Tag Archives: coal fired ironclad

Well that’s something you don’t see everyday

Looks like the “Mighty T” made it to Galveston, where she is undergoing repairs in dry dock for the first time in 32 years.

Early Wednesday morning, USS Texas (Battleship No. 35) was pulled out of her traditional berth into the Houston Ship Channel and was guided by the tugs Cecile M, Wesley A, Dolphin, and Audrey while the 87-foot patrol boat USCGC Hawk (WPB-87355) stood guard. She completed her stately 10-hour transit at 15:57– America’s oldest (and only) sea-going battleship!

Law enforcement boat crews protect the battleship USS Texas as pilot boat crews tow the historic ship down the Houston Ship Channel near Baytown, Texas, Aug. 31, 2022. The USS Texas moved from the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte, Texas, to a dry dock in Galveston, Texas, where it will undergo extensive hull repairs. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corinne Zilnicki)

Pilot boat crews tow the battleship USS Texas down the Houston Ship Channel near Baytown, Texas, on Aug. 31, 2022. The USS Texas moved from the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte, Texas, to a dry dock in Galveston, Texas, where it will undergo extensive hull repairs. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corinne Zilnicki)

“Today’s successful transit of the battleship Texas was a historic, monumental event only possible with planning and partnerships throughout the port community,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jason Smith, captain of the port and commander of Sector Houston-Galveston. “Long before today’s event, the Battleship Texas Foundation and Valkor worked closely with naval architects from Resolve Marine and the Coast Guard’s Salvage Engineering Response Team to ensure a sound transit plan. Coast Guard crews partnered with local pilot associations and various other maritime law enforcement agencies to protect both the battleship and our waterways throughout the transit. As we say in the maritime community for a job well done, Bravo Zulu to all involved!”

Video of the move via the Battleship Texas Foundation:

Out of the water! USS Texas at Gulf Copper 31 Aug 2022. Note the paravane skeg at the foot of the bow, her 1920s torpedo bulge love handles, and the stabilizer skeg on the latter. Photo by Sam Rossiello Battleship Texas Foundation

Her last yard period was at Todd’s Shipyard, Galveston, from 13 December 1988 to 23 February 1990, where she was extensively reworked in a $14 million effort topside and hull-wise including 235,000 pounds of outer hull plate replaced and 460,000 gallons of additional oil/oily water pumped out. She also had a concrete deck at the time, installed in 1968, that was removed and replaced with 26,660 square feet of 4inch x 4inch x 16foot yellow pine.

USS Texas at the beginning of the 1988-89 yard period

And in a great piece of digital maritime art, Andy Poulastides reworked the Texas image from PO1 Zilnicki into a tribute to Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, circa, 1838.

Vale, Almirante

BAP Almirante Grau of the Peruvian Navy was decommissioned on 26 September 2017. She had been laid down in Holland on 5 September 1939, the same week Hitler marched into Poland, giving her an amazing 78-year career. 

The beautiful De Zeven Provinciën-class light cruiser Hr.Ms. De Ruyter (C 801), who went on to serve the Peruvian Navy as BAP Almirante Grau (CLM-81) until she was retired in 2017, was to be saved as a floating museum, perhaps at the Naval Museum in Callao, but lack of funding and interest derailed that.

The Peruvians put the last all-gun cruiser on active service up for sale for around $1 million back in March, but concerns about asbestos, chemicals dating back to the 1930s, and lead paint made that a non-starter as it would likely cost more to safely dispose of all the bad stuff than her value in recycled materials.

A last-ditch effort by a group of Navy vets in Holland likewise fell through.

This led to a quiet ceremony, attended by a naval band, of the old girl being towed from Lima to undisclosed shipbreakers, likely in India,  for scrapping in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for a final price undisclosed.

The ship last departed from Callao Naval Port in Lima on 8 July. (Photo: Juan Carlos Iglesias Caminati)

She deserved better.

Update: Oryx reported Saturday that Almirante Grau/De Ruyter docked over the weekend in India, completing her final voyage. 

Warship Wednesday, July 20, 2022: Four Stacker Convoy King

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, July 20, 2022: Four Stacker Convoy King

Above we see the stern of the Clemson-class tin can USS McCook (Destroyer # 252), in her second career as the Royal Canadian Navy’s Town-class HMCS St. Croix (I 81), with her White Duster flapping in the windy North Atlantic, likely while on convoy duty in 1942. Note her Q.F. 12-pdr. (12-cwt.) gun over the stern with ready rounds in the rack and splinter mats rigged for a modicum of protection. While McCook had a quiet life in her stint with the U.S. Navy, St. Croix throughout her work with the RCN would log time with 28 convoys and bust two of Donitz’s U-boats– not bad for a second-hand “four piper.”

One of the massive fleets of 156 Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, McCook came too late to help lick the Kaiser. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War.

At 1,200 tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

Inboard and outboard profiles for a U.S. Navy Clemson-class destroyer, in this case, USS Doyen (DD-280)

Carrying a legacy

Our vessel laid down at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp in Quincy, Massachusetts in September 1918, was the first named in honor of CDR Roderick S. McCook, USN. The Ohio-born McCook was appointed a Mid in 1854 at age 15 and gave 28 years to the Navy, including service on the steam frigate USS Minnesota, the gunboat USS Stars and Stripes, and as XO of the monitor USS Canonicus during the Civil War, distinguishing himself in the latter during the assaults on Fort Fisher to the special thanks of Congress and ADM Porter.

CDR Roderick S. McCook, USN. Promoted to commander on 25 September 1873, McCook died in 1886. NH 47933

U.S. Navy Service

McCook commissioned on 30 April 1919 and, following her shakedown on the East Coast, was folded into the rapidly-shrinking Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet. She soon shipped out for Europe at a time when the U.S. was heavily involved in shaping the post-Great War redrawing of the map of that continent and the ensuing cycles of revolution, civil war, and nationalist uprisings.

USS McCook (Destroyer # 252) Dressed in flags in a European port, circa 1919. Photographed by R.E. Wayne (# J-50). NH 46470.

Wicks-class destroyer USS Gridley (DD-92) and USS McCook (DD-252) in Venice during 1919. From the John Dickey collection, via Navsource.

Once Europe began to quiet down, and the Roaring 20s set in, the Navy found McCook (as well as many other tin cans) surplus to its immediate needs, and she was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 30 June 1922 at laid up.

Her entire active USN service would run 1,157 days– barely enough to get her hull dirty.

View of the Reserve Fleet Basin of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard circa the early 1920s. Visible ships include (left to right): the destroyers USS McCook (DD-252) and USS Benham (DD-49). U.S. Navy photo S-574-M.

Headed to serve the King

With Europe again at war, on 2 September 1940, FDR signed the so-called Destroyers for Bases Agreement that saw a mix of 50 (mostly mothballed) Caldwell (3), Wickes (27), and Clemson (20)-class destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy in exchange for limited basing rights on nine British overseas possessions. Canada would receive seven of these ships including two Clemsons: McCook and her sister USS Bancroft (DD-256).

In respect of Canada’s naming tradition for destroyers, all seven RCN flush deckers were named for Canadian rivers, ideally, those that ran in conjunction with the U.S. border, a nice touch. McCook, therefore, became HCMS St. Croix, so named after the river on the Maine/New Brunswick border, while Bancroft became HMCS St. Francis after the Rivière Saint-François which makes up part of the Maine/Quebec line.

Sailed by scratch USN crews from Philadelphia, McCook was handed over at Halifax on 24 September in a batch of five destroyers.

Transfer of U.S. destroyers to the Royal Navy in Halifax, Sept 1940. Wickes-class destroyers USS Buchanan (DD-131), USS Crowninshield (DD-134), and USS Abel P. Upshur (DD-193) are in the background. The sailors are examining a 4-inch /50 deck gun. Twenty-three Wickes-class destroyers were transferred to the RN, along with four to the RCN, in 1940 under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3199286)

HCMS St. Croix passed through the anti-submarine gates at Halifax, before receiving her camouflage.

Made ready for local patrol, she joined her first convoy, the Halifax-to-Liverpool HX 080, on 12 October– just 18 days after she was handed over. The seas were not kind to the small destroyer.

A battered HCMS St. Croix enters Halifax Harbor on 18 Dec 1940 after enduring a powerful North Atlantic storm. This photograph shows some of the damage inflicted on the ship, including guardrails hanging over the ship’s side (center) and broken windows on the ship’s bridge (top center). Less visible but more serious storm damage included bent steel plating on the bridge and below-deck flooding caused by massive waves. The photograph also emphasizes the ship’s narrow hull, which contributed to its instability in heavy seas and to poor handling. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 19900085-1040

As part of the handover, some systems and armament were changed out, after all, McCook had been laid up since 1922 and was all-Yank. Ultimately, three of her four triple-packed torpedo turnstiles were landed as was the aft 4-inch gun, the latter replaced by a British 12-pounder. She also eventually picked up a couple light AAA guns, depth charge racks, British radar (Type 273), medium-frequency direction finders (MF/DF), ASDIC, and depth charge throwers. At least one boiler was removed to increase fuel capacity.

Unidentified personnel manning a four-inch gun aboard HCMS St. Croix at sea, March 1941. LAC 3567312

Manning a .50-caliber water-cooled AAA mount aboard HCMS St. Croix at sea, March 1941. LAC 3571062.

Once modified and updated, she was sent for work with convoys between St Johns and Iceland by April 1941, joining troopship Convoy TC 10.

In October 1941, while part of ON 019A, St. Croix picked up 34 survivors from the Dutch merchant Tuva that was torpedoed and sunk the previous day by the German U-boat U-575 southwest of Iceland.

HCMS St. Croix (Canadian destroyer, 1940) taken circa 1941, at Reykjavik, Iceland. Note camouflage. NH 49941

HMCS St Croix (ex-USS McCook, DD-252) underway circa 1942 via Navsource

On 24 July 1942, while part of the outbound ON 113 convoy from Liverpool to Halifax, St. Croix, under command of 40-year-old LCDR Andrew Hedley Dobson, RCNR, she depth-charged U-90 (Kptlt. Hans-Jürgen Oldörp) to the bottom east of Newfoundland after the boat had attacked her convoy the day before. The U-boat took all 44 of her crew with her on her final dive, now 80 years ago this week.

Commodore L.W. Murray congratulated the Ship’s Company of HCMS St. Croix for sinking the German submarine U-90 on 24 July. St. John’s, Newfoundland, 29 July 1942. LAC 3231215

St. Croix’s crew gathered around her sole remaining set of torpedo tubes during the pier side celebration after sinking the U-90. Note the depth charges to the right. LAC 3231215

Dobson would earn the Distinguished Service Cross on 25 November 1942 for the U-90 sinking. He was still in command when she shared a second submarine kill with the Flower-class corvette HMCS Shediac (K100), against U-87 (Kptlt. Joachim Berger) off the Iberian coast on 4 March 1943 as part of Convoy KMS 10. A killer, U-87 had accounted for 5 Allied merchant ships (38,014 tons) before Shediac/St. Croix would end her budding career.

Speaking of endings, in the spirit of living and dying by the sword in epic proportions, St. Croix would come under the sights of Kptlt. Rudolf Bahr’s U-305 while escorting convoy ON-202 southwest of Iceland on the night of 20 September 1943. One of the first victims of the newly developed Gnat acoustic torpedo, she took three hits from the weapon and sank in the freezing waters in six minutes.

In all, she had served the RN/RCN for just 1,091 days, two months shy of her USN career.

After surviving 13 hours afloat, some five officers and 76 men who had survived St. Croix’s loss were picked up by the River-class frigate HMS Itchen (K 227) the next morning only to have that ship sunk by a Gnat fired from U-666 on 23 September. A single member of St. Croix’s crew, Stoker William Fisher, survived his second sinking in 72 hours. He was rescued by a Polish merchant ship, the Wisla, along with two men of the Itchen.

As noted by the Canadian War Museum, “St. Croix’s loss was felt nationwide because the crew, as on many Canadian ships, was drawn from across the country.”

For what it is worth, U-666, the slayer of HMS Itchen, the event that also claimed 80 of St. Croix’s waterlogged and traumatized crew, would meet her end in 1944 at the hands of 842 Sqn Swordfish of the British escort carrier HMS Fencer, with all hands lost. The Battle of the Atlantic was unforgiving no matter the flag.

Epilogue

All 2,852 Canadian and Newfoundland sailors and soldiers lost at sea in WWII were added to the Great War’s Halifax Memorial at Point Pleasant Park in 1966. RCN vessels and visiting warships render honors when passing the memorial in daylight.

Halifax Memorial

St. Croix’s lost crew is chronicled in a page at For Posterity’s Sake. 

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Notably, the other Clemson-class RCN Four-Stacker, HMCS St. Francis (ex-USS Bancroft) who sailed as escort to 20 convoys and engaged the enemy on five occasions somehow managed to survive the conflict.

Those remaining Clemsons not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield was decommissioned on 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap on 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the U.S. Navy.

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

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

Few elements of the first USS McCook— or the first HMCS St. Croix— remain today other than engineering documents in the National Archives.

St. Croix is remembered in maritime art.

“HMCS St. Croix and U-Boat in North Atlantic” by Ronald Weyman. Canadian War Museum Beaverbrook Collection of War Art CWM 19710261-5628. Weyman served aboard the St. Croix as a naval gunnery officer and only narrowly missed being on the ship when she was sunk and later went on to become an award-winning film and television director and producer after the war. His artwork likely depicts the moment U-90 was sunk on July 24, 1942.

A well-done scale model of HMCS St. Croix is on display at The Military Museums in Calgary along with photos of her service.

(Credit: Naval Museum Assoc. of Alberta via The Military Museums).

Meanwhile, the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum has an exhibit that includes letters from Stoker Fisher, St. Croix’s sole survivor.

The U.S. Navy quickly reused the McCook name in WWII, christening in April 1942 the Gleaves-class destroyer DD-496 (later DMS-46), sponsored by Mrs. Reed Knox, granddaughter of CDR McCook.

Commissioned on 15 March 1943, McCook received three battle stars for World War Il service, all in the ETO. Sent to the Pacific post-war, she was laid up in 1949 at San Diego then at Bremerton before being sent to the breakers in 1973. She was the last USS McCook.

The Canadians likewise commissioned a second St. Croix, a Restigouche-class destroyer (DDE 256) built in the 1950s in Quebec. The Cold Warrior was a big part of the RCN’s ASW plans until paid off early in 1974 due to constrained defense budgets as part of that grinning fool Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal/socialist policies.

The beautiful HMCS St. Croix (DDE 256). She was laid up in 1974, just 18 years after joining the fleet, and was sold in 1991 for scrapping. CFB Esquimalt Museum photo.

