Category Archives: World War Two

New Battle Streamer for Marines

Well, the Dutch Marines, anyway.

We’ve talked much about the Dutch Korps Mariniers in the past, especially when it comes to their long combat history such as in the Dutch East Indies in the 1940s.

Much like the USMC’s Teufel Hunden/Devil Dog nickname, the Dutch marines’ earned their “Zwarte Duivels” moniker while fighting the Germans.

Some ~400 Dutch marines, fighting in small platoon-sized groups, held off the Germans in May 1940 at the key port of Rotterdam, putting up such stiff resistance against superior arms that the Germans, according to legend, called them Black Devils due to their dark uniforms.

The Germans termed them “Schwarzen Teufel” because of their dark blue overcoats, blackened faces, and courageous defiance in defense of the Maas bridges.

Founded 10 December 1665, the Korps Mariniers this week added a new battle streamer (Vaandelopschriften) to their flag. The new streamer, titled “Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan” recognizes the special and regular combat operations conducted by the service in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010, in which two marines were killed, 18 seriously wounded, and 12 decorated for valor.

A standing force of just under 2,000 Dutch troops had been deployed in central Uruzgan province between 2006 and 2010, with a large portion of them being Dutch Marines, who also served alongside the British in Helmand and Kandahar. All told, the Dutch lost 25 troops in Afghanistan.

Note the traditional 1890s elements to the Korps Mariniers’ dress uniforms, including pith helmets, dark blue (almost black) coats, and traditional Dutch orange banners.

Pith-helmeted Royal Netherlands Marine Corps recruitment poster (c.1902) Dutch via Nationaal Archief Den Haag

VS22 Looking Flat

It is just a little bit over 80 years after the Plum/Pensacola/Republic Convoy was ordered to make for Australia instead of reinforcing the Philippines– a good call because the 2,000 mobilized National Guardsmen and two warships (the cruiser USS Pensacola and gunboat USS Niagra) of Task Group 15.5 would have had little-to-no effect on the disastrous Dec. 1941-May 42 Fall of the Philippines, only adding to the number of 78,000 surrendered American and Allied troops.

However, in a reboot of naval power on display, Valiant Shield 2022 was just held in the Philippine Sea and the ninth biennial U.S.-only exercise was a decent show of strength, at least in terms of carrier power.

VS22 this year included both two carrier strike groups —USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 embarked, and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) with CVW 9 embarked– along with USS Tripoli (LHA-7), the latter of which recently showed off a 16-strong F-35B loadout as part of the “Lightning Carrier” concept.

Roll that beautiful bean footage:

How about those stills: 

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gray Gibson)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gray Gibson)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gray Gibson)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gray Gibson)

On the downside, I would love to see two or three times that amount of escorts around three flattops, as the carriers are only trailed by two elderly Ticos (which are soon to be retired)– USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and USS Antietam (CG 54)— and three Burkes: USS Benfold (DDG 65), USS Spruance (DDG 111), and the recently-rebuilt USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62).

It really is sad that the vast squadrons of CGNs, CG-converted DLGs, DDG-2s, Spru-Cans, Knoxes, and FFG-7s were slaughtered in the 1990s and early 2000s without replacement other than the Navy continuing to order $1.8-Billion-per-hull Burkes.

Appropriately, the pinnacle event of VS22 was the sinking exercise (SINKEX) on the decommissioned FFG-7, ex-USS Vandegrift (FFG 48).

The *Other* Sole Survivors of Torpedo EIGHT

80 Years Ago Today: Here we see the heavy cruiser USS Pensacola (CA-24) as she disembarks Marine reinforcements at the Sand Island pier, Midway, on 25 June 1942. Note M1903 Springfield rifles and other gear along the pier edge. The Sand Island seaplane hangar, badly damaged by the Japanese air attack on 4 June 1942, is in the left distance, with a water tower beside it. Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) TBF-1 Avenger (Bureau # 00380) can be seen on the beach, in line with the water tower.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-12146

Another view of P-cola, same day and place, and the aircraft in the foreground, with a damaged tail, is TBF-1 Avenger (Bureau # 00380) The ship in the right distance is probably USS Ballard (AVD-10):

Catalog #: 80-G-12147

A closer look at Avenger 380, photographed at Midway, 24-25 June 1942, prior to shipment back to the United States for post-battle evaluation:

Catalog #: 80-G-11637

Rear cockpit and .50 caliber machinegun turret of Avenger 380. Damage to the turret can be seen in this view. The ship in the left background is probably USS Ballard (AVD-10):

Catalog #: 80-G-11635

Another look, 80-G-17063

While most know the well-publicized tale of Ensign George “Tex” Gay, the “Sole Survivor” of the 4 June 1942 VT-8 TBD torpedo plane attack on the Japanese carrier force during the Battle of Midway, there is a little more to the story.

Ensign George H. Gay at Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital, with a nurse and a copy of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper featuring accounts of the battle. Gay’s book “Sole Survivor” indicates that the date of this photograph is probably 7 June 1942, following an operation to repair his injured left hand and a meeting with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. 80-G-17678

You see, on 4 June, VT-8 was in two different elements.

Gay was part of 15 criminally obsolete Douglas TBD Devastators torpedo bombers of the squadron that had launched from USS Hornet (CV-8), led by the squadron skipper, LCDR John C. Waldron. Riding their Devastators right to Valhalla in a vain attempt to sink the Japanese carrier Soryu, all 15 were shot down and Gay, his gunner already dead, was left floating in the Pacific to be recovered after the battle.

Six other aircraft of VT-8, new TBF Avengers, were based at Midway and likewise flew against the Japanese on 4 June. These planes were the first Navy aircraft to attack the Japanese fleet that day. They attacked without fighter cover led by LT Langdon Kellogg Fieberling and of those six aircraft, five were shot down.

Avenger 308, mauled by Japanese fighters during the attack, was able to limp back home. Seaman 1st Class Jay D. Manning, who was operating the .50 caliber machinegun turret, was killed in action with Japanese fighters during the attack.

The plane’s pilot was Ensign Albert K. “Bert” Earnest (VMI 1938) and the other crewman was Radioman 3rd Class Harry H. Ferrier. Both survived the action.

Albert K. “Bert” Earnest ’938 is one of VMI’s most decorated graduates. He was awarded three Navy Crosses during World War II. Photos courtesy VMI Archives.

Earnest would earn two Navy Crosses that day, “for dropping his bomb on the Japanese fleet and a second Navy Cross for bringing his aircraft and crew back to Midway. Inspections later found 73 large-caliber bullet holes in his aircraft.”

