Category Archives: World War Two

Silk Good Luck Charm

U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sergeant George W. Parks was an engineer and top turret gunner on a B-17 in the European Theater across eight months of some of the worst aerial combat over the continent in World War II.

Parks, left, and shown with his crew.

Assigned to the crew of B-17G-25-BO Serial #42-31678 (“Little Patches”) of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy) and for a time with #42-32076 (“Shoo Shoo Baby”) of the same Squadron, he completed 37 combat missions on his tour.

“Little Patches” got her name because of a flak hole, that, when repaired, featured a lass in nose art painted by Tony Starcer sitting on the repair patch.

As noted by the American Air Museum, the 91st BG, known more informally as “the Ragged Irregulars,” logged 9,591 sorties dropping 22,142 tons of bombs. The Group lost 197 aircraft MIA– the highest losses of any of 8th Air Force Bomb Group. Before D-Day, these were predominantly strategic bombing missions, hitting targets like aircraft factories, airfields, and oil facilities. After the Allies had gained a foothold on the Continent, the Group carried out more missions in support of ground troops, such as bombing railway yards and tracks. They led the famous Schweinfurt mission and Parks was part of the January 1944 raid that bombed the Focke-Wulf 190 factory in Oschersleben, Germany, of that mission he recalled:

“Enemy fighters buzzed around us like a swarm of angry bees. I’ve never seen so many enemy planes in the air at one time…The sky was filled with falling and burning planes, both enemy and our own.”

As detailed by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force:

Just three months later his B-17 was attacked over Beauvoir, France and three of the four engines were damaged and stopped functioning. The pilot decided to try and make it back to England, but Parks thought:

“I didn’t see how we were going to get back. We squeaked and coughed across the water on one engine, and the book says you can’t fly on one engine. We made it alright, and landed at an RAF aerodrome near the coast.”

What did Parks attribute his good luck to? A black silk nightgown that belonged to his wife, Marian. She gave it to him as a good luck token, and he wore it as a neck scarf underneath his A-2 jacket on every single one of his 37 combat missions. “I wouldn’t go without it,” Parks declared.

Parks is listed as passing in Palmetto, Georgia on 29 April 2000, aged 76. One of his planes, Shoo-Shoo-Baby is slated to join the Smithsonian’s Collection although SSG Parks long outlived Little Patches, which also survived the war but was sold for scrap metal in 1945. 

Mrs. Parks’ battle-worn black silk is, however, preserved in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022: Hoagy, Shmoo, Winkle & the Forgotten Ocean

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct.5, 2022: Hoagy, Shmoo, Winkle and the Forgotten Ocean

U.S. National Archives photo 80-G-446967

Above we see the crew of the British Colossus-class light aircraft carrier HMS Ocean (R68) on deck for an inspection by Field Marshal Earl Alexander, the British Defense Minister, on 14 June 1952. Ocean was at the time off the Korean coast– a peninsula where she was highly active some 70 years ago– and she has Hawker Sea Furys of 802 Squadron and Fairey Fireflys of 825 Squadron aboard. It looks like the light cruiser HMS Belfast (C35) is off her stern.

Ocean is often forgotten when it comes to British carriers, as it seems everyone just cares about the ones that were active in WWII and the Falklands and forgot about everything between 1946 and 1982, however, she was important in naval history– being the first flattop to host a jet (intentionally) as well as probably the last to have a combat-ready biplane take off from her deck. As you can tell in the above, she also saw a good bit of combat as well.

Ocean was one of 16 planned “1942 Design Light Fleet Carriers” for the RN. This series, broken up into Colossus and Majestic-class sub-variants, were nifty 19,500-ton, 695-foot-long carriers that the U.S. Navy would have classified at the time as a CVL or light carrier. They were slower than the fast fleet carriers at just 25 knots with all four 3-drum Admiralty boilers lit and glowing red, but they had long legs (over 14,000 miles at cruising speed) which allowed them to cross the Atlantic escorting convoys, travel to the Pacific to retake lost colonies or remain on station in the South Atlantic or the Indian Ocean for weeks.

The classes’ 1946 Jane’s entry with 12 of the 16 sisters listed.

Capable of carrying up to 45 piston engine aircraft of the time, these carriers had enough punch to make it count.

The thing is, only seven of these carriers were completed before the end of World War II and even those came in during the last months and weeks. They effectively saw no service. Laid down beginning in 1942, most of the ships were launched but when the war ended, construction was canceled. Two were completed as a peculiar RN invention of a “maintenance carrier,” intended just to repair and ferry but not operate aircraft. Some were immediately transferred to expanding Commonwealth fleets. Suddenly, the Australians, Canadians, and Indians became carrier operators. The Dutch (later passed on to the Argentines) and Brazilians soon followed. Class leader HMS Colossus was even sold to France as Arromanches.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Our Ocean, a long time coming

The fifth HMS Ocean in the Royal Navy since 1761 was laid down in Scotland on 8 November 1942 at Alexander Stephen & Sons Limited in Glasgow. However, she was a slow build-out and wasn’t launched until after D-Day, with the Australians showing an interest in acquiring her. (While the Australian deal fell through, they did ultimately operate no less than three of her sisters after the war.)

Ocean was captured by noted English painter, Sir Henry George “Harry” Rushbury, at the time, while Sir Henry was working as an official war artist– a job the 56-year-old had done in the Great War as well– around the port of Glasgow.

Shipbuilding, Glasgow, a view looking up at the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean (R68) under construction from the quayside. A crane transporting a component onto the deck of the ship looms above while cables and wires cross from the ship to the quay, by Sir Henry Rushbury, 1944. © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/23522

This left the Admiralty to commission Ocean on 8 August 1945, three months after the war ended in Europe and just a week before the surrender of the Empire of Japan in World War II was announced by Emperor Hirohito on 15 August.

The aircraft carrier HMS Ocean at sea, late 1945. IWM A 30618

HMS OCEAN, BRITISH LIGHT FLEET CARRIER. JULY 1945, AT SEA. (A 30619) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161723

Although it had been intended to rush her to join the British Pacific Fleet as a dedicated night fighter carrier in the last push to take down Japan, that plan evaporated soon after she was commissioned and Ocean, therefore, spent the rest of 1945 in home waters at Rosyth as a trials ship, including the final embarkation of the iconic Fairey Swordfish “Stringbag” torpedo bomber that had won laurels at Taranto and against the Bismarck early in the war.

Capable of just 140 knots when wide open, while dated when it came to any sort of warfare in WWII, the Fairey Swordfish became a formidable ASW asset against surfaced U-Boats due to their low-speed and stable flight. Ocean was the last British carrier to operate the type. IWM A 24981

She was also the trials ship for the new twin-engine De Havilland Sea Hornet F.20, with prototype PX219– the full naval version– conducting carrier deck trials on board Ocean in late 1945 with renowned test pilot Captain Eric Melrose “Winkle” Brown at the controls. The plane was notable for being the fastest production piston-engine aircraft ever put into service.

The Sea Hornet was designed with cues from the successful De Havilland DH98 Mosquito and powered by a pair of massive 2,070 hp Merlin engines. Brown would later describe it as “Like flying a Ferrari in the sky.”

Winkle Brown also made a bit more history on Ocean in 1945, just before the year was out.

