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Among the most curious of the Green Devils

Bored? DW just released this interesting 40~ min doc on Gerhard Mertins including first-hand interviews with his widow.

Who was Mertins? One of Kurt Student’s original fallschirmjägers, he was a Gran Sasso raider (and a Knights Cross recipient) in WWII, then became a key shadow man during the Cold War including working for/with the West German BND intelligence organ. This later included moving and shaking in the Middle East and South America with names like Pinochet and Carlos the Jackal popping up.

Salute to Springfield Sporters…

When it comes to military surplus gun dealers in the U.S., there have been some icons that have sadly come and gone. It all started with Bannerman’s in New York, which hit its stride by first cleaning out the Army and Navy’s post-Civil War relics for their weight as scrap metal in the 1880s then landing all of the captured Spanish arms from Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1898.

They lingered into the 1940s…

From there you had companies such as Klein’s in Chicago, Interarms in Alexandria, Navy Arms, Strebco, Seaport Traders, Winfield Arms (in Los Angeles of all places!) and Golden State Arms in Pasenda that sold WWI & WWII milsurp for pennies on the dollar.

All gone.

SAMCO turned off the lights in 2013, leaving a legacy of old guns and exotic ammo to linger on. Recently, SOG in Ohio went belly up after more than 30 years. 

There is another confirmed kill this week as Springfield Sporters on Springfield Road in Penn Run, PA, announced they will not be reopening their doors.

Founded by William H. Rodgers in 1961, they stocked just about every sort of military surplus rifle and obsolete parts you could image, specializing in such oddballs as Greek Mannlicher Schoenauers, Mauser Vergueiros, Japanese M38s and M99s, and others. Relying on walk-in and mail-order sales, they were on the ropes by about 2003 and briefly closed down.

The next year, Russell J. Rodgers, William’s son, was able to reboot the business and started a website, continuing the good fight for another 15 years. If you wanted parts of a Ruby pistol, a bolt for a Ross rifle, or anything Kropatschek, they had you covered.

In 2010, which was not that long ago, they acquired an amazing 19,000 drill rifles (mostly #1 Enfields) that they listed for $30 a pop.

In 2013, they started opening their 40,000 square ft. showroom for the summer only (May to October), and it looked like something out of Indian Jones.

I picked up several bayonets from them, including some very nice German-made Brazilian Mauser bayos (for $30 each!) among other interesting items. 

Mauser 08 Brazil long rifle bayonets for just $30. Mein Gott!

However, in 2016 they close the showroom but kept up the website. Then, last year, that too went dark as they closed up shop due to medical issues and by December they posted, “Thank you for visiting! May reopen next summer, maybe sooner. Will be another state, not PA,” and went radio silent, other than to later post that the whole joint was for sale for $2.2M with numerous conditions.

This week, Century Arms in Vermont formally announced they have acquired Springfield Sporters.

“Springfield Sporters and Century Arms have a lot of history together, as both were founded in 1961, over 58 years ago,” said Century VP William Sucher. “Although early on we originally competed with each other, over the years Springfield Sporters developed into one of Century’s best customers. We will strive to continue the Rodgers family legacy by offering the same authentic surplus products and the amazing customer service Springfield Sporters has become known for.”

Another one bites the dust

Warship Wednesday, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

In this beautiful original color photograph, we see the modified Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS St. Louis, often also seen written as “Saint Louis”, (CL-49) at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, circa 1943. At the time this image was taken, the cruiser had already seen much of the Pacific War and would see much more.

Significantly different from the seven other ships of the Brooklyn-class, St. Louis and her follow-on sister USS Helena (CL-50) was ordered under the 1934 Naval Plan. While they used the same hull, engineering plant, and general layout as the rest of their class– to include 15 6″/47 caliber Mark 16 guns in five triple turrets– there were enough differences for the two sisters to often be considered a distinct class of their own. This included a better secondary battery (eight 5″/38 DP guns in four double enclosed mounts vs. eight low-angle 5″/25 open singles), a different boat stowage scheme and cranes for the same, a smaller secondary tripod mast in a different location, higher boiler pressure, and a different fire control arrangement.

Brooklyn plan, top, St. Louis plan, bottom, both from the 1945 ed of Jane’s

The whole class could also carry as many as six floatplanes in their below-deck hangar as well as spare parts and engines, although typically would only deploy with four.

