Tag Archives: coal fired ironclad

Malyutka 96, Found on Eternal Patrol

The Russian Geographical Society has recently confirmed the location of the Soviet Series XII M (Malyutka/малютка = “baby”) class submarine M-96.

Built at plant No. 112 Krasnoe Sormovo, Gorky, in six sections, the small (250-tons submerged, 123-foot oal, 2×21 inch tubes) “Baltic” style submarine commissioned 12 December 1939 in that odd period in which the Russians were only fighting Finland in the Winter War while co-occupying Poland with allied Nazi Germany.

Her actual WWII service with the Red Banner Baltic Fleet was lackluster, firing torpedos at and missing a series of at least three different Axis ships in 1942. Notably, one of her early skippers was Alexander Marinesko, the somewhat infamous captain of submarine S-13 which sank the German military transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945, sending 9,400 to a watery grave. 

However, even while Marinesko had moved on to a bigger, better command, M-96 was already on the bottom, lost with all hands in September 1944 on a mission to reconnoiter German minefields in Narva Bay.

M-96 lies in the northern part of Narva Bay at a depth of 42 meters. Inspection showed that the ship was destroyed on the surface, probably during the night charging of the batteries. The engine telegraph on the bridge shows the command “Full ahead”, the rudder is turned to the right, the upper conning tower hatch is open. A mine explosion occurred under the bow of the boat, breaking the hull.

Here’s the footage of divers at the sub, seen for the first time since 1944.

Warship Wednesday, July 21, 2021: Luckiest of the Italian Heavies

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 21, 2021: Luckiest of the Italian Heavies

Here we see the Zara-class incrociatore (heavy cruiser) Gorizia of the Regia Marina, with her sister Fiume, anchored in Venice circa September 1937. The Palazzo Ducale is in the distance to the left, where the visiting British County-class cruiser HMS London (69) rests in a place of honor pierside. Note the whaleboat in the foreground with the duster of the Royal Navy, which called on the City of Canals that summer under the flag of VADM Sir Charles Kennedy-Purvis. Of course, the British would revisit Italian harbors several times just a few years later, but under much less cordial terms, and often at night.

The four Zaras were impressive in scale, at some 599-feet in length overall, and had an “official” Naval Treaty standard weight of 10,000-tons, although their actual full load weight was closer to 14,500 tons. Using eight British pattern Thornycroft boilers and a pair of Parsons steam turbines, they could make 32 knots even with a very strong armor scheme (up to 5.9-inches) for interbellum cruisers.

The primary armament for these Italian heavies was eight 8″/53 Model 1927 Ansaldos, mounted in four twin turrets. These guns had a range of about 34,500 yards firing 270-pound AP shells and, due to the electrically-powered training and elevation and hydraulically powered rammers used in their mountings could fire as fast as 3.8 rounds per minute per gun– very respectable for the era.

Heavy cruiser Gorizia, 1941, with members of her crew clustered in front of her forward 8 inch mounts. Although excellent guns, the very tight mountings limited the spread of shell fire. 

Secondary armament consisted of 16 3.9″/47 O.T.O. Model 1928 DP guns in eight twin shielded mounts. Basically, an unlicensed version of the old Austro-Hungarian Navy’s Skoda K10/K11 that the Italians fell in love with when they saw it on war prizes in 1918, O.T.O. had revamped the design into a decent AAA piece with a ceiling of 33,000 feet. 

Incrociatore Zara pezzi da 100 47 mm O.T.O. mod.1928

Unlike most cruisers built in the first half of the 20th Century, the Zara class did not carry any torpedoes, but they did, awkwardly, have a bow-mounted catapult for two single-engine floatplanes.

Italian heavy cruiser Zara incrociatori pesanti classe Zara in navigazione. Photographer Miniati, Bruno 1939, Alinari archives. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Richard Worth, in his Fleets of World War II, notes that the Zaras had a lot of attributes that set them up for success.

They were handsome ships, dry and stable, with the most endurance among Italian cruisers (5,000+ miles at 16 knots). With 13 percent of their tonnage devoted to protection, they showed an excellent concentration of metal; only American cruisers had thicker belt armor. The guns were paired too closely but they otherwise performed well. If the Italians had persisted in designs like this one, they could have deployed a powerful fleet indeed.

Laid down at O.T.O. Livorno on 17 March 1930, Gorizia was completed just 21 months later on 23 December 1931.

The class, among the most advanced and formidable in the world during the “Treaty” era, was a favorite of the U.S. ONI, and several period photos are in the collection of the Navy Heritage Command, likely gleaned from open sources by Naval attaches in Europe before the war.

