Tag Archives: Brazil cruiser

Warship Wednesday, March 31, 2021: NOLA by way of Brazil

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, March 31, 2021: NOLA by way of Brazil

Published by Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Here we see the Elswick-built Chacabucu-class protected cruiser USS New Orleans (later CL-22) at Brooklyn Navy Yard in the 1900s. Prominently displayed is the cruiser’s elaborate stern decoration, which looks a lot like the Brazilian national emblem, and for good reason.

As part of a general Latin American naval build-up, Brazil ordered four cruisers in 1894 from Armstrong, Whitworth & Co from a design by British naval architect Philip Watts at ₤265,000 a pop. These ships, with a 3,800-ton displacement on a 354-foot hull, were smaller than a frigate by today’s standards but in the late 19th century, with a battery of a half-dozen 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Marks IX guns and Harvey armor that ranged between 0.75 inches on their hull to 4.5-inches on their towers, were deemed protected cruisers.

For batting away smaller vessels, they had four 4.7-inch (120mm) Armstrongs, 14 assorted 57 mm and 37mm quick-firing pieces, and three early Nordenfelt 7mm machine guns. To prove their worth in a battle line, they had three torpedo tubes and a brace of Whitehead 18-inch fish with guncotton warheads. They would be the first ships in the Brazilian fleet to have radiotelegraphs and were thoroughly modern for their time.

However, their four Vosper Thornycroft boilers and turbines, augmented by an auxiliary sailing rig, could only just make 20 knots with everything lit on a clean hull.

The lead ship of the class, laid down as Chacabucu (Elswick Yard Number 629) for the Brazilian government in March 1895, was sold to the Chileans just six months later with her name duly switched to Ministro Zenteno after a hero of the latter country. The second vessel, Almirante Barroso (Yard No. 630), was ordered in November 1894 and commissioned on 29 April 1897. Yard Nos. 631 and 676 were to be Amazonas and Almirante Abreu.

Amazonas in British waters on builder’s trials with no flags. Photo via Vickers Archives.

When things got squirrelly between the U.S. and Spain in early 1898 over Cuban independence and the lost battleship USS Maine, American purchasing agents were active in Europe both to A) expand Uncle Sam’s fleet, and B) prevent the Spaniards from doing the same.

This led to an agreement to buy from Brazil the old dynamite cruiser Nictheroy, though without her guns, and the two nearly complete cruisers outfitting on the Tyne. Lt. John C. Colwell, the naval attaché in London, personally took delivery of both British-built cruisers at Gravesend, England on 18 March, just a month after the loss of Maine and still a month before the American declaration of war.

With that, Nictheroy became USS Buffalo, Amazonas very quickly became USS New Orleans –the first time the name was carried by an active warship on the Navy List– and Almirante Abreu would eventually join the fleet as USS Albany. New Orleans, ready to go, would be sailed across the Atlantic by scratch crews from the cruiser USS San Francisco while English engineers handled the machinery, recording her Brazilian name in her logbook for the crossing.

USS New Orleans arrives off the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, after crossing the Atlantic. Note oversize commissioning pennant flying from her mainmast, and Brazilian Navy paint scheme. She had been purchased from Brazil on 16 March 1898, while still under construction in England. Sailing on her inaugural Atlantic crossing was a 15-man Marine det commanded by 1LT George Barnett, a future 12th Commandant of the Corps. NH 45114

She proved a popular subject with photographers, after all, she was a brand-new cruiser that descended seemingly from Mars himself, on the eve of the nation’s first conflict with a European power since 1815.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Docked at the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, immediately after her maiden voyage from England. The receiving ship USS Vermont is at the left. Note New Orleans’ extra-long commissioning pennant. NH 75495

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans. The photo is listed as an “8-inch gun crew” although it is a 6″/50 (15.2 cm) Mark 5 Armstrong gun. Perhaps the caption was propaganda. Note the Marine in marching order and the bosun to the left with his pipe in his pocket. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912.

US Navy protected cruiser USS New Orleans, six-inch gun. Note the small guns in the mast. Also, the man photobombing to the right of the frame, likely the photographer (Edward H. Hart) due to his bespoke hat. Published by Detroit Publishing Company, possibly 1898.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Photographed during the Spanish-American War, 1898. Note the change in her scheme from the Brazilian pattern. NH 45115

US Navy protected cruiser USS New Orleans (1898-1930, later PG-34, CL-22) leaving Brooklyn Navy Yard during the Spanish-American War. Photographed by Edward H. Hart, published by Detroit Publishing Company, 1898. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-DIG-DET-4A13959

Her Span Am War service was significant, shipping out of Norfolk three weeks after the declaration and meeting the Flying Squadron off Santiago de Cuba on 30 May. The next day, our new cruiser, along with USS Massachusetts (Coast Battleship No.2) and USS Iowa (Coast Battleship No.4) reconnoitered the harbor, exchanging heavy fire with both Spanish ships and shore batteries.

Attack on Santiago, 31 May 1898 by USS MASSACHUSETTS (BB-2), USS IOWA (BB-4), and USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) by W.B. Shearer. USN 903384

New Orleans went on to spend the rest of her war on blockade duty, shuffling between Guantanamo Bay and San Juan. On 17 July 1898, she captured the French blockade runner Olinde Rodrigues trying to sneak into the latter and sent her, under a prize crew, to Charleston, South Carolina. The steamship was owned and claimed by La Compagnie Generale Transatlantique out of Harve, which later became the subject of a lengthy court case that, in the end, left the New Orleans’s crew without prize money.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Halftone photograph, taken during the Spanish-American War and published in the book War in Cuba, 1898. Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1977. NH 85648

Immediately after the conclusion of hostilities, she took part in the Peace Jubilee in New York, visited her namesake “hometown” in the Crescent City, then sailed for the Philippines via the Suez, arriving just before Christmas 1899, where she would remain on station for four years.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans on Asiatic Station, 1902. Shown is CPT (later RADM) Charles Stillman Sperry (USNA 1866), skipper, and his XO, LCDR James T. Smith. Note the ornate triple ship’s wheels in the background. Donation of Walter J. Krussel, 1949. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Laid up from 1905 to 1909, she recommissioned in 1910 with a new suite of American-pattern guns and headed to the Far East once again, with a gleaming new scheme worthy of TR’s Great White Fleet.

LOC LC-D4-5521

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) Photographed before World War I in her white scheme. Note signalman atop the bridge. Description: Courtesy of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973.NH 92171

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans, quarter-deck over the stern. Note her searchlights and torpedo-busting guns in the tower. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912

Officers, crew, and mascot of USS New Orleans at Yokohama (CL-22), Japan, 1910. Note the flat caps and cracker jacks of the sailors; fringed epauletted body coats and cocked hats of the officers; outfits that were much more 19th Century than 20th. Via the Yangtze River Patrol Association.