Perhaps the RCN could do with a third St. Croix.

Specs:

HMCS St. Croix plan and elevation by LB Jenson

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
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 knots
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:

(1920)
4 x 4″/51 cal guns
1 x 3″/23 cal AAA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)


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Warship Wednesday, July 6, 2022: Dispatches from the New Navy

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, July 6, 2022: Dispatches from the New Navy

Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 69187

Above we see the one-of-a-kind steel-hulled dispatch boat USS Dolphin (later PG-24) off New York City, about 1890. Note the Statue of Liberty in the right background. A controversial warship when she first appeared, she later proved to have a long and star-studded career.

Dolphin was part of the famed “ABCD” ships, the first modern steel-hulled warships of the “New Navy” ordered in the early 1880s along with the protected cruisers USS Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago. While the ABC part of this quartet was built to fight, running 3,200 tons in the case of Atlanta and Boston and 4,500 tons for Chicago, with as much as 4-inches of armor plate and a total of eight 8-inch, 20 6-inch, and two 5-inch guns between them, Dolphin was, well, a lot less of a bruiser.

Laid down on 11 October 1883 as an unarmored cruiser by John Roach and Sons, Chester, PA, Dolphin hit the scales at just 1,485 tons with a length of 256 feet (240 between perpendiculars). Her armament was also slight, with a single 6″/30 Mark 1 (serial no. 1), three 6-pounders, four 3-pounders, and two Colt Gatling guns.

6″/30 (15.2 cm) Mark I gun on the protected cruiser USS Atlanta circa 1895. Note three-motion breech mechanism and Mark 2, Muzzle Pivot Mount inclined mounting. Dolphin was to carry one of these, but it wasn’t to be. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-USZ62-60234

However, although all the ABC cruisers would successfully carry 6″/30s along with their other wild mix of armament, it was soon seen that Dolphin was too light for the piece and she transitioned to two 4″/40 (10.2 cm) Mark 1 pieces as her main armament.

Equipped with four (two double-ended and two single-ended) boilers trunked through a centerline stack pushing a single 2,253ihp vertical compound direct-acting engine on a centerline shaft, she also had a three-mast auxiliary sail rig, a hermaphrodite pattern carried by all the ABCD ships. With everything lit and a clean hull, it was thought she could make 17 knots on a flat sea, something that was thought to equal 15 knots in rough conditions.

Brooklyn, NY. Dock No 2 with USS Dolphin (dispatch boat) showing her hull shape, masts, stack, and screw. USN 902198

Unofficial plans, USS Dolphin, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. By Deutsch Lith and Ptg Co., Photo-Lith, Balto. NH 70119

However, in the spring and summer of 1885, the ship was the subject of much controversy. The first of the ABCD ships nearing completion, she could not make her target speed under any condition, barely hitting 14 knots, and incapable of sustaining that for over six hours. Meanwhile, the Herreshoff-built steam yacht Stiletto was hitting 24.8 knots and the Cunard steamship Etruria was logging over 19 sustained across a 72-hour period.

That, coupled with the issue of armament, led to a special board directed by President Chester A. Arthur’s SECNAV Bill Chandler to inspect and evaluate Dolphin, which was accordingly reclassified as a dispatch boat rather than a cruiser.

A subsequent board formed by President Cleveland’s incoming SECNAV William C. Whitney, consisting of Capt. George E. Belknap, Commanders Robley D. Evans, William T. Sampson, and Caspar F. Goodrich (all of which became famed admirals); Naval Constructor Francis Bowles, and one Mr. Herman Winters, was formed to criticize the first board later that fall, and by early 1886 it was deemed Dolphin had caulking and planking issues, a few defective steel trusses, and her plant was never able to make the designed 2,300 hp on her original boilers. Further, it was thought her powerplant and battery were too exposed to any sort of fire to be effective in combat.

The papers were filled with drama, with the New York Times archives holding dozens of stories filed on the subject that year.

“Cruelty” Dolphin: “What! go to sea, Secretary Whitney! Why, that might make me seasick!'”– says the caption of this Thomas Nast cartoon published in Harper’s weekly, satirizing the mediocre performance during sea trials of the USS Dolphin, one of four vessels ordered by Congress in 1883 to rebuild a United States Navy that was in disrepair. Secretary of the Navy William Whitney refused to accept the new ship, setting off a well-publicized political controversy and eventually driving the shipbuilder into bankruptcy. Via the NYPL collection.

“John Roach’s little miscalculation” Illustration shows Secretary of the Navy, William C. Whitney, handing a boat labeled “Dolphin” to James G. Blaine who shies away, refusing to accept it; in the background, John Roach, a contractor, who built the ship “Dolphin”, is crying because the Cleveland administration has voided his contract. Published in Puck, May 20, 1885, cover. Art by Joseph Ferdinand Keppler. Via LOC

Completed on 23 July 1884, Dolphin was only commissioned on 8 December 1885, while the Navy would work out her issues and pass on her lessons learned to the other new steel warships being built.

Notably, her skipper during this period was Capt., George Dewey (USNA 1858), later to become the hero of Manila Bay.

The first of the vessels of the “New Navy” to be completed, Dolphin was assigned to the North Atlantic Station, cruising along the eastern seaboard until February 1886 when it was deemed, she was ready to undertake longer runs, embarking in a stately three-year, 58,000-mile deployment and circumnavigation of the globe under CDR George Francis Faxon Wilde (USNA 1865). America had to show off her new warship via foreign service.

Accordingly, as noted by DANFS, “she then sailed around South America on her way to the Pacific Station for duty. She visited ports in Japan, Korea, China, Ceylon, India, Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Spain, and England, and the islands of Madeira and Bermuda, before arriving at New York on 27 September 1889 to complete her round-the-world cruise.”

USS Dolphin, some of the ship’s officers, with a monkey mascot, circa 1889, likely picked up on the way round the globe. Odds are the officer holding him is CDR George Francis Faxon Wilde. Decorated as a midshipman at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Wilde would go on to command the monitor USS Katahdin, the cruiser USS Boston during the Span Am War, and the battleship USS Oregon then retire in 1905 as head of the Boston Navy Yard. NH 54538

This trip, with the ship proving her worth, led to her appearing in the periodicals of the day in a much more impressive take. 

Dispatch-vessel Dolphin from The Illustrated London News 1891

Harpers Weekly cover USS Dolphin

Harper’s Weekly January 1886 USS Dolphin in sails

By the time she arrived back home, the Navy’s other steel ships were reaching the fleet and they all became part of the new “Squadron of Evolution.”

USS Dolphin (1885-1922); USS Atlanta (1886-1912); and USS Chicago (1889-1935) off New York City, about 1890. NH 69190

As with most Naval vessels of the era, Dolphin would spend her career in and out of commission, being laid up in ordinary and reserve on no less than three times between 1891 and 1911, typically for about a year or so. Today the Navy still conducts the same lengthy yard periods but keeps the vessels in commission.

In April 1891, Dolphin was detached from the Squadron of Evolution and the Navy made $40,000 available for her cabins to be refitted to assume the task of Presidential yacht from the older USS Despatch, a much smaller (560 ton) vessel that was in poor condition.

She would continue this tasking off and on mixed with yearly fleet exercises and experiments for the rest of her career.

Speaking to the latter, in April 1893, she embarked pigeons from the Naval Academy lofts, the Washington Navy Yard’s loft in Richmond, and of Philadelphia Navy Yard then released them while steaming off Hampton Roads. The birds all made it back to their nests, covering 98 miles, 212, and 214 miles, respectively, delivering short messages penned by the daughter of SECNAV Hilary A. Herbert.

The same year, she took part in the bash that was the Columbian Naval Review in New York, where Edward H. Hart of the Detriot Post Card Co. captured several striking views of her with her glad rags flying.

Dolphin LC-D4-8923

Dolphin LC-D4-20362

LC-D4-20364

In 1895, she carried out a survey mission to Guatemala

She carried President William McKinley and his party to New York for the ceremonies at Grant’s Tomb on 23 April 1897.

Grant Tomb dedication, 1897: View of Grant’s tomb, Claremont Heights, New York City, in the background, and the USS Dolphin and tugboats in the foreground. J.S. Johnston, view & marine photo, N.Y. LOC LC-USZ62-110717

Then came war.

1898!

In ordinary when the USS Maine blew up in Havanna, Dolphin recommissioned on 24 March 1898 just prior to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. She then rushed south to serve on blockade duty off Havana, Cuba, a mission she slogged away on during April and May.

It was during this period she captured the Spanish vessel Lola (31 tons) with a cargo of fish and salt.

She covered her white and buff scheme with a more warlike dark grey. 

U.S. Navy gunboat/dispatch vessel USS Dolphin (PG-24), port bow. Photographed by J.S. Johnston, 1898. LOC Lot-3370-8

USS Dolphin overhauling Schooner Kate [Kate S. Flint] with an unknown young woman in white. Dolphin in distance. Santiago de Cuba. 1898 Stevens-Coolidge Place Collection via Digital Commonwealth/Massachusetts libraries system.

A second view of the same centered on Dolphin.

On 6 June she came under fire from the Morro Battery at Santiago and replied in kind. Less than two weeks later, on 14 June, Dolphin bombarded the Spanish positions in the Battle of Cuzco Well, near Guantanamo Bay, carrying casualties back to the American positions there.

Sent back to Norfolk with casualties, she arrived there on 2 July and the war ended before she could make it back to Cuba.

U.S. Navy dispatch vessel, USS Dolphin, port view with flags. Lot 3000-L-5

Good work if you can get it

Her wartime service completed; Dolphin would spend the next two decades heavily involved in shuttling around dignitaries. This would include:

  • Washington Navy Yard for the Peace Jubilee of 14 May to 30 June 1899.
  • New York for the Dewey celebration of 26 to 29 September 1899.
  • Alexandria, Va., for the city’s sesquicentennial on 10 October 1899.
  • Took the U.S. Minister to Venezuela to La Guaira, arriving in January 1903.
  • From 1903 through 1905 she carried such dignitaries as the Naval Committee, Secretary of the Navy, Admiral and Mrs. Dewey, the Philippine Commissioners, the Attorney General, Prince Louis of Battenberg and his party, and President T. Roosevelt on various cruises.
  • Participating in the interment of John Paul Jones at the Naval Academy, and the departure ceremonies for the Great White Fleet, in 1908.

Early in August 1905, she carried the Japanese peace plenipotentiaries from Oyster Bay, N.Y., to Portsmouth, N.H., to negotiate the settlement of the Russo-Japanese War.

Footage exists of her role in the event.

She also was used in survey work during this time, completing expeditions to Venezuela and the southeast coast of Santo Domingo, in addition to carrying inspection boards to survey coaling stations in the West Indies.

She also had a series of updates. For instance, in 1910, she had her original single/double-ended boilers replaced with cylindrical boilers. In 1911, she had her 6-pounder mounts deleted due to obsolescence, and in 1914 her 4″/40s were removed as well. She also had her masts reconfigured from three to two in the early 1900s.

USS Dolphin steaming alongside USS Maine (BB-10), with the Secretary of the Navy on board, circa 1903-1905. Note she still has her figurehead bow crest. Description: Collection of Mr. & Ms. Joe Cahn, 1990. NH 102421

USS Dolphin docked at the western end of the Washington Navy Yard waterfront, District of Columbia, circa 1901. The view looks north. The old experimental battery building is on the right. NH 93333

USS Dolphin (PG-24) photographed following the reduction of her rig to two masts, during the early 1900s. Note her bowcrest figurehead is now gone. NH 54536

Back to haze grey! USS Dolphin (PG 24), which was used as a dispatch ship of the Naval Review for President William Taft in New York City, New York, on October 14, 1912. Note the battleship lattice masts in the distance and the torpedo boat to the right. Published by Bain News Service. LC-DIG-GGBAIN-10794

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt in the crow’s nest of the dispatch boat USS Dolphin off Old Point Comfort, VA during the Naval review. 10/25/1913. National Archives Identifier: 196066910

ASECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt on the USS Dolphin in 1913, observing gunnery trials of the fleet

USS Dolphin view looking forward from the bridge, taken while the ship was at sea in February 1916. Note ice accumulated on deck and lifelines. The original image is printed on postal card stock. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2005. NH 103039

War (again!)

Sailing from the Washington Navy Yard on 2 April 1917 to take possession of the recently purchased Danish Virgin Islands, four days later, Dolphin received word of the declaration of war between the United States and Germany. Arriving at St. Croix in the now-USVI on 9 April, she would carry the new American Governor-General James Oliver to and St. John on 15 April for a low-key flag-raising ceremony. The islands had initially been handed over in a ceremony on 31 March between the Danish warship Valkyrien and the American gunboat USS Hancock, but Oliver’s arrival on Dolphin sealed the deal.

Remaining in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean region to protect merchant shipping from German raiders and U-boats, Dolphin would pick up a camouflage scheme as she served as flagship for the very motley American Patrol Detachment at Key West, gaining a new 4″/50 gun and depth charges to augment her surviving 6-pounders.

USS Dolphin at Galveston, Texas, 1 March 1919. Photographed by Paul Verkin, Galveston. Note that the ship is still wearing pattern camouflage nearly four months after the World War I Armistice. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. NH 104949

She would remain in her quiet backwater into June 1920, when she was finally recalled to the East Coast and a short overhaul at Boston.

USS Dolphin (PG-24) at dock at Boston Navy Yard, MA, September 1920, back to a grey scheme. She had been designated a Patrol Gunboat, PG-24, 17 July 1920. S-553-J

Now 35 years old and with the Navy in possession of many much finer and better-outfitted vessels, Dolphin would have one last cruise. As the flagship of the Special Service Squadron, she joined the gunboat USS Des Moines (PG-29) in October 1920 to represent the U.S. at the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Straits of Magellan. The next year, she would attend the anniversary of Guatemalan independence.

Dolphin arrived at Boston Navy Yard on 14 October 1921. She was decommissioned on 8 December 1921 and was sold on 25 February 1922 to the Ammunition Products Corp. of Washington, DC. for scrapping. Rumors of her further service in the Mexican navy are incorrect, confusing a former steamer originally named Dolphin for our dispatch ship.

Epilogue

Few relics remain of Dolphin. Like most of the American steel warships, in 1909 she had her ornate bow crest removed and installed ashore. It was photographed in Boston in 1911 and, odds are, is probably still around on display somewhere on the East Coast.

Figurehead, USS Dolphin photographed in the Boston Navy Yard, 15 December 1911. NH 115213.

Her bell popped up on eBay in 2019 with a kinda sketchy story about how it got into civilian hands.

The National Archives has extensive plans on file for her. 

