Tag Archive | Bootleggers

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019: A Dazzling Flivver

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019: A Dazzling Flivver

Catalog #: NH 67991

Here we see the narrow stern of the Paulding/Drayton/Monaghan-class “flivver” type destroyer USS Fanning (DD-37) filled with “ashcans” as she rests in an Irish port, likely Queenstown in 1917-1918, alongside the larger four-piper Wickes-class destroyer USS Sigourney (DD–81). Note her double ship’s wheel and a trainable twin 18-inch torpedo tube set shoe-horned into the narrow space as well. Don’t let her size fool you, though, Fanning would go on to prove herself well.

The 21-vessel Pauling class, built across four years from 1908 to 1912 were smallish for destroyers, tipping the scales at just 742-tons. Overall, they ran 293-feet long, with a razor-thin 26-foot beam. Using a quartet of then-novel oil-fired Normand boilers (later boats like Fanning used Thornycroft boilers) pushing a trio of Parsons direct-drive steam turbines, they could gin nearly 30-knots when wide open, although they rattled and rolled while doing so. This earned them the “flivver” nickname after the small and shaky Ford Model Ts of the era. Armament was five quick-firing 3″/50 cal guns and a trio of twin 450mm torpedo tubes, to which depth charges would later be added.

Fanning was the first ship named for famous 18th Century American spy, privateer, and naval officer Nathaniel Fanning. A native of Stonington, Connecticut, and son of a sea merchant, Fanning suffered at the hands of the British in 1775, with his home and those of his neighbors bombarded by the Royal Navy and his brothers Gilbert and Thomas, held prisoner on the infamous prison hulk HMS Jersey, where one died. Fanning got his licks in and during the war served on a number of privateers, including commanding the privateers Ranger and Eclipse, and signed on with John Paul Jones as a midshipman aboard Bonhomme Richard in 1779, distinguishing himself in the famous battle with HMS Serapis, charging aboard the British vessel with cutlass and pistol at the head of a boarding party.

Captain John Paul Jones hailing HMS SERAPIS during the action from the deck of USS BON HOMME RICHARD, 23 September 1779. During the action, all firing ceased for several moments and Captain Pearson of SERAPIS called out “have you struck your colors?” “I have not yet begun to fight” replied Captain Jones, whereupon the firing resumed. SERAPIS later struck her colors. NH 56757-KN

Mr. Fanning went on to serve on the frigate Alliance and later the captured sloop HMS Ariel. Finishing the war intact despite being captured several times by the RN, he later died of yellow fever in 1805 while an officer in the early U.S. Navy.

USS Fanning was laid down at Newport News, 29 April 1911. Her cost, in 1912 dollars, was $639,526.91, which adjusts to $16.5 million in today’s script, on par with an 85-foot Mark VI patrol boat today, a deal by any means. She was commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 21 June 1912 and spent the next five years in a series of drills, exercises, experiments, high profile port calls, gunboat diplomacy, and tense neutrality patrol– where she came face to face with but did not engage German U-boats prowling just off the U.S. coastline as well as the auxiliary cruiser Prinz Eitel Friedrich.

USS FANNING (DD-37) Running trials before installation of armament, 28 May 1912. While many Paulding-class destroyers had three funnels, Fanning, along with sisters DD 32, 34,36, 39, and 40, which were all constructed at Newport News, had four. NH 54055

Fanning, recently commissioned, at the Naval Review held at New York City in October 1912

USS FANNING (DD-37) Photographed by Waterman before World War I. Note her forward 3-inch gun does not have a shield. Courtesy of Jack L. Howland, 1983. NH 95196

Once the balloon went up in April 1917, Fanning stood to and readied herself for war. By June, she served as part of the escort for the first American Expeditionary Force (AEF) convoy to sail for France, although she did so without depth charges.

