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Last Arizona Vet, arriving via Mark V

The ashes of Lauren Bruner, a survivor of the 7 December 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu, be placed inside the wreckage of the USS Arizona (BB-39) in an interment ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial on Oahu, Hawaii, Dec. 8. Bruner is the 44th and expected to be the last, crew member to be interred in accordance with this U.S. Navy ritual.

As noted by the AP, 

“On Dec. 7, 1941, then-21-year-old Lauren Bruner was the second-to-last man to escape the burning wreckage of the USS Arizona after a Japanese plane dropped a bomb that ignited an enormous explosion in the battleship’s ammunition storage compartment.

He lived to be 98 years old, marrying twice and outliving both wives. He worked for a refrigeration company for nearly four decades.”

The last three living Arizona survivors plan to be laid to rest with their families, but Bruner decided to rejoin his old friends.

The dive was accomplished by U.S. Navy divers and Army personnel of the 84th Engineer Battalion’ s 7th Dive det– the latter of which have been training this last week to use two spun copper Mark V dive helmets and matching suits in the ceremony.

Radar Plot from Station Opana

Radar Plot from Station Opana, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii December 7, 1941. NARA 2600930

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers staged a surprise attack on U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor Hawaii. In less than three hours, the United States suffered more than 2,400 casualties and loss of or severe damage to 188 airplanes and 8 battleships. At one station, Army privates were running the radar and at 7:02 a.m., a large white blip appeared. The privates marked this activity and the continuing movements of incoming planes. Pvt. Joseph Lockard reported this to the Information Center, but a group of American B-17s were due to arrive that day from San Francisco, and Lockard was told to forget about what he saw.

It was only after arrival at camp that they received word that at 7:55 a.m. the Japanese had begun dropping bombs on Pearl Harbor. They realized that the planes they had been tracking on the radar plot were not American, but the Japanese attacking force. They had witnessed the start of World War II for America, but they hadn’t realized it.

(Text adapted from “Congress Investigates: Pearl Harbor and 9/11 Congressional Hearing Exhibits” in the September 2011 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) publication Social Education)

A Handgun That Saw Hell

On 7 December 1941, the Mahan-class destroyer USS Shaw (DD-373) was in the old New Orleans YFD2 drydock at the Pearl Harbor Naval Yard. Soon after the Japanese attack began, she suffered three direct hits by 500-pound bombs and two more that landed inside the dock itself. Within 20 minutes, the resulting inferno, fueled by wooden shoring and blocks under her hull, reached her forward magazine.

The resulting spectacular explosion, caught on cameras across at Ford Island, blew Shaw’s bow off and filled the holed dock with  water and blazing fuel oil.

USS SHAW exploding Pearl Harbor. NARA 80-G-16871

In the days after the attack, a civilian employee at PHNY found a battered and burned Colt M1911 transitional model on the deck of YFD2 that remained above water. Besides Shaw’s 1936-dated bell which is at the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington, the pistol is part of the destroyer’s legacy and remains at Pearl today.

(NPS)

More in my column at Guns.com.

P-38 101

I’ve always had a soft spot for P-38s (the guns, not the can openers, as I find the longer P-51 type a much better form of the latter and don’t even get me into the P-38 Lightning) since I was a kid.

With that, I had the great opportunity recently while in the GDC Vault to find examples made by all three WWII makers– Walther, Spreewerk, and Mauser– as well as some Cold War-era West German Ulm-marked guns.

There you go…

For insights into how to tell them apart and what to look for, check out my column at Guns.com. https://www.guns.com/news/2019/12/04/the-world-of-german-p-38s-walther-mauser-spreewerk-and-otherwise

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019: The Other Tora of Pearl Harbor

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019: The Other Tora of Pearl Harbor

U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office

Here we see the 125-foot Active-class patrol craft USCGC Tiger (WPC-152) in 1928 during Prohibition. One of a class of 35 so-called “Buck and a Quarter” cutters rushed into completion to deal with rumrunners, these choppy little gunboats were designed to serve as subchasers in time of war and Tiger would be there the moment the balloon went up over Pearl Harbor.

These cutters were intended for trailing the slow, booze-hauling mother ship steamers of “Rum Row” along the outer line of patrol during Prohibition. Constructed for $63,173 each, they originally had a pair of 6-cylinder 150hp Superior or Winton diesel engines that allowed them a stately speed of 10 knots, max, but allowed a 4,000nm, theoretically Atlantic-crossing range– an outstanding benefit for such a small craft.

