Category Archives: World War Two

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022: The Charging Frenchman of Casablanca

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

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022: The Charging Frenchman of Casablanca

Above we see the French Duguay Trouin-class light cruiser Primauguet charging to her destruction against a much stronger American force outside of Casablanca during the Torch Landings, some 80 years ago this week. While the French Navy in WWII, and in particular the French Vichy forces, get kind of a backhanded bad wrap in English sources of the conflict as being milquetoast when it came to heroics, Primauguet is certainly the exception to that tired trope.

Lacking modern cruisers following the Great War and still saddled with far-flung colonies in the Pacific, Africa, the Americas, and the Indian Ocean, France began building several very similar classes of light cruisers for both commerce protection and “showing the flag.” Dusting off the circa 1912 La Motte-Picquet-class cruiser design that was never built, and blending it with lessons from the post-war American Omaha-class and British Emerald-class stiletto-hulled cruisers that did leave the drawing board, the French ordered the three Duguay-Trouin-class ships in 1922. The ships included Duguay-Trouin, Lamotte-Picquet and Primauguet.

Exceptionally light indeed, these 7,249-ton (standard) vessels on 604-foot-long hulls were lithe.

With a 1:10 beam-to-length ratio and a quartet of Parsons geared turbines driven by eight super-pressurized Guyot boilers, speed was their main defense. Designed with a top speed of 34.5 knots, which they could hit for an hour or so in testing. Primauguet herself logged 33.06 knots on a 6-hour speed trial in 1925, harvesting 116,849 shp while carrying a full load of fuel and stores. They also proved capable of steaming for a 24-hour period at 30 knots at half power. Meanwhile, they had comparatively short legs, only capable of 4,500nm of steaming at 15 knots.

Look at those hull lines. Here, Lamotte-Picquet seen in drydock.

When it came to armor, they had extraordinarily little but at least had 21 watertight compartments and were considered good seaboats. The smaller (557 foot, 6500t) training cruiser Jeanne d’Arc, laid down in 1928, used roughly the same hull form, a down-sized version of the Duguay-Trouin’s engineering suite which enabled 25 knots, and the same topside gun armament.

French Duguay-Trouin-class light cruiser Primauguet on 28 of Juli 1939. Note her twin forward 6-inch gun turrets, the gunnery clock on her tower, and the tropical dress of her crew

Their main armament was a full dozen 21.7-inch torpedo tubes in four triple mountings on deck amidships with 24 fish carried (12 loaded and 12 in the magazine). They also had two picket boats armed with 17.7-inch torpedoes as well. For anti-submarine defense, they carried depth charges.

Two single-engine floatplanes could be carried for the stern Penhoët-type air-powered catapult and it seemed the French used or evaluated at least a dozen distinct types of these across the mid-1920s through 1942 with mixed results. The country fielded no less than 50 assorted “Hydravion de reconnaissance” types in the first half of the 20th Century and I’ve seen or read of the Duguay-Trouin class with CAMS 37, Donnet-Denhaut, Loire 130 and 210, Gourdou-Leseurre GL-810/812/820 HY and GL-832, FBA 17 HL 2, Latecoere 298, and Potez 452 types aboard.

Visitors aboard the French light cruiser Lamotte-Picquet in East Asia. Note the tropical helmets on her crew and the single-engine flying boat (she carried a couple Potez 452 in 1936-39) on her catapult. The marching band is dressed in outlandish tropical grass skirts and seems to be leading a parade, which may be the start of a crossing-the-line ceremony.

Primary gun armament was eight new 155 mm/50 (6.1″) Model 1920 rapid-fire guns arranged in four very narrow twin mounts (2 bow, 2 aft) and space for 1,220 shells in their magazines. Capable of firing a 124.6-pound HE or AP shell to 28,000 yards, the designed rate of fire was six rounds per minute per gun although the practical rate of fire was about half that. Secondary batteries were just four 3-inch AAA guns and four machine guns.

Bow Turrets on Lamotte-Picquet. Note the director and large searchlight above it. ECPA(D) Photograph. Besides the Duguay Trouin class, the French only used the 6.1″/50 Model 1920 on the training cruiser Jeanne D ‘Arc and the carrier Bearn.

Jane’s 1931 listing on the class.

The Duguay Trouins proved the basis for French cruiser design throughout the 1920s and early 1930s.

As mentioned above, the type was shrunk down to create the training cruiser Jeanne D ‘Arc, and it was also upsized to make the first French heavy cruisers (croiseur de 1ere classe), the Duquesne and Tourville (10,000t std, 627 oal, 62 ft beam, 8×8″/50, 118,358.4 shp to make 34 knots). These Duquesne and Tourville used almost the same engineering suite (8 guyot boilers, 4 turbines, trunked through two funnels), the same thin bikini-style light armor plan that only covered gun magazines, deck, and the CT; arrangements for two scout planes on a single rear catapult, and the same 4×2 main gun arrangement for the main battery with torpedo tube clusters amidship. Then came the later heavy cruisers Suffern, Colbert, Foch, and Dupleix which were basically just the Duquesne class with slightly better armor arrangement in exchange for a lower speed.

A French Navy recruiting poster, featuring the country’s modern style of light and heavy cruisers. Beautiful, fast, modern, but very lightly armored.

Primauguet

Laid down at the Brest Arsenal on 16 August 1923, our cruiser was named after Hervé de Portzmoguer, a 15th-century pirate and privateer who was best known to history under the nom de guerre “Primauguet.”

A traditional French naval name, it had already been used by a brig and corvette in the early 19th century, a circa 1882 Laperouse-class protected cruiser, and a Great War fast troop transport.

Commissioned on April Fool’s Day 1927, she was immediately dispatched on a seven-month circumnavigation of the globe to show the flag, returning home at the end of the year.

Sent to the Indochina station in 1932, a common one for her class, she remained in East Asia until 1937 when she returned to metropolitan France.

Primauguet on a port visit to Douala, Cameroon, in February 1932 to mark the inauguration of the port

Crew picture onboard the French light cruiser Primauguet, Shanghaï, 1930s

Light cruiser Primauguet. Note what looks to be a CAMS 37 biplane floatplane

Primauguet 1930s Saigon

Primauguet 1930s Saigon

She was designed to span the seven seas and she did that.

War!

Once WWII broke out, based with the French Atlantic fleet out of Brest she sailed for a series of convoy protection missions and found herself protecting colonies and possessions in the West Indies in May 1940 when the Germans swept through the Low Countries. Once European Holland collapsed, Primauguet landed sailors and Marins in the Dutch Antilles to guard the Aruba oil fields for the Allies. Relieved by a British gunboat, she rushed to France just in time to participate in the evacuation of French forces from the mouth of the Gironde, one step ahead of the German advance, and took part of the Banque de France‘s gold reserves to Dakar in the French West African stronghold of Senegal, where she was when the French government capitulated.

Part of the Vichy-controlled fleet by default, she eventually made a sortie up the coast to Libreville where she was intended to operate with the cruisers Georges Leygues, Montcalm and Gloire against Free French forces only to have that operation fall apart once the British got involved and, by November 1941, was in Casablanca with Leygues, in desperate need of an overhaul.