On 4 December 1945, he made the world’s first carrier landing by a jet, bringing the second prototype De Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, No. LZ551, aboard HMS Ocean.

De Havilland Sea Vampire Mk.10 LZ551G catches the arresting wire aboard HMS Ocean, on 3 December 1945.

Peacetime service

Deployed to the Mediterranean Fleet in late 1945 with a wing of Seafires and Fireflys, Ocean left her aircraft behind in Malta to run troops to Singapore the next summer, then responded that October to the stricken destroyers HMS Saumarez (G12) and HMS Volage (R41), both of which had been damaged by Albanian infernal devices while conducting mine-clearing operations in the Corfu Channel.

HMS OCEAN, BRITISH LIGHT FLEET CARRIER. JUNE 1948, GRAND HARBOUR, MALTA. (A 31456) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162475

In 1948, Ocean covered the British withdrawal from their troublesome Palestine mandate-– leaving the Jews and the Arabs to fight it out in the war that followed.

A rare sight post-1945: three British carriers at sea. HMS Ark Royal (R09), HMS Albion (R07), and the little HMS Ocean (R68) bringing up the rear. IWM

Korea

With the balloon going up at the 38th parallel in June 1950, Ocean’s sister, HMS Triumph, happened to be in Japanese waters with the rump occupation fleet of Task Force 95 and soon, in conjunction with the American Essex-class fleet carrier USS Valley Forge (CV-45), was performing air strikes on North Korean airfields within a week of the outbreak of the conflict. By October, another sister, HMS Theseus arrived in the Yellow Sea to join her, with her two dozen Sea Furys logging almost 500 sorties a month by December and a whopping 3,500 sorties in just 86 days. 

Soon, Ocean was being prepped to head to the Pacific to give her sisters some relief.

HMS OCEAN’S NEW COMMISSION. 1951, ON BOARD THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS OCEAN AS SHE RECEIVED HER NEW COMMISSION TO JOIN THE MEDITERRANEAN FLEET. (A 31944) Some of the aircraft of Nos 807, 810, and 898 Squadrons, were stowed on HMS OCEAN’s flight deck after the first landing on the light fleet carrier’s new commission. HMS OCEAN sailed from Portland and joined the 2nd Aircraft Carrier Squadron at Malta on August 3rd. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162892

HMS Ocean. Firefly F.R.5s of 810 squadron ranged on deck, engines running ready for takeoff. Commander (Flying) observes from FlyCo. Working up in the Mediterranean from September 1951 to April 1952. Via The Royal Navy Research Archive.

On April 5th, 1952, HMS Ocean passes the liner Empress of Australia while leaving Grand Harbor, Malta for the Far East. Via The Royal Navy Research Archive.

HMS Ocean passing through the Suez Canal on passage to East Asia, May 1952. Via The Royal Navy Research Archive.

Her first tour off Korea would run from May to November 1952, with Sea Furys of 802 Squadron and Fireflys of 825 Squadron embarked.

ON BOARD HMS OCEAN DURING OPERATIONS IN KOREAN WATERS. 10 JULY 1952. (A 32250) A Firefly of 825 Squadron landing on HMS OCEAN on return from attacking enemy targets. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205163137

HMS OCEAN IN KOREA, 1952 – 1953 (KOR 32) A Hawker Sea Fury, with RATOG (Rocket Assisted Take Off Gear), taking off from the carrier HMS OCEAN in Sasebo Harbour, Japan. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205191739

THE ADMIRAL PAID A VISIT. 11 JULY 1952, ON BOARD THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS OCEAN. DURING PATROLS OFF KOREA REAR ADMIRAL A K SCOTT-MONCRIEFF, DSO, FLAG OFFICER SECOND IN COMMAND, FAR EAST STATION, TRANSFERRED FROM HIS FLAGSHIP HMS BELFAST TO HMS OCEAN AND SPENT 4 DAYS ABOARD WHILE HER AIRCRAFT ATTACKED TARGETS IN NORTH WEST KOREA. (A 32243) HMS OCEAN at speed, with planes ranged on deck, in the Yellow Sea. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016293

HMS OCEAN TAKES PART IN LARGE RAID ON PYONGYANG. 11 JULY 1952, (A 32259) HMS OCEAN at speed about to catapult her aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016296

HMS OCEAN TAKES PART IN LARGE RAID ON PYONGYANG. 11 JULY 1952, AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS OF, AND ONBOARD THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS OCEAN, AS SHE TOOK PART IN OPERATION PRESSURE PUMP, TARGETING THE NORTH KOREAN CAPITAL OF PYONGYANG. (A 32261) HMS OCEAN at speed about to catapult her aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016298

HMS OCEAN TAKES PART IN LARGE RAID ON PYONGYANG. 11 JULY 1952, (A 32262) Sea Furies and Fireflies ranged on the flight deck of HMS OCEAN. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205163145

HMS OCEAN TAKES PART IN LARGE RAID ON PYONGYANG. 11 JULY 1952, (A 32260) HMS OCEAN at speed about to catapult her aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016297

The Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Belfast (C35) approaching the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean (R68) off Korea, before the transfer of RADM Alan Kenneth Scott-Moncrieff, Flag Officer, Second in Command, Far East Station from his flagship Belfast to Ocean to observe air operations against targets in north-west Korea. IWM A 32244

HMS Ocean at flying stations, a Sea Fury is on the catapult ready to launch. Via The Royal Navy Research Archive.

West coast of Korea. At least 33 Sea Furys and Fireflies with WWII D-day style invasion stripes were applied to avoid misidentification as North Korean aircraft, ready to launch as part of Operation Pressure Pump, on 11 July 1952, targeting railways outside the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. IWM KOR 27

On 9 August 1952, FAA LT Peter “Hoagy” Carmichael, who flew Corsairs at the end of WWII, was at the controls of his Sea Fury and logged the only official victory of a piston-engine aircraft over a jet fighter during the Korean War. His four-plane section was attacking railroad facilities near Chinnampo when they were jumped by eight MiG-15s, leaving at least one of the latter burned into the countryside and two others reportedly smoking. While today the kill is usually credited to Carmichael’s young No. 4, Sub-LT Brian “Shmoo” Ellis, the fact remains that on that day a Sea Fury from Ocean bested a MiG and all four British aircraft returned safely to their carrier, where they received a “pretty euphoric” welcome, whereas the MiGs could not say the same. 

From 802 Squadron’s War Diary for the Day: 

Lieutenant Carmichael, Lieutenant Davis and Sub-Lieutenants Haines and Ellis started the ball rolling this morning by flying the first AR of the patrol. By 0600 they had entered the area and had commenced their Hanchon and Pyongyang to Chinnampo rail search. By 0630 they had reconnoitered as far south as Chinji-ri, a small village about 15 miles north of Chinnampo. As they meandered down the line, checking the bridge state as they went, they suddenly saw eight jet bogies to the north. Almost immediately the bogies were identified as MiGs – and were closing. By this time drop tanks were fluttering earthwards and the flight had assumed proper battle formation and No.4 – Sub Lieutenant Ellis – had noticed a shower of red tracer streaming past both sides of his fuselage. He cried “Break” over the R/T and the flight commenced a “Scissors”. It was soon apparent that four MiGs were after each section of two Furies but by continuing their break turns our aircraft presented practically impossible targets to the enemy who made no attempt to bracket.