Italian ship: GORIZIA. Italy – CA (Zara class). Italian fleet in the harbor of Naples. Catalog #: NH 111423

The four Zara class heavy cruisers, seen during the late 1930s, possibly at the now-infamous May 1938 “H Review” along the Gulf of Naples in which Il Duce tried very hard to impress his little Austrian buddy with the funny mustache. The four ships are (unidentified as to order in the photograph): ZARA (1930-1941); FIUME (1930-1941); GORIZIA (1930-1944); and POLA (1931-1941). NH 86333

The Four Italian ZARA Class Heavy Cruisers at Naples. The late 1930s, all four sister cruisers at anchor from front to back: FIUME (1930-41), ZARA (1930-41), POLA (1931-41), and GORIZIA (1930-44.) NH 86432

The “four sisters” of Italian heavy cruisers. From left to right: GORIZIA (1930-1944), POLA (1931-1941), ZARA (1930-1941), and FIUME (1930-1941) at Naples, circa 1938. One of the Italian Navy’s training ships, AMERIGO VESPUCCI (1930) or CRISTOFORO COLOMBO (1928), appears in the distance to the right. NH 86577

Italian ship: Heavy cruiser GORIZIA. Italy – CA (Zara class). Photographed during 1935 in the Suez Canal. NH 111424

GORIZIA (Italian Heavy Cruiser, 1930-44) Photographed at a fleet review before World War II, possibly at Naples in 1938. Three other heavy cruisers and three destroyers appear in the background. NH 86107

GORIZIA (Italian heavy cruiser, 1930-1944) Detail view of the ship forward superstructure, seen from the starboard side in a pre-World War II photograph. Note sailors waving. NH 86304

In the decade prior to WWII, the Zaras in general and Gorizia, in particular, was very busy, spending much time lending Franco a quiet hand in the Spanish Civil War, to include intercepting the fleeing Republican fleet out of Cartegena–consisting of the cruisers Miguel de Cervantes, Libertad, and Mendez Nuñez, along with eight destroyers and two submarines– in March 1939, which was desperately trying to make a friendly exile in Soviet Russia via the Black Sea. Instead, the Spanish had to settle for internment in French Tunisia where its commander, ADM Miguel Buiza, later volunteered for the French Foreign Legion, a force swelled at the time with former Republicans.

It was during the Spanish Civil War that Gorizia let the cat out of the bag on the fact of how outside of the naval treaty limits they were. While holding station off Spain in August 1936, she suffered an avgas explosion that blew out parts of her bow, forcing her to put into British Gibraltar for emergency repairs.

There, dockyard workers and RN personnel were easily able to ascertain that she was grossly overweight and up-armored from her “public” specs and quietly reported it up the chain, although the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, never took up the matter with Rome.

In another prelude to the Big Show, Gorizia accompanied the rest of her class to help support the quickly accomplished Italian invasion of Albania in April 1939 while the British fleet, a force that saw itself as the Lion of the Med, was infamously “lolling about in Italian harbors.”

The Main Event

When Italy entered WWII against France and Britain as one of the Axis Powers in June 1940, the Zara class was in for a wild ride.

Italian battlefleet off Gaeta in 1940 showing four Zara class cruisers, two Trento class cruisers, and Bolzano

The very next month, the four sisters managed to come out of the Battle of Calabria against the British fleet without damage and, that November, were all clustered in Taranto when British Swordfish torpedo bombers famously penetrated the harbor and smacked around the Italian battleships, again surviving without a scratch. In the follow-on Battle of Capo Teulada, Gorizia fired a dozen salvos and bird-dogged the British squadron with her seaplanes, with no real effect on either side.

Gorizia’s luck continued to hold when, missing the Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941 as she was escorting convoys to Libya, all three of her sisters, Pola, Zara, and Fiume, were sacrificed needlessly to the guns of British battleships, with horrendous loss of life. All that 5.9-inch plate was of no use against point-blank hits from 15-inch guns, it turned out, a lesson the Brits had previously handed out to Von Spee’s squadron in the Falklands in 1914.

Fiume, a Zara-class heavy cruiser sunk during Battle of Cape Matapan, 29 March 1941, painting by Adam Werka

The only survivor of her class, Gorizia fought at both inconclusive surface actions known as the battles of Sirte, again without taking hits in either.

Gorizia opens fire with her 8in guns on British forces at the Second Battle of Sirte, 22 March 1942

Gorizia cruiser class Zara, in Messina, March 23, 1942, after 2nd Sirte

The U.S. Navy’s ONI 202 listing for Italian ships, released in early 1942, carried Gorizia.

Endgame

Her luck ran out on 10 April 1943.

The last two operational Italian heavy cruisers, Gorizia, and the Trento-class Trieste, were subjected to an attack by 84 Algerian-based B-17Fs of the 15th Air Force’s 301st Bombardment Group (Heavy) and 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), while anchored near Sardinia’s Caprera Island.