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of St. Louis’s near sister, the Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938. Note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

USS St. Louis (CL 49) with SOC-3 Seagull biplanes on her catapults while at the Tulagi harbor. Seen from USS O’Bannon (DD 450) after the Battle of Kula Gulf, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55501

Capable of breaking more than 32.5 knots, they also had very long legs, able to make 14,500 nm at 15 knots without refueling.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off Rockland, Maine, while on trials, 28 April 1939. Note that her 5/38 secondary gun battery has not yet been installed. NH 48998

Laid down on 10 December 1936 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., our cruiser was the fifth U.S. warship vessel to carry the name of the Missouri city and gateway to the West.

Commissioned on 19 May 1939, she was still on her shakedown cruise when Hitler marched into Poland in September, sparking WWII, a move that introduced St. Louis to Neutrality Patrol operations over the next 11 months that took her from the balmy West Indies and British Guiana to the freezing North Atlantic.

However, with tensions ramping up with Imperial Japan over China, Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies, St. Louis received orders to head for the Pacific, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1940. From there, she ranged from the West Coast to Manila and back on exercises and patrols in 1941, with stops at Wake, Midway, and Guam.

St. Louis off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 4 June 1941. She is wearing Measure 5 (false bow wave) camouflage. NH 80564

Lucky Lou

On the morning of 7 December 1941, St. Louis was at anchor in Pearl Harbor, moored at Berth B-17 in the Southeast Loch since 28 November with two of her eight boilers offline for maintenance. The ship’s aviation detachment was shore-based at Ford Island and many of her crew and Marine det were ashore on libo.

According to the ship’s log, now in the National Archives:

“At 0756 two of the ship’s officers observed a large number of dark-colored planes heading towards Ford Island from the general direction of AIEA. They dropped bombs and made strafing attacks. At the same time, a dark olive drab colored plane bearing the aviation insignia of Japan passed close astern and dropped a torpedo…The ship went to general quarters at once and manned its entire battery.”

By 0800, her skipper was on the bridge and both her .50 caliber and 1.1″ batteries were “already manned and in action delivering a full volume of fire at the attackers,” as steam was ordered up from her six operational boilers.

St. Louis at far right, about 0930 7 December 1941, leaving Pearl. USS California off her starboard side hit and sinking.

At 0931, St. Louis got underway, with boiler power for 29 knots, and stood out to sea via South Channel. Just 30 minutes later, she reportedly suffered a near miss from two torpedoes fired from a Japanese midget submarine just inside the channel entrance buoys.

At 1016, St. Louis was the first U.S. Navy ship to clear the channel from Pearl during the attack and she engaged a number of aircraft from the Japanese second wave between then and 1147 with her twin 5″ mounts before joining with the cruisers Montgomery and Minneapolis, along with several destroyers, to proceed “southward with the intention of locating and attacking the [Japanese] carrier.”

Between 1213 and 1234, her guns engaged the Japanese second wave as they withdrew. In all, she fired 207 5″ shells, 3,950 rounds from her 1.1″ battery and a very decent 12,750 .50-cal BMG rounds, claiming at least three probable Japanese planes seen to flame and crash.

Of course, the little force of cruisers and destroyers did not find the Japanese flattops and retired to Pearl Harbor on 10 December. While Battleship Row was the scene of carnage, St. Louis was only very lightly damaged from machine gun rounds and suffered no casualties in the attack.

USS Arizona (BB-39) burned out and sunk in Pearl Harbor on 10 December 1941, three days after she was destroyed during the 7 December Japanese raid. Ships in the background are USS Saint Louis (CL-49), in the center, and the hulked minelayer Baltimore (CM-1) at left. NH 63918

Joining the shooting war with a bang, St. Louis was used to escort the steamer SS President Coolidge, carrying Philippine President Quezon to San Francisco, as well as riding shotguns on convoys to reinforce Midway and the Aleutians.

St. Louis at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, circa May 1942. NH 50796

She was in the Northern Pacific during the Battle of Midway, missing out on the initial carrier clash, but did her first round of naval gunfire support on 3 August when she plastered the newly Japanese-occupied island of Kiska in the Aleutians. On 16 August, she lost an aircraft with four aviators aboard somewhere between Kodiak and Whitehorse.

After staying in Alaskan waters to cover the Allied liberation of Adak, St. Louis caught a refit at Mare Island where she picked up a much better AAA suite of 40mm and 20mm guns.

From there she proceeded to the West Pac where she joined RADM “Pug” Ainsworth’s TF cruiser-destroyer force, dubbed the “Ainsworth Express,” in fighting the Japanese in the near-nightly efforts to prevent the Empire from reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal and/or wiping out the Marines trying to keep a toe-hold there. The Tokyo Express and Ainsworth Express collided in the high-traffic waterway of New Georgia Sound through the middle of the Solomon Islands, better known as “The Slot,” in a series of pitched battles in the summer of 1943.

