Tag Archives: batttleship

Warship Wednesday August 28 The Big Bang Turtle

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Baron_DeKalb

Here we see the City-class ironclad gunboat USS Baron DeKalb as she plied her way down the interior rivers of North America. Born January 1862 she spent her entire life on the rivers, never seeing blue water. Laid down at the James B. Eads Yard, St. Louis, Missouri just months after the Civil War started at Fort Sumter, she was one of seven stern-wheel powered shallow draught casemate gunboats destined first for the Army and then for the Navy’s Western Gunboat Flotilla. This force was the US Navy’s muscle that would split the Confederacy in two.

The ships, called “Pooks Turtles” after their designer, were the United States’ first ironclad warship, pre-dating the USS Monitor by several months. Each cost $191,000 (about $5-million in today’s figures) which was a bargain.

The 175-foot long boat could float in just 6 feet of muddy water and motor upstream at over 8-knots, powered by her 2 horizontal steam engines and five oblong coal-fired boilers pushing a 22-foot wide paddle-wheel at her stern.

Yes, back in the 1860s they went horizontal with boilers, just like on a steam locomotive. These five fed two engines that turned the ships wheel.

Yes, back in the 1860s they went horizontal with boilers, just like on a steam locomotive. These five fed two engines that turned the ships wheel. DeKalb’s boilers are still supposedly buried in Yazoo Lake, Mississippi under years of sediment.

Her 250-man crew serviced a constantly shifting battery of up-to 18 cannon and naval rifles (although only built with 13 positions) protected by a sloping 2.5-inches of railroad armor plate. Characteristically she carried a yellow band on her twin stacks and a large Masonic compass and dividers stretched between the sister pipes as identification. This has led historians to call her the Masonic Ironclad

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Commissioned in 1862 as the USS St Louis, she fought in no less than 18 engagements in 19 months, seeing heavy service. She attacked Fort Donelson (the Gibraltar of the Mississippi), Fort Pillow, captured several Confederate vessels, destroyed the Yazoo City Naval Yard, fought in the Battles of Memphis, Island No 10, Fort Hindman, Fort Pemberton, Haynes Bluff, and made sorties up the wild Yazoo and White River systems, both hotbeds of Confederate snipers and artillery batteries.

Ahhh, nothing like a quiet river cruise for Pook's Turtles

Ahhh, nothing like a quiet river cruise for Pook’s Turtles

Off Cairo, Illinois, in 1863, with barges moored in the foreground. These ships are (from left to right): USS Baron de Kalb (1862-1863); USS Cincinnati (1862-1865) and USS Mound City (1862-1865). Boats are tied astern of Baron de Kalb and Cincinnati. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Off Cairo, Illinois, in 1863, with barges moored in the foreground.
These sister-ships ships are (from left to right):
USS Baron de Kalb (1862-1863);
USS Cincinnati (1862-1865) and
USS Mound City (1862-1865).
Boats are tied astern of Baron de Kalb and Cincinnati.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

It was up the Yazoo that the St Louis, renamed the USS Baron DeKalb after a German-born Revolutionary War officer, found her end. On July 13, 1863 the lucky veteran was holed by an infernal torpedo (a naval mine) in shallow water. There she sank. The US military salvaged her guns, most of her munitions, and anything else they could carry before abandoning the ship to the river.

Her sistership, the equally unlucky USS Cairo, was sunk by a mine in similar fashion 12 December 1862. Raised in 1964, she is now on display at the Vicksburg military park, some about 75-miles from where the DeKalb sits in Lake Yazoo.

Her sister-ship, the equally unlucky USS Cairo, was sunk by a mine in similar fashion 12 December 1862. Raised in 1964, she is now on display at the Vicksburg military park, some about 75-miles from where the DeKalb sits in Lake Yazoo.

Today her current location is in a dead bend of the Yazoo River below Yazoo City very near the McGraw-Curran lumber yard. This hairpin bend was cut off from the main channel in the 1950s, creating Lake Yazoo. Prior to this cutoff and at low water the wreck could be seen and was photographed several times by a local resident. The tubular boilers are clearly visible in these photographs. Since that time, the site has completely silted over and even when the lake is dry, cannot be seen. During the 1930s an employee of the lumber mill used a mule team to recover what seemed to be pieces of armor plate to sell for scrap.

Although this wreck is just a few feet off the banks of this quiet and still lake now, it is off limits under penalty of law. Since its still officially US Navy property, you can rest assured the wrath of Washington will be felt by anyone who goes poking around with a magnetometer there. Any possible research or study of a historic wreck must have prior approval of the Naval Heritage and History Command Archaeology Department. The NHC will pursue prosecution of any individual that disturb any naval site.

You can see a wartime photo of Baron De Kalb for a split-second during the opening sequence and theme song of the television show “Big Bang Theory”

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Specs:

Displacement:     512 tons
Length:     175 ft (53 m)
Beam:     51 ft 2 in (15.60 m)
Draught:     6 ft (1.8 m)
Propulsion:     steam engine – Center Wheel, 2 horizontal HP engines (22″ X 6″), 5 boilers
Speed:     9 mph (14 km/h)
Complement:     251 officers and enlisted
Armour:     2.5″ on the casemates,
1.25″ on the pilothouse

Armament:

In 1862 as commissioned:
• 3 × 8-inch smoothbores
• 4 × 42-pounder rifles
• 6 × 32-pounder rifles
• 1 × 12-pounder rifle

At sinking
• 1 × 10-inch smoothbore
• 2 × 9-inch smoothbores
• 2 × 8-inch smoothbores
• 6 × 32-pounder rifles
• 2 × 30-pounder rifles
• 1 × 12-pounder rifle

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday August 21 The Tale of the Lost Confederate Egyptian Dragon

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

El Monassir/CSS Mississippi forground being watched by the HMS Majestic while the El Tousson/CSS North Carolina sits at the rear

El Monassir/CSS Mississippi foreground being watched by the HMS Majestic while the El Tousson/CSS North Carolina sits at the rear

Above we see the mighty armored steam turret ship of the Sultan of Egypt, the El Monassir as she lies fitting out in England. Laid down in 1862 at Laird, Son & Co., Birkenhead, her North African identity was a ruse as her actual owners was the Confederate States Navy and she was to be the CSS Mississippi.

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Built to an innovative amalgam that combined armor plate, a ram, movable armored turrets and steam propulsion with an economical full-rigged three masted sailing suite to enable her to cross the oceans on only the coal in her bunkers, she was an interesting design. Three times the mass of the US Navy’s USS Monitor and with a comparable armor, she carried four 9-inch naval rifles in two twin turrets vs the Monitor’s pair of larger 11-inch (280 mm) smoothbore Dahlgren guns. Yet, she was almost twice as fast as the union ship. Even compared to the 1864-designed Canonicus-class monitors, she was still faster and better armed. Had she been taken over by the Confederacy, the Union navy was in trouble.

