Tag Archive | alert gunboat

Warship Wednesday, May 15, 2019: Lady Sara Never Looked Better

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, May 15, 2019: Lady Sara Never Looked Better

As I am on the road this week after just getting back from Indy last week, the regular Warship Weds offering is short– but special. We have covered Sara in a past WW, but didn’t have this anniversary spread:

USS SARATOGA (CV-3) 15 May 1945 19-N-84316

NHHC 19-N-84316

Here we see the beautiful Lexington-class aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) in Puget Sound on 15 May 1944 just after a late-WWII refit/repair, 74 years ago today.

“Her flight deck is as it would be seen by a pilot coming in for a landing. Her axial deck is rimmed with gun galleries to both sides and astern; twin 5-inch gun mounts are arranged forward and aft of her prominent island and stack, as in the later Essex-class carriers. Flight decks, at this time, were painted in a dull blue stain with white markings.”

At the time this spread was taken– all of these shots are from the same day– Sara had been the oldest U.S. aircraft carrier since 1942 when both Langley (CV-1) and her sistership Lexington (CV-2) were sunk by the Japanese. Other than Enterprise and Ranger, the latter in the Atlantic, she was the only American flattop to make it through the war.

Laid down on 25 September 1920 as Battle Cruiser #3 by the New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, N.J.; she converted to an aircraft carrier and reclassified CV-3 in accordance with the Washington Treaty and commissioned on 16 November 1927. Along with Lexington, the two ships were literally the seagoing training school for the U.S. Navy’s 1930s carrier program.

When WWII started, she saw much fighting but battle damage often kept her sidelined from pivotal campaigns. Nonetheless, Saratoga earned 7 battle stars the hard way– for instance, she was in Puget Sound because of six Japanese hits off Chichi Jima in February 1945.

As noted by DANFS, after she left Puget Sound, she accomplished a few records and got two A-bombs for her faithful service:

On 22 May, Saratoga departed Puget Sound fully repaired, and she resumed training pilots at Pearl Harbor on 3 June. She ceased training duty on 6 September, after the Japanese surrender, and sailed from Hawaii on 9 September transporting 3,712 returning naval veterans home to the United States under Operation “Magic Carpet.” By the end of her “Magic Carpet” service, Saratoga had brought home 29,204 Pacific war veterans, more than any other individual ship. At the time, she also held the record for the greatest number of aircraft landed on a carrier, with a lifetime total of 98,549 landings in 17 years.

With the arrival of large numbers of Essex-class carriers, Saratoga was surplus to postwar requirements, and she was assigned to Operation “Crossroads” at Bikini Atoll to test the effect of the atomic bomb on naval vessels. She survived the first blast, an air burst on 1 July, with only minor damage, but was mortally wounded by the second on 25 July, an underwater blast which was detonated under a landing craft 500 yards from the carrier. Salvage efforts were prevented by radioactivity, and seven and one-half hours after the blast, with her funnel collapsed across her deck, Saratoga slipped beneath the surface of the lagoon. She was struck from the Navy list on 15 August 1946.

Her name was recycled by CV-60, the second of four 1950s Forrestal-class supercarriers, which carried the proud moniker until she was struck from the Naval List 20 August 1994.

Hopefully, there will be another Sara in the fleet soon.

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, May 8, 2019: Vladivostok’s Red Pennant

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, May 8, 2019: Vladivostok’s Red Pennant

ADMIRAL ZAVOYKO 1921

Here we see the Russian steam gunboat Adm. Zavoyko bobbing around in Shanghai harbor sometime in 1921, as you may observe from the local merchants plying their wares. When this photo was taken, she was perhaps the only seagoing member of a Russian fleet on the Pacific side of the globe. Funny story there.

Built at the Okhta shipyard in St. Petersburg for the Tsar’s government in 1910-11, she was named after the 19th century Imperial Russian Navy VADM Vasily Stepanovich Zavoyko, known for being the first Kamchatka governor and Port of Petropavlovsk commander, the latter of which he famously defended from a larger Anglo-French force during the Crimean War.

This guy:

Vasily Stepanovich Zavoyko 2

The riveted steel-hulled modified yacht with an ice-strengthened nose was some 142.7-feet long at the waterline and weighed in at just 700-tons, able to float in just 10 feet of calm water. Powered by a single fire tube boiler, her triple expansion steam engine could propel her at up to 11.5-knots while her schooner-style twin masts could carry an auxiliary sail rig. She was capable of a respectable 3,500 nm range if her bunkers were full of coal and she kept it under 8 knots.

Ostensibly operated by Kamchatka governor and intended for the needs of the local administration along Russia’s remote Siberian coast, carrying mail, passengers and supplies, the government-owned vessel was not meant to be a military ship– but did have weight and space reserved fore and aft for light mounts to turn her into something of an auxiliary cruiser in time of war (more on this later).

ADMIRAL ZAVOYKO plans

Sailing for the Far East in the summer of 1911, when war was declared in August 1914, the white-hulled steamer was transferred to the Siberian Flotilla (the largest Russian naval force in the Pacific after the crushing losses to the Japanese in 1905) and used as a dispatch ship for that fleet.

Now the Siberian Flotilla in 1914, under VADM Maximilian Fedorovich von Schulz– the commander of the cruiser Novik during the war with Japan– was tiny, with just the two cruisers Askold and Zhemchug (the latter of which was soon sunk by the German cruiser Emden) the auxiliary cruisers Orel and Manchu; two dozen assorted destroyers/gunboats/minelayers of limited military value, seven cranky submarines and the icebreakers Taimyr and Vaigach. As many of these were soon transferred to the West and Arctic in 1915 once the Germans had been swept from the Pacific, our little steamer, armed with machine guns and a 40mm popgun, proved an increasingly important asset used to police territorial waters.

ADMIRAL ZAVOYKO 1917

ADMIRAL ZAVOYKO 1917

By 1917, with the Siberian Flotilla down to about half the size that it began the war with– and no ships larger than a destroyer– the 6,000 sailors and officers of the force were ripe for revolutionary agitation. As such, Adm. Zavoyko raised a red flag on her masts on 29 November while in Golden Horn Bay, the first such vessel in the Pacific to do so.

She kept her red pennant flying, even as Allies landed intervention forces at Vladivostok.

Japanese marines in a parade of Allied forces in Vladivostok before French and American sailors 1918

Japanese marines in a parade of Allied forces in Vladivostok before British, French and American sailors, 1918

As for the rest of the Siberian Flotilla, it largely went on blocks with its crews self-demobilizing and many jacks heading home in Europe. The fleet commander, Von Schulz, was cashiered and left for his home in the Baltics where he was killed on the sidelines of the Civil War in 1919.

By then, it could be argued that the 60 (elected) officers and men of the Adm. Zavoyko formed the only active Russian naval force of any sort in the Pacific.

In early April 1920, with the counter-revolutionary White Russian movement in their last gasps during the Civil War, the lukewarm-to- Moscow/Pro-Japanese Far Eastern Republic was formed with its capital in the Siberian port. It should be noted that the FER kind of wanted to just break away from the whole Russia thing and go its own way, much like the Baltics, Caucuses, Ukraine, Finland, and Poland had done already. Their much-divided 400~ representative Constituent Assembly consisted of about a quarter Bolsheviks with sprinklings of every other political group in Russia including Social Revolutionaries, Cadets (which had long ago grown scarce in Russia proper), Mensheviks, Socialists, and Anarchists. This produced a weak buffer state between Soviet Russia and Imperial Japan.

This thing:

The Far Eastern Republic ran from the Eastern shores of Lake Baikal to Vladivostok and only existed from 1920-23.

Now flying the (still-red) flag of the FER, Adm. Zavoyko was soon dispatched to bring a cache of arms to Red partisans operating against the last armed Whites on the coast of the Okhotsk and Bering Seas.

However, after Adm. Zavoyko left Vladivostok, the local demographics in its homeport changed dramatically. By early 1921, the population of the city had swelled to over 400,000 (up from the 97,000 who had lived there in 1916) as the White Army retreated east. With the blessing of the local Japanese forces– all the other Allies had left the city– the Whites took over the city in a coup on May 26 from the Reds of the Far Eastern Republic. As the Japanese were cool with that as well, it was a situation that was allowed to continue with the Whites in control of Vladivostok and the Reds in control of the rest of the FER, all with the same strings pulled by Tokyo. To consolidate their assets, the Whites ordered Adm. Zavoyko back to Vladivostok to have her crew and flags swapped out.

This put Adm. Zavoyko in the peculiar position of being the sole “navy” of an ostensibly revolutionary Red republic cut off from her country’s primary port. With that, she sailed for Shanghai, China and remained a fleet in being there for the rest of 1921 and into 1922, flying the St. Andrew Flag of the old Russian Navy. There, according to legend, she successfully fended off several plots from foreign actors, Whites, monarchists, and the like to take over the vessel.

