Tag Archive | 50 destroyers deal

Warship Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

3 US Navy PT-boats Aleutians in June 1943 eaplane tender GILLIS AVD12 PBY Catalina Higgins boats Mk 19 torpedo tubes.

Official USN Photographs (National Archives) 80-G-K-9454 (Color).

Here we see three, in a beautiful original color photograph, a trio of Higgins-type PT-boats belonging to Motor Torpedo Squadron 13, moored alongside the old seaplane tender destroyer, USS Gillis (AVD12, ex-DD260) in Casco Cove, Massacre Bay, Attu Island, Aleutians, 21  June 1943. Note the PBY-5 Catalina flying-boat astern of our aging tin can.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Gillis came too late for the Great War. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

USS Gillis is the only ship named for Commodore John P. Gillis and RADM James Henry Gillis.

Commodore John P. Gillis was a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He fought in the Mexican-American War where he was captured at Tuxpan. Subsequently, between 1853 and 1854, he sailed with Perry to open Japan to the West. Gilles later served in the Civil War by providing support to the Union blockade effort, commanding the warships Seminole, Monticello, and Ossipee, in turn.

RADM James Henry Gillis (USMA 1854), a Pennsylvania native, during the Civil War, commanded Michigan, Franklin, the flagship of the European Squadron, Lackawanna, Minnesota, and Hartford, the flagship of the Pacific Squadron before retiring from the Navy in 1893 “having never lost a man at sea.”

USS Gillis was built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Quincy, Mass. and commissioned 3 September 1919, LCDR Webb Trammell in command– some 100 years ago this month.

Destroyer USS Gillis (DD-260), 29 May 1919, Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts.

Her peacetime service was brief. Gillis sailed from Newport, R.I., 17 December 1919 and moored at San Diego 20 January 1920. She joined the Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force in tactics and maneuvers along the West Coast until decommissioned at San Diego 26 May 1922.

NH 53731

In all, Gillis spent just under two years with the fleet in her first stint on active duty.

Gillis (DD-260) Laid up at San Diego, California, circa 1929 in rusty and crusty condition. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Don P. Moon, USN. Note the ship’s rusty condition. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1973. NH 78286

When the drums of war started beating in Europe and Asia in the late 1930s, Gillis was recommissioned in ordinary 28 June 1940, then soon reclassified as seaplane tender destroyer AVD-12, a mission that importantly saw her fitted with an early radar set. Following conversion, which included swapping out her torpedo tubes for aviation store space and some extra AAA guns and depth charges, she was placed in full commission at San Francisco, 25 March 1941.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) Photograph dated 14 February 1941. The ship appears to be painted in Camouflage Measure One. Catalog #: 80-G-13141

As noted by DANFS:

Gillis was assigned as tender to Patrol Wing 4, Aircraft Scouting Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the following months she performed plane guard patrol between San Diego and Seattle with time out for aircraft tending duties at Sitka, Alaska (14-17 June); Dutch Harbor and Kodiak (15-31 July). After overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard she returned to Kodiak 16 October 1941 to resume tending of amphibious patrol planes in Alaskan waters. She was serving at Kodiak when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Just six months later, she was at rest in Dutch Harbor on the morning of 3 June 1942. Almost simultaneously with their attack on Midway, a strong task force under Japanese RADM Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryujo (10,000 tons) and Jun’yo (25,000 tons) as well as their escorts and a naval landing force, attacked the Aleutians in Alaska.

But Gillis had the upper hand.

In the harbor that morning with the two old flush-deck destroyers King and Talbot, the submarine S-27, Coast Guard cutter Onondaga, and the U.S. Army transports President Fillmore and Morlen, Gillis had the advantage of radar and her operator picked up the incoming Japanese airstrike at 0540. With that, she and the other ships weighed anchor and stood out with all hands at battle stations. Likewise, the Army detachment at nearby Fort Mears was alerted.

Had they been sunk at their moorings and Dutch Harbor more badly damaged, the effort to keep/hold/retake the Aleutians would have surely been a tougher task, diverting key U.S. assets from other theaters– such as Guadalcanal.

Further, the Japanese, in turn, got a bloody nose that morning from the old school 3-inch M1918 AAA guns and .50 cal water-cooled Browning of Arkansas National Guard’s 206th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), which splashed a few Japanese planes. Meanwhile, a PBY that Gillis was tending stitched up 19-year-old PO Tadayoshi Koga’s Zero (which crashed and was recovered in remarkable condition– an intelligence coup) and a group of Army Col. John Chennault’s P-40s out of Unamak accounted for a few more. The Gillis claimed two planes shot down. No ship was damaged.