USS FANNING (DD-37) Photographed during World War I. Note the dazzle camo and a now-shielded 3-inch forward gun. NH 54057

By Independence Day 1917 Fanning was in Queenstown, Ireland, where the ship “landed all unnecessary stores,” while workmen fitted her with depth charges “and chutes for releasing the same,” in addition to splinter mattresses, preparing her for operations in European Waters. She began her first anti-submarine patrol on 10 July and proceeded to play cat-and-mouse games with the Kaiser’s U-boats. Just three days in, she rescued survivors of the Greek steamship Charilaos Tricoupis, that had been torpedoed by SM U-58 (Kptlt. Karl Scherb) that morning while en route from Dakar to Sligo, Ireland, with a cargo of corn. They would meet with U-58 again soon enough.

A new U57-type boat, U-58 had commissioned 9 Aug 1916 and would claim some 21 ships in just an 11-month active career across 8 combat patrols, mostly Scandinavian sailing vessels that her crew would send to the bottom with charges or surface gunfire. U-58‘s new skipper on her 8th sortie was Kptlt. Gustav Amberger, formerly of U-80. Amberger and U-58 would leave Germany for the British Isles on Halloween 1917 and take the small schooner Dolly Varden on 14 November.

Then, Fanning and U-58 would meet again.

As noted by the NHHC 

At 1145 on 17 November 1917, the six American destroyers and two British corvettes that comprised the escort of convoy O.Q. 20, steamed out of Queenstown harbor under the command of the senior officer, Commander Frank D. Barrien, Nicholson’s captain. Throughout the afternoon, the convoy’s eight merchant vessels fell in with the escort and set about forming into four columns arranged abreast. Fanning, under acting commander Lieutenant Arthur “Chips” Carpender, guarded the rear port flank of the convoy as O.Q. 20’s formation slowly took shape. At 1610, seven miles south of Queenstown, the convoy encountered SM U-58.

The battle almost ended before it began. When the sound of propellers announced O.Q 20’s presence, the German commander ordered a torpedo prepared to fire and brought his boat to periscope depth. Soon after surfacing, poor visibility nearly led the submarine to ram Nicholson accidentally, and Amberger had the engines put full back to avert disaster. Nicholson continued, oblivious to the close encounter, and the submarine escaped unnoticed. After avoiding detection, U-58 again raised its periscope to reestablish contact with the target.

Victory in “The Action of 17 November 1917” rested less on a sophisticated new technology or a brilliant tactical maneuver, and more on the eyes of Fanning’s Coxswain David D. Loomis, who was standing watch on the bridge. He was already renowned for his remarkable eyesight, with a Fanning officer later recalling Loomis’s possession of “a most extraordinary set of eyes.” In foggy conditions, Loomis spotted the 1.5-inch-diameter periscope protruding 10 inches out of the water at 400 yards away on the port bow. Although lookouts usually spotted submarine periscopes by the telltale wake, they caused, U-58 was proceeding so slowly at the time of the sighting that it was not producing any noticeable disturbance in the water. After the eagle-eyed Loomis called out the periscope, officer-of-the-deck Lieutenant Walter O. Henry sounded General Quarters as he ordered the rudder hard left and rung up full speed. Through his periscope, Amberger suddenly saw a destroyer emerging from the mist, close aboard, and threatening to ram his boat. The U-boat skipper had no time to react before Fanning was upon him. On the destroyer’s bridge, Lieutenant Carpender, now on deck, ordered Fanning’s rudder right, swinging the ship into the submerged U-boat’s path before dropping a single depth charge off the fantail.

U-58’s crew felt the shock of the exploding depth charge, which damaged the U-boat’s stern and disabled its electrical gear. Fanning’s depth charge exploded prematurely in the water, slightly damaging the destroyer as well. Amberger, underestimating the damage to his vessel, attempted to dive and elude his assailant. To his dismay, Fanning’s attack left U-58 unmanageable and leaking badly, with the diving gear, motors, and oil leads all wrecked. The U-boat dangerously sank to between approximately 150 and 250 feet, below its maximum diving depth, before Amberger blew the tanks and surfaced.

