay, but it was no less deadly.

Corbesier went on to serve off Okinawa, parrying attacks from Japanese kamikaze off Okinawa. She completed the war with two battle stars, and berthed at San Diego, was decommissioned in 1946. She was scrapped in 1972.

The Navy has not named another vessel after Adm. Porter’s sword master.

They did bring back the officer’s dress sword in 1952, in 2011 CPOs were granted the authority to carry a mil-spec cutlass on certain occasions, and today the (ceremonial) use of the sword is instilled in the Marine’s Corporal’s Course, so there is that.

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joseph Bednarik, with Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, instructs Marines on proper sword manual during Corporals Course on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb 22, 2016. Sword manual is an honored tradition in which Marines command troop formations during formal ceremonies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Bekkala, MCIWEST-MCB CamPen Combat Camera/Released)

And yes, there are still a few old-school Ames-style cutlasses around, which would warm Corbesier’s heart.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tenika Fugate, assigned to USS Constitution, raises a cutlass during a color guard detail in Old Town during Albuquerque Navy Week. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Brown)

His “Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword” is in the public domain, has been digitized, and is widely available, ensuring that it will endure.

And of course, if you are passing through the Naval Academy, stop by the Cemetery and Columbarium, and visit Lot 394 to pay your respects.

Yet, “If the Army and the Navy Ever look on Heaven’s scenes; They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines,” holds true, the swordsman may still be holding class.

Specs:

(DE 438)
Displacement: 1,350/1,745 tons
Length: 306 ft. (93 m) overall
Beam: 36 ft. 10 in (11.23 m)
Draught: 13 ft. 4 in (4.06 m) maximum
Propulsion: 2 boilers, 2 geared turbine engines, 12,000 shp, 2 screws
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h)
Range: 6,000 nmi at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: 14 officers, 201 enlisted
Armament:
2 × 5 in (130 mm)
4 × 40 mm AA (2 × 2)
10 × 20 mm guns AA
3 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
1 × Hedgehog
8 × K-gun depth charge projectors
2 × depth charge tracks
(though likely no cutlasses)

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Lafayette, we are here

If you are a Francophile, or just plain old French or Creole (here’s to you, Ben and Aaron!), then consider this Happy Bastille Day.

In honor of the ceremony in Paris, 190 troops from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will march alongside thousands of French servicemen and women in the Friday parade, and U.S. military planes will contribute to the grand flypast.

The select honor guard leading the American contingent for the parade are patch-wearing members of The Big Red One– 1st U.S. Infantry Division– who will be marching with M1903 Springfields, cartridge belts, and M1917 Brodie style helmets, while some officers will be carrying M1902 pattern swords of the same sort carried by Pershing when he walked off the deck onto French soil.

PARIS (July 12, 2017) Almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen assigned to units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, march from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde during a rehearsal for the Military Parade on Bastille Day to be held July 14, 2017. This year, the U.S. will lead the parade as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I – as well as the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb/Released)

Rehersals:

The Americans will lead the Military Parade on Bastille Day, July 14, 2017, along the famous Champs-Elysées in Paris in commemoration of the U.S. entry into WWI.

“France stood with us during the American Revolution and that strategic partnership endures today,” said General Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander, U.S. European Command. “On behalf of the 60,000 service members standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the French to ensure Europe is whole, free and at peace, we are honored to lead the Bastille Day Parade and help celebrate the French independence.”

On July 4, 1917, U.S. Army regular, Lt. Col. Charles Egbert Stanton–nephew of Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, SpanAm War vet and chief disbursing officer and aide to Pershing– visited the tomb of French Revolution and American Revolution hero Marquis de La Fayette and was famously attributed as saying, “Lafayette, we are here!”

It should be noted that this occurred after the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, (then part of the Big Red One) paraded through the streets of Paris.

The unit went on to suffer the first American casualties of the war in the Trenches just weeks later. On 4 October 1918, the 16th was the only regiment in the entire First Army to take its regimental objectives in the opening attacks in the Meuse-Argonne. Today the 16th carries the French Fourragère, awarded after Normandy in 1944, and while the 2nd Battalion inactivated in 2015, 1-16 is still part of the 1st ID, and the battalion colors are in the color guard at the head of the parade.

Meanwhile, in the air, the Thunderbirds have been practicing for the flypast.

Warship Wednesday, July 12, 2017: Woodrow’s biggest German

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, July 12, 2017: Woodrow’s biggest German

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 71

Here we see the armed troop transport USS Leviathan (Shore Patrol vessel #1326) in harbor, with tugs in attendance at her starboard bow, 1918. Note her distinctive dazzle camouflage scheme which she would wear throughout the Great War, in U.S. service anyway. At the time, she was billed as the biggest ship in the World.

Built by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg as SS Vaterland for Germany’s Hamburg America Line (HAPAG), she was the largest passenger ship in the world upon her completion, superseding her near-sister SS Imperator (who was 44 feet shorter), but later being superseded in turn by the last ship of her class, SS Bismarck (who was six feet longer).

How big was she? Some 950-feet overall and 54,000-tons displacement. Capable of carrying 4,234 passengers (908 first class, 592 second, 962 third, and 1,772 steerage), she could make 24+ knots on her eight massive Parsons steam turbines powered by 46 (!) boilers. As such, she required almost 1,200 stokers, stewards, attendants and other crew to keep her running.

Her maiden voyage was on 14 May 1914, just six weeks before the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed and the lights began to go out across Europe.

Caught at sea in the North Atlantic too far away from Hamburg to make it home if the balloon went up, the brand-new ocean liner put into New York, then a neutral safe haven.

S.S. Vaterland, German Passenger Liner, arriving at New York City on 29 July 1914, three days before Germany’s declaration of war on Russia began World War I. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Collection of Captain Cyrus R. Miller, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 103156

There she sat at Hoboken, N.J until 1 August when, though Vaterland had booked 720 first class, 420 second class, and 2,500 third class and steerage passengers leaving for Germany that day (including many German reservists on the way back home), they were canceled and the ship ordered by HAPAG to stay in port, taking a $500,000 loss in bookings.