But alas, it was not to be. The British government, after the shattering Vicksburg and Gettysburg defeats in the summer of 1863, saw that the tide was turning against the greycoats. With the writing on the wall, they seized El Monassir/CSS Mississippi and her sistership the El Tousson/CSS North Carolina in October. They were completed on the Queen’s dime and put on the Royal Navy List in 1865 as the HMS Wivern and HMS Scorpion respectively.

The wivern, is a legendary winged creature with a dragon's head, reptilian body, two legs (sometimes none), and a barbed tail, which may be said to breathe fire or possess a venomous bite.

The wivern, is a legendary winged creature with a dragon’s head, reptilian body, two legs (sometimes none), and a barbed tail, which may be said to breathe fire or possess a venomous bite.

The ships, even though advanced for their time, were quickly outclassed by later naval developments and hindered by their heavy weight and low freeboard. By the 1880s they were in reserve. The Wivern was sent to Hong Kong where she performed harbor duties such as barracks duty and brig boat until she was scrapped in 1922. She outlived her sister Scorpion who had spent the last three decades of her life as a guard ship in Bermuda before being sunk as a target in 1901.

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Still, unless I can find otherwise, I think the  El Monassir/CSS Mississippi/HMS Wivern was the last serving Confederate naval ship in the world when she was scrapped, having a lifespan of some 57-years.

F8955 001

Specs;

Displacement:             2,751 tons

Length:            224 ft 6 in (68.43 m) p/p

Beam: 42 ft 4 in (12.90 m)

Draught:          15 ft 6 in (4.72 m) light, 17 ft (5.2 m) deep load

Propulsion:      Lairds horizontal direct action; 1,450 ihp. Inoperable by 1910.

Sail plan:         Ship-rigged

Speed:             10.5 knots

Complement:   153

Armament:      Four 9-inch muzzle-loading rifles (disarmed 1904)

Armour:           Belt 4.5 inches, 3 inches at bow, 2 inches at stern

Turret faces 10 inches

Sides 5 inches

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Aug 14 One Hard Serving Yacht

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  Aug 14

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Here we see the patrol yacht USS Cythera (SP-575/PY-26) in her former livery as a Agawa, personal yacht. Owned by William Lamon  Harkness, an Ohio-born oil tycoon who owned a big portion of Standard Oil at the turn of the century, Agawa was actually Harkness’s second large yacht, but both would have a sad history.

yacht Gunilda, now almost perfectly preserved in the freshwater of the Great Lakes. She was Harknesses first yacht and the Agawa favored her, even being build in the same yard

yacht Gunilda, now almost perfectly preserved in the freshwater of the Great Lakes. She was Harknesses first yacht and the Agawa favored her, even being build in the same yard

You see Harkness, born with a silver spoon (he inherited his stake in Standard), was something of an arrogant person. His first yacht, the 195-foot mega cruiser Gunilda, was a work of art. Designed by Cox & King in London, England, and built by Ramage & Ferguson in Leith, Scotland. The yacht Gunilda launched from Scotland in 1897 and sailed across the Atlantic with a crew of 25 after being chartered in 1901 by a member of the New York Yacht Club. Press reports of the vessel’s arrival in America describe her as a schooner rigged with a sail area of 4,620 sq. ft of canvas. Harkness bought her in 1903 in a fit of extravagant spending, then in 1911 sank her in Lake Superior, apparently being too cheap to spend money on a pilot.

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His new yacht, Agawa, was laid down at Ramage and Feguson as well. She was launched 20 September 1906, Mrs Harkness being her sponsor. A 215-foot long statement in white, she was beauty in motion. She won the Mill Trophy, an award for a long-distance yacht race, in both 1907 and 1909.  When the US entered World War One, the Navy was in fast need of boats that could be used as escort ships to convoy troops and supplies ‘Over There’. Harkness volunteered the love of his life for service and on 20 October 1917, the Agawa became the USS Cythera (SP 575). She served for a total of just under 18 months on the Naval List, being returned to her owner on 19 March 1919. In the war she sailed with Patrol Force, Atlantic Fleet, towing small boats to France and then escorting coastal convoys in the Med.

In WWI Dazzle Scheme

In WWI Dazzle Scheme

Harkness himself died on May 10, 1919, but his family put her back into civilian use for another two decades. At the time of his death, his estate was worth some $700-million in today’s dollars.

When WWII erupted, the Navy found itself in the same old problem as before, being eaten alive by German U-Boats in the Atlantic as well as Japanese ones in the Pacific. Mrs Harkness leased the now 30+ year old yacht back to the Navy for $1 on 3 Mar, 1942. On her first cruise, leaving Norfolk for Hawaii just a few months after Pearl Harbor, she was encountered by U-402 a Type VIIC German submarine under the command of Kaleu Siegfried von Forstner. Firing a single torpedo (of three fired) the U-boat broke the Cythera in half while she was zigzagging some 115-miles off the North Carolina Coast.

In World War Two haze grey

In World War Two haze grey

From U-boat.net ” The ship immediately split in two, and the forward half rose steeply out of the water. The ship sank very quickly and at least two of her depth charges that were preset exploded underwater. This information was told to me by one of the two survivors, Mr. James M. Brown, who I located in Maine in 1991. He was on forward lookout at the time of the attack. The other survivor was Charles H. Carter, but I was never able to locate him. He was standing on the bridge next to the Commander when they were attacked. As a side note, Charles H. Carter was at Pearl Harbor aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) that was sunk during the Japanese attack. He survived two attacks within 5 months when the ships he was aboard were sunk – incredible!

Shortly after USS Cythera went down, U-402 surfaced and turned on its search light looking at whatever debris was floating in the large oil slick that was all that remained from the ship. Brown and Carter were found clinging to a small raft and were taken aboard as prisoners. They asked to be left back in the water but Von Forstner replied: No, boys, the war´s over for you. Both survivors were covered in oil, and Von Forstner gave his sweater to Mr. Brown. Both were also given some brandy to drink. Brown also spoke fluent German, but I never thought to ask if he revealed that to Von Forstner. He did say, however, that the Chief Engineer on the U-Boat spoke fluent English, so I suppose that´s how they communicated. When Brown asked Von Forstner why they were not machine-gunned in the water, Von Forstner and crew members present expressed shock that the Americans would even think of such a thing.