By October 25, 1922, the Whites lost their Vladivostok privileges as the Japanese decided to quit their nearly five-year occupation of Eastern Siberia and the Amur region. White Russian RADM Georgii Karlovich Starck, who had held the rank of captain in the old Tsarist Navy and was the nephew of the VADM Starck who was caught napping by the Japanese at Port Arthur in 1904, then somehow managed to scrape together a motley force of 30 ships ranging from fishing smacks and coasters to harbor tugs and even a few of the old gunboats and destroyers of the Siberian Flotilla and sail for Korea with 10,000 White refugees aboard. His pitiful force eventually ended up in Shanghai on 5 December, where it landed its refuges, and then proceeded to sell its vessels (somewhat illegally) in the Philippines the next year, splitting the proceeds with said diaspora. Starck would later die in exile in Paris in 1950. His second in command, White RADM Vasily Viktorovich Bezoire (who in 1917 was only a lieutenant), remained in Shanghai and was later killed by the Japanese in 1941.

As for Adm. Zavoyko, once the FER voted to self-dissolve and become part of Soviet Russia, she lowered her St. Andrew’s flag, raised the Moscow flag, and sailed back home to the now-all-Soviet Vladivostok in March 1923 where became a unit of the Red Banner Fleet– the only one in the Pacific until 1932.

To commemorate her service during the Revolution and Civil War, her old imperialist name was changed to Krasny Vympel (Red Pennant). She was also up-armed, picking up four 75mm guns in shielded mounts, along with a gray scheme to replace her old white one.

For the next several years she was used to fight pockets of anarchists and White guards that persisted along the coast, engage stateless warlords, pirates, and gangs along the Amur, and shuffle government troops across the region as the sole Soviet naval asset in the area. She also helped recover former Russian naval vessels towed by the Japanese to Northern Sakhalin Island (where the Japanese remained in occupation until 1925).

In 1929, she stood to and supported the Northern Pacific leg of the Strana Sovetov (Land of the Soviets) seaplanes which flew from Moscow to New York. After that, with her neighborhood quieting down, she was used for training and coastal survey work but kept her guns installed– just in case.

Tupolev TB-1 Strana Sovyetov

Tupolev TB-1 Strana Sovyetov floatplane, 1929. The two planes would cover some 21,000 km to include a hop from Petrovavlask to Attu, which our vessel assisted with.

During WWII, with the revitalized Soviet Pacific Fleet much larger, Adm. Zavoyko/Krasny Vympel kept on in her role as an armed surveillance vessel and submarine tender, occasionally running across and destroying random mines sewn by Allied and Japanese alike.

In 1958, after six years of service to the Tsar, five years to various non-Soviet Reds, and 35 to the actual Soviets, she was retired but retained as a floating museum ship in her traditional home of Vladivostok in Golden Horn Bay.

Krasny Vympel 1973

Krasny Vympel 1973, via Fleetphoto.ru

Today, she remains a popular tourist attraction. She was extensively rebuilt in 2014 and, along with the Stalinets-class Red Banner Guards Submarine S-56 and several ashore exhibits, forms the Museum of Military Glory of the Pacific Fleet.

Krasny Vympel 75mm guns maxim via Fleetphoto.ru

Krasny Vympel 75mm guns and Maxim, via Fleetphoto.ru

She has been the subject of much maritime art:

As well as the cover of calendars, postcards, pins, medals, and buttons.

You can find more photos of the vessel at Fleetphoto.ru (in Russian) and at the Vladivostok City site

Specs:

Archive of the Modelist-Designer magazine, 1977, № 9 Via Hobby Port.ru http://www.hobbyport.ru/ships/krasny_vympel.htm

Displacement — 700 t
Length: 173.2 ft. overall (142.7 ft. waterline)
Beam: 27.88 ft.
Draft: 10 ft.
Engineering: 550 HP on one Triple expansion steam engine, one coal-fired boiler
Speed: 11.5 knots; 3500 nm at 8
Crew: 60
Armament:
(1914)
1 x 40mm Vickers
2 x Maxim machine guns

(1923)
4 x 75-mm low-angle
1 x 40mm Vickers
2 x Maxim machine guns

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, May 1, 2019: Indy Radio (on May Day)

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, May 1, 2019: Indy Radio (on May Day)

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (4)

(All photos: Chris Eger)

Here we see an immense– and operational— vacuum tube of a General Electric Model TAJ-19 radio complete with its original 1942 U.S. Navy Bu Ships data plates. The location? The entry level of the Indiana War Memorial, home to the USS Indy Radio Exhibit which is dedicated not only to the famous heavy cruiser of the same name but also to all WWII U.S. Navy radiomen and radio techs.

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2) USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

The radio room exhibit, which I stumbled on last Sunday while in town for the NRA Annual Meetings while on the job with Guns.com, was manned by four big-hearted gentlemen who lovingly cared for the very well maintained cabinets. Their ham call sign is WW2IND for you guys looking for QSL cards.

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

The TAJ-19 is a 500-watt CW and 250-watt MCW transmitter that operated from 175kc up to 600kc and was used on just about everything the Navy had in WWII that was bigger than a destroyer escort. This one is still operational…

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

Over 32 volunteers worked since 2008 to establish the radio room, sourcing some 174 items from across the country to include surplus equipment from the period battleships USS Iowa and USS Alabama.

Bravo Zulu, gentlemen!

As for the War Memorial itself, they have an amazing collection which I will get to more in future posts including extensive space dedicated to the USS Vincennes, to both modern USS Indiana‘s (Battleships No. 1 and 58), as well as the above-mentioned cruiser, and the more modern attack sub that shares her same name.

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, April 17, 2018: Canadian Snorkel Power

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, April 17, 2018: Canadian Snorkel Power

U-190 surrendered

George Metcalf Archival Collection, Canadian War Museum (CWM) 20030014-094

Here we see IXC/40-class submarine U-190 of the German Kriegsmarine sailing to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland in May 1945, under escort by Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) vessels including the Fairmile-type motor launch seen in the distance. If you note, she is flying the RCN’s White Ensign and had just become the country’s first post-WWII submarine.

U190 surrendered Canadian jack

Boom! The RCN Jack over her conning tower, as the first German submarine, to surrender to the Canadians (and their first sub in service since 1927). Note the sub’s distinctive 8-pointed star crest and her post-commissioning snorkel apparatus. Photo via The Rooms

One of the nearly 200 Type IXC/40s completed during the war, U-190 was laid down in 1941 at DeSchiMAG AG Weser of Bremen and commissioned on 24 September 1942 with Kaptlt. Max Wintermeyer as her first skipper. At some 1,257-tons, she was not a big boat, running just 251-feet overall. However, the class was well designed and capable of 13,000-nm cruises on their economical diesel engines. Able to carry 22 torpedoes and a 4.1-inch deck gun with 180~ shells as well as a Flak armament, they were deadly and efficient killers when it came to stalking Allied merchantmen.

This photograph shows the September 1942 commissioning of the German submarine U-190. As part of the commissioning ceremony, the German navy’s ensign flies from the conning tower (left) and is being given the Nazi salute by the submarine’s commanding officer (center right) and by spectators (lower right). George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 19870078-002

By 1 March 1943, she was assigned to 2 Flottille in Lorient, France.

As noted by Uboat.net, although she conducted six war patrols and took part in at least three North Atlantic wolfpacks (Neuland, Ostmark, and Stürmer), she was not very successful. Her only confirmed merchant victim was the British-flagged freighter Empire Lakeland (7,015-tons) sunk south of Iceland while part of New York-to-Glasgow convoy SC-121 during the submarine’s 111-day 2nd Patrol.

In August 1944, Oblt. Hans-Erwin Reith, 24, took command of the vessel and bugged out for Flensburg as the Allied liberation of France removed Lorient as an operating base. On 19 February 1945, Reith left Horten for U-190‘s final (German) patrol. It would last 85-days, with the crew later saying she spent upwards of 40 days on this patrol snorkeling continuously.

Her mission, as detailed by Cameron Pulsifer:

Equipped with a schnorchel and armed with 6 [T-3 Lut] contact torpedoes and eight T-5 Gnat acoustic torpedoes, its mission was to interdict Allied shipping off Sable Island and the approaches to Halifax harbor. It was, in fact, part of the new strategy on the part of the commander-in-chief of the German Navy, Admiral Karl Dönitz, initiated in the dying days of the Nazi regime, to increase pressure on shipping in North American waters in an attempt to ease allied naval pressure in waters closer to home.

There, on 16 April, U-190 encountered a Bangor-class minesweeper, HMCS Esquimalt (J272) and sank her with a single Gnat fired from a stern tube. Esquimalt was the last Canadian warship lost to enemy action during the Second World War (or since, for that matter) and took 39 souls with her to the bottom. U-190 remained submerged for a solid week following this attack, during which time she was hunted by surface vessels, who rained numerous depth charges down upon her decks.

Dönitz had ordered all his U-boats to surrender as from 08:00 5 May, but not all did so immediately.

According to an interrogation report of U-190s crew, it was only on the 11th that U-190 picked up an incomplete version of the surrender orders, to which they responded “An B.d.U.: Seit 12 April ohne F/T. Nach erfolgreicher Unternehmung auf Ruckmarsch. F/T über Kapitulation verstuemmelt aufgenommen. Bitte um nähere Anweisungen”. (“To Admiral Commanding U-boats: Have been without wireless communication since 12 April. Now homeward bound after a successful patrol. Wireless orders about surrender received in a mutilated form. Request fuller details”)

However, Germany never returned their call and on 12 May U-190 surfaced, raised a black flag, tossed her secret papers and gun ammo overboard, and sailed on a heading of 305-degrees while sending surrender signals to New York, Boston, and Cape Race. Soon met by the River-class frigate HMCS Victoriaville (K684) and Flower-class corvette Thorlock (K394) at 43° 54’N., 45° 15′ W, Reith signed a surrender document and deeded his boat over to Canada.

