Category Archives: World War Two

Stirling BK716, remembered

This impressive– and haunting– monument was unveiled last week in Almere, Holland, for the seven aircrew who lost their lives in the crash of Short Stirling Bomber BK716 HA-J of No. 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron (RAF) after a mission to Berlin during World War ll.

The monument is partly made with the engine of the bomber that was salvaged from the Markermeer.

Picture by: Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands

More on BK716 and the recovery of her crewmen last year, below.

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021: The Story of an Unsinkable Carrierman, and his .45

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, Oct. 20, 2021: The Story of an Unsinkable Carrierman and his .45

With this month marking the Navy’s 246th Birthday, the 79th anniversary of the loss of USS Hornet (CV-8) at the Battle of Santa Cruz (a ship commissioned 80 years ago today), and the 77th anniversary of the loss of USS Princeton (CVL-22) in the Philippine Sea, I’m breaking from our typical Warship Wednesday format to bring you the story of a Colt Government model in the Navy’s archives and the resilient young officer who carried it.

The below pistol itself at first glance would seem to be an otherwise ordinary M1911A1 Colt Military, martial marked “US Army” and “United States Property” along with the correct inspector’s marks. The serial number, No.732591, falls within Colt’s circa 1941 production range.

Accession #: NHHC 1968-141 (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)

We often say, “if only a gun could talk,” but in this case, the voyage through history that the above .45ACP took is well-documented.

Also joining the fleet in 1941 was Ensign Victor Antoine Moitoret, a Californian who was admitted to the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1937 and graduated with the Class of ’41.

Moitoret’s first ship was the brand-new aircraft carrier USS Hornet, which he joined three months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that ushered America into World War II.

Moitoret served as an assistant navigator on Hornet during the flattop’s secret mission to carry the Doolittle Raiders to bomb Tokyo in 1942— possibly best remembered among today’s youth as the third act of Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2001 film “Pearl Harbor”– and was also aboard the carrier for the massive naval victory at Midway (where Hornet was something of a mystery).

Flanked by torpedo boat escorts, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet arrives at Pearl Harbor after the Doolittle Raid on Japan, 30 April 1942, just five weeks before the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. National Archives 80-G-16865)

When Hornet was irreparably damaged by enemy torpedo and dive bombers during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942, Moitoret was armed with the above pistol while serving as the carrier’s Officer of the Deck on the bridge. The young officer still had it buckled around his waist when he was pulled out of the ocean more than two hours after Hornet went to the bottom in 17,500 feet of water off the Solomon Islands, carrying 140 sailors with her.

Moitoret’s pistol belt, consisting of an M1936 Belt, M1918 Magazine Pocket, and russet leather M1916 Holster. (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)

Two years later, Moitoret, with his relic of the lost Hornet still with him, was a lieutenant aboard the new light carrier USS Princeton, fighting to liberate the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

USS Princeton (CVL-23) steaming at 20 knots off Seattle, Washington, 3 January 1944. Moitoret was a plankowner of the new flattop, which had originally been laid down as the Cleveland-class light cruiser Tallahassee (CL-61) (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Historical Center. Catalog #: NH 95651)

In October 1944– almost two years to the day that Hornet was lost– Moitoret was on the bridge of Princeton when the ship was hit by a Japanese bomb and was wounded by shrapnel from the resulting explosion.

According to his Silver Star citation for that day, Moitoret “remained on board for a period of seven hours, fighting fires, maintaining communication with other ships in the area, preserving confidential publications and obtaining all available lengths of fire hose for use where most needed.”

Leaving his second sinking aircraft carrier, Moitoret reportedly kissed the hull of Princeton before boarding a whaleboat, one of the last men off the stricken ship.

After the war, he remained in the Navy through the Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring in 1972 at the rank of Captain. On 30 May 1999, while aged 80, he delivered the Memorial Day Address to the assembled cadets at Annapolis, continuing to serve as a proud link in the long blue line up to the very end.

Moitoret died in 2005 and is buried at Fort Bayard National Cemetery in New Mexico, next to his wife, Rowena, and son, Alan.

His well-traveled sidearm and pistol belt are in the collection of the NHHC, held in the Headquarters Artifact Collection

As noted by the Navy,

“The central theme of this year’s 246th Navy Birthday and Heritage week is ‘Resilient and Ready,’ which speaks to the Navy’s history of being able to shake off disaster, such as the loss of a ship or a global pandemic, and still maintain force lethality and preparedness. It allows the messaging to showcase readiness, capabilities, capacity, and of course the Sailor—all while celebrating our glorious victories at sea and honoring our shipmates who stand and have stood the watch.”

Happy Birthday, Navy, and a slow hand salute to Capt. Moitoret.

Back to our regular Warship Wednesday format next week.

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Willys & Worthog

We have previously covered the tale of the 190th Fighter Squadron’s 75th anniversary A-10 Thunderbolt II made up to emulate the antecedent squadron’s P-47D Thunderbolt’s Northwest Europe 1944 livery, including OD “ground attack” scheme with white cowling and tail stripes, WWII roundels, 8N squadron code, and D-Day invasion stripes.

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II from the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing is painted with a heritage WWII paint scheme at the Air National Guard paint facility in Sioux City, Iowa. The paint scheme is designed to replicate the look of the original P-47 Thunderbolt as it appeared during the 2nd World War. The 124th Fighter Wing conceived the idea in order to commemorate the unit’s 75th anniversary and lineage to their predecessor, the 405th Fighter Squadron. U.S. Air National Guard photo: Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

It is a striking aircraft, to be sure, and the squadron has recently added a companion Willys in a photo series that really does it justice.

