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Warship Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018: The lost Governor and the 142

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018: The lost Governor and the 142

Note: Normally on WSW we cover more legit steel “warships” and, while today’s entry is a wooden commercial vessel that only ever picked up an engine late in life, she did play an important part in WWII, and her current story is timely, so bear with me.

(Photo: Chris Eger)

Here we see 66-foot (over the bowsprit) wooden-hulled Gulf Coast-style schooner Governor Stone as I saw her in Ft. Walton in 2011. In another life, she helped train young men to brave German U-Boats and Japanese kamikazes and last week faced off one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the United States in generations.

The two-masted centerboard schooner was built in 1877 in my hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi, a sleepy coastal city that later produced Ingalls shipyard which still, of course, cranks out vessels of all kinds today. Some 39-feet at the waterline with just a 3.9-foot draft, she was built to fly along the shallows of the Mississippi Sound– which has an average depth of just six feet– as a cargo hauler.

Your typical “Biloxi schooner.”

Her keel was of yellow pine with cypress frames and planks while her decks and bulwarks are of white pine and juniper.

(Chris Eger)

(Chris Eger)

With a gaff-rigged topmast sail plan, her longleaf yellow pine main towered 52 feet from waterline to topmast truck. Her steering gear, windlass, and other working pieces were and remain cast iron.

Her original 1877 steering gear was still intact into the 2010s, although in a new box (Chris Eger)

Ordered by Pascagoula merchant Charles Anthorn Greiner to haul materials to and from his sawmill on the Pascagoula River to deep water vessels offshore, the vessel was named for his personal friend, Gov. John Marshall Stone. A Civil War colonel, Stone served longer as Governor of the Magnolia State than anyone else– from 1876 to 1882 and again from 1890 to 1896.

However, Greiner soon sold the schooner for $425 to Mulford “Mul” Dorlorn of nearby Dauphin Island, Alabama at the mouth of nearby Mobile Bay who used her to carry freight and as a “buy boat” purchasing oysters from “tongers” in the beds along the Rigolet Islands, the latter a job she held under a series of owners for the next 30 years.

During her “oyster days” (Chris Eger)

In September 1906 she was caught in Bayou Heron, now part of the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, during a fierce hurricane that capsized the schooner and rolled her 300 yards into the marshy estuary.

Recovered and repaired, she went back to work. Picking up a small 16-hp gasoline engine and a small screw in 1923, she was powered for the first time in her then-46 year career, then pressed into service by her owner Thomas Burns as a bootlegger during Prohibition, reportedly making two trips a month for $500 a run bringing in good Cuban rum to a hungry market in Mobile, Biloxi and New Orleans.

By the 1930s, during the Depression, at a time when cheaper catboats and luggers had cornered the local market and the deep port at Gulfport had eliminated the need for offshore lightering, she became a derelict vessel. In 1939 she sank in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

In 1940 she was raised and, refitted with a new 50-hp Gray engine, was extensively overhauled by local innkeeper Isaac T. Rhea who named her Queen of the Fleet and used her as a day tripper for guests at his famous Inn By The Sea beachside resort in Pass Christian. As such, she was given a large deck structure.

(Chris Eger)

Then the war came.

On 15 September 1942, she was purchased for $1 by the US War Shipping Administration and was converted for use as a training vessel by the Merchant Marine Academy which had the same week founded two cadet basic schools to educate merchant marine officers in the on-going conflict. One of the schools was at San Mateo, the second was at Henderson Point (Rhea’s Inn By The Sea, which had been purchased lock, stock, and barrel by the government) in Pass Christian.

She became the training vessel Joshua Humphreys during the war, named after the famous naval architect and constructor of the original “six frigates” of the United States Navy.

(Via the USMM Alumni Association)

According to local historian Dan Ellis:

Cadet training consisted of basic seamanship, ship nomenclature, elementary ship construction and identification of friendly and enemy vessels and aircraft. They were also taught first-aid and safety, abandoning ship procedures, ship handling and navigation maneuvers, and the use of, and marksmanship of, 20mm and .50 caliber guns.

After spending nine months at their academies, the cadets went to sea on merchant ships to finish their education afloat in very real on-the-job-training.

As noted by USMM.org :

Cadets went to sea with their books and were required to write reports upon return, describing enemy craft seen, damage, lifeboat voyages, acts of heroism, etc. In 450 reports filed, cadets described attacks on 250 different ships, of which 220 were sunk.

By the end of the war, the Academy’s three campuses had graduated an impressive 6,634 officers.

In all, some 142 documented U.S. Merchant Marine Cadets were killed during World War II, a fact that makes the current U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point, the only Federal Academy authorized to carry a Battle Standard.

The Battle Standard bears the number “142” on its field of red, white and blue. In its center is the eagle of the Academy’s seal in blue and gray, the school colors, and the anchor of the merchant marine in gold. From its top hang the ribbons which represent the various combat zones in which the Academy’s cadet/midshipmen served.

With the end of the war, the cadets at San Mateo were soon transferred to Kings Point in September 1947, and the school closed. Pass Christian, although devastated by a hurricane in September 1947, remained open until 1950 when the government closed it down and the school was closed, sold to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board as a retreat. The site is now a condo that borrows Rhea’s restort’s originial name.

The USMMA-AA, with support from Seabee Base, Gulfport, established a memorial to the Pass Christian USMM Cadet Corps Basic School in 1979 on what was then still the campus of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. Destroyed in 2005, the memorial and an old ketch sailing anchor salvaged in the area by the Seabees were reconstituted 0.6 miles north of the location in 2013.

(Chris Eger)

(Chris Eger)

The bronze plaque, which I touch up from time to time, reads:

These Grounds, From September 16, 1942 to March 21, 1950, Were the Site of the Pass Christian United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps Basic School. From Here and the Sister School at San Mateo, California, Over 6000 Undergraduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, Went to Sea in War and Peace. To Those Cadets, Who in the Course of Their Training or Subsequent Service, Gave Their Lives for Our Country, This Monument Is Respectfully Dedicated.

Back to the Stone

By the time the USMM Academy left Mississippi, Governor Stone/Queen of the Fleet had been returned to Mr. Rhea in 1947 with a brand-new 110 HP Chrysler Marine engine installed, a bonus!

When he died in 1953, the schooner was subsequently sold to a series of six different owners over the next 15 years and named, in turn, The Pirate Queen, Sea Bob, C’est la Vie, and Sovereign, before ending up with one Mr. John Curry who restored her through the 1970s and 80s and planned to base her in Pascagoula as a floating museum ship with her original name. In the end, she was deeded to the Apalachicola Maritime Institute in 1989 “where she served as a sail trainer for at-risk youth and a charter vessel in conjunction with the museum for 11 years.”