Her crew, left largely without funds as the war began, took to moving ashore and taking other jobs in between organizing moonlight excursion trips up the Hudson (turn arounds) and a bazaar in Madison Square Garden where her crew sold handicrafts. Vaterland was reportedly a hotbed of German spy activity as well, and some took leave back to Europe via ships bound for other neutrals such as Spain.

Vaterland was seized by the United States Shipping Board at 4 a.m. on April 6 on the eve of the United States entering World War I, along with 90 other German ships in various ports across the country. Only 300 of her crew were aboard and they gave up the ship without bloodshed, being marched first ashore and then taken to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga for internment. Some 20 freight cars of expensive furnishings and paintings, including $150,000 worth of silver, were removed and stored ashore.

The big liner was placed under guard by 60 officers of the NYPD’s 37th Precinct, who were later relieved by a New Jersey Naval Militia force in July. Reports state that “Several attempts to smuggle small bombs and explosives into the coal chutes from the coal barges alongside were frustrated by the guards.”

Her plans and documents had been burned by the ship’s officers, but a spare set of drawings was later found in the safe at HAPAG’s New York office.

However, most of the brand-new ship was filled with years of trash and junk, and some machinery was left inoperable. The Germans had sabotaged numerous water lines installed behind the interior paneling of the ship and when the water was first turned on numerous floods were caused throughout the vessel, with the entire forward section of the ship’s officers’ rooms on the starboard side was flooded with about 14 inches of water, for example.

On 25 July 1917, Vaterland was turned over to the Navy Department and regularly commissioned as a Naval vessel and assigned to transport duty under the command of Vice- Admiral Albert Cleaves, U. S. Navy, Commander of the Cruiser and Transport Force, United States Atlantic Fleet. On September 6th the name of the German ship Vaterland was changed by order of the Secretary of the Navy, without ceremony, to USS Leviathan. President Woodrow Wilson reportedly chose the name.

Leviathan was made ready to transport up to 14,000 men on each crossing to Europe, with life rafts for 17,000 added. She was painted in dazzle camouflage, and her appointments drastically changed.

All the staterooms on the lower decks of the ship were ripped out to make room for open iron frame-work beds with canvas bunk bottoms, good enough for troops. The main theater and ball room were converted into a hospital for troops and crew during transatlantic voyages with an isolation ward established in the gymnasium on “A” Deck for contagious cases. The ship’s doctor’s office was used as a sick call station and dispensary for troops and crew. The portholes were painted black and dogged shut.

She was also given a formidable armament including a battery of eight 6″ guns for protection against surface raiders , as well as two “Y” guns which hurled depth bombs loaded with TNT to scare off U-boats, making her an auxiliary cruiser in all but name. A pair of 1-pounders for saluting and another couple of Colt machine guns for pier side protection were added as well. According to reports, she was attacked several times “by the undersea pirates and according to officers of the vessel one attacking sub was sunk by a shell from one of the six-inch guns” though this is perhaps not supported by post-war analysis.

Gun crew preparing to load one of the ship’s six-inch guns, circa 1918. Photographed by Zimmer. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41707

Her crew more than doubled from the German’s 1,200 to some 2,400 in U.S. service, including a young 18-year-old Quartermaster by the name of Humphrey DeForest Bogart.

She was still impressive, despite the warpaint.

Halftone reproduction of a photograph showing the ship moored to a buoy in 1918. She is painted in dazzle camouflage. The original photograph was taken by Enrique Muller, New York. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51396

Halftone reproduction of a photograph of the interior of the ship’s bridge, taken circa 1919. Note engine order telegraphs, chart table and steering wheel. This image was published in 1919 as one of ten photographs in a Souvenir Folder of views concerning USS Leviathan, many of which are detailed below. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 104693

Halftone reproduction of a photograph of the ship’s main dining room, taken circa 1919. Catalog #: NH 104689

Halftone reproduction of a photograph of the troops’ mess hall on board the ship, taken circa 1919. Note the fancy decor of this space, left over from her time as the German passenger liner Vaterland. Catalog #: NH 104690

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in the ship’s sick bay, circa 1919. Note the elegant doorway and windows, left over from her time as the German passenger liner Vaterland. Catalog #: NH 104695

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1919, showing one of the ship’s troop berthing compartments. Catalog #: NH 103201

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1919, showing cooks making chow by the barrel in a galley. Catalog #: NH 103203

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1919, showing the ship’s huge and richly decorated officers’ dining room. Catalog #: NH 103202

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1919, showing the operating board for the ship’s main propulsion steam turbines. Catalog #: NH 103204

At 7.34 A. M., 15 December 1917, Leviathan left her pier in Hoboken for her first trip across the Atlantic, with 7,254 troops and 2,000 sailors on board. Making over 21-knots and outpacing her escorts, her crew spent liberty in Liverpool by Christmas. Operating between Hoboken and Brest/Liverpool, she completed 10 round trips, carrying 119,215 fighting men Eastward before the armistice on 11 November 1918. Of the men of the AEF who made it to Europe, one in 20 went on Leviathan.

The front side of a Troop Billet card used circa 1917-1919, while the ship was transporting service personnel between the United States and Europe. See Photo # NH 104240-A-KN for the reverse side of this card. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2006. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 104240-KN

Pershing himself crossed back to the states on her 19th trip, westbound, along with his famous composite regiment selected from the entire A. E. F. Assistant SECNAV Franklin Roosevelt and his party returned from France on her.

Lot-8836-9: WWI – American Expeditionary Forces. General John J. Pershing on board USS Leviathan (ID 1326). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Her fastest round trip, from the U.S. to Europe and back, was 14 days and 21 hours, though they typically ran 26 days, accounting for loading and unloading of up to 14,300 men and their accompanying supplies and equipment.

As noted by SECNAV “Cup of Joe” Secretary Daniels in the most interesting tome of her WWI career:

“Although the Leviathan did not participate in any great naval engagement, although the battle flags never flew proudly at her mastheads as she swept into the tempest of a modern naval engagement, her achievement in carrying across the sea more than three divisions of American soldiers entitles the gallant ship’s name to a place forever in the hall of American naval fame.”

