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WWII mines and trawlers don’t mix

French mine clearance divers ensure the proper neutralization of the mine. Photo: Préfecture de la Manche

Off the coast of Normandy last week the French trawler Le Retour hauled in a heck of a full net, to include one Monika-type Luftmine B (G-mine), formerly of German ownership.

UXOs are a common thing along the shores of Europe.

The big minenbombe had an explosive charge somewhere on the order of 860 kilos, which would have wrecked Le Retour for sure ala the spy trawler Saint Georges in the 1980s Bond classic, For Your Eyes Only.

Gratefully, French Navy clearance divers were able to render the big easter egg inert with no casualties.

More here.

Singapore heavy

2nd battalion of Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in Malaya, pre-Pearl Harbor.

Offical caption, “Constant practice in patrolling jungle roads, keeps members of this famous regiment in full fighting for their special job.”

Their pecuilar fighting vehicle is the Lanchester 6×4 Mark I armoured car. Armed with three Vickers guns– a .50-caliber and .303-in the turret and another .303 on the left side of the hull, these 20-foot long land yachts weighed 7 tons, largely due to their steel frames and 9mm worth of sheet armor, which protected them from small arms rounds. Their 6-cylinder in-line, gasoline-fueled engine was fire prone if the Lanchester took damage.

Men of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders training with a Lanchester six-wheeled armored car in the Malayan jungle, 13 November 1941.

Argylls and Sutherlanders in Malaya. Note the two Vickers in the turret, one a .50-cal and the other a .303. Also, the vehicles 3rd Vickers is seen on the hull to the lower right of the photo.

Just 35 Lanchesters were made, including only 18 Mark Is. Most, after service in Egypt with the 12th Royal Lancers, were sent to the Far East to defend Singapore in the ill-fated Malay Camapign against the Japanese– who for once had better tanks.

Japanese Type 97 Chi-ha tanks on captured Singapore street, February 15, 1942.

Japanese Chi-Ha light reconnaissance tanks, Malaya, January 1942. They had 47mm guns and 35mm or armor.

During the Malay campaign, Japanese troops captured a large number of serviceable British crawler armored personnel carriers, Bren Universal Carriers, and the Marmon-Herrington Mk III, as well as the Lanchesters.

Today, Singapore still imports European armor, today using German-made Leopard 2A4s upgraded to the Leopard 2SG standard with composite armour.

The Singaporean variant of the Leopard 2, the Leopard 2SG. The Leo 2SG features upgrades such as modular armor and the Commander’s Open Architecture Panoramic Sight (COAPS)

Teddy Rex aboard Mayflower, 115 years ago today

Pres. Roosevelt, Admiral Dewey and Sec. Navy Moody reviewing war fleet from the patrol yacht USS Mayflower (PY-1) at Oyster Bay, Aug. 17, 1903. Flat followed by red-cyan stereo anaglyph to be viewed 3D. Library of Congress images

Built for millionaire real-estate developer Ogden Goelet, he died aboard the 273-foot luxury yacht in 1897– the very year it was built. Sold to the Navy the next year for the Spanish-American War, Mayflower joined the blockade of Cuba out of Key West with six 6-pounders aboard and captured a number of vessels including a Spanish schooner.

Serving as the floating office of Puerto Rico’s first American Governor Charles H. Allen, she soon became a presidential yacht, a role she played until damaged in a fire in 1931 which resulted in her sale on the open market.

Patched back up, the MARAD picked the ship again for military service and she performed as the gunboat USCGC Mayflower (WPE-183) with a Coast Guard crew and some 3-inch guns and depth charges running coastal convoys on the Eastern Seaboard. Decommissioned for a final time after the war, she worked as a sealer and carried Jewish refugees to the promised land in 1948 before dropping off the books.

Operation Cottage at 75, or the time the Canuks were really welcome in Alaska

Here we see a well-kitted Canadian corporal, probably of the 13th Brigade (consisting of the 2/Canadian Scottish, 1/Brockville Rifles, and 1/Edmonton Fusiliers), inspecting a captured Japanese Type 96 or 99 light machine gun, on the foggy and windswept island of Kiska, in the Aleutian chain of the U.S. Territory of Alaska, 16 Aug 1943.

Note the M1 rifle in 30.06…rather than the more traditional Canadian Longbranch SMLE in .303

As a sideshow to the Battle of Midway, the Japanese occupied Kiska with 500 IJN Special Landing Force marines on 6 June 1942 and, though they reinforced the garrison with another 8,000~ sundry troops to include a mini-sub base, by 28 July 1943, they shagged ass when it appeared the U.S. was coming back to take the island in force– one of the very rare instances when the Japanese withdrew from an island rather than fight for it to the last man in the Pacific War.