Courtesy of Captain A.K. Earnest, USN (Ret) and Robert L. Lawson, 1990. NH 102559

As noted by the VMI Alumni Assoc: 

Of the squadron’s planes, Earnest’s was the only one to return to Midway. One pilot, Ensign George Gay, was plucked from the ocean. He is depicted in the 2019 movie “Midway.” Gay enjoyed the attention and wrote a book, “Sole Survivor,” about his Midway experiences. Earnest often joked that he and Ferrier were the “other sole survivors.”

While serving off Guadalcanal during the battle of the Eastern Solomons, Earnest earned a third Navy Cross and was rotated back to the U.S. for the duration of the war.

He continued in the Navy, retiring with 31 years of service in 1972. He had an eventful career, testing enemy aircraft, becoming a “Hurricane Hunter” and qualifying to fly jets.

Earnest died in 2009 and is buried with his wife, Millie, at Arlington National Cemetery.

Onto the Ramp

“Onto the Ramp.” Artwork by Joseph Hirsch.

Lot 3124-3: Paintings of Naval Aviation during World War II: Abbott Collection. #47.

“Caught by the tail like some dripping sea monster, a Navy PBY patrol bomber is hauled from the water up the seaplane ramp at the end of a mission. Beaching these big, flying boats is a precision performance. Beaching crews must first wade out and attach wheel fittings under the hull to permit the plane to be rolled onto the ramp. A towing line is fitted to the tail, and up she comes under the tug of a snorting tractor. ”

The task of hauling the great flying boats and smaller floatplanes from sea to shore was a familiar one for the Navy’s patrol squadrons for over 40 years, encompassing both world wars. 

A line of seaplanes on the ramp at Trumbo Point Key West 1918 Monroe County Library

March 1914, shows the south-western waterfront, aircraft launching ramps, and tent hangars, at Naval Aeronautic Station, Pensacola, FL.

P2Y-3 flying boat on-ramp 1930s Earl Potter collection a

P2Y-3 flying boat on-ramp 1930s Earl Potter collection

Hauling a seaplane up the ramp.

VPB-54/VP-54 PBY-5A Catalina coming up the launching ramp note turret Fred C. Dickey, Jr. Collection NHHC

Warship Wednesday, June 22, 2022: The Emperor’s Wrath

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, June 22, 2022: The Emperor’s Wrath

Above we see a WWII-era propaganda image portraying a 1942 bombardment of the U.S. West Coast by a surfaced submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Unlike Italy’s claim of sinking the battleships USS Maryland and Mississippi via the same Atlantic-cruising submarine at around the same period, this actually happened, 80 years ago this week in fact.

Without getting too much into the weeds, in mid-December 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, VADM Mitsumi Shimizu, commander of the Dai-roku Kantai, the fleet containing the Japanese fleet submarine force, ordered nine boats involved in the Hawaii episode– I-9 (flag of Capt. Torajiro Sato, embarked), I-10, I-15, I-17, I-19, I-21, I-23, I-25, and I-26— to proceed to the U.S. mainland and surface on Christmas night to fire 30 shells apiece at selected shore targets in what would have surely been a special gift to America.

Apart from Sato’s ride and I-10 which were specifically built to have headquarters accommodations, all were Type B cruiser submarines. Large boats for the era, the assorted Type Bs went some 2,200 tons and as long as 356 feet overall, capable of hitting as much as 23 knots while carrying up to eight torpedo tubes into battle, thus making them a good match for the American fleet boats of the Gato-class (2,400t; 311 feet; 21 knots, 10 tubes). They had an unrefueled range of over 14,000 nm.

Here we see a World War II U.S. Navy schematic of a Japanese I-15, a Type B1 cruiser submarine. NH 111756

However, unlike the Gatos, the Type Bs could carry a stowed Navy Type 96 Watanabe E9W1 (Allied reporting name Slim) or, more typically, a Yokosuka E14Y2 (Glen) reconnaissance seaplane in a sealed dry dock. They could be made ready for surface launches over the bow and recovered via a desktop-mounted crane.

Yokosuka E14Y Glenn floatplane I-19 a Japanese Type B1 submarine. Nicimo box art

E14Y Type 0 Reconnaissance Seaplane Glen floatplane Japanese ONI221

The stern of the submarines carried a 14 cm/40 (5.5″) 11th Year (1922) Type deck gun, a piece superior to most American submarine guns.

14 cm/40 (5.5″) gun postwar. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

The Japanese completed no less than 29 Type B cruiser submarines in three different generations between 1938 and 1944 and canceled at least 20 others due to a lack of materials and shipyards not on fire.

In the end, Yamamoto put the Christmas raid on hold and the force was recalled home on 27 December. The units were needed as supporting assets for “Operation K” a flying boat attack on Hawaii to bomb Pearl Harbor’s “Ten-Ten Dock” and disrupt ship repair activities. Despite the lofty goal, Op K only resulted in the loss of I-23 with all hands somewhere off the Oahu coast in late February 1942.

Nonetheless, the new year would see several of these boats return on their own to conduct raids via deck gun on the mainland.

I-17

As detailed by RADM Sam Cox’s H-Gram H-010-6 on the matter: 

On 23 February 1942, the Japanese submarine I-17 shelled the Ellwood Oil Field west of Santa Barbara, California, inflicting minor damage (but triggering an invasion scare on the U.S. West Coast, which served as additional pretext for interning Japanese-American U.S. citizens). 

Japanese propaganda postcard depicting the submarine I-17 shelling Ellwood. Japanese captions “Our Submarine bombarding the coast of California” Artwork by Chuichi Mikuriya, Navy Battlefield Artist. Card via the California military museum.

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Battle of LA

Cox:

It was followed on the night of 24–25 February by the “Battle of Los Angeles,” in which jittery American anti-aircraft gunners unleashed an intense barrage over the city at non-existent Japanese aircraft, an action “extremely” loosely depicted in the Steven Spielberg/John Belushi movie 1941. In the movie, the submarine that provoked the movie hysteria was the “I-19” which in reality was the floatplane-equipped Japanese submarine that sank the USS Wasp (CV-7) on 15 September 1942.

I-26

On 20 June, I-26 surfaced off Canada’s Pacific Coast and made her gun ready, the first enemy attack on Canadian soil since the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1871.

As noted by Combined Fleet: 

West coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Around 2217 (local), I-26 surfaces five miles off the coast and fires 17 shells (including two exercise rounds filled with sand) from her deck gun at the Hesquiat radio direction finding station. As a result of limited visibility and rough sea, none of the targets is hit. Most 5.5-in shells fall short of the Estevan Point lighthouse or explode nearby; one unexploded round is recovered after the attack and another in June 1973.

“Wireless station and light at Estevan Point shelled by enemy aircraft for 40 minutes commencing at 1025 PM June 20 [1942]. No damage was done except two windows cracked or broken. Station unscathed.”– reported the station’s keeper.