During the return trip to France the Americans were treated well. They were given cigarettes every day and allowed to go topside for fresh air every day. Brown said Von Forstner was a compassionate man who was not signed on to Nazi ideology. He was a professional sailor who came from a family of military background. He was not enthusiastic about war, but he did his job well as a German officer. When the Americans were turned over to the German Army in France there apparently was consternation between the U-Boat crew and the German soldiers, who may have manhandled the POWs. In the almost three-week trip to France, the crew and prisoners formed somewhat of a bond between them; in fact, the Americans even invited the crew to visit them in America after the war.

Brown, at least, wound up in a POW camp in Upper Silezia, Poland for the remainder of the war. The camp produced synthetic fuel and held mostly British POWs. Later in the war, the camp was abandoned because of advancing Soviet forces approaching from the east, and the POWs were force-marched toward Moosburg, Germany, to another camp. He was finally liberated in late April 1945 by forward units of Patton´s 3rd Army and made his way back across Europe where he was put in a military hospital for several weeks.”

friebolin1-22

U-402 herself was sunk on the 13th October 1943 in the middle of the North Atlantic, in position 48.56N, 29.41W, by an acoustic torpedo (Fido) from TBD Avenger supported by F4F Wildcat aircraft  of VC-9 flying from the escort carrier USS Card. Unlike the Cythera, she went down with all hands. Fortsner was credited with 15 ships sunk (71,036 tons) and 3 ships damaged (28,682 tons), of which Cythera was both the smallest and the only warship.

Cythera‘s name was recycled on 26 October 1942 when the yacht Argosy was commissioned into the US Navy

Mr. Harkness is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Specs:
Displacement 1,000 t.
Length 215′
Beam 27′ 6″
Draft 12′
Speed 12 kts.
Complement 113 in WWI,  71 in WWII
Armament: WWI : One 3″ gun, depth charges. WWII: Three 3″ gun mounts, 50 depth charges on roll-off racks, four .50 caliber
HMGs
Propulsion: One 1,350ihp steam engine, one shaft.

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO) They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday: Aug 8, 2013, The Lost Wake

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday:  Aug 8, 2013

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Here we see the river gunboat USS Guam steaming down the Yangtze river in old China. Unlike most of Uncle’s warships, she never once sailed US waters.

Built in China at the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works, Shanghai specifically for the US Navy, she was one of the first new-built Chinese gunboats for the US. Uncle had for generations maintained a fleet of coastal and river gunboats in Chinese waters. These boats, immortalized in the book and film the Sand Pebbles, were known as the Yangtze Patrol (COMYANGPAT), after the huge river system they commonly haunted. The first modern patrol started in 1901, was with three captured Spanish shallow draft gunboats (USS Elcano, Villalobos, and Callao) that had previously been used in the Philippines. Two more gunboats, USS Palos and Monocacy, were built at Mare Island in California in 1913 and shipped across the Pacific. By 1926 these five boats were all worn out and the navy went shopping for replacements.

The_Sand_Pebbles_film_poster

With dollars always short in the Navy budget, it just made sense to build these new boats in China, to save construction and shipping costs. These new ships consisted of two large 500-ton, 210-foot gunboats (USS Luzon and Mindanao); two medium-sized 450-ton, 191-foot boats (USS Oahu and Panay) and two small 350-ton, 159-foot boats (USS Guam and Tutuila).

Guam was commissioned 28 December 1927 and carried a designation as a patrol gunboat number 43 (PG-43), then reclassified the next year as patrol-boat, river, number 3 (PR-3) six months later. This change was due to the flat-bottom hulled craft being incapable of at-sea operations. Her 5-foot draft meant she could travel all over the inland river systems and she spent the next 14-years of her US Navy career doing so.

USS TUTUILA (PR-4) or USS GUAM (PR-3) Ship’s officers and crew, photographed at Hankow, China, on 14 July 1930. Note armored covers of bridge windows, awning frames, 3″/23 gun. Description: Courtesy of Ted Stone, 1977 Catalog #: NH 85840

She had a quiet life but it was exotic. Warlords, bandits, White Russian refugees, Communist rebels, and corrupt local governments changed every few miles along the river. By 1931, Japanese interests in the country meant a dangerous future for the Yangtze Patrol.

When Americans in China were in sticky situations from 1901-1941, this is how the brown-water sailors of the US Navy's YANGPAT came ashore.

When Americans in China were in sticky situations from 1901-1941, this is how the brown-water sailors of the US Navy’s YANGPAT came ashore.

In December 1937, 12 Japanese fighter-bombers attacked and sunk the larger USS Panay in Nanking, China as the boat was evacuating Americans from the embattled city.

Ichang, China view taken 18 May 1937, showing USS GUAM (PR-3), moored astern of USS PANAY (PR-5) prior to their inspection by the Commander in Chief Asiatic Fleet. British river gunboat GANNET (1927) is in the background, seen above PANAY. Description: Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Yarnell, 1975 Catalog #: NH 81615

Following this incident tensions grew between the Japanese and US Navy ships in Chinese waters and Guam wandered around, decked in as many US flags as could be found, keeping quiet tabs. Just before Pearl Harbor, the four larger ships were withdrawn to the Philippines but Guam and her sister Tutuila were forced to remain behind, planned to be turned over to the Chinese.

On December 5, 1941, two days before the US entered WWII, COMYANGPAT was disbanded and the USS Guam renamed USS Wake earlier in the year, was the last US Navy ship in Chinese waters. Most of her crew had already left, transferred to the larger boats, and were in the Philippines. Just the captain and 14 crewmen remained aboard, destroyed vital papers, and wired the ship with scuttling charges.

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On December 8, 1941, the USS Wake surrendered to the Japanese military as crack marines of the Special Naval Landing Force stormed the ship before news of Pearl Harbor reached the naval vessel. Trapped in a no-win situation at the start of WWII, her captain did what he could to ensure the safety of his sailors who were marched off into five years of Japanese imprisonment.

Capture of USS WAKE (PR-3), 8 December 1941 Japanese special naval landing force personnel celebrate after they captured USS WAKE on the first day of World War II in the Pacific. The Shanghai “Bund” is in the background. Description: Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Catalog #: NH 96568

Japanese naval infantrymen aboard a ship off Shanghai, China, 8 Dec 1941 note captured American flag, 1928 Thompson sub-machine guns, and 12 gauge M1897 Winchester riot guns, all likely from USS Wake

She is the only US Navy ship to surrender in modern times.

It is perhaps this fact that has kept the US Navy from commissioning another USS Wake. As of this date, there has never been another. The captain and two other men escaped confinement in 1944 and walked 700 miles to Allied lines.

gunboat

The Japanese used her as a gunboat manned by their local Chinese surrogates under the name of Tatara. Surviving multiple US air raids during WWII, she was captured by the US Army in 1945 and given to the Nationalist Chinese who used her as the Tai Yuan.