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) Flying a “Homeward Bound” pennant, circa 1912. Halftoned photo original view was courtesy of “Our Navy” magazine. NH 45118

By 1914, she was back in North American waters, spending time– along with most of the other surface assets of the fleet– in Mexican waters, patrolling that country’s Pacific coast in a haze gray scheme. This was a mission she would continue for three years, alternating with trips back up to Puget Sound where she would serve as a training vessel for the Washington State Naval Militia.

USS New Orleans CL-22. March 1916 crew photo taken during an overhaul at PSNS. Note the difference in uniforms from the China photo taken just six years prior. Via Puget Sound Navy Museum.

When the U.S. entered the Great War, she was transferred to the Atlantic, arriving at Hampton Roads on 27 August 1917. From there, she escorted a convoy carrying Doughboys and materiel to Europe. However, with plenty of ships on tap in the British Isles, the funky third-class cruiser received orders once more for the Pacific, reaching Yokohama from Honolulu on 13 March 1918.

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) En route to the Asiatic Station, early in 1918, note her dark gray scheme. NH 45120

It was about this time that the Western Allies decided to intervene in the affairs of civil war-torn Russia, landing troops in Vladivostok in the Pacific as well as Archangel and Murmansk in the White/Barents Seas.

U.S. Soldiers parade in Vladivostok, Aug. 1918, a mission that would span four years and involve New Orleans for most of that. 

New Orleans would remain off and on as a station ship in Vladivostok until 17 August 1922, as the city’s population had quadrupled from 90,000 to more than 400,000 as refugees from the anti-Bolshevik White Russian forces and the Czechoslovak Legion, the latter formed from Austro-Hungarian Army POWs in Siberia, swelled the port, seeking to escape the oncoming Reds. Sheltered under the guns of American, British, French, and Japanese ships, the city remained the last large holdout from Moscow’s control, only being secured by the Red Army in October 1922 with the withdrawal of the hated “Interventionists.”

Czech Maj. Gen Radola Gajda and Captain E. B. Larimer on the deck of USS NEW ORLEANS, Vladivostok, 1919. A former Austrian and Montenegrin army field officer, Gajda helped the Russians raise the Czech legions in 1916 and would later become a high-level commander in the White Army in Siberia– even leading a coup to get rid of its overall leader, Russian Adm. Alexander Kolchak. Gajda would escape Vladivostok for Europe and briefly become the Chief of the General Staff for the Czech Army in the mid-1920s. Note his Russian cossack-style shashka saber with a knot as well as a mix of Russian, Austrian and Montenegrin medals. NH 1097.

Her last mission completed, and her tonnage held against the fleet in future naval treaties, New Orleans returned to Mare Island on 23 September, after calls en route at Yokohama and Honolulu, and was decommissioned on 16 November 1922. Stricken from the Navy List on 13 November 1929, she was sold for scrapping on 4 February 1930 to D. C. Seagraves of San Francisco, California.

As for her sisters, Chacabucu/Ministro Zenteno remained in Chilean service until 1930 and was scrapped while about the same time the Brazilian Barroso was disarmed and turned into a floating barracks, ultimately being written off sometime later, date unknown.

Zenteno and Barroso, Jane’s 1914 listing.

Albany missed the Span Am War, being commissioned in the River Tyne, England, on 29 May 1900. Sailing for the Far East from there where she would serve, alternating cruises back to Europe, until 1913 she only went to the U.S. for the first time for her mid-life refit. Recommissioned in 1914, Albany served off Mexico, gave convoy duty in WWI, and ended up with sister New Orleans briefly in Russia. With the post-war drawdown, she was placed out of commission on 10 October 1922 at Mare Island and sold for scrap in 1930.

Epilogue

Our cruiser is remembered in period maritime art.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans (later PG 34 and CL 22), port bow. Reproduction of a painting by Koerner & Hayes, circa 1897-98.

Her plans are in the National Archives.

A single 4.7-inch Elswick Armstrong gun from each of these English-made Brazilian cruisers in U.S. service is installed at the Kane County, Illinois Soldier and Sailor Monument at the former courthouse in Geneva, Illinois.

SECNAV has done a good job of keeping a “NO Boat” or “NOLA boat” on the Naval List for roughly 103 of the past 122 years.

The second completed USS New Orleans would also be a cruiser, CA-32, leader of her seven-hull class of 10,000-ton “Treaty Cruisers” built in the early-to-mid 1930s. The class would give very hard service in WWII, with three sunk at the horrific Battle of Savo Island. However, USS New Orleans (CA-32) was luckier, earning a remarkable 17 battlestars, going on to be laid up in 1947 and stricken/scrapped in 1959.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) In English waters, about June 1934. Photographed by Wright & Logan, Southsea, England. Donation of Captain Joseph Finnegan, USN (Retired), 1970. NH 71787

The third USS New Orleans was an Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship, LPH-11, commissioned in 1968. After a 30-year career, she was decommissioned and later disposed of in a SINKEX in 2020.

A vertical view of the amphibious assault ship USS NEW ORLEANS (LPH-11) underway. CH-53 Sea Stallion and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters line the flight deck, 6/16/1988. PH2 Weideman/DNST8807549.

The fourth New Orleans is a Pascagoula-built San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, LPD-18, that has been in the fleet since 2007.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Aug. 21, 2020) A rigid-hull inflatable boat, right, transits the Philippine Sea from the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18). New Orleans, part of America Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit team is operating in the 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serves as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

Specs:

Jane’s 1914 listing for Albany and New Orleans.

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St. Louis, arriving

Over the weekend, in an understated COVID-era ceremony, the latest USS St. Louis joined the fleet.

She is the 7th such vessel to carry the name and SECNAV made sure to touch on the missions of the first one, the 19th Century 24-gun sloop-of-war, rather than the two 20th Century cruisers with the same legacy. Because mission.

“Nearly 200 years after the first ship to bear the name was launched, today we commission the seventh USS St. Louis,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite. “Much like that sloop of war did in 1828, LCS-19 and her crew will protect the U.S. and our interests near and abroad. Whether conducting counter-narcotic operations in the Caribbean or working to enhance interoperability with partners and allies at sea, USS St. Louis will provide maneuverability, stability, and lethality in today’s era of Great Power Competition.”

St. Louis is the 22nd LCS to be delivered to the Navy, and the tenth of the Freedom-variant to join the fleet and is the seventh ship to bear the name. The first St. Louis, a sloop of war, was launched in 1828. It spent the majority of its service patrolling the coasts of the Americas to secure interests and trade. In addition, it served as the flagship for the West Indies Squadron working to suppress piracy in the Caribbean Sea, the Antilles, and the Gulf of Mexico region.

Of course, the most celebrated St. Louis in U.S. Navy history was past Warship Wednesday Alum “Lucky Lou,” the Brooklyn-class light cruiser that was the first to clear the Channel at Pearl Harbor and went on to earn 11 battle stars in WWII before going on to serve Brazil as the Lobster War flagship Almirante Tamandaré for another quarter-century.