For armament, they carried a single 3″/23 cal deck gun for warning shots– dated even for the 1920s– as well as a small arms locker that included everything from Tommy guns to .38s. In a time of conflict, they could tote listening gear and depth charge racks left over from the Great War, but we’ll get to that later.

Taking advantage of one big contract issued on 26 May 1926, they were all built within 12 months by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey (although often listed as “American Brown Boveri” due to their owners at the time, the Swiss Brown Boveri corporation).

Named like the rest of the class in honor of former historic cutters, our craft recycled the moniker only used previously by the Civil War-era 100-foot steam tug Tiger which had been bought in 1861 for $9,000 from the Patapsco Steam Co. by the Revenue Marine Service– forerunner of the Coast Guard– and used to patrol Chesapeake Bay and the approaches to New York City alternatively during the conflict, boarding “with revolvers” as many as 20 craft a day in search of contraband and rebel blockade runners.

The brand-new USCGC Tiger was NYSB Hull No. 346 and was completed on 29 April 1927. Placed in commission on 3 May, she operated out of Coast Guard Base Two at Stapleton, New York, hitting Rum Row with a vengeance in the closing days of the war on illegal liquor. As the Volstead Act was repealed, she transferred to Norfolk, Virginia, for more traditional coastal SAR and fisheries patrol work, arriving there on 6 June 1933.

Durable for their size, Tiger and her sisters were well-liked by their crews and would go on to soldier on for several more decades. Constructed with 3×3 Douglas fir frames on a steel hull, they gained a reputation for being solid ships but were considered too slow (go figure) and were subsequently re-engined in the late 1930s with their original 6-cylinder diesels replaced by more powerful 8-cylinder units on the same beds that gave the vessels three additional knots or so. This left them with a changed profile, as they picked up a large (for their size) stack just behind the wheelhouse.

The 125 foot cutter Dexter, post-conversion. Note the stack.

By 1940, Tiger was assigned to the Hawaii Territory along with her sister Reliance (WPC-150), where they soon picked up depth charges, Lewis guns, and grey paint from the Navy. Such equipped, the class was redesignated as Coast Guard submarine chasers (WSC). The Coast Guard was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Navy Department on 1 November 1941, making the lead-up to WWII official.

Speaking of lead up, both Tiger and Reliance, along with the 327-foot cutter Taney (WPG-37) were assigned to the Navy’s Inshore Patrol Command under CDR John Wooley along with four old destroyers and four minesweepers. This group was tasked by Pacific Fleet boss ADM Husband E. Kimmel to patrol the shoreline around Pearl Harbor and keep an eye peeled for both spies and saboteurs as well as strange periscopes.

That brings us to the morning of 7 December 1941.

On patrol off Oahu that morning, Tiger, under the command of CWO William J. Mazzoni, received a flash from the destroyer USS Ward, a fellow member of the Inshore Patrol Command, around 0645 claiming destruction of an unidentified submarine trying to come through the nets into Pearl– one it had been searching for since 0357 after it had been reportedly spotted by the minesweeper Condor. Said periscope turned out to be one of the series of Japanese midget subs sent to attack Battleship Row at the beginning of the air assault.

USS Ward, The First Shot, by Tom Freeman

The Japanese Striking Force had five Type A midget submarines for the attack, which were transported on larger Type I submarines. These submarines were launched the night before the attack. USS Ward (DD-139) spotted one of the submarines trying to enter the harbor before dawn and was sunk.

This put Tiger on alert and she soon made ready for a real-live shooting war.

At 0720, just after passing the Barber’s Point buoy, Tiger’s WWI-era listening gear picked up a contact now believed by some to be Japanese midget submarine HA-19, a two-man Type A boat that was bumping around off reefs with a broken compass.

At 0753, as the first wave of 183 armed Japanese carrier planes swung around Barber’s Point, allowing a view into Pearl Harbor and the seven slumbering dreadnoughts below, CDR Mitsuo Fuchida ordered the radioman in his Kate torpedo bomber to tap out the later-infamous “Tora, Tora, Tora” (tiger, tiger, tiger) signal, the code words back to the Japanese fleet that the inbound airstrike had caught the Americans unaware.

While still looking unsuccessfully for subs, right around 0800, Tiger started receiving fire that fell within 100 yards of her, with Mazzoni radioing Pearl that he saw Japanese warplanes inbound overhead.

Author James C. Bunch, in his 1994 work Coast Guard Combat Veterans: Semper Paratus, says that “USCGC Tiger (WSC-152) was, by a few seconds, the first U.S. vessel to be fired upon in Pearl Harbor.”