‘On one occasion a MiG came head-on to Lieutenant Carmichael and Sub Lieutenant Haines – they both fired –  it broke away and proceeded to go head-on to Lieutenant Davies and Sub Lieutenant Ellis – they both fired and registered hits. On another occasion, a MiG pulled up in front of Ellis with its air brakes out and he was amused to find the range closing. He gave a long burst and noticed hits on the enemy’s wings. The aircraft then proceeded northwards and a reduced speed with two other MiGs in company. Meanwhile, the flight, still in its battle formation, managed a dozen or so more firing passes at the MiGs head-on. The dog fight lasted 4-5 minutes and then the MiGs disappeared as quickly as they had arrived – as they departed an aircraft was seen to crash into a hillside and blow up. At first Lieutenant Carmichael thought it was one of his flight and ordered a tell-off. However when No.4 came up “loud and clear” it was realized that the Royal Navy had shot down its first communist aircraft. Lieutenant Carmichael as flight leader is being credited with its destruction officially but the rest of the flight are claiming their quarter as well’

“Sea Fury – MiG Encounter” by Robert Taylor: Flying an 805 Sqn. Sea Fury from HMS Ocean in Korean waters, 1952, Hoagy Carmichael became the first piston engine pilot to destroy a jet aircraft during the war, when he downed a North Korean MiG-15.

Royal Navy Fairey Firefly FR.IV from 825 Naval Air Squadron flying a reconnaissance mission from HMS Ocean (R68) along the eastern seaboard of Korea. 16 September 1952. IWM KOR29

In all, Ocean would log 5,945 sorties in her first Korean tour, dropping 3,884 500/1000-pound bombs and launching 16,490 rockets– not bad for a light carrier with just two squadrons of single-engine aircraft embarked.

After some downtime, she would return to Korean waters from May to November 1953 with two new squadrons aboard– 807 (Sea Furys) and 810 (Firefly).

The British and Australians would keep a light carrier or two off Korea throughout the conflict, all from the same class. Besides Theseus, Triumph, and Ocean, HMS Glory would clock in for a tour in 1951 while the Australian HMAS Sydney would also get into the act. Lending a hand, the Canadian sister, HMCS Warrior, transported replacement aircraft to Korea from Britain. Another sister, the Centaur-class maintenance carrier HMS Unicorn (I72), spent most of the war ferrying aircraft, troops, stores, and equipment in support of Commonwealth efforts in Korea and became likely the only aircraft carrier in history to conduct a shore bombardment when she engaged North Korean observers coastwatchers at Chopekki Point with her QF 4-inch Mk XVIs.

In all, FAA and RAN pilots flew at least 25,366 sorties from these budget flattops during the Korean conflict.

The war is over – HMS Ocean moored at Sasebo in October 1953.

HMS Ocean with her paying off pennant streaming from her mast sailing from Sasebo on October 31st, 1953, for the voyage home to the UK, via The Royal Navy Research Archive.

One last hurrah for Empire!

By January 1954, with a glut of flattops and peace in Korea, the Admiralty decided that Ocean and her sister Theseus should be re-tasked from operating fixed-wing aircraft and refitted for helicopters and a battalion-sized element of marines, then deemed “Commando Carriers,” a concept akin to a U.S. CVHE of the period or later LPH.

HMS OCEAN’S NEW COMMISSION (circa August 1954). (A 31947) Naval air-sea rescue Supermarine Supermarine Sea Otter taxis into a pickup position alongside HMS OCEAN before being hoisted on board. The Supermarine Sea Otter was the last biplane amphibian in Fleet Air Arm service. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162895

This brings us to the Suez Crisis (Operation Musketeer). After Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, our two new commando carriers were part of the Anglo-French intervention, embarking troops and stores for passage to Cyprus and then on to North Africa. There, Whirlwinds and Sycamores from their decks took part in an early combat experiment in vertical envelopment from the sea, seizing Port Said.

Royal Navy commando carrier HMS Theseus (R64) is shown with a crowded deck of Westland Whirlwind and Bristol Sycamore helicopters of the joint RAF/Army unit which operated alongside Royal Navy helicopters from her flight deck, November-December 1956. Note the French hospital ship in the background. IWM A 33639.

A member of 45 Royal Marine Commando priming a grenade [actually a mortar bomb] before disembarking from HMS THESEUS for the landing beaches at Port Said. Note his sand goggles, Pattern 37 webbing, and Denison smock– all looking very WWII. IWM A 33636.

Captain Griffiths inspecting troops of 45 Royal Marine Commando in full battle equipment, preparatory to their being landed at Port Said from HMS THESEUS. Note the desert goggles and MK V STEN gun of the Marine closest to the camera as well as the 2-inch patrol mortar with bomb tubes on deck. A 33635

British Royal Marines of 45 Commando loading into Royal Navy Westland Whirlwinds aboard the Colossus-class light fleet carrier HMS Theseus (R64) to assault Egyptian positions during the Suez

Royal Navy Westland Whirlwind helicopters taking the first men of 45 Royal Marine Commando into action at Port Said from the commando carrier HMS Theseus (R64) during “Operation Musketeer”. November 1956. IWM A 33640.

A Westland Whirlwind helicopter of the joint Royal Air Force/Army unit is leaving the Royal Navy commando carrier HMS Ocean (R68) with troops for Port Said during the Suez Crisis. November 1956. IWM A 33643

With the Egyptian affair wrapped up, the British chose to pull back “West of Suez” in 1956 and, other than a Baltic cruise that gave the Soviets some heartburn when she called at Helsinki, just over the horizon from Leningrad, Ocean’s days were numbered. Just 13 years old, she was laid up in 1958 and soon nominated for disposal, being sold for scrap in 1962.

Epilogue

Few relics of Ocean remain today.

A large scale model of Ocean is on display in the city of her birth, housed at the Glasgow Transport Museum.

She is remembered in maritime art.

“Ocean Firefly” HMS Ocean in the Korean war, by Roy Gargett

She was outlived by the legends that flew from her deck. 
 
“Winkle” Brown went on to be dubbed the “world’s greatest test pilot,” a title he earned after flying a whopping 487 types (a record verified by Guinness) over his career, interrogating Goering, becoming the only Allied pilot to fly both the rocket-powered Me 163 and more advanced Me 262, and making 2,407 carrier traps while testing the arrestor wires on more than 20 British flattops. He died at Redhill, Surrey, England, on 21 February 2016, at the age of 97 years. The Vampire he landed on Ocean is preserved at Yeovilton. 
 