As for her name, the Navy recycled it at least twice, both for submarines: SS-169 and AGSS-555, the former a V-boat that earned two battlestars in WWII and the latter a well-known research boat that served for 38 years– the longest in history for a US Navy submarine.

Speaking of WWII, importantly, between 1915 and 1917, our USS Dolphin’s 18th skipper was one LCDR William Daniel Leahy (USNA 1897) who, interacting with then ASECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt, would become close companions. Although retired after service as CNO in 1939, Leahy would be recalled to service as the personal Chief of Staff to FDR in 1942 and served in that pivotal position throughout World War II. It is rightfully the little dispatch ship’s greatest legacy.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt in conference with General Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Admiral William D. Leahy, while on tour in the Hawaiian Islands., 1944. 80-G-239549

Specs:
Displacement 1,485 t.
Length 256′ 6″
Length between perpendiculars 240′
Beam 32′
Draft 14′ 3″
Speed 15.5 kts.
Complement 117
1910 – 152
1914 – 139
Armament: Two 4″ rapid fires, three 6-pounder rapid-fire guns, four 3-pounder rapid-fire guns, and two Colt machine guns
1911 – Two 4″/40 rapid-fire mounts and five 3-pounder rapid-fire guns
1914 – Six 6-pounder rapid-fire mounts
1921 – One 4″/50 mount and two 6-pounders
Propulsion two double-ended and two single-ended boilers (replaced by cylindrical boilers in 1910), one 2,253ihp vertical compound direct-acting engine, one shaft.


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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Warship Wednesday, June 22, 2022: The Emperor’s Wrath

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 22, 2022: The Emperor’s Wrath

Above we see a WWII-era propaganda image portraying a 1942 bombardment of the U.S. West Coast by a surfaced submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Unlike Italy’s claim of sinking the battleships USS Maryland and Mississippi via the same Atlantic-cruising submarine at around the same period, this actually happened, 80 years ago this week in fact.

Without getting too much into the weeds, in mid-December 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, VADM Mitsumi Shimizu, commander of the Dai-roku Kantai, the fleet containing the Japanese fleet submarine force, ordered nine boats involved in the Hawaii episode– I-9 (flag of Capt. Torajiro Sato, embarked), I-10, I-15, I-17, I-19, I-21, I-23, I-25, and I-26— to proceed to the U.S. mainland and surface on Christmas night to fire 30 shells apiece at selected shore targets in what would have surely been a special gift to America.

Apart from Sato’s ride and I-10 which were specifically built to have headquarters accommodations, all were Type B cruiser submarines. Large boats for the era, the assorted Type Bs went some 2,200 tons and as long as 356 feet overall, capable of hitting as much as 23 knots while carrying up to eight torpedo tubes into battle, thus making them a good match for the American fleet boats of the Gato-class (2,400t; 311 feet; 21 knots, 10 tubes). They had an unrefueled range of over 14,000 nm.

Here we see a World War II U.S. Navy schematic of a Japanese I-15, a Type B1 cruiser submarine. NH 111756

However, unlike the Gatos, the Type Bs could carry a stowed Navy Type 96 Watanabe E9W1 (Allied reporting name Slim) or, more typically, a Yokosuka E14Y2 (Glen) reconnaissance seaplane in a sealed dry dock. They could be made ready for surface launches over the bow and recovered via a desktop-mounted crane.

Yokosuka E14Y Glenn floatplane I-19 a Japanese Type B1 submarine. Nicimo box art

E14Y Type 0 Reconnaissance Seaplane Glen floatplane Japanese ONI221

The stern of the submarines carried a 14 cm/40 (5.5″) 11th Year (1922) Type deck gun, a piece superior to most American submarine guns.

14 cm/40 (5.5″) gun postwar. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

The Japanese completed no less than 29 Type B cruiser submarines in three different generations between 1938 and 1944 and canceled at least 20 others due to a lack of materials and shipyards not on fire.

In the end, Yamamoto put the Christmas raid on hold and the force was recalled home on 27 December. The units were needed as supporting assets for “Operation K” a flying boat attack on Hawaii to bomb Pearl Harbor’s “Ten-Ten Dock” and disrupt ship repair activities. Despite the lofty goal, Op K only resulted in the loss of I-23 with all hands somewhere off the Oahu coast in late February 1942.

Nonetheless, the new year would see several of these boats return on their own to conduct raids via deck gun on the mainland.

I-17

As detailed by RADM Sam Cox’s H-Gram H-010-6 on the matter: 

On 23 February 1942, the Japanese submarine I-17 shelled the Ellwood Oil Field west of Santa Barbara, California, inflicting minor damage (but triggering an invasion scare on the U.S. West Coast, which served as additional pretext for interning Japanese-American U.S. citizens). 

Japanese propaganda postcard depicting the submarine I-17 shelling Ellwood. Japanese captions “Our Submarine bombarding the coast of California” Artwork by Chuichi Mikuriya, Navy Battlefield Artist. Card via the California military museum.

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Feb 1942: Japanese Submarine I-17 bombarded Santa Barbara California. photos by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon

Battle of LA

Cox:

It was followed on the night of 24–25 February by the “Battle of Los Angeles,” in which jittery American anti-aircraft gunners unleashed an intense barrage over the city at non-existent Japanese aircraft, an action “extremely” loosely depicted in the Steven Spielberg/John Belushi movie 1941. In the movie, the submarine that provoked the movie hysteria was the “I-19” which in reality was the floatplane-equipped Japanese submarine that sank the USS Wasp (CV-7) on 15 September 1942.

I-26

On 20 June, I-26 surfaced off Canada’s Pacific Coast and made her gun ready, the first enemy attack on Canadian soil since the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1871.

As noted by Combined Fleet: 

West coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Around 2217 (local), I-26 surfaces five miles off the coast and fires 17 shells (including two exercise rounds filled with sand) from her deck gun at the Hesquiat radio direction finding station. As a result of limited visibility and rough sea, none of the targets is hit. Most 5.5-in shells fall short of the Estevan Point lighthouse or explode nearby; one unexploded round is recovered after the attack and another in June 1973.

“Wireless station and light at Estevan Point shelled by enemy aircraft for 40 minutes commencing at 1025 PM June 20 [1942]. No damage was done except two windows cracked or broken. Station unscathed.”– reported the station’s keeper.

One of the recovered shells from I-26, via LAC

Canadian Naval staff inspects a Japanese shell from Estevan Point, B.C. Photo: Gerald Thomas Richardson.

Estevan Point Lighthouse & Wireless Station on Vancouver Island Photo via BC Archives. Today the Canadian Rangers hold a yearly commemoration on this spot to reinforce their current mission

This brings us to I-25

During the night of 21-22 June 1942, I-25 surfaced near the mouth of the Columbia River and opened fire on what her navigator took from outdated 1920s charts to be an American submarine base that, in fact, was never built. Instead, the rounds by coincidence hit within the campus of Fort Stevens, a U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps installation on the Oregon coast whose grounds dated back to the Civil War.

Fort Steven’s most modern emplacements in WWII were the two shielded 6-inch guns of Battery 245, supported by SCR 296 radar. However, it wasn’t begun until after the raid and was not completed until October 1944. 

Although obsolete– its main guns were 10-inch mortars and 10-inch disappearing guns from the late 19th century, the batteries at Fort Stevens were manned by elements of the 18th Coast Artillery Regiment (Harbor Defense) of the Regular Army and the 249th Coast Artillery Regiment of the Oregon National Guard, the only American Coast Artillery units to ever see combat in CONUS.

As described by the Oregon State Archives: 

Despite the confusion, soldiers at the fort soon manned their guns and searchlights, and lookouts could see the submarine firing in the distance. But the enemy ship was inaccurately determined to be out of range, and the artillerymen never received permission to return fire. The fort’s commander later claimed he didn’t want to give away the precise location of the defenses to the enemy.

The I-25’s shells left craters in the beach and marshland around Battery Russell at the fort, damaging only the backstop of the baseball diamond about 70 to 80 yards from the facility’s big guns. A shell fragment also nicked a power line, causing it to fail later. Casualties amounted to one soldier who cut his head rushing to his battle station. By about midnight the attack ended and the enemy vessel sailed off to the west and north.

While the submarine fired 17 shells, witnesses on land only heard between 9 and 14 rounds. Experts surmised that some shells might have been duds or fallen into the sea. Despite causing no significant damage, the attack certainly raised awareness of the threat of future strikes and went into the history books as the only hostile shelling of a military base on the U.S. mainland during World War II and the first since the War of 1812.

RADM Cox points out, “U.S. shore gunners requested permission to open fire on the submarine, but were denied out of concern that doing so would give away number, position, and capability of U.S. defenses before an actual invasion, thus depriving U.S. coastal artillery of their only opportunity to shoot at a real Japanese ship during the war.”

Crater, Fort Stevens, from I-25. NARA 299678

I-25 bombardment of Fort Stevens, by Richard L. Stark

Within days, the beaches near Fort Stevens were swathed in barbed wire and a defiant sign hung from its camouflaged emplacements.

“To Hell With Hirohito” sign refers to nine misses from I-25. NARA 299671

As I-25 sailed away to end her third war patrol, it would be the last Japanese submarine bombardment of the West Coast.

Epilogue

In a swan song of the Empire’s manned strikes on mainland America, I-25 would return to Oregon on her fourth patrol would launch Warrant Officer Nubuo Fujita and Petty Officer Okuda Shoji in their little Glen floatplane to drop a pair of 170-pound incendiary bombs in the dense forests over the Oregon Mountains near Brookings across two sorties on 9 and 29 September.

Painting of the I-25 launching her E14Y floatplane on a scouting mission, via Combined Fleet

From Combined Fleet:

9 September 1942: The First Bombing of the Continental United States:
25 miles W of the Oregon coast. The sea condition calms. I-25 surfaces just before dawn and the Glen is assembled and readied for the attack. Fujita catapults off at 0535 and drops two incendiary bombs near Mount Emily, but the rain has saturated the woods and renders the bombs ineffective. [7] Fujita heads for I-25. On his way back he spots two merchants steaming N at 12 knots. To avoid detection, I-25 moves NNE.

29 September 1942:
Cdr Tagami makes another attempt to start a forest fire in the Oregon woods. I-25 surfaces after midnight about 50 miles west of Cape Blanco. Fujita’s plane is launched by catapult at 2107 (I). Although the entire western coast of Oregon is blacked out, the Cape Blanco lighthouse is still operating. Using that light to navigate, Fujita flies east over the coast and drops his bombs. At least one starts a fire; however, it goes out before US Forest Service foresters can reach it. The bombing is unsuccessful. On his way back, Fujita manages to find his sub by following an oil slick. During the following days, the rough sea and heavy mist permitted no further attacks.

In the end, of the boats that had been detailed by VADM Shimizu to shell America on Christmas 1941, all were sent to the bottom long before VJ Day.

The war was not kind when it came to Japanese submariners:

  • I-9 was sunk in June 1943 northwest of Kiska– killed in American waters– by the destroyer USS Frazier (DD-607).
  • I-10 was lost in 1944 during her seventh war patrol, sunk on Independence Day by the greyhounds USS Riddle (DE-185) and USS David W. Taylor (DD-551).
  • I-15 was sunk off San Cristobol on 2 November 1942 by the destroyer USS McCalla (DD-488).
  • I-17, the Santa Barbara raider, was sunk by the New Zealand trawler Tui and two U.S. Navy aircraft off Noumea on 19 August 1943.
  • I-19 sank the carrier Wasp but was later sent to the bottom west of Makin Island by the destroyer USS Radford (DD-446) on 25 November 1943.
  • I-21 disappeared in November 1943, off the Gilbert Islands.
  • I-23 likewise vanished, as mentioned above, while on Operation K.
  • I-25, the main subject of our tale, was sunk by American destroyers (with four possibly getting licks in) on 25 August 1943 off the New Hebrides.
  • I-26, who had bombarded Canada, created a five-Gold-Star mother with the sinking of the cruiser USS Juneau, and holed the carrier Saratoga, was herself Deep Sixed in the Philippines in late October 1944, her final grave unknown.

Even Capt. Torajiro Sato, “the pride of the submarine units,” who had been detailed to command the Christmas 1941 mass bombardment, was killed while commanding the Sendai-class light cruiser Jintsu during the Battle of Kolombangara in July 1943. In death, he was promoted to rear admiral.

The Dai-roku Kantai’s 1941-42 commander, submarine big boss VADM Mitsumi Shimizu, was reassigned after his units’ lackluster performance during that period to head the Home Islands-bound 1st Fleet, which largely consisted of battleships that drank too much oil to be risked in combat until the final Mahanan fleet action that never really came. Even from this caretaker task, he was soon cashiered in late 1943 when the Nagato-class battlewagon Mutsu spectacularly detonated her No. 3 turret magazine while swaying in the Hashirajima fleet anchorage with a loss of over 1,100 irreplaceable men. Shimizu was in civilian attire months before the end of the war and would pass away quietly in 1971, aged 83.

About the only survivor of note to retain any honor from the whole endeavor was Warrant Officer Nubuo Fujita, the pilot of I-25’s Glen. Saved from going down on the sub’s seventh and final patrol as he had been detailed to shore duty as a flight instructor, Fujita survived the war just days before he was scheduled to fly out on a one-way kamikaze strike in a decrepit biplane filled with explosives. His crewman from his days on the I-25, Petty Officer Okuda, was not so lucky and never returned home.

The only Japanese pilot to bomb the U.S. mainland became a successful businessman but Fujita’s role in the conflict ate at him and, in agreement with the town of Brookings, Oregon, he returned there in mufti for the city’s 1962 Azalea Festival.

At the event, he formally handed over his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword— one of the few allowed to be retained by the post-WWII Japanese government. Brookings hailed Mr. Fujita an ”ambassador of goodwill” and proclaimed him an ”honorary citizen” of the town.

Fujita would ultimately return to Brookings three times and was a good sport about it, eating a submarine sandwich (complete with a floatplane pickle garnish) prepared for him in 1990, planting redwood seedlings two years later in the forests he firebombed during the war, and briefly taking the stick of a Cessna while flying over the coastline he first crossed back in September 1942.

He would pass in 1997 of lung cancer, aged 85. In compliance with his wishes, some of his ashes were spread on the crater outside of Brookings on Mount Emily in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest that he created.

The Fujita sword is on display at the Chetco Public Library located at 405 Alder Street in Brookings. 

Nobuo Fujita’s family sword, the only weapon still in existence that flew over the mainland USA during WWII in the hands of an enemy pilot. (Photo: Oregon Pubic Broadcasting)

A good children’s book on Fujita is Thirty Minutes Over Oregon by Marc Nobleman.