At Kula Gulf, Ainsworth’s force of three light cruisers– St. Louis, her sister Helena, and near-sister USS Honolulu (CL-48) — collided with 10 destroyers of RADM Teruo Akiyama’s 3rd Destroyer Squadron off the coast of Kolombangara Island carrying 2,600 Japanese troops. The action, all in pitch darkness, left Akiyama dead, two Japanese destroyers sunk, and Helena lost, a victim of the deadly Type 93 Long Lance torpedo.

Night Battery of USS St. Louis (CL 49) during the Battle of Kula Gulf. Photographed by CPU-2, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55522

Covered with oil of their torpedoed ship, USS Helena (CL-50), survivors respond to a roll call aboard the destroyer USS O’Bannon (DD 450) which picked them up. Three times the destroyer had to leave off its rescue work to do battle with Japanese warships. Catalog #: L45-122.07.01

Less than a week later, the two opposed Expresses crashed into each other again in the same area with RADM Shunji Isaki’s force, consisting of the cruiser Jintsu, along with five destroyers, duking it out in a night action with Honolulu and St. Louis backed up by the Kiwi light cruiser HMNZS Leander. In the wild fight, which was considered a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese that turned into a strategic defeat as they shifted operations away from the vital Slot moving forward, sent Jintu to the bottom– plastered by radar-directed 6-inch guns from the Allied cruisers, killing Isaki.

Battle of Kolombangara, 13 July 1943, firing by USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49) during this battle. #: 80-G-342762

However, in her final act, the Japanese cruiser had gone down illuminating her killers with her searchlights and all three of the Allied cruisers as well as the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-433), was hit by Long Lances before the action was over. While Gwin ultimately could not be saved, Honolulu, St. Louis and Leander managed to limp away to fight another day.

The bow of USS Saint Louis (CL-49), showing torpedo damage received during the Battle of Kolombangara. Photographed while the ship was under repair at Tulagi on 20 July 1943. USS Vestal (AR-4) is alongside. #: 80-G-259410

Damage to the bow of USS St. Louis (CL 49). Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943 80-G-259411

Note the sign that reads, “Danger / All Boats Slow Down.” Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943. 80-G-259412

St. Louis received a temporary bow at an advanced base in the Pacific. With this bow, the cruiser was able to return to a West Coast navy yard for more permanent repairs. Incredibly, Lucky Lou had come out of both Kula Gulf– where her sister had been sunk– and Kolombangara with no serious casualties.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) has guns removed from her forward 6/47 turrets, during overhaul and battle damage repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa September 1943. The upper section of her midships searchlight platform is hanging from a crane in the immediate background. It was removed to reduce the ship’s topside weights. #: 80-G-K-15536

In mid-November, Lou returned to the Solomons and, from the 20th to the 25th, covered Marines fighting for Bougainville. She would continue to work her way along the Pacific, delivering salvos of accurate 6-inch and 5-inch shells in NGF support.

On 13 January 1944, while operating in the area between Buka and St. George Channel to support landing operations in the Green Islands off New Ireland, she was attacked by five Vals. One managed to make it through flak fire to hit St. Louis in her 40mm clipping room near the number 6 mount and exploded in the midship living compartment, killing 23 and wounding another 20.

Her spell had been broken.

Still, she licked her wounds once more and got back to work, supporting operations on Saipan and Guam, while picking up a new camo pattern.

Camouflage Measure 32, Design 2C drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for USS St. Louis (CL-49). She was painted in this pattern during much of 1944. This plan, showing the ship’s port side, is dated 31 March 1944 and was approved by Captain Torvald A. Solberg, USN. #: 80-G-109719

Saipan Invasion, June 1944. Units of cruiser division six bombard Saipan on 14-15 June 1944. The nearest ship is USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32). Beyond her is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). #: 80-G-K-1774

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) bombarding Japanese positions on Guam, 21 July 1944. She is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 80-G-K-16463

USS St Louis, 1944, off Orote Point, Guam

After her 1944 campaigns, she was beaten and broken, in need of an urgent refit. In Late July she headed for the West Coast to get some work done.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off San Pedro, California, on 5 October 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 19-N-72219

Then, refreshed and ready to go again, it was now time to deliver on MacArthur’s “I Shall Return” promise and Lou made a course for the Philippines, where she felt the Divine Wind.

One of the most effective Japanese kamikaze attacks of the war occurred on 27 November in the Leyte Gulf against Task Group 77.2., when a mixed force of 13 Jills, Kates and Vals came in low at 1125 while the ships were fueling. The task group was composed of four battleships, five cruisers, and seven destroyers, of which the larger ships were singled out for attack. Corresponding hits were scored on Colorado (BB-45), Maryland (BB-46), Montpelier (CL-57), and Aulick (DD-569) as well as St. Louis.