One of the recovered shells from I-26, via LAC

Canadian Naval staff inspects a Japanese shell from Estevan Point, B.C. Photo: Gerald Thomas Richardson.

Estevan Point Lighthouse & Wireless Station on Vancouver Island Photo via BC Archives. Today the Canadian Rangers hold a yearly commemoration on this spot to reinforce their current mission

This brings us to I-25

During the night of 21-22 June 1942, I-25 surfaced near the mouth of the Columbia River and opened fire on what her navigator took from outdated 1920s charts to be an American submarine base that, in fact, was never built. Instead, the rounds by coincidence hit within the campus of Fort Stevens, a U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps installation on the Oregon coast whose grounds dated back to the Civil War.

Fort Steven’s most modern emplacements in WWII were the two shielded 6-inch guns of Battery 245, supported by SCR 296 radar. However, it wasn’t begun until after the raid and was not completed until October 1944. 

Although obsolete– its main guns were 10-inch mortars and 10-inch disappearing guns from the late 19th century, the batteries at Fort Stevens were manned by elements of the 18th Coast Artillery Regiment (Harbor Defense) of the Regular Army and the 249th Coast Artillery Regiment of the Oregon National Guard, the only American Coast Artillery units to ever see combat in CONUS.

As described by the Oregon State Archives: 

Despite the confusion, soldiers at the fort soon manned their guns and searchlights, and lookouts could see the submarine firing in the distance. But the enemy ship was inaccurately determined to be out of range, and the artillerymen never received permission to return fire. The fort’s commander later claimed he didn’t want to give away the precise location of the defenses to the enemy.

The I-25’s shells left craters in the beach and marshland around Battery Russell at the fort, damaging only the backstop of the baseball diamond about 70 to 80 yards from the facility’s big guns. A shell fragment also nicked a power line, causing it to fail later. Casualties amounted to one soldier who cut his head rushing to his battle station. By about midnight the attack ended and the enemy vessel sailed off to the west and north.

While the submarine fired 17 shells, witnesses on land only heard between 9 and 14 rounds. Experts surmised that some shells might have been duds or fallen into the sea. Despite causing no significant damage, the attack certainly raised awareness of the threat of future strikes and went into the history books as the only hostile shelling of a military base on the U.S. mainland during World War II and the first since the War of 1812.

RADM Cox points out, “U.S. shore gunners requested permission to open fire on the submarine, but were denied out of concern that doing so would give away number, position, and capability of U.S. defenses before an actual invasion, thus depriving U.S. coastal artillery of their only opportunity to shoot at a real Japanese ship during the war.”

Crater, Fort Stevens, from I-25. NARA 299678

I-25 bombardment of Fort Stevens, by Richard L. Stark

Within days, the beaches near Fort Stevens were swathed in barbed wire and a defiant sign hung from its camouflaged emplacements.

“To Hell With Hirohito” sign refers to nine misses from I-25. NARA 299671

As I-25 sailed away to end her third war patrol, it would be the last Japanese submarine bombardment of the West Coast.

Epilogue

In a swan song of the Empire’s manned strikes on mainland America, I-25 would return to Oregon on her fourth patrol would launch Warrant Officer Nubuo Fujita and Petty Officer Okuda Shoji in their little Glen floatplane to drop a pair of 170-pound incendiary bombs in the dense forests over the Oregon Mountains near Brookings across two sorties on 9 and 29 September.

Painting of the I-25 launching her E14Y floatplane on a scouting mission, via Combined Fleet

From Combined Fleet:

9 September 1942: The First Bombing of the Continental United States:
25 miles W of the Oregon coast. The sea condition calms. I-25 surfaces just before dawn and the Glen is assembled and readied for the attack. Fujita catapults off at 0535 and drops two incendiary bombs near Mount Emily, but the rain has saturated the woods and renders the bombs ineffective. [7] Fujita heads for I-25. On his way back he spots two merchants steaming N at 12 knots. To avoid detection, I-25 moves NNE.

29 September 1942:
Cdr Tagami makes another attempt to start a forest fire in the Oregon woods. I-25 surfaces after midnight about 50 miles west of Cape Blanco. Fujita’s plane is launched by catapult at 2107 (I). Although the entire western coast of Oregon is blacked out, the Cape Blanco lighthouse is still operating. Using that light to navigate, Fujita flies east over the coast and drops his bombs. At least one starts a fire; however, it goes out before US Forest Service foresters can reach it. The bombing is unsuccessful. On his way back, Fujita manages to find his sub by following an oil slick. During the following days, the rough sea and heavy mist permitted no further attacks.

In the end, of the boats that had been detailed by VADM Shimizu to shell America on Christmas 1941, all were sent to the bottom long before VJ Day.

The war was not kind when it came to Japanese submariners:

  • I-9 was sunk in June 1943 northwest of Kiska– killed in American waters– by the destroyer USS Frazier (DD-607).
  • I-10 was lost in 1944 during her seventh war patrol, sunk on Independence Day by the greyhounds USS Riddle (DE-185) and USS David W. Taylor (DD-551).
  • I-15 was sunk off San Cristobol on 2 November 1942 by the destroyer USS McCalla (DD-488).
  • I-17, the Santa Barbara raider, was sunk by the New Zealand trawler Tui and two U.S. Navy aircraft off Noumea on 19 August 1943.
  • I-19 sank the carrier Wasp but was later sent to the bottom west of Makin Island by the destroyer USS Radford (DD-446) on 25 November 1943.
  • I-21 disappeared in November 1943, off the Gilbert Islands.
  • I-23 likewise vanished, as mentioned above, while on Operation K.
  • I-25, the main subject of our tale, was sunk by American destroyers (with four possibly getting licks in) on 25 August 1943 off the New Hebrides.
  • I-26, who had bombarded Canada, created a five-Gold-Star mother with the sinking of the cruiser USS Juneau, and holed the carrier Saratoga, was herself Deep Sixed in the Philippines in late October 1944, her final grave unknown.

Even Capt. Torajiro Sato, “the pride of the submarine units,” who had been detailed to command the Christmas 1941 mass bombardment, was killed while commanding the Sendai-class light cruiser Jintsu during the Battle of Kolombangara in July 1943. In death, he was promoted to rear admiral.

The Dai-roku Kantai’s 1941-42 commander, submarine big boss VADM Mitsumi Shimizu, was reassigned after his units’ lackluster performance during that period to head the Home Islands-bound 1st Fleet, which largely consisted of battleships that drank too much oil to be risked in combat until the final Mahanan fleet action that never really came. Even from this caretaker task, he was soon cashiered in late 1943 when the Nagato-class battlewagon Mutsu spectacularly detonated her No. 3 turret magazine while swaying in the Hashirajima fleet anchorage with a loss of over 1,100 irreplaceable men. Shimizu was in civilian attire months before the end of the war and would pass away quietly in 1971, aged 83.