Warship Wednesday, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

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, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

In this beautiful original color photograph, we see the modified Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS St. Louis, often also seen written as “Saint Louis”, (CL-49) at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, circa 1943. At the time this image was taken, the cruiser had already seen much of the Pacific War and would see much more.

Significantly different from the seven other ships of the Brooklyn-class, St. Louis and her follow-on sister USS Helena (CL-50) was ordered under the 1934 Naval Plan. While they used the same hull, engineering plant, and general layout as the rest of their class– to include 15 6″/47 caliber Mark 16 guns in five triple turrets– there were enough differences for the two sisters to often be considered a distinct class of their own. This included a better secondary battery (eight 5″/38 DP guns in four double enclosed mounts vs. eight low-angle 5″/25 open singles), a different boat stowage scheme and cranes for the same, a smaller secondary tripod mast in a different location, higher boiler pressure, and a different fire control arrangement.

Brooklyn plan, top, St. Louis plan, bottom, both from the 1945 ed of Jane’s

The whole class could also carry as many as six floatplanes in their below-deck hangar as well as spare parts and engines, although typically would only deploy with four.

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of St. Louis’s near sister, the Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938. Note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

USS St. Louis (CL 49) with SOC-3 Seagull biplanes on her catapults while at the Tulagi harbor. Seen from USS O’Bannon (DD 450) after the Battle of Kula Gulf, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55501

Capable of breaking more than 32.5 knots, they also had very long legs, able to make 14,500 nm at 15 knots without refueling.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off Rockland, Maine, while on trials, 28 April 1939. Note that her 5/38 secondary gun battery has not yet been installed. NH 48998

Laid down on 10 December 1936 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., our cruiser was the fifth U.S. warship vessel to carry the name of the Missouri city and gateway to the West.

Commissioned on 19 May 1939, she was still on her shakedown cruise when Hitler marched into Poland in September, sparking WWII, a move that introduced St. Louis to Neutrality Patrol operations over the next 11 months that took her from the balmy West Indies and British Guiana to the freezing North Atlantic.

However, with tensions ramping up with Imperial Japan over China, Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies, St. Louis received orders to head for the Pacific, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1940. From there, she ranged from the West Coast to Manila and back on exercises and patrols in 1941, with stops at Wake, Midway, and Guam.

St. Louis off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 4 June 1941. She is wearing Measure 5 (false bow wave) camouflage. NH 80564

Lucky Lou

On the morning of 7 December 1941, St. Louis was at anchor in Pearl Harbor, moored at Berth B-17 in the Southeast Loch since 28 November with two of her eight boilers offline for maintenance. The ship’s aviation detachment was shore-based at Ford Island and many of her crew and Marine det were ashore on libo.

According to the ship’s log, now in the National Archives:

“At 0756 two of the ship’s officers observed a large number of dark-colored planes heading towards Ford Island from the general direction of AIEA. They dropped bombs and made strafing attacks. At the same time, a dark olive drab colored plane bearing the aviation insignia of Japan passed close astern and dropped a torpedo…The ship went to general quarters at once and manned its entire battery.”

By 0800, her skipper was on the bridge and both her .50 caliber and 1.1″ batteries were “already manned and in action delivering a full volume of fire at the attackers,” as steam was ordered up from her six operational boilers.

St. Louis at far right, about 0930 7 December 1941, leaving Pearl. USS California off her starboard side hit and sinking.

At 0931, St. Louis got underway, with boiler power for 29 knots, and stood out to sea via South Channel. Just 30 minutes later, she reportedly suffered a near miss from two torpedoes fired from a Japanese midget submarine just inside the channel entrance buoys.

At 1016, St. Louis was the first U.S. Navy ship to clear the channel from Pearl during the attack and she engaged a number of aircraft from the Japanese second wave between then and 1147 with her twin 5″ mounts before joining with the cruisers Montgomery and Minneapolis, along with several destroyers, to proceed “southward with the intention of locating and attacking the [Japanese] carrier.”

Between 1213 and 1234, her guns engaged the Japanese second wave as they withdrew. In all, she fired 207 5″ shells, 3,950 rounds from her 1.1″ battery and a very decent 12,750 .50-cal BMG rounds, claiming at least three probable Japanese planes seen to flame and crash.

Of course, the little force of cruisers and destroyers did not find the Japanese flattops and retired to Pearl Harbor on 10 December. While Battleship Row was the scene of carnage, St. Louis was only very lightly damaged from machine gun rounds and suffered no casualties in the attack.

USS Arizona (BB-39) burned out and sunk in Pearl Harbor on 10 December 1941, three days after she was destroyed during the 7 December Japanese raid. Ships in the background are USS Saint Louis (CL-49), in the center, and the hulked minelayer Baltimore (CM-1) at left. NH 63918

Joining the shooting war with a bang, St. Louis was used to escort the steamer SS President Coolidge, carrying Philippine President Quezon to San Francisco, as well as riding shotguns on convoys to reinforce Midway and the Aleutians.

St. Louis at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, circa May 1942. NH 50796

She was in the Northern Pacific during the Battle of Midway, missing out on the initial carrier clash, but did her first round of naval gunfire support on 3 August when she plastered the newly Japanese-occupied island of Kiska in the Aleutians. On 16 August, she lost an aircraft with four aviators aboard somewhere between Kodiak and Whitehorse.

After staying in Alaskan waters to cover the Allied liberation of Adak, St. Louis caught a refit at Mare Island where she picked up a much better AAA suite of 40mm and 20mm guns.

From there she proceeded to the West Pac where she joined RADM “Pug” Ainsworth’s TF cruiser-destroyer force, dubbed the “Ainsworth Express,” in fighting the Japanese in the near-nightly efforts to prevent the Empire from reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal and/or wiping out the Marines trying to keep a toe-hold there. The Tokyo Express and Ainsworth Express collided in the high-traffic waterway of New Georgia Sound through the middle of the Solomon Islands, better known as “The Slot,” in a series of pitched battles in the summer of 1943.

At Kula Gulf, Ainsworth’s force of three light cruisers– St. Louis, her sister Helena, and near-sister USS Honolulu (CL-48) — collided with 10 destroyers of RADM Teruo Akiyama’s 3rd Destroyer Squadron off the coast of Kolombangara Island carrying 2,600 Japanese troops. The action, all in pitch darkness, left Akiyama dead, two Japanese destroyers sunk, and Helena lost, a victim of the deadly Type 93 Long Lance torpedo.

Night Battery of USS St. Louis (CL 49) during the Battle of Kula Gulf. Photographed by CPU-2, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55522

Covered with oil of their torpedoed ship, USS Helena (CL-50), survivors respond to a roll call aboard the destroyer USS O’Bannon (DD 450) which picked them up. Three times the destroyer had to leave off its rescue work to do battle with Japanese warships. Catalog #: L45-122.07.01

Less than a week later, the two opposed Expresses crashed into each other again in the same area with RADM Shunji Isaki’s force, consisting of the cruiser Jintsu, along with five destroyers, duking it out in a night action with Honolulu and St. Louis backed up by the Kiwi light cruiser HMNZS Leander. In the wild fight, which was considered a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese that turned into a strategic defeat as they shifted operations away from the vital Slot moving forward, sent Jintu to the bottom– plastered by radar-directed 6-inch guns from the Allied cruisers, killing Isaki.