Two suicide planes hit St. Louis, one aft and one amidships, burning the after part of the cruiser, destroying catapults and seaplanes, and damaging her after turrets. She took a hard list to port for nearly an hour and looked in bad shape.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) crewmen fight fires in the cruiser’s hangar after she was hit by a Kamikaze off Leyte on 27 November 1944. Note wrecked SOC floatplane in the left background, and hangar hatch cover threw atop the port catapult, at right. #: 80-G-361985

Her crews managed to contain the fires, right the ship, and head for San Pedro Bay for repairs. In the twin kamikaze strike, 16 men were killed or missing and another 43 injured.

After another stint in a California shipyard to fix her back up, St. Louis returned to the battle line in March 1945, bombarding Okinawa, and guarded minesweepers and UDT teams clearing channels to the assault beaches.

By August, the end of the war found her assigned to TF 73, the Yangtze River Patrol Force, and she made Shanghai in October, supporting KMT Chinese forces.

After three Magic Carpet runs across the vast expanse of the Pacific to bring returning Vets back home Lou sailed for the East Coast and arrived at Philadelphia for inactivation in February 1946.

In all, from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese Home Islands, St. Louis earned 11 battle stars during her war.

Her payment? She was stricken from the U.S. Naval List on 22 January 1951.

Cruisers and other warships laid up in the Philadelphia Yard Reserve Fleet Basin, circa 1947. Outboard ship in the left group is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). Ships in background include (in no order): USS SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37), USS MINNEAPOLIS (CA-36), USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32), USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28), and USS PORTLAND (CA-33).
“All Hands” magazine Catalog #: NH 92254

However, Lucky Lou would get a reprieve from the rust squadron and go on to live a very long second career

Cruzador Tamandaré

In the 1900s, a Latin American naval race led South America’s major powers to acquire numerous battleships to include a modicum of dreadnoughts, along with a veneer of escorting armored/protected cruisers. While these vessels had grown quite long in the tooth and put on the list for the breakers by the end of the 1940s, the big regional players still needed ships for prestige and to be taken seriously. The logical replacement for those 30-40-year-old coal burners was relatively new Allied WWII-surplus cruisers which could be bought for a song.

This led to the curious phenomenon that, outside of the U.S., Europe and India/Pakistan, all the world’s cruisers from the 1950s to 1970s were operated by Latin American fleets:

Argentina– Two ex-Brooklyn class light cruisers (Phoenix, Boise, recommissioned as Gen. Belgrano and Nueve de Julio in 1951-52) as well as the old Vickers-made training cruiser La Argentina (8,610-tons, 9×6″ guns)

Chile– Two ex-Brooklyns (Brooklyn, Nashville, recommissioned as Prat and O’Higgins in 1951-52) as well as the Swedish-built Latorre (ex-Gota Lejon) bought in 1971.

Peru– Two ex-British Colony-class light cruisers (ex-HMS Ceylon, Newfoundland recommissioned as Almirante Grau and Col. Bolognesi, in 1959-60) replacing a pair of Vickers built scout cruisers commissioned in 1908. The Dutch De Zeven Provinciën-class cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter later became Peru’s only cruiser, recycling the Grau name, serving until 2017.

As for Brazil, they got the same sweetheart cruiser deal from Uncle Sam hat Argentina and Chile got on their scratch and dent Brooklyns— pay just 10 percent of the vessels’ original cost plus the expense of reconditioning them after their short stint in mothballs.

With that, Rio plunked down cash for the Brooklyn-class USS Philadelphia (CL-41) as well as our St. Louis in 1951 with the latter being transferred on 29 January and the former on 21 August.

While Philly picked up the moniker of NAeL Barroso (C11), St. Louis became Almirante Tamandaré (C12) after the famed 19th Century Brazilian naval hero Joaquim Marques Lisboa, Marquês de Tamandaré, the third vessel to bear this name in the Marinha do Brasil.

This guy

In the end, Brazil got a 12-year-old ship that had been hit by Long Lance torpedos, Japanese bombs, and kamikazes, but still looked great.

ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE (Brazilian Cruiser, ex USS ST. Louis) in U.S. waters photographed circa early 1951. Courtesy of Robert Varrill, 1977 Catalog #: NH 85261

TAMANDARE (Brazilian cruiser, ex-USS ST. LOUIS, CL-49) underway, 20 to 30 miles off Fort Story, Virginia, 5 March 1952, shortly after she was commissioned by the Brazilian Navy. #: 80-G-440057

Same day 80-G-440059

Other than adding LORAN, halting the operation of seaplanes and landing their catapults (the Brazilians later used Sikorsky H-34 and Westland Wasp helicopters on their cruisers), and getting rid of their Oerlikons, the vessels remained essentially the same as during their WWII service, to include carrying their 40mm Bofors mounts, SPS-12 (surface search), SPS-6C (air search) and SPS-10 (tactical) radar sets.

Taking further advantage of good deals on certified pre-owned naval warships, Brazil also bought 7 surplus Fletcher-class destroyers, a Sumner-class destroyer, 7 Bostwick-class destroyer escorts, and four GUPPY’d fleet boat style diesel submarines from the U.S. Navy. This gave the country two effective surface action groups well into the early 1970s centered around the cruisers with the tin cans and subs in support– even if they did look a repeat of the Pacific War.

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro 20 April 1952 after four months of shakedowns with her new Brazilian crew, Tamandare became the fleet flagship until 1960 when the aircraft carrier NAeL Minas Gerais (A11) joined the fleet. This led to a simple life of friendship missions (she carried President Dr. Café Filho and entourage on an official visit to Portugal in 1955 and a revisit in 1960), midshipman cruises, and regular training exercises such as DRAGÃO, UNITAS, and ASPIRANTEX.

The closest she came to combat in her decades under the Brazilian flag was the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état (Golpe de 64), which started with a sailor’s revolt, and the so-called Lobster War with France.

The what?

In the early 1960s, French lobstermen sailing from African waters came increasingly close to Brazil, within about 100 miles of Pernambuco, which became a real issue when Rio kicked their economic exclusion zone out to 200 miles, as is now common. The friction led to the seizure of at least one French fishing boat by the Brazilians and a muscular response from Paris that saw the gunboat Paul Goffeny (A754) sail over from Dakar.

The heated rhetoric saw a French naval task force sail from Toulon in February 1963– officially for a West African cruise– headed by the brand-new aircraft carrier Clemenceau (who was carrying helicopters only as she would not get her first F-8 Crusaders until the next year), the AAA cruiser De Grasse (12,350-tons, 8 x 5-inch guns), the big destroyers Cassard, Jauréguiberry and Tartu; and the corvettes Le Picard, Le Gascon, L’Agenais, Le Béarnais, and Le Vendéen, along with support vessels.

Rio reciprocated by putting Brazilian Air Force RB-17 Flying Fortresses into the air along with shore-based S-2 Trackers on long-range patrol over the disputed fishing grounds– and mobilizing both the cruisers Barroso and Tamandaré along with six Fletcher-class destroyers.

Tamandaré, at sea flanked by a heavy escort of former Fletcher-class tin cans, from top: Pernambuco (D30) ex-USS Hailey, Paraná (D29) ex-USS Cushing, Pará (D27) ex-USS Guest, and Paraíba (D28) ex-USS Bennett. Of note, the Brazilians would keep most of these greyhounds well into the 1980s.

In terms of guns, the Brazilan fleet had a distinct advantage if it came to a naval clash with the French, who would have been handicapped by the fact that the Latin American country could also bird dog the area of operations with land-based aircraft. Still, the French had more bluewater experience, coupled with better sensors, and may have made it count.

In the end, only the French destroyer Tartu entered the disputed area and remained there for 17 days until 10 March while the Brazilians sent air patrols to keep tabs on the interloping French ship. The two fleets never got within several hundred miles of each other, as the French kept close to Africa, in Dakar and Abidjan, while the Brazilians likewise remained in their coastal waters.

Brazilian cruiser ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE C12 former USS ST.LOUIS (CL-49) note H34 helicopters in the air

No shots were fired in the surreal crustacean contest known in Brazil as the “Guerra da Lagosta” and both sides de-escalated, later settling the dispute in 1966 amicably.

In all, Tamandaré steamed over 200,000 nautical miles with the Brazilian Navy and served her adopted country proudly.

NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), da Marinha do Brasil, fevereiro de 1971. Arquivo Nacional. Note her helicopter deck

While Barroso/Philadelphia was scrapped in 1974, Tamandaré endured for another two years and was only decommissioned on 28 June 1976.

Sold for $1.1 million in scrap value to Superwinton Enterprises of Hong Kong, a Philippine-flagged tugboat, Royal, arrived in Brazil to haul the old cruiser to the breakers in Asia in August 1980. However, St. Louis wasn’t feeling another trip to the Pacific via South Africa and, unmanned, on the night of 24 August near -38.8077778°, -001.3997222°, she started to submerge. Unable for Royal to save her, the towline was released, allowing her to settle on the seabed where she remains in deep water.