Captain Eric M. Brown with his De Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, LZ551, at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset, England. (Nigel Cheffers-Heard, Fleet Air Arm Museum)

 
Commander Peter “Hoagy” Carmichael, OBE, DSC, would go on to command 806 Squadron in the 1960s and retire from service in 1984. He passed in 1997, aged 73. His young No. 4 over Chinnampo (now known as Nampo) in 1952, Sub-LT Brian “Schmoo” Ellis, was still alive as late as 2018 and being hailed for his deeds over Korea. (For the record when it comes to prop vs. jet combat, a Marine Corsair of VMA-312 would also later down a MiG in Korea and U.S. Navy Skyraiders would bag a MiG-17 over Vietnam on at least two occasions in the mid-1960s)
 
Meanwhile, Ocean’s four hard-working Korean War squadrons– 802 NAS and 807 NAS (Sea Fury); along with 810 NAS and 825 NAS (Fireflys)– would endure for the most part long past the time their carrier was scrapped: 
 
  • 802 Squadron would fly Sea Hawk FB5s from HMS Albion on top cover during Suez and was then disbanded in 1959. 
  • 807 Squadron would upgrade to Supermarine Scimitars and became well-known for running their new jets hot in airshows across the UK. They would also fire the first British Sidewinder in 1961. 
  • 810 Squadron would fly Hawker Sea Hawks from HMS Bulwark in the Suez, ending several Egyptian MiGs on the runway. Later flying Fairey Gannets before transitioning to become a rotary winged unit, they would fly Sea Kings as late as 2001. 
  • 825 Squadron became a helicopter squadron in 1960 and, after flying Sea Kings during the Falklands, is still around as the Royal Navy’s Operational Conversion Unit for the new AW159 Wildcat. 

As for Ocean’s sisters, the last of her class in the Royal Navy, Triumph, was kept around as a repair ship until 1975 and then scrapped. The Australians kept HMAS Melbourne (R21)/ex-HMS Majestic, on hand until 1980, including using her with A-4 Skyhawks and S-2 Trackers in the Vietnam-era (her bones, sold for scrap for a paltry A$1.4 million, would be slowly picked over by the Chinese for 15 years, jump-starting their domestic carrier program). The third-hand ex-HMS/HMAS Vengeance/ex-NAeL Minas Gerais, also a Skyhawk/Tracker carrier, was sold for scrap by the Brazilian owners in 2004, torched to man-portable pieces on the beach at Alang. The Indian ex-INS Vikrant/ex-HMS Hercules, which has used Sea Harriers as late as 1997, was saved briefly as a museum ship and then scrapped in 2014 ending the era of these well-traveled light carriers. While no less than five American carriers of the same vintage are preserved, there are no British-built carriers as museum ships.

The Admiralty in 1993, perhaps in recognition of Ocean’s work as a commando carrier at Suez, named the new 23,000-ton Vickers-built one-of-a-kind helicopter carrier HMS Ocean (L12). Although not capable of launching heavily loaded Sea Harriers due to the fact she didn’t have a ski-jump, the new Ocean would for a time be the only British flattop in operation, following the decommissioning of the old Harrier carrier HMS Illustrious (R06) in 2014.

Capable of hosting as many as 20 helicopters including a mix of Wildcats, Merlins, Chinook, and Apaches, HMS Ocean (L12) was in active service with the Royal Navy between 1998 and 2018, the last four as its fleet flagship and the closest thing the Brits had to a carrier.

Decommissioned in 2018, both Brazil and Turkey wanted the ship with the former winning out. She currently operates as NAM Atlântico with an airwing of EC725s, S-70B Seahawks, and AS350s.

The Royal Navy has not had an “HMS Ocean” since, something that should change, in my opinion.


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Trick or Treat: CMP Just Extended 1911 Lottery Round 3

I was lucky enough last year, after a four-month wait (and six years of writing about it), to get in on the 2nd Round of CMP M1911 lottery guns– and I love my gun!

The M1911A1 has a Colt GI Military frame, SN 904594, of 1943 production with GHD inspector’s stamp (left) complete with a dummy mark (!) and ordnance wheel/US Property/M1911A1 US Army stamps on the right.

Rather than the original slide, it has a “hard” GI replacement slide with FSN (Federal Stock Number) #7790314 M (magnaflux inspection) TZ (IMI Israeli, who supplied such slides under contract to the U.S.) with a minty chrome-lined barrel marked with FSN #7791193 91. The plastic grips have “24” rack number.

A FOIA shows that it was still in circulation with a unit somewhere until 2010 when it was sent to AAD for a decade of storage prior to being sent to CMP

Well, the CMP just extended the 3rd round for the next batch of 10,000 guns.

It had been set to accept packets postmarked in September but now it looks like the new cutoff date is October 31, 2022.

So if you haven’t gotten yours in yet and missed out on the first two rounds, now is your chance.

Background on the CMP M1911 Program

One of the biggest boondoggles has been the Army’s repeated attempt at getting rid of its M1911 .45 ACP pistols. With over 2 million made, the classic “Government Issue” pistol was the staple of American fighting men in both world wars as well as Korea and Vietnam. The Army, after trying and failing in the 1950s and 60s to replace the old warhorse with a more compact 9mm that held more ammunition, finally managed to pull it off in 1985 with the adoption of the M9 Beretta. By then, even the newest of the M1911s in stock had been manufactured and delivered in 1945, making them downright elderly. Nonetheless, the military still used the single-action .45 throughout the Cold War and into the Global War on Terror, as the gun remained much-loved by commando types– Special Forces A-teams were still carrying it in Afghanistan post-9/11.

However, even SOCOM eventually put the old M1911 out to pasture, replaced by easier-to-maintain Glocks and SIGs. This left the Army in 2016 with about 100,000 guns still left in storage at Anniston Army Depot, with a cost of about $1.5 million a year to keep clean and dry. This led to a push from the Congressman who represented the Anniston area to donate the guns to CMP for sale and, by 2018, Congress had approved the transfer at a rate of 10,000 pistols per year provided the organization carefully secured the guns (including building a $700,000 handgun vault) and meticulously managed how they were sold– more on the latter in a minute.

This led to a lottery system that the CMP has used since late 2018 to sell the M1911s portioned out to the organization by the Army. The process is simple, with the applicant filling out an eight-page packet similar to that for an M1 Garand and mailing it to their Anniston office.

Once approved, the CMP will email the applicant a number randomly assigned in the current year’s drawing and then the fun begins with about 800 or so pistols shipped out each month.

When the lucky applicant’s number comes up, they will get a call from a usually very chipper young woman with the CMP and be told what grades are available at the time, ranging from Rack grade ($1,050) to Field grade ($1,150) to Service grade ($1,250) of which all will be functional, historic guns. There is also a Range grade for $1,100 that has been modified– usually by Army unit armorers while in service– to contain a lot of commercial aftermarket parts. Like the Garands sold through CMP, the M1911s will typically have been rebuilt a time or two either by unit armorers or Army arsenals since 1945 and usually will have mix-matched parts, for instance with a Colt-marked slide, Ithaca barrel, and Remington frame.

During that call, you can ask for a particular manufacturer (Colt, Ithaca, etc.) and may get lucky, if they have it in stock. Then, after paying, it will arrive at your FFL in a matter of days, complete with a single magazine and a reprint of the Army field manual on the gun, often all inside a very nice CMP-branded Pelican case.

A few things to be aware of is that, unlike the M1 Garand program, CMP is required to ship the M1911s to an FFL, so the transaction is much like buying an out-of-state gun from Gunbroker, Armslist, or Guns.com in that respect. Further, as the packet is only entered after the CMP does a NICS background check on the buyer, at least two such checks are done. This is part of the extra scrutiny that the Army wanted CMP to agree to before sending over the pistols.

There have been two rounds of lotteries done thus far, with a bit over 20,000 guns sold, and CMP just recently completed the enrollment period for the third round at the end of September 2022. It is likely the fourth round will occur sometime in late 2023, so stay tuned for that.