As noted at the time by the War Department:

The Italian heavy cruiser Trieste was sunk & the heavy cruiser Gorizia was severely damaged when Flying Fortresses of the U.S. Northwest African Air Forces attacked them as they lay at anchor at the Naval base of La Maddalena on the Northern coast of 4/10. The attack was made by one of the largest formations of Fortresses ever to be put into the air. Both vessels received direct hits. Reconnaissance photographs taken since the attack show Gorizia still afloat but in badly damaged condition with several tugs alongside and a large amount of oil spreading over the water around her. It is apparent that she will be out of action for a long time. The Fortresses, which were unescorted, all returned safely to base.

“The Italian heavy cruiser Gorizia was severely damaged when planes of the 342nd Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force attacked as it lay at anchor at the Naval Base of La Maddalena on the northern coast of Sardinia on 10 April 1943.” (U.S. Air Force Number 3A26988, via NARA)

“The 11,000-ton Italian cruiser Gorizia lying off La Maddalena harbor of Northern Sardinia. One of the largest Flying Fortress formations badly damaged the Gorizia with direct hits on April 10. Its sister ship, the 10,000-ton Trieste was sunk on the same raid. Lines around Gorizia are anti-torpedo nets.” (U.S. Air Force Number 24037AC, via NARA)

“Here, the stern and bow of the cruiser Gorizia are dimly seen through the smoke and flames of many bombs burst on her deck and in the water around her.” (U.S. Air Force Number A23879AC, via NARA)

“Here, the bow of the Trieste is seen high out of the water as she receives a direct hit on the stern and many other bombs burst around her.” (U.S. Air Force Number 23879AC, via NARA)

In the attack, the Fortresses landed at least three 500-pound bombs on Gorizia, with one penetrating the rear super firing turret and the other two the armored deck next to the port side superstructure. Meanwhile, near-misses wracked the hull and caused limited flooding. She suffered 63 deaths and 97 wounded.

Two days later, on 12 April, emergency repairs were effected, and Gorizia steamed for La Spezia where she entered dry dock on 4 May.

It was while high and dry in La Spezia that word came in September of the Italian surrender to the Allies. As the Germans moved in to seize the harbor, the ship’s skipper mulled an order to flood the dock and further scuttle the already heavily damaged ship but was not able to carry it out. Either way, the Germans found her in poor condition and simply moved Gorizia, sans crew, from the dry dock to the harbor, where they left her to swing at her anchors near the similarly abandoned Bolzano.

With aerial photography showing the (believed) still mighty cruisers afloat in La Spezia despite several raids from B-25s and could nonetheless be used as block ships by the Germans, a team of volunteer co-belligerent Italian X MAS Flotilla frogmen, working in conjunction with the British, infiltrated the harbor’s “defenses” on the night of 21/22 June 1944 by means of Chariot human torpedoes and SLC speedboats with the aim of sinking same. Codenamed Operation QWZ, just two British/Italian Chariots made it into the harbor and only one found her target. Hint, it was not Gorizia.

While Bolzano went to the harbor bottom, the abandoned Gorizia escaped mining and still had enough compartments intact to remain afloat until the Allies liberated the harbor in April 1945.

“Italian light cruiser Gorizia First Caught It Off Sardinia from 15th Air Force, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, later from North American B-25 Mitchells At La Spezia.” (U.S. Air Force Number 57668AC, via NARA)

Epilogue

Surveyed and considered wrecked, Gorizia, although the last Italian heavy cruiser not underwater in 1945, was passed over both by the Allies’ prize committee and the newly-formed post-war Marina Militare.

Gorizia is not listed in the 1946-47 Jane’s Fighting Ships entry for Italy.

Stricken from the naval register on 27 February 1947, she was subsequently raised and slowly broken up for scrap.

The modern Italian Navy has not recycled the name, that of an often controversial former Austrian border town and Great War battleground which now sits astride the Slovenian line. The Marine Militare does have a short memorial page to the old cruiser, though.

Several period postcards are in circulation with particularly good views of the vessel. 

You have to admit, the Zaras had beautiful lines

Gorizia continues to sail in plastic as she has been the subject of several scale model kits including those by Tauro and Trumpeter, which have resulted in some interesting maritime art.

Specs:
Displacement: 13,660 t (standard), 14,460 t (full)
Length: 599 ft. (overall)
Beam: 67 ft.
Draft: 23 ft.
Propulsion: 8 Thornycroft boilers, 2 Parsons turbines, 2 propellers, 95,000 hp
Speed 33 knots
Range: 5,434 nm at 16 knots
Crew: 31 officers and 810 sailors
Armor:
vertical belt, turrets: 150 mm; horizontal: 70 mm
Aircraft: 2 Piaggio P6bis seaplanes, later replaced by Macchi M.41, CANT 25AR, CMASA MF6, and finally (1938) IMAM Ro.43. Bow catapult
Armament:
4 x 2 203/53 Mod. 1927
6 x 2 100/47 OTO Mod. 1928 (Skoda M1910)
4 x 1 40/39 mm QF Vickers-Terni pattern AAA pom-pom guns
14 x 20/65 mm Breda Mod. 35 AAA guns
8 x 13.2 mm Breda Mod. 31 machine guns

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Eagle Among the Volcanos

USCGC Eagle (WIX 327), “America’s Tall Ship,” arrives in Reykjavik, Iceland, on June 9, 2021. Eagle is currently conducting summer U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet training in at-sea leadership and professional development. Their first port call was Portugal in late May. Eagle has served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946, offering an at-sea leadership and professional development experience as part of the Coast Guard Academy curriculum. (Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Kristjan Petersson)

The Gorch Fock-class training barque USCGC Eagle (WIX-327), America’s only active-duty square-rigger (and past Warship Wednesday alum), recently commemorated the loss of the USCGC Hamilton in Icelandic waters during WWII, just before she arrived in Reykjavik to celebrate U.S.-Icelandic ties.

