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, April 19, 2017: The busy year of the Raiders’ taxi service
Here we see the Yorktown-class carrier, USS Hornet (CV-8), as she arrives at Pearl Harbor after the Doolittle Raid on Japan, 30 April 1942. Note PT-28 and PT-29 speeding by in the foreground. If this image doesn’t scream “war in the Pacific” nothing else does. It should be noted that this photo was taken 75 years ago this month.
Starting with the “covered wagon” that was the converted collier USS Langley, and moving through a pair of huge converted battlecruisers USS Lexington and Saratoga, and the Navy’s first flattop designed from the keel up, USS Ranger, gave the Navy four lessons learned over a 15-year period in carrier design and development which led to the Yorktown class.
Designed in the early 1930s, these 19,800-ton vessels (26,000 fl) were nice floating landing strips some 824-feet long. Equipped with two catapults on the flight deck and a (useless) hangar deck level cat, these straight deck carriers featured three elevators and could accommodate a 90-plane air wing. Fast, at 32.5-knots, they could outstrip submarines and most battleships of the era, and a smattering of 5″/38, 1.1″/75 quads, and water-cooled Browning .50 cals provided defense against 1930s-era small surface combatants and planes. With long legs (12,500nm at 16 knots) they could travel the Pacific or Atlantic with ease and minimal tanker support.
Class leader, Yorktown (CV-5), was laid down in 1934 and made it to the fleet three years later, followed by the famous Enterprise (CV-6). The subject of our tale was the 7th USS Hornet on the Navy List and, like her two sisters was laid down at Newport News.
Hornet was commissioned 20 October 1941, two years after the rest of the world entered WWII and two months before the United States did the same. Her first commander was a scrappy fellow by the name of Captain Marc A. Mitscher.
When the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, Hornet was in Norfolk but was made ready for war in the Pacific, losing her .50cals in exchange for Oerlikon 20mm guns and picking up a camo scheme.
It was at Norfolk that she tested flight deck operations with a trio of Army B-25 medium bombers, and found they could be launched successfully with a degree of pucker– and even landed with a greater one.
“Take-off and landing tests conducted with three B-25B’s at and off Norfolk, Virginia, indicated that take off from the carrier would be relatively easy but landing back on again extremely difficult.” said Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle in his report to the commanding general of Army Air Forces. “It was then decided that a carrier take-off would be made some place East of Tokyo, and the flight would proceed in a generally westerly direction from there. Fields near the East Coast of China and at Vladivostok were considered as termini.”
Then came a transfer to the West Coast, and a special mission for the carrier still technically on shakedown.
Arriving in San Francisco, Hornet had part of her Naval airwing offloaded and 16 Army B-25s, 64 modified 500-pound bombs, and 201 USAAF aviators and ground crew transferred aboard.
Putting to sea on April 2, the task force commanded by Vice Adm. Halsey consisted of Hornet with her escort Nashville, the carrier Enterprise with her three companion heavy cruisers Salt Lake City, Northampton, and Vincennes, as well as a group of destroyers and tankers headed West for points unknown and under great secrecy.
After refueling from the tankers on April 17, the four cruisers and two carriers raced towards Japan. The plan was to launch the first raid on the Home Islands to score a propaganda victory following a string of defeats across the Pacific in the first four months of the war.
However, the group was sighted while still far out to sea. The quick-shooting Nashville rapidly engaged the Japanese ship, Gunboat No. 23 Nittō Maru, and sank her with 6-inch shells, but the little 70-ton boat got off a warning via radio on her way down.
The 16 bombers quickly launched into history and the six ships of the task force turned back for safer waters.
As noted by DANFS:
As Hornet swung about and prepared to launch the bombers which had been readied for take-off the previous day, a gale of more than 40 knots churned the sea with 30-foot crests; heavy swells, which caused the ship to pitch violently, shipped sea and spray over the bow, wet the flight deck and drenched the deck crews. The lead plane, commanded by Colonel Doolittle, had but 467 feet of flight deck while the last B-25 hung far out over the fantail. The first of the heavily-laden bombers lumbered down the flight deck, circled Hornet after take-off, and set course for Japan. By 0920 all 16 of the bombers were airborne, heading for the first American air strike against the heart of Japan.