She was still in reduced status when the Allies arrived in force off North Africa some 80 years ago this month for the Torch Landings.

Torch

The French got one heck of a shellacking from the combined Allied fleet, spearheaded by the U.S. Navy who brought the fleet carrier USS Ranger and four rapidly converted large oilers turned auxiliary carriers (Sangamon, Suwannee, Chenango, and Santee) along with three battleships (the old USS Texas and USS New York as well as the brand-new So Dak-class fast battlewagon USS Massachusetts). In the ~52-hour period between dawn on 8 November and noon on 10 November, the French Vichy fleet in North Africa, spread out between Casablanca, Oran, and Bizerte would lose:

The incomplete Richelieu-class battleship Jean Bart
The destroyers Albatros, Typhon, Epervier, Tramontane, Tornade, Milan, Frondeur, Fougueux, Boulonnais, and Brestois
The submarines Diane, Danae, Ariane, Oréade, Argonaute, Amphitrite, and Actéon
The minesweepers Surprise and Lilias
The submarine chasers V 88, P13, and Dubourdieu
The armed trawlers La Bonoise, L’Ajaccienne, La Setoise, La Toulonnaise, Sentinelle, and Chene
The tug Pigeon and Tourterelle
The cargo ships Spahi, Divona, Dahomey, Cambraisien, Ville du Havre, Saint Pierre, and Lipari
The ocean liners Savoie Marseille/Ile De Edienruder and Porthos
The tankers Saint Blaize and Ile D’Quessant

Oh yes, and Primauguet.

It wasn’t much of a fight, with the four operational carriers (Chenango carried Army P-40s on a ferry run), along with the serious spotter-plane corrected offshore gunline provided by 16-inch guns of USS Massachusetts and the eight-inch guns of the heavy cruisers USS Augusta, USS Wichita, and USS Tuscaloosa plastering the French vessels at their moorings or just as they tried to make to the sea. One of the latter was the subject of our warship Wednesday.

The U.S. Navy’s wartime ONI sheet on the Duguay Trouin class would describe their protection as “practically nil except for thin gun shields, splinter-proof conning tower, and double armored deck.” This, of course, was lifted word-for-word from previous Jane’s listings. They just weren’t made to take punishment, either in the form of 500-pound bombs, 8-inch shells, or 16-inch shells.

Even in her largely inoperable state, Primauguet was the largest French warship to get underway during the Allied invasion, and went out firing, although her short sortie ended in a literal blaze of glory.

Primauguet’s final charge

As detailed by RADM Samuel Cox’s H-013-3 Operation Torch— The Naval Battle of Casablanca H-Gram:

At 1000, as the French destroyers bobbed and weaved in the smoke screen, the French light cruiser Primauguet sortied, and the Massachusetts and Tuscaloosa closed in on the destroyer action and one of them finally hit a French destroyer, the Fougueux, which blew up and sank. About the same time, the El Hank shore battery hit Augusta with an 8-inch round that fortunately did little damage. Shortly afterward, Massachusetts was almost hit by multiple torpedoes from an unidentified French submarine, while Tuscaloosa narrowly avoided four torpedoes from the French submarine Medusa, and Brooklyn dodged five torpedoes from the French submarine Amazone at the same time she and three U.S. destroyers were engaging the Primauguet and the remaining five French destroyers. At 1008, Brooklyn was hit by a dud shell, but got payback at 1112, when she hit the French destroyer Boulannais with a full salvo, causing her to roll over and sink.

By 1100, Massachusetts had expended 60 percent of her 16-inch shells and began to conserve ammunition as a hedge in the event the French naval forces at Dakar, West Africa (including the battleship Richelieu) showed up unexpectedly. By this time, the French ships’ luck had begun to run out under the hail of U.S. fire. The light cruiser Primauguet had been hit multiple times by Augusta and Brooklyn, including three hits below the waterline and one 8-inch hit on her number 3 turret, and she made a run for the harbor. The destroyer leader Milan had been hit five times and also made for port. The destroyer Brestois was also hit by Augusta and U.S. destroyers; she made it into the harbor, only to be strafed by Ranger aircraft and sank at the pier at 2100.

At 1115, the three remaining French ships, destroyer leader Albatross, and destroyers Frondeur and L’Alcyon formed up to conduct a coordinated torpedo attack on the U.S. cruisers, but the attack was broken up by Tuscaloosa and Wichita, although Wichita was hit by a shell from El Hank and had to dodge three torpedoes from a French submarine. Frondeur was hit aft, limped into port, and was finished off by strafing. Albatros was hit twice by shells, then by two bombs from Ranger aircraft and was left dead-in-the-water. Of the seven French surface combatants that sortied, only L’Alcyon returned to port undamaged.

At 1245, the French navy vessel La Grandier (Morison called it an “aviso-colonial” whatever that is, but it was said to resemble a light cruiser from a distance) and two coastal minesweepers sortied from Casablanca. Their mission was actually to rescue French survivors from the morning engagement, but their movement was interpreted as a threat. Two French destroyers that had not been engaged in the morning, the Tempête and Simoun, milled about smartly around the breakwater trying to lure U.S. ships back into range for El Hank, for which the U.S. ships had gained a healthy respect by this time. AugustaBrooklyn, destroyers, and aircraft attacked the rescue ships, which managed to avoid being hit. In the meantime, a French tug came out and began to tow Albatros into port, but Ranger aircraft strafed, bombed, and forced Albatros to be beached. Ranger aircraft also repeatedly strafed the now grounded Milan and Primauguet. A direct bomb hit on Primauguet’s bridge killed the commanding officer, executive officer, and eight officers, and wounded Rear Admiral Gervais de Lafond.

Although the French had put up a spirited fight, and U.S. reports indicate admiration for their professionalism, the battle ended up very one-sided. The French scored one hit each on the MassachusettsAugustaBrooklynLudlow, and Murphy, none of which caused major damage and only the three deaths on Murphy. The French also destroyed about 40 landing boats, most as a result of strafing by French aircraft in the early morning. The French lost four destroyers sunk, and the battleship Jean Bart disabled, the light cruiser Primauguet heavily damaged, burned out, and aground, and two destroyer leaders damaged and aground. 

With a loss of about 90 of her reduced crew and twice as many wounded, Primauguet would burn all night. Her, wreck, along with the other Vichy French Navy and commercial ships in Casablanca harbor, would become well-documented by U.S. Naval forces in the coming days.