Today, a WWII St. Louis Veterans’ Association exists, though its ranks are thinning. The U.S. Navy recycled her name for an amphibious cargo ship (LKA-116) and a planned Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS-19) set to commission in 2020.

As for Brazil, that country’s Navy has recently reissued the name Tamandaré to the lead ship of a new class of Meko A100 type corvettes scheduled for delivery between 2024 and 2028.

Specs:

Scheme from 1973 Janes, as Brazilian NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), redrawn in 1971

Displacement:
Standard: 10,000 long tons (10,000 t)
Full load: 13,327 long tons (13,541 t)
Length: 608 ft 8 in
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft:
19 ft 10 in (6.05 m) (mean)
24 ft (7.3 m) (max)
Propulsion:
8 × Babcock & Wilcox Express steam boilers
4 × Parsons geared turbines, 4 × screws, 100,000 shp (75,000 kW)
Speed: 32.5 knots
Range: 14,500nm at 15 knots on 2,100 tons fuel oil
Complement:
(As designed) 888 officers and enlisted men
(1944) 1070 men, 58 officers, plus Marine and Aviation detachments
(1973, Brazil) 975
Armor:
Belt: 3 1⁄4–5 in (83–127 mm)
Deck: 2 in (51 mm)
Barbettes: 6 in (150 mm)
Turrets: 1 1⁄4–6 in (32–152 mm)
Conning Tower: 2 1⁄4–5 in (57–127 mm) (although Jane’s states 8)
Armament:
(As designed)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts
16 x 1.1″ AAA guns in four quad mounts
8 x .50-caliber water-cooled machine guns
1 depth charge thrower
(1945)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts,
28 x 40 mm Bofors L60 guns in four Mk 2 quadruple mounts and six Mk 1 doubles
8 x 20 mm Oerlikon submachine guns on single Mk 4 mounts.
Aircraft carried:
(1940s) 4-6 × SOC Seagull floatplanes, 2 catapults
(1958) 2-3 helicopters, first H-34s later Westland Wasps

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An aircrewman’s best friend

This flak-damaged M1911A1 .45-cal pistol and cap badge were worn by USAAF Sgt. Roy Zeran, 97th Bomb Group, when his B-17 was shot down on November 20, 1942, during WWII. It stopped a piece of shrapnel that would have likely ruined more than the slide of his pistol.

USAF Museum #170405-F-IO108-031

I recently got to handle a minty correct 1943-issued Remington Rand and matching holster, reportedly used by a B17 bomber pilot during the war. It was an honor.

If only guns could talk.

Guarding the fort

Official Caption: “Dec. 1942: Production. B-17 heavy bomber. An Army sentry guards new B-17F (Flying Fortress) bombers at the airfield of Boeing’s Seattle plant. The ship will be delivered to the Army and the Navy after they have successfully undergone flight tests. The Flying Fortress has performed with great credit in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a four-engine heavy bomber capable of flying at high altitudes.”

Dec. 1942 Production. B-17 heavy bomber Army sentry Boeing's Seattle plant Winchester 12 shotgun riot gun

Photo by Andreas Feininger, Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) LC-USE6- D-008483

The MP is attired in a mix of Doughboy and 1930’s gear with a 10-pouch belt, M1917 Brodie helmet, wool gloves, pre-1938 single-breasted overcoat, class B uniform complete with tie and khaki canvas leggings. His primary arm is a Winchester Model 12 riot gun.

As noted by Bruce Canfield (Complete Guide to U.S. Military Combat Shotguns), factory records indicated that Winchester delivered 61,014 Model 12s to the government between April 1942 and March 1944 in a mix of riot, training (field) and trench variants. These remained in use through Vietnam.

As for the B-17, Boeing would produce 6,981 of the iconic four-engined bombers, slightly over half of the aircraft’s 12,731-frame run. While the Seattle plant would crank out 2,300 early B-17Fs as in the photo above (note the two-piece bombardier’s nose glazing and lack of a chin turret), the majority– 4,035 bombers– would be the legendary B-17G, which bristled with 13 machine guns.

Warship Wednesday, Aug.14, 2019: Siamese Sloop Twins

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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.14, 2019: Siamese Sloop Twins

U.S. Navy Photo Catalog #: NH 96079

Here we see the pair of Japanese-constructed sloops, Tahchin (Tachin) and Maeklong (Meklong), of the Royal Siamese Navy in Thai coastal waters sometime before World War II. One of these sisters would be sunk during Thailand’s confusing part in the war while the other would go on to live an amazingly long life.

