The story of the ghost of Mobile Bay, and her robot crew

The ex-USS Shadwell (LSD-15) is a 7,300-ton, 457-foot gator– the last member of the 19-ship Casa-Grande-class dock landing ships. Commissioned in 1944, she was hit by a torpedo and downed a kamikaze in WWII. She was part of the Third Fleet in Tokyo Bay, Japan, on that fateful day in September 1945 when the war concluded.

In better days, USS SHADWELL (LSD-15) Mediterranean Sea, June 1968 NHC Catalog K-51142

After more than 25-years faithful service around the world, she was on 9 March 1970, placed out of commission, and mothballed. In 1976 her name was stricken from the Navy List and she was a warship no more.

However, the Navy Research Lab’s Navy Technology Center for Safety and Survivability’s Shipboard Fire Scaling Section operates and maintains Shadwell as the Navy’s full-scale “Real Scale” Damage Control Facility dedicated to integrated Research, Development, Test and Evaluation studies on active and passive fire protection, flooding and chemical (simulants) defense for the past 30 years. As such, she has been renovated and instrumented to a degree that her builders never imagined.

The Naval Research Laboratory’s ex-USS Shadwell is a decommissioned U.S. Navy Landing Ship Dock that serves as the Navy’s full-scale damage control research, development, test and evaluation platform. Moored in Mobile Bay, Ala., the ship is regularly set ablaze in controlled demonstrations to test firefighting technologies, tactics and procedures and damage control practices to improve the safety of operational Navy and civilian shipboard firefighting measures. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Among the high-tech systems, the ship has been a testbed for is Virginia Tech’s SAFFiR robotic firefighter built for ONR.

The Office of Naval Research-sponsored Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) undergoes testing aboard the Naval Research Laboratory’s ex-USS Shadwell located in Mobile, Ala. SAFFiR is a bipedal humanoid robot being developed to assist Sailors with damage control and inspection operations aboard naval vessels. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Based in Mobile Bay since 1988, she is currently on the disposal list.

Shadwell is to be dismantled in place and all fire testing will be shifted to land-based facilities located at NRLs 168-acre Chesapeake Beach Detachment.

Below is an All Hands video of her from 2015, highlighting some of what made her so special.

A trophy Sterling-Patchett, with an interesting back story

The Sterling-Patchett Mk 5 was a silenced version of the Sterling Submachine-gun. The modification was the work of George Patchett, who had originally designed the Sterling itself. The Mk 5 was adopted by the British armed forces as the Gun, Sub-machine, 9mm L34A1.

This is the commercially sold version with a “crinkle” finish, which featured a wooden foregrip to protect the firer’s hand from the integral suppressor unit, which became hot from the propellant gas which vented into it upon firing:

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

This particular gun was captured from Argentinian forces during the 1982 Falklands Conflict by the British Army in June 1982 along with 20,000~ other sundry surrendered arms. It was issued (along with standard versions of the Sterling SMG) to the Argentine Marines, and was most notably used by their assault commandos – the Buzos Tacticos – during the initial stages of the Argentine invasion.

These Royal Marines of Naval Party 8901, seen outside of Government House during the Argentine invasion, would later return to the Falklands as part of 42 Commando and settle scores, being the first unit to raise the Union Jack at the compound.

Farewell, Paladin

Once described as being a product of the “most dangerous publisher in the world,” the Boulder, Colorado-based media house and distributor is closing its doors at the end of the year.

As noted on the company’s website, Paladin is shuttering following the death earlier this year of their co-founder and publisher, Peder Lund, and is selling off remaining inventory at greatly reduced prices. Over the decades, Paladin has marketed 800 how-to books and videos on topics like self-defense, firearms, martial arts, and survival as part of its Professional Action Library. Some are downright hokey, but others are very valuable texts, especially those on military history.

“There will be no more books or videos sold after November 29, 2017,” the company’s website says. “We are incredibly grateful to all of our amazing customers and authors for their continued loyalty and support over the decades.”