Koga’s Zero

Not a bad day’s work for an isolated outpost.

Three days later, while on air-sea rescue patrol, Gillis made three depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact.

DANFS= “A Japanese submarine violently broached the surface revealing its conning tower and propeller, then disappeared. Gillis was unable to regain contact. She was credited with damaging this underseas raider in the combat area off Umak Island.”

Starting on June 9, PBYs of VP-41, operating from Dutch Harbor, initiated what became known as the “Kiska Blitz,” a series of extreme long-range shuttle attack bombing missions by the flying boats of PatWing Four to plaster the Japanese ships at that occupied Aleutian island, using Gillis, which had forward-deployed closer to the action, at Nazan Bay off Atka island. This took amazing 48-hour sorties with the old tender providing fuel, hot meals and extra 250-pound bombs to the Catalinas until she was out of bombs to give. This lasted for several days, with Catalinas of VPB-42 and 43, until a Japanese scout plane discovered the seaplane tender and her position was compromised.

This drawing was made by the intelligence units of the U.S. 11th Air Force, showing a dual Imperial Japanese Navy Type 11 Early Warning Radar site on the captured Alaskan island of Kiska in Oct 1942. It was built by the Japanese in response to the PBY blitz.

On June 13, before retiring from Atka, Gillis was ordered to carry out a “scorched earth” policy, setting fire to all buildings and a local Aleut village to leave nothing of use to the Japanese. She later fought off a sortie from three four-engine Mavis bombers from Kiska while in Kuluk Bay, Adak. To her brood she added the plywood PT-boats of MTBRon 13.

Higgins 78-foot torpedo boats of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 13 (MTBRon 13) moored in Attu, Alaska, Jul 1943. Note PT-75 and PT-78 nested outboard of their squadron-mate and a PBY Catalina patrol plane taking off. 80-G-475727

After that, joined by four other tenders, Gillis formed the mothership backbone of Patrol Squadrons 41, 43, 51, 62; consisting of 11 PBY flying boats and 20 PBY-5As. By October 1943, however, the other tenders were withdrawn, and she was the only one in operative condition forward deployed to the Aleutians.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) leaving ARD-6 Dutch Harbor, Alaska 80-G-386650

With the theatre dying down, by April 1944 Gillis departed Dutch Harbor for the West Coast where she was given an overhaul and served as a plane guard off San Diego. She was then ordered forward into the Pacific to rejoin the shooting war.

She then sailed with RADM M. L. Deyo’s Gunfire and Covering Force, en route via the Marshalls, Marianas, and Ulithi for the Invasion of Okinawa, arriving off Kerama Retto 25 March 1945. There, Gillis guarded minesweepers and stood by UDT teams clearing approaches to the western beaches of Okinawa. After invasion forces stormed ashore 1 April, she tended observation and patrol planes at Kerama Retto and performed air-sea rescue patrol.

USS Relief -AH-1 In a Western Pacific Harbor, probably at the time of the Okinawa Campaign, circa April 1945. USS Gillis -AVD-12- is in the left background Catalog #: 80-G-K-3707

On 28 April, Gillis departed Okinawa in the screen of USS Makassar Strait, bound via Guam to San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands. She returned by the same route in the escort screen of Wake Island (CVE-65). That carrier launched planes 29 June to land bases on Okinawa and Gillis helped escort her back to Guam 3 July 1945.

Gillis won two battle stars, for escort and antisubmarine operations in the American area (1941-44) and Okinawa.

Gillis departed Guam for home 8 July 1945. She arrived at San Pedro, Calif., 28 July and decommissioned there 15 October 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy List 1 November 1945. She was sold to NASSCO, Treasure Island, CA, for scrapping 29 January 1946.

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield (DD-231) decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Specs:

USS Gillis (DD-260/AVD-12): Outboard profile from Booklet of General Plans (NARA) 117877196

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4 x 4?/50cal guns
1 x 3″/23AA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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.

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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019: The final Four-Piper

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Feb. 6, 2019: The final Four-Piper

NH 64543

Here we see the Clemson-class “four-piper” flush-decker torpedo boat destroyer USS Hatfield (DD-231) in dry dock at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on May 23, 1932, with a newly-fitted bow. One of a tremendous class of vessels some 156-strong, she had a long and varied career, ending it as the very last of her type in U.S. service.