Hornet brought her own planes on deck and steamed at full speed for Pearl Harbor. Intercepted broadcasts, both in Japanese and English, confirmed at 1445 the success of the raids. Exactly one week to the hour after launching the B-25s, Hornet sailed into Pearl Harbor. Hornet’s mission was kept an official secret for a year; until then President Roosevelt referred to the origin of the Tokyo raid only as “Shangri-La.”
Three Raiders died trying to reach safety in China. Japanese soldiers executed three. One died in captivity.
However, Hornet was not allowed to rest on her laurels and soon set off to meet the Japanese in the Coral Sea, but arrived just after the pitched battle that saw the loss of the giant USS Lexington.
Then came Midway, where the now seven-month-old Hornet joined her sisters Yorktown and Enterprise to blunt Yamamomo’s greatest effort.
On 4 June, the combined torpedo plane fleet of the three carriers made a charge of the light brigade style attack on the Japanese task force. Of the 41 TBD Devastators that took off that day, 15 were from Hornet‘s Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8). However, they were jumped by Japanese fighters eight miles from their targets and all 15 were shot down. Only one pilot, Ens. George H. Gay, USNR, reached the surface as his plane sank and hid under a rubber seat cushion while he watched the dive bombers come in and get revenge in the sinking of four Japanese carriers, turning the tide of the war
Two days later, to add the ending period to the battle, Hornet‘s planes attacked the fleeing Japanese fleet to assist in sinking cruiser Mikuma, damaged a destroyer, and left cruiser Mogami aflame and heavily damaged.
War artist Tom Lea shipped out on Hornet for her next run across the Pacific after Midway. There, in fierce service off Guadalcanal in late summer 1942, he spent more than two months on a front-line carrier in the thick of the war and sketched as he found, including the loss of the carrier Wasp.
From a six-week period from mid-September until 24 October, Hornet was the only operable U.S. carrier in the Pacific, all the others being either in repair or at the bottom.
On 26 October, joined by the newly patched up Enterprise, Hornet was involved in the Battle of Santa Cruz Island. During that sharp engagement often forgotten to military history, Hornet‘s airwing severely damaged the Japanese carrier Shokaku, delivering at least three (and possibly as many as six) 1,000-lb. bomb hits from the 15 Douglas SBD-3 dive bombers launched from our carrier, putting her out of service for months. Hornet‘s planes also made hay of the cruiser Chikuma.
However, just 371 days after she was commissioned, Hornet took extreme damage in return from Japanese torpedo and bomber aircraft.
As noted by DANFS
The abandoned Hornet, ablaze from stern to stern, refused to accept her intended fate from friends. She still floated after receiving nine torpedoes and more than 400 rounds of 5-inch shellfire from destroyers Mustin and Anderson. Japanese destroyers hastened the inevitable by firing four 24-inch torpedoes at her blazing hull. At 0135, 27 October 1942, she finally sank off the Santa Cruz Islands. Her proud name was struck from the Navy List 13 January 1943.
Tom Lea remembered the ship fondly.
On 21 October, just six days before she was to sink, he left the Hornet, pulling away on a fleet oiler that would land him back at Pearl Harbor. The cleared sketches he produced above would appear in LIFE in March and April 1943, sadly, after the carrier had long been sunk.
Back at Pearl Harbor, Lea showed Admiral Nimitz some of his drawings. One of them was the one above. Underneath the drawing, he inscribed a quotation from Deuteronomy: “Moreover the Lord thy God shall send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.”
Admiral Nimitz looked at the drawing for a long time, then turned his head to Lea, and said: “Something has happened to the Hornet.”
That was how Lea found out that the aircraft carrier he had been on, together with his friends, perished.
This he immortalized in a painting ran by LIFE of how he pictured the ship going out– fighting.