Via USCG PAO:

Aboard Eagle moored in the harbor, Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, joined by Jonathan Moore, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, met with Commadore Asgrimur Asgrimsson of the Icelandic coast guard, Chargé d’Affaires Harry Kamian, and Byrndis Kjartansdottir, director of security and defense directorate in the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I congratulate Iceland on a successful Arctic Council and Arctic Coast Guard Forum chairmanship, and I thank them for their persistent and reliable partnership in the Arctic Council and Arctic Coast Guard Forum. Maintaining a strong, rules-based order in the Arctic remains a top priority, both for my command and the U.S. Coast Guard. Steadfast partners like Iceland enable and enforce this,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin. “It was a great pleasure to discuss the challenges we share with such dedicated colleagues learning more about our partner agencies and their operations.”

The United States was the first country to recognize Iceland’s independence in 1944. In addition to being founding members of NATO, the United States and Iceland signed a bilateral defense agreement in 1951. Cooperation and mutual support are the foundation of the U.S.-Icelandic relationship. Visits such as Eagle’s allow opportunities to further effective partnerships, collaboration, and interoperability for various issues that can occur in the Arctic.
For more than a century, the U.S. Coast Guard has been the visible U.S. surface presence in the Arctic, ensuring adherence to the rules-based order. We work with High North nations to safeguard and enable the uninterrupted flow of maritime commerce throughout the entire Marine Transportation System, including the burgeoning Arctic and ensure responsible stewardship of its resources. Allies and partners like Iceland are integral to protecting the United States’ enduring interests, preserving our mutual interests, and upholding the rules-based international order supporting good maritime governance.

On approach to Iceland, Eagle’s crew conducted a wreath-laying in memory of the Treasury-class USCGC Hamilton (WPG 34), torpedoed by German submarine U-132 on January 30, 1942, patrolling the Icelandic coast near Reykjavík. Hamilton capsized and sank 28 miles (45 km) from the Icelandic coast on January 30, at the cost of 26 of the ship’s 221-person crew. In 2009, divers discovered the wreck in over 300 feet of water, and in 2013, a memorial plaque was placed in honor of those lost.

On approach to Iceland on June 6, 2021, the USCGC Eagle (WIX 3287) crew conducted a wreath-laying in memory of the Treasury-class USCGC Hamilton (WPG 34), torpedoed by German submarine U-132 in 1942 while patrolling the Icelandic coast near Reykjavík. Of the 221 person crew, 26 members were lost. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy Ensign Elena Calese)

Eagle is currently conducting summer U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet training in at-sea leadership and professional development. Their first port call was Portugal in late May. Eagle has served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946, offering an at-sea leadership and professional development experience as part of the Coast Guard Academy curriculum.

Eagle is a three-masted barque with more than 6,797 square meters (22,300 square feet) of sail and 9.7 kilometers (6 miles) of rigging. At 90 meters (295 feet) in length, Eagle is the largest tall ship flying the stars and stripes and the only active square-rigger in United States government service.

Warship Wednesday, June 16, 2021: Rig for Red

Here at LSOZI, we will take off every Wednesday to look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and 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 16, 2021: Rig for Red

Called a skalomniscope by American sub wonk Simon Lake, the periscope of sorts was first invented in 1854 by a French guy by the name of Marie Davey, submersibles have had various “sight tubes” ever since. While early boats had a single short scope attached directly to the (single) top hatch (!) by the 1930s it was common for large fleet submarines to have multiple search and attack periscopes in the sail.

Over the years, these devices in U.S. parlance led to the term “periscope liberty” which denoted side use in observing peacetime beaches and pleasure craft with bikini-clad femmes at play and, of course, the old-school “Rig for red” use of red lighting for those who would use the scopes while the boat was at periscope depth at night or was preparing to go topside should the boat to surface in the o-dark-o’clock hours.

Here are some of the cooler periscope shots in the NHHC’s collection, among others.

Vessel sighting mechanism details LC-USZC4-4561 Robert Hudson’s submarine 1806 periscope patent

The eye of the submarine periscope, Gallagher card.

