Onto the Ramp

“Onto the Ramp.” Artwork by Joseph Hirsch.

Lot 3124-3: Paintings of Naval Aviation during World War II: Abbott Collection. #47.

“Caught by the tail like some dripping sea monster, a Navy PBY patrol bomber is hauled from the water up the seaplane ramp at the end of a mission. Beaching these big, flying boats is a precision performance. Beaching crews must first wade out and attach wheel fittings under the hull to permit the plane to be rolled onto the ramp. A towing line is fitted to the tail, and up she comes under the tug of a snorting tractor. ”

The task of hauling the great flying boats and smaller floatplanes from sea to shore was a familiar one for the Navy’s patrol squadrons for over 40 years, encompassing both world wars. 

A line of seaplanes on the ramp at Trumbo Point Key West 1918 Monroe County Library

March 1914, shows the south-western waterfront, aircraft launching ramps, and tent hangars, at Naval Aeronautic Station, Pensacola, FL.

P2Y-3 flying boat on-ramp 1930s Earl Potter collection a

P2Y-3 flying boat on-ramp 1930s Earl Potter collection

Hauling a seaplane up the ramp.

VPB-54/VP-54 PBY-5A Catalina coming up the launching ramp note turret Fred C. Dickey, Jr. Collection NHHC

Throwback: Jester & Viper

Jester: “That was some of the best flying I’ve seen to date – right up to the part where you got killed.”

With the latest Top Gun sequel, I felt these striking images would be well-timed.

Official caption: “Showing off their camouflage versatility, a flight of TA-4J Skyhawks from the ‘Cylons’ of Attack Squadron One Twenty-Seven (VA 127) fly in formation with a Squadron A-4F Skyhawk. VA-127 has the mission of training aircrews in a realistic air combat maneuvering (ACM) adversary training environment.”

Although undated, they are from the early 1980s, before the unit was rebooted as VFA-127 flying F-5s and T-38s, and was a regular at NAS Miramar (“Fightertown USA”), about the time the original Top Gun was filmed.

Photographed by Bruce R. Trombecky. NHHC Photographic Section, Navy Subject Files, Aviation.

Photographed by Bruce R. Trombecky. NHHC Photographic Section, Navy Subject Files, Aviation.

You just have to love Heinemann’s Hot-Rod…

3,222 Reasons to Like the Sig P322

I’ve been kicking the new Sig Sauer P322 .22LR pistol around for a couple of months and so far, it has given us over 3,200 reasons to love it.

Introduced in March– on 3/22 as a matter of fact– Sig’s first rimfire pistol since the much-disliked Mosquito was swatted about a decade ago, has been flying high. A hammer-fired 20+1 shot .22 LR pistol, the P322 uses an internal stainless steel frame inside a polymer grip while the pistol’s aluminum slide contains a 4-inch barrel, which gives the blowback-action rimfire an overall length of 7 inches.

I’ve surpassed a goal of 3,222 rounds of assorted factory .22LR ammo in testing– and are still going– including a mix of bullet types and velocities.

Sticking mainly with readily-available Federal and CCI/Blazer loads, I found the P322 especially reliable by rimfire semi-auto standards.

And a blast to shoot with a can on it:

More in my column at Guns.com.

Warship Wednesday, June 22, 2022: The Emperor’s Wrath

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, June 22, 2022: The Emperor’s Wrath

Above we see a WWII-era propaganda image portraying a 1942 bombardment of the U.S. West Coast by a surfaced submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Unlike Italy’s claim of sinking the battleships USS Maryland and Mississippi via the same Atlantic-cruising submarine at around the same period, this actually happened, 80 years ago this week in fact.

Without getting too much into the weeds, in mid-December 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, VADM Mitsumi Shimizu, commander of the Dai-roku Kantai, the fleet containing the Japanese fleet submarine force, ordered nine boats involved in the Hawaii episode– I-9 (flag of Capt. Torajiro Sato, embarked), I-10, I-15, I-17, I-19, I-21, I-23, I-25, and I-26— to proceed to the U.S. mainland and surface on Christmas night to fire 30 shells apiece at selected shore targets in what would have surely been a special gift to America.