Is the price that CMP sets a lot of money for an M1911? Not if you want a legit Army surplus gun it isn’t as such pieces often resell for twice that much. If you want just an inexpensive M1911 GI pistol to bang around at the range, you may be better off with an imported clone such as a Turkish-made Tisas or Philippine-made Rock Island, either of which can typically be had for around $450-$500 but don’t have any history attached.

Beretta at 496

In October 1526, Mastro Bartolomeo Beretta of Gardone Val Trompia, Brescia, Italy, received 296 ducats as payment for 185 arquebus barrels sold to the Arsenal of Venice, marking the first documented sale of Beretta-made firearm products in the known world.

I’ve written a lot about Beretta over the years and have had the opportunity to visit with them both in Tennessee and Maryland (alas, not in Italy– at least not yet) but these two guns from their vault are interesting and I don’t believe that I’ve ever written about them before:

Yes, this is a Beretta M1934 (Mod. 34) equipped with a barbed wire cutter. By the early 1930s, the company had developed a 7+1 capacity blowback semi-auto for the Royal Italian Army, the M1934, which was chambered in “9mm Corto,” which is basically just spicy .380ACP by another name. Over a million were produced, with the pistol remaining in Italian military service for a generation as well as being used in Africa and the Balkans as late as the 1990s.

The Beretta M1951R. The ‘R‘ stands for Raffica, or ‘”gust” in Italian. It is a super rare select fire model with a 1,000-rpm rate of fire, hence the foregrip. This is very much the predecessor to the even spicier Beretta 93R.

BTW, Beretta USA is “offering a special promotion on our website as part of our celebration during this “birthday” occasion. From now until October 7th, consumers can receive 20% off their purchase sitewide on Beretta.com using code 22BDAY20.”

So there’s that, if you are looking for some accessories, mags, grips, or whatnot.

Goums at 114: France’s Tough Moroccan Reliables

Back on 3 October 1908, under the terms of the Algeciras Conference that calmed the Moroccan Crisis between France and Germany, the French Republic stood up its first “goum” (roughly “troop” in Arabic) drawn from Moroccan Berber volunteers nominally still under the control of the Alawi Sultan of Morocco. These company-sized groups of irregulars, typically of 100-150 men consisting of three or four infantry platoons and a horse-mounted cavalry troop, all commanded by a couple of French officers and NCOs, soon expanded as they proved ideal for use in North Africa.

Tasked as sort of a gendarmerie intended to carry out patrols or reconnaissance missions on Moroccan territory, they were distinctive in their brightly colored wool djellaba cloaks with a hood (koub) to protect the soldier in harsh weather, loose gandoura blouses, naala ox skin sandals attached with palm cords, short séroual pants that ended in the mid-leg, a wool head covering, and leather choukara satchels in place of the more traditional French musette bag.

By 1920, there were 25 goums. Following tough service and proving themselves in the Atlas mountains against the Rifs in the 1920s, by 1933, there were 47 goums. By 1940, the French no less than 121 goums were on the books. Larger battalion-sized Tabors, formed from three or four goums, appeared. A dozen goums in May 1940 were molded into a regiment-sized force (1er Groupe de Supplétifs Marocains, 1er GSM) to fight to Italians in nearby Libya.

Restricted to local duty since they were founded, the Moroccan goums had missed out on service in Metropolitan France in the Great War and later in the 1939-40 Battle of France and remained a presence in North Africa, intact, during the Vichy regime under the guise of being gendarmerie troops used for internal security. Following the Torch Landings, the Free French moved to form the goum into something more expeditionary and 1er GSM was soon in combat against the Italians and Germans in Tunisia.

April 1943: Siliana, Tunisia French Goumiers 1er GSM with a FIAT 508 CM captured from the Italians. Note the second-hand German MP38 SMG (ECPAD TERRE 43-846)

They marched in the liberation of Tunis in May.

Des goumiers marocains reconnaissables à leurs vêtements, qui ont participé aux combats, défilent dans Tunis.

Soon, a second GSM was formed and, befitting of Allied support, these units soon became GTMs or Grouping of Moroccan tabors (Moroccan Tabors Groupments) with four brigade-sized GTMs soon being stood up.

The four GTM insignia, 1943-45

The size of a standard goum and tabor would expand to over 200 as 81mm mortar teams and a M1919 machine gun platoon was added. At the same time, the M1903A3 Springfield rifle in .30-06 became the main battle rifle while the heads of the goumiers would be protected by M1917 Brodie style helmets, the later dubbed “Mle 17 A 1” in French service. Slowly, GI combat boots replaced sandals while olive drab web gear supplemented then replaced French leather gear. 

One of the most famous photos of a Moroccan goumier, from Yank magazine, shows one sharpening an M1905 bayonet for his M1903A3 Springfield rifle while wearing a French Adrian-style helmet

They would land with Patton’s 7th Army in the Sicilian Campaign, with the 4th GTM attached to the Big Red One of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division, and then continue to carry the war up the Italian boot, serving with Mark Clark’s 5th Army.

They were on hand for the liberation of Corsica and on to mainland France, with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd GTMs taking part in the Dragoon Landings in August 1944 and heading inland from there.

Goumiers marocains, Libération de la Corse. Note the French cadre in more traditional dress.

September 21, 1943 first goumiers landed at Ajaccio, Corsica. Note these are still carrying French weapons and don’t have Brodie helmets yet.

France 1944, goumiers du 2e GTM (Groupement de Tabors Marocains) with Brodies and M1903s.

Moroccan soldiers at Monte Cassino in January 1944

French Algerian soldiers at Monte Cassino c.1944 operating a Browning M1919 machine gun, they are of course Moroccan Goumiers

St. Elia, Italy, de Gaulle inspects Moroccan Goumiers of the Free French forces, 9 March 1944. Note the mix of French cartridge pouches, traditional costumes, and Adrian helmets.

They even made it to a Bill Mauldin cartoon. 

The 3rd GTM ended the war on occupation duty in Stuttgart. 

June 14, 1945, in Stuttgart Germany, French Gourmiers trade tobacco with the locals. Note the slung M1903A3. ECPAD EATH 10622-L369 M1903

Collectively, the goums racked up 26 unit citations for their WWII service. In all, they suffered more than 8,000 casualties fighting in Europe. They also left their marks on the continent, with several atrocities and assorted human rights violations blamed on the units.

Bandiera Fanion del 1er Groupement de Tabors Marocains, with honors for Tunisie 1943, Rome 1944, Sienne 1944, as well as a Legion of Honor presented to the unit by De Gaulle 

Nonetheless, the French became increasingly enamored with these hard-fighting Moroccan troops and, of the 130,000 assorted North African troops that fought in Indochina between 1945 and 1954, no less than 52 percent hailed from Morrocco. The feeling was mutual, as, for many of these soldiers the duty was good and well-liked– with the goumiers returning home with medals and well-filled savings books while at the same time the units they were attached to saw very low desertion rates.

At least nine gourmier tabors (1er, 2e, 3e, 5e, 8e, 9e, 10e, 11e, and 17e) would be stationed in the region and were noted in their performance in the battles RC4 and at Diên Biên Phu. They would leave no less than 4,120 Moroccans behind in Southeast Asia, including 611 still listed as MIA.

In May 1956, with the independence of Morocco, the days of the goumier were numbered and on 9 June, the last goum was disbanded, folded into the Royal Moroccan Army of today.