Via the Idaho National Guard’s PAO:

The Idaho Military History Museum’s World War II 1941 restored Willys Jeep or the 124th Fighter Wing’s heritage A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog, painted to resemble the World War II P-47 Thunderbolt.

The Jeep became one of the museum’s newest exhibits this year. Rob Lytle, a retired brigadier general, spent several months restoring the Jeep to get it operational again. Between 1941 and 1945, approximately 650,000 Jeeps were produced by the American Bantam Car Company, the Ford Motor Company and Willys Overland-Motors. This Jeep was painted to represent Idaho’s 183rd Field Artillery Battalion (155mm Howitzer-Tractor Drawn) and is similar to those the battalion operated in the European theater of operations between June 1944 and May 1945.

Earlier this year, the Idaho National Guard honored its heritage by unveiling the vintage-looking A-10 Thunderbolt II to pay tribute to the 405th Fighter Squadron’s P-47 Thunderbolts that provided aerial support during World War II. The wartime 405th Fighter Squadron returned to the United States in October of 1945 and was inactivated. It was reactivated and designated as the 190th Fighter Squadron, allotted to the Idaho Air National Guard, in 1946. The A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthogs came to Idaho in 1996.

80 Years Ago: Siege Bread

Siege of Leningrad.

This is the ration card and daily norm of “bread” (200 grams) in October 1941, only a month into the 872-day siege.

Recipe for blockade bread:

*defective rye flour -45%
*presscake -10%
*soy flour-5%
*wallpaper dust -5%
*malt -10%

The Museum of the History of St. Petersburg has kept about 700 unique children’s drawings that were created during the siege (September 8, 1941 – January 27, 1944). These drawings were recently brought to life using VR animation technologies.

The 10th Light Horse Rides Again

Irwin Barracks, Karrakatta, recently saw the return to the Australian Army, in regimental strength, of the venerable 10th Light Horse Regiment. With a lineage that hails back to the country’s colonial militia units, notably the Western Australia Mounted Infantry (WAMI) of Boer War fame, the 10th LHR was officially formed 10 October 1914 for service in the Great War.

Mounted on his horse in front of the Pyramids, 244 Trooper T. Buckingham, 10th Light Horse. He died of wounds on 10 August 1915 at Gallipoli. AWM photo H05686A

And serve it did, earning battle honors at Gallipoli (with its doomed action at A-Nek immortalized in the 1981 Mel Gibson film of the same name), Gaza-Beersheba, Jerusalem, Megiddo, and Damascus.

Notably, one of the 10th’s squadron commanders, Capt. Hugo Vivian Hope Throssell, was the only light horseman during the “War to End All Wars” to receive the Victoria Cross, appropriately earned at Gallipoli.

During WWII, the unit was the last Australian Army outfit to be mounted on horses, maintaining them into April 1944, spending the war patrolling the remote Western Australian coastline for landings and saboteurs.

Disbanded as a regiment once the threat of Japanese invasion disappeared, it was only reformed in understrength squadron strength in 1949, using a combination of Land Rovers, armored cars, and APCs since then in the light reconnaissance role.

Now, on 10 October, the 107th anniversary of its founding prior to heading out to fight the Ottomans, the regiment is back.

As noted by the Australian Army:

The sound of hooves has blended with the dull roar of protected mobility vehicle engines during the re-raising of a historic Australian Army unit in Western Australia.

The 10th Light Horse Regiment has been re-raised at a ceremony in Perth, which also marked the 107th anniversary of the raising of the regiment in 1914.

The return of the unit to Army’s Order of Battle is a significant milestone of the Army Objective Force in enhancing Army Capability and Defence in Western Australia.

The regiment will now considerably increase its size to form a well-trained and capable new cavalry squadron for the West as part of the Australian Army’s modernisation program to be Future Ready.

Rather than horse, however, they will use Hawkei PMVs and Bushmasters (6×6 up-armored variants of the G-Wagon), in at least two squadrons and an HHC unit.

Their regimental motto is Percute et Percute Velociter (Strike and Strike Swiftly)

“Members of the 10th Light Horse Regiment fire a Feu-de Joie at the ceremonial parade to commemorating the re-raising of the Regiment at Langley Park, Perth.”

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021: Tokyo Express

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021: Tokyo Express

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 82282

Here we see the modified Essex-class attack carrier USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) off Gibraltar, 13 October 1963– 58 years ago today and the traditional birthday of the U.S. Navy, as a matter of fact. Just as the fabled rock holds a key place in British history, “Shang” holds a singular role in American naval history and lore. 

The 12th aircraft carrier of the Essex class and the 20th fleet carrier to be commissioned into the U.S. Navy, Shangri-La as far as I can tell is the only American flattop ever named after an entirely fictional place. As something of wink-wink disinformation for the daring raid on military targets at Tokyo, Yokohoma, Osaka, and Kobe, by 16 stripped-down USAAF B-25B Mitchell bombers of Maj. Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, flying from USS Hornet (CV-7) in April 1942, FDR chalked up that the bombers flew from “Shangri-La,” referring to the fictional Tibetan utopian of the 1933 James Hilton novel Lost Horizon.