In this sketch by HMCS Victoriaville's gunnery officer, U-190's captain surrenders his submarine to the captain of the Canadian frigate, Lieutenant Commander Lester Hickey (center left, with cap). Hans-Erwin Reith (center, with beard), U-190's commander since July 1944, subsequently signed a deed of unconditional surrender handing over the U-Boat to the Royal Canadian Navy. Lieutenant Bud Burbridge (left) was among the Canadians who would form part of the crew taking U-190 to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 20030255-010

In this sketch by HMCS Victoriaville’s gunnery officer, U-190’s captain surrenders his submarine to the captain of the Canadian frigate, Lieutenant Commander Lester Hickey (center left, with cap). Hans-Erwin Reith (center, with beard), U-190’s commander since July 1944, subsequently signed a deed of unconditional surrender handing over the U-Boat to the Royal Canadian Navy. Lieutenant Bud Burbridge (left) was among the Canadians who would form part of the crew taking U-190 to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 20030255-010

In the early hours of 12 May 1945, Hans-Erwin Reith, U-190's commander, signed this document formally surrendering the submarine to the Royal Canadian Navy. Although units of the Royal Canadian Navy had been involved in the boarding or surrender of U-Boats during the war, this document marked the first formal surrender of a German submarine to Canadian forces. Kenneth George Tryon donated this document and related artifacts to the Canadian War Museum in 1968. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 19680168-009

In the early hours of 12 May 1945, Hans-Erwin Reith, U-190’s commander, signed this document formally surrendering the submarine to the Royal Canadian Navy. Although units of the Royal Canadian Navy had been involved in the boarding or surrender of U-Boats during the war, this document marked the first formal surrender of a German submarine to Canadian forces. Kenneth George Tryon donated this document and related artifacts to the Canadian War Museum in 1968. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 19680168-009

For the next two days, with a skeleton German crew aboard watched by an armed force of Canadians, U-190 made for Bay Bulls while flying an RCN White Ensign.

Once they arrived, the Germans were transferred ashore to a POW camp.

Canadian war artist Tom Wood's watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John's. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat's crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190's crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine's surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

Canadian war artist Tom Wood’s watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John’s. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat’s crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190’s crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine’s surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

U-190 reached its destination on 14 May.

U190 alongside at Bulls Bay

U-190 star of Rio

According to the Crow’s Nest, the 8-pointed star was the Stern von Rio (Star of Rio).” Some say this name came from the boat’s inaugural trip which was supposedly to Rio but others recall it simply as the name to a popular song in Germany at the time. Hirschmann the U-190’s chief engineer, says it was only a compass rose.”

Canada’s early submarine program

The Canadians got into subs in a weird way when in August 1914, Sir Richard McBride, KCMG, the premier of British Columbia, bought a pair of small (144-foot, 300-ton) coastal submarines from Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, an act that your local government normally doesn’t do. The boats had been ordered by Chile who later refused them as not up to snuff.

Sailing for Vancouver in the dark of night as they were technically acquired in violation of a ton of international agreements (and bought for twice the annual budget for the entire Royal Canadian Navy!) they were commissioned as HMCS CC-1 and CC-2. The Dominion Government of Canada later ratified the sale while a subsequent investigation was conducted into how they were acquired.

CC-class

Nonetheless, the two tiny CC boats were the first submarines of the Maple Leaf and continued in service until after the Great War when they were laid up and replaced by a pair of American-made 435-ton H-class submarines from the Royal Navy, HMS H14 and H15, which remained in the Canadian fleet as HMCS CH-14 and CH-15 until broken up in 1927.

H-class

After this, Canada went out of the submarine business– until 1945.

Now back to our U-boat.

U190 pennant

Marked “HMC Sub U-190,” for “His Majesty’s Canadian Submarine,” the pennant graphically marked the new ownership of the surrendered submarine, with a bulldog seizing a Nazi eagle by the neck. CWM 19760322-001

The Canadians in May 1945 had two German Type IXC/40 U-boats, sisters U-190 and U-889, both in working condition and constructed in the same builder’s yard. After transferring them on paper to the Royal Navy, they were transferred back (apparently the same day) and both became vessels of the RCN, dubbed HCMS U-190 and U-889.

The navy promptly took U-190 on a tour of eastern Canadian ports before putting it to use for training.

German submarine entering U-190 in St. John's Harbour Newfoundland courtesy of The Rooms

German submarine entering U-190 in St. John’s Harbour Newfoundland, courtesy of The Rooms

German submarine U-190 in St. John's Harbour Newfoundland courtesy of The Rooms U190

German submarine U-190 in St. John’s Harbour Newfoundland, courtesy of The Rooms

German submarine U-190 in St. John's Harbour Newfoundland courtesy of The Rooms U190

German submarine U-190 in St. John’s Harbour Newfoundland, courtesy of The Rooms. Today, her periscope is still there, located since 1963 in The Crow’s Nest Officer’s Club overlooking this very spot.

U-889 in the meantime had been deemed as one of the 10 U-boats allocated to the U.S. by the Tripartite Naval Commission and was decommissioned in December 1945 and transferred to the Yanks who later scuttled her in 1947 after a series of experiments.

U-889 in U.S. service before she was scuttled. The Navy was very interested in her snorkel, as numerous images of it are in the archives. NH 111270

As for U-190, she was soldiered on as Canada’s sole submarine throughout 1946 and into 1947.

Of her time in Canadian custody and use, dozens of detailed photos exist of her interior, a rare sight today. (See For Posterity’s Sake, The Rooms, The Crow’s Nest and Haze Gray for more.)

In October 1947, the Canadian Navy sank U-190 as a target during Operation Scuttled, a live-fire naval exercise off Halifax– near the site of Esquimalt‘s loss. It was to be epic, with the Tribal-class destroyers HMCS Nootka and HMCS Haida using their 4.7-inch guns and Hedgehog ASW mortars on her after an aerial task force of Seafires, Fireflies, Ansons and Swordfish worked her over with ordnance.

U-190 was the featured star of “Operation Scuttled” staged near the spot where Esquimalt was sunk.

Sadly, the actual show fell far short.

From Michael Hadley’s, U-Boats Against Canada:

Almost before the ships had a chance to enter the act, U-190 pointed its bows into the air after the first rocket attack and slipped silently beneath the sea. And thus, the RCN press release announced with inflated pathos, “the once deadly sea raider came to a swift and ignominious end” – just 19 minutes after “Operation Scuttled” had begun.

Nonetheless, for a destroyed U-boat, U-190 is remarkably well preserved as relics of her are all over North America.

U-190‘s war diary is in the collection of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

The working Enigma machine recovered on U-190 is now part of the Canadian CSE’s (Communications Security Establishment– the country’s crypto agency) collection of historical artifacts.

The Canadian War Museum has her pennant, star globe, equipment plates, a C.G. Haenel-made MP28/2 Sub-machine Gun seized from her armory (which had been on display at Naval Service Headquarters in Ottawa until 1959) and other gear.

MP28 2 Sub-machine Gun seized from U-190

How about a submarine’s submachine gun? The CWM has it, from U-190

And of course, U-190‘s sky periscope, one of just five such instruments preserved worldwide, has long been in the care of the historic Crow’s Nest Officers Club in St. John’s, Newfoundland where its top sticks out over the roof to allow members and visitors to peak out over the harbor.

U190 scope Crows nest

The periscope has reportedly been there since 1963 (Photo: The Crow’s Nest)

Only a single member of the Type IXC class survives, U-505 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Of the 87 Type IXC/40 subvariants, such as U-190 and U-889, the salvaged hull and conning tower of U-534 remains preserved at Birkenhead in England.

As for Reith, he was repatriated to Germany in 1946 and died there in 1987, aged 67. His personal DWM Model 1906 (1st issue) Navy Luger recently came up at auction. Likely presented to him by family or friends on the occasion of his new command, it is marked “U-190.” It appears that it too was surrendered in 1945 and went on to live its own life.

Reith Luger P06 Navy RIAC U-1902

RIAC

Esquimalt was his only victory and she is remembered every year at a public ceremony in the British Columbia that served as her namesake.

Meanwhile, the Canadians took a decade break from subsea ops after U-190 was scuttled but eventually got back into the sub biz, using two U.S. boats, —USS Burrfish (SS-312) and USS Argonaut (SS-475), as HMCS Grilse (SS 71) and Rainbow (SS 75), respectively– from 1961 to 1974. Then they bought their first new subs since CC-1 & CC-2, a trio of British Oberon-class diesel boats– HMCS Ojibwa (S72), Onondaga (S73) and Okanagan (S74), which served from 1965 to 2000. Since then, they have been using the quartet of second-hand RN Upholder-class subs, HMCS Victoria (SSK-876), Windsor (SSK-877), Corner Brook (SSK-878) and Chicoutimi (SSK-879) which are expected to remain in service in some form until the 2030s.