As far as France is concerned, the Infantry Museum in Montpellier maintains the history of the goums through a dedicated collection in a room dedicated to them. A monument to the goums was erected in 1954 at the Croix des Moinats, in the heart of the Vosges mountain range they helped to liberate in 1944-45.

Le monument du col de la croix des Moinats. l’inauguration, les Goums

The French regularly hold ceremonies at the monument today

The Armee Musem, which houses the decorated banners of the GTM, notes, “Feared, admired, and always respected, the goums contributed by their exploits and their faithful commitment to the writing of the most valiant pages in the history of the French Army and the Infantry.”

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022: Bats, Retiring from the Line

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, Sept. 28, 2022: Bats, Retiring from the Line

Commonwealth of Australia/Royal Australian Navy image.

Above we see the Tribal (Arunta)-class destroyer HMAS Bataan (I91) of the Royal Australian Navy conducting a replenishment at sea in 1951 while dressed in her distinctive “Chicago Blue” scheme. A witness to the Japanese surrender in 1945, “Bats’” Korean War service was extensive, and she set out for home from her second stint off the coast of that peninsula some 70 years ago this week– only to be rewarded with early retirement.

Background on the Tribals

The Tribals were a new type of destroyer designed for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s to experience gained in the Great War and to match the large, modern escorts on the drawing boards of contemporary naval rivals of the time.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Huron (G24), in dazzle camouflage, sailing out to sea during the Second World War during one of her countless trans-Atlantic escorting runs. The Tribal-class destroyer, commissioned on July 28,1943, also served in the Pacific theatre during the Korean War under the new pennant number 216.

These 378-foot vessels could make 36+ knots on a pair of geared steam turbines and a trio of Admiralty three-drum boilers while an impressive battery of up to eight 4.7″/45 (12 cm) QF Mark XII guns in four twin CPXIX mountings gave them the same firepower as early WWI light cruisers (though typically just three turrets were mounted).

Gun crew on Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin cleaning up their 4.7″/45 (12 cm) Mark XII guns after firing at the Normandy Beaches on 7 June 1944. Note that the crewman kneeling in the rear is holding a 4.7″ (12 cm) projectile. Library and Archives Canada Photograph MIKAN no. 3223884

Some 32 Tribals were planned in eight-ship flights: 16 for the RN (named after tribal warriors: HMS Eskimo, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, et. al), eight for the Royal Australian Navy, and eight for the Canadians. Of the Canadian ships, four were to be built by Vickers in the UK and the other four by Halifax shipyards in Nova Scotia. All the Canadian ships were to be named after First Nations tribes (Iroquois, Athabaskan, Huron, Haida, Micmac, Nootka, Cayuga, etc.)

An unidentified Tribal class destroyer in profile

We have discussed the very successful class in prior Warship Wednesdays (e.g., HMS Cossack and HMCS Haida) but relax, they are great ships with amazing histories.

Of the eight Tribals planned for Australia, only three– HMAS Arunta, HMAS Warramunga, and Bataan— were ever completed. All constructed at the Cockatoo (Island) Docks and Engineering Company near Sydney, Arunta and Warramunga joined the war in 1942 while Bataan would follow three years later, and the five others ultimately canceled.

HMAS Bataan was laid down on 18 February 1942 as the last Australian Tribal-class destroyer and was originally going to be named either HMAS Chingilli or HMAS Kurnai, but was renamed in response to the U.S. Navy’s christening in 1943 of the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Canberra (CA-70) in honor of the sunken County-class heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, the latter lost to the Japanese alongside two American cruisers in the disaster at Savo Island the year prior. As such, she was the only Tribal not to be named after a people or nation of the British Empire (RAN Tribals were named for Aboriginal tribes.)

Mrs. Jean Marie MacArthur, the wife of General Douglas MacArthur, was invited to launch her.

Since she was completed three years after Arunta and Warramunga, Bataan was an updated version of her older sisters including a lattice foremast with an American SC pattern radar, and six single 40mm Bofors as close-range armament.

WWII

Following shakedown, Bataan put on a British destroyer pennant and sailed for the Philippines in July 1945 to join Task Force 74 in Subic Bay, then in company with sister Warramunga, made for Okinawa and the Japanese Home Islands with an eye to the sky, wary of kamikaze.

The Royal Australian Navy destroyer HMAS Bataan (I91) anchored off Manila, Philippines, circn August 1945. She wears the British Pacific Fleet pennant number “D09”. Note her American SC radar fit on the foremast, different from most RN Tribals of the time which usually carried a British Type 268 Cheese antenna” set. Photo by Pte. M.V. Gulliver, AWM 134521.

On the morning of 31 August 1945, Bataan and Warramunga were part of the British Pacific Fleet ships that entered Tokyo Bay, screening the cruisers HMS Newfoundland, HMNZS Gambia, HMAS Shropshire, and HMAS Hobart. At 0930 on 2 September, they stood by for the formal surrender ceremony that took place on the battleship USS Missouri, which MacArthur, among others, attended.

Bataan soon got into the business of coming to the rescue of Allied POWs liberated post VJ-Day in addition to occupation and disarmament duties which kept her in Japanese waters until November. Then came a much less tense cruise home.

Crossing the line ceremony, 1945, via the AWM.

Korea

Returning to Japan on occupation duties in September 1946, Bataan would spend 17 months there in four different tours through 1949 and then would return in June 1950 for her fifth post-war cruise to the rebuilding country. As the North Korean Army crossed the 38th Parallel into South Korea on 25 June, Australia, under UN mandate, was soon in another war.

On 29 June 1950, Bataan, along with the River-class frigate HMAS Shoalhaven (K535) and the cruiser HMS Belfast as Task Group 96.8, was placed at the disposal of the British Far East Fleet commanded by RADM William Andrewes. The ships, joined by the RAAF’s No.77 Squadron– a P-51 Mustang squadron based in Japan– were Australia’s first contribution to the conflict.

Following duty escorting troop convoys from Japan to Korea, Bataan was carved off from the British fleet and joined TG 96.5 for the Pohang amphibious operation, screening the cruiser USS Juneau (CL-119), and clocking in with three American tin cans (Coller, Higbee, and Kyes) for NGFS.

On 1 August, Admiral Andrewes took Belfast and Bataan into the Haeju Man approaches to bombard the shore batteries guarding this potential source of enemy seaborne supply.

HMAS Bataan’s 4.7s in action

She would continue to lend her guns to the fight, supporting mine sweeping and counter-battery fire in the Kunsan approaches in September and covering the amphibious landings at Wonsan in October.

By the end of the year, she was operating in the freezing seas just 12 miles from the entrance of the Yalu under arctic conditions.

British Commonwealth destroyers moored off Yokosuka, Japan, after returning from combat patrols in Korean WatersThe phototo is dated 26 January 1951. The ships are (from left to right): HMAS Warramunga HMAS Charity, and HMAS Bataan. NH 90625

Supporting the fighting withdrawal from the Yalu after the New Year, operating in direct support of the U.S. 8th Army, her first Korean war tour ended on 18 May. During her 11-month deployment, Bataan was underway for more than 4,000 hours on active operations and steamed some 63,292 miles.

Following a seven-month refit and shakedown, Bataan deployed from Sydney in January 1952 for a second Korean tour, relieving HMAS Murchison at Kure the next month.