Aircraft carrier Taiho, seen through the periscope of submarine USS Albacore

Japanese destroyer ‘Harusame’, photographed through the periscope of USS Wahoo (SS-238) after she had been torpedoed by the submarine near Wewak, New Guinea, on 24 January 1943

Japanese armed trawler seen through the periscope of USS Albacore (SS-218) during her tenth war patrol. Photo received 17 November 1944 NHHC 80-286279

80-G-13550 Guardfish periscope

Submarine officer sights through a periscope in the submarine’s control room, during training exercises at the Submarine Base, New London, Groton, Connecticut, in August 1943 80-G-K-16013

Periscope death of the destroyer Tade, (1922) Montage of eight photos showing her sinking after being torpedoed by USS Seawolf (SS-197) on 23 April 1943 NH 58329

Shoreline of Makin Island, photographed through a periscope of USS Nautilus (SS-168) on 16 August 1942, the day before U.S. Marine raiders were landed 80-G-11720

Periscope photograph taken from USS Seawolf (SS-197), while she was on patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. 80-G-33184

Periscope photograph made PUFFER SS-268 freighter Teiko Maru (ex-Vichy French steamship D’Artagnan 1943. Torpedo is shown hitting NH 68784

USS Barb 1944 “fiendish antisubmarine weapon bird” blocking Lucky Fluckey’s view on approach. He reportedly sank the Japanese ship with his observation periscope

In January of 1951, the recently GUPPY’d USS Catfish slipped into San Francisco Bay underwater and remained in the harbor for three days taking photos of the Bay Area through their periscope in daylight as part of an authorized mission to see if they could do it with a minimum of civilian reaction. The mission was successful to a degree, as no one called SFPD or the military, as reported by the San Fran Chronicle.

Sighting the target submarine periscope by Georges Schreiber, Navy Art Collection 88-159-ji

USS JOHN HOOD (DD-655) and USS SNOWDEN (DE-246) photographed through a submarine periscope, while underway 1950s USN 1042008

View from the HALIBUT’s periscope of the March 1960 launch of the Regulus missile.

USS Seadragon (SSN 584) crewmembers explore ice pack in the Arctic Ocean through the periscope

President John F. Kennedy through the periscope aboard USS THOMAS EDISON (SSBN-610) 14 April 1962 USN 1112056-F

USS New Jersey (BB-62) seen through the periscope of USS La Jolla SSN-701

Bohol Strait USS Triton spies a local fisherman on April 1 1960

Key West submarines USS Sea Poacher, USS Grenadier, and USS Threadfin wind their way up the Mississippi River toward New Orleans, as seen through the periscope of USS Tirante, Mardi Gras 1963

Periscope view as Captain G.P. Steele searches for an opening in the ice through which to surface, September 1960 USS Sea Dragon SSN-584 USN 1050054

USS Cowpens through the periscope of the nuclear fast attack submarine USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716), Western Pacific, September 1994.

Many modern submarines, including the U.S. Virginia and RN’s Astute class, no longer use traditional periscopes, having long since ditched them in favor of modern telescoping digital optronics masts housing numerous camera and sensor systems with the Navy’s current standard being the AN/BVS-1 photonics mast.

Astute class CM10 Optronic Masts from Thales. periscope

GROTON, Conn. (Dec. 20, 2019) Sailors assigned to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Minnesota (SSN 783) stand topside as they pull into their homeport at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., Dec 20, 2019, following a deployment. Minnesota deployed to execute the chief of naval operation’s maritime strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins/Released)

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!

Scratch One of Donitz’s Sharks

Original caption: Coast Guard Cutter sinks sub. Heaved up from below by the force of a depth charge, the Nazi U-Boat 175 breaks surface as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER, guns ablaze, bears down on it, full speed ahead. The submarine was sunk on April 17, 1943, in the North Atlantic, as it was approaching inside a convoy of ships ready to attack with torpedoes.

National Archives Identifier: 205574156 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205574156

Original caption: Coast Guard Cutter sinks sub. Coast Guardsmen on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER watch the explosion of a depth charge which blasted a Nazi U-Boat’s hope of breaking into the center of a large convoy. The depth charge tossed from the 327-foot cutter blew the submarine to the surface, where it was engaged by Coast Guardsmen. Ships of the convoy may be seen in the background.

National Archives Identifier: 205574168 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205574168

USCGC Spencer (WPG-36), a 327-foot Treasury-class cutter, is shown above sinking KMS U-175, in position 47.53N, 22.04W, by depth charges and gunfire some 500 miles SW of Ireland. Assigned to 10. Flottille under skipper Kptlt. Heinrich Bruns, the Type IXC boat had chalked up over 40,000 tons of shipping before Spencer ruined her paint job. Some 41 Germans were picked up from the ocean that day and made POWs for the rest of the war while 13 rode the submarine to the bottom.