Specs:

U-190 model by Maschinenbau, Gabler CWM 19720073-001

U-190 model by Maschinenbau, Gabler CWM 19720073-001

Displacement:
1,144 t (1,126 long tons) surfaced
1,257 t (1,237 long tons) submerged
Length:
251 ft 10 in o/a
192 ft 9 in pressure hull
Beam:
22 ft 6 in o/a
14 ft 7 in pressure hull
Height: 31 ft 6 in
Draught: 15 ft 4 in
Installed power:
4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
Propulsion:
2 shafts
2 × diesel engines
2 × electric motors
Range:
13,850 nmi at 10 knots surfaced
63 nmi at 4 knots submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Armament:
6 × torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern)
22 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedoes
1 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK C/32 deck gun (180 rounds)
1 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 AA gun
1 × twin 2 cm FlaK 30 AA guns

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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Warship Wednesday, April 10, 2018: All Forms of Manly Sports

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, April 10, 2018: All Forms of Manly Sports

NH 76743-KN

Here we see the Seagoing Athletes that were the all-fleet champion basketball team of the Chester-class scout cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-2) circa 1910. Birmingham and her crew were indeed involved in all sorts of manly sports in her brief career. From her help to show off the modern steel Navy, to her very real contribution to “Remember the Maine,” to her service as the cradle of U.S. Naval Aviation and in a curious war against the Austrians that garnered a pair of Kaiser Karl’s battlewagons for the Stars and Stripes, B’ham was there.

In the early 1900s, when it came to cruisers, the Navy had lots of big boys such as the 10 Washington and California-class armored cruisers (15,000 tons, 10- and 8-inch gun main batteries); as well as five “1st class cruisers” of the Charleston, Brooklyn and Saratoga-classes (8500-10,000 tons, 6 and 8 inch guns); four aging “2nd class cruisers” e.g. USS Olympia, Baltimore, Columbia, Minneapolis (5,000-7,000 tons, 6- and 8-inch guns); the six slow “3rd class” Chattanooga cruisers who could only make 16 knots; and in the bottom rung were the old Span-Am War era protected cruisers Raleigh, Cincinnati, New Orleans and Albany (the last two British built), of questionable utility due to their slow speeds. This dearth of small, modern– and above all fast– light cruisers led to the Navy to order the trio of Chester class scout cruisers in 1904.

USS BIRMINGHAM (CS-2) and USS SALEM (CS-3) completing, at the Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Quincy, Massachusetts, circa early 1908. Original is a color-tinted postcard, mailed at Quincy on 9 September 1909. Courtesy of Captain Don Fink, 1983 NH 94937

The 4,687-ton ships– Chester, Salem, and Birmingham— were race boats for their time, capable of 24 knots (Chester hit 26.52 on speed trials), which made them able to reach out past the battle fleet and look for enemy formations. They also could sip coal and make some truly impressive ocean-crossing voyages at slow/low speeds, which would make them good ships if needed to be dispatched to far off flashpoints in the growing Pax Americana.

Chester class cruisers

Chester class cruisers, 1914 entry in Janes

Lightly armored, with just 2-inches of plate over their steering and engineering spaces with no gun shields or conning tower protection, they were supposed to run, not fight. If pushed into a corner by a similarly fast ship, such as a destroyer, they had (just) enough muscle to prevail with a single 5″/50 cal mount forward and rear along with six 3″/50 singles in broadside. A pair of submerged 21-inch torpedo tubes made them trouble for capital ships, especially in a night attack.

Gun Practice - Gun practice on board U.S. Cruiser Salem, Birmingham's sister, Chester class Charlestown, Navy Yard, Charlestown, Mass - NARA - 45510731

Gun Practice – Gun practice on board U.S. Cruiser Salem, Birmingham’s sister, Chester class Charlestown, Navy Yard, Charlestown, Mass – NARA – 45510731

USS Birmingham, starboard view, May 4, 1908 NARA 19-N-33-9-13

USS Birmingham, starboard view, May 4, 1908, NARA 19-N-33-9-13

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) Running sea trials in March 1908. She is flying the flag of her builder, the Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Massachusetts, from her mainmast. NH 56390

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) Running sea trials in March 1908. She is flying the flag of her builder, the Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Massachusetts, from her mainmast. NH 56390

Built at Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Birmingham, the first U.S. Navy vessel with that name, commissioned at Quincy, Massachusetts 11 April 1908 and was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. As part of her shakedown cruises, she popped in at Mobile, Alabama in February 1909 “where the increasingly seasoned cruiser received a silver service in honor of that state and her namesake.”

Keep in mind the Civil War had just ended 44 years before.

She then picked up President-elect Howard H. Taft in New Orleans and carried him up the Eastern Seaboard to Hampton Roads, VA to join Teddy Roosevelt in reviewing the Great White Fleet which was returning from its round the world cruise.

Soon, all three of the Chesters would see active service when, as a group, they sortied to Liberia on the West African Coast, dispatched by Roosevelt and Secretary of State Elihu Root to get involved in the local unrest there, which in large part stemmed from British and French colonial actions on the country’s borders.

From DANFS:

The U.S. appointed a commission to investigate the crisis, which set out on board Birmingham from Tompkinsville on 23 April 1909. The ship rendezvoused with Chester and Salem, and the three cruisers crossed the Atlantic, coaled and provisioned at Porto Grande Bay at São Vicente in the Cape Verde Islands (1–9 May), and reached Monrovia, Liberia, on the 13th. The commissioners lodged on board the trio of cruisers while they worked with Liberian representatives at Monrovia (13–29 May and 5 June), Grand Bassa (29–31 May), Cape Palmas (1–4 June), and Robertsport — also on 5 June — and wrapped-up their investigation with a visit to Freetown, Sierra Leone (7–8 June). The ships coaled and completed upkeep at Las Palmas in the Cape Verde Islands (13–16 June) and at Funchal, Madeira (17–23 June), and returned to Newport. The commissioners subsequently presented a message to Congress, and Root recommended that the U.S. consider lending military officers to assist the Liberians.

The following year the U.S. arranged a Loan Agreement, whereby 17 African-American Army officers eventually (1911–1930) served in Liberia, where they worked as military attachés to the American Consulate in Monrovia, or organized, trained, and led the Frontier Force, that country’s constabulary. These dedicated men carried out their difficult mission with minimum support but set the conditions to stabilize the Liberian regime.

The three Chesters arrived back in the country just in time to show off for the international armada that had assembled in New York in the summer of 1909. The event was Hudson-Fulton Celebration, the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River, and the 100th anniversary of the first successful commercial application of a paddle steamer, by Robert Fulton Jr.

USS Salem (Scout Cruiser # 3) and USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser #2) In the Hudson River, off New York City, during the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, 25 September 9 October 1909. Photo #: NH 91473

USS Salem (Scout Cruiser # 3) and USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser #2) In the Hudson River, off New York City, during the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, 25 September 9 October 1909. Photo #: NH 91473

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) Dressed in flags while at anchor, circa 1909. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. NH 101517

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) Dressed in flags while at anchor, circa 1909. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. NH 101517

After coming to the assistance of the British tug Bulldog and later the sinking steamer Kentucky off the North Carolina coast, Birmingham visited Liberia again in early 1910 before returning to duties with the Atlantic Fleet. In November, she was part of a great experiment.

Less than seven years after Wilbur and Orville Wright made their brief manned air flight on Kill Devil Hill in the Outer Banks, sailing just 120 feet at a speed of a whopping 34 mph, the “aero plane” had made leaps and bounds. From the very beginnings, the military had its eye on the contraption– Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian had been underwritten by the War Department even before the Wright brothers made it off the ground.

Aviation pioneer Eugene Ely, who held pilot’s license No. 17 from the Aero Club of America, had a rendezvous with Birmingham, and destiny.

DANFS:

Shipwrights from Norfolk Navy Yard built an 83-foot slanted wooden platform onto Birmingham’s bow and, on the overcast morning of 14 November, she embarked civilian exhibition stunt pilot Eugene B. Ely, his 50 hp. Curtiss Model D Pusher biplane, some maintainers, and a group of naval officer observers headed by Capt. Washington I. Chambers, an advocate of early naval aviation.

Birmingham got underway at 11:30 a.m. and proceeded in company with Roe (Destroyer No. 24) and Terry (Destroyer No. 25), Barley (Torpedo Boat No. 21) and Stringham (Torpedo Boat No. 19), down the Elizabeth River to the Chesapeake Bay, where she anchored off Old Comfort Point at 12:35, and then shifted her anchorage and dropped the anchor again at 2:55 p.m.

Rainy and drizzly weather prevented Ely from taking off several times, but the pilot gamely decided to continue and launched his plane off the cruiser’s bow at 3:17 p.m. As he left the platform the pusher settled slowly and hit the water but rose again and landed about two and a half miles away on Willoughby Spit.

The plane sustained slight splinter damage to the propeller tips, but Ely’s daring feat marked the first time that an aircraft took off from a warship. Birmingham sent her motorboat to pick up Ely where he touched down at Willoughby Spit, and he, Chambers, and the rest of the party then transferred to Roe for the voyage back to Norfolk. Birmingham’s crew spent the next day tearing down the platform, raising her topmasts, and setting up the rigging, and left the lumber for Navy screw tug Alice to collect.

Just in her third year of service, our hardy cruiser had intervened in an African conflict, rubbed shoulders with both TR and Taft, and become the nation’s very first aircraft carrying warship. She was to continue her footnotes to history.