On the surface, approximately 500 yards away, sailors aboard Nicholson witnessed Fanning’s attack and Commander Barrien turned his ship toward the spot of the explosion. As the destroyer completed its turn, U-58’s conning tower breached the surface. Nicholson rapidly closed and dropped a depth charge close aboard, scoring another hit on the submarine. The second explosion brought the U-58’s bow up rapidly before it righted itself. Fanning, having turned in Nicholson’s wake, again closed on the submarine. Gun crews on Fanning’s bow and Nicholson’s stern opened fire on the doomed U-boat. After three shots from both destroyers’ guns, the German sailors flung open U-58’s hatches and poured on deck, arms raised in surrender. The battle had lasted approximately 15 minutes.

This diagram, taken from the War Diary of USS Fanning, details the battle between the ship and the German submarine U-58. Fanning became the first American ship to capture an enemy U-boat. NHHC

German Submarine U-58 on the surface to surrender after engaging USS FANNING (DD-37) and USS NICHOLSON (DD-52) on 17 November 1917. The photo was taken from NICHOLSON. Courtesy of Reverend W.R. Siegert NH 54060

German submarine U-58, alongside USS Fanning (DD-37) to have her crew removed after being forced to surface, 17 November 1917. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 54063.

USS FANNING (DD-37) Taking prisoners aboard from the submarine U-58 which is alongside, 17 November 1917. NH 54059

USS FANNING (DD-37) With German submarine U-58 sinking alongside, 17 November 1917. Courtesy of Lieutenant Robert B. Carney, USN NH 54058

Fanning made history as she was the first U.S. Navy ship to capture a German submarine and she was photographed extensively after the event, leaving a great record of a dazzle-flauged Great War Paulding.

As noted by DANFS: 

On 19 November 1917, Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly, RN, Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Ireland, came on board and read a congratulatory cablegram from the Admiralty addressed to the ship. Capt. Joel R. P. Pringle, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Destroyer Flotilla operating in European Waters, also visited, reading similar laudatory cables from Adm. William S. Benson, the Chief of Naval Operations, and Vice Adm. William S. Sims, the Force Commander. Adm. Bayly authorized the Fanning’s crew to paint a coveted star on her forward funnel to proclaim her victory over U-58. For their part in the victory Lt. Carpender received the Distinguished Service Medal, Lt. Henry and Cox. Loomis the Navy Cross.

Crew group photo of USS Fanning posing with inflatable life jackets and German enlisted men’s caps salvaged from U-58. S-549

The star carried on Fanning’s funnel after her encounter with U-58. August 1918, Underwood & Underwood Press photo. NARA 165-WW-136A-26

USS Fanning (Destroyer # 37) In port, probably at Queenstown, Ireland, after her 17 November 1917 fight with the German submarine U-58. She is painted in pattern camouflage. Catalog #: NH 2060

As for the 36 survivors of U-58, they became celebrities on their own accord, being among the first of the Kaiser’s guests sent back to the States that were captured in combat and not taken into custody from interned vessels. One of their crew, engineering Petty Officer Franz Glinder drowned in the engagement and his body was recovered by Fanning’s crew and later buried at sea with full honors. A second man, first machinist Franz Baden, went down with his ship.

USS Fanning (DD 37), German Prisoner of War from U-58 under guard on board Fanning in November 1917. The submarine had been sunk on 17 November. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 54064.

ObLt. Otto von Ritgen, Imperial German Navy at left, prisoner of war, on board USS DIXIE (AD-1), circa November 1917. He had been captured when USS FANNING sank U-58, of which he was Executive Officer. Courtesy of Lieutenant Commander Robert B. Carney, USN. NH 2615

The remaining survivors eventually shipped across the Atlantic on USS Leviathan (formerly the giant Hamburg-American liner Vaterland, which during WWI was helmed by none other than a young Humphrey Bogart) and were put up as guests of President Wilson at the EPW Barracks in Fort McPherson, Georgia.

A group of images from U-58‘s crew’s imprisonment at Fort McPherson, Georgia are in the Library of Congress. 

Officers and crew of the German submarine U.58, captured by the U.S.S. Fanning, entering the War Prison Camp at Fort McPherson, Georgia under Marine Guard. 165-WW-161AA-1

Officers and crew of the German submarine U.58, captured by the U.S.S. Fanning, entering the War Prison Camp at Fort McPherson, Georgia. Amberger and Ritgen are in front along with Lt. Frederick Mueller, Lt. Paul Schroeder. Mathewson & Winn., 04/1918 U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier:165-WW-A161(4)

Following the war, the men of U-58 returned home in 1919 with Amberger and Ritgen at least later serving in the Kriegsmarine in WWII, albeit in training capacities.