Hornet remains a favorite subject of maritime art, not just from Lea, but other painters. Take for instance this great piece by Gordon Grant.
Remember VT-8’s Ensign Gay? The lone survivor of his squadron survived the war, ending his service as a Lt. CDR and Navy Cross holder. In 1994 he died of a heart attack at a hospital in Marietta, Georgia, age 77, was cremated and his ashes spread at the place that his squadron had launched its ill-fated attack
As for the Raiders, the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo was commemorated by the ceremonial arrival of 11 B-25 bombers at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, on 17 April 2017, who flew in formation on the anniversary on Tuesday.
As noted by the AP, the last Raider living is 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole. He attended Tuesday’s service at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton. Lead plane co-pilot Cole came from his Comfort, Texas, home.
The Navy still considers the Doolittle Raid to have relevent principals today.
“The Doolittle Raid, some 75 years ago, pushed Air Force Bombers outside of their normal operating envelope,” said Capt. Kevin Lenox, commanding officer of USS Nimitz (CVN 68), a World War II-namesake ship. “They were designed to fly from an airfield, but USS Hornet provided the perfect mobile launch point to send them into combat from the sea. The Navy didn’t have planes that could reach Tokyo, and the Air Force didn’t have any runways close enough. Together, their integrated capabilities were able to win the day, and that lesson has carried forward to today’s highly capable joint force.”
20,000 long tons (20,000 t) (standard)
25,500 long tons (25,900 t) (full load)
29,114 long tons (29,581 t) (maximum)
770 ft. (230 m) (waterline at design draft)
824 ft. 9 in (251.38 m) (overall)
83 ft. 3 in (25.37 m) (waterline)
114 ft. (35 m) (overall)
24 ft. 4 in (7.42 m) design
28 ft. (8.5 m) full load
Installed power: 120,000 shp (89,000 kW)
4 × Parsons geared steam turbines
9 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers
32.5 kn (37.4 mph; 60.2 km/h) (design)
33.84 kn (38.94 mph; 62.67 km/h) (builder’s trials)
Range: 12,500 nmi (14,400 mi; 23,200 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 2,919 officers and enlisted (wartime)
Armament: (as built)
8 × 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns
16(4×4) × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns
24 × M2 Browning .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns
Armament (by July 1942)
8 × 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns
20 (5×4) × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns
32 × 20-mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon
Belt: 2.5–4 in (63.5–102 mm)
Deck: 4 in (102 mm) 60 lb. STS steel
Bulkheads: 4 in (102 mm)
Conning Tower: 4 in (100 mm) sides, 2 in (51 mm) top
Steering Gear: 4 in (102 mm)
Aircraft carried: 72-90 × aircraft
3 × elevators
3 × hydraulic catapults (2 flight deck, 1 hangar deck– latter removed 1942)
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The Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau (WHEC-722), a 378-foot high endurance cutter, will be decommissioned at Base Honolulu, Tuesday after nearly a half-century of service, including action in the Vietnam War, numerous major drug interdictions, and law enforcement cases, and a variety of noteworthy rescues.
Cutter Morgenthau, commissioned March 10, 1969, was the eighth of 12 Hamilton-class high endurance cutters built by Avondale Shipyards in New Orleans. She was the only vessel named for Henry Morgenthau Jr, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (all of her sisters were named after T-secs as the USCG belonged to that cabinet position until 1967)
Morgenthau was very active in the Vietnam War, conducting support for coastal patrol craft, naval gunfire support, and patrol duties off the coast of Vietnam until relieved by a 311-foot cutter in 1971. During her period in Market Time, she delivered 19 NGFS fire missions on targets ashore and inspected 627 junks/sampans and cruised 38,000 miles on patrol.
In 1977, Morgenthau became the first cutter to have women permanently assigned, which paved the way for numerous women to serve aboard Coast Guard cutters nationwide.