Suffering no casualties from their early interactions with the Emperor’s submariners or aircrew, Tiger also inflicted no damage on the Japanese that day, being out of range of the carnage going on the harbor. Nonetheless, she did come under ineffective fire later that day from U.S. Army shore batteries that were amped up and loaded for bear.

The next day, HA-19 was recovered, aground on Waimanalo Beach in eastern Oahu. Manned by ENS Kazuo Sakamaki and CWO Kiyoshi Inagaki, the midget submarine had depleted its batteries on the evening of 7 December and was abandoned. Its scuttling charge failed, Sakamaki became the only Japanese serviceman captured in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Inagaki’s body was recovered later.

(Japanese Type A midget submarine) Beached in eastern Oahu, after it unsuccessfully attempted to enter Pearl Harbor during the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack. The photograph was taken on or shortly after 8 December 1941. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. : 80-G-32680

Surviving her baptism of fire, Tiger would still be very busy throughout December on the search for Japanese submarines off Hawaii, which at the time were running wild in the area. Sadly, this meant picking up the pieces left in their wake.

On 21 December, Tiger arrived at Kahului, Maui, with the 30 survivors of the sunken Matson Navigation Co. steamer SS Lahaina (5645grt). The waterlogged mariners had nine days earlier fallen prey to the Japanese submarine I-9 under CDR Akiyoshi Fujii, who had sunk her in a prolonged surface action 700 miles NE of Oahu. During their wait for rescue two of the crew had committed suicide by jumping from their overcrowded lifeboat while another two died of exposure.

It would not be the only time Tiger performed such a vital mission.

On 28 December, Tiger rescued one of the two lifeboats of the Matson steamer SS Manini (3545grt) which had been torpedoed and sunk 11 days prior by I-75/I-175 (CDR Inoue) while en route from Hawaii to San Francisco. The previous day, the cutter had picked up 13 men and the first officer of the Lykes steamer SS Prusa (5113grt) which had been torpedoed and sent to the bottom by I-172 (CDR Togami) on 16 December.

Tiger remained based out of Honolulu for the duration of the war on local patrol and antisubmarine duties in the Hawaiian Sea Frontier.

Tiger received one battle star for her wartime service.

By the end of the war, Tiger, like her sisters, had been fitted with both radar and sonar as well as upgrading their 3″/23 hood ornament for a more functional 40mm/60 Bofors single, their Lewis guns for 20mm/80s, and augmenting their depth charges with Mouse Trap ASW rocket devices.

The somewhat incorrect Jane’s listing for the class in 1946, showing a prewar image and listing their 1939 armament.

Decommissioned 12 November 1947, Tiger was sold 14 June 1948.

As for the rest of the Active-class cutters, they served during the war, and two, Jackson (WSC-142) and Bedloe (WSC-128), were heroically lost in the 14 September 1944 hurricane off Cape Hatteras while aiding a torpedoed tanker.

These pint-sized warships were regular players on the frozen Greenland Patrol fighting the Germans in the “Weather War,” served as guard ships in places as diverse as Curacao and the Aleutians, were credited with at least one submarine kill, and performed air-sea rescue duties. Ten were refitted as buoy/net tenders during the war and reverted to patrol work afterward while two served as training ships.

Coast Guard Cutter Cuyahoga ready to depart from the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Md., Feb. 11, 1945. U.S. Coast Guard photo. Note her 40mm Bofors crowding her bow.

While some, like Tiger, were disposed of in the late 1940s, others remained in USCG service into the 1960s and 1970s.

Boston: “125 ft CGC cutter LEGARE (WSC-144) which fought 20-40 foot waves to take a 79-foot fishing vessel MARMAX in tow, is now proceeding to her home port, New Bedford”

The last example in commission, USCGC Cuyahoga (WPC/WSC/WIX-157), was tragically lost in 1978 in a collision while working as the OCS training ship at Yorktown.

Photo of Cuyahoga in the 1970s in its role as an Officer Candidate School training vessel, in white livery with the now-traditional racing stripe. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Epilogue

With her service to the country over with, Tiger later made the Pacific Northwest in her civilian life and by the 1960s was a coastal tug with Northland Marine Lines of Seattle, under the name Cherokee and later Polar Merchant. Her sister USCGC Bonham (WPC/WSC-129) worked alongside her as Polar Star.

Previously USCGC Bonham (WSC-129) as tug Polar Star

Remaining active until at least 2012, Tiger/Polar Merchant was sold in poor condition to the Tyee Marina in Tacoma Washington where she was stripped, stuffed with styrofoam and installed as a breakwater.