Official Caption: “NAZI SUBMARINE SUNK BY THE FAMED CUTTER SPENCER: Effect of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER’S fire are visible in this closeup shot of the U-Boat, taken as the battle raged. The Nazi standing by the stanchion amidships disappeared a moment after this picture was taken by a Coast Guard photographer. The U-Boat had been trying to sneak into the center of the convoy.” Date: 17 April 1943 Photo No.: 1512 Photographer: Jack January? Description: The “Nazi” mentioned in the above caption was probably in fact a member of the Coast Guard boarding team–one of the first Americans to board an enemy man-of-war underway at sea since the War of 1812.

Official Caption: “OFF TO RESCUE THEIR BEATEN FOES: A pulling boat leaves the side of a Coast Guard combat cutter to rescue Nazi seamen struggling in the mid-Atlantic after their U-Boat had been blasted to the bottom by the cutter’s depth charges. Two Coast Guard cutters brought 41 German survivors to a Scottish port.” Date: 17 April 1943 Photo No.: 1516 Photographer: Jack January Description: The men in this pulling boat were in fact a trained boarding team led by LCDR John B. Oren (standing in the stern and wearing the OD helmet) and LT Ross Bullard (directly to Oren’s left). With the assistance of the Royal Navy they had practiced boarding a submarine at sea in order to capture an Enigma coding machine and related intelligence material. They were forced to take a pulling lifeboat when the Spencer’s motor lifeboat was damaged by friendly fire.

As for Spencer, named for President Tyler’s T-secretary, she would survive the war and go on to complete a 40-year career.

(Courtesy USCGC Spencer Association)

Decommissioned 23 January 1974 she was used for a further six years as an Engineering Training School and berthing hulk at the CG Yard in Maryland then fully decommissioned on 15 December 1980 and sold the following year to the North American Smelting Company of Wilmington, Delaware.

Her name is currently carried by a 270-foot Bear-class high endurance cutter (WMEC 905), which has been with the Coast Guard since 1986, a comparatively paltry 35 years.

Keeping the Deeds Alive

I’ve always had a staunch, somewhat old school take when it comes to traditional naval ship names. In short, it is hard for a plank owner rushing aboard to bring a new ship to life if it is named after some smarmy politician who never wore a uniform or activist and be told to “live up to the legacy” of that person. Ships should be named for five things: maritime heroes (Halsey, Farragut, Munro, Puller et. al), historical former ships (Wasp, Wahoo, Ranger), places (especially if they are also former famous ships, e.g. Nevada, Brooklyn), battles (Lexington, Midway, Hue City), and aspirations (Independence, Freedom).

That goes not just for the U.S. Navy but for any fleet.

With that in mind, the word from First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin this week that the first five names for the future Type 31 frigates for the Royal Navy are familiar.

Each name has been selected to represent key themes and operations which will dominate and shape the global mission of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines: carrier operations (Formidable); operational advantage in the North Atlantic (Bulldog); forward deployment of ships around the globe to protect UK interests (Active); technology and innovation (Venturer); and the Future Commando Force (Campbeltown).

We’ve covered the unsinkable aircraft carrier HMS Formidable (R67) in a past Warship Wednesday, but HMS Cambeltown (notably the ex-USS Buchanan, DD-131), famous for the St. Nazaire Raid; the sixth HMS Bulldog (H91), the destroyer whose capture of a complete Enigma machine and codebooks from the German submarine U-110 in 1941 no doubt helped shorten the war; the 12th HMS Active (F171), the frigate whose blistered 4.5-inch gun chased Argentine troops across every hill around Port Stanley in 1982; and the third HMS/m Venturer (P68), the only submarine in history to have sunk another (the very advanced Type IXD2 U-864) while both were submerged; are no less important to naval history.

The well-known image of the fifth and most famous HMS Formidable on fire after the kamikaze hit on 4 May, photograph A 29717 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum

The “Trojan Horse Destroyer” HMS Campbeltown rests on the St Nazaire dock gate shortly before she will explode, March 1942

HMS Bulldog, in her three-shades-of-blue North Atlantic camouflage. IWM Photo No.: FL 1817

RN photo of frigate HMS Active escorting Lanistes through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, mid-1987 Armilla patrol

HMS/m Venturer in Holy Loch in 1943. Because of her, U-864 and her cargo of 65 tons of mercury as well as Junkers Jumo 004B jet engine parts (used in the Messerschmitt Me 262) never made it to Japan as a result of an amazing underwater action. IWM A-18832.

Bravo Zulu, ADM Radakin.

Happy 207th, Herr Freeman, of Mobile Bay (in)Fame(y)

While poking around Pascagoula’s Greenwood Cemetery (I have tons of childhood/teenage stories about this place logged in my time as a “Goula Boy,” but I digress) last week, I paid my respects at the grave of longtime area resident, Martin Freeman, MOH.

Photo: Chris Eger

Born 18 May 1814 in the Prussian port city of Stettin (Szczecin, Poland, today), he took to the sea early in life, and by his late teens, he was in the states where he married a fellow German immigrant and started a family.