After visiting Mobile again for Mardi Gras and patrolling off Haiti in a show of gunboat diplomacy (she put in several times at Port-au-Prince and even observed the commissioning of the old Italian Regioni-class cruiser Umbria into the country’s navy as the ill-fated Consul Gostrück), Birmingham appeared in Cuba to serve as a pallbearer for the lost protected cruiser USS Maine (ACR-1), sunk by a controversial explosion in Havana in 1898.

Raised by the Army Corps of Engineers in an epic two-year effort, the remains of 66 lost Sailors and Marines were found and were ordered returned home with honor. Birmingham pulled that duty to escort those remains to the Washington Naval Yard after standing by, along with the armored cruiser North Carolina, while Maine was sunk in 600 fathoms of water offshore.

Maine, ship's after section is scuttled, in ceremonies off Havana, 16 March 1912. In background is USS NORTH CAROLINA (CA-12). USS BIRMINGHAM (CS-2) is at right. NH 46794

Maine, ship’s after section is scuttled, in ceremonies off Havana, 16 March 1912. In the background is USS NORTH CAROLINA (CA-12). USS BIRMINGHAM (CS-2) is at right. NH 46794

The flag-draped caskets of the victims of the USS Maine explosion are brought ashore at the Washington Navy Yard, District of Columbia, from USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2), 23 March 1912. Of the 66 sets of remains only one was identified and returned to his home town the rest were reburied at Arlington Cemetery. NH 1690

The flag-draped caskets of the victims of the USS Maine explosion are brought ashore at the Washington Navy Yard, District of Columbia, from USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2), 23 March 1912. Of the 66 sets of remains, only one was identified and returned to his home town the rest were reburied at Arlington Cemetery. NH 1690

NH 1813 USS Maine disaster. Funeral scene of the USS MAINE victims at the Navy Yard, Washington, District of Columbia, 23 March 1912. USS BIRMINGHAM (CL-2) in background

NH 1813 USS Maine disaster. Funeral scene of the USS Maine victims at the Navy Yard, Washington, District of Columbia, 23 March 1912. USS BIRMINGHAM (CL-2) in background

After inaugural service with the Ice Patrol– Titanic had just sunk in April 1912– Birmingham resumed her duties with the Atlantic Fleet, which had been anything but routine.

USS Birmingham (CL-2), circa 1914. From the collection of ADM Horne. UA 571.96

USS Birmingham (CL-2), circa 1914. From the collection of ADM Horne. UA 571.96

With Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt in the Navy’s driver’s seat, trips to Mexico to get muscular in that country’s civil war became common and soon, the Vera Cruz incident erupted. Birmingham, in Pensacola, was urgently ordered on 20 April 1914 to take aboard three aircraft there: “hydroaeroplane AH-2” and Curtiss Model F flying boats AB-4 and AB-5, along with three pilots who went on to be huge names in aviation history– Lt. (later ADM) John H. Towers (Naval Aviator #3), 1st Lt. Bernard L. Smith (USMC Aviator #2), and Ens. Godfrey de C. Chevalier (Naval Aviator #7, who would later be the first to trap on board a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier), 10 “mechaniciens,” a cook, and a mess attendant.

Delivering the assortment to Tampico, the planes accomplished the first combat mission by a U.S. military heavier-than-air aircraft just five days later and were soon among those who first to receive ground fire (with the bullet holes to prove it!)

Pioneer naval aviators Godfrey deChevalier, Henry C. Mustin, and John H. Towers on a beach during service in Mexico in the aftermath of the Veracruz Insurrection. On April 20-21, 1914, naval aviation personnel and their aircraft deployed from the Naval Aeronautical Station at Pensacola, Florida, to Mexican waters aboard Birmingham, where they flew the first combat flights in the history of the United States armed forces.

After Mexico, it was the stony duty of wartime neutral.

Birmingham, Photographed by O.W. Waterman, Hampton, Virginia, circa 1916. Courtesy of Admiral M.M. Taylor, USN(d), 1962. NH 77906

Birmingham, Photographed by O.W. Waterman, Hampton, Virginia, circa 1916. Courtesy of Admiral M.M. Taylor, USN(d), 1962. NH 77906

USS Birmingham Firing salutes with her crew manning the rails, accompanied by three 750-ton type destroyers. Photographed by Waterman. Birmingham's black paint scheme and structural details, and the white uniforms worn by her crew, indicate that the date of this photograph is mid-1916, when Birmingham was flagship of the Atlantic Fleet's Destroyer Force. Location may well be near Hampton, Virginia, base of Waterman family's photographic business. Note what appears to be pattern camouflage (perhaps an experimental scheme) worn by the destroyer on the left. Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2007. NH 105382

USS Birmingham Firing salutes with her crew manning the rails, accompanied by three 750-ton type destroyers. Photographed by Waterman. Birmingham’s black paint scheme and structural details, and the white uniforms worn by her crew, indicate that the date of this photograph is mid-1916 when Birmingham was the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet’s Destroyer Force. Location may well be near Hampton, Virginia, a base of Waterman family’s photographic business. Note what appears to be pattern camouflage (perhaps an experimental scheme) worn by the destroyer on the left. Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2007. NH 105382

When the U.S. entered the Great War, Birmingham continued her East Coast operations with CDR Nathan C. Twining, Commander, Nantucket Detachment, Patrol Force, breaking his flag on the cruiser. By June 1917, she was escorting the first wave of Doughboys, the regulars of the Army’s newly-formed 1st Infantry Division, augmented by the 5th Marines, to France.

In August, she crossed with a second troop convoy and by 1918 was in the Med, operating out of Gibraltar.

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) Moored in a harbor, circa 1918, probably in the Mediterranean area. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969 NH 68227

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) Moored in a harbor, circa 1918, probably in the Mediterranean area. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969 NH 68227

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) In Brest harbor, France, on 15 October 1918. During 1917-1918 she was flagship of U.S. Forces at Gibraltar and escorted convoys in the eastern Atlantic. Note her dazzle camouflage. Courtesy of John G. Krieger, 1966-1967. NH 56393

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) In Brest harbor, France, on 15 October 1918. During 1917-1918 she was the flagship of U.S. Forces at Gibraltar and escorted convoys in the eastern Atlantic. Note her dazzle camouflage. Courtesy of John G. Krieger, 1966-1967. NH 56393

Once the Armistice hit on 11 November 1918, Birmingham was dispatched to the Adriatic where the Allied forces had for the entirety of the war kept the mighty Austro-Hungarian fleet largely bottled up, a paper tiger. Taking on RADM William H. G. Bullard at Malta, within days she was at Spalato (Split) in Dalmatia, where she took custody of not one but two Austrian battleships on 22 November.

Surrender of Austrian Fleet - Austrian battleships surrendered to U.S. Naval forces 2.8.19 SMS Radetzky Zrinyi Spalate Birmingham cruiser LOC 165-WW-329D-002

Surrender of Austrian Fleet – Austrian battleships surrendered to U.S. Naval forces 2.8.19 SMS Radetzky, Zrinyi, Spalate. Birmingham to the right. LOC 165-WW-329D-002

Sisterships of the same class of pre-dreadnought battleships, SMS Radetzky and SMS Zrinyi had both joined Kaiser Franz Josef’s Imperial Austro-Hungarian Navy in 1911 and saw very little service in their seven years on Vienna’s naval list. After ole Franz died in 1916, his great-nephew Karl took the throne and beat feet during the last days of the war, signing over the fleet to the newly formed Yugoslav government to keep it out of the Allies hands.

To comply with this, the two battlewagons sailed out of Pola on 10 November under nominal Slav command and, flying American flags, surrendered to a group of punchy 110-foot U.S. Navy submarine chasers until Bullard and Birmingham arrived a week later. Under U.S. custody, the pair was even referred to as USS Zrinyi and USS Radetzky, unofficially. However, it was not to be and in compliance with the final Austrian peace in 1920, the ships were given to Italy and scrapped.

As for our hardy scout cruiser, she returned home in early 1919 and was soon reassigned to the Pacific Fleet.

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) In the Middle West Chamber, Gatun Locks, during the passage of the Pacific Fleet through the Panama Canal, 24 July 1919. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Collection of Admiral William V. Pratt. NH 75717

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) In the Middle West Chamber, Gatun Locks, during the passage of the Pacific Fleet through the Panama Canal, 24 July 1919. Note she has extensive warm weather awnings and a grey hull again. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Collection of Admiral William V. Pratt. NH 75717

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) At Seattle, Washington, in September 1919. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56394

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) At Seattle, Washington, in September 1919. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56394

Reclassified as a light cruiser (CL-2), she later became the flag of RADM William C. Cole who used her to head up a squadron dispatched to Panama in 1922 to help quiet down the locals in the Canal Zone– making Birmingham a Mahanian gunboat to the last. Ironically, during this period she called on New Orleans and, while open to the public during the 1923 State Fair, was toured by then CPT. Osami Nagano of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Nagano, of course, would later rise to Chief of the Navy General Staff during WWII, outranking Yamamoto.

In addition to Nagano and the host of early aviators that went on to greatness, at least three of Birmingham‘s former skippers went on to become full admirals including two CINCUS’s and one CNO. She truly was a ship that stars fell upon.