Part of huge 100-ship Allied fleet at anchor in Adak Harbor in Aleutians, ready to move against Kiska (NARA/U.S. Army Air Forces/Horace Bristol)

On August 15, 1943, the U.S. 7th Infantry Division (with the 87th Mountain Rgt, which later grew into the 10th Mountain Div) and the Canadian 13th Infantry Brigade along with the joint 1st Special Service Force, landed on Kiska as part of Operation Cottage and amazingly suffered over 300 casualties in the two-day operation, from friendly fire.

Lessons learned.

Bearded Gunner’s Mate. Stands by a 20mm anti-aircraft machinegun, mounted in a shore emplacement at an advanced base in the Aleutians, circa 1942-1943. Note cigar. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Horace Bristol. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. .

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018: Florida’s ancient sub-buster

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

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018: Florida’s ancient sub-buster

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Photograph

Here we see, behind the striking young lady, is the Argo-class 165-foot (B) submarine chaser/cutter Nemesis (WPC-111) of the U.S. Coast Guard, taken during the 1953 Gasparilla Festival in Tampa. Nemesis was just under 20 at the time and had an interesting life both prior to and after this image was snapped.

The USCG’s two-dozen 165-footers were built during the early-1930s and they proved successful in WWII, with two sinking U-boats. Based on the earlier USCGC Tallapoosa (WPG-52), the 165-foot class of cutters was divided into two groups, the first designed primarily for derelict destruction and SAR, the second for Prohibition bootlegger busting:

The first batch, the six Class A vessels, were named after Native American tribes– Algonquin, Comanche, Escanaba, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Tahoma— and had a 36-foot beam, a 13.5-foot maximum draft, a sedate speed of 13 knots, and a displacement of 1,005 tons. We’ve covered a couple of this class of “beefy” 165s before to include USCGC Mohawk and cannot talk these hardy boats up enough. Tragically, one of these, USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77), was lost after encountering a U-boat or mine in 1943 with only two survivors.

The more beefy 165-foot (A) class cutters (Coast Guard Collection) 

The follow-on 18 WPCs in Class B were named after Greek mythos– Argo, Ariadne, Atalanta, Aurora, Calypso, Cyane, Daphne, Dione, Galatea, Hermes, Icarus, Nemesis, Nike, Pandora, Perseus, Thetis, Triton, and Electra. They were much lighter at 337-tons, narrower with a 25-foot beam, could float in under 10-feet of water (the designed draft was ~7ft.) and, on their suite of direct reversible GM-made Winton diesels, could touch 16 knots while keeping open the possibility of a 6,400nm range if poking around at a much lower speed.

Coast Guard Cutter Icarus, an example of the 165 (B)s, drawn in profile. Note the short, twin stacks. (Coast Guard Collection)

They were built between 1931 and 1934 at a series of five small commercial yards and were designed as patrol vessels. Their normal armament consisted of a dated 3-inch/23 caliber Mk 7 gun and two 37mm Mk. 4 1-pounders. Due to their designed role in busting up Rum Row, their small arms locker included a few Thompson M1921 sub guns, M1911s and a number of Springfield 1903s for good measure.

“Coast Guard planes from the Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Florida, greeting new 165-foot patrol boat PANDORA arrival December 6, 1934, to take station.” Top to bottom Flying Boat ACAMAR, Amphibian SIRIUS and Flying Boat A. As you note, the slimmer twin-funnel 165-foot (B) class sub chasers had a much different profile

The subject of our tale, Nemesis (can you get a better name for a warship?), was ordered for $258,000 from Marietta Manufacturing Co. at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on the Ohio River, alongside her sisters Nike and Triton, in 1931. All three commissioned the same day– 7 July 1934– ironically some six months after Prohibition ended.

Nemesis and her 44-man crew (5 officers, 39 enlisted) set sail for St. Petersburg, Florida, where they would consider home for the rest of her (peacetime) career with the Coast Guard.

USS Trenton postal cover welcoming Nemesis to Ste Pte

With tensions ramping up prior to the U.S entry to WWII, several East Coast 165s, to include Algonquin, Comanche, Galatea, Pandora, Thetis, and Triton, were on duty with the Navy after 1 July 1941 to assist with the Neutrality Patrol. The rest would follow immediately after Pearl Harbor. Armed with hastily-installed depth charge racks and a thrower and given a couple of Lewis guns for added muscle, they went looking for U-boats as the defenders of the Eastern Sea Frontier.