Battle of Kolombangara, 13 July 1943, firing by USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49) during this battle. #: 80-G-342762

However, in her final act, the Japanese cruiser had gone down illuminating her killers with her searchlights and all three of the Allied cruisers as well as the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-433), was hit by Long Lances before the action was over. While Gwin ultimately could not be saved, Honolulu, St. Louis and Leander managed to limp away to fight another day.

The bow of USS Saint Louis (CL-49), showing torpedo damage received during the Battle of Kolombangara. Photographed while the ship was under repair at Tulagi on 20 July 1943. USS Vestal (AR-4) is alongside. #: 80-G-259410

Damage to the bow of USS St. Louis (CL 49). Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943 80-G-259411

Note the sign that reads, “Danger / All Boats Slow Down.” Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943. 80-G-259412

St. Louis received a temporary bow at an advanced base in the Pacific. With this bow, the cruiser was able to return to a West Coast navy yard for more permanent repairs. Incredibly, Lucky Lou had come out of both Kula Gulf– where her sister had been sunk– and Kolombangara with no serious casualties.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) has guns removed from her forward 6/47 turrets, during overhaul and battle damage repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa September 1943. The upper section of her midships searchlight platform is hanging from a crane in the immediate background. It was removed to reduce the ship’s topside weights. #: 80-G-K-15536

In mid-November, Lou returned to the Solomons and, from the 20th to the 25th, covered Marines fighting for Bougainville. She would continue to work her way along the Pacific, delivering salvos of accurate 6-inch and 5-inch shells in NGF support.

On 13 January 1944, while operating in the area between Buka and St. George Channel to support landing operations in the Green Islands off New Ireland, she was attacked by five Vals. One managed to make it through flak fire to hit St. Louis in her 40mm clipping room near the number 6 mount and exploded in the midship living compartment, killing 23 and wounding another 20.

Her spell had been broken.

Still, she licked her wounds once more and got back to work, supporting operations on Saipan and Guam, while picking up a new camo pattern.

Camouflage Measure 32, Design 2C drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for USS St. Louis (CL-49). She was painted in this pattern during much of 1944. This plan, showing the ship’s port side, is dated 31 March 1944 and was approved by Captain Torvald A. Solberg, USN. #: 80-G-109719

Saipan Invasion, June 1944. Units of cruiser division six bombard Saipan on 14-15 June 1944. The nearest ship is USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32). Beyond her is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). #: 80-G-K-1774

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) bombarding Japanese positions on Guam, 21 July 1944. She is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 80-G-K-16463

USS St Louis, 1944, off Orote Point, Guam

After her 1944 campaigns, she was beaten and broken, in need of an urgent refit. In Late July she headed for the West Coast to get some work done.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off San Pedro, California, on 5 October 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 19-N-72219

Then, refreshed and ready to go again, it was now time to deliver on MacArthur’s “I Shall Return” promise and Lou made a course for the Philippines, where she felt the Divine Wind.

One of the most effective Japanese kamikaze attacks of the war occurred on 27 November in the Leyte Gulf against Task Group 77.2., when a mixed force of 13 Jills, Kates and Vals came in low at 1125 while the ships were fueling. The task group was composed of four battleships, five cruisers, and seven destroyers, of which the larger ships were singled out for attack. Corresponding hits were scored on Colorado (BB-45), Maryland (BB-46), Montpelier (CL-57), and Aulick (DD-569) as well as St. Louis.

Two suicide planes hit St. Louis, one aft and one amidships, burning the after part of the cruiser, destroying catapults and seaplanes, and damaging her after turrets. She took a hard list to port for nearly an hour and looked in bad shape.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) crewmen fight fires in the cruiser’s hangar after she was hit by a Kamikaze off Leyte on 27 November 1944. Note wrecked SOC floatplane in the left background, and hangar hatch cover threw atop the port catapult, at right. #: 80-G-361985

Her crews managed to contain the fires, right the ship, and head for San Pedro Bay for repairs. In the twin kamikaze strike, 16 men were killed or missing and another 43 injured.

After another stint in a California shipyard to fix her back up, St. Louis returned to the battle line in March 1945, bombarding Okinawa, and guarded minesweepers and UDT teams clearing channels to the assault beaches.

By August, the end of the war found her assigned to TF 73, the Yangtze River Patrol Force, and she made Shanghai in October, supporting KMT Chinese forces.

After three Magic Carpet runs across the vast expanse of the Pacific to bring returning Vets back home Lou sailed for the East Coast and arrived at Philadelphia for inactivation in February 1946.

In all, from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese Home Islands, St. Louis earned 11 battle stars during her war.

Her payment? She was stricken from the U.S. Naval List on 22 January 1951.

Cruisers and other warships laid up in the Philadelphia Yard Reserve Fleet Basin, circa 1947. Outboard ship in the left group is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). Ships in background include (in no order): USS SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37), USS MINNEAPOLIS (CA-36), USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32), USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28), and USS PORTLAND (CA-33).
“All Hands” magazine Catalog #: NH 92254

However, Lucky Lou would get a reprieve from the rust squadron and go on to live a very long second career

Cruzador Tamandaré

In the 1900s, a Latin American naval race led South America’s major powers to acquire numerous battleships to include a modicum of dreadnoughts, along with a veneer of escorting armored/protected cruisers. While these vessels had grown quite long in the tooth and put on the list for the breakers by the end of the 1940s, the big regional players still needed ships for prestige and to be taken seriously. The logical replacement for those 30-40-year-old coal burners was relatively new Allied WWII-surplus cruisers which could be bought for a song.

This led to the curious phenomenon that, outside of the U.S., Europe and India/Pakistan, all the world’s cruisers from the 1950s to 1970s were operated by Latin American fleets:

Argentina– Two ex-Brooklyn class light cruisers (Phoenix, Boise, recommissioned as Gen. Belgrano and Nueve de Julio in 1951-52) as well as the old Vickers-made training cruiser La Argentina (8,610-tons, 9×6″ guns)

Chile– Two ex-Brooklyns (Brooklyn, Nashville, recommissioned as Prat and O’Higgins in 1951-52) as well as the Swedish-built Latorre (ex-Gota Lejon) bought in 1971.

Peru– Two ex-British Colony-class light cruisers (ex-HMS Ceylon, Newfoundland recommissioned as Almirante Grau and Col. Bolognesi, in 1959-60) replacing a pair of Vickers built scout cruisers commissioned in 1908. The Dutch De Zeven Provinciën-class cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter later became Peru’s only cruiser, recycling the Grau name, serving until 2017.

As for Brazil, they got the same sweetheart cruiser deal from Uncle Sam hat Argentina and Chile got on their scratch and dent Brooklyns— pay just 10 percent of the vessels’ original cost plus the expense of reconditioning them after their short stint in mothballs.