Tragically, on one crossing in late 1918, 2,000 of her passengers and crew took ill with Spanish Influenza while underway, and she arrived in Brest carrying 96 dead and dying.

Once the war was over, she completed another nine trips home from Europe, bringing the Americans back from “Over There.”

Decommissioned 29 October 1919, she was turned back over to the Shipping Board and she was retained as a war trophy.

Seeing use for her in future conflicts– after all, she could carry a whole division at a time and outrun any submarine– she was reconditioned with a new oil-fired plant and apportionments and put at the disposal of the United States Lines who used her as an ocean liner from 1923 onward.

S.S. Leviathan in drydock at Boston, Massachusetts, in 1923. She is undergoing preparations for her maiden voyage under the United States Lines flag, which commenced on 4 July of that year. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43035

S.S. Leviathan Steaming out of New York Harbor, circa the mid-1920s. The Manhattan skyline is in the background. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43553

S.S. Leviathan photographed from an aircraft, while underway at sea during the 1920s or 1930s. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41867

However, the now 60,000-ton vessel was an expensive giant too big to turn a profit and the line reportedly lost money on every voyage, especially during the dry days of Prohibition, with half of the cabins often empty. Although some 250,000 passengers booked on her in 13 years, the line went bankrupt and, with the agreement of the Shipping Board, she was sold for scrap in 1937. Had it not been for that, she certainly would have been used once more as a “trooper” in WWII.

Of her 301 documented voyages, just three were under a German flag.

As for her sisters, SS Imperator managed to spend WWI in Hamburg and was taken over by the U.S. Navy 5 May 1919 at Brest. Not really needing a second Leviathan, the Navy used her only briefly as a troop ship (USS Imperator) then sold her to the British Cunard Line who renamed the liner RMS Berengaria. Retired in 1938 in poor condition, she was scrapped after WWII.

The last of the line, SS Bismarck was incomplete at the time of the Great War and was seized by the British. Sailing in turn as RMS Majestic for the White Star Line and then RMS Caledonia under Cunard service, while being used by the Royal Navy as HMS Caledonia she caught fire and sank on 29 September 1939.

As for Leviathan, she is extensively remembered in maritime art.

“When the Leviathan went out” — “Seagate 1918” When the Leviathan went out Seagate 1918 Etching by Bernhardt Wall, 1918, depicting two children building a sand castle, as USS Leviathan (ID # 1326) steams past in the background. Courtesy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 1924

USS Leviathan (ID # 1326) Water depicting the ship on her maiden Navy voyage from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Liverpool, England, with troops on board, Christmas Eve, 24 December 1917. Courtesy of CWO2 John A. Steel, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51398-KN

“A Fast Convoy” painting by Burnell Poole, depicting USS Allen (Destroyer # 66) escorting USS Leviathan (ID # 1326) in the War Zone, 1918. The original painting measures 60 x 33. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42690-KN

And in Hamburg, her place of birth and original home port, the Hamburg International Maritime Museum has a great collection of 1-1250 scale models show her as the SS Vaterland (in the back) USS Leviathan (in the middle, with dazzle camouflage painting) and SS Leviathan (in the front) on display.

Then, of course, this guy will live on forever.

Publicity shot for “High Sierra” (Raoul Walsh, 1941), with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. Note the 1911, which would have been standard for the time he was on Leviathan.

Specs:

USS Leviathan Description: (ID # 1326) Plan of Dazzle camouflage intended for the ship, circa 1918. This design, for Leviathan’s starboard side (and port below), is like, but not the same as the camouflage scheme she received. Note the Office of Naval Intelligence Register Number in the upper left. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51308 and 51389

(As troop ship)
Displacement: 58,000-tons
Length: 950 feet
Beam: 100 feet
Draft: 41 feet, 10 inches “when leaving New York with 10,000 troops”

“Place her on Fifth Avenue and she would spread from 42d Street across 45th Street. Stand her on end alongside the Woolworth Building, and she would overtop the Woolworth Building more than 50 feet.”

Crew: 2,400 including Engineering (12 officers and 950 men) and Commissary (7 officers and 350 men)
Engines: Parsons turbines, 46 boilers, 8,700 tons of coal (burns 900 per day at 26 knots sustained).
Armament: 8×6-inch, 2-1pdr, 2-Y guns, depth charge racks, 2 mg

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Warship Wednesday, July 5, 2017: HMs cruiser bruiser

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, July 5, 2017: HMs cruiser bruiser

Here we see the Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Valiant as she fires a 15″ broadside, July 1944, against Japanese port and oil facilities on Sabang Island off the northern tip of Sumatra during Operation Crimson. At this stage of her life, the battlewagon was 30~years young and had survived massive fleet actions against the Kaiser’s High Seas Fleet in the Great War and Mussolini’s Regina Marine in WWII. An enforcer at the surrender of both of those fleets, she would be cruelly cheated of attending a third.

A member of the very successful Queen Elizabeth-class of “super-dreadnought,” they were fast for their day (24-knots), well-armored with as much as 13-inches of KC in their belt, tower and turrets; and packed a punch from eight massive BL 15 inch (381mm) Mk I naval guns in four twin turrets.

HMS Valiant firing her BL 15-inch Mk I guns, c.1939.

The Mk I, described by Navweaps as “quite possibly the best large-caliber naval gun ever developed by Britain and it was certainly one of the longest-lived of any nation, with the first ship-board firing taking place in 1915 and the last in 1954,” was a bruiser capable of firing a 1-ton shell out to 33,550 yards and could well-outrange most German naval guns. Some 184 of these guns were made by Armstrong Whitworth, W Beardmore, Vickers, Royal Gun Factory, and Coventry Ordnance Works, serving on just about every subsequent British battleship design. The guns were rotated between ships, having a life of about 200 rounds before requiring relining, and one that served on Valiant during Jutland later wound up being captured by the Japanese at Singapore where it was serving as shore-mounted coastal artillery.