The first true mass-market paperback, at 25-cents a pop, Lost Horizon was the best-selling novel of 1939 and Roosevelt was evidently a fan. For instance, the low-key (and top-secret) Presidential country retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin mountains established by FDR and filled with furnishings drawn from the White House’s attic was named Shangri-La.

The installation remained a closely guarded secret until late 1944.

Laid down at Norfolk Naval Shipyard exactly eight months after the Japanese strike at Pearl Harbor, our ship was technically a “Long Hull” Essex type, sometimes referred to as a Ticonderoga-class. In a salute to the Doolittle Raiders, her christening sponsor was “Mama Joe,” Mrs. James H. Doolittle (nee Josephine Elsie Daniels).

Her 15 September 1944 commissioning at Norfolk took place before a crowd of 100,000 people. She would spend the rest of the year in shakedowns off the Atlantic coast and in the warm waters of the Caribbean.

Aerial view of USS Shangri-La (CV-38) underway, painted in Measure 33, Design 10A camouflage. This photo was probably taken in the Gulf of Paria, Trinidad, B.W.I, during the ship’s shakedown cruise, September–December 1944. Note destroyer steaming astern of Shangri-La (top left corner of the photo). BuAer photo # 301910.

On 4 November, the 150 pilots of Carrier Air Group 85 reported for duty with an air group that included 51 fighters from the “Sky Pirates” VF/VBF-85 (flying rare F4U-1C Corsairs–with four 20mm cannons– along with more standard machine gun-armed F4U-1Ds and FG-1Ds, as well as a handful of black-painted F6F-5N/P Hellcat night fighters) 23 SB2C-4 Helldiver dive bombers of VB-85, and 18 TBM-3 Avenger torpedo bombers of VT-85, a total of 92 aircraft for starters.

While her aircraft complement would swell to as many as 104 assigned airframes and contract down into the low 80s, this Corsair-heavy load would remain the template over the next year. CVG-85, with its “Z” identifier, would go to war on Shang, bound, like the Doolittle Raiders, for Tokyo.

Aerial bow view of USS Shangri La (CV 38), taken by Navy Utility Squadron VJ-4 flying out of NAS Norfolk, 12 November 1944. 80-G-272499

“Shang” quickly made naval aviation history by hosting three “firsts.” This included launching and trapping the Project Seahorse P-51D-5-NA Mustang, #44-14017, redesignated EFT-51D; along with the initial carrier trials for the Grumman F7F Tigercat and a North American PBJ-1H Mitchell patrol bomber– the latter a B-25H medium bomber modified for flattop operations in the truest Doolittle fashion.

In January 1945, as part of a three-ship group including the battlecruiser large cruiser USS Guam (CB-2) and the destroyer USS Harry E. Hubbard (DD-748), she sailed from Hampton Roads to San Diego via the Ditch and, after picking up passengers and extra planes, arrived at Pearl Harbor in mid-February to begin qualifying her aviators.

On 10 April 1945, she weighed anchor for Ulithi Atoll, and soon joined Task Group (TG) 58.4, launching her first airstrikes against Japanese assets on Okino Daito Jima, southeast of Okinawa, on 25 April. While the war in Europe was only two weeks away from ending, the war in the Pacific was very much still ongoing.

HMAS Nizam (D15), an N-class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy in the British Pacific Fleet, coming alongside Shangri-La during the Battle for Okinawa, late April 1945. The carrier has Vought F4U Corsairs lined up on the flight deck, with a comparably huge Avenger, top left, and a Hellcat, top right. Note the Sky Pirates’ lightning flash insignia on the planes. Photo from the Hobbs Collection, a British album presentation to the RAN Archives.

VADM John S. “Slim” McCain hoisted his flag in Shangri-La on 18 May, and she became the flagship of his famed TF 38, heading for strikes against the Japanese home islands in June. alternating between close air support duty over Okinawa.

After a period off the lines, Shangri-La embarked, along with the other fast carriers of TF 38, on a month-long series of strikes starting in July along the Japanese coast in which what was left of the Imperial Japanese Navy was destroyed.


Shangri-La’s planes ranged the length of the island chain during these raids. On the 10th. they attacked Tokyo, the first raid there since the strikes of the previous February. On 14 and 15 July 1945, they pounded Honshu and Hokkaido and, on the 18th, returned to Tokyo, also bombing battleship Nagato, moored close to shore at Yokosuka. From 20 to 22 July, Shangri-La joined the logistics group for fuel, replacement aircraft, and mail. By the 24th, her pilots were attacking shipping in the vicinity of Kure. They returned the next day for a repeat performance, before departing for a two-day replenishment period on the 26th and 27th. On the following day, Shangri-La’s aircraft damaged cruiser Oyodo, and battleship Haruna, the latter so badly that she beached and flooded. She later had to be abandoned. They pummeled Tokyo again on 30 July, then cleared the area to replenish on 31 July and 1 August.

Air Raids on Japan, 1945. Japanese cruiser Tone under air attack near Kure, 24 July 1945. Photograph by USS Shangri-La (CV 38) aircraft. Note the camouflage nets hanging over its sides. The heavy cruiser settled to the bottom of the bay that day. 80-G-490148

The same day, same target. Note anti-aircraft positions ashore. 80-G-490147

Colorized photo of the above by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter

Four days later…

Japanese battleship Hyuga sunk at Kure. Photographed by a USS Shangri-La (CV 38) aircraft on 28 July 1945. National Archives photograph: 80-G-490227.