An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemson’s were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

“They kept the sea lanes open” – Invest in the Victory Liberty Loan WWI, poster from 1918 by LA Shafer, Niagara Litho Co. Buffalo, NY, showing a four-piper destroyer armed with 5-inch guns dressed in dazzleflauge jumping between a merchantman and a dastardly German U-boat, the latter sent by the Kaiser to send passenger liners to the bottom.

However, they were was built too late for the war.

The hero of our story was named after naval hero John Hatfield, a young man who volunteered for service and, appointed Midshipman 18 June 1812, served on the small armed schooner USS Lady of the Lake as part of the force commanded by Lt. Isaac Chauncey on Lake Ontario. During the assault on York (now Toronto) in April 1813, Hatfield was killed while leading his ships small boats in a combined arms attack that netted the giant British Royal Standard taken from the Parliament House (and currently in the USNA collection).

Laid down 10 June 1918 at New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J, Hatfield just missed her Great War and commissioned 16 April 1920. Her early career included a fleet review by President Harding at Hampton Roads and training cruises in the Caribbean. Interestingly, although almost every four-piper carried a battery of five 4″/50 cal singles, she was one of a handful (DD-231 through DD-235) that were commissioned instead with four 5″/51 cal guns. Due to the extra weight, no depth charge racks were installed on these more heavily gunned sisters

Hatfield Launching at The New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. NH 53688

With the Allied High Commission in the former Ottoman Empire needing muscle, on 2 October 1922, Destroyer Division 40, composed of the destroyers Bainbridge (DD-246), Fox (DD-234), Gilmer (DD-233), Hatfield (DD-231), Hopkins (DD-249), and Kane (DD-235), and Destroyer Division 41, composed of the destroyers Barry (DD-248), Goff (DD-247), King (DD-242), McFarland (DD-237), Overton (DD-239), and Sturtevant (DD-240), sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, for Constantinople.

The destroyers arrived there on 22 October, under the command of RADM Mark Lambert Bristol, who had his flag on the humble station ship USS Scorpion, a Warship Wednesday alum, who spent years in the Bosporus moored to the quay and connected by telephone with the Embassy. Hatfield remained in the region until 31 July 1923, when she was given orders to proceed back to the West Coast.

NH 803

Assigned to the U.S. Scouting Fleet, her stomping ground ranged from New York to Panama including a tour of gunboat diplomacy off the coast of Nicaragua throughout February and March 1927, during the civil war in that country in which the U.S. backed the conservative Solórzano government. For this, Hatfield picked up the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal.

The next year, Hatfield was part of the squadron that carried President Coolidge to Cuba and Haiti for the Pan-American Conference.

U.S. Navy destroyers moored side-by-side after a day’s maneuvers in Haitian Waters, circa the later 1920s or the 1930s. These ships are (from front to rear): USS Kane (DD-235); USS Hatfield (DD-231); USS Brooks (DD-232); and USS Lawrence (DD-250). The first three destroyers carry 5″/51 cal guns mounted on their sterns, while Lawrence has the more typical four-piper popgun, a 4″/50 cal, mounted atop her after deckhouse, with a 3″/23 anti-aircraft gun on her stern. Note bedding airing on the ships’ lifelines. NH 52227

USS Hatfield (DD-231) In San Diego Harbor, California, during the early 1930s. She was one of only five flush-deck destroyers to carry 5/51 guns. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 64542

USS Hatfield (DD-231) and sister USS Humphreys (DD-236) circa 1928

Hatfield had a crack up with the USS Sands (DD-243), a sistership, during maneuvers 40 miles off Newport, Rhode Island, 13 September 1930. Damage control was quick and she was towed to Brooklyn Navy Yard by tugs Sagamore (AT-20) and Penobscot (YT-42) for repairs.

Photo via Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 08_06_006245

Transferred to San Diego in 1932 after a brief stint in ordinary, by April 1936 she was deployed to friction points once again, serving off Spain in the neutrality patrol during the Spanish Civil War as part of Squadron Forty-T commanded by RADM Arthur P. Fairfield. This special task force, initially comprising the old cruiser Raleigh, fellow four-piper USS Kane, Hatfield, and the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Cayuga, saved hundreds of U.S. and foreign nationals during the conflict. In all, she would spend 19 months there, returning to the U.S. at the tail end of 1937, returning to mothballs for a few months.

USS HATFIELD (DD-231). (1920-1947). Collection of Gustave Maurer. NH 2216

When WWII erupted in Europe, Hatfield was dusted off once more and recommissioned 25 September 1939 for assignment to FDR’s East Coast Neutrality Patrol looking for U-Boats, a mission she would continue through August 1940 when she was sent to the West Coast, arriving at Bremerton for operations in the Northern Pacific as part of the rusty old tin cans of DESDIV 82.