About the only survivor of note to retain any honor from the whole endeavor was Warrant Officer Nubuo Fujita, the pilot of I-25’s Glen. Saved from going down on the sub’s seventh and final patrol as he had been detailed to shore duty as a flight instructor, Fujita survived the war just days before he was scheduled to fly out on a one-way kamikaze strike in a decrepit biplane filled with explosives. His crewman from his days on the I-25, Petty Officer Okuda, was not so lucky and never returned home.

The only Japanese pilot to bomb the U.S. mainland became a successful businessman but Fujita’s role in the conflict ate at him and, in agreement with the town of Brookings, Oregon, he returned there in mufti for the city’s 1962 Azalea Festival.

At the event, he formally handed over his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword— one of the few allowed to be retained by the post-WWII Japanese government. Brookings hailed Mr. Fujita an ”ambassador of goodwill” and proclaimed him an ”honorary citizen” of the town.

Fujita would ultimately return to Brookings three times and was a good sport about it, eating a submarine sandwich (complete with a floatplane pickle garnish) prepared for him in 1990, planting redwood seedlings two years later in the forests he firebombed during the war, and briefly taking the stick of a Cessna while flying over the coastline he first crossed back in September 1942.

He would pass in 1997 of lung cancer, aged 85. In compliance with his wishes, some of his ashes were spread on the crater outside of Brookings on Mount Emily in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest that he created.

The Fujita sword is on display at the Chetco Public Library located at 405 Alder Street in Brookings. 

Nobuo Fujita’s family sword, the only weapon still in existence that flew over the mainland USA during WWII in the hands of an enemy pilot. (Photo: Oregon Pubic Broadcasting)

A good children’s book on Fujita is Thirty Minutes Over Oregon by Marc Nobleman.

As for other relics of I-25’s actions in Oregon, local markers abound.

Japanese Bombardment Marker

For more on the Japanese submarine campaign of 1942, read Bert Webber’s excellent Retaliation: Japanese Attacks and Allied Countermeasures on the Pacific coast in World War II

 


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Welcome, USS John Basilone

Over the weekend, Bath Iron Works in Maine hosted the christening of the USS John Basilone (DDG-122), a late-batch Burke-class destroyer, with Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Troy Black delivering the ceremony’s principal address.

Basilone via General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

The warship was transitioned to launch over a three-day period last week.

Who was Basilone?

Born in Buffalo, New York in November 1916, John (no middle name) Basilone, Roman Catholic, son of Salvatore and Dora Basilone, had done his bit for his country prior to World War II. He had served in the Regular Army from 5 February 1936 to 7 September 1939 and was still in the Army Reserves (3rd Corps) from which he had to petition the force for a discharge to join the Marines, a move that was approved 11 July 1940.

His civilian job listed on intake to the Corps was that of a truck driver.

Via Basilone’s 327-page file at the NARA

His Navy physical, when he joined the Marines, listed in addition to several minor scars and burns, two tattoos on his biceps. On his right, the “bust of a western woman.” On the left, a sword and the words “Death Before Dishonor.”

By September 1940, newly-promoted PFC Basilone was standing tall and would make Corporal the following May before grabbing his third stripe as a Sergent on 23 January 1942, just six weeks after Pearl Harbor.

Less than nine months later, SGT Basilone would become a legend for his actions at Guadalcanal.

Medal of Honor citation:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area. Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault.

In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, were put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived.

A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”

His battlefield promotion to Platoon Sergent was signed by Lt. Col Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, 1st Bn, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, FMF, in November 1942.

Basilone has long been a Marine Corps icon, and his actions on 24/25 Oct 1942 were recreated in The Pacific.

Basilone could have sat out the war and signed War Bonds and taken pictures for the cameras back home, which he did for a minute, but he voluntarily returned to action at the Battle of Iwo Jima in February of 1945, where he single-handedly destroyed an enemy blockhouse and led a Marine tank under fire safely through a minefield. He was killed in action later that day and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his unwavering devotion and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice.

He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both decorations in World War II.

On June 6, 1948, the John Basilone American Legion Post in Raritan dedicated the life-size statue of Basilone holding a water-cooled M1917 Browning machine gun.

The statue was sculpted by childhood friend Phillip Orlando. (New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Mark C. Olsen)

This is the second ship to honor Basilone. The first, USS Basilone (DD-824/DE-824), was a Gearing-class destroyer sponsored by his widow, a stern-faced Sergeant Lena Mae Basilone, USMC(WR). That destroyer remained in service from 1945 to 1977.

It is about time the Navy has another USS John Basilone on the Navy List.

Quiet French Backwater, for now

80 Years Ago Today: Royal Australian Navy Bathurst-class corvette, HMAS Mildura (J-207) steams around the harbor at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 17 June 1942. Note her camouflage design.

Mildura, just 650 tons and 186 feet oal, would spend her career in anti-submarine patrols and convoy duties, ending WWII intact, and be decommissioned on 11 September 1953. (U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-20798)

As noted by James D. Hornfischer in his epic work, Neptune’s Inferno, chronicling the U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, the defeat of the Japanese at Midway in early June 1942 spoiled a planned expansion (Operation FS) of the Empire’s war gains to include not only Fiji and Samoa but the sparsely defended (only a single armed ship, the converted banana freighter Cap des Palmes, was on station) French territory of New Caledonia, which had declared in favor of De Gaulle and the Allies rather than the Vichy government.

As it was, just after getting the word from a British coastwatcher in Guadalcanal that the Japanese were building an airstrip on the largest island in the Solomon chain in July, VADM Robert L. Ghormley would move his headquarters from Pearl Harbor to New Caledonia to oversee Operation Watchtower, the Guadalcanal campaign.

The Last Ride of Jack Frost

Captain John Everitt “Jack” Frost, age 22, climbs into a Hawker Hurricane Mk. II of No. 3 Squadron South African Air Force at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 9 June 1941 after rejoining his unit as “A” Flight commander following an attack of appendicitis. By the time this image was captured, he already had four Fiat CR.42 fighters of the Regia Aeronautica Italiana to his credit, for which he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. Note the “Semper Pugnans” (Always Fighting) boxing wasp insignia on the cowling of his fighter, and its closely arranged port wing quartet of .303 Brownings.

Photo by Clements (Lt), No 1 Army Film & Photographic Section Army Film & Photographic Unit, via IWM E 3410 https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205211980

Frost was the most successful fighter pilot in the SAAF. Having joined up in 1936, after a stint as an instructor he was posted to No. 1 Squadron SAAF in 1939 before making his way to the newly formed No. 3 Squadron the next year for combat in East Africa.