Japanese light cruiser Ōyodo under air attack near Kure, 28 July 1945. Photo by USS Shangri La (CV 38), likely from one of her F6Fs. The cruiser capsized later that day, taking 300 men to the bottom with her. 80-G-490225

Shangri-La sent her CVB-85 planes to strike the airfields around Tokyo on the morning of 15 August 1945, but Japan’s capitulation was announced, and the fleet was ordered to cease hostilities.

The Final Touch: men add the last strikes to Shangri-La’s island scoreboard, August 1945. From the cover of The Horizon, the ship’s paper, Vol. 1. No. 14. The name of the paper, naturally, is drawn from the Lost Horizon novel. Via the NNAM.

CVG-85s record: 

Airborne aircraft destroyed 10; damaged 8.
Planes on ground destroyed 120; damaged 129
Ships destroyed 24, tonnage 43,900 tons; ships damaged 87, tonnage 194,900 tons.
Destroyed ships include BB Haruna. The squadron also participated in attacking BB Nagato, directing attacks against protecting AA batteries, thus contributing to the bombing attack of the ship by other squadrons (this Battleship not counted in totals listed).
Locomotives destroyed 21; damaged 4.
Miscellaneous destroyed buildings: Warehouses 2, Factories 1, Hangers 1; Miscellaneous damaged buildings: Warehouses 15, Power plants 2, Radio stations 2, Factories 4, Hangers 20, and R.R. tunnel 1.

All told, CVG-85 fired 620,176 rounds of machine gun ammo, dropped 731 bombs, loosed 2,333 5-inch HVAR aerial rockets, and heaved 21 napalm bombs against the Empire.

Shangri-La steamed around just offshore from 15 to 23 August, patrolling the Honshu area on the latter date.

Operation Snapshot: Task Force 38, of the U.S. Third Fleet, maneuvering off the coast of Japan, 17 August 1945, two days after Japan agreed to surrender. Taken by a USS Shangri-La (CV-38) photographer. The aircraft carrier in the lower right is USS Wasp (CV-18). Also present in the formation are five other Essex class carriers, four light carriers, at least three battleships, plus several cruisers and destroyers. 80-G-278815

The planes that likely took the above: F6F-5P Hellcats of Fighting Squadron (VF) 85 off the carrier Shangri-La (CV 38) pictured in flight near Japan 17 August 1945. Note the “Z” tail code. NNAM

Between 23 August and 16 September, her planes sortied on missions of mercy, air-dropping supplies to Allied prisoners of war in Japan while keeping up with patrols over the defeated Empire.

The badly damaged Japanese battleship Nagato off Yokosuka Naval Air Station, Japan, as seen from the plane of USS Shangri La (CV 38). Photographed by Photographer’s Mate Second Class J. Guttoach, 26 August 1945. 80-G-343774

Aerial view of Tokyo, Japan, 26 August 1945. An SB2C-4 Helldiver of Navy Dive Bombing Squadron 85 (VB-85), Air Group 85, flies in the foreground. Photographed by Lieutenant G. D. Rogers from an aircraft based on USS Shangri-La (CV 38). 80-G-339354

On 27 September, while Shangri-La was in Tokyo Bay, CVG-85 was disestablished.

In all, the fighters of VBF-85 alone flew 10,233 flight hours accomplishing 2,274 sorties, from Shangri-La in their 10 months together, broken down as follows:

Okinawa Campaign; 4,977 hours and 1,106 sorties
Operations against the Japanese Empire: 3,656 hours and 914 sorties.
Occupation of the Japanese Empire after the war before leaving 1,016 hours and 254 sorties.

CVG-8 would see nine fatalities during its relationship with Shangri-La, which, considering the tempo and heavy action, should be considered mercifully light.

Milo G. Parker, Ensign
Walter J. Barschat, Ensign
Charles W.S. Hullund, Lt. JG
William H. Marr, Lt. JG
John H. Schroff, Lt.
Sigurd Lovdal, Lt.
John S. Weeks, Lt. JG
Joseph G. Hjelstrom, Lt. JG
Richard T. Schaeffer, LCDR

Departing Japan on 2 October, Shangri-la sailed into San Pedro Bay on 27 October for three weeks of stateside R&R in the Long Beach area.

Navy Day, October 27, 1945. “Aloha” is spelled out by men onboard USS Shangri-La (CV 38) upon its arrival in Los Angeles, California, on October 21, 1945. Navy Museum Lot 10625-10.

After a maintenance period at Bremerton, she began peacetime operations out of San Diego, mainly carrier landing quals, then shipped out for Bikini Atoll and related Central Pacific venues to serve as a support ship for the Crossroads series of atomic tests.

USS Shangri-La (CV-38) underway in the Pacific during Crossroads, with her crew, paraded on the flight deck, 17 August 1946. Note the use of the letter Z on the flight deck instead of her hull number (38). 80-G-278827

USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) overhead note the Z for CVG-85 on her bow and 50 aircraft on her deck

Shangri-La was decommissioned and placed in the Reserve Fleet at San Francisco on 7 November 1947.

Her initial career lasted 1,148 days during which she earned two battlestars for her World War II service. For more details about the latter, her 238-page well-written War History is digitized and available online in the National Archives. 

The 1946-47 Jane’s entry for the 24 ships of the Essex class.

A second career

When the fireworks show kicked off in Korea, the Navy suddenly needed more carriers again. Shangri-La recommissioned on 10 May 1951 and was sent to the East Coast to serve primarily as a training carrier, conducting operations out of Boston. It was during this time that her designation changed to attack carrier (CVA) although she did very little attacking of anything during the Korean conflict.