As noted by the RAN:

It was the familiar pattern on the west coast of Korea, blockade enforcement, shore bombardment and escort duty. The weather, true to the forebodings of old hands in the ship, was bleak and squally with temperatures down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit. On the night of her arrival Bataan was allocated a patrol between Sokto and Chodo, three miles from the enemy held mainland, for harassing fire support.

The patrolling was constant and enemy forces active. On 13 February the destroyer carried out her first air spot bombardment using spotters from HMS Glory to shell enemy troops encamped outside the village of Pungchon. Later the same day as dusk was falling a brief duel began between the ship and 75mm shore batteries, ending with silence from the enemy and a single hit on the captain’s day cabin after 78 rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition had started two fires on the battery positions. The patrol ended on 24 February with a heavy bombardment of enemy positions on the mainland opposite Hodo Island. 543 rounds of 4.7-inch and 75 rounds of 4-inch ammunition had been expended when the ship finally withdrew en route for Sasebo.

Curiously, the U.S. Navy was operating USS Bataan (CVL-29) off Korea while our HMAS Bataan was in the region.

USS Bataan (CVL-29), shown here underway in January 1952 with “Black Sheep” F4U-4B Corsair fighter-bombers of VMF-314 on board, was planned as the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Buffalo (CL-99), she was one of the Clevelands chosen for conversion into Independence-class light carriers and was therefore renamed from her traditional cruiser “city” moniker in honor of the Battle of Bataan. Commissioned on 17 November 1943, the flattop earned six battle stars for WWII and another seven for Korea. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-633888

And, in true naval history fashion, the two even worked together at least twice, in January 1951 and again in March-April 1952.

HMAS Bataan (I91) escorting USS Bataan (CVL-29) off the coast of Korea, April 17th, 1951. NHHC image.

In May 1952, Bataan served as a mothership for inshore daylight guerrilla raids by Wolfpack and Donkey partisan groups while firing 400 4.7-inch shells in close support, bombarding the enemy on eight occasions, leaving her skipper to note that the month was “never a dull moment.” Then came an extended period operating on the screen of the British carrier HMS Ocean.

Korea. Elevated port side view showing detail of the forward part of the destroyer HMAS Bataan (ex-HMAS Kurnai) (D191) as she receives personnel by highline from the aircraft carrier HMS ocean. Note forward twin 4.7-inch Mk XII guns in cp xix mountings, with the breeches of B mounting prominent and the 40 mm Bofors aa gun in the port bridge wing. Behind the bridge are the director control tower and rangefinder tower MK II with a Type 285 fire control radar mounted upon the latter. Note rope stowage in the blast screen forward of B mounting and Carley floats by the forward superstructure with paddles neatly arrayed. The screening destroyer in the background is HMS Consort. (Naval Historical Collection) AWM.

August saw her flirting with Typhoon Karen as she prepared to end her 2nd Korean deployment. On the books were 40,277 steaming miles fothese nine monthsod and arrived back at Sydney on 3 October. In all, she fired 3,462 rounds of 4.7-inch, 549 rounds of 4-inch, 8,891 rounds of 40mm, and 3,240 rounds of 2-pounder pom-pom ammunition in anger in 1950-52. This was only bettered in the war by her sister ship Warramunga.

Operating off the Korean coast, members of HMAS Bataan, load a 4.7 gun for firingin , August 1952. Note the soup bowl helmets but lack of flash gear. Pictured, left to right; Able Seaman A. P. ‘Jock’ Harley, Leading Seaman R. J. ‘Bob’ McArthur, Leading Seaman Hugh M. Currie (rear), and Able Seaman N. B. Cregan. AWM HOBJ3429.

Combat artist Frank Norton was aboard her in Korea and several of his works in which Bataan is at the center are in the AWM collection. On 7 August 1952, Norton was transferred at sea to HMAS Bataan (via helicopter from Ocean to HMS Newcastle than at sea to the destroyer by jackstay) to ride out the rest of the tin can’s last Korean patrol, including Typhoon Karen.

View from the deck of destroyer HMAS Bataan towards unidentified ships at anchor, small craft transferring men to USS Strong (DD-758), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer of Task Force (TF) 77. Strong deployed to Korea from June to October 1952 and served with the United Nations Blockade and Escort Group on the west coast and was at Pusan, Songjin, and Wonsan.

Norton depicts part of RAN destroyer HMAS Bataan, with motor and sail junks manned by members of the Wolfpack irregular forces alongside. The RAN destroyer HMAS Bataan is not to be confused with the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Bataan.

A view of typhoon ‘Karen’ from the deck of the Royal Australian Navy destroyer HMAS Bataan on the high seas, with unidentified ships on the horizon. In a letter to the Director of the Memorial in September 1952, Norton recalled ‘The day after joining “Bataan”, all ships on the coast were forced out to sea by Typhoon “Karen” – and rode out – the backlash of the storm. Norton strove to convey a sense of the Korean coastal landscape and weather during patrols. In his letter, he comments on the unpleasant conditions at sea caused by cramped living quarters and tropical weather.

Final hurrah!

Arriving back home from two lengthy Korean deployments, Bataan was selected for conversion to an anti-submarine escort destroyer in late 1952. This saw the deletion of her WWII anti-air suite, the fit of a Squid anti-submarine mortar, and the replacement of the foremast with a lattice structure. She would sail on exercises with RNZN ships and those of other SEATO members in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, roaming as far as Singapore.

In October 1953, sailing in conjunction with the carrier HMS Vengeance, Bataan would suffer an “intense cyclonic depression” that damaged the destroyer.

Patched up but with a wonky bow, six months later she would be part of the Royal escort for Queen Elizabeth II’s state visit to Australia.

HMS Ceylon escorts the Royal yacht SS Gothic along with HMAS Bataan (I91), HMAS Anzac (D59), and HMS Vengeance (R71), in April 1954.

Vengeance made the occasion unique.

As noted by the RAN, “On seeing the image taken of Vengeance, HM is reported to have commented that it was a most original forgery.'” Photo via the Robert Elliston Glasgow Collection – State Library of Western Australia.

Following that handover of Gothic to the cruisers HM Ships Colombo and Newfoundland in the Indian Ocean, on 5 April, during a replenishment at sea between Vengeance and Bataan off Cocos Island, the destroyer became entangled and cracked up in rough seas against the hull of the much larger carrier.

HMAS BATAAN in a terrifying jam – L.M. Hair, HMAS CERBERUS Museum.

HMAS CERBERUS MUSEUM COLLECTION 156 HMAS BATAAN and VENGEANCE photo L.M. Hair.

As detailed by the Naval Historical Society of Australia:

Former Chief Radio Electrician Bill Robertson, who was on board Bataan at the time, believes the collision was caused by a rogue wave which lifted Bataan’s bow and turned the ship towards Vengeance, when there were less than 10 tons of fuel left to transfer.

“The change in heading couldn’t be controlled by the quartermaster in time to avoid a collision,” he said. “The Venturi effect, so dreaded when two moving vessels are so close together, held Bataan’s port side in contact with Vengeance’s starboard side. “There was an imminent danger Bataan would roll over and be sucked under Vengeance.” Mr. Robertson said, as Bataan slowly slid aft, each time Vengeance rolled to starboard, her AA platforms came down on Bataan’s port superstructure. “Then the port side of the PO’s Mess, the ‘B’ gun deck, and the Bofors platform on the port side of the bridge were all crushed,” he said. “I remember thinking the noise sounded like the damage was going to be expensive.”

