Tag Archives: Guadalcanal

The more things change, Devil 155 edition, with Idaho tanker bonus

A 155mm howitzer is fired by artillery crewmen of the 11th Marines, Guadalcanal

Marines work a 155mm gun position on Guadalcanal in 1942.

A Marine M777-A2 155mm howitzer at night using tactical red lighting as part of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, 2020

Of course, as Plan 2030 gets underway to “lighten” the Marines and trade assets like tanks, Engineer ABVs, bridging companies, and heavy-lift helo squadrons for things like rockets and UAV squadrons, the number of cannon batteries in the Corps is set to drop from the current 21 to just 5 in the next decade, so USMC-manned 155s will be few and far between in the future.

Marines loss, National Guard’s gain

In related news, 39 former Marine reservists in a recently disbanded M1A1 Abrams tank company of the (C coy, 4th Tanks) have switched teams and were sworn in at a joint ceremony into the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Brigade Combat Team.

In line with a storied Marine tradition, they will be using better mounts after shifting from Devils to Joes, as the Guard operates updated M1A2s.

The Marine Corps Reserve’s Company C, 4th Tank Battalion deactivates at Idaho National Guard Base Gowen Field, Aug. 14, 2020. More than three dozen of the former Marines enlisted in the Idaho Army National Guard on Sept. 13, 2020. THOMAS ALVAREZ/U.S. ARMY

Busy Days

Find the journal entry of Marine Lloyd Fuller, covering Nov. 15 & 16 1942, below.

Fuller enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1941 and, assigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 121 (VMF 121), served as the ordnance man for Joe Foss– the leading Marine fighter ace in WWII– who allowed Fuller to name two of the squadron’s F4F Wildcat fighter planes “Miss Irene” and “Miss Irene II” after his hometown sweetheart, Irene.

Fuller details the aftermath of the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where the Japanese battleship Kirishima was sunk, and the general atmosphere of the famed Cactus Air Force operating from embattled Henderson Field in the darkest days of the campaign.

From the Lloyd D. Fuller Collection (COLL/4932), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

“November 15, 1942

Mike still throwing slugs. 2 came within 20 yards of me. Close shave. Yesterday afternoon we received 9 B26’s, 12 P38’s, and some F4F’s from Enterprise. Enterprise, Washington, So. Dak., etc. hit Jap convoy making their naval escort flee. We sank 7 transports and 5 are burning fiercely on the beach. P39’s set ships on fire with incendiary bombs. FBF’s, SBD’s, P39’s, P38’s, B26’s, F4F’s have been hitting hard. B26’s left for Roses & 10 F4F’s are going out to their ship, Enterprise. We destroyed approximately 12 Zeros & 1 bomber. Enterprise downed 21 bombers and unestimated number of Zeros. Tojo’s convoy was not successful. Miss Irene II got her first Zero. Col. Bower lost 14th in sea. Mann returned. Joe Palko was found dead with a 20 mm in his neck.

November 16, 1942

Quiet day for a change. General Woods’s statement said: “During the past 5 days, our air forces on Cactus destroyed 2 carriers, 2 battleships, 4 cruisers, 4 cruisers badly damaged, 8 destroyers, 12 transports and 30,000 men. He commended ground forces for “working untiringly, day and night, under constant shellfire and bombing, reducing danger to Cactus and assuring victory of Guadalcanal.” We destroyed 69 planes in 5 days. No supplies were landed. 155’s sank transports that were burning yesterday. Latest word is that Japs landed 5000 troops and 4 field pieces.”

VMF-121 produced fourteen fighter aces, more than any other Marine squadron in history, downing 208 Japanese aircraft.

Foss (fourth from left) joins members of Marine Corps fighter squadron VMF-121 on a Wildcat wing at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. (U.S. Marine Corps)

As for Fuller, he survived the war and left the Marines as a Master Sergent. Lloyd and Irene were married following his return from the Pacific.

Don’t underestimate that aging vet in his big cap…you never know what he has seen.

Lloyd Fuller, circa 2008

Filed Under: Other Navy Ships Named for Coasties

With the news earlier this month that SECNAV will be naming one of the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers after the late (great) Capt. Quentin Walsh, USCG, I’ve seen several news sources– both mainstream and in the military blogosphere— say this is the first occasion that the U.S. Navy has named a warship after a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Simply not true.

To the best of my knowledge, there are at least three other occasions (and likely more that I can’t think of) that have predated them.

1. USS Newcomb (DD-586), a Fletcher-class destroyer is named for Commodore Frank H. Newcomb of the Revenue Cutter Service, the Coast Guard’s predecessor. After Civil War service in the Navy, Newcomb was commissioned as an officer in the USRCS and in 1898 while in command of the plucky little USRC Hudson, came to the assistance of the crippled torpedo boat USS Winslow during the Battle of Cárdenas in the war with Spain.