French light cruiser Primauguet beached off Casablanca, Morocco in November 1942. She had been badly damaged during the Battle of Casablanca on 8 November and is largely burned out forward. What appears to be shell damage is visible at her main deck line amidships, just aft of her second smokestack. In the left distance are the French destroyers Milan (partially visible at far left) and Albatros, both irreparably damaged and beached closer to shore. The latter is flying a large French flag from her foremast. 80-G-31607

French destroyer Milan (partially visible, right), destroyer Albatros (center), and light cruiser Primauguet (upper center) beached off Casablanca, Morocco on 11 November 1942. All had been badly damaged during the Battle of Casablanca on 8 November. Photographed from a USS Ranger (CV-4) plane. 80-G-32400

French Navy and commercial ships in Casablanca harbor, Morocco after the battle of 8 November 1942. The two damaged 1500-tonne destroyers at left wear identification codes T62 and T22 (capsized … she may be Frondeur). Another ship of that class is alongside the quay in the right center. Among the merchant ships present are Endome (left), Delaballe (center, inboard), and Wyoming (center, outboard). All wear neutrality markings. Outside the harbor are the beached light cruiser Primauguet (left center), destroyer Albatros and destroyer Milan (closest to the beach). 80-G-32407

Casablanca harbor, Morocco, and vicinity on 16 November 1942, eight days after the 8 November invasion and the naval battle there. Among the ships outside the harbor entrance are three U.S. Navy destroyers, a minesweeper, and (in the center) the torpedoed USS Electra (AK-21) with USS Cherokee (AT-66) off her bow. Closer to shore are three beached French warships (from right to left): light cruiser Primauguet, destroyer Albatros, and destroyer Milan. Inside the harbor, with sterns toward the outer breakwater, are eight U.S. Navy ships. They are (from left to right): two minesweepers, USS Terror (CM-4), USS Brooklyn (CL-40), USS Chenango (ACV-28) with a destroyer tied to her starboard side, USS Augusta CA-31), and a transport. 80-G-1003967

French destroyer Albatros beached off Casablanca, Morocco on 4 December 1942. Beyond her stern is the French light cruiser Primauguet. Both ships were badly damaged during the Battle of Casablanca, on 8 November 1942. Albatros’ third smokestack has been destroyed and Primaguet is largely burned out forward. Note the railroad line and signal in the foreground and shipping in the right distance, including at least two French commercial freighters and, partially visible at far right, what appears to be USS Electra (AK-21) lying very low in the water. She had been torpedoed by the German submarine U-173 on 15 November. 80-G-30649

French Cruiser Primauguet outside of Casablanca Harbor March 1943 Duguay-Trouin-Class LIFE J R Eyerman

French Cruiser Primauguet outside of Casablanca Harbor March 1943 Duguay-Trouin-Class LIFE J R Eyerman

French Map of Casablanca Harbor after the Battle, note Primauguet on the left outside of Casablanca Harbor from a post-war French Service Historique de la Marine about the Allied landings in North Africa.

Epilogue

Eventually, Primauguet’s above-water structures were salvaged in 1951 and scrapped post-war while her hull was allowed to silt over. A UXO operation in 2001-02, conducted by a joint Moroccan-French team, penetrated her magazines and removed over 1,600 intact 6-inch and 75mm shells along with 251 cases of assorted power charges.

Her sister Lamotte-Picquet, in Indochinese waters since 1935, fought the Japanese-allied Thai Navy to a standstill at the oft-forgotten 1941 clash at Ko Chang. Laid up in 1942 in Saigon, she was sunk by the Allies in early 1945.

Dugay-Trouin class light cruiser Lamotte-Picquet in the Saigon River, 31 January 1939 note GL-810 series floatplane

Class leader Duguay-Trouin, interned with the British in June 1940 in Alexandria, sat out the war until early 1943 when she was turned over to the Free French following the fall of the Vichy regime. Refitted by the Allies in time for the Dragoon Landings along the French Riveria in August 1944, she was ordered to Indochina after the war and participated in NGFS operations there against the Viet Minh insurgents until 1952.

French cruiser Duguay-Trouin 1946 Janes

Today, the museum ship USS Massachusetts carries the scars from two French shell hits received in the Battle of Casablanca. The first was a 7.9-inch shell from the El Hank shore battery that was fired at an estimated range of ~28,000 yards. The second was one of Primauguet’s 6-inchers.

As detailed by the Museum:

At 1057, BIG MAMIE received a hit on the starboard quarter at Frame 85. The shell ricocheted from the deck and burst over 20 mm Group 13. A small fire caused by the burst was brought immediately under control by the Damage Control Repair party. No personnel casualties were sustained as personnel at group 13 had previously been shifted to the unengaged side. This hit was fired from the French cruiser Primauguet.

The French Navy remembered the name of the old pirate and the vessels that carried it into battle via the Georges Leygues (F70 type)-class frigate Primauguet, which was in service from 1986 through 2019.

French guided missile destroyer, Primauguet (D 644), a member of the Georges Leygues class (Type F 70).

Perhaps they will bring the name back one day.


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!

The Howling Sea Wolf

Some 80 years ago: the Sargo-class fleet boat USS Seawolf (SS-197) seen waging her very successful “Maru War” in the Pacific while on her 7th war patrol.

USS Seawolf (SS-197) – Periscope photograph of a sinking Japanese ship, torpedoed by Seawolf in the Philippines-East Indies area during the fall of 1942. This ship carries at least one landing craft forward, has a searchlight above her pilothouse, and a gun mounted at the aft end of the midship superstructure. Her general configuration resembles Gifu Maru, sunk on 2 November 1942, but she could also be the converted gunboat Keiko Maru, sunk on 8 November. Note the boat hanging from a davit amidships, as crewmen attempt to lower another boat further forward. US Navy Photo #: 80-G-33192

USS Seawolf (SS-197) – Periscope photograph of a sinking Japanese ship, torpedoed by Seawolf on a war patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. This ship is possibly Gifu Maru, sunk on 2 November 1942 in Davao Gulf, Mindanao. US Navy Photo #: 80-G-33187

Leaving Freemantle, Australia on 1 October 1942, Seawolf (LCDR F.B. Warder in command) was ordered to patrol off the Davao Gulf, southern Philippines.

In the same one-week period she would sink the Japanese water tender Gifu Maru (2933 GRT) west-south-west of Cape San Augustin, Mindoro, the Japanese troop transport Sagami Maru (7189 GRT) off Davao, and the Japanese auxiliary gunboat Keiko Maru (2929 GRT) off Cape San Augustin, Mindanao.

Periscope photograph taken from USS Seawolf (SS-197), while she was on patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. 80-G-33184

The sub would then end her patrol at Pearl Harbor on 1 December– just in time for a Christmas refit.

Seawolf would go on to be lost on her 15th war patrol, believed lost with 83 officers and men as well as 17 Army passengers, tragically believed sunk by friendly fire from aircraft from the escort carrier USS Midway (CVE 63) and the ASW weapons from the destroyer escort USS Richard M. Rowell (DE 403) off Morotai on 3 October 1944.

She was the most successful Sargo-class submarine, honored with 13 battle stars and credited with 71,609 tons of enemy shipping. She is one of 52 American submarines regarded as on Eternal Patrol.

Port side view of the Seawolf (SS-197) underway off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 7 March 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. US Navy photo # NH 99549.

Fleet Gas Problem

This great shot shows a Pennsylvania-class dreadnought– either USS Pennsylvania (Battleship No. 38) or Arizona (BB-39), to the left and a Tennessee-class battlewagon be it USS California (BB-44) or Tennessee (BB-43) moored in Elliot Bay during the Navy’s summer maneuvers, circa 1935. It is most likely that the ships are in Pennsylvania and California.