Still located at Tyree with everything above the deck removed, Tiger remains afloat and is one of the few surviving warships that was present at Pearl Harbor on that Infamous Day. Her hulk is moored next to the museum ship USS Wampanoag/USCGC Comanche (ATA/WMEC-202).

There has not been another USCGC Tiger.

Specs

(1927)
Displacement: 232 tons
Length: 125 ft (o.a) 120 ft. (w.l.)
Beam: 23.5 ft.
Draft: 7.5 ft.
Propulsion: Two 6-cylinder, 150 hp Winton diesels (300hp total), twin screws
Speed: 10 knots, max
Range: 4,000 nm at 7 knots, cruise, with 6,800 gal of 95% fuel oil.
Complement: 2 officers, 20 men
Armament:
1 × 3″/23 caliber gun forward, small arms

(1945)
Displacement: 320 tons (full load)
Length: 125 ft (o.a) 120 ft. (w.l.)
Beam: 23.5 ft.
Draft: 9 ft
Propulsion: Two 8-cylinder, 300 hp Cooper-Bessemer EN-9 diesels (600hp total), twin screws
Speed: 12 knots, max
Range: 3,500 nm at 7 knots, cruise with 6,800 gal of 95% fuel oil.
Complement: 5 officers, 41 men
Sensors: QCN-2 sonar, SO-9 radar
Armament:
1 × 40 mm/60 (single), forward
2 × 20 mm/70 (single), wings
2 × depth charge tracks, stern
2 × Mousetrap ASW, forward

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Warship Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019: The Russians Aren’t Good at Borrowing Ships

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019: The Russians Aren’t Good at Borrowing Ships

IWM Photo. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Here we see the Royal Navy R-class battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (05), resplendent in her peacetime livery, entering the Grand Harbor of Malta, sometime in the 1920s. Born in the Great War, she would give hard service to the Empire across four decades only to end up as one of the most unpleasant early tales of WWII alliances chilling in the new Cold War.

The R-class of superdreadnoughts was designed in the days leading up to World War I during the great battleship race with the Kaiser. Following on the heels of the mighty Queen Elizabeth-class, there were to be eight R-class ships: Revenge, Resolution, Royal Oak, Royal Sovereign, Ramillies, Resistance, Renown and Repulse. However Resistance was canceled on the builder’s ways and the last two ships, Renown and Repulse, were redesigned as lighter, and faster, battlecruisers.

Carrying eight BL 15-inch Mk I naval guns in four twin turrets, they had a simple layout with two turrets forward and two aft. Perhaps the best big gun the Brits ever sent to war, the 15″/46 could fire a 1,900-pound shell out to 33,550 yards. This was at a time when most of the world’s battleships carried 12-inch guns.

British battleship HMS Royal Sovereign firing her after turret guns Great War IWM Q18138

Royal Sovereign British battleship fires her guns during gunnery practice late in World War I

Royal Sovereign, British battleship fires her guns during gunnery practice late in World War I

Protected by up to 13 inches of armor, the R-class battlewagons tipped the scales at nearly 33,000 tons but could still make 21 knots.

Constructed at four different yards, our vessel was laid down at HM Dockyard, Portsmouth, on 15 January 1914, less than seven months before the lamps went out across Europe.

The 8th Royal Navy vessel to carry the Royal Sovereign name since 1519, our battleship was known in the fleet as the “Tiddley Quid” as both the terms “quid” and “sovereign” were synonymous to a pound sterling.

The five completed R-class battleships hit the waves between February 1916 and September 1917, with Royal Sovereign commissioning 18 April 1916. As such, she was still on shakedown during Jutland, which was a pity. She and her brawling sisters formed the 1st Battle Squadron but saw little to no real action during the rest of the war as the German High Seas Fleet elected not to try for the 2nd Battle of Jutland.

Battleships of the 1st Battle Squadron – HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN (nearest), HMS REVENGE and HMS RESOLUTION (leading) – in line IWM Q17926

British battleships HMS Revenge, HMS Resolution and HMS Royal Sovereign of the 1st Battle Squadron at sea. Great War. IWM Q18123

British battleships of 1st Battle Squadron; HMS Royal Sovereign, HMS Resolution and HMS REVENGE Great War Q18136

The “Rs” were part of the Allied line when the Germans sailed into Scapa Flow in November 1918.