With that, Rio plunked down cash for the Brooklyn-class USS Philadelphia (CL-41) as well as our St. Louis in 1951 with the latter being transferred on 29 January and the former on 21 August.

While Philly picked up the moniker of NAeL Barroso (C11), St. Louis became Almirante Tamandaré (C12) after the famed 19th Century Brazilian naval hero Joaquim Marques Lisboa, Marquês de Tamandaré, the third vessel to bear this name in the Marinha do Brasil.

This guy

In the end, Brazil got a 12-year-old ship that had been hit by Long Lance torpedos, Japanese bombs, and kamikazes, but still looked great.

ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE (Brazilian Cruiser, ex USS ST. Louis) in U.S. waters photographed circa early 1951. Courtesy of Robert Varrill, 1977 Catalog #: NH 85261

TAMANDARE (Brazilian cruiser, ex-USS ST. LOUIS, CL-49) underway, 20 to 30 miles off Fort Story, Virginia, 5 March 1952, shortly after she was commissioned by the Brazilian Navy. #: 80-G-440057

Same day 80-G-440059

Other than adding LORAN, halting the operation of seaplanes and landing their catapults (the Brazilians later used Sikorsky H-34 and Westland Wasp helicopters on their cruisers), and getting rid of their Oerlikons, the vessels remained essentially the same as during their WWII service, to include carrying their 40mm Bofors mounts, SPS-12 (surface search), SPS-6C (air search) and SPS-10 (tactical) radar sets.

Taking further advantage of good deals on certified pre-owned naval warships, Brazil also bought 7 surplus Fletcher-class destroyers, a Sumner-class destroyer, 7 Bostwick-class destroyer escorts, and four GUPPY’d fleet boat style diesel submarines from the U.S. Navy. This gave the country two effective surface action groups well into the early 1970s centered around the cruisers with the tin cans and subs in support– even if they did look a repeat of the Pacific War.

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro 20 April 1952 after four months of shakedowns with her new Brazilian crew, Tamandare became the fleet flagship until 1960 when the aircraft carrier NAeL Minas Gerais (A11) joined the fleet. This led to a simple life of friendship missions (she carried President Dr. Café Filho and entourage on an official visit to Portugal in 1955 and a revisit in 1960), midshipman cruises, and regular training exercises such as DRAGÃO, UNITAS, and ASPIRANTEX.

The closest she came to combat in her decades under the Brazilian flag was the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état (Golpe de 64), which started with a sailor’s revolt, and the so-called Lobster War with France.

The what?

In the early 1960s, French lobstermen sailing from African waters came increasingly close to Brazil, within about 100 miles of Pernambuco, which became a real issue when Rio kicked their economic exclusion zone out to 200 miles, as is now common. The friction led to the seizure of at least one French fishing boat by the Brazilians and a muscular response from Paris that saw the gunboat Paul Goffeny (A754) sail over from Dakar.

The heated rhetoric saw a French naval task force sail from Toulon in February 1963– officially for a West African cruise– headed by the brand-new aircraft carrier Clemenceau (who was carrying helicopters only as she would not get her first F-8 Crusaders until the next year), the AAA cruiser De Grasse (12,350-tons, 8 x 5-inch guns), the big destroyers Cassard, Jauréguiberry and Tartu; and the corvettes Le Picard, Le Gascon, L’Agenais, Le Béarnais, and Le Vendéen, along with support vessels.

Rio reciprocated by putting Brazilian Air Force RB-17 Flying Fortresses into the air along with shore-based S-2 Trackers on long-range patrol over the disputed fishing grounds– and mobilizing both the cruisers Barroso and Tamandaré along with six Fletcher-class destroyers.

Tamandaré, at sea flanked by a heavy escort of former Fletcher-class tin cans, from top: Pernambuco (D30) ex-USS Hailey, Paraná (D29) ex-USS Cushing, Pará (D27) ex-USS Guest, and Paraíba (D28) ex-USS Bennett. Of note, the Brazilians would keep most of these greyhounds well into the 1980s.

In terms of guns, the Brazilan fleet had a distinct advantage if it came to a naval clash with the French, who would have been handicapped by the fact that the Latin American country could also bird dog the area of operations with land-based aircraft. Still, the French had more bluewater experience, coupled with better sensors, and may have made it count.

In the end, only the French destroyer Tartu entered the disputed area and remained there for 17 days until 10 March while the Brazilians sent air patrols to keep tabs on the interloping French ship. The two fleets never got within several hundred miles of each other, as the French kept close to Africa, in Dakar and Abidjan, while the Brazilians likewise remained in their coastal waters.

Brazilian cruiser ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE C12 former USS ST.LOUIS (CL-49) note H34 helicopters in the air

No shots were fired in the surreal crustacean contest known in Brazil as the “Guerra da Lagosta” and both sides de-escalated, later settling the dispute in 1966 amicably.

In all, Tamandaré steamed over 200,000 nautical miles with the Brazilian Navy and served her adopted country proudly.

NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), da Marinha do Brasil, fevereiro de 1971. Arquivo Nacional. Note her helicopter deck

While Barroso/Philadelphia was scrapped in 1974, Tamandaré endured for another two years and was only decommissioned on 28 June 1976.

Sold for $1.1 million in scrap value to Superwinton Enterprises of Hong Kong, a Philippine-flagged tugboat, Royal, arrived in Brazil to haul the old cruiser to the breakers in Asia in August 1980. However, St. Louis wasn’t feeling another trip to the Pacific via South Africa and, unmanned, on the night of 24 August near -38.8077778°, -001.3997222°, she started to submerge. Unable for Royal to save her, the towline was released, allowing her to settle on the seabed where she remains in deep water.

Today, a WWII St. Louis Veterans’ Association exists, though its ranks are thinning. The U.S. Navy recycled her name for an amphibious cargo ship (LKA-116) and a planned Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS-19) set to commission in 2020.

As for Brazil, that country’s Navy has recently reissued the name Tamandaré to the lead ship of a new class of Meko A100 type corvettes scheduled for delivery between 2024 and 2028.