Apart from Sato’s ride and I-10 which were specifically built to have headquarters accommodations, all were Type B cruiser submarines. Large boats for the era, the assorted Type Bs went some 2,200 tons and as long as 356 feet overall, capable of hitting as much as 23 knots while carrying up to eight torpedo tubes into battle, thus making them a good match for the American fleet boats of the Gato-class (2,400t; 311 feet; 21 knots, 10 tubes). They had an unrefueled range of over 14,000 nm.

Here we see a World War II U.S. Navy schematic of a Japanese I-15, a Type B1 cruiser submarine. NH 111756

However, unlike the Gatos, the Type Bs could carry a stowed Navy Type 96 Watanabe E9W1 (Allied reporting name Slim) or, more typically, a Yokosuka E14Y2 (Glen) reconnaissance seaplane in a sealed dry dock. They could be made ready for surface launches over the bow and recovered via a desktop-mounted crane.

Yokosuka E14Y Glenn floatplane I-19 a Japanese Type B1 submarine. Nicimo box art

E14Y Type 0 Reconnaissance Seaplane Glen floatplane Japanese ONI221

The stern of the submarines carried a 14 cm/40 (5.5″) 11th Year (1922) Type deck gun, a piece superior to most American submarine guns.

14 cm/40 (5.5″) gun postwar. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

The Japanese completed no less than 29 Type B cruiser submarines in three different generations between 1938 and 1944 and canceled at least 20 others due to a lack of materials and shipyards not on fire.

In the end, Yamamoto put the Christmas raid on hold and the force was recalled home on 27 December. The units were needed as supporting assets for “Operation K” a flying boat attack on Hawaii to bomb Pearl Harbor’s “Ten-Ten Dock” and disrupt ship repair activities. Despite the lofty goal, Op K only resulted in the loss of I-23 with all hands somewhere off the Oahu coast in late February 1942.

Nonetheless, the new year would see several of these boats return on their own to conduct raids via deck gun on the mainland.

I-17

As detailed by RADM Sam Cox’s H-Gram H-010-6 on the matter: 

On 23 February 1942, the Japanese submarine I-17 shelled the Ellwood Oil Field west of Santa Barbara, California, inflicting minor damage (but triggering an invasion scare on the U.S. West Coast, which served as additional pretext for interning Japanese-American U.S. citizens). 

Japanese propaganda postcard depicting the submarine I-17 shelling Ellwood. Japanese captions “Our Submarine bombarding the coast of California” Artwork by Chuichi Mikuriya, Navy Battlefield Artist. Card via the California military museum.

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Battle of LA

Cox:

It was followed on the night of 24–25 February by the “Battle of Los Angeles,” in which jittery American anti-aircraft gunners unleashed an intense barrage over the city at non-existent Japanese aircraft, an action “extremely” loosely depicted in the Steven Spielberg/John Belushi movie 1941. In the movie, the submarine that provoked the movie hysteria was the “I-19” which in reality was the floatplane-equipped Japanese submarine that sank the USS Wasp (CV-7) on 15 September 1942.

I-26

On 20 June, I-26 surfaced off Canada’s Pacific Coast and made her gun ready, the first enemy attack on Canadian soil since the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1871.

As noted by Combined Fleet: 

West coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Around 2217 (local), I-26 surfaces five miles off the coast and fires 17 shells (including two exercise rounds filled with sand) from her deck gun at the Hesquiat radio direction finding station. As a result of limited visibility and rough sea, none of the targets is hit. Most 5.5-in shells fall short of the Estevan Point lighthouse or explode nearby; one unexploded round is recovered after the attack and another in June 1973.