Her National Park Service application to place her on the National Register of Historic Places (#85508) was penned in 1990 by noted maritime historian James P. Delgado of all people, which makes her noteworthy in and of itself. As noted in a 2004 article in The Nautical Archeology Society by Kathryn Sikes:

Only five 2-masted coasting schooners remain within the United States. Of these, only two, Lewis R. French and Stephen Taber (both built in 1871), predate Governor Stone. In addition, Governor Stone is the only surviving 2-masted schooner indigenous to the Gulf of Mexico, and represents Southern contributions to coastwise trade.

In 2010, Governor Stone was acquired by the non-profit Friends of the Governor Stone group who at first displayed her at Ft. Walton, Florida and then, following an extensive restoration in 2013-14 (in Pascagoula!) moved her to Panama City.

At Pascagoula’s Beach Blvd “Point” in 2014 after she was overhauled note Ingalls shipbuilding in the distance (Photo via Mississippi Maritime Museum)

That’s where our current story picks up.

In St. Andrews Marina for Hurricane Michael, she capsized and turned turtle, but is still above water to a degree and the group hopes to salvage her.

Via Friends of Governor Stone

Specs:
Weight:: 14GRT, 12NRT
Length: 63′; 39′ at waterline
Beam: 13’2″
Draft: 3’; loaded 5’; with the centerboard down 9’

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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

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

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018: Father goose and his guard fish

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018: Father goose and his guard fish

National Archives 80-G-13551

Here we see a Japanese merchant steamer wallowing in the Pacific off the Home Islands in September 1942 after taking a torpedo from the subject of our tale today, the Gato-class submarine USS Guardfish (SS-217), whose periscope the image was snapped through. One of the most successful submarines of WWII, she earned 11 battle stars and two Presidential Unit Citations across a full dozen war patrols— and saved a small village worth of Coastwatchers.

One of the 77 Gatos cranked out by four shipyards from 1940 to 1944 for the U.S. Navy, they were impressive 311-foot long fleet boats, diesel-electric submarines capable of extended operations in the far reaches of the Pacific. Able to swim an impressive 11,000 nautical miles on their economical power plant while still having room for 24 (often cranky) torpedoes. A 3-inch deck gun served for surface action in poking holes in vessels deemed not worth a torpedo while a few .50 and .30-cal machine guns provided the illusion of an anti-aircraft armament. A development of the Tambor-class submarines, they were the first fleet boats able to plumb to 300 feet test depth, then the deepest that U.S. Navy submersibles were rated.

Our hero, Guardfish, was the first U.S. Navy ship to carry the name of the “voracious green and silvery fish with elongated pike-like body and long narrow jaws,” as noted by DANFS.

USS Guardfish (SS 217), ship’s insignia probably dates from WWII. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 67779-KN (Color).

Built by Electric Boat Co. of Groton, Conn., she commissioned 8 May 1942, five months and a day after Pearl Harbor, EB’s 144th submarine for Uncle.

Bow view at rest of the Guardfish (SS-217) at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT., 19 April 1942, three weeks before commissioning.

She was the first of the so-called “Mod 1A” Gatos, as described by Floating Dry Dock.

Starting with Guardfish, EB shortened the forward to aft length of the covered navigation bridge on their boats. This change was incorporated into production several months prior to the war starting so it may have been economically driven, rather than by operational feedback from the fleet. Compare the photo below of Guardfish with that of Growler above and the difference becomes readily apparent. Shortening the navigation bridge also eliminated several of the round portholes that were used by the helmsman. Manitowoc incorporated this change in their very first boat, with construction of Peto starting ten weeks after that of Guardfish.

By 22 August, she was in the Pacific and on her first war patrol, the inaugural U.S. submarine to poke around off Honshu in the Japanese Home Islands. In a two-week period, she made 77 contacts, scratched an armed trawlers and at least five Japanese freighters– including three in a single day. Evading escort vessels, Guardfish sank 5,253-ton Kaimei Maru and 1,118-ton Tenyu Maru. The Chita Maru, a 2,376-ton freighter, retreated and anchored in Kinkasan Harbor. In one of the war’s longest torpedo shots, Guardfish sank the Chita Maru from over three nautical miles (7,500 yards) out, which is pretty good for unguided torps. This was the year after serious depth flaws in U.S. torpedoes had finally been proven and properly fixed. Returning to Midway to complete her first war patrol, the exploit earned her first Presidental Unit Citation.

80-G-13547

80-G-13550

80-G-13552

80-G-13553

Her second patrol only yielded one merchant ship while her third, switching to the Bismarck Archipelago on her way to Australia, netted the 1,390-ton Japanese Patrol Boat No.1 and the 1,600-ton destroyer Hakaze in January 1943.

She took a licking on her 3rd patrol when she unsuccessfully attacked a large convoy near Simpson Harbor on the surface but was driven off by concentrated shore fire and escort attacks. Over a two day period from 11-12 February 1943, the Japanese destroyers Makigumo, Hayashio, and Oyashio plastered her with literally every depth charge they had, only stopping their combined attack once they were out of ASW weapons. When Guardfish made Brisbane on the 15th for repairs it was determined she suffered at least 8 direct hits.

It was while operating out of Australia that Guardfish, in the summer of 1943, came to the aid of the Coastwatcher program.

Coastwatchers

A local wireless telegraphist operator operating an AWA 3BZ teleradio at Segi Coastwatchers station, British Solomon Islands. [AWM 306814]

Established to monitor the operations on Australia’s far-flung outer territories as well as in the British-controlled Solomons chain (itself seized from the Germans in WWI), the Royal Australian Navy’s Coastwatcher program proved a godsend to the Allies when these remote atolls and green archipelagos became prime real estate in 1942. In all, some 600 Coastwatchers and their native police and tribal allies provided yeomen work spotting Japanese planes and vessels. Arguably, had it not been for their intelligence gathering ability behind the Japanese lines, the Guadalcanal Campaign would have been a lot harder if not impossible.

As Halsey said later, “The Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal and Guadalcanal saved the Pacific.”

Bougainville, Solomon Islands. c. 1944-02. Group portrait of Coastwatchers and native police, some of whom are armed with rifles. Fourth back row, left to right: two native policemen; Flight Lieutenant J. A. Corrigan, RAAF; Lieutenant (Lt) J. R. Keenan, RAN; Lt J. H. Mackie, AIF; Captain R. C. Cambridge, AIF; Sergeant (Sgt) G. McPhee, AIF; Corporal (Cpl) N. D. Thompson, AIF; Sgt T. R. Aitkin, AIF; Corporal (Cpl) E. D. Otton, AIF. (Naval Historical Collection) (Formerly Y007) AWM

The best-known Coastwatcher reference in the U.S. is Father Goose, the tale of Walter Ecklund, a boozy American beachcomber played by Cary Grant who is shanghaied into the program and later inherits a group of female students and their French schoolmarm. [Spoiler] Threatened by encroaching Japanese patrols, they are all saved at the last minute by an American submarine (we are getting to that later).