In the days immediately after Pearl Harbor, the obsolete flush decker was sent to sparsely defended Alaska, where she spent her “shooting days” of WWII. Even equipped with sonar, radar, and a smattering of machine guns for AAA use, destroyer technology had passed her by.

Destroyer evolution, 1920-1944: USS HATFIELD (DD-231), USS MAHAN (DD-364), USS FLETCHER (DD-445). NH 109593

Hatfield 26 May 1942, at Puget Sound, Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington. Note rafts, torpedo tubes, boat, radar at mainmast. Also, note barrage balloons 19-N-30086

Hatfield on 26 May 1942, at Puget Sound, Washington 19-N-30085

As noted by DANFS: “In the uncertain early months of the Pacific war, Hatfield convoyed merchant ships to Alaskan ports, helping to carry the supplies necessary to establish bases in the North. She continued this vital duty in the bleak and dangerous northern waters until 13 March 1944, when she returned to Seattle.”

Relegated to work as an auxiliary (AG-84) in October 1944, she finished her military service towing targets and assisting with underway training. Hatfield decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to National Metal & Steel Corp., Terminal Island, Calif, the last of her kind in the Navy. Only spending about 36 months of her 26 years out of commission — a rarity for her class– Hatfield had some 22 skippers in her long career.

Some of her original builder’s plaques are on display at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

And of course, there are a number of postal cancelations from this far-traveled greyhound.

Destroyer USS HATFIELD DD-231 Villefranche France Naval Cover MhCachets 1 MADE

As for her sisters, seven Clemson’s were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Besides Hatfield, the penultimate Clemson in US service was USS Williamson (DD-244) which was decommissioned 8 November 1945 and sold to the breakers on 4 November 1948.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Specs:


Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4- 5″/51cal guns
12 × 21 inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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!

Warship Wednesday, June 27, 2018: The unsung turbo-electric wonder boat

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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 27, 2018: The unsung turbo-electric wonder boat

Courtesy Commandant U.S. Coast Guard, Catalog #: NH 55224

Here we see the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chelan (WPG-45), lead ship of the 250-foot Lake-class of patrol gunboats in 1930, likely off Alaska. Although the Lakes didn’t give a lot of service overall to their country of birth, they did yeomen work for the Allies in WWII and the humble Chelan, innovative when she was built, had the distinction of landing blows on enemy submarines (of German, Italian and Japanese origin– a hat trick) in several theaters.

The modern USCG, formed in 1916 from an amalgamation of a number of different small federal maritime services, was stuck by and large with the craft it inherited from the old Revenue Marine of the Treasury Department such as the sail-rigged steel-hulled cruising cutters Gresham, McCulloch and Seneca. By Prohibition, these ships, many slow and elderly, were phased out in favor of newer 165-foot and 240-foot (Tampa-class) cutters augmented by 31 relatively new destroyers from the Navy. However, the destroyers weren’t good sea ships and the Navy eventually wanted them back, leading to the improved Lake-class.

Designed specifically by the Coast Guard, engineering Capt. Quincy B. Newman worked up a cutting edge (for the time) turbo-electric plant that ran the whole ship from a single main turbine. As noted by Schenia, these were the first ships to use a G.E. alternating current synchronous motor for propulsion with Curtis auxiliary generators tied to the main. The ship used two small B&W boilers for light off, but after the motor was engaged the steam wasn’t needed. It should be noted that this class predated the giant use of turbo-electric drives on the carriers Lexington and Saratoga.

The whole affair was very efficient and allowed for Chelan and her sisters to pack a very large commo locker in their day– three different receivers and matching transmitters. It should be noted that the Prohibition USCG service’s intelligence branch was at the time the country’s leader in HF/DF and SIGINT, used for tracking bootleggers on Rum Row.

Caption: Biggest and costliest yet. This is the radio room on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chelan, the newest cutter of the service now anchored at the Navy Yard, Washington D.C. This radio room houses three transmitters and three receiving sets. On the maiden trip, she picked up an SOS and towed schooner 1,500 miles, a record tow. Ensign Leslie B. Tollaksen, is shown in the photograph. Harris & Ewing, photographer. 1928 November 26. LOC LC-H2- B-3101 [P&P]

The ice-strengthened hull (built for use on the post-Titanic International Ice Patrol) was an improvement of the 240-foot Tampa-class that preceded them, with a raked stem and cruiser stern to make them handle high seas better and they could make 17.3-knots, which is decent for a 1920s gunboat not intended for fleet operations. Armament was one 5″/51cal main gun forward of the bridge house and a 3″/50 pointed over the stern with a pair of 6-pounder (57mm) guns port and starboard just after the main battery.