Notes: “These battleships are lying in Seattle’s harbor, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, Washington State’s highest mountain peak. The United States battle fleet visits the North Pacific annually in the Summer, and ships can be seen in July and August in Washington ports, before and after maneuvers.” — typewritten on a note attached to verso. Washington State Digital Archives. Via Seattle Vintage

The Spring and Summer of 1935 saw Fleet Problem XVI, which lasted from 29 April through 10 June and saw the Navy use four carriers at sea for the first time. Operating across the “Pacific Triangle” between Hawaii, Puget Sound, and the Aleutian Islands, it saw 160 vessels and 450 aircraft taking part, the largest at-sea collection of warships since the British Grand Fleet in 1918.

As noted by DANFS:

The five phases of Fleet Problem XVI covered a vast area from the Aleutian Islands to Midway, the Territory of Hawaii, and the Eastern Pacific. Severe weather hampered the operations in Alaskan waters, but the problem demonstrated the value of Pearl Harbor as a base when the entire fleet with the exception of the large carriers was berthed therein. Patrol and marine planes took a major aerial role during landing exercises when combined forces launched a strategic offensive against the enemy.

During her first fleet problem Ranger joined Langley, Lexington, and Saratoga in the Main Body of the White Fleet. The slowness of sending patrols on 30 April enabled ‘Black’ submarine Bonita to close within 500 yards and fire six torpedoes at Ranger as she recovered planes, and for Barracuda to fire four torpedoes from 1,900 yards. Planes pursued the submarines and a dive bomber caught Bonita on the surface and made a pass before she submerged, but the ease with which the boats penetrated the screen boded poorly for the ships. A mass flight of patrol squadrons marred by casualties subsequently occurred from Pearl Harbor via French Frigate Shoals. The evaluators noted that the problem demonstrated the necessity of developing antisubmarine “material and methods”; the importance of training in joint landing operations; the lack of minesweepers capable of accompanying the fleet at higher speeds; and the slow speed of the auxiliaries.

Based in San Pedro, Pennsylvania participated in the exercise as part of the “White” force, as did California.

The problem also delivered a critical lesson when it came to any future high-tempo carrier war at sea: their constant need to be escorted by tankers for underway replenishment:

This shortcoming had first surfaced during Fleet Problem XV of 1935. While participating in this exercise, the USS Lexington (CV 2) became critically low on fuel after just five days of operations. During Fleet Problem XVI as well, conducted the following year, the Saratoga (CV 3) consumed copious amounts of fuel-as much as ten percent of her total capacity in a single day-when operating aircraft. The latter exercise, which involved extensive movements of the fleet from its bases on the West Coast to Midway Island and back, revealed in general that flight operations by carriers accompanying the fleet resulted in extremely high fuel consumption for the ships involved. In order to launch and recover aircraft, a carrier had to steam at relatively high speed and, necessarily, into the wind-thus usually on a course different from that of the main units of the fleet.

After recovering aircraft, she would need to maintain high speed again in order to catch up. Of course, steaming at high speeds used enormous amounts of fuel. At twenty-five knots, a carrier’s normal speed for operating aircraft in light winds or for trying to overtake the fleet, the fuel consumed by the Saratoga exceeded thirty tons per hour! At this rate, her steaming radius was only 4,421 nautical miles, much less than the 10,000 miles (at ten knots) specified by her designers. As a result of these problems, the General Board recommended that the fuel capacity of both the Lexington and the Saratoga be increased. It is likely that in the interim, someone in War Plans decided that the carriers would have to be refueled at sea.

Lindbergh’s Own, 1944 Edition

Here we see a group of Army Aviators clustered around “White 29,” Bell P-39Q-5-BE Airacobra/42-20349, of the “Musketeers” of the 110th Reconnaissance Squadron (Fighter), taken at Tadji Airfield, New Guinea in a photo dated 28 October 1944 (although likely taken as much as four months prior). LT Hunt is listed as the assigned pilot.

Photo via the UTA Libraries Digital Collection https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery/img/20038768

“Texas fighter pilots are pictured here. Left to right, they are, First Lieutenants Daron M. Reedy, Henry E. Parish, Wilkins W. Hunt, Junior (Jr.), Michael L. Evans, L. H. Williams, and Van Kennon. Six men wearing uniforms are posing by a fighter plane. On the door of the plane is a skeleton wearing armor and holding a sword with dripping blood. The number 29 is on the nose of the plane and in a small box it says Pilot LT. HUNT Crew Chief S/SGT GLYNN. The tail of the plane has the number 349 on it.”

For reference, the 110th Rec. Sq. (F) was originally organized as the 110th Aero Squadron back in 1917, flying Jennys.

Beginning WWII equipped with Douglas O-38 biplanes and the lumbering North American O-47, they were rushed to California after Pearl Harbor to conduct anti-submarine coastal patrols.

Upgrading to a mix of P-39Q and P-40N armed photo birds in 1942, the squadron embarked for Australia and then New Guinea where they became operational in December flying, in turn, from 5 Mile Drome at Port Moresby, Gusap Airfield, and Tadji before moving onto Biak, the Philippines, and the Ryukyus by the end f the war. By that time they were using super sexy F-6D Mustang photo birds. 

Don’t let the recon aspect of their service fool you, by the end of the war the unit counted across 437 days in combat some 21 air-to-air victories, 102 aircraft destroyed on the ground, 2.8 million pounds of bombs dropped in addition to 14,000 gallons of napalm, and over 3.2 million rounds of ammo expended– including 41,835 37mm cannon shells from the nose of their Airacobras.

The 110th’s end-of-the-war scorecard Ie Shima, in the fall of 1945.

Redesignated a bomber outfit after WWII, today the unit is the 110th Bomb Squadron, flying the B-2 Spirit out of Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and is known as “Lindbergh’s Own” due to the fact that a young Charles A. Lindbergh was a junior officer in the unit from 1924 to 1929, including the period when he made his famous trans-Atlantic flight.

A Little Flour, a Bit of .45…

80 Years Ago: A 6th Naval Construction Battalion (Seabee) baker, M1911 on his side for those special moments, bakes bread in an oven recycled from Japanese materials at Guadalcanal, 26 October 1942. The pistol is not puffery. Just a few weeks prior, a Japanese offensive pushed the Marine lines back to the Lunga River at a point only 150 feet from the West end of Guadalcanal’s embattled Henderson Field, home to the Cactus Air Force. With the Marines entrenched in fighting at one end of the field, the Bees were carrying on construction at the other.

Seabee Museum photo.

NCB 6 was formed from volunteers in May 1942 at Camp Bradford outside of Norfolk then, after a 48-hour train ride, arrived at Gulfport, Mississippi on 24 June– the first battalion at the installation where now about half of the Seabee force is based. Their first building task was to erect the flagpole at Gulfport.

Before the end of July, “equipped as a combination of soldier, sailor and construction worker, they were ready to tackle their first assignment” and shipped out of San Francisco for the Western Pacific in the holds of the SS President Polk and USS Wharton.

Most of the men of the battalion had been in the Navy for less than 90 days. 

The first elements of NCB 6 landed at Espiritu Santo on the morning of 17 August, just days after the Marines went in at Guadalcanal, and went about their work building three piers from a camp set up in a coconut grove. On 1 September, the Bees headed to Guadalcanal to get into the airfield business.