I ordered a mystery crate of 50 titles for $50 as well as a few classic volumes that I didn’t have hard copies of for basically chump change. For example, they have Maj. John L. Plaster’s excellent work on Great War snipers, which just came out and has a $40 MSRP, on sale for $6 measly dollars.

You are welcome!

Just a gimmick or what?

Behold, the Full Conceal M3.

Just 3.6-inches high when folded, the M3 uses a 21-round Magpul PMAG GL9 magazine to fill in for part of the grip when extended. The modified frame utilizes a folding trigger safety that prevents the trigger bar from moving and engaging the sear, a feature that Full Conceal bills as leaving the gun safe to carry with a round chambered, even in the folded position.

They were vaporware for the past year but are now shipping for a four-figure price point.

Of course, folding guns aren’t anything new.

There was always the Japanese Type 1 Paratrooper rifle, which sucked, and the Hotchkiss Universal which was a better idea, and the Burgess folding shotgun, which is downright weird.

The Hotchkiss SMG

The Burgess

The Japanese Paratrooper

And today there is even the XAR Invicta folding rifle

But none of these are a handgun, such as the Full Conceal.

Thoughts? Comments? Concerns?

Bad news for FFG7 fans out there

150417-N-SV210-036 SAN DIEGO (April 17, 2015) The guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) arrives at Naval Base San Diego after completing its final deployment before decommissioning. During the seven-month deployment, Gary operated in the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 3rd Fleet areas of operations and played an integral role in Operation Martillo. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Donnie W. Ryan/Released)

It looks like the CNO looked at it and decided the “Ghetto Navy” is best left out to pasture.

It’s a common theme in bringing back high-mileage warships like the neutered FFG-7 class from mothballs. They were typically rode hard and put up wet. For example, when SECNAV John “600-ship Navy” Lehman went to look at the old carrier USS Oriskany in 1981 with an eye to putting her back into use after a four-year layup, she had grass and even small trees growing on her decks and was too far gone for Congress to okay the millions needed to get her back into the fold.

From Defense News:

The Navy estimates that bringing back 10 of the Perry-class frigates would cost in excess of $4.32 billion over 10 years, and take away from money needed to modernize the Navy’s existing cruisers and destroyers. In return, the Navy would get a relatively toothless ship only suitable for very low-end missions such as counter-drug operations.

“With obsolete combat systems and aging hulls, these vessels would require significant upgrades to remain warfighting relevant for another decade,” the document reads. “Any potential return on investment would be offset by high reactivation and life-cycle costs, a small ship inventory, limited service life, and substantial capability gaps.

“Furthermore, absent any external source of funding, these costs would likely come at the expense of other readiness, modernization or shipbuilding programs.”

The rest here.

Goodbye and good riddance!

So it looks like the Zimbabwe bogeyman, Mugabe and his wife, has been replaced in a coup that officially isn’t one.

Can you believe this guy has been in power since 1980? And thought it would be cool that his batshit wife inherits the throne? Yikes.

Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo of the 30,000-strong ZDF appeared on state-run TV and said, in his best Mars Attacks address to Congress, that all is going perfectly well.

This came as the BBC reported that “Heavy gun and artillery fire could be heard in northern parts of the capital Harare early on Wednesday.”

As a side note, I always did like the Belgian and later Rhodesian “brushtroke” pattern camo, though the ZDF uses a gently modified version of it today.

But they still use it…

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017: The big Hawaiian Swede

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

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017: The big Hawaiian Swede

Photo via Sjöhistorisk Musumet, Göteborg, #Fo49335A Note her “neutral flag” as well and fore and aft blue and yellow racing stripes to help identify her during the war

Here we see the mighty four-masted barque, Abraham Rydberg, a Swedish cargo carrying schoolship (skolskeppet) that trained sailors and officers, as she approached New York in 1940. She managed to survive both World Wars and the end of her era of sea trade while putting in a lot of honest work.