Period press photo shows a near-empty Shangri-La conducting a washdown drill off Boston, 7 July 1952, an Atomic-era reality.

With the future of naval aviation based on jets rather than Corsairs, Helldivers, and Avengers, Shang decommissioned again on 14 November 1952, for a two-year $7 million SCB-125/SCB-27C modernization at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Her second period in commission only lasted 554 days.

Third time’s the charm

A rebuilt Shangri-La was recommissioned in January 1955.

“USS Shangri-La (CVA 38) was the first U.S. Navy attack carrier to embody all the latest improvements that are being made in the class carrier. These improvements include steam catapults, high capacity arresting gear, angled deck, enclosed bow, increased full capacity, and a tractor ramp around the outside of the “island” that will speed up aircraft spotting, April 27, 1955.” USN 663088.

USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) underway, May 9, 1955. 80-G-664937

This enabled her to carry and operate a new generation of combat aircraft that the designers of the Essex class could hardly envision in 1940.

An undated image of some of Shangri-La’s airwing by J R Eyerman in the LIFE archives. Note the early Vought F7U Cutlass, S-2 Tracker, F9F and HUP-2

I believe from the planes shown, the above is the cruise of Air Task Group 3 (ATG-3) aboard USS Shangri-La for a Western Pacific deployment from 5 January to 23 June 1956. Besides test frames from VX-4 (Cutlass, et,al) that cruise saw: 
Fighter Squadron 122 (VF-122) ‘Black Angels’ – Grumman F9F-8 Cougar
Fighter Squadron 92 (VF-92) ‘Silver Kings’ – Douglas AD-6 Skyraider
Fighter Squadron 53 (VF-53) ‘Blue Knights’ – Grumman F9F-8 Cougar
Fleet Composite Squadron 3 (VC-3) ‘Blue Nemesis’, detachment – McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee
Fleet Composite Squadron 6 (VC-6) ‘Fleurs’, detachment – North American AJ-2 Savage
Fleet Composite Squadron 61 (VC-61) ‘Eyes of the Fleet’, detachment – McDonnell F2H-2P Banshee
Fleet Composite Squadron 35 (VC-35) ‘Night Hecklers’, detachment – Douglas AD-5N Skyraider
Fleet Composite Squadron 11 (VC-11) ‘detachment – Douglas AD-5W Skyraider
Helicopter Utility Squadron 1 (HU-1) ‘Pacific Fleet Angels’, detachment – Piasecki HUP-2 Retriever

USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) at sea, launching F9F Cougar fighters of ATG-3, 10 January 1956. Note steam rising from her port catapult. Photographed by B.W. Kortge. NH 75661

A North American AJ-2 Savage of Heavy Attack Squadron (VAH) 6 launches off the newly installed angled deck of the carrier Shangri-La (CVA 38) on February 24, 1956. A 25-ton medium bomber powered by two-piston engines and a J33-A-10 turbojet in the rear, the Savage could make 400 knots and carry six tons of bombs– as much as six of Doolittle’s B-25s– or a 1 Mark 4 nuclear bomb. Note that it was far heavier than the 18-ton B-25s used by Doolittle’s Raiders and had a wingspan some eight feet longer. Via NNAM.

USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) conducts the first successful at-sea cat shot of the enormous A3D Skywarrior of Heavy Attack Squadron (VAH) 1 “Smoking Tigers” flown by Dick Davidson on 1 September 1956, off Baja. As with the Savage, the Skywarrior (or Whale in common parlance) was larger than the WWII-era B-25 with a 35-ton maximum cat weight, 74-foot length (vs. 52 on the B-25H), and 72-foot wingspan (67 on the B-25H). U.S. Navy Photo via Navsource

Overhead view of a pair of F4D-1 Skyrays of Fighter Squadron (VF) 13 off the carrier Shangri-La (CVA 38) in flight in 1961. The AK code would make them from Carrier Air Group Ten (CAG-10) .The Navy only operated the Skyray from 1956-1964. It was the first Navy fighter that could exceed Mach 1 in level flight. NNAM.

Overhead photograph showing A4D Skyhawks of Attack Squadron (VA) 106 in flight over the carrier Shangri-La (CVA 38) on May 25, 1961. Future Apollo 17 commander astronaut Capt. Eugene Cernan spent time flying A4D Skyhawks in Attack Squadron (VA) 113, the “Stingers,” from Shangri-La in 1958. He was the final human to stand on the lunar surface and set the unofficial lunar land speed record in the rover. Photo via NNAM.

F4D-1 Skyrays of Fighter Squadron (VF) 13 off the carrier Shangri-La (CVA 38) 1962

Her 1962 Med cruise, with CVG-10 embarked– VF-13 Night Cappers (F4D-1 Skyray), VMF-251 Thunderbolts (F8U-1E Crusader), VA-46 Clansmen and VA-106 Gladiators (A4D-2 Skyhawk), VA-176 Thunderbolts (AD-5 and AD-6 Skyraider), a det from VFP-62 Fighting Photos (F8U-1P Crusader), a det from VAW-12 Bats (WF-2 Tracer), and a det from HU-2 Fleet Angels (HUP-2 Retriever and Sikorsky HUS-1 Seahorse)– was the focus of a beautiful technicolor film entitled Flying Clipper, narrated by Burl Ives.