Specs:

Scheme from 1973 Janes, as Brazilian NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), redrawn in 1971

Displacement:
Standard: 10,000 long tons (10,000 t)
Full load: 13,327 long tons (13,541 t)
Length: 608 ft 8 in
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft:
19 ft 10 in (6.05 m) (mean)
24 ft (7.3 m) (max)
Propulsion:
8 × Babcock & Wilcox Express steam boilers
4 × Parsons geared turbines, 4 × screws, 100,000 shp (75,000 kW)
Speed: 32.5 knots
Range: 14,500nm at 15 knots on 2,100 tons fuel oil
Complement:
(As designed) 888 officers and enlisted men
(1944) 1070 men, 58 officers, plus Marine and Aviation detachments
(1973, Brazil) 975
Armor:
Belt: 3 1⁄4–5 in (83–127 mm)
Deck: 2 in (51 mm)
Barbettes: 6 in (150 mm)
Turrets: 1 1⁄4–6 in (32–152 mm)
Conning Tower: 2 1⁄4–5 in (57–127 mm) (although Jane’s states 8)
Armament:
(As designed)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts
16 x 1.1″ AAA guns in four quad mounts
8 x .50-caliber water-cooled machine guns
1 depth charge thrower
(1945)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts,
28 x 40 mm Bofors L60 guns in four Mk 2 quadruple mounts and six Mk 1 doubles
8 x 20 mm Oerlikon submachine guns on single Mk 4 mounts.
Aircraft carried:
(1940s) 4-6 × SOC Seagull floatplanes, 2 catapults
(1958) 2-3 helicopters, first H-34s later Westland Wasps

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Warship Wednesday Aug 10, 2016: The Dynamite Buffalo of Rio

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Aug 10, 2016: The Dynamite Buffalo of Rio

Cruzador Nitheroy [sic] [i.e. Nictheroy] by Marc Ferrez, Detroit Publishing Co. Image via LOC LC-D4-21236

Cruzador Nitheroy [sic] [i.e. Nictheroy] by Marc Ferrez, Detroit Publishing Co. Image via LOC LC-D4-21236

Here we see the former cargo steamer turned auxiliary cruiser Nictheroy of the Brazilian Navy. She is armed with a very special gun.

A Dynamite Gun, that is.

In March 1892, a group of Brazilian navy commanders and army leaders started to run afoul of President Marshal Floriano Peixoto that led to an open manifesto between the military and the executive branch that basically said, either you listen to us and fix the government, or we will fix it for you. It wasn’t farfetched as the year before the Brazilian Navy had a hand in replacing President Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca.

Well, Peixoto called their bluff and by Sept. 1893 the Navy was in an open revolt known to history as Revolta da Armada, and the best ships, including the ironclad battleship Aquidabã (5,500-tons, 4×9.2-inch guns) went over to the rebels in Rio harbor/Guanabara Bay.

Aquidabã. A formidable foe indeed. Colorised photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

This left Peixoto fresh out of a Navy to command and his agents went about assembling what was derided as the “cardboard squadron” to blockade the rogue forces into surrender.

Guns were thrown on fishing vessels coastal steamers acquired locally and manned by whatever mariners could be enticed to put to sea, but everyone knew they and the handful of torpedo boats still loyal to the government would be no match for the big Aquidabã should the leviathan make a determined break for open water.

In New York, agents of the Peixoto government purchased the pleasure yachts Feiseen and Javelin as well as the merchant steamers Britannia (Norwegian-built, 2600-tons) and El Cid for rapid conversion to warships for the new fleet.

The SS El Cid, a 7,080-ton cargo ship with some accommodation for passengers, was built for the Morgan Line at Mr. Collis P. Huntington’s Chesapeake Dry Dock & Construction Company, only the sixth ship constructed by that yard, since known as Newport News Shipbuilding. Delivered for merchant service 24 August 1893, the Brazilians purchased her almost sight unseen on 26 October.

El Cid and her three sisters (El Sud, El Norte, and El Rio) were designed as auxiliary cruisers for wartime service if needed and had three deckhouses, a 17-knot speed (very fast for the merchantmen of the day), coal bunkers arranged to protect her machinery and boilers from naval gunfire, watertight bulkheads, and a main deck with weight and space reserved for a decent naval gun forward.

Speaking of guns, the Brazilians went all out.

Dynamite gun on Brazilian ship, Nitheroy [i.e. Nictheroy] by Marc Ferrez, Detroit Publishing Co. Image via LOC LC-D4-32259

Dynamite gun on Brazilian ship, Nitheroy [i.e. Nictheroy] by Marc Ferrez, Detroit Publishing Co. Image via LOC LC-D4-32259

The Dynamite Gun

All guns are projectile weapons. In other words, they use force to propel an object down a barrel out to a target. The only thing that changes is the type of propellant and the projectile. In a Remington 870, a load of shot is scattered out of the muzzle by an explosion of smokeless powder set off by a primer. Well the dynamite gun does the same thing, it’s just that the projectile is made of TNT and it’s pushed out by a charge of compressed air. Kinda like a spud gun, but instead of a potato, you fire a bomb. The father of this device was one Edmund Zalinski.

Born in Kórnik, Prussian Poland on December 13, 1849, Edmund Zalinski immigrated to the US with his parents at age four. Not quite 15 years old, he dropped out of high school and volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War. Serving in the artillery, he finished the war as an officer and remained in the Army once peace broke out. A pretty smart guy, he taught military science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while inventing several mechanical doo dads. One of these was a dynamite gun. Showing his device to the military, (he was still on the Army rolls as a First Lieutenant); it was love at first sight.

By the next year, Zalinski had teamed up with a company calling itself the Pneumatic Dynamite Gun Company of New York (presumably to tell itself apart from the Pneumatic Dynamite Gun Company of other towns) and was off and running. The gun was huge, and looked like something Jules Verne would use to shoot a missile to the moon. It had a 15-inch (379.5mm) bore. Using compressed air, it could catapult 500-pounds of dynamite more than two miles with better accuracy than the black-powder cannon of the era. The air was produced by a steam-powered (think locomotive) compressor fueled by coal.

Well the Navy liked the idea so much that they built the world’s first “Dynamite Cruiser.” Ordered for $350,000 from cruiser and battleship maker William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, she was laid down in 1887. Named appropriately the USS Vesuvius, its main battery would be these new guns. Mounting three of Zalinski’s 15-inch pneumatic guns, the guns were located with their breech along the keel of the ship three decks down and their 55-foot long barrels poking up through the 01 top deck. To aim the weapons, since the guns could not be turned, the whole ship tacked port or starboard while the pressure of the air was adjusted to correct range. Charges of various sizes ranging up to a quarter-ton could be used to do anything from bombard shore positions to sink ships and, being electrically fused, could fire on a delay or even while submerged.

Vesuvius in 1891...the three tubes on her main deck are 15inch FIXED Dynamite Guns

Vesuvius in 1891…the three tubes on her main deck are 15inch FIXED Dynamite Guns

Other than Vesuvius, the Brazilians were the only other sucker taker for a large caliber Dynamite Gun naval mount. For the gun, they purchased one (1) full caliber 15-inch round and 10 10-inch sub-caliber projectiles meaning the ship had a very big but very brief bark. A further 2 full caliber rounds and 16 10-inch sub-calibers were loaded on the more lightly armed (2×4.7inch QF) steamer Britannia (renamed America by the Brazilians) who would serve as Nictheroy‘s escort of sorts.

As for the two yachts, they were stripped of their above deck structures, given a pivoting Hotchkiss torpedo tube and 1-pounder rapid-fire mount of the same make. They were hoisted aboard Nictheroy‘s deck for the voyage to Brazil.

Unlike on Vesuvius, in which the Dynamite Guns were fixed and the ship had to be tacked one way or the other to bring a target under fire, the gun on Nictheroy was made to slew port to starboard, allowing a much more efficient laying on target. A Rand air compressor below decks provided pneumatics for the gun.