In the mid-to-late 1930s, during the reign of King Rama VIII (who would preside over the change of the country’s name from Siam to Thailand), the military dictatorship of Maj. Gen. Plaek Phibunsongkhram awarded contracts for a number of warships from overseas builders as the writing was on the wall that a major Pacific beef was coming.

From Italy were ordered seven 318-ton Trad-class torpedo boats, a pair of minesweepers (Nos. 1 and 2), as well as Naresuan and Taksin: 6,000-ton (Etna-class) light cruisers with 6-inch guns that were never delivered due to WWII. Meanwhile, from Kawasaki in Japan came the two coastal defense ships Sri Ayudhya and Thonburi (Dhonburi)– downright cute 2,600-ton monitors that packed four 8-inch guns and enough armor plate to stand up to anything up to an enemy cruiser. Add to this were a four-pack of small Machanu-class coastal submarines from Mitsubishi, three 135-ton Japanese Kantan-class torpedo boats and our two showcase sloops.

When combined with the Kawasaki-built royal yacht Angthong, the old British RN R-class destroyer Phra Ruang (ex-HMS Radiant), and the 1,000-ton Vickers-made coastal monitors Sukhodaya and Ratankosindra, the entire 5,000-man Siamese Navy looked something like this going into WWII:

From Jane’s 1946-47

On 13 August 1935, the Siamese admiralty ordered Tahchin and Maeklong, both named after major Thai river systems, to serve as training ships for this growing fleet in peacetime with the wartime mission of coastal patrol and anti-submarine warfare. The amount of the contract to the Uraga Dock Company in Yokosuka for the pair was 1.885 million baht.

Some 1,400-tons standard (2,000 full) the 269-foot-long frigate-like school ships were fairly well-armed, with a quartet of simple 4.7″/45 cal 3-Shiki Type guns in single shielded mounts as well as some smaller weapons. Four 18-inch deck-mounted torpedo tubes, depth charge projectors and the ability to drop 80 sea mines rounded out their armament. Capable of minesweeping as well, they were fitted with standard mechanical sea sweeps.

Each could carry a single small seaplane that was launched and recovered by craning it over the side and the country purchased six Watanabe WS-103 model single-seat floatplanes (Allied reporting name “Slim”) as well as three larger twin-engine flying boats to base at Chalong Bay, Phuket Island to patrol the Andaman Sea.

Capable of making 17-knots at full speed, these two sloops had an economical Kampon merchant-ship style plant that allowed them to range a very respectable 8,000 nautical miles with their bunkers topped off with fuel oil.

Notably, the Japanese Combined Fleet did not field any vessels of a comparable design at the time, either building much more capable fast destroyers or much smaller coastal subchasers and gunboats.

By June 1937, both Tahchin and Maeklong were completed and ready to hand over to the Siamese government. A welcome ceremony and massive celebration were reportedly held when they arrived home on 26 September.

Meanwhile, the neighboring French forces, in possession of colonial Indochina, took a keen interest in the new vessels.

One of the two ships of this class, Tahchin or Maeklong, photographed 17 September 1937 in Vingro Bay by an aircraft of the French 5e Escadrille then based in Indochina. Note the extensive canvas awnings. NH 96100

This, of course, foreshadowed the looming Franco-Thai War that broke out between the two countries in October 1940.

With Metropolitan France already knocked out of the war and the Vichy government in control, Bangkok felt Indochina was ripe for the pickings to reclaim provinces ceded to the French in 1907. This low-intensity pitched border conflict ended the following January in a Japanese-mediated ceasefire negotiated aboard the Nagara-class light cruiser Natori. While the Thais recovered 21,000 sq. miles of their land (and to this day still have most of it), they lost a torpedo boat and the monitor Thonburi in the one-sided Battle of Ko Chang in the Gulf of Thailand. 

This played right into Tokyo’s hand of adding both Indochina and Thailand into Japan’s collection of overseas puppets and Phibunsongkhram, after the Japanese invaded Thailand outright on 8 December 1941, entered the global war by declaring war on Britain and the United States six weeks later. The reward for this, and opening the country to Japanese troops while supplying what was termed the four-division-strong Thai Phayap Army for use against the British and KMT in Burma and China, Thailand received further territorial concessions while the Allies helped foster the Seri Thai (Free Thai Movement) of resistance bands that eventually grew to 90,000 effectives by 1944 and eventually swept Phibunsongkhram from power.

As for Maeklong and Tahchin, upgraded with more Japanese-supplied anti-aircraft guns, they repeatedly fired at Allied bombers during raids over the country. This too proved one-sided.