In a final, and fitting chapter of her life, she was captured by Mao’s Red Chinese in 1949. They kept the old girl poking around until at least the late 1960s.

Her final disposition is unknown.

Specs:
Displacement: 350 long tons (360 t)
Length:     159 ft 5 in (48.59 m)
Beam:     27 ft 1 in (8.26 m)
Draft:     5 ft 3 in (1.60 m)
Installed power:     1,900 ihp (1,400 kW)
Propulsion:     2 × triple expansion steam engines
2 × screws
Speed:     14.5 kn (16.7 mph; 26.9 km/h)
Complement: 59
Armament:     1927: 2 × 3in guns (2×1) 8 × .30-06 Lewis machine guns (8×1), infantry weapons
1942: US-made 3″ guns replaced with Japanese 3″ AA guns.
Jan 1945 several Type 93 13.2mm M.G.s installed
1946 more light machineguns added. Presumably, refit with Soviet weapons in the 1950s.

Specs:
If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO)

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, July 31 The Lost Pueblo

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  July 31

PuebloLarge
Here we see the humble technical research ship USS Pueblo (AGER-2 ) chugging across the seas in 1967.

In the 1960s the US Navy commissioned several of what were termed ‘auxiliary environmental research ships’ (AGER). Offically these ships wandered the seas conducting research into atmospheric and communications phenomena for the sake of science. This of course was a cover for soaking up juicy bits if SIGINT and ELINT from Soviet, Chinese, North Korean, and other ships at sea and shore inland.

pueblo electrionics

These ships had a special system named Technical Research Ship Special Communications, or TRSSCOM (pronounced tress-com). This Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) communications system used a special gyroscope-stabilized 16-foot parabolic antenna, in which Radio signals were transmitted toward the moon, where they would bounce back toward the Earth and be received by a large 64-foot parabolic antenna at a Naval Communications Station in Cheltenham, Maryland (near Washington, D.C.) or Wahiawa, Hawaii. Communications could occur only when the moon was visible simultaneously at the ship’s location and in Cheltenham or Wahiawa. The gyro stabilization of the antenna kept the antenna pointed at the moon while the ship rolled and pitched on the surface of the ocean.

Some 11 ships altogether were converted as spyships. Most were cargo ships, old Liberty and Victory, and C1-M-AV1 types which had high free board and lots of room for cargo which led to lots of space for spy gear (err…atmospheric instruments). Three of the 11 were small Army Freight Supply ships which were much lower to the surface of the ocean. The Army had used these boats (yes the Army has a fleet too) during WWII to resupply garrisons and bases strung all across Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. These ‘wackiest ships in the army’ were simple boats that could motor around little harbors and discharge drums of diesel, cases of C-rats, tents, toilet paper and ammo then head to the next port.

This is how the Pueblo looked when she served in the US Army during WWII

This is how the Pueblo looked when she served in the US Army during WWII

One of these three 177-foot Army ships transferred to the Navy for use as a spy (sorry, research) boat was Army Freight and Supply ship 344 (FS-344). Commissioned at New Orleans on 7 April 1945, she had a crew of USCGR officers who used the ship as a training boat for new sea-going Army sailors. Laid up she was brought back into service to shuttle cargo around during Korea. The Army, with a huge number of these boats in their possession, placed FS-344 in their version of mothballs in 1954. The Navy picked her up quietly in 1966, made a few simple improvements, added a lot of commo gear, and named her USS Pueblo.

commissioned into the USN on 13 May 1967, she carried a crew of navy and marine communications technicians on a mission in support of the National Security Agency. It should be remembered that the NSA didn’t officially exist as far as the public was concerned at the time and was commonly called ‘No Such Agency’ by those who did know. The ship was commissioned just three weeks before another intelligence gathering auxiliary, the USS Liberty (AGTR-5), was attacked in the Med on 8 June 1967 by the Israeli Defence Forces during the Six Day War. The Liberty was hit while in international waters off the northern coast of the Sinai Peninsula and her armament of four M2 machineguns was outclassed against modern attack aircraft and three torpedo boats– an ominous harbinger for what the smaller Pueblo had in her future.

On January 23, 1968, as the Pueblo sat 15.4-miles off the North Korean coastline, she was approached at some 4000-yards by an unidentified Project 201M (“SO-1”) class Soviet made subchaser. This 1950s designed 138-foot patrol boat wasn’t very capable against submarines, but she did have a Reya (“Pot Head”) surface search radar with a 25nm range, a 57mm popgun, and some 23mm anti-aircraft guns. Worse, the Pueblo could only make 12-knots downhill with a tailwind while the commie subchaser could bust out 27.

PUEBLO Under attack drawing

Then four torpedo boats showed up and that’s when the wheels fell off. These boats were Chinese made P4 boats, an improvement of the old Soviet G5-class motor torpedo boat made during WWII from a hybrid British-Italian design. Only 63-feet long they could make over 55-knots on a pair of 1200hp engines and packed a twin 14.5mm heavy machineguns mount forward and a pair of 450mm torpedoes each. The PT boats had almost three times the horsepower as the 25-year old freighter and showed it.

The Pueblo could not outrun the subchaser and the four torpedo boats in anyone’s imagination. If she stood and fought it out, she only four M2 machineguns mounted on deck. While the old Ma Duece is a 12.7mm (50 cal) heavy, Pueblo’s were in no condition to fight. To appear as inoffensive as possible, they were slimed with CLP and covered by tarps (it was January in Korea guys, which means they were frozen) and their ammo was stored below deck. Only one bluejacket had a working knowledge of these guns and their were no Gunners Mate ratings aboard. Sure the nearly 1000-ton converted freighter could have tried to ram her way out of trouble against the smaller craft, but it would be like a turtle fighting four rabbits– armed with torpedoes.

Nevertheless the Pueblo maneuvered wildly and dodged Korean attempts to board her for over two hours, catching shellfire and 12.7mm rounds during the chase in her hull and superstructure. Repeated calls for assistance from the US fleet got no help and soon a pair of MIGs were circling the boat. Taking fire and with the torpedo boats taking the covers off of their tubes, it was a no-win situation. With no other option, the ship turned and followed the subchaser into North Korean waters where the crew was captured (one of which, Fireman Duane Hodges, was killed by a Korean shell) and held for 11 months. The ship’s captain, LCDR. Lloyd M. Bucher was wounded and later received the purple heart.

Anybody recognize the one-finger salute?

Anybody recognize the one-finger salute?