As noted in the unit’s war history:

At Guadalcanal, the Seabees of NCB 6 lengthened and maintained Henderson Field, constructed piers, bridges, tunnels, roads, a Patrol Torpedo Boat Base, a tank farm, and a power plant, which they also operated. Most of the work was accomplished under enemy fire: strafing and bombardment from Japanese aircraft and shelling from the Japanese fleet.

U.S. Naval Construction Battalion 6 was inactivated on 13 September 1945 at Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. However, it would soon be reformed as NMCB 6 and serve extensively in Vietnam, but that is another story.

Rare Army (Colt) Ace surfaces

The original Colt Ace (the current one is a German pot-metal piece of trash) was a neat little blow-back action .22 rimfire version of the Colt Government similar to .45 ACP National Match, useful in training. However, the 10-shot .22 M1911A1 never really caught on, with less than 11,000 made between 1931-41 then in a “clean up” done post-WWII on everything left. A variant of the model, the Service Ace, which used a floating chamber design for better reliability as the .22 cartridge did not always have the power to move the slide backward for proper ejection and reloading, was lumped into the line after 1937 and about 13,000 were made, with the serial numbers starting with “SM” for Service Model.

Both the Navy and Army purchased small quantities of the pistol during this era, with the latter acquiring no less than 206 Aces.

Speaking of which Milestone has a really nice– and possibly historic– Ace up for auction this weekend.

The pistol is reported to be in the first group of Service Model Ace pistols obtained by the United States Gov’t for trials and consideration.

The pistol is accompanied by a copy of the sales receipt from Rock Island Arsenal to Captain Mark Jartman, Office of Deputy Chief of Ordnance, Washington DC and is dated Dec 30 1954. It is housed in Rock Island Arsenal shipping box with a label and the box has the serial number SM15 scribed on top with the matching federal stocking number that is indicated on the sales paperwork. The serial dates to the first run in late 1936, before the Service Model went into serial production. 

The pre-sale estimate is $8,500-$15,000.

The Pearl Harbor Avenger is back, baby

With all the news of scrapped or otherwise abandoned museum ships– particularly three submarines recently — it is nice to see a win for an old girl. The Balao-class fleet boat USS Bowfin (SS-287) launched on the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942– giving her almost 80 years in the water and the easy nickname of “the Pearl Harbor Avenger.”

After completing nine Pacific war patrols in WWII and earning a Presidential Unit Citation for 67,882 tons sunk (16 vessels of that tonnage plus 22 smaller craft), she was used as a Naval Reserve training submarine during the Korean War then stricken in 1971 and has been a memorial and the floating Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum at Pearl Harbor ever since. Notably, she never received a Cold War GUPPY upgrade, leaving her very close to her original WWII layout, which is rare today.

And she has just completed two months of scheduled dry dock maintenance and looks good as new.

Bowfin is set to return to her traditional dock in Pearl on Thursday and will reopen for tours around the first of November.

Warship Wednesday, Oct.19, 2022: Baron Carl’s Commando Taxi Service

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

Warship Wednesday, Oct.19, 2022: Baron Carl’s Commando Taxi Service

Photo via the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) in The Hague, No. 2158_008953

Above we see the K XIV-class submarine (onderzeeboot) Hr.Ms. K XV of the Royal Dutch Navy (Koninklijke Marine) during an exercise in the Dutch East Indies, shown transporting V-2, a Fokker C-VII W light naval reconnaissance floatplane, on her deck on 29 June 1935. Built expressly for overseas service, she would round the globe, sideline one of the emperor’s tankers, and deliver sneaky commando types behind enemy lines throughout the upcoming war.

Paid for by the oil-rich government of the Dutch East Indies in 1930 to serve as “colonial” submarines with the “K” for “Koloniën,” the five K XIV-class boats were designed by Dutch Navy engineer J. J. van der Struyff, who already had the smaller 0 9 and K XI-classes under his belt.

A bit larger and more modern than previous Dutch classes, they leveraged input from across Europe. Using a pair of 1,600 hp German-made MAN diesel engines and two 430 kW domestically built Smit Slikkerveer electric motors lined up on two shafts, these 1,045-ton vessels could push their 241-foot welded steel hulls at speeds approaching 17 knots on the surface (they made 19 on trials) and nine while submerged. The plant enabled them to cruise at an impressive 10,000nm at 12 knots, ideal for West Pacific patrols.

Using double hulls with a test depth of 250 feet, they carried both search and attack periscopes provided by Stroud and a periscopic radio antenna that could be used while submerged. Ideally, for their intended use around the 18,000-island East Indies archipelago, they could float in just 13 feet of water and submerge in anything over 50.

When it came to armament, they were outfitted with help from the British, including tubes for a batch of 200 Weymouth-built dialed-down Mark VIII torpedoes (dubbed II53 in Dutch service) that could hit 42 knots and carry a 660-pound warhead– not bad performance for the era.

A British-made II53 torpedo on board the destroyer Hr.Ms. Evertsen in 1929. The Dutch used these on both surface ships and subs. NIMH 2173-224-077

The torpedo tube layout in the class was interesting, and not repeated in another Dutch class. They mounted eight 21-inch torpedo tubes–four bows (two on each side of the hull), two in the stern, and a twin external trainable mount forward of the conning tower– with room for 14 fish.

Hr.Ms. K XIV, seen in a Colombo drydock in December 1942, shows a good view of her bow tubes and the inset cavity forward of the fairwater for her trainable twin tubes.

A good view of the twin tubes mounted outside of the hull under the deck, prior to installation in 1931.

Besides their torpedoes, they were armed with a Swedish 88mm/42cal Bofors No.2 deck gun and two British Vickers 2-pdr QF Mark II (40mm/39cal) large-bore AAA machine guns, the latter contained in neat disappearing installations, a novel idea for guns that weighed over 500-pounds including a water-cooled jacket.

The crew of Dutch submarine Hr.Ms. K XV with her 40mm Vickers “ack-ack” machine gun in position and 88mm Bofors gun pointing over the bow. Note the mixed crew, common for boats in the colonies. Circa late 1930s. NIMH 2158_005757

The first three boats– K XIV, K XV, and K XVI— were ordered from Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij on the same day in 1930 as Yard Nos. 167-169. The final two– K XVII and K XVIII— were ordered in 1931 as Yard Nos. 322 and 322 from neighboring Wilton-Fijenoord, Schiedam. All five were complete and ready to deploy by early 1934.

Dutch submarine Hr.Ms. K XV central control 1935 NIMH 2158_005759

Dutch submarine K XV at Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij Jan 1931 NIMH 2158_008934

Dutch submarine K XV at Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij Feb 22 1934 NIMH 2158_008935

Commissioning of Hr.Ms. K XV at the Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij, 30 December 1933. On the right is her sister, K XVI, fitting out. Note the large “15” on her fairwater and the caps over her stowed Vickers guns. Note the winter heavy blue uniforms, soon to be discarded. NIMH 2158_008948

With the class complete, they self-deployed as a unit some 9,000 miles for the East Indies, stopping along the way at Lisbon, Cádiz, Palermo, Port Said, Suez, Aden, and Colombo. In theory, they could have done this on one tank of diesel oil without having to refuel.