Note their Japanese lines and bow crests

On 1 June 1945 Tahchin was hit by a 1,000-pound bomb in Sattahip Bay during an attack by 23 British B-24 Liberators of No. 99 Squadron and No. 159 Squadron, flying from Digri, on the anchored Thai fleet. The hit flooded her engine room and caused 53 casualties. Severely damaged, she was knocked out of the war and never repaired. Also sunk in the raid was the royal yacht HTMS Angthong and the formerly British-flagged freighter Suddhadib, which was operating as HTMS Hardeep.

Following the Japanese surrender in August, Thailand was semi-occupied by the Allies until January 1946, but what was left of the Thai fleet remained largely intact, although in poor material condition. While some older and harder to support ships (such as the four Machanu-class coastal submarines) were soon laid up and discarded, Maeklong lingered on.

Over the next several decades, she trained virtually every naval officer of the Royal Thai Naval Academy at one point or another.

She also served as something of a replacement royal yacht. In 1949, the training sloop traveled to England to bring the ashes of the exiled late King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), along with the still very much alive Queen Ramphaiphanni, back to Thailand. In 1951, Maeklong returned to Europe to bring King Rama IX back home after he was completing his degree in Switzerland. Rama IX later used the ship as his host for naval reviews.

Maeklong at Bangkok during fall 1953. NH 96091

Maeklong underway in November 1960 or spring 1961 NH 96108

Thai Maeklong Photographed at Bangkok, date unknown but about the 1960s NH 96109-A

Jane’s 1973 listing

The 1980s. Note her ornate bow crest, certainly one of the few still used on an active warship at the time.

From 30 January to 20 March 1995, Maeklong served as a sea training ship for the last time as she took the first, second, and third-year naval cadets of the academic year 1994 on their sea cruise around the Western Pacific. At the time, she had been ordered some 60 years previously and was likely the last pre-WWII Japanese-built warship still in service.

Decommissioned later that year, she was the subject of a 17.8-million-baht campaign to move her to a land-based display as a museum ship along the Fort Chulachomklao Royal Dockyard in Samutprakarn. There, she remains remarkably preserved and open to the public today.

HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB circa 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB circa 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

HTMS Maeklong, note her bow figurehead, via Wikimedia Commons

Bow view towards the bridge, HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Andreas Hörstemeier, circa 2005, via Wikimedia Commons

Stern, HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB, circa 2012. Note the depth charge projectors and sea mines. via Wikimedia Commons

As for Tachin, her name would be reused by the Thai Navy. In 1951, the low-mileage USCG-manned Tacoma-class patrol frigate USS Glendale (PF-36) would be transferred to Thailand and become the new HTMS Tachin.

USS Glendale (PF-36) and USS Gallup (PF-47) fly the flags of Thailand, during transfer ceremonies at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, 29 October 1951. Both ships are still wearing their U.S. Navy numbers. Glendale became the Thai Navy ship Tachin. Gallup became the Thai Navy ship Prasae. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the “All Hands” collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command. NH 97102.

Decommissioned 22 June 2000, Glendale/ Tachin has been preserved onshore as a memorial at Sattahip Naval Base.

HTMS Tachin (PF-1) Former Tacoma-class patrol frigate USS Glendale (PF-36)

Last December, the Thai Navy took possession of a new 4,600-ton DW3000H type frigate at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) Okpo-Dong shipyard in the ROK. Her name: HTMS Tachin (FFG-471).

Specs:

Jane’s 1946 listing

Displacement: 1,400 long tons, std; 2,000 full load
Length: 269 ft
Beam: 34 ft
Draft: 10 ft 4 in
Propulsion: 2 × reciprocating steam engines, 2,500 hp, 2 Kampon boilers
Speed: 17 knots max
Range: 8,000 nm at 12 knots with 487 tons fuel oil
Complement: 13 commissioned officers, 9 chief petty officers, 85 petty officers and 66 seamen (173); 155 as a training ship
Aircraft carried:1 × Watanabe WS-103S floatplane (1937-46)
Armament:
(1937)
4 x 4.7″/45cal Japanese 3-Shiki Type guns
2 x 20 mm AA guns (some sources say, Italian Breda, some Danish Madsen)
2 x 7.7mm machine guns
4 x 18-inch torpedo tubes (2 × 2), removed 1942
depth charge racks
Up to 80 sea mines
(1954)
4 x 4.7″/45cal Japanese 3-Shiki Type guns
3 x 40mm/62cal Type 91 “HI” Japanese anti-aircraft guns (fitted 1942)
3 x 20-mm machine guns
6 x depth-charge projectors
Up to 80 sea mines

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While it looks like a mini-tank, it is actually an early tracked remote control mine/demo charge.

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