Back to our destroyer

Just three days after her tangle with U-58, Fanning sailed again on 20 November to escort convoy O.Q. 21 and would spend another year taking part in fighting U-boats and the cold, stopping to rescue survivors and batten the hatches against the heavy seas. She would drop depth charges on numerous further occasions, often resulting in oil slicks.

USS FANNING (DD-37) at “Base Six”, circa 1918. That base was Queenstown, Ireland, but the photo may show the river up towards Cork. Note her battery of depth charges, and hull number painted on the stern. Courtesy of Jack Howland, 1987. NH 101630

When the Great War ended, Fanning stood by for the arrival at Brest of President Wilson on 13 December in the troop transport George Washington and passed in review with other U.S. warships.

USS Fanning (Destroyer # 37) Moored with other destroyers in a French port, late 1918. Probably photographed from USS Mercury (ID # 3012). All these destroyers are dressed in flags in honor of a special occasion, likely the review by President Wilson. Note Fanning’s pattern camouflage. Courtesy of James Russell, 1980. NH 103744

Post-war, she would return to the States while, with other destroyers, shepherding dozens of small submarine chasers from the Azores to Charleston, arriving 3 May 1919. On 24 November her remaining men were transferred to Henley (Destroyer No. 39) and she was decommissioned.

Placed on red lead row, just five years later Fanning was reactivated, although in poor shape, and transferred to the Treasury Department for service with the Coast Guard on 7 June 1924.

As deftly retold in a paper by the USCG Historians Office, the service, then part of the Treasury Department, was hard-pressed to chase down fast bootlegging boats shagging out to “Rum Row” where British and Canadian merchants rested in safe water on the 3-mile limit loaded with cases of good whiskey and rum for sale. This led the agency to borrow 31 relatively new destroyers from the Navy, an act that would have been akin to the USN transferring most of the FFG7 frigates to the Coast Guard during the “cocaine cowboy” days of the 1980s.

From the USCG Historian:

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

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

USS Fanning (DD-37) as Coast Guard destroyer USCGC CG-11, taking a break from working Rum Row.

Still able to make 25-knots on her worn plant, Fanning would patrol extensively from New England to the Caribbean under the Coast Guard ensign on anti-smuggling interdiction duties. However, with little funds to keep her running, by 1929 she was in an exceptionally rundown condition. The Coast Guard decommissioned Fanning at New London on 1 April 1930 and returned her to the Navy Department on 24 November.

Stricken from the Navy list on 28 June 1934 at the age of 22, she was scrapped under the terms of the London Treaty, and her materials sold.

Fanning was celebrated in U.S. military history with a 1921 painting by Edwin Simmons depicting U-58 surrendering. As the first of Uncle Sam’s destroyers to catch one of the Kaiser’s sneaky boots, she was popular in period art.

NH 54061

A Fast Convoy painting by B. Poole, showing USS FANNING (DD-37) escorting another ship during World War I. NH 54066

Once she left the fleet for good in 1934, her name was recycled for a Dunlap (Mahan)-class destroyer, DD-385, sponsored by Miss Cora A. Marsh, the great-great-granddaughter of Nathaniel Fanning; and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., on 8 October 1937. This very active tin can receive four battle stars for her World War II service, taking part in the Doolittle Raid. This, however, did not save her from being scrapped in 1948, surplus to the Navy’s needs.

USS FANNING (DD-385) escorting USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) during a raid on Wake Island, late February 1942. 80-G-63344 D

A third Fanning, FF-1076, a Knox-class frigate, commissioned in 1971 and had deployments in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, participating in Desert Storm. She decommissioned in 1993 and spent another seven years with the Turkish Navy as Adatepe (F-251).