According to Mr. Robertson, only the quick thinking of CO Bataan CMDR Glenn Fowle saved the ship. “He ordered, ‘hard a’ port, full ahead together’,” he said. “This forced our bow into Vengeance while kicking the stern out. “When Bataan had pushed itself out to about 45 degrees, the CO ordered full astern together, which separated the ships but didn’t do the bow any favors. “At the time of the action I was on the starboard side of the bridge with a lifejacket in one hand and a roll of toilet paper in the other, somewhat unsure which had priority.”

Her bow banged up even further, Bataan paid off at Sydney on 18 October 1954, having steamed 279,395 miles since commissioning. Placed on the Disposal List, she was soon sold to a Japanese shipbreaker for demolition.

Epilogue

Several relics from the destroyer are in the Australian War Memorial collection including a Hinomaru signed by 55 of her crew in indelible purple ink on the occasion of the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Harbor on 2 September 1945.

The AWM also has her RAN Reports of Proceedings on file as well and the Memorial has digitized them. For reference, the Jan. 1950-Jan. 1952 file for Bataan is 231 pages alone.

Meanwhile, there are several markers to Bataan dedicated around Australia.

In 2021, a 1/72 scale model of Bataan, crafted from brass, copper, and aluminum over two years by one of her WWII vets, was put on display at the entrance to the Sea Power Centre – Australia’s Naval History Section in Canberra. 

Said her 95-year-old maker and former destroyerman, “I’m upset, looking at warships today. They are just steel boxes with a sharp end on them. There’s no shape to them, no flares, they’re not romantic, unlike Bataan,” and I cannot agree more.

As for Bataan’s sisters, both Arunta and Warramunga earned honors for WWII and Korea, then were paid off in the 1960s, experiencing a longer life than that seen by Bats. It is no surprise that these two ships topped 357,273 miles as steamed by Arunta and a half million miles steamed by Warramunga.

When it comes to her expanded Tribal-class family, no less than 12 of the 16 members in British service were lost during WWII and the remaining quartet paid off by 1949. All the Tribals in Canadian service were sold to the breakers by 1969 save for Haida who is the only member preserved as a museum ship, all others turned to razor blades.

Known as “Canada’s most-fightingest ship” Haida (DDE 215) is open to the public in Hamilton, Ontario. Like Bataan, she saw combat in both WWII and Korea, decommissioned in October 1963 after 20 years of hard service. (Parks Canada)

Specs:
Displacement:1,959 long tons (1,990 t) tons standard, 2,519 long tons (2,559 t) deep load
Length: 377 ft (114.9 m)
Beam: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
Draught: 13 ft (4.0 m)
Propulsion:
2 shafts; 3-Admiralty 3 drum type boilers
2 × Parsons Marine geared steam turbines, 44,000 shp
Speed: 36.5 knots (maximum), 32 knots (service)
Complement: 259 (14 officers, 245 ratings)

Armament:

3 x 2 4.7-inch (119 mm)/45 QF Mark XII guns in twin Mark XIX mounts
1 x 2 4-inch (102 mm)/45 Mark XVI QF in twin mount
6 x 40mm Bofors
1 quad launcher with Mk.IX torpedoes (4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes)
1 rail + 2 Mk.IV throwers (Mk.VII depth charges)


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Guns of the Air Force at 75

While Ben Franklin theorized using airships to deliver troops to battle behind enemy lines as early as 1783 and the Union Army fielded a balloon service in the Civil War, today’s Air Force traces its origin to the heavier-than-air machines of the U.S. Army’s Aeronautical Division, founded in 1907– just four years after the Wright brothers first flew. After service in Army green during both World Wars, the Air Force became an independent branch of the military in 1947 with the first Secretary of the Air Force named on Sept. 18 and its first Chief of Staff named on Sept. 26. 

To salute the 75th birthday of the USAF this week, I took a deep dive into the small arms of the organization over the years, including some rares.

Cold War-era Colt survival gun prototype
A Cold War-era Colt survival gun prototype on display at the USAF Armament Museum (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Remington XP-100 survival gun
The Remington XP-100 survival gun concept. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Bushmaster Arm Pistol in 5.56mm
The Bushmaster Arm Pistol in 5.56mm was another planned Air Force survival gun that made it about as high as a lead balloon. Bushmaster did, however, put it in limited commercial production. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

More in my column at Guns.com.

 

Guppy foursome

Subron-21’s GUPPY IIIs in formation on 18 April 1966.

USS Clamagore (SS-343) is in front, with USS Corporal (SS-346) on Clamagore’s port side, USS Cobbler (SS-344) on Clamagore’s starboard side, and USS Blenny (SS-324) bringing up the rear. All four submarines were part of the Balao-class, and all were commissioned into the U.S. Navy in the final two years of WWII although only Blenny arrived in time to make war patrols that earned battle stars (four) prior to VJ-Day.

In formation on 18 April 1966. The boats seen are: USS BLENNY (SS-324), CLAMAGORE (SS-343), COBBLER (SS-344), and CORPORAL (SS-346)

In formation on 18 April 1966. The boats seen are: USS BLENNY (SS-324), CLAMAGORE (SS-343), COBBLER (SS-344), and CORPORAL (SS-346)

Of the quartet, Clamagore survived the longest, retired in 1980, and was scrapped earlier this year after four decades of slowly wasting away as a museum ship in Charleston.

Blenny, the WWII combat vet, decommissioned in 1973, was scuttled off Ocean City, Maryland, on 7 June 1989.

Cobbler, who transferred to Turkey in 1973, was renamed TCG Çanakkale (S 341) and somehow served until 1998.

Corporal also transferred to Turkey although in 1974 and, commissioned TCG Ikinci İnönü (S333), served until 1996.

80 Years Ago: Bering Sea Blues

That looks like a zero-gravity situation.

Official caption: USS Bancroft (DD-598) in the Bering Sea under heavy weather, 1942. [Although readers have pointed out that this is not Bancroft.] 

From the VADM Robert C. Giffen Photo Collection. Donor: ADM Shirley S. Miller. Accession #: S-487. Naval History & Heritage Command.

USS Bancroft was one of the 30-strong Benson-class of destroyers and the third vessel named in honor of James K. Polk’s SECNAV, the man who established Annapolis. Built by Bethlehem Steel’s Fore River yard, she commissioned 30 April 1942.

Immediately dispatched to Alaskan waters following her rushed shakedown, she arrived at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, 17 September 1942 (80 years ago today) and took part in the harsh Aleutian Campaign for the next year, including the occupation of Amchitka (Operation Crowbar), the liberation of Attu and Kiska, and saving the crippled destroyer USS Abner Read (DD-526), which had had her stern blown off by a Japanese mine and was left dead in the water and drifting towards other mines.

Switching to warmer waters, she accompanied raids of several Japanese strongpoints across the Western Pacific and supported the landings at Tarawa, Kwajalein, Mille Atoll, Hollandia, Saipan the Philippines, and Borneo, ending the war at anchor in Subic Bay. Decommissioned on 1 February 1946, she was scrapped in 1973.

Bancroft earned eight battle stars for her World War II service.

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