Based in San Diego from 1956 to 1960, she conducted regular WestPac cruises until her homeport shifted to Mayport, Florida, where she transitioned to NATO operations and deployments in the North Atlantic and Med under the Second and Sixth Fleet, respectively for the next decade.

USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), foreground, and USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) at Souda Bay, Crete, on 28 February 1964. In the right distance is an Albany class cruiser

Four F8U crusaders of VF-62 passing over USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) during Mediterranean cruise 1967-68. Note the AJ tail code of Carrier Air Wing 8. NH 71869


An F-8 Crusader of Fighter Squadron (VF) 13 with squadron XO Commander William Brandell, Jr., in the cockpit pictured before a catapult launch from the carrier Shangri-La (CVA 38) on May 1, 1967, forty-six years ago today. Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Gale “Abe” Abresch holds a sign he used to inform Brandell that he was about to make the 46,000th launch from the starboard catapult on board the ship. Petty Officers Third Class Glenn Sturtevant and Alkivivaeis Diakowmakis hook the airplane onto the cat. Via NNAM

Vought F-8C Crusader jet fighter (Bureau # 146956, possibly after conversion to an F-8K) In-flight over USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) in December 1968. Note the AJ of CVW-8. NH 71870

An RF-8G Crusader of Light Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (VFP) 63 (BuNo. 146895) pictured in flight over the carrier Shangri-La (CVA 38) 28 July 1968. Note the AJ tail code of Carrier Air Wing 8 rather than VFP-63’s more common “PP” unit code.

USS Independence (CVA-62), a Forrestal-class supercarrier, along with the much smaller USS Shangri-La in 1968 celebrating 20 years of combat jets in naval aviation.

London Calling?

In 1965, the Royal Navy mulled over a possible transfer of Shangri-La and her sister USS Yorktown to replace the smaller (28,000-ton) Centaur-class carrier HMS Hermes (R12) rather than refit the British flattop to operate modified RN F-4K versions of the Phantom. They would have likely also replaced the aging 35,000-ton Illustrious-class aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (R38)/USS Robin— which had fought Bismarck— and steamed alongside the similar-sized (53,000-ton) Audiacious-class carriers HMS Ark Royal (R09) and HMS Eagle (R05), which likewise would have been converted to fly Phantoms along with their Buccaneers which had just entered service. This would have been the RN’s carrier force into the early 1980s.
The Royal Navy thought it better to build three new 63,000-ton large carriers of the planned CVA-01 class, which were never funded, leading to the early retirement of Victorious in 1968, followed by Eagle in 1972, conversion of Hermes to a rotary-wing-only “Commado Carrier” and disposal of Ark Royal in 1979, leaving the British without any flattops save for the LPH’d Hermes and the new “through deck destroyers” of the HMS Invincible class, which would go on to serve as Harrier carriers from the Falklands onwards. 

The endgame

With Shang still in U.S. service, on 30 June 1969, she was redesignated an antisubmarine warfare support aircraft carrier (CVS-38) a common and simple conversion that most of her remaining class underwent which shifted their air wings from high-performance fighters and strike aircraft like the F-8 and A-4 to more sedate ASW sub-busters like the turboprop S-2 Tracker and SH-3 Sea King helicopter.

Ironically, Shang never actually served as a proper CVS and was instead tasked as something of a “limited attack carrier” for a cruise off Vietnam the next year, her first combat since 1945.

With CVG-85 a memory some 25 years in the past, she went off to war carrying a mix of A-4C/E Skyhawks of VA-12, VA152, and VA-172; F-8H Crusaders of VF-111 and VF-162; a det of RF-8G Photo Crusaders from VFP-63, a det of UH-2C Sea Sprites from HC-2, and another det of E-1B Trackers (Stoof with a Roof) from VAW-121 as part of Carrier Air Wing Eight. CVW-8, with 169 officers and 873 enlisted, was assigned to Shang from 5 March to 17 December 1970 and would be her last embarked air wing.

USS Shangri-La (CVS-38) cruises toward Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, on 11 February 1970 on the eve of her Vietnam deployment. Official U.S. Navy Photograph (# K-81800).

Leaving Mayport in March, she set out via the South Atlantic and Indian oceans for Southeast Asian waters. As her combat report for the cruise mentions, “On 11 March, hundreds of timorous polliwogs were vigorously initiated into the Royal Domain of King Neptune by the Shangri-La’s cadre of sadistic shellbacks.”

Arriving in April, she would alternate stints on Yankee Station with rotations off the line to give her crew downtime in Hong Kong and Subic Bay. Shangri-La was also the only large American carrier to enter port in South Vietnam– arriving at DaNang on the night of 21 June to pick up parts for a broken elevator and returning to Yankee Station the same day. She would also suffer a sheared shaft coupling on No. 1 screw, a ruptured fire main that damaged most of her refrigeration areas, a minor deck fire, and a small engineering fire while underway. Combat deployments for a 26-year-old ship can be tough.

She earned three battle stars for her service in the Vietnam War and would make 12,691 launches and 11,994 recoveries from her deck during the deployment with CVW-8 embarking on 900 strike missions.

Shangri-La suffered eight fatalities through a mixture of enemy action and accidents on her 1970 cruise.

Arriving back at Mayport on 16 December to “maximum liberty” via the East Pacific, she had crossed the International Date Line and rounded Cape Horn to circumnavigate the globe.