The 10 ships of the class, all named after lakes, were built by Bethlehem in Quincy (the first five), G. E’s Hanlon Dry Dock in Oakland (the next four) and the 10th at United Drydock on Staten Island at a cost of $900,000 a pop. Chelan, named for a 50-mile long freshwater lake in Washington State, was first with her keel laid 14 November 1927. The last to complete was Cayuga on 22 March 1932– a whole class constructed from start to finish in under five years. Go ahead and try that today!

Chelan cut her teeth on the international ice patrols and patrolled the dozens of serious club regattas up and down the East Coast that were popular in the day, besides flexing her muscles towards the end of the federal government’s war on booze. Transferred out west soon after, stationed then in Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, she left out on a regular series of Bering Sea patrols in Alaskan waters each summer that was replete with oceanography, survey and met duties (the ship’ sick bay was temporarily rebuilt to serve as a laboratory,) in addition to fisheries patrol and enforcing federal law in the wild territory.

She would also serve as a floating federal court and, in 1936, carry a Congressional Party to Unalaska for a fact-finding mission that resulted in the Alaska Indian Reorganization Act.

Off an Alaskan port, “U.S. Navy Alaskan Survey Photo.” Description: Courtesy Commandant U.S. Coast Guard, 1930. Catalog #: NH 55225

An interesting 376-page report on one of these summer cruises is here.

By 1937, Chelan was back on the East Coast, based in Boston, Massachusetts, and conducting more ice patrols. That March she answered a distress call from 1,600-ton Norwegian steamer SS Bjerkli in a fresh northwesterly gale, rescuing 16 officers and crew.

Chelan undergoing yard maintenance (USCG photo)

Her sisters throughout the 1930s were similarly engaged in conducting routine patrols, cadet cruises, rescues and serving as training ships. Sister Cayuga spent 1936 with Navy Squadron 40-T enforcing the rule of law off Spain during that country’s Civil War while Itasca served as the point ship (due to her large radio suite) for Amelia Earhart’s failed bid to reach Howland Island from Lae, Papua New Guinea on her round-the-world flight.

By 1939, Chelan, now armed with depth charges and sound gear, was keeping a weather eye out to keep the country neutral in the raging World War while keeping abreast of North Atlantic weather patterns and conducting surveys and war patrols around Greenland the following year.

Coast Guard radio meteorograph launch 1940 (Radiosonde Museum of North America photo)

Then in September came the class’s part in the infamous “Destroyers for Bases Agreement” between the U.S. and UK that saw 50 aging WWI-era Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson class destroyers largely from mothballs followed by the 10 Lake-class cutters on Lend-Lease, the latter under a decade old, transferred to London in exchange for access to a number British overseas bases.

(For the six-page original 1940 press release, see this page at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Collections)

By twist of fate, old Revenue Marine vessels that the Lakes replaced, such as Gresham, McCulloch and Seneca, were repurchased by MARAD for the Coast Guard to press back into service once the U.S. entered the war.

The transfers took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the RN Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Malaya was under repair after being torpedoed by U-106, alongside the Revenge-class HMS Resolution that was likewise having her hull patched up after she was torpedoed by the French submarine Bévéziers, with dreadnought men forming scratch crews.

Chelan was handed over 3 April 1941 and renamed HMS Lulworth (Y.60) while her class was designated as Banff-class escort sloops while flying HMs ensign. She arrived in Clyde the next month and LCDR Clive Gwinner, RN, was made her first British skipper.

For reference:

USCGC Cayuga (HMS Totland)
USCGC Champlain (HMS Sennen)
USCGC Itasca (HMS Gorleston)
USCGC Mendota (HMS Culver)
USCGC Ponchartrain (HMS Hartland)
USCGC Saranac (HMS Banff)
USCGC Shoshone (HMS Landguard)
USCGC Tahoe (HMS Fishguard)
USCGC Sebago (HMS Walney)

By July, with a British 4-inch gun installed in place of her U.S. 5-incher, her 3-inch and 6-pdrs deleted and a few 40mm and 20mm AAA guns added to a suite that now included many more racks of depth charges, Chelan/Lulworth was deployed for convoy defense on the UK-West Africa route.

Given camouflage, she would later add RN HF/DF and Type 271 Radar gear to her party favors.