Laid down for the merchant service in the heyday of the fast transcontinental clipper ships, she was ordered in 1892 from the Clyde firm of Charles Connell & Company, Glasgow (Yard #184) by the Hawaiian Construction Co. of San Francisco.

At some 2,400-tons, the big 270-foot four-master was built to run cargo on the cheap and she entered service as the Hawaiian-flagged Hawaiian Isles, operating out of Honolulu on the sugar trade, later inherited by the Planters Line by 1900, which added her to the U.S registry– one of just 24 Hawaiian-flagged vessels to which this was done.

The Matson Navigation Company of San Francisco bought her from Planters in 1906 and used her on a South American run for several years until she was sold once again to the Alaska Packers’ Association for $60,000 in 1910, a stalwart of the West Coast lumber trade alternating between running “100 or more Chinese and Mexican cannery workers to the fishing grounds in the spring and bringing them back in the fall, together with a hold full of canned salmon.”

That California-based company changed her significantly, reduced the rig and leaving her baldheaded as they elongated the poop over 30-feet to better accommodate the severe weather of the Northern Pacific. Sailing as Star of Greenland under the command of one Captain P.H. Peterson, she was a regular along the Pacific Northwest and in the frozen territory for 15 years until laid up at Alameda in 1926, managing to escape German raiders during the Great War (remember the raider Seeadler was active at the time and captured three American-flagged schooners in June-July in the Southeast Pacific, and the raider Wolf had poked her nose into the West Pac).

Her speed likely had her in good graces– she once made the 2,400-mile Unalaska to Golden Gate run for the Packers in just 7 days– a feat that took most of the other slow craft in the business 35 or more.

After three years of hard luck layup on the West Coast, the aging barque was acquired by the Rydbergska Stiftelsen organization from Sweden for a song ($19,000) and, carrying a full new triangular canvas set, made London in 134 days with a cargo of grain and a scratch crew. A number of changes were implemented in the vessel, including construction of a midships bridge deck and adding classroom spaces for up to 70 cadets– which were required by Swedish law to take a full-year of courses before gaining a certificate as a merchant seaman.

Founded in 1850 by an endowment left by Swedish shipping magnate Abraham Rydberg, the maritime school trained youth in practical sailing, in large part by taking them on lengthy cargo hauls from the Baltic to Australia and the Caribbean. Ages of the trainees, which came in many instances from all over Europe, ran from 14-20 and the Rydbergska foundation produced thousands of sailors for the Swedish merchant and naval forces over the course of a century.

Here is first Abraham Rydberg stiftelse schoolship, a 101-foot three master built in 1879. She served the school until replaced by the larger Abraham Rydberg II in 1912.

Here we see 129-foot three-master which served as the second Abraham Rydberg, which our ship replaced. As an aside, this ship was in U.S. waters in WWII as a privately owned yacht and used by the Navy as USS SEVEN SEAS (IX-68), performing a role as a station/training ship at Key West.

Purchased in 1930, the Hawaiian Isles/Star of Greenland became the institute’s third Abraham Rydberg under a Swedish flag, undertaking yearly training excursions on the wheat trade to Australia alongside other such school ships as the Kristiania Schoolship Association’s Christian Radich out of Norway and the Danish East Asiatic Company schoolship København— the latter of which disappeared on such a run.

Our Rydberg, taken from liner S/S Mauretania in seas, 1 April 1934, off Australia. Fo202759

By all accounts, she was a happy ship during this time apart from a collision with the British steamer Koranton (6,695-tons) just off Eddystone. While Rydberg, loaded with 3,200-tons of wheat at the time, lost several plates on the port side and her main top-gallant, she could make for England and repairs.

She was a celebrated Cape Horn windjammer still in operation during an age of steamships and drew a crowd every time she came near shore. As she carried some 35,000sq yds. of canvas and could make 14-knots on it with no sweat, she was a sight, indeed.