As for other relics of I-25’s actions in Oregon, local markers abound.

Japanese Bombardment Marker

For more on the Japanese submarine campaign of 1942, read Bert Webber’s excellent Retaliation: Japanese Attacks and Allied Countermeasures on the Pacific coast in World War II

 


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

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Warship Wednesday, June 15, 2022: Torpedoed…Again?

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 15, 2022: Torpedoed…Again?

Above we see a tow line to the British Town-class light cruiser HMS Liverpool (C11) during Operation Harpoon, one of the Allied convoys desperately raced in a pincer movement to supply besieged Malta in the Axis-dominated central Mediterranean, now some 80 years ago this week. While the damage to Liverpool, a cruiser that is shown listing and billowing black smoke, looks bad, she had already toughed out worse during the war and would come back to serve again.

In the mid-1930s, the British didn’t have a shortage of cruisers, as for generations they had kept large numbers of the type around to police their global Empire and sea lanes in the event of war. The thing is, in a “modern problems require modern solutions” situation was the appearance of very large “light” cruisers (under 10,000 tons, guns smaller than 8-inch bore) such as the four Japanese Mogami class (“8,500” declared tons, 15×6-inch guns, 5 inches of armor) and their American echo, the nine Brooklyn-class (9,500 tons, 15×6-inch guns, 5.5 inches of armor) cruisers, the Admiralty decided they needed something like Mogami/Brooklyn of their own.

As Richard Worth put it, “Aware of Japanese and American decisions to build large light cruisers, the British reluctantly admitted their ships had begun to look puny. Arethusa [the best Royal Navy light cruiser of the day, at some 5,200-tons and carrying just a half dozen 6-inch guns] had a broadside of 672 pounds while Brookly had one of 1,950 pounds.”

This led to the eight original Southampton or “Town” class light cruisers, all named after large cities (Southampton, Glasgow, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle, Gloucester, Liverpool, and Manchester) in the UK. Designed at 9,100 tons– a figure that would balloon over 12,000 during WWII– and 591-feet long overall, the class was intended to carry a full dozen 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIII guns in four triple turrets, allowing a 1,344-pound broadside. To this were added eight 4-inch guns and two triple torpedo tube launchers.

The class’s circa 1939 layout via the 1946 ed of Janes. The class had a 3-to-4-inch side belt, about half that thickness on the turrets, and 4 inches on the CT so, while an answer to the Mogami/Brooklyn, they didn’t have quite as many guns or as much hull structure and steel plate.

Stern Mark XXII turrets on classmate HMS Sheffield after she had sunk the German tanker Friederich Breme in the North Atlantic on 12 June 1941. The cylinders are empty propellant canisters. As noted by Navweaps, Tony DiGiulian describes the 6″/50 Mark XXIII as, “A reliable weapon, although somewhat obsolescent in its use of bag ammunition, manual ramming, and manually-operated breech mechanism.” IWM photograph A 4401.

The latter three of the class– Gloucester, Liverpool, and Manchester— were modified slightly while under construction, adding improved armor protection and fire control systems. Two further half-sisters, Edinburgh, and Belfast, ordered in 1939, continued with the up-armoring trend, adding steel plate to the point that it made up some 18 percent of their displacement, the best British light cruisers in terms of armor. They would need them as the British would use the Towns in much the same role as they did their beefier County-class heavy cruisers which went about 40 feet longer and 2,000 tons heavier.

As with the contemporary light cruisers of the day, the Towns were fitted with extensive aviation facilities and could carry a trio of Supermarine Walrus flying boats.

Supermarine Walrus floatplane being catapulted from a Town Class Light Cruiser, HMS Edinburgh, during a Mediterranean Convoy. Aug 1941

Liverpool, the eighth such ship in the RN to carry the name since 1741, was ordered in March 1935 from Fairfield SB at Govan, Glasgow as part of the 1935 Estimates and laid down on 17 February 1936. The Liverpool immediately prior was a 4,800-ton Great War light cruiser that served off West Africa and in the Adriatic and Aegean during WWI before heading to the breakers in 1921.

NH 59874 HMS LIVERPOOL (British Cruiser, 1909)

Commissioned 2 November 1938, the 9th Liverpool visited her namesake town and shipped out for the East Indies and China stations, joining the 5th Cruiser Squadron at the latter just before WWII broke out.

Her initial taskings included working out of Aden on the hunt for German raiders and blockade runners in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean before moving to Hong Kong just before Christmas 1939 to continue interception duty.

On 21 January 1940, Liverpool intercepted the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) (Japan Mail Steam Ship Co. Ltd) liner Asama Maru off Japan just 35 miles off Tokyo Bay’s Nozaki Lighthouse, during the liner’s final leg of a scheduled run from San Francisco for Yokohama. Although she would later be requisitioned by the IJN in 1941 and converted to a troopship, at the time Liverpool boarded her, Asama Maru was still a commercial ship under a neutral flag operating in her home waters.

As noted by Combined Fleet:

At 1315, Captain Read sends a boarding party armed with pistols. The British officer in charge explains to Captain Watabe that it will be necessary to take 21 German passengers as prisoners of war. At 1435, the boarding party leaves the ship with the Germans, all former officers or technicians discharged from Standard Oil tankers. At 1440, HMS LIVERPOOL signals “Proceed”. Shortly after nightfall ASAMA MARU arrives at Yokohama. LIVERPOOL takes the Germans to Hong Kong.

The resulting public indignation felt in Japan over the high-handed incident further strained relations between London and Tokyo, which of course would erupt in open warfare the next year.

Transferred to the Red Sea Force by April, Liverpool would work alongside HMAS Hobart and support operations around the Horn of Africa.

The Med!

By June 1940, Liverpool would enter the Med, where things, since the Italians had entered the war, had really gotten interesting. Attached to the 7th Cruiser Squadron, before the month was out she had bombarded the Italians at Tobruk, where she scrapped with shore batteries and sank the minesweeper, Giovanni Berta, then fought a surface action off Zante on the 27th where she sent the Italian Turbine-class destroyer Espero (1,700 tons) to the bottom and damaged two others, catching a 4.7-inch shell hit during the latter fight.

The Italian minesweeper Triglia was later reclassified gunboat and rechristened Giovanni Berta, at La Spezia in 1933; she was the first Italian warship to be sunk in action during WWII at Tobruk, on 12 June 1940, shattered by 6-inch shells from HMS Liverpool.

July 1940 also proved hectic, with Liverpool covering British convoys between Alexandria and Greek Aegean ports, suffering through repeated air attacks from land-based bombers (coming away with damage twice), escaping further damage during the confusing Battle of Calabria, and ending the month assigned to 3rd Cruiser Squadron, under much-needed repair.

Emerging from the dockyard at Alexandria at the end of August, Liverpool was soon back in the thick of it, accompanying the battleships HMS Valiant, Malaya, Ramillies, and Warspite as well as the carriers HMS Illustrious and Eagle in operations ranging from the Dodecanese Rhodes to Malta throughout September and into October.

Who needs a bow?

It was on 14 October, while retiring from screening Illustrious and Eagle during air attacks on the Greek island of Leros (a place Alistair MacLean would use as the loose basis of “The Guns of Navarone”), Liverpool was the subject of an attack by land-based Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 three-engine torpedo bombers.

The Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero wasn’t much to look at– their crews called them il Gobbo maledetto (“damned hunchback”), but they were maneuverable and effective when modified into torpedo bomber roles, sinking or damaging over 270,000 tons of Allied ships in the Med in 1940-43.

The hit caused a leak of aviation fuel which later ignited after the fumes spread. The resulting detonation caused so much damage in her forward frames that it wrecked the cruiser’s “A” turret and caused her bow to fall off while under tow to Alexandria. In all, the cruiser suffered 65 casualties in the incident.

View of ship’s wrecked forecastle, after the cruiser, was taken under tow. Note wreckage of #1 6″ turret. NH 60360

View of ship’s wrecked forecastle, after the cruiser, was taken under tow. Note wreckage of #1 6″ turret. NH 60361

View of ship’s wrecked taken while under tow. NH 60363

Bow breaking off, after the cruiser had been under tow for Alexandria. NH 60368

Ship’s bow breakage off. NH 60369

Ship’s bow sank after breaking off just forward of “A” turret. NH 60370

Stopped in the Med, with crew members inspecting the damage after the ship’s bow had broken off on 15 October. NH 60371

Ship underway again, after the loss of bow. NH 60372

HMS Liverpool arrives at Alexandria, Egypt, on 16 October for emergency repairs, after being torpedoed by Italian aircraft two days prior. NH 60374

Ship at Alexandria, Egypt, after the action. Description: NH 60373

HMS Liverpool at Alexandria, Egypt, after being torpedoed by Italian Aircraft in October 1940. Note wreckage around #1 6″ turret. NH 60378

HMS Liverpool in dry dock at Alexandria, Egypt, for repairs, of damage inflicted by Italian Torpedo Bombers in October 1940. Most wreckage has been removed before the installation of the temporary bow. NH 60376

Liverpool would remain under repair in Egypt for five months until it was arranged for her to steam, under her own plant, and with her abbreviated temporary bow, on a two-month trip through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and across the Pacific to California. There, in a country still in an uneasy peace, she would be patched up by U.S. Navy workers at the Mare Island Navy Yard with stops at Manila and Pearl Harbor on the way.

She would arrive on 16 June 1941.

HMS Liverpool In dry dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, 26 June 1941, for the repair of damage received in the Mediterranean Sea the previous October. The false bow had been fitted at Alexandria, Egypt, shortly after the cruiser was torpedoed. NH 60379

Back in the fight

With a new bow and extra batteries of 20mm AAA guns, Liverpool would leave Mare Island on 20 November, arriving back in the UK via the Panama Canal by 5 December– just two days before Pearl Harbor. As for Mare Island, they would have a chance to do lots of repair work in the coming days for “the home team.”

HMS Liverpool Underway 28 February 1942 IWM FL 004984

HMS Liverpool wearing camouflage, likely in early 1942

After further outfitting with radar (Type 273 surface warning, Type 281 aircraft warning, Types 284/285 fire control), Liverpool would sail for Scapa Flow on 6 February 1942 for work-ups. By the next month, she would be patrolling the Barents Sea on the lookout for German surface raiders (Tirpitz, anyone) in conjunction with Convoy PQ12 to Murmansk. She would also help screen returning Convoys QP10 and QP12 from Russia and help provide cover for outbound PQ16 into May.

Then, in early June, she was sent back to the Med for a second tour.

SM.79, Part II

In a plan to split German/Italian efforts to interdict British convoys to Malta, the Admiralty in June 1942 hit on the idea to send two at once– from different vectors. This included the Harpoon convoy which would sail West from Gibraltar and the Vigorous convoy which would make the run from Alexandria in the East.

Liverpool would be part of the Force W distant cover group for Harpoon, which had a lot of muscle including the Great War battleship HMS Malaya and the equally old carriers HMS Eagle and Argus, the latter with few aircraft. Rounding out Force W was the cruisers HMS Kenya and Charybdis as well as eight destroyers. Meanwhile, the close escort group, Force X, was made up of the cruiser HMS Cairo and 18 small combatants of which almost half were motor launches.

Departing the Clyde for Gibraltar on 6 June, Harpoon left “The Rock” for Malta on the morning of the 12th, headed eastward at a stately 12 knots in two loose columns, with Liverpool leading the starboard and Kenya the port.

Shadowed immediately by German and Italian aircraft, the pucker factor for the route would be the Skerki Channel in the Sicily-Tunis Narrows, and the first attacks started at 1030 on the 14th. Shortly after, Liverpool would have a chance to do more damage control.

Italian photograph of Town-class cruiser LIVERPOOL falling victim to a torpedo from an SM.79, roughly amidships

As detailed by Uboat.net: 

A much more serious attack followed half an hour later when 28 132º Gruppo SM.79 Savoia torpedo aircraft escorted by 20 Macchi fighters conducted a combined attack with 10 Cant. high level bombers. The Savoia approached from the northward in two waves of equal strength. The first wave came in at 1110 hours and the second soon afterwards. The first wave passed through the destroyer screen at 500 feet above the water, rounded the rear of the convoy, and attacked from the starboard side, splitting into groups before firing. They dropped their torpedoes from a height of 100 feet at a range of 2000 yards. They hit HMS Liverpool, which was leading the starboard column, when she was turning to meet the attack. Also, the Dutch merchant Tanimbar was hit in the rear, and she sank within a few minutes in position 36°58’N, 07°30’E.

HMS Liverpool was hit in the engine room and severely damaged. She could only make 3 to 4 knots on one shaft. She was ordered to return to Gibraltar being towed by the A-class destroyer HMS Antelope (H36) and screened by the destroyer HMS Westcott (D47). A long voyage during which the first 24 hours she was attacked from the air.

At 1640 hours, five CR. 42 fighter-bombers attacked from astern out of the sun, luckily without hitting, though one or two bombs fell close enough to increase the ships list. At 1800 hours, the tow having parted, there was a harmless attempt by eleven high-level bombers followed by an equally harmless attempt by seven torpedo aircraft which were heavily escorted by fighters. The Liverpool and Westcott each claimed to have destroyed a torpedo plane.

At 2015 hours, now once more in tow, fife high-level bombers attacked but their bombs fell wide.

At 2230 hours, six torpedo bombers made a twilight attack from very long range only to lose one of their number to the barrage HMS Liverpool put up.

At 1420 hours on 15 June, three torpedo aircraft made a final unsuccessful attempt to attack HMS Liverpool after which she, HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott were not again molested. That afternoon the tug HMRT Salvonia arrived from Gibraltar, and they took over the tow. Antelope then joined Westcott as A/S screen. With Salvonia also came the A/S trawler HMS Lady Hogarth. HMS Liverpool and her escorts safely arrived at Gibraltar late in the afternoon of the 17th.

Liverpool in dry dock at Gibraltar showing the point of impact of the Italian torpedo

Seriously damaged, Liverpool managed to mount a fighting retreat– by tow– while her crew saved the ship. It proved an example of damage control for the rest of the fleet, one that would come in handy later in the war such as in the Pacific in 1945.

Sidelines

Speaking of the war, Liverpool was so badly smashed up and repair assets so limited that, after temporary patches at Gibraltar, she was sent to HM Dockyard, Rosyth in early August 1942 and would languish there for the next two years as she was slowly rebuilt, a modernization that saw her radars upgraded and her stern “X” turret removed to accommodate more AAA batteries.

The County-class heavy cruiser HMS Berwick, forward, and HMS Liverpool, in dock Liverpool, 1943.