“Wireless station and light at Estevan Point shelled by enemy aircraft for 40 minutes commencing at 1025 PM June 20 [1942]. No damage was done except two windows cracked or broken. Station unscathed.”– reported the station’s keeper.

One of the recovered shells from I-26, via LAC

Canadian Naval staff inspects a Japanese shell from Estevan Point, B.C. Photo: Gerald Thomas Richardson.

Estevan Point Lighthouse & Wireless Station on Vancouver Island Photo via BC Archives. Today the Canadian Rangers hold a yearly commemoration on this spot to reinforce their current mission

This brings us to I-25

During the night of 21-22 June 1942, I-25 surfaced near the mouth of the Columbia River and opened fire on what her navigator took from outdated 1920s charts to be an American submarine base that, in fact, was never built. Instead, the rounds by coincidence hit within the campus of Fort Stevens, a U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps installation on the Oregon coast whose grounds dated back to the Civil War.

Fort Steven’s most modern emplacements in WWII were the two shielded 6-inch guns of Battery 245, supported by SCR 296 radar. However, it wasn’t begun until after the raid and was not completed until October 1944. 

Although obsolete– its main guns were 10-inch mortars and 10-inch disappearing guns from the late 19th century, the batteries at Fort Stevens were manned by elements of the 18th Coast Artillery Regiment (Harbor Defense) of the Regular Army and the 249th Coast Artillery Regiment of the Oregon National Guard, the only American Coast Artillery units to ever see combat in CONUS.

As described by the Oregon State Archives: 

Despite the confusion, soldiers at the fort soon manned their guns and searchlights, and lookouts could see the submarine firing in the distance. But the enemy ship was inaccurately determined to be out of range, and the artillerymen never received permission to return fire. The fort’s commander later claimed he didn’t want to give away the precise location of the defenses to the enemy.

The I-25’s shells left craters in the beach and marshland around Battery Russell at the fort, damaging only the backstop of the baseball diamond about 70 to 80 yards from the facility’s big guns. A shell fragment also nicked a power line, causing it to fail later. Casualties amounted to one soldier who cut his head rushing to his battle station. By about midnight the attack ended and the enemy vessel sailed off to the west and north.

While the submarine fired 17 shells, witnesses on land only heard between 9 and 14 rounds. Experts surmised that some shells might have been duds or fallen into the sea. Despite causing no significant damage, the attack certainly raised awareness of the threat of future strikes and went into the history books as the only hostile shelling of a military base on the U.S. mainland during World War II and the first since the War of 1812.

RADM Cox points out, “U.S. shore gunners requested permission to open fire on the submarine, but were denied out of concern that doing so would give away number, position, and capability of U.S. defenses before an actual invasion, thus depriving U.S. coastal artillery of their only opportunity to shoot at a real Japanese ship during the war.”

Crater, Fort Stevens, from I-25. NARA 299678

I-25 bombardment of Fort Stevens, by Richard L. Stark

Within days, the beaches near Fort Stevens were swathed in barbed wire and a defiant sign hung from its camouflaged emplacements.

“To Hell With Hirohito” sign refers to nine misses from I-25. NARA 299671

As I-25 sailed away to end her third war patrol, it would be the last Japanese submarine bombardment of the West Coast.

Epilogue

In a swan song of the Empire’s manned strikes on mainland America, I-25 would return to Oregon on her fourth patrol would launch Warrant Officer Nubuo Fujita and Petty Officer Okuda Shoji in their little Glen floatplane to drop a pair of 170-pound incendiary bombs in the dense forests over the Oregon Mountains near Brookings across two sorties on 9 and 29 September.

Painting of the I-25 launching her E14Y floatplane on a scouting mission, via Combined Fleet

From Combined Fleet:

9 September 1942: The First Bombing of the Continental United States:
25 miles W of the Oregon coast. The sea condition calms. I-25 surfaces just before dawn and the Glen is assembled and readied for the attack. Fujita catapults off at 0535 and drops two incendiary bombs near Mount Emily, but the rain has saturated the woods and renders the bombs ineffective. [7] Fujita heads for I-25. On his way back he spots two merchants steaming N at 12 knots. To avoid detection, I-25 moves NNE.