Cutter HUDSON rescues the USS Winslow from Spanish land batteries off Cardenas Bay, Cuba

He was given a special Congressional Gold Medal for his part in the Spanish–American War– the only one issued by Congress for the conflict. USS Newcomb only made it to the Pacific in 1944, but received 8 battle stars for World War II service, having been present from Saipan to Okinawa. At the former, she sank Japanese submarine I-185, and on 4 July 1944 “her well-directed fire broke up a Japanese banzai attack north of Garapan.”

2. Canadian-born S1C Douglas Albert Munro, USCGR, was 22 when he gave his last full measure at the Second Battle of the Matanikau on Guadalcanal in September 1942 when he was placed in charge of the extrication of a force of the 7th Marines that had been overrun by the Japanese. He was killed while using the boat he was piloting to shield a landing craft filled with Marines from Japanese fire and received the MOH for his “extraordinary heroism,” endorsed by Halsey himself. His dying words before he slumped into the great beyond were, “Did they get off?”

Douglas A. Munro Covers the Withdrawal of the 7th Marines at Guadalcanal by Bernard D’Andrea.

The Butler-class destroyer escort USS Douglas A. Munro (DE-422) was named in his honor in 1944, serving in both WWII and the Korean War. Further, the Coast Guard has named two large sea-going cutters after Munro, who is the service’s only MOH recipient.

3. DDG-133 was named earlier this year for former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn. Of course, the fact that he served as the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1987 to 1995 likely had more to do with that than his time in the Coast Guard (1959-60) and USCGR (1960-68), but nonetheless, it was mentioned in the calculus of the decision by SECNAV for bestowing his name to a $1 Billion+ cruiser-sized destroyer.

190506-N-DM308-001 WASHINGTON (May 6, 2019) An artist rendering of the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sam Nunn (DDG 133). (U.S. Navy photo illustration/Released)

Honorable mention:

Then, of course, there is the case of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who as Secretary of the Treasury founded the Revenue Marine (the Coast Guard’s ancestor) in 1790. While the Revenue Cutter Service/USCG has named at least four ocean-going cutters after the storied Revolutionary War hero and service founder– one of which was lost to a U-boat in WWII– the Navy has also counted a warship with the same name on the Navy List: the ballistic missile submarine USS Alexander Hamilton (SSBN-617), from 1963 to 1993.

Any others that you know of? Please share with me so we all do!

Combat Gallery Sunday: Inside the dugout edition

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: Inside the dugout

The below, from the LOC, are all sketched by Howard Brodie, who voluntarily left his sweet gig as a sports artist for the San Francisco Chronicle to draw for Yank magazine as an Army combat artist in WWII and got close enough to his subjects (he volunteered as a medic when needed) to receive a bronze star.

Drawing shows two privates, John Minihan of Rockford, Illinois on the right, and Sal de George of Manhattan on the left, kneeling to operate a machine gun from their dugout during the American offensive on Mt. Austen during the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal. Their gun is the iconic M1917 Browning water-cooled sustained-fire GPMG

It is closely related to this one, which was not as fleshed out:

Sketch shows an enlisted man, John H. Minihan of Rockford, Illinois from the side. He kneels as he operates his machine gun from a dugout on the island of Guadalcanal during World War II.

Similarly, this sketch by Brodie is in the same vein, but is inside a fortress made of aluminum rather than jungle earth:

The drawing shows a World War II gunner wearing an oxygen mask as he stands before an open slot in a B-17 airplane firing his machine gun during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Brodie later went back to war, with his pencils, and covered Korea, French Indochina, and Vietnam.

He died in 2010.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Warship Wednesday, July 4, 2018: Remembering the Independence most often forgotten

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

Warship Wednesday, July 4, 2018: Remembering the Independence most often forgotten

NH 70472

Here we see the “444-type” freighter USS Independence (SP-3676) in striking dazzle camouflage, probably in San Francisco Bay, California, soon after her completion in late 1918. While the U.S. and Massachusetts State Navy operated no less than seven “Independences” going all the way back to 1776, and today is July 4th, I figured it would be fitting to cover #4 of these, which had a great service history and was sandwiched between a 90-gun ship of line that gave 98-years of service and two much better-known aircraft carriers of the same name.

Appropriately enough, the story of this Independence started off with the British.