Not to run through the minutiae of her daily activities, she would spend the rest of the war on an impressive series of convoys, forming a part of at least 47 of them all the way through the summer of 1945 across the North Atlantic, North African and Burma theaters. The highlights are as follows:

In August 1941 she picked up 27 survivors from the torpedoed Norwegian merchant Segundo off Ireland followed by 37 survivors from the British merchant Niceto de Larrinaga and 5 from the British merchant St. Clair II off the Canaries the next month.

While escorting convoy OS 10 on 31 October 1941, Lulworth attacked U-96 with a spread 27 depth charges during a full moon. Lothar-Günther Buchheim, a Sonderführer in a propaganda unit of the Kriegsmarine and later author of Das Boot, was aboard U-96 at the time. His record of the incident was included in his non-fiction U-Boot-Krieg book published in 1976.

Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (white cap), commander of U-96, photographed by Lothar-Günther Buchheim during a depth charge attack

On 12 May 1942, Chelan defended convoy SL109 bound for Liverpool from the combined efforts of U-126, U-161 and U-128, depth charging until she ran out of cans. Her sister Mendota was not so lucky, hit by two torpedoes fired by U-105 and sank south-west of Ireland following a magazine explosion.

In June while off the Azores, Chelan reclaimed 20 survivors from the torpedoed British tanker Geo H. Jones from the sea.

HMS Lulworth Oiling from the Tanker, San Tirsan (Art.IWM ART LD 3815) image: A view looking down onto the wet deck at the bow of the ship. On the deck some sailors dressed in waterproof gear are adjusting a large pipe which runs off the side of the deck. Another ship sails up ahead and the silhouettes of two more ships are to be seen on the horizon. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/5899

On 14 July 1942, while defending convoy SL 115, she was damaged sustained while ramming and sinking the Italian submarine Pietro Calvi on the surface off the Azores.

While on her eighth patrol, Calvi was rammed and sunk on 14 July 1942 by convoy SL 115 escort HMS Lulworth. Three officers and 32 sailors of her 66-member crew survived and, picked up by RN vessels, spent the rest of their war in a POW camp. She sank six Allied ships for a total of 34,000grt.

Lulworth, along with her sisters, was assigned to the invasion of North Africa, Operation Torch, where fellow Lakes Ponchartrain (sunk by the French destroyer Typhon) and Sebago (set aflame by the French sloop Surprise,) were lost at Oran while transporting Allied troops in close enough to assault the harbor.

HMS LULWORTH (FL 5525) At anchor. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120468

By September 1943, she was detailed to the Eastern Fleet operating in the Indian Ocean where she depth charged Japanese submarine I37. Fast forward to 1945, and Chelan was present at the Bay of Bengal for the Dracula landings by the British. Damaged in a grounding in June 1945, she finished the war in Rangoon as an element of the Zipper landings along with sisters Champlain/HMS Sennen and Tahoe/Fishguard, the latter of which were too far used up to ever make it back to the U.S after VJ-Day.

Her British equipment removed, Chelan was handed back to the U.S. at Boston on 5th January 1946 and sold for scrap the next year after being raided for her parts to keep a quartet of her sisters still alive. A sad ending to a ship that had a lot of history and was only 15 years old.

Of the four other Lake-class vessels that survived British service long enough to be returned post-war, most had a short run back with their long-lost family as they had been replaced by the newer 255-foot cutters of the Owasco-class (which, embarrassingly enough, often used recycled Lake names, which required the USCG to rename the original 250-foot Lakes save for Itasca and Champlain, when put back into service.) Cayuga/Totland became USCGC Mocoma while Saranac/Baniff became USCGC Tampa.

By 1954, all were decommissioned and headed for the scrappers.

The class is remembered in a scale model of the Baniff-class escort sloop by White Ensign.

Specs:


Displacement: 2,100 full (1929), 1662 trial
Length: 250 ft (76 m)
Beam: 42 ft (13 m)
Draft: 12 ft 11 in (3.94 m)
Propulsion: 1 × General Electric turbine-driven 3,350 shp (2,500 kW) electric motor, 2 boilers, 1 4-bladed prop
Fuel Oil: 90,000 gallons (300t)
Speed:
14.8 kn (27.4 km/h; 17.0 mph) cruising
17.5 kn (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph) maximum
Complement: 97 (as built), 200 in RN service
Armament:
(As built)
1 × 5″/51
1 × 3″/50
2 × 6-pounder (57 mm)
(1939)
1 × 5″/51
1 × 3″/50
1 Y-gun depth charge projector, depth charge rack
(1941, British service)
1x 102/45 CP Mk II QF 4-inch Mk V naval gun
1x 76/45 Mk II QF 12-pounder 1gun
2x 40mm Bofors
4x 20mm/70 Mk III
1x 24-cell Hedgehog Mk X ASW-RL
2x depth charge throwers
2x stern depth charge racks with 8 charges on each. (100 cans carried altogether)

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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.