But we are getting far ahead of ourselves.

The hero of our story was the fifth RN vessel named HMS Valiant in a line that included three different 18th/19th Century third-rate 74-gun ships of the line, and a Hector-class ironclad battleship which remained afloat for 90 years.

The American Ship PORCUPINE and the HMS VALIANT, 17 June 1813. On 17 June 1813, the American letter-of-marque, PORCUPINE, of 20 guns and 72 men at daylight found herself under the lee of the British 74-gun ship HMS VALIANT, Captain Robert Dudley Oliver. After a long chase and using every endeavor to escape, PORCUPINE was overtaken and compelled to surrender to the overwhelming force of her opponent. Description: Catalog #: USN 903313

HMS VALIANT (BRITISH BATTLESHIP, 1863) Description: Catalog #: NH 71209

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 74057) HMS Valiant Queen Elizabeth-class battleship and R-class destroyers: HMS Ulysses (F80), HMS Undine (G77) and HMS Sable (G91). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205318845

Ordered from Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland), in 1912 at a cost of £2,357,037, HMS Valiant (pennant 02) was commissioned 13 January 1916 and joined the Grand Fleet’s 5th Battle Squadron—under the command of Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas– along with three of her sisters, HMS Barham, HMS Malaya, and HMS Warspite. The quartet, with 32 15-inch and 56 6-inch guns between them, was a force to be reckoned with.

5th Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet, HMS Warspite, Valiant & Malaya about to open fire. Photo taken from HMS Barham. Colorized Photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

At the lowest part of the Battle of Jutland for the British, moments after the battlecruisers HMS Indefatigable and Queen Mary had exploded, the 5th Battle Squadron intervened against the German I Scouting Group under Adm. Franz von Hipper and let the 15-inchers do their talking. In very short order, they damaged the battlecruisers SMS Lützow and Seydlitz, and a number of other German warships.

In very short order on 31 May, at 18:13, a 15-inch shell from one of the Queen Elizabeths struck Lützow; two more hits came at 18:25 and 18:30. Between 18:09 and 18:19, Seydlitz was hit by a 15-inch from either Barham or Valiant, striking the face of the port wing turret and disabling the guns. A second 15-inch shell penetrated the already disabled aft super firing turret and detonated the cordite charges that had not already burned. The ship also had two of her 150 mm guns disabled from British gunfire, and the rear turret lost its right-hand gun. Not bad for 20~ minutes work.

Hipper leaving the crippled Lutzow for SMS Moltke at Jutland, by Carl Becker

SMS Seydlitz seeing what hell looks like at Jutland, by Carl Becker

Lutzow eventually sank while Seydlitz limped back to port, her decks nearly awash. While each of the big German battlecruisers took immense damage from other British sluggers besides Valiant and her sisters, Hipper felt their sting.

SMS Seydlitz after the Battle of Jutland, 1916 Colorized Photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

While a number of her sisters took hits at Jutland, Valiant came through unscathed, having fired 288 15-inch shells over the course of more than eight hours of the engagement. Her very enlightening Captain’s dispatch from the battle is here and is worth reading, as he reports several instances of German salvos coming within 10 yards and a torpedo only missing by 100. Not bad for a ship on her shakedown cruise just a few months before with a “green” crew.

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 74187) Battleship HMS Valiant firing in Scapa Flow. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205318975

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 75203) Battleship HMS Valiant. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205319990

Suffering a collision with Warspite in August 1916, she spent the rest of the year in drydock under repair

THE ROYAL NAVY ON THE HOME FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 18779) HMS Valiant in a dry dock. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205253225

THE ROYAL NAVY ON THE HOME FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 18780) HMS Valiant in a dry dock. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205253226

The Great War spun down when it came to surface naval actions after Jutland, and Valiant only met the Germans again when the High Seas Fleet sortied at the end of the war to be interred at Scapa.

Queen Elizabeth-class super-dreadnought HMS Valiant at Scapa Flow, Scotland, in 1918 – with her German counter SMS Baden in the background.

Assigned to the 1st Battle Squadron, Valiant and her sisters remained in the Atlantic Fleet, then transferred to the Med in 1924.

Valiant June 16, 1924, Scapa From Dan McDonald Collection

Modernized in two extensive periods, one from 1929-30 and another from 1937-39, she bulked up due to anti-torpedo bulges, changed her catapults and several minor topside features, lost her torpedo tubes and a couple of her casemated 6-inch mounts in exchange for 20x 4.5-inch high angles and AAA guns, and had her machinery upgraded to help mitigate the extra tonnage, now over 36,500-tons in full load. Still, even with her new engines, she could only make 23.5 knots when wide open. She also picked up a Type 79Z search radar, one of the first fitted in the fleet.

HMS Valiant Photographed following her 1929-30 refit. She is carrying a Fairey III-F floatplane on her fantail catapult. This catapult was only carried during 1930-33. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command NH 52518

HMS Valiant photographed in late 1939, following modernization. Note her turreted 4.5-inch guns in place of the old casemated 6-inch low angles. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97486

World War II found her still under refit at Devonport, and she was only commissioned 30 November 1939, Captain Henry Bernard Rawlings, OBE, RN, in command.

She was immediately used to help escort the vital convoy TC 3, carrying some 8,000 Canadian soldiers, she sailed from Halifax in January 1940, ensuring the Canucks made it past the threat of German surface raiders.

Through March and into April, Valiant, along with HMS Hood, Rodney and Warspite, escorted the Norwegian convoys ON 17, ON 17A, HN 17, HN 20 and ON 21. On 7 April, Valiant only just missed tangling with SMS Hipper, fresh off ramming the plucky destroyer Glowworm.

Valiant was to spend the next two months in and out of Norwegian waters, providing AAA cover for the fleet, tasking for naval gun fire support at Narvik (suspended at the last minute), and escorting the withdrawing convoys after the defeat there in June.

Then Valiant was attached to Force H, and sent to the Med, where Churchill worried the Vichy French fleet, just pulled out of the war, would be a threat to the RN.