In late 1916 the shipping-strapped British Admiralty contracted with Union Iron Works (UIW) shipyard, located at Potrero Point, San Francisco, for a series of 7,700-dwt, 444-foot oal, single-screw, steel-hulled freighters to a design approved by the U.S. Shipping Board’s construction program, an emergency agency authorized by the Shipping Act of 1916 that eventually morphed into the MARAD of today. The first of these, War Knight (UIW’s hull #132A), was laid down in early 1917, followed by War Monarch, War Sword, War Harbour, War Haven, War Ocean, War Rock, War Sea, War Cape, War Surf and War Wave (seeing a trend here?). Of these, just the first three, completed by Sept. 1917, were delivered to the British. By that point, the U.S. needed ships of her own and stepped in. Soon, each of the vessels under construction was renamed and taken over by the Navy of their birthplace.

War Harbour, hull 162A, became SS Independence while under construction while others lost their intended names and became, respectively, Victorious, Defiance, Invincible, Courageous, Eclipse, Triumph, and Archer. A 12th ship, Steadfast, was contracted by the USSB directly without London being involved.

War Harbour, then SS Independence, photographed on 24 October 1918 at the yard of her builder, Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Union Plant, Potrero Works, San Francisco. Behind her is a later sister, SS War Surf/Eclipse, that during World War II became USS William P. Biddle (AP-15). Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-32-S via Ship Scribe.

Taken into federal service as 18 November 1918 as USS Independence, her first skipper was LCDR O. P. Rankin and she was assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, completing one voyage to France with a load of foodstuffs. With the Great War at an end, she was decommissioned, 20 March 1919, after just four months of service, and handed over to the USSB who promptly converted her and several of her sisters to a turbo-electric powerplant capable of a speed of a very fast (for a merchant ship) speed of 16 knots, then placed the essentially new vessels in storage.

Then came 1930 and the Roosevelt Steamship Company’s award of a mail contract for a weekly run from Baltimore and Norfolk to Hamburg, Germany and Le Havre, France– a contract that resulted in the group forming the Baltimore Mail Steamship Company. Headquartered in the now-iconic but then brand-new Baltimore Trust Building (now the Bank of America Building), the Baltimore Mail Line picked up five of the old 444’s from USSB storage– Steadfast, War Surf/Eclipse, War Haven/Victorious, War Wave/Archer, and War Harbour/Independence. Reconstructed under a Gibbs & Cox design to accommodate 80 passengers, modified to hit 18-knots, and lengthened to 507 feet, the now-8,424t ships started a regular trade within a year renamed (again) as the City of Baltimore, City of Hamburg, City of Havre, City of Newport News and, our hero, as City of Norfolk, after the five hubs serviced by the line.

The launching of the SS City of Norfolk on August 14th, 1931 at the Norfolk Army Base piers (former War Harbour, ex-USS Independence) of the Baltimore Mail Line.

As reported by the GG Archives, “The single class liners offered staterooms with outside exposure, hot running water, and Simmons beds. In 1935, the Baltimore Mail Line offered fares to London or Hamburg for $90 one way or $171 round trip.” The ships had a saloon, barber shop, a surgeon’s office, an oak-paneled smoking room, a sports deck with tennis courts, and other amenities. A brochure from the period cautions that “professional gamblers are reported as frequently traveling on passenger steamers and are warned to take precautions accordingly.”

In 1937 the bottom fell out of the U.S. shipping industry after Congress withdrew all maritime mail subsidies and the Baltimore Mail Line folded. War Harbour/Independence/City of Norfolk was transferred briefly to the struggling Panama Pacific Line, carrying freight and passengers from New York to California and back again via the Canal, but that soon ended as that shipper too folded due to mounting costs.

By November 1940, the five converted former Baltimore Mail Line ships, now 20-years old and surplus once more were re-acquired by the U.S. Navy for the second time. Dubbed transports, they were taken to Willamette Steel in Portland, camouflaged, fitted to accommodate 1100~ troops, armed with a smattering of deck guns (a single 5″/51 and two 3″/50 guns as well as some .50 cals to ward off low-flying curious planes), given two light davits on each side to accommodate eight landing craft, and (wait for it) renamed yet again.

War Harbour/Independence/City of Norfolk became USS Neville (AP-16) and by June reported for duty with the Atlantic Fleet, spending six months transporting troops and naval personnel from the East Coast to new bases in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Shortly after the U.S. entered the war, she joined a transatlantic convoy to Ireland with British personnel and Lend-Lease equipment aboard.