Although she probably could have been sent back to the lines in time to take part in the Normandy or Dragoon landings in France, the Royal Navy was short-staffed, and Liverpool remained in ordinary essentially for the rest of the war in Europe. She was used briefly as a cruise ship, with a skeleton crew, to take the Allied Tripartite Commission to occupied Germany in June 1945 and would only be brought back to full service in October 1945, a month after VJ Day.

She earned four battle honors for WWII service: Mediterranean 1940, Calabria 1940, Arctic 1942, and Malta Convoys 1942.

Post-War Victory Lap

Liverpool’s swan song in 1945 was assigned to the restructured 15th Cruiser Squadron, as part of the rapidly shrinking Mediterranean Fleet. There she would remain, usually in flagship roles with an admiral or commodore aboard, for the next seven years.

Liverpool, post-war, at Malta. Note her aircraft handling gear has been deleted.

This included a lot of tense early Cold War moments, especially in Greek and Egyptian waters, but these never came to blows.

VISIT TO NORTH AFRICAN PORTS BY C IN C MEDITERRANEAN IN HMS LIVERPOOL. JANUARY 1946, ALGIERS, ADMIRAL SIR JOHN CUNNINGHAM, C IN C MEDITERRANEAN, FLYING HIS FLAG IN HMS LIVERPOOL AND ACCOMPANIED BY HMS MUSKETEER AND HMS MARNE, VISITED TANGIER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SEVEN YEARS. (A 31070) HMS LIVERPOOL and HM destroyers MUSKETEER and MARNE at Algiers during a visit by Admiral Sir John Cunningham. HMS SCOUT is lying between the destroyers and the cruiser. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162120

HMS LIVERPOOL, BRITISH SOUTHAMPTON CLASS CRUISER. OCTOBER 1949, MALTA. (A 31583) HMS LIVERPOOL, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Earl Mountbatten of Burma, returning to Malta after the Second Summer Cruise. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162567

HMS LIVERPOOL ACTED AS A FLOATING SHIPPING OFFICE AT PORT SAID. DECEMBER 1951, ON BOARD HMS CORUNNA. (A 32035) HMS LIVERPOOL (Captain J D Luce, DSO, OBE) lying off Navy House, Port Said. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162964

MARSHAL TITO’S VISIT TO HMS LIVERPOOL. 1951?, ON BOARD THE CRUISER HMS LIVERPOOL WHEN SHE VISITED SPLIT, YUGOSLAVIA. IT WAS TITO’S FIRST VISIT TO A BRITISH WARSHIP. (A 31977) Marshal Tito inspecting a Royal Marine Guard of Honour on board HMS LIVERPOOL. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162916

Liverpool remained in commission until 1952 when she was reduced to Reserve status before her name appeared on the Disposal List in 1957. She was sold to BISCO for demolition by P&W MacLellan at Bo’ness, arriving at the breakers on 2 July 1958.

Epilogue

Few remnants of Liverpool exist today, but her bell is on display at Tobruk, where she fired her guns in anger in June 1940.

She is also remembered in maritime art.

Of Liverpool’s sisters, HMS Gloucester, Manchester, Southampton, and Edinburgh were all lost during the war, three of the four in the Med. Five other sisters, like Liverpool, saw limited Cold War service with HMS Birmingham, Belfast, and Newcastle seeing action again against North Korean gun batteries in the 1950s– and the latter sister even pounding Malayan Communist targets in 1955 and again in 1957.

HMS Newcastle firing at Korean enemy batteries, Chuinnapo Estuary, 1953. IWM A 32585

Belfast was the last of the Town-class cruisers afloat, serving as an accommodation ship into 1970 when she was marked for disposal and saved as a museum ship on the Queen’s Walk in London, a task she has performed admirably since Trafalgar Day 1971.

Please visit HMS Belfast if ever in London, it is well worth it.

Meanwhile, the 9th Liverpool, a Type 42 Batch 2 destroyer, has come and gone, ordered in 1977 and scrapped in 2014 after spending a solid 30 years in active service that spanned stints on Falkland patrol, Persian Gulf operations, time in the naval blockade of Libya that included 200 rounds of 4.5-inch delivered in NGFS in 2011, and your general Cold War/Post-Cold War sea ops.

The British destroyer HMS Liverpool (D-92) pulls alongside the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) for an underway replenishment during NATO exercise Northern Wedding ’86. DN-ST-87-09368 via NARA

It is time for a 10th Liverpool.

 


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Warship Wednesday, June 8, 2022: The Ship Behind the Ships Behind the Torpedoes

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 8, 2022: The Ship Behind the Ships Behind the Torpedoes

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-10120

Above we see the lead ship of her class, the submarine tender USS Fulton (AS-11), arrive at Pearl Harbor with her decks crowded with USS Yorktown (CV-5) survivors on board, 8 June 1942– 80 years ago today– following the Battle of Midway. While she didn’t get any licks in at Midway, Fulton’s important contribution to the war in the Pacific was huge and overlooked by the history books. For some 1,900 men of Yorktown, she was incredibly important on this day, and these rescued carriermen would soon be put back to work.

Fulton was of course named for famed American engineer and inventor Robert Fulton who developed the world’s first commercially successful steamboat. However, he also designed an interesting sail-powered submersible (“Nautilus”) and thought up “anchored torpedoes” similar to a floating mine.

Fulton’s Nautilus

In 1801, Mr. Fulton sank a small, unmanned ship using such a mine with an explosive charge of 20 pounds of gunpowder at Brest, France, then ten years later conducted a high-profile exhibition attack against the brig USS Argus in the East River via a rowboat and a spar torpedo.

Our vessel is at least the fourth– and somehow last– such ship on the Navy List following in the wake of a sidewheeler that saw much use in the 1840s and 50s, the Navy’s first submarine tender, and a patrol tug, the last of which was decommissioned and scrapped in 1934.

USS Fulton montage of two pen and ink drawings, with associated text, by Samuel War Stanton. The artworks depict the ship as first completed, circa 1837, with three masts and four smokestacks. Collections of the Navy Department, 1967. NH 65483

The Navy’s first officially-designated submarine tender, the USS Fulton (AS-1). Built at Fore River, she was ordered in 1911 and spent two decades in her intended role then, too small to service the Navy’s more modern subs, was reclassified as a survey ship/gunboat in 1930, serving for another few years until she was gutted by a fire in 1934 off Hong Kong.

USS Fulton AS-1 NH 1222

When it comes to submarine tenders, besides a motley list of ~30 old minesweepers, monitors, and cruisers who spent their final days in such auxiliary service in the 1900s-1920s, the Navy’s early AS pennants included a few increasingly larger purpose-built ships– the 3,500-ton Bushnell (AS-2) in 1915, the 8,000-ton Holland (AS-3) in 1926, the repurposed old gunboat Alert AS-4, and converted merchant cargo steamers and passenger liners such as Beaver (AS-5), Camden (AS-6)– ex SS Kiel, Rainbow (AS-7)– ex SS Norse King, Savannah (AS-8)ex SS Saxonia, Canopus (AS-9)– ex SS Santa Leonora, and Argonne (AS-10).

With the Navy building increasingly larger squadrons of increasingly larger “fleet boats” for long-range service in the Western Pacific, the need for a new and modern class of submarine tenders was realized, one that could be used to both succor those divisions of American subs and replace older, more limited tenders such as Alert (sold 1922), Bushnell (reclassified as a survey ship in 1940), Camden (converted to a barracks ship after 1931), Rainbow (sold 1928), Savannah (sold 1934), and Argonne (converted to an auxiliary repair ship 1940). In fact, of the pre-WWII tenders, only the “aging but able” Beaver, Canopus, and Holland were still in the submarine game when the U.S. entered the war.

The U.S. Navy submarine tender USS Holland (AS-3) doing what tenders do, with seven nursing submarines of Submarine Squadron 6 and Submarine Division 12 alongside, in San Diego harbor, California (USA), on 24 December 1934. The submarines are (from left to right): USS Cachalot (SS-170), USS Dolphin (SS-169), USS Barracuda (SS-163), and USS Bass (SS-164), USS Bonita (SS-165), USS Nautilus (SS-168) and USS Narwhal (SS-167). Despite her small size and limited abilities, Holland proved her worth over and over in WWII, escaping from the Philippines in 1942 and setting up shop in Australia, surviving the conflict, and completing 55 submarine refits during the war. 80-G-63334

Some 9,250 tons (18,000 full load), the Fulton and her class of six sisters (Sperry, Bushnell, Howard W. Gilmore, Nereus, Orion, and Proteus, numbered AS 12, 15-19) were all built in the Bay Area, with the first five by Mare Island Naval Shipyard and the last pair by Oakland’s Moore Dry Dock Company with four hulls laid down before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fulton was ordered in FY38 while the others were ordered in 1940. With a length of 530 feet and a reliable diesel-electric engineering suite (four General Motor 16-248 diesel generators supplying power to an electric motor via a Fairbanks Morse Main Reduction Gear), they could sustain 15.4 knots (Fulton hit 18.7 knots on trials!). Using 130 frames, she was made tough, with special protection over her magazines to withstand hits without going sky high.

With an endurance of up to 40,000 miles if she used all her stores and could defend themselves against surface and air threats via a battery of four 5″/38 cal DP guns controlled by a Mark 37 (later Mark 51) director. Ammunition trunks were located on the hold level under the position of the 5″/38s and hoists lifted the powder and shells upward to the gunners. This was later augmented by two twin 40mm AA gun mounts and a dozen 20mm Oerlikon AA gun mounts– essentially the gun armament carried by a destroyer.

She was seen at the forefront of the late 1930s U.S. Navy submarine force, as seen below in this period illustration by I.R. Lloyd of Fulton steaming alongside the Tambor-class submarines USS Gudgeon (SS-211) and USS Tuna (SS-203) under a protective cloud of flying boats.

However, it was her stores– including 26,600 bbls of usable diesel– and shops allowing her to mother up to a dozen submarines at a time, which made Fulton and her sisters so special. This included a total design accommodation for 64 officers, 22 warrant officers, 70 CPOs, and 1,144 enlisted, allowing for not only the tender’s crew but for the flag complement of a submarine squadron and two full relief crew divisions for her submarines.

Via the 1990s HAER report on sistership USS Sperry (AS-12) of the class:

Most of the ship was devoted to the manufacture, refurbishment, and storage of submarine equipment. The hold contained several spaces devoted to the storage of torpedoes and other equipment. Void spaces filled with ballast water and fuel oil in the hull protected the equipment from mines or torpedoes. The third deck included a number of repair shops and storage areas for electrical equipment, metals, and torpedoes. The second deck had a large machine shop for fabricating machine parts, a metals department, and a welding area. The machine shop office and main tool issue room were in the forward section of the ship on the same level. A large portion of the main deck was allocated for pipe fabrication (metal and rubber), as well as a foundry for the blacksmiths and a small welding room. A number of compartments dedicated to the repair of electrical equipment, mechanical instruments, and optics were located on the main deck amidships. The upper deck had spaces for carpentry and accompanying equipment. Just aft of the carpenter and pattern shop was a small gyrocompass repair shop. A calibration lab, communication and sonar repair area, and radar shop were at the stern. Finally, at the aft end of the superstructure, there was a technical repair library and printing shop, as well as a machine shop and fluid repair facility for governors, valves, and hydraulics. Above the superstructure
was a small cryptographic repair shop.

There were two messes, a bakery, a butcher shop, and a vegetable prep pantry. There were six diesel generators in the machine rooms supplying power to both the ship and any submarines moored alongside.

To supply the physical needs of the crew, there was sufficient space for showers, heads, and washrooms around the ship and near the living quarters. A dentist and medical doctor were permanently stationed onboard with offices and amidships on the upper deck. A barbershop was on the port side, forward of the crew’s berthing on the second deck. Laundry facilities were on the same deck at the stern. There was a ship’s service store where the crew could purchase personal items. A post office, chaplain’s office, library, and a career counselor to advise the crew on future positions were also onboard.

From Fulton’s War History:

As described by Tendertale of the class:

Submarine tenders enabled the Navy to move into a conquered island and in a matter of a day or so have a submarine base in full commission, able to service and repair any of our submarines regardless of their type or special equipment. At our island bases in World War II, submarine tenders worked indefatigably to keep the submarine at sea and on the firing line.

Sponsored by Mrs. A. T. Sutcliffe, great-granddaughter of Robert Fulton, she was christened on 27 December 1940 and commissioned USS Fulton (AS-11), on 12 September 1941, just three months shy of Japanese carrier planes rounding Diamondhead. Her first of 34 skippers were CDR Alexander Dean “Doug” Douglas (USNA 1917), the swaggering career submariner from Oklahoma who had brought the disabled USS R-14 110 miles back to Pearl Harbor on improvised sails made from hammocks and blankets in 1921.

War!

Underway on her shakedown cruise out of San Diego when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Fulton (AS-11) was ordered at once to Panama and then spent the next month working as an ersatz seaplane tender, establishing advanced bases for PBYs in Nicaragua’s Gulf of Fonseca and the Galapagos Islands.

She arrived at Pearl Harbor, ready to get into the sub-tending biz, on 15 March 1942, at a time when the harbor’s waters were still black with leaking bunker oil from the hulks on Battleship Row. Mooring at Pier S-1, she clocked in for SubRon Eight. Her first sub, the brand new Gato-class fleet boat USS Drum (SS-228), moored alongside later that afternoon.

Midway

At 0545 on 5 June 1942, Fulton received verbal instructions from ComSubPac to prepare to get underway as soon as possible under direct orders handed down from Nimitz himself. Amazingly, less than two hours later, picking up the elderly four-piper destroyers USS Breese (DD-122) and USS Allen (DD-66) as escorts, she stood out of Pearl Harbor at 0734 then proceeded northwestward at 17 knots, zig-zagging to avoid Japanese submarines. Her destination was to meet ASAP with “undesignated vessels of Task Force 16 and 17 to “transfer excess personnel.”

Said “excess personnel” hailed from the damaged carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5), which had been mauled in an air attack on the afternoon of 4 June by a strike from the Japanese carrier Hiryu that left the flattop with two torpedoes and three bomb hits, dead in the water and with a severe list.

Men abandoning Yorktown CV-5 while ships swarm to assist NARA 80-G-021694

As Fulton and her escorts made the best speed for the Yorktown and her escorts, the Japanese submarine I-168 came across the scene on the afternoon of 6 June and fired four torpedoes, hitting both the destroyer Hammann and Yorktown, sinking the destroyer in minutes, and forcing the withdrawal of Yorktown’s salvage party, though she would continue to float through the night.

It was during the next day, at 1300 on 7 June, just hours after Yorktown dived for the ocean floor, that Fulton came alongside the cruiser USS Portland (CA-33) and destroyer USS Russell (DD-414), which between them were carrying the bulk of the carrier’s crew. Slowing to eight knots and rigging five trolleys and whips, they began to send over survivors via coal bags, but the transfer was stopped after a few hours after a suspected submarine contact was made by one of the destroyers.