29 September 1942:
Cdr Tagami makes another attempt to start a forest fire in the Oregon woods. I-25 surfaces after midnight about 50 miles west of Cape Blanco. Fujita’s plane is launched by catapult at 2107 (I). Although the entire western coast of Oregon is blacked out, the Cape Blanco lighthouse is still operating. Using that light to navigate, Fujita flies east over the coast and drops his bombs. At least one starts a fire; however, it goes out before US Forest Service foresters can reach it. The bombing is unsuccessful. On his way back, Fujita manages to find his sub by following an oil slick. During the following days, the rough sea and heavy mist permitted no further attacks.

In the end, of the boats that had been detailed by VADM Shimizu to shell America on Christmas 1941, all were sent to the bottom long before VJ Day.

The war was not kind when it came to Japanese submariners:

  • I-9 was sunk in June 1943 northwest of Kiska– killed in American waters– by the destroyer USS Frazier (DD-607).
  • I-10 was lost in 1944 during her seventh war patrol, sunk on Independence Day by the greyhounds USS Riddle (DE-185) and USS David W. Taylor (DD-551).
  • I-15 was sunk off San Cristobol on 2 November 1942 by the destroyer USS McCalla (DD-488).
  • I-17, the Santa Barbara raider, was sunk by the New Zealand trawler Tui and two U.S. Navy aircraft off Noumea on 19 August 1943.
  • I-19 sank the carrier Wasp but was later sent to the bottom west of Makin Island by the destroyer USS Radford (DD-446) on 25 November 1943.
  • I-21 disappeared in November 1943, off the Gilbert Islands.
  • I-23 likewise vanished, as mentioned above, while on Operation K.
  • I-25, the main subject of our tale, was sunk by American destroyers (with four possibly getting licks in) on 25 August 1943 off the New Hebrides.
  • I-26, who had bombarded Canada, created a five-Gold-Star mother with the sinking of the cruiser USS Juneau, and holed the carrier Saratoga, was herself Deep Sixed in the Philippines in late October 1944, her final grave unknown.

Even Capt. Torajiro Sato, “the pride of the submarine units,” who had been detailed to command the Christmas 1941 mass bombardment, was killed while commanding the Sendai-class light cruiser Jintsu during the Battle of Kolombangara in July 1943. In death, he was promoted to rear admiral.

The Dai-roku Kantai’s 1941-42 commander, submarine big boss VADM Mitsumi Shimizu, was reassigned after his units’ lackluster performance during that period to head the Home Islands-bound 1st Fleet, which largely consisted of battleships that drank too much oil to be risked in combat until the final Mahanan fleet action that never really came. Even from this caretaker task, he was soon cashiered in late 1943 when the Nagato-class battlewagon Mutsu spectacularly detonated her No. 3 turret magazine while swaying in the Hashirajima fleet anchorage with a loss of over 1,100 irreplaceable men. Shimizu was in civilian attire months before the end of the war and would pass away quietly in 1971, aged 83.

About the only survivor of note to retain any honor from the whole endeavor was Warrant Officer Nubuo Fujita, the pilot of I-25’s Glen. Saved from going down on the sub’s seventh and final patrol as he had been detailed to shore duty as a flight instructor, Fujita survived the war just days before he was scheduled to fly out on a one-way kamikaze strike in a decrepit biplane filled with explosives. His crewman from his days on the I-25, Petty Officer Okuda, was not so lucky and never returned home.

The only Japanese pilot to bomb the U.S. mainland became a successful businessman but Fujita’s role in the conflict ate at him and, in agreement with the town of Brookings, Oregon, he returned there in mufti for the city’s 1962 Azalea Festival.