British battleships of the 1st Battle Squadron at sea on the morning of the German surrender, 21 November 1918. Inscribed by the artist, lower right, ‘Morning of German surrender’. This study of R-class battleships of the 1st Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet is apparently taken from its flagship, HMS ‘Revenge’, on which Wyllie was a guest of Admiral Sir Charles Madden for a month at the time of the surrender and internment of the German High Seas Fleet. That being so, the ships shown are ‘Resolution’ immediately following, ‘Royal Sovereign’ and ‘Royal Oak’. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/125878 RMG PW1743

In April 1920, Royal Sovereign and her sister ship Resolution steamed to the Eastern Med, where they became involved in the Russian Civil War and the Greco-Turkish War interchangeably. This included bombarding Turkish positions at Mudanya during the Greek summer offensive in July and shepherding the exile diaspora of 140,000 White Russians who lost their Russia privileges from the Crimea in November. During the latter, Royal Sovereign herself carried several members of the petit Russian nobility in style, making good on her name.

HMS Royal Sovereign (05) 6” Guns in Action (6th July 1920, Mudanya)

The return of HMS Royal Sovereign’s seaman after forced landing under heavy machine gun & rifle fire. (Mudanya, July 1920)

Royal Sovereign would spend the rest of the 1920s and 1930s in refit and peacetime exercises as part of an ever-shrinking Treaty-era Royal Navy.

Although not as thoroughly modernized as American dreadnoughts of the age, or even the slightly older HMS Queen Elizabeth-class ships, the “Rs” would be given torpedo blisters which and landed some of their 6-inch casemate guns– which were of limited use anyway due to being seriously wet in most sea states– in exchange for some AAA guns.

British ‘R’ class WW1 battleships at sea, 1930 HMS Revenge, Ramillies, Royal Sovereign and Resolution, taken from sister HMS Royal Oak

HMS Royal Sovereign in 1938

As global tensions ramped up in the late 1930s, the five “Rs” only narrowly avoided scrapping or being deployed to the Far East to form a fleet thought capable of warning the Japanese against going to war, but that was not to be and in September 1939, when the balloon went up in Europe, Royal Sovereign was already on patrol off Iceland with four destroyers.

She was to spend the early part of WWII in Atlantic convoy and escort duties, and notably in January 1940 sailed for Portsmouth’s Pitch House Jetty where she embarked £5M of gold bullion which she then took to Canada for safekeeping. On the way back, she escorted convoy HX 18 from Halifax and continued such operations with HX 22, HX 28, and HX 34, just in case the German battleships decided to come out and play.

By April 1940, Royal Sovereign was in the Med as part of Force C and later Force B, shuttling back and forth from Gibraltar to Alexandria via Malta throughout the summer, dodging Axis air attacks and submarines the whole time.

In July, she was present at the Battle of Calabria with the Italian fleet, arrayed against the Regina Marina’s battleships Giulio Cesare and Conte di Cavour although her low speed (sub-18 knots at the time) kept her from engaging, leaving the heavy lifting to HMS Warspite.

Sailing via the Suez for Durban, where her ever-troublesome boilers were repaired (at times she could only make steam on one boiler), Royal Sovereign was back in the North Atlantic escorting slow convoys out of Halifax by the end of the year.

In 1941, she covered SC 16, HX 103, TC 09, HX 113, HX 114, HX 116, HX 120, and HX 124 before putting in to (officially neutral) Norfolk Navy Yard at the end of May for maintenance and additional AAA guns.

HMS Royal Sovereign appears at the iconic Hammerhead crane, Norfolk Naval Shipyard.  

Setting back across the pond, she put into Greenock in August where she had her first radar fit: Type 284 fire control for her 15-inch guns, Type 285 for secondary armament, Type 286 aircraft warning, and Type 273 surface warning.

HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN ENTERING A FLOATING DOCK. 28 OCTOBER 1941, GREENOCK. IWM (A 6149)

HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN ENTERING A FLOATING DOCK. 28 OCTOBER 1941, GREENOCK. (A 6149) HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN entering a floating dock. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205140320

In late November 1941, with the Japanese thought ready for war in the Far East, Royal Sovereign and other ships joined the large WS 12Z convoy to reinforce Singapore. While on the way, Pearl Harbor was struck, and the RN was in a truly global war.

With that, Royal Sovereign stopped short of the Pacific and became part of the 3rd Battle Squadron of the Eastern Fleet in February 1942 along with sisters Ramillies, Revenge and Resolution (the fifth sister, Royal Oak, had been sunk in Scapa Flow by a U-boat in October 1939). Still, the class was seen as being of limited value against the Japanese and were seen by many as being “coffin ships,” as Churchill once described them.