Nemesis’s sister, USCGC Argo on patrol displaying World War II armament and haze gray paint scheme. Note the 3″/50 forward.

As noted by DANFS:

The Gulf Sea Frontier, which included the Florida and Gulf coasts and parts of the Bahamas and Cuba, was defended in only rudimentary fashion during the early months of the war. Initial defenses consisted of the three Coast Guard cutters Nemesis, Nike, and Vigilant, together with nineteen unarmed Coast Guard aircraft and fourteen lightly armed Army aircraft.

In late February 1942 four ships were torpedoed in four days, and in May 41 vessels were sent to the bottom by hostile submarine action off the Florida coast and in the Gulf. As sinkings mounted alarmingly in the Gulf Sea Frontier waters, American defensive strength in the area began to increase rapidly and overwhelmingly.

Sister Icarus (WPC-110) in May 1942 depth-charged U-352, sinking the submarine off the North Carolina coast and taking aboard 33 of her survivors. Thetis (WPC-115) scratched U-157 north of Havana just a few weeks later. Meanwhile, at the same time, Nike (WPC-112) attacked and “likely sank” a surfaced U-boat off Florida’s Jupiter lighthouse then rescued 19 from a torpedoed Panamanian freighter.

Operating in the 7th Naval District on coastal patrol and convoy escort duty throughout the conflict, Nemesis rescued 28 from the Mexican tanker Faja De Oro, torpedoed by U-106 off Key West in May 1942, an attack that helped spark Mexico’s entry into the War against Germany.

“Remember the 13th of May”, referring to a Mexican oil tanker, Faja De Oro, sunk off the coast of Florida by a German submarine. Nemesis saved her crew. Mexico declared war on the Axis Powers in support of the Allies on 22 May and, along with Brazil, was the only Latin American country to send their sons to fight overseas during World War II– notably the flyers of Escuadrón 201 who took U.S.-supplied P-47s to the Philippines as part of the Fifth Air Force, flying 785 combat sorties.

The next month, Nemesis again had to pluck men from the Florida Straits. This time 27 men from the American-flagged SS Suwied, sank by U-107 on her way from Mobile to British Guyana.

Our cutter did not manage to bag a U-boat on her own, although she reported contacts on several occasions and dropped a spread several times. Between February and August 1942 she launched attacks on submarine contacts on at least five different occasions.

By 1944, Nemesis, like the rest of her class, had their armament replaced by two 3″/50 guns, two 20mm Oerlikons, 2 Mousetrap ASW throwers as well as more advanced depth charges and throwers. Nemesis was also one of just five of her class that carried SF-1 radar and QCN-1 sonar, sensors that the humble 165s were never designed for.

In 1945, the Navy selected six patrol vessels as its “Surrender Group” in the 1st Naval District including the three up-armed 165-foot Coast Guard cutters– Dione, Nemesis, and Argo. These ships helped process the surrender of at least five German submarines, U-234, U-805, U-873, U-1228, and U-858. Notably, U-234 was packed with sensitive cargo to include senior German officers and 1,200 pounds of uranium.

Kodachrome of German Submarine U-805 after surrendering to the U.S. Navy off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 16 May 1945. National Archives. Nemesis was part of the Navy’s “Surrender Group” handling these boats.

Nemesis received one battle star for her World War II service and chopped back to the USCG in 1946.

Postwar, Nemesis picked up her white scheme and, losing some of her depth charges, went back to St. Pete.

Closer to her festival picture at the beginning of the post. Note the extensive awnings. South Fla gets warm about 10 months a year. Also, note the 3″/50

By 1953, most of her class had been decommissioned with only Ariadne, Aurora, Dione, Nemesis, Nike, Pandora, Perseus and Triton still on active duty. On the East Coast, Triton was stationed in Key West and Nemesis was in St. Pete. Nike was in Gulfport, MS.

Decommissioned after a busy 30-year career on 20 November 1964, Nemesis was sold on 9 February 1966 in a public auction, going to Auto Marine Engineers of Miami who parted her out over the years. (One of her masts could be on the late PBS&J Corporation founder Howard Malvern “Budd” Post’s Waterside estate.)

Renamed Livingston’s Landing, her hulk was rebuilt by 1979 to look like a triple-decker African steamer and used as a floating restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, picking up the name Ancient Mariner in 1981 while performing the same job. She was docked just west of where Hyde Park Market used to be, across from jail.