Soon after this image was snapped, he was given command of No. 5 Squadron SAAF, flying P-40 Kittyhawks. Earning at least 16 confirmed victories in his short career, he was killed 80 years ago today while escorting bombers over the El Adem area on 16 June 1942.

He was one month shy of his 24th birthday. 

As noted by SA Military History

On 16 June, whilst escorting Douglas Bostons, Frost and other P-40 pilots encountered Bf 109s from Jagdgeschwader 27 near Bir Hakeim, Egypt. Rod Hojem, one of the South African pilots involved in this combat commented:

“There was one hell of a dogfight, and after it was over I can clearly remember Jack calling up the squadron on the R/T, he said “Form up chaps I am heading North”, and that was the last we heard of him.”

Frost’s aircraft and remains have never been found, and his fate remains unclear. Some sources suggest that Frost fell victim to one of the most prominent German aces, Hans-Joachim Marseille scored six of his 158 victories that same day.

Warship Wednesday, June 15, 2022: Torpedoed…Again?

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, June 15, 2022: Torpedoed…Again?

Above we see a tow line to the British Town-class light cruiser HMS Liverpool (C11) during Operation Harpoon, one of the Allied convoys desperately raced in a pincer movement to supply besieged Malta in the Axis-dominated central Mediterranean, now some 80 years ago this week. While the damage to Liverpool, a cruiser that is shown listing and billowing black smoke, looks bad, she had already toughed out worse during the war and would come back to serve again.

In the mid-1930s, the British didn’t have a shortage of cruisers, as for generations they had kept large numbers of the type around to police their global Empire and sea lanes in the event of war. The thing is, in a “modern problems require modern solutions” situation was the appearance of very large “light” cruisers (under 10,000 tons, guns smaller than 8-inch bore) such as the four Japanese Mogami class (“8,500” declared tons, 15×6-inch guns, 5 inches of armor) and their American echo, the nine Brooklyn-class (9,500 tons, 15×6-inch guns, 5.5 inches of armor) cruisers, the Admiralty decided they needed something like Mogami/Brooklyn of their own.

As Richard Worth put it, “Aware of Japanese and American decisions to build large light cruisers, the British reluctantly admitted their ships had begun to look puny. Arethusa [the best Royal Navy light cruiser of the day, at some 5,200-tons and carrying just a half dozen 6-inch guns] had a broadside of 672 pounds while Brookly had one of 1,950 pounds.”

This led to the eight original Southampton or “Town” class light cruisers, all named after large cities (Southampton, Glasgow, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle, Gloucester, Liverpool, and Manchester) in the UK. Designed at 9,100 tons– a figure that would balloon over 12,000 during WWII– and 591-feet long overall, the class was intended to carry a full dozen 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIII guns in four triple turrets, allowing a 1,344-pound broadside. To this were added eight 4-inch guns and two triple torpedo tube launchers.

The class’s circa 1939 layout via the 1946 ed of Janes. The class had a 3-to-4-inch side belt, about half that thickness on the turrets, and 4 inches on the CT so, while an answer to the Mogami/Brooklyn, they didn’t have quite as many guns or as much hull structure and steel plate.

Stern Mark XXII turrets on classmate HMS Sheffield after she had sunk the German tanker Friederich Breme in the North Atlantic on 12 June 1941. The cylinders are empty propellant canisters. As noted by Navweaps, Tony DiGiulian describes the 6″/50 Mark XXIII as, “A reliable weapon, although somewhat obsolescent in its use of bag ammunition, manual ramming, and manually-operated breech mechanism.” IWM photograph A 4401.

The latter three of the class– Gloucester, Liverpool, and Manchester— were modified slightly while under construction, adding improved armor protection and fire control systems. Two further half-sisters, Edinburgh, and Belfast, ordered in 1939, continued with the up-armoring trend, adding steel plate to the point that it made up some 18 percent of their displacement, the best British light cruisers in terms of armor. They would need them as the British would use the Towns in much the same role as they did their beefier County-class heavy cruisers which went about 40 feet longer and 2,000 tons heavier.

As with the contemporary light cruisers of the day, the Towns were fitted with extensive aviation facilities and could carry a trio of Supermarine Walrus flying boats.

Supermarine Walrus floatplane being catapulted from a Town Class Light Cruiser, HMS Edinburgh, during a Mediterranean Convoy. Aug 1941

Liverpool, the eighth such ship in the RN to carry the name since 1741, was ordered in March 1935 from Fairfield SB at Govan, Glasgow as part of the 1935 Estimates and laid down on 17 February 1936. The Liverpool immediately prior was a 4,800-ton Great War light cruiser that served off West Africa and in the Adriatic and Aegean during WWI before heading to the breakers in 1921.

NH 59874 HMS LIVERPOOL (British Cruiser, 1909)

Commissioned 2 November 1938, the 9th Liverpool visited her namesake town and shipped out for the East Indies and China stations, joining the 5th Cruiser Squadron at the latter just before WWII broke out.

Her initial taskings included working out of Aden on the hunt for German raiders and blockade runners in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean before moving to Hong Kong just before Christmas 1939 to continue interception duty.

On 21 January 1940, Liverpool intercepted the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) (Japan Mail Steam Ship Co. Ltd) liner Asama Maru off Japan just 35 miles off Tokyo Bay’s Nozaki Lighthouse, during the liner’s final leg of a scheduled run from San Francisco for Yokohama. Although she would later be requisitioned by the IJN in 1941 and converted to a troopship, at the time Liverpool boarded her, Asama Maru was still a commercial ship under a neutral flag operating in her home waters.

As noted by Combined Fleet:

At 1315, Captain Read sends a boarding party armed with pistols. The British officer in charge explains to Captain Watabe that it will be necessary to take 21 German passengers as prisoners of war. At 1435, the boarding party leaves the ship with the Germans, all former officers or technicians discharged from Standard Oil tankers. At 1440, HMS LIVERPOOL signals “Proceed”. Shortly after nightfall ASAMA MARU arrives at Yokohama. LIVERPOOL takes the Germans to Hong Kong.

The resulting public indignation felt in Japan over the high-handed incident further strained relations between London and Tokyo, which of course would erupt in open warfare the next year.

Transferred to the Red Sea Force by April, Liverpool would work alongside HMAS Hobart and support operations around the Horn of Africa.

The Med!

By June 1940, Liverpool would enter the Med, where things, since the Italians had entered the war, had really gotten interesting. Attached to the 7th Cruiser Squadron, before the month was out she had bombarded the Italians at Tobruk, where she scrapped with shore batteries and sank the minesweeper, Giovanni Berta, then fought a surface action off Zante on the 27th where she sent the Italian Turbine-class destroyer Espero (1,700 tons) to the bottom and damaged two others, catching a 4.7-inch shell hit during the latter fight.