View of a convoy out of Brooklyn, New York (USA), February 1942: USS Neville (AP-16) is in the foreground. Other ships present include at least six other transports, a light cruiser, and a battleship. This is probably the convoy that left the east coast on 19 February 1942, bound across the Atlantic to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Note the extensive use of Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage on these ships. U.S. Navy photo 80-G-2408

Then came the Pacific war and, armed with more AAA guns (20mm’s in place of her original .50 cals) was soon carrying Army troops and Navy Seabees to New Zealand, then Marines to a place called Guadalcanal, where she helped conduct landings on Blue Beach 7 August 1942, sending Marine Combat Team 2 ashore on Tulagi.

U.S. Marines come ashore on Tulagi Island, probably during the landings there on 7-8 August 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-16485

Landing at Guadalcanal. The latest shipment of reinforcements for Guadalcanal prepare to leave a landing boat, from USS Neville (APA-9) on the shores of the island. NARA photograph. Photographed through Mylar sleeve.

It was a dangerous place to be for a lightly armed transport. Class sister War Haven/Victorious/City of Havre/George F. Elliott was lost just a few miles away after she was clobbered by Japanese planes.

The U.S. Navy troop transport USS George F. Elliott (AP-13) burning between Guadalcanal and Tulagi, after she was hit by a crashing Japanese aircraft during an air attack on 8 August 1942. Date 8 August 1942 Source Official U.S. Navy photo NH 69118

Redesignated an amphibious assault transport (APA-9), Neville was then rushed to the Med for the invasion of Sicily, this time to put men of the Army’s 45th Infantry (Thunderbird) Division on Red Beach.

Shipping off the Scoglitti beaches on the first day of the invasion, 10 July 1943. Among the ships present are: USS Calvert (APA-32), second from left; USS Neville (APA-9), left center; USS Frederick Funston (APA-89), far right. An LST is in the right center, with a light cruiser in the distance beyond. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-215086

USS Neville (APA-9) off the Norfolk Navy Yard on 17 April 1943 after receiving changes to her armament and other modifications. Her 5″/51 gun aft has been removed and two twin 40mm anti-aircraft guns have been added, one forward in the tall structure over the two 3″/50 guns and one aft. She also received a radar mast over the bridge. Photo No. 19-N-45752 Source: U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM via Ship Scribe

Chopping back to the Pac after gaining more AAA (40mms this time), Neville landed troops at Tarawa in the Gilberts in November 1943, Kwajalein and Majuro three months later, Eniwetok in March 1944, and helped capture Saipan that June after landing her Marines on beach Green Two. In all, she was awarded five battle stars for her WWII service.

After taking Japanese POWs– a rare treasure– back to Pearl Harbor, Neville spent the rest of the war in San Diego training APA crews. The end of the conflict saw her performing Magic Carpet duty, bringing home salty combat vets from overseas and replacing them with fresh green troops for occupation duty. Arriving at Boston 5 February 1946, she was struck from the Navy List 15 August 1946, then towed to the James River National Defense Reserve Fleet. Ten years later the old girl was sold to a New Jersey company for scrap.

Her three remaining APA sisters who survived the war– War Wave/Archer/City of Newport News/Fuller, War Surf/Eclipse/City of Hamburg/William Biddle, and Steadfast/City of Baltimore/Heywood, all were likewise scrapped in 1956.

The unmodified freighter sisters were less lucky. War Cape/Triumph was sunk as SS Pan-Massachusetts by a German torpedo in 1942. War Sea/Courageous was sunk as breakwater off Normandy in 1944. In all, they were a hard luck and unsung class of ships, but they got it done, which is all you can really ask.

Displacement 7,475 t.(lt) 14,450 t.
Length 507′ (post-conversion, 1931) 444 as built
Beam 56′
Draft 24′ (mean)
Propulsion: four Babcock and Wilcox header-type boilers
one De Laval steam turbine, geared turbine drive
single propeller, 9,500shp
Speed 16 kts as built
Complement (1945)
Officers 50
Enlisted 524
Troop Accommodations: 60-75 officers, 818-1,203 enlisted
Cargo: 145,000-150,000 cu ft, 1,800-2,900 tons
Armament (1940)
one single 5″/51 mount
two single 3″/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts
eight 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns
Armament (1945)
four single 3″/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
sixteen single 20mm AA gun mounts

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Along a jungle trail

“Along a jungle trail found this rugged boy (inf.) – he was Pvt. Art Neuer, machine gunner” – SGT. Howard Brodie “Yank” staff artist:

Description from the Library of Congress: Full-length portrait sketch of infantryman Art Neuer, his hand on his pistol, on a jungle trail during the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal.

Born in 1915, Brodie was a sports artist for the San Francisco Chronicle before his work during the war for Yank during which he was an Army combat artist– earning a bronze star the hard way. He went on to become noted for his courtroom sketches post-war but often returned overseas to draw combat scenes in Korea and Vietnam, passing at age 94.