USS Portland (CA-33), at right, prepares transfers USS Yorktown survivors to USS Fulton (AS-11) on 7 June 1942, following the battle of Midway. Fulton transported the men to Pearl Harbor. 80-G-312028.

Battle of Midway, June 1942: USS Yorktown survivors are checked in on board USS Fulton (AS-11), after being transferred from USS Portland (CA-33) for transportation to Pearl Harbor, on 7 June 1942. Note life jackets, which are oil-stained. 80-G-312030

Dropping lines, the transfer was finished under cover of darkness via whaleboat.

By 2245, Fulton was headed back to Pearl with 101 officers, and 1790 enlisted from Yorktown, including 59 stretcher cases.

From her War Diary for July 1942:

She would arrive back at Pearl early the next afternoon and was greeted by Nimitz, who, ironically, was the division commander for a younger LT. Alexander Dean Douglas when he had sailed R-14 into the same harbor some 21 years prior.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (2nd from left) on the dock at Pearl Harbor, 8 June 1942, watching USS Fulton (AS-11) arrive. She was carrying survivors of the USS Yorktown (CV-5), sunk in the Battle of Midway. Rear Admiral William L. Calhoun is in the right-center, wearing sunglasses. Rear Admiral Lloyd J. Wiltse, of Nimitz’s staff, is in the center background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

USS Fulton (AS-11) docks at Pearl Harbor on 8 June 1942 with USS Yorktown (CV-5) survivors on board, after the Battle of Midway. Among the tugs assisting Fulton are Hoga (YT-146) and Nokomis (YT-142). 80-G-312058

With her decks cleared by dark, Fulton welcomed the submarine USS Growler (SS-215) alongside for refit and manned her AAA batteries, shells at the ready, as part of the base defense plan. Back to business as usual.

The rest of Fulton’s War

With the frontlines moving ever toward Tokyo, Fulton was ordered first to Midway, then to Brisbane in Australia where she established a submarine base and rest camp. As noted by DANFs, “and in addition to refitting submarines between their war patrols, acted as tender to other types of ships. Milne Bay, New Guinea, was her station from 29 October 1943 until 17 March 1944, when she sailed for a west coast overhaul.”

USS Growler (SS-215) halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication United States Submarine Operations in World War II, page 207. The photo was taken while Growler was alongside USS Fulton (AS-11) at Brisbane, Australia in February 1943, after ramming a Japanese Patrol Vessel in the Bismarck Islands area on 7 February 1943. Note her badly bent bow. Growler’s Commanding Officer, Commander Howard W. Gilmore, USN, lost his life in this action. NH 74515

Warshot torpedoes being readied for the boats on submarine tender, USS Fulton AS-11, in 1943

1940s comedian Joe E Brown entertaining Sailors at New Farm Wharf in Brisbane during WWII, USS Fulton in the background

USS Fulton (AS-11) underway off Mare Island Navy Yard, California on 3 June 1944. The ship is painted in Camouflage Measure 32, Design 4Ax. NH 107760

Returning to the war in June 1944, Fulton tended boats at Pearl (again), then Midway (again) before being assigned to Saipan, and eventually to recently-liberated Guam in June 1945, where she was when the Japanese threw in the towel. She celebrated VJ-Day at sea, headed back to Pearl, and arrived in Seattle on 22 September.

Between May 1942 and August 1945, from no point further East than Pearl and typically much closer to the lines than that, Fulton completed an eye-popping 110 submarine overhauls (twice as many as Holland) and 222 submarine voyage repairs “some of the latter, while not actually classified as refits were in the nature of refits due to the magnitude of work done.” In short, at least 300 war patrols were made possible by the floating torpedo warehouse, workshop, and hotel known as “Building 11,” a vessel that returned a submarine to service on average roughly every third day of the war.

With such a feat, if you find the nature of the American submarine force’s war in the Pacific amazing, you must give a slow hand salute to the men of Fulton.

Fulton received just one battle star for World War II service.

Post-War miles to go

Fulton was assigned to TG 1.8 for the Operation Crossroads atomic weapons tests in the Marshalls in 1946, acting as a repair vessel for the task force and supporting the half-dozen subs taking part.

With that behind her, she was laid up at Mare Island on 3 April 1947.

Fulton class tenders Janes’s 1946

With the Cold War getting colder during Korea, Fulton was taken out of mothballs in 1951 and, just three weeks later, would be tending boats at New London, her home for the rest of her career, a period that would see her sortie out and welcome the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), from her historic submerged passage under the North Pole in August 1957.

After upgrades were completed as part of the second Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization Program (FRAM II) in 1959-60, Fulton’s primary duties shifted from repairing and replenishing diesel-powered submarines to performing similar tasks on nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) and attack submarines (SSN). Importantly, she would host the world’s first all-SSN squadron, SubRon 10, serving as flagship.

She, along with her sisters, would continue to serve in such roles throughout the Cold War.

The entry for the Fulton class in the 1973 edition of Janes.

A starboard bow view of the submarine tender USS FULTON (AS 11) moored to the State Pier. A Sturgeon class nuclear-powered attack submarine is tied up alongside the Fulton, 5/30/1987. NARA DN-ST-87-07702

A starboard quarter view of the submarine tender USS FULTON (AS-11) underway, 3/12/1988. Note, that she has lost her armament but still has a WWII gun tub on her bow. NARA DN-SN-90-01473.

A starboard bow view of the submarine tender USS FULTON (AS 11) moored to the State Pier. A Sturgeon class nuclear-powered attack submarine is tied up alongside the Fulton, 5/30/1987. NARA DN-ST-87-07702

On 30 September 1991, SubRon 10 was disbanded at New London and Fulton was decommissioned at her berth. The Queen of the Submarine Force, the only vessel older than her on the NVR that day (other than the USS Constitution) was the repair ship USS Vulcan, which had actually been laid down after her.

Fulton was the last ship afloat associated with the Battle of Midway, outliving the New Orleans-class submarine USS Minneapolis (CA-36) which was scrapped in 1960, and the Gato-class fleet boat USS Grouper (SS/SSK/AGSS-214) which was sent to the breakers in 1970.

Besides her sole WWII battle star, Fulton earned two Meritorious Unit Commendations and two Navy “E”s across her 50-years of service.

Epilogue

The decommissioned U.S. Navy submarine tender USS Fulton (AS-11) in storage in the mothball fleet near Portsmouth, Virginia (USA). The Fulton was decommissioned on 30 September 1991. USN Photo taken 8 October 1994 DN-SC-95-01398 by Don S. Montgomery USN (Ret.)

The Fultons were all long-serving ships, with two, Orion and Proteus continuing to serve until 1992 and 1993, respectively. The latter would remain as a barracks barge (IX-518) sans her stacks, cranes, and other topside fittings into 1999 and was only scrapped in 2007.

Fulton herself lingered in storage on the James River for a few years, finally being sold for scrapping in Brownsville, Texas, on 17 November 1995. Her scrapping was completed on 21 December 1996.

Of note, the first boat she tied lines to, USS Drum— the first Gato-class submarine to enter combat in World War II– has been preserved as a museum ship at Mobile since 1969, ironically at a time when Fulton still had another quarter-century of service ahead of her.

As for Fulton’s first skipper, the man who was on the bridge during Midway, “Doug” Douglas left his tender in October 1942 to serve as a commodore of a Torch Landing convoy and retired as a full captain in 1947, marking 30 years of service. Passing in 1989 at age 94, he donated his remains to medical research and has a headstone at Arlington.

There remains a USS Fulton Association that treasures their former home.


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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Warship Wednesday, June 1, 2022: Old Amsterdam in New Amsterdam

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 1, 2022: Old Amsterdam in New Amsterdam

Via DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University which has an extensive collection of the Columbian Naval Parade

Above we see the Dutch Atjeh/Aceh-class schroefstoomschip (screw steamer) 1e klasse Hr.Ms. Van Speyk (also seen as Van Speijk) during the Naval Rendezvous parade portion of the World’s Columbian Exposition, the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing, on 27 April 1893. Van Speyk was the only Dutch vessel among the assembled 38 warships from ten countries, the greatest international accumulation of warships since Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee of 1887. A rare period of enlightened peace among civilized nations.

The eight intended vessels Atjeh class (Atjeh, Tromp, Koningin Emma der Nederlanden, De Ruyter, Van Speyk, Doggersbank, Kortenaer, and Johan Willem Friso), all built at the Rijkswerf in Amsterdam, were considered for their time to be unprotected cruisers by everyone but the Dutch, who had ordered them to replace seven smaller 2,000-ton, 16-gun Djambi/ Zilveren Kruis-class flush-deck steam corvettes whose muzzleloaders and circa 1860s steam suites capable of 8 knots weren’t going to cut it in 1875. Larger vessels than they were replacing, the Atjehs were 3,425 tons and went 301 feet overall (262 at the waterline) with iron hulls sheathed in wood and zinc/copper and a sexy length-to-beam ratio of 7:1. As often seen with ships of the era, there were enough minor dimensional and constructive differences between the ships of the class to make them more half-sisters than full-sisters, but they all shared the same rough profile and layout.

The first three ships completed used two reciprocating engines generating 2700 ihp and with a raisable prop while the last three (Van Speyk included) completed had compound steam engines generating 3300 ihp on a fixed prop, and all carried four boilers. This allowed for speeds between 13.5 and 14.8 knots under steam, carrying between 440-580 tons of coal, and with a three-masted auxiliary ship rig that allowed a speed of up to 8 knots on canvas alone.

Armament, as completed in the 1880s, was a half dozen 6.7″/25cal and eight 4.7″/17cal Krupp breechloaders– but still on gun decks with port and starboard gun ports they were a circa 1870s design– to which eight 1-pounders and six 1-pounder revolvers were added for defense against torpedo boats and launches. Speaking of the latter, they carried four such steam launches equipped with spar torpedoes, a lesson learned from the successful use by the Russians of such craft against the Turks in their 1877 war.

Our ship was named for Dutch naval Lt. Jan Carel Josephus van Speijk, a hero during the blockade of Antwerp in 1831 who elected to blow up his gunboat via firing his pistol into the powder magazine rather than surrender his command as Belgian rebels swarmed his ship, taking 28 of 31 crewmembers with it into the sky.

King William I in 1833 decreed that if there was a Dutch Navy, it would always have a warship named for Van Speijk. This included two small corvettes (kuilkorvet) prior to our schroefstoomschip and for generations, the rallying cry of Dutch naval cadets has been “Het voorbeeld door Van Speijk gegeven, volgen wij met hart en hand” (“We follow the example set by Van Speijk with heart and hand”) and the country’s naval officers have shown a willingness to ride their ships into near-certain death in years since.

After seven full years under construction, Hr.Ms. Van Speyk commissioned 1 March 1887, the next to the last of her class completed, followed only by Hr.Ms. Johan Willem Friso the next year. Two sisters, Kortenaer and Doggersbank, were destroyed by a yard fire in 1883 before they could be launched.

Hr. Ms. Van Speyk on her way to sea for trails NIMH 2173-214-117

Van Speyk and her completed sisters had a happy, if short (15-20 year) active career, spent patrolling far-flung colonies in the Caribbean, South America, and the Southwest Pacific, and showing the flag throughout the world to prove the Dutch could project enough power to protect the same.

Tanjung Priok, Jakarta, in 1889 with Hr.Ms. Van Speyk in the foreground, her sister Hr.Ms. De Ruyter, center, and the guard ship Hr.Ms. Gedeh is in the background. NIMH 2158_090048

Schroefstoomschip Van Speyk in de haven van Den Helder, RP-F-00-1130

Hr.Ms Van Speyk. Note the dozen gun ports in her NIMH 2158_014242

Hr.Ms. Van Speyk on the Nieuwe Diep 2158_090465

Van Speyk’s moment in the sun was her involvement in the 1893 Columbian review.

Van Speyk at the International Columbian Naval Review at New York in April 1893. At the left is the Spanish Cruiser Infanta Isabel, Description: Courtesy of Ted Stone, 1981. NH 92034

Columbian Naval Review, 1893 New York, via the LOC’s Detroit Publishing collection

Columbian Naval Review, 1893 New York, via the LOC’s Detroit Publishing collection

Her officers and men, especially when the naval review fleet reached New York, were the toast of the town and attended a cycle of events hosted by such organizations as the Holland Society of New York, the Orange Club, and the St. Nicholas Society, with the latter presenting the ship with a silver cup “as a token of the gratitude and goodwill of the new Netherlands to the Old Netherlands.”

I’d bet this cup may still be in a Dutch museum, if not on the current Van Speyk these days. Via the NYPL Collection

“The great International Naval Review. New York, April 27th, 1893,” period lithograph published by “Kurz & Allison, 76-78 Wabash Ave., Chicago” showing the combined review, with Van Speyk shown as the fourth ship in the foremost of the three passing columns. Via the Huntington Library’s Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History. Click to big up

However, the sun always sets

The class– complete with a trio of masts, an auxiliary sail rig, and gun ports– was downright quaint as a naval force by the late 1890s at a time when warships were all-steel and swathed in armor, with turret guns. This saw the six completed Atjeh-class cruisers taken offline and either disposed of or converted to accommodation ships.

Atjeh, Van Speyk, and Koningin Emma der Nederlanden were so hulked, losing their guns, engines, and masts and gaining a topside house structure by the early 1900s.

Atjeh as an accommodations ship

Wachtschip Hr.Ms. Koningin Emma der Nederlanden, 1940 NIMH 2158_000925

Schroefstoomschip Hr.Ms Van Speyk as accommodation ship NIMH 2158_014250

On 14 May 1940, Van Speyk was captured by the Germans and the occupying forces had the ship transferred to Kattenburg, Amsterdam in 1943 to continue to function as an accommodation ship there for Kriegsmarine personnel– subject to RAF raids.

Liberated by Allied forces in 1944, the Dutch sold the hulk to be broken up at Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht in March 1946, the final member of her class afloat.

Epilogue

Of Van Speyk’s sisters, Tromp, De Ruyter, and Johan Willem Friso had escaped the barracks ship life and had all been scrapped by 1904. Class leader Atjeh was out of service by 1922. Meanwhile, Koningin Emma der Nederlanden went out with a bang. Like Van Speyk, she had been captured by the Germans in 1940 and repurposed to then suddenly sank at her moorings in 1942, sabotaged by the Dutch Resistance.