The Italian minesweeper Triglia was later reclassified gunboat and rechristened Giovanni Berta, at La Spezia in 1933; she was the first Italian warship to be sunk in action during WWII at Tobruk, on 12 June 1940, shattered by 6-inch shells from HMS Liverpool.

July 1940 also proved hectic, with Liverpool covering British convoys between Alexandria and Greek Aegean ports, suffering through repeated air attacks from land-based bombers (coming away with damage twice), escaping further damage during the confusing Battle of Calabria, and ending the month assigned to 3rd Cruiser Squadron, under much-needed repair.

Emerging from the dockyard at Alexandria at the end of August, Liverpool was soon back in the thick of it, accompanying the battleships HMS Valiant, Malaya, Ramillies, and Warspite as well as the carriers HMS Illustrious and Eagle in operations ranging from the Dodecanese Rhodes to Malta throughout September and into October.

Who needs a bow?

It was on 14 October, while retiring from screening Illustrious and Eagle during air attacks on the Greek island of Leros (a place Alistair MacLean would use as the loose basis of “The Guns of Navarone”), Liverpool was the subject of an attack by land-based Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 three-engine torpedo bombers.

The Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero wasn’t much to look at– their crews called them il Gobbo maledetto (“damned hunchback”), but they were maneuverable and effective when modified into torpedo bomber roles, sinking or damaging over 270,000 tons of Allied ships in the Med in 1940-43.

The hit caused a leak of aviation fuel which later ignited after the fumes spread. The resulting detonation caused so much damage in her forward frames that it wrecked the cruiser’s “A” turret and caused her bow to fall off while under tow to Alexandria. In all, the cruiser suffered 65 casualties in the incident.

View of ship’s wrecked forecastle, after the cruiser, was taken under tow. Note wreckage of #1 6″ turret. NH 60360

View of ship’s wrecked forecastle, after the cruiser, was taken under tow. Note wreckage of #1 6″ turret. NH 60361

View of ship’s wrecked taken while under tow. NH 60363

Bow breaking off, after the cruiser had been under tow for Alexandria. NH 60368

Ship’s bow breakage off. NH 60369

Ship’s bow sank after breaking off just forward of “A” turret. NH 60370

Stopped in the Med, with crew members inspecting the damage after the ship’s bow had broken off on 15 October. NH 60371

Ship underway again, after the loss of bow. NH 60372

HMS Liverpool arrives at Alexandria, Egypt, on 16 October for emergency repairs, after being torpedoed by Italian aircraft two days prior. NH 60374

Ship at Alexandria, Egypt, after the action. Description: NH 60373

HMS Liverpool at Alexandria, Egypt, after being torpedoed by Italian Aircraft in October 1940. Note wreckage around #1 6″ turret. NH 60378

HMS Liverpool in dry dock at Alexandria, Egypt, for repairs, of damage inflicted by Italian Torpedo Bombers in October 1940. Most wreckage has been removed before the installation of the temporary bow. NH 60376

Liverpool would remain under repair in Egypt for five months until it was arranged for her to steam, under her own plant, and with her abbreviated temporary bow, on a two-month trip through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and across the Pacific to California. There, in a country still in an uneasy peace, she would be patched up by U.S. Navy workers at the Mare Island Navy Yard with stops at Manila and Pearl Harbor on the way.

She would arrive on 16 June 1941.

HMS Liverpool In dry dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, 26 June 1941, for the repair of damage received in the Mediterranean Sea the previous October. The false bow had been fitted at Alexandria, Egypt, shortly after the cruiser was torpedoed. NH 60379

Back in the fight

With a new bow and extra batteries of 20mm AAA guns, Liverpool would leave Mare Island on 20 November, arriving back in the UK via the Panama Canal by 5 December– just two days before Pearl Harbor. As for Mare Island, they would have a chance to do lots of repair work in the coming days for “the home team.”

HMS Liverpool Underway 28 February 1942 IWM FL 004984

HMS Liverpool wearing camouflage, likely in early 1942

After further outfitting with radar (Type 273 surface warning, Type 281 aircraft warning, Types 284/285 fire control), Liverpool would sail for Scapa Flow on 6 February 1942 for work-ups. By the next month, she would be patrolling the Barents Sea on the lookout for German surface raiders (Tirpitz, anyone) in conjunction with Convoy PQ12 to Murmansk. She would also help screen returning Convoys QP10 and QP12 from Russia and help provide cover for outbound PQ16 into May.

Then, in early June, she was sent back to the Med for a second tour.

SM.79, Part II

In a plan to split German/Italian efforts to interdict British convoys to Malta, the Admiralty in June 1942 hit on the idea to send two at once– from different vectors. This included the Harpoon convoy which would sail West from Gibraltar and the Vigorous convoy which would make the run from Alexandria in the East.

Liverpool would be part of the Force W distant cover group for Harpoon, which had a lot of muscle including the Great War battleship HMS Malaya and the equally old carriers HMS Eagle and Argus, the latter with few aircraft. Rounding out Force W was the cruisers HMS Kenya and Charybdis as well as eight destroyers. Meanwhile, the close escort group, Force X, was made up of the cruiser HMS Cairo and 18 small combatants of which almost half were motor launches.

Departing the Clyde for Gibraltar on 6 June, Harpoon left “The Rock” for Malta on the morning of the 12th, headed eastward at a stately 12 knots in two loose columns, with Liverpool leading the starboard and Kenya the port.

Shadowed immediately by German and Italian aircraft, the pucker factor for the route would be the Skerki Channel in the Sicily-Tunis Narrows, and the first attacks started at 1030 on the 14th. Shortly after, Liverpool would have a chance to do more damage control.

Italian photograph of Town-class cruiser LIVERPOOL falling victim to a torpedo from an SM.79, roughly amidships

As detailed by Uboat.net: 

A much more serious attack followed half an hour later when 28 132º Gruppo SM.79 Savoia torpedo aircraft escorted by 20 Macchi fighters conducted a combined attack with 10 Cant. high level bombers. The Savoia approached from the northward in two waves of equal strength. The first wave came in at 1110 hours and the second soon afterwards. The first wave passed through the destroyer screen at 500 feet above the water, rounded the rear of the convoy, and attacked from the starboard side, splitting into groups before firing. They dropped their torpedoes from a height of 100 feet at a range of 2000 yards. They hit HMS Liverpool, which was leading the starboard column, when she was turning to meet the attack. Also, the Dutch merchant Tanimbar was hit in the rear, and she sank within a few minutes in position 36°58’N, 07°30’E.