In the fall of 1996, Morgenthau was the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to deploy to the Arabian Gulf. Participating in Operation Vigilant Sentinel, Morgenthau enforced Iraq’s compliance with United Nations sanctions. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Morgenthau participated in Operation Noble Eagle to safeguard America’s prominent port cities through closer scrutiny of maritime traffic.
Just a few months ago, she completed a 90-day 15,000-mile patrol in the Bering Sea in Winter which, besides fisheries patrol work, included the rescue of the Australian sailing vessel Rafiki and the 400-foot cargo ship BBC Colorado, picking up the Capt. Hopley Yeaton Cutter Excellence Award for 2016.
The below is from her 105-day/18,000-mile April-Aug 2014 patrol (there is a shootex at ~17:50)
“The U.S. State Department is coordinating the transfer of Morgenthau through the Foreign Assistance Act. This act allows the transfer of excess defense articles as a grant to friendly, foreign governments.”
So far, State has passed on the three of the “378s” to the Philippines (USCGC Hamilton, Boutwell, Dallas), two to the Nigerian Navy (Gallatin and Chase) and two to the Bangladesh Navy (Jarvis and Rush). With Morgenthau decommissioned, only USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717) and Midgett (WHEC-726) based in Seattle, Sherman (WHEC-720) in Honolulu, and Munro (WHEC-724) in Kodiak remain in U.S. service and are expected to be replaced by the National Security Cutter program by 2021.
If you are near San Pedro tomorrow, stop by the museum ship USS Iowa where they will be having their annual Turret 2 Remembrance ceremony.
Michael Shannon Justice, Seaman (SN), Matewan, WV
Edward J. Kimble, Seaman (SN), Ft. Stockton, TX
Richard E. Lawrence, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Springfield, OH
Richard John Lewis, Fire Controlman, Seaman Apprentice (FCSA), Northville, MI
Jose Luis Martinez Jr., Seaman Apprentice (SA), Hidalgo, TX
Todd Christopher McMullen, Boatswains Mate 3rd class (BM3), Manheim, PA
Todd Edward Miller, Seaman Recruit (SR), Ligonier, PA
Robert Kenneth Morrison, Legalman 1st class (LN1), Jacksonville, FL
Otis Levance Moses, Seaman (SN), Bridgeport, CN
Darin Andrew Ogden, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Shelbyville, IN
Ricky Ronald Peterson, Seaman (SN), Houston, MN
Mathew Ray Price, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Burnside, PA
Harold Earl Romine Jr., Seaman Recruit (SR), Brandenton, FL
Geoffrey Scott Schelin, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GMG3), Costa Mesa, CA
Heath Eugene Stillwagon, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Connellsville, PA
Todd Thomas Tatham, Seaman Recruit (SR), Wolcott, NY
Jack Ernest Thompson, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Greeneville, TN
Stephen J. Welden, Gunners Mate 2nd class (GM2), Yukon, OK
James Darrell White, Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3), Norwalk, CA
Rodney Maurice White, Seaman Recruit (SR), Louisville, KY
Michael Robert Williams, Boatswains Mate 2nd class (BM2), South Shore, KY
John Rodney Young, Seaman (SN), Rockhill, SC
Reginald Owen Ziegler, Senior Chief Gunners Mate (GMCS), Port Gibson, NY
The Marinha do Brasil has been continually in the flattop business since they bought the WWII vintage 19,980-ton light carrier HMS Vengeance (R71) from the British in 1956. Following a four-year reconstruction in Holland, that ship joined the Brazilian fleet as NAeL Minas Gerais and was the first aircraft carrier purchased by a Latin American nation. Gerais gave 40 years of hard service to the Brazilians flying A-4 Skyhawks and S-2 Trackers until she was replaced by the French Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier Foch, which was commissioned as NAeL São Paulo in 2000. However, the 32,000-ton French flattop, now some 54-years young, has been a maintenance nightmare and the Brazilians announced two months ago they were moving to condemn her.
Enter the British helicopter carrier HMS Ocean (L12), current Royal Navy fleet flagship. Commissioned 30 September 1998, since the paying off of the Invincible-class harrier carriers a few years ago, Ocean has been the largest warship and most important surface asset in the Royal Navy.