Besides operating the teleradio “tip line” that allowed the Cactus Air Force and Halsey’s South Pacific command to repeatedly jump incoming waves of Japanese aircraft and tin cans of The Tokyo Express coming down The Slot, the Coastwatchers shepherded downed Allied aircrews and shipwreck survivors.

Amazingly, some 165 crew of the St. Louis-class light cruiser USS Helena (CL-50) lost at the Battle of Kula Gulf, 6 July 1943, were rescued and cared for by Coastwatchers Henry Josselyn and Robert Firth along with Methodist Missionary Rev. A.W.E. Silvester and the natives of Vella LaVella until they could be picked up by a fast destroyer convoy under the cover of night.

Lt. (JG) John F. Kennedy, and the survivors of PT-109, sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer, were saved by native Coastwatchers Biaku Gasa, Eroni Kumana and Reginald Evans.

The Coastwatchers also actively fought on occasion, disappearing Japanese patrols that stumbled across them, vowing to kill every man lest they be betrayed, always making sure to bring the captured guns and munitions back.

New Georgia, Solomon Islands. 1943-03. Part of the Coastwatchers arsenal of the United States and captured Japanese weapons held by Captain D.G. Kennedy, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force at his Segi (Zgj5) Station. The weapons include a quantity of Springfield M1903 Rifles, leaning against the wall, two Japanese Type 92 heavy machine guns (Woodpeckers) on stands, a Browning M1919A4 .30 caliber air-cooled medium machine gun on its tripod and two Browning M1917A1 .30 caliber water-cooled medium machine guns leaning against the wall. (Naval Historical Collection) (Formerly Y082) AWM

A few Japanese were taken alive and, with captured airmen of the Emperor, guarded and shipped out to Australia.

An armed guard of native scouts trained and commanded by Captain D.G. Kennedy escorts a captured Japanese pilot into captivity at the Segi coastwatchers station on New Georgia in March 1943

That’s where PBYs and submarines came in, frequently landing new coast watching teams, as well as evacuating recovered Allied sailors and airmen, and EPOWs.

The ill-fated team of Coastwatchers on the U.S. Submarine DACE, about to be landed at night on the beach near Hollandia, New Guinea. They were ambushed, and all killed shortly after landing. Back Row: Private (Pte) Phil Jeune, Lieutenant (Lt) Ray Webber, Captain G.C. (Blue) Harris, Pte Jack Bunning, Gregory Shortis, Sergeant (Sgt) Launcelot (NEI Interpreter), Sgt Ron (Percy) Cream (Developed Malaria and Stayed on Board); Front Row: Private Mariba, Sgt Yali, Able Seaman Julius McNicol,DSM, Sgt Buka, Sgt Mas. (Donor J. Shortis) (Another Copy, From the Naval Historical Collection, Formerly at Y014/02/02)

One such Coastwatcher was the ‘overage, undersized, slightly deaf, a bit shortsighted’ Sub. Lieut Paul Mason, RANVR:

This guy. The long-running joke is that the reserves used wavy lines for sleeve rank as the upstanding men who served on the list did not want anyone to make the dreadful mistake that the Navy was their full-time job! As for Mason, he originally was enlisted as a petty officer and later elevated to sub-lieutenant.

Based on Malaita Hill near the southern coast of Bougainville, Mason had been in the Solomons most of his life. Described by Walter Lord in his book on the Coastwatchers entitled Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons, the author wrote that “At first glance, Paul Mason looked like a bank clerk who had somehow strayed into the jungle. He was small; his mild blue eyes seemed to abhor violence, and he had a self-effacing diffidence that would seem far more appropriate in an office than in the bush.”

However, Mason was famous for his exploits on Bougainville, spending 17 months calling in Japanese bomber raids headed towards the Allies– at times giving them as much as two hours’ warning– while remaining one step ahead of the Japanese. Dealing with the double-crosses and betrayal, he narrowly avoided Japanese troops hunting for him, becoming a pied piper for still-loyal Solomans native police, Chinese refugees, Australian commandos in the area, and even other Coastwatchers– Jack Keenan, Eric Robinson, and Jack McPhee– chased out of their areas.

Needing emergency evac, Guardfish was sent in to collect Mason’s group at Atsinima Bay on the evening of 24 July 1943. Inching close into the bay with pre-1914 German charts, Guardfish surfaced at dark and inflated eight rubber boats, sending the rescue craft ashore.

From Lonely Vigil:

On the beach, the evacuees watched with mounting excitement as the little flotilla shot the breakers and spun ashore. In half an hour the first boats were loaded and, on their way, out again. Now they were even harder to row and one capsized in the surf. Righting it the men clamored back in, grunting and cursing but with no loss except an officer’s cap that floated away in the night.

On the Guardfish, [Lt.Cdr. Norvell Gardner] “Bub” Ward watched incredulously as the motley collection of Australians, Chinese, natives, men, women, and children swarmed aboard. “We gathered a bit more of a crowd than we’d anticipated,” Paul Mason explained, adding apologetically, “There are still some more on the beach.” When the submarine finally headed to sea, a total of 62 evacuees were jammed aboard.

On 28 July, Guardfish swooped in and picked up another 22 Coastwatchers, natives, police and scouts from a coastal plantation at Kuuna.

Later, squeezing in a couple more war patrols, Guardfish found time to sink the Japanese transport ships Suzuya Maru and Kashu Maru before 1943 was up.

Then, on 27 October, in the conclusion of the Coastwatchers’ war she landed two U.S. Marine officers, six Coastwatchers– including three that she had picked up in July– and 40 Bougainville native scouts near the mouth of the Laruma River close to Cape Torokina, returning them to the same island they had been chased from so they could again work against the Japanese, providing crucial intelligence for the landing at Empress Augusta Bay in November.

As for Mason, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

Mason’s unexpected return in November 1944 impressed locals, wavering in their opposition to the Japanese, with his possible indestructibility. He recruited a small partisan band which terrorized the enemy and was credited with a record body count of 2,288. Always he put his scouts’ welfare before his own. His daring rescues were notable for the care taken of former prisoners, especially missionaries, and the lack of vindictiveness towards collaborators. His continued wrangling with headquarters over supplies and the deficiencies of regular soldiers probably led to his transfer home in May 1945 before final victory.

Mason received a DSC for his efforts. He later died in 1972.

Back to Guardfish.