On 3 July, Valiant, along with Hood, Resolution, the carrier Ark Royal, and the light cruisers HMS Arethusa and Enterprise, stood just offshore of Mers-el-Kebir harbor and the battleships fired 36 salvos of 15-inch shells at the French fleet from extreme range, destroying the battleship Bretagne and severely damaging several other French ships including the battleship Dunkerque, flag of Admiral Gensoul. Dubbed Operation Catapult, the controversial one-sided “battle” was to leave 1,300 dead French sailors behind.

Over the next several months, Valiant, as part of Force H and later Force F, helped keep the supply lines open from Portsmouth to Gibraltar to Malta and Alexandria, shuttling convoys and dodging Italian and German planes and warships.

In September 1940, she escorted the carrier HMS Illustrious in her famous raid on the Italian port of Benghazi. The next month, she provided cover for convoy MB-6 to Malta. The saga of the RN’s Mediterranean Fleet in 1940-41.

This came to a head at the three-day Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941 near Crete, then a plump target for the Axis. Adm. Sir Andrew Cunningham’s force, comprising Valiant and her sisters Barham and Warspite, along with the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable and a gaggle of light cruisers and destroyers, faced the Italian force under Adm. Iachino consisting of the sexy new battleship Vittorio Veneto, three very large heavy cruisers, and a force of light cruisers and destroyers.

How big were those Italian stallions? The Zara, Fiume, and Pola were sisterships, built for the Italian Regina Marina in the 1930s to a design that surpassed Naval Treaty limits (14,500-tons, 8x203mm guns, 5.9-inches of armor, 32 knots) and were impressive.

Fast die gesamte italienische Flotte im Golf von Neapel zusammengezogen.
Im Golf von Neapel werden jetzt die Einheiten der italienischen Kriegsflotte zu der grossen Parade zusammengezogen, die der Führer während seines Besuches in Italien abnehmen wird. Auf unserem Bild sieht man die drei schweren Kreuzer (10.000 Tonnen) “Fiume”, “Zara” und “Pola”. Scherl Bilderdienst, 19.4.38 Zara, Fiume, and Pola in Naples in 1938. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2008-0214-500

So, were a spaghetti battleship and a three-pack of heavy cruisers enough for a trio of Queen Elizabeth-class dreadnoughts of Jutland vintage?

Pshaw.

Pola picked up a mobility kill from a torpedo from a Swordfish torpedo bomber launched by Formidable while Zara and Fiume were detached from the rest of the fleet to protect Pola, and all three and a pair of destroyers were sunk in a close-range night engagement with the battleships Barham, Valiant, and Warspite at a range of just 3,000-yards. Italian casualties were very heavy, with 783 killed aboard Zara, 328 killed aboard Pola, 812 aboard Fiume. The destroyers Vittorio Alfieri and Giosué Carducci also vanished that night. The Brits removed the entire 1a Divisione Incrociatori from the Italian Naval List before breakfast.

Prince Phillip, then a junior officer on Valiant, commanded a searchlight from our subject during the night action. After he had located one target, he said: “At this point, all hell broke loose, as all our eight 15-inch guns, plus those of the flagship and Barham‘s started firing at the stationary cruiser, which disappeared in an explosion and a cloud of smoke.” He was later awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour.

Artist Frank Norton painted this nightime scene of the Battle of Matapan. HMAS Stuart is in the foreground, HMS Havock at left, and two Italian Zara-class destroyers in the background while Valiant illuminates with a spotlight. Radar gave the British the advantage during the night action.

Valiant made it through the battle but picked up two German 500-pound bombs the next month for her trouble off Crete.

Air attack was a constant threat in the Med during the period.

HMS Valiant (nearest to the camera) and HMS Resolution and is most likely taken during an Italian air attack (by SM 79 bombers) against Force H on 9 July 1940. The photograph is taken from HMS Enterprise.

Classmate HMS Barham, who Valiant fought alongside at Jutland and Cape Matapan, was sunk off the Egyptian coast by the German submarine U-331 with the loss of 862 crewmen, approximately two-thirds of her crew, on 25 November 1941.

The tragic sequence of her turning turtle and exploding is well-known.

The Italians would soon get revenge of their own on Valiant and her sister, Queen Elizabeth.

On the night of 18/19 December 1941, six Italian Navy divers of the Decima Flottiglia MAS, working from three chariot-type human torpedoes (termed maiali–pigs– by their users), worked their way past the British defenses at Alexandria and found the two battleships at anchor. Lt. Luigi Durand de la Penne pressed his SLC (maiale nº 221) to Valiant while his swim buddy, Emilio Bianchi, was otherwise out of action with a bad regulator on his rebreather, and placed the Siluro a Lenta Corsa (Slow-running torpedo) just under the old battleship’s hull.

A bit dramatic, but you get the idea

Surfaced, he and Bianchi were captured as they waited by a buoy and taken aboard the targeted ship, placed coincidentally over the ticking mine they had just deposited. Warning the Valiant‘s skipper moments before the human torpedo went off, the frogmen were brought back on deck just in time to see the other mines explode under the Queen Elizabeth, Norwegian tanker Sagona and destroyer HMS Jervis.

A fairly decent dramatization, showing the correct use of a SLC with its 600-pound detachable limpet mine warhead, planted under Valiant‘s A turret.

Valiant and her sister took on water and came very near to rest on the bottom of Alexandria, but did not technically sink and were repaired. Even Jervis eventually went back into action. However, putting the two battlewagons off-line for several months did throw British Naval supremacy in the Med at a crucial time before the U.S. made it to the theater.

When Churchill received news of the attack, he said, “Six Italians, dressed in rather unusual diving suits and equipped with materials of laughably little cost, have swung the military balance of power in the Mediterranean in favor of the Axis.”

Valiant was towed to Admiralty Floating Dock 5 two days later for dewatering and was under repair at Alexandria until April 1942 when she sailed to Durban, South Africa, where she operated with Force B off Africa in exercises for the defense of East Africa and operations against Vichy-held Madagascar.