After much political passion play, the crew was finally released and walked over the DMZ in single file, leaving the Pueblo in North Korean hands. They endured 335 days of harsh imprisonment.

Hodges earned the silver star posthumously as did the ships Operations Officer, LTJG Schumacher. Six men earned Bronze stars for their actions. All crewmembers earned the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the POW medal. One marine won the Navy Cross for his heroism during the internment as follows, “The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Sergeant Robert J. Hammond, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as a crew member of the U.S.S. PUEBLO (AGER-2) during their period of captivity in North Korea from 24 January to 23 December 1968.

Following his capture, Sergeant Hammond, through his unyielding resistance and fierce loyalty to his shipmates and his country, became a symbol of resistance, courage, and dedication to the United States. This infuriated the North Koreans, who singled him out for more frequent and far more severe brutalities than were administered to the other prisoners. When the North Koreans learned that the U.S.S. PUEBLO crew had duped them in their international propaganda efforts, they intensified their efforts to break the will and spirit of the crew through the administration of indiscriminate beatings. Realizing that many of his shipmates were in danger of being permanently injured or killed, Sergeant Hammond willingly attempted to sacrifice his own life in order that his shipmates might be spared further torture. The following day the North Koreans ceased their beatings and tortures. Sergeant Hammond’s devotion to duty and heroic actions against seemingly impossible odds reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

The writing was on the wall for the AGER/AGTR project and by 1970 the entire fleet had been taken offline.

USS_Pueblo_(AGER-2)_02

The Pueblo herself has been kept in decent condition by her current possessors (the US Navy still ‘owns’ her and as such is still carried on the US Navy List as ‘In commission’). Her keel laid in 1944 she is the oldest commissioned warship in the US fleet at age 77 with only Old Ironsides having more history on her hull. From time to time the ship gets a new coat of paint and has been towed from one harbor to another, posing a very curious tourist attraction wherever it goes in the freedom loving Peoples Republic.

The Pueblo Veterans Assoc is keeping the lights on for her in the States  . Perhaps she will return to the US one day.

Stranger things have happened.

Specs
Displacement: 550 tons light, 895 tons full, 345 tons dead
Length:     177 ft (53.9 m)
Beam:     32 ft (9.7 m)
Draft:     9 ft (2.7 m)
Propulsion:     twin 500hp GM Cleveland Division 6-278A 6-cyl V6 diesel engines
Speed:     12.7 knots (23.5 km/h)
Complement:     42 mariners as a cargo ship  (had a 82 man crew in 1968 as a AGER)
Armament:     None as freighter, 4 × Browning .50-caliber machine guns as AGER

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

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Warship Wednesday, July 24 15000 tons of Japanese Firepower

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.
– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  July 24

This is the last thing you wanted to see steaming towards you if you were on a US destroyer in WWII

This is the last thing you wanted to see steaming towards you if you were on a US destroyer in WWII

Here we see the Imperial Japanese Navy’s heavy cruiser HIJMS Takao with a bone in her teeth at high-speed.  The Japanese had named her after the old 1880s era Takao, a 1700-ton cruiser that had served at the Battle of Weihaiwei against the Chinese and at Tsushima against the Russians. The new ship was one of the premier heavy cruiser designs of all time, the Takao was the lead ship of a 4-vessel class of very large all-gun warships. Designed in 1927 just after Japan nodded and winked at the London Naval Treaties and before the Washington Naval Treaty that limited cruiser size to 10,000 tons, the Takao class were a beast at almost 15,500-tons when fully combat loaded. Her and her sisters were fast (35-knots) and as such could outrun any battleship or battlecruiser in the world.

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They were also heavily armed with ten 8-inch 20 cm/50 3rd Year Type naval guns, with a 70-degree elevation that was influenced by the British  Royal Navy County class cruisers. The ten gun layout, in five twin turrets, was very distinctive. These guns could fire a 280-pound Type 91 armor-piercing (AP) shell to 18-miles, making short work of any smaller ship.

 

Nachi

Takao had long legs and could cross the Pacific and back or sail to Europe on only the fuel in her bunkers. A staggering 80+ antiaircraft guns and 16 torpedo tubes made her a threat to both planes and ships. Those tubes carried Type 93 (Long Lance)
torpedoes, 2.8-ton 610mm wide steel fish almost 30-feet long that could travel 52-knots and deliver a 1,100 lb warhead to an enemy ship at ranges over ten miles away.

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In short, she was 15,000 tons of bad dreams to the US, Australian, British, and Dutch navies when she was commissioned May 31, 1932. They had nothing like her.

When WWII started, she was everywhere:

IJN Takao in Action

IJN Takao in Action

  • In December 1941 she gave gunfire support for the Japanese landings at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon in the Philippines.
  • In early 1942 she fought in the  Battle of the Java Sea, sinking the severely outclassed 1200-ton destroyer USS Pillsbury, four merchant ships, and the valiant 1500-ton Royal Australian Navy sloop HMAS Yarra.
  • During the Battle of Midway she was part of the Japanese diversionary attack on the Aleutian Islands that ended with the capture (unopposed) of Attu and Kiska.
  • In August 1942, after bombarding Henderson Field, she survived the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in which she delivered rounds on target against the new US battleship South Dakota and fired torpedoes at the USS Washington while unsuccessfully supporting the old Japanese battlewagon Kirishima, and escaped without a scratch.

Then things started going bad for the Emperor’s ‘lucky’ cruiser. Dauntless dive bombers from the USS Saratoga, herself a converted battlecruiser, found Takao during the retreat from Guadalcanal and gave her a good licking in 1943. Then, in October 1944 while on her way  to probably be sunk in the Philippines, she sucked up two torpedoes from the USS Darter, a  a Gato-class submarine, which won Darter‘s commander, David Hayward McClintock, the Navy Cross and the sub a Navy Unit Commendation.

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These hits made the Takao limp back to Singapore where she sat as a brooding hot mess for nine months as something of a fleet in being. Her guns still working, but her propulsion plant wrecked, she could still protect the occupied British colony city from Allied attack. There, in an attack codenamed Operation Struggle, a British XE-class submarine ended the Takao‘s war.

The XE-class was the same 53-foot long midget boats that sank the Tirpitz in Norway earlier in the war. In August 1945, HMS XE1 and XE3 executed a joint attack on Japanese warships within Singapore harbor. XE3 was tasked with mining the heavy cruiser Takao while XE1 was to attack the heavy cruiser Myōkō.

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The approach of XE3 along the Straits of Johor and through the various harbour defences took 11 hours plus a further 2 hours to locate the camouflaged target. Despite several opportunities for Japanese defenders to spot the vessel, XE3 successfully reached the Takao, fixed six limpet mines and dropped its two, 2-ton side charges. The withdrawal was successfully made and XE3 safely contacted HMS Stygian, the escort submarine. Meanwhile the crew of XE1 had failed to find their target. Instead, and knowing that the explosives already laid could explode, XE1’s own charges were also laid under the Takao. XE1 escaped successfully just before the combined charges blew the Japanese cruiser’s bottom out.  In all more than 8,000-pounds of charges were used against the cruiser, leaving her incapable of performing any task, the shock-wave having destroyed almost all of her internal machinery from gun hoists to rangefinders to navigation compasses.

The Japanese surrendered the completely wrecked hulk in September when the British returned to Singapore at the end of the war and her

remains were sunk at sea off the coast by the  Colony-class light cruiser HMS Newfoundland in 1946. Her wreck lay in deep water today.

 

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Specs:
Displacement:     9,850 tons (standard), 15,490 tons (full load)
Length:     waterline: 631.7 feet (192.54 m)
overall: 668.5 feet (203.76 m)
Beam:     59 ft (18 m) – 68 ft (21 m)
Draught:     20 ft (6.1 m) – 20.7 ft (6.3 m)
Propulsion:     4-shaft geared turbine, 12 Kampon boilers, 132,000 shp
Speed:     35½ knots – 34.2 knots (63.3 km/h)
Range:     8,500 nautical miles (15,740 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement:     773

Armament:     original layout 1932:
ten 20 cm/50 3rd Year Type naval guns (5×2)
four 4.7-inch high-angle guns (4×1)
eight 24-inch torpedo tubes (4×2)
two 40 mm AA guns (2×1)

(later, 1944)
ten 8-inch (203 mm) guns
eight 4.7-inch (119 mm) guns
66 × 25 mm AA guns
16 torpedo tubes

Armour:     main belt: 1½” to 5″
main deck: 1⅜” (max)
upper deck: ½” to 1″
bulkheads: 3″ to 4″
turrets: 1″
Aircraft carried:     3 (1 Aichi E13A1 “Jake” & 2 F1M2 “Pete” seaplanes), 2 catapults.

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, July 17 Frigate tuned Superyacht

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  July 17

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Here we see the HMCS Stormont (Pennant number K327) of the Royal Canadian Navy having fun in the North Atlantic during WWII. She was one of 151-River class frigates built during the war for the Royal Navy and her Commonwealth allies. These hearty little escort ships held the line across the Atlantic, dropping depth charges and hedgehogs on every periscope sighting they could find.

She escorted convoys on the Murmansk run to the Kola Inlet and to Gibraltar. She also served as one of 57 RCN vessels to support Operation Neptune, the amphibious invasion of Normandy, France that were part of D-Day

After the war, the Stormont was not needed and she was stricken from the fleet on 9 November 1945 and placed in reserve for ten years.

pic3

What a difference a coat of paint makes!

Sold for just $34,000 she became a personal yacht to a Greek shipping magnate Ari Onassis who converted her into the mega luxury yacht Christina, named after his daughter. The ship was luxuriously equipped as such and included a mosaic swimming pool which drained and rose to deck level to create a dance floor.

christina-o-swimmingpool-dana-jenkins

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Ari, and later wife Jackie Kennedy-Onassis spent their best years onboard the vessel. For a time, after Ari died in 1975, the yacht was used by the Greek government as the President Yacht with a naval crew under the name Argo. By the 1990s she was back in civilian livery renamed the Christina O with Panamanian registry. She is currently for sale for $32.4 mill if you are interested . “The yacht can accommodate 34 guests and has a library, sports lounge, spa room and beauty salon. Yacht broker Nicholas Edmiston to the Associated Press that he thinks there are about 10 people who might want to buy the Christina O — are you one of them?”

Jackie and Ari on the Christina

Jackie and Ari on the Christina

Of the 151 Rivers, just the Stormont/Christina remains at sea. No less than 17 of the class were destroyed in combat between WWII and the Suez while the survivors served in no less than 22 navies as late as the 1980s. Only one, HMAS Diamantina, formerly of the Royal Australian Navy, is preserved as a museum ship at the Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane, Australia.

hms_whirlwood_f187_river_class_frigate_a-26396

Specs (until 1946)
Displacement:     1,445 long tons (1,468 t; 1,618 short tons)
2,110 long tons (2,140 t; 2,360 short tons) (deep load)
Length:     283 ft (86.26 m) p/p
301.25 ft (91.82 m)o/a
Beam:     36.5 ft (11.13 m)
Draught:     9 ft (2.74 m); 13 ft (3.96 m) (deep load)
Propulsion:     2 x Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 shafts, reciprocating vertical triple expansion, 5,500 ihp (4,100 kW)
Speed:     20 knots (37.0 km/h)
20.5 knots (38.0 km/h) (turbine ships)
Range:     646 long tons (656 t; 724 short tons) oil fuel; 7,500 nautical miles (13,890 km) at 15 knots (27.8 km/h)
Complement:     157
Armament:

2 x QF 4 in (102 mm) /45 Mk. XVI on twin mount HA/LA Mk.XIX
1 x QF 12 pdr (3 in / 76 mm) 12 cwt /50 Mk. V on mounting HA/LA Mk.IX (not all ships)
8 x 20 mm QF Oerlikon A/A on twin mounts Mk.V
1 x Hedgehog 24 spigot A/S projector
up to 150 depth charges

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, July 10 Finding the Path

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  July 10.

pathfinder1

Here we see USC&GSS Pathfinder, a classic ship from another age. Built on the lines of a clipper she lived through three naval wars and served the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey for forty years, mapping most of the Philippines and ending her life as a wreck in her waters. She was built 1897-98 by the Crescent Shipyard at Morris Heights, New Jersey. Her architect was Lewis Nixon, a household name among fast yacht builders at the turn of the century. She was a three deck steel ship of extra strength built for work in the Aleutian Archipelago where strong currents, distances from supply bases required a vessel of considerable power and coal capacity.

She had 15 water tight compartments with dimensions of 196′ 3″ over all, 33′ 6″ beam, 19′ 8″ “depth of hold” and equipped for sea draws 13′. She is brigantine-rigged with some 4,500 square feet of canvas and a single, 10′ diameter 13′ pitch, screw. Her vertical triple expansion steam engines with twenty-eight inch stroke developed 846 horsepower or 1,173 horsepower under forced draft with a speed of 10.5 to 13 knots. Her range was estimated at about 5,000 miles with a bunker capacity of 240 tons of coal. She was entirely steel with three decks.