Her role with the Coastwatchers over, she continued her war, sinking the Japanese destroyer Umikaze off the southern entrance to Truk Atoll in 1944, and at least five other Japanese merchant ships, earning her second nod from the President for her 8th Patrol.

Sadly, she also claimed the Anchor-class salvage ship USS Extractor (ARS-15) in January 1945 in a case of mistaken identity while on her 10th patrol, though DANFS points out that “Guardfish succeeded in rescuing all but 6 of her crew of 79 from the sea.”

Guardfish finished the war on lifeguard duties, picking up two downed aviators off Saipan in March 1945.

Guardfish at the close of the war. Photo courtesy of David “Hutch” Hutchinson, MOMM 1st Class, SS 217 via Paul S. Hobbs, Submarine Veteran ET1 (SS), Thomas Jefferson SBN 618. Via Navsource

Decommissioned at New London on 25 May 1946, two years later Guardfish was one of 28 Gatos preserved as pierside trainers (sans propellers) for Naval Reserve personnel to hold their weekend drills, the last service of this great class. She continued in this role until struck from the Navy List 1 June 1960.

USS GUARDFISH (SS-217) Serving as naval reserve training submarine at New London, Connecticut, circa the 1950s. Courtesy of D. M. McPherson, 1974 Catalog #: NH 81356

USS Dogfish (SS-350) and USS Blenny (SS-324) sank her with the newly-developed Mk-45 torpedoes off New London 10 October 1961.

She was commemorated in an episode of The Silent Service, with her Presidential Unit Citation-winning Honshu patrol the subject of the dramatized short, that includes a horse story.

Other Gatos lived on, although an amazing 20 were lost in the Pacific during WWII. The last two Gato-class boats active in the US Navy were USS Rock (SS-274) and Bashaw (SS-241), which were both decommissioned on 13 September 1969 and sold for scrap. Nine went to overseas allies with the last, USS Guitarro (SS-363) serving the Turkish Navy as TCG Preveze (S 340) in one form or another until 1983.

A full half-dozen Gatos are preserved in the U.S. so please visit them when you can:

USS Cavalla is at Seawolf Park near Galveston, Texas
USS Cobia is at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin
USS Cod is on display in Cleveland
USS Croaker is on display in Buffalo, New York
USS Drum is on display on shore at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama
USS Silversides is on display in Muskegon, Michigan

In 1965, the Navy launched a second Guardfish, SSN-612, a Thresher-class nuclear submarine commissioned the next year that remained in service until 1992. A crew reunion group exists for this boat, the last to carry the name.

Specs:


Displacement:
1,525 long tons (1,549 t) surfaced
2,424 long tons (2,463 t) submerged
Length: 311 ft 9 in
Beam: 27 ft 3 in
Draft: 17 ft maximum
Propulsion:
4 × General Motors Model 16-248 V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries
4 × high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears
two propellers
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced
2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged
Speed:
21 knots (39 km/h) surfaced
9 kn (17 km/h) submerged
Range: 11,000 nautical miles surfaced at 10 kn
Endurance:
48 hours at 2 kn submerged
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 300 ft
Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted (plus up to 62 evacuees!)
Armament:
10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, 6 forward, 4 aft
24 torpedoes
1 × 3-inch (76 mm) / 50 caliber deck gun
Two each, .50-caliber and .30-caliber machine guns

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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

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

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Swagger in Indochina

If this isn’t Diên Biên Phu aesthetic, I just don’t know what is.

Capt. Bernard Cabiro, commander of the 4th company of 1st BEP (French Foreign Legion) is smoking a Gauloise cigarette and carrying a German Luger P08 he picked up in 1944. Also, note the WWII U.S. Army Signal Corps-approved SCR 536 “handie talkie” which had a range of about a heavy whisper and the U.S. M1 helmet and liner, which also makes a good wash basin.

Original Fr. caption: Au nord de Diên Biên Phu, sur la piste “Pavie”, le capitaine Cabiro, commandant la 4e compagnie du 1er BEP (Bataillon Etranger de Parachutistes) avec un émetteur-récepteur SCR 536 à l’épaule et son pistolet allemand Luger P 08 au ceinturon.

Just barely 17 when WWII started, Cabrio snuck out of occupied France and joined the 8e régiment de tirailleurs Marocains in North Africa in 1943 and fought with the Free French up the boot of Italy through 1944 and 45, finishing the conflict as an NCO with three Croix de guerres and an appointment to the French version of OCS at Cherchell. By 1946, he was in the Legion in Indochina as a sub-lieutenant in the 2e REI and by 1949 was in the Legion’s first paratrooper units.

The above image dates from around November 1953 when his battalion was dropped on Dien Bien Phu as reinforcements. Acting as a sort of fire brigade, his guys were in the thick of it for the next several months. Severely wounded in March 1954 he was evacuated out.

He spent the next two years in recovery in France and, a dozen surgeries later, returned to service in Algeria with 2e REP only to be drummed out in 1961 due to the smear of the Legion’s involvement in the putsch against De Gaulle over the withdrawal from North Africa.

His rank was later reinstated in 1974– on the reserve list– and, named a chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, he died in 1993 in Bordeaux.

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018: The last of the Royal Navy’s peculiar may bugs

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018: The last of the Royal Navy’s peculiar may bugs

Here we see the Insect-class of “China” or “Tigris” river gunboat HMS Cockchafer (P95, P83, T72) of the Royal Navy. The hardy gunboat would give long service and be both the last of her class and the last of four RN warships over two centuries to carry the name.

The dozen vessels of the Insect class, some 237-feet long and 635-tons displacement, were flat-bottomed ships designed by Yarrow to operate in shallow, fast-flowing rivers, with a shallow draft of just four feet and enough muscle (2,000IHP plant on Yarrow boilers and twin VTE engines and three rudders) to make 14 knots, thus capable of going upstream against the flow as needed. While ordered as a class in February 1915 for emergency war service in Europe (e.g. to fight on the Danube against Austrian river monitors), the consensus is that they would, after the Great War had wrapped up, see China service on the Yangtze and similar large waterways to protect the Crown’s interests in the often lawless region.

These guys: Two Austro-Hungarian river monitors of the Danube Flotilla, in 1916. The closer vessel is a Körös, a Kovess class monitor, while the other appears to be one of the ‘Sava’-class.

They were well-armed for such endeavors, with a BL 6-inch Mk VII naval gun forward and another one in the rear (to poke holes in said Austrian river monitors), a group of six modern Maxim water-cooled .303 machine guns in a central battery, and a couple of smaller QF Mk I 12-pounders.

According to the excellent site on these ships, maintained by Taylor Family Collection:

Their steel plating was thin by warship standards – only five-sixteenths of an inch amidships tapering to about one-eighth of an inch at the ends. The decks were strengthened in the vicinity of the main armament mountings with steel doublers three-eighths of an inch thick and a three quarter-inch steel doubler was also fitted on the sheer strake over the mid-ships section as extra stiffening. Beyond this they carried no armour and had no double bottoms unlike most ships.