   In the Thames:

Her cadets hard at work both on deck and aloft in the below video, with her skipper talking about the great “Grain Races” of the 1930s. Rydberg made seven round trips from Europe to Australia between 1933-38:

When WWII started, Rydberg kept in the dangerous service of merchant shipping under the nominal shield of her country’s flag. Operating on the less-risky Brazil-to-Boston run, a neutral ship between two neutral ports, she made Santos in just 49 days on one trip.

Skolskeppet ABRAHAM RYDBERG off New York, 1940. Note the ship’s name and Swedish flag amidships for the benefit of U-boat periscopes. The two stripes are in blue and yellow, national colors. Her crew participated in the New York World’s Fair that year. # Fo15244A

From astern, again note her flag, stripe, and marking. #Fo148032AF

Immediately following the outbreak of the war, both the Britsh and Germans thought some travel by Swedish merchantmen was good and entered into an odd agreement between the three that Stockholm’s ships going into and out of the Baltic through the two belligerents’ respective naval blockades were fine as long as all three parties agreed to each voyage. In all, some 226 sailings to and 222 sailings from Sweden were cleared in such a manner– though nine ships were lost on these “pre-screened” runs as not everyone got the message. Further, the agreement didn’t apply to Swedish ships outside of Northern Europe, hence Rydberg‘s change to operations from the U.S.

Make no mistake though, the Swedish merchant service suffered during the war (as did the Swedish Navy– the submarine HMSwS Ulven was sunk by the Germans in 1943), neutrality be damned. In all, an estimated 2,000-2,500 Swedish sailors and fishermen were killed during the conflict as no less than 201 unarmed Swedish-flagged merchant ships and 31 fishing vessels were sent to the bottom in attacks from the Germans, Soviets, and British. You can be sure that many men who trained as boys on the Rydberg are on this butcher’s bill.

However, when Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the war and German U-boats became a regular sight off the East Coast as part of Operation Drumbeat, keeping Rydberg in service was considered too risky and she was laid up in Baltimore harbor, her crew transiting back to Sweden. She had retained a Lloyds 1A classification her entire career with the Swedes, an accomplishment for any merchant vessel pushing 50 years on her keel.

It was then that she was given the dishonor of becoming a diesel-powered freighter when, after she was bought by the Portuguese firm of Julio Ribeiro Campos in 1943 for $265,000, had her masts stepped and a pair of Fairbanks Morse M6s installed at Kensington Shipyard in Philadelphia. Her new name, Fox do Duoro.

As Fox do Duoro, taken in New Orleans, 1949. Note the maimed masts and black hull. Quite a difference from her gleaming white scheme and a sky full of canvas.

Poking around for another decade, she was resold twice more to various concerns in Lisbon until finally being offered for her value in scrap metal to Société Anonyme Bonita, Tangiers, who broke her in 1957.

Sadly, that was also the last year the Abraham Rydbergs group was in operation as a maritime institute, though it still exists as a foundation which provides a scholarship to other schools’ training programs. A fourth Rydberg, the former British yacht Sunbeam II, a 194-foot three-masted schooner built by Lord Runciman, was bought by the school in 1945 and used for a decade before they got out of the schoolship business for good. Incidentally, this final ship is in the service of the Hellenic Navy currently.

Our Rydberg, is, however, widely remembered in maritime art.

Deep Waters, by Montague Dawson, showing Rydberg on the high seas.

By Adolf Bock

Joe Francis Dowden, watercolor The Abraham Rydberg as she would have appeared in Planter Line Service as Hawaiian Isles in the 1900s


Displacement: 2345 grt
Length: 270 ft.
Beam: 43 ft.
Draft: 23 ft.
Engines (1943) twin Fairbanks M6cyl 14″x17″ 1300bhp, 2-screw, machinery aft
Crew: 40 + up to 70 cadets on a one-year course (1930-42)

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.

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!

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