The departure of the submarines Hr.Ms. K XIV and sister Hr.Ms. K XV from Den Helder, Holland, for the Dutch East Indies, 7 February 1934. In the background can be seen sisters K XVI and K XVII, waiting offshore. NIMH 2158_008920

Dutch submarine K XV on the Tagus River, Lisbon, likely on her way to East Asia. Photo via the Direcção-Geral de Arquivos of Portugal.

The arrival of Hr.Ms. K XV in Surabaya, April 1934. In the background is the destroyer Hr.Ms. Van Nes, which would be lost in February 1942, was sunk by Japanese aircraft. The white ship in the distance is Hr.Ms. Koning der Nederlanden, a 70-year-old 5,300-ton ramtorenschip ironclad that had been disarmed and turned into a barracks ship in 1920. NIMH 2173-223-089.

DOZ 3 (Divisie Onderzeeboten), consisting at this time of the colonial submarines Hr.Ms. K-XIV, Hr.Ms. K-XV and Hr.Ms. K-XVI, seen here in anti-aircraft exercises ca 1938. Note you can see both Vickers 40mm being extended from the sail. You have a good view of the trainable twin external torpedo mounts via the opening just under the deck forward of the 88mm gun and the large escape hatches (drägervests) near the bow and aft of the saii. NIMH 2158_019998

Dutch submarines including sisters K XVI, K XIV, K XII, and K XV (1933-1946) along with the older (circa 1925) and smaller (216-feet/688 tons) Hr.Ms. K XI, alongside the supply ship Hr.Ms. Zuiderkruis, circa 1936. Of note, the obsolete little K XI, armed with more primitive Italian-made I53 torpedoes, would complete seven war patrols in WWII. Meanwhile, the 2,600-ton Zuiderkruis would escape from Java in February 1942 and spend the rest of WWII in Ceylon, operating as a depot ship and transport for the British Eastern Fleet. She would return home in 1945 and go on in 1950 after Indonesia’s independence to become the flagship of the Indonesian Navy (as Bimasakti) and President Soekarno’s personal yacht. NIMH 2158_019986

The sisters spend the lead-up to World War II in a series of exercises and drills, their history noting the most important occasion in the “happy time” being the 23-ship September 1938 naval review associated with the 40th coronation Jubilee of Queen Wilhelmina held in Soerabaja for the benefit of visiting French and British admirals.

Onderzeeboot Hr.Ms. K XV in Nederlands-Indië ca late 1930s. Note the awning and tropical whites. NIMH 2158_008950

Dutch submarine K XV in Soerabaja circa 1939. Note the sealed hatch for her 40mm Vickers machine gun in the sail. Also, it seems like one of her sisterships is tied next to her with a floatplane stored on her bow similar to the top 1935 image. NIMH 2158_008951

War!

On 10 May 1940, German swarmed over neutral Holland’s borders and, within a week, had overrun the country despite the best efforts of the Dutch Army and the Queen joined the government in exile in Britain. This left the Dutch East Indies in an odd place, as the country was at war with Germany but largely on its own as there were few Germans to fight in the Pacific. The closest thing was the scare later that year that the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer would transition to the area, one that would not materialize. One that did was the deployment of five auxiliary cruisers (HSK) — Orion, Pinguin, Komet, Atlantis, and Michel —although only one, Komet, would capture a Dutch ship, the freighter Kota Nopan, near the Galapagos Islands.

Then came the increasingly close encroachment of the Japanese including moving into Vichy French-controlled Indochina in September 1940. This was obviously a springboard for further aggressive expansion.

On 25 November 1940, K XV would welcome her fourth and final skipper, Luitenant ter zee 2e klasse Carel Wessel Theodorus, Baron van Boetzelaer. Born in 1905, the good baron had received his commission and spent 11 years in the navy before arriving on board. He would remain her commander throughout the war.

By November 1941, it was clear to everyone across the Pacific that the Japanese– cut off from American commodities including av gas since June 1940– were preparing to take the East Indies from the Dutch.

With that in their mind, DOZ 3 was sent from Soerabaja to guard the oil fields off Tarakan along the coast of Borneo against supposed Japanese intrusions on 18 November 1941. There, the trio of submarines received the flash at 08:07 on 8 December that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor and both the U.S. and the Dutch government in exile– to which the Dutch East Indies was loyal– had declared war on the Empire.

Ordered to remain submerged as much as possible during the day and maintain a brisk patrol schedule, the Dutch subs, working in conjunction with Dutch Navy Dornier Do 24 flying boats and Dutch Army Martin B-10 bombers, were soon sinking Japanese transports and small craft in the South China Sea. The first Japanese ship to feel Dutch lead was the fishing lugger Celebes Maru No. 3, forced to beach on Tobi Island on the afternoon of 8 December after being strafed by a Dornier, while the first submarine kill was of the transport Awajisan Maru (9,794 GRT) sent to the bottom on 12 December by the old Hr.Ms. K XII off the Malayan coast.

Before the year was out, Dutch subs in the region would account for 21 Japanese warships and auxiliaries (78,639 tons all told) exchanging four of their own number (O 16, O 20, K XVI, and K XVII) in the process. 

K XV achieved the last significant success of the KM in East Indian waters during the Indonesian campaign when, during her 4th war patrol on 1 March 1942, she attacked the 15,400-ton Japanese Navy Notaro-class oiler SS Tsurumi just after the Allied defeat in the Java Sea and the withdrawal from the Dutch East Indies.

From Combined Fleets:

Bantam Bay, E of Nicholas Point. That same day, Dutch Ltz/II Carel W. T. Baron van Boetzelaer’s submarine Hr.Ms. K-XV attacks TSURUMI. Van Boetzelaer fires two torpedoes. At least one hits and damages TSURUMI. This causes a hole with a length of 12.5 meter and depth of 5 meter below the waterline from ribs [frames] 108 to 128 on the port side, a square 1.5 meter hole from ribs 109 to 111 on the starboard, other small holes below the waterline and over a dozen points of breakage and distortion of the inner partition wall rib material.

Tsurumi would have to spend two months in occupied Singapore before she would sail again and K XV, who survived a 60-depth charge attack directly after the tanker was hit, would live to fight again.

Regrouping

While the Dutch subs had inflicted lots of damage on the Japanese, the fall of the Dutch East Indies to the onslaught left the remaining boats without a home. Sisters K XV and K XIV made it out and, along with the three smaller boats K VIII, K IX, and K XI, would retire to Ceylon and operate from there. The four boats would remain there alongside their depot ship Colombia. Meanwhile, the larger oceangoing (and snorkel-equipped) “O” boat Hr.Ms. O 19, which had made for Australia, was sent to Britain for extensive work (and so that the Brits could examine both her snorkel and German-made Atlas Werke sound gear firsthand).

Hr.Ms. K XV in dry dock at Colombo, Ceylon, late April 1942. Note her twin stern tubes near the top of her deck and two shafts on each side of the centerline rudder. NIMH 2158_008980

Getting back in the fight, K XV would embark on her 5th War Patrol from Ceylon and conduct her first “special mission” landing one LT Henri Emile Wijnmalen on the West coast of Japanese-occupied Sumatra on 12 May with an aim to link up with guerilla groups inland. Wijnmalen never made his planned rendezvous with the Dutch sub 12 days later, having been captured by the Japanese on the 16th and allowed to commit suicide after an extended period of torture and interrogation. He would be posthumously awarded the Bronze Lion in 1951.