Besides the 15-inch Zalinski forward, Nictheroy was well equipped from the works of Mr. Hotchkiss under the supervision of E. W. Very, late Lieutenant USN and now General Director of the Hotchkiss Ordnance Co, to include a 120mm rapid-fire single mount (with 50 rounds) aft of the after deck house, two rapid-fire 100mm mounts (with 200 rounds) on the bluff of the bow, eight rapid-fire 6-pounders (with 1,419 rounds) distributed broadside firing through the existing freight ports, nine 1-pounders (with 1,340 rounds) distributed on deck, and two 37mm revolving cannon on the bridge wings outside the pilothouse. Ports were cut for four torpedo tubes on deck to launch Howell automobile torpedoes of which the Brazilian agents bought 10, each with a 92-pound gun cotton warhead.

Two magazines were arranged in the former holds, reinforced with wooden planks, equipped with elevators, and flooding capabilities.

(Brazilian auxiliary cruiser, 1893-1898, formerly S.S. El Cid, later USS Buffalo) View on board, probably taken while fitting out for Brazilian Navy service in November 1893 at the Morgan Iron Works, New York City. The gun, which is mounted at the ship's stern, is almost certainly a 4.7 quick-fire weapon built by the Hotchkiss Ordnance Co. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105944

(Brazilian auxiliary cruiser, 1893-1898, formerly S.S. El Cid, later USS Buffalo) View on board, probably taken while fitting out for Brazilian Navy service in November 1893 at the Morgan Iron Works, New York City. The gun, which is mounted at the ship’s stern, is almost certainly a 4.7 quick-fire weapon built by the Hotchkiss Ordnance Co. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105944

View on board, probably taken while fitting out for Brazilian Navy service in November 1893 at the Morgan Iron Works, New York City. Her single 15-inch dynamite gun on the forecastle (left center) was offset 3 feet to starboard of the centerline and was trainable right ahead and on both bows. The gun on the right may be one of the two 33-pounder (4-inch) Hotchkiss quick-fire guns that were listed as having been mounted forward on the bluff of the bow on each side. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105942

View on board, probably taken while fitting out for Brazilian Navy service in November 1893 at the Morgan Iron Works, New York City. Her single 15-inch dynamite gun on the forecastle (left center) was offset 3 feet to starboard of the centerline and was trainable right ahead and on both bows. The gun on the right may be one of the two 33-pounder (4-inch) Hotchkiss quick-fire guns that were listed as having been mounted forward on the bluff of the bow on each side. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105942

View on board, probably taken while fitting out for Brazilian Navy service in November 1893 at the Morgan Iron Works, New York City. Shown looking forward from near the stern, aft of the main mast. The gun is probably one of the ship's nine one-pounder Hotchkiss quick-fire weapons, eight of which were mounted on top of the deckhouses. She also had two 1-pounder Hotchkiss machine guns on top of the pilothouse. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105943

View on board, probably taken while fitting out for Brazilian Navy service in November 1893 at the Morgan Iron Works, New York City. Shown looking forward from near the stern, aft of the main mast. The gun is probably one of the ship’s nine one-pounder Hotchkiss quick-fire weapons, eight of which were mounted on top of the deckhouses. She also had two 1-pounder Hotchkiss machine guns on top of the pilothouse. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105943

Probably shown fitting out for Brazilian Navy service in November 1893 at the Morgan Iron Works, New York City. Several barges are alongside. Nictheroy's single 15-inch dynamite gun is on the forecastle. A small quick-fire gun, probably one of her eight 6-pounder Hotchkiss weapons, is barely visible behind a shield on the weather deck aft. Six of the other 6-pounders were carried behind ports in the hull, along with four tubes for Howell torpedoes. Her former name, El Cid, has been painted out on the bow but the ship still wears the rest of her mercantile paint scheme. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105941

Probably shown fitting out for Brazilian Navy service in November 1893 at the Morgan Iron Works, New York City. Several barges are alongside. Nictheroy’s single 15-inch dynamite gun is on the forecastle. A small quick-fire gun, probably one of her eight 6-pounder Hotchkiss weapons, is barely visible behind a shield on the weather deck aft. Six of the other 6-pounders were carried behind ports in the hull, along with four tubes for Howell torpedoes. Her former name, El Cid, has been painted out on the bow but the ship still wears the rest of her mercantile paint scheme. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105941

In the span of just 24 days from when the Brazilians purchased El Cid, she was armed, equipped, painted, and recommissioned as Nictheroy. With the two yachts turned torpedo boats lashed to her deck and her holds filled with new shells for her never-fired guns, Nictheroy left New York on 20 November 1893. Her escort Britannia/America, carrying most of her Dynamite Gun shells, set out five days later as her armament was held up in shipping, delaying her departure.

As amazing as it sounds, just four months later this little formation took on the mighty Aquidabã and won.

On 16 April 1894, the ironclad warship was anchored off the coast of Santa Catarina, near the Fortress of Anhatomirim. Early in the morning, the loyalist government-controlled former yacht turned torpedo boat Gustavo Sampaio, accompanied by three other torpedo boats and Nictheroy in support, attacked Aquidabã. They managed to pump at least one Honeywell torpedo (some sources say two) into the bow of the once-proud battleship and, her front compartments open to the sea, she settled in the mud as her crew fled after thoroughly wrecking her.

During the battle, Nictheroy took Anhatomirim and a smaller rebel battery under naval gunfire and kept them from plastering her mosquito boat squadron.

The next day, when Nictheroy and company returned, Aquidabã and the forts were deserted and, as reported by the New York Times, a boarding crew from the Dynamite cruiser soon struck up song on the ironclad’s organ.

Over the next few years, with the naval revolt ended, Nictheroy was increasingly sidelined, no longer needed. The ship was subsequently used as an accommodation hulk for the school for apprentice seamen at Rio de Janeiro.

Going back home

When the United States entered into war with Spain in 1898, Nictheroy‘s three sisters were bought by the U.S. Navy from commercial service and, after a few guns were added, were used as the auxiliary cruisers USS Yosemite, USS Yankee and USS Dixie.

Remembering the Nictheroy, U.S. agents approached the Brazilians and arranged to purchase the former American steamer for the battle line (they already had the only other Dynamite cruiser in service, USS Vesuvius) on 11 July 1898. However, the Brazilians had the last laugh and disarmed the Nictheroy completely, forcing her back to the East Coast to rearm.

Rearmed with a more traditional battery of 2×5″/40cals and 4×4″/40s and refitted, she was commissioned into U.S. service as USS Buffalo on 22 September 1898 at New York Naval Yard. However, as hostilities halted with the signing in Washington of a Protocol of Peace between the United States and Spain more than a month before, her wartime service was moot and she was decommissioned, 3 July 1899 after a cruise to Manila.