At the event, he formally handed over his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword— one of the few allowed to be retained by the post-WWII Japanese government. Brookings hailed Mr. Fujita an ”ambassador of goodwill” and proclaimed him an ”honorary citizen” of the town.

Fujita would ultimately return to Brookings three times and was a good sport about it, eating a submarine sandwich (complete with a floatplane pickle garnish) prepared for him in 1990, planting redwood seedlings two years later in the forests he firebombed during the war, and briefly taking the stick of a Cessna while flying over the coastline he first crossed back in September 1942.

He would pass in 1997 of lung cancer, aged 85. In compliance with his wishes, some of his ashes were spread on the crater outside of Brookings on Mount Emily in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest that he created.

The Fujita sword is on display at the Chetco Public Library located at 405 Alder Street in Brookings. 

Nobuo Fujita’s family sword, the only weapon still in existence that flew over the mainland USA during WWII in the hands of an enemy pilot. (Photo: Oregon Pubic Broadcasting)

A good children’s book on Fujita is Thirty Minutes Over Oregon by Marc Nobleman.

As for other relics of I-25’s actions in Oregon, local markers abound.

Japanese Bombardment Marker

For more on the Japanese submarine campaign of 1942, read Bert Webber’s excellent Retaliation: Japanese Attacks and Allied Countermeasures on the Pacific coast in World War II

 


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Fear the Mighty Hippocampus!

Official caption: “Hippocampus, U.S. Motor Boat, 1913, photographed prior to World War I with a rowing boat and several model sailing boats in the foreground.”

The original print is in National Archives Record Group 19-LCM. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 101822

Named for the humble sea horse, Hippocampus was a 55-foot gasoline powerboat built by the New York Yacht Launch & Engine Co. of Morris Heights in 1912 for one James F. Porter, of Chicago.

On 21 June 1917– 105 years ago today– she was leased to the Navy and before the week was out was commissioned as USS Hippocampus (S. P. 654) at Rockland, Maine, BMC F. L. Greene in command.

Hippocampus plans by her builder, New York Yacht, Launch and Engine Company, Morris Heights, New York. This craft served from 1917 to 1919 as USS Hippocampus (SP-654). NH 101821

Capable of just 11 knots, she was armed with a single 1-pounder 37mm pop gun and assigned to the First Naval District, served as a harbor patrol craft at the harbor entrance at Rockland and in Penobscot Bay during the Great War.

Hippocampus decommissioned on 30 November 1918 and was returned to her owner on 5 April 1919, without firing a shot in anger, although Kapitänleutnant Richard Feldt’s SMS U-156 did come fairly close to Maine during his famed “Attack on Orleans.”

Halftone reproduction of a photograph published in a contemporary publication. Handwritten notes are on the original print, which is mounted on Hippocampus’ SP data card, and reflect the compensation paid to the boat’s owner for her use by the Navy during World War I and restoration to its former condition, a total of some $1,847.85. NH 99375

The (Amalgamated) Lancers Paying Homage

Located at Cambrai Barrack in Catterick is The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own) of the British Army, a fairly new regiment, only being formed in 2015. Nonetheless, it was created via an amalgamation of several other Lancer regiments to include the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’s) and the Queen’s Royal Lancers, the latter of which had been formed by a 1993 amalgamation of the 16th/5th Lancers and the 17th/21st Lancers, carrying the history of those two regiments (which had also been amalgamated in 1960 and 1922, respectively). Hence, today’s Royal Lancers tend the history and lineage of no less than a half-dozen old Napoleanic and Crimean-era “pole cavalry” regiments.

The coolest of which, the 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) (the original skull head “Death or Glory Boys”) has lingered on in the center of the unit’s cap badge and banners, along with the traditional black beret of the Tank Corps.

A battalion-strength unit, today’s Royal Lancers are built around four Sabre Squadrons (A, B, C, and D) with CVR(T) Scimitars (but are converting to Jackals) and Panthers to perform an armored scout/recon role in 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade.