While operating in the Indian Ocean over the next year, the force largely managed to avoid being sunk by Japanese submarines and air power and remained a fleet in being, which counted for something, anyway.

HMS RESOLUTION and HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN of the eastern fleet in the Indian Ocean IWM A11791

HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN, part of the Eastern Fleet, underway in the Indian Ocean, late WWII. IWM A11795

In October 1942, Royal Sovereign sailed for the U.S. and received additional up-armoring against aerial-dropped bombs as well as no less than 46 x 20mm Oerlikons in 14 single and 16 twin mounts. She would spend almost a full year in the City of Brotherly Love, recycling most of her crew in exchange for new recruits. In effect, when she left Philly in 1943, she was a very rebooted ship.

Underway in the Philadelphia Naval Yard, Sept 14, 1943. IWM FL18403

HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN lying at the Admiralty Anchorage at Scapa Flow after being refitted (photograph was taken from the cruiser HMS LONDON) IWM A5896

Then, a funny thing happened.

You see, the Italians dropped out of the war in September 1943 as a result of the Allied invasion of that country. With that, the capital units of the Regina Marina sailed to Malta where they were interned under British guns for the rest of the war. This included the 25,000-ton Conte di Cavour-class dreadnought, Giulio Cesare.

Battleship Giulio Cesare going on the Ponte Girevole in Taranto, 1937-193

With 11-inches of armor and nine 12-inch guns, Stalin told Churchill and FDR at the Tehran Conference in November 1943 that he expected the pre-owned spaghetti battleship, which had been commissioned in 1914, to be transferred to the Soviet Union as spoils of war.

The thing is, due to the political situation in Italy, which had descended into civil war with German-allied fascists still fighting in the North against the Allies, splitting up the sidelined Italian ships would have played badly in Rome.

To sate Uncle Joe, Churchill offered the recently extensively refitted Royal Sovereign, which was larger, stronger, and newer than the Italian battleship anyway (and ironically faced off with at the Battle of Calabria in 1940). Once the war was over for real and Giulio Cesare cleared to sail for Sevastopol, the Soviets would return the Lend-Leased Royal Sovereign back to her titleholders.

The deal was accepted and at the end of May, Royal Sovereign, along with four submarines, and eight destroyers were handed over to the Red Banner Fleet at Rosyth in a three-day ceremony that reportedly saw much merriment. After all, not only would the ships be used by the Soviets until Hitler was vanquished, they would also likely be used in the Far East against Japan, a war that Stalin had promised to start fighting 90 days after VE-Day.

THE BRITISH NAVY’S GIFT TO RUSSIA. 29 TO 31 MAY 1944, ROSYTH. THE BRITISH BATTLESHIP HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN, TOGETHER WITH 4 BRITISH SUBMARINES; URSULA, UNISON, UNBROKEN AND SUNFISH AND 8 EX-AMERICAN DESTROYERS, WERE HANDED OVER TO THE RUSSIAN NAVY IWM (A 23809)

A Russian rating sounding the bell of HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN (after being passed to the Soviet Navy and renamed ARCHANGELSK). IWM A23811

Aft guns of battleship Arkhangelsk HMS Royal Sovereign note RN tampions

The Soviet crew spent all of June and July working up in British coastal waters– and thus missing the Overlord landings on D-Day– then, on 17 August 1944, sailed from Scapa to join convoy JW 59 under the Hammer & Sickle ensign, bound for Murmansk.

Joining the Soviet Northern Fleet, she was a target for the Germans who tried repeatedly to sink her via submarines both large and small without success.

She was the most impressive battleship the Motherland ever put to sea– larger and more powerful that Tsar’s Gangut-class (25,000 t, 12 x12″ guns) or Imperatritsa Mariya-class battleships (23,000 t, 12 x12″ guns). While four giant 65,000-ton Sovetsky Soyuz-class super-dreadnoughts were laid down, they never came close to being completed.

ARCHANGELSK (Soviet battleship, formerly HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN) Photographed in 1944 NH 71448

ARCHANGELSK (Soviet battleship, formerly HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN) Photographed in 1944 NH 71449

When the war ended, she remained in Soviet hands as the status of the Italian fleet was worked out via the Four Power Committee.

Her entry from Jane’s 1947 edition shows her as the preeminent Soviet capital ship and gives a full page to her listing.

In December 1948, the Soviets were cleared to begin the process of taking over Giulio Cesare as war reparations and the ship was moved first to Sicily then Albania where she was fully-added to the Red Navy’s list on 6 February 1949 and would ultimately be named Novorossiysk.