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Warship Wednesday, May 24, 2017: The leopard of rum row turned magic-eyed U-boat buster

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, May 24, 2017: The leopard of rum row turned magic-eyed U-boat buster

Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1972. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 76377

Here we see the Clemson-class “four-piper” flush-decker destroyer USS Hunt (DD-194) at anchor in New York Harbor when new, circa 1920. One of a tremendous class of vessels some 156-strong, she had a long and varied career.

An expansion of the Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk. Another thing they were was built too late for the war.

The hero of our story, USS Hunt, was laid down at Newport News 10 weeks before Armistice Day, named in honor of William Henry Hunt, Secretary of the Navy under President Garfield. Peace delayed her completion until 30 September 1920 when the above image was taken.

After shakedown, Hunt participated in training and readiness exercises with the Atlantic Fleet and conducted torpedo trials on the range out of Newport, R.I. before moving to Charleston.

With the looming idea of naval limitations treaties, the USN rapidly scrapped 40 of their new Clemsons (those built with British style Yarrow boilers) and put whole squadrons of these low mileage vessels in ordinary. One, USS Moody (DD-277) was even sold to MGM for making the film “Hell Below” where she was used as German destroyer and blown up during filming!

Our Hunt decommissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard 11 August 1922, with only 23 months of gentle Naval service under her belt.

While the Hunt was sitting in Philly, a funny thing happened. The country got sober. Well, kind of.

As deftly retold in a paper by the USCG Historians Office, the service, then part of the Treasury Department, was hard-pressed to chase down fast bootlegging boats shagging out to “Rum Row” where British and Canadian merchants rested in safe water on the 3-mile limit loaded with cases of good whiskey and rum for sale.

This led the agency to borrow 31 relatively new destroyers from the Navy, an act that would have been akin to the USN transferring most of the FFG7 frigates to the Coast Guard during the “cocaine cowboy” days of the 1980s.

USCGD Ammen (CG-8) in pursuit of a rumrunner

US Coast Guard Paulding-class destroyer McCall (CG-14/DD-28) arriving at Charlestown Navy Yard Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Jan. 15, 1928. Commissoned 23 January 1911, she served as a convoy escort in WWI and was transferred to the United States Coast Guard on 7 June 1924, then returned in 1930 and scrapped to comply with the Washington Naval Treaty

U.S. Coast Guard destroyers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, 1926, note the “CG” hull numbers

From the USCG Historian:

In the end, the rehabilitation of the vessels became a saga in itself because of the exceedingly poor condition of many of these war-weary ships. In many instances, it took nearly a year to bring the vessels up to seaworthiness. Additionally, these were by far the largest and most sophisticated vessels ever operated by the service and trained personnel were nearly nonexistent. As a result, Congress authorized hundreds of new enlistees. It was these inexperienced men that made up the destroyer crews and contributed to the service’s greatest growth prior to World War II.

A total of 31 destroyers served with the Coast Guard’s Destroyer Force. These included three different classes, the 742-ton “flivver-class,” “1,000-ton class”, and the 1,190-ton “Clemson-class” flush-deckers. Capable of over 25 knots, the destroyers had an advantage in chasing large rumrunners. They were, however, easily outmaneuvered by smaller vessels. The destroyers’ mission, therefore, was to picket the larger supply ships (“mother ships”) and prevent them from off-loading their cargo onto smaller, speedier contact boats that ran the liquor into shore.

Hunt was one of the last tin cans loaned to the service.

She only served three years with the Coasties, transferring 5 Feb 1931 and placed in commission at Philadelphia Navy Yard, then deploying to Stapleton, NY where she became the flag for the Special Patrol Force there.

Coast Guard Historian’s office

While chasing down rum boats along the New York coastline, she apparently had a very serious mascot:

On 6 Jan 1933, she was transferred to Division II, Coast Guard Destroyer Force, and, along with other Treasury Department-loaned tin cans, supported the Navy on the Cuban Expedition based out of Key West for several months as the country watched how the troubles down there were going on.

Hunt arrived back at Stapleton 9 November 1933 and, with the Volstead Act repealed, was decommissioned from USCG service 28 May 1934 and returned to the Navy, who promptly sent her back to red lead row.