HMS Liverpool was hit in the engine room and severely damaged. She could only make 3 to 4 knots on one shaft. She was ordered to return to Gibraltar being towed by the A-class destroyer HMS Antelope (H36) and screened by the destroyer HMS Westcott (D47). A long voyage during which the first 24 hours she was attacked from the air.

At 1640 hours, five CR. 42 fighter-bombers attacked from astern out of the sun, luckily without hitting, though one or two bombs fell close enough to increase the ships list. At 1800 hours, the tow having parted, there was a harmless attempt by eleven high-level bombers followed by an equally harmless attempt by seven torpedo aircraft which were heavily escorted by fighters. The Liverpool and Westcott each claimed to have destroyed a torpedo plane.

At 2015 hours, now once more in tow, fife high-level bombers attacked but their bombs fell wide.

At 2230 hours, six torpedo bombers made a twilight attack from very long range only to lose one of their number to the barrage HMS Liverpool put up.

At 1420 hours on 15 June, three torpedo aircraft made a final unsuccessful attempt to attack HMS Liverpool after which she, HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott were not again molested. That afternoon the tug HMRT Salvonia arrived from Gibraltar, and they took over the tow. Antelope then joined Westcott as A/S screen. With Salvonia also came the A/S trawler HMS Lady Hogarth. HMS Liverpool and her escorts safely arrived at Gibraltar late in the afternoon of the 17th.

Liverpool in dry dock at Gibraltar showing the point of impact of the Italian torpedo

Seriously damaged, Liverpool managed to mount a fighting retreat– by tow– while her crew saved the ship. It proved an example of damage control for the rest of the fleet, one that would come in handy later in the war such as in the Pacific in 1945.

Sidelines

Speaking of the war, Liverpool was so badly smashed up and repair assets so limited that, after temporary patches at Gibraltar, she was sent to HM Dockyard, Rosyth in early August 1942 and would languish there for the next two years as she was slowly rebuilt, a modernization that saw her radars upgraded and her stern “X” turret removed to accommodate more AAA batteries.

The County-class heavy cruiser HMS Berwick, forward, and HMS Liverpool, in dock Liverpool, 1943.

Although she probably could have been sent back to the lines in time to take part in the Normandy or Dragoon landings in France, the Royal Navy was short-staffed, and Liverpool remained in ordinary essentially for the rest of the war in Europe. She was used briefly as a cruise ship, with a skeleton crew, to take the Allied Tripartite Commission to occupied Germany in June 1945 and would only be brought back to full service in October 1945, a month after VJ Day.

She earned four battle honors for WWII service: Mediterranean 1940, Calabria 1940, Arctic 1942, and Malta Convoys 1942.

Post-War Victory Lap

Liverpool’s swan song in 1945 was assigned to the restructured 15th Cruiser Squadron, as part of the rapidly shrinking Mediterranean Fleet. There she would remain, usually in flagship roles with an admiral or commodore aboard, for the next seven years.

Liverpool, post-war, at Malta. Note her aircraft handling gear has been deleted.

This included a lot of tense early Cold War moments, especially in Greek and Egyptian waters, but these never came to blows.

VISIT TO NORTH AFRICAN PORTS BY C IN C MEDITERRANEAN IN HMS LIVERPOOL. JANUARY 1946, ALGIERS, ADMIRAL SIR JOHN CUNNINGHAM, C IN C MEDITERRANEAN, FLYING HIS FLAG IN HMS LIVERPOOL AND ACCOMPANIED BY HMS MUSKETEER AND HMS MARNE, VISITED TANGIER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SEVEN YEARS. (A 31070) HMS LIVERPOOL and HM destroyers MUSKETEER and MARNE at Algiers during a visit by Admiral Sir John Cunningham. HMS SCOUT is lying between the destroyers and the cruiser. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162120

HMS LIVERPOOL, BRITISH SOUTHAMPTON CLASS CRUISER. OCTOBER 1949, MALTA. (A 31583) HMS LIVERPOOL, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Earl Mountbatten of Burma, returning to Malta after the Second Summer Cruise. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162567

HMS LIVERPOOL ACTED AS A FLOATING SHIPPING OFFICE AT PORT SAID. DECEMBER 1951, ON BOARD HMS CORUNNA. (A 32035) HMS LIVERPOOL (Captain J D Luce, DSO, OBE) lying off Navy House, Port Said. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162964

MARSHAL TITO’S VISIT TO HMS LIVERPOOL. 1951?, ON BOARD THE CRUISER HMS LIVERPOOL WHEN SHE VISITED SPLIT, YUGOSLAVIA. IT WAS TITO’S FIRST VISIT TO A BRITISH WARSHIP. (A 31977) Marshal Tito inspecting a Royal Marine Guard of Honour on board HMS LIVERPOOL. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162916

Liverpool remained in commission until 1952 when she was reduced to Reserve status before her name appeared on the Disposal List in 1957. She was sold to BISCO for demolition by P&W MacLellan at Bo’ness, arriving at the breakers on 2 July 1958.

Epilogue

Few remnants of Liverpool exist today, but her bell is on display at Tobruk, where she fired her guns in anger in June 1940.

She is also remembered in maritime art.

Of Liverpool’s sisters, HMS Gloucester, Manchester, Southampton, and Edinburgh were all lost during the war, three of the four in the Med. Five other sisters, like Liverpool, saw limited Cold War service with HMS Birmingham, Belfast, and Newcastle seeing action again against North Korean gun batteries in the 1950s– and the latter sister even pounding Malayan Communist targets in 1955 and again in 1957.

HMS Newcastle firing at Korean enemy batteries, Chuinnapo Estuary, 1953. IWM A 32585

Belfast was the last of the Town-class cruisers afloat, serving as an accommodation ship into 1970 when she was marked for disposal and saved as a museum ship on the Queen’s Walk in London, a task she has performed admirably since Trafalgar Day 1971.

Please visit HMS Belfast if ever in London, it is well worth it.

Meanwhile, the 9th Liverpool, a Type 42 Batch 2 destroyer, has come and gone, ordered in 1977 and scrapped in 2014 after spending a solid 30 years in active service that spanned stints on Falkland patrol, Persian Gulf operations, time in the naval blockade of Libya that included 200 rounds of 4.5-inch delivered in NGFS in 2011, and your general Cold War/Post-Cold War sea ops.

The British destroyer HMS Liverpool (D-92) pulls alongside the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) for an underway replenishment during NATO exercise Northern Wedding ’86. DN-ST-87-09368 via NARA

It is time for a 10th Liverpool.

 


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Der Panther wird Zurückgegeben

One of the best medium tanks of WWII that made it to the frontlines– and thought by many to be the best German tank of the conflict– the Sd.Kfz. 171/PzKpfw V was better known on both sides simply as the Panther.