June 1943 found her back in the Med with Force H, supporting the invasion of Sicily where she bombarded Italian 155mm coastal batteries south of Reggio and covered the landings at Salerno Bay. Fending off Italian and German air attacks, on 9 September Valiant, along with sister Warspite and a force of destroyers and light cruisers were detailed to Operation Gibbon, the surrender of the Italian Navy.

Off Cape de Garde, Algeria they met two battleships, three cruisers and eight destroyers who sailed from La Spezia to be interred and escorted them to Malta. Missing from the Italian battleline was the new battleship Roma, which the Germans had sunk via Fritz-X guided bomb.

Italian Fleet arrives at Malta, 10 September 1943. HMS Valiant leads the line as the Italian fleet steams into Malta, under the terms of the Italian Armistice. The scene is framed by the after 15-inch guns of HMS Warspite. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: SC 188574

Valiant‘s last engagement in Europe was an NGFS mission against the town of Nocera, and a nearby road junction, firing 19 rounds of 15-inch from a range of approximately 28,000 yards on 16 September.

She was then recalled to Scapa to begin working up for the RN’s “pivot to Asia” and she soon shipped for the Indian Ocean where she joined the British Eastern Fleet, built around the carriers HMS Illustrious, USS Saratoga (who along with three U.S. destroyers formed Task Group 58.5), HMS Formidable, battlecruiser HMS Renown, French battleship Richelieu and Valiant‘s sister Queen Elizabeth.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 19832) HMS VALIANT photographed from HMS FORMIDABLE at sea. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119743

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 15152) As seen from the flight deck of HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, the battleship HMS VALIANT has a practice shoot for its 15 inch guns during exercises. The planes in the foreground are Fairey Fulmars of 806 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186303

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 23483) HMS VALIANT, battleship of the British Eastern Fleet, with FFS RICHELIEU astern. The photograph was taken from the battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH, flagship of Admiral Sir James Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO in the Bay of Bengal during the action against the Japanese at Sabang. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119839

Richelieu, HMS Valiant, and HMS Renown Cruising About the Indian Ocean On 12 May 1944

Getting ready for the continued push East, in August 1944, the venerable battleship was damaged in a drydock accident at Trincomalee, Ceylon, requiring her to return to England for extensive repairs that lasted into 1946, sadly missing out in the last chapter of the conflict.

In August 1946, she was relegated to harbor training ship for stoker ratings at Devonport. In this inactive pier side role, she was stripped of her name and took the traditional training establishment title of HMS Imperieuse. However, she would only fulfill this role for about 20 months, for she was sold to BISCO on 19 March 1948 for her value in scrap by the ton. The hard-fighting ship arrived at the Breaker’s yard at Caimryan 12 August and was slowly dismantled over the next year.

Her three remaining sisters, Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, and Malaya, suffered similar fates.

Valiant‘s name was continued in British service by the class-leading nuclear-powered attack submarine HMS Valiant (S102), commissioned 1966 and paid off in 1994 (though still in storage); as well as the 140-foot Border Agency (Customs) cutter HMC Valiant, commissioned in 2004.

Valiant is also remembered in maritime art.

Prince Philip, current Duke of Edinburgh, and long-time consort of Queen Elizabeth II, remains as one of Valiant‘s last remaining crew members at age 96, and is currently Lord High Admiral of the Royal Navy, though he is set to retire from his official duties sometime this fall. As such, he is likely the last WWII battleship sailor anywhere still on the active list.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope and his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, formerly of HMS Valiant. 

Specs:

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 12126) The British battleship HMS VALIANT underway at sea. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119583

Displacement:
32,590 long tons (33,110 t)
33,260 long tons (33,790 t) (Deep load)
Length: 643 ft. 9 in (196.2 m)
Beam: 90 ft. 7 in (27.6 m)
Draught: 33 ft. (10.1 m)
Installed power:
75,000 shp (56,000 kW)
24 Yarrow boilers
Propulsion:
4 Shafts
2 Steam turbine sets
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Range: 5,000 nmi (9,260 km; 5,750 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement:
919 (1915)
1,218 (1919)
Radar: Type 273 SR(Surface Radar) on the foremast, a Type SR (Surface Radar) 284 radar on the LA DCT (Low Angle Director Control Tower) and a Type HA (High Angle) 285 on each of the HA DCT’s, a Type 291 AW (Air Warning) on the mastheads and an IFF interrogator.
Aircraft: 2-3 floatplanes
Armament: (as built)
4 × twin 15-inch (381 mm) guns
14 × single 6-inch (152 mm) guns
2 × single 3-inch (76 mm) 20 cwt AA guns
4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Armament (1945)
4 × twin 15-inch (381 mm) guns
10 × twin 4.5 in (114 mm) Dual-purpose guns
4 × octuplet QF 2-pdr (40 mm) AA guns
26 × twin Oerlikon 20 mm (0.8 in) AA guns
4 × quadruple Vickers 0.5 in (12.7 mm) AA machineguns
Armor: Krupp cemented armor (KC)
Waterline belt: 13 in (330 mm)
Deck: 1–3 in (25–76 mm)
Barbettes: 7–10 in (178–254 mm)
Gun turrets: 11–13 in (279–330 mm)
Conning tower: 13 in (330 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. 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!

About your grandpa’s old machine gun in the closet…

A Japanese Type 11 light machine gun– Kijiro Nambu’s take on the French 8mm Hotchkiss chambered in 6.5x50mm Arisaka– captured on Kwajalein Atoll in 1944 by American troops. Such guns, if not registered before 1968 and not demilled, are illegal in the U.S. (Photo: Rock Island Auction)

Many veterans legally brought back captured enemy weapons from overseas in the wake of America’s wars. Provided they had the right paperwork, some could properly register NFA items as Title II firearms before 1968. Others, who either didn’t have the paperwork or chose not to register, illegally owned their trophies after that date and often these guns are still in circulation– putting the possessor at risk of up to 10 years in prison.

Well that could change.

Legislation introduced in both chambers of Congress Tuesday would open a 180-day amnesty for veterans or their family to register guns captured overseas.