With the resulting peace craze that followed WWI and the series of naval treaties agreed to by the world’s great powers, the Chester class were declared surplus and laid up so that their tonnage could be used for more modern cruiser developments. As such, Birmingham headed to Philadelphia, where she was decommissioned on 1 December 1923. Salem had already been laid up at Mare Island in 1921, the same year Chester was put out of service at Boston. By early 1930, all three had been sold for scrap, at which point they were only about 22 years old each and had been in reserve for a decade. A waste.

Birmingham’s name would be twice reused, by the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-62)— which gave epic service in WWII and decommissioned in 1946– and by the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Birmingham (SSN-695) which was active from 1978 to 1997.

Birmingham SSBN-695 CL-62

Of course, our Scout Cruiser’s silver service is at the Birmingham Museum of Art, on public display. She has also been remembered in maritime art for her role as America’s first aircraft carrier, of sorts.

Further, on the Centennial of Naval Aviation in 2010, a replica of Ely’s Curtiss Hudson Flier was hoisted aboard the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), for old time’s sake.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Bob Coolbaugh sits in the pilot seat of a replica Curtiss Hudson Flier biplane, the first aircraft to launch from the deck of a navy ship, Nov. 15, 2010, on the flight deck of USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) while in port in Norfolk, Va. The replica was built as part of celebrations for the Centennial of Naval Aviation. (DoD photo 101115-N-3885H-265 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Hall, U.S. Navy/Released)

101115-N-3885H-265 Retired Navy Cmdr. Bob Coolbaugh sits in the pilot seat of a replica Curtiss Hudson Flier biplane, the first aircraft to launch from the deck of a navy ship, Nov. 15, 2010, on the flight deck of USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) while in port in Norfolk, Va. The replica was built as part of celebrations for the Centennial of Naval Aviation. (DoD photo 101115-N-3885H-265 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Hall, U.S. Navy/Released)

As for Ely, after his takeoff from Birmingham, he made a landing on a larger deck on the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania, another important aviation first. Sadly, before 1911 was out, he died in a plane crash in Macon, Georgia. He was later enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Specs:

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) Underway in 1908, possibly during trials. NH 56392

USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser # 2) Underway in 1908, possibly during trials. NH 56392

Displacement:
3,750 long tons (3,810 t) (standard)
4,687 long tons (4,762 t) (full load)
Length:
423 ft 1 in (128.96 m) oa
420 ft (130 m) pp
Beam: 47 ft 1 in
Draft: 16 ft 9 in(mean)
Installed power:
12 × Fore River boilers
16,000 ihp
15,670 ihp (produced on Trial)
Propulsion:
2 × 4cly vertical triple expansion engines
2 × screws
Speed:
24 knots designed, 24.33 knots (Speed on Trial)
Coal: 1400 tons max. Burned 148 tons in 24 hrs at 20 knots or 31 tons per 24 hrs at 10 knots, which is sweet
Complement: 42 officers 330 enlisted
Armament:
4 × 5 in (130 mm)/50 caliber Mark 6 breech-loading rifles
6 × 3 in (76 mm)/50 caliber rapid-fire guns (6×1)
2 × 3-pounder (47 mm (1.9 in) Driggs-Schroeder saluting guns
2 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, submerged, with 8 torpedoes in the magazine
Armor:
Belt: 2 in over engineering spaces only, essentially double skinned from 3.5-feet below the waterline to 9.5-feet above
Deck: 1 mm (aft) to protect steering gear

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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, April 3, 2019: She’s was a lucky and lovely Flower

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, April 3, 2019: She’s was a lucky and lovely Flower

Irish Maritime Archives# IE-MA-ACPS-GPN-308-2 (4814×3672)

Here we see the former Royal Navy HMS Bellwort (K 114), a Flower-class corvette, in her later life in 1947 at Dun Laoghaire Pier as the Irish Naval Service’s Long Éireannach (LÉ) Cliona (03)— named after the Irish goddess of love. Both before and after, she lived a very lucky life, which is remarkable as many of her class did not.

Ordered 12 December 1939 from George Brown & Co. in Greenock, Scotland, Kincaid, Bellwort was one of the nearly 300 Flowers completed during the conflict. Compact vessels at just 1,000-tons with a length of only 205-feet, they used a simple engineering suite and a single screw to make 16 knots, a speed high enough to combat WWII-era diesel-electric subs. Mounting a single low-angle 4-inch gun forward and a series of ASW weapons, they were designed to take the fight to Donitz’s unterseeboots and did it admirably.

Royal Canadian Navy Flower-class corvette HMCS Amherst, a great representative of the type. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

In all, the humble but effective corvettes served the RN, their Canadian, Indian and South African Commonwealth fleets, and a myriad of “Free” allied nations in exile such as the Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, and Greeks.

Bellwort, named for the lily of the same moniker, commissioned 20 November 1941 during the height of the Battle of the Atlantic while the British stood alone in Western Europe against the Italians and Germans.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 23642) The corvette HMS BELLWORT entering Victoria Wharf, Birkenhead. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119841

By 12 December, she was on her first convoy escort, tagging along with ON 049 for a week on the UK to North America run. Over the course of the war in Europe, Bellwort would be a part of well over 40 convoys in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean as well as off the West African coast including the Freetown-to-Takoradi run, bringing over 800 ships safely to port.

THE BELLWORT HOME AFTER WEST AFRICA SERVICE. DECEMBER 1943, FREETOWN. THE CORVETTE HMS BELLWORT AS SHE PREPARED TO RETURN TO BRITAIN FROM A YEARS SERVICE ON THE WEST AFRICAN COAST. (A 21837) The Commanding Officer of HMS BELLWORT, Lieut Commander Norman Gill, RNR (center) having an upper deck conference with some of his officers. He has marked off a position on the chart and the Navigating Officer (right) is making a note of it in his pocket-book. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205154097

THE BELLWORT HOME AFTER WEST AFRICA SERVICE. DECEMBER 1943, FREETOWN. THE CORVETTE HMS BELLWORT AS SHE PREPARED TO RETURN TO BRITAIN FROM A YEARS SERVICE ON THE WEST AFRICAN COAST. (A 21836) Members of the BELLWORT’s crew just before she left her last African port. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205154096

She was not always successful.

On one of these South Atlantic convoys, TS 37, in which Bellwort and three armed trawlers were charged with 19 merchants, German submarine ace Werner Henke and U-519 stalked the slow running group, ultimately sinking seven ships in a series of quick actions. The sub was later smoked by the USS Guadalcanal hunter-killer group and Henke died while trying to escape from an interrogation center in Virginia in 1944.

During the war, Bellwort also had to fight Poseidon. She was almost lost off South Africa in June 1942 while being towed by HMS Barrymore around the Cape of Good Hope. Poor sea boats, these hoggish craft had a reputation of being able to “roll on wet grass.” Arnold Whitehead, a rating on Barrymore, recalled the event for the BBC.

We, the crew, soon began to realize that the Cape of Good Hope in the southern hemisphere in wintertime could be rather an unpleasant place. A really tremendous storm was brewing up. The seas were becoming mountainous walls of water, and during the night the Bellwort slid down one side of one of the wave mountains and we slid down the opposite side, away from the Bellwort, which was helpless, of course, without rudder and no engines running. The six-inch steel hawser snapped like a violin string, the end attached to us striking our stern a frightening blow. We were left with the almost impossible task of trying to get the hawser reconnected to the corvette while looking to our own survival in what was now a raging hurricane. The wind in the ship’s rigging was making a fearful wailing noise, which was quite spirit-numbing.

During the night the skipper told us that the Barrymore was designed to withstand a roll of up to 45 degrees each way, and we had been rolling 50 degrees. The skipper’s detailed information was hardly likely to inspire confidence!

The situation aboard the Bellwort was grave in the extreme, with her crew all wearing inflated lifebelts on deck and ready to jump. The Barrymore turned on her searchlight to illuminate the scene while the end of the hawser attached to us was winched aboard.

It was at this point in the rescue attempt that I witnessed the most astonishing event I have ever seen. The seas were estimated to be 60 feet high. Torrential rain was also a major hazard, and we wondered if we would survive. The ship’s logbook recorded the conditions of the sea as ‘precipitous’, which was the worst of all on our graduated scale. In the midst of all this, a seaman was washed overboard. Within moments, by some miracle, the next giant wave brought him back on board, apparently none the worse for his ordeal!

Bellwort left her last charge, as part of the screen for Convoy MKS 103G from the Med to Portsmouth, on 27 May 1945.

Her war ended with reportedly heading to Lisbon to pick up the crew of a lost German U-boat, likely U-1277, which had scuttled on 3 June 1945 off the coast of Portugal.

With VJ Day, the peacetime Royal Navy didn’t need Bellwort and her sisters anymore. An amazing 33 Flowers were lost during the conflict, with most of those torpedoed and sunk by U-boats during convoy operations. As something like half of the convoy vessels in the North Atlantic were Flowers, it is no surprise. Most of the remaining ships were rapidly laid up and soon either sold for scrap or transferred aboard.

Out of service by October 1945, Bellwort along with sisters HMS Borage (K 120) and HMS Oxlip (K123) was sold to the Irish “for a bargain price” in September 1946 as the LÉ Cliona (03), LÉ Macha (01), and LÉ Maev (02), respectively. As with Cliona‘s goddess name, Macha is from an Irish goddess of war while Maev is named after Medb, queen of Connacht in Irish mythology.