That their armour was so minimal is not surprising given that these were essentially “kitset” ships specially designed to be broken down and reassembled. Heavy armour plating or additional construction “stiffening” was counterproductive. Active service with the Tigris Flotilla however resulted in rearming – a 2 – pounder pom-pom added, four of the .303 – inch maxim guns removed and a 3 – inch anti-aircraft gun installed in their place. All were fitted for towing kite balloons (to carry artillery observers). Initially sandbags were built up around the battery deck for protection of personnel, but later a 5 – foot shield made of ¼ inch chrome steel plate was built all around this deck as can be seen in the photos.

HMS Tarantula (1915); Fighting vessel; Gunboat; Shallow draught river gunboat
Read more at http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/67390.html#gRgFTCqgIPYgJP2e.99

All were named for insects (Mantis, Aphis, Scarab, Moth, Gnat, Bee, Cicala, Cricket, Tarantula, Glowworm and Ladybird) as befitting their role and, to speed up delivery, were ordered simultaneously from at least five different yards. The hero of our tale, Cockchafer, was one of four built at Barclay Curle, Glasgow, Scotland. The name, a common term for a particular may bug or doodlebug that was almost eradicated in the 20th Century has been around in the Royal Navy for a long time before these emergency gunboats.

This guy.

The first HMS Cockchafer was a 5-gun schooner– previously the American schooner Spencer— captured during the War of 1812 and put to good service by the Brits.

Watercolor by Warren showing the May 1814 engagement by the British schooner HMS COCKCHAFER, 5 guns (1 long 12-pounder and 4 12-pounder carronades) and 22 men, Lieutenant George Jackson, cruising off the Chesapeake, against the American letter-of-marque JAVA, 8 long 9-pounders and 22 men, which Jackson captured. USN 902808

Then came two other purpose-built gunboats of the Albacore-class and Banterer-class, respectively, that carried the Cockchafer name for the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

While most of the Insect-class were sent to the Med or to fight the Ottomans in Mesopotamia on the Euphrates when completed in 1916, Cicala, Cockchafer, Cricket and Glowworm instead were assigned to defensive duties in British Home waters, remaining there quietly through the Great War.

HMS COCKCHAFER (FL 22629) Underway in the company of HMS CRICKET, HMS GLOWWORM, AND HMS CICALA. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205121724

Cicala was based at Hull, Cockchafer at Brightlingsea, Cricket at Norfolk ports and Glowworm at Lowestoft. Their two 12-pdrs swapped out for QF 3-inch 20 cwt anti-aircraft guns, they were deployed in the air defense of Britain against German bombers and Zeppelin raids.

An Insect-class gunboat with shells exploding overhead by William Lionel Wyllie via National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Read more at http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/114226.html#Q1C9LuTkg7wCMhHa.99

Then, in late 1918, the four gunboats, along with monitors M.23 & M.25, sailed to Russia as part of the North Russian Expeditionary Force in the Murmansk-Archangel area lead by White Russian Gen. EK Miller. As part of this expedition, they penetrated the Northern Dvina river, where both Glowworm and Cockchafer were severely damaged due to an ammunition barge explosion in May 1919.

Postcard & caption – Dvina River Flotilla, Bolshevik Campaign, 1919 (Left to Right) “Hyderabad”, “Humber”, “Cicala”, Seaplane Barge, M.31. (c Abraham 1241) Reverse handwritten note – 375 Versts up the River Dvina, N Russia, Aug 1919 off Troitsa Via WWI At Sea http://www.worldwar1atsea.net/WW1z05NorthRussia.htm#10

This service soon over as the British withdrew from the region, in January 1920, Cricket, Cockchafer, Moth, Mantis, and Cicala (Glowworm was scrapped due to her Russian damage) all set out as a group for China.

HMS Cockchafer on passage from England to Shanghai January to July 1920

Our subject was soon settling in on the Yangtze River where she became hotly involved in the so-called Wanhsien Incident in 1926 against local warlords.

HMS Cockchafer at Hong Kong. Note her extensive awnings she would carry for her 30+ years of China service. Via Australian Naval Historical Society

As noted by the December 1984 edition of the (Australian) Naval Historical Review:

Typically, these gunboats…carried two officers and sometimes a doctor; six or seven petty officers and leading seamen, plus 17 able seamen. The remainder of the 50-odd souls aboard were Chinese servants, cooks, seamen, and black gang. Obviously, British ability to mount a landing force fell well below the capabilities of the ‘new six’ US gunboats, with their 4 line officers, doctor, and about 50 US enlisted. However, the British POs enjoyed more responsibility and authority than the American, as all RN officers could be off the ship at the same time.

Still in Chinese waters in 1939, the Brits transferred Cockchafer (minus her local auxiliaries) to the East Indies Squadron where, in June 1941, she took part in operations in the Persian Gulf in support of landings at Basra.

Bandar Shapur, Iran, 1941-08. HMS Kanimbla, manned by an Australian crew, bows on with the following vessels alongside, L To R:- Two Anglo-Iranian Oil Company tugs, HMS Arthur Cavanagh (trawler), HMS Snapdragon (corvette) And HMS Cockchafer (river gunboat). AWM 134371

Transferred to the Mediterranean in 1943 after the Persian Gulf was well in hand, Cockchafer took part in support of assault landings in Sicily (Operation Husky) and remained in the theatre until late 1944 when it was decided she head back to the Far East, sailing for Trincomalee and the Burma Theatre. Returning to Singapore after VJ Day, she was paid off and put in reserve until being sold locally for breaking up in 1949.

As such, Cockchafer had a better WWII experience than most of her class. Ladybird was sunk at Tobruk by German aircraft in 1941. Gnat was effectively knocked out of action by U79 at Bardia the same year. Cricket was lost off Cyprus in 1944. In the Pacific, Cicala was sunk by Japanese aircraft just before Christmas 1941 at Hong Kong only days after Moth was scuttled by own crew to avoid a similar fate. The Japanese later salvaged Moth, repaired her and, commissioned as Suma, was mined on the Yantzee in 1945. Besides Cockchafer, only sisters Aphis and Tarantula were still in active RN service on VJ Day, and they were soon disposed of.

The last of her class, Cockchafer is remembered in maritime art by Tony Bryan, being featured as she was in 1926 at Wanhsien on the cover of the 2011 Osprey book Yangtze River Gunboats 1900–49.