An aerial direct overhead view of the Knox Class Frigate USS Fanning (FF 1076) underway, 7/22/1991 PH2 Mark Correa, USN. NARA 330-CFD-DN-SC-04-10038

Perhaps the SECNAV will name a new DDG-51 after Nathaniel Fanning to perpetuate the long and distinguished line. I do believe that I have some letters to write!

Specs:
Displacement:
742 long tons (754 t) normal
887 long tons (901 t) full load
Length: 293 ft 10 in
Beam: 27 ft
Draft: 8 ft 4 in (mean)
Installed power:12,000 ihp
Propulsion:
4 × Thornycroft boilers
3 × Parsons Direct Drive Turbines
3 × screws
Speed:
29.5 kn
29.99 kn on Trials
Range: 2175(15) on 225 tons oil
Complement:4 officers 87 enlisted U.S. service. 75 in Coast Guard
Armament:
5 × 3 in (76 mm)/50 caliber Mark 3 low-angle guns
6 × 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes (3 × 2)
Depth charges, in two stern racks and one Y-gun projector, added in 1917, removed in 1924

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

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the USCG Historian:

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

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

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

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

Coast Guard Historian’s office

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

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

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

There she sat once more until the country needed her.

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

Once again, her service with the Navy was brief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the event is recorded in maritime art.

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

Specs:

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

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

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Rum subs of the bootlegger era

Today we have narco subs (self-propelled semi-submersibles, or  SPSSs) to deal with but they are an idea that is almost a century old.

The Volstead Act in 1919 came at a time of technological innovation and, with a lot of Great War era soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines out of work, some quickly fell into the quick and easy field of bootlegging. While there were plenty of overland smugglers, rum row operations where speedboats (often powered by surplus Liberty aircraft engines) zipped up and down the coast, and some aerial smuggling, there also seems to be at least some evidence of submarine ops.

Some were apparently large scale as related in Smugglers, Bootleggers and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City by Ellen NicKenzie Lawson, which contains a 1924 aerial photo, purporting to show rum-smuggling submarines in the Hudson River near Croton Point.

aerial-photograph-of-a-pair-of-submarines-smuggling-booze-on-the-hudson-river-during-prohibition-june-11th-1924

The photo appears in the chapter “Rum Row”—the name of the smuggling area of the Atlantic coast from Nantucket to New York City and New Jersey. Lawson writes:

“News of a submarine being used on Rum Row appears to have some substance to it. One smuggler testified in court that he saw a submarine emerge on the Row with a German captain and a French crew. Newspapers in 1924 reported that submarines were smuggling liquor to New Jersey and Cape Cod. An aerial photo, taken by a commercial Manhattan map-making firm that same year, suggested submarines were thirty miles up the Hudson River near Croton Point. (German submarines were kept out of the river during World War I by a steel net strung low across the bottom of the Narrows.) The photo purported to document two submarines below the surface of the Hudson River, each 250 feet long [as big as a German Type U-93 class boat or a UE-II minelaying sub] and 600 feet apart. The aerial firm sent the photograph to the U.S. Navy, which had no submarines in the area, and the startling image was given to Coast Guard Intelligence and filed away.”

A firearms blog also contends that, “During prohibition a syndicate of bootleggers operating out of Puget Sound somehow managed to acquire a World War I German U-Boat.  They used the submarine to smuggle booze from Canada to Seattle.”

This is backed up by newspaper reports of the time (see The Evening Independent – Feb 16, 1922)

puget-sound-uboat-rum

As Roy Olmstead, the “King of the Puget Sound Bootleggers,” was very well connected and financed, it may have been theoretically possible.

So there is that.

The only thing is that at this time the U.S. Navy (as well as those of France, Britain and Italy) were really stingy with selling surplus subs to the public with the exception of established ship breakers and other subs that may seem like there were floating around on the open market just weren’t.

Former Warship Wednesday alumni, the obsolete Lake-built submarine USS USS O-12 (SS-73) was stricken after being laid up during Prohibition and was soon leased for $1 per year (with a maximum of five years in options) to Lake’s company for use as a private research submarine– as far as I can tell the first time this occurred. But, as part of the lease agreement, she was disarmed and had to be either returned to the Navy or scuttled in at least 1,200 feet of water at the conclusion of her scientific use.