Panther tank on display after its capture by the French Resistance. The French captured enough intact Panthers in 1944-45 that at least one post-war unit, 6eme Regiment de Cuirassier, was equipped with them.

Larger and better in just about every metric than the Soviet T-34 or American M4 Sherman (although with a much more complicated suspension system), nearly 3,700 Panthers were produced. Carrying a 75mm KwK 42 L/70 main gun and swathed in 80mm of armor plate at its thickest, it weighed 44 tons but could still make 55kph on its big V12 Maybach diesel.

More on the (original) Panther, courtesy of The Tank Museum, who has one in their inventory, built post-war under British supervision:

Meet the new Panther

With that being said, German defense contractor extraordinaire, Rheinmetall AG, at the Eurosatory 2022 Defense Show on Monday, ended the 57-year sole reign of the Leopard tank by announcing the new KF51 Panther (KF is short for “Kettenfahrzeug“, i.e., tracked vehicle).

The nutshell of the design is that it uses the suspension, powerplant, and chassis of the Leopard 2A7V but comes in lighter, at “just” 59 tons compared to the biggest Leopard’s almost 70-ton mark. Let’s face it, everyone remembers the Maus.

Above the hull and, especially when it comes to the gun system and electronics, the KF51 Panther is all-new, utilizing a 3-man crew with a 20-round autoloader (configurable to four men without), a 130mm smoothbore gun, countermeasures against top-attack, and an all-glass control/surveillance system emphasizing networking (the tank can technically be operated by one, very busy, crewman, as all tasks can be done from each seat).

Some key illustrations: 

The blurb from Rheinmental’s presser for your digestion:

All weapon systems are connected to the commander’s and gunner’s optics and the fire control computer via the fully digitalized NGVA architecture. This enables both a hunter-killer and a killer-killer function and thus instantaneous target engagement – in the future also supported by artificial intelligence (AI).

Lethality: With its main armament, the 130mm Rheinmetall Future Gun System, the KF51 Panther offers superior firepower against all current and foreseeable mechanized targets. In addition, further armament options are available to provide concentrated firepower for long-range strikes and against multiple targets.

The Rheinmetall Future Gun System (FGS) consists of a 130 mm smoothbore gun and a fully automatic ammunition handling system. The autoloader holds 20 ready rounds. Compared to current 120 mm systems, the FGS delivers over fifty percent greater effectiveness at significantly longer ranges of engagement. The FGS can fire kinetic energy (KE) rounds as well as programmable airburst ammunition and corresponding practice rounds.

A 12.7 mm coaxial machine gun complements the main weapon. Several options for the integration of remotely controlled weapon stations (RCWS) offer flexibility for proximity and drone defense. The KF51 Panther presented at Eurosatory 2022 is equipped with Rheinmetall’s new “Natter” (adder) RCWS in the 7.62 variant.

Integrating a launcher for HERO 120 loitering munition from Rheinmetall’s partner UVision into the turret is equally possible. This enhances the KF51’s ability to strike targets beyond the direct line of sight.

Survivability and force protection: The Panther has a fully integrated, comprehensive, weight-optimized protection concept, incorporating active, reactive, and passive protection technologies. Without a doubt, the concept’s most compelling feature is its active protection against KE threats. It increases the level of protection without compromising the weight of the system.

Rheinmetall’s Top Attack Protection System (TAPS) wards off threats from above, while the fast-acting ROSY smoke/obscurant systems conceals the KF51 from enemy observation. Moreover, its digital NGVA architecture enables the integration of additional sensors for detecting launch signatures. Thanks to its pre-shot detection capability, the KF51 Panther can recognize and neutralize threats at an early stage. Designed to operate in a contested electromagnetic environment, the KF51 is fully hardened against cyber threats.

Controllability and networking: The KF51 Panther features an innovative operating concept. It is basically designed for a three-person crew: the commander and gunner in the turret and the driver in the chassis, where an additional operator station is available for a weapons and subsystems specialist or for command personnel such as the company commander or battalion commander.

Designed in accordance with NGVA standards, the tank’s fully digital architecture enables seamless integration of sensors and effectors both within the platform as well as into a networked “system of systems”. The operation of sensors and weapons can be transferred instantly between crew members. Each operator station can take over the tasks and roles from others, while retaining full functionality. Since the turret and weapons can also be controlled from the operator stations in the chassis, variants of the KF51 Panther with unmanned turrets or completely remote-controlled vehicles are also planned in the future.

Reconnaissance and situational awareness: Thanks to the panoramic SEOSS optical sensor and EMES main combat aiming device, the commander and gunner are both able to observe and engage targets independently of each other, both day and night, while a stabilized daylight and IR optic with integrated laser rangefinder is available to both. In addition, via a display in the fighting compartment, the crew has a 360°, round-the-clock view of the vehicle’s surroundings. Integrated, unmanned aerial reconnaissance systems enhance the crew’s situational awareness in built-up areas and in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. With these, the crew can also conduct reconnaissance under armor protection and share the results with other actors in a networked manner.

Mobility: The KF51 Panther builds on the mobility concept of the Leopard 2. With an operational weight of just 59 tons, it delivers far greater mobility than current systems and has a maximum operating range of around 500 kilometers. Without prior preparation, it fits into the AMovP-4L profile, something no other current main battle tank upgrade can do. Consequently, the KF51’s tactical and strategic mobility set it apart.

Logistics: Thanks to Rheinmetall’s innovative development approach, users, maintenance specialists, logisticians, and procurement experts from all current and future user nations can play an active role in shaping the vehicle’s future. Rheinmetall has longstanding experience in establishing global supply chains in order, in cooperation with user nations, to make sure that a large share of production is carried out in-country, thus helping to create and/or preserve sovereign capabilities and capacities.

Future viability: In developing the KF51, Rheinmetall not only set out to modernize existing main battle tank concepts. Starting from scratch, it completely reconceived the platform. The KF51 Panther can be easily updated and equipped with the latest capabilities and functions. Its advanced, modular, open NGVA system architecture enables iterative development, which can then be updated in harmony with innovation cycles. The KF51 is the first representative of a new generation of combat vehicles. Soon, future innovations will enable environmentally friendly peacetime operations and further optimization regarding automation and combat effectiveness.

Of note, 6,565 Leopard Is were produced from 1965 to 1984, and at least another 3,600 Leopard 2s since then. With the current use of armed drones– which cost a lot less than expensive German-made main battle tanks and have proved very good at their job in Armenia, Syria, and Ukraine– it remains a question of if the new Panther will ever see the same sort of popularity.

Still, it looks pretty cool. 

Would you like to know more? Check out this 20-page brochure from Rheinmetall.

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