The bipartisan Veterans Heritage Firearms Act aims to allow former service members or their family to declare guns brought back to the states before Oct. 31, 1968 without fear of prosecution.

The bill would briefly open the National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record to veterans and their family to register certain firearms. The NFRTR is the federal government’s database of National Firearms Act items including machine guns, suppressors, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and destructive devices.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Warship Wednesday, June 28, 2017: The Kansas cruiser, by way of Peru

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, June 28, 2017: The Kansas cruiser, by way of Peru

Color-tinted postcard of a photograph copyrighted by Enrique Muller, 1905. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 63653-B-KN

Here we see the Lima-class gunboat USS Topeka at anchor in Long Island Sound, New York, circa 1904. Ships present in the background include the destroyer tender USS Prairie (left) and a torpedo-boat destroyer. By this time, Topeka was already almost 25 years old, had switched flags and names a confusing number of times, and had 25 years of service ahead of her.

She and her sister had a rather odd story rooted in Latin American naval lore.

To understand the Topeka, first, we need to understand the ironclad turret ship Huáscar.

Built for a princely £81,000 in England at Laird Brothers to a design by British ironclad wonk Captain Cowper Coles, she was commissioned scarcely a year after the U.S. Civil War for the Peruvian Navy. At 1,900-tons and capable of 12-knots in the open ocean, she carried a pair of 10-inch guns in a Coles-patented revolving gun turret and was protected by as much as seven inches of armor. The Peruvians were very happy with the vessel and she was the fleet flag.

Marina de Guerra del Perú. Es el BAP Huáscar, 1879

However, in a four against one ironclad face-off during the Battle of Angamos on 8 October 1879, in the War of the Pacific, Huáscar was captured by the stronger force of the Chilean Navy. Peruvian Admiral and naval hero Miguel Grau Seminario was killed as was 32 of her crew.

The loss of the big ironclad sent agents from Peru to Europe looking for not one but two modern ships to replace her in the battle line. A string of talks to buy first the armored frigate Roma from Italy, then the armored ship Danmark from the Danes, and finally two old British-made ironclads from the Ottomans, were frustrated by the actions of Chilean diplomats abroad.

Finally, through some hoodwink and the equivalent fee of £200,000 (collected by popular subscription from the public), the Peruvians were able to have two cruisers built at the Howaldtswerke shipyard in Kiel, Germany–disguised under a Greek shipping company and completed as the freighters Socrates and Diogenes. At about 1,800-tons, these 250-foot long vessels were about the same size as the lost Huáscar and could make 16.2 knots, making them a good bit faster, but they were unprotected.

The unarmed ships were completed by Howaldtwerke in 1881, and the two “Greek” freighters shipped for England where they were to be outfitted with a suite of four Armstrong 4-inch guns and various smaller Hotchkiss pieces, then sail as the Peruvian Navy cruisers BAP Lima and BAP Callao respectively.

However, this was not to be.

Once in Britain, the Chileans pressured the Queen’s government to impound the ships there for the duration of the war. After the conflict ended, the Peruvians were only able to afford one of the vessels and, in 1889 after an eight-year saga, finally called Lima home while Callao was left swaying in England, unwanted and signed over to the Thames Iron Works in lieu of nearly a decade of dock rental and upkeep on the pair.

Lima, as completed for the Peruvians

There, the German-built and unused formerly Peruvian cruiser sat for nearly another decade as the Brits offered her to prospective buyers without much luck– though she was nearly purchased by Japan in 1895 for use against China– with Thames even going through the trouble of overhauling her in 1896. She was made ready at the time for an armament of six 4.7-inch Armstrongs (two forecastle, four in broadside sponsons) 10 six-pounders, and six three-pounders.

Then came a rather exciting little conflict known to history as the Spanish-American War, and Thames was able to make a deal with agents working on behalf of Washington– garnering the distinction, as reported by the May 7th, 1898 Western Electrician, of “being the only vessel of the kind ever purchased by telephone.”

The U.S. Navy purchased 102 ships on the open market in early 1898 for a total of $18,243,389.29. The cheapest of these, the 16-year old 100-ton commercial tug Hercules (commissioned as USS Chickasaw) was picked up for just $15,000. The most expensive, the brand new British Armstrong-built 3,800-ton Brazilian Navy cruiser Amazonas (commissioned as USS New Orleans, a former Warship Wednesday alumni), was bought for $1.43 million. This made Diogenes/Callao a comparative deal at $170,327.50 (the odd number attributed to the exchange rate with pounds sterling).

Purchased on 2 April 1898 (more than two weeks before the actual Declaration of War by the U.S. Congress), Diogenes/Callao was renamed USS Topeka, and placed in commission the same day, Lt. John J. Knapp in command. She was the first U.S. ship named for the Kansas capital city.

Two weeks later she cleared Falmouth in an unarmed state, headed to the New York Naval Yard where she was painted gray, picked up 6 4-inch/40 cal guns, six 3-pounders, a pair of one-pounders, and a Colt 1895 machine gun.

USS Topeka Halftone of a photograph taken in 1898, at the time of the Spanish-American War. Copied from The New Navy of the United States, by N.L. Stebbins, (New York, 1912). Donation of David Shadell, 1987. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 98239

USS Topeka at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, 30 June 1898. Note the scrollwork on her bow. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 63398

USS Topeka off the New York Navy Yard, 1898. Courtesy of Howard I. Chapelle, Smithsonian Institution. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 806

By 11 July, Uncle’s newest warship joined the blockading forces off Havana, ordered to assume station off Bahia de Nipe, located on the northeastern shore of Cuba almost directly opposite Santiago de Cuba on the island’s southeastern coast.

USS Topeka at anchor in 1898. Note the extensvie awnings on deck and the broadside 4″ guns about amidships. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 60333 Colorized by Postales Navales

Her time off Cuba was exciting, though only lasted about a month, as noted by DANFS:

On 17 July, she and Maple captured the Spanish sloop Domingo Aurelio off Bahia de Nipe. Four days later, Topeka joined Annapolis, Wasp, and Leyden in a foray into Bahia de Nipe. The four warships encountered no real resistance from the Spanish and, therefore, easily captured the port and sank the Spanish cruiser [actually a sloop, 920t, 6×6.2″] Jorge Juan, abandoned by her crew.