While K VIII, K IX, and K XI would remain with the British in the Indian Ocean, conducting local patrols and training duties, it was decided to send the newer K XV and K XIV to the U.S. for extensive modernization.

This saw K XV leave Colombo on 1 August for Philadelphia via the Cape of Good Hope and a slow South Atlantic cruise, arriving at Philly on 1 November. The subsequent update saw her equipped with a new sonar fit, and the deletion of her topside torpedo tubes and an escape hatch in the interest of hull integrity. Also gone were her complicated 40mm Vickers mounts, replaced with simpler “wet” 20mm Oerlikons.

While in post-refit shakedown, one of her officers, Ltz. I Dirk van Beusekom, was killed in a torpedo accident at New London and buried at Arlington with full military honors.

Then came a trip to Dundee, Scotland for more updates and to pick up a British Type 291W radar and take on a load of Mark VIII torpedos. 

Hr.Ms. K XV in the Atlantic Ocean, late June 1943. NIMH 2158_008971

Dutch submarine Hr.Ms. K XV 1943-44 NIMH 2158_008966

Hr.Ms. K XV loading a torpedo, 1943-44. NIMH 2158_008967.

Bow tube room of the submarine Hr.Ms. K XV, 3 October 1943. Note the Queen’s portrait and the mixed crew, made up, like most colonial warships, of a combination of Indonesian and Europeans. NIMH 2158_004350

On 4 November 1943, K XV pulled out of Holy Loch, bound for East Asia once again via the Med and Suez, arriving at Colombo on Christmas.

She was soon back in the special mission business, working with the Australian-based Netherlands East Indies Forces Intelligence Service, or NEIFIS, whose business was running resistance and surveillance networks in the Dutch East Indies. This saw K XV busy schlepping Indonesian commandos around the islands and generally avoiding all contact with the Japanese.

K XV participated in at least six operations, typically landing small parties by folbots under the cover of darkness and beating feet, a task that was often impossible if local patrols were encountered or the beach was not suited. Sometimes, the mission would involve landing a shore party in the pre-dawn morning, submerging, and moving back in the following night to exfil the commandos, only to drop them a few miles further down the coast the next morning. Other times, a two-man recon team would be put ashore for the day, then make contact later that night via blinker lamp to either land the rest of the party and supplies for an extended stay or pick up the two men and keep looking for a better spot.

It must have been an interesting spectacle to see the good Baron Boetzelaer, clad in tropical whites, reeking of diesel, and pouring sweat, anxiously peering out over those enemy-held beaches for signs of either returning commandos or rushing Japanese as he puffed away on his pipe.

  • Operation Prawn. April 1944. Landing seven commandos at the coast of Sorong, New Guinea.
  • Operation Apricot. January 1945. Landing 10 commandos at the coast of the Djiko Doped Bay, northeast Minahassa, in the Celebes.
  • Operation Firtree/Poppy. February-March 1945. Involved a 5-man NEIFIS team landing on the Soela Islands to access the situation there. The detailed report on the Firtree shore party by its English-speaking Christian Ambonese commander, LT (and future Indonesian minister) Julius Tahija, shines a light on the types of operations these groups conducted. The companion 5-man Poppy team tried repeatedly to land at Wijnskoopbaai on Java.
  • Operation Parsnip. June 1945. K XV attempted three times to land a NEFIS shore party on the coast of Mandalika, the north coast of Java.
  • Operation Inco I. July 1945. Landed a shore party at six separate places along on coast of the Damar islands.

Hr.Ms. K XV in the Far East, circa 1944-45. Note her deck gun. NIMH2158_008975

Work on the deck of submarine Hr.Ms. K XV in the Indian Ocean, circa 1944. Engineer Corporal Samson Socraya and Sailor Pardo prepare a sea turtle for soup. As a side, that is a tremendous amount of meat. NIMH 2158_008974

Provisioning in Freemantle before leaving on a mission, in early 1945. NIMH 2158_008973

She also got a couple of kills, such as while on her 8th War Patrol in April 1944 when she sank a small Japanese patrol vessel off Waigeo Island by naval gunfire and fired a small coastal sailing ship. In all, she would complete 13 war patrols.

Hr.Ms. K XV presumably at Bass Strait (Tasmania) Dec 1944 NIMH 2158_008964

In September 1945, following the Japanese surrender, she was one of the only pre-war Dutch naval vessels to return to the liberated Dutch East Indies.

K XV returns to Tandjong Priok (the port of Batavia ) in 1945, more than three years after escaping the invading Japanese. Lieutenant C W T van Boetzelaer is possibly the officer in the peaked cap. AWM Accession Number: P00039.015

Conducting the occasional post-war sovereignty patrol, by April 1946 she was laid up at Soerabaja, used as a floating generator.

Retired and disarmed submarine ex-Hr.Ms. K XV lists at the quay in Soerabaja, Republic of Indonesia, on 20 September 1950, four years after decommissioning. Ready to be destroyed, she would be sold for scrap in December and towed out to the Java Sea the following January, headed for the breakers. NIMH 2158_008930.

Epilogue

K XV‘s British style Jolly Roger, or bloedvlag in Dutch parlance, is preserved.

Her jolly roger details 13 daggers, one for each commando landing, two depth charge attacks with 67 cans counted, a warship sunk by naval gunfire, and two hits on merchantmen. “WP 13” denotes 13 war patrols.

Of her four sisters, all gave hard service in East Asia in WWII, opposing the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies. Three were lost during the conflict.

Hr.Ms. K XVI sank the Japanese Fubuki-class destroyer Sagiri on Christmas Eve 1941 then was, in turn, sunk by the Japanese submarine I-66 on Christmas Day, lost with all hands.

Hr.Ms. K XVII was believed lost in a newly laid Japanese minefield on or about 21 December 1941 in the Gulf of Siam and is still on patrol with 38 crewmembers. There are wild rumors she was lost in the “cover-up” in the Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory, but they are, most assuredly, groundless.

Hr.Ms. K XVIII in January 1942 sank the Japanese transport Tsuruga Maru (7,289 tons) and just missed the cruiser Naka but was crippled in a depth charge attack the next morning. Scuttled in Surabaya when that key Dutch stronghold fell in February, she was later refloated by the Japanese and put back in service as an air warning picket hulk in the Madoera Strait, then sent to the bottom a final time in June 1945 by the British submarine HMS Taciturn.

Class leader Hr.Ms. K XIV (N 22) was the most successful when it came to chalking up “kills,” is credited with three Japanese troopships — SS Katori Maru (9,848 tons), SS Ninchinan Maru (6,503 tons), and SS Hiyoshi Maru (4,943 tons)– sunk along with a fourth — MS Hokkai Maru (8,416 tons)– damaged in late December 1941 alone. Updated in America like K XV, she spent the rest of the war in Freemantle and would damage the 4,410-ton Japanese minelayer Tsugaru and bag numerous small vessels. She was retired in 1946, having completed nine war patrols. Also, like K XV, she languished in Soerabaja during the Dutch war against Soekarno, then was towed out and sunk in deep water following independence.