Keeping with William I’s decree, the Dutch named a K-class sloop (Kanonneerboot K3, later F805) after Lt. Van Speyk which was captured on the builder’s ways in 1940 and then used by the Germans. Surviving WWII, she continued to serve the Dutch, classified as a fregat, until 1960.

Fregat Hr.Ms. Van Speyk 1946-1960 NIMH 2158_014286

The fifth Van Speyk was the renamed Flores while the sixth Van Speyk, F802, was the lead ship of her class of new frigates and served from 1967 to 1986, then in the Indonesian Navy for another 35 years.

The sixth was an experimental fuel ship converted from a minesweeper while the seventh and current, F828, is a Karel Doorman-class multipurpose frigate that has been active since 1995.

Hr.Ms. Van Speijk gaat olieladen over de boeg vanuit Hr.Ms. Zuiderkruis 1997 2009_199707-00095

Specs:

Dutch Atjeh class listing from Conways’ 1860-1906


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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships, you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, May 25, 2022: I’m Not as Good as I Once Was

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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 25, 2022: I’m Not as Good as I Once Was, But…

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 43761-A

Above we see USS Worden (Torpedo Boat Destroyer # 16) of the Truxtun class of such green-painted stiletto-hulled vessels, in the Hampton Roads area in 1907. An unidentified white-hulled four-stack armored cruiser is visible in the left distance. Seen as a modern warship on the forefront of technology at the time, Worden was part of the force welcoming the Great White Fleet home from overseas and would later be shown off to eager crowds at the Hudson-Fulton Celebration two years later. Well past her prime in 1942, Worden would still be ready to serve.

The three Truxtuns were among the original 16 TBDs authorized by Congress, during the SpanAm War, on 4 May 1898, and were the most advanced of the designs. Just 259 feet long overall, they could float in a single fathom of water due to their 600-ton (full load) displacement. Powered by four Thornycroft boilers powering twin VTE engines, they had 8,300 hp on tap and could make 29.9 knots. Equipped with two 3″/50s 12-pounders and a full half-dozen 57mm 6-pounders, the Truxtuns were seen as capable of making short work of lighter torpedo boats while their two single 18-inch Whitehead torpedo tubes– on turnstiles aft to stern– allowed them to substitute for the latter while keeping up with a blue water fleet.

Truxtun class via Oct 1902 Marine Engineering Magazine

Our subject was the first warship named for RADM John Lorimer Worden, USN. Appointed a midshipman at age 18 in 1834, he gained fame as the first skipper of the USS Monitor and commanded that famed “cheesebox on a raft” in the first clash of armored warships, fighting the Confederate ram Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) to a standstill in 1862. Worden later attained the rank of Rear Admiral while serving as the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in the early 1870s and was the first president of the United States Naval Institute.

Retired in 1886 after 52 years of service, RADM Worden was granted sea pay for life by a grateful Congress, passing in 1897.

All three of the Truxtun class– Truxtun (DD-14), Whipple (DD-15), and Worten (DD-16) were ordered from the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrows Point in one block. Laid down side-by-side in November 1899 and launched on the same day in 1901, they were accepted and commissioned by the Navy in a staggered program in the last quarter of 1902, with Worten joining the fleet on New Year’s Eve. Like Worten, all were named for noted naval figures, a practice gratefully still followed for most American tin cans for the past 120 years.

Worden passed her final acceptance test on 18 July 1903 and began duty with the 2nd Torpedo Flotilla, based at Norfolk.

On her builder’s trials in September 1902 off Barren Island, Worden did better than her 29-knot sisters, hitting 30.50 knots. She remained one of the speediest ships in the fleet. In June 1907, she walked away from her competitors on a 250-mile speed and service test from New York’s Scotland Light to Hampton Roads, besting five other destroyers.

USS Worden Description: (Torpedo Boat Destroyer # 16) Underway during the North Atlantic Fleet review, 1905. Photographed by the Burr McIntosh Studio. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Rodgers Collection. NH 91222

A great period image of officers and crew of USS Worden (DD-16), 1906. Judging from the single torpedo tube and the elevated 3″/50, this is over the destroyer’s stern. As she only carried a 50-60 man crew, this is likely the whole complement. Note there are just two officers up front– an ensign and a lieutenant– and a bow-tie-wearing boatswain in the background. Also note the African-American sailor by the gun ring and the mix of uniforms including both blues and whites, flat caps and Donald Ducks, topside gear, and stokers’ utilities. Navy Museum Northwest Collection. Catalog #: 2014.36

However, the fleet was low on men and high on hulls, having gone through a massive expansion in the early 20th Century under Teddy Roosevelt. With that, the still-young destroyer was placed in reserve at the Norfolk Navy Yard in November 1907, a role she would maintain for the next seven years except for a brief reactivation to take part in the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in the summer of 1909, and a stint as a pier-side trainer for the Pennsylvania Naval Militia at Philadelphia in 1912.

Hudson-Fulton Celebration September-October 1909 Crowd observes warships anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, during the festivities. The four-funneled destroyer in the left foreground is USS Worden (Destroyer # 16), with several torpedo boats anchored astern. The British armored cruisers beyond are HMS Argyll (at left) and HMS Duke of Edinburgh (right center). Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold, USN. NH 101529

In 1914, she was detailed as a tender to the Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force with a job moonlighting as a recruiting prop, continuing in such as role until the U.S. entered the Great War in April 1917. In the meantime, on 24 February 1916, the Navy Department ordered that destroyers No. 1 through 16 were “no longer serviceable for duty with the fleet” and reclassified them as “coast torpedo vessels.”

War!

Shaking off her submarine tender duties, the reactivated Worden joined Division B, Destroyer Force, and spent the rest of 1917 in New York.

Meanwhile, the British Admiralty decided it was finally time to try the convoy system to help curb the onslaught of the German U-boat scourge. If only they could get hundreds of new escorts to help with that at all levels…

In early 1918, the “obsolete” Worden, refitted for “distant service,” got underway for Europe in company with a whole crew drawn from the original 16 destroyers that had been downgraded to CTVs. This included Hopkins (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 6), Macdonough (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 9), Paul Jones (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 10), and Stewart (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 13). The little five-pack steamed, via Bermuda, to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, arriving at the end of January.

Reaching Brest on the 9 February, Worden then started clocking in with her associates in the business of escorting coastal convoys and hunting for the Hun. As summed up by DANFS, “During the remaining nine months of World War I, Worden maintained a grueling schedule escorting convoys between ports on the French coast.”

Her sisters Truxtun and Whipple, which had arrived in Brest in late 1917, had much the same war experience, coming to the rescue of the exploding munition ship Florence H. off Quiberon Bay and together saving half her crew, as well as tangling with German submarines directly.

All three sisters survived the conflict and headed back home from “Over There” in early 1919, given orders to assemble at Philadelphia along with the rest of the older tin cans left on the Navy List.

“They did their bit” Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. Old destroyers in the Reserve Basin, 13 June 1919, while awaiting decommissioning. Note the truck and life rafts on the pier. These ships are (from left to right): USS Worden (Destroyer # 16); USS Barry (Destroyer # 2); USS Hull (Destroyer # 7); USS Hopkins (Destroyer # 6) probably; USS Bainbridge (Destroyer # 1); USS Stewart (Destroyer # 13); USS Paul Jones (Destroyer # 10); and USS Decatur (Destroyer # 5). Ships further to the right cannot be identified. Courtesy of Frank Jankowski, 1981. NH 92301

Worden was placed out of commission at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 13 July 1919– joining her two sisters who were likewise decommissioned earlier the same month– and all three stricken from the Naval Register on 15 September 1919.

Come, Mr. Tally Man…

3 January 1920, after just six months on red lead row, ex-USS Worden and her two sisters were sold cheap– pennies on the pound– to one Joseph G. Hitner, head of Philadelphia’s Henry A. Hitner’s Sons Ironworks. Now, Hitner was in the scrap business and had bought and recycled several ships from mothballs including 11 small Bainbridge-class destroyers, the old battleship Wisconsin (BB-9), the cruiser Raliegh (C-8), and the monitors Miantonomoh and Tonopah, but he hit on something different for the Truxtuns.

He decided to sell them for conversion to motor fruit carriers.

It made sense as the vessels were shallow enough to maneuver through the narrow fruit company waterways such as the Snyder Canal in Panama, and, with their engineering suite reduced and armament removed, were still fast and economical enough to get the job done. With their old magazines and one of their boiler rooms turned into banana holds, they could hold as many as 15,000 stems of fruit.

The ships were rebuilt, scrapping their old VTE suites and boilers for a pair of economical 12-cylinder Atlas Imperial Diesels– a company known for outfitting tugs and trawlers– generating 211 NHP and allowing a sustained speed of 15 knots. This removed all four of their coal funnels, replacing them with a number of tall cowl vents and a single diesel stack aft. So reconstructed, their weight was listed as 433 GRT with a 264-foot length and 14-foot depth of hold. The crew was reduced to an officer and 17 hands. Painted buff above the waterline to help reflect heat, they still had their greyhound lines.

SS Truxton – the former USS Truxton (DD-14) after conversion to a banana boat

A Truxtun-class TBD/CTV recycled as a banana boat

The 1920s were part of the “Banana Boom,” an era that saw the importation of the Gros Michel AKA “Big Mike” variety of the fruit– now all but extinct– skyrocket. In 1872, just a half-century prior, only 300,000 bunches had reached American shores. By 1920, this jumped to 39 million. In 1928 alone, some 64 million bunches of bananas were exported to the U.S. from Caribbean countries, with Honduras and Jamaica supplying half of that total.

Southern Banana Company at Pier 19, Galveston 1920 via Galveston Historical Foundation

During the boom, over 20 companies were in the business of bringing the curved yellow fruit to the U.S., and Worden and her sisters would work for several of them.

Worden along with her sisters Truxtun and Whipple was registered in 1921 by Robert Shepherd in Nicaragua and soon used on the banana runs to Galveston and New Orleans, flying the flag of the Snyder Banana Company of Bluefields.

In 1922, the boats had been impounded by R.A. Harvin, the United States Marshal in Texas, after a libel proceeding, and sold at public auction to one Harry Nevelson, who in turn quickly resold them to the Mexican-American Fruit Company, and sometime shortly after they were sailing for the Southern Banana Co.

By 1925, the trio was all part of the Vaccaro brothers’ upstart New Orleans-based Standard Fruit & S S Co (now part of Dole).

By 1933, Lloyds listed her as owned by the American Fruit & S S Corp — later adjusted to “Seaboard S S Corp (Standard Fruit, Mgrs)” in subsequent listings– out of Bluefields, Nicaragua with a tonnage of 546 GRT.

1933 Llyods

By 1939, the owners’ column had been lined out and she was listed as owned by the Bahamas Shipping Company and with tonnage adjusted to 433 GRT.

1940 Lloyd’s

Then came another war.

While Worden’s early war record is not available, her owners took great pain to try to make her as neutral as possible. This included a gleaming white livery with her Nicaraguan colors and name highlighted. She was under charter to the Winn-Lovett Grocery Company (now Winn-Dixie) to run bananas and assorted other fruits from Central America to Florida.

It was in this trade that Worden came across a fearsome sight some 80 years ago this month.

While about 10 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, the 6,548-ton British-flagged freighter La Paz, carrying a mixed cargo of fertilizer, china, and several hundred cases of scotch from Liverpool to Valparaiso via Halifax and Hampton Roads, came across U-109, an experienced Type IXB U-boat, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich “Ajax” Bleichrodt. Sailing from Lorient under 2. Flottille on her 5th War Patrol, the German submarine had already chalked up a half-dozen Allied steamers in the previous year.

Firing two torpedoes, one of which hit the British steamship, La Paz‘s crew made for the lifeboats. Bleichrodt’s crew intercepted a radio message from the nearby Worden referencing the torpedoing as the U-boat was submerging and he apparently logged the latter down as his victim.

The torpedoed freighter, probably M.S. La Paz, off the east coast of Florida (80 10’W; 28 10′), 1 May 1942. Note the oil slick. Three lifeboats astern indicate that the ship is being abandoned. The Nicaraguan banana freighter Worden is standing by in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-177164

The banana boat (ex-USN destroyer) Worden with her name, homeport (Bluefields, Nicaragua), and nationality (the Nicaraguan colors can be seen painted just behind her name) prominently displayed, takes the torpedoed British freighter, La Paz, in tow on 1 May 1942 off the Florida coast. U.S. Navy Photograph # 80-CF-1055.8B, Still Pictures Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md, caption via Navsource.

La Paz was beached seven miles off Cocoa, Florida, her flooded stern hard aground, and Worden went on her way. The wounded freighter was later towed to Jacksonville, repaired, and returned to service five months later under U.S. Maritime Commission control. In the meantime, Brevard County residents aided in the salvaging of the La Paz, hauling ashore some Johnny Walker for their efforts.

Via State Archives of Florida

As detailed by Bill Watts:

The decision to remove the La Paz’s cargo provided the young men of Cocoa the opportunity for one of their greatest wartime adventures—one that is still fondly recalled at almost every Mosquito Beaters’ meeting. The draft and war industries had depleted the supply of labor for the area, so the insurance representatives decided to hire boys from Cocoa High School to unload the cargo. It was hard work, but the boys went at it with a will. Soon, the china and most of the fertilizer were unloaded; then it was time to unload the scotch whiskey.

As Speedy Harrell tells the story, the boys were overawed by the large stacks of cases of whiskey, but they went to work. Sometime during the process of unloading some of the boys decided that nobody would miss a bottle or two, so they “liberated” a few bottles and buried them under the beach sand to be retrieved later. Eventually, according to Speedy, the bottles hidden under the sand became so numerous that it was impossible for anyone to walk on that area of the beach without causing a gentle clinking noise as the bottles banged into each other.

According to Röwer’s Axis Submarine Successes of World War II, U-109 sank Worden just after hitting La Paz. However, this is subject to much debate. Nautical historian Eric Wiberg says this came as a “result of confusion over radio transmissions. Worden was simply responding ‘in the clear’ via short wave radio to distress calls from La Paz.” Further, the photos circulating of Worden assisting La Paz belay the likelihood of her sinking at the same time and date. Notably, Uboat.net does not list Worden on U-109’s tally sheet.

Likewise, DANFS states plainly: “Although Bleichrodt claimed both ships as sunk, Worden with a torpedo meant for La Paz, both ships survived, La Paz salvaged and resuming service, the fruit carrier continuing in that trade into the post-war period.”

With that, though, while there seems to be no proof that Bleichrodt sent our plucky banana boat to the bottom, her final end is unknown.

In fact, she continued to show up in Lloyds throughout the 1940s and 1950s, eventually ending up under a Panamanian flag as part of the Consolidated Shipping Company in 1955. Not a bad run for a little torpedo boat destroyer.