Following the capture of the Bahia de Nipe littoral, Topeka steamed to Key West with dispatches. She returned to Cuban waters on 28 July and remained until 5 August, when she again steamed to Key West. She made one more voyage to Cuba in mid-August, visiting Port Francis on the 14th before heading north on the 15th.

The action with the Jorge Juan is described more in the Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine of the day, which holds the Spanish vessel had both her masts shot away and was awash when the Americans took her over following a sharp action.

Over the next several years, Topeka assisted as a control ship for new warship trials, participated in wireless telegraphy experiments, exercised gunboat diplomacy in the waters of the Dominican Republic and Panama when U.S. interests were threatened, embarked on a training cruise to the Mediterranean, and performed other tasks as needed.

Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts Navy Yard waterfront, circa 1900. Ships present include, from left to right: USS Olympia, USS Topeka, and USS Constitution. Note the boats in the foreground. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 55965

Photographed by J. Geiser, Algiers, Algeria, 1900, during her Med cruise. Note she now has a gleaming peacetime white scheme and gilt bowscrolls. The original photograph is printed on silk. Collection of Rear Admiral William C. Braisted, USN(MC). Courtesy of Dr. William R. Braisted. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 91532

Topeka was placed out of commission on 7 September 1905 and assigned duty as station ship at Portsmouth where she served as an auxiliary to the converted collier USS Southery, then serving as the prison ship for the Portsmouth Naval Prison, which was under construction.

By 1915, the Navy had disposed of most of the 102 SpanAm War ships taken up from trade, selling them for a total of just $1.167 million, about 5 percent of the amount Uncle had paid. Topeka was one of the few still afloat by then.

Starboard view, while serving as a detention ship at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, 1915. Note her masts have been stepped and her sponson casemates are now blocked in, one seen with windows fitted. Photo via Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels Collection Lot 5369-5 from National Museum of the U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy gunboat USS Topeka (Patrol Gunboat #35) while serving as a detention ship at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, 1915. Note the sailors performing knotting and splicing. The white sleeve stripes denote them as being under discipline. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels Collection Lot 5369-5 from National Museum of the U.S. Navy Lot 5369-3:

U.S. Navy gunboat USS Topeka (Patrol Gunboat #35) while serving as a detention ship at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, 1915. U.S. Navy sailors performing a 3” gun drill. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels Collection Lot 5369-5 from National Museum of the U.S. Navy Lot 5369-6

When the U.S. entered World War I, Topeka was converted to a training ship and thousands of new recruits walked her decks before the Armistice. Around this time, she was re-engined with a pair of Ward boilers replacing her four German ones and two 1,000ihp DeLaval geared turbines replacing her old horizontal compound engines.

The 38-year-old gunboat was called in off the bleachers once more and, on 24 March 1919, Topeka was recommissioned at Boston, CDR Earl P. Finney in command. However, it was not to last. After a brief patrol off the Gulf coast of Mexico, she was again placed out of commission on 21 November 1919 at Charleston Navy Yard. Designated PG-35 in 1920, then IX-35 (the designation for unclassified miscellaneous auxiliaries) the next year. In 1922, she was put on the market for sale and after “no satisfactory bids were forthcoming” the Navy decided to keep the old girl a bit longer.

Transferred to Philadelphia, she was used as a pierside trainer until 1930 when she was stricken for good to remove her tonnage from the U.S. Navy’s tally sheet under the London Naval Treaty and free it up for a more valuable use. She was sold for scrap in May.

Topeka‘s bell currently sits on the parade deck of the Marine Corps Security Force Company Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while one of her 4″40 cals (American Ordnance Co. no. 152) used to sink the Spanish sloop-of-war Jorge Juan in 1898 is at the Washington Naval Yard.

NMUSN174 - Pre WWI - American - 4 inch 40 Caliber Rifle - 1898 from 'USS Topeka'

Topeka’s name has gone on to grace a WWII light cruiser (CL-67) and a nuclear attack submarine (SSN-754), the former scrapped in 1975 and the latter in active commission since 1989.

As for her sister, Lima, the Peruvian cruiser was used in the 1890s as a diplomatic vessel and notably visited Valparaiso, Chile, to repatriate the mortal remains of Admiral Grau along with the 32 fallen Peruvian crew members from Huáscar, and other war heroes including Col. Francisco Bolognesi Cervantes, the patron of the Peruvian Army. Lima was disarmed in 1926 and retained as a tender for the Peruvian submarine flotilla until she was stricken in 1950.

LIMA (Peruvian Cruiser, 1881-1940) Caption: Photographed late in her career with a reduced rig and built up bridge area. Description: Courtesy Comandante Cosio and Dr. R. L. Scheina. Catalog #: NH 87837

Lima was later apparently used by the government as a public-school ship at the Amazon city of Iquitos for a time and her final fate has faded into history, though one Spanish source claims she was still stranded in the river as late as 1999.

As for Huáscar, she served the Chilean Navy through 1897 and today is one of the few early ironclad era warships still afloat, serving for the past several decades as a museum.

Jose Vinagre Espamer picture of the ironclad turret ship Huascar

Specs:

Displacement: 1,800 designed, 2,255 long tons (2,291 t) normal
Length: 259 ft. 4 in (79.04 m)
Beam: 35 ft. (11 m) at the waterline
Draft: 16 ft. 5 in (5.00 m) aft
Propulsion: 4 cylindrical boilers, 2 engines, 1800shp, 2 shafts, 300 tons coal (re-engined about 1915)
Speed: 16.2 knots
Complement: 167 officers and enlisted
Armament:
(Designed, never fitted)
4x 4-inch Armstrong
(1898)
6 × 4″/40 cal
6 × 3-pounder guns
2 × 1-pounder guns
1 × Colt machine gun (M1895 Colt–Browning machine gun)
(1915)
4x 3″/23 guns
(1921)
Disarmed

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