With that transfer underway, Royal Sovereign/Archangelsk was readied for repatriation back to HMs Royal Navy. Entering Rosyth on 4 February 1949, she once again became HMS Royal Sovereign on five days later with the hoisting of the White Ensign.

Royal Sovereign/Archangelsk passes under the Forth Bridge with a Red Navy crew on her way to Rosyth for the official handover to the Royal Navy 9 February 1949.

While the 1944 handover was a party, the give-back party was absent in 1949, with the Soviets reportedly declining most invites to social events and parties– a matter that made it to the floor of Parliament. 

Sadly, the Soviets were kind of bitter about the whole thing. Keep in mind that this was at the height of the Berlin Airlift and more than three years after Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech. The NATO treaty, which would be signed in April, was being negotiated in Washington.

Upon inspection, the material condition of the Royal Sovereign was considered…poor.

Specifically, much equipment was broken or missing, her turret rings were corroded to such a point that none of her four turrets could traverse, and the ship was crawling with vermin and pests of all kinds. Some reports even had it that the battleship’s heads had been clogged for months or possibly years, leaving Red sailors to turn semi-used compartments into open lavatories. The situation was not unique, the American cruiser USS Milwaukee (CL 5), which had likewise been loaned to the Soviets as the Murmansk in 1944, was returned in a similar state in March 1949.

The decision on what to do with the Royal Sovereign was easy. As the remaining three sisters of her were all slated for scrapping, her name was added to the list and they were all sent to the breakers by the end of the year.

Components of the drive gear sets and associated pinions from both Royal Sovereign and sister HMS Revenge‘s main guns were recycled into the Jodrell Bank Observatory’s Mark I (Lovell) radio telescope in the late 1940s and are still there today. It is one of the largest steerable radio telescopes in the world.

Royal Sovereign‘s name has not been used since by the RN, but she is remembered in the maritime art of her period.

William Lionel Wyllie, blue pencil. Two studies of HMS ‘Royal Sovereign’
Inscribed by the artist, lower right. ‘R Sov’. Two loose studies of the battleship ‘Royal Sovereign’, built at Portsmouth Dockyard, launched on 29 April 1915 and completed in May 1916. These sketches of her at anchor show her rig as completed and were probably made in 1916-17. The main wash drawing is a view from off the port bow: the slighter pencil sketch takes practically the same angle from off the starboard bow. The paper has a blue-grey tint and has been given a wash of blue-green watercolor over which the rest is worked. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/116841 RMG PV2691

William Lionel Wyllie, watercolor. Inscribed ‘Royal Sov’ by the artist, lower right. The battleship is shown in her 1918-19 condition, from astern at anchor, with other ships beyond, off a hilly coast probably in Scotland. She has a flying-off platform with a Sopwith 2F1 Camel fighter on it fitted on X turret and a range clock fitted to the rear face of her mainmast searchlight tower. These were fitted in the spring of 1918 and the last aircraft recorded for her in this period was serial number N7108 in January 1919. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/125944 RMG PW1809

The Russians still apparently have some parts of Royal Sovereign, including her chipped bell, which is in a maritime museum.

This week, the Russian Navy made news for returning a series of seized Ukrainian vessels–the fast gunboats Nikopol and Berdyansk and the tugboat Tany Kapu— back to their former owners in kind of rough condition.

“The Russians ruined them,” said Admiral Ihor Voronchenko, the head of the Ukrainian Navy, as reported by The Telegraph. “They even took the ceiling lights, plug sockets, and lavatories,” he said. “Some of the equipment is missing, as well as some weapons.”

The more things change…

Specs

Scan from Burgess, Malcolm William (1936) Warships To-day, London: Oxford University Press, pp. fig. 23, via Wiki Commons