The Royal Lancer’s daily driver, the CVR(T) Scimitar, includes light armor and a fearsome 30 mm L21 RARDEN cannon. A design that dates to the 1970s and saw combat in the Falklands and against Saddam, Scimitar is supposed to be retired by 2023 and the British are giving them away to the Ukrainians.

Of course, the Lancers are moving to the lighter and faster, but almost totally unarmed and unarmored, Jackal, but hey…

Still, with an amalgamated lineage that dates to 1759, the Lancers have a certain cavalry record to uphold.

They provide dismounted lance-wielding marching platoons for events such as the Queen’s Jubilee, the only unit authorized to do so.

And there are always Lancer wedding parties.

Note the red caps, a throwback to the lining of the old Lancer czapka of the 19th century

The officer’s dress mess uniform (augmented by the retiree-standard bowler hat and pinstriped suit with umbrella) is a throwback to Wellington. For reference, today’s RL’s mess dress tunic runs a paltry £2,285, showing that, while times may have changed since the old days, they haven’t changed all that much.

A contemporary Royal Lancer officer in mess dress flanked by the original constituent lancer regiments: from left to right: 17th, 9th, 16th, RL, 12th, 5th, and 21st Lancers. Note the czapkas on the legacy uniforms

This all brings us to this week where the Colonel of the Regiment, Commanding Officer, Padre, and other Lancer representatives traveled to Montreuil-Sur-Mer, France, for the unveiling of the renovated statue of the iron-hearted Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from 1915 to the end of the First World War.

Haig, born seven years after Balaclava, had commanded the 17th Lancers and was Colonel of the Regiment of the 17th/21st Lancers. His Lancer uniform is in the IWM.

“Soldiers from the Regiment conducted a Lance Guard for the unveiling ceremony and the church service afterward, performing admirably in ceremonial dress despite the extreme 34-degree heat!” noted the regiment.

Army Inks Deal with Sig for .300/.338 Norma Mag

New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer recently picked up a nine-figure award from the U.S. Army Contracting Command for .300 and .338 Norma Magnum ammunition.

Announced by the Pentagon on June 7, the $157.3 million firm-fixed-price contract covers the production of .300 Norma Magnum 215-grain M1163 ball ammunition and .338 NM 300-grain armor-piercing M1162 cartridges for the Army. Although not a standard round for most U.S. military small arms – that’s reserved for 5.56 and 7.62 NATO along with the new 6.8 NGSW Common Cartridge – the Army and Marines are both using .300 NM and .338 NM in the MK22 Advanced Sniper Rifle program.

The MK22, a variant of the Barrett MRAD, is a modular system that will be fielded with three separate calibers, .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum, and 7.62 NATO, with the user able to swap calibers through barrel changes based on mission operating environments. Above is the Mk22 Mod 0 ASR including a Precision Day Optic. It is fed from a 10-round detachable magazine. (Photo: Tonya Smith/Marine Corps Systems Command).

More in my column at Guns.com.

Spanish Guppies

The great shot below is from Cartagena, Spain, late 1970s showing assorted Balao-class Spanish Navy “Guppies” in the foreground to include SPS Narcíso Monturiol (S-35), ex-USS Jallao (SS-368); and SPS Isaac Peral (S-32), ex-USS Ronquil (SS-396). The boat to the far left should be SPS Cosme Garcia (S-34), ex-USS Bang (SS-385), the only other Guppy’d Balao-class smoke boat the Spanish had at the time other than the famous SPS Almirante García de los Reyes (E-1/S-31), ex-USS Kraken (SS-370), which had a different “Fleet Snorkel” sail from an earlier pre-Guppy modification while Bang, Jallao, and Ronquil were all GUPPY IIA conversions.

Also seen to the far right is a new French-made Daphne-class boat SPS Narval (S-64). Within a few years, a four-pack of Daphnes would replace all of the Spanish Guppies.

The Fletcher-class destroyer SPS Alcalá Galiano (D-24), ex-USS Jarvis (DD-799) is in the background as is the domestically-built Oquendo-class destroyer SPS Roger de Lauría (D-42).

Gulfport Harbor views

Just some snaps taken while kayaking around Gulfport harbor down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The above shows the replica Ship Island Lighthouse at Jones Park built in 2011 after the original which was lost to a fire in 1972 (and a replica made by the SeaBees had been lost to Katrina). To the left are the gleaming white 87-foot Bollinger-built Maritime Protector-class cutters USCGC Moray (WPB-87331) and USCGC Tiger Shark (WPB-87359) next to CG Sta Gulfport, where you can see the nose of two 45-foot RB-Ms poking out from the boathouse. You can see Customs “Blue Lighting” interceptors to the far left.

A close-up of USCGC Moray (WPB-87331) and USCGC Tiger Shark (WPB-87359). The “color of the boathouse” in Gulfport is rust, btw.

Also buzzing around for the past couple of weeks, no doubt on summer camp, have been a number of USCG Transportable Port Security Boats, surely of the Kiln-based PSU 308. As noted by the USCG, “TPSBs serve to assist in anti-terrorism force protection and shore-side security capable of supporting port and waterway security anywhere the military operates.”

TPSB #32112, sans its normal M2 .50 cals

Of note, #32112 was formerly deployed to Gitmo with PSU 308 back in 2015.

Welcome, USS John Basilone

Over the weekend, Bath Iron Works in Maine hosted the christening of the USS John Basilone (DDG-122), a late-batch Burke-class destroyer, with Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Troy Black delivering the ceremony’s principal address.

Basilone via General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

The warship was transitioned to launch over a three-day period last week.

Who was Basilone?

Born in Buffalo, New York in November 1916, John (no middle name) Basilone, Roman Catholic, son of Salvatore and Dora Basilone, had done his bit for his country prior to World War II. He had served in the Regular Army from 5 February 1936 to 7 September 1939 and was still in the Army Reserves (3rd Corps) from which he had to petition the force for a discharge to join the Marines, a move that was approved 11 July 1940.

His civilian job listed on intake to the Corps was that of a truck driver.

Via Basilone’s 327-page file at the NARA

His Navy physical, when he joined the Marines, listed in addition to several minor scars and burns, two tattoos on his biceps. On his right, the “bust of a western woman.” On the left, a sword and the words “Death Before Dishonor.”

By September 1940, newly-promoted PFC Basilone was standing tall and would make Corporal the following May before grabbing his third stripe as a Sergent on 23 January 1942, just six weeks after Pearl Harbor.

Less than nine months later, SGT Basilone would become a legend for his actions at Guadalcanal.

Medal of Honor citation:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area. Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault.

In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, were put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived.

A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”

His battlefield promotion to Platoon Sergent was signed by Lt. Col Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, 1st Bn, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, FMF, in November 1942.

Basilone has long been a Marine Corps icon, and his actions on 24/25 Oct 1942 were recreated in The Pacific.

Basilone could have sat out the war and signed War Bonds and taken pictures for the cameras back home, which he did for a minute, but he voluntarily returned to action at the Battle of Iwo Jima in February of 1945, where he single-handedly destroyed an enemy blockhouse and led a Marine tank under fire safely through a minefield. He was killed in action later that day and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his unwavering devotion and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice.

He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both decorations in World War II.

On June 6, 1948, the John Basilone American Legion Post in Raritan dedicated the life-size statue of Basilone holding a water-cooled M1917 Browning machine gun.

The statue was sculpted by childhood friend Phillip Orlando. (New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Mark C. Olsen)

This is the second ship to honor Basilone. The first, USS Basilone (DD-824/DE-824), was a Gearing-class destroyer sponsored by his widow, a stern-faced Sergeant Lena Mae Basilone, USMC(WR). That destroyer remained in service from 1945 to 1977.

It is about time the Navy has another USS John Basilone on the Navy List.

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