Specs:

Displacement:625 long tons
Length: 237.5 ft
Beam: 36 ft
Draught: 4 ft
Propulsion:2 shaft VTE engines, 2 Yarrow type mixed firing boilers 2000 IHP, 35 tons coal + 54 tons oil
Speed: 14 knots
Complement: 54-65
Armament:
(1916)
2 × BL 6-inch Mk VII guns
2 × QF 3-inch 20 cwt
6 × .303-cal Maxim machine guns
(1945)
2 x QF 6 inch /40 naval gun,
2 x 1 – 76/45 Mk II
2 x 1 – 40/39 Mk VIII

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Before the P-40 was a thing, there was the rare and beautiful Hawk

Via the Fighter Collection

Most are familiar with the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk/Kittyhawk, the classic shark-mouthed single-seat fighter of early WWII that flew to eternal fame with the Flying Tigers in China. However, more than 1,100 Mohawk/Hawk 75/P-36 aircraft, which look very similar but aren’t, were made in the late 1930s.

Curtiss P-36 in the pre-war USAAF clothes

They saw lots of service in the war from India to Finland (Finnish ace Kyösti Karhila scored 12¼ of his 32¼ victories in the Hawk) and Sumatra to Northern France. Postwar, they flew in Latin America through the 1950s.

One of the very last airworthy H-75s is owned by the Fighter Collection in Duxford. One of some 300 airframes ordered by France before the war, arriving in Europe in 1940. The plane’s squadron later tangled with RAF and USN aircraft over Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco in 1942 and survived to tell the tale, later being recovered in storage in 1995.

It flies today with Armée de l’Air standard three-tone scheme, with her Groupe de Combat 11/5 markings on her port, and the Lafayette Escadrille Sioux Indian head motif.

Farewell, Combat Assault Battalion

Founded 16 February 1942, the Camp Schwab, Okinawa-based Combat Assault Battalion is being phased out. Attached to the 3rd MARDIV, the “Iron Fist” operates the division’s amtracs, LAV-25 recon vehicles, and specialist engineering vehicles and is the only battalion-sized combat assault unit in the Marine Corps.

This:

After 76 years of conducting amphibious assaults, light armored reconnaissance, and combat engineer operations, CAB is set to deactivate 12 October 2018.

Formed originally as the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, they became the 1st Tracked Vehicle Battalion in 1976, the 1st Armored Assault Battalion in 1988, and finally the CAB in 1994. It is one of the most storied outfits in Marine history with unit awards for Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Finschhafen, New Britain, Okinawa, The Pusan Perimeter, Inchon-Seoul, Chosin Reservoir, Da Nang, Cua Viet, the Gulf War and the War on Terrorism.

Her elements are to be scattered to the rest of the 3d Marine Division.

The unit’s motto, Sui Generis, is akin to one-of-a-kind.

Warship Wednesday, Sept, 26, 2018: Sideroxylon lanuginosum, everlasting

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

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018: Sideroxylon lanuginosum, everlasting

USCG photo by MILLER, LAIMAN B. LTJG.

Here we see the Mesquite-class buoy tender USCGC Ironwood (WAGL/WLB-297) in the summer of 1996 in Alaskan waters offloading equipment for maintenance on Eldred Rock Lighthouse. A product of WWII, she would over a half-century in U.S. maritime service and is, remarkably, still ticking in the Pacific Northwest.

In 1916 the Revenue Cutter Service and Lifesaving Service were merged to form the Coast Guard, to which the Bureau of Lighthouses was added on 1 July 1939 and as such all U.S. lighthouses, tenders, and lightships became USCG installations and ships. The thing is, the lighthouse and buoy tender fleet was a hodgepodge of antiquated single-use vessels to which the Bureau had been looking to replace with a new series of 177-foot lighthouse tenders modeled after the USLHT Juniper, the last vessel designed by the Bureau.

Taking these plans, the Coast Guard made some changes and produced a 180-foot/950-ton single-screw steel-hulled ship that incorporated some new features that the USLHS never needed (an ice-strengthened bow, search and rescue equipment and mission, allowance for armament, et.al). The first of these, USCGC Cactus (WAGL-270) was appropriated for $782,381 on 20 Jan 1941 and laid down at Marine Iron & Shipbuilding Corporation, Duluth, MN on 31 March.

Almost all of these hardy ships were built either at Marine or at Zenith Dredge Company very rapidly in three subclasses: the “A” or “Cactus” class, “B” or “Mesquite” class, and “C” or “Iris” class (with all named for trees and bushes). All ships of the three subclasses have the same general characteristics, but with slight differences, (e.g. the “A/Cactus” class tenders may be differentiated from the other two classes of 180-foot tenders by their unique “A” frame main boom support forward and their large 30,000 gal fuel tanks that allowed an economical 17,000nm cruising range on their gentle diesel suite.) The last to come off the ways was USCGC Woodbrush (WAGL-407) which commissioned 22 Sept. 1944. The building process entailed an average of 192,018 hours of labor per vessel.

USCGC Basswood through the Straits of Mackinac- 12 May 1944, a good example of the “180s.” Note the 3″/50 behind her wheelhouse facing over the stern as well as her 20mm mounts. ASW weapons, firefighting gear, and buoy tending equipment were also shoehorned into these ships as well. Further, as shown above, they could break light ice, a feature that was to serve the units headed to the Pacific well!

Unlike the other 38 of the class that was built by contractors, the hero of our story, USCGC Ironwood, was laid down at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland and commissioned 275 days later on 4 August 1943 for a cost of $1,388,227 (note the difference from Cactus, above). She was the only vessel in active U.S. service named for the Sideroxylon lanuginosum, aka gum bully or ironwood, a small tree native to the Sun Belt and Midwest. According to the USCG’s office, in service, her crew nicknamed her “Ironbush” and “Ironweed” for her small size.

The Hughes Co., Photographers, Baltimore, Maryland 4 March 1943 Ironwood under construction at the U.S. Coast Guard shipyard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. Ironwood was the only 180 built by the U.S. Coast Guard. LOC HAER AK-44-1

Ironwood sailed for the War in the Pacific, arriving in Noumea, New Caledonia via Bora Bora and Pago Pago, in March 1944.

Ironwood in all of her WWII glory

She spent the next nine months in a busy but routine operation of keeping the 3rd Fleet’s vast anchorages up to snuff. This meant tending anti-torpedo nets and mooring buoys, establishing the new-fangled LORAN network, carrying cargo, mail, and servicemembers from island to island, and towing barges as needed– all while looking out for the possibility of Japanese mines, periscopes, and floatplanes on the horizon. She even came to the assistance of the stranded Liberty Ship SS John Lind.

Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

On 26 March1944 Ironwood left Noumea to assist SS John Lind grounded on a reef at 22 28 S, 166 36 E. Ironwood’s attempts to pull the vessel off being unsuccessful, she removed 65 Navy and Marine Corps personnel from the vessel on the 28th and transported them to Noumea on the next day. She remained until 2 April 1944 when she proceeded with Navy tugs USS Sioux and YT-463 to remove the reefed ship. In tandem with the tugs they successfully re-floated John Lind on 6 April.

In January 1945, she sailed for Guadalcanal’s Cape Esperance in the Solomons. There, she moved assisted in the recovery of a Japanese midget submarine. The 78-foot, 47-ton, two-man Type A Ko-hyoteki boat, was found in 30 feet of water and the cutter spent two weeks in the recovery operation as detailed by Combined Fleets:

4 January 1945:
US Coast Guard cutter IRONWOOD (W-297) begins operations to raise an unidentified Japanese two-man midget submarine from about 30 feet of water off Cape Esperance. Divers, working from a small boat, use a water pressure hose and crowbars to clear a space under the bow and stern of the submarine. By 9 Jan, a 1.5” chain sling is rigged around the bow of the midget submarine.

19 January 1945:
After retiring to Gavutu for ten days, IRONWOOD again anchors off Cape Esperance. By now, divers have completed rigging the submarine for lifting, connecting the chain around its bow and stern with a chain bridal.

20 January 1945 :
IRONWOOD is positioned alongside the sunken midget submarine. She lowers the main hoist over the starboard side and hooks it to the chain bridal. The cutter then raises the midget submarine to the surface and secures it alongside. IRONWOOD then tows it to Hutchinson’s Creek, Florida Island, Solomons. The next day, IRONWOOD moves to a new anchorage where the midget submarine is transferred to an unidentified USN crane barge.

Ironwood’s crew works to salvage a Japanese midget submarine found off Guadalcanal in 1945 LOC HAER AK-44-2

The identity of this 1945 salvaged midget submarine is unknown but is possibly HA-22 or HA-37. I can’t find out what happened to the craft but it was likely scrapped at some point. It is not one of the five Type A midgets preserved and on display currently (HA-8: Groton, Connecticut; HA-18: JMSDF Etajima Naval Base, Etajima, Japan; HA-19: Nimitz Museum, Fredericksburg, Texas; and HA-14/HA-21 at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra).

Ironwood went on to spend a solid year, from August 1945 to July 1946, in the Philippines reestablishing buoys and lighthouses and looking for pockets of Japanese holdouts.

Following her extended wartime service, she was stationed briefly in Monterey, California then returned to the South Pacific soon enough.

Between 19 November 1951 and 2 May 1954, Ironwood made four deployments to support Korean War operations, supplying and supporting radio stations in the region. As such, she was one of just 24 Coast Guard vessels that qualified for the Korean Service Medal.

Ironwood-1962. Note she still has her 3-inch gun aft. She would pick up her racing stripe a few years later.

In 1963, by that time stationed in Honolulu, she took some of the first scientists to return to the Marshall Islands after U.S. nuclear testing. As related by Capt. LeRoy Reinburg, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard-Retired, her skipper at the time, Ironwood spent almost two weeks inspecting radioactive and poorly charted Rongelap Atoll.

“In the course of our travels, we discovered nine uncharted islands and one large reef that bared at low tide. Dr. Held and I decided to assign names to these geographic features. The reef, appropriately, was named ‘Ironwood Reef,’” he noted.

During the mid-1960s, these boats were designated WLBs (buoy tenders) and saw all fixed armament landed in 1966, leaving them only their small arms lockers. If deployed for law enforcement missions or to war zones, 180s would be equipped with up to four Browning M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns or a similar number of M60 7.62mm GPMGs. Lacking its naval piece, the 3-inch Gun Tub served as a lookout perch and occasional storage area for small items including crew bicycles when traveling between ports. Lockers for life jackets and exposure survival suits were later located on this deck, which is encircled by a tubular steel railing.

During the Vietnam conflict, four USCG 180s were dispatched to Southeast Asia to perform aids-to-navigation support and assist with harbor defense and maintenance– Basswood (WLB-388), Blackhaw (WLB-390) Planetree (WLB-307, and, of course, Ironwood, the latter of which deployed there in July 1967.

Vietnamese lighthouse service personnel were assigned to temporary duty on board as they worked to reactivate and automate Vietnamese lighthouses and establish new U.S.-sponsored lights. While deploying work crews, machine gun teams would have to stand by in case they came under fire from passing sampans or the shore as VC constantly shot out navigational lights and sank buoys. Her crew also provided services to the local populace such as MEDCAPS.

Sometime around this period she even clocked in on NASA support duties, helping with recovering boilerplate space capsules in the rush to the moon.

She conducted a number of rescues over the years:

*8 January 1959 Ironwood assisted thegrounded sampan Bellatrix at Molokai Beach, HI.

*6 January 1962 Ironwood rescued the crew of FV Hiroshima Maru aground at 21 17 N, 157 51 W.

*23-25 May 1963 the cutter escorted the disabled MV Dianna to Honolulu, HI.

*18 February 1969 Ironwood towed the disabled FV Widgeon from Augustine Island to Homer, AK.

*April 1969 escorted the distressed tanker Yukon, which was holed by a submerged object in Cook Inlet.

*29 April 1969 the crew fought a fire on the Shell Oil drilling platform in Cook Inlet.

*26 December 1969 she hoisted the disabled FV Arctic Fox on board at MacArthur Cove and carried her to Seward, AK

Ironwood was later given a one-year major renovation (MAJREN) in 1974, envisioned at the time to keep her in service for another 15 years. This involved removing her Cooper-Bessemer inline 8-cylinder engines and rebuilding them, new electrical wiring, piping, and sewage handling systems. She picked up a bow thruster, all-new crew spaces, new cranes, ship heaters, reefers, the works.

After her refit, she was put to work on the Alaska beat, stationed at Kodiak, in all spending the last 26 years of her Coast Guard career in Alaskan waters. During this time she escorted Soviet fishing trawlers out of U.S. waters, participated in Naval exercises, towed disabled fishing vessels to port, medevac’d injured mariners, searched for missing planes– you know, typical Coast Guard stuff.

1979

Between 1979 and 1995, she earned six Coast Guard “E” ribbons. In 1981, she received the Coast Guard Unit Commendation. In both 1989 and 1999, she picked up Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendations for her duty in the frozen and dangerous Bering Sea, in particular assisting with the cleanup operations in Prince William Sound after the grounding of the Exxon Valdez.

At the time of her decommissioning, Ironwood was the second-oldest cutter in USCG service (only surpassed at the time by the medium endurance cutter Storis) and was the only remaining US vessel in service awarded the Korean Service Medal. Then, of course, there was her WWII service, nuke sniffing, assistance to the Space program and her Vietnam tour. She served 14 Commandants of the Coast Guard, 34 commanding officers and more than 1,200 crew members in the course of her half-million miles traveled.