Displacement:
29,970 long tons (30,450 t) (normal)
31,130 long tons (31,630 t) (deep load)
33, 500 tons (full load, 1944)
Length: 620 ft 7 in (o.a.); 580 ft (pp.) 614.5 ft (w.l.)
Beam: 88 ft 6 in as designed; 102.5 after blisters added in 1928
Draught: 33 ft 7 in (deep load), 28.5 ft. (mean)
Installed power: 40,000 shp (30,000 kW) 18 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Propulsion: 4 shafts; 4 Parsons steam turbines, direct drive
Speed: 23 knots as designed, 20 by 1939
Range: 7,000 nmi at 10 knots on 900 tons oil fuel
Crew: 1,240 (1921) 1146 (1944)
Armor:
Waterline belt: 13 in
Deck: 1–4 in
Barbettes: 6–10 in
Gun turrets: 11–13 in
Conning tower: 3–11 in
Bulkheads: 6 inches (24 watertight sections)
Armament:
(1916)
4 × twin 15″/46cal (38.1 cm) Mark I
14 × single BL 6-inch Mk XII naval guns described as “wet in head seas but dwarf walls retain water which rapidly drains away”
2 × single QF 3-inch 20 cwt AAA
4 × single Ordnance QF 3-pounder 47mm Vickers guns
4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(1944)
4 × twin 15″/46cal (38.1 cm) Mark I
12 × single BL 6-inch Mk XII naval gun
8 x 4-inch AA
46 x 20mm Oerlikons in 14 single and 16 twin mounts
Aircraft:
1 Sopwith 2F1 Camel fighter on it fitted on X turret 1918
1 Fairey Flycatcher carried on B turret 1920s
1 Supermarine Walrus floatplane carried on X turret from the 1930s onward
Aviation facilities removed in 1942.

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USS Tampa flag found

The 240-foot Modoc-class of cutters was conceived for blue water use by the new Post-Great War multi-mission Coast Guard in the 1920s. Capable of carrying three 5-inch guns, a pretty stout armament for such vessels, they had a turbo-electric drive that could push them to 16 knots, which was thought to be good enough for government work. The four sisters, Modoc, Mojave, Haida and Tampa, went on to give hard service in WWII.

Speaking of which, USCGC Tampa (WPG-48) was built by Union in Oakland for a cost of $775,000 and commissioned in 1921. She would spend the next two decades running 15-day patrols from Boston, serving time in the International Ice Patrol, catching bootleggers and keeping the sea lanes safe for travel. The latter included famously saving 140 souls from the burning Ward Line steamer SS Morro Castle in 1932.

Transferring to Mobile, Alabama in the late 1930s, Tampa came under naval jurisdiction in November 1941, a month before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, as USS Tampa (WPG-48). This caused a shift back to the North Atlantic for coastwise convoy escort runs in the Greenland area along with sisters Modoc (WPG-46) and Mojave (WPG-47).

USS Tampa (WPG 48) at anchor at Kungya Bay, Greenland, as seen from USS Bear (AG 29) while on Arctic patrol. The photograph released on May 1, 1944. NARA 80-G-225156

In this work, she fought U-boats, rescued survivors, landing parties to guard key facilities, and helped fight the “Weather War” to keep German Met units from setting up vital camps in the Arctic alongside such floating relics as the old cutter Bear.

From ship structure and a 20mm gun, onboard a coast guard cutter on the Greenland patrol during World War II. Note the variety of tools in use, including a baseball bat. The ship appears to be a 240-foot (“TAMPA”) class cutter. NH 96116

U.S. Coast Guard Combat Cutter, The Tampa, which patrols the North Atlantic, in the resumption of the International Ice Patrol World.” Accession #: L41-03 Catalog #: L41-03.02.02

Although paid off in 1947, her name was key to USCG history, with the first USCGC Tampa lost during the Great War and the second Tampa being the aforementioned WWII vet. This led to the name being reissued in 1984 to the 270-foot Bear-class medium endurance cutter USCGC Tampa (WMEC-902), which was in line with the rest of the naming convention for the class as all were named after famous Coast Guard vessels.

This week, Alex Obrizok a 96-year-old man and resident from North Carolina, traveled to Portsmouth, Va where the current Tampa is based. A former WWII USS Tampa vet, Obrizok has earlier this summer shown a special relic to a 2003 USCGA grad and member of WMEC-902s crew whose wedding he was attending– USS Tampa‘s ensign. Obrizok wanted the ensign to go home.

“It’s a beautiful flag,” said Obrizok. “It survived all these years and belongs with her namesake, it belongs to the Tampa.” (USCG photo)

VADM Scott Buschman, Coast Guard Atlantic Area Commander, presided over the ceremony and thanked Obrizok for the historical flag, his service to his country and for making the trip to meet the crewmembers aboard the current Tampa.

Ninety-six-year-old Alex Obrizok was able to keep this flag from the 1946 decommissioned Tampa over the last 70 years. Obrizok, who lives in North Carolina, returned to the current Tampa on Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Coast Guard base in Portsmouth, Virginia to give the current crew the flag. The World War II veteran also read promotions for four crew members. Photo of the flag that is being kept on the ship, Nov. 25, 2019. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot)
https://www.pilotonline.com/military/vp-nw-fz-coast-guard-veteran-flag-20191128-eehkvfd5xzajtd2k5hn6ngv224-story.html

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