After pre-inactivation overhaul at the Boston Naval Shipyard South Annex, Shangri-La decommissioned on 30 July 1971. She was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet and berthed at Philadelphia. Her third and final period in commission lasted just over 16 years.

Wasting away

Jane’s 1974-75 entry on the seven remaining Essex carriers (listed as Hancock-class at the time) considered either in reserve while in mothballs or on active duty (Lexington, AVT-17).

Shang was one of the last Essex-class carriers in mothballs and it was spitballed to recommission her (or one of her class) for a fourth time to assist in fleshing out the Reagan-Lehman “600 Ship Navy” to take on the Soviet Red Banner Fleet. However, all the laid-up WWII-period flattops were found to be in exceptionally poor shape although some had only been on red lead row for less than a decade. With grass growing on their decks, they were soon pulled out of floating storage and disposed of instead. As a result, she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 July 1982.

ex-USS Shangri-la in Philadelphia, 1987. Note the bush growing on her sponson.

While various groups planned to obtain Shangri-La for use as a museum ship, they all fell through, and on 17 June 1988, ex-Shangri-La was sold to the Lung Ching Steel Enterprise, Ltd., of Taiwan where she was towed for breaking that was completed the following year. The recycled steel of the old girl has likely been coming back home in small bits and pieces via household goods imported from Asia for decades.

Across her almost 44 years afloat, she spent just over 21 of them on active duty with the fleet.


As always, a ton of information on Shang is at your fingertips online at the National Archives. 

There is a very active USS Shangri-La Reunion Association for Veterans of the carrier. 

She is also remembered in maritime art.

Lt Bob Elders carrier trap of P-51D Seahorse USS Intrepid by Craig Kodera

Coming Home to Roost by R.G. Smith, showing A-4Cs headed back to USS Shangri La while on Yankee Station

As well as in scale model format.

While the carrier was turned to razor blades long ago, there are elements and monuments to the vessel scattered about the country. For instance, there is a USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) Room aboard the USS Hornet Museum, her sistership, docked at the former NAS Alameda. One of her 25-ton props is in the parking lot of Meding & Son Seafood, a restaurant off Hwy 1 in Delaware.

Her bell, recovered from a Florida scrapyard and restored in 2017, was initially presented to the NROTC unit at Jacksonville University and is now enshrined at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola next to a large scale model.

Also, NNAM has an RF-8G Photo Crusader (BuNo 14882) in their collection that flew with VFP-62 from the carrier and still carries her name.

NNAM’s Shangri-La Photo Crusader is on loan to the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. 

During the Centennial of Naval Aviation celebration in 2010, at least one aircraft carried a throwback scheme that saluted Shangri-La, an EA-18G Growler (Bu No. 166899) of VAQ-129 “Vikings,” based at NAS Whidbey Island, wearing the same three-color blue as carried by CVG-85 during WWII. Like the “Sky Pirates” of VBF-85, the aircraft wore lightning bolts.

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

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

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

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The Gremlin to Join the Fleet

Pennsylvania-born Emlen Lewis Tunnell earned a nickname in his football career of “The Gremlin” and was both the first African-American to play for the Giants (14 seasons before going to Green Bay, at the insistence of then-assistant coach Vince Lombardi) and the first to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

However, before all that, he was 17 years old during the attack on Pearl Harbor and, cutting short a subsequent college football career at the University of Toledo due to a broken neck (!) in a game against Marshall, he tried to enlist in first the Army, then the Navy, during WWII once he recovered.

Rejected by both, he kept trying and was accepted into the Coast Guard as a volunteer enlistee in the USCGR, serving on the Coast Guard-manned Crater-class cargo ship USS Etamin (AK-93) in the Pacific. When Etamin was disabled by a torpedo hit in Milne Bay in April 1944, Tunnell “saved a fellow crew member who was set afire in the blast, beat out the flames with his hands, sustained burns to his own hands, and carried the shipmate to safety.”

Just after the war, while assigned to frigid Naval Station Argentia in Newfoundland, Tunnell again saved a life by leaping into the water to save a man overboard, despite the fact that it was 32 degrees.

Tunnell was active in USCG team sports– playing on the racially integrated All-Pacific Coast service football team and the San Francisco Coast Guard basketball team– as well as served close enough to the fighting to catch a Japanese torpedo.

While the Coast Guard awarded two Lifesaving Medals to Steward’s Mate 1st Class Tunnell (one posthumously) and named an athletic building on the Coast Guard Academy campus in his honor, this week they will welcome a new 158-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter into the fleet named after the Coastie and NFL great who kept knocking on recruiters’ doors to get in the game.

The USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) will be commissioned in Philadelphia this week.

USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145)

The 45th of her class, like her namesake, however, will soon be headed overseas. The new cutter will join the USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) for transit to homeport later this year in Manama, Bahrain, and serve as one of six Sentinel-class FRCs with the U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) as part of CENTCOM. Very much on the sharp end.

Remembering Sydney vs. Kormoran in a unique, and mutual, way

The Type 123 Brandenburg-class frigate Bayern (F-217) deployed to the Pacific in August in an effort to “show more presence in the Indo-Pacific region.”

She has completed exercises and steamed with a host of foreign navies along the way.

PASSEX on Sept 7 2021 with the German frigate Bayern, Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67), and the Pakistani Navy frigate PNS Alamgir (F260)– formerly USS McInerney (FFG-8)–in the Indian Ocean. (Photos: German Navy)

Notably, when Bayern arrived in Fremantle last week she was the first German navy ship to visit Australia since the tall ship Gorch Fock berthed in Sydney in 1988.

Historically, German and Australian naval ships don’t interact very often.

Speaking of which, there was one very memorable meeting between the two countries at sea on 19 November 1941 when the Leander-class light cruiser HMAS Sydney (D48) came across the notorious German auxiliary cruiser (Hilfskreuzer) Kormoran which was brazenly steaming just 150 miles south-west of the coast of Western Australia. The heavily-armed commerce raider, known as “Raider G” to the Allies, had been at sea for 352 days and her crack crew had chalked up some 75,000 tons of shipping. A wolf in sheep’s clothing found by Sydney while flying a Dutch flag, with the action beginning at what was effectively point-blank range. 

In the mutually destructive surface action that followed, both ships were lost with a combined butcher’s bill of 727 men dead to include every single member of the Australian cruiser’s complement.

The engagement echoed a similar one between the Dresden-class cruiser SMS Emden and the Chatam-class light cruiser HMAS Sydney off Cocos Islands in November 1914, only much bloodier.

Only a few weeks away from the 80th anniversary of the loss of Kormoran and the later Sydney, embarked exchange sailors from the Royal Australian Navy on Bayern this week joined a solemn ceremony held by the crew to observe the battle, over at 26°S 111°E.

Members of the Bayern’s ship’s company also participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the State War Memorial in Perth’s Kings Park. 

3 Band Enfield, still in the field at 78+

This hardy footsoldier is described as “Sikh Sentry Srinagar” standing post in the Kashmir region in 1945, complete with a regulation Dastar (turban), and KD uniform shorts with field shirt and wool knee socks. His weapon appears to be a P1853 “3 Band” Enfield rifle, possibly converted in the 1870s to a .577 Snider–Enfield breechloader although I don’t think so as it doesn’t have updated sights.

While his uniform may have updated from the 1880s, his armament and bearing have not. 

A Sikh sentry at Fort Johnston, Malawi, in circa 1880s period artwork by Sir Henry Hamilton Johnston GCMG KCB, (1858-1927) who designed the uniform

As the last P53 was produced in 1867, Srinagar is likely much younger than his weapon, but he likely would have used it without compunction if needed.

One hardy Sikh with a bayonet and smoke pole of any vintage is a daunting sentry.

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021: A Hell of a Night

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, Oct. 6, 2021: A Hell of a Night

As I am currently roaming around the wilds of Utah all week, today’s WWeds is shorter than normal, but I trust no less interesting.

USS Selfridge (DD-357) NH 63121

Here we see the Porter-class tin can USS Selfridge (DD-357), the second warship named after the very sinkable Thomas O. Selfridge which we have covered a few times in the past, in her gleaming pre-war lines.

Fast forward to the night of 6 October 1943, some 78 years ago today. The place, Northwest of Vella Lavella in the hotly contested Solomon Islands. There, three American destroyers– Selfridge, Chevalier, and O’Bannon— bumped into a convoy of barges and auxiliaries escorted by nine destroyers of the Imperial Japanese Navy — Akigumo, Fumizuki, Isokaze, Kazagumo, Matsukaze, Samidare, Shigure, Yūnagi, and Yūgumo— with the latter equipped with the formidable Long Lance torpedo.

The confused, swirling action by moonlight and searchlight lasted less than an hour and left Yūgumo and Chevalier on the bottom while O’Bannon and Selfridge were seriously damaged and left to the field of battle when the Japanese withdrew to attend to their convoy which was filled with evacuated Japanese soldiers.

Selfridge suffered 13 killed, 11 wounded, and 36 missing, with most of those carried away with a hit to her bow from two Long Lances.

As noted by a Navy damage control report, “At 2306-1/2, a torpedo detonated at about frame 40, starboard. There was some indication that a second torpedo detonated almost simultaneously at frame 30, port. The bow severed completely at about frame 40 and floated aft on the starboard side.”

Battle of Vella LaVella (II) 6th-7th October 1943 Damaged USS SELFRIDGE (DD-357) after the battle. Her bow had been wrecked by a Japanese destroyer torpedo in this action. Note 5″/38 twin gun. Alongside is USS O’BANNON (D-450), which damaged her bow in a collision during the action. 80-G-274873.

Extensive details of the damage and how it was repaired while only barely off the line at Purvis Bay and at Noumea, here while the full period 54-page report of the engagement from Selfridge’s skipper’s point of view, here

Selfridge steamed 6,200 miles back to the West Coast with a temporary bow fitted, arriving at Mare Island looking, well, abbreviated.

USS Selfridge (DD-357), coming into Mare Island Navy Yard, California, for bow blown off just forward of the bridge in a heroic action in the Battle of Vella Lavella on October 6, 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-316295

Permanent repairs, including the installation of a new bow, were made at Mare Island and, after refresher training out of San Diego, she returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 May 1944 in time to join the forces staging for the invasion of the Marianas.

USS Selfridge (DD-357), steaming out to sea after repairs at Mare Island Navy Yard, California. Repairs were completed in the spring of 1944. 80-G-316296

Rejoining the war, Selfridge was active in the Philippines and the liberation of Guam, before switching oceans to escort convoys across the Atlantic in 1945, earning four battle stars for her WWII service.

Decommissioned on 15 October 1945, Selfridge was struck from the Navy list on 1 November 1945; sold to George H. Nutman, Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.; removed from Navy custody on 20 December 1946, and scrapped in October 1947.


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!

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