Worden’s 1956 Lloyds Steamer listing

While listed by one source as broken up in 1956, I’d like to think her old hulk may be in some back river port in Central America somewhere, rusting quietly away on a sandbar as her deck offers shelter to shorebirds, reports of her demise greatly exaggerated.

Epilogue

Of Worden’s sisters, Truxtun was still in the banana trade in 1938 when she suffered an engine room fire off Haiti that left her a hulk there. Considered a total loss because of a lack of insurance to cover the cost of towing and repair, she was sold to Joseph Nadal and Company of Haiti and presumed scrapped.

Whipple, meanwhile, remained in the stables of the Nassau-based Bahama Shipping Co. alongside Worden into 1953, then dropped from the list shortly after, likely when BSC dissolved.

1949 Lloyd’s shipping biz listing for the Bahama SC, showing Whipple and Worden as their only vessels

Worden’s engineering drawings and plans are in the National Archives.  Meanwhile, Tulane has several documents from her banana boat era. 

Besides our torpedo boat destroyer, the Navy has named three ships in honor of RADM Worden: the Clemson-class destroyer USS Worden (Destroyer # 288, later DD-288) which served from 1920-1931 (then ironically was also converted into the Standard Fruit Co. banana boat MV Tabasco and lost on a reef in the Gulf of Mexico in 1933); the Farragut-class destroyer USS Worden (DD-352) of 1935-1944; and the Leahy-class destroyer leader USS Worden (DLG-18, later CG-18) of 1963-2000.

A starboard bow view of the guided-missile cruiser USS WORDEN (CG 18) underway, 8/1/1987. DN-SC-89-08861. Via NARA.

It is time for a fifth Worden.


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

They are one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships, you should belong.

I am a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, May 18, 2022: Spaghetti Battleship Slayer

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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 18, 2022: Spaghetti Battleship Slayer

Via the Archivio Centrale dello Stato (ACS), the Italian Central State Archives

Above we see a tonnage flag flown by the Marcello-class submarine R. Smg. Barbarigo after she sank a
Colorado-class battleship, specifically the USS Maryland (BB-46), some 80 years ago this month.

Contemporary propaganda artwork of the claimed sinking of the battleship USS Maryland by the Italian submarine Barbarigo, May 1942

What’s that? You didn’t know Maryland was Deep Sixed by the Royal Italian Navy during WWII? Well, about that…

The nine submarines of the Marcello class were all constructed in 1937-38 by Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico in Trieste for the Italians, drawing from lessons learned during the Spanish Civil War in which Italian Sottomarini Legionari (Submariners Legion) “pirate” submarines fought a not-so-secret war on behalf of Franco. Small vessels compared to American and Japanese “fleet boats,” the Marcellos were only 1,300 tons submerged and 239 feet overall. However, they were speedy for the time, able to make 17 knots on the surface, had long enough legs (7,500nm range at 9 knots) for operations outside of the Med, and carried eight 21-inch torpedo tubes as well as two 4″/47cal deck guns.

Launch of Regio Sommergibile Cappellini, one of the Marcello class. Note her two forward starboard bow tubes. The class had four tubes forward and four stern, an unusual arrangement compared to American subs. Note that her deck guns have not been fitted.

A trio of brand new Italian Marcello-class submarines in Venice, 1939, complete with deck guns. They carried one 4″/47 forward of the sail, another aft, as well as fittings for two twin 13.2mm Breda (Hotchkiss) Model 1931 AAA machine guns. In the foreground on the right is an H-class submarine and in the background are some cruisers and Folgore-class destroyers.

Overall, the Italians could have done worse, and the class was successful in WWII.

Our subject was named for the 15th-century Doge of Venice, Agostino Barbarigo, the commander of the Venetian fleet in the Battle of Lepanto and a figure made infamous by the Assassin’s Creed video game series.

Agostino Barbarigo by Paolo Veronese, Cleveland Museum of Art.

As such, she was the second submarine Barbarigo in the Italian Navy, with the first being the leader of a four-boat class designed during the Great War that served through the 1920s.

The first R. Smg. Barbarigo was active from 1918 through 1928.

Laid down at C.R.D.A. Monfalcone, (Trieste) on 6 February 1937, R. Smg. Barbarigo (2°) was commissioned 19 September 1938 and was assigned to 2º Gruppo Sommergibili at Naples.

Early War Service

When the war started, with the Italian kick-off coming during the last weeks of the Fall of France in June 1940, under the command of Capitano di Corvetta (CC) Giulio Ghiglieri, Barbarigo’s first war patrol was a sortie off the coast of Algeria that yielded no results. Her second patrol, the next month between Cape de Gata and Cape Falcon, was much the same.

Once France fell and the Germans were setting up shop in the English Channel, Barbarigo was one of the Italian submarines assigned to the BETASOM group which would become operational in the North Atlantic from Bordeaux. Passing Gibraltar on 14 August 1940, four days later the boat was in an unsuccessful surface action with the British steamer Aguilar (3,255 GRT) bound from Lisbon to the Canary Islands.

Italian sumergible Barbarigo going up the Garonne river to reach her BETASOM base in Bordeaux.

Italian submarine Barbarigo in Bordeaux 1942.

Submarine Barbarigo, Bordeaux, note her deck gun

Stern shot in Bordeaux

Barbarigo in Bordeaux.

Ghiglieri would command Barbarigo on her 4th, 5th, and 6th War Patrols, never officially bagging anything although she was highly active, ranging from Ireland to the Bay of Biscay. Ghiglieri would leave the boat in June 1941, having commanded her under combat conditions for a full year. He would go on to command the Pisani-class boat Des Geneys for a year, also unsuccessfully, then rode a desk for the rest of the war.

Barbarigo’s new skipper, CC Francesco Murzi, was immediately successful, sinking the British freighter Macon (5,141 GRT) and tanker Horn Shell (8,272 GRT) back-to-back in July 1941.

The Grossi Era

With Murzi transferred to command the new, and larger, Cagni-class submarine Ammiraglio Millo in August, Barbarigo’s third wartime skipper would be CC Enzo Grossi. Born in Brazil in 1908, Grossi was a seasoned commander, having joined the Italian Navy in 1929 and risen to command the submarines Tito Speri and Medusa earlier in the war, earning both the Silver and Bronze military medals for valor in operations in the Med.

Barbarigo’s 8th War Patrol (22 Oct- 11 Nov) saw her operate against convoy H.G.75 off the Portuguese coast in conjunction with German U-boats and have a stalking duel with the British submarine HMS/m Una, ultimately returning to port without sinking anything.

The boat’s 9th patrol (18 Jan – 16 Feb 1942), west of the Azores, saw more success with the unarmed Spanish cargo ship Navemar (5,301 GRT) sent to the bottom, although Grossi claimed to have sunk a large armed merchant cruiser.

Her 10th patrol, run some 300 miles off the Brazilian coast from 25 April to 16 June, would become famous, at least in her time.

On 18 May, she seriously damaged the Brazilian tanker Comandante Lyra (5,753 GRT) bound for Pernambuco, and two days later came across a battleship and escorting destroyer(s).

Via Uboat.net:

At 0245 hours, Barbarigo was steering 020°, when an officer of the watch, First Officer T.V. Angelo Amendolia, observed a dark shadow. He immediately put the helm hard to starboard and summoned C.C. Grossi to the bridge. It was a large destroyer. The submarine was ready to make a stern attack when a much larger shadow appeared, which was identified as an American battleship of the MARYLAND-CALIFORNIA class because of her lattice masts. A second destroyer followed her.

At 0250 hours, two stern torpedoes were fired at 650 meters, aimed at the “battleship” (one of 533mm and one 450mm of type A 115) which was steering 200° at 15 knots. After 35 seconds, two explosions were observed. G.M. Tendi who was observing with binoculars reported that the battleship was sunk, and this confirmed Grossi’s impressions. From a distance of 800 meters, Grossi saw the battleship sinking bow first.

Grossi did not waste time in forwarding his claim and, at 1500 hours on 22nd May, he received a signal from Rome informing him of his promotion and the congratulations from the Duce and a grateful Nation.

The patrol also included an attack on the British freighter Charlbury (4,836 GRT) that was sent to the bottom after a five-hour, six-torpedo engagement on 29 May.

Returning to Bordeaux with his kill flags flying, Grossi and crew were feted by the German and Italian media.

Grossi, in the sweater, regaling the crowd with the stories from the patrol

The conning tower slogan reads, “Who fears death is unworthy of living.”

Although Grossi had not even been on the bridge at the time, he was dutifully photographed, shirtless and engrossed, recreating the attack at the boat’s periscope.

Of course, as you likely know, the USS Maryland (Battleship No. 46) in May 1942 was in training exercises in Hawaiian waters alongside her sister USS Colorado, having just been patched up at Puget Sound Navy Yard after Pearl Harbor. Her third sister, USS West Virginia, was still at Puget Sound for a longer, two-year, reconstruction and modernization. Of the visually similar California class, both USS California and USS Tennessee were likewise at PSNY under repair from Pearl Harbor. In short, there were no such battleships as Grossi claimed off Brazil in May 1942.

The postwar analysis points to the target Grossi engaged were the elderly Omaha-class light cruiser USS Milwaukee (CL-5) — a ship of 7,000 tons rather than 32,000– escorted by the lone Porter-class destroyer USS Moffett (DD-362), neither of which knew they were attacked.

On Grossi’s next patrol, Barbarigo’s 11th during the war, the boat sortied from Bordeaux on 29 August and returned a full month later, having dealt deadly blows to the Americans once again while steaming off the Brazilian coast and West Africa.

In the pre-dawn hours of 6 October, with Grossi again not in the control room, he bagged another battleship. What luck!

Times 05.40 of the day 6 – Stq. 23 of the q.d.p. n. 6718 (lat. 02’10/20’N, long. 14°10/20’W) time 02.34 I have sunk a unit type Nb (battleship) Cl. (class) ” Mississippi ” (U.S.A.) course 150° speeds 13knots four forward torpedoes hit 6 meters seen the ship sink avoided reaction I direct zone – 043106.

Two days later, when the news hit an embattled Central Europe, Hitler conferred the Iron Cross to Grossi. El Duce likewise promoted him to C.V. and awarded him the Medaglia d’Oro, the highest Italian award.

Grossi became one of the most decorated naval officers in the Axis fleets, personally receiving two EAKs from Donitz and Italy’s highest award from El Duce

The slayer of two battleships, a feat greater than Günther Prien, Hans-Diedrich von Tiesenhausen, Eli Thomas Reich, Johannes Spiess, and Rudolf Schneider, submarine skippers who only had one battleship to their name across two world wars.

In actuality, USS Mississippi (Battleship No. 41) was at the time participating in exercises off Hawaii and escorting convoys back and forth to Fiji. Her sisterships USS New Mexico (BB-40) and Idaho (BB-42) were at the time both at PSNY undergoing modernization.

As noted by Uboat.net:

Unfortunately, the “battleship” was the Flower-class corvette HMS Petunia (K 17) who had sighted five torpedo tracks (not four!). One torpedo passed under her (the torpedoes had been set for a depth of 6 meters) and another missed close astern, but her ASDIC and R.D.F. were inoperative and her counterattack, at 2255 hours, with only one depth charge was ineffective.

With such a high-value personality on their hands, Grossi was promoted to the safety of shore duty and made the commander of BETASOM at Bordeaux in December 1942. After the Italians dropped out of the war in September 1943, the last four Italian boats pierside in France (Bagnolini, Giuliani, Cappellini, and Torelli) were handed over to the Germans.

Grossi then cast his lot with Mussolini’s remnant fascist Italian Social Republic, assuming command of the 1ª Divisione Atlantica Fucilieri in the Marina Nazionale Repubblicana, a paper force of some 5,000 shipless Italian sailors and Marines employed piecemeal by the Kriegsmarine to build and equip coastal batteries on the Atlantic Wall and in the Channel Islands. The unit took part in the Battle of Normandy, with some isolated garrisons– Lorient, Saint-Nazaire, and La Rochelle– only surrendering at the end of the war.

Grossi also apparently was key in a plan to smuggle Mussolini to Japan in 1945 that, obviously, fell through.

As for Barbarigo, her days were numbered as well. Under LT Roberto Rigoli, the submarine would sink the freighters Monte Igueldo (Spain, 3,453 GRT), Affonso Penna (Brazil, 3,540 GRT), and Stag Hound (U.S. 8,591 GRT) across a week in February-March 1943 on Barbarigo’s 12th War Patrol.

Her 13th Patrol would turn out to be her unluckiest. Sailing with her 5th wartime skipper in four years– LT Umberto De Julio– Barbarigo was converted to a blockade-running transport submarine, code name Aquila V, and sailed from Bordeaux on 16 June 1943 to Singapore with 130 tons of materials and 5 billion Lire. She was never seen again and was believed sunk sometime around 24 June, the cause is unknown. De Julio, five officers, 47 ratings, and two passengers– Imperial Japanese Army Colonels Gondo and Miura– disappeared with her. 

Epilogue

During their missions in the Atlantic, the 27 Italian submarines assigned to BETASOM sank a total of 109 ships for 593,864 gross tons, with Barbarigo accounting for 7 of those ships for 39,300 GRT. These are the hard numbers, not the unverified figures. This puts Barbarigo in fifth place among the BETASOM boats, behind Da Vinci (17 ships, 120,243 GRT, the most successful non-German Axis sub of WWII), Tazzoli (18/96,650 GRT), Torelli (7/42,871), and Morosini (6/40,927).

Barbarigo was one of 88 Italian submarines lost during the war, some two-thirds of their force. Keep in mind the U.S. Navy “only” lost 52 boats during the conflict, giving you a window on how dangerous it was to be an Italian submariner.

Of Barbarigo’s sisters, only Dandolo was in operational condition at the end of the war, having sailed to the United States after the Italian armistice in Sept. 1943. She was scrapped in 1948, the Italians soon moving on to surplus American boats.

Barbarigo’s best-known skipper, Enzo Grossi was cashiered and stripped of all ranks in 1945 by the post-war Italian government. A subsequent investigative commission by the Italian Navy, working in conjunction with Allied archivists, revoked his WWII awards and discredited his battleship sinking claims. Grossi, who emigrated to Argentina after the war, died from a tumor in 1960, aged just 52. The findings of the 1948 commission were later confirmed by a second board in 1962.

Of note, USS Maryland and Mississippi became two of the longest-living American battlewagons, with “Fighting Mary” only sold to the breakers in 1959, some 43 years after she was ordered, and the “Mighty Miss” still on active duty as a missile trials ship as late as 1956.

Specs:

 

U.S. Navy ONI-202 circa 1942 listing for the Marcello class


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