Sadly, “the floating eatery was closed in 1986 by health officials as the source of a massive outbreak of infectious hepatitis” that sickened more than 80.

With nothing else going for her, the once-proud vessel was acquired at public auction, “purchased by the South Florida Divers Club of Hollywood for $6,000 and donated to Broward County’s artificial reef program. In June of 1991, the Nemesis, now called Ancient Mariner, was sunk as an artificial reef off Deerfield Beach.”

She is a popular dive site today resting just 50-70 feet deep. “A large Goliath Grouper guards the wreckage and can usually be found in the wheelhouse.”

Of her sisters, USCGC Ariadne (WPC-101), the last in federal service, was decommissioned 23 Dec. 1968 and sold for scrap the next year. Some went on to overseas service, including USCGC Galatea, Thetis, and Icarus, who remained afloat into the late 1980s with the Dominican Republic’s Navy. At least five of the class were bought by the Circle Line of NYC and converted to local passenger ferry work around the five boroughs. Daphne is thought to be somewhere in Mexican waters as a tug.

Of the 24 various 165s that served in the Coast Guard and Navy across a span of almost a half century, just one, like Nemesis a B-model, remains in some sort of confirmed service.

Commissioned as USCGC Electra (WPC-187) in 1934, she was transferred to the US Navy prior to WWII and renamed USS Potomac (AG-25), serving as FDR’s Presidential Yacht for a decade. Struck from the Navy List in 1946, she was saved in 1980 and is currently open to the public in Oakland.

Ex-USS Potomac (AG-25) moored at her berth, the FDR pier, at Jack London Square, Oakland, CA. in 2008. Still floating in less than 7ft of water, as designed. Photos by Al Riel USS John Rogers.Via Navsource

As for the Coast Guard, they are increasingly recycling the old names of the classic 165s for their new class of 360-foot Offshore Patrol Cutters so it is possible that Nemesis will pop back up. Further, the service retains a number of old bells from the 165s as artifacts, such as from USCGC Comanche, below, which means the bell from Nemesis could very well be ashore somewhere on a Coast Guard base.

Specs:


Displacement:
334 long tons (339 t) trial
1945: 350 tons
Length:
160 ft, 9 in waterline
165 ft. overall
Beam: 23 ft 9 in
Draft: 7 ft 8 in as designed, (1945): 10 ft
Propulsion:
2 × Winton Model 158 6-cylinder diesel engines, 670 hp (500 kW) each
two shafts with 3-bladed screws
Fuel: 7,700 gals of diesel oil
Speed: 16 knots
Range: 3,000 nautical miles at 11 knots; 6,400 @6kts on one diesel.
Complement:
44 officers and men as designed
1945: 75 officers and men
Sensors: (1945) SF-1 radar and QCN-1 sonar
Armament:
Prewar:
1 × 3-inch /23 caliber gun
2 × 37mm one-pounders
Wartime (1945):
2 × 3-inch / 50 cal guns
2 × 20 mm guns
2 × Y-guns
2 × depth charge tracks
2 × Mousetrap anti-submarine rockets

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.

The story of the Millionth Garand

Canadian-born firearms engineer Jean Cantius Garand went to work at the U.S. Army’s Springfield Armory in 1919 and age 29 and remained on the job until he retired in 1953. While he had a hand in a number of projects over that 34-year period, it was his semi-auto M1 rifle, adopted by the military on the eve of World War II, that he is best remembered for. Rather than send Garand off with a gold watch at his retirement party, Secretary of Army Robert Stevens authorized SA to give him one of their noteworthy M1s from the arsenal’s museum.

The gun they gave the inventor was SN# 1,000,000, an SA-made .30-06 completed in November 1942, scarcely a year after Pearl Harbor.

Secretary of Army Robert Stevens presents John Garand with an M1 Garand rifle at his retirement in 1953. Note the deep grain in the walnut

And it is still beautiful (and up for auction) today.

You can really tell see those beautiful, distinctive tiger stripes in any photo. This is one I took when I inspected the piece back in March.

Hopefully, it will be bought by a museum or a philanthropist willing to put this national treasure on public display.

More in my column at Guns.com

Ghosts of the Emperor’s Army

While doing work on the campus of an elementary school outside of Tokyo, crews performing drilling work started running into the items at a depth of 3-7 feet.

Stuff like this:

A Lil Ballistol will fix these Arisakas right on up.

Since then, an estimated 1,400 firearms, as well as 1,200 “swords” (actually Type 30 bayonets from the look of things) and a number of grenade projectors, have been cataloged.

More in my column at Guns.com.

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