There she sat once more until the country needed her.

On 26 January 1940, she once again was taken out of mothballs and brought to life by a fresh crew as the Navy needed ships for the new neutrality patrol in the initial stages of WWII. Shipping for the Caribbean, she escorted the USS Searaven (SS-196), a Sargo-class submarine, from the Canal Zone to Florida then performed training tasks in the Chesapeake.

Once again, her service with the Navy was brief.

Hunt got underway from Newport 3 October 1940, and reached Halifax, Nova Scotia two days later, where she took on 103 British sailors and, three days after that, she decommissioned from the U.S. Navy, was struck from the Naval List, and taken up by the Royal Navy as the Town-class destroyer HMS Broadway (H80) as part of the infamous “Destroyers for Bases Agreement” between the two countries.

(For the six-page original 1940 press release, see this page at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Collections)

As noted by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason’s service histories, “Broadway” had not previously been used for any RN ship but did represent both a city in the UK and one in the U.S.

Changes to her by the Brits included removal of mainmast and shortening of the foremast, trimming the after funnels and replacing the 3in and 4in guns mounted aft with a 12pdr British HA gun in X position. The aft torpedo tubes were also jettisoned and the U.S style depth charges were replaced with British ones.

THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC 1939-1945 (A 8291) British Forces: HMS BROADWAY, a destroyer built in 1918. BROADWAY was one of the fifty American destroyers loaned to Britain in September 1940. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205125169

She also picked up an “Evil Eye” or “Magic Eye” on her bow, painted by her crew to ward off bad spirits.

The huge ‘Magic Eye’ on the bows of the BROADWAY as she leaves on another trip. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205152830

Joining 11th Escort Group, she had an eventful career in the Atlantic, joining in no less than 29 convoys between and 10 December 1940 and 21 June 1943– a span of just 18 months!

During this time, she directly helped shorten the war on 9 May 1941 when assisting the destroyer HMS Bulldog and corvette HMS Aubretia, she captured German submarine U-110 between Iceland and Greenland. The Type IXB U-boat provided several secret cipher documents to the British as part of Operation Primrose and was one of the biggest intel coups of the war, helping to break the German Enigma codes.

She also helped chalk up a second German torpedo slinger when on 12 May 1943 she joined frigate HMS Lagan and aircraft from escort carrier HMS Biter in destroying U-89 off the Azores.

SUB LIEUT ROY A GENTLES, RCNVR, OFFICER ON LOAN TO THE ROYAL NAVY, WHO WAS FIRST LIEUTENANT ON BOARD HMS BROADWAY IN THE SUCCESSFUL ANTI-U-BOAT ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC.  (A 17288) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205150178

Hunt/Broadway, showing her age, was relegated to training duties by 1944 in Scotland, where she was a target ship for non-destructive bombing and practice strafing runs by new pilots. For this much of her armament to include her radar, anti-submarine mortar, torpedo tubes, and HF D/F outfit was removed.

The destroyer HMS Broadway off the East coast of Scotland April 1944 after becoming an Air Target Ship (Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120270

She did get one last hurrah in at the end of the war, sailing for Norwegian waters where she performed occupation duties that included taking charge of several surrendered German U-boats in Narvik and Tromso as part of Operation Deadlight.

Hunt/Broadway, who served more in the Royal Navy than she ever did in the naval service of her homeland, was paid off 9 August 1945 and placed in an unmaintained reserve status. She was eventually sold to BISCO on 18th February 1947 for demolition by Metal Industries and towed to the breaker’s yard in Charlestown near Rosyth in 1948.

As for her sisters, seven Clemson‘s were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy.

From what I can tell the last one in U.S. Navy service was USS Semmes (DD-189/AG-24), like Hunt a former Coast Guard destroyer, stricken in November 1946 after spending the war testing experimental equipment at the Sonar School in New London.

The last of the 156 Clemsons still afloat, USS Welborn C. Wood (DD-195), also a former Coast Guard destroyer, became HMS Chesterfield on 9 September 1940. She was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948. None of the class were retained and few relics of them exist today.

However, the codebooks and Enigma machine that Hunt/Broadway helped capture from U-110 are on display at Bletchley Park.

And the event is recorded in maritime art.

The Capture of U-110 by the Royal Navy, 9 May 1941 (2002) by K W Radcliffe via the Merseyside Maritime Museum

Specs:

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length:     314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam:     30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft:     9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed:     35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range:  4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1919)
5-4″/50 guns
12 × 21 inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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!

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