Although built for the USC&GS, the Spanish-American War intervened in her birth.  In June 1898  the Navy took near-possesion of her and sailed her with a crew of 65 bluejackets lead by USC&GS officers (what today would be NOAA Ocean Service officers) and sailed her to Hampton Roads. There it was envisioned she could be converted to an armed auxiliary cruiser. Before this was done, the war ended and she continued to the Pacific as the USC&GSS  Pathfinder and not the USS Pathfinder in 1899. She spent a year doing coastal survey work along the California, Alaskan and Hawaiian coasts before being sent to the new US possession of the Philippines.

Survey work involved several ship's launches moving in a line along with ashore teams equiped with surveyors tools for making precise measurements. Some of the charts made from surveys done by  Pathfinder are still in use today.

Survey work involved several ship’s launches moving in a line along with ashore teams equipped with surveyors tools for making precise measurements. Without the work put in by this ship on a 40-year mission, the retaking of the Philippines by the US Navy in WWII would have been much harder. Some of the charts made from surveys done by Pathfinder (above) are still in use today.

With no reliable charts of the huge archipelago, the Pathfinder, meant for use in Alaska, spent four decades in the PI, combing every inch of shoreline. By 1910 she had a ‘submarine sentry’– a device which warned the crew when she was shoaling by a series of kites, as well as a refrigeration system and wireless; making her one of the most modern ships afloat.As her original crew retired, they were at first augmented then replaced by local Filipinos.   By 1920 the entire ship, save for a handful of USC&GS officers, were natives.

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The PATHFINDER in drydock at Kowloon, 1906. NOAA Photo

Over the years she was sometimes pressed into transporting Philippine Constabulary troops and US soldiers to fight against the lengthy insurgency along the islands.

crew with constabulary

The crew at least twice had a run in with pirates, was beached in wild typhoons, dodged the German raider Emden in WWI, and watched nervously as Japanese planes flew dangerously close to her in the 1930s. When World War Two erupted in the Pacific, the 42-year-old converted yacht chopped over to the Navy’s control and she found herself the target of Japanese bombs at Corregidor. Damaged beyond wartime repair, she was beached in a sinking condition and burned so that the Japanese could not salvage her.

Within a year, the USS Pathfinder AGS-1, the first US Navy oceanographic survey ship, replaced her and assumed her proud name. She served until 1972.

usns pathfinder

Currently the US Navy still maintains a survey ship named Pathfinder, the USNS Pathfinder (TAGS-60), a 4,762-ton ship that has been in commission since 1994.

Specs
Length:     196.25 ft (59.82 m)
Beam:     33.5 ft (10.2 m)
Draft:     13 ft (4.0 m)
Depth of hold:     19.66 ft (5.99 m)
Decks:     Three
Installed power:     Triple expansion steam engines developing 846 horsepower or 1,173 horsepower under forced draft
Sail plan:     Brigantine-rigged, 4,500 square feet of canvas
Speed:     10.5 to 13 knots
Range:     5,000 miles
Notes:     Specifically built for Alaska service

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization

(INRO)

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, July 3 The Kobenhavn Mystery

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  July 3

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Here we see one of the Danish school ship København, one of the largest sailing ships ever built. She is also one of the most enduring mysteries of the sea. While not a naval vessel per-sae, she was a training vessel (Skoleskibet) for the EAC, the Danish East Asiatic Company, and as such many of her crew were on the Royal Danish Navy’s reserve list, her students often went into naval service, and the ship itself was liable to be taken up from trade for war service.

København_(ship,_1921)_-_SLV_H99.220-3948Thats over 40-sails…

The East Asiatic Company (EAC) (Danish: Det Østasiatiske Kompagni or ØK) was in Copenhagen in 1897, and the København was the crown jewel of their fleet when she was built. The company’s bread and butter was both passenger and freight lines between the Danish capital, Bangkok and the far east.

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The København was a five masted barque-rigged sailing ship. At 430-feet long and 4,000-tons, the size of an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate of today, she was the world’s largest sailing ship at the time. She was laid down at Ramage & Fergusson, Leith, Scotland in 1913 as hull 242, but due to World War One, she was not finished until 1921. Between her five masts she carried 56,000 sq feet of canvas and had the figurehead of Danish Archbishop Absalon (Axel) gracing her bow.

Kobenhaven03

She was an exemplary vessel, with her modern diesel 640 horsepower auxiliary engine conferring a distinct advantage over other barques that were purely sail-powered vessels. In the København’s eight-year history, it sailed nine voyages without incident, covering five continents. These voyages could last anything from 150 to 400 days each. She had sailed as much as 305 nautical miles under canvas in a single day– a speed under sail of over 12-knots. Her auxiliary diesel could plug the giant ship along at six knots.

sailors from Skoleskibet KØBENHAVN

sailors from Skoleskibet KØBENHAVN

While she could, and did carry cargo, her primary mission was to train merchant and naval cadets in a seagoing academy. As such youths from all walks of life walked her decks in nine successful long-term training cruises between 1921 and 1928, twice circling the globe.

Kobenhavn

Her final voyage carried 17 officers and 62 naval cadets. Its course was to be Denmark to Argentina to Australia and back. The first leg was successful, the ship leaving Buenos Ares on December 14, 1928. Eight days later, a final wireless message from her was received, stating that all was well.

On January 21, 1929 a British missionary school teacher, Philip Lindsay, assigned to the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha saw a wrecked sailing ship. He described it as a ghostly ship, five-masted, a white band around painted around the black hull, and apparently unmanned. She was  under single jib. foresail and lower topsails, her foremast broken.The vessel was three miles out past the breakers and adrift, heading for the reefs of Cave Point with her stern awash. He saw her grow within 400-yards offshore, then lost sight of her as she drifted to the east. A few days  later the locals observed wreckage scattered on the reef including miscellaneous boxes and a 30-foot flat-bottomed boat that they were unable to salvage before it was carried back out to sea.  No bodies were found. The island is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying 2,816 kilometers (1,750 mi) from the nearest land, South Africa, and 3,360 kilometers (2,088 mi) from South America.

Skolfartyget_Köbenhavn_1921-29
For two years, at least two expeditions funded by the government and the EAC searched for the Kobenhavn across both the Southern Pacific and Southern Atlantic oceans, finding nothing. A smaller expedition, privately chartered by the families of the lost cadets aboard the Norwegian yacht Ho Ho continued the search until at least 1932– with the same results. It was theorized that the Tristan da Cunha sighting was incorrect, attributing it to a similar ship (the Fench four master Ponape) that passed the area that day. Popular speculation was that the big Dane had been victim of a fire at sea, rouge wave, or iceberg.