If the pennant numbers sound low, that’s because the Irish Naval Service was only founded that year. Previously, the only armed vessels owned by Dublin was the old RN yacht HMY Helga, a 300-ton craft that picked up a pair of 12-pounders in 1936 to patrol as Muirchú for the Fisheries Service. During WWII, the armed neutral had to rely on Helga/Muirchú as well as a six-pack of small 60-foot Vosper MTBs (without berthing) for coast watching. The post-war Irish Naval Service was the Republic’s first foray into a blue water force.

For the next 25 years, these three surplus British corvettes were the sum total of the Irish navy until Dublin coughed up a naval program in 1969 for the purchase of three aging Ton-class coastal minesweepers (HMS Oulston, HMS Alverton, and HMS Blaxton) while the 184-foot LÉ Deirdre, the first vessel ever built specifically for the Naval Service, was constructed in Verlome Cork Dockyard as a replacement for the minesweepers.

Cliona via Irish Naval Archives

Le Cliona and M4, a Vosper 60-foot MTB, at Dun Laoghaire Pier 1947 IE-MA-ACPS-GPN-308-1

LE Cliona 03 (ex HMS Bellwort) in Irish service Via Flower Corvette Forum https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/theflowerclasscorvetteforums/le-cliona-03-ex-hms-bellwort-t546.html

All was not roses for the Irish corvettes. Used for grueling fisheries patrol work as well as in customs duties stopping potential gun running to the IRA, they saw their share of interesting encounters. In 1962, Cliona‘s luck almost ran out.

On 29 May, while participating in an annual live-fire exercise south of Roches Point, Cliona suffered damage after the explosion of a Hedgehog charge which had been dropped during the exercise. Leaking oil ignited which resulted in a serious boiler room fire onboard the vessel. The fire was eventually extinguished without any fatalities but the deeds of her crew who saved the ship largely forgotten for decades.

Taken out of service July 1969, Cliona was decommissioned on 2 November 1970 and the same day sold to Haulbowline Industries. She was later scrapped at Passage West in Cork. Her two Irish sisters, Borage/Macha, and Oxlip/Maev, were likewise sold to HI at about the same time and met similar fates. By then, except for a sister in Canada and a few others in the Dominican Republic and Angola, they were the last of the nearly 300 ship class.

Today, only the HMCS Sackville (K181), which the Canadians preserved in 1982 at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the only Flower left in the world. Notably, Bellwort/Clinoa escorted more convoys that she did.

Sackville via Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, please, if you are ever in Halifax, pay her a visit.

However, Cliona‘s crewmembers who saved her on that fateful day in 1962 were eventually remembered.

On 1 September 2016, the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D., presented Scrolls of Commendation to Lieutenant Pat O’Mahony, Able Stoker Bill Mynes, Chief E.R.A. Maurice Egan and Chief Stoker Gerry O’Callaghan, (the last posthumously) at a ceremony held on board L.É. Niamh in Dublin.

“Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr. Paul Kehoe, T.D., today (Thursday, 1 September 2016) presented Scrolls of Commendation to former crew members of the LÉ Cliona” Via Irish national archives

Before presenting the scrolls, Minister Kehoe praised the former Naval Service members “…each one of these four men fearlessly faced difficulty, danger, and pain while successfully extinguishing the fire that had taken hold on board the LÉ Cliona. The swift and selfless endeavors of each one of these four men ensured that tragedy was avoided and not a single life was lost.”

Minister Kehoe also paid tribute to “…the tremendous team effort that was made by the ship’s company. They ensured the safe return of the ship to port, once the fire had been brought under control. Even with the passage of time, their endeavors are not forgotten. I am delighted that I will have the opportunity of unveiling a plaque in recognition of their sterling work, in Haulbowline Naval Base, at the end of this month”.

As for her stint as Bellwort, David Willcock, the grandson of a former RN tar who sailed aboard her during WWII, has a tribute page.

Today, the Irish Naval Service, which began in 1946 with those three high-mileage Flower-class corvettes, is 72-years-old and still rocks a pair of vintage ex-RN corvettes of the 1980s Peacock-class, formerly used to patrol Hong Kong. But in addition, they also have six-purpose built OPVs that were built from the keel up for Ireland. The newest of these include four of the very capable Samuel Beckett-class vessels, which go 300-feet and tip the scales at 2,250-tons, each larger than the Cliona and her sisters. Appropriately, they are named for poets.

Besides protecting Ireland’s EEZ and territorial waters, the force has been involved in Mediterranean search and rescue operations with the EU for the past two years. In short, it’s a proper force now.

Specs:

Plan of HMS Bellwort reference NPA6884, housed in box ADRB0154 Via RMS Greenwich

Displacement: 1020 tonnes
Length: 205 ft.
Beam: 33 ft.
Draft: 14 ft.
Powerplant: Single reciprocating vertical 4-cylinder triple expansion by John Kincaid Greenock, 2 fire tube Scotch boilers
Maximum Speed (designed) 16 Knots
Sensors: SW1C radar, Type 123A sonar
Complement:
85 designed, up to 100 in wartime RN service
5 officers, 74 ratings (Irish Service)
Armament: (1941)
1 X 4″/45cal (102mm) BL Mk.IX gun
1 X Mk.VIII 2-pounder pom-pom AAA gun
2 X 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
1 X Mk 3 Hedgehog mortar,
4 X depth-charge throwers,
2 X depth charge rails with 40 depth charges

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Warship Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2019: Tehran’s Tangs

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 (ish) 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, Mar. 27, 2019: Tehran’s Tangs

NHHC KN-2708

Here we see a P-2H Neptune of Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 as it flies over the Tang-class submarine USS Trout (SS-566), near Charleston, S.C., May 7, 1961. While Trout‘s lines look fine for her era, don’t let them fool you, as she is not one of Rickover’s sleek nukes but is rather a 1940s-designed smoke boat– and one with an interesting story.

By late 1945, the U.S. Navy got the bad news that the Germans had been way ahead of them in terms of diesel-electric submarines. The innovations out of Hamburg and Kiel such as in hull/tower design, battery trunks, torpedo propulsion and the use of a snorkel by Hitler’s late-war “Elektroboot” Type XXI-class U-boats directly led to the American Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) that made similar modifications on the USN’s vast flotillas of WWII-produced Gato, Balao, and Tench-class diesel boats. This was in large part due to both captured plans and reverse-engineering a pair of trophy Type XXIs, U-2513, and U-3008, through 1949.

Ex-German submarine U-3008 underway at sea on 15 April 1948 in USN service, note the similarity to the Trout. National Archives 80-G-442933

As a result, the old fleet boats came to an end when the Tench-class submarine USS Grenadier (SS-525) was commissioned in Feb. 1951. A slew of sisters (SS-526 through SS-549) were canceled. Then came several experimental subs to include the smallish three-ship Barracuda-class “hunter-killer” SSKs optimized for ASW, and the one-off research submarines USS Dolphin (AGSS-555), Albacore (AGSS-569) and Mackerel (AGSS-570).

During this period, came the six-ship Tang-class laid down in 1949/50 at Electric Boat and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that were “GUPPY” from the keel up rather than modified. A nominal seventh vessel of the class, USS Darter (SS-576), was built to an improved design and is largely considered a single-ship class.

The six-pack was all named for famous and very successful WWII submarines– Tang, Trigger, Wahoo, Trout, Gudgeon and Harder— and were all completed by November 1952 as the first practical Cold War-era U.S. Navy sub design. Some 292-feet long and 2,700-tons submerged, they were a tad shorter than the big fleet boats that brought Japanese shipping to its end (Tenches went 311-feet) but were much faster (17.4-knots vs 8.75 knots, submerged) and could dive deeper (700 feet test depth rather than 400 feet). In short, they were the equivalent of diesel Fast Attack boats.

Interestingly, the design included both front and rear torpedo tubes, an old-school WWII call-back, although the arrangement was more 1950s. Besides the half-dozen primary 21-inch tubes forward, the class had a pair of 19-inch torpedo tubes aft for the then-planned Mk 37 ASW torpedo as well as the capability to carry eight MK-49/57 mines.

Note the stubby tubes. Designed in 1946, the downright cute 1,400 Mk37 acoustic torpedo entered service in 1955 and became the primary ASW torp of the Navy for a large part of the Cold War. It’s 330-pound warhead and contact exploder was deemed enough to crack a pressure hull.

How about that six berth/two torp storage

Our direct subject, USS Trout was laid down on 1 Dec. 1949 at EB and at her launch she was sponsored by the widow of LCDR Albert H. Clark, the last commanding officer of the first USS Trout (SS-202), who was lost on the boat’s 11th war patrol in 1944 along with 80 other souls.

Commissioned 27 June 1952, the new Trout was assigned to SubRon 10 out of New London for the rest of the decade and was hard at work in ASW exercises and NATO support.

Notably, in March 1959, DANFS says “During submerged exercises in polar waters in company with [sister ship] Harder (SS-568), Trout sailed 268 miles beneath Newfoundland ice floes, setting a distance record for conventionally powered submarines.”