Capable of carrying an 830-man Royal Marine Commando battalion and 20~ assorted helicopters as well as assorted cargo and fleet staff, she has been very busy in recent years including operations in Sierra Leone, the Persian Gulf, plastering Libya while equipped with Army-owned AH-64 Apaches in 2011 and a myriad of non-combatant evacuations and humanitarian relief missions. Now, nearing 20 years on her hull and in need of a life extension to remain in service, she is expected to be decommissioned and placed in reserve next year when the new fleet carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth comes online.
However, it seems like the Brazilians want to pick her up for a song, offering a reported $100 million (£80.3 million pounds, 312 million of Brazilian Reais) for her.
Commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira, claimed that the price of Ocean seemed “convenient”.
The Brazilians have met Ocean before and worked closely with her in recent years, so they know what they are getting. From a 2010 RN presser:
HMS Ocean, an amphibious helicopter carrier and the Royal Navy’s largest warship, departed Rio de Janeiro earlier this week after a very successful visit which included amphibious exercises with the Brazilian Navy and Marines, and support for UK Trade & Investment and Diplomatic missions culminating in the Minister for International Security and Strategy, Gerald Howarth, signing an important Defence Cooperation Agreement. This visit also served to reinforce the United Kingdom’s long-standing relationship with Brazil.
Over 100 Brazilian Marines from the 3rd Infantry Battalion, 1st Amphibious Division, joined forces with HMS Ocean’s embarked Royal Marines of 539 Assault Squadron to undertake joint amphibious training exercises sharing knowledge and experience gained from recent operations. The centrepiece was an amphibious landing demonstration using landing craft, hovercraft and helicopters supported by offshore raiding craft providing covering fire.
Royal Marines officer, Captain ‘Olly’ Gray of 539 ASRM had this to say about the joint exercise:
“This was an invaluable opportunity for the Royal Marines to demonstrate our core amphibious skills, and broaden our experience of working alongside Brazilian Marines.”
Perhaps, the Ocean will get a chance to work with Royal Marines again in the future if they ever make it to Brazil…
I had an opportunity to speak to a man across the pond about this image lately.
Peering from across time, the stern yet pleased assemblage of gentlemen ranging from the junior to the ancient all show the clear eyes of steady marksmen capable of putting lead on target as required with judicious ability. Clad almost universally in three-piece suits consisting of a sack coat with matching vest or waistcoat, most are dutifully mustachioed and equipped with a pocket watch– part of the essential EDC of the time.
For the rest of the story, check out my column over at Guns.com
Black rifle expert Chris Bartocci convenes class on the evolutionary process of GI 30-round M16 magazines from Vietnam to today.
Going back to the old black-follower mags and moving through the new blue-follower EP mag, touching on everything in between, Bartocci breaks down the reason for changes to the feed lip angles and the body itself, and points at the ammunition-based reasons for each.
It’s a scholarly look and you don’t get any wackiness or Tannerite explosions in the 17-minute clip, but if you are curious about the what, when and why there are so many GI mags and followers out there, this is worth your time.
Defense contractor Raytheon is testing a modified version of their Phalanx Close-In Weapon System that will let soldiers and sailors fire at varying rates, using less ammunition.
Designed in the 1970s and with some 890 mounts currently in circulation the CIWS (“sea whiz”) couples an M61A1 20 mm Gatling gun capable of firing 4,500 rounds per minute with onboard target acquisition and fire control in one unit. While the system has been continually updated, it remains hamstrung by the fact that it only holds about 20 seconds worth of ammunition on the mount and reloading, as any Gunners Mate will tell you, is not done in a snap.
Raytheon, however, announced last week that an upgrade now underway can allow users to select different rates of fire while also increasing reliability and lowering maintenance. Also, due to the fact the upgrade replaces a pneumatic motor, compressor and storage tanks, it trims the mount’s weight by 180 pounds.