Living on the Gulf Coast, he was a well-known Mobile and Pascagoula area (Grant’s Pass/Horn Pass) bar pilot who had the misfortune of being captured in the late summer of 1862 while fishing off Mobile Bay by the Union’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron, under the command of RADM David Farragut (another man with longstanding ties to Pascagoula) and, despite Freeman’s “protests of not being interested in the war and only wanting to fish, was engaged by the fleet as a civilian pilot.”

Fast forward to the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864, and Freeman was aloft in the rigging of Farragut’s flagship, the steam sloop-of-war USS Hartford, so he could better see the changing bars and currents at the mouth of the sometimes treacherous (and mine-strewn) bay then issue course corrections as needed.

Farragut’s report of the battle mentions Freeman to the Navy in glowing terms:

The last of my staff, and to whom I would call the notice of the Department, is not the least in importance. I mean Pilot Martin Freeman. He has been my great reliance in all difficulties in his line of duty. During the action he was in the maintop [elevated platform on main or middle mast], piloting the ships into the bay. He was cool and brave throughout, never losing his self-possession. This man was captured early in the war in a fine fishing smack which he owned, and though he protested that he had no interest in the war and only asked for the privilege of fishing for the fleet, yet his services were too valuable to the captors as a pilot not to be secured. He was appointed a first-class pilot and has served us with zeal and fidelity, and has lost his vessel, which went to pieces on Ship Island. I commend him to the Department.

His service was so influential to the battle that he was a civilian recipient (later serving as an Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, a rank he was only issued in October 1864) of the MOH, a rarity. Only eight other civilians– to include a fellow pilot in Navy Civil War service, John Ferrell– hold that honor.

Freeman’s citation, issued 31 December 1864:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Mr. Martin Freeman, a United States Civilian, for extraordinary heroism in action as Pilot of the flagship, U.S.S. HARTFORD, during action against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee, in Mobile Bay, Alabama, 5 August 1864. With his ship under terrific enemy shellfire, Civilian Pilot Martin Freeman calmly remained at his station in the maintop and skillfully piloted the ships into the bay. He rendered gallant service throughout the prolonged battle in which the rebel gunboats were captured or driven off, the prize ram Tennessee forced to surrender, and the fort successfully attacked.

The Pilot for the USS HARTFORD at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Aug 5, 1864. Photo by Robira, New OrleansDescription: Courtesy of I.B. Millner, Morgantown, NC. Catalog #: NH 49431

His name would be listed as the only officer besides the master aboard the 4th rate gunboat USS Sam Houston in 1865.

Freeman continued his service after the war, even successfully fending off a court marshal lodged against him in 1866 while at the time the seniormost officer aboard the gunboat USS Cowslip (which had raided Biloxi Bay during the war).

Eventually, Freeman became the USLHS lighthouse keeper on Horn Island, off Pascagoula, which is now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, from 1874 to 1894. His wife Anna and son, Martin, Jr., were listed interchangeably as assistant keepers. The light changed from an old old screw-pile lighthouse offshore to one located on a hill actually atop the island in 1887.

This image from 1892 almost certainly shows Freeman and his wife, Anna, as well as one of his children. NARA 26-LG-36-70

A closer look. Note the rarely-seen USLHS uniform and cap. 

It was while at Horn Island, tending his light and watching the Gulf, that Freeman penned a private letter about the famous battle he was a part of to a fellow veteran that eventually made it into the New York Times and caused some heartburn as Freeman made the record clear that he was in the rigging with the good Admiral that day, higher aloft than Farragut. For such a sin as to point out a historical fact, he was chastised in responding letters published by the Times from those who felt he was trying to besmirch the Admiral’s legacy.

It wasn’t just Farragut up there…

In the end, Freeman’s old injuries sustained from an explosion of a mine at Fort Morgan in September 1864 forced him to move his family ashore from Horn Island to Pascagoula in early 1894, where he died on 11 September 1894 at the residence of his son-in-law, Alf Olsson. His subsequent funeral was reportedly well-attended. 

His family still lives in the area and his grave is well-maintained, with the vintage gravesite covered by a concrete slab, likely in the 1960s as part of state regulation, and a new VA marker installed. (Photo: Chris Eger)

With Mississippi only a decade or so off from Reconstruction, his obituary in the Pascagoula Chronicle-Star only mentioned his lighthouse service, omitting his wartime record of accomplishments, but does speak well of him.

He was kind and hospital to all who visited the light-house and his jovial disposition won for him a host of friends. He was charitable, and brought up his children in the fear of the Lord.

Incidentally, the beautiful Horn Island light was swept into the Gulf in 1906, taking its keeper at the time, Charles Johnsson, along with his wife and teenage daughter with it.

As for Farragut, an admiral who has had five different warships named in his honor, Pascagoula remembers him fondly as well, and his family also lives in the area.

Farragut has long had a banner across from the Jackson County Courthouse.

News of Cutters Past and Present

Lots of interesting Coast Guard news lately.