Further, in 1919 the Allied powers agreed that Germany’s immense U-boat fleet should be surrendered without the possibility of return and, while some boats were kept for research, the majority were dismantled and recycled or gesunken in deep water in the 20s. Of course, there is always the possibility that a scrapper may have resold a scratch and dent U-boat for the right price, but good luck keeping that quiet as subs of the era had to spend most of their time on the surface and most certainly would have been noticed by some busy body.

Then there is the crew, and a former bluejacket or unterseeboot driver who worked on such a project–providing he didn’t wind up in Davy Jones locker with said rum sub– would be sure to pass on the wild tale to their family post-Prohibition leading to the inevitable “my great uncle told me about his whisky U-boat” anecdotal recollection on a Ken Burns’ documentary.

Build your own

A 1926 newspaper article tells a similar tale of a towed submersible caught coming across the U.S./Canadian border via Lake Champlain.

“[S]ubmarine without motors, has been seized at Lake Champlain with 4800 bottles of ale. The seizure was made by the Royal Canadian Boundary Waters and Customs officials. It is pointed out that bootleggers have been using every known method of conveyance to run contraband liquor from Canada to the United States, including automobiles, motorboats, aeroplanes, and submarines. The latter have been known an mystery boats, having a length of 28ft., with a device for submerging and rising to the surface, but without any propelling mechanism, they being towed by the hawser 175ft. long. Air and vision are obtained by periscopes. The authorities say these vessels are extremely expensive, but they have successfully conveyed so much liquor that they have quickly paid for themselves.”

A history of the anti-smuggling patrol from U.S. Customs on the Lake, collected by the Vermont Historical Society, relates a similar tale, with a better take on a smaller unmanned semi-submersible:

While in the main channel of the lake a bit west of the Rutland Railroad fill, we saw an object which, from a  distance, looked like a  floating log. Whenever we found logs or other floating hazards to navigation, we dragged them ashore. As we approached the presumed log, to our surprise we saw instead a sort of barge anchored in such a way that the top of it lay awash. About 10 feet long, 6 feet wide and 4 feet deep, it had a hatch on the top which, when removed, disclosed a cargo of sacks of beer which weighted the barge sufficiently to keep it awash. Presumably towed by a small boat in stages over several nights,  we assumed that the smugglers would tow it as far as they dared during the night hours and would then anchor it in the hope that no one would discover it during the day. We towed the barge with its contents back to St. Albans Bay and again destroyed the alcoholic contents. The 1932 clippings from the St. Albans Messenger refer to a “submarine” bought at auction. Jack Kendrick later told me that this was the same barge which we had found floating in 1926.

Another Lake Champlain tale:

To disguise themselves on the water, some bootleggers tied a long rope to one end of the bags of alcohol and towed it behind them in a hollow log under water like a submarine. The disadvantage here, however, was that the log would immediately float to the surface and become visible if the boat were to be stopped by an officer. The method that worked best was to tie the bags of alcohol to one end of a rope and tie a box of rock salt to the other: if chased, the bootleggers could push the setup overboard, the bags and box would sink to the bottom, and later, as the rock salt dissolved, the box would float to the surface and act as a buoy-like marker for bootleggers to recover their lost cargo.

A look at an alleged effort on the Detroit River complete with oil drum diving helmets

Then, there is the small scale home-built river running submersible on public display at the Grand Gulf Military Park near Port Gibson, Mississippi.

one-man-sub-grand-gulf

Apparently the one-man submarine was powered by a Model T Ford Engine and used during the early Prohibition period to bootleg whiskey and rum from Davis Island to Vicksburg.

A turn of phrase

Another popular action of the period (and even today), moon-shining, saw the advent of “submarine stills” large black pot stills with a capacity of  up to 800-gallons of mash.

Submarine stills...like Japanese midget subs waiting for the 7th Fleet

Submarine stills…like Japanese midget subs waiting for the 7th Fleet

This led to the inevitable possibility of bootleggers passing off bottles of hootch that, when asked where they came from, would be told “From a submarine”….which may have made the legend of surplus U-boats full of whisky more popular than the reality.

Either way, it is a great story.

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