Kodiak, Alaska (Oct. 6 2000)– The Coast Guard Cutter Ironwood sits alongside the pier in Kodiak on the morning of the ships decommissioning. USCG photo by PA1 Keith Alholm.

But her story doesn’t end there. The old girl, after 57 years of active duty, she was to be transferred to Nigeria but instead, in 2002, was presented to the Tongue Point Seamanship Academy in Oregon which uses her as a floating classroom to train new mariners in an 18-month program to find seagoing careers.

In 2014, the center threw a 70th anniversary for Ironwood.

Turning 75 years young last month, she is still sailing strong and looking good while doing it, regularly showing up in Portland for Fleet Week.

170607-N-ZP059-167 PORTLAND Ore., (June 7, 2017) – ex-USCGC Ironwood (WLB-297) arrives in Portland for Rose Festival Fleet Week. The festival and Portland Fleet Week are a celebration of the sea services with Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard Members from the U.S. and Canada making the city a port of call. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob G. Sisco/Released)

As for her sisterships, many have proven to be very long in the tooth:

*Balsam (WLB-62) was decommissioned 1975 and has been used as an Alaskan crab boat ever since. She is currently the F/V Baranof.

*Cactus (WLB-270) was seized in Kings County Washington as a derelict vessel in 2013 for dismantling.

*Cowslip (WLB-277), Firebush (WLB-393) and Sassafras (WLB-401) were transferred to Nigerian Navy 2002-2003 as NNS Nwamba, NNS Olepu and Obula respectively. All remain in service. Sedge (WLB-402) was also transferred for parts.

*Woodbine (WLB-289) was donated to be a training ship in Cleveland in 1972 and went on to be a fish processing boat in Alaska before being sold for scrap in 2012.

*Gentian (WLB-290) was transferred to Colombia as ARC San Andrés (PO-45) and is still active.

*Laurel (WLB-291) was sold at a GSA auction in 1999, ultimate fate unknown.

*Clover (WLB-292) and Evergreen (WLB-295) were decommissioned 1990 and sunk by the Navy as a targets.

*Sorrel (WLB-296) was decommissioned in 1996 and is used as SS Reliance operated by Sea Scout Ship #13 of Stockton, California, showing up in an episode of Dexter.

*Conifer (WLB-301) and Papaw (WLB-308) were decommissioned 2000 and 1999 respectively and was used for a number of years as F/V Hope and F/V Mersea, part of the disaster relief fleet of Friend Ships, but have since been removed from that organization.

*Madrona (WLB-302) transferred to El Salvador who used her as General Manuel José Arce and subsequently sunk her as a reef.

*Tupelo (WAGL/WLB-303) was decommissioned in 1975 and has spent the past 30 years as a Bering Sea fishing boat, FV Courageous.

*Mesquite (WLB-305) ran aground December 4, 1989 on a reef off the Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior while in Coast Guard service and was scuttled for underwater diving preserve.

*Buttonwood (WLB-306) was decommissioned 2001 and transferred to the Dominican Republic’s Navy as Almirante Didiez Burgos, still active. USCGC Citrus (WMEC-300), also endures there as Almirante Juan Alejandro Acosta (C-456/P301)

*Sweetgum (WLB-309) was transferred in 2002 to Panama as SMN Independencia (P401).

*Basswood (WLB-388), Blackhaw (WLB-390) and Mallow (WLB-396) were scrapped in 2000.

*Bittersweet (WLB-389) was decommissioned and transferred to Estonian Border Guard, 5 September 1997 who used her until 2014– she is retained as a museum ship.

*Blackthorn (WLB-391) sank in 1980 in a collision near the Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway Bridge, resulting in 23 crewmember fatalities. Raised, she was resunk as a reef.

*Bramble (WLB-392) was decommissioned 2003, and has been retained with a mixed degree of success as a museum ship in the Great Lakes.

*Hornbeam (WLB-394) was decommissioned 1999, and lost near Panama as M/V Rum Cay Grace in 2013.

*Iris (WLB-395) and Planetree (WLB-307) were decommissioned after helping with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1995 and 1999, repectviely, and sit in rusting quiet in the SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA mothballs fleet.

*Mariposa (WLB-397) was decommissioned in 2000 but has been retained by the Navy as a hulk until 2009 and has been spotted in the Seattle area since then.

*Redbud (WLB-398) was transferred to the Philippines as Kalinga (AG-89) in 1972.

*Sagebrush (WLB-399) was scuttled off St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia on 28 April 1988.

*Salvia (WLB-400) was decommissioned 1991 and used as a salvage operations training vessel for U.S. Navy at Little Creek.

*Spar (WLB-403) was decommed 1997 and sunk as a reef in 2004.

*Sundew (WLB-404) was decommissioned 2004, used as a museum for a while, then sold to private interests in 2010.

*Acacia (WLB-406), the last 180 in Coast Guard service, was decommissioned 2006 after 63 years of service and is now a museum in Manistee, Michigan.

*Woodrush (WLB-407) and Sweetbrier (WLB-405) were transferred to Ghana in 2001 where she still serves as GNS Anzone (P30) and GNS Bonsu (P31) respectively, which means “shark” and “whale” in the native lingo.

For interior pics, the LOC has a great series of images from the Planetree, a Mesquite subclass sister.

Specs:

Displacement: 935 fl (1944); 1,026 fl (1966); 700 light (1966)
Length: 180-feet oa
Beam: 37 feet mb
Draft: 12 ft. max (1944); 14′ 7″ (1966)
Propulsion: 1 electric motor connected to 2 Westinghouse generators driven by 2 Cooper-Bessemer-type GND-8, 4-cycle diesels; single screw
Top speed: 13.0 kts sustained (1945); 11.9 kts sustained (1966). 28,000 gals diesel
Economic speed: 8.3 kts (1945); 8.5 kts (1966)
Complement:
6 Officers, 74 men (1944);
5 Officers, 2 warrants, 41 men (1966)
Electronics:
Radar: Bk (1943); SLa-1 (1945), SPS-64(V) 1979
Sonar: WEA-2 (1945-66)
Armament:
(1944)
1-3″/50 (single), 4-20mm/80 (single), 2 depth charge tracks, 2 Mousetraps, 4 Y-guns
(1966-2000)
Small arms

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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

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

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

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Meccanica Mekaniikka Mecanică

The Mechanix of Auto, Aviation, Military...pert near anything I feel relates to mechanical things, places, events or whatever I happen to like. Even non-mechanical artsy-fartsy stuff.

Eatgrueldog

Where misinformation stops and you are force fed the truth III

The LBM Blogger

Make Big Noise

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