Hr.Ms. onderzeeboot K XIV (1933-1946) z.g.n. getrimd dieselen. NIMH 2158_005756

The K XIV class Bloedvlaggen.

In all, “Free Dutch” submarines accounted for 168,183 tons of enemy shipping and warships between May 1940 and August 1945, sinking no less than 69 ships– a figure that doesn’t count the myriad of small craft they also sent to the bottom. They also lost 16 boats, with seven on eternal patrol.

As for Baron Boetzelaer– the only Dutch officer to remain in charge of his warship throughout the war– he went on to become an aide-de-camp adjutant and chamberlain to Queen Beatrix, later serving as naval attaché in London and commanding the cruiser Hr.Ms. Tromp in the 1950s. He would retire as Chief of Staff Inspector General in 1958 and pass in 1987, aged 82.

Kapitein ter zee C.W.Th., Baron van Boetzelaer, seen in 1953 as skipper of the cruiser Hr.Ms. Tromp.

LTZ.I Dirk van Beusekom, KMR, killed at New London in 1943, remains one of the few Dutch military figures buried at Arlington, forever 35.

Specs:

Schaalmodel van Hr.Ms. K XVIII NIMH 2158_054141

(As-built)
Displacement: 865 tons surfaced; 1045 tons submerged
Length: 241 ft 7 in
Beam: 21 ft 4 in
Draught: 12 ft 11 in
Propulsion
2 x 1,600 bhp diesel engines
2 x 430 kW electric motors
Speed: 17 knots surfaced, 9 submerged
Range: 10,000 nmi at 12 knots on the surface
Complement: 38
Armament
4 x 21-inch bow torpedo tubes
2 x 21-inch stern torpedo tubes
2 x 21-inch external-traversing torpedo tubes forward of the conning tower
1 x 88 mm gun
2 x 40 mm guns (replaced with 1 x 20 mm gun during WWII)


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!

Camp Hale, recognized

President Biden, using the Antiquities Act, last week declared his first national monument, the 53,804-acre Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument.

To any aged 10th Infantry Division vet, Tibetian freedom fighter, WWII Italian campaign buff, or Ute Indian, the area is well known. Named for Span-Am War vet and Colorado transplant, Brig. Gen. Irving Hale (USMA 1884), the base was carved out of the wilderness around Red Cliff in 1942 and used to train GI “mountain” and ski troops throughout WWII.

Army Pack Mules at Camp Hale, Colorado, 3.17.1944 111-SC-240545

The famous image of Corporal Hall Burton, Mountain Ski Trooper, At Camp Hale, Colorado, ca. 1943. Note the M1 Garand over his shoulder. 111-SC-329331

“Mountain Troops Learn From Mountain Explorer,” 9.19.43 111-SC-178597

Some 15,000 trained there during the war including not only the units that would become the 10th Mountain but the 38th “Rock of the Marne” Infantry Regiment, the unarmed and restricted duty (due to German-birth/sketchy politics) 620th Engineer General Service Co, and the Norwegian-American 99th Inf. Battalion (separate)-– the latter a feeder for Norwegian NORSOG cells for the OSS.

After the Army cleared out, the CIA stepped in at Camp Hale and trained hundreds of Chushi Gangdruk Tibetan resistance members there in the 1950s and 1960s.

While Camp Hale has been a National Historic Site since 1992, of course, there are calls from conservatives that Biden overstepped in naming the new monument, and the Ute nation–whose land it was traditionally– said the new monument celebrates an “unlawful act of genocide” due to their treatment at the hands of the federal government, I think it was the right move.

From the White House statement:

The Forest Service will manage the 53,804-acre national monument and develop a management plan to protect cultural resources and the objects of historic and scientific interest identified in the proclamation. The monument will be protected for future generations while continuing to support a wide range of recreation opportunities, recognizing the ongoing use of the area for outdoor recreation, including skiing, hiking, camping, and snowmobiling. The management plan will also help guide the development of education and interpretative resources, to share the area’s full story, from the history of Indigenous peoples, to the heroic training and service of the 10th Mountain Division, while maintaining space for the area’s growing recreation economy.

The establishment of this monument is subject to valid existing rights, including valid existing water and mineral rights. The monument will not affect any permits held by the area’s world-class ski resorts and will not restrict activities outside of the monument’s boundaries. The proclamation allows for continued remediation of contaminated lands and for continued avalanche and snow safety management, wildfire response and prevention, and ecological restoration. Laws, regulations, and policies followed by the Forest Service in issuing and administering grazing permits on all lands under its jurisdiction will continue to apply.

80 Years Ago, Silversides Lashes Out

The Gato-class fleet boat USS Silversides (SS-236) was commissioned a week and a day after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

Silversides, off Mare Island, early 1942. 80-G-446220

Bringing the war to the Empire, Silversides completed 14 war patrols and sank 23 ships, the third-highest total of enemy ships sunk by a U.S. submarine during the war.

One of those Japanese vessels that narrowly escaped making the list was a vessel damaged but somehow not sunk 80 years ago today while Silversides was on her 3rd War Patrol, a voyage that would take her from Pearl Harbor to Brisbane across the course of eight weeks– most of it without a functioning gyro compass. Her target that day was a sail-rigged converted trawler turned patrol boat.

USS Silversides (SS-236) 3″/50 deck gun firing on a Japanese picket boat, in October 1942. Description: 80-G-12881

USS Silversides (SS-236) 3″/50 deck gun firing on a Japanese picket boat, in October 1942. Description: 80-G-12875

USS Silversides (SS-236) water-cooled .50 caliber machine gun in action on board USS Silversides (SS-236), in 1942. 80-G-20367

USS Silversides (SS-236) Officer spotting shots as the sub. shells a Japanese picket vessel in October 1942. 80-G-12879

USS Silversides (SS-236) Japanese picket vessel attacked by Silversides on 14 October 1942. Periscope photo. 80-G-12899

Japanese patrol vessel under attack by USS Silversides (SS-236). Photo dated 14 October 1942. 80-G-12895

Japanese patrol vessel afire during an attack by USS Silversides (SS-236). Photo dated 14 October 1942. 80-G-12893

LCDR Creed Cardwell Burlingame, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Silversides (SS-236) Wearing foul weather gear, sporting his “patrol beard” and smoking a corncob pipe on board his boat, during a 1942 war patrol. The salty officer was at the time on his sixth submarine and third command, with 15 years of service under his belt. 80-G-11902

Silversides received twelve battle stars for World War II service and was awarded one Presidential Unit Citation.

Decommissioned on 17 April 1946 and moved to the freshwater of the Great Lakes to serve for another 23 years as a Naval Reserve training ship, by the time she was stricken in 1969 she was almost unique– virtually unmodified since her last refitting at Pearl Harbor in 1945– and her hull in great shape due to her freshwater storage.

This allowed Silversides to be moved to an easy display in Pere Marquette Park along the Muskegon Lake Channel, where she rests today, still beautiful despite her age.

As for Burlingame, the 1927 Annapolis grad would retire from the Navy in 1957 as a rear admiral with three (3) Navy Crosses and two Silver Stars in his collection. He passed in 1985, aged 80, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »