Tag Archives: 20mm Oerlikon

Manning the Oerlikon

Official caption: “Five steward’s mates stand at their battle stations, as a gun crew aboard a Coast Guard-manned frigate in the southwest Pacific.”

Note the gunner is missing his left shoe but doesn’t seem that affected by it, as there is a pile of 20mm brass in the gun tub. NARA 26-G-3797 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/513214

“On call to general quarters, these Coast Guardsmen man a 20mm AA gun. They are, left to right, James L. Wesley, standing with a clip of shells; L. S. Haywood, firing; William Watson, reporting to bridge by phone from his gun captain’s post; William Morton, loading a full clip, assisted by Odis Lane, facing camera across gun barrel.”

Besides their own vessels, the Coast Guard manned a myriad of ships on the Navy List to include LSTs, LCIs, and transports. Notably, of the 96 Tacoma-class patrol frigates built during the war, the USCG ran 75 (the balance had gone as Lend-Lease to Russia and Britain). Of those 75, most were detailed to convoy duty in the Atlantic but 18 that were built on the West Coast were dispatched in a squadron to the Pacific where they gave a good account of themselves in ASW patrols, landing Rangers and Marines on isolated atolls, and providing NGFS for invasion forces throughout the Philippine littoral.

The cold and quiet of the South Pacific at 17,500 feet

USS Hornet (CV-8) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, probably in June or July 1942. Note the pattern of her Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage

Best known for her role in the Doolittle Raid just weeks after Pearl Harbor, the Yorktown-class aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) was the seventh such vessel to carry the storied name for the U.S. Navy, going all the way back to 1775.

Commissioned 20 October 1941, her career was all too brief, ending in a hail of torpedoes as part of the Battle of Santa Cruz Island in the Solomons on 26 October 1942, aged just two years and six days. She took 140 of her 2,200-man crew to the bottom with her.

“With the loss of Hornet and serious damage to Enterprise, the Battle of Santa Cruz was a Japanese victory, but at an extremely high cost,” said retired RADM Samuel Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command. “About half the Japanese aircraft engaged were shot down by greatly improved U.S. Navy anti-aircraft defenses. As a result, the Japanese carriers did not engage again in battle for almost another two years.”

Now, 77 years later, she has been discovered in the cold and dark embrace deep below, remarkably intact. Her guns still look ready to fire. An International Harvester plane tractor still has tread on its tires and gives the impression it would turn over if only you could get to it to crank it. An F4F Wildcat rests in her debris field, its wings still folded for storage.

Photos from RV Petrel.

“As America’s Navy once again takes to the sea in an uncertain world, Hornet‘s discovery offers the American Sailor a timeless reminder of what courage, grit, and commitment truly look like,” said Vice Chief of Naval Operations ADM Bill Moran. “We’d be wise as a nation to take a long, hard look. I’d also like to thank the crew of Petrel for their dedication in finding and honoring her sacrifice.”

Know anybody with some Oerlikon parts gathering dust?

They basically need everything you see above in gray…

I recently talked to Clark Perks, development director at the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial and he has an 888-foot battlewagon full of armament that includes nine massive 16-inch and 12 5-inch guns, but what they are missing is a complete 20mm Oerlikon cannon.

They have the gun itself, they just need the mount and shield and can work to fab one from an original if they could work out the loan…

More in my column at Guns.com

P.S. They just got their 40mm quad mount restored– and it even fires.

Feeling like a naval AAA mount or two?

If you have a problem with low-flying German Messerschmitts or Japanese Zeroes, Rock Island Auction Company may have just what you are looking for in a pair of naval AAA mounts.

As part of their May Premier Auction, RIA has both an original early WWII fixed-dual mounted AN-M2 anti-aircraft gun for those who like their “triple-A” in .30-06 as well as a hulking WWII Navy Oerlikon 20 mm cannon.

The Navy AN-M2 .30 Cal Navy MK II Mod 3 Aircraft Mount includes a rare MK 9 Mod 1 Illuminated Electronic Gun Sight

The working C&R Oerlikon 20 mm MK4 Naval Cannon has an original deck mount and gun cradle, though good luck finding 20×110mm RB ammo

More in my column at Guns.com

Kwajalein calling

Rock Island Auction House has released some teaser information about their upcoming Premier Auction in May, and it has just about one of every full-auto or select-fire offering on your fave list.

While they do not have the full item descriptions listed yet, they have released some highlight images and what they show– besides the regular fare of 19th Century collectible lever guns and 18th Century dueling pistols– is a cornucopia of Title II/Class 3 items. Outside of the full Call of Duty collection, you aren’t going to find these guns in one place. There is even a Heckler & Koch HK21, a type I haven’t seen since I worked with NASA.

Among the neater pieces I saw was a Japanese Type 11 light machine gun– Kijirō Nambu’s take on the French 8mm Hotchkiss chambered in 6.5x50mm Arisaka. This particular piece was captured on Kwajalein Atoll in 1944 by the Recon troop of the 7th Cav.

captured-by-7th-cav-rcn-trp-kwaj-5-feb-1944-hotchkiss-machine-gun-japanese-ria
More (including a lot more photos) in my column at Guns.com

A PT break

Bristling with 20mm and 37mm cannon, .50 cal machine guns and torpedoes, the 80~ foot long plywood wonders that were WWII mosquito boats were pound for pound one of the stoutest warships ever to serve the Navy.

NHHC Photograph Collection, L-File, Unnamed U.S. Navy vessels

Note the huge 30-round 37mm drums and boxes of ammo at the ready. NHHC Photograph Collection, L-File, Unnamed U.S. Navy vessels

Secured to their tender, five PTs float in the calm waters of the Pacific as they are refueled and given rudimentary repairs. The brief recess from the wars is a boon to the officers and men of the PT unit as well. A group of them is gathered under the canvas “canopy” on the center boat, circa early Summer 1945. In the foreground, a crewman gives a gun the check-over.

They are equipped with a 37 mm M4 Automatic Gun– a huge 213-pound autocannon designed by John Browing and taken from P-39 Airacobra and P-63 Kingcobra fighters, as well as at least two 20mm Oerlikon forward, likely a 40mm Bofors single aft, and two twin M2 .50 cal tubs.

The Elco boats look to be those of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THIRTY THREE (PTRon 33) under the command of Lt. A. Murray Preston, USNR. They served at Aitape, New Guinea; Morotai in the Halmaheras; and San Pedro Bay and Panay in the Philippines.

Keeping a 20mm Oerlikon combat-ready

In the past couple months, I have been corresponding back and forth with a chap in Ohio who owns a very operational and transferable WWII era 20mm Oerlikon.

I featured his cannon in a couple different articles over at Guns.com in the past few years and he really has to jump through hoops to keep it going.

You can’t just go down to the local big box and pick some up those huge 20 mike mike rounds. This stuff hasn’t been factory manufactured in generations. This leaves Alan to roll his own.

“I have to make it from modern 20mm x 102 cases,” he said. “I use my log splitter and a weldment to hold dies to form the cases. It’s a long process, but in the end I get 20x110RB brass and reload those.”

Here is him going loud at the Eastern Ohio machine gun shoot recently.