Her skipper in 1960 was LCDR William James Crowe Jr. (USNA 1947). Notably, Crowe went on to become a full admiral, was CINCPAC, CinCAFSOUTH, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He was aboard during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where Trout was front-and-center.

As noted by a reunion group for her crews, the 1960s saw her deploy to the Med three times and was utilized in a variety of OPFOR events as a simulated enemy sub– the Soviets also used the Type XXI design as a basis for their huge 200-unit Project 613 (NATO Whiskey-class) vessels. Trout’s group’s history says for example:

-She assisted the surface Anti-Submarine Forces by simulating an unfriendly unit penetrating U.S. waters.

-She also assumed the role of enemy while hindering major fleet amphibious exercises.

-During the latter part of 1965 TROUT participated in a mine laying exercise with several other submarines that Were Opposed by “enemy” aircraft and surface ships. This was followed by an exercise that required TROUT to make an undetected submerged transit through waters controlled by “enemy” ships, planes and submarines.

USS Trout (SS-566) at Genoa Italy, 31 December 1967. She completed three Med deployments including during the Six Day War.

In July 1970, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet during the Vietnam-era, which yielded two Westpac deployments, in 1972 and 1975, “primarily providing submarine services during ASW exercises conducted by warships of the United States, South Korean, or Nationalist Chinese navies.”

West Coast – SubRon 3 (San Diego) from 1970 to 1976. Via Art’s Trout page

A successful boat that earned a number of Battle “E”‘s, by 1978 she was pushing 25-years of age and, like the rest of her class, was eclipsed by the Navy’s obsession with sexy SSNs such as the new Los Angeles-class vessels then on the ways. Sisters USS Trigger (SS-564) and USS Harder (SS-568) had already been removed from the fleet in 1973-74, sent to become the Italian Navy’s Livio Piomarta and Romeo Romei, respectively.

Transferred to Philadelphia, Trout decommissioned and struck from the Navy list on 19 December 1978. Like Trigger and Harder, she was intended for foreign transfer. But first, let’s talk about the Shah.

The Iran connection

With the British Royal Navy withdrawing from the Persian Gulf in the early 1970s, Shah Pahlavi, flush with OPEC cash, decided to step up and build the Great Imperial Iranian Navy.

Within the decade, the IIN acquired two U.S. Sumner-class and one British Battle-class destroyers, four British Vosper-class missile corvettes, 12 French La Combattante-class patrol boats, a dozen cutting-edge British hovercrafts, and a fleet of helicopters, ballooning in strength from 6,000 to 28,000 personnel with the help of American and European companies and experts. Then came the big steps: ordering four Spruance-class destroyers (completed as the Kidd-class DDGs) from Litton-Ingalls, and three surplus Tang-class diesel submarines while negotiating with France and Germany for additional frigates and Type 209 subs, respectively.

As part of this, Tang was to be acquired and renamed IIS Dolfin (SS-100), Trout would be Kousseh “Shark” (SS-101) and Wahoo would become Nahang “Whale” (SS-102). As they could submerge over their masts in anything deeper than 60 feet of seawater, they made sense in the shallow Gulf.

In the summer of 1978, the trio began an extended $75 million Tehran-funded overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard which replaced their engines, batteries, communication gear and firing control systems to essentially roll back the odometer to create “new to you” boats.

Trout/Kousseh was the first sold and turned over to the IIN on 19 December 1978, and the yard was in the process of switching over the data plates and plaques to Farsi when her new Iranian crew, with U.S. ship riders, took her out on the Delaware River for a turnaround. To commemorate the new bubbleheads, the yard even produced a version of the U.S. Navy’s submarine Dolphin badge, modified with a Persian crown, for the Iranians.

Then came the Iranian Revolution and the Shah fled to Egypt on 16 January 1979– less than a month after Trout was turned over. The submarine, at New London with a skeleton crew-in-training who wasn’t feeling it, as a result, became a de facto unit of the Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She was subsequently abandoned by her legacy Iranian crew in March 1979 and towed back to PSNY.

Embargoed from final transfer to Tehran by the Carter administration, Trout/Kousseh was put back in the custody of the yard and sealed for the next 13 years as the Iranians fought it out with Washington to get the ship they paid for along with other Shah-era arms such as Hawk missiles, Cobra gunships, and F-14 Tomcats. She was regularly inspected, her interior spaces dehumidified, and her hull electrified to retard rust and crust. Even then, she had something of a museum-like quality to her.

SS-556 at PSNY. Via Art’s USS Trout Page http://www.wadehamptoncamp.org/trout-566-pic.html

Meanwhile, Tang was transferred to Turkey as TCG Pirireis (S 343) and Wahoo was cannibalized for parts and sold for scrap in 1984. The last of the class in U.S. service other than Trout, USS Gudgeon (SS-567), was sold to the Turks as TCG Hızırreis (S 342) in 1987.

Finally, in 1992, the near-pristine although 40-year-old Trout was returned to U.S. Navy custody in 1992 for her value in scrap (reportedly $20,000) and two years later was transferred for use an experimental hull and acoustic target sub at NAWCAD Key West. In short, to give Big Blue’s P-3s and SH-60s something more SSK-like to test against.

Trout in Key West via Subsailorscom

By that time, Trout was at the end of the line when it came to smoke boats for the Pentagon as the country’s last diesel boats to be built, the three subs of the teardrop-hulled Barbel-class, had all been decommissioned by 1990. Even the “improved Tang” ex-USS Darter was sunk as a target in 1992 off Hawaii. Only the unarmed deep-diving USS Dolphin (AGSS-555) research boat was still in the fleet, and in 1993 was in a life extension program to keep her poking around off San Diego for another decade.

Without a crew, Trout was to spend a solid seven years in the Keys, helping test and vet the next generation of sonar and weapons under the final control of NAVAIR, Marine, and Targets Detachment. However, by 2001, it was decided to put the ghost boat out to pasture and she was sent back to Philadelphia mothballs. A last-ditch effort to save her for a museum was undertaken.

In mothballs– still looking pretty good for a 50-year-old smoker. Via Art’s USS Trout Page http://www.wadehamptoncamp.org/trout-566-pic.html

Subvet Michael Wheeler made an appeal in 2003 to take advantage of the opportunity to save Trout, which was apparently still in excellent material shape at the end of her career, no doubt due to the fact she had been reconditioned for the Iranians but never sailed a mile under her own power since then:

I ask that all submariners that can help save this boat from becoming razor blades or the next SINKEX, please step up to the plate. This boat is a virtual time capsule, with the majority of her systems not only intact but operational. Even her batteries are brand-new (without electrolyte)! Imagine what a magnificent display she’d make for some lucky foundation! I’ve been fortunate to have worked aboard several different memorial submarines and visited several others, but I have not as yet seen or worked aboard a memorial boat that approaches the current condition of the Trout. Hell, if they’d let me, I’d take her out and bottom her in 300 feet of water and I assure you that she’d pop right back to the surface when the MBT’s were blown.

Sadly, it was not to be. The Navy eventually tired of Trout altogether and in May 2008 she was towed to ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Texas, where she was cut up for scrap over the course of the next 10 months.

Recycling of Trout (SS-566) at ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Texas. Scrapping was completed 27 February 2009. Via Navsource

As a legacy, she is remembered in several pages and groups and will live on in a certain sense with fans of King of the Hill for eternity. Korean War-era Navy vet Gary Kasner, Hank Hill’s father-in-law, is shown in Season 2, Episode 11 (The Unbearable Blindness of Laying) with a USS Trout II tattoo.

Of her sisters, the two boats sent to the Turks, TCG Pirireis (ex-Tang) and TCG Hizirreis (ex-Gudgeon), are preserved as museum ships in that country. Harder and Trigger, sent to Italy, were scrapped in 1988. Notably, several racked up battlestars for Vietnam service.

Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf, a frustrated Iran went on to buy three Kilo-class submarines from cash-strapped Russia in the early 1990s: IRIS Tareq (S103), IRIS Nooh (S104), and IRIS Yunes (S105). If you notice, they still recognized the hull/pennant numbers of the three Tangs (S100 – 102) which never made it to the Gulf.

In addition to the Kilos, Iran has purchased an unknown quantity of NorK-made MS-29 Yono-class midget submarines then proceeded to put a Persian Gulf midget into serial production locally as the IS-120 Ghadir-class (with at least 23 in service) and the country is rolling their own indigenous Fateh-class submarines, which aim to be a full-sized boat, though still smaller than their aging Russian Kilos.

Specs:


Displacement, surfaced: 2,100 t., Submerged: 2,700 t.
Length 292′-8 1/4″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 18′, snort depth 50ft.
Height: Top of snorkel/antennas (lowered) from the bottom of the keel, 44 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric, Fairbanks-Morse Type 3 diesel engines, HP 4500, two electric motors, HP 5600, 2 shafts/propellers
Speed surfaced 20 kts, Submerged 18 kts
Complement 8 Officers 75 Enlisted (Accommodations as designed 10 officers, 8 CPO, 70 crew = 88men)
Sonar (as designed): AN/BQG-4 PUFFS system (3 “sharkfin” domes topside, 18 arrays), BHQ-2E, BQA-8A
Armament:
Six 21-inch torpedo tubes forward
Two 19-inch torpedo tubes aft for Mk 37 torpedoes
Eight MK-49/57 mines

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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