The frigate-sized National Security Cutter USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753), with an embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, has been on a European cruise in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations to include a stint in the Black Sea, the first time a cutter has been in that ancient body of water since USCGC Dallas (WMEC 716) visited in 2008. Hamilton has been working closely with U.S. allies who share the littoral with Russia and Ukraine to include the Turks and Georgians.

Hamilton and an unidentified marine mammal, who probably wasn’t sent by the Russian Navy. Probably. (Photo: Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia)

BLACK SEA (April 30, 2021) U.S. Coast Guard members conduct boat and flight procedures on the USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753) with Turkish naval members aboard the TCG Turgutreis (F 241) in the Black Sea, April 30, 2021

210502-G-G0108-1335 BLACK SEA (May 2, 2021) USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753) and Georgian coast guard vessels Ochamchire (P 23) and Dioskuria (P 25) conduct underway maneuvers in the Black Sea, May 2, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

Those with a sharp eye will note the Georgian boats are former U.S.-built 110-foot Island-class cutters, USCGC Staten Island (WPB-1345) and USCGC Jefferson Island (WPB-1340), respectively, which had been transferred in 2014 after they were retired from American service.

Notably, the Georgian Islands are carrying an M2 .50 cal forward rather than the MK 38 25mm chain gun which had been mounted there in Coast Guard service.

Adak Update

Speaking of Island-class cutters, the story of the USCGC Adak (WPB-1333), a veteran of the “American Dunkirk” of Sept. 11th and the past 18 years of tough duty in the Persian Gulf, has thickened. Slated to be sold to Indonesia later this summer as she completes her service, the USCGC Adak Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that wants to bring her back from overseas and install her as a museum ship in Tampa Bay, where she would also help with a youth program.

So far, a few lawmakers have signed on to help, writing the Coast Guard and State Department, and VADM Aan Kurnia, the head of the Indonesia Maritime Security Agency, has gone on record saying he didn’t want the aging patrol boat.

We shall see.

Morris saved

In related news, the 125-foot “Buck and a Quarter” Active-class patrol craft/sub chaser USCGC Morris (WSC/WMEC-147), who saw service during Prohibition and WWII in her 43-year career with the Coast Guard, has been bopping around the West Coast in a series of uses since then the 1970s include as a training ship with the Sea Scouts and as a working museum ship in Sacramento.

USCGC Morris (WPC-147/WSC-147/WMEC-147) late in her career. Note her 40mm Bofors forward, which was fitted in 1942. (USCG photo)

We wrote how she was for sale on Craigslist for $90K in 2019, in decent shape.

Now, she has been saved, again.

The Vietnam War Flight Museum in Galveston, Texas, announced on Thursday that they have officially taken the title of the historic ship with an aim to continue her operations.

Sailing on Hermes for the Falklands

Timely now due to the fact that, as this is written, the famous old WWII-era HMS Hermes (95) is being slowly cut to pieces in the shallows of Alang, is the below video that was just posted online.

This great 24-minute color film story, from the AP Archives, was filed 21 May 1982 as the British Operation Corporate Task Force was heading to liberate the Falklands.

It starts out with some interesting shots of the force as a whole as it pulled out of Portsmouth, then soon switches to life on the Hermes. The film crew goes from her flight deck where Harriers are buzzing around working up with some live-fire exercises while underway, to the hangar deck and down to engineering, talking to assorted ratings including a 16-year-old snipe who is bummed that his planned 10-day libo was canceled to go fight the Argies.

One interesting part, at the 17:17 mark, shows Hermes training a 100 man group, drawn from the crew, as an internal security force, equipped with SLRs and other small arms. The thought at the time, from the officer over the training, was that the volunteers could be utilized as a landing force ashore if needed, ready to guard ammo dumps, prisoner control, etc. Even with the prospect of possible ground combat on the horizon, three times the amount of tars needed for the force volunteered. To put that into perspective, keep in mind that the light carrier only had a 500– 2,100-man crew.

The Titanic and Lusitania of the Baltic

From the Royal Navy:

While on operations in the Baltic, HMS Echo mapped two shipwrecks from the Second World War. Using her specialized multibeam echo sounder, the ship was able to show the destruction caused to German ships Wilhelm Gustloff and Goya.

HMS Echo (H87), a 3,700-ton multi-role hydrographic survey ship commissioned in 2003.

Goya was a 5,000-ton Norwegian freighter, sent to the bottom by Soviet submarine L-3, taking “over 6,000” souls to the bottom with her

The 25,000-ton German liner Wilhelm Gustloff, sunk by Soviet submarine S-13, took over 9,400 people to a watery grave, the worst maritime disaster in history

The ships were used in Operation Hannibal – a mass seaborne evacuation of German civilians and soldiers from East Prussia in 1945 during an effort to escape the onrushing Soviet Red Army. Around 16,000 lives were lost when Wilhelm Gustloff and Goya sunk after being hit by Russian torpedoes.

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