Sightings of darkened five-masted sailing ships were reported off Chile, Polynesia, and other Pacific islands for years.

In 1934 a Finnish ship captain stated firmly that he found wreckage of the Kobenhavn along the Blight of Australia,  a story that, if proved, would have put the ship towards the end of her 9700 mile trip from Buenos Aires to Australia. The wreckage included a piece of stern bearing the name “København“.

The same year, a passing Norwegian fishing vessel stopped at Bouvet Island, an uninhabited glacier covered no-mans-land populated by penguins and found a diary, allegedly written by a trainee aboard the Kobenhavn, stating that  the ship had been destroyed by icebergs.

In September 1935, a smashed lifeboat with seven bleached skeletons was found on a desolate beach about 400 miles north of Swakopmund South Africa.  While it wasn’t definitive that the survivors were from the Kobenhaven, the skulls were ‘nordic’ and uniforms and boat wreckage were described as being of Scandinavian origin.  As the marooned sailors who reached shore landed in an area with no source of clean water, they are presumed  to have died of dehydration.

This, taken with the diary found on Bouvet, and the stern found in Australia, gave the Danish school ship the dubious distinction of having her wreckage ‘found’ on three different continents over 10,000 miles.

In 2012, the wreck of a large sailing ship was found by divers off Cave Point  in of Tristan da Cunha, near where the Kobenhaven was reportedly seen in January 1929. While it hasn’t been proven  to be the mysterious Danish school ship, there is hope her fate will be found, closing the book on one of the most captivating tales of the sea.

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(Note we have updated this post with more pictures at this link)

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, June 26th Hems Subchaser

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  June 26th

Here we see the converted motor yacht Pilar as she appeared just before WWII. This boat had a very colorful history.

el-pilar

Bought by the great bearded man-card holder Ernest Miller Hemingway April 1934 from Wheeler Shipbuilding in Brooklyn, New York, for $7,495,  the 38-foot two-engined Wheeler Playmate was delivered to Miami, Florida later that year. Pilar had a 70-hp Chrysler Crown gasoline engine reportedly capable of generating a cruise speed of 8 knots and a top speed of 16 knots. Coupled with six bunks, double rudders, and, with 300 gallons of water, 2,400 pounds of ice, and cruising range of 500 miles, it was a pretty capable boat. To this,  Hemingway added  a separate, straight-shaft Lycoming four-cylinder gasoline engine for trolling at 5 knots (with an economical fuel burn of 3 gph); flying bridge with steering/control station, bridge ladder, and bottle-stowage rack; and the set of outriggers and a fighting chair.  In addition, there was a livewell with valves for filling and emptying; extra fuel-carrying capacity in four, 75-gallon galvanized tanks; two copper-lined fishboxes in the cockpit sole; and a long wooden roller mounted across a cut-down transom to facilitate hauling big fish aboard.
Old Hem used her to win just about every fishing rodeo across the Caribbean from 1935-41, only taking time off to go to the Spanish-Civil War. Named after his second wife, it was on the Pilar that Hemingway did the research into big game fishing that later came out in The Old Man and the Sea and other works.

hemingway and son Jack waiting for a bite on the pilar with his tommy gun in hand note the massive size of the reel

It one incident in 1935, Hem took a Thompson submachine gun out and riddled a school of sharks who were eating on a 1000-pound marlin that he and painter Mike Strater were struggling to pull aboard. This only created an epic feeding frenzy that left the marlin ‘apple-cored’ with its entire back half eaten down to the spine.
the apple cored 1000 pound marlin
Well when WWII rolled around, Hem, living in Finca Vigía in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, at the time, sprang into action. He organised friends and acquaintances, some of the notorious nature, into an intelligence gathering organization in Cuba he dubbed the ‘Crook Factory’– with the US ambassador’s blessing. Not content with his ad hoc intel work, Hem cooked up another plot.

heming3

With the permission of the ambassador and the loan of some HF/DF radio equipment, Hem outfitted the trusty Pilar as a sub chaser. The idea was to float around offshore as an innocent fishing vessel, tracking German U-boat radio communications, until said Nazi sub was spotted.

Hem never did catch that Uboat....(image by Gina Sanders from a 1934 picture of Hem in the JFK collection)

Hem never did catch that Uboat….(image by Gina Sanders from a 1934 picture of Hem in the JFK collection)

Then, wait til the dastardly submersible came close enough to unleash tommy guns and grenades on her boarding party and deck crew. If he got close enough, a short fuze explosive charge thought capable of scuttling a sub was to be thrown down the hatch of the U-boat.

His crew included his sons Patrick and Gregory as well as other volunteers. While the government supplied some equipment, Hemingway was using his own boat, filled with his own gas, and risking the lives of both himself and his family to bring the war to the Germans.

Type VII

From the summer of 1942 until the end of 1943, although the Pilar did actually set out on U-boat patrols, and possibly even spotted one of them, Hem never did catch one. He did, however, drop a grenade down the throat of a mako shark caught during one of the patrols. Failing at grabbing a German by the coat at close range, he left Cuba for the European Theater of Operations as a war correspondent, going ashore just after the Normandy Invasions.

The original Pilar has been landlocked in Cuba for the past fifty years

The original Pilar has been landlocked in Cuba for the past fifty years

The Pilar remained Hem’s pride and joy until he left Cuba in 1960, leaving it to one of the boat’s local captains, Carlos Gutierrez, who promptly donated it to the Cuban government. Today she sits as a shrine to Hemingway in Cuba and is a popular tourist attraction. Another Wheeler Playmate dressed up to look like the Pilar is on display at the Bass Pro Shop in Key West.

a mock up of the Pilar is at the Bass Pro Shop in Key West, adrift on tshirts

a mock up of the Pilar is at the Bass Pro Shop in Key West, adrift on tshirts

In the end, Hemingway, after losing the love of his life (Pilar) tripped both barrels of his favorite Boss shotgun into his head just a year later. Gutierrez, the inheritor of the beautiful woman, lived to be 104.

Boats have a funny way of doing that.

Specs
Length:     38 ft (12 m)
Beam:     12 ft 0 in (3.7 m)
Height:     17.5 ft (5.3 m)
Draught:     3 ft 6 in (1.1 m)
Installed power:
Main Engine – 70 HP Chrysler
Trolling Engine – 4 Cylinder Lycoming
Speed:     16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)

Armament : At least one M1921 Thompson submachine gun, a Colt 22 Woodsman pistol and a cut-down .30 Krag rifle (all in the Pilar‘s regular small arms locker owned by Hemingway) . An unmounted .50 caliber Browning on loan, ‘a handful of grenades’, scuttling charges, and some sources state, ‘a bazooka’.

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