A bugler sounding the call to breakfast in 1898. The gun appears to be a 4"/40cal. At this time the ship carried four of these weapons plus two 5/40 guns. Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN (Medical Service Corps), 1975. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 82990

A bugler sounding the call to breakfast in 1898. The gun appears to be a 4″/40cal. At this time the ship carried four of these weapons plus two 5/40 guns. Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN (Medical Service Corps), 1975. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 82990

Buffalo was brought back out of ordinary 2 April 1900, to serve as a Training Ship, a role she maintained for the next five years. During this period, she undertook four voyages to the Philippines with replacement crews for the Asiatic Fleet and on one of the return legs accomplished a circumnavigation.

She does look handsome in white! Photographed in 1902, while serving as a training ship. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56644

She does look handsome in white! Photographed in 1902, while serving as a training ship. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56644

USS Buffalo Photographed at Algiers in January 1904 while serving as a training ship. Courtesy of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (MC), 1933. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 434

USS Buffalo Photographed at Algiers in January 1904 while serving as a training ship. Courtesy of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (MC), 1933. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 434

A footlocker inspection on the main deck in 1904. The Sailor on the left, closest to the camera, is Chester Bryon Harper. Courtesy of Mr. Gene B. Reid (Harper's grandson), 1983. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 94193

A footlocker inspection on the main deck in 1904. The Sailor on the left, closest to the camera, is Chester Bryon Harper. Courtesy of Mr. Gene B. Reid (Harper’s grandson), 1983. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 94193

After layup at Mare Island Navy Yard in 1905, she was refitted for work as a transport and largely disarmed. She continued her operations carrying replacement crews to the far off Asiatic Fleet on China station, carried Marines to Nicaragua in 1909, and operated off Mexico during the troubles and civil war there.

In 1914, Buffalo undertook a seven-month expedition to Alaska to build radio stations and towers up and down the coast, many of which remained operational as late as the 1960s. Her expedition, which included some 44 civilian technicians, upgraded the facilities at Woody Island near Kodiak, on St. Paul and St. George in the Pribilof Islands, on the island of Unalga, and at Dutch Harbor near Unalaska as well as built new ones at Sitka and Cordova.

USS Buffalo at Mare Island, California loading materials for the expedition to Alaska radio stations. 1914 NHC Accession #: UA 557

USS Buffalo at Mare Island, California loading materials for the expedition to Alaska radio stations. 1914 NHC Accession #: UA 557

Dressed with flags at Kodiak, Alaska, on 4 July 1914, during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition. Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105444-A

Dressed with flags at Kodiak, Alaska, on Independence Day 1914, during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition. Note her extensive away boats. Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105444-A

At the naval coaling station at Sitka, Alaska, in October or late September 1914. During the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105470

At the naval coaling station at Sitka, Alaska, in October or late September 1914. During the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105470

Teddy, a ship's mascot, on the ship's forecastle circa mid-1914 during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition. Teddy, probably an Alaskan bear cub, is also shown posing with one of the ship's divisions in Photo # NH 105464. Note the ship's capstain in the background. Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105596.

Teddy, a ship’s mascot, on the ship’s forecastle circa mid-1914 during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition. Teddy, probably an Alaskan bear cub, is also shown posing with one of the ship’s divisions in Photo # NH 105464. Note the ship’s capstain in the background. Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105596.

When World War I broke out, Buffalo transported the U.S. diplomatic mission to Russia’s Provisional Government after the fall of the Tsar in 1917 and was then refitted as a destroyer tender (AD-8), serving in Europe until Sept. 1919 when she transitioned to the Pacific, serving in China and Japan until 1922.

On 12 November 1918 in European waters wearing pattern camouflage paint. Photographed by E. J. Kelty. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56642

On 12 November 1918 in European waters wearing pattern camouflage dazzle paint. Note her masts have been enhanced. Photographed by E. J. Kelty. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56642

At Gibraltar circa December 1918, with USS Schley (Destroyer No. 103 ) alongside and the collier USS Jupiter (Fuel Ship No. 3) in the background. Note that Schley is still wearing pattern camouflage, while Buffalo has been repainted into overall grey. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56643

At Gibraltar circa December 1918, with USS Schley (Destroyer No. 103 ) alongside and the collier USS Jupiter (Fuel Ship No. 3) in the background. Note that Schley is still wearing pattern camouflage, while Buffalo has been repainted from the image above into overall grey. Also, of interest, Jupiter with her distinctive transfer stations, would go on to become USS Langley CV-1. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 56643

At Villefranche on the French Mediterranean coast in late 1918 or early 1919. Donation of Captain Stephen S. Roberts, USNR (Retired), 2008. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105907

Now all gray. At Villefranche on the French Mediterranean coast in late 1918 or early 1919. Donation of Captain Stephen S. Roberts, USNR (Retired), 2008. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 105907

The ship's baseball team ashore in the Azores in March 1919. Photographed by St. Jacques. Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 94998

The ship’s baseball team ashore in the Azores in March 1919. Photographed by St. Jacques. Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 94998

No longer useful, the aging steamer was decommissioned on 15 November 1922 at San Diego. She was used as a barracks ship until stricken from the Navy List on 27 May 1927. She was sold four months later for scrap. It is not believed that any artifacts remain from her although I would like to hope that some museum in Brazil has her Dynamite Gun in a dusty back room.

As for her merchant sisters turned SpAmWar auxiliary cruisers: El Sud/USS Yosemite hunted down the Spanish steamer Antionio Lopez during the war and was scuttled after being wrecked in a storm in 1900; El Norte/USS Yankee was very active off Cuba and survived as a Naval Militia training ship until she ran aground on Spindle Rock near Hen and Chickens lightship in 1908; and El Rio/USS Dixie (AD-1) gave her full measure as a warship then training ship and finally the Navy’s first official destroyer tender before she was sold for scrapping in 1922– meaning El Cid/Nictheroy/Buffalo was the last survivor of her class.

Specs:

DYnamite cruiser Nichteroy.
Displacement: 7,080 tons (6,635 t)
Length: 406 ft. 1 in (123.77 m)
Beam: 48 ft. 3 in (14.71 m)
Draft: 20 ft. 8 in (6.30 m)
Propulsion
Coal fired boilers
Steam turbine
Single propeller
Speed: Designed for 17 knots, made 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h; 16.7 mph) in Naval service with armament.
Complement: A figure of 350 officers and enlisted given for Brazilian service. In U.S. service this was reduced to as little as 150 by 1898 and to >50 before 1909.
Armament:
(Brazil, 1893)
1×15 inch Dynamite Gun
1x 4.7-inch (120mm) rapid-fire single mount
2 4 inch (100mm) mounts
8 6-pounders
9 1-pounders
2 37mm revolving cannon
4 torpedo tubes
(US, 1898)
2x 5 in (130 mm) guns
4x 4 in (100 mm) guns
(*Disarmed by 1909 though her 5 inchers may have been removed by 1900)

*In 1917 she probably was rearmed, most likely with a few 3″/23 cal mounts and